Thursday, April 30, 2015

Julie 101: The Top Twenty

A combination of things, so first: the sweet Sarah Babbs tagged me on Instagram to share 20 fun facts about myself; I'm sure this isn't kosher buuuut I cannot type on my phone for that long right now AND my IG has a habit of shutting down on me at inconvenient times, and I just can't lose another post that I spent more than 2 minutes on... here goes!

1. I don't believe a person can peak. It limits potential.

2. I played lacrosse in high school.

3. I was in a sorority in college; still very proud to be a KKG!

4. Alfred Sisley is my favorite painter.

5. I am a champion hug giver. Friends call them "Julie hugs"; sort of a tucking in motion.

6. My life mantra:

7. At age 23: I was offered my dream job - an editorial writer at a major D.C. newspaper - and I turned it down because I wanted to stay close to Will. Not a very modern attitude, but some things are worth missing in exchange of a better possibility. 

8. After finishing a review session with my AP kids on Saturday afternoon though, I think I'm living a very cool, very real dream. I never thought I'd be a teacher. I love it.

9. When I taught my kids about the Korean War, I was able to show them pictures of the country when I took a  two week trip to Asia to visit April (May-June 2011). It was my first trip overseas and I adored every day of being there. Here is Geoje Island:

10. Favorite genre: mysteries.

11. I was a wicked good penpal in college - I loved writing friends! Especially if I needed a break from writing papers without losing my mojo, I would write a letter. Since college, I have severely tapered off, but not for lack of want. April, of course, is National Writing Letter Month. Quick! Writing a few tonight!!

12. I prefer listening to books on tape, especially long novels - Anna Karenina, Harry Potter series and All the Kings Men were excellent. Excellent narrators only, please.

13. The End of the Affair by Graham Greene is my favorite book; The Habit of Being by Flannery O'Connor is my favorite collection; "The Four Quartets" is my favorite poem; Introduction to Christianity by Joseph Ratzinger/ Papa B is my favorite apologetics read.

14. Favorite modern lit? The Hunger Games trilogy, hands down. Will asked me to read the first one as his birthday present (to him - so we could see the movie together); I read the first one waiting for my flight to ATL (off to visit Vivian!) and live-texted him the entire time. It was an incredible read, though the second (Catching Fire) is my favorite.

15. I went to Germany with my sister for a week, and it was awesome. (My sisters K&M are flying there now for 10 days!) It was my first trip to Europe.

16. My favorite food is fruit pie (especially cherry, apple and peach).

17. I always thought I wanted lots of sons... but so far, I am not disappointed. I am seriously smitten with these two.

18. I try to keep an open mind to life - I'll try most things once, food included:

Tokyo street vendor cuisine

Tokyo fish market

^^That was a mistake/ Korean specialty.

(And some things are worth repeating!)

19. Fangirl moments:

I've met Justice Clarence Thomas (June 2009):

and Rep. Ron Paul! (February 2009):

Bucket list includes: Justice Scalia, J.K. Rowling, the Holy Fathers (Papa B and/or Papa F - a girl can dream, right?!)

20. Culinary claim-to-fame: I'l fix you the best grilled cheese you've ever tasted.

Anything else y'all want to know? Hey ho!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

My View (vol. 30)

What I am reading: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo

And a couple dozen essays by students...

Love what I am eating: yogurt, carrots + hummus, Baptism cake, almond and apricot Kind bars

Meal planning: 

I need ease and comfort for this next week, plus dishes I can send to work with Will.
This week in history:

Jonathan Crombie died at age 48. Crombie played the character of Gilbert Blythe (my literary crush) in the 1980s miniseries Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea, based on the the Anne of Green Gables series by L.M. Montgomery.

Gilbert Blythe is the school competitor/nemesis/ friend/ spurned lover/ friend/ dearest love of Anne Shirley, protagonist of Anne of Green Gables. This series was one of the most important reads and re-reads of my girlhood, and Crombie's portrayal of Gilbert in the mini-series was perfection.

Here are a few articles/ tributes I enjoyed:

“Gilbert, I’m afraid I’m scandalously in love with you.” - Anne Shirley (and every girl)
I will be in denial forever. Jonathan Crombie was Gilbert Blythe! (And the third Andrew Sullivan movie never happened!!) To the best of my knowledge, Anne and Gilbert are still living in Canada and did not age past the last book...

Otherwise, the girls and I are having a lot of time together! Here is Grace sneaking Laura's binky because time with her dino wubbanub is being severely limited. She is giving me the grumpy face?!

Laura land:

One of the sweetest things about Grace is how much she loves her family. She will crawl into your lap and hug you, she will snuggle when it's sleep time, and Heaven forbid Laura lets her binky leave her lips... Grace will stuff it securely back in her mouth.

Summer is coming:

For all you wonderful readers - yes! A surprise! Updated blog layout by college friend/ bestie's sister Margaret McCarthy Design and new header by another college chum - the very talented Anna, who is opening her own shop soon! It's clean, whimsical and lovely.

Just like me! Wink.

Prayers: All those affected by the earthquake in Nepal! So tragic.

For us - Will is sick and I am injured (pulled chest muscle, possible carpal tunnel) and we have to keep going. For Grace and Laura to stay safe and well; their energy levels are up, up, up! (Fortunately, we're never too tired for many a dance party!)

Next week, I am going to: Survive. Will has Monday off (day of rest!), but the rest of the week is non-stop, including three night shifts in a row.

Any plans next week, readers?

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Friday, April 24, 2015

You've Got Style (Choices!)

As I was showing my husband Will an adorable picture (a friend just had another baby!), he replies, "Why is the husband wearing khakis and a button-up in the hospital? That looks so uncomfortable."

Our Florida Style

 I replied, "It looks so handsome and put together!" Which is true, but did not faze my husband. He is the King of Casual. He tells people he picked emergency medicine as a profession so he could wear pajamas (read: scrubs) to work. I can pick out a button-up, khakis (and maybe a tie!) for church or weddings or certain family events, but casual khaki wear is not for him.

Our daughter, 18+ months, will stuff her feet into shoes too small if she wants to - specifically the silver boots-with-the-fur she found at Old Navy last winter. They're soft and now the sides don't velcro together, but she loves them stuffs her feet into them every so often, even though she has new, cute, correctly fitting shoes available.

Which makes me wonder: what influences style?

Style is "a manner of doing something." If Aristotle thought that virtue becomes a habit by constantly choosing so, then surely fashion style and sense come out of the same practice. Will and I are not naturally stylish. At our best, we dress in a classic manner. At our laziest, we are grasping for clean clothes. Style, I think, is in the middle: it's the every day dressage - the choices we make.

 We both grew up wearing uniforms. His go-to was athletic wear: shorts and a tee-shirt. Mine was always nicer wear: polo shirts, skirts, jeans and pearls. College meant shorts year-round for him, and ballet flats with everything with me.

Why? Comfort.

Not only with the individual pieces of clothing, but the style - what your clothes project to the world, as well as their function. I'm more into scoop neck shirts than polos now; I love mocs and flats; button-up cardigans are my jam; I love fitted pant and shorts in solid colors, and patterned A-line skirts; button-ups do not work for me or my body type.

Projecting my style on my daughter (for now!)

I love the concept of a uniform - and no matter what our style, we all create a kind of uniform: those favorite, comfortable pieces to wear again and again. But once you've picked out your favorite pieces, is there still room to expand? I hope so - a scarf, necklace, glasses or other kind of statement piece can really create a beautiful image of self. (And one day, maybe, casual khakis for all!)

A lot of my current wardrobe is transferring from third trimester maternity (winter) into breastfeeding postpartum (spring with a dash of snow). I'm finding myself wanting to do a major overhaul of my wardrobe because there are simply too many items that do not fit into this season of my life.

Am I keeping this shirt because I love how it fits, or because I want to wear it eventually? Too often, it is the latter. I'm also finding my style is changing. Sure, I'll love cardigans and headbands forever. But maybe I don't need to still have cardigans from high school and college?

images I am currently reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo and I am most struck by her insistence to only keep things you love; things that move you - not things you want to love. Isn't that a trap too many of us fall in?

I have at least eight pairs of non-maternity jeans, and I realized last night that only one brand fits me well: and still, I keep all the other pairs "just in case"... in case of what?? If disaster hits, the last thing I need is a pair of ill-fitting jeans.

  This weekend, I am re-claiming my style. Here's what is on my mind:
  1. Keep clothes that fit well (not "good enough" fittings)
  2. Ask myself, Do I feel lovely in this piece?
  3. Is it worth wearing? Sure, have a few around the house pieces - but keep clothes that make you feel good and look good!
  4. Don't forget accessories!
Style takes time and practice: by knowing what I like, which pieces are versatile, and thinking of needs v. use. It also takes a certain amount of bravery to admit what works, what doesn't, what you like and how you'll proceed once you know (or think you do!). But fashion isn't final, and we should try to allow ourselves to experiment in colors, fabrics, and - of course - different styles.

How have you developed your own style, readers?

{Originally posted at The Mirror Magazine}

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Adventure Days

So, hi. 

We'll begin by mentioning that I am typing this post with my new swag (due to tingling and weakness in my right hand, we think I might have carpal tunnel syndrome - for now). It's a gift to myself for having five more weeks of school left!!!

Carrying on. Five more weeks of school means nine more weeks of intern year. We're in a tough work schedule spot for the next few weeks, so the Baldwin bunch took advantage of the day off and sunshine on Sunday to visit the local park and fish hatchery.

Grace only had eyes (and smiles) for her Dad.

Alas, Monday came around and left us girls alone until bed time. Grace's current favorite activities include sneaking her binky from her crib (she's supposed to to have it only at nap or bed time) and playing on/with anything infant-related. 

The night usually ends with me cleaning up the Floor of Mass Destruction.

Wakey-wakey! Will's home till lunch so Laura gets to keep napping while I take Grace to OT. Just kidding, she only napped while Will and I were cleaning our room. She likes to maximize her parental time.

Between cleaning, eating and prepping for class, I teach, and our babysitter leaves. I'm able to grade until Grace wakes up. Then we play together, eat dinner, and playtime becomes binky time because it is way too early for bed and way too late for another nap, which Miss Tired Cat obviously needed. Dino wubbanub, I love you. And you, blue blanket!

I'm big on picking my battles. Sure, she shouldn't have her binky all day. But some evenings, we allow for the leeway because Mommy is all alone to handle that (those) temper tantrums, and the girls like to have solidarity when one is crying.

I loved my friend Sarah's piece in the NYT about parents and how our generation is all about peer-review. Of course, there is also the official stance of her speech therapist that more binky time = less talking time. I'm not for giving in every time Grace wants something - she's definitely learning in her many therapy sessions that we don't quit even when it's tough. 

But she's still a baby, almost 19 months, and after a long day of vocalization, practicing signs, talking through sounds and babbling, I think we could both use the quiet time. I like that she has developed her own style of self-soothing. And her own fashion style! Check out that headband:

Meanwhile, my little kicker is a tummy time champ!

One and a half months strong!! Then, she gets tired and cries piteously while Grace attempts to stuff her pinky back in her mouth.

As Will says (about work), "They can't stop the clock!" Same goes for bed time.

Laura  lies on the aforementioned jungle activity mat while I brush Grace's teeth, wrestle her into a clean diaper and then jammies. She calms down once her binky and blanket are back in her possession. We read a few books and snuggle, and then I start night prayers. Sometimes she flees, sometimes she sits on my lap, but mostly she likes to stay close and move around. (Off the couch, on the couch: repeat!) Either way, bed time is coming. She settles in, content. 

Laura and I return to the couch, and I begin to grade while watching/ listening to Bones. I love Bones - I love the diverse characters, the way they honestly tackle discussions of religion, philosophy, morality, anthropology, crime and humans. The gore can be a bit much for me, and I appreciate the steps they've taken to make it believable. It can be silly or out there or downright terrifying, and I am stretched in my imagination and beyond my personal comfort level. Also, they made a Twitter account for Dr. Brennan and it is hilarious.

In order of importance: cuddling Laura, eating that Greek yogurt, grading, watching Bones, cleaning Grace's daily mess. Grading isn't so bad; it just requires concentration and the ability to focus. (This picture was not taken during an active grading session.)

Will gets home around 11, we stay up till 12 as he eats dinner and decompresses; then sleep (and night nursing), and the day begins again! Days have a relative pattern to them. The tough part is not always having Will in the equation; the easy part is adding him back in, though, and this morning, he was drafted into breakfast duty while I caught a couple more minutes of snooze.

I am not sure I've really noticed Grace getting bigger until Laura came around; Grace seems more like a toddler than a baby (but not until 24 months!!) with her independent streaks.

Grace discovered she could actually escape getting dressed for a couple minutes since my wrist hurt so much, so she decided to climb into Laura's bed.

I got to sit down and nurse Laura, and Grace re-visited her old haunt. Win-win-win.


When they say parenthood is an adventure, it's only if you see it as exciting. I love watching my little minds take shape, and it's amazing the bond I am building with my girls. They prefer me to their babysitter. They come for me for comfort. I encourage during therapy. We play and laugh and relax together.

Another night of girls night in; I want to take them on a walk, but my wrist hurts too much. We'll swing on the porch after Grace finishes her applesauce and play more until bed. Then I'll crunch out the rest of my Civil Rights Movement lecture with Laura and say a few prayer for Will, who is working super late, and has to give a presentation tomorrow morning at Grand Rounds. Thursday is double therapy for Grace and double class for me, and best of all, I am looking forward to Will being home for dinner.

Adventure is out there!

How is your week going?

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The $29/ week SNAP Budget Challenge: Could You Do It Too? (Link-Up)

The news on the street 

... is that Gwyneth Paltrow failed the SNAP (formerly, Food Stamp) challenge of living on $29/week. The challenge was made by Chef Mario Batali, who is drawing attention to the fact that 1.7 million New Yorkers reply on SNAP and to donate money to food banks.

Paltrow lasted four days. In her defense, she's probably never had to be creative in saving money - this is definitely an art. She also used the word "brouhaha" in her post title (excellent word).

So, this was all she bought:



Seven limes and one onion?! Kale? Also, too much green and not enough colors... if I learned anything about nutrition. And no dairy? I'm starving looking at this assortment of groceries. She's eating tacos all week, it seems.

Now, the challenge is a little unfair because you're not allowed to use food you already have; part of good budgeting is stockpiling (i.e. I don't have to buy a box of oatmeal every week!) ... we'll let that one slide for now.

Here it is:
What is the #FoodBankNYCChallenge? 
Attempt to live on a food stamp budget for one week. That's only $1.38 per meal. 
Why now? 
Congress cut food stamps twice since 2013 , and soup kitchens and food pantries saw an immediate increase in visitors.  New Yorkers can’t afford any cuts to SNAP - learn more about the cuts here. The #FoodBankNYCChallenge raises hunger awareness and deepens your understanding about the struggle to afford food on a food stamp budget. 
How do I take the challenge? 
Use $29 per person for all your food for 7 days. Share your experience, challenge a friend, and challenge Congress to strengthen food stamps.  For more info, check out our Challenge Toolkit. 
Do: Make a budget and shopping list, use coupons
Don’t: Rely on food from others, use food you’ve already bought, give up
I think it is a good challenge. 70 million pounds of food is wasted per year in this country alone - that alone is pretty shameful, and we should be looking for ways to donate and be more innovative in shipping fresh foods, as well as healthy eating/ nutrition education. That is not always common sense, especially when a box of macaroni and cheese is easy.

$29 per person - we have three people plus a baby, who makes me extra hungry.
Three person budget: $87
Four person budget: $116

This is - more or less per week - our actual budget for survival.

Challenge accepted.

We shop at Wegmans, the greatest grocery store on earth (east coast chain), where the prices are very reasonable (if you're not overindulgent).

This is not my list every week, but it certainly is a typical look at our grocery shopping.

Quaker Oatmeal, Old Fashioned; 42 oz.: $3.99
12 c. eggs*: $1.99
French vanilla coffee*: $7.29
Bananas (0.49/lb): $1.47


Sharp cheddar cheese (shredded)*; 2 cups: $2.49
Stonyfield organic baby yogurt; 6 cup pack: $3.49
fruit greek yogurt* (0.89/each): $5.34
2% milk*, gallon: $3.32
Whole milk*, gallon: $3.49
Colby Jack cheese sticks*: $3.79


chicken drumsticks, family pack* (0.99/lb): $4
spaghetti, family pack: $3.49
Tyson chicken nuggets: $5.69
multi-grain bread*: $2.99
JIF peanut butter: $2.49
Smuckers strawberry jam: $2.59
Macintosh apples (1.79/lb): $5.37
Applesauce*: $2.49
baby-cut carrots* (16 oz): $0.99
seeded cucumber (0.99/each): 1.98
hummus*: $1.99
whole wheat Fig Newtons: $3.99


boneless chicken thighs, family pack (1.99/lb): $8.74
spinach salad, family pack: $3.99
[brown or white] rice*, 16 oz: $0.99
organic chicken broth*: $2.99
Idaho potatoes, 5 lb: $2.99
frozen peas & carrots*, 16 oz.: $0.99


Total: 95.41

*Wegmans brand

Initial thoughts

This list felt restrictive - I do not include any beans, fish, quinoa or nuts because the challenge is to meal plan for one week. I picked our most basic diet and worked off that. I'm also used to buying family packs and freezing part of the meat for the next week, and that's how we keep our variety going. I'll change up the fruits and vegetables I buy based on sales and seasons.

I'll admit that I wasn't sure where spices fell; do they count towards the SNAP budget? There were a few in-between items - I decided to exclude brown sugar, for example, even we put it in our oatmeal and coffee since we're not straight-up eating it. If we had to go without it, too, we would.

Then, there are snacks. Everyone needs snacks, right?! I know I do. Almond nut-thins, popcorn, fruit bars, Kind bars, raisins; now and again, Will likes to enjoy a can of coke (especially since the hospital recently switched to Pepsi products) and I'm all about plain sparkling water.

I usually spend $100 or so on groceries; it varies every week, depending on what is stretching, what needs to be replenished, and how many boxes of diapers we need.


For this week, I would bake the chicken. Some to eat with potatoes; others to shred for chicken fried rice - fry up with eggs, rice and the frozen peas & carrots. Maybe breakfast for dinner on Friday, and mostly left overs. I would saute the spinach as well as eat it raw as salad. The combinations with simple ingredients and a little olive oil should not be underestimated.

The problem with Gwyneth Paltrow's food creations is that they did not stretch. That is key! Making food last longer. Even making a stock soup would have been a handy meal, and a good use of beans too.

Worth it?

I think that this challenge is good for the attention it draws to a real issue in our country of families being able to afford food, but we need to go deeper.

Not being able to budget for food stretches into other areas of life - not making wise financial decisions, underestimating the power of debt, unwillingness to cut wants, unable to provide for needs. Whether we care about the details or not, economics plays a strong hand in every life.

Take Away

Will and I were lucky to be taught the value of money and earning it, but it wasn't until we were married and on a very strict budget that we really learned how to budget, sacrifice and cook.

The book that really helped me in all three of those areas was Cheap. Fast. Good! by Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross. I highly recommend it - in addition to recipes, they write about how to look at food, what kind of cuts of meat to buy, how and where to cut your budget, how to use coupons, fresh v. canned, and money-saving shortcuts.

For me, it helped me grow more confident in my home keeping abilities and decision-making for our family unit. Buying groceries became one of my favorite activities with GHB: as well as feeding and fueling us, our grocery budget affected whether we could "splurge" somewhere else (renting a movie, buying a treat). This is very real accountability - if we do not pay our bills on time, we hurt our credit. If we hurt our credit, we limit our financial options in life. This could affect our children! Also, if we do not practice self-control and show them the importance of making wise decisions, who will?

I do want to add that budgeting is common sense; it is common sense because there is no downside (as my husband would say). This does not mean people should automatically know how to do it - but it is easy to learn and understand. It is also prudent. The reason we budget it to be responsible citizens and adults. We do not deserve to eat out after a long week or work; we don't have to own that watch or only eat steak. Some days, we eat the same food again and again. We can jazz it up or spice it differently, but we're eating the same thing.

And that is okay!! I'm not the best budgeter, but I stay within our parameters. It's manageable, we still have squeeze room, and it keeps us accountable. If we have extra money or food in our budget, it can be moved over to our charity givings. We take care of our family first, always, and we are responsible with our money so we can help others as well through example and givings.

How do you budget readers? Does your family budget stay within the SNAP parameters? (Link-up closes on May 21, midnight)

Happy budgeting!

p.s. this article is good reminder not to make assumptions about people on food stamps/ SNAP

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Laura: One Month

Lady Laura is one month (and two weeks!!) old. Unbelievable.

I decided to take a few pictures with her month sticker from Lucy Darling Shop. I did this after I put Grace to bed and before Will came home from the hospital. It had been a long day for both of us, apparently.

Laura was clearly not in the mood.

So, I nursed her. A little better on the Baldwin front.

Sort of.

At one month, Laura is:
  • 11 lbs, 1 oz. 
  • 22 inches
  • an active observer
  • seemingly serious
  • socially smiles at her Dad the most
  • placid with Grace's taps on the bottom, belly, and back.
  • the recipient of Grace's thoughtfulness and kindness (e.g. big sister often tries to put her pinky back in her mouth)
  • happiest when held, awake and sleeping
  • very strong - kicked so much during her ultrasound (for a hip click) that the technician knew she was fine ((and still checked with the doctor -- Laura is perfect!))
  • the most content baby

Love you, little ladybug.