Tuesday, June 17, 2008

In 12 weeks...

... I'll be sitting on a flight to Paris!
A couple of weeks ago, my friend, TM, and I were hanging out (confession: we had a Sex and the City brunch and movie outing) and I casually mentioned how I would love to go on a trip to Paris, but that I should probably save my money. To which she replied, "Don't save your money, go on a trip with me!" And seriously, that was all I needed. After booking our hotel (in the Latin Quarter) last week, we went all in and got our plane tickets. Now it's official... we're really going and we are SO going to eat every pastry in sight, including my favorite pain au chocolat.

Anyway, I think we will see the major stuff (Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Sacre Coeur, Champs Elysee, Musee D'Orsay, Notre Dame, Versailles, etc.), but if there is anything off the beaten track or any restaurants that you'd like to recommend, please feel free to post your tips in the comments.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

In eight weeks...

... I'll be the owner of a new Oxygen Blue Mini Cooper!
Even though I should be fully concentrating on finishing my final project for my Color Theory class, I drove down to Long Beach Mini today, put down a deposit and ordered a custom Mini Cooper. This was after I went to Nick Alexander Mini last night and was offered a car which would be available in a week, but with more than what I wanted, plus quite a bit of a mark-up. (This was despite having an inside connection.) Anyway at that point, I decided that I was only going to pay for exactly what I wanted and no more than MSRP. Long Beach Mini only charges MSRP for their Minis and a couple people I know say their service department is the best in the area.

I didn't load the car with a ton of extras, just a few carefully chosen options and finishes... and one perhaps ridiculous splurge: the Cold Weather Package, including heated seats, heated washer jets and heated side mirrors. I know, I know... I live in L.A., where the weather couldn't be any better. But I'm a wimp when it comes to L.A.'s many cold mornings and nights, and the heated side mirrors and washer jets will be a godsend when I'm late for work and don't have time to wipe my windshield and side mirrors for visibility. Plus, since I'm getting what is essentially a base model, I wanted to have some element of fun luxury.

In any event, two months is not a long time to wait for something I've wanted for six years. In fact, I bet it'll be fun counting down the days and tracking my Mini through its various stages of production and shipping. The only thing that might put a damper on things is if my current car falls apart before then. It's in such bad shape, both inside and out, that I'm probably just going to donate it to charity for the tax write-off. But it's definitely served me well for the past 9 years. Here's hoping my new car lasts even longer!

Okay, now I'm really going to have to get to work, but before I go, should I get a vanity plate? And if so, what should it say?

Friday, June 13, 2008

I don't have any cash, but I have cupcakes

Last Tuesday, I was driving home from a class potluck for which I brought mini cupcakes along with brownies* from Big Sugar Bakeshop (see my initial review). While I was stopped at the exit ramp off the 10 freeway at Western Avenue, despite my protesting gestures, a homeless guy started to wash my windows. (They still do that? I thought I was reliving a bad joke from the 80s and 90s.) Anyway, when he was done, he obviously asked for some cash, and that was where I got a brainwave. I rolled down my windows a little and asked if he would like some of my leftover cupcakes instead. Resigned, he accepted them, and as I drove away, I saw him start to eat them. I wonder if he liked them.

*Big Sugar Bakeshop's brownies are amazing and I think they are definitely better than my former top brownie spot, The Farm of Beverly Hills. In contrast to The Farm's brownies, they are lighter but just as chocolately and have yummy flavors. I got four different kinds, each split into four: Girl Scout Thin Mint, Peanut Butter, Oreo, and Chocolate Chip. All hit the spot in a really good way. So, while Big Sugar isn't my number one cupcake spot (though their Mexican Chocolate cupcake is one of my favorites), I'd have to say that it is definitely my top brownie spot.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Resolved Revisited

A friend of mine recently asked how I was doing on the resolutions I posted here in January. I started to write him an e-mail on my progress, but then I thought that this would make a good blog post update. So here goes:

Resolved, I will do my best to exude positive energy
In general, I do feel positively about my life, even in spite of the crazy hours, tremendously stressful changes and upsetting personal setbacks. Everyday, I read some news feature about regular middle-class people who are struggling to get by, working overtime to pay for gas, torching their soon to be foreclosed homes, resorting to food stamps and taking "staycations." I am not rich, but I'm fairly comfortable, with any financial hiccups resulting from actions that are my own fault (i.e. Target, multi-course fancy dinners, general budget busting, etc.) Indeed, most of the stress I experience comes from choices that I have made and will continue to make (i.e. going to school, doing freelance work, and aggressively paying off my debt.) Regarding the energy I actually exude, K recently got an 8-week Doberman puppy, Django, and it has definitely made me more conscious of that. If I'm unsure or skittish, Django senses it right away and reacts appropriately. (More on Django later) Anyway, at my best, I am outwardly friendly and happy, but at my worst (late nights and negative procrastination), I am definitely a little bit more closed and don't have the energy to really put myself out there. I'm still working on getting enough sleep and not procrastinating. (see below)

Resolved, I will be in bed before midnight on work nights
Ha! I was good for a month or so on this one, but then I fell off the wagon sometime in March, in the midst of time-intensive drafting homework. Plus, I'm still getting used to the flow of the intersection of school, new job and freelance work, so I'm lucky if I get to bed before 1:30 a.m. (My dirty secret is that I'm usually just vegging out at that time, too burnt out to do anything except mindless life planning and organization.) I am getting better, plus I am taking the summer quarter of school off, so after next Tuesday, I'll only have two things to worry about.

Resolved, I will be on time to work, leave to take my lunch and leave on time unless I take overtime
This one has changed a bit since I'm now at a different company and as an exempt employee, don't get overtime. Still, despite the implied fluidity of my working hours, I always feel better when I come in when everyone else does and unfortunately, I struggle with getting to work at that time, most of which has to do with going to bed late and not being a morning person.

Resolved, I will not wait until the last minute to do my work and homework assignments.
Actually, for homework and work, I'm doing fairly well on this one. The freelance work does tend to get the shaft sometimes, but that will only improve after next week.

Resolved, I will reach out to friends and family when stressed and not withdraw inwards.
So far, I've definitely had more contact with friends and family than I have during other times, which is definitely a good thing. I still feel like I need to be more proactive in that respect, so I am very glad that I'll have more time to talk and hang out this summer.

Resolved, I will find a physical way to blow off steam.
UGH... Still nothing here. And I'm sure that is the reason for a lot of my time management ineffectiveness. I just don't have the energy and unfortunately, it's a cycle. I know I just have to do something and that it will improve everything.

Resolved, I will do the things I put on my calendar.
I'm not 100% successful on this, and there have definitely been a couple of things that I've skipped, but those are mainly impersonal events and not time scheduled with family and friends (which is miles more important.) What I have found is that I'm definitely more discriminating about what will actually make it onto the calendar.

Resolved, I will go abroad this year.
Forget Mexico and Canada... I'm going to Paris in September! YAY!!!!! (More on my trip later)

Resolved, I will make my home an inviting and comfortable place.
The good news here is that I have created a functional workspace out of my dining nook and I've done a lot organization and purging. I still have a lot to do and I hope I will be able to concentrate more on this one during the summer when I have more time and the dust has settled on all the changes in my life. I have already been planning it all in my head and know what projects I would like to take on. It's definitely going to be fun and great practice for my future career. By the way, I'm still looking for the mid-century modern long dresser and have added a white leather Eames (or Eames-like) lounge chair and ottoman to the wishlist (though, it may just be too prohibitively expensive, real or fake). It's funny because now I remember that my parents actually had a fake one when I was growing up and I never thought that our tastes would ever intersect.

Resolved, I will pay down at least 15% of my credit card debt.
I've actually hit this goal already, and I'm definitely going to exceed it. (My revised goal is to pay off 60% of my credit card debt.) In regards to my general finances, the one major thing that I've got planned in the next month or so is the purchase of a car. (Again more on this later)

Resolved, that I will write in my blog more regularly.
Well, it's definitely better than last year. And I do have faith that I will post more once I have more things to write about besides being busy or eating food that's bad for me.