Monday, September 28, 2009

Weekend Update

Had a great weekend! On Saturday, I crossed off one the items on my fall to-do list by going apple picking with my sister-in-law, her husband, and my adorable niece Ava (the hubby was away visiting some college friends). Apple picking was fun! Muddy, but fun. And eating apples right off the tree - divine.

What was odd (for me, at least) was all the families there. OK, this shouldn't be a surprise, because what did I think families with small kids did on the weekends? Head up to Vegas? Go clubbing? But I had this moment of thinking to myself, wow, so this is what you do when you have kids. You take the kids to kid-friendly places. And you have fun too. It's one of those moments when you realize that you are getting older, and that taking your kids and hanging out at the apple orchard sounds like a fantastic weekend. The kind of thoughts that would scare my 21-year-old self, but that my 28-year-old self finds oddly comforting.

On Sunday, we both went to my goddaughter's 5th birthday party (dear God, I AM getting old! Wasn't she an infant, like, yesterday?). Lots of fun, burgers, cake and more fun with toddlers. Madelyn (my goddaughter) is really into Hannah Montana already, and poses like she's a rock star. Gotta love attitude in a 5 year old.

And all of the chores that I swore I would complete this weekend? So didn't happen.

Saturday, September 26, 2009


Stole this survey from Longbrake Living - enjoy!

Do you snack while you read?
Usually, since I tend to read a lot during breakfast and lunch.

Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you?
Grad school forced me to write in all of my book, underlining, circling, writing in the margins. I do NOT like the way the hubby writes in his books - my way is much neater. This has caused spats in the past.

How do you keep your place while reading a book? Bookmark? Dog-ears? Laying the book flat open?
As a librarian, you'd think that I wouldn't do this, but I do. I dog-ear and leave books open all the time. This also drives the hubby crazy. It's my secret shame.

Fiction, Non-fiction, or both?
Both, but let's face it, fiction is more fun.

Hard copy or audiobooks? All hard copies.

Are you a person who tends to read to the end of chapters, or are you able to put a book down at any point?
I try to come to a good point, but I often fall asleep with a book open, and then I can't remember where I left off.

If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop to look it up right away?
I have never done this...maybe when reading Hegel.

What are you currently reading?
"The Omnivore's Dilemma" and (drum-roll please) my husband's second book! Yes, my husband has written not one, but two PUBLISHED books. He's wicked smart.

What is the last book you bought?
Ummm....I can't tell you that, but let's just say that I needed it.

Are you the type of person that only reads one book at a time or can you read more than one at a time?
Usually can do multiple books at a time

Do you have a favorite time of day and/or place to read?
Love to read myself to sleep

Do you prefer series books or stand alone books?
Usually stand-alones

Is there a specific book or author that you find yourself recommending over and over?
Hmmm...that's a tough one. Honestly, I could recommend anything that I've read.

How do you organize your books?
Ha!!! You need to read the rest of this blog.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Creating Bookcase Labels

My last post talked about how to organize your book collection; now, in true nerd fashion, I will share with you my crafty, diy shelf labels.

Originally, at our old place, I used my handy label maker to make shelf labels - simply type them up, and stick 'em on. Not pretty, but functional.

This time around, I decided to make something with a little more style. Originally, I wanted to use these labels that I had left over from our wedding...

But there were way too wide to stick on the ends of the shelves. So, I decided to make my own. I first grabbed a similar template online (forgive me if this is design plagiarism), and make a bunch of them in Microsoft Word.

Then, I threw the document through my scrapbooking label maker for some diy stickers.

And painstakingly cut each one out by hand.

And added each one the beginning of each of my sections.

And there you have it! Easy-peasy bookcase shelf labels - for a fraction of the price.

If you do want to spend more money, see this post on Apartment Therapy Chicago.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

How To Organize Your Massive Book Collection

The other day, my friend Jenn called me and asked a question only a librarian could answer: how do I organize a book collection? Since my husband and I own a massive amount of books, she came to the right person.
Every time we move, the hardest part is the books. They are heavy, hard to carry, and we have way too many. We don't actually own too many other things, but we can't seem to let go of the book collection. (According to the book "Freakonomics," research has shown that a child's intelligence grows more NOT by being read to - although also very important - but if they grow up around books and around adults who read. By this logic, our future children will be baby geniuses).

Of course, there are many ways that you can organize books, and there's small part of me that wants to give our books a Dewey Decimal system (in which case, my husband will truly think I am insane). But what I recommended to my friend was to follow the simplicity of the "bookstore model" - i.e. divide the books by subjects and then alphabetize by author's last name within each subject.

I work in a small, one-room college library, and this is actually the model we use (organize by subject, and then by Library of Congress call numbers within that subject). It's not perfect, but it allows our students to BROWSE the sections (and hopefully, feel more comfortable in the library).

So, I told my friend that she needs to create a system that allows for her own browsing. The key here is to organize by subjects that make sense to you. Don't make a French cooking section if you have one Julia Child book.

On the other hand, if you have really large subject (like my husband does), then it makes sense to create smaller subjects within that section. For instance, my hubby is studying Political Science. So, we have sections for:
  • Media Studies

  • American Government
  • Middle East Studies
  • International Relations
  • Economics
  • Environmental Policy

As for me, my fiction collection is quite substantial, and I used to divide up novels, poetry, & drama, but after this last move, I combined everything together, but kept a separate section for literary theory and Classics (I was a Latin minor).

Yes, our inner nerd is showing. Haven't you seen the title of this blog?

Does anyone else organize their books in this way? How do you keep track of your collections? Please share!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Fall Goals

Thank God it's almost fall! I love fall! Scratch that, I LOVE LOVE LOVE fall. The crispness of cool fall air, leaves crunching beneath your feet, fall colors, Halloween (free candy! an excuse to dress up!), apples and pumpkins, back to school clothes...what is there not to love?

In order to fully enjoy this fall, I've given myself a list of things to-do this fall:

1) Decorate the house with fall colors & decor

2) Enjoy a pumpkin spice latte at Starbucks (this may happen several times...)

3) Go apple picking

4) Pick out pumpkins at a pumpkin patch

5) Carve said pumpkins

6) Eat pumpkin pie!

7) Rack leaves and then jump into the pile

8) Take a walk in a forest preserve once the leaves change colors

9) Throw a football around with my hubby

10) Host a football party

11) Go to a haunted house

12) Go on a hayride

Let's see if I can actually complete all these now!!!

Garage Sale Success!

What's the best thing to do when you move to a new place and find that, despite the hugeness of the new place, that you have a whole lot of stuff that you no longer need? Have a kick-a** garage sale!
The subdivision where we now live hosted a neighborhood garage sale a couple of weeks ago, so we decided to join in the fun. Here's a few helpful tips for hosting your own garage sale:

Step 1: Haul all of the stuff you no longer want to the garage. We put little colored stickers on everything, which took some prep the night before; in the future, I may just do a "$1 table" or "$.50 corner" to save time.

We continued my mom's tradition of having a "free box" of the stuff that you really have no use for, but feel guilty about charging money for, say, half used detergent. Highly popular.

Step 2: Move the larger items towards the end of the garage to *lure* in potential buyers.

Step 3: Convince a couple of extra nice guys to sit in your hot garage and entice the ladies to buy more.

(In this case, Tony and brother-in-law Marty played the role of sexy, sweaty salesmen).

Step 4: Sit back and watch that moola pour in!

Actually, people didn't buy nearly as much stuff as I thought they would, and buyers were definitely looking for rock-bottom deals - as in, I will buy that bookcase that you paid $80 for less than a year ago for $3. I blame the economy.

But in the end, we made quite a bit of cash! Since we joined forces with my boss lady/landlord and Tony's family, we had to keep track of who-sold-what. By the end of the weekend, sister-in-law Sam made $45, boss lady made $75, and we made a whooping $170. And we got rid of a ton of excess clutter. Woo-hoo!

Making money AND decluttering? Be still my heart.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Savvy: Green products for smarter living

Last week was my sister-in-law's birthday, and while waiting for the rest of the family to show up and enjoy delicious Chicago deep dish pizza, I stepped into this little shop next door and fell in love. Savvy is a new shop in downtown Naperville that provides "green products for smarter living." Absolutely adorable shop, with really helpful and friendly owners and great products.

It's no secret that I care about the environment, and I'm always looking to 1) buy more enviro-friendly products, and 2) support local shops (as opposed to giant corporate big box stores). Not that I don't shop at Target, like, 5 times a week, but it's nice to find a store that isn't a big box and is really trying to make a difference.

I was most excited to see all-in-one cloth diapers in person. I really want to use (mostly) cloth diapers when we have kids, and I've done some investigating online about them, but it was really nice to see them in person and realize how soft they are, how easy they are to use, and how freakin' adorable.

I had to buy something, so I bought this little recycling truck made of recycled materials (yes, you read that right) for my nephew's birthday.

Savvy has a website, but for those of you who don't live in the Chicago suburbs, I really encourage you to look around and see if you have any local green shops to support. If not, I would also recommend Greenfeet for buying green products online.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Why I Love Renting

Top Ten Reasons Why I Love Renting!

1) Someone else gets to fix your appliances, at their expense.

2) When your neighbor complains that your tree is too far over on their lot, and should be cut back, I get to reply, “I’ll let the landlord know.” (This happened yesterday, and I was so glad that I didn’t have to be the one making the decision!)

3) No long-term commitment. We can change our minds easily and without regret.

4) When you’re low on money for house repairs, renting often takes care of that problem. You’d LIKE to replace the tiles in the kitchen, but you can’t, because it ain’t yours to replace – plus, you really don’t have the money. Problem solved.

5) Saves you money on housing. (Well, sometimes. It does in our case).

6) Rather than settling for a starter home, we can save our money up for our dream place and (hopefully) never have to move again.

7) We really want to buy a house here, but we’re both new to this specific town. Renting allows us to explore the neighborhoods and get to know the area (and what areas we like best) before buying.

8) No worries about inflation, variable rates, property tax, etc.

9) Let’s face it; we don’t have the money right now to buy. Yes, it’s a buyer’s market, but we have a lot of student loan debt and right now we need to focus on our debt and starting our family. I’m not ashamed to admit that we just don’t have the money. I think that honesty is what this country needs right now – rather than trying to keep up with the Joneses, people need to start admitting that they can’t afford everything. Period.

10) Renting makes you appreciate what you have. My husband and I both desperately want our own little house to call our own, but it’s just not in the cards right now. Not being able to get what you want all the time is humbling, and makes you realize what is really important – family, friends, and being thankful that you at least have a roof over your head and food on the table (which many, many in this world do not).

Check out oh Amanda for more bloggy list fun.

Our new place!

I'm so excited to FINALLY share with all of you pictures of our new place! Yes, it's a rental, but it's OUR rental, and darn it if I will let that stand in the way of me indulging in my home decor passions.
Mind you, I took these pictures before we moved in, so you could see the blank slate. We've been working hard at putting all of our stuff away, and I can't wait to start decorating the heck out of this place.
Here's our place from the outside. I would love to paint the shutters and front door red to add some pop (which our landlord might let us do), but for now, it's clean and simple.
Living Room & Dining Room

Other side of the living room

(What do you guys think of the accent wall? Any ideas for accent colors in the room? I'm thinking oranges and reds, but I'm not sure....)

Downstairs Half-Bath (this wall is just crying for something...)

Other view of the half bath - again, nice neutral colors, but we need to add some color. Yes, those are my feet.
Kitchen (that table is NOT mine, and will go out with the garage sale)
Closer view of the kitchen - almost everything is brand new! You have no idea how great it is to finally have a brand new kitchen to cook in. I actually WANT to cook now.
Looking into the family room/den from the kitchen - the bookcase against the accent wall must stay, as it's attached to the wall. This is probably the most awkward room, since it's so long. But I have some ideas for making it work.
Upstairs, here we have the master bedroom. Beautiful, isn't it.

This is one of the two bedrooms that we can paint, since my landlord never did. Thank god, because I seriously can't sleep in that color any more. It reminds me of what a care bear would vomit.

When you paint your bedroom light yellow, WHY NOT paint the master bathroom purple? Who are these people? Why did anyone at Home Depot let them pick these colors?

If you thought the master bedroom had bad colors, check out one of the bedrooms. My landlord told me that the entire house was in primary colors like this. Because, you know, when you paint three walls turquoise....

The fourth wall should be bright red. How sophisticated.

This room will definitely get painted soon, and maybe turn into a baby room? Fingers crossed!

This is the other upstairs bathroom, which I've taken over. We can't paint this one, and it already has a nautical-ish theme going on. I normally wouldn't have picked navy blue like this (I typically like lighter colors), but hey, I'm a renter, so I'm just going with it. I'm already picturing a nice white framed print, some white coral, maybe something with twine....

Guest bedroom, with more of the navy blue / nautical theme. This will probably stay the guest room, but I want to dress it up a bit more.

So there you have it - our new place! Not bad for a rental, huh? I keep walking around and telling my husband that the place is HUGE! I mean, three bathrooms? Who needs that many? But we really like it, and it's starting to feel more like a home.
Keep reading for updates on what I do to the place....

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Part 5 - Grandpa's House!

8) Grandpa's House

I bet when you first read that I was going to go through all of the places I've lived, you thought, oh, how cute and charming. What a lovely trip down memory lane. Little did you realize that I have lived in so many different places, and that this series would never end. Yeah, well, neither did I....

On to the last place I lived, where I just moved from...Grandpa's House! You see, while Tony and I were living it up scared to death of the gang next door in style, my wonderful and loving Grandpa Frank (whom I adore) had a series of bad falls (as one does in their eighties) and needed a lot of extra help. Since Grandpa wasn't too bad off, and just needed someone to help with the cooking, cleaning, etc., my parents came up with the great idea that Tony and I move in with Grandpa Frank, which happens to be down the street from them, and help take care of him in exchange for rent.

We took my parents up on the offer, for a number of reasons - we were broke and desperately trying to save up for our wedding; we wanted to get out of the city; and, of course, we loved Grandpa Frank. So we did and took care of Grandpa for about a year.

When we first moved in, I spent several months just clearing out junk and trash and clutter from 70's on. Here's what I learned about grandparents: they save everything. Rubber bands, paper clips, receipts...must be a leftover from the Depression. Let me put it this way: my grandmother had the property tax from her & her parent's house going back to 1920. Yeah. So I spent a great deal of time organizing, tossing, and archiving (of photographs, etc.). Don't worry, I kept the taxes.

Now, although everyone warned me that caring for the elderly would be difficult, I didn't quite prepare myself. And although I loved caring for G.F., it was very hard, especially as he physically had a lot of problems. So, sadly, we as a family had to move Grandpa Frank into an assisted living facility about a year ago. But in the end, it was the best decision for him: he gets around the clock care, gets to meet people and make friends, and hey, he's even got computer classes now! (Grandpa Frank, if you're reading this, Hi!).

Anyways, I loved that little ranch house, and wished we could have stayed, but alas, our jobs require us to move (still in Chicagoland, but closer to our commutes). Here's a few shots of Grandpa's house (post my organizing, of course!).

You've already seen the library....

Here's our bedroom - which is what our next new bedroom will most likely look like....

The big backyard with our red fox visitors....
I will miss that house! But, on the next project...

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Part 4 - Living it up in the city...

6) Grad school in Obama's backyard

After I graduated as an undergrad, I decided that I hadn't had enough of theory and literature and other urbane topics, so I applied to grad school. I got into my dream of dream schools, the University of Chicago, to earn a MA in Humanities. I still think there was some mistake, and that my name got mistakenly placed on the "accept" list rather than the "throw out" list.

But in any case, I packed up and moved to our current President's neighborhood of Hyde Park on the southside of Chicago (for all of my Chicago peeps, SOUTHSIDE!!!). I rented a grad student studio, on the fourth floor of a walkup, complete with radiators and squeeky wood floors that made my downstairs neighbor hate me.

Unfortunately, the only pictures that I could find of my little studio are of my cat, so I swear, I'm not just blogging more about my cat. Oh, this is also the apartment in which I first had Eddie.

Here, Eddie is sitting before one of the windows, which overlooked a beautiful park. Hyde Park has a colony of feral parrots living in its trees (yes, you heard right, feral parrots). You'd look out at northern Illinois tree varieties and see little green and yellow parrots flying around.

Here you can see a glimpse of 1) the beautiful wood floors, 2) the brown armchair that I got for free (FREE!) that Tony now hates and wants me to get rid of but I refuse because I've had it since grad school, and 3) the pale look of one overtired/underfed grad student.

Here, a visiting Tony (we were long distance at the time) sits at my desk, which is where I lived for that entire year. Again, for my Chicago peeps, notice the Marshall Field's shopping bag behind him. We miss you Marshall Fields!

The navy blue theme continued unabated...

7) Living in Sin Moving in Together

Well, years of Catholic schooling and upbringing failed, and Tony and I decided to move in together. (We got engaged right after though, so I predict only a minor sentence in Purgatory as our punishment). I spent the last few weeks of grad school traveling all over Chi-town, looking for cheap rent, and finally found a three bedroom (3!) in the neighborhood of Logan Square.

The built-in dining room hutch had me at hello...

So did the original hardwood floors and trim...

Well, the kitchen left something to be desired. Check out the awesome heating system we had. My allergies were not happy. And who puts an oven next to the fridge and away from any countertops? Seriously....

Other problems: The porch was broken and we had to sign a waiver saying that we would never allow more than 5 people on it at a time. (Scary) The next door neighbors were obviously selling drugs on the street (Logan Square is a neighborhood that's still in transition from gangland to yuppieville). The landlord won't fix the electricity, and using more than two appliances at once caused a shortage. (Frustrating) It's one of those places that we laugh about now, but it was a disaster at the time. But it was our first place together, and it's where the boy proposed to me.

This is the first time we combined all of our books and made a book room. That's love.

Me and my best friend on my birthday in possibly the hotest apartment ever. I hung red curtains to try and bring some color into the space. This is the first time that 1) my decorating didn't revolve around navy blue (what?!? crazy), and 2) I started to read blogs and realize that I could be doing so much more with my living space. It was the start of something big, people.....

Friday, June 5, 2009

Part 3 - Oh the places Mary has lived...

4) Another college apartment
After I transfered to Illinois State University, I shared an apartment with 3 other girls, and we spent a lot of time decorating and making it look as cute as possible on a college budget. This is also the apartment I lived in when I met a certain handsome college student named Tony who stole my heart talking about politics, Noam Chomsky, and Simpson episodes.

In this picture, you can see a young couple (we'd been dating about 4 months here) standing in my apartment kitchen. Notice that we decorated with our margarita and wine glasses? Aren't we clever and thrifty?

Here was our living room, with the girly white sheer curtains. That's me on the far left with one of my roommates. In this apartment, I realized that there are girls more OCD than I am, and that must have a stack of coffee table books neatly placed on the coffee table at all time WITH NOTHING ELSE ON THE TABLE OR THERE WILL BE BLOOD. Let's just say that we didn't always get along, but I had a lot of fun in that little apartment, especially since for the first time ever, I was known as the messy one. By the way, I have no idea who the other two guys on the couch are...

5) My first single apartment!

After living with girls for three years, I decided that I needed to branch out on my own, and rent my own single apartment. This is was the first time that I felt I had some say in decorating, and I starting cleaning/cooking/decorating for the first time. Of course, that's not to say that I was good at it. On the contrary, as the pictures here will show, I somehow decided that my bathroom, kitchen, and other rooms should have navy blue everything. And that naked women flying with bicycles is art.
Here's me and the boy sitting in my lovely rented furniture - nothing says comfort like decades of other college students living in your couches.

This kitchen was actually quite large! My mom bought me that crock pot while I was in college, and I actually used it to feed myself. I was so grown up...

What is going on with this bathroom? Don't worry, my taste did get better...

I'm back - with a new name!

So, the move came and went (we survived!), and we FINALLY got internet working at our new place (which explains the long stall in postings).

And, you may notice that I've given my little blog a new name: Nerd Love. Newlywed Days seemed too...generic? Boring? Dull? Cliched? But Nerd Love seems to fit us much better. I actually got the term from my brother-in-law, who, during his best man speech, said that our relationship could be summed up in two words: nerd love. Because we're both nerdy academic bookworms, and we happen to be in love. I think the name fits, and it better sums up our lives - let's face it, while I may not be a newlywed forever, I will always be a nerd. And married to one.

So I changed the name, and I hope everyone out there who reads my blog (all 2 of you) are not disappointed.

In short, now that I finally have internet access, I can start posting again and I hope to dedicate far more time to my little project here.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Part 2

Welcome back to part 2 of where-in-the-world-has-Mary-lived....

2) My dorm!
Here I am in all of my nerdy glory in my dorm. Note the various music posters behind me and the large white desktop. And lack of any style. This was my first home away from my parents, and my roommate Ashley and I made the most of it. Actually, she was mostly gone rock climbing, so I had a quasi-single. What a great roommate!

Here, my friend Jill and I sit in my "dorm fort," which latest at least over a week before the RA told us it was a potential fire hazard. Ah, college days. How I miss them. Except for the food. And lack of air conditioning. And lack of privacy and a clean shower. Wait, never mind, I don't miss my dorm.
3) My first apartment

This is the only photograph I could find of my first apartment that I shared with 3 other girls (including Megan, the taller one - I'm the one in the college-stereotype plaid pajamas bottoms). The day we moved in, my mother cried, thinking that I was going to be living in such filth. We moved into a place with dilapidated furniture, holes in the walls, and dirt and dust everywhere. Ah, college. It was the second and third floors of a house off campus, and although it was small and crowded and the landlord was a jerk, it was the first time I felt truly on my own (despite the financial support from my folks - thanks, Mom and Dad, for the pseudo-independence!).

Sunday, May 17, 2009

We're Moving! (again....)

My big news for the day is that at the end of this week, we're moving! Yes, I have been holding out on you all, but frankly, packing has kept me quite busy these last few weeks (not that much is really packed...)

It's somewhat of a bittersweet move, since the house that hubby and I have been living in for the last two years is my grandparent's house, meaning that I have to start to come to terms with the fact that Grandpa is in assisted living, and probably has to remain there. And that (when my parents sell the house) someone else will be cooking in my grandma's kitchen. And I won't live as close to my parents. :( Not that we'll be far (about 45 minutes away), but still, like I said, I'm a little bittersweet.

But the good news is that both hubby and I will be closer to our jobs, and I always welcome change. Both Tony and I have moved a lot during our adult years. A LOT. I realized the other day that I have moved 7 times in the past 8 years. Scary, huh? You'd think that I would be a pro by now and that everything would be packed and ready. You'd think, wouldn't you?

Anyways, after I realized how many moves I've taken, I decided to share with all you out there the various places I have lived.
1) Mom and Dad's House

Ah, good old 740 Mohave Street. This was the home that my parents' took me home to from the hospital, and where I stayed until I left for college. To me, this house means everything: family parties, childhood memories, even the tumultuous teenage years.

Ironically, I couldn't seem to find many pictures of just the house itself, but here's one of me getting ready for my wedding day. I spent the night there before the wedding, just so I could say that I spent one last night as a single woman under my parent's roof. I love the hardwood floors and the simple, homey feel of the house and furniture. I'm quite sentimental about that house - it was the only home I ever knew for 20 years!