Friday, January 29, 2010

Some Thoughts on Jealousy

Jealousy and Flirtation by Haynes King

I am not a jealous person. Nor have I ever been with a jealous person. I have seen jealousy ruin otherwise good relationships of friends and former roommates before though.

One excuse I've heard several times to justify jealous is: It's not that I don't trust him/her; I just don't trust other men/women. Oh yes, on the surface it may seem that you're being concerned and protective using this line of reasoning, but what you're really saying is that you don't trust you partner to handle the situation in an appropriate way. You're using your insecurity to rationalize controlling your partner.

My college roommate had a really jealous boyfriend. They had been together since high school but he went to a different college. He would drive down to our school every weekend to be with her. On the weekends he couldn't be with her, he told her he didn't want her going out because he didn't trust other guys. He didn't even want her going out with me. On the rare occasions she would go out anyway, he would page her (this was before cell phones) every fifteen minutes to "check up" on her. She almost got kicked out of the movies once because she wouldn't turn off her pager, because if she did, he'd get mad. After a year, he gave up a diving scholarship and transferred to our school so he could "look out" for her. You can probably guess how this story ends. She dumped him and eventually married one of his friends.

On the other end of the spectrum: When Chuk and I had been dating for about six months he told me that two of his friends were going to be staying with him for "awhile" until they could find an apartment. By staying with him, he meant they'd be sharing his room. It just so happened that both of these friends were women, and one was his ex-girlfriend. Obviously, I wasn't too happy with this situation, but he didn't ask me for my opinion, he just told me that that was what was happening.

I thought about objecting, as I think most people would in my situation, but ultimately I decided against it. Chuk had never done anything to cause me to distrust him or question his devotion to me. These women, even though I had never met them, had also never done anything for me to question their trustworthiness. I also figured that he and his ex broke up for a reason. Had they wanted to get back together, they could have before Chuk and I met. They didn't.

What was the result of me choosing to turn away from jealousy and towards trust? We are all great friends now. We still talk about how much fun that summer was when we all hung out and had barbeques all the time.

Here's my theory on cheating: If your partner wants to cheat on you, he/she will. There's nothing you can do to stop it, so jealousy is just wasted energy. Instead, use that energy to build a stronger relationship. If your partner cheats, you can walk away knowing your energies were better spent.

Jealousy is easy. (Aren't all fear-based emotions easy?) Trust is hard, particularly if you've been hurt before, but from trust comes respect, the cornerstone of a healthy relationship.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

I'm a Cheap Date

Just because Chuk and I are living on one income doesn't mean we don't still want to date and find ways to connect with one another. Often times we just find ways to do that around the apartment. No, I didn't mean it that way. Get your mind out of the gutter! I meant we'll watch a movie or play a board game. But sometimes we want to go out, too.

One date that has proven to be surprisingly rewarding for us as a couple has been going to Costco. Yes, you read that right. We go on dates at Costco. I told you I loved everything about Costco.

The date usually starts with dinner. We can get two big slices of pizza and a soda to share for just under $5 at the food court. Or we can get two hot dogs and two sodas for just over $3, and I'm including tax in these figures. After a leisurely dinner spent people-watching--incidentally, guessing what people's lives are like based on what's in their baskets is immensely fun--we'll start to browse. We go up and down the aisles talking about what we want and why. We imagine our life in the future and share our dreams for what we want.

We both dream of owning a home. Chuk sees a big screen TV and talks about how he hopes the house will have a basement where he can honor his passion for sports by displaying all his Steelers and Capitals memorabilia, hang up his dart board that has been languishing in a closet since we moved to this small apartment, and, of course, watch sports on a big screen.

I see a garden hose that coils itself back up after use and tell him about how I would love to have a backyard garden one day where I could learn to grow fruit trees and maybe some easy vegetables. Right now I'm thinking orange, lemon, and avocado trees and tomato, cucumber, and pumpkin plants. I'd also have big peony bushes in the front because peonies are my favorite flower.

We walk down a few more aisles. I see furniture and tell him how I want to decorate. He sees tools and tells me it would be fun if we learned to make the furniture together. Eventually, we get to the food section and the date ends. We do our grocery shopping and go home.

It might not be a night out on the town but I got dinner and a show (people watching), we had long talks about our hopes and dreams, we had fun together and we got an errand crossed off the list. Not bad for five bucks.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Tuning Out

You know you're getting old when you start thinking things like, "Those darn kids with their loud rock music." I'm not quiet at that point yet, but I'm getting close. I don't know if it's just me, but it seems like the background noise of society is getting louder and louder.

Commercials on TV seems ridiculously loud. The "elevator music" played in shops, restaurants, and yes, elevators is so loud I often feel like I'm in a nightclub, shouting to talk to the person I'm with. When walking or waiting in lobbies, I hear loud conversations between people I don't know about things I wish to know nothing about. On buses and subways I hear the bleed through of those darned kids' loud rock (or hip hip) music.

I've started coping with this by carrying earplugs with me wherever I go. I'll admit that at first, they're a little uncomfortable, but as you become more accustomed to having something in your ear, you can no longer feel them. Since I've been carrying them with me, I've been surprised at how often I reach for them. I can still hear the things I need or want to hear-- like someone speaking to me, but I hear a lot less of the background noise that I don't want to hear.

I use this brand of earplugs from my local drugstore. I'm not paid or endorsed by this company in any way, I'm just vouching that they're one (of many) good brands and conveniently come with their own carrying case.

Carrying earplugs works for me.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

There's a First Time for Everything

Tonight, we made homemade pizza for the first time and Chuk tried out for Jeopardy! We celebrated trying new things (and Australia Day) by treating ourselves to some Tim Tams and Milo.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Thank You, Captain Obvious

My husband and I have been emailing back and forth to help the day pass more quickly, which includes making plans to have lunch together tomorrow at Dupont Circle. He suggested we go get a Krispy Kreme donut for dessert afterwards. I quickly agreed and then thought, “I bet we could make donuts.” Then I realized, “We could probably make anything.” This apparently is the week for realizing the obvious.

But seriously, have you ever realized that if there’s a food you like, you could probably just make it? I’ve always been into cooking, but I don’t think I’ve ever framed it in that way. It’s empowering to think that if I eat at a delicious restaurant I can try to emulate the food instead of saving up my pennies to go out to eat there again.

One time I was talking to my BFF on the phone and he said in the most earnest voice ever, “Meg, I just realized something. Windows are walls that you can see through.” I laughed at him and then I was like, “Totally, Dude.” That’s probably why we’re friends. (And that’s how I talk in real life. Sad, but true.)

Do you ever have revelations of the obvious?

The Simple Woman's Daybook Meme

I'm doing this meme as part of Friend Makin' Mondays.

The Simple Woman's Daybook

Outside my window...I see grey skies and traffic.
I am thinking....about next weekend.
I am have work this week.
I am reading...The Washington Examiner and The Beautiful Soul of John Woolman, Apostle of Abolition.
I am entries!
From the kitchen...this weekend came sourdough bread that wasn't heavy, hopefully the starter will create pizza crust later this week.
Around the house...I'm air drying my laundry. My living room looks like a normal person's backyard on a breezy, sunny spring day.
One of my favorite crisp, clean sheets on the bed. Nothings feels quite as delicious as sliding into a fresh bed.
A few plans for the rest of the week...I'm working for the rest of the week at this temp job that I do not like, but this is my last scheduled week of work. So I plan on applying for more jobs and getting ready for my cousin's visit, our annual Super Bowl party, our trip to New York next month, and making some decisions about international travel plans for the rest of the year.

Rainy Monday

It was a good weekend: we played bocce ball and were finally successful at making bread on Saturday, on Sunday we ran errands and went to the movies; the latter is a rare treat.

But today...ugh, today it is dark and rainy. I want to be in bed with hot chocolate, pizza, and my cat. Weird, I know, but this is my fantasy. You can have your own un-weird fantasy.

Here's hoping you make it through this Monday.

Friday, January 22, 2010

I Can Do Whatever I Want

You know how being an adult sucks like 99% of the time? You have to go to work. You have to clean the smelly stuff out of the fridge. You have to pay bills. You have to worry about insurance. The list continues ad nauseam.

At 6:15 am I discovered one awesome thing about being an adult: I can do whatever I want.

I had just finished eating my oatmeal and was rinsing my bowl out in the sink and suddenly I really wanted a grilled cheese sandwich. My first thought was, "You can't have a grilled cheese sandwich. It's 6:15 in the morning and you just ate breakfast." My second thought was, "Who cares? I can do whatever I want." (Yes, I back-talked myself.) What an amazing realization! Adults can do whatever they want.

I can stay up as late as I want. I can go out on school nights. I don't have to do my chores until I feel like it. I can't be grounded. Whatever I want. Even if I want to eat a grilled cheese sandwich before sunrise, I can do it. So suck it, kids with your carefree lifestyles! Being an adult is awesome.

What do you love about being an adult?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Quick Tips for Bras

Since I've already told you all about my deodorant, I thought I'd just go ahead and make this TMI week here at Unintended Housewife.

When my in-laws were here last weekend, we did our Christmas gift exchange. As usual, I got a crisp $50 bill, among other things! Guess what I'm going to do with it. What I do with it every year: buy new bras.

For a long time I adjusted my bras incorrectly. Once I figured out what I was doing wrong, it changed everything. I'm voluptuous, so support is important.

When you buy a new bra, find one that feels a little tight on the loosest hook. Bras stretch over time, so you want to be able to use the tighter hooks as the bra loses elasticity.

Most of the bra's support should be coming from the back, not the straps. If you've got your straps cinched tightly or they're digging into your shoulders, it's probably an indication that you need a smaller back size. Loosen the straps, but tighten the back. It will feel better instantly.

Though the back size you're wearing is probably too big, your cup size is probably too small. The cup should hold all of your breast tissue, including the tissue on the sides and at the top. I can't tell you how many women I see with quad-boobs because their bra cup is cutting into their breast. (Yes, I can see it through their tight shirts.)

Even if you know your size, you should still try bras on before you buy because each manufacturer makes each bra differently. This drives me crazy because I prefer shopping online, but I always try bras on.

If you're going to wear a white or light colored top, choose a nude bra. I once had an ex-boyfriend who called these "granny-colored" bras. They may not be sexy, but they're very necessary. White shows through white. Similarly, if you're wearing a dark top, it's best to wear either a nude bra or a black bra because a light colored bra shows through black clothing if a flash photograph is taken.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Making Getting Ready Just a Little Easier

I recently had another "no duh" moment. I shower at night, but put my deodorant on in the morning when I get dressed. All these years I had been keeping my deodorant in the bathroom, because, well, that's where deodorant goes, right? Well, it finally occurred to me, that the number one rule of organization--store it where you use it--could apply to my deodorant too.

I'm now keeping my deodorant in my bedroom, where it is so much more convenient and streamlines my getting ready in the morning. This idea probably won't work for everybody, especially those who shower in the morning, but it works for me.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

When Life Gives You Lemons...

We had two big projects this weekend. First, my in-laws stayed with us for three days and yes, it was a project. Let me just say that I don't know who raised my husband because he is the happiest, most easy-going guy and they, well, are not.

Our other project didn't turn out so well either, but we made the best of it, too. Chuk and I attempted to make sourdough bread for the first time ever. Things seemed to be going well, until the second rising when the loaves just didn't rise very much. My mother-in-law said they would rise more in the oven. She was wrong.

Wow, that is some ugly bread!

The flavor of the bread was good, but the texture was not what we were looking for. We wanted chewy, airy loaves and instead got heavy, dense loaves. But because we don't like to waste anything, we turned the bread into a dish we couldn't stop eating on our trip to the Baltics a couple of years ago. It is called kepta duona in Lithuanian. I can't remember what they are called in Estonian or Latvian. In the Baltics it's served as an appetizer with beer, but I think it's hearty enough for a (heart-attack inducing) vegetarian main course. It's shallow fried bread with garlic and cheese, so you know right off the bat it's good.

Kepta Duona

Dense Bread
Chopped Garlic
Mild White Cheese (Jack or Mozzarella)

Slice the bread into long, thin fingers while you're heating 1/2" of oil in a pan on the stove to medium high heat. Fry your bread in batches until each strip is toasty and golden on both sides, being careful not to crowd the pan. As you remove the bread strips from the pan, drain them on paper towels and salt them like they're French fries then throw on LOTS of chopped garlic. Finally, sprinkle shredded cheese on top and allow to melt before eating.
(I used cheddar because that's all I had defrosted. They use a milder cheese in the Baltics.)

Are you salivating yet? I am. I wasn't kidding when I said heart attack on a plate, but I'm not advocating you eat these everyday and they're not much worse than garlic cheese fries, which was my favorite appetizer when I lived in California. (I have yet to see garlic fries on an East coast menu!) Is my rationalization working?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Reflections on Martin Luther King Jr.

In September 1947, my maternal grandparents got married in Mexico because it was illegal for them to marry in the United States. My grandmother was an immigrant from the Philippines and my grandfather was an American. From 1913-1948, 30 out of 48 states banned interracial marriage and it wasn't until 1967 that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled all anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional.

My grandparents made a life for themselves in Louisiana, eventually having seven children. My mother, born in 1949, was the oldest. Her features were more South Asian-looking than Caucasian. She tells stories about the 1950s, when other children used to chase her and throw rocks at her calling her "N!gger" because of her dark skin.

From 1942-1945, 120000 people of Japanese descent living in the U.S. were removed from their homes and placed in internment camps. In the early 1960s, my paternal grandparents, my uncle and my father moved to Japan when the army stationed my grandfather there. They decided to adopt my aunt from a Japanese orphanage, and when they discovered a year later that she had a biological brother, an orphan being raised in a Buddhist monastery, they adopted him too. When the family was re-stationed back in the U.S. in the mid-1960s, my grandmother's sister would no longer speak to her because she "didn't trust the Japanese" and her distrust extended to her five and seven year old niece and nephew.

In September 2001, I came to Washington for the first time and stood in the exact spot where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech 38 years earlier, looked out over the Mall, and got goosebumps.

In January 2009, I stood at the WWII Memorial and watched Barrack Obama stand on those same steps leading up to the Lincoln Memorial, where I had stood and Dr. King had stood, and listened to him talk about change in America. Two days later, at the other end of the Mall, I listened to him again, this time taking the oath of office as our first interracial president. For two years people had been asking, "Is America ready for a black president?" The nation answered "yes".

In August 1963, Dr. King told us his dreams. "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character...I have a dream that one day...little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers."

To Dr. King I say, dreams do come true. Maybe not in your all-too-short lifetime, but in mine, for my family, your dreams of racial justice have come true.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Put Your Comments Where Your Mouth Is

In case you haven't heard, the Pioneer Woman is giving away one dime for every person who comments on this post. When I commented, the total donation amount just from comments was over $2,500.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

H3: Entertaining Is Easier Than You Think

I hear the same myths about entertaining over and over again. It's expensive. It's a lot of work. I'm just not very good at it. I don't have a big enough kitchen. If you've ever thought any of those things I have one word to say to you: hogwash!

I'm lazy, bad at smalltalk, have almost no money, a small apartment and a tiny kitchen and I have people over anyway. I want to debunk some common myths about "entertaining" and encourage you to do it more.

It's expensive. You might find it hard to believe, but having people over saves me money. You're going to see your friends one way or another and your choices are pretty much go out and see them or have them over. (You could go to their place, but if you do that every time, you're just becoming a mooch. Consult Miss Manners about reciprocating hospitality.) I can't think of a single scenario when entertaining at home is more expensive than hosting an even of a similar caliber away from home. I can host a movie night for six for $5. That's less than the cost of a small popcorn at the theater. I can throw a dinner party for four for the cost of an appetizer at Olive Garden. The cost goes down even further if you have a potluck.

It's a lot of work. As I've stated many, many times I'm pretty much the laziest person who ever existed. If I can do it, you can do it. Besides, it's really not that much work. Clean up your home; text your friends; turn on the radio; and open a bag of chips and a jar of salsa. Voila! You've just had a party in four easy steps.

Yes, sometimes (oftentimes) I add more steps or make the steps more complicated, but honestly, you don't have to. Do you really want to be friends with someone who is going to judge you for not dusting the tops of your picture frames or because you didn't make a centerpiece? No, you don't. And guess what, they're not going to judge you for those things because they think you're awesome and want to hang out with you. Also, because you're giving them free beer. (If you're going to add steps, that's a good one to add.)

Make it even easier by enlisting the help of your significant other. Single? Co-host with a friend. Plus, there are tons of great resources out there to take some of the stress away from planning an event. Personally, I love Evite (they have a great beverage calculator too), Martha Stewart (for inspiration, not emulation), Miss Manners, Food Network (for recipes), and other bloggers.

I'm not very good at it. Start small until you build your confidence. Invite your best friend over to watch a movie. Next time, invite your parents over for dinner. Then invite three friends over to play a game and make sandwiches for them. Before you know it you're "entertaining", but really, you're just doing what you normally do and calling it a different name.

I think it's the word "entertaining" that's what throws people off. It's intimidating. It implies that you have to do something to entertain people, when really you don't. I think certain TV shows set too high a standard. Remember the people on those shows are extraordinary (and I mean that in the sense that they're not ordinary). Ordinary people have limited time, patience and money. So stop comparing yourself to others. Think of entertaining as a synonym of hanging out and you'll be alright.

I don't have a big enough kitchen/apartment/dining room. The solution to this is simple: don't invite so many people over. You can still have all of your friends over, just not all at once. There's no rule that says you have to have fifty people over for it to count as "entertaining".

When Chuk and I moved in together we made the trade-off to have a smaller kitchen/dining room/living room space in order to get an extra bedroom/office. It was a major downsizing of public space for both of us, especially Chuk. It was initially a concern for us, but we've adapted and we can still have people over, even in our small apartment.

We gave away Chuk's rectangular dining table and kept my round dining table for four...we can squeeze six people around it for dinner parties. We can squeeze more people into our apartment by encouraging people to circulate, which utilizes all the space. We do this by keeping drinks on one table and food on another table across the room. If you do want to have a lot of people over and they're going to need to sit (like for a movie or a football game), think about alternative seating. Can you use floor cushions? Pull chairs from other rooms? Heck, we've even used our camping chairs to seat guests before. It felt ghetto at the time, but our guests thought it was cool.

I often hear it said, "I need a kitchen big enough for entertaining. People always hang out in the kitchen at a party." That's a bunch of baloney. People hang out in the kitchen for one of two reasons: 1. That's where the food is or 2. That's where you are. Get the food and drinks out of the kitchen. I promise, it will change everything about the mood of your parties. As for #2, make sure you're done preparing for the party BEFORE your guests arrive. That sounds like such a no-brainer, but nobody is ever ready when their guests arrive. This puts the guests in an awkward position of feeling like they need to help you or else they have to hang out alone in another room. Build a thirty minute cushion into your prep time. That way, you have time to resolve any problems that arise before guests get there. If no problems arise, then you have thirty minutes to relax; if you're at ease, your guests will be relaxed and at ease.

How do you entertain? What's your best tip for having guests over?

I'll Show You Mine if You Show Me Your's‏

How much do you spend at the store? While my mom and her husband were visiting us over the holidays, I told them how much we budget for food, toiletries, cleaning supplies, etc. and my mom said, "I don't know how you can live like that." It was surprising to me 1. because it seemed kind of bitchy and rude and 2. because based on what I've read of other people's budgets on their blogs, I thought we spent a lot more than other people.

So I'm going to ask you a personal question: What's your food budget and how do you break down your expenses?

Because I know you're not going to tell me anything unless I tell you first, I'll start. We budget $300/month for a category we call "food". This includes basically everything we buy at a grocery or drugstore (including non-edibles) and eating out. We eat out maybe twice a month, and that figure includes fast food. Things from the stores include all the ingredients for the food we make at home, cat food, paper goods, cleaning supplies (mostly laundry detergent, vinegar, and baking soda), shampoo and other toiletries, but not my cosemetics because I like the fancy stuff. Sometimes we spend more than the $300, but sometimes we spend less. These figures are for two adults and a cat and our frequent guests. (We have people over probably 2-3 times per month.)

Now it's your turn. I really, REALLY want to know how much you spend so I can tell how well (or not well) I'm doing. Do you keep track of your food and non-edible groceries seperately like Amy Dacyczyn? Is your going out to eat budget separate from your grocery food budget? What about your entertaining budget? Do you budget at all? And while I'm being nosy, how often do you eat out?

Please share in comments (you can do it anonymously!) so we can all learn. This will give the low-spenders encouragement to keep on keepin' on and the high spenders a target for what they can achieve...and hopefully tips for how to get there.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

What I'm Loving Today

1. This quote from Dolly Parton:
"I'm not going to limit myself just because people won't accept the fact that I can do something else. "

2. These ideas for committing random acts of happiness. I'm totally going to start doing these "missions".

Operation Beautiful

You Are Remarkable

Operation Nice

3. My sister sent me this link last week and it's been cracking me up ever since. Seriously, I laugh so hard that I cry. Chuk doesn't think it's laugh-out-loud funny; if profanity bothers you, you won't think it's funny either. It has R-rated language and themes; don't say I didn't warn you.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Money Saving Kitchen Tool

One of the best ways to save money in the kitchen is to waste NOTHING. The best tool to help you do this (besides your creativity) is a rubber spatula. I use it to get the last bit of batter from the bowl and to get the reside from the sides of cans and jars.

If your containers don't look clean after getting the food out, you haven't gotten all the food out yet. You can get an extra cookie or muffin from the sides of a bowl and whole extra serving out of an "empty" jar of peanut butter, mayonnaise, jam, tomato sauce, etc. just by scraping with a spatula. That's real food you'd otherwise be throwing away.

My spatulas work for me; I use them everyday. Little by little, they have more than paid for themselves over the years in food savings.

What tools save you money?

Hello, frugality; goodbye, good life?‏

I recently read this article and it made me mad. The central thesis is that the good life is made up of $5 coffee, gourmet supermarket food, $3,000 handbags, and McMansions and now that hard economic realities have forced many of us to give up "paying a premium for food and clothing, popping for lavish trips and entertainment or taking out a mortgage for way more house than we needed" the good times are over.

First of all, that assumes that everyone who could do those things when the market was flush did them and I don't think they did. What about all those people who chose (and continue to choose) voluntary simplicity, who drink water (from the tap, gasp!) instead of buying coffee out, who have no desire for a handbag with someone else's initials on it, and who read the fine print on their mortgage before signing on the dotted line?

And even for those who are recent converts to coupon clipping, staycations, and free redbox codes, who says their lives are any less rich just because their bank accounts are smaller? While the economic downturn has meant many of us are having to make do with fewer material comforts, the big surprise is that it has brought more intangible comforts.

For me, unemployment has meant more family time, less rushing about, more appreciation for what I do have, and a greater sense of contentment. I would be lying if I said that I never felt bummed about not being able to buy something I wanted or that I didn't miss going on vacation more frequently, but I try to temper those negative feelings with a sense of satisfaction that I have less clutter and more quality time at home.

The good life isn't gone, it's just different.

What do you think? Can you still have the good life without extra cash? What constitutes the good life for you?

Monday, January 11, 2010

A Little Light Housekeeping

I want to take a moment to thank everyone who commented on this post about changing one's name. I think it's really interesting to hear everyone's story and the reasons they chose to either change or keep their name. It shows how much diversity there is in this world and the factors that influence our decisions. I really appreciated everyone taking the time to share.

Now that I've mentioned sharing, some readers have said they want to know more about me and I've responded by trying to write more about my thoughts on certain topics or things that are going on in my life, but I don't know if that's what you had in mind. Are there specific things you want to know or do you just want more of the same--me blabbing on about whatever pops into my head? Is there anything you want me to stop writing about?

Friday, January 8, 2010

Are You Freaking Kidding Me: Costco Edition

You know how they say Disneyland is the happiest place on earth? Not for me. For me, Costco is my happy place. If bigamy was legal (and marrying inanimate objects was legal), I would marry Costco, even though we were in a fight for like three months. (Seriously Costco, why'd you put out Christmas stuff before Labor Day? Not cool. You know I don't like to see anything Christmas-y until after Thanksgiving.)

One of the many, many things I love about Costco is their food court. Yummy, yummy food for great prices. (Their pizza is one of my favorite pizzas ever and it only costs $10 for a giant one!) But even though the prices are great, they're not free. Apparently someone doesn't know that though. I have seen the same man steal soda from Costco on three separate trips. He takes a free cup, which is only supposed to be for water, and fills it with soda. A soda with unlimited refills only costs $0.59.

I know stealing is always wrong, but stealing something that is so cheap seems extra wrong to me.

This pisses me off 1) because I don't like to see my boyfriend (Costco) getting ripped off, and 2) because there's always some guy who has to ruin it for the rest of us. I often use the free water cups (FOR WATER) but if people keep stealing soda with them, then I think Costco will stop providing them.

I would confront the man, but he's hella old and uses a walker. I'm intimidated by the walker.

What would you do if you saw this? Where is your happy place?

Beauty on My Way to Work this Morning, Part 2

We got a light dusting of snow overnight. It was just a couple of inches, but enough to make everything look wintery and beautiful.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Thoughts on Changing One's Name After Marriage

"What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." Juliet agrees with me!

We rarely get paper mail from people we know and like anymore, so this isn't normally an issue, but in December, when we were getting seasonal cards, I can't tell you how many were addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Chuk Chuksmith. (Note: His first name isn't really Chuk and his last name isn't Chuksmith; I'm just trying to make a point.) What is most odd to me about this situation is that every single person who addressed the envelopes knows I didn't change my last name when I got married.

It's not that I find this offensive, but I do find it puzzling. What's so wrong with not changing my name? Why do they care? Why are they unwilling to comply with my preference? Their actions send me the message that they don't approve of my choice. I don't need their approval, but it makes me feel the need to educate. Unfortunately for you, I can't sit down with each of them and explain my numerous reasons, so I'm educating the public at-large.

My name is a connection to my family of origin. My father died very unexpectedly less than two months after I got engaged. I never got to say goodbye. His last name is something of his that I can "carry" with me everyday.

I got married when I was 29. Being an older bride, my achievements are in my maiden name. Degrees, references, publications, and professional history have a hard time staying associated with you if you change you name. I got my Master's degree three months before I was engaged; earning it was incredibly hard work; I want that diploma hanging on my office wall to have my name on it, not my former name.

I'm involved in some complicated legal issues involving my late father's and late grandparents' estates; changing my name midway through would cost more money and complicate things further and it's already hard enough for me to deal with that crap as it is.

Changing your name is time-consuming and I'm lazy.

Historically, the reason women's names were changed when they married was because they became their husband's property. (This is also the reason slaves had the same last names as their masters.) I don't want to be associated with that legacy. (Another fun fact: In China, women don't change their surnames when they marry.)

I asked Chuk if he would ever change his last name. He absolutely wouldn't. He wouldn't even think about both of us hyphenating our last names. What's good for the goose is good for the gander.

When discussing this issue with people before I had made a final decision, no one could come up with a single reason why a person should change her name other than tradition. Well, actually, my sister-in-law said the reason she changed her last name when she married was so that she could have the same last name as her future children. This supposes that 1) I plan on having children in the future, which is definitely not a guarantee, and 2) That even if I did have children that they would be given Chuk's last name, which is also not a guarantee. I mean seriously, I would be the one doing all the hard work for the first 40 weeks and that's not even counting breastfeeding. But I digress. Point is, when I weighed my pros and cons, there were no pros. (Keeping a meaningless tradition alive is not a pro to me.)

Now, I fear I may sound more strident than I really am on this issue. Keeping my name was what was right for me. The vast majority of my female friends and family members changed their last names when they married and I think that's rad. It's rad because it's what they wanted to do. I did what I wanted to do and now people act all judge-y.

A little more than a month ago, I was talking to a group of women who all happened to be DAR members (I mention that to illustrate that they were all kind of traditional, well-mannered women who were all familiar with proper etiquette) none of whom I'd seen since before my wedding. One of the ladies asked, "You changed your name when you got married?" When I answered in the negative, all the women had difficulty concealing their surprise. They said things like, "Oh, um, well, my neighbor's sister hyphenated her last name when she married." As if I had just revealed I had some rare and shameful disease and they were still trying to relate to me, except mine was the worst case they had ever heard of.

So because this is still a public service announcement, and because I know you never want to be that guy, if you want to know if a newlywed has changed her last name (I admit you do need to know!) but don't want her to secretly blog about you for doing so later, ask her if either of them are planning on changing their names. Bonus points: ask her if her husband is changing his name. After a year and a half of engagement, and nine and a half months of marriage, not one single person has ever asked Chuk if he was going to change his last name/had changed his last name. Scores of people have asked me.

Learning the Same Lesson Again and Again

I will not be less tired five minutes after initially pressing the snooze button. I will be less tired if I go to bed earlier.

Please coffee, do your job quickly today.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Strategies for Coping with Cold Temperatures

The cold weather I'm experiencing doesn't appear to be isolated to my region; it seems nearly the entire northern hemisphere is having an unusually cold winter. Here are some ideas that are working for me in coping with the chilly conditions:

Bundling Up: The vast majority of people I hear complaining about the weather are people who are wearing far fewer clothes than I am. If you're in a mini-skirt with only one pair of tights on, I don't want to hear about how cold you are.

I'm an advocate of layers, preferably in animal-derived fabrics like wool, cashmere, leather and silk. Cotton just isn't as good an insulator. I like "performance" fabrics too (man-made fabrics that are engineered with special insulating and/or wicking properties), but find that these tend to be pricey and don't integrate into my everyday wardrobe as easily. If you have ethical concerns about animal fabrics, these are an especially good option.

My general formula for layers on the top are shirt + sweater + coat and then double at least one of the components. For instance, today I'm wearing two shirts, one sweater, a blazer and a coat. Bonus: Layers are in style this season!

In cold weather, I always wear at least two pairs of pants (silk thermal pants under regular pants being my favorite combination) but have had success wearing up to four pairs of pants. (Unlike most people whose hands or feet normally get cold, I'm a freak and it's my legs that are always cold.)

Also, your mom was right; wear a hat. Top the whole look off with a scarf and gloves.

Thoughts on gloves: Commit to one style of gloves for the rest of your life. That way when (not if) you lose a glove, you can save the one you still have and match it when subsequent pairs of gloves lose their mate. I prefer cashmere lined black leather gloves.

Dry Skin, Nails, and Hair: Where I live, cold weather means very low humidity which causes my skin to become very dry. I've even had my skin crack open and bleed from dryness.

Showering less frequently is one way to reduce skin's dry, itchy feeling. If you can't go a day without bathing, try to take shorter, cooler showers.

Exfoliate! If exfoliation had a fan club, I'd be its president. I exfoliate year 'round because I think it keeps my skin feeling soft, makes me look younger and prevents wrinkles, but in winter exfoliation has the added benefit of getting rid of dry, flaky, itchy skin. Both chemical (glycolic acid, alpha hydroxy acid, etc.) and manual (scrubs, textured washcloths, etc.) exfoliation are effective in getting rid of itchy skin.

If you haven't already, try a milder soap. I love deodorant body soap in the summer when I'm always sweaty, sticky and gross, but in the winter, I want soothing, moisturizing soap. Savon de Marseilles is one great option.

You're probably already moisturizing, but are you moisturizing your nails too? I find that my normally strong nails are much more likely to break in winter. Keeping them lubricated helps them to maintain their strength and flexibility. One inexpensive, but controversial, way to do this is slathering your hands and nails with petroleum jelly before going to bed. It was good enough for my grandmothers and it works better than anything else I've tried so I'm going to stick with it even though some people believe it poses certain health risks. (WebMD also recommends petroleum jelly.)

Prevent hair damage in winter months by never going outside with wet hair. It is better to blow dry than go outside in cold weather with wet hair. If you don't want to blow dry, wash your hair at night so you don't have to go out with a wet head.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Goals for the New Year

Isn't goal so much less intimidating than "resolution"?

Improve relationship
I love my husband, but I'm not going to lie and say every second of every day is wonderful and marvolous. You know what I mean? (If you don't, email me immediately because I'm seriously interested in what you're doing in your relationship.) We disagree about certain issues and he does stuff that bugs me. In short, there are things I want him to change. (Note, I fully acknowledge that I also do stuff that bugs him and there are things he wants me to change, too.) This year, I want to persuade him to change those behaviors, change my behavior, and generally grow our love.

Get healthier
When I was an undergrad, I would go to parties almost every weekend and dance (enthusiastic, booty-shaking dancing) for four hours without stopping. A year ago, I started getting winded during a one and a half hour ballroom dance class. In November, at a wedding, I got tired from dancing after three songs. I need to build my stamina back up. I also need to lose some weight. Two words: portion control.

Make a new friend
When I moved to D.C., I didn't know a single person here. I made some friends, but no one I felt really close to. Then even all those not-so-close friends moved away over the last year or two. (This is a notoriously transient area.) I want to make a close friend, someone I can not only hang out with, but someone in whom I can confide. I have Chuk, but I want someone else besides him.

Get a job
This isn't totally in my hands, but I can work harder to achieve it. I still have a good prospect for a permanent job, a current temp assignment, a strategy, and a plan. Though the unemployment rate keeps rising, the improving economy gives me hope that the job market will turn around this year.
"I'm a great believer in luck and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it." -Thomas Jefferson

Learn to sew
I got a sewing machine for my birthday and want to learn how to use it. Though the process seems intuitive enough, the lowest grade I ever got in junior high was in home ec because of my failed attempt to make a stuffed animal. I'm hoping the six seasons of watching Project Runway I've gotten under my belt since then will be the difference between success and failure.

Get better at embroidery
I currently know three stiches and am not very good even at those. This year, I hope to learn more stitches and get better at performing them. I've got four new dishtowels I'll be practicing on.

Go to Ireland
Perhaps this is more of a wish than a goal, but nevertheless, this is my list and I'll put whatever I want on it.

What are your goals for the year? For the decade?

Beauty on my Way to Work this Morning

The tiniest snowflakes fluttering slowly, as if in suspended animation.

My hot breath making clouds in the cold air.

Frozen blades of grass crunching underfoot.

Still, icy shards on the Potomac.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Last Days of Last Year

The last days of 2009:

We went to see the National Christmas Tree, where Chuk and my aunt’s husband Steve made snow angels on the ellipse and we had our picture taken with Santa.

There were a LOT of presents and a lot of food (on my inherited china) on Christmas Day.

We went to George Washington’s home, Mt. Vernon. I wore two pairs of pants, three sweaters and a coat; Chuk wore shorts. It was 17 degrees with wind chill. (These pictures have forced me to acknowledge my coat is very unflattering.)

We took a road trip to Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello. Another cold day, but it was nice to see it in another season besides summer. It was decorated with beautiful fruit wreaths.

We also went to the Smithsonian’s Air & Space Museum, to see the movie Avatar in 3-D, had lunch with a dear friend who was in town briefly from San Diego, watched our beloved Caps practice, and went wig shopping in Old Town Alexandria. (I didn't get a wig, but my aunt did.) I finally made a snowman (!) and ate stingray for the first time. It tasted like a cross between alligator and chicken, but not in the good way.

They were full, (mostly) happy days.

Friday, January 1, 2010

First Day of the New Year

I had high hopes for the new year. Maybe I set the bar too high. I don’t know, but it started off bad. Less than an hour into it, I almost got arrested. I’m not going to get into it, except to say it was uncalled for. Then I allowed myself to get annoyed at a friend and then at Chuk. I felt mistreated and I was mad at the world.

After finally getting to bed around 5:30 am, I woke up sometime after noon and felt crappy. I was hoping the slate would be wiped clean in the new year, that I would get a fresh start, and my luck would turn around; this clearly was not happening. Then, while doing some blog surfing, I came across this post on a blog I had never been to before and something clicked.

If I was having a crappy day and was going to interpret that as another crappy year, then it was up to ME to do something about it. My life isn’t going to suddenly get better because a clock ticked over to midnight; my life is only going to get better if I make it what I want it to be.

I walked into the living room where Chuk was watching hockey and said, “Do you want to have a spontaneous adventure right now?” Both of us were in our pajamas. Less than twenty minutes later we were out the door. He said yes and we had agreed to “go to the ocean.”

We decided not to look up directions or use maps, thinking it would be more adventurous to rely solely on the compass in my car. “If we keep going east, eventually we’ll get to the ocean” I reasoned. We ended up at Rehoboth Beach, Delaware after dark, but it didn’t matter. Without the aid of maps, our route was not the most direct. Also, we took brief detours at the Annapolis State House and an ice cream parlor. In the car, we sang along to David Bowie and the Rolling Stones, played a game, talked about our goals for the new year, and watched a beautiful sunset. At the beach, we took a walk in the pitch black night. When suddenly the almost full moon appeared from behind the clouds, we danced in the moonlight. We had dinner in a seafood restaurant and drove back home.

Despite the bad start, it was a good day. Hopefully it’ll be a good year, but it’s going to be up to me to make it that way.