Monday, September 30, 2013

Books: September 2013

image via Hypable
It's kind of hard to review The Cuckoo's Calling, as has been evident in all of the reviews written for it since it was revealed that Robert Galbraith is actually Jo Rowling.  Because of my deep respect for Rowling as an individual, I'm definitely upset that someone would betray her confidence and ruin this experiment she had set up- to write an entirely new series of books in an entirely new genre and release it to a world who had no expectations for what it should be.  She didn't need the sales figures or the profits- she just wanted to write something new, let people read it, and hear what they thought.  That's never going to happen now, as people will forever read this and any future stories about Cormoran Strike as a mystery series by J. K. Rowling and not just as a mystery series.  Just as A Casual Vacancy was an amazingly complex novel that was different from Harry Potter in every way imaginable, and harshly criticized by people expecting a quick, easy, fun story with clear morals, this book will not be well-received by someone expecting what they think a J. K. Rowling book is or should be.  But that's the thing- J. K. Rowling is technically a penname, too- it was the persona under which she wrote my favorite series of books, under which she created an incredible world that we keep going back to- and that she's even coming back to as a screenwriter.  Her publishing company had her release A Casual Vacancy under the same name because they knew they'd sell millions of copies of "J. K. Rowling's newest book" and that's exactly what they wanted.  Robert Galbraith, in turn, is a penname under which Jo has created a new set of characters- including Galbraith himself, whose biography is obviously just as fictional as that of the book's main character.  Both of these personas were created by Jo as a way to explore different genres, different types of characters, even different audiences.  But although J. K. Rowling is Jo, Jo is not J. K. Rowling- or, at least, she's not just J. K. Rowling.  She has far greater range than even the incredible depth explored in the Potter series.  To read and enjoy the other books she has written, I think it's important to look beyond the initials J. K.- especially when they're not present on the cover- and read the books for what they are, not what you hope them to be.

Which brings me to my second point about this shocking revelation- I really am glad this news came out.  Again, it pains me that her great experiment will never pan out- unless she's got other books out there that we don't know about!- but truly, if it hadn't been announced that Robert Galbraith was Jo Rowling, I would not have picked up this book.  Traditional mystery novels are just not my thing- when I'm in a bookstore, I hover around the shelves stocked with YA, sci-fi, and fantasy books, never pausing to glance down the mystery aisles.  Also, the cover of the American edition is just not appealing to me- if I saw it lying on a "best sellers" table not organized by genre, I would assume it was some sort of romance novel in the style of Nicholas Sparks.  Well-reviewed or not, it's just not the type of book that would have otherwise drawn my attention.  And so I am so, so glad that she was revealed as the author because yes, that's the only reason I read it- because Jo is an amazing author, no matter what she's writing.

And this is an amazing book.

This is definitely a mystery written in the tradition of a good-old-fashioned detective story, complete with all the character archetypes and narrative tropes of the genre.  Maybe it's because Mr. Geek and I watch so much Law and Order, but it really feels like Jo did her research on the police bits- lending credibility to Galbraith's supposed career in the military police, where all of those details would have been a normal part of his life.  This isn't exactly a "whodunnit", in that you're not given all the evidence as the reader and are therefore unable to reach your own conclusion- but that's not to say you won't develop your own theories.  Mr. Geek read it first, so on my read-through I would stop periodically and say, "Oh, I think the killer is so-and-so," and give my reasoning- which was, more often than not, based on the character's motive alone, logic which Strike points out early on to be an amateur detective's mistake.  The killer is truly a surprise- the narrator is deliberately vague about some evidence so that there's no way you can reach the right conclusion until it's explained to you in gritty detail by our clever detective- because that's how those sorts of mystery stories are written.  Is it a cliche way of concluding the story?  Yes- but this whole genre is cliche, so it makes it feel authentic.  The character development is very film noir as well- as our private detective is digging into the personal lives of the victim, her family, and the suspects, his own background is revealed to us in flashbacks so that we're also trying to solve the mystery that is Cormoran Strike.  Is that a cheesy way of telling a story- to stop the action so that it almost feels as if the character is speaking directly to the camera, explaining his thoughts and motivations and personal history before stepping back in to what's going on around him?  Yes, but again, that's what makes it feel so authentic.  Perhaps I was able to enjoy these cliches so much because I don't typically read mystery novels and therefore they don't feel overdone to me.  I wasn't expecting this to feel like a book by J. K. Rowling- I was expecting it to feel like a mystery novel written by Robert Galbraith.

But Robert Galbraith is Jo Rowling.  Some early reviewers, just after the announcement, confidently claimed that they could definitely tell that this was Jo as they read it.  The book reviewer who inadvertently started the scandal commented that it was hard to believe that this book was written by a first-time author.  So can you tell that Galbraith is Rowling, just by reading it?

Well, yes and no.  Had I not known, I don't think I could truly have made the connection.  But knowing it was her, I think I was sort of subconsciously looking for clues she may have left in the narrative to tip off her biggest fans.  But she didn't leave clues- at least not on purpose.  She wrote this book as Robert Galbraith, not as J. K. Rowling, so any similarities between this and her other works are purely in her skill as a writer, not some stylistic tells.  For example, her character development is, as ever, superb, even for the most insignificant of characters- before the first chapter is finished, I had a clear picture in my head of the people we were introduced to, both based on physical descriptions and their distinct mannerisms.  When Jo writes a character, you know that character.  You learn more as the story progresses, and you may have to adjust your first impressions, but you can see and hear and get  these people within a few pages of being introduced to them.  But do any of the characters in this book feel like any she's written before?  Does she describe them with the same words, give them the same motivations?  No, believe it or not.  Between Potter and A Casual Vacancy she has created hundreds of characters and yet each person we meet in The Cuckoo's Calling is someone entirely new- which is what makes them feel so real.  Each character looks differently, acts differently (and for different reasons), and is described in different ways than everyone who came before him, just as each individual human being in our non-fictional world is different.  Some reviewers have said that the descriptions of the clothing are so accurate that this book was obviously written by a woman- but then again, the murder victim is a supermodel, so Galbraith could have just done some thorough research (perhaps he has a very fashionable sister?).  And yes, the ending, where our private detective sits at his desk and we, the reader, feel as though we're sitting in front of him as he describes in detail exactly how and why the murderer pulled off his crime- it feels a bit like Dumbledore sitting Harry down at the end of the book to explain what was really happening this school year and why he's not dead yet.  But again, I'm going to assert that this form of storytelling has more to do with the crime drama style than Jo's personal style.  I think maybe all along, as she was writing Potter, she wanted to write a classic mystery series, but what we saw instead was a coming-of-age tale, a fantasy series about an unlikely hero with a great destiny who saves the world.  And Potter was all of these things- but it was also a crime drama, seven mini-mysteries within the greater mystery of who Voldemort is and how Harry can possibly defeat him.  I think if the Robert Galbraith books had become popular first, and then she had published Potter, and it was revealed that the writer of the Cormoran Strike novels had secretly written this story about a boy wizard, people would see those "let me 'splain it to you" moments between Dumbledore and Harry as proof that this fantasy series was written by an author who typically writes mystery novels.

Regardless of who wrote this book, it is indeed very good, and worth reading whether or not you're a fan of mystery novels.  I hope she is able to continue this series- I want to read more about Cormoran Strike and his clever assistant as they solve crimes and catch bad guys when the police are unable to.  (Like my favorite consulting detective named Holmes...)  It's not necessarily an incredibly quick read, but it is fun, and does not require the emotional dedication of A Casual Vacancy which, let's face it, I had to close at times to go cry a little bit as my heart broke for some of those characters.  It's a testament to her literary genius that Jo has been able to write in three completely different genres-  two of which I don't typically explore as a reader- and I've been entertained by all three, and adore them all for their own merits.

So have you read The Cuckoo's Calling?  Did you like it?  Do you think you may have read it if you didn't know it was Jo? 

What did you read this month?

Much love,
The Geeks

Friday, September 27, 2013

Oh, Internet... {34}

In what was quite possibly the worst planning ever, I scheduled myself an oil change for tomorrow morning.  For 8:00 tomorrow morning.  That means I have to wake up at 7:00 at the very latest...on a Saturday.  Urgh.  Well, at least we're going to Saturday night Mass so I can sleep late on Sunday... In the meantime, let's look at some of the awesome things that happened on the internet this week:

I love this photo display! // image by Capturing Joy via Infarrantly Creative
Make It and Love It shared this awesome tutorial for attaching a Peter Pan collar to a plain shirt
I totally agree with this sentiment from Miss Emma at A Pinch of Pixie Dust

I like Delightfully Tacky's musings on back-to-school time and why it's natural to associate fall with getting organized and starting over.

The track list for the Catching Fire soundtrack was just released!  (Thanks, Hypable!)

What awesome things happened on your internet this week?

Much love,
The Geeks

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

YouTube Survey 2013

Every year, nerimon (aka Alex Day) posts a video on his channel with a few random questions- kind of like those old-school "20 random facts" posts you used to see on Xanga and LiveJournal and MySpace- along with his answers, and then he mentions who he'd like to see answer those questions next (though anybody can make a video with their responses without being "tagged").  These videos spread around YouTube rather rapidly every year and I don't think many people know where they originate, just that their favorite YouTubers always answer the survey.

This year, I've decided to participate in the survey here on the blog.  I had even considered recording a video with my responses, vlog-style, but I've been battling a cold the past few days and my voice sounds all wonky (and sometimes non-existent), plus the congestion is not very camera-friendly.  So you'll just have to settle for written answers!

What's your biggest fear?
I think I'll answer this the same way Alex did- in two parts.

Superficially, I'm afraid of burning myself.  I don't like fire, and it wasn't until a Girl Scout camping trip and a lesson on campfire safety when I was actually forced to strike a match and use it to light something that I ever even touched matches.  (That was middle school, if you'd like to mock me properly.)  Even now, if I'm going to light a candle- and I don't have many candles around the house because I'm paranoid about setting the house on fire- I prefer to use a large lighter.  (And I've never, ever used a cigarette lighter.  I always forced my chemistry lab partner to light the Bunsen burner.)  But it's not just fire that I'm afraid of- when I'm baking, I wear an oven mitt on each hand to pull pans out of the oven- and to put cold ones in.  I like to avoid hot ovens entirely if I can- if Mr. Geek is baking with me, I'd rather his job be to deal with the oven, and I'll do all the rest.  I don't even like particularly hot showers, for fear of being scalded.

On a more philosophical level, I'm afraid of failure.  Not in the sense that I'll prevent myself from taking risks, just that, when starting a new chapter of my life, I often experience intense anxiety over whether or not I'll be able to do it right.  This pregnancy has been magnifying those fears ten fold- I've been afraid that I'm not doing the whole pregnant thing correctly sometimes (especially when it comes to my diet).  I'm afraid I won't be a good parent.  I'm afraid I won't be able to nurse Chief for the whole first year of her life (or more) like I want to.  I'm afraid my career will suffer too much as I try to make the demands of my job work with the demands of being a mom, and that I won't be able to provide our family with all of the opportunities that I'd previously hoped.  (Heck, even before Chief came into our lives, I was starting to fear that I just plain wouldn't be good at my job as I move up in the organization.)  I'm constantly receiving validation and encouragement from Mr. Geek, from my family and friends, from my co-workers, but no amount of "you'll be fine"s and "you can do it"s will ever be able to quiet that tiny voice that unceasingly questions whether I know what I'm doing.

How did you find out Santa wasn't real?
The year we moved into our house in Botetourt County, I was eager to help my mom with the Christmas decorations.  (Well, okay, what I really wanted was to climb the rickety ladder into the mysterious attic where the decorations were stored, because attics are a great setting for adventures and magical discoveries.)  Mom was insistent that I not join her in the attic for various reasons- she didn't want me to fall off the ladder, the boxes were too heavy for me to carry back down anyway, and I could be more help to her if I would just take things that she brought down and carried them into the living room.  This process was going well until she was taking a particularly long time with one box at what seemed to be the very back of the attic, so I started to climb the ladder to follow her in.  And then, I saw it- the thing that had been the top of my list for Santa that year- Mall Madness, a board game which gives each player a credit card and the object of the game is to shop.  My initial reaction was excitement- "When did you get that?  Bring it down, I want to play it now!"  My mom tried to brush it off quickly- "Oh, um, that must have been left behind by the people that lived here before us..."- but she refused to let me have it right then.  "It's supposed to be a present," she finally told me.  But I knew about her stash of Christmas presents- they were in her closet, under a pile of old ugly sweaters and handbags, and they were all already wrapped.  Santa never delivered wrapped presents in our house, they were artfully arranged in front of the fireplace on Christmas morning so that we could immediately see what we'd been given.  She saw the light bulb go off in my head and quickly tried the "It was left here by the former occupants" story once again, but to no avail.  Later, she explained that traditions like Santa Claus were her and Dad's way of giving my sisters and I special treats without spoiling us, and that it was important that I not ruin the magic for my sisters.  She told me not to think of it as them lying to us, but rather that they were playing make-believe.  It worked- I didn't tell my sisters.  I'm not sure how they found out, actually...

What's the best idea you've ever had?
I think the best idea I've ever had was that Mr. Geek and I should get married.  I know most people would refer to this as "making a decision" rather than "having an idea," but it was an idea, and it was very much my idea.  Very early along in the "official" part of our relationship, when we decided we were a long-distance couple and not just long-distance friends, I realized that he would be someone worth fighting for- that this relationship would be something worth working for.  I'm not sure when I said it, but the first time marriage was brought up, I turned to him and said, "We should get married."  So yeah, it was my idea- and it was a damn good one at that.

What's the most embarrassing thing your parents have ever done?
 I can't believe I'm about to put this story on the internet, but here it goes.  When I was in high school, my mom refused to allow me to own a thong.  I don't know why I was so enamored with the things, but the cool girls at school wore them (and let everybody know about it).  I tried every tactic, even arguing that they were the best form of underwear to be worn under dance costumes because they meant no lines- but she countered that with "well then don't wear underwear at all under your costumes."  Touche, Mom, touche.  I bought one myself one time without her knowing, wore it to school (and took it off before dance class because was uncomfortable), and I even volunteered to do the laundry the next day "in an effort to chip in more around here," but apparently laundry couldn't wait until I got home from my after school job, and the offending garment was discovered and thrown away without any further discussion.

That's not the embarrassing bit.  This next part is.

We were visiting extended family and playing a rousing game of Taboo with various aunts, uncles, and cousins (and second cousins, and cousins once-removed, and great aunts and great get the picture.  Everyone.).  It was Mom's turn.  She drew a card, saw all the words she wasn't allowed to say, and used the first clue that popped into her head- she pointed at me and said, "I won't let you have one of these."  Without hesitation, I guessed, "A thong?" and she screamed "Yes!" before drawing another card, and then we both looked at each other dead in the eye, realizing what we had admitted in front of EVERYONE.  I ran upstairs and refused to talk to anyone for the rest of the night.  She finished the game (and won, I do believe).  At first my sister pointed out that it was equally my fault for admitting it by making the guess, but the damage was done- she would have used another clue and somebody else would have guessed it, or she would have had to announce what the right answer was, and the statement would still have been made- "Miss Geek wants a thong and her mom won't let her buy one."

If you were only allowed to pick one career for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Imagineering.  It's the reason I decided to get a mechanical engineering degree- I wanted to design roller coasters and other attractions for the Disney theme parks.  As with all dream jobs, things happened, other opportunities arose, and I never managed to line myself up properly for that career, but if it were possible to drop everything and do so now, I would in a heart beat.  (Especially if it meant free park tickets.)

What two people would you like to see complete this survey next?
Not that I'm saying they have to now, but I'd be interested to read answers to these questions from Shayla of Northern Exposure and Karisa of Karisa Tells All.

And of course you, lovely readers!  What are your answers to any or all of these questions from this year's survey?

Much love,
The Geeks

Monday, September 23, 2013

Culinary Adventures: (Almost) Dad's Spaghetti Sauce

Once again, I found myself recreating an old stand-by recipe from my childhood this week.  Something about having a baby has me thinking about the way my parents always did things- everything- and wondering how we'll rank in the Parental Hall of Fame (which I'm convinced is a thing that actually exists, even though nobody else will admit it).

Spaghetti was always a staple in our house when I was growing up, though each cook had his or her own version, and the recipes evolved over time.  There was always difference between Mom's Spaghetti and Dad's Spaghetti, and then Dad changed his recipe drastically when I was in high school and he went on a health kick.  Papaw's Spaghetti was an entirely separate entity altogether- version 1 of Dad's Spaghetti was similar to it but not quite the same, and to this day I'm not really sure what was in Papaw's recipe that made it so distinct.  (His rumbling chuckle at the ruckus a grandbaby was causing?  His incredible patience?  A little extra oregano?)

So today, we're tackling Dad's Spaghetti- more specifically, Dad's Spaghetti Version 2.0.  As with Mom's Potato Salad, I know this isn't an exact recreation and I actually made some purposeful changes to make it a little more "mine".  I'm really happy with the way it turned out- reminiscent of home and sitting around my parents' dinner table, but still something new that will probably become a regular menu item here in the Geek household.

(Almost) Dad's Spaghetti Sauce
Adapted dad

-1Tbsp olive oil
-2 garlic cloves, minced
-1/2 white onion, diced
-1 green bell pepper, diced
-4oz white mushrooms, roughly chopped (I used half an 8oz package of already-sliced mushrooms)
-1lb ground beef
-salt and pepper
-2tsp chili powder
-1/2tsp cinnamon (just go with it)
-1tsp oregano
-1tsp parsley
-1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
-1 14.5oz can diced tomatoes

-Coat a hot pan with olive oil and toss in your bits of garlic.  Just as your kitchen starts to take on a delicious garlic-y aroma (after about a minute, maybe a little longer) add your diced onion.

-Sweat the onions and revel in their fragrance, and as they become translucent, toss in your mushrooms and then your peppers.

-Toss this mixture around in the pan for a few minutes until the mushrooms turn nice and brown, then add your ground beef.  Generously season the meat with salt and pepper and break it up into little bits with your spoon.

-Just as the beef reaches its final stages of browning, sprinkle in all of your spices.  Let everything sit long enough to fill a large pot with water and set it on the stove to come to a boil, then pour in your crushed and diced tomatoes.  Give it all a few big stirs, turn the heat down to low, and put a lid on it.

-Give the flavors time to get to know each other, then like each other, then love each other, then marry.  (This takes the same amount of time as it will take you to add plenty of salt and olive oil to your boiling water, cook your spaghetti noodles, and drain them in a colander.  Spaghetti sauce flavors are romantic fools, you see.)  You can stir it a couple of times, just to check that nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pan, but really you should just leave it alone and let it do its thing.

-Serve a heaping ladle full of sauce over a mountain of pasta.  (And yes, that's technically linguine, not spaghetti.  It's what we had in the pantry.  Maybe I should just call this sauce a bolognese?)  Top with shredded sharp cheddar or grated parmesan (or both, if you're into that kind of thing).

Because we always serve this as sauce on top of pasta as opposed to mixing the noodles in with the sauce, we inevitably had more sauce leftover than pasta.  (My family is a bunch of carboholics, what can I say.)  Dad would turn the leftover sauce into chili, so I tried my own version of that, too.  I simply poured my leftovers into a hot dutch oven, added a (drained) can of kidney beans, a little extra chili powder, and a box of orzo pasta, stirred it up real nice, put the lid on, and let it simmer for 10 or so minutes.  (I think next time I'll add a bit of chicken stock, too, since the little orzo noodles were still a bit under-cooked.)  I like shredded cheddar and a dollop of sour cream on my chili; Mr. Geek likes shredded cheddar, Fritos, and mustard on his.  Weirdo. 

What sorts of dishes were staples on your childhood dinner table?  What's in your spaghetti sauce recipe?

Much love,
The Geeks

*all photos personal*

Friday, September 20, 2013

Oh, Internet... {33}

Phew, it's Friday!  I'm excited to get some rest this weekend (and run a few errands, as always).  You know what didn't rest this week?  The internet.  Here are some awesome things the internet provided this week:

I didn't think I was a loafer person, until I saw these... // via ModCloth
the official logo for the TFiOS movie // via Hypable
I love this homemade dollhouse in a suitcase! // by My Poppet, via Ohdeedoh

Make It and Love It shared a great tutorial for French Seams which is almost enough to make me want to go the extra mile on my sewing projects...almost...

This wasn't posted this week, but I discovered it this week- The Pioneer Woman's recipe for Peach Whiskey Barbecue Chicken.  I'm salivating just typing that.

A Beautiful Mess shared a recipe for a pumpkin spice syrup which looks easy enough that I might actually make my own instead of relying on Starbucks for my fix...

I hope we can raise our daughter to be strong the way Carrie Anne at Little Big has raised her daughter.

OMG according to BoingBoing Cyanogenmod is going commercial!  This is a huge deal and will definitely shake up the mobile market.

What happened on your internet this week?

Much love,
The Geeks

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Fashion Adventures: Not Quite Long Sleeves

It's actually starting to feel like fall around here now that we're midway through September- there was actually a chill in the air when I left for work this morning!  The temperatures still reach the mid-to-upper 70s by midday, however, so any sweaters needed in the morning are no longer necessary by lunchtime.  (Mr. Geek finds this comforting; I'm ready for the days when it consistently feels like one season all day long.)

These pictures were taken Monday, at 32 weeks and 4 days.  Mr. Geek had the day off, and I went ahead and took the day off, too, so we could do baby things all day long.  Our major errand was to head to the hospital and take our tour of the maternity wing.  I'm not really a fan of hospitals (or doctors or nurses or...medicine in general) and I'd been feeling a general sense of anxiety that having a natural birth would mean combating not only my own body to make it do what it's supposed to do, but also the hospital staff, to prevent them from maliciously trying to sabotage the birth.  Now that we've toured the hospital, I know the latter will definitely not be the case.  (It was a little silly of me to ever think that it would, to be honest.)  Mr. Geek and I are both well at ease now that we've seen exactly what our labor and delivery room looks like and heard the attitudes of the nursing staff towards natural birth- supportive, to say the very least.

Assuming Miss Chief makes her appearance on a weekday during normal business hours, we drive right up to the front, drop off our car with the (free!) valet, go straight to the maternity ward, and check in at the desk.  Depending on how much we freak out and how early we get there, we'll either be sent to a triage room (to decide if maybe we can go back home for a little longer...) or straight on to our own private labor and delivery room.  The room itself seemed pretty huge- even when crammed with a tour group of 6 couples- and there's plenty of room for me to walk around during labor.  They have a wireless monitor that will allow me to move freely and not have to lie down in order for the nurse to check the baby's heartbeat, which she'll only do about once an hour, unless there's cause for alarm.  The room has its own bathroom with a decent sized shower, a chair that turns into a bed for Mr. Geek, a nice-sized tv, and wireless internet!  (Which, the nurse informed us, is really rather slow, but still.  It's the thought that counts.)  They're willing to delay initial procedures (the vitamin K shots and eye drops) for up to an hour so we can immediately start getting to know each other and I can see if she wants to try and latch on for some comfort and a bit of colostrum.  We get about 2 hours to recover in the labor and delivery room before Chief and I are taken to the "family-centered care" wing where we'll have an (admittedly tiny) private recovery room, which also has its own bathroom and shower.  Chief will get to stay in my room for our entire stay (which will hopefully be nice and short, once she arrives) and if the pediatrician ever decides he'd rather take her to a nursery for better lighting or whatever, I can go with them.  She never has to leave my sight, so I can nurse on demand and we can spend those critical first hours bonding as a family.  Both of her grandmothers will be here for the birth, and they are allowed in both the delivery and recovery rooms, 24 hours a day (though I'm sure they'll want to go back to our house once the festivities are initially over so they can sleep in proper beds).  The hospital has a great team of lactation consultants (who our OB affectionately refers to as "The Nipple Nazis") and an entire "nursing boutique" where you can buy pumping supplies, nursing bras, and attend nursing classes with the baby.  Overall, most of my anxieties about this birth have now been assuaged- the doctors and nurses have proven they'll do everything they can to ensure a safe, natural birth, so now it's just up to me to do my part!

I think I kind of look like my mom in this shot...

Top: Kohl's (same style, different color)
Necklace: Francesca's Collections
Watch: Kohl's (same style, different color)
Jeans: Old Navy Maternity
Shoes: Converse Chuck Taylors via Off Broadway Shoes

This top was actually a new purchase and is just a "regular" top- not maternity clothing.  I realized recently that my wardrobe has a distinct lack of nursing-friendly, button-up tops, so I'm going to have to remedy that.  Mr. Geek actually picked this one out in an effort to make me buy something for myself amidst all the baby clothes as I once again fed my Kohl's habit a few weeks ago.  It's very soft, rather lightweight, and happens to be Mr. Geek's favorite color on me (as it makes my eyes look bluer). 

Moms- did you take a tour of the maternity ward before your baby arrived?  Did it help calm your nerves?  When did you start thinking about the practicality of nursing in your pre-baby clothes?

Non-moms- are you as excited about sweater weather as I am?

Much love,
The Geeks

*all photos personal*

Monday, September 16, 2013

On Femininity

I think I'm a Kohl's-aholic.  Every couple of weeks I get a 20% off coupon in my email...and that just so happens to coincide with a weekend when they give Kohl's Cash for spending a certain then I go back the next week to spend the Kohl's Cash...

But it's not my closet that's filling up.  Sure, every now and then I pick up something for Mr. Geek or for the kitchen, but for the most part, I'm raiding the already-discounted racks of Carter's baby clothes for Chief, who has quite the impressive wardrobe building up.

Something I've noticed in my (many) trips to Kohl's is the ridiculous difference between what's labeled as "boy" clothing and what's labeled as "girl" clothing.  Mr. Geek and I tend to be drawn to things with animals on them because what's cuter than pajamas with frogs on the feet?  Only I've noticed that some of the cutest animal-themed clothing hangs on racks labeled "boys."

I'm sorry, but why should pajamas with tiny turtles on them be reserved for boys?  Because they're blue?

I just can't with the cute.  Ohmygoodness.  But seriously- why is this considered only boy clothing?

This is the one that bugged me the most.  There was a display with animal hoodies on either side- one side for girls (panda bears with pink bows) and one side for boys, where I found this lion.  Why do they have to label them at all?

Clearly there's nothing stopping me from buying so-called boy clothes for my baby girl- all the baby clothes are in one compact place and at least some of the outfits are free from slogans involving "little guy" (but many of them do say such things).  It's frustrating, though, that if I want to give my little girl something in a color other than pink, I have to turn to the boys' section.  That frustration drove me on a boycott of sorts against girl clothes- on a couple of shopping trips I grabbed things exclusively from the boy racks.  I read a ton of articles on how you shouldn't tell a little girl she's pretty- you should emphasize everything other than her looks.  I started using the word "gender-neutral" to describe everything I want our daughter to come in contact with- toys, clothes, nursery decor...I had become hostile to the color pink.  I decided that if something was pink or purple it was somehow insulting to my baby girl- that to have her wear it would be labeling her as less than a little boy wearing blue or green.

But then isn't that going overboard, too?  I mean honestly, would there be anything wrong with Chief wearing this?

Should I really prevent her from wearing dresses?  Will looking too much like a girl be a disadvantage to her?

Is it sad that it's very hard to find sports team memorabilia for girls in the actual team colors, as opposed to pink?  Yes.  Do I want Chief to play with LEGOs and building sets?  Yes, but I also want her to play with dolls.  Do I ever want Chief to have to downplay her femininity in favor of a more "gender-neutral" attitude on life?  Absolutely not.

So our Chief will come home to a space-themed nursery with blue walls and Star Wars posters.  She'll wear tiny pink tennis shoes and leggings with ruffles on the butt.  And if every adult in her life buys her pink onesies that say "Daddy's Girl" it's not the end of the world.

So what's your opinion on pink?  (And yes, this post was partially an excuse to post photos of cute baby clothes...)

Much love,
The Geeks

*all photos personal*

Friday, September 13, 2013

Oh, Internet... {32}

Boy am I glad it's Friday!  This has been quite the busy week- we made a lot of progress in the nursery (which I promise to blog about once it's finished!), Mr Geek bought me flowers for no reason, and I've grown even closer to resembling a small whale.  All this busyness means that this post is a bit late this week :/ The internet was pretty busy this week, too- here are some of the things that happened on my internet this week:

Tomato Pesto Bites via Delightfully Tacky
via xkcd
Mixed Berry Buttermilk Bundt Cake via The Way the Cookie Crumbles
Miss Emma at A Pinch of Pixie Dust talked about her conversation with Belle, who is apparently also a Jane Austen fan!

Curbly shared a round-up of DIY serving trays.

Apple thinks they're so fancy with their fingerprint scanner on the newest iPhone, but Boing Boing shared an article on why this is actually not the best authentication idea.

Kelly at View Along the Way turned a headboard into an adorable bench!

And, of course, the best thing that happened on the internet this week: WB is making a Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them movie.  More importantly, Jo herself will be writing the script.

What awesome things happened on your internet this week?

Much love,
The Geeks

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Culinary Adventures: (Almost) Mom's Potato Salad

I don't share recipes very often on this here blog- probably because I haven't done much from-scratch cooking since this whole pregnancy thing started.  But back on Labor Day, I had an excuse to cook for a (small) crowd, and I decided to pull out all the stops.

When I was growing up, it seemed that my mom's go-to dish for any sort of special occasion- especially in the warmer months- was potato salad.  I've never asked her for her exact recipe, but I feel like I've seen her make it enough times that I could recreate it and put my own spin on it.  So here's my take on it!

(Almost) Mom's Potato Salad
Adapted mom

-1lb red potatoes
-7 hard boiled eggs
-1 C mayonnaise
-1/4 C pickle relish
-1 Tbsp stone ground mustard
-1 bunch green onions, diced (including the green bits!) and divided

1. Chop the potatoes into 1in pieces.  Salt and pepper generously, then place in a large pot and cover with water.  Bring the water to a boil, and let it boil for 12 minutes.

2. Drain the potatoes and half-mash them.  Half-mash is a term I just made up which means "to sort of squish the potatoes so they're still mainly chunky, not smooth and creamy."  I suppose you could call that "smash."  I used a potato masher, but you may actually get better results from a fork.  Put the potatoes in the fridge and allow to cool completely.

3. When your eggs are completely cold (I put them in the fridge overnight), peel them, and mince them up with...yeah, a fork.  Basically replace all your cooking utensils with a fork.

4.  (Actually, for this one, you need a spoon.)   Mix everything together.  Well, okay use only half the green onions.  But everything else- just mix it all together until it's a delicious mess.

5. Sprinkle the top with the rest of the diced green onion.

So yeah, this isn't quite how my mom makes it, but it's definitely inspired by her recipe.  AND IT'S DELICIOUS.  Proof: Mr. Geek doesn't even like potato salad and therefore didn't have any on Labor Day but in the days after, as we were finishing leftovers, he tried some, and he loved it!  There was hardly any left for me! 

This salad is meant to be served cold, but Mr. Geek thought it was meant to be heated, so he warmed it up a bit alongside a leftover burger and he claims it's really good that way.  I'm not sure I'd heat it up myself, but if you want to stir everything while the potatoes are still warm and serve the dish warm, perhaps that'd be tasty, too?

Have you ever recreated any of your mom's recipes?  Potato salad is one of those dishes everyone seems to have a recipe for- what's in yours?

Much love,
The Geeks

Monday, September 9, 2013

Fashion Adventures: Little Red Poppies

So I set up the tripod and snapped these photos while Mr. Geek was grilling up some burgers for us one evening- and then, of course, I turned the camera on him to pay him back for picking on me about it.  I think that some (SOME) of these facial expressions look a little less awkward because I'm honestly smiling and giggling at him, waving at me with his spatula and telling me to "work it!"  (My hair looks awful though, urgh.  Ignore the random waves and frizz- I have no patience to actually, you know, style my hair anymore, I'm just too busy.)

I got this top at Target and I wasn't sure if it was too frumpy or just cute enough for me to pull it off...but I fell in love with the color and abstract paint strokes which remind me of little red flowers.  Maybe they're meant to be poppies because, cute smile or no, I look a little tired in these pictures, which were taken over a week ago (whoops!) at exactly 30 weeks.  (Side note: the sleepy scene in The Wizard of Oz was in a field of poppies, right?  Am I totally off here?  I've had some pretty severe cases of Pregnant Brain lately so I could be completely making things up.  On second thought- don't correct me if I'm wrong, just nod and smile.)

Top: Target Maternity
Necklace: Forever 21
Watch/bracelet: Kohl's
Slacks: Motherhood Maternity
Shoes: Simply Vera by Vera Wang via Kohl's

I've gotta say, I'm kind of nervous about dressing for work again post-pregnancy.  My maternity clothes won't look cute without the big ol' bump, but I'm afraid that my pre-baby clothes aren't really going to fit for quite a while after Chief arrives.  I realize there will be a million other things to stress me out when it's time to go back to work, but right now the one that worries me is my wardrobe!

Fellow outfit-photo-taking bloggers- how do you combat awkward-face-itis?  Do you take your photos yourself (a la timer or remote) or does someone actually stand behind the camera and snap pictures of you?

And fellow moms- how long did it take you after Baby arrived to feel comfortable in your own skin once again?

Much love,
The Geeks

*all photos personal*

Friday, September 6, 2013

Oh, Internet... {31}

So, I'm kind of a little bit hungry as I sit here and assemble this list of awesome things that happened on the internet this week, so forgive me if a lot of these links involve food.  What can I say- I'm now 31 weeks is basically the only thing on my mind nowadays.

Personally, I'm not a huge fan of super spicy chili, so I can call this chili from Gina's Skinny Recipes "Mrs Geek-Friendly"
Just the title of this sandwich from Little Big is making me salivate...
It's not food, but Kaelah's dress is deliciously adorable // via Little Chief Honeybee

Haha based on these guidelines, Emily should love my blog- I don't post every day (but I do stick to a schedule...ish), I have very few subscribers, I don't have any ads, and I've never been paid to write anything.

Miss Emma shared her experience decorating cookies at BOMA at Animal Kingdom Lodge, which sounds like so much fun!  We're definitely doing that next time we're in Disney...

The ModCloth blog shared great tips for creating proper place settings- it makes me want to throw a super fancy dinner party!

What awesome (and delicious) things happened on your internet this week?

Much love,
The Geeks

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Fashion Adventures: Hokie Colors

I can't believe it's already September!  Mr. Geek doesn't particularly like the arrival of September because it means that the temperatures are slowly starting to drop and we're one step closer to snow.  I'm not a huge fan of snow either, but I like the other things that September brings- pumpkin-flavored EVERYTHING, brightly-colored tights, and college football. 

I wore this orange and maroon outfit at the beginning of last week (29 weeks 4 days, if you're keeping track) to properly usher in college football season.  (And yes, we lost our game this weekend, but it was a hell of a lot closer than I expected it to be.  Go Hokies!)  At the suggestion of my cousin, I decided to try a tighter-fitting maternity top with ruched sides- it definitely emphasizes just how very large my belly is, but it also shows the relative not-largeness of the rest of me, and, in general, it feels less like "mom clothes".

I'm glad to say that I don't find myself standing like this very often, because I haven't been experiencing much lower back pain lately, which I attribute mainly to the exercises I've learned in our Bradley class.  I do find my upper back and shoulders hurting at the end of a long day at work, but Mr. Geek has perfected his shoulder massaging skills so such pain is quickly remedied :)

I wonder- does Starbucks sell the Pumpkin Spiced Latte in decaf?  Because if I have to go through an entire fall season with no pumpkin in my coffee, I'm going to be sad.  (And yes, I know I could make my own pumpkin spice syrup, but that implies I have the time and energy to make such things.)

Earrings: Charlotte Russe
Necklace: Forever 21
Top: Target Maternity
Slacks: Motherhood Maternity
Watch: Kohl's (same style, different color)
Shoes: Simply Vera by Vera Wang via Kohl's

What's your favorite September arrival?  Are you excited about the impending cold weather, or do you dread it like Mr. Geek does?  And moms- do you prefer loose and flowy maternity clothes or more form-fitting?

Much love,
The Geeks

*all photos personal*

Monday, September 2, 2013

Happy Labor Day!!

Hopefully the only labor you undertake today looks like this:

and not like this:

Have fun and be safe today!

Much love,
The Geeks

PS Mr. Geek is the best husband in the whole wide world :D

*all photos personal*