Monday, August 25, 2014

Coffee Date

I'm so glad we have this chance to sit down together now and then. This month has been crazy, ya'll. CRAZY. And I was basically running on fumes last week, but this weekend was really nice and fairly calm, and I feel much more relaxed going into this week.

I miss hanging out with you, so I'm glad I have a few minutes to catch up. But let's be honest — I didn't go get coffee. I drank sangria instead. So no shame, if you'd rather have a sangria date. It's all good.

My new job is going really well. But — I'm not afraid of saying this because my bosses know that I'm still kind of sort of doing freelance stuff on the side — working two jobs is kind of overwhelming me. Several clients I was convinced I wasn't going to hear from again got in touch the second I stopped being available all the time. So that's awesome and kind of stressful, but I think I've figured out a good schedule where I only freelance an hour or two in the evenings, so I can keep everyone happy and not burn myself out. Plus, maybe I'll actually get to spend time with Matt again sometimes?

Know something else interesting I've learned? Everyone, but EVERYONE in this town is doing something on the side. Including several of my co-workers, and at least one of the way-high-ups. So that makes me feel better about what could be a weird situation. But it also makes me wonder why so many of us do that to ourselves. Do we all have dreams that are just too big for College Station? Or is it something else?

I've been trying to find a self-defense class in town, with little luck. It seems like all the available classes are either included in a martial arts curriculum, or involve taking Krav Maga. I don't really want to do a whole new type of activity like that, but I would like to feel stronger and safer. I had an incident on my third day of work where I was eating my lunch outside, and a homeless man yelled at me and told me I was evil because I said I didn't have anything to give him. I felt trapped, and it really shook me up, and ever since then, I've been a little bit freaked out walking the two blocks from the parking lot to my office. I have my stun gun, but I have never taken any self-defense classes, and I think I would feel better if I knew of more ways to protect myself, especially in situations where I'm not actually being physically threatened.

I tried a couple of new foods in the past few weeks! The first was a fresh fig, and while it was kind of weirdly crunchy, it blew the socks off whatever that blech crap is in Fig Newton filling. I also bought hatch chilies, because HEB runs a special on them every summer, and the ones I got were from the "mild" bin. And they were so spicy that neither Matt nor I could eat more than a couple of bites. So we won't be doing that again.

I also ended up joining a kickball league for this fall. Which should be incredibly entertaining, considering I haven't played kickball since middle school.

Last weekend, we went to visit some friends in Dallas, and we went to visit the George W. Bush Presidential Library. The museum was hosting an Oscar de la Renta exhibit (still going through Oct. 5)! There were several gowns that de la Renta designed for first ladies Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton, but there were also a lot of fabulous, intricate, gorgeous dresses on display. It was fantastic. If you'd like to check them out virtually, you can do so here. (Otherwise, we were slightly disappointed with the museum itself, though the Sept. 11 tribute was incredibly well done.)

My mom and sister came down to visit us over tax-free weekend, and we basically left Matt to his own devices and spent two whole days shopping. It was a lot of fun, and I got two awesome dresses — designer! — on sale for under $50 apiece, and they're prettyyyyy. I've already worn both of them and felt glamorous all day. The fabrics are just so luxurious compared to the stuff I normally buy.

L: Ralph Lauren from TJMaxx. R: Gianni Bini from Dillards.

I took another belly dancing class last week. Did you know that your abs are supposed to have three distinct muscles that you can contract and roll? I don't have any of those muscles. I looked like a fool, for sure, and wound up sucking my stomach in further and further since my weenie ab muscles didn't want to function as separate units. Damn you, Pilates! But it looked cool when the instructor did it.

What's going on in your world? Have you gone shopping lately? Did you have any fun trips this summer? What new things have you tried?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Suit Up!

You guys! Today you get a guest post from Matt! This is his first ever post on Everyday Adventures, and I'm thrilled that he wanted to share one of his own experiences. I hope you enjoy. :) 

When I graduated with my Ph.D. a few months back, I was humbled by how generous my friends and family were to me. Several people gave me financial gifts and encouraged me to “enjoy myself” or “have some fun.”

So, I spent some of the money framing my diploma. I spent a portion of the money on a pool-side graduation party with some friends. But I decided to spend the majority of the money on a clothing item I desperately needed: a black suit.

Prior to buying this suit, I only owned one suit. I purchased a gray suit off the rack at a men’s clothing store three years ago, and I only had the length of the pants altered. The suit fits me pretty well, and I have worn it to several events (conferences, weddings, inteviews, you name it).  I figure a black suit will be a little more formal and give me another option for fancy occasions.

Other than my one gray suit, I feel incredibly uncomfortable and unconfident in all of my dress clothes. I don’t have the “typical” male shape, and thus most dress clothes just don’t fit me properly. Whether it’s pants that don’t have the right seat/waist combination or shirts that would better fit a body-builder than an athletically-challenged engineer, typical dress clothes just don’t fit me correctly. Given this, I decided to go bold and get a custom suit.

The next question: where should I get my suit? I first learned about Black Lapel from two of my co-workers a few months back. They were both happy with the suits/tuxes that they had ordered online, so I decided to give this custom-suit startup a try. The prices seemed reasonable to me (slightly more than rack prices), and I was excited to get custom dress clothes that fit.

The Black Lapel website was very easy to use and lead me through the process step by step. I ended up ordering a black three-piece suit and two dress shirts. After I chose the design of my suit and shirts, it was time to input measurements. There were videos and instructions to take all of the different measurements, and Allie worked the cloth tape measure for me. The Black Lapel concierge and I exchanged a few emails to confirm my order and their tailors started working on my suit the next day.

My suit and shirts arrived in the mail four weeks later. While I was unpacking my suit, Allie said I smiled like it was Christmas morning. I promptly tried on all of the different components. The pants, vest, and jacket all fit perfectly. I am most impressed with the dress shirts. I have never had a dress shirt that fit me this well. The sleeves are not too big, the shoulders hit me in the right place, and there is just the right amount of material around the waist.
I got to try out my new suit at my seminar at Virginia Tech. I got several compliments regarding my attire. More importantly, I didn’t have to worry about how I looked or how comfortable I was in my dress clothes. That realization confirmed that the custom suit/shirts were worth it.

Do you or your better half have any experience with custom clothing?

Neither of us received any compensation from Black Lapel.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Life List: All The Bad Things That Happened to Matt in Virginia

"I know this is EXACTLY what you want to hear right now, but this trip is going to make a GREAT story."

That's what I told Matt after the cop let us off with a warning for not having our headlights on in the rental car after 10 p.m. (In our defense, Blacksburg, Va., is very well lit.)
Highway between Roanoke and Blacksburg. Watch out for those flying cops.

A couple of months ago, Matt was invited to present at a seminar at Virginia Tech. Whenever he gets invited to go to conferences and seminars, I always joke that he never invites me to go with him, so he gets to see all these places that I haven't been to (AHEM, Baltimore, Atlanta, Seattle). So it's kind of a miracle I was in the car with him at all. At the time he received the call, I was interviewing for jobs, but didn't actually have anything nailed down yet, so when we found we could both go to Virginia with the help of some airline miles from Matt's parents, I was pretty pumped to be invited for once.

But as soon as we landed in Virginia, everything that could possibly go wrong, did. It was kind of hilarious.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

July Wrap-Up

I have nothing to say except that July was pretty eventful. I … um … had a birthday?

Challenge: Sample Every Flavor of Blue Bell Ice Cream
Only one new flavor this month: we finally tried Mocha Madness! I was nervous that it had already been phased out, since HEB stopped carrying it a couple of weeks ago, but when Matt was at Wal-Mart picking up stuff for our camping trip, he stumbled across a half-gallon of the stuff and scooped it up. And I've gotta say, for someone who is not a coffee fan, I quite liked it. Coffee ice cream, with pecan bits, chocolate chips and caramel swirls. Mmmm.

Completed: 65 out of 77 flavors

Challenge: Cook All The Way Through a Cookbook
I'm cooking through the "Bride and Groom First and Forever" Cookbook.
Whole Roasted Garlic
I normally buy garlic in a big tub, pre-minced, because it's way easier to just scoop out a teaspoon than mincing it yourself. So it was kind of a surprising discovery when I made Whole Roasted Garlic, mashed it up and spread it onto a baguette a la bruschetta and found … that fresh garlic makes your breath STANKY. Holy cow. But the bruschetta was delicious, so I'd say it's a win, even if no one wants to come near us.

Completed: 40 of 150 recipes

Healthy Living: "De-Stressing"
Over the last 30 days, I managed to "de-stress" (ie. work out) … I think it was 10-12 times? Miraculous. That includes time spent on Pilates videos, going hiking while camping, biking, a thigh workout/date at the ice skating rink, and our regular walks around the neighborhood. 

I also wanted to show you my cool new running shoes! They're pink! And they don't hurt my feet!!! 
I'm really excited about them; I had been wearing my GoWalks instead of buying proper athletic shoes, and that always made Matt nervous when I wanted to go biking or anything. So now he is happy, I am happy, and my feet are happy. (The first time I wore them, I actually ran for the better part of a mile without stopping! So obviously these shoes are MAGIC, because I am not in that good of shape.)

Other Adventures
We talked about the worry dolls we had as kids. We started an herb garden, wrapped up part of the kolache trail and I finished Matt's Christmas gift seven months late. I talked more about Citizen's Fire Academy and the top 10 things I learned that could save a life. I switched my commenting system over to Disqus (and I will reply to comments on that next month for those who requested I let them know how I like it). I shared the apps I've been crazy about lately. I was brutally truthy about being self-employed and starting a new office job. And we chatted about cleaning out our closets.

How is your summer going? Anyone else surprised it's basically almost over? (I say that as far as like, having teacher friends going back to school and stuff. Summer in Texas lasts all year.)

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

How Often Do You Clean Out Your Closet?

My answer is NEVER. I keep EVERYTHING. I wear EVERYTHING. (Kind of.) I never get rid of ANYTHING, even if it should have been long gone.

My logic is, I have to keep everything, because I haven't gotten around to replacing everything that really should be replaced. And therefore, my closet is filled with things that are ill-fitting, shrunk from the wash, falling apart or covered in those nubby little pills.

And that just wouldn't do. I was about to start a job in which people probably would care what I looked like, and so I should probably be presentable. (The dress code is basically business casual.)

So two weeks ago (on a Friday night, because I'm super cool), I finally pulled out all my shoes, and all my clothes, and threw everything on the bed so I could try every single piece on. I called my sister, because making fun of me for still having crap from high school is one of her favorite activities, and I needed that kick in the pants to finally get rid of the stuff that I keep insisting is still fine, but really should have retired a long time ago.

Like shoes. I haven't bought flats since I first moved to College Station in 2009 (whaaaa). I asked Rachel what she would consider too worn out to keep. And she said if they were majorly scuffed up or damaged, or had holes in them and couldn't be repaired, they should get tossed.

Goodbye shoes.

Goodbye pants that don't zip, and shirt that never went with a single thing I owned, and "Boobs Akimbo" dress (22-year-old Allie may not have had a problem with you, but now the ladies need a little more wrangling than that).

Bye, things Rachel made for design school that are model-sized and not Allie-sized.

I am pretty proud of myself for finally being willing to part with so much that I've held onto. And hey! Now you know I wasn't lying when I said pretty much everything I own is pink. But now my closet is empty and sad and I am having problems putting together anything decent to wear. I am the worst at clothing.

I think I'm getting to a point in my life where I'd rather invest in quality than buy cheap-o junk that's going to fall apart within a few months. And I think I'm getting to a point where I actually do see the value in hand-washing pieces instead of just throwing everything in together (ahem, shrunken clothing).

But I'm also in this weird place in life right now, where I'm not quite sure what types of pieces to invest in, because so much is still dependant on Future Allie. I'm no longer just waiting for us to move somewhere else, but it's still something in the back of my mind — will this piece I buy now be relevant to my future life? Future job? Future climate? I know that's kind of silly right now, but I hate wasting money. So it's definitely a consideration.

So here are my questions for you:
• How do you feel about investment pieces?
• What articles of clothing do you think are "worth" investing more in? (Shoes and accessories? Jackets and completer pieces? Work wear vs. casual wear vs. formal wear? etc.)
• What are your favorite stores for purchasing higher-quality pieces?
• Do you think this whole quality-over-quantity thing is a load of crap? (I'm open to hearing all opinions, seriously, because all I know about shopping is that every time I go, my sister tells me I have horrible taste.)