Saturday, January 13, 2018

Seeking Chic: Preparing for Puppy

Welcome to my first installment of Seeking Chic, a new series where I share a curated selection of every day functional items for the home and life that meet my two most important criteria: 1. It must be (somewhat) budget friendly, and 2. It must be good looking. Think of this as your go-to guide for finding those form-meets-function everyday objects that won't break the bank.

When my psychic (aka: my very spiritual cousin) did a tarot card reading on me two years ago, she told me that I would meet the love of my life at the age of 27. Oddly enough, both my numerology chart and zodiac birth chart also indicated that 27 would be a very important year in my life. I only just turned 27 in November, so never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would find that love so quickly. Even more surprising, I never imagined that the love of my life would end up being a dog.

I'm still a few weeks away from bringing my sweet fur baby home (she's a purebred sheltie and just reached 6 weeks old this past Thursday), but I've been busy shopping and preparing for her arrival like some people prepare for actual human children. I may or may not have even created her own little "room" within the niche next to my fireplace (more details to come, stay tuned) and I've already set up her own Instagram account. It turns out that pet ownership is fully unleashing my inner crazy dog lady, and I'm going to be such a shameless stage mom. Spoiler alert: I don't hate it.

When I first started shopping for puppy supplies, I quickly discovered that everything out on the market is just so...basic. Basic collars, basic bowls, basic ugly dog beds. It hurts my designer heart. So I did some digging, exercised my Pinterest and Etsy skills, and put together a nice little collection of puppy products that I don't want to hide in a closet. Here's the things I've bought and stare at lovingly, impatiently counting down the days until my little bundle of fluff comes home.

1. Martingale Collar by Dog + Bone - After doing quite a bit of research, I found that Martingale collars are highly recommended for shelties due to their notoriously slippery heads (they wiggle out of typical buckle collars very easily). Having grown up with a sheltie that couldn't go for a walk without slipping her collar at least once, I was totally on board with the Martingale route. Wanna guess what I wasn't on board with? Yeah, they're effing hideous. It took some digging, but I was able to find this beautiful handmade Martingale from Dog + Bone, a local company in Austin, Texas. I love the simplicity in its design, the color combination of a bright purple and deep navy, and (most importantly) the brass hardware.

2. Adjustable Leash by Dog + Bone - To match puppy's new collar, I got a purple adjustable leash from Dog + Bone. Lead leashes are the best option for puppy training, and I liked that this one has a D-ring for attachments. It also has a buckle for clipping around posts or chair legs, which is a feature I didn't even know I wanted, but will be great when the pup and I have Sunday brunch at one of the patios on Lower Greenville.

3. Custom ID Tag by Ara Designs at Engrave for Me Pet Tags - You find me a gold/brass dog tag at your local pet store, and I will give you a damn trophy. I think I went to six pet stores throughout Dallas before I gave up and decided to just order one online. I found this option on Etsy, and I could not be more pleased with the end product. I went with the medium circle tag in brass with a hammered edge. It's such a nice detail, and I love how it looks unlike anything I've ever seen before. Puppy's name (Auden) is engraved on the front with my phone number on the back, and then you can choose from a bank of 57 images to add under the name. I went with a moon and stars because puppy's middle name is Luna, and I loved that the stars looked like those from the Harry Potter books since she's named after Luna Lovegood. This tag was meant to be!

4. Doggie Bag Holder by The Foggy Dog - On the topic of ugly dog products...doggie bag holders don't tend to lean toward what I consider to be fashionable. I love this option that I found on Etsy, and the clip hooks on nicely to the Dog + Bone leash. Added plus: the hardware is brass. Cohesion really helps me sleep at night.

5. Retractable Leash - In addition to the lead leash, I knew I wanted a retractable leash for those days that I take Auden to the lake and want to let her run around a bit. I found this one on Amazon, and it's one of the prettier retractable leashes I've seen. The white body is clean and simple, with black leather details that create a comfortable grip on the handle. A matching doggie bag holder was also included.

6. Ceramic Dog Bowl by Susabellas - Ah, food bowls...another dog product that tends to be either super utilitarian or super cheesy (think paw print patterns or polka dots). I knew upfront that I wanted white ceramic bowls with a fun gold detail, and this bowl was just kind of too perfect. I tend to be personally offended by anything that has bones and paws on it, but the details on these bowls are so beautiful and not kitschy that I'm weirdly okay with it.

7. Decorative Basket by Pillowfort at Target - I'm obsessed with this seagrass and rattan basket for housing all of Auden's toys (and believe me, she has many). It's so pretty and looks perfect in my living room with the rest of my decor.

8. Poochie Bells - I plan on training Auden to ring a bell when she needs to go outside while we're potty training, and Poochie Bells are made exactly for that purpose. It's basically a ribbon of fabric with sleigh bells, meant to hang on your door knob at the perfect length for puppy to swat at it. The solid black ties in with my living room design scheme, and it's pretty nondescript on my back door.

9. Baby Blanket - I bought a couple baby blankets for Auden to snuggle while she's in her crate or lounging in her "room," and this reversible XOXO one I found on Amazon is equal parts cute and inconspicuous. Love.

10. Snuggle Puppy Behavioral Aid Toy - While not exactly "chic," I did have to include this toy just because I am so in love with the concept. This stuffed puppy has a battery operated beating heart and a pocket for adding a disposable heat pack, giving your pup the comfort of sleeping with one of its litter mates. I've been told it's a God send during those first few nights when puppy is adjusting to sleeping alone, so I'm excited to test it out.

11. Funny Stuffed Toys - In addition to the more practical rubber bones, tennis balls, and rope toys I've purchased, I am already spoiling Miss Auden with all the stuffed and squeaky toys her little heart desires. I love the balanced diet of a squeaky avocado (Target), donut (Target), and grapefruit (Petco) - these toys are equal parts bougie and hilarious.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Amanda's Magical Bachelorette Weekend (aka "The Best Harry Potter-Themed Bachelorette You'll Find Online. Period.")

When my cousin/best friend first asked me to be her Maid of Honor almost two years ago, we immediately began discussing the bachelorette party. We bounced around locations like Miami (which rekindled my love of Will Smith bops for a good week), then we considered something all-inclusive like Mexico, and eventually we landed on...Orlando. Universal Studios. More specifically (as if the title of this blog post didn't already clue you in): Harry Potter-themed. This party was going to be a total nerd-fest, and as an interior designer with a knack for crafting, I was determined to make it the best goddamn nerd-fest that ever landed in the state of Florida. Thus began my two month party planning spree.

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The problem with excessive planning is that it's really hard to keep it all a secret. So before I continue with more pictures, I want to thank my mom again for listening to all my brainstorming phone calls. I also want to thank my friends (and fellow bridesmaids) for keeping up the lie that my flight into Florida was arriving five hours later than it actually did, which helped me set everything up for the big reveal. They didn't let the bride catch on to anything, and that made the surprise that much better. Was the bride beyond the point of hangry when my plane finally fake landed? Yes. But did it all turn out flawlessly and better than I had ever envisioned? Also, yes.

I first announced the trip to the bridal party with the below invite, which was posted to our group's Facebook page. Little did they know (or, they did know because they know me), this was only the beginning.

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As the trip got closer, I set up a special surprise for the bride and bridesmaids. After waiting all these years, the ladies finally got their Hogwarts letters (cue the adult girl squealing).  The letter came complete with a supply list, ticket to Platform 9-3/4, and Minerva McGonagall's handwritten signature in emerald ink - shit, I even wrapped that envelope in twine because I don't do anything half way. The only thing I couldn't manage was authentic owl delivery.

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Then came the fun part: the partayyy. When the girls arrived to the room (and the bride at this point still had no idea that I had been there for half the day already), they first encountered the Fat Lady and had to provide a password to get into the room. My creativity had run dry by this point, and the best I could come up with was "Alohomora." Then came the room reveal, and my months of planning finally got the surprised reaction I had been anticipating.  

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The room itself was a family suite at Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort, which I booked because it was not only big enough for our group, but it also had a nice bar situation for our party spread.

As part of the Welcome Feast, I got a mix of regular and gluten-free bundtinis from Nothing Bundt Cakes (which our gluten-sensitive bride quite enjoyed) and I embellished them with some Harry Potter glasses cupcake toppers. The spread also included Golden Snitch truffles and green mimosas. It turns out that the green mimosas not only related back to the wedding color scheme (navy blue, white, and pops of lime green), but they also looked pretty potion-like. You gotta love when things work double time like that.

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The bar menu was a result of my pun-loving self waking up in the middle of the night, and giggling like a crazy person as I got all the jokes out of my brain while still in a state of half slumber. It read:

Mad-Eye "Mule"-dy
Similar to a Moscow Mule, just more constantly vigilant

Avada Ke-"Vodka"
A traditional vodka soda, but deserving of a warning. The bartender makes them strong, so one too many may leave you lifeless on the floor.

Wingardium Mimosa
This specialty mixture of orange juice and Felix Felicis infused champagne will make you feel like you're floating on air.

Expecto "Patron"-um
Dementors got you down? One shot of tequila and a happy thought is all you need.

Elf-Made Wine
No house elves were harmed in the making of this product. We are proud members of S.P.E.W. here at the Three Broomsticks.

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The Elf-Made Wine was stored next to our bridal party version of the Weasley family clock (hand painted by yours truly) and some "Accio Wine" plastic cups.

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Adjacent to the bar and leading into the bedroom, I had made a variety of "Missing Wizard" posters featuring our bride's very own fiance (now husband). Thanks to his limited stock of selfies available on Facebook, I really had to dig deep for some of those photos...but I'm still pretty pleased with how it turned out (and the bride lurved it - major plus).

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Hiding in the bedroom were the only boys allowed to the party: Horny Harry and Ron Sleazy. These ab-tastic wizards were a big hit for photo ops and a point of envy of all the ladies when we took them to the beach later in the weekend. A particularly bold woman may have even straddled Ron at some point and stolen his innocence, but I will neither confirm nor deny that.

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As we all know, bachelorette parties tend to be a no holds barred rollercoaster of it only made sense that I had to lay some ground rules first.  I did so under the guise of Dolores Umbridge and her infamous "Educational Decrees," which were posted outside the bathroom.  Additional bathroom fun included Moaning Myrtle in the vanity mirror, Ginny Weasley's Chamber of Secrets message (written in smeared lipstick, not real blood...I do draw the line somewhere), and a "Ministry of Magic This Way" decal on the toilet seat lid.

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The Umbridge Proclamations read as follows:

Educational Decree #3 - (The Bride) has been appointed to the post of Hogwarts High Inquisitor.

Educational Decree #10 - There will be no lewd behavior permitted in this room.

Educational Decree #16 - All members of the bridal party will submit to questioning about suspected illicit activities.

Educational Decree #15 - Any bride or bridesmaid found to (not) be in possession of alcohol will be expelled.

Educational Decree #26 - The bride is hereby banned from working, worrying, stressing out, and partaking in thoughts and activities that are not strictly related to subjects of fun, relaxation, and lack of sobriety.

Education Decree #5 - Those wishing to join the bridal party for a good time may sign up in the High Inquisitor's office.

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Circling back to the living room, I had made the girls a "Daily Prophet" newsletter that provided the itinerary for the weekend, hashtags for the party (#MuggletoMontez #SheWhoMustNotBeTamed #TheWitchisGettingHitched #AmandasMagicalBachelorette), as well as a couple of challenges and party games.  One of those challenges was a scavenger hunt game, where the girls could complete certain tasks to earn House Points.  I had outlined the task list inside of - you guessed it - a Marauder's Map.

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Prior to the party, I had all the girls use the Pottermore website to sort themselves into Houses and discover their Patronus identity. They had no idea, but I was using this information to customize the front of our maps, which read "Madames Speedy, Splashy, Misty, Flipper, and Stealth are proud to present the Maurader's Map" with each nickname being inspired by the animals we matched to. I also created a custom map graphic of the hotel property and Universal Studios grounds for the inside. The finishing touch was aging the paper by baking it in the oven with wet coffee grounds. Side Note: I hate the smell of coffee. Not just hate, despise. A simple whiff of the stuff is enough to send me dry heaving, so ultimately, my apartment was uninhabitable for weeks.

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Once all the excitement had worn down and the girls had absorbed all the surprises I had hidden throughout the room, I presented them with their gift bags. When putting the bags together, my goal was to curate items that the girls would use throughout the weekend and on the day of the wedding while we were getting ready. I also made the choice to personalize everything with each girl's name or initials rather than "Bridesmaid" or "Bride" so that the items could be used after the wedding, if they wished. The contents included:
  • A navy blue and white striped beach bag with rope handles (very on brand with the nautical wedding theme), personalized with each girl's initials in silver
  • A blue beach towel with lime green embroidery, personalized with each girl's name and the hashtag #SheWhoMustNotBeTamed
  • A set of blue and silver hair ties, wrapped around a card that read "To Have and To Hold Your Hair Back" (perfect for when we were riding rollercoasters the next day)
  • A personalized shot glass
  • A personalized drink tumbler
  • A "Mischief Managed" hangover kit that had items like dramamine, tylenol, mouth wash, and breath mints
  • A personalized keychain fob with ID holder and coin purse (these were great for the park as well, so we didn't have to carry a bag or have things in our pockets)
  • A personalized drink badge, that had the name of each girl's favorite drink to order at the bar
  • A bridal party t-shirt, to wear to the park
  • Custom bridal party tattoos

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One of the bridesmaids helped provide some additional special gifts for the bride, as well. Because let's be it really a bachelorette party if lingerie didn't come into play at some point? No. The answer is no.

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As we explored The Wizarding World of Harry Potter on the second day of our trip, we could be found wearing matching navy blue t-shirts that read "I solemnly swear that I am up to no good," and I must have done one hell of a job designing those because we were asked at least a dozen times what gift shop we had found them in. It wasn't until we turned around that people realized the shirts weren't a gift shop purchase at all.

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The number on each bridesmaid's shirt represented the number of years that she had known the bride, while the bride's shirt had her wedding date on it. Our bride got many congratulations from well-wishers throughout the day, and while we ran into many other bachelorette parties that day, I have to say that I think we were the best dressed (no bias here).

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While it was definitely humid that day - as is to be expected in Florida during the month of June - we really couldn't have asked for more perfect weather while we roamed and played throughout the park. That is...until we were preparing to leave.

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Just as we had made the decision to head towards the shuttle and go back to our hotel, the heavens opened up and slammed us with one of those crazy Florida storms. And that was when I realized how much I love these girls that I call my best friends, because rather than bitch and moan about the situation, we embraced the craziness and casually walked through the rain like it wasn't even happening.  Sure, we got absolutely soaked to the bone (and yes, the bus ride was freezing as a consequence), but we got a really good story out of the whole deal. No complaints here.

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Thanks again, ladies, for embracing the madness and helping me throw one hell of a weekend celebration. It made all the stress and crafting carpal tunnel worth it! You girls are the best.


- K

Monday, May 29, 2017

My Invisible Best Friend

I read an article recently about a Texas teacher that awarded one of her students a superlative for being "The Most Likely to Become a Terrorist," and it got me thinking about all the questionable things that teachers sometimes do and don't realize will still impact a person for years down the road.

In my personal experience, I once got disciplined by a teacher - in front of the whole class - for being too talkative.  She told me that I should only speak if I had something important to say, and then proceeded to draw a big, angry red "X" on my behavior calendar for the week.  I was so traumatized that I never spoke again, and constantly questioned if the things I did say were important enough to be considered "important."  I would later be made fun of in middle school for being too quiet.  Side note: kudos to my poor parents who had to deal with my floodgate of chatter the minute they picked me up from school, because heaven knows I could only hold that kind of restraint for so long and needed to share my racing thoughts with somebody.

But I digress...what I really want to talk about is the teacher that made my best friend "invisible." Let's start from the beginning.

Growing up, I had a best friend that lived two doors down from me.  We spent the majority of our time with one another, and because we looked sort of similar - same brown eyes, same long brown hair, same 90's fashion sense - the teachers in our school liked to say we were twins. Our only difference was that my friend was a little bit louder than me (RE: the "I never talked again" incident), and I was a steadfast rule follower. We were a great pair. She would pull me out of my shell when I was acting too shy, and I would rein her in when she was being too crazy. Once second grade rolled around, we couldn't have been more happy to have been placed in the same class. Little did we know, that year would be memorable in a way we never anticipated.

I'd like to preface this by saying that at the time, I really loved my teacher (moving forward, we'll refer to her as Mrs. Sybil due to the split personality way she dealt with her students). Mrs. Sybil was very nice to me - I actually considered her one of my favorites for a good while - but I was also an ass-kissing teacher's pet with a perfectionism problem.  My friend was not.  She wasn't a bad student by any stretch of the word when it came to academics, but as I've already mentioned, she was loud and a bit of a rule breaker.  Her and Mrs. Sybil did not get along.  So much so, that Mrs. Sybil retaliated in a way that can only be described as "that's pretty fucked up."

Oh, how badly I wish I could remember the events that lead to my friend's punishment, but the only thing that remains fresh in my brain is the punishment itself.  Whatever it was that happened, it set Mrs. Sybil off so badly that she declared to the whole classroom that my friend would be "invisible" for the rest of the year.  How, exactly, do you make a 7 year old girl invisible?  Following Mrs. Sybil's logic, you do the following:

  • Move the student's desk to the corner of the room by the backpack and coat storage.
  • Wheel the two mobile chalkboards over to the corner to close the area off.  Now, the student can see no one.
  • After realizing that you and the rest of the class can still see the child's feet, cover up the bottom of the chalkboards by leaning large posters up against them.  Good, now no one can see her and she has successfully been made invisible.
  • Make it very clear to all your other students that they are not to talk to the invisible girl, and she is not to talk to them.
  • When taking morning attendance, skip the invisible student's name every day.
  • When the invisible student still does well on tests or homework assignments, do not award them with a congratulatory gold star like every one else.
  • When the invisible student's journal entry is selected as the best one of the day, read it out loud to the rest of the class, but also make backhanded comments like, "This was a great journal, but it's too bad we don't have a <insert friend's name here> in the class."
  • Continue this process for the remainder of the year.

Was I lying when I said that the whole situation was pretty fucked up?  The only time I was allowed to talk to my friend at school was during lunch and recess, so it was basically like we weren't in the same class at all.  And don't even get me started on how she was affected.  As far as I can recall, we never told anybody or talked about the invisible situation outside of school, because I have a feeling Mrs. Sybil would have lost her job or been forced to end the punishment had we told another adult. In fact, I had forgotten about the whole incident for a long time until one day in high school my friend casually mentioned during lunch, "Do you remember when Mrs. Sybil made me invisible?! Like, for the whole year?  God, I hated that bitch."  

Obviously, she was still bothered by it...

Friday, May 26, 2017

It's Kind of Like Dating: A Compendium of Tips for Finding the Perfect Roommate (sort of)

Disclaimer: By "tips" I mean "my personal actions" and by "sort of" I mean "Well, I don't actually have a roommate after all this, but I sure had a lot of offers!" Some may think that what I achieved was not particularly noteworthy, and to that I argue, "Oh really? Can you name one other time in my life where I ever had a lot of offers for anything?"

Let's be honest here: putting a decent roof over your head is expensive. If what's under that roof also includes having access to hot water and basic human rights like cable and internet, it's even more expensive. This is especially true if you're a 20something young professional that is juggling a mountain of student loan debt, car payment debt, and some amount of credit card debt from your mild, it's-not-really-a-problem shopping problem. Times like these call for a roommate.

But how do you find a roommate? Specifically, a roommate that is A) Not Crazy, B) Not Crazy, and C) "Not Going to Kill Me in My Sleep" Crazy? It's hard. Just like dating, you have to meet - or in these modern times, "have text conversations with" - a lot of frogs before you find your unicorn. Thankfully, there are a few things you can do to ease your search.

1. Sell Yourself Like a $2 Hooker

Now before anyone starts taking my advice too literally and starts offering sex in exchange for a room to sleep in, what I mean is that you need to put yourself out there and show off the best you have to offer. I suggest starting with an ad. The best advice I can give for those creating an ad is this: write to your audience. Don't just put some bland and hurried post out there because what you'll get in return is a handful of boring, lazy ass people. Instead, imagine yourself at the receiving end and write the sort of ad that you would respond to. Be sure to include details on what you like/dislike, what you enjoy to do in your free time, and some of the things you can give to the person sharing your living space (other than your share of the rent). I also found that it's best if you wrap it all up in the sparkly package of humor. People like to laugh.

Example (and yes, this is the actual ad I used when conducting my own roommate search):

Hi, I'm Krystal. That's Krystal with a K. If you are looking for a roommate, then look no further. I'm a 25 year old professional in the architecture/interior design industry, relocating to Dallas from Indiana. I am moving in at the end of September, and would like to find a like-minded female with an available room. A little bit about myself: I'm respectful, I'm quiet, I like to keep things clean and orderly, I enjoy drinking wine while watching The Bachelor, and I turn off lights when I leave a room. Other important things to know include my love of dogs (I won't be bringing any with me, but I'll love yours like its my own if you have them), I can make a mean protein smoothie, and I'm drug-free. I love fun facts and random trivia (I once auditioned to be on Jeopardy), but the only thing I know about or related to Dallas is that Roger Staubach is the greatest quarterback that ever lived. And that's OK because the only thing you probably know about Indiana is that we grow corn here. We'll learn all about each other while living together, and I will even let you poke fun at my Chicago accent (which I don't believe I have). Or we don't have to talk at all. That's up to you.

When you have your ad and you're ready to put it out there to the world, I suggest using free services like Roomster, Roommate Finder, Roomie Match, (and if you're really desperate) Craigslist. Let me be your testimonial to the power of advertisement: between all the previously mentioned services, I had over 180 inquiries within 48 hours and never felt so popular in my damn life.

2. Be Picky, Not a Hater

I can't be more adamant when I encourage someone to be very picky when choosing a roommate. Just like dating, you need to find a person that you aren't going to be miserable with when spending a certain length of time together. When you walk through the door after a long, hard day at work and you're looking for a little bit of sympathy, you're not going to want to be stuck with someone that you dislike, whether it be because of their living habits or personality. So find that person that you're most compatible with, and make sure the two of you can agree on the following criteria: level of cleanliness you like in your home, frequency of visitors, waking and sleeping hours (or at least a noise curfew), pet tolerance, thermostat settings, bathroom habits (if sharing a bathroom), and how to divide financial responsibilities.

Please note, however, that while it is very important to be picky when choosing your perfect roommate, it is also important to not be discriminatory. You can say no to a person that is a total slob and could happily live in squalor, but you can't reject someone because of their race, origin, religion, or sexual orientation. That doesn't make you picky, that just makes you an asshole.

3. Go on a Date

The first meeting.  You're nervous and your palms are sweating.  You keep thinking "I hope she likes me and thinks I'm funny" despite the fact that you've spent the last week texting back and forth with easy conversation.  Fuck, and now you're worried that the conversation won't be as easy without the safety net of hiding behind a screen.

Let all of that go and just be yourself.  And unlike a real first date, it's perfectly acceptable - encouraged even - to go back home with the person and immediately picture yourself living there. Because that's the end goal: to find a nice person and a nice place to live.  The "nice place to live" part is really important. It's ultimately the reason why I don't have a roommate, despite meeting a lot of great people and really hitting it off with them.  Which leads me to...

4. The Hook Up (or Break Up)

If all goes well, you and some wonderful stranger will soon be living together. Maybe you'll even hold hands and smile at each other as you sign your name on the dotted line of your new lease (or not, that's creepy).  But chances are high that it won't be all sunshine and rainbows for you to reach that point.  You're gonna have to break some hearts in the process.

If you didn't hit it off with your potential roommate, they most likely aren't going to ask you to live with them. On the off chance that they do (probably because they are desperate to unload some of their rent burden), it shouldn't be too hard to just be honest with the person and say you aren't interested.  However, if you did like the person but you didn't like the living situation, it gets a bit tricky.  You can approach it one of two ways:

First, you can let the person down gently.  Let them know that you thought they were great and you'd love to be friends, but you just didn't think living together was the best choice.  You may also want to soften the blow with a valid excuse, such as "The commute to my work from here is longer than I am hoping for" or "I really prefer to live on the top floor of the building so that I can get an added daily workout by climbing three flights of stairs."  It's kind of like the "it's not you, it's me" conversation. Hopefully, they won't take it personal.

Your second choice is to just be honest and tell them that their house is shit. Personally, I don't recommend this one.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Dallas Life and Early Observations

As of last week, it has officially been six months since I made the move from small town Indiana to Dallas, Texas. Holy shit, right? I have no idea how in the hell that happened. It seems just like yesterday that I was unpacking boxes and hunting for a sofa that met all of my high expectations. I still haven't even broken that sofa in, and it's already been six months. Where does the time go?

Before I moved to Dallas, the last time I had ever been to Texas was when I was two years old. Undoubtedly, I am not a genius by of any stretch of the word, so my baby brain left me with zero memories of the place. Every experience I've had here has been seen through a bright and shiny new lens, and I can now say without a doubt that I've grown quite fond of the hue. There was a brief period of time where I wasn't sure I would ever feel a part of this place, but now I don't want to leave. Like ever. You'll have to drag me away screaming.

Now that Dallas and I have been acquainted for half a year (sorry, I can't get over that), I've been reflecting a lot on my transition. It wasn't always easy, but I'm finally ready to be honest and admit that it wasn't easy.

October - Month #1
Everything is new. The city is new. The job is new. The apartment is new. All the things in the apartment are new...and the apartment is still pretty damn empty. The only bit of familiarity I have around me is my clothing, but shirts and pants don't help you feel at home. Every night I return from work and feel like I'm walking through a stranger's door. I go back to Indiana for a weekend, and when people ask how I'm liking Dallas, I respond "I'm lovin' it!" It feels a little bit like a lie and a lot like a McDonald's ad campaign.

December/January - Months #3 and #4
The unsettling new-ness has officially worn off, and now there is a hum of excitement and potential lying beneath the surface.  I finally feel at ease around my coworkers, thanks in most part to a wildly fun Christmas party where the "real me" made an appearance (thank you, vodka).  My apartment has furniture, and I love everything about it.  Now when I get home from work and walk through the door, I arrive to a sight that is 100% my personality and everything that once felt new now feels like me. I also now use the word "home," which is nice.  It feels right.  This time when I go back to Indiana for the holidays, I am not lying when I say "I'm lovin' it!"

April - Month #6
I've been working a lot, but I love my job (like, I really love my job). I love the people at my job even more. My social calendar is more jam-packed than it has ever been in my life, but I could not be more content with the group of friends I've surrounded myself with. When I go back to Indiana for a bridal shower and people ask if I'm feeling homesick, I respond "No!"  It's not because I don't miss my family and friends (and my dogs, mostly my dogs), because I do. It's because I'd now rather have them come to me than me always going to them. I want to show off this place that is my home. I now have favorite spots in Dallas, but discovering new restaurants and parks and places is always exciting. I feel like I could devote my whole life to exploring Dallas' offerings, and I would never get bored.

So what's the actual city of Dallas like in a nutshell? Here's a newbie's perspective:

1. Diverse. No one in Dallas is actually from Dallas.  We're all transplants from some other place in the world, and the mix of cultures everywhere you look is amazing. Also, restaurants serve things like "Japanese Peruvian Fusion" and it's as wonderful as it is odd.

2. Be prepared to drive like Michael Andretti. Seriously, don't even think about getting on the North Central Expressway unless you're prepared to drive 85 mph and still feeling like you're the grandma on the road.

3. The weather is batshit crazy. I once went out to dinner and the temperature was 85 degrees when I arrived at the restaurant. When I left the restaurant, it was 65 degrees outside. By the time I got home, it was below 40 degrees. Science has failed in explaining these acts of nature.

4. The weather is really, really batshit crazy. It likes to rain on weekends. Every weekend, and the storms can justifiably be described as "tsunami like." By mid-afternoon, there will be no sign that the world was almost ending early that morning.

5. The hair is big in Texas, and the price tag is even bigger.  I normally get my hair trimmed every six weeks, and I'm currently going on seven months.  My hair hates me for it, but the average cut and color in Dallas costs $300 or more. No, thanks. I'll just continue looking homeless.

6. People are ridiculously friendly here, but there are a few assholes, too. An UberEats driver once threw my food out his car window while he drove by me at high speed. I like to think that he's not from here, because everyone else I've met has been sweet as sugar.

7. Texans love their tacos.  Maybe I wasn't going to the right places, but if you go to a Mexican restaurant in Indiana, chances are pretty high that the taco will not be the most popular thing on the menu. In Dallas, I can walk down the street and encounter five restaurants within two blocks that specialize in only tacos. And queso. It is shameful to order tacos without queso.

8. Phenomenal, cosmically large vehicles. Itty bitty parking space. Every one drives an SUV, or one of those super big, mega "Texas Edition" Chevys. The only parking spots available will be marked "Compact Cars Only." If you're lucky enough to find parking, be prepared to flatten yourself like a pancake in order to squeeze out of the four inches you have between your car door and the monster truck next to you.

9. Everything here is an event. Even grocery shopping. The women here have their hair teased to the heavens and their strappy heels on foot at all times. The lipstick is major, and I can promise you that Sephora is never going out of business in a place like this.

10. Grackles. Grackles everywhere. Had someone told me about the grackle problem in Dallas, I can't say that I would have ever moved here. Don't know what a grackle is? It's a soulless, black bird with a stare that can kill, a "gives zero fucks" attitude, and the voice of a robotic Satan. It likes to travel in flocks of 200, and it fears no one and nothing. They particularly like to hang out at Target, so I now never shop at Target.

And just because I can't leave it here on a negative note:

11. Opportunity is abundant.  Regardless of your passion, there is something here that will cater to it. You're the one holding yourself back if you can't make a living (or at least a decent hobby) out of doing what you love. Just go out there and find it.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Frozen Chocolate Banana Dessert Smoothie

Fun Fact: I once tested positive for 49 out of 50 symptoms of a sugar addiction.  It sounds funny, but in all honesty, the situation is not a laughing matter.  My lack of willpower when presented with sweets and daily cravings for all things sugar have played a big part in the 65 pound weight gain I've experienced in the last year, and it's been a domino effect of other health problems since. Let's not even talk about the unsightly stretch marks...

I have a family history of diabetes, and it is not in my life plan to add to the statistic.  So I'm learning to satisfy my cravings in other ways...healthier ways. One of my recent kitchen creations was this frozen chocolate banana smoothie that tastes so good I'm calling it dessert.  Seriously, in a blind taste test I might even mistake it for a milkshake.  It's cold, it's chocolate-y, it's's perfect.


1/8 cup whole wheat + flaxseed rolled oats (blended into a fine powder)
3/8 cup unsweetened almond milk
2 tbsp PB2 powdered peanut butter
1 frozen banana
1 scoop of chocolate protein powder (I use Perfect Fit)
1 to 1-1/2 handfuls of ice

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The After Workout Formula

A couple summers ago, I began my love affair with The Smoothie Factory's After Workout Formula. When I came back to Bloomington in the fall and discovered the nearest Smoothie Factory was the one I had just left behind, I quickly became an addict going through withdrawals. I was left with no choice but to try to recreate the smoothie with which I had grown so attached. It took a lot of trial and error to get the proportions right, but lo and behold, I finally figured it out.

In my opinion, the After Workout Formula is so much more than a fruity, tropical protein smoothie that satisfies both your sweet tooth and need for post-exercise recovery.  Mango, one of the primary ingredients, is a great source for calcium and iron (yay, bone health!) and the papaya juice is a natural anti-inflammatory.  Add to that a potassium-rich banana and some nutrient packed strawberries, and you've got yourself a delicious cocktail of health benefits.


1/3 of a medium to large mango
1/2 a banana
4 strawberries
3/8 cup fresh papaya juice
1/8 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/4 tbsp honey
1/2 tsp turbinado (optional)
1 scoop of vanilla protein powder (I use PerfectFit)
1 to 1-1/2 handfuls of ice