Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Well-Kept Secrets, Vol. VI

(Image from ThisNext)

I don't know where I heard about Other People's Love Letters: 150 Letters You Were Never Meant to See, but I loved it. I grabbed it one afternoon last fall in New York, and sat coffee in left hand, pages turning in right, until I finished it.

These are compelling to read because: 1. they are love letters, and 2. they are not yours.

I forgot about it for a while, then remembered while I was perusing the book selection at Anthropologie (yes, they sell something other than those bowls and assorted cardigans adorned with ribbons and bows). I bought a book that day, called For the Love of Letters: A 21st-Century Guide to the Art of Letter Writing.

(Image from Yahoo)

It is a good resource for anyone who wants to learn something about writing memorable letters and needs a place to start. Random? Perhaps, but I'm a letter junkie. They come few and far between, but I keep basically anything handwritten I have ever received and I have recently made more of a concerted effort to send penned correspondence out into the world.

My mother found a letter and passed it my way casually a few weeks ago. "This was for you..." she said. It was a nondescript card, which when I got around to reading it I found was from my Great Aunt, said "ay-unt" not "ahhnt", I'm from Texas, remember?

What surprised me was that it was dated April 23, 1985, about three months after I was born. I read it over and over; she was excited to meet me, told me how adorable I was in pictures and that she had sent me a dress to wear during the summer when I would go to visit family in Mississippi. It was simple and full of love and I had never seen it before, in all my 23 years.

My aunt did not send the letter expecting that it would be kept for long, or knowing that 23 years later it would end up cherished by me as an indication of the loving reception I received when I came into the world. She probably didn't even think I would ever see it, but I did. It is now framed in my room.

I only speak for myself, but I don't know anyone who has ever framed an e-mail.

"One of the hardest things in life is having words in your heart that you can't utter."
-James Earl Jones

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Good Grief

As fate would have it, I woke up with conjunctivitis, (or pink eye as the non-med students, including myself, call it), the morning after Christmas. I deserved it after heartlessly avoiding my father and brother and their maladies. Since pink eye is uber-contagious until you get antibacterial drops working, I got to be quarantined.

Lucky for me, I received all seven seasons of Gilmore Girls, otherwise known as the one thing no man will touch at Best Buy, for Christmas. Other than my post-Christmas shopping trip(s), I've been mostly holed up in my room watching the DVDs and snuggled up in my favorite wrap.

Someone pointed out to me the other day that I have developed a penchant for cashmere. This is true, cashmere is a vice of mine. Leave me alone- it's soft, okay?

Over the past few months I have started to take my cerulean blue (courtesy of The Devil Wears Prada), cashmere travel wrap everywhere. I happened to be reading the Comics section of The Dallas Morning News the other day, and came to a shocking realization while reading Peanuts.

I am a modern day Linus, only without the animated aura of dirt hovering around me.

It was the first cashmere thing I ever bought for myself, and I got it this spring from White + Warren. It's the perfect accessory because it transforms: it can be a scarf, a wrap or a blanket. It makes unfamiliar places feel a little more like home.

Because it is luxurious and I am 23-years-old, it is socially acceptable. I can wear or carry it anywhere with me and have no one notice anything strange about it, but I'm no different than the four-year-old in front of me with his mom checking in at a Hyatt Resort. His blanket may have dinosaurs and trucks on it, but we both know that they are essentially the same.

Mine is just happens to be dry clean only and smell faintly of Coco Chanel.

“Happiness is anyone and anything that's loved by you.”
-Charlie Brown, Peanuts

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Later On, We'll Conspire

My brother and father have had colds for the past few days; running fever and looking generally miserable. In the interest of my health, I have tried to escape the infirmary ward that has become my family's home.

I met up for dinner on Christmas Eve's Eve with three friends I've known most of my life; we grew up living within a few doorbells of each other. We met at MK's parents house, while the rest of her family was gone, where I found MK and RW in the front room already drinking red wine and waiting for ND to get there with a pizza.

I love the rare occasions, e.g. holidays, that enable us all to be in the same room at the same time. All four of us are the oldest children in our families, so despite our personality differences we have always held that common thread. Not having older siblings to glean valuable life lessons from, much of what we have learned from dating has come from each other's experiences.

Another friend of ours called MK while we were assembling a salad to go with the pizza, needing advice on what to write in a book she bought her boyfriend for Christmas. The four of us huddled around the iPhone on the bar and we put her on speakerphone so that everyone could give her thoughts on the matter. The ideas we threw out were equal parts light-hearted, corny, poignant and provocative. The dating advice I have gotten from those three over the years has been all over the place, but one thing I know for sure: what they do, works.

I've mentioned my friend ND before. She is the best example of a girl I know who does not obsess over one guy- she diversifies.

I emailed her the other day before she returned from Hawaii, where she lives, to make plans for her time "on the mainland" as she calls it, over her Christmas break from teaching. She mentioned that she would be leaving to go to D.C. for a few days after Christmas, to the city where she once lived to see her ex-bf, and was considering going on to Charleston afterward to visit her summer fling. She juggles boys better than Patrick Dempsey does china plates. Having shampoo commercial-worthy hair and year-round tan helps her cause.

After spending hours in a room that held much of our childhood the other night, she hopped up and said, "okay, Merry Christmas, I'm gonna go make out with ______." After receiving dumbfounded looks, she replied, "What? He's hot!"

My friend RW was the girl who lived next door to me growing up- no wait- actually I was the girl next door and she was the girl who happened to look a lot like Angelina Jolie. She lives and works in Nashville now, but it doesn't take long to be out with her and recall the effect she has on men. She always has the upper hand- I've never seen her lose her cool over anyone or worry about what any guy is thinking. It's like she could care less, which makes her all the more desirable.

MK can do anything and go anywhere she pleases because she does everything with authority. She is 5'10, blond, and can walk backstage at any concert or into a sports club where she is not a member and no one will lift an eyebrow. She owns you.

I think it's good to watch your friends who are successful in dealing with the male population, and take a few feathers from their hats. RW, for example, would never approach a guy. If a guy wants to talk to her, he has to initiate.

ND has that Bill Clinton quality of making you feel like you're the only person in the room. She is a great conversationalist because she speaks with a passion that is contagious. She doesn't hold anything back, which is the biggest thing I admire about her. If she likes you, you know it. No holds-barred.

MK makes everything look effortless. She can roll out of bed and be showered; ready for work in 20 minutes. It's mind-boggling. She does not embarrass easily, and the level of confidence she exudes is attractive.

Of the many things we have learned from each other, I think we would all agree that what works for one might not work for another. We can't even agree on what kind of pizza to order. Those three seem to have found what "works" for them when it comes to men, and while all have winning play-books, I seem to keep returning to the drawing board for mine.

For someone who learned from the best, I've still got a long way to go.

Merry Christmas, all!

"Those who've seen us, know that not a thing could come between us..."
- Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen, "Sisters" song, White Christmas

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Strangers in the Night

I'm usually not much fun on Friday nights- like everyone else I basically want to go home and bury myself under layers of down; never to surface until an appropriately late hour on Saturday morning. The past two Friday nights however, I have succumbed to making "plans" and found myself at Central Market (like Whole Foods, but better) after work, buying wine for some Friday evening pre-partying.

I was in Detroit for work early last week, and while catching up on email I came across a Christmas party invitation from my college friend BF. Her boyfriend and his roommates were having an impromptu gathering on Friday night and I told her I was game. Save for a few other girl friends of mine, most of the people invited were guys who went to another college. I'm not really in the market for new friends but how often do you have a non-bar opportunity to hang out with people you don't know? It is not often that one gets to be the mysterious stranger at a party.

I went to dinner with four of my friends at Mi Cocina, since we decided the Friday night prior that CC needed a few more Mambo Taxis* in her life. We went our separate ways afterward, so I input the directions in my GPS (God's gift to women) and headed to West Dallas.

I had not been to this house before, but knew I was at the right place when I got out of my car and heard Jay-Z blaring from inside. I was greeted at the door by my friends BF and RD and a mimosa in a red Solo cup. I decided I needed to look around first to know who I would be dealing with, so I signed up for the 10:30 PM guided tour.

I am always intrigued by male residences because they vary so much in cleanliness, order and lack there-of. There were three guys living in the house, all accountants, and all of their rooms were impeccably clean. BF, RD and I ended up sitting on the couch in one of their rooms, talking away from the loud music.

There was a bookshelf in my line of sight, which arrested my attention, and so while we were talking I started browsing this dude's library. I hadn't met him yet, and as someone who likes to read, I figured what better way to get to know someone than evaluating their taste in literature?

I am not normal.

The defining feature I found about his library, however, was that he had not read most of the books on his shelves. This was disappointing. Why would one have this large volume of books displayed if they had not even been read? By having those out, you are inviting literary conversation. You can tell when books have been read- at the very least the spine is cracked and the pages fall open naturally, or (if you're me), the pages are dog-eared and marked for meaningful passages and crinkled lovingly from water and coffee spills.

A guy with a beard came into the room and pointed out that the three of us were being anti-social. Since guys definitely outnumbered girls at the party, that seemed to be an issue. At this point I had finished my first mimosa and was on the floor, flipping through a pristine copy of John Adams. I decided that I had played librarian enough for one night, and someone had mentioned having Britney Spears on their iPod, so we made it back into the fray.

There were short steps leading into their living room, which was where the action was (so obviously I was hanging out on the fringe, chatting) and I realized that I was stepping up or down on each level reflexively, depending on the height of the person (guy) that was talking to me. It was almost comical- I am about 5'7 without shoes on, which makes me about eye-level with a lot of guys when I have heels on, and still shorter than anyone above 6'0. It probably looked something like a Jazzercise routine.

I wasn't there to be on the prowl, though I probably should have been since New Year's is next week, but it was still an entertaining night with strangers.

There was one guy in a striped shirt, jeans and boots who had definitely had a lot to drink, as evidenced by his red face and desire to give any seated female a lap dance. This contrasted nicely with the perfect rows of shoes in his closet, his slight nerdy-ness and the fact that his shirt was tucked in. It reminded me of that episode of The Office, where Pam hides Michael's jeans after they come back from the dry cleaner, saying "I can tell you he loves the way he looks in those jeans; I know that's why he started casual Fridays."

*Think: margarita times five.

"I only go out to get a fresh appetite for being alone."
-Lord Byron

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Lessons in Bridesmaid Diplomacy

There are two kinds of bridesmaids in this world: assets and liabilities.

As wedding season is about to commence once again with a double-header on January 3, 2009, I find myself reflecting on past blunders, both of my own doing and ones I have observed others commit, and I hope to educate the outside world of some wedding etiquette I have gained from the past two years and 14 some-odd weddings I have attended.

Some things may seem like common sense, but you would be surprised...

1. Earmuffs. Regardless of what's going on the day of the wedding, the bride should not hear about anything minor that goes wrong. Unless an immediate family member or the groom is in the hospital, then whatever happened is completely irrelevant.

2. Jail bait. Do NOT make-out with the bride's younger brother. She WILL find out eventually, and will be less than thrilled, especially if he is a teenager. He's not the one who is going to get in trouble for this indiscretion... you are.

3. Tread lightly. No matter how relaxed or laid-back a bride is in real, non-wedding-related life, she's under a lot of stress. She's got a lot going on, and if she needs to vent, just listen.
A friend once called me over Christmas break whispering from a closet, two weeks before her older sister's wedding, just because she thought she might go crazy with everyone telling her what to do.

4. Because she's the bride. If the bride tells you to put your hair up, then put your hair up. If she tells you to wear it down, wear it down. If she doesn't care either way, then you have options. Now is not the time for individualism. (Ditch the sports watch for a day while you're at it- digital doesn't go well with your bouquet.)
If everyone in the bridal party is getting their hair done, and it has been arranged by the bride, it will probably be by a stylist you don't normally use. This is okay as long as you know how to be assertive and don't mind telling the person where your part should go and the appropriate level of volume. You do not want to end up looking like a 15-year-old at her first Homecoming and it's your responsibility to speak up. Reminder: wedding pictures last forever.

5. Plus one. Do not ask to invite other people. If you were "and guested" then you have the option to bring a date and you are responsible for his behavior. You do not need to feel obligated to bring a date either. If there is no date option then just enjoy doing the electric slide with your friends or two-stepping with a nice young man who you will never see again, but don't under any circumstances ask to bring more people.

6. RSVP ASAP. Always RSVP, regardless as to whether or not you are in the wedding party. They include the pre-addressed, stamped envelope for a reason, and it's really, very easy. You're not planning to attend? Well how are they supposed to know that if you didn't sent the card back?

7. Hanging from the chandeliers. Know your crowd at a bachelorette party. If there are little sisters or mothers present, then maybe take it down a notch and cool it on your cocktail-intake. Ask the bride if she even wants those people invited- some girls are totally open in front of everyone and others would rather crawl under a rock and die than have their future mother-in-law watch them pull something lacy and black out of a box.

8. Cheers. Toasting is tricky. If you are a MOH or a BM, in which case speeches are not optional, you should have something prepared beforehand that has a definitive ending. "So uhh yeah, cheers you guys" is probably not the note you want to end on. Referring to a note card is totally acceptable. Also, try not to use mitigated speech in front of the crowd. Silences don't have to be filled with "umms" and "ahhs," in fact they shouldn't at all.

9. Cheese. Never annoy or boss around the photographer. They could make your life miserable from many different angles. Don't chew gum during picture-taking either, you have no idea how many candid shots they take.

Kevin: [motions to a "Gone With the Wind"-style dress] What the hell is that?
Jane: Theme wedding.
Kevin: What was the theme? Humiliation?

-27 Dresses

10. An honest answer. If your opinion was solicited when the bridesmaids dresses were selected, then you are free to give it. If you were emailed a link of what to order, that's great too. There are normal options out there these days, and I haven't minded any of the dresses I have been asked to wear. They even got bonus points if they had pockets. Remember that bridesmaid dresses are not chosen with posterity in mind.

11. Timing is everything. Pay attention to where you are supposed to be and when. The rehearsal and the rehearsal dinner are probably different places, FYI. If there are maps included in invitations, they are there for a reason; that reason being that your friend the bride will not be answering her cell phone and doesn't want to spend her wedding weekend trying to give you directions that you should already have.

12. Fine china. People spend a lot of time registering for gifts, so keep that in mind. It's totally okay to go in on a gift with someone else. I know procrastination is tempting, and sometimes if you're flying to a wedding you have no option but to buy the gift the weekend-of, but the longer you wait, the fewer options you'll have when picking something out yourself.

13. Travel coordinating. If you are coming from out of town, be sure to arrange your own transportation and accommodations. Rooms are held at hotels but it's your responsibility to actually book them and to get yourself from Point A to Point B.

14. Stealing thunder. This is not your day. Whether you traveled 2,000 miles or across town to get there, it doesn't change anything. Don't make anyone feel guilty for how far you traveled or how much money you spent on their wedding. You may have already gotten married and so you should be appreciative that this person probably went to great lengths to make your wedding special, and if you aren't married, then you know that this person will hopefully be there for you one day.

15. Smile across the aisle. Make friends with the groomsmen if you don't know them already. If you are at a dry wedding, there is a 95% chance that at least one of them is carrying a flask.

"Rule #76: No excuses. Play like a champion!"
-Jeremy Gray, Wedding Crashers

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Ugly Sweater

I'm starting to wonder if I will be able to make it through a holiday season over the next five years without attending an Ugly Christmas Sweater Party of sorts. I don't mind them, I did discover The Taylor Swift Holiday Collection CD on Friday night at one such party, but they've just exploded over the past few years.

People don't even bother having contests anymore, everyone just wants to wear them over and over again in lieu of choosing multiple holiday outfits.

This picture is of my friends and I, in Dallas last week, having an Ugly Christmas Sweater Tea Party of all things. It was grand. The girls agreed that each of our mothers does not appreciate us asking her to borrow clothing for costume purposes. The same goes with 80's Prom or other related events.

I started thinking of what we will get harassed for in 20 years. Our kids will probably wear Juicy Couture sweats and Uggs and laugh at how ridiculous we looked... though I don't think any one of us will ever escape ridicule, from our children or each other, for wearing Doc Martens, either.

"One arrives at style only with atrocious effort, with fanatical and devoted stubbornness."
-Gustave Flaubert

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Fourteen; a List

Today marks the one month countdown to my 24th birthday. In honor of this; a list.

14 things you may or may not know about me:

1. I sneeze as if on cue when I'm trying to get comfortable and fall asleep. Usually twice.

2. If I could wake up to find nothing but snow outside on my birthday every year, I would be the happiest girl in the world.

3. The last time I calculated, the average age of my Top Five* was 37.2.

4. It takes me much longer to print than to write in cursive.

5. I never share my passwords to anything with anyone. Ever. Trust issues?

6. I can't touch my toes. It has something to do with having short hamstring muscles. Contrary to popular belief- I am genetically flawed.

7. I have a thing for guys with red hair. Nothing against blondes or brunettes, I have liked one or two of those in my day. No idea why, but the red has a magnetic quality. I think it's the novelty and eye-catchingness of the color.

8. I love Naked Juice, particularly the Mighty Mango flavor, but the idea of carrying something that says "Naked" on the label in to work makes me squirm.

9. I am particular about keeping my car clean. I take it to my dealership, which is a few streets up from my office, once a week during lunch to have it washed. The crowd waiting for their cars inside is usually me and men who are 65+, retired, reading the paper and watching Fox News or SportsCenter. It's like the greatest, un-bothered hour of my week.

10. I own exactly 20 little black dresses. I could wear a different one every weekday for a month without repeats.

11. I always want writing to be a part of my life in some capacity.

12. I have never been in love.

13. I have to have some sort of lip moisturizer within reach at all times. I get more compliments from wearing Aquaphor than any lip gloss.

14. The tiny fraction of emo within my soul is a fan of black nail polish.

15. I would love to play chess, and the piano, well.

*Top Five is a highly regulated list that several of my friends keep, each has her own, of their favorite male actors and musicians. There is also an honorary Silver Fox distinction for a 40+ man, which is separate from the Five.

"You are unrepeatable. There is a magic about you that is all your own."

Friday, December 12, 2008

Keyword Gems

I use Google Analytics, which tracks different demographics for me about the number of people reading my blog, where they are and how they got to my site.

I don't usually pay attention to the "Keyword" feature, but it caught my eye today, because someone found my site by Googling the following:

"Harry Potter and Chi Omega Fraternity Resemblance"

What?! And also, YES.

I have so many questions for that person. Starting with "can we be friends?"

Then I read the others, which were less exciting, but found that two other people also found their way to me by searching for:

"Reluctant, date"

Thanks for the laugh, Google.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Breckenridge Fiasco

I'm trying to set a personal record to see just how many times I can listen to All I Want For Christmas Is You, Santa Baby and Baby It's Cold Outside this holiday season.

I love cold weather because I grew up and now live in Texas, where you have just as much of a chance at a 70-degree day in December as you do a 30-degree day.

It's just science.

I have always associated cold weather with Christmas, my birthday and vacation; presents, turning another year older, more presents, visiting New York and going on ski trips. Most of these trips have been with my family, going to Colorado, but one in particular I took with a few of my friends. One being the operative word here.

We went to Breckenridge. It was the end of 2003. There were six of us (all girls, all good friends), three experienced Skiers and three Non-Skiers. They had never been skiing before, period. The Non-Skiers spent the first half of our first day in ski school; learning the ropes with an instructor. We Skiers spent the morning all over the mountain, hopping on and off chair lifts. We all had comparable experience, which is always a bonus when skiing with a group (someone is too fast, you lose them; someone is too slow, they get left behind) and we made it through several runs.

We had agreed to meet up for lunch at the bottom of the mountain, and we listened as the Non-Skiers talked about their morning. All of them spoke with confidence regarding their abilities. As we had done the rest of the day, we gathered our things and hopped on the first chair lift we saw after lunch, this time with the Non-Skiers in tow. We would take it slow- no big deal. I was in the first chair as we arrived at the top with no issues, but the second one with the rest of the girls brought the lift to a halt.

I turned around and saw skis and poles going in all directions; sunglasses askew and bodies half-covered in snow. Not good. That's when we learned that they had not actually gone up a chair lift, but rather one of those T-bar lifts that you hold onto as it drags you up a bunny slope. Definitely not good.

While they dusted themselves off, the Skiers started looking at the map to see where we could take them... Where was a green run? Why wasn't there a green run? How did we not check this? There was no green anywhere... it was blue and black runs the whole way down.

We were trying to figure out what to do with the Non-Skiers when they approached us to ask us what was going on in the midst of our semi-formulated plan. When we told them there wasn't a green run, we could see their eyes get larger and larger. That's when they dropped the bomb that their instructor, who probably spent more time flirting with them than "instructing," actually only took them on half of a green run that morning. Once.

We told them it would be "fine" (what else do you do when you think your friends might plunge down a mountain, to their icy cold deaths?), and each of us Skiers paired up with one of them to help get them down the mountain. I was thankfully with my friend AG, who has always been athletic and who was determined not to let the mountain get the best of her. One painfully long hour later, we finally reached the bottom of the mountain. She collapsed onto the snow, exhausted as we tried to keep a lookout for the other girls but had lost them early on.

Making snow angels got old after a while, and it was getting dark, and we decided to head inside and find our bathing suits. The others dragged in, two by two, the Skiers looking weary from the hours of cheerleading and hopeless encouragement and the Non-Skiers looking defeated but alive. We compared stories while we all soaked in the hot tub and relived the day. Turns out that one pair made it down about 45 minutes after we did, and the other pair had some assistance from Ski Patrol, who rescued another.

The next day they compared battle wounds and all had massive bruises, which were appropriate shades of blue and black. The trip was memorable; we were there over New Year's and kept the skiing segregated into our two groups from that point on. Though our friendships were no worse for wear, I could finally see why skiing has never caught on as a favorite honeymoon activity among couples... there are too many opportunities to kill each other. The altitude, the fatigue, the sharp poles in your hands. I don't know if there is anything more frustrating than being right there, wanting to help someone, and being unable to physically do so.

Needless to say, the trip did not catch on as a tradition. Sunbathing on a beach is apparently more conducive to relaxation.

"Skiing combines outdoor fun with knocking down trees with your face."
-Dave Berry

Monday, December 8, 2008


I got back last night from a five day business trip to Florida.

(You're thinking: Work?! Florida in December? Not buying it.)

I knew I was going to be busy though, and since I didn't want to bring both my personal and my work laptops around with me to three cities in five days (logistical airport security nightmare) and I chose to leave my MacBook at home. I packed awesomely by the way, I had no superfluous clothing, shoes or accessories and I didn't lose anything, though I did leave half-drinken 20 oz. Diet Dr Peppers in three different hotel room refridgerators.

No offense to the blogging world, but I much enjoyed my time spent away from the internet. During my trip I had few chances to check my Blackberry, much less my Gmail, and I didn't feel like trying to get a browser signal while drinking a pina colada and watching the sunset Friday night in Ft. Lauderdale. I even wandered onto the golf course that wrapped around the resort for a while. As it got darker I then remembered something about alligators and iguanas roaming free and made the executive decision to roam back to a cabana. Someone later told me that if I'm ever confronted with an alligator, I should run side to side instead of straight. Apparently alligators are fast, but they are not quick when they have to change direction.

Lovely, I'll file that away with hitting a shark on the nose and pretending to be dead during a bear attack.

I found it funny that a man I was working with while in Florida said said to me: "for someone who travels all over the country, you still can't lose that Southern drawl, can you?" I replied, "I guess not- I wouldn't want to though! It's part of my charm." It's true, I can't and I don't want to. Why would I?

I needed the break and a change of scenery. I needed to be off-line for awhile and not stare at a computer or an inbox. It wasn't vacation, but I tried to make it relaxing. I did not even pack a bathing suit, and when I talked to MK earlier, who was in Minnesota for work while I was in Florida, I mentioned it to her. Her response?:

MK: Really? I brought mine. I definitely did a cannonball into the pool of the Marriott in Minnetonka, Minnesota.

And that is why we are friends.

"I'd give all wealth that years have piled,
The slow result of Life's decay,
To be once more a little child
For one bright summer day."
-Lewis Carroll

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Well-Kept Secrets, Vol. V

I have established that I am a fan of the daily emails. As many other girls do, I e-subscribe to Daily Candy, which are cleverly written, tailored to my city (Dallas) and take literally 20-30 seconds to read.

I read an article recently on the creators of, which provides a similar service as Daily Candy, only catering to men. They provide "Thrillist Nation" daily news on Food + Dining, Style, Entertainment, Travel, Bars + Nightlife and Home + Gadgets. They also send weekly emails by city.

I like feeling as though gifts I give people are thoughtful, and I have a strict no-gift cards policy, but I'm as guilty as the next girl of giving my fraternity boy brother* Polo shirts and my avid reader and golfer father** a lame tie or something irrelevant from Brookstone. This has definitely become a new resource for me for gift ideas and randomly great websites:

I like the recommendation they made for the website Forvo, which tells you how to pronounce words in any other language you can think of.

I am not the most savvy of music-listeners, but apparently Blue Tunes can load your iTunes library into its online database, so you can access it anywhere.

Who doesn't love cheap wine? Not me and definitely not you. The Accidental Wine Company looks promising.

I drive everywhere now, but this Walk Score website would be great for anyone who hits the pavement.

It is so much cheaper and more efficient to get these in your inbox (read: "gloriously free") than picking up a random copy of Men's Health or roaming aimlessly around a sporting goods store, and takes care of Boston, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Francisco and Miami on a regional basis as well.

Maybe the emails just appeal to the same side of me who also watches Entourage. I really love that show for some reason. Either way, I like being informed.

*For my brother's 22nd birthday this year I gave him black bow tie and suspenders for his tux. He had a vest and tie but that was a little too prom circa 2004. The classic James Bond look is much more sexy.
**For my dad's 51st birthday I made reservations at a nice restaurant in Dallas and took him to dinner for a change, and for some quality time.

"Enabling informed laziness since 2005. Get emails that let you read very little, yet know pretty much everything."

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Ranch, The Game, The Ring and other Thanksgiving Tales, Part II

Over a week ago my friend RM had told me the news that our friend SR's boyfriend would be proposing on her 24th birthday; which was Friday. His parents were planning a surprise engagement party for them afterward, so we all made our Thanksgiving travel plans accordingly.

I arrived at MK and SR's apartment Friday evening under the guise of going to a movie with MK. SR was getting ready to go to dinner with her boyfriend, and so I went into her room to talk to her and ask about her birthday and Thanksgiving and whatnot. Playing it cool is not a game I'm very good at, but I tried my best to just act like "oh this will be a fun birthday date" and tell her she looked great in her new outfit.

Meanwhile MK and I were clearly in no hurry to leave for our "movie"; she was baking a brie (apparently her new favorite thing to do) and mixing Cape Cods for us while still in her robe. SR seemed a little on-edge, so we made her take a shot of Grey Goose from a Waterford crystal shot glass. Very classy. She joked that before her first date with her boyfriend two years prior, her college roommates had made her do the same thing.

TC, the boyfriend, came to pick her up, and I watched for any sign of nervousness but found only a poker face as they left. Side note to say that I've seen a few guys pre-proposal and the usual look is a combination of fear and deer in headlights. I even ran into another friend's boyfriend getting coffee one morning in college, and what I thought was a frazzled, sleepless finals-week expression was actually anxiety over having to ask her father, who walked in right after me, if he could marry her.

Minutes later RM and AV blew in to the apartment with the ring, roses and a photo album that TC had made. We all looked at the ring first, of course, placed it back in the box and into the silverware drawer as per TC's instructions, wrapped the roses in tissue paper instead of plastic (makes them look ten times better) and MK tried to find suitable background music on her iPod. We debated a candle, but MK said that SR would be furious with her for leaving a flame burning in the apartment unattended.

We met up with our other friends, KR and AG, continued drinking at a Mexican food restaurant in Dallas, then drove on to TC's parents house. Not paying very close attention, we ended up knocking on the wrong door first, which was answered by a man who was stunned to find five 23-year-old girls and RM on his doorstep. We apologized and asked where Mr. and Mrs. C's house might be, he told us and we kept walking as he said "you can come back if you want to!" Awesome- apparently all you have to do is start knocking on doors, ladies.

We made it to the right house and did not have to wait long for the happy couple to come bursting through the doors. SR was shocked to see everyone and we got to descend upon her with hugs and pictures. TC's mom had even gotten SR a birthday cake, and we all got to enjoy her birthday and her engagement late into the evening. Our friend AG also recently got engaged, and RM joked that it's going to be like the new movie Bride Wars over the next eight months around here... Kidding!

The two of them are planning weddings one month apart for next summer, in the same hometown with many of the same people. Their personalities and fiances are very different, so I'm sure their weddings will be too.

For the record, this makes wedding number five on the docket for 2009.

Also, a happy 24th birthday to my friend KR as well... who I wrote this for one very short year ago.

"You fathers will understand. You have a little girl. An adorable little girl who looks up to you and adores you in a way you could never have imagined... You worry about her meeting the wrong kind of guy, the kind of guy who only wants one thing, and you know exactly what that one thing is, because it's the same thing you wanted when you were their age. Then, you stop worrying about her meeting the wrong guy, and you worry about her meeting the right guy. That's the greatest fear of all, because then you lose her."
- Steve Martin as George Banks, Father of the Bride

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Ranch, The Game, The Ring and other Thanksgiving Tales

From The Feast:

I took Wednesday off from work for a nice long five-day Thanksgiving weekend.

For several years my family, along with my mom's two older sisters and their families, have spent Thanksgiving on my aunt and uncle's ranch which is about halfway between Austin and College Station, Texas. The token Aggie in my large Longhorn family, I appreciate the fact that the ranch is in close proximity to whichever city is hosting the annual Texas A&M vs. Texas football game.

For two years my brother and my cousin KH drove down from Dallas with the parents, while BH, her brother who is my age, and I would drive in from school. In a humorous role-reversal, BH and I got to be the ones crammed into the back of my dad's Tahoe this year with iPods, magazines, books and laptops. Nothing says "family time" like earbuds and recorded episodes of Entourage. It literally took ninja skills to get out of the car, I kid you not.

BH swims daily to stay in shape and consumed no fewer than two and a half bags of chips, a small package of donuts and a huge Lipton Brisk tea on our three-hour drive, just as a snack. He is literally pure muscle. I could only stare and wonder how he didn't visibly gain weight or feel like throwing up afterward.

BH, myself and my brother, LH, this summer in New York:

We arrived at the ranch around sunset, ate tacos, then my cousins and I all went outside to get a fire going and watch the stars come out. There is nothing more relaxing to me than laying (on a bale of hay, obviously), listening to a fire crackle and watching the sky light up. Away from city lights you can see thousands of stars, which always makes me remember how small I am in the universe and gives me such a sense of peace.

Everyone went to bed early, and I vaguely remember waking up at 6 AM Thursday morning because I could her The Moms and BH talking in the kitchen. KH and I dragged ourselves out of bed around 7:45 and as we rubbed our eyes realized that we were the last ones awake. The Dads were already awake, showered and working on the turkeys. The Brothers were all dressed and shuffling the Sports sections of the paper amongst themselves. (The Cowboys AND the Longhorns rarely play games on the same day- there was much to cover.) Such are holidays with my family.

From the ranch:

BH and I were the only ones who wanted to go to the game this year, which the college football authorities moved to Thanksgiving Day, so we ate lunch with everyone and headed to Austin soon after. Austin was uncharacteristically not busy, or at least appeared not to be until we got inside the game with the other 98,000 people who ditched their families for the game.

I hadn't been to a college football game in two years- since A&M won in Austin two years ago, so I was overdue. We were in the student section, and for anyone who has ever called me a fair-weather fan (how dare you), this was my day to prove you wrong. I watched every play go from bad to worse, and listened to all of the insults hurling out of the stands as the 49-9 score was finalized.

Of course we stayed in Austin that night, because my dear cousin had also arranged for us to stay the night in Westlake, where some of his younger buddies from college have been "house-sitting" for a professor who is out of the country. They showed me to my room and nonchalantly told me to watch out for scorpions.

Scorpions? Come again?! Keep in mind, this was a beautiful home in the Hill Country, not just some guy's college apartment.

Me: Back up to the part about the scorpions.
BH: You know how I drink water out of the faucet sometimes?
Me: Yes...
BH: Well last time I was here, I was reaching down to get some water and a scorpion was literally climbing up the drain. I had no idea what was going on-- I may have actually screamed. I'm sure you will be fine- just be careful.

About that time the guys, being noble, decided to check the bathroom for me, killing a spider in the process. "Oh yeah, here's one," one of them said. It was in the trash can, which apparently was "not a big deal" to anyone else. I didn't want to be dramatic, so I said good night and waited until I closed my door to inspect all the corners of the room and between the sheets and blankets with the light from my Blackberry for any other perpetrators who might want to bite me.

The next morning BH and I woke up early, and our bonding time continued as we got in the car again to drive back to the ranch. He was in a "talking" mood (probably because I kept handing him various McDonald's breakfast sandwiches), which the men in my family are not known for, so I set down my book and paid attention. My cousin KH and I like to joke that we only have a certain window of time to get questions in before our brothers aren't in the mood for chatting anymore, so you have to take advantage when you can.

We are the same age and at a similar stage in life, thus our conversation ultimately turned to relationships and dating. I got to ask questions about his previous relationships; what he learned from them, what he liked and what he would change in the future. I gained valuable insights into the male mind from someone who I love, trust and respect.

If I could get him to start drinking water out of a glass, I could probably set him up with one of my friends.

*FYI this got longer than I intended so there will be a Part II supplemented tomorrow. (I know, you can hardly wait!)

"There is precious little hope to be got out of whatever keeps us industrious, but there is a chance for us whenever we cease work and become stargazers."
- H.M. Tomlinson

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Feast

My friends started a tradition many years ago (in high school) of having what is now lovingly known as "Thanksgiving Feast." Back then it was just an excuse to eat Thanksgiving food twice, our metabolisms could easily keep up, and each of us just asked our moms to make an extra of something they were already making anyway.

The Feast, while still attended by many of the same people year after year, is always hosted by MK, who sends out an Evite that includes a poem that she makes up herself. This year she even managed to include some election banter and the gate code to get into her apartment building. She and my friend SR live together in uptown Dallas, so they were co-hostessing the event.

Nowadays we all have to do the cooking ourselves, which is fine because my friends are great in the kitchen. People who have never been to The Feast are always surprised at how serious everyone takes their cooking responsibilities. I walked in with my friend RW to the apartment, which was warmly lit by lamps and candles, to see people greeting each other while holding casserole dishes, my friend SR in the kitchen (apron on, whipping up potatoes, not a curled blonde hair out of place) and see MK topping off wine glasses in one hand and setting out a platter of baked brie and crackers with the other.

You know, just a regular Sunday night.

The food never disappoints. The company isn't bad either. New friends and old always mingle well together at The Feast; probably thanks to the wine and the interesting playlists MK always has going on her iPod. I think the first year we did it, we went around the table and did the "what are you thankful for" thing... but since there are about 30 people hovering around the apple pie with crumble topping, we opted to socialize instead.

I brought broccoli cheese casserole; a favorite every year at my family's Thanksgiving gathering. My dad's mom, who passed away several years ago, was the queen of Thanksgiving. I think the first year that everyone had to cook without her was a disaster because know one knew exactly how to do her recipes with the same finesse.

Her signature dish was really her cornbread stuffing, but my favorite has always been her broccoli cheese casserole. After making it for the first time ever on Sunday, I don't know how anyone does this with anything less than four hands. I think I know my way around the kitchen but this was seriously labor-intensive.

Nothing was made easier by the fact that there are no instructions written down anywhere. My own mother wrote down the ingredients, probably 12 years ago, on a torn-off corner of a yellow legal pad. That's it. She knows all of the amounts and instructions and baking time by heart. This meant that meant that every 90 seconds or so, my mom got a "what's next?" question from me while I was cooking. I even tried to do that thing where you balance your phone between your head and your shoulder while stirring and pouring and talking, which only resulted in cooked rice littering the stovetop and several broken-off sentences on my end while chatting with my friend BF.

Apparently multi-tasking is one of the cooking skills I have yet to master.

"Thanksgiving dinners take eighteen hours to prepare. They are consumed in twelve minutes. Half-times take twelve minutes. This is not coincidence."
-Erma Bombeck

Monday, November 24, 2008

Style Points? What are Style Points?

I went over to hang out with my friend HR the other night in Dallas, who came home for the week from Houston. I had a message from her when I left the gym on Saturday morning; she called because she knew I would be interested in watching the Texas Tech and OU match-up that night, and so we made a date.

Our beloved Texas A&M football team has basically been stuffed into a locker and forgotten this season by all the other Big 12 South teams. It happens. In the throws of a "rebuilding year" we've been watching ESPN GameDay after Fox Sports Southwest show covering OU, Texas, and Texas Tech all beat each other up on and off the field all season. Oklahoma State even got a few punches in at one point, and now they are hoping for a huge (read: highly unlikely) upset over OU this Thanksgiving weekend.

Being girls and all, we had spinach alfredo pizza and wine and settled in to watch OU take a commanding 28-0 lead. By the end of the second quarter the announcers had already started beating the dead BCS horse and began talking about how "style points" would come into play when deciding which teams will go to the National Championship and which will get screwed.

I had an email from my friend ND, a Texas grad, who evidently posted something she found making the case for the Longhorns in the BCS. She had rapid comments on it from guys representing OU and Texas, agreeing, disagreeing and using greater than or less than signs to try and get their points across. She had unknowingly created a monster.

"Style points," an ambiguous little term invented by the BCS, roughly translates to an end-of-season popularity contest that will ultimately elevate OU, Texas or Texas Tech above one another at the expense of the other two to play in the National Championship game. In case you haven't been paying attention; Texas beat OU, then Tech beat Texas, and most recently OU beat Tech. Each team has one loss, and the unbeaten SEC team Alabama is undefeated, meaning the most likely scenario is that one of these Big 12 South teams will end up playing them in the National Championship game.

Now you're caught up.

Since the BCS explains itself as thus: "It is not a playoff system. It is nothing more than attempt to match the No. 1 and No. 2 teams within the bowl system and to create exciting matchups in four other bowl games," you can understand why people have been up in arms for years over the fact that they have still done nothing to create a playoff system.

Since the game we were watching was not even close in the second half, HR and I started assigning "style points" of our own to each of the three teams. It got to be an ongoing joke throughout the rest of the weekend, so I thought I would include a few of my favorites:

Plus one to Bob Stoops, for being the poster child of white visors. Plus another one because you know he gives those out as SWAG during recruiting visits.

Plus one to Mack Brown for still having all of his hair. That's a rare accomplishment for men his age (57) these days. And look at that golf clap!

Plus two to Mike Leach for bearing an uncanny resemblance to Vince Gill. Long-lost twins?

Plus one for Sam Bradford. Someone decided to introduce him to Proactive after last season, which should really help his candidacy for Heisman.

Plus two to Colt McCoy for his name alone. Small town Texas kid? Named Colt? He was bred for this job.

Plus two for Brandon Carter, the Texas Tech player who aspires to be a professional wrestler and paints his face like this for every game. Dream big, kiddo. Minus one for the tongue ring though.

For sake of neutrality, I chose for each team to end up with three points. No pointing fingers- I'm just the kid in the locker, remember? Obviously the computers and the humans running the BCS have their hands full this year, since these are not the only one-loss teams in the rankings. Maybe the governance of the BCS will start listening to the American people and Obama and fix this mess one of these days.


"Winning isn't everything. It's the only thing."
-Vince Lombardi

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Filling the Harry Potter-sized void

At midnight tonight I will turn into pumpkin; becoming a teenager again for a few hours at least while I sit amongst them to see the 12:02 AM showing of Twilight.

I bought the tickets over a week ago; I have no shame.

I will don my Uggs and a fleece, (it's a bit chilly and I'll blend in with the young ones better than I would in my business casual), and meet up with my friend RM to get our Starbucks holiday drinks of choice.

We've done this before, but I won't even begin to tell you about the time we went to see TRL because that is just embarrassing.

Last summer we went together to see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix at midnight the day it came out. We have been emailing back and forth for weeks anticipating this movie; he just moved back to Dallas from New York (woo hoo!) but before he had even left NYC he made sure to lock in our plans for tonight. He's bringing his friend Kimberly too, who I'm already inclined to like for the sheer fact that she's totally game for all of this.

My friend BD in New York got invited to a pre-screening of the movie in New York and assured me that I will not be disappointed. She also transitioned that gchat conversation into an anecdote on a recent night out in the city, when she was bitten by a drunk guy who was hitting on her at a bar. He literally bit her. I guess he was trying to go in for the kill... (sorry, the vampire jokes have started). Maybe he thought he could be smooth like Edward Cullen, who even knows? Luckily there were other Twilight fans there to witness this transpire, and no, unfortunately she did not have a hickey the next day (I asked).

So needless to say, I can't wait for this Dracula meets Romeo & Juliet, meets emo teen angst and a Taylor Swift song combination. I don't think I'll be disappointed.

"I'd rather die than stay away from you."
-Bella, Twilight

Monday, November 17, 2008

Well-Kept Secrets, Vol. IV

I may not know much about men, but there is one thing I know for sure: they all love long hair.

To quote my friend Jane, completely out of context, "it is a truth universally acknowledged."

I was walking out of the house a few days ago, leaving to go run errands and see friends in Uptown, and my Dad casually asked about my plans. The first thing out of my mouth was that I was on my way to get a haircut then going to meet up with friends to watch a football game. He stopped abruptly, jerked his head around the corner and said "you're not cutting it all off- are you? You won't be getting it short again- right?"

"I'm just getting it trimmed and having the stylist clean up my layers... that's all."

"Oh, okay. Good. Have fun."

He never made any comments about my short hair for the years I kept it so in college, but clearly he was biding his time. I have since consulted with several other trusted males about hair length and the consensus is clear: keep it long. Got it.

Long hair is means more maintenance, and I've recently become privy to a few products that make my life much easier.

Product #1 was introduced to me at the Bumble and Bumble salon in Manhattan. I have a lot of hair, but it doesn't have a lot of body, and my stylist told me to use the Thickening Spray on my damp hair before blowing it out. It definitely adds body and makes my hair fluffy. It helps for big, soft curls.

Product #2 I found myself, while on a Target expedition for Biolage, Craisins and Clif Kids Bars (chocolate brownie). Pantene Pro-V Texture Pomade is the perfect finish for straight hair. If you live in any kind of humid climate, then frizz is always a factor. Rubbing a small amount on your fingers and running it through freshly-straightened hair gives you defined layers and smooth control without the crunch of hairspray.

Product #3 was recommended to me by a few friends who have drier hair and therefore can't wash it everyday. To keep it fresh between washes, dry shampoo works wonders. My big question was "how is this different from baby powder?" I don't like the smell of baby powder and I always think it makes me, a brunette, look a little too much like Martha Washington. I found a dry shampoo by Oscar Blandi called Pronto at Sephora, and have quickly become a fan. It has a lemony smell and takes care of those mornings when I hit my alarm more than five times.

Another good idea if you aren't great with your own hair, is scheduling appointments with a hair stylist for Saturday afternoons, that way your hair is cut and styled in time for Saturday night, and you've killed both the haircut and hairstyle birds with one stone.

Or you become friends with me and coerce me into coming over to fix your hair for you. That's what my friends do.

"Hair is the richest ornament of women."
-Martin Luther

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Name Abbreviations; A Non-Comprehensive Guide

I always abbreviate the names of my friends and family on my blog. I started doing that when I wrote in New York, and I figure it's safer this way, since everyone has jobs and whatnot.

My friends live in Texas, New York, Hawaii, California, D.C., Europe and many locations in between. They are wives, daughters, aunts and sisters to many, and they are the greatest women I know. We share one-liner emails, heart-to-hearts, and have flown all over the country/world to see each other. All are a huge part of my life and come up often when I'm writing, and I should have done this sooner but this might make it easier to keep up.

My people:

Childhood friends: we grew up on the same street as each other, carpooled to school and snuck out of the house together...

High school and college friends (overlap): we bonded in Student Council and then spent four years enjoying College Station, Texas together...

College and sorority friends: people I've loved since literally Day One of university life. We spent many nights together at date parties, which have now been replaced with weddings...

The New Yorkers: college friends who I moved to New York with; they both still live and work there...

LH: My (22-year-old) baby brother, who is a senior in college.

RM: Infamous. A friend from back in the day, he is the one guy who has been let in on the inner-workings of our Girl World. He once coordinated a Spring Break trip for himself and four girls by promising our fathers that he would protect and take a bullet for any of us. Not lying.

Insert several embarrassing photos here.

"One cannot divine nor forecast the conditions that will make happiness; one only stumbles upon them by chance, in a lucky hour, at the world's end somewhere, and holds fast to the days, as to fortune or fame."
- Willa Cather

Friday, November 14, 2008

Enough with the generic

I love getting mail.

This week I've come home to find lots of richly embossed wedding invitations, save the dates in addition to the other bridal and bachelorette-related messages that my lovebird friends are sending out these days. Wedding Season 2009 is filling up rather quickly. I'm hopeful that this upcoming year, like the last two, will be one where I can still ignore the "and guest" on my invitations and go enjoy fun weekends with my friends, sans-date.

I also joined the 20-Something Bloggers network this week, meaning I now have access to thousands of strangers and their Internet musings. It's so addicting. Thought topics and opinions range widely, and I'm continually amazed at how honest people are online.

The combination of all the love-mail with the reading I've followed of my fellow 20-somethings has gotten me thinking that I don't put myself out there that much when it comes to dating. I'm available, and not.

My friend CT, who I studied abroad with, is studying abroad again, this time in Toulouse for grad school. (Who knew you could do that twice?) She emailed me recently to shoot the breeze and catch me up on the interesting life she's got going on in France, not the least of which notable facts was that she's living with a family who has not one, not two, but THREE attractive sons in our age-range. I know: when can I come visit? Even though, knowing me, I would smile, introduce myself and admire them from a distance.

Anyway, she asked me about my life and told me not to give her the "generic" version she reads about on my blog. Ouch. Me, vague? Never.

I put on a good song and dance when dealing with guys (or at least, I like to think I do). A product of my generation, I can carry on the witty banter of texting back and forth and the clever emails with the best of them. If desirability was determined by success as a pen pal, I would be highly sought after. The problem is face time. Actually spending time with someone when there's interest can get a little unnerving. Or a lot unnerving. I have rarely been around a guy, when there has been the "what-if" possibility looming overhead, when I haven't wanted to run for the door.

Why am I afraid of boys? (No really, I'm asking).

I remember hanging out with a guy friend in college, while we were both home for Christmas break, watching a basketball game together at my house, talking sports and life and whatnot, then driving him home. When I pulled up in front of his house I leaned over and gave him a hug, pulled away after an appropriately long friend-embrace and found myself really close to his face. We had the same look in our eyes but both hesitated just a bit too long and the moment was lost. I turned back to my steering wheel and he got out of the car, and though we spent more time together after that, we could never really recover that moment back.

So why do some people fall head over heels so quickly? Why do others have such a hard time being vulnerable?

I come from loving parents who have been happily married for almost 27 years. I have no reason not to believe in relationships, I DO believe in relationships, and I've never been seriously scarred by a guy, but it's really only because I have never let anyone get close enough to really hurt me.

I told one of my friends once that I thought my biggest misconception of love was that I thought, subconsciously, that it should make sense, when in fact the kind of guys I have found myself to be attracted to over the years have run the gamut of different backgrounds, ages and personalities... shy, loud, mysterious, conventional, rugged, clean-cut. The common denominator I have found is humor: they all made me laugh.

They also made me nervous.

A few of my good friends in Dallas are nicely settled into relationships, and every time someone gets engaged, as happy as I am, I'm still left wondering where the gap was bridged between awkward first embraces to being someones standing plus one everywhere.

Part of the greatness of living in New York was that, at 23, no one expected you to be considering marriage, or even a relationship. You should just be "having fun," which, don't even get me started on what that's supposed to mean. An unwritten societal expectation of growing up in Texas, however, is getting married young, somewhere in the early/mid-twenties range, buying a house and "starting your life", so to speak. I feel like there should be some happy medium between one night stands and happily ever after. I just have no idea where to find it.

I'm still not buying the whole "dating" thing either.

"If you would be loved... be lovable."
-Benjamin Franklin

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Hitting the links

Only in Texas could you attend a golf tournament in November and find yard-long margaritas next to hot chocolate on the menu, and see people drinking both.

God bless America and the great state of Texas.

The Nationwide Tour Championship was right in my backyard this past week. My usually quiet neighborhood was suddenly crowded with the droves of spectators and golfers who came out for the event. I knew this because I couldn't go anywhere without watching Cadillac Escalades circling, lost in my neighborhood because even the newest GPS systems don't show all of the new streets around here. I would know-- the tracking device on mine shows me as off-roading every time I leave my street.

I walked New York-worthy distances on Sunday afternoon, in boots no less across our golf course, remembering how much I enjoy golfing on a beautiful day and wondering why it's been so long since I last played.

My childhood was not spent in dance studios or at dress rehearsals. I actually took my first ballet class in college, (which is another story for another time). While other little girls were learning tap and jazz, I was learning to tee up a ball and mark a putt. I worked at a golf ranch in the summers and played on and off through high school. I think I can fully account for why I walk so quickly everywhere; I was used to being timed at 18-36 hole golf tournaments for years.

Anyway, this is the perfect time of year for golf in Texas. It's not too hot, for once, it's slightly chilly but sunny, and the scenery is great... not to mention you can finally wear one of those pullovers that makes a swishing sound while you walk.

I don't golf much anymore, but it's not one of those things you forget to do overnight. Golf has a feel; a rhythm, and it's completely psychological. You battle more in your own head than you do against the course, weather conditions or distractions. It's completely you; sinking a 12-foot putt is the ultimate satisfaction, just as misguiding a wedge shot is the ultimate annoyance.

I was getting the golf bug even before the tournament this weekend because my friend BF just got a new bag and matching golf shoes. They're mint green (golf should be first a foremost fashionable, after all). Now I can't drive past the driving range, which I do every day on my way to work without considering the next time I might be able to go out and dust off my driver.

I might just need to find some snazzy new shoes first...

"Golf is a game that is played on a five-inch course - the distance between your ears."
-Bobby Jones

Monday, November 10, 2008

Family Resemblance

My brother and I have a funny history. When we were very, very young we shared a bathroom, which lasted briefly because of my propensity to completely dominate space and takeover every inch of counter available. My curling irons and expanding need for both personal and closet space edged him out of his room and to one down the hall when we were still in elementary school; it was just better that way for sibling relations.

We are only 20 months apart, and after celebrating his most recent birthday, we are currently in the four month gap where our ages reflect only a year in difference, 22 and 23, respectively. My not-so-baby brother is now a senior in college at UT. Growing up we ended up with several family friends with similar-aged kids, and I met some of my closest friends while our brothers played little league games together. Having a sister my age and a brother his age were nearly prerequisites to hanging out with my family.

The day we discovered him to be taller than me was a turning point, and from that point on we've always appeared to be of a comparable age. I should also mention that, to the untrained eye and especially to anyone who has never met our parents, our likeness is not obvious. Our coloring is completely different- he has blonde hair, blue eyes and is tall with fairer skin which he got from my mom. I have brown hair, brown eyes more and "olive" skin (whatever that means- I'm not green or anything), which I got from my dad. We actually have similar smiles and noses and mannerisms, but those are things people who know us would gather. Obviously too, he is male, I am female, which has been the root of many misunderstandings over the years.

It all started in middle school, when I was in 8th grade and he was in 6th grade, and I was hanging out with some cheerleader friends waiting in the carpool line for my ride. My brother approached me to tell me he had tennis practice and left promptly for the gym. One of the girls I was standing with, who I didn't know very well, immediately steered my elbow out of earshot and started the interrogation: "Who was that? He.Is.So.Cute. Is he your boyfriend or something? What's his name?" Little did I know this would only be the beginning. "That's L," I answered, "he's not my boyfriend, he's my brother."

Of course it didn't end there.

His freshman year of college, I made the hour and change drive over to Austin to meet up with he and my parents for his first fraternity Parents' Weekend. We were finishing lunch, he offered to get me a drink, and after about 10 minutes of waiting I decided to go find one myself. I walked out into the backyard, where the bar was, and immediately saw my brother's back as he was surrounded by a gaggle of young sorority girls. "Of course that's why he went missing," I thought, smirking to myself. I called his name and walked up next to him, and he whirled around to say "Oh hey! I forgot about your drink..." and I looked past him to see four pairs of eyes glaring darts at me. I was completely confused.

Their expressions transformed to feigned indifference as he turned back to them, ushering me forward and said "hey, this is my sister A, she's a Chi-O at A&M!" Like a light-switch, their demeanors changed. "Omigosh! For real?!" they squealed, "L didn't tell us his sister was a Chi-O! So nice to meet you!" I smiled, introduced myself and forgot their names immediately after they had been spoken. At that point I excused myself to get a beer and walked back inside. They had initially percieved me to be a threat, which explained the death glares. Not the best of first impressions... let's just say he never ended up dating any of them.

The best, though, was the trip my brother and I took to London. I flew in from Germany, after my summer abroad, and he flew in from Dallas to meet me for a week. When we arrived at our hotel, the front desk attendant asked for the name on our reservation, so I told her and continued my conversation with L, trying to decide our plan for the rest of the day. She interrupted, confused at the request on the reservation. "And you wanted *two* beds?..." she asked. "Yes that's right" I said, thinking "of course we want two beds, lady." She shook her head and continued typing, and finally said "okay Mr. H and Mrs. H, here are your room keys." I couldn't correct her because I would have started laughing in her face, but I couldn't keep myself from giggling audibly before we got to the elevator. "We have the same last name, so she assumed we were married" I said, the humor of which was lost on L, who was jet-lagged and carrying my bags.

It's come in handy over the years, I must say, to have a him as a brother. Whether on a beach in Playa del Carmen, a pub in London or in a crowded bar in New York, I can always ensure I'll be left alone if I'm talking to the guy with the great hair and the deep, bellowing voice (just like Dad's). He taught me how to play Craps, and I showed him a thing or two about how to match belts and shoes. What else is family for, anyway?

"Children of the same family, the same blood, with the same first associations and habits, have some means of enjoyment in their power, which no subsequent connections can supply..."
-Jane Austen, Mansfield Park, 1814

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Well-Kept Secrets, Vol. III

Everyone has their standby, no-brainer list of good restaurants. They are always a safe bet and while you may not be surprised, you know you won't be disappointed.

Soon after moving to Dallas, I discovered that my friend CC had a list, multiple pages long, of restaurants to try on her Mac, complete with recommendations, how she had heard of the place, price ranges and ambiance. This was not really a surprise, coming from the same friend who gave me my quote book and who is a master of all things organizational.

Her list has yet to produce a bad evening of dining out, so this weekend should not have been a surprise. CC's recommendation for Saturday night was a restaurant called Rise No. 1, in Inwood Village. I had read about it before, and then in one ear out the other, I forgot about it until she mentioned the name.

I should start keeping a list or something.

Our other friends KS, MG and BF were all game to try it, and after piling in MG's car together we found ourselves in Inwood Village... decked out for Christmas. Evidently retailers order all of their Christmas decor early in the year, which was prior to the crumbling of the economy, so they're now in a panic to get rid of it. Anyway, we meandered around outside for a while; waiting for the one table of five in the restaurant to vacate, and managed to squeeze onto the same bench in front while we chatted.

Once seated, we decided to try a French, pear-flavored cider that the waiter recommended. Not Ace Pear, for the record. It was less acidic and there were no playing cards on the label (aka totally classy). He brought water to our table in old, label-less wine bottles, which we drank like camels, and also freshly baked baguette and butter, which didn't last long either.

The restaurant, we had heard, was known for their souffles, so we each ordered salads to start and three souffles to share- creamed spinach, jambon and gruyere (ham and cheese, but so much fancier) and a sun-dried tomato and pesto chevre. They were all delicious, but none compared to dessert.

The chocolate souffle. Oh the chocolate souffle. We were a captivated audience as a waitress set the dish squarely in the middle of our table, a puffy cloud covered in powdered sugar. She wielded, in her other hand, a pot of melted dark chocolate to pour over the top. I don't think we even heard her say "enjoy" because we were too busy killing it. It was like sword-fighting with spoons.

The restaurant itself was comfortable; warm and inviting with bookshelves and wine racks lining the walls. It seems like an aspiring writer influenced the details; there were novels on the shelves, Scrabble pieces on the table and when we left, we discovered a Bingo-looking wheel that held not mints, not matches but quotes. Like a fortune cookie, but better.

And who needs a cookie when there's chocolate syrup to be finished?

"You will wait on your souffle, but your souffle will not wait on you."
-Rise No. 1 menu

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Hail to the Chief

On this lovely, excuse me, on this Super Tuesday we're having, I can't help but remember the most exciting day I ever spent at the gym.

I know how that sounds, but stay with me people. You could use a break from the election coverage.

On a weekday morning in college a few years and two iPods ago, I was keeping with my usual routine of exercising at the Rec before class. I was probably listening to Justin Timberlake and watching SportsCenter, as was my pastime, when something odd caught my eye. It was a man dressed head to toe in black; complete business formal. He disappeared behind a column, and I became more distracted by watching the murmuring and pointing other students were suddenly doing. Had someone passed out on the thigh abductor?

That's when I saw the man in black again, only upon further inspection, this time I noticed he was also wearing a clear earpiece. I had seen Independence Day enough times to know what an earpiece and a black suit meant. Things clicked into place and I knew why he was there. The man with the earpiece moved around to reveal none other than former President George H.W. Bush. At the gym on campus. Lifting weights. In his work out clothes. His Presidential library is at A&M, and though he was in College Station often, he was usually at the Bush School and not in the middle of campus.

I'm sure many Americans will see a President, in person, at some point in their lives. But how many will randomly run into one, unexpectedly?

I knew he was in town because that I already had tickets to the forum he was holding with Coach Mike Krzyzewski later that week, and I somehow managed, through all of this, to stay running on my treadmill without tripping or having to push the Emergency Stop button. I watched, and ran, fascinated and wondering what I should do.

I was sweaty!

People were supposed to be wearing sweater sets and Jackie O hats and dainty gloves when they were introduced to Presidents!

How was I to proceed?

Eventually he made his way near me, until he finally ended up on a stationary bike in front of me, startling the girl he sat next to as she had been too engrossed in her US Weekly to notice his arrival.

The entire time he was nothing but gracious to every student who sheepishly passed and said hello or reached out to shake his hand; never in a hurry and never ignoring anyone. I ended up skirting past him, his guard probably had to laugh at how strangely nervous I was, and said "good morning!" in a cheery, unnaturally pitchy voice. He returned the gesture, we both smiled, and I kept walking.

And that was it.

I met an American President in Nike shorts and lived to tell about it.

"I do not mistrust the future; I do not fear what is ahead. For our problems are large, but our heart is larger. Our challenges are great, but our will is greater. And if our flaws are endless, God's love is truly boundless."
-George H.W. Bush

Monday, November 3, 2008

Early Voting

Late Saturday night, I arrived home from watching the much-heralded UT vs. Texas Tech game. I wasn't feeling great and wasn't really tired, and so I got ready for bed and snuggled into my down pillow-top mattress, down comforter and no fewer than five down pillows to read Eclipse until my Tylenol PM kicked in.

Around 12:22 AM on Sunday morning I was startled out of my vampire trance as my phone rattled on my bedside table. I had received a text from my life-long friend ND, who is a high school teacher slash beach goddess in Hawaii. (We refer to each other as "N" and "A", a la Serena and Blair, or "S" and "B" on Gossip Girl) It read:

A- No loss is worse than four years in Lubbock. Amen.

I totally agreed.

N- I hear ya, I thought for a minute there that their fans might cost them the game (twice). Season is not over, either!

She responded:

Amen! I hope Obama wins!

Oy. Agree to disagree on that one, N.

Goodness I love that girl.

Our friendship is such that we literally grew up across the street from one another, went to completely different Texas colleges and have different beliefs of American politics. She writes me the most laugh out loud funny emails and whenever she comes home for vacation (Texas is considered a vacation when you live on a resort in Hawaii, who knew?) we usually spend hours lounging and discussing books and life and romance (her specialty) all while refusing to take off her cowgirl boots.

Democrats and Republicans should actually try agreeing every so often. They would probably accomplish more anyway, and they would have more time to discuss what happened on tonight's episode of Gossip Girl, like N & I do.

"People are taking their comedians seriously and their politicians as jokes."
-Will Rogers

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Cheap Thrills

I was uploading pictures earlier and had all but forgotten about the Fashion at the Park event that MK and I attended a few weeks ago:

Yes, we went to a Carolina Herrera show. You know the best part? We originally paid an... umm... a substantial amount of money (I mean the show lasts 20-25 minutes here people) and since the event was so much larger than in years past, they decided to reduce the price of tickets to $5 each.

Five dollars. The price of a Chick-Fil-A combo meal to be on the second row at a fashion show.

They were featuring all of her ready to wear clothes, and MK and I enjoyed watching and commenting on all of the clothes and models. There was one who still needed to work on her thousand-yard stare, she looked like she might trip on one of her four-inch heels at any moment. Cadillac sponsored the event, had photographers there and held a little cocktail hour afterward with candle-lit tables on the lawn outside of Neiman's.

Realizing that it was 7:25 PM and Northpark was still open, we polished off our champagne and walked back inside. We did, after all, have "$100 off of any purchase of $500 or more" vouchers to use at the Carolina Herrera store inside. So helpful.

We opted for our old standby, Nordstrom. MK is a whirlwind shopper; she breezes past everything, weaving through each department, and I could hardly move from Nanette Lepore to Trina Turk and back into reality before she was headed for the dressing rooms with a few, work-friendly dress options. I grabbed a few I thought she should try and threw them in the dressing room with her, while she gave me a monologue on her criteria for work outfits.

I tried on Marc Jacobs heels in the dressing room and examined them from the angles of three mirrors as she told me what she was looking for, before I saw any of it on her. She likes to have five "go-to" dresses that she can grab at any time, which makes sense for those of us who leave no time to be wasted in the early morning. This also means that said items should not wrinkle easily, should be of a cut and length that is tasteful and should easily transition from day to night. One's outfit should never scream "I just came from the office", just as it should never suggest "I'm leaving early for a night out".

She emerged wearing a very-flattering Elie Tahari dress, which actually looked like a skirt and top combination. There are a lot of those out there right now, by the way, is a great look because you are buying one piece but it looks like two, and you eliminate any bunching that would usually happen after you tuck your top in, or any otherwise unbecoming lines that would make your look frumpy.

MK was a little skeptical when looking in the mirror: "I don't think this revolutionizes my body," she said. Body revoltution, eh? I checked, and no, Spanx has yet to develop a product called the Body Revolutionizer. Nordstrom Girl and I pointed out that the only truly revolutionary piece of clothing a woman will probably have in her lifetime is her wedding gown. Now that should be awesome. But a dress you wear to work? That should be comfortable, fit well and look the appropriate amount of un-boring and business like.

Sometimes all you need is a five dollar fashion show and some imagination.

"Unity and simplicity are the two true sources of beauty."
-Johann Joachim Winckelmann