Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Pacific Coast Party!

I have a lot of stuff going on right now, and luckily it's all good stuff!

Remember the post from two days ago, when I was talking about needing to be more positive, especially about my career? Well somehow, in those three days I managed to land three new writing projects! These are my first paid, commercial gigs. I've had commercial gigs before, which were unpaid because I did them as a favor in order to build my portfolio. And of course I get paid for writing, but that stuff has been local magazines and online content writing. But I knew that some of the higher paying gigs were available offline, aka in the REAL WORLD. Contacting these marketing agencies, sending them my resume and writing samples was a pretty big leap for me. I stepped away from the world of low-paying, but consistent online writing jobs. I feel a lot more accomplished now that I'm working with REAL people in REAL offices. Its nice to get out of the house and coffee shops once in a while, and feel like part of the working world. Plus the people at the small marketing and ad firms that I met with have been great. I love to surround myself with creative and enthusiastic people. It is also a huge relief to take a small break from LOOKING for work and to actually be doing what I love: writing.

Now that news was exciting, but what I'm really excited about is the fact that I'm leaving on Friday for a ten day trip to California! This is huge for me, as I have never been west of Indiana. I'm definitely an East Coast girl. I'm a bit afraid that once I get to the west coast, I won't want to leave. But then again, they don't have this guy west of the Mississippi:

video
Yeah, I think I'll come back for him.

We are flying into Sacramento, then driving to Napa, (where we will be checking into our bed and breakfast (here's the link so you can drool over it). It was on Oprah, so it has to be spectacular, right? )
Day 2 is  a second day in Napa, touring the wineries
Day 3 and 4 are in San Francisco
Day 5 is Monterey and Carmel, plus another bed and breakfast
Day 6 Driving through Big Sur and spending the night at Pismo Beach
Day 7 Driving to LA and stopping at places on the way like Solvang, Santa Barbara, Malibu
Day 8 Spending a second day in LA, the driving to San Diego hotel in the evening
Day 9 A full day in San Diego, hopefully spending the majority of the time poolside, because we will be exhaused at that point
Day 10 back home

I am beyond excited for this. It will be amazing to spend ten days with my love, not thinking about work or his school or bills or anything else. Just driving the beautiful coast, seeing the pacific, exploring new cities, eating amazing food and drinking wine.

I asked my husband last night, "Are you ready to spend ten days with me, 24 hours a day?" The thought scares me a bit, but i'm sure we'll be ok. It will be strange though, not hanging out with another person beside each other. It will be a lot of "quality time" ha. Although we do have a friend in LA that we might hook up with.

My goal is to try to blog once a day if possible, just so I can remember what I did each day. If I don't have time though, I'm not going to feel pressured.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Negative Nancy

I'm writing this blog post in order to distract myself from continually staring at the Gmail tab in my browser. I'm waiting for the number to go from 943 to 944 (I rarely clean out my inbox) and hoping it will be a response from a potential client that I just quoted a project for. I'm very new to freelance writing and setting fees is one of the most difficult things to do. The range of prices depends on so many things. When you're starting out, it feels like you're just picking a random number out of the sky and praying the client will accept it. So in order to spread some good, positive vibes, I'm going to talk about optimism.

I'm a glass half empty kind of lady. As my mom says, I was a shy, nervous, worried kid and I haven't changed a bit. Well except for the shyness part, which randomly disappeared in college, for the most part. I blame PBR Light for that one. But for the most part, I worry about everything and always assume the worst in every situation. It's sad.

If you don't know me very well, you probably can't tell that I have this problem with negativity. I don't come across as Daria-esque. I don't wear black every day, I don't have a voice like Eyore and I even like listening to Ke$ha once in a while. But deep down inside, I doubt myself constantly. I always assume that I can never be as successful as other writers I read about. I know that I'm smart and talented, but for some reason I always worry that it just won't happen for me. This comes into play in other areas of my life too. Any time the phone rings at an odd hour, I think that its going to be terrible news. If I'm planning a vacation, I worry and worry that we'll have terrible weather. My husband asked me why I thought this way and here's the best way I can explain it: If you expect the worst, you'll never be disappointed.


What's funny is that my husband is the exact opposite of me in this way. His glass is definitely half-full. I swear that he can make good things happen with his mind. He told me that he used to constantly doubt himself as well, but decided one day to live by one word: positivity. Since then, he has been able to control his life with his thoughts. Really, its creepy.

Remember that book, The Secret? I only made it about two pages into the book before I decided to put it down and switch to the latest Chelsea Handler book, but its basically about the power of positive thinking. If you visualize something in your mind and tell yourself you will get it, you can basically get anything. Some lady wrote the book and said the secret has been around for thousands of years. However, my husband (along with Oprah) basically claimed to have known about/invented the secret. He's been living it since before the book came out. Haha.

He has incredible luck. He can win Chinese auctions and scratch-off lottery tickets on a regular basis. He has incredible success. He applied for a job that he didn't really have the experience or major for, told himself he would get it, and got it. Now, just a couple years later, he has had several promotions, raises and has people twice his age working for him. He is considered the Doogie Howser of his industry. I know that he is smart and capable, but he always tells me that it is his positive thinking that makes him successful. I think it is some of both.

So now I am knee-deep in the world of professional writing and it is an absolute requirement to maintain positivity in order to keep my head above water. Daily rejections and constant criticism are just part of the job. This career is so important to me that I MUST learn to be optimistic, or I will fail. Luckily, I have someone to help teach me. I'm hoping that my husband's amazing outlook on life will rub off on me. I am making it a goal to try to be optimistic.

Is your glass half-full or half-empty? Is it just me that has these neurotic thoughts? Any advice on how to live optimistically?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Stenciled Pillow Cover Part Deux

I finally got around to finishing the pillows that I started here. It's amazing what you can get done when you are procrastinating and putting off actual work.

I left off with the stenciled from square of the pillow. The next step is to cut out two more rectangles of fabric. The width of the rectangles should be the same as the pillow but the length should be about four inches shorter. This will create an overlapping opening that you can stuff the pillow into. Finish the top edge of the two rectangles by folding the edge over 1/4 inch, pressing it, folding down another 1/4 inch and sewing it in place with a straight stitch.

Now lay your stenciled square down in front of your, stenciled side facing up. Line the bottom of one of the rectangle flaps up with the bottom edge of the square. The finished hemmed edge will be on the top and you want the "good" side of the fabric facing down, against the stenciled square. Then lay the second rectangle on the the top of the square, so it overlaps the first rectangle.

Now pin all around the perimeter of the square. Sew a straight stitch around the square. This is why I love this kind of pillow. Not only can you remove the cover and wash it, but you also don't have a weird looking seam that needs to be sewn after you turn the pillow right side out. All of these seams will look clean. After you finish sewing around the edges, use your sewing scissors to clip off the points of fabric on the corners. Make sure you don't get too close to the stitching though. This will help the corners turn inside out.

After this, just turn the pillows covers right side out and stuff the pillows in. Do this carefully. I ripped one of my stitches when I tried to stuff one of the cases. So I ended up going back to the sewing machine and sewing back and forth over the little sections where the flaps overlapped. This reinforced it much better. Here are some pictures of the finished products:
So far, I like the look. I think the white breaks up the blah of the all-beige couch. And the pattern of the stencil works with the Target pillows. Tada!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Please vote!

A while ago I blogged about that dress that I was going to wear to a wedding this week. Well, I returned it, due to a misguided comment from my husband.

Me: Is this dress too slutty for a wedding with your family?
Him: No. Well, yeah kind of.

So of course that diminished any bit of confidence I had about wearing the dress. After I returned it, I started looking for a new dress. But I was paranoid about everything I tried on. I didn't want to buy a dress that my mom would wear, but I also didn't want something TOO revealing. It seems all the dresses this season are those bubble dresses that practically reveal your lady parts. Normally, I'm not opposed to that. But this happens to be a wedding that I will be at with my mother in law and my six brothers in law. I don't need any comments about my boobs or lady parts at a family event. I probably went to fifteen different stores and visited some of them several times. I FINALLY found a dress I liked today. But then I put it on and took a picture of myself for this post and didn't like how it looked on camera. Of course. So I tore through my closet and tried on any dresses that might possibly work and now I need you to weigh in, if anyone is reading this. Three of these are old dresses and I'm not going to say which is the new one. Because I am so hyper critical of myself, I need outside opinions.

Yellow and Black Sun Dress
Black Strapless Dots
Black Belted Dress
Gauzy Floral Dress


I like how Wilbur is sitting in the back of the third one, just judging. Also please disregard the fact that both of the belts on the belted dresses are lopsided. And that my hair is a hot mess.

I apologize for the shallowness of this post, but I'm at a loss here.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Passive Aggressive Notes

I had to share this because I thought it was pretty funny.  The bank that issued our car loan called us recently to tell us they had not recieved our loan payment for the month. We thought maybe it got lost in the mail or something, because I definitely sent it.  We explained the situation and told them that if it didn't get there in the next couple days to let us know and we would send a new check.  They called several days later, said it still hadn't arrived, so my husband sent a new check.  Then we got this letter in the mail today:

Dear Client,

As you are well aware, the above referenced loan is seriously overdue.  We do not understand why you are ignoring our attempts to contact you in order to rectify your account.  It is your responsibility to contact us to discuss any problems you may be having at this time. 

Immediate arrangements must be made on your account to bring it current.  We will expect to hear from you immediately upon receipt of this letter.  You can reach me at 1-800-xxx-xxxx.

Sincerely,
Heather F*****

P.S. If your payment has been made and your account is up-to-date, please disregard this letter.

So I was kind of pissed when I read this.  So I wrote this letter back, on the back of her letter.  I'm debating about whether I should send it or not.

Dear Accounts Receivable Professional,

As you are well aware, our loan is one month overdue, which hardly qualifies as "seriously".  As I'm sure you are not aware, the word "seriously" is a vague and overused adjective which is not even appropriately used in your letter.  Although, I would expect a person with the name "Heather" to use this word with frequency and enthusiasm.

It is presumptuous and, in fact, incorrect to say that we have been ignoring your attempts to contact us.

Attempt #1 :  You called us and told us you did not receive our payments.  We told you that we sent the check and that it should arrive within days.

Attempt #2 : You called us and said our payment had still not arrived. We said we would send a new check, which we did.

The situation was well explained.  It is not our fault that you don't understand, but the fault of your parents, your genetics and the second-rate accounts receivable training academy which you attended, Heather.

As graduates from a respected business school, we would like to bestow some knowledge on you, to supplement your insufficient education.  A little customer service goes a long way, Heather.  If you had accessed our payment history, you would see that this is the first time we have ever been late on a payment.  If you had taken some notes while you were on the phone with us, you would have remembered the details of the situation.  Perhaps it is time that you draft a new generic stock letter to send to clients.  Your grammar and writing skills may benefit.

Sincerely,
Clients
PS. If you have received our payment and our account is up-to-date, please suck it. 

I called my husband to fume about the letter and apparently he never DID send the check. Not because we don't have the money, but because he is lazy. So, yeah, I won't be sending this letter, but damn it would feel good.  Still though, I think the letter was pretty cold, especially since they KNEW what had happened and we had never been late before. 

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Your mom . . . no MY mom

I wanted to post this so that I don't forget it.  Its a sweet email my mom sent me on my birthday.  Its kind of a running joke in the family about who "the good one" is.  I have two sisters and my mom always tells us individually that we're "the good one". 

TOP TEN REASONS WHY EMILY IS “THE GOOD ONE”

1.        SHE IS A GOOD DAUGHTER WHO KEEPS IN TOUCH WITH AND SHOWS CONCERN FOR HER PARENTS.
2.       SHE IS A GOOD WIFE AND PARTNER FOR HER HUSBAND.
3.       SHE WILL BE A GREAT MOTHER.
4.       SHE IS FUNNY, QUIRKY AND ENTERTAINING.
5.       SHE IS SMART AND INSIGHTFUL.
6.       SHE IS BEAUTIFUL.  JUST BEAUTIFUL.
7.       SHE IS CREATIVE AND LOVES TO TRY & EXPERIMENT.
8.       SHE IS ALWAYS GOOD FOR A CRAZY, FUNNY STORY.
9.       SHE IS THE CHILD SHE WAS – SHY AND WORRIED, CRAZY AND FUNNY, ADVENTUROUS, WITH A SMART & FAST MIND.
10.   SHE IS NOT LIKE ANYONE ELSE.  AND THAT IS A GOOD THING.

Mom



 My younger sister, mom and me

Friday, April 16, 2010

Drinky Drinky!


I'm participating in this serial blog post from April Elizabeth .  What's that?  Today is Friday and not Thursday? Well its my birthday and I do what I want! :P


1. What is your favorite cocktail (or beer)?
I'm a beer girl.  My go-to drink of choice is Miller Lite, classy I know.  A light beer is easy, predictable and I know just how much I can drink before going off the deep end.  This talent was aquired from years of practice in college.  I wish I was a wine girl because it seems so much more sophisticated and classy, but I have a very sensitive stomach and wine usually makes my belly attack itself.  I do drink it from time to time though. My absolute favorite alcoholic drink of ALL time is Lindeman's Framboise.  It is a beer that is brewed from fruit--rasperries--rather than hops. Its pretty pricey and a case is well over $100. But try a bottle or glass of it sometime.  It tastes like liquefied fizzy raspberries that get you drunk. Heaven.

2. When is the first time you had a beer?
I was always allowed to taste sips of my dad's beer when I was little, but I guess that doesn't really count. The first time I really had my own beer was in college as a freshman.  It was at a typical house party and I was so cautious drinking it.  Every couple minutes I would think, "am I drunk??" but of course I wasn't.  The first time I was DRUNK was at a frat party when I was visiting friends at Penn State (of course, how stereotypical). I drank a couple of beers and was dancing and all of a sudden my legs didn't work anymore.  I think I actually fell to the ground and said I couldn't walk.  My boyfriend (husband, now) picked me up and set me up on a random schnasty couch until I regained my footing.  I kept freaking out because I thought I was going to die. Now looking back on it, I was just barely buzzed but unused to the feeling.

3. What is your funniest I was way too drunk story?
Sadly, there are too many, but here's one that pops into my head. My bachelorette party.  We went to a bar with a tiki hut theme.  Lots of grass huts over the booths, water falls and little pools everywhere.  The water was lit from below and was dyed blue.  At one point my friends were looking all over for me and finally found me in a hallway, drinking blue water out of the decorative waterfall.


4. How long ago did that story take place?
2 years ago

5. Tequila or Whiskey?
I don't really have a preference because I don't drink either that often.  I can't shoot either one straight.  I think I like the taste of whiskey better though

Stenciled Pillow Covers Part 1

I have been looking for new throw pillows for my sofa.  It's a pillow-back sofa, so its four giant pillows along the back and then two smaller ones on the sides.  Everything is beige, blech. I found a couple of cute smaller throw pillows at target for 9.99 (they are actually outdoor pillows and I will show them in a future post).  I still needed some bigger ones though.  I'm also super picky and when I have an idea of what I want something to look like, I can't settle until I found it. I wanted a geometric trellis kind of design.  So I decided to make my own pillow covers, and you can too. Here's what you need:

A stencil (this was from Joann and was $5)
Fabric paint and a sponge brush

You also need fabric.  The fabric I found was on clearance and is a thick canvas kind of material.  The thicker home decor fabric is a little more expensive than quilting fabric, but it holds up and will take the paint better.  Cut a square of fabric for the front of your pillow.  You can buy a pillow form at a craft store, or just cover an old pillow, like I'm doing.  My pillow was 18" square, so the fabric I cut was 18" square. My seam allowance will take up about 1/4 inch on each side, but I wanted to cover to be really firm.  The pillow that I'm covering is kind of flat. I'll be fluffing it up in the drier to perk it up a bit. 

To get my stencil perfectly centered, I placed the fabric square on a piece of cardboard (actually, the back of a drawing pad).  I lined the bottom of the fabric up with the bottom of the cardboard and eyeballed it to center it.  The stencil was five inches wide, so I measured up from the bottom of the cardboard 6.5 inches, made a mark, and then made a second mark up five more inches.  I repeated this on the other side.  Then I laid the stencil on the fabric so it fit between these marks. 

Then you can tape the stencil to the fabric to keep it from slipping.  You'll notice that some of the following pictures have little pieces of thin tape and other ones have giant strips of clear packing tape.  That's because I'm speshulllll and can't paint inside the lines.  If you're speshul like me, I suggest you use the big tape too.

So on the THIRD TRY, I finally did not get paint outside the stencil. Just use the sponge brush to dab paint straight up and down on the stencil.  Don't use strokes because the paint can get squished underneath the stencil.  I also had to hold the stencil nice and taught so it set against the fabric.


Then, pull the stencil off and voila . . .

Stay tuned for Part 2 when it becomes a magnificent throw pillow!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Quarter Century Year Recap

Today is April 15th, the last day of my 25th year on this earth. Tomorrow I will be 26, and officially heading out of my twenties. This year has been relatively calm and sweet, compared to the previous year which included getting married, moving in with my husband, quitting my job, etc. Here is a recap of my accomplishments at the age of 25:

1. Bought a house - We managed to save up enough money to put a good down payment on our townhouse. Our timing and good credit afforded us an incredible mortgage rate and our hard bargaining skills got us a great deal on the house. I L-O-V-E being a homeowner and have spent this year flexing my design and decorating muscles.


2. Adopted a puppy - We got Wilbur when we moved into our new house at the end of May. Neither of us had ever owned a dog before, so it was totally new to us. Somehow, we didn't screw him up. He is a great, smart dog who does his business in the yard and doesn't eat our furniture. Success!


3. My big career accomplishment last year was that I got published. This year, I got published and paid for it. In a real, print magazine. And I got paid at a pretty decent rate. I now have a somewhat regular contributing writer relationship with a magazine. Now if I could just get ten more similar jobs, I could actually make more money in a year than someone who makes license plates in jail . . .

4. Two new babies were born into our family. This is actually a slow year for my husband's family, who multiply like guppies. However, they make the most gorgeous children, so some pictures are mandatory:

Eva was born with nearly shoulder-length hair that is streaked with golden highlights. And her blue eyes decided to stick around. Lucas lives in GA so we don't get to see him much, but we are so excited to see him next weekend for him mom and dad's wedding! Why are 1/4 asian babies so so gorgeous? Can't wait to have a few of my own!

5. Went on an amazing week-long trip to the Outer Banks with twenty of our bestest friends. I arranged the whole vacation, finding an amazing HUGE house just steps from the beach. I know that pretty soon we'll have to grow up and have babies and stop binge drinking, but for one week we were able to be young, go through 30 cases of beer, have dance-offs, skinny dip, get sunburns, do shotguns at 11 am and stay up laughing until 6 am. I love these kids!






So yeah, it was a good year.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Presents!

So my birthday is on Friday, but my impatient ass begged and begged my husband for an early present. It's not that I wanted a surprise. I hate hate hate surprises. I knew what I was getting and I when I get something in my mind that I want, I have to have it NOW. Luckily, he complied :)

So without further ado, my new camera:


It is the Canon EOS Digital Rebel Xsi (450 D)

I had been pining for a DSLR for a while. A couple years ago I took a film photography class and loved it. I retained a bit of knowledge about aperture, ISO and film speed but it was bare bones. So I definitely consider myself a complete beginner. Besides, the camera I was working with then was my dad's Nikon from the 70's. Its funny how a good SLR camera can literally be used for decades. Using the digital SLR is kind of intimidating because of all the extra modes and settings. I'm trying to make myself stay out of the automatic modes so that I can really learn how to have complete control over my photos.

Here are a few pictures I have taken so far. Hopefully you will see some improvement as I learn to use it more!














Monday, April 12, 2010

On (lack of) Self-Control

Several weeks ago I bought a dress for my brother-in-law’s wedding, which happens to be in two weeks. I have a lot wedding related events coming up and I was uber-excited to buy a different dress for each one of the. Because, of course that is necessary. But I’m a reasonable girl and I knew that I had to stay within budget. The first dress I found was at TJ Maxx for $20 and will be perfect for my cousin’s wedding shower. Then I hit the jackpot at Ross, where they had a bunch of different Calvin Klein satin dresses for $50.

I love fitted dresses as opposed to flowy dresses made out of flimsy fabric. They look good on other girls, but not this one. I have rather large breastases and I like my dress to be able to smush them down and make them appear smaller or at least higher. I tried them on and OF COURSE I was between sizes. So I did what any self-respecting girl would do and I bought the smaller size and decided I would starve myself for the next several weeks.

Right.

When I KNOW that I have to control my eating in order to physically fit into something, I start playing mind games with myself. Where most people would panic and start a diet and exercise program similar to DJ’s in the episode of Full House when she passes out on the stationary bike, I do the opposite. I put it out of my mind until we are one week away and I physically can’t fit my leg into the dress.

Things were going great for a while. I was at the gym every day. I spun my heart out until I broke my ass and my knees. Then I got sick. My crazy bad cold kept me in bed for several days and generally feeling like crap for more than a week. I didn’t have an appetite, so I lost five pounds. BONUS! When I stared feeling better I decided I would just keep the same eating habits that I had when I was sick, which was like, eating a cracker and then sleeping for five hours. Didn’t work so much.

So not only had i gotten out of the habit of going to the gym, but my appetite also came back. Now I have gained back the five pounds plus three more. I look like I’m about three months pregnant. I think I should start posting weekly belly pictures.

But it’s not all my fault. Things just keep HAPPENING in my life that basically require me to eat massive amounts of food. Lets take this past weekend as an example.

Friday: We had something to do in our old college town, which is like one mile from downtown. We were there around rush hour, so instead of braving the traffic we decided to get dinner and wait for rush hour to be over. We went to an Italian restaurant and I had to get my favorite thing on the menu, herb chicken over penne in a marsala sauce. I think I looked it up one time and it was like, well over 1200 calories. Still too early to get on the road. Might as well go to Mad Mex for a drink. What’s that? Oh its happy hour? Oh, Big Azz margaritas are only $5? And they are 900 calories? Well . . . I can’t pass up a SALE.

Saturday: I had to work on a magazine article I’m writing. There is a section of my city that is a long strip of warehouses that sell stuff on the streets on the weekend. Really authentic Italian breads and meats, lots of asian grocers, Polish grocers, a giant fish market, etc. My job was to interview a bunch of the street vendors about what they sell. Of course, what kind of investigative reporter would I be if I didn’t actually sample the products that I was writing about? Which led to a lunch that consisted of (and in this order):

1. Gyro Meat

2. Canolli

3. Funnel Cake

4. Chicken on a stick

5. Pad Thai

6. Another Chicken on a Stick

7. Roasted Peanuts

8. Kettle corn

9. Falafel Sandwich

That night, I was still feeling the effects of my culinary trip around the world. I decided I would have a light salad for dinner. Then my friend called and said she was in town and she is the type of friend who will not speak to you for a year if you don’t drop your plans and see her when she is in town, without any warning. I decided I would just get a cup of soup and a water. I sort of stuck to this. It was clam chowder, which I’m sure was loaded with fat and calories and I added a ceasar salad. And the waiter asked if I wanted some grilled shrimp on my salad. What the F kind of question is that? Duh.

I rolled myself home and realized, oh shit, I have to go out to lunch with my best friend tomorrow. We have a tradition of going out for crab legs on each other’s birthday. And any other day of the year that we can justify it. Which led to Joe’s Crab shack, some bad decisions, and a pot the size of a camping cooler filled with a thousand crab legs, a million shrimp, corn, potatoes and some random sausage. We weren’t sure why the sausage was there, but I don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

Don’t judge me. I am now drinking green tea and water and eating only fruits and vegetables until the wedding in order to at least shed some water weight.*

*This will probably end up being a lie.

Uncategorized

Well it has been quite a while since I posted. I was having some reservations about posting because I wasn’t sure how I wanted this whole blog business to work out. I wanted some kind of central theme, whether it was home decorating and renovating, crafting, writing or something. People, I even considered the possibility of making a baby so that I could have a baby blog. For realz. But I’m not always in the mood to be crafty. And a lot of the time I can’t get the motivation to vacuum, let alone tackle a house project. And sometimes I want to get drunk, so pregnancy is out for the time being.

I guess I really don’t have an underlying theme to my life right now. So i’ll just stick with that for now, an uncategorized blog. Hopefully I can tell some funny stories, make some people laugh, organize my thoughts. It will be fun, I promise.