Thursday, October 29, 2009

Greater Restraint

I don't talk about my weakness for shopping all that much, but be advised:

I have a weakness for shopping.

This could be brushed off as: oh, all women love to shop, or my personal favorite, which is: I need this dress because I can wear it to work OR to dinner with my friends but I have finally come to the conviction that those excuses are just that- excuses. I am a materialistic human being and while more socially acceptable, it doesn't make it any better than other vices.

I am blessed in that I have no debt and actually have money saved. I trivialize my retail spending by thinking that because of the fact that I am debt-free, I'm justified in spending what is there, when in fact I would rather be in an established pattern to tithe to my church and save first. I know what I want to do, but practicing it is a different story because that means changing my habits.

I met with my dad and my family's financial advisor last week to discuss my investments, and also moving forward what would be the best way for me to save more of my income. Saving more for me will mean actually having a budget, taking a close look at where I spend my money and deciding which areas can give a bit. I say actually having a budget because up until now, I haven't actually had one. I know- ridiculous. I like to throw out the adage used by liberal arts majors everywhere of I don't do numbers, but we're talking calculator work here. Definitely something a college graduate can handle.

Oh, math. I still don't like you.

I've have budget-related discussions with friends also recently, and found that many people are still doing what I'm doing: eye-balling their expenditures vs. their income on their online statements and just trying to keep expenses in-check. I have even started emailing my friend BF for accountability with my shopping habits- telling her what I buy when I shop, when I buy it and how much it cost. For every $100 I spend, I also have to get rid of two articles of clothing from one of my closets*. She actually called me the other day as I was departing the Anthropologie dressing room (impeccable timing) and as I confessed where she was, she replied with "this is your conscience speaking, it's time to leave."

My bank actually breaks down my monthly spending into categories online. This is great but also alarming, and as I start digging deeper into my spending and keep going into months further back I have been disappointed at how much money I spent on retail while I was living at home with my parents through May of this year. Money that could have been invested or saved for spending on more furniture for my house in Dallas. I was gchatting with KR regarding this and we were wondering how much of a disaster unchecked spending creates when women get married and have never been told "no."

I am thankful that I have much more of an awareness of spending now than I did this time two years ago, when I was fresh out of college and my parents paid for everything. It sounds elementary, but you don't understand the satisfaction and independence of financial freedom until it's actually yours. Granted, instant gratification would tell you to buy the new boots now because retirement is not any time soon, but given a bit of perspective and some financial goals, I can now more easily walk away.

{If this were a talk show, you would clap now.}

It would be bold of me to claim that Neiman Marcus and J.Crew are dead to me, but avoiding them does leave more zeroes in my bank account. I refuse to be a slave to money- a paycheck is just a means to live a life, not perpetuate a lifestyle.

We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.
-Winston Churchill

*I have a full closet at my house in Dallas and additionally one in my room at my parents' house. I know, it's shameful.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Weekend in Photos


Hometown football game.

RM's mom has her own box... we stayed for exactly half-time and one quarter.

Saturday DIY project: MG making a headboard.

Fetch with Ruby and her sidekick Murray.

Drilling is more glamourous when you wear Uggs.

Tennis ball.

Close monitoring... I was so helpful.

Chicken pot pie- homemade, of course.


I recommend you take care of the minutes and the hours will take care of themselves.
-Earl of Chesterfield

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Bundle of Joy

My friend EL and her husband had a baby at the end of September, Lily. She told me yesterday that she was in town with the baby, staying at her parents' house, and since I was going to the suburbs to have dinner with my family for my mother's birthday I asked if I could stop by and meet the little one.

I called when I left dinner and she told me Lily was asleep and to come over. EL has twin siblings still in high school, and one of their friends was on the couch, holding the sleeping munchkin. She passed her over to me and I took her with the same carefulness I give my cup of coffee while walking to my car every morning, so as not to wake her up.

She stayed in my arms for quite a while and I talked to her closed eyelids about how much she looks like her daddy and played with her tiny hands which EL told me she likes to ball up at or around her face while she sleeps. I told EL that my dad always reminds me I would roll my wrists and ankles around as a baby as well as sleep with my arms above my head, and I still do both of those things as a 24-year-old.

Lily started getting squirmy and crying which immediately made me think I had done something wrong, but EL was unfazed, saying she was just hungry. She took her into her family's study and we sat and talked while the baby nursed for a half hour. I asked her a hundred questions about her labor and contractions and how much she's sleeping, if nursing hurts, how often you have to do it, how strange it is for someone to need you constantly, etc. Her answers confirmed that there is so much I don't know about pregnancy or babies, but even more so that things completely vary case-by-case.

It was a surreal experience to be in the room with her last night because we would sit around and talk in the same fashion when we were roommates our freshman year of college... only then it was on our twin beds with coordinating comforters. She was so calm; very much herself, just tired and with bigger boobs. (Crass and off-topic, but it's true!) EL's own mother is very calm even with four kids and she seems like she will be the same way. Lily sleeps fine on her own during the day but apparently likes to sleep on the stomach of a family member at night with her legs hiked up like a frog... a seven-pound, three-week-old frog.

Pretty stinking adorable.

I might just visit her again tomorrow to get a picture.

People who say they sleep like a baby usually don't have one.
-Leo J. Burke

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Weekend Update

I got my car back! Good as new. Literally, I mean new- I have had to reprogram all of the settings because apparently they had to take the battery out during the repairs, which resets everything. You know what's on 89.7 FM? Absolutely nothing.

I joined a flag-football team. Should be interesting and muddy, considering it will not stop raining or misting in Dallas for longer than 24 hours. I told my trainer about my new recreational adventure and being a former football player himself, he's super pumped and wants to get me in "football shape," which is frightening.

I got my chair from Crate & Barrel on Friday. Finally. I ordered the thing in July. I was concerned about the delivery people being able to get it into my room since I have the added complication of stairs, but I double-checked the chair's measurements and figured they would just have to pivot a bit. I Googled "standard doorway dimensions" on Thursday and found that people use ridiculous measurements like millimeters when describing doorways. Seriously? Save the millimeters for chemists who measure the convex meniscuses on lab-beakers. I don't have time for you and your tiny units, Wikianswers, give me feet and inches.

Diet drinks are back in my life. I think I needed a detox because for a while there I had Diet Sunkist at home and was averaging two a day. It's amazing my teeth aren't orange. I'm not drinking them everyday, but if I feel like it, I will. KR put it well when she said via gchat one day: "I don't do drugs, I'm not promiscuous... give me this." Amen.

I went to church by myself this morning and it was lovely. The sermon was on how people, us, we were made in the image of God. Our very worth is derived from this fact, and because of this every life has intrinsic value. How you treat/view/love others is inseparable from the way you treat/view/love God.

For probably over a year now some of my friends and I have talked about starting a book club. EM got on the ball and emailed a few of us to see if we would be interested, we selected a book, date and time and decided to go with it. The day was about a month ago and it came and went with no book club, but tonight we're actually meeting to discuss our first selection, The Friday Night Knitting Club. I liked it- it was not my favorite book of all-time, but it was a good read.

I think that's an important concept to learn; that not every book you read will become a favorite, but you can still enjoy it for what it is. Non-fiction, for example, is not typically a favorite of mine, but I still read it and find it interesting and informative.

To top off this random and unrelated post, MG just walked out the door to have dinner with her family and reminded me firstly that there is raw chicken in the sink and Ruby is home and secondly that there is a candle burning in the foyer, so if the house catches on fire it likely derived from said source.

Hope everyone enjoys what's left of their weekend!

It's a scary thing, when a person you admire is suddenly revealed to be absolutely, truly human."
-Kate Jacobs, The Friday Night Knitting Club

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Wedding Photos

Here are a few of the pictures I took Saturday night... Enjoy!

You think you've seen the sun, but you ain't seen it shine...
-Frank Sinatra, Best Is Yet To Come

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Half and Half

Half of this weekend was incredibly fun.

People started flying into Dallas late last week and KS and I decided to have our friends not in the wedding party over for dinner Friday night.

Opportunity to be hostesses? Seized.

After work that evening I prepped ingredients for salad and the pizzas we would be baking while KS nailed prints onto the wall of our small foyer and arranged a table with flowers and lovely, house-warming things. The new Michael Buble CD was bumping from the iPod dock and we were hardly speaking; the girl equivalent of being "in the zone".

KS arranged the Waterford glasses (I know, yes we have Waterford) in perfect bowling-pin formation as some of our friends began to arrive. KB, BF, JP, HR, AV and KR all came over and we enjoyed a ridiculously fun night which mainly consisted of wine refills and a spotlight on HR and JP, who entertained everyone the whole evening.

Our friends in the wedding party who were staying over at our house: AR and LB, came home with MG and also with the bride herself, HA, who was cool as a cucumber and not nervous or anxious in the least about her impending wedding the next day.

Everyone went their separate ways for the evening, and Saturday morning MG, AR and LB left for breakfast with the bride while KS and I laid on our couches drinking coffee, eating Multi-Grain Cheerios and watching College Gameday on ESPN. I was content to stay there indefinitely, until KS got a phone call from EM in Ft. Worth, reporting a sale at Neiman Marcus.

It was a false alarm, not what we were expecting, but we were there in minutes and KS consulted with her favorite Neiman's sales lady only to find out that the sale we are looking for is actually in November. We made the best of it, since we were already at the mall, and spent a solid hour looking at every single item in Anthroplogie. It was productive; dresses were purchased.

My afternoon centered mostly around picking up CC from the airport. I checked her ETA via the FlightTrack app on my iPhone (very helpful) and found that her flight was about 20 minutes late. I panicked for a moment when I realized I was an idiot and had failed to put a book in my purse for such an emergency, but thankfully I had my copy of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in my backseat, so I was content.

CC texted me when she landed and flew threw the doors of Gate B20 minutes later wearing a dress and heels from wedding numero uno, which had been in Little Rock, Arkansas. I had her bridesmaid dress for wedding two in my backseat, and in true Katherine Heigl fashion she climbed in the backseat to transform for her next appearance, talking a mile a minute about the wedding in Little Rock (her cousin's) and asking about HA and how she was doing. Luckily CC's roommate was also one of the photographers for the wedding, so she was safe and miraculously pulled off her two weddings in two states stunt.

The wedding was beautiful- MG showed KS and I HA's bridal portraits a few weeks ago and we chose about 18 of them as favorites because she is gorgeous. Her sisters, also, look like they could be the spawn of Belle from Beauty and the Beast.

The reception was a blast- there were somewhere in the ballpark of 400 people and somewhere in the ballpark of 400 bottles of wine and beer consumed. Just throwing those numbers out as a rough estimate. If it's any indication, at the end of the evening everyone was yelling "one more song" at the DJ until he played "Party in the USA" by Miley Cyrus. You may scoff but the crowd was loving it.

After the bride and groom left, everyone in our age bracket at the wedding moved the party over to Knox Street Pub, where dancing continued until the bar closed at 2 AM. Beyond that, some of the crowd came over to our house where KS and I made everyone potato egg and cheese breakfast tacos and everyone watched SportsCenter until 4 AM.

Seriously- the hostess gene does not turn off.

I set my alarm to wake up for brunch on Sunday morning and felt like an anvil fell on my head. It was pretty much downhill from there... and that was the other half of my weekend. Another story for another time.

Pictures tomorrow.

Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.
-Robert Heinlein

Friday, October 9, 2009

Grand Finale

We'll keep this short and sweet because it's Friday, it's 55 degrees and there are no fewer than four bridesmaid's dresses circulating in and out of my house this weekend.

The final wedding I will attend in 2009 is tomorrow. My friend HA is getting married in Dallas and as usual, our college pals are flying in from their various corners of the U.S. to be here. She and her fiance are the same age, had overlapping groups of friends and have been dating since college, so this will be quite reminiscent of a sorority date party.

New friends, old lovers... old friends, new lovers... me driving to the airport to pick up CC tomorrow, who is attending two weddings in two states on the same day...

Should be interesting!

Jane: You write the most beautiful things. Do you actually believe in love and marriage and just pretend to be a cynic or are you actually a cynic who knows how to spin romantic crap for girls like me?
Kevin: I didn't follow that at all, but I think the second one, the spinning crap one.
-27 Dresses

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A different kind of foodie

My experience with Labrador retrievers was nearly non-existent until I started living with one.

My parents have a dog, Lucy, a 12-year-old Bichon who has been mistaken for a baby sheep by small children and Australian Shepherds in her lifetime. She's small and cotton ball-looking and not Lab-like at all.

I've mentioned before my roommate MG's black lab named Ruby who lives with us. Ruby is a two-year-old trained guide dog and she's great to have around. She is extremely active and likes to give subtle hints like "hey let's play fetch" by dropping a tennis ball into the refrigerator drawer when you're unloading groceries. She will carry newspapers, tennis shoes and even logs for firewood for you.

She also loves people food.

We have come home various times to find loaves of bread demolished, empty bags of tortilla chips and torn-open bags of powdered, white, brown and raw sugar. Anything left on the counter is fair game, but she can also get into some of the cabinets. One day she feasted on a pound of chocolate toffee, which was wrapped with a bow in a brown box, and there was also a bag of grape tomatoes squished and scattered throughout the downstairs area of our house. She likes rifling through the contents of the trash can from time to time too. She learned everything from her predecessor Belle, RIP, who was known to hide food throughout MG's family's house and once ate a squirrel whole while on a walk.

You heard me right- we're talking tail and all.

Last Friday morning I came downstairs to make coffee and found a new box of raw sugar sitting on the counter, unopened. I looked for the box I had already been using all week but it was nowhere to be found. Not up for mind games at 8 AM, I opened the new sugar and went about my day.

We spent the weekend at MG's family's lake house, and she realized she hadn't told me about the most recent sugar incident. Turns out, Ruby ate my raw sugar, a box of yellow packets of Splenda with fiber (yeah I know, fiber) and also managed to get some caramel rice cakes by opening the cabinet under our kitchen sink and pulling them out of a drawer with a small opening into the cabinet. I started calling her MacGyver after that.

Did I forget to mention that she ate a whole bag of Goldfish, a PBJ sandwich and a carton of yogurt while MG left her in her car while running an errand one morning? She also ate an entire bulk-sized bag of Frosted Mini Wheats cereal yesterday.

I learned at the lake that she's also a huge fan of swimming, seeing as she would drop a stick into the lake and launch into a full-speed belly-flop after it to get it. Her parents have another black lab puppy named Murray, who enjoyed waiting for Ruby to fetch the stick so that she could wrestle it away once she got back to the dock.

We also had a chocolate lab puppy, Sawyer, come to stay with us a few weekends ago while her owners were away for a weekend. Ruby was annoyed for a solid 48 hours and Sawyer gave my little basil plant a run for its money:

It now looks more like something in league with Charlie Brown's Christmas tree.

(This is actually Sawyer's sister Kenna, who belongs to a couple we know, but they look like twins so you get the idea.)

MG has taken some preventative measures and Ruby now has a shock-collar which works remotely, so we may or may not set her up for failure in the form of Halloween candy to deter her sneaky tendencies.

Can you really blame this little face for anything though?

"A dog has no use for fancy cars, big homes, or designer clothes. A water log stick will do just fine. A dog doesn't care if your rich or poor, clever or dull, smart or dumb. Give him your heart and he'll give you his. How many people can you say that about? How many people can make you feel rare and pure and special? How many people can make you feel extraordinary?"
- Josh Grogan, Marley & Me

Friday, October 2, 2009


Like clockwork, I found that it had been eight weeks and I was scheduled for another hair trim yesterday. I also had Community Group so clearly I was stretching it with a two-commitment evening and a rental car with no GPS.

I should really get out more...

Or not, since I'm driving a rental car sans-rental insurance.

While robed, checking Twitter and waiting for my appointment I realized I was the only brunette getting my hair done and found myself vastly outnumbered by Dallas Blondes. It was like being stuck in Austin Powers with a room full of femme bots- only I was in the Park Cities and there were women everywhere with frozen expressions, staring into mirrors or at magazines with foil all up in their hair. Someone needs to study the effects of peroxide fumes on the brain, no?

I left to go to KR and MK's place for Community Group, and it ended up being only MK, MG, CC and myself. With the majority of the group unable to attend this week, we sat around to chat, eat grapes and sample various flavors of Braum's ice-cream. Peanut butter and Snickers? Surprisingly good.

Conversation floated and I noticed that MG was making a list in her journal; creative writing courses, calligraphy class, living in Spain, teaching English in Latin America... Just things that had been on her mind making their way to paper. We discussed continuing education, classes we would consider taking and how we just miss talking about books and literary things.

Hi, welcome to life with English nerds. Non-stop fun.

We talked about ideas for the future, in a hopeful but directional sense. I see now that graduating college and working full time puts you in a position to realize your talents and what you really care about. And while my friends have goals and dreams aplenty among us, I don't see many examples in my own life of people looking simply to climb the corporate ladder or take a job simply to make more money. This manifests itself differently depending on the person but on some level we all want our work to have meaning and purpose.

I don't mean to paint my friends as pipe-smoking philosophers because that's not the case at all, but I do find refreshing the fact that our conversations have substance. Not gossip or idle chatter but rather honest questions and genuine interest in each other's lives.

We are women and I think that makes us dreamers by nature, but I also like seeing appreciation and "carpe diem" for the now...

The peanut butter and Snicker's ice-cream doesn't hurt anything, either.

Why do so many...settle for so little? I don't understand why they're not greedy for what's inside them.
-Jack Gilbert