12.28.2011

A (belated) Merry Christmas to you!

I love the internet and my computer as much as the next girl, but I think I love taking a break from it even more!  It seems that every time we get away somewhere, my computer is rarely turned on, except for work-related purposes.  The blog isn't updated, Facebook isn't logged onto, I don't Pin hundreds of crafts that I will never make, and my email becomes a horrendous black pit of despair.  

Regardless of all of that - after 540-ish miles of driving (two shorter trips to my parents house, one longer trip to his), we're back!  And I'm back to blogging!  I can finally tell you about all of the crafty things I've been creating for Christmas gifts (which I couldn't mentioned before, as the blog is read by some of the folks on the receiving end of those gifts!).  I can share some homemade experiments!  I can update my recipe page!  And, most importantly, I can catch up on all of your blogs!

The Hubby is in full vacation mode...a good thing, but I require a bit more of a routine than he does - and every day is his Saturday right now (but better than a Saturday, as there is ZERO studying occurring!).  He did get a little toy from me to keep him occupied over his break though.  (The Hubby and I exchange gifts - which is apparently strange?  I don't know...many of our couple friends don't buy their spouse anything.  It makes sense, in a way, as it is just spending our own money on us...we never do anything outlandish by any means, but I think because we spend so little throughout the year on anything remotely fun that we get joy out of exchanging at Christmas).  Here's the Hubby's fun gift:

source

Yes, this awesome wife bought her husband a home brew kit.  He's always mentioned how neat it would be to brew his own beer (I don't think that the fact that my father makes his own wine helps!), so I went for it when it was on an awesome sale from Sears.

Curious as to my fun gift?  Santa did well with this gold peacoat ;)

source

Are you completely sick of seeing people's Christmas decorations?  I'm sorry if you are - navigate away from this page.  I took pictures, so you get to see them!

Here is our tree, pre-present and post-present wrapping (when you buy/make gifts for 23 people, this is how many presents you end up with!  I would tell you how much we spent total for Christmas, but I wouldn't want to offend any of our gift receivers.  We'll leave it at the fact that we saved over 50% on every gift/all supplies purchased):


A few pretty close-ups of some ornaments:


 Our mantle.  I love LOVE decorating a mantle ;)


And finally - with a fire in the fireplace:


I truly hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, and were somehow able, amidst all the chaos and hoopla that comes with Christmas, to take time to reflect and remember.



12.17.2011

Cowboy Caviar Recipe

Need a super quick and easy appetizer (one that you make the night before) for an upcoming Christmas party?  I give you Cowboy Caviar (or you can call it Santa Fe Salad, if you prefer a slightly nicer name!) - a bean and corn salad with onion, tomato and bell pepper, topped off with a sweet and tangy sauce.  This is based off of my mother's recipe....modified slightly for my taste buds and to reduce the amount of oil and sugar.  Hope you don't mind, Mom!



Cowboy Caviar
Ingredients
1 can black (or pinto) beans (drained and rinsed)
1 can black eyed peas (drained and rinsed)
1 can corn (drained and rinsed)
1 can petite diced tomatoes
1 red onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup olive oil

Directions:
Combine beans, peas, corn, tomatoes (with tomato liquid), red onion & bell pepper in large bowl.  In small sauce pan, bring the vinegar, sugar and olive oil to a boil; boil for two minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool slightly before pouring over the bean/veggie mixture.  Mix and refrigerate overnight.  Stir before serving.

This salad is great served with tortilla chips or frito-style corn chips, or even just by itself.  And there are lots of pretty colors.  The ability to make this the night before results in it being my go-to dish to bring for minimal holiday headaches.

I'll be sharing this yummy recipe with these fun parties this week!

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Christmas POSTcards & Display

There's no hiding the fact that I'm cheap fiscally responsible.  So I am very pumped to tell you - especially after my Christmas card dilemma - that our Christmas cards cost 33 cents each...including postage!  

How?  What?  (I know).  For starters, we mailed out postcards instead of cards in envelopes, immediately bringing the cost of postage down to $0.29 per card.  I didn't have to pay for envelopes (which you know are built in to the price of cards on websites).  And instead of ordering them online or printing them on glossy paper for $1 each, I printed them on regular cardstock at Office Max for $0.17 per sheet (for the printing and the cardstock).  With four postcards on a page.  Do the math - that's $0.0425 per card for printing, bringing the grand total for paper, printing and postage to $0.33 each!  

I did a simple design myself - no, the Hubby's face was not blurred out in the ones we mailed ;)


We looked like absolute fools in our parking lot with our lights and props and camera on the tripod...but we finally got a photo after about a hundred tries ;)

Slowly but surely, we have started to receive Christmas cards.  We've gotten about a quarter as many as we've mailed out...needless to say, next year, our "send to" list will be dwindling. 

In an itty-bitty apartment, there is no good way to display Christmas cards, so here is our solution: 

crappy iPhone photo in a dark kitchen with no natural light. you're welcome.

This is the door between our kitchen and laundry room/pantry.  We have an over-the-door shelf hanging on the back of the door, facing into the laundry room, so we just looped some ribbons underneath the hooks and let the ends hang down over the kitchen side of the door.  Add some clothespins and voila!  An instant card hanger (albeit a slightly sloppy one).

How do you display your cards???
 

12.16.2011

Swag Bucks Registration Code!


Great news!  There is a bonus code for new users who register for Swag Bucks!  Normally, you receive 30 Swag Bucks upon registering, but now through December 31st, you can earn an additional 100 Swag Bucks when you sign up using this link and enter the code HOLIDAYSWAG, starting you out over a quarter of the way to a $5 Amazon gift card (which "costs" 450 Swag Bucks to redeem)! 

If you aren't familiar with Swag Bucks, it is basically the easiest way in the world to earn free gift cards from searching the web.  You can read all of the details here.  I've earned $110 in Amazon gift cards in just over a year of using Swag Bucks, with minimal effort.  If you have any other questions, feel free to ask away!

12.13.2011

Fabulous Fonts: Simple

Have you all downloaded your favorite fancy fonts?  You have??  Great!  

Then you are ready for your next installment.  I give you:   


I love my fancy fonts as much as the next girl, but sometimes you need to have some simple in the mix to break it up.  Here are thirteen of my current favorites (to download each individual font, click on the link below the pretty text): 

Download Apple Garamond

Download Bird Cherry

Download Geronto Bis

Download Lemon Chicken

Download Matilde

Download Megalopolis Extra

Use all capitals for this font to work.  Download Metro Retro
Download Riesling

Recognize this?  ;)  Download Rock Salt

Download Romance Fatal Serif

Download Urban Jungle

Download Veteran Typewriter

Download Worstveld Sling

Which one is your favorite??

I'll be sharing these fabulous & simple fonts at these fun parties this week!

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Step 1 Exam: $535. Soapbox: $0.

Exams exams exams...they are never-ending in medicine.  It is currently exam week for Hubby...he is taking his second final  exam as we speak/write/read.  He had one final last week, this one today, and he has his final final of the semester on Friday.

Speaking of exams:  It's official - June 16 is the Day of Doom...also known as the day that the Hubby will take the Step 1 Board Exam.  That's number 5.1, in case you're curious...or if you really want to know all of the details about the agonizing eight hour long, 322 question exam, the gory bits can be found here

Ready for my soapbox?  (I'm not going to lie - I got much more fired up writing this out than I was just thinking about it.  You'll probably be able to tell.  Anytime I try to make a point with validity, I include lots of links.  This is a link-filled post).  All medical students have to take the Step 1 test to continue their medical education.  They are already paying up and out the waazoo (yes, the waazoo) for tuition, books, supplies and equipment.  By the time the Step 1 rolls around, the average med student is in upwards of $70,000 in debt (continually thanking Jesus for the combination of employment and in-state tuition resulting in our red number being below that average).   No one is ever going to opt out of taking the Step 1 because of the cost.  It's not like they have a higher price tag on the Step 1 to weed people out - these folks taking the exam are already in it for the long haul.  I can completely understand that the MCAT should cost a bit more, so that not every Joe Schmoe tries to take it.  But everyone in medical school is going to take the Step 1 regardless of what they charge for it.  And I'm fairly certain that the people running the USMLE have realized this and are taking advantage of it.

The Step 1 Exam costs $535 to take.  When the Hubby told me this, I nearly had a conniption.  He actually tried to rationalize it to me (leading me to believe that school is *potentially* brainwashing him), saying first that another $535 doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things, and second that they have to pay for all of these questions to be written, people to administer the tests and process the results, etc etc.  

We should pause for a moment.  In 2009, there were 40,298 students who took the Step 1 Exam.  At $535 a pop, that equals out to a cool $21,559,430.  Oh. My. Hockey Stick.  Seriously?  Seriously.  Over $21.5 million dollars. Where in the world does all of that money go?? 

[Warning: the following section contains math.  Secondary warning - I'm not very good at "the maths."  If you find an error, I will blame my calculator.  But please don't double check for me (Father), just pretend with me that I did it all right].

There are 322 questions.  Of these questions, 20% are not graded - they are the newly written "test questions" for the following year's exam (I am using this information based off of what the Hubby has been told).  The other 80% of the questions that are actually being graded were previous years' test questions, meaning that only 64 questions out of the 322 have to be written any given year.  We'll guess that they have 50 different versions of the Step 1 - I am completely making that up, but 50 versions sounds good to me.  If you paid each question writer a thousand dollars for writing their one question (64 questions for 50 versions at $1000 per question) that is a total of $3,200,000 for writing the test questions (which is pretty generous considering that the people writing these questions will be the brightest of the bright and should know the subject like nobody's business).  If we divided that out by the number of students taking the test (40,298), the question writing portion of the exam comes out to $80 per student.  

Okay - so the test has all of the questions written.  Somebody has to update the computer program from last year.   We'll let each test-taking student pay that programmer $10, or a total of $402,980 for creating the test.

Now we need a location to take the test.  I have no idea what a reasonable sitting fee should be for a computerized exam, but we'll just ballpark $40 (or for the Hubby's class of 200, a $8,000 income for the testing center).  If 25 students take the exam in a sitting and it requires 2 people to proctor the exam - one per 12.5 students - each making $20 an hour for 8 hours, their wages would total $320.  Multiply that by the 8 sittings it would take for the entire class to take the exam, and we reach a total of $2,560 in proctor wages.  I would assume that the students would not do more that $5,440 worth of wear and tear on the computers/chairs/building??

We're up to $130.  Now the students have taken their test.  It's computerized.  That means as SOON as they take it, the computer knows the results.  No one has to do anything to grade them...that's the beauty of a computerized test!  We'll need a couple of statisticians to figure out all of the worthless percentages.  How's $10 per test sound?   ($402,980 for the statisticians).

I guess someone does have to notify the schools of their students' scores.  I would bet an intern could click the mouse and do that.  We'll pay her/him a generous salary of $1 per test-taking student ($40,298).

Now, here we are: questions written, computer program updated, test proctored and graded, percentages/stats figured and scores sent to schools ...all for $141 per student.  We've come to just over a quarter of the initial cost.  A total of $5,658,178 as opposed to the $21,559,430 currently being grossed from the test taking fees. 

Will someone please explain to me into whose pockets that extra $15,877,412 appears?  Couldn't we practically bring clean drinking water to the world for that amount of money?

What are your thoughts on this?   Am I missing something, or is the USMLE just a complete money-maker?  I know nothing will change, and that the prices will just continue to increase, but still.  It truly is the principle of the matter.  Let's rob these kids who are already up to their eyeballs in debt out of an extra $394, just because we can.

Soapbox complete,

12.05.2011

Fabulous Fonts: Fancy

As a follow up to my post on how to download fonts, here are some of my current favorite "fancy" fonts!  Maybe you can feature one on your Christmas cards this year??


Mmm.....love.  Have I convinced you yet that the fonts that come pre-loaded on your computer are not necessarily the best fonts available??  To download each individual font, click on the link below the pretty text!

da Font: Before the Rain

Font Squirel: Brock Script

da Font: Chopin Script

da Font: Freebooter Script

da Font: Marcelle Script

da Font: Respective

da Font: Scriptina Pro

(This "pro" version of Scriptina would have made creating everything for our wedding a thousand times easier!  The spacing was so wacky on the original version that I basically had to put every letter into its own text box so I could control the spacing!  Hallelujah: a clean version!)

da Font: Windsong

Ahh... ;)  Enjoy!

Sharing with these parties this week!

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12.03.2011

Your German lesson for the day

In case you're unaware, the blogging world is mighty fabulous.  If you've ever considered starting a blog, I would seriously recommend it.  My blog friends literally all rock.  The Hubby might make fun of me, because sometimes I talk about them in real life, telling him who is pregnant and where someone's husband had a residency interview, etc. But I don't mind.  Because even though I don't technically KNOW them, I feel like I do.  They are all dear to me, in a completely non-creepy way.

Ready to learn German?  The word "dearest" in English is translated to "liebster" in German.  Why in the world am I telling you this?  Because the super sweet Lauren, who blogs over at The Army Doctor's Wife, was so kind as to give me and the MD School Mrs. blog the Liebster Blog Award!


This award is specifically for blogs with less than 200 followers (a category into which this blog easily falls).   If you'd never visited Lauren, I would *highly* recommend you head over there now.  Her hubs is an army doc (which you may have correctly guessed from the title of her blog), they recently moved across the country AND they are expecting their first baby!  I am so pumped for all of the excitement in her life...there is way more life action on her blog than on mine ;)  Thanks again Lauren!

So, in the spirit of good blogging etiquette and to keep the Liebster Award going to other deserving blogs... 

Here are the rules to pass this baby on:
1. Thank the giver and link back to the blogger who gave it to you.
2. Reveal your top five picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
3. Copy and paste the award on your blog.
4. Hope that the people you’ve sent the award to forward it to their five favorite bloggers and keep it going!

I'm passing the Liebster Award on to these dear ladies (why yes, I only read medical spouse blogs and craft blogs.  So be it!):
  • Selena, teacher and wife of a 2nd year med student, currently enduring a "weekend marriage."  Find her at Scott & Selena
  • Marisa, fiance of a 4th year med student who is currently applying for residency (and relaying all of the interview questions to us!).  Find her at Count on me for Life
  • Erika, wife of a resident in the process of applying for fellowships AND they are expecting their first babe, Gilroy (womb name only, don't worry).  Find her at Always Better Together
  • Cynthia, a crafting queen!  Get ready to swoon when you see her ruffled tree skirt!  Find her at Simply Chic Treasures
  • Katherine Anne, brand (BRAND) new mama to a beautiful baby boy and wife of a fourth year med student.  Find her at Medical School Mrs.
 Thanks for writing ladies; I love being a part of your lives ;)  Be sure to pass the award onto some of your favorites!