Friday, May 16, 2014

My Current Obsessions

As this blog is still a sort of journal for me, I thought it would be fun to post a little list of things I'm currently pretty obsessed with.  PLUS, since I'm not able to see all of you as much, this can count as small talk!

Air Plants - I went to a Meetup with Crafty Girl Austin probably about a month ago.  I attended the Mason Jar Terrarium class and quickly fell in love with the air plants that are very diffucult to kill.  {Thanks, Anna!}  I SUCK at plants.  I pretty much kill anything...  I've successfully killed cacti, as well as succelents.  My mom was appalled.  Sorry, Mom.  BUT, thus far, I've kept my little gem alive, and I'm increasing my crop.  I've harvested two wild air plants, and this week purchased two new Tillandsia and given them some pretty fantastic homes!  Not only are they GREEN, but you can make it crafty by interior decorating for your new friends. 

Nude & Mint - If you've seen my blog or seen me lately, you know I've been obsessed with the color mint for over a year.  I have tons of mint clothing, jewelry, furniture, and so on.  Recently, I've been getting in to the nude color trend.  I bought a pair of earrings in Vegas, have my eyes out for nail polish, and comment on everything that is nude.  Loving IT!

Earrings - Speaking of earrings, I have SO many pairs!  Whenever I travel, I try to purchase earrings as my souvenir.  That way, when I wear them and someone compliments or asks about them, it brings back good memories!  Also, when shopping the local artist booths and markets, earrings are usually a cheaper and easier buy than a necklace or bracelet. 

Wafflers - Have you heard of these?  If not, avoidavoidavoid or you will be eating them every damn day.  They are Eggo Waffles, with syrup/flavor baked right in, and they break in half for easy consumption and travel.  For breakfast, they are great with peanut butter, and for a treat - IFYOUDARE- eat them with Nutella and slowly experience heaven.  We got them at Sam's Club, and they run about $10 for 96 of them!  I'm doomed to have a waffle tummy.

Sweets - My sweet tooth has been out of control since we moved to Austin.  I'm really surprised I haven't gained weight, as I'm indulging often!  At work, we have tons of birthdays and leftovers from catered lunches that are hard to resist.  Also, the food scene here is fantastic and it's really hard to avoid the delicious, hand crafted desserts and treats.  I'm going to enjoy while I can :)

Game of Thrones - We got caught up on GoT just before this season started, and now HATE the fact that we have to wait a week to watch again.  Not having read the books, the show is exciting and unpredictable for us.  If you haven't seen the series, it's worth the investment.  This is TOTALLY not my type of show, and I was hooked on the first episode.  Peter Dinklage, I can't wait to see what you're up to next. 

Traveling - I want to go EVERYWHERE!  Like, now...  One of the reasons we moved down south is because it's much cheaper to travel to certain areas.  The Bahamas, for example, has been on my list for a year or two.  South and Central America are more accessible and tempting as well.  Hopefully, we have some island visiting in our future!  I also want to visit Louisiana, West Texas (specifically, Marfa and El Cosmico), and the Grand Canyon. 

Goats, Hound Dogs, and Kittens - Let it be known that I am a five-year-old-child when it comes to animals.  Of any sort.  Don't take me to the zoo unless you want to be embarassed.  Luckily, my husband doesn't mind and indulges my craziness.  We've decided that when we buy a house, one of our necessities will be "room for a goat".  I WANT A DAMN GOAT.  They are so freaking cute, and although they can easily create a disaster of anything, I want one.  I also am missing my hound dog, Rex, as we can hear a hound in our neighborhood howling when he's home alone.  It makes me sad and I want to play with him!  We also have been considering a kitty.  We decided it would be okay to get one and Mike offered me one for my birthday.  I decided against it, after a lot of extra consideration, because we will likely be moving again soon, and I don't want my Lola to feel any less loved!  For now, kitty-sitting for the neighbor cat, Patti, will keep me happy.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

What Are You IN To?

Something about me...

I'm not particularly "in to" anything specific.  I don't feel like I have a passion right now.  There's nothing I MUST have.  Nothing I MUST do. 

What is your passion?  Does something keep you going every day?

For me, sometimes I feel a little down about it.  I'm not pursuing a dream job, I don't have something I'm dying to get home to (besides my husband, obviously).  I don't feel a fire in me, pulling me in a certain direction.  Especially since leaving college, now I don't have my sorority or student government, etc to keep me busy.

I think this is the source of my recent "baby-fever".  Maybe my passion is being a mom?  Maybe that's what I'm meant to do?!  Don't worry, we're not trying to get pregnant.  I'm smart enough to know that it is not the case, but it definitely did cross my mind.  What am I here for? 

When we first moved to Austin and started meeting new people, they would ask, "what are your hobbies"?  To which I NEVER knew what to say!  Drinking beer on a patio..??  Does that count as a hobby?  I like to watch movies and drink wine on a Friday night...  How LAME AM I?

I am not an athlete, I don't crochet, I don't do yoga, I am not involved in a church... You get the gist.  There's nothing that I must have or do to get me through the day.  I felt kind of stupid for not having a definitive answer.  And it made me look at myself a little harder.  But I guess not everyone has that one thing.  Maybe I just haven't figured it out yet...

So, what are my hobbies?

I love to go junking.  For me, it' s a hunt.  I love thinking of  new ways to use items, or how I can fix them up.  I've really been getting in to rehabbing projects and upcycling finds.  We now have a back yard, and of course a garage, that I can use to go wild with ideas.  And I always have my trusty husband on hand to hold/lift/help with things.  He's a gem. 

I also like supporting local talents.  Whether that be jewelry, candles, music, or food.  {Okay, those might all be things I'm "in to", but not a passion or a hobby.}  I love visiting local shops, flea markets, coffee shops, restaurants with live music, etc. 

For now, I guess my "thing" is just trying NEW things.  New food (we recently had Cuban and Poly-Fusion), yoga is on my list, as is bollywood dance.  I want to do more hiking, more crafting, and more picture taking.  I guess right now, I have nothing holding me back, and no one telling me what to do.  All the more reason to keep trying. 

Does anyone else feel like this? 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Utilizing Temp and Staffing Agencies

I know a lot of people that get really turned off by the thought of a staffing or temporary placement agency.  I'm here to tell you why it's worth it.

My first summer after college, I quit my job in sales after three months and worked in Colorado for two weeks filling in for someone.  My now-sister-in-law told me about using temp agencies between jobs to keep the cash flow going.  I had never even heard of them, but looked into it upon my return to Minnesota.  After a callback from an agency, and a quick interview with paperwork, I got a call to start a job at Wells Fargo. 

I temped at Wells Fargo for 18 months.  That was a long time.  Exceptionally long from what I know about the temporary staffing world.  This is one of the negatives...but likely will not be your experience.  You are also not getting a 401K matched, benefits, etc.  BUT if you choose, you can carry benefits through your staffing agency and put money away into an IRA or whatever you prefer.  And I was lucky enough to have a husband with excellent benefits to cover me. 

Another negative is that you are very at-will.  Should there be staff cuts or layoffs, temps are going to be released first.  But your temporary status also makes it a bit easier to leave if your dream job comes along. 

And now for the positives! 

-- It is generally easy to get hired for a job QUICKLY.  Provided you are an acceptable candidate.

--Pay is generally higher than normal because the company is in a pinch and will pay for someone to start fast.

-- There are long term temporary positions, so that you are not having to go to a new office every week or two.  You can really settle in to your work environment. 

-- But, if you have a funky schedule, you can let them know exactly when you are available and you can be placed for short term positions that work for you. 

-- Vacation is easier to obtain (although it is unpaid).  For instance, I was able to take almost two weeks off for my wedding, without problems or worrying about running out of PTO. 

-- Some staffing agencies offer DIRECT HIRE positions.  This basically means that someone finds you a job matching your wants and needs for free.  Hellooooo, stress relief!

-- If you are hired after completing a temporary assignment, my experiences have come with a large raise.  At each of my jobs, when being asked to come on with the company, I was offered a three dollar raise.  Add that to the already higher starting wage, and you're sitting pretty good!

-- You can also usually avoid interviews, as you are generally placed at an assignment without going to the site prior to your first day, AND if they decide to hire you, they already know you and won't have to put you through the ringer ;)

Some Extra Advice:

  • Make sure your agency knows exactly what you're looking for, and don't be afraid to turn down positions that are not the right fit.  You want to stay on your agency's good side, and not completing assignments might lead to trouble. 

  • Keep your staffing coordinator in the loop while you are on assignment.  They like to know how things are going and can advocate on your behalf in the event of problems or questions that need to be addressed. 

  • Treat your assignment as YOUR JOB.  Just because you are a temporary worker, does not make you less of an employee.  You must still sell yourself and your skills.  You never know when an opportunity might open up for you!

  • As with any job:  be prompt, be gracious, and kick ass!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Little Things - Moments of Peace

Do you ever take the time to enjoy the REALLY little things?  Like...realllly little things? 

I've had a few experiences lately where time has seemed to stop around me and then I'm suddenly taking things in with all of my senses. 

It started with washing my hands.  I was at work, washing my hands with soap, and when time stopped, I could feel the soap sliding over my hands.  I've never really had that before.  I began watching the bubbles form and slip around my fingers.  Feeling the softness between my hands and taking the time to "appreciate" this little moment of peace.

I eventually snapped out of it, but it immediately hit me that sometimes we just need to enjoy the thirty second moments of peace we are given. 

Next, it happened with a sip of coffee.  I drink coffee or tea almost every morning at work.  Nothing out of the ordinary, right?  While taking a sip, again, time seemed to freeze around me and I felt the drink go from my throat all the way to my stomach.  It happened in slow motion and it was almost as if I was watching it go through my body.  Let me tell you, that was just about the best sip of anything I've ever had. 

Do you take the time to enjoy the little things?  Feeling lotion moisturize your skin, a blanket bringing a wave of warmth over your body--really FEELING the warmth engulf you, a piece of chocolate melting all the way on your tongue (when was the last time you did THAT?!).  Do you take the time to enjoy the emotion in a hug, or do you just hug someone and let it be done?  {I'm not saying to be a creep, just to have it mean something!} 

The reality is that we often go through our days in a cloud and do not take the time to enjoy any of it, much less something as simple as feeling the comb go through your hair.  I'm not asking you to take thirty minutes to meditate.  I'm simply asking you to enjoy one miniscule task to its fullest and let that always be a positive step in your day. 

There's no day like today.


Monday, May 5, 2014

Will You Be A Good Parent?

Yesterday, I had a conversation with a friend that morphed into the topic of parenting.  Although neither of us are parents, we sometimes feel the pressure and wondered what we will be like when we do have kids. 

I sometimes find myself reading mommy blogs, simply to see what's out there and what people have to say.  I have to admit, it's INTIMIDATING.  Do this, do that, homeschool, independence, attachment, etc. etc.  Sometimes it freaks me out just thinking about it!  And I'm not even expecting! 

But let's be honest, by the time I'm having children, I'm sure there will be plenty of new parenting fads to bombard and intimidate me. 

The reality is, you can prepare-prepare-prepare, but you'll never know what to do until you're in the middle of it all.  Yes, prepare yourself and be knowledgable, but also, follow your heart and learn as you go.  As I always try to remember... "the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry".

I'm quite positive my parents never read a parenting book.  But they successfully raised three kids with a nine year age difference and all of us are alive and well.  Sometimes I feel like there's almost TOO MUCH available to moms these days and maybe going back to the basics would mellow everyone out. 

Yes, I got grounded.  No, I didn't get an allowance.  My mom did the laundry, I cleaned my room.  We played outside, my brothers teased me, we shared halloween costumes, and ate meat and potatoes.  Nothing extreme, nothing over the top.  Just kids growing up in the country. 

And we're all fine.  No, we don't all have master's degrees or own our own companies.  But we are each happy where we landed, and isn't that what counts?  For me, my life goal isn't to be "successful", it is to be HAPPY. 

Your sixth grader doesn't need to be playing varsity sports, and your violinist doesn't need to be playing in the state orchestra.  Let kids be kids.  PLAY.  We all have time to "be the best" and grow up, but we only have a small amount of time to be young.  We can never go back to that. 

I can't wait to be a parent and learn everything about it.  But for now, I'm going to take my own advice and ENJOY being young!

***This is not parenting advice or criticism.  Just a few thoughts I wanted to write down for myself and for discussion***

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Las Vegas Travel Tips

I recently traveled to Las Vegas for the first time. I have been wanting to go for several years and finally bit the bullet.  You can read about our trip HERE.  Though I asked about "must-see's" before we left, I never asked about advice on how to time manage, have fun, and save money.  So, I'm going to do that for you now!!  Vacation can be stressful, so I'm going to share my "pro-tips" for conquering the strip in Las Vegas. 

-- DO NOT take a shuttle from the airport.  We purchased our shuttle with our flight through Allegiant Air.  It ended up costing more online (come to find out), and we waited an HOUR to get on to a crummy bus and our hotel was about fourth in line for dropoff.  AKA it took us forever to get from our plane to our hotel.  Take a TAXI.  The airport is extremely close to the strip and a cab ride shouldn't cost more than $20 (depending, of course, on where your hotel is). 

-- Decide on one show to be your "must-see" and purchase tickets before you leave on your trip.  For us, it was Beatles Love Cirque de Soleil.  Then, if you have more evenings open for entertainment on your trip, visit the TIX4TONIGHT kiosks located along the strip.  These post event tickets for the day of at a discount of 50% or more.  They also offer coupons for restaurants, attractions, etc. 

-- On that note...Don't overbook yourself.  Getting around in Vegas takes a lot longer than you expect.  Therefore, do not expect a 6:00 dinner reservation to be sufficient for a 7:00 show.  Try not to have too many activities on your list, as you might end up disappointed if you cannot see EVERYTHING.  Have one or two major gigs a day, and leave yourself plenty of time for transportation, meals, etc. 

-- Carry a bottle of water with you.  It is HOT in Vegas, and you don't want to have to be buying a $5 bottle of water every two hours.  We ended up just re-using a Dasani bottle, that way if we left it somewhere, it wasn't a loss.  You will get thirsty from the sun, dry air, secondhand smoke, and all of your walking around!

-- The city, in general, runs on a bit of a later schedule.  Things don't start to liven up until dark.  "The City of Lights", if you will.  We went to dinner right at 7:00 one day and expected it to be crazy.  We walked right in, and the place proceeded to get very full after 8:00. 

--  Make reservations or show up early.  Food wasn't one of our top attractions, but the scene in Las Vegas is huge.  If you want to eat at a famous chef's restaurant, show up early and expect a long wait.  You will see lines for eating establishments everywhere.  Many places do not take reservations, so if you really have a restaurant you MUST visit, you will likely have to invest in a few hours for your dream to come true. 

-- When walking the strip, don't make eye contact with promoters unless you want to be bothered!  Some people are quite aggressive, and some will let you walk on by.  IF you are hoping to get in to a club for free (say, for a bachelorette party), it will probably be worth your time to engage in a conversation and get your group on the guest list.  If not, you will be paying a large cover charge ($20-$35 per person) to get in to a club on the strip.  You will also wait in a long line (longer on weekends) and be subject to a picky dress code.  {This was definitely not our thing, but surely something to share.}

-- There are people on the street "flicking" cards (making a flicking sound).  They are business cards for escorts, just FYI!

-- Choose one or two days two purchase the all-day bus pass.  It is $8 and works for any bus in the city.  There are two main buses you will use on the strip.  The DEUCE, which stops very frequently and is two stories.  Then there is the Strip & Downtown Express bus (SDX) which stops at fewer resorts along the line and thus, is faster for traveling longer distances.  With these, you can get to "downtown" and the Freemont Street Experience as well. 

***NOTE***  You cannot EAT OR DRINK on the buses!!  So don't crack open a beer and expect to get a free ride.  They do not allow it and are not very nice about it.  This includes coffee, snacks, anything.
-- Speaking of drinks, don't buy them at a bar.  For the love of your wallet, sacrifice a bit of your taste and make a few stops at at CVS, convenience store, or shop.  Bring some mini alcohol bottles to add to a bottle of soda or juice.  I even succumbed to my very first Bud Light Lime on this trip because it was huge and only $4.  Drinks are EXPENSIVE, especially at the hotel bars where there will likely be no prices listed.  Drinking is part of the experience, but don't blow your budget on booze! 
-- Hit up a happy hour if you can.  We had great timing and had happy hour on Floor 107 of the Stratosphere.  Drinks were 2-for-1 and appetizers were half off.  The food was fancy and the drinks were hand shaken.  Not to mention the view was fantastic and the bartenders were excellent.  It was definitely worth the few hours and forty dollars of indulgence. 
--Bring a few snacks to keep in your room.  Some trail mix, crackers, and treats will be great for a midnight snack or an extra pick-me-up in the morning.  Note that some hotels will not have refridgerators, so a frozen pizza might not be the best choice.

In general, have a good time, but don't blow money on food and drinks instead of experiences!!