Monday, April 26, 2010

The Un-Entertainer

A couple weeks ago I hosted a bridal shower. It was perhaps the first formal-ish occasion I've ever hosted all by myself. And I can say with absolute certainty that I do NOT enjoy entertaining. I was just reading The Kitchn when I came across a post about dinner parties. The thought of hosting a real Martha Stewart grown-up party kind of makes me break out into hives. It positively sounds like one of the absolute LAST things I would ever want to do on this earth.

When my friends and I got our first apartment during college, we were all "Let's have dinner parties!" basically so we would have excuse to buy cute things. We had parties, and there was food, but they weren't like, dinner parties. My entertaining style is decidedly lax. I'm all for having people over (motivation to keep my house clean), but we basically just invite a few friends and do super casual food, and people can bring their own drinks and basically take care of themselves.

I think anything above pot luck or BYOB is too much for me to handle. I hope that doesn't make me a bad person. It's not that I don't care about people, I just don't want to be responsible for their drinks and their satisfaction or even the quality of the food. Note to self: I should definitely never wait tables. All the prep, the fuss over d├ęcor and "table scapes" (gag me) and the menu... No. Thanks.

I'm sure the bridal shower won't actually be the last thing I ever host where I actually have to make a solid effort to please/impress. I just hope my future guests will be content with my uber-simplified approach. Compostable plates, WHAT. Store-bought veggie tray, YEAH I SAID IT. I'm definitely not looking to win any Hostess With The Mostest awards. Because to me, a Hostess is just something that is chocolate with squiggly frosting. And I think that's okay.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Mini Me

I'm currently on the journey to a more minimalist lifestyle. For me, that just means less lusting after stuff, less consuming, and less stuff in general in my home. We have a modest-size home, and the rooms are fairly small so the minimalist thing works well. I'm thinking about making May my Month of Minimalism to help me stay focused. My biggest challenge is clutter: I don't deal with it well. So I'm thinking about writing a series of posts related to the whole minimalism/home organization/simplicity thing. Starting here.

My whole "living with less" thing really got started when the Homeboy and I moved to Northern California. I went there for an Americorps volunteer position, which meant I wasn't going to be making any money and thus, we'd be living as po' folk. We didn't know much about our living situation before we moved, and couldn't afford to take anything more than my car and a small U-Haul towed behind it, so we only took what we could fit--only what was necessary. So before we moved, I spent days packing up our belongings and sorting them: To Move or To Store.

Fast forward to 2009, after we moved back to the Midwest when my Americorps commitment had ended and bought a house. When we moved in, we designated one of our bedrooms as the staging area with all our boxes from the stuff we had in CA to the stuff we stored. About four months later, the stuff we had stored was all still in boxes, because I discovered we really didn't need any of that stuff anymore.

Just recently I found a box full of extra kitchen stuff--dishes and glassware mostly--that I had stored in my in-laws' home. The box is sitting in my kitchen, untouched, because I don't have room for most of it and, more importantly, I don't need or even want it around.

All this, combined with my fervent following of Zen Habits has really helped change my attitude about stuff. I definitely used to appreciate things like a fabulous shoe collection, designer handbags, cool kitchen gadgetry, etc., but now? I only want to have what's essential. Mostly because, for me, it means a more organized and clean home, and also because I no longer care/lust over things, I can save a lot of money.

I just read this post today about "Losing the Lust for New Things" at Everyday Minimalist, which I loved. Check it out if you're interested!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A Hard Loss

This week I've been dealing with the loss of one of our dogs. It's been pretty painful for me mainly because this is really the first time in my life I've seriously had to deal with grieving for a lost loved one. I've been very lucky to not have lost anyone/anything I've been very close to before now. It's hard.

I'm still sort of in shock that she's not coming back and that I'll never see her again. I'm angry at myself for reasons I don't even know, but mostly I'm just overwhelmingly sad. I'm sad for her, and I'm sad for our other dog, who is now lonely and bored. And I'm sad that I won't get to pet her again or laugh at her crazy antics. I'm sad I won't get to call her name again or call her any of the possibly hundreds of nicknames we came up with for the year she was with us.

Juno was a German shorthair pointer. We rescued her from the Humane Society, and we presumed she came from a puppy mill down south, where there were purportedly lots of GSPs. She was starving thin, weak, very small for her breed, and had obviously had at least one litter of puppies before she was a year old. But she was also beautiful, sweet, and bat-shit insane (just the way we like our pets). She howled at ambulances and taught our other dog, Penny, to howl as well. She could never stand in one place for very long--she was very jittery, especially to begin with. Over the course of several months, she acquired a calmer disposition, but she was still a jumpy little Juno. She could not eat her food over the food bowl: she would scoop up a mouthful of kibble and run around the house, chewing along the way and spewing food in random spots.

The qualities that were a tad annoying to us at the time are now the things that I miss--the way she would spastically jump onto our bed and attack our faces, snuggling up with us as close as possible. But despite her spazzy tendencies, she was smart as a whip. She could learn a new command in a snap, and would respond to a simple verbal cue (whereas our other dog who is quite stubborn, requires more physical coaxing).

She was loved, although it took some getting used to. At first I wasn't her biggest fan, because I was already so in love with our first dog. It's been just in these past few months where she really started to grow on me. So losing her has seems especially hard now. I am trying to remain thankful for the time she was with us and think that she is resting peacefully now. I know I'll be okay and that I'll get through it, but it is hard.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Cheapskate's Guide To Vegas

I just returned from a three-night stay in Las Vegas with a couple of my best pals from college. It was a trip for pure fun and relaxation, and did I ever need it. However, I almost didn't even get to go on this trip on account of my super-slim budget. But I made it work, had fun, and spent less than $500 total. Here's how:
  • First, my friends are awesome. They invited me to come with them after they had already basically booked the trip and the hotel. I told them I wouldn't be able to due to my financial situation. They stepped in and covered the entire cost of the hotel (Caesar's, baby!), and one of my friends whose budget isn't so slim actually offered to lend me the money for my flight. I've already given her $60 towards it and will continue to send her $50 each month, so it should take me 4-5 months to pay her back in full. Obviously this method doesn't work for everyone, but if you can't afford to go along on a cool trip out of pocket, consider a personal loan from a good friend or family member who knows you're good for it and won't be offended if you ask. It worked out in my case because my friend really wanted me to come on the trip with her, so she offered me the money as soon as she heard about my financial situation.
  • Avoided airport food at all costs--instead I packed a Clif bar and ate the plane peanuts. My husband (aka Homeboy), also snuck a bag of Skittles into my carry-on. He's a keeper.
  • Packed extra snacks for breakfast and in between meals. Blueberry Clif bars were my weapon of choice. My friends also brought candy to share in the hotel room.
  • I spent an average of $20 for each meal I paid for, plus or minus a few cheap snacks here and there. Fried Twinkie anyone?
  • I set a budget. Before I left, I withdrew $200 in cash, and that was it. I did use my debit card for a couple of purchases (a bus ticket and Band-Aids at Walgreens). At the end of the trip, I had $60 left, which I gave to my friend who paid for my flight.
  • I didn't gamble. I know, who goes to Vegas and doesn't gamble, right? A tightwad, that's who! I threw about $15 down the slots and lost it all, so I stopped there. I watched my friends play Black Jack and Roulette, and it was mildly fun just to watch. The rest of the time I took advantage of the free attractions at the casinos and people-watched.
  • Okay, so I didn't drink much either. We worked the system and scored a few sweet deals from one club promoter where we got free cover and free drinks, then we let some boys buy us a round at another club. The remainder of the time I ordered water and cranberry juice, and I mostly didn't have to pay for any of those (I did get charged $4 for a microscopic bottle of water at one place, which was ridiculous, but oh well).
  • Being cheap in Vegas does mean giving up some of the "Go Wild"-ness of it all, but I'm not the kind of person to bet my fortune or drink a lot anyway. So it worked for me. Obviously, most people my age go to Vegas to get a little crazy. But I was there mostly to hang out with my friends and relax from my crazy life. And hangovers? Not relaxing for me. Losing tons of money? Definitely not relaxing. So I took in the sights, laid by the pool, and had a fantastic time.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

About Me, Extended Version

Hello there and welcome to my blog. Here are 30 things about me, which more or less describe my "living condition." Signs and symptoms, if you will.

1. I am 26. Help.
2. I went to school to learn about communications, journalism, and advertising.
3. I'm now going to school to learn about germs, medicine, and healing.
4. I'm from the Midwest, born and raised!
5. But I also lived for a year in northern California. It is an amazing place.
6. I love witty, intelligent humor.
7. I love thought-provoking, mind-bending, yet funny and quotable TV shows.
8. I often hate thought-provoking and deep, intellectual movies.
9. My favorite movies are light and often stupid romantic comedies and indie comedies, and anything by the Coen brothers.
10. My favorite thing in the world is to laugh.
11. My dream job, if I could stomach living L.A. (which I can't) would probably be to write for TV.
12. I grew up around a bunch of nature-loving freaks. Therefore, I generally hated outdoor activities while I was growing up (because I am a rebel, you see).
13. That changed when I moved to the most beautiful place in the world (California). Especially when I visited Yosemite National Park for the first time. It took my breath away.
14. Now I'm all 'one with nature' and shit.
15. I try to be healthy and eco-conscious as much as possible.
16. I support small, local businesses.
17. I love the notion of urban homesteading and my husband, "the Homeboy," and I, have implemented several practices such as gardening, preserving, and even simple things like hanging our clothes out on the line to dry instead of using the dryer.
18. I try to cook as much as I can from scratch, but when I'm terribly busy, I have been known to live off of frozen pizza for an entire week.
19. I love farmers' markets.
20. I love riding my bike! I ride a Bianchi Milano. I am interested but not terribly committed to the idea of purchasing a used road bike or a mountain bike.
21. The public library makes me happy.
22. While I love going to the library and looking at books, I'm sad to say I don't read for pleasure as often as I'd like.
23. I mostly read non-fiction books. In order to get me to read a novel, it has to come either highly recommended from a trusted source with compatible taste or from an author I've read before.
24. I used to write fiction obsessively when I was younger. I am a good writer. I might take it up again. But I have yet to fall in love with a story idea.
25. I struggle with my personal finances--whether it's avoiding the Satanic Siren of the credit card or just avoiding unnecessary purchases, it's no fun.
26. Zen Habits basically changed my life. I strive for minimalism. Even though when you walk into my house you'd have no idea, since clutter is something that seems to reproduce exponentially in my habitat.
27. I really, really, really want lots of tattoos. On my back, shoulder and on my forearm especially. This probably will never happen, because apparently tattoo artists like to be paid.
28. Music has always been a big part of my (and my family's) life ever since I was young. I play piano, although not as much as I'd like to. I love indie rock and "alterna-country" artists like Neko Case and the Drive-By Truckers.
29. I love to sew and knit things (when I have time).
30. My real name is not CW. I use those initials because I am on the lam from the Internets and I couldn't think of a better alias. Basically, for anonymity. Because the Internets can be a little scary sometimes.