22 October 2009

Complacent with Clutter

I've never been one for order. I mean, I like having orderly, but I don't live a very orderly life. I'm complacent with clutter. I learn to get over it. But with us moving into our very first house in a matter of weeks, I want to turn over a new leaf.

I think I've eased my way into a good mojo with working out using the Couch to 5k Program. I've been really good about getting my butt to the gym at least three times a week to get my workout in. Now I just need to adjust my life so that things are less cluttered, more organized, and less stress inducing.

And I admit that it's been a team effort in becoming complacent with clutter. My husband has about the same tolerance level as I do. Unfortunately, we're both "pilers, not filers" and fall victim to just stacking things up and deciding to come to them later. And when we get into the new house, I don't want it to be this way.

I started reading David Allen's Getting Things Done and I think it's a very doable system. But it has to be done. It has to become a habit. One of the things that he says is a must when implementing a good life/work management system is a home base. A place where you always go to take care of business. Right now, in the apartment I don't have this. I do work all over the place. In fact, that's why I sometimes have to make myself go to Starbucks in order to focus and get work done. It's kind of silly, but true.

A couch is not a home office.

We should be moving in soon. Like in 2 weeks. My plan is to take two days once we're settled and start the GTD system. Because I can't be complacent with clutter anymore.

09 October 2009

Time flies when you're living...

You know, when I set out to create this blog, I promised myself that I wouldn't neglect it. And while it's only been left alone for about two weeks, I suddenly have this immense feeling of guilt. Because I had set out to write here. Consistently. And it's easy to make excuses for not writing. And it's easy to make excuses of having better more productive things to do. But no. I'm not going to fall into that trap.

Here we are about two weeks before we close on our first home. I'm so excited about it and have even already been to Home Depot to peruse paint chips. I'm already strategizing the colors. Seriously, though, I never thought that we'd be able to buy a home so soon. Now just to keep on chugging with our humble incomes and keep everything in check.

Speaking of finances. Personal finance is a beast. It's sometimes scary and overwhelming, but definitely necessary to tackle on a regular basis. Like it's often said, how can you know where you're going if you don't know where you are. I'm getting better at reviewing my finances and whole-heartedly recommend the online program Mint.com - it's free and easy to set up and secure! It was just purchased by Intuit, the creators of QuickBooks and Quicken, so it's sure to have the back up of a great company now. I'm so thankful that my husband is religious about checking our finances. With a freelance contract position and a budding small business, my income is less than regular and steady.

So in attempts to make this little blog less random and a bit more structured, I'm going to dedicate certains days to certain types of posts. That should help. Lord help me.

28 September 2009

Newlywed thoughts: Setting up home

One of things that I have always dreamed about growing up, before I ever had a boyfriend, before I ever had an inkling that I would ever get married is setting up my future home.

I'm a super HGTV junkie. A big fan of interior home design. I have aspirations of being an organized person with an organized home. Not necessarily OCD super organized, but one where clutter doesn't gather unreasonably, and living is as close to effortless. Dream world right?

When I realized that we'd be able to buy a house so much sooner than later (I found a goals list that said 6/2011 was my goal for buying a house), I got really excited about the decorating aspect of owning a home. I even got excited about the home improvement side of it. I've refinished cabinet, scraped popcorn ceiling and re-textured it, and painted, painted, painted.

I'm so excited about getting started on OUR house!

The last few days, the focus of my blog stalking has shifted from wedding planning and inspiration galore to a relatively new concept -- "Nesting", just another word for setting up a home together and making it yours. I've been reading about recipes, home organization, home DIY projects, and so much more. Thank God for the internet!

Here are some of my new favorites:
Happy Monday!

27 September 2009

Tips on Wedding Thank You Notes: How to Finish them!

Photo from CutiePie Company Creative Commons License

One of things that I thought I would accomplish post wedding without any trouble were the Thank You notes. I had all kinds of free time. I didn't have a day job to keep me busy.

Well, Internet, it's two months post wedding, and they are not done.

Actually, that's inaccurate. About 80% are written, but only 20% are addressed. 0% have been sent out. Great. Right? Why haven't I sent out the first batch? I can't say. I don't have a good reason. And really, I just need to address them and put them in the mailbox.

But I need to get them done. Post haste. So they can stop hanging over my head.

So here are my tips to getting the Thank You notes done.

  • When you are opening gifts from the wedding, keep a running list of who gave you what.
  • When opening gifts sent directly from the store, keep the package contents list.
  • Keep your address list/address book handy!
  • Use your lists to cross off who has been thanked and move along.
  • Set aside an hour a day and make a goal to complete 5-10 within that hour. Repeat the next day.
  • Don't forget to buy stamps!
Happy Thanking!

26 September 2009

Week 1: Complete - Couch to 5k

By pure will and determination, I completed the first week of the Couch to 5k program. I keep telling myself that I want to do this and I want to do that, and often, I fail to even get close to doing those things. This time, I'm done with the excuses why not, and giving myself nothing but reasons why I should.

Since I was a kid, I've always been a little overweight. I blame it on moving back to the United States after a short stint in France. It happened when I was a little kid. And it happened again after I got back from studying abroad for a year. I literally lost 15 pounds in France without even trying. I didn't work out and I didn't alter my diet. We just had to walk. Everywhere. And it was great. Working out without the effort.

As soon as I set foot back on American soil, it's like those pounds came flying back on to me. Like a boomerang. Again without even trying. And while putting the effort into working out. Albeit, not as hard as I could work out, but I was getting myself to the gym on a fairly regular basis.

Now, I'm married. I don't have a full time job. I set my own schedule. The excuses are really gone. All gone. So if anything, I have no reason NOT to complete this program. And it happens to end right before Thanksgiving. It would be wonderful to show up to Thanksgiving dinner a size smaller. Stand a little taller. Feel a little prouder.

Let's do this!

22 September 2009

Day 1: Couch to 5k

There's a difference between thinking about doing something and actually doing it. There's a difference about talking about doing something and actually doing it. I'm totally guilty of doing the former in both cases. Call it laziness. Call it excuses. Call it what you will. Sometimes talking and thinking are so much easier than tackling the task at hand.

I'll admit it, I'm lazy. I'd rather watch TV than go to the gym. But every time I look in the mirror or think about my health or read an article on SparkPeople, I know what I have to do. I have to go to the gym. I have to work out.

Leading up to our wedding, I did three terms of Boot Camp. It was intense. It was killer. But I survived. And, after the fact, I totally enjoyed that I went. I can't say honestly that I enjoyed the workout itself, but I loved the sense of accomplishment afterwards.

I've been hearing a lot of talk of the "Newlywed 10" or "Newlywed 15". It's the same idea as the "Freshman 15" that you gain in college from eating dorm food. Except that the weight is from food that you make yourself or from going out. I know that I'm edging up the scale and definitely need to combat it. Like bad.

So I'm starting the Couch to 5k again. I had started it about six months ago and the first two weeks were great. Then I lost momentum, the excuses returned, and well, I didn't continue. So here's my second shot. I'm going to give it my all because I don't have excuses. I work from home. I set my hours. So let's do this thing!

To check out the Couch to 5k Training program, CLICK HERE.

16 September 2009

Time Management: Tips for Working from Home

Working from home sounds really glamorous. The luxury of working in your pajamas, in front of the TV, without a manager to shut down your work habits.

Well, it's not as easy as it's cracked up to be, unless you are really disciplined. Working from home and getting actual work completed requires copious amounts of discipline and self-control. At least if you are me.

I've learned from a number of sources how to keep yourself in check, while still knocking out that to-do list, catching your favorite TV shows, cooking dinner, and spending time with loved ones -- away from working.

I've started setting up a schedule for myself. If I don't I'd turn into a 400lb sloth. Seriously.

8:30 - wake up (at least try to)
8:30 - 9:00 - breakfast and check e-mail
9:15 - leave for the gym
9:30-10:30 - Gym time
11:00 - 12:00 -  check and answer e-mail
12:00 - lunch
12:30 - 3:30 - complete set project (freelance, photo projects, blogging)
3:45 - 5:00 - errands
5:30 - start dinner
6:00 - 10:00 - time with hubby
10:00 - 10:45 - plan to-do list

I'd say my block of time between 12:30 and 5 is interchangeable. For example, I might do errands earlier in the day, while I my complete projects later. Either way, between those hours, I try to knock out my to-do list.

Another great tip for getting things done (I have yet to read that book, but it's been highly recommended), is writing down the list of things to do. And being specific. With steps. It really does help. And keeping that list in front of your face, or at least accessible for the duration of the day. For me, written to-do lists do wonders.

I admit that I watch TV most of the day while I'm at home. I use it mostly for background noise, since I'm home all day by myself. I usually tune it to something I won't pay attention to like Lifetime movies. Unless it's sucks me in. Well, then you start over. Or, if you are me, head to Starbucks.

My schedule is definitely not cut and dry. It's more fluid. But if I stay within these loosely placed bounds, I'm able to get more work done.

13 September 2009

Kanye West: Controversy as Marketing in Action

Kanye West just showed the world how to get yourself free press in ten seconds or less.

Love him or hate him, Kanye's stunt just got him some free press for the next few days.

For those that haven't heard, Kanye West stole Taylor Swift's shining moment as she accepted her award for Best Female Artist during the MTV Movie Awards. He quite literally appeared out of nowhere, snatched the microphone from her stunned hands, and said that Beyonce's video was the best out there. Taylor Swift was shocked. She stood in utter disbelief. Who wouldn't?

I've read and heard the country reverberate their reactions via Twitter and Facebook. And if you think about it, as rude and uncalled for as his actions were, Kanye got people talking. Whether that was the desired effect or not. But if you've read any kind of marketing articles or public relations pieces, talk is talk is talk. And talk is better than no talk. Positive or negative reactions are still reactions. Kanye just made his way to the front of celebrity news.

While this whole stunt's waves will dissipate in a matter of days, I think it was a smart, albeit, messed up move. But Kanye West has a track record of big ego moments. This isn't the first time he's publicly whined about himself. In 2006, he was a sore loser at the European MTV Awards. Then in 2008, he claimed that the MTV Europe Awards are fixed. So this isn't the first time that Kanye has had beef with an MTV Awards show. I doubt it will be the last.

I do feel bad for Taylor Swift; she's a sweet girl and I'm sure Kanye's stunt came as a COMPLETE and utter shock. I wonder if he would have done the same thing had Katy Perry won. Or Pink?

Nothing like a little controversy to get some press.

11 September 2009

I remember, 8 years ago.

I was at home getting ready to move to San Diego for my first year of college. I had woken up relatively early for a high school senior soon to be college freshman, at around 10:30. I remember my mom calling me to come to the living room and look at the TV.

Twin Towers. Burning.

It looked like a movie. So unfathomable to actually be real. But it was. Very, very real.

I don't think I quite knew how I should react. Utter disbelief. Then I thought about all the people. All the people in the building. All the people on the ground. All the people in the plane. All one could do is pray and hope.

Then my mom told me that my grandmother was actually at the airport in New York that day, and we were all freaking out. Cell phone lines were jammed. Luckily, she was able to call from a pay phone at the airport to let us know that she was safe. She ended up sharing a hotel room with another stranded lady. I think they still keep in touch to this day.

I don't think I have words that would even do justice to what happened eight years ago. I had never been to New York City before 2001. I first went in 2004. Then in 2007, when I had the chance to visit Ground Zero and the memorial center. It's a beautiful tribute, and while it will hardly begin to fill the voids that 9/11 left that day, it is a nice commemoration.

I started doing most of my airplane travel in a post-9/11 world. I remember the National Guards patrolling the airport with their big guns. I remember having to show your ID three times before boarding the plane. I remember the vigilance, for which I'm thankful. I'm thankful for my safety. I'm thankful to be able to remember.

10 September 2009

Turkey Burgers that ended in tears

Like I mentioned before, moving to a brand new place without friends or family around in hard. It sucks. And it's tough when you have one friend, and that friend is also your husband. The guilt that wells up when relying on him, but trying not to rely solely on him for human interaction.

Last week was pretty bad.

My husband likes keeping active and on Saturdays usually plays basketball in the morning and has a flag football game later in the morning or early afternoon. I've met all his flag football friends and they are fun people. They've welcomed me to Dallas and are a cool bunch of people.

I think there's something that happens when you are all alone. You have too much time to think. To much time to contemplate. And too much time to lay blame where blame need not be laid. Seriously.

That Saturday, my husband called me to let me know that he was heading over to the bar to hang out with his football buddies. And I, having a grand plan of cooking lunch for us, said okay, but didn't really mean it. I was upset. I was upset because he was messing up my plans and didn't even know he was doing anything to make me angry. It's so easy to be unreasonable.

Well, I proceeded with my lunch plans, now for just one, and cooked anyway.

These were from the America's Test Kitchen Cookbook. I think I may have over-seasoned the turkey, but they were still good nonetheless. My husband missed out.

I don't know why women like to punish their men by trying to make them guess how they feel. But we do it. We all do it. And the plain honest truth is that men probably don't even notice. Like, not even a little. I've learned that speaking is better than stewing in silence. Trying to make your husband/boyfriend/significant other guess what's wrong with you isn't fun. It usually ends in tears and unflattering, incomprehensible blubbering. Or maybe that's just me.

Talk. It's better than grunting angrily.

09 September 2009

Threadless, my favorite place to buy t-shirts

I don't remember when I discovered Threadless. I think it was a coworker of mine who had a shirt from Threadless. It was really cute.

As soon as I checked what other shirts they had available, I was totally sold. They had cute shirts. Quirky shirts. Sarcastic shirts. Shirts unlike any other I've seen. And, all designs are user submitted. Threadless users get to vote on shirt designs and winning designs are printed. It's a shirt democracy!

The quality of shirts is awesome and they are great for a dress down day. Or lounging around the house. Or for everyday wear. Whatever.

And today, in honor of it being September 9, 2009 or 09/09/09, they are having a $9 t-shirt sale. ALL t-shirts! How cool is that?

(all photos/illustrations from Threadless.com)

08 September 2009

Why Cooking and I are not quite friends

I think my disinterest in cooking started when I was in 5th grade. I had to bring a dish to school that represented the country we were doing a report on. I vaguely remember that I had chosen Greece. And I was pretty sure that the dish I had picked out to make wasn't exactly Greek. Like all of Toula's relatives from My Big Fat Greek Wedding would chastise me about it not being Greek.

But why did that kill my interest in cooking? Because it didn't turn out right.

I remember growing up in France and baking Gateau au Yaourt (yogurt cake). It was a kid's recipe that someone had written out for me with little pictures. Or at least that's what I recall. I loved making that cake and also enjoyed devouring it.

The extent of my time in the kitchen usually was around baking. Baking wasn't scary. Baking also resulted in delicious results.

So when I took to trying to make the dish for my 5th grade class and it didn't come out like the picture, I was discouraged. I didn't understand why it didn't work.

My next stint in the kitchen was when I was in 8th grade and we were having a mock Seder meal during Passover. I went to a Catholic school and it was interesting learning about matzoh. I volunteered to bring deviled eggs. I don't remember why that was part of the meal, but it was. And I was pretty sure I didn't even like deviled eggs, so I added all kinds of cayenne pepper and paprika. Apparently everyone liked them. Of course, I wouldn't know because I never tried them.

Pretty much since then, I've been uninterested in getting my hands dirty in the kitchen. I got through college on dorm fodder and frozen food. Even when I was studying abroad in France, and cooked for myself, I hardly made anything from scratch. I delighted in things of convenience. And French produce and food just tastes that much fresher. I'm thinking they are not down with the preservatives.

So now I find myself married and needing to feed myself and my husband. We've done the frozen food thing. We've done the eating out thing. I'm over frozen food and eating out adds up in dollars and calories. And so all signs are pointing to home cooking. Which I'm finally interested in!

Since getting engaged, my interest in cooking has blossomed. While I haven't taken on too many recipes, I'm taking baby steps to cooking. I don't want to frustrate myself to the point where I don't want to do it anymore. I'm a grownup now and we don't have a cook.

Here's my first "from scratch" success: My mom's spaghetti sauce.

Dear Cooking,

Will you be my friend? I promise to learn.

I think we could be great friends.


07 September 2009

Buying a House: The Search Begins

I’m a big fan of HGTV. I really enjoy watching the decorating shows and lately, all of the house hunting programs. I remember when house flipping was the “in” thing and everyone and their brother was trying to get their piece of the real estate pie. And then the market when Kerplunk. Big time.
Well, good news for us, it’s a buyer’s market!
House hunting has been an interesting ride. We’ve seen a sampling of homes in this area and have learned about the big ticket items and little nuances to look out for. Visible foundation cracks. Where the water heater and furnace live. The closest schools and their performance. Where the attic is. If the house is a slab foundation or pier and beam. The surrounding areas. What the neighborhood is like at different times of the day. The list goes on and on.
After watching shows about staging and setting your home up for a showing and selling, like Designed to Sell, I know how important staging is. In fact, I appreciate those who stage their home. To me, the potential home buyer, it says that the owners care about their home and would like for it to go to another owner who will care for it as well. Having seen some foreclosures and their state of disrepair, it really made me wonder what happened to the owners.
I’m really excited about two potential homes. Looking at homes is the fun part. All the paperwork that follows is not. It’s what makes homebuying so daunting and intimidating. However, that $8,000 tax credit sounds quite lovely and will make all the levels of bureaucracy worth it.

05 September 2009

Coping with Life Changes

It hit me hard yesterday. I didn't mean for it to. But it just did. And I wasn't prepared for it. At all.

I cried. 

I wept.

I couldn't breathe because all my passages were blocked from tears and snot. Yep, snot.

I miss my family. I miss being a stone throw's away. I miss Family Night Fridays.

I think it was one of those situations where everything wells up and when you least expect it, it all comes rushing out in one serious avalanche. All the excitement from the wedding has passed. All the stress from moving has passed. I think I'm finally settling in to living in Texas and I let my guard down.

But in a way, I'm glad it happened. I feel bad for my husband because I'm sure he feels like it's partially his fault. But it's not. It's not like he threw me in a burlap sack and dragged me to Texas. Hardly. It's just one of those things that happens when you get married: compromise.

The transition to married life has been on the easier side of the spectrum. I didn't think it would be terrible. I went to college 500 miles away from home. I studied abroad in France. I went to Florida for an internship, where I met my husband. But I think the difference lies in the fact that all of those adventures had an end in sight. This is permanent change.

Don't get me wrong, I'm excited about being married. I love my husband through and through. It's just been a tougher transition that I expected since I have no friends or family here. My family used to be all around me. My friends just a drive away. Now, we stay connected through the internet and phones. I know a few people through my husband, but none of my own friends. I need to find spaces to meet people.

It's difficult too, since I work from home and I'm my only co-worker. I sit at home with the temptation of the television and digital cable. I have a lot of time to think about things. I always feel better when I get out of the apartment for a couple of hours, even if my only interaction with other people is with the Starbucks cashier.

I know that once I find my own circle of friends, I'll feel better.

And to think it all started when we were talking about how he had the original Teddy Ruxpin and I had some other talking bear, whose name I can't remember for the life of me. Strange.

04 September 2009

The Broken Spatula: What's in a Name?

The name comes from an inside joke between my husband and I. Except that it's more of a one-sided joke.

When we first started dating and I came to visit him (he lived in Texas while I was in California), I felt sorry for his cooking utensils. They were sad. They were flimsy. They were broken. Including the spatula. I tried cooking with them, but it was difficult. They were hard to grip and sometimes fell apart.

Coming back from my trip, I told my two best friends from work (a job I recently quit), about said cooking utensils. And it became our inside joke.

After he proposed, I was excited about registering for gifts. In particular, NEW cooking utensils.

I had tried, a couple of times, a couple of failed attempts to hint about getting a couple of new cooking utensils. Maybe a spoon. Maybe a pasta spoon. Maybe a spatula. But each time (and I finally gave up), he said no. Since we weren't living together, I really had no say.

I'm pleased to say that we did register for new cooking utensils. I'm elated to say that we received said cooking utensils. Probably all due to the fact that I talked about his broken spatula. What can I say? They needed to be retired.

When I finally moved into his place and we were arranging our new wedding gifts, we had to say goodbye to the broken utensils. He said, "You must be happy about this." I didn't make any pretense. I was excited to throw those suckers away! Sadly, I don't have any photos of the old spoon and spatula.

This is the set we received, thanks!

Thus how The Broken Spatula came to fruition.

Photo from Target.com

03 September 2009

Today I made cupcakes.

I love cupcakes. Well, cake in general. They are quite possibly my favorite kind of carb.

Today seemed like a good day for cupcakes. I know that it's not the most beneficial type of food for my diet or change to healthier eating (I really need to learn to eat more vegetables). But when you work from home, you can get bored when there is a lull in the workload. And there's never a good reason not to make cupcakes. At least for me.

Granted, these cupcakes are from a box. But I give myself kudos for rolling up my proverbial sleeves and getting in the kitchen. Not that the kitchen scares me, but we're still acquaintances, hopefully on the road to someday being BFFs. I hope.

Still, I think it's a win in the cooking book.

02 September 2009

Slow Cooker Chili: Dry Beans vs. Canned Beans

There is a difference, folks. I learned this the hard way when setting out on a cooking adventure last week. I was pretty excited to check out a recipe from the America's Test Kitchen cookbook and whip something up. I mean, that's the point of the cookbook, right? America's Test Kitchen, where all the recipes have been tried and tried again, that anyone should be able to do it?

Well, yes.

Except if you misread the ingredient list.

And buy the wrong ingredient.

I was busy in the kitchen, chopping, sauteing, reading the recipe. I even washed the beans. I knew I had to do that in some shape or form. I even left them in a bowl to soak. After I had put some of the other ingredients together, I thought it would be a good idea to just drain the water from the soaking beans. I didn't give it a second thought.

I poured all the ingredients into the slow cooker and set it to cook. I skimmed the recipe again for a sign as to when the beans should be added. I read that it said during the last hour of cooking. That didn't seem right for hard beans to only cook in an hour.

That's when I noticed.

The recipe said two 15-ounce CANS of red kidney beans.

I read it as two 15-ounce BAGS of red kidney beans.

Big difference.

So a couple of hours into the cooking time, I decided that if I had to cook these beans from their mostly dry state, I better add them in now. Hopefully by the end of the cooking time they should be alright. I let it cook for another two hours. When I checked the beans, they were still crunchy.

That's when I twittered my problem.

And called my mom.

And my aunt.

I'm relieved to report that after what must have been six to eight hours of slow cooking, the chili came out well. I was happy that the turkey meat I used didn't disintegrate into nothingness. I'm glad I didn't totally screw it up.

Note to self: read the instructions. CAREFULLY.

01 September 2009

Can Anyone Cook?

New month. New blog. One that will actually be updated. Promise.

I've been toying with the idea of starting a new blog ever since I tied the knot. Because you know what? Reality hit. I would have to fend for myself, hunker down, and learn to cook. Why? To cook for my husband? Why, yes, but it's not just for him. It's for myself too.

Because I'm not living with my parents anymore.
Because I'm tired of reheating pre-cooked frozen foods.
Because I want to prove to myself that I can do this.
Because I have to prove to my husband that it's not that I can't cook, it's just that I chose not to.

I mean if a rat created by Pixar can do it, so can I right?

Okay, so Remy is an animated character, but still, there's that sentiment that, "Anyone can cook!"

In the days that follow, it should be clear why I've named my blog as so. And it makes me smile every time I read it.