Friday, March 26, 2010

cheesy goodness

For years, I've searched for an irresistible macaroni and cheese recipe and I've finally found one! It's so good I just have to pass it along. Thanks Pioneer Woman!

I improvised a little:
- I used fat-free half and half instead of whole milk because it's what I had on hand.
- I used sharp cheddar cheese.
- Even though I stirred constantly, my roux came out a little too thick, so I diluted it with extra half and half.
- I used whole grain elbow pasta and it was delicious.
- Pioneer Woman is right about the salt. I gave my batch a generous sprinkle of sea salt and it was perfect!

I just made this dish a few days ago and I'm already chomping at the bit to make it again; that's the true sign of a great recipe!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

search committee woes

I am chairing a search committee for a coordinator position in another department. Although I've chaired several professional searches before, I've experienced enough annoyances this time around to warrant the creation of the "how to improve your chances of getting a job" list below.

1. Read the position description carefully, especially the "minimum qualifications" section. Although coordinator positions at my institution are sometimes considered entry level, not all of them are. If a position requires five years of full-time work experience, do NOT apply if you've never held a full-time job in your life. Likewise, if a position requires a college degree and you don't have one, don't apply!

2.  These days many colleges and universities are sophisticated enough to have an online application system. UMD lags behind, which means that search committee chairs have to field hundreds of applications packets with little or no administrative support. Take pity on the search committee chair. Submit your cover letter, resume, and list of references as ONE pdf file, preferably named with your full name. Please do not attach every file as a separate document, or (gasp) send a separate email for each document.

3. When submitting one file, proofread to make sure you've eliminated blank white pages. It's really annoying to print an applicant's packet to find blank pages interspersed throughout it.

4. Use one method to apply for a job: email, fax, or snail mail. Do not use all three and end up applying for the same job three times!

5. It's certainly acceptable to ask for a confirmation of receipt of application materials. But do not email and call every hour on the hour--you'll just come off as paranoid. Give the person time to return your call.

6. If you've never worked at a college or university before, do your research before you apply. Searches take FOREVER at institutions of higher education. Expecting a two-or-four-week turnaround time like in other sectors is unrealistic. It normally takes months to hire someone. Be prepared to wait.

7. Don't try to bully your way into an interview. There is such a thing as being too aggressive. If the search committee is interested, they'll call you.


Monday, March 22, 2010

dreaming of flowers and herbs

The gorgeous weather over the past few days has been such a tease. On multiple occasions, I had to restrain myself from planting all of my flowers, herbs, and vegetables for the year. I know that mid-March is too early to plant anything in this region. But I'm so impatient, especially when my naked planting boxes scream for some color.

As you can see below, Brad and I have our work cut out for us in the backyard. See those big patches of dirt amidst our grass? The squirrels frantically dug as if their lives depended on it once the two feet of snow melted. I put Brad is charge of fighting the weeds and growing and mowing the grass. I'll take care of the pretty stuff.

I did use this warm spell to get organized for planting and beautifying season. I cleared away the dead herbs from my garden and moved my overbearing parsley to its own neat corner, opposite from the equally domineering sage. I don't at all expect either one to remain in their assigned corners. I can't wait to plant basil, oregano, dill, cilantro, mint, rosemary, and thyme.

My chives also survived the snow, and will share this box with peppers.

My fledgling hydrangea bush (the two twigs sticking up in the lower-left corner) is a sorrowful sight. I plan to clear away the overbearing weed that has taken over my trellis, as well as the other random vines, and fill this bed with rose bushes and hydrangeas.

Our home's former owners planted bulbs in our front yard, and I was pleasantly surprised when these daffodils poked through the snow and recently bloomed.

They will have to tide me over until it's time to plant the rest.

Friday, March 19, 2010


I have no progress to report on the window treatment front. My beautiful deco fold Roman shades are still in their plastic bags, lying on my living room floor, teasing me. After a few oversights and mistakes (the company's fault), I will now receive a complimentary installation. Nice! But it will probably take at least a week or two to make it happen.

Stay tuned. And have a wonderful, sunny weekend!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

war and peace

After two months and two days, I finally finished War and Peace. Granted, I read several other books while I slogged through War and Peace, but with spring break this week, I decided to proceed full speed ahead to finish it.

Does finishing this tome officially make me a black-belt reader? Have I earned that title yet? I definitely consider finishing this book a life accomplishment, right up there with earning a Ph.D. and completing two marathons.

I applaud those who have read this book multiple times. While I loved the book, and loved the idea of reading it even more, I could not read it again. I found the fictional part of the story riveting: love, betrayal, death, parties, despair, debt, and high society life. All of those aspects were right up my alley. I reached a point where I just had to press on through the myriad characters and long, difficult, ever-changing Russian names. The historical details are both fascinating and overwhelming. The story read like a history book at times, with fictional accounts thrown in for entertainment. I enjoyed both the fictional and historical sections, but could have done without the philosophical soliloquies. Had I read this book as a scholar intending to study it, fine. But if, like me, you read for entertainment, the philosophical pontificating was just too much. Long books don't bother me; my obsession with The Twilight Saga has led me to read the 2,500+ page series three times. But War and Peace is not what I would consider light reading. It was only 1,388 pages, but each page was dense.

I'm so glad I read this book and I am proud to display it on the "completed" section of my bookshelf. But I'm also thrilled to be done and I have to admit that I'm ready to read some fluff. After I complete this month's book club selection, Percy Jackson, here I come!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

i fiddled

Gentle readers, we have reached the climax of art month: the primary piece in our house has now been framed and hung.

Let me tell you a bit about this piece. I uploaded the photo below--the block where Brad and I used to live--to Photo Fiddle. I appreciate this view every morning that I run around Lincoln Park. The brown row house in the middle is our old building. Brad and I wanted to bring a piece of our old home, a place we were very attached to, into our new house, so we decided to have an oil painting made of the picture.

Once I uploaded the photo, I fiddled, which means I experimented with various types of art: sketches, oil paintings, water colors, prints, and collages. The wonderful part about Photo Fiddle is that you can see exactly what your art will look like before you order it. They offer a wide range of sizes and styles. Their prices are extremely reasonable, especially considering that no one else in the world will have my painting. It's my digital picture, and the painting made from it is unique. I ordered the painting on a Saturday and it arrived the following Friday--very quick service, indeed!

I settled on the impasto style and ordered a gigantic piece (54 inches wide by 36 inches tall) because we had a large wall behind the sofa to fill. The painting was too large to fit in my car, so my dear friend and neighbor Rachel, who conveniently owns an SUV, drove the painting (and me) to and from Michael's so I could get it framed. Thanks, Rachel!

And here it is.

Here's a closer look.

I love the way the painting turned out. The piece is huge and it fills the space perfectly. Its vibrant colors brighten up the neutral walls and furniture. I need two smaller pieces for other blank spaces in the living room, but this centerpiece already makes a world of difference in the room.

Speaking of brightening up the room, the window treatments are in--YAY! Stay tuned for pictures later this week.

Monday, March 15, 2010

spring break

It's here. Finally. My job is not at all glamorous and I will never get rich working in higher education, but I enjoy an invaluable perk in mid-March each year: spring break. And I am lucky enough to work at a university that closes for part of the break, so the week is not just a vacation for students while the employees still work; everyone enjoys some time off.

It's blissful. And I can't imagine a better time of year for it.

No, I will not be lying on a beach somewhere like many of my students will be. I'll be at home working on several spring cleaning tasks: washing windows, scrubbing the tile in the bathroom, and cleaning out and washing every inch of the refrigerator. I also hope to blog, read, run, garden, and shop.

We'll see if I accomplish all that I hope to.

Happy spring break!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

we like places

Another room in the house no longer suffers from naked walls. It's official: we live here.

A few months ago, we bought a map of our beloved neighborhood, Capitol Hill, circa 1990s, from an artist at Eastern Market. It includes all of our special spots: former apartment, current house, church, Eastern Market, Lincoln Park, and many favorite restaurants. Here's a closer look:


Another artist featured on Etsy that I've fallen in love with is Art Shark Designs, and specifically, her City Love series. The black and white Gocco prints feature a couple holding red umbrellas at signature sights in cities around the world. Here is a closer look at the two DC prints I bought: DC Love II (Capitol) and DC Love III (Washington Monument/Tidal Basin).

Because the prints are so small, I bought seven (and am waiting for one more to be released) to hang throughout the room. In addition to the two DC scenes, I chose Chicago Love, San Francisco Love, Venice Love, Paris Love (Eifel Tower), and Paris Love II (Sacre Couer), all places that Brad and I have visited together. Mats and frames from Michael's are an easy and inexpensive way to complete the look.

Only one blank wall in the dining room remains.

What do you think? Do I need something on this wall? And if so, any ideas of what to hang there?

Monday, March 8, 2010

pictures of books

My print of cookbooks is now framed and hung!


The piece fits perfectly above the fridge, and the green color in the print complements my pesto walls. Here's a closer look:


Now all I need in the kitchen is a valance for the window. Maybe I'll pull out my sewing machine during spring break next week.
In last week's post, I mentioned that I ordered another print of books to hang in our home's office. 

I can't get enough of these prints. They are perfect for book lovers.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

listening vs. reading

A friend at work commutes an hour each way and passes the time by listening to CDs of books in the car. She loves to read, and because there's never enough time to read every book on her wish list, she compromises by listening to some of them.

My commute is only thirty minutes each way, but it's an hour per day of "reading time" that I would normally waste on useless radio. I decided to give it a try.

I wanted to start with a mindless, easy selection to get used to listening rather than reading. I hit up my local library and came home with this book on CDs:

The Lost Symbol's Washington, DC setting, fast pace, and far-fetched but entertaining plot kept my interest through its fourteen CDs. I didn't love the book--I didn't expect to--but I did love the idea of listening to a book on my commute and therefore, gaining some automatic "reading" time each day.

One book and I was hooked. I moved right on to this one, a classic highly recommended by at least three friends:

I am almost one-third of the way through it, and I love it thus far. But I know I would get much more out of reading the book rather than just listening to it, so I vow to actually read Jane Eyre one day. I love seeing words on a page and marveling at their arrangement and flow. I love feeling awestruck by a particularly powerful phrase, sentence, or paragraph and reading it over and over again. I enjoy seeing an unfamiliar word and using my iPhone's handy dictionary application to quickly learn its meaning. I like to believe that consistent reading improves my grammar, word usage, and writing.

I delight in finding typos and grammatical mistakes in books and correcting them. Yes, I am that girl who reads with a red pen at her side, ready and waiting to strike like a snake. (Well, I exaggerate a bit, but I have been known to get up from my reading nook to look for a pen when I find a mistake in a book. It bugs me not to correct mistakes.)

I hope books on CDs will teach me to pay attention and be a better listener, especially when I'm in a situation where taking notes is impossible.

What about you? Would you rather read or listen? Have you tried an audiobook?

Monday, March 1, 2010

art month

Brad and I are approaching the first anniversary of moving into our house, and we still have more blank walls than I would like, especially on the first floor. But I've recently acquired a few pieces and as soon as the items are framed and hung, I will post pictures here. Therefore, I declare March as "art month" on this blog. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, let me share one print with you. Last fall, my friend introduced me to the wonder that is Jane Mount. Knowing how much I love books, my friend saw Jane's prints of ideal bookshelves on Etsy, and thought of me. Jane had a cute print of cookbooks that would have perfectly matched my green kitchen, but it wasn't available in the size I needed. I contacted Jane and she told me she planned to paint another grouping of cookbooks, and asked for more specific details regarding my requirements. She came up with the print below, which incorporates the bright green color as well as two cookbooks I already own.
I love the print and I can't wait to see it on my kitchen's wall! I ordered a smaller print of books about writing to hang in the office. And my friend bought Jane's print of children's classics to hang in her new son's nursery (it looks adorable above the crib!). Jane is wonderful to work with and her art speaks to me. My love affair with books makes me only a little biased.