Wednesday, March 31, 2004


This article in today's Baltimore Sun describes the exact situation Mark and I faced five years ago when looking for a home. We both grew up in Baltimore County and would have liked to buy a home in Northern Baltimore County after we got married, but unless we wanted a townhouse, which we didn't, we were pretty much priced out of the market. And we weren't kids in our early twenties just out of college working entry-level jobs. We were both making decent money and had been working for quite a while.

So, like some of the people mentioned in the article, we jumped the border and bought a house in Pennsylvania just over the Maryland line. We have a three-bedroom house with a detached 2-car garage on just over an acre of land that we bought for under $140K. The same house in most areas of Baltimore County would have been atleast $200K five years ago. The decision meant I was left with an hour and a half commute each way into Baltimore City. After a year, I found a new job in Pennsylvania only 15 minutes from home. Mark still has the commute, depending on his current job site, which is now even worse with the price of gas. And everyone in my family is about an hour away, "breaking up the family unit" as the one woman in the article lamented.

But we love where we live. The sacrifice is worth it. The houses are more than five feet apart, we can't see into our neighbors' windows and traffic is practically non-existent. Whenever I visit my parents in Carroll County, Maryland, I feel claustrophobic. There's a red light at every intersection and the houses are built on top of one another. There's a new development near them and every time I drive buy it, the starting price goes up - houses starting in the mid-$150s, $200s, $250s, etc...

Maryland is pricing itself out of the housing market for young homeowners and middle-class homeowners. And in the process, it is losing its citizens (and their dollars) to neighboring states.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Cropping and Shopping

I've been taking a break from cross-stitch for awhile and instead, have been focusing more on reading and scrapbooking. Friday night, Nadine & Wendy and I went to a four-hour "crop" that was a fundraiser for the Leukemia Society. For $10, we got four uninterrupted hours of scrapbooking. There were about 30 people there, some of them major scrapbookers - the big travel suitcases with all of their supplies and scrapbooks that were 4 and 5 inches thick. One woman even had this whole stacked tray set-up for her work area that blew us all away. There was also a representative from Creative Memories on hand and we could use any of her tools, as well as purchase any additional supplies.

It was a very productive evening for me. I finished three pages and started a fourth, which I managed to finish Saturday afternoon. I've been focusing on all of the vacations M. and I have taken together over the past nine years. I only need to finish the trip I'm working on now - our 2000 trip to Kentucky, plus our 2001 trip to GSMNP, then the scrapbook of our "pre-baby" vacations will be complete and I can start a new one of family vacations. I also have about 5 pages of a baby scrapbook complete so far. There just aren't enough hours in the day!

On Saturday, H. and I went shopping and it was extremely stressful. I thought things were supposed to get easier as she got older! First, I tried to have her picture taken at Sears, just on the spur of the moment, but they were completely booked - I guess everyone was having their Spring/Easter pictures taken. Then we went to Penney's to shop for shoes. I did manage to find two pairs of shoes for H. - dress shoes for Easter and a pair of white sandals for summer. I was in search of both black and brown shoes. Most of what was out was spring and summer shoes, so there wasn't much to choose from for standard wear-to-the-office shoes. I bought a pair of brown shoes in the same style of black that I already have. The one pair of black shoes I tried on were way to small and when I asked for a 10 1/2, the male clerk smuggly told me they don't carry anything larger than a 10. Great! Thanks Al Bundy.

Then it was off to shop for jeans, second only to bathing suits on the shopping experience spectrum for me. The only jeans that I have recently worn have been Sears' "Crossroads' brand. Well, since they took over Land's End, they discontinued that line. So I tried on Penney's St. John's Bay brand and I actually liked them and found two pair to buy. I also bought a rather stylish, hip pair of faded, striped stretchy jeans. My sister would be so proud that I bought these all on my own!

But while I was looking through the table of jeans for my size, I sat my purse down on the table. Then we walked away. I didn't realize until 10 or 15 minutes later that I had forgotten my purse. I retraced my steps and when I got back to the jeans, my purse was gone. I asked the clerk in the shoe dept (a different clerk) if anyone had turned in a purse and she said no, but they have a lost and found upstairs. Just as she said that, I hear my name being called on the paging system. I running all over the store trying to find the elevator since H. was in the stroller. I can't find it (nor can I find anyone to ask), so I risk life and limb and take the stroller up the escalator. Customer service has my purse, completely intact. Thank you to the anonymous customer out there who so kindly and honestly turned my purse in! Before they called my name, I was thinking how stranded I was. My wallet, car keys and phone were all in my purse. I didn't even have any change on me to use a pay phone.

At this point, I'm completely exhausted, sweaty and thirsty from our trek through Penney's, so I go to get us both some lunch. When I take H. out of her stroller, she is soaked through. She was so wet I thought she had spilled her cup, but no, it was definitely a diaper leak. And she never said a word or fussed at all. So I inhaled my lunch, spilling ketchup all over the front of my shirt in the process, then hurried back toward Sears to use their dressing room to change H. I changed her head to toe, thinking that I need to start packing an extra outfit for myself, too, in the diaper bag. And I must say, the dressing rooms in Sears are ten-times cleaner than the ones in Penney's, atleast at this particular mall. The ones in Penney's looked like that hadn't been vacuumed in days (or weeks) and there were leftover clothes in every one we went in. And this is the norm whenever I shop there. In Sears, the carpet was very clean, a bonus since I had to change Hayley, and there weren't discarded clothes lying all over the place.

Anyhoo, after all of this, I was ready to go home, but I really wanted to stop by Michael's and get some scrapbook supplies, especially since I had some momentum going from the night before. So we breezed through Michael's and went home. H. fell asleep in the car about 10 minutes before we got there, but miraculously, stayed asleep for her regular nap when I carried her into the house and put her in her crib. I crashed on the couch and watched "Hollywood Baby Boom" on E!. I didn't have the energy to do anything else. I was so tired that night I couldn't even make it through Nashville Star - I fell asleep right after George Canyon sang. I was surprised when they didn't eliminate anyone because of a "technical glitch" - it was a very low-key announcement and no one seemed to mind. I tried to imagine the same situation on American Idol and decided the reaction would be the total opposite.

So Sunday was a day of rest, spent outside with H. running around the yard for most of the day. It looks like spring is truly here now and I'm very thankful for that. All that fresh air for H. and she falls asleep in an instant!

Friday, March 26, 2004

Big Stone Gap

I started reading BIG STONE GAP by Adriana Trigiani earlier this week. I've been wanting to read this trilogy forever and finally checked the first title out of the library. The librarian, who now knows my name, promised I would "really love it." And I have, from the very first sentence. "This will be a good weekend for reading." How can you not love a book with an opening sentence like that?

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Weekend Round-Up

Work has been so busy lately, I haven't had time to update. I took a vacation day on Friday. Both H. and I had doctor's appointments. H. weighed just over 24 lbs. and measured 33 inches tall at 18 months. The doctor said her vocabulary is that of a 2-year old, which is typical for girls. She didn't need any shots this visit, which was a blessing. I, on the other hand, had to get a tetanus shot from my doctor. She gave me a full physical and since I hadn't had a tetanus shot since 1990, she felt it was better just to get one. I liked this new doctor very much. She didn't launch into a diatribe about dieting and losing weight and exercising to control my blood pressure. She was very reasonable and felt we should take things one step at a time. Even just exercising without dieting (vs. control of salt intake, etc.) would help high blood pressure because exercise gets more oxygen flowing through the blood. To that end, I did finally decide to join Curves once I ran it past the doctor, so I'm officially a member.

After our doctor appointments, H. and I went to my parents' house to see my aunt, who was visiting from Philly. She hadn't seen H. since last May. Her grandkids are the ones who are close in age to H. - 4 days and 2 weeks apart. My cousin and his wife, who have Luke (the one that's 2 weeks younger than H.), are expecting another baby and are due in October again. A friend of mine from college is also expecting a baby in October, her first.

H. spent the night with my parents, so I was finally able to sleep in on a Saturday! M. and I hadn't spent the night away from her since May, so it was long overdue. I slept in, then cleaned the kitchen from top to bottom, and also cleaned H's room, which is hard to do when she's awake or asleep. My parents brought her back Saturday night and stayed for dinner and to watch the Maryland game (which they lost).

M. and I stuck with Nashville Star again this week. I was disappointed to see Stacy Michelle voted off by the viewers in the beginning - I thought she was the strongest of the females. I didn't think any of the other women performed that well Saturday night, as the judges repeatedly said. I was slightly surprised that the Irish guy Mal was eliminated at the end by the judges, not that he's all that great, but a lot of people seemed to want diversity. George Canyon still blows me away with the first few notes of any song he sings - how can he not win? And Brent Keith is growing on me. I thought he did a great job with the Rodney Crowell song he performed.

Sunday was quiet - it was sunny all day, but so windy and cold it was impossible to go outside. H. kept going to the living room and getting her coat, she wanted to go outside so bad. I finally gave in and we bundled up and went out for about 15 minutes, until our cheeks were red and our noses were running.

Monday, March 15, 2004

Stars Over Nashville

Haven't seen much bloggage yet this morning about Episode 2 of Nashville Star, so I'll add my two cents worth. To prove how useless the Warren Brothers are as judges, their comment to Sheila Marshall about the "Alan Jackson" song was completely wrong. They said that at first they were wary of a woman singing an Alan Jackson song - "Who's Cheating Who?" - but that she did a good job with it. That just shows you how much they know. The Alan Jackson version of that song was a remake of a hit by Charley McClain - a woman - in the '80's.

I can't get over how far superior this show is to American Idol. The level of talent is much higher, along with a level of maturity missing from the Idol bunch. I think the judges made the right choice this week by dismissing Gregory DeLang. But I don't know why they are all so high on Jennifer Hicks - she just doesn't do anything for me. I'd like to predict right now that George Canyon will be the next Nashville Star. Even though part of me thinks the judges will choose a woman since a man won last year, I still think he is the strongest vocalist, as well as the one who has the best country personality so far. Even if he doesn't win, I think it will be an Idol-like situation from last year, with the last two finalists fairing equally as well a la Clay and Reuben.

Friday, March 12, 2004

Crazy Morning

The stomach flu is still dogging us. The babysitter called this morning just after I got out of the shower - she was up all night with the bug. (This is the first time she's called us sick in over a year - amazing!) So I called my sister-in-law and she said, "I don't know if you want to bring her here." Both of her kids have it now, too. That made me feel bad, because I'm sure it was probably H. who gave it to them while she was there and not quite fully recovered last week. So my last chance was the back-up sitter, who is usually full on Fridays, but I thought I'd take a chance before I had to call work. What luck! The 9-month-old she usually watches is spending the day with her grandmother, so there was room for H. What a lifesaver!

Tuesday, March 09, 2004


Last week is a bit of a blur and I'm just catching up now. Following the Princess Birthday Party, H. came down with the stomach flu. She threw up once and was running a fever as high as 103.2 on Sunday afternoon (a quick call to the on-call pediatrician made us all feel better). Her fever broke Sunday night, but she had messy diapers all week and was generally cranky. On top of all this, the regular babysitter was on vacation this past week, so H. was being shuttled between a couple of different locations and wasn't on her regular routine. I worked out Monday night, had a waste of time computer class for work on Tuesday night, then I finally broke down and took her to the doctor on Wednesday night. I was convinced she had an ear infection, but she didn't, just the lingering effects of the stomach flu. Thursday night was my first night to relax all week and there wasn't even a new episode of Friends on to watch!

I would say she wasn't really herself again until Saturday, so it was a whole week until she was really feeling better. We were so glad to see Miss W. the babysitter yesterday morning! I worked out again at Curves last night (my third trip) and have to make the decision whether or not to join by the end of the week. Can I really commit to it?

We spent a lot of time outside this weekend, enjoying the nice weather, which has since turned cold again. H. loves being outside and cries when we have to go in.

Mark and I watched One Hour Photo Friday night, which was definitely creepy. And I decided I like Michael Vartan better with lighter hair than the dark brown color he had in the movie. I watched Frequency on ABC Saturday night, since I hadn't seen it. It wasn't quite what I thought it would be, but overall I thought it was pretty good. I'll watch anything with Dennis Quaid in it. Then I had to dig out my Garth Brooks' "Scarecrow" CD and listen to "When You Come Back to Me Again" over and over on Sunday.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004


This article in today's edition of USA TODAY is very timely. H. and I attended our first Disney Princesses birthday party on Saturday for my friend Wendy's daughter, Meghan, who turned 3. H. dressed as Snow White for the occasion (I'll upload a photo tonight from home). In my mom's neighborhood, the little girls have been having various types of Princess parties for a couple of years. They all dress to the nines for the event, complete with jewelry, make-up and pretty dresses. And they're all under the age of 5 or 6.

I find myself getting sucked into the marketing ploys for the Disney Princesses and others and there are days I want to buy H. everything I see. THE LITTLE MERMAID and BEAUTY AND THE BEAST are two of my favorite Disney moves. At the tender age of 15 months, H. received the "My First Disney Princesses Spinning Surprise Castle," a Disney Princesses tea set with a million pieces and a "Princess & Pony" for Christmas from Mark and me (although I also bought her the Little Peoples' Gas and Go Station to balance things out and we're already eyeing up Craftsman kiddie tool benches for next year).

As a former (still?) tomboy and a "girls can do anything boys can do" feminist, I sometimes wrestle with my conscious when buying these kinds of toys. I feel even stronger about toy vacuum cleaners and cleaning carts marketed toward little girls. (And don't get me started on other toys marketed (in-your-face) to very young kids like McDonald's - that's a rant for another day.) I don't know how I'm ever going to buy her a Little Dirt Devil and I've already seen her playing with one at daycare. I definitely don't want it engrained in her from an early age that women are the only ones responsible for all of the cleaning in the household. I purposefully painted her nursery red and blue instead of pink and white. But maybe it's all genetic anyway - who knows? All of her toys are spread out around the family room and, other than her Elmo toys, she plays with that Disney tea set the most. Is it too early to enroll her for girls' softball?

Monday, March 01, 2004

Random Thoughts on the Oscars

I didn't take any notes while watching last night, so this is all from memory, but I did manage to stay up for the whole telecast, even though I could predict all the winners. I only stayed up until the end to see if there would be one upset winner - Johnny Depp over Sean Penn. Oh well, he'll always be Tom Hanson to me. And who woulda thunk it - Jeff Spicoli won an Oscar.


I flipped back and forth between Joan Rivers and Barbara Walters. I love the Red Carpet, but my tolerance for JR and her inane questions is low. However, I believe that Maria Menounos (I always want to say "Menudo") now wins the prize for being even more annoying than Joan or Melissa Rivers. Is it possible for her to talk without screaming? And who is Billy Bush? Just a Ryan Seacrest wannabe (speaking of annoying).


The only hideously horrible outfit I saw was Uma Thurman. Peter Jackson was just sloppy. I loved pregnant Marcia Gay Harden in blue, but not her throwback 'do. I imagine I'll read some bad things about Sandra Bullock's "wedding cake" dress, but I loved it. Diane Lane looked stunning.


I liked that the Academy used some different presenters than they have in the past - Oprah, Jamie Lee Curtis, The Pinkett-Smiths.


After watching the tribute to Bob Hope and hearing him repeat the same tired jokes and lines year after year as host, I fear Billy Crystal is falling into the same pattern, even after taking a break for a few years.


Apparently, I missed the funniest part of the whole show - Will Ferrell and Jack Black. Damn, just like I missed the Janet Jackson incident. I really need to get Tivo.


Was the William Zabka nominated for Live Action Short Film the same Billy Zabka from THE KARATE KID?


I really didn't want Sofia Coppola to win because I didn't think I could stand listening to her acceptance speech. I haven't seen LOST IN TRANSLATION yet, but I hope she's one hell of a writer, because she has the personality and screen presence of a wet mop.


Some strange music choices when presenters walked onto the stage - HAIL TO THE CHIEF for Tom Hanks, LOUIE, LOUIE for Angelina Jolie?

I was so happy for Renee Zellweger, my beloved Bridget! I haven't seen this movie yet, either, but I'm just happy that she won. And maybe she'll win Lead Actress next year for BJ2.