16 Things I Love About Our New House

We have been in our new house for about 4 months now.  We painted the main living areas, we have kitchen tiers on the way and have hung our first bit of wall art.  We plowed through our savings buying furniture, appliances and window coverings. There are still lots of plain bare walls that need to be decorated and too many white walls that could use some color but we have what we need and I'm really just glad to be here.  It takes money to decorate a home and therefore it will also take some time.   What a journey it has been from house hunting, home building to house closing.  We stuck it out in my tiny studio condo for 6 months but it was well worth the wait.

1.  Overall Space.  I can be at home and not see Mj all the time. What a concept!  People need space and we absolutely did not have it in the tiny studio. We were on top of each other and it magnified clutter and anything else that bugged me times 10. He can be upstairs in the loft doing homework and watching baseball and I can be downstairs watching House Hunters. We can be apart and then come together.  Mj's untidiness is spread out so I can tolerate it for a little bit longer then usual.  Peace.

2.  Decorating fun. I now have all of these rooms to decorate which is great once I figure out what the heck to do with them. I may not know exactly where to start but I love the possibilities.
    3.  King size bed.  We squeezed into a little double in the studio.  I wanted to save money and hold onto the old Queen bed of Mj's that came out of storage but he really wanted to up size so I agreed.  Most of the time we end up on one side or the other but it's nice to have the space.  I can lay spread eagle on the bed with room to spare and I actually have to roll over a few times to shut of my alarm if I'm on Mj's side!
      Plenty of room and I love that we each have our own night stand.
      4.  Double Vanities.  Again, space.  I have my own side to do what I need to do in the bathroom and he has his.  We each have our own cabinet under our sinks.  Mine is full and his is not.
      I like having my own side
      5.  Toilet Room.  Our bathroom has a separate little room and door for toilet.  It even has a window-don't ask me why!  Not that we've never seen each other on the toilet but we love the extra privacy.

      6.  Thermostat.   Sometimes it gets a little chilly for me because I am chronically cold but that's what blankets and sweaters are for.  I no longer have to sweat through summers with only an AC Wall Unit or hope for a cool breeze to come through the windows on hot nights while trying to sleep.   When we come home from work it does not feel like walking into a sauna.

      7.  LG fridge with ice maker. This sucker was not cheap but I have to say it's worth it. I still can't figure out how this unlimited supply of water magically comes out of my fridge but access to ice cold water anytime without having buy bottled water and keep up on our water supply is great. I think I'm even drinking more water because of it.  And I kinda think ice is cool.
        This fridge is the BEST
        8.  Sectional with Ottoman.  We searched high and low for this cozy yet modern couch.  When you push the little square ottoman into the corner of the sectional it creates this lovely little bed like area which is perfect for cuddling while watching movies.  I can't get enough of cuddling with Mj so this works out quite nicely for me and I think he's OK with it too.
        Modern, comfy and cuddle friendly
        9.  DVR baby! I know I'm a little behind on the technology here but this is the first time in my life I have ever had this and I love it. I don't have to rush home to watch anything and I can watch various TV shows at my convenience-and fast forward the commercials. Online viewing of shows helped before but this really takes it up a notch. Not that I watch a ton of TV but it's just super convenient to have.  It's also the first time I've had a flat screen TV which of course was an Mj contribution.

        The TV console has lots of storage to "hide" crap.  So does the coffee table.
        10.  Dining room space, Bar Area & Kitchen.  We actually have a place where there is room for us to sit down and eat dinner together the good old fashioned way.  It's not right in front of the TV but we can  still see it because we have an open floor plan.  When one of us is in the kitchen cooking (ideally Mj) the other one can sit at the bar and chat.  The condo kitchen had next to no counter space and was really not functional.  I was totally uninspired to cook there so I didn't.  I vowed I would start cooking when I actually had space to do it and I did.
          A table to enjoy meals together
          Functional cooking space
          11.  Garage.  No more searching for a parking space and having to pass up most of them because I suck at parallel parking.  I no longer have to worry that my car will be vandalised yet again.  No more carting loads of grocery bags from the car down the street, through the gate, and up the stairs into the condo.  We don't have to get into a hot car and we don't have to haul our trash out to a stinky dumpster because our trash bins are right there.  It also provides more storage for crap that we should probably throw away but won't.

          12.  Extra closets & rooms.  Yes.  Back to space-which is quite a  beautiful thing.  The clutter in the condo was driving me mad.  The master closet could use a Closet World make over to make better use of the space but it is a walk in and way bigger then I have ever had before.  There is now a whole extra room for Mj to leave his folded laundry for weeks at a time and toss his clothes on the floor instead of hanging them up.   I don't have to see it so I don't nag him about it.  Well,  not as often anyways.  Win win situation.

          13.  Laundry Room.  I used to do laundry once a month.  Or even longer if I could get away with it.  I know it's terrible but I was so over hoarding quarters, staking out the washer/dryer, and carting loads of heavy laundry up and down stairs to the laundry room.  Laundry is fun easier now.
          The bobble head bride and groom was a wedding gift.  Really.

          14.  Backyard.  It still happens to be a pile of dirt pending landscaping.  This project has been totally left to Mj and he assures me that progress is being made.  We'll actually have a place to sit outdoors and relax.  It's small but we did not want any grass cutting so that's fine.  There is room out the front door too where I can actually stand there in my pajamas and check the weather and not be seen by every single neighbor.  The condo didn't even have a balcony.

          15.  Recess Lighting.  This was what I felt was an Mj upgrade splurge but like most everything else I'm glad I agreed.  It came included in some areas but we addeded it every where it didn't except the 2 spare bedrooms.  I like the modern look it gives the house and we don't need lamps.  Some of our lights even turn themselves off after a certain time period if we forget.  The light switches are all on dimmers which can save energy and is really good for setting the mood...if ya know what I mean!

          16.  Community.  I still don't know any of my neighbors but our little neighborhood is like an oasis in the middle of the little city we live in.  There are only about 42 houses spanning 3 private roads.  I don't walk out my door onto a busy street.  I feel comfortable taking a walk if I want to.  There aren't random hoodlums roaming around or broke down sofas in any front yards. I feel so much safer.  We have an HOA in full effect that I might come to hate at some point but it does wonders for curb appeal.  We are only about 5 minutes from the condo but it makes all the difference in the world.

          Are there some things on my wish list that we didn't get?  Yeah.  We couldn't do all the upgrades we wanted like granite or hardwoods.  We could use a little bit more counter space and cupboards in the kitchen.  I wish we had a linen closet but there is room to build one.  I also wish we could have afforded to buy more centrally located.  And while I'm at it, I would really love it if I could get my mortgage sliced in half!  But really, I'm not complaining one bit.  It's brand new, it's OURS, and I love it!  According to Sandra Rinomato on HGTV's Property Virgins, whom I trust completely, if you like 90% of the house you should really consider making it your home because no house is perfect in all ways and there will always be something that you wish you could change.

          Wedding Advice From A Budget Bride

          Pre Wedding Pics In The Park
          As a bride who has been there these are some words of advice that I would pass on to other brides beginning that adventure called wedding planning. Thanks again to Jacin of She Said Yes  for allowing me to put this very post on her awesome blog where I was allowed to guest post while she is away.  She is at this very moment basking in the glow and joy of her own wedding on her honeymoon.  I hope she is having a blast and I can't wait to hear about it when she gets back.
          1. Choose your favorite colors for your wedding.  Even if you have to change the shade depending on the season.  The whole experience of putting my wedding together was enriched that much more as I shopped for everything in my fav color PINK! Pretty Pink flowers, pretty Pink dresses, pretty Pink party favors....you get the idea.  It is so much fun to watch your wedding come to life in your favorite color.  If your groom doesn't like the color too bad.  We already know who's doing all the work so he'll just have to get over it.
          2. Don't sweat the small stuff because they really don't matter. Trust me,  I know.  I am the bride after all who discovered her cake was the wrong color as she waltzed triumphantly into her reception venue.  Did it ruin my night?  Heck no!   I didn't even try on my shoes or my jewelry with my dress before hand and it was just fine.  You may not believe it at the moment as you toil over yet another project or laboriously search for just the right shade of pink for your name cards but at the end of the day or night you will remember the moment you said I do or how wonderful you felt in your dress more then you will remember if you had napkins with your names on them or not.  Get what you can afford and if it's not in your budget forget about it. You probably don't really need it anyways and it's not likely to make or break your wedding. Of course you have to fret a little.   You are a bride after all and this is important but don't feel bad about things you can't afford, obsess over mundane details or overburden yourself with projects that you don't really need.   My only DIY project incidentally was my centerpieces.  If you are just crafty and enjoy it great.  Pick and choose what's important.  If that still means a zillion projects on your to do list then so be it but don't say I didn't warn you!
          3. Don't wait until the last minute on anything.  You might think you have time but you don't.  Your wedding will sneak up on you like a thief in the night and you won't know what hit you. Luckily, I didn't do this but I can only imagine how stressful that would be.  I saved links to all my research so when the time came to act on something I had only to go back to it and didn't have to start from scratch to make decisions or move forward.  I planned ahead and did a little bit here and there even if it felt "too early" so by the time the wedding rolled around I was not totally overwhelmed.
          4. Utilize a day of planner.  If you can't pay for one hire a friend.  I rolled my eyes at that one.  I certainly don't need a planner. My wedding is simple.  What would I possibly need a day of planner for?  But simple turned into me rushing from the moment I got up and barely being able to take a breath until just before our ceremony started.  Even if I had a friend who was in the know on my simple centerpiece set up that would have helped a lot.  If I had it to do over again I would still not budget for one but I would have a friend be responsible for day of details instead of trying to do everything myself.
          5. Don't take pictures right before your wedding.  I take that back do it.  So, I guess this is just a word of advice that it can really press you for time AND that it's really cool to have that private moment where you see each other for the first time.  It doesn't have to be at the end of the aisle with all eyes on you to be special.  I cried when I saw Mj outside our hotel before we went for pictures.  We didn't do engagement photos and it's not like we are ever going to wear those outfits again so I'm glad we did but it sure was difficult to squeeze in. What limited time I had prior to the ceremony was now cut that much shorter while we were at the park.  I guess that's where #4 hire a friend planner idea would have come in handy.
          6. Make time to relax the day of.  See #3 & 4 above to assist you with this.  One of my bridesmaids who couldn't make it to the rehearsal dinner drove in and out of town just for that one day. So busy was I setting up, getting made up and taking pictures that I didn't even have a chance to sit down and chat with her. I would have loved to enjoy a leisurely glass of wine and chat with my bridesmaids and my sisters that day.   There was no leisurely shared girly moments of anticipation.  Instead, I was a whirlwind.  I got an early start but still it was go, go, go and the reception was more of the same so I really missed out on just getting to BE and take my time in the moments leading up to the ceremony.
          7. Wear comfy shoes.  We've all partied the night away with a huge smile plastered on our face and an extra awkward bounce in our step as we try desperately to disguise the limp resulting from those hot shoes rubbing a hole in the heel of our right foot. Just don't do it on your wedding night.  If your dress is big enough your shoes will hardly be noticeable at all and it's one less thing to worry about.  I wore a pair of cute silver gladiator flats that I found at Macy's and my feet were not a source of discomfort at any point during the night.  Granted, I might have been too tipsy and happy to really notice if they did hurt but still.
          8. Stick to your budget.  As much as I LOVED my wedding I don't want to associate that day with financial burden and debt. If you start to feel a longing sense of sadness as you peruse wedding magazines filled with pictures of things you can't afford see #2 above, turn the page and get on with planning YOUR wedding.
          My beautiful PINK Bridal Bouquet

          Babies Are More Then Just A Cute Picture

          My nephew DJ gets cuter every day

          Looking at those little arms flailing about, that joyful little baby expression and those bright eyes makes my heart melt.  Literally.  It's in a puddle on the floor right now so I don't even know how I am typing this!  If this pic doesn't make you want one of these I don't know what will.  That's just the thing though.  Babies are more then just a cute picture.  I am not a kid person.  Never have been.  I absolutely did NOT expect to be this enamored by my little nephew.  I can't stop talking and thinking about this precious little boy and that kind of scares me.  I don't want children.  At least I don't think I do.  Until I hold him and look at his pictures and feel those maternal instincts tugging at my heart like never before.  Babies are so full of life.  Sometimes a little too much of it at 2:00 am when my sister would kill for another hour of sleep but still.  When you look at their little faces you just see so much hope and possibilities.  They are so innocent and have so much living ahead of them.  It really is a beautiful thing. And as a parent you get to be a part of that.

          But they will not always be babies.  They grow into terrible two's and angry adolescents.  I have to wonder.  Do I just want that cute little baby to call my own and not everything else that goes along with it?  There is so much time, energy and money that will go into making that little boy a man.  Is that something I want to take on for myself?  I am determined to think logically here and not be swayed by emotion.  My head says "Hell no I don't want any kids," and my heart says "Yes." But only some of the time.  Having a baby changes EVERYTHING and I'm not so sure that I want everything to change.  I actually kind of like things the way they are.  Mj and I are free to do or not do whatever it is we please.  We can travel or just go to he movies without thinking twice.  The house is quiet and the only person I have to pick up after is him! What effect might it have on our relationship? I think I'm tired when I get home from work now?  Well, the work never ends when you have a little one.  Being a stay at home mom likely would not be an option.  Going back to work would be so hard and of course there are astronomical child care expenses.  Any extra money right can go towards savings, retirement or just ourselves right now but that would not be the case with a child in the mix.  I can't even afford ballet lessons for myself so how am I supposed to feed, clothe, support a child AND pay for their extracurricular activities?  They want and need so much and I would want to give it to them.  Sometimes people jump in without considering these things.  People just assume that having a child is what they are "supposed" to do without really considering the option of doing the cost benefit analysis and simply deciding not to.  That it might not be the right thing for them.   People worry, me included-that a life is incomplete without a child but I don't want to do something just because that's what everybody does and I THINK I might be missing out.  I wish I just KNEW for sure either way what I really wanted.  I'm not getting any younger here.

          I need to baby sit this little guy to see what it feels like but even still I will never know the full enormity of what it is to have a child of my own unless I actually had one.  That's the tricky part.  It's natural for any woman to have doubts and fears about having a baby but because I am not a woman who has always wanted to be a mother I have to be very careful here. I have to think with my head and not my emotions.  It can't be a passing fancy or just a moment.  It has to be a desire and a need in order for me to move past those normal doubts.  And then there is Mj of course.  It has to be a joint decision.  He is still at "HELL NO" and despite those maternal feelings I didn't even know I had, most of me is still there too.  So for now the answer to the baby question is still no.  Whether or not that changes remains to be seen and in the meantime I'll just have to direct all of that revved up maternal energy towards my sweet little nephew.  Which won't be too hard-I mean...just look at him!

          P90X Me

          I only worked out one time last year and that was when my mom sort of dragged me to Yoga with her.  I had already started getting lazy and then totally quit when I started getting off later at 5:00 instead of 3:30.  That excuse is getting really old, particularly considering it's not a good one.  When I get home I want to spend those precious hours relaxing.  My skinny jeans fit just fine.  I have a natural muscle tone that doesn't quit on me even when I quit exercise and I'd much rather eat less then exercise more.  This attitude has caused me to become complacent lazy and I haven't worked out at the gym regularly since 2008.

          BABY STEPS
          About two weeks before our July wedding I dusted off my old exercise videos that I haven't touched in a while.  Some of these are actually on VHS if you can believe it!  Mj could not believe that he was actually hooking up a VCR to an HD flat screen TV.  I'm not really sure what I expected to accomplish in just two weeks and overall I think I know it still left me in the slacker category but at least it was effort.  A video here a video there.  I still hadn't made it back to the gym and my consistency was well....non existent but it was something.

          Fast forward two months later.  I've gotten a little bit more consistent with the exercise videos but still no trip to the gym.  I have sprinkled a little bit of jump rope in there for cardio to change things up a bit.  Jump Rope?  I know, totally random.  But I can explain.  There is an imaginary unbreakable force field surrounding the gym so since I can't get to the treadmill it's my best non exercise video option for cardio.  My knees are shot from gymnastics and cheerleading during my formative years so I have snap crackle pop rice crispy knees of a 90 year old that can't tolerate running on concrete.  I can put on my I-Tunes and jump rope my little heart out with the door 1/2 way down so I can avoid staring from neighbors.  It can be a little boring but my knees handle it pretty well so it works.  Odd as it may seem.

          P90X PAIN
          Enter P90X.  Anyone that's heard of this knows it's extremely challenging and supposedly very effective.  Mj's been talking about wanting to do it for a while and I've been talking about how he better not expect me to join in.  He got some boot leg copies from a friend and because fitness can and should be a couple thing I agreed to do it.  We did Abs for 16 minutes and a cardio segment Monday then the 1 1/2 Yoga segment Tuesday.  Mj does 20-40 mile bike rides regularly.  He's definitely in shape but these videos made even him sweat.  I almost fell on my head at one point and if anyone has ever done advanced yoga then you will understand why my favorite poses were the corpse and the fetus.  It was challenging but what is left of my flexibility served me well and I am happy to say that I got through it well and am not in as bad of shape as I originally thought.  All hope is not lost for me yet!

          It is recommended that everyone get a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise 4-5 times a week.  That's really not a lot.  It's just a matter of making it a priority which I have failed miserably to do.  It's a part of a healthy lifestyle to get that heart rate up regularly and get your body moving. You don't have to be overweight to exercise.  Duh.  It actually wouldn't hurt me to loose those pesky pounds I have put on over the last few months.  Eeek!!  My skinny jeans won't fit for long if I'm not careful.  I miss taking ballet classes.  I love Yoga and Pilates.  I could barely walk yesterday after P90X but I really do enjoy the way exercise makes me feel.  I am not hard core enough to even pretend that I will do P90X or any exercise for that matter every single day but I hope that these little baby steps I am taking will lead to me making exercise a priority and doing it consistently.  And maybe, just maybe that unbreakable imaginary force field surrounding the gym will come tumbling down and I'll be on that treadmill or in a Pilates class happily sweating once again.

          Wedding Wednesday: Processional/Meet the Bridesmaids

          I got to watch everything unfold from the back without anyone knowing.  When I took my first peak at the scene that was my wedding ceremony I had my second cry of the day.  All of those RSVP's sitting in my shoe box at home had translated into all of these people sitting in one place at our wedding.  It was so surreal.  It was finally happening.  The six months of planning and a hectic morning had finally come down to this.  I watched Mj walk his grandma then our mom's down the aisle.  Then our bridal party walked down the aisle to take their places at the front. 

          Mj and Grandma.  He went back and got my mom and his mom. 
          I got them both to wear PINK!

          Our bridal party.  The girls-Eb, Fe, Jan, Lil' sis.
          Eb is one of my closest friends and the only one of my bridesmaids who lives here and actually got to come to my bridal shower.  We met about five years ago when we both used to work for the same company.  She is as forgetful and fun as she is sweet and giving.  I love having her as a friend.  Fe is the one friend I made in college and actually stayed in touch with.  She lives in Atlanta but she told me from the start that she would make it for my wedding.  She was only here for one night.  I wish I had been able to spend more time with her.  Jan is my oldest and closest friend.  We met in 8th grade English class.  We are such opposites it's a wonder that we were even friends.  I was always the quiet conservative one and she was the wild outspoken one who dated older guys when I had never even been on a date.  We did cheerleading and gymnastics together in high school and stayed in touch through college even with all the craziness going on in our lives.  She is in No. Cal finishing out her time in the Army AND getting her Master's degree.  She drove for hours here and back to be at my wedding for just the one night and I barely even got a chance to talk to her.  Without her this wedding would not even be happening since she is THE WOMAN who introduced us.  Thank goodness she did!  Last but not least is little sis and MOH.  My how this young lady has grown up.  She is 10 years younger then me and I used to change her diapers.  She used to be painfully shy but now she is a beautiful well spoken young woman about to graduate from college in San Francisco.  The only person not up there that I wanted to be was my big sis.  She got pregnant and didn't know if she was even going to be able to come.  Then she found out she could and I was just happy to have her there. 

          I didn't have a bachelorette party.  I don't have a lot of friends.  I'm kind of over "going out" and so the idea going to party downtown just to say I did for my bachelorette party was not appealing.  After reading about some of these awesome girls weekends that other bride's had I kinda wished I'd been able to have that.  How amazing it would have been to spend a weekend or even a day with all of these ladies.
          Mj watching me approach.  Our officiant
          may have been nervous the night before
          but looks confident here.
          He is my bridesmaid Eb's husband.
          One of my favorite moments of that day was walking down the aisle with my dad.  He just so happens to have been the target of my only bridezilla moment of the day but I put that behind me as we walked arm in arm.  I drank in everything around me.  The melody of the beautiful music we chose.  The vibrant colors all around me.  All of our friends and family seated together.  The beautiful stark white arch and my handsome man standing there in his tux waiting for me.  Sometimes when people are nervous they rush but my nerves were gone and for the first time all day I felt no need to hurry.  I wanted to take my time and savor the moment.  I need that moment because everything before and after was truly a blur. 

          I couldn't stop smiling!

          I love it how this pic caught my mom in the background between Mj and Dad.

          A great start to the festivities.

          Let Her Eat Cake

          Having a baby is no joke.  You first must host this child inside your body for 9 months and watch your stomach get bigger then you ever thought possible.  Your body goes through all kinds of changes, hormonal and everything else in between, and then you have to either push it out or have it surgically removed.  The miracle of life is beautiful and all but still-I shudder at the thought.  My poor big sis went through a lot to bring her little man into this world.  She had a hard time getting pregnant in the first place, had a miscarriage, then had fibroids removed to try getting pregnant again.  Once she did get pregnant again those fibroids grew right back with a vengeance causing her painful early contractions.  Then on top of that-gestational diabetes.  Not just the kind that requires diet modification.  She had to actually do daily insulin injections.  She LOVES to eat and HATES needles so this was very hard for her.   But she did it so she could have her healthy baby boy.

          The Pastry Chef goes to work

          Mj volunteered to make her a sweet sugar filled cake after she had the baby.  He doesn't make the kind that comes out of the box.  He makes the whole darn thing from scratch including the frosting.  The last one he made in June was one of the best cakes I've ever had.  He is very serious about his cakes.  He does research to come up with just the right recipe and he wants it to be just right.  Big sis requested double chocolate so he spent Friday evening making it so we could bring it to her on Saturday.  It turned out just lovely!

          Double Chocolate Cake 100% from scratch
          We drove to mom's house where big sis is staying on Saturday afternoon.  We all oohed and ahhed over this cake and my mom went out to get ice cream and milk to go with it.  The three of us went to a late lunch and when we got back it was CAKE time and this cake did not disappoint.  The bad news is that she might still have diabetes even though it is supposed to go away after mom delivers.  She is waiting on her test results right now.  The good news is this little guy gets cuter by the day.  We do plenty of oohing and aahing over him too.

          He is so sweet!  Four weeks old.
          DJ hates his pacifier.  He eats and then his eyes get all droopy as he falls asleep.  His yawns are so big and he makes the most adorable funny faces.  Even Mj finally broke down and wanted to hold him.  As cute as he is he is a lot of work but big sis is embracing her new role as a stay at home mom and I know she will be a good one.
          New mom and baby.  Two weeks after C section.
          As for that cake.  As good as it was I'm glad it's not in our house because I already know I would eat way too much of it.  I already have my birthday cake request in for April and have already decided that I don't care how much of that one I eat.

          The Name Change Shuffle

          I changed my last name at the Social Security office and the DMV and it wasn't until after that I felt an unexpected twinge of loss, sadness even-and I can't quite seem to put my finger on why.   After my first marriage I changed my name and never questioned it at any point.  Maybe it's because I'm older now?  After the divorce I didn't want to go through the trouble of changing it back so I never requested that as part of the divorce decree.  I didn't think it would be a big deal to do it later but was shocked and angry to find out that the court wanted to charge me $300 dollars to change it back!  I didn't want the hassle at first but it wasn't long before I felt sort of icky having the ex's last name.  I needed a fresh start.  Fortunately, they eliminated that fee and I felt such sheer relief at getting my own name back that I hardly minded all the phone calls to switch everything out. Again.  I vowed never to change it again.  It's just too much work and I truly believed I would never marry again anyways.  That icky feeling and need to reclaim my maiden name alone tells me that there's something in a name....even though I don't quite know what that something is.

          I didn't consider not changing anything.  We are married now.  I want my name merged with his.  Now, if I didn't like his last name I might feel differently.  I have a Bachelor's degree in my maiden name but I haven't done anything awesome like write a book or win a Pulitzer prize with it, unless you count winning the Sectional gymnastics championships in high school.  Which you don't.  Nor have  I established any kind of "career reputation" with it.  You'd actually have to have a career in order to do that.  I don't feel attached to my maiden name for feminist reasons.  The basically chauvinistic concept that it is women who are expected to change their names and not men is not lost on me but I accept it.  It's certainly not about the principal of it for me.  I considered hyphenating but I couldn't really come up with a real reason why I wanted that other then that I felt it would make the transition easier. If I kept both last names then I could interchange between the two seamlessly as needed.  I started reading up about how the hyphen can be a problem during name searches and how no matter what you need to use only one official name anyways to prevent any issues down the road.  I guess just don't feel adamant enough about retaining my maiden name to go the hyphenated route.

          It's hard being two people at once.  I don't know who anyone has me on file as.  I carried both drivers licenses just in case because all my credit cards didn't match the new license yet and they punched a hole through the expiration date on the old one.  The last step was putting in the paperwork at my job-which I still don't think has gone through.  Now that I have officially made the change I am actually three people.  There are certain things that I don't want to bother with and/or don't even know how to go about switching.  What do you do about real estate and property titles?  My condo and timeshare are in my old married name.  My car title is in my maiden name.  I will need to change my passport which will then have a 3rd name amendment added to it.  Unfortunately, I don't have any international trips planned so I suppose I can take my time on that one.

          Verbally identifying myself as myself with my new last name still feels strange.  When they called my name at the doctor's office it was almost like they were calling someone else and when I see it in print it almost takes me by surprise for a second.  So what's in a name?  I'm still not sure.  My maiden name is me.  I like it.  It's who I have always been.  It sounds natural to say it and it's what I am used to.  On the other hand, I am honored to take Mj's  last name.  It feels special for us to share that and it's new but I already like it.  I'm sure that I will come to own my new last name and take comfort in it as I do our relationship itself.  The reality is that I don't even  think I want to be the person I was before I met him.  He changed my life for the better and there is no me without him so despite any conflicting feelings and brief sense of identity crisis I might feel as a result I know that it's the right choice for me.

          Top Model Girls Are Back

          Top Model Hopefuls [photo credit: CWTV.com]
          America's Next Top Model is back and the girls are skinnier then ever.  Just looking at these girls makes me feel fat.  The prizes for the Cycle 15 winner are better then they have ever been.  In addition to the $100,000 Cover Girl contract the winner will also receive an IMG modeling contract and a high fashion layout in Italian Vogue.  Normally Tyra throws a plus size model or two in there to shake things up a bit and so far they have made it pretty far with Whitney being the first plus size model ever to win on Cycle 10.  This time around there is no plus size model among this gaggle of skinnie minnies.  My guess is that Italian Vogue has something to do with that.  Glamour Magazine may have gotten on board with size acceptance for their models but I doubt that Italian Vogue is even close to making that leap.

          There is already drama going on of course.  One girl read the diary of another then soon after admitting that she blatantly invaded her privacy accused her of being a racist.  The show features the tallest contestant ever at 6'2" who also has the smallest waist ever.  I can only describe this girl as a walking skeleton.  Not only might she be too tall for modeling she also might be too skinny.  The usual group of characters showed up for their shot as official Top Model cast members.  The diva.  The shy weird one.  The girl with an attitude that won't quit and another who is way too cocky.  There are a few small town girls sprinkled in there and even an Ivy League rich girl.  There are two mom's and neither one with a single stretch mark to speak of and stomachs that don't look like they ever held a child.  Two of the girls are sisters.   This cycle also sees the biggest bra size ever with one girl at a 34G.  I can't wait to see who cries during the make over episode.  There is always at least one.

          The season premiere was just last week and the final girls chosen from last week will move into what is sure to be a killer house mansion on tonight's episode so there is still time to tune in and watch the drama unfold.  I love this show!  I've been watching since Cycle 1.  I've got it programmed into my DVR and will be posted up on the couch every Wednesday at 8:00 pm watching from now until the very last photo shoot and runway stomp to the death.  A new show called Hell Cats about a College competitive cheer squad comes on right after on the same channel that I can feel myself getting sucked into but the jury is still out on that one.

          Like A Woman Possessed

          Like a woman possessed I got into my car on my lunch break and drove to DSW.  A couple weeks ago it was The Limited to update my work pants and about a week later I went to Express with a coupon and got some really cute cotton fashion tees.  And now this.  I don't know what's gotten into me but I'd be lying if I said I'm not enjoying it.  I am not typically a habitual shopper but for the third time this month I found myself doing just that.  I LOVE DSW shoes and I walked out with not one, not two, but three pairs!  What initially brought me in there was the desire need to replace a pair of my tan wedge slides that Mj sort of teases me about wearing because quite frankly, they are ugly.  There was a day I thought they were cute but that day has long since been done and gone.  It is not uncommon for me to wear ugly items of clothing hanging around my wardrobe simply because I need to wear them with certain outfits and have nothing else to replace it.  Terrible I know, but due to financial considerations sometimes budget trumps fashion and like it or not that's just the way it goes.

          My shoe shopping haul-all on clearance at DSW
          So, getting back to my DSW trip.  I checked out the regular priced area and didn't see much so I went back to the clearance section and instead of two rows of last season's rejects I was pleasantly surprised at the huge selection they had in big foot size.  Which is a 10.  I found a perfect replacement for my ugly tan shoes in a 9.5 for $35.98.  Thank goodness they fit and they are so comfortable.  The heel height is perfect for me.  I can wear them to work and I'll even want to wear them on the weekends.  Then, I also found a pair of basic Guess black flip flops for $14.96 which I also feel justified in purchasing because I need a pair for my honeymoon.  Now the third pair.  Well, the only justification I can come up for those is that comfort is very important to me.  There was no way I could pass up these comfortable soft leather moccasin like yet extremely adorable flats.  I have lusted after similar flats before.  These are B Makowki's and apparently they use really fine leather which must be why they are so comfortable.  They were originally $89.94 but like the other two, 40% off so I got them for $59.94.   I have a pair of bronze flats that I will likely chuck in favor of these.  They aren't very comfortable but I wore them anyhow because it's the only pair I had in that color.

          The lady in line before me insisted on removing all shoes from the boxes so she could place them discreetly in a bag to hide her shopping from her husband.  I thought that was funny.  I know she isn't the only woman out there shopping on the down low.  I on the other hand excitedly rush into the house and share my purchases with my husband.  He actually gets excited for me when I shop because he knows how often I deny myself things that I want and/or need.

          This is new territory for someone who used to make a sport of denying myself simple pleasures and I have to say it feels good.   Almost exactly a year ago I went shopping and practically had a nervous breakdown.  I became filled with dread over what I had done.  My friend and I wore our new boots out of the store so I couldn't take them back.  Mj was overseas at the time and when I told him I bought a pair of Uggs I was so upset I burst into tears.  I smashed every bit of joy out of getting something nice for myself.  Which is ridiculous because I save religiously and have been since I was 16.  In lean times it may not have been much but saving has always been a top priority and I certainly know how to do without when the money isn't there.  I don't have credit card debt and I take care of bills first.  I work hard dammit!  I need to allow myself to enjoy things.  Within reason of course.  Which it is because I am still under the monthly budget that I set for myself.  I will not be buying a Louis Vuitton Purse and Anthropologie is still mostly out of the question but a trip to Macy's where I buy a few things or heaven forbid a $140 pair of boots should never feel like the end of the world.  I know when to stop.

          Budget is the determining factor for everything.  I may not like it but I accept that I must live within my means weather I like those means or not.  It's been an expensive year.  Planning a wedding, turning my condo into a rental property, and buying a house took priority over everything else.  We still have our honeymoon and next thing you know it'll be Christmas.  After years of shopping with anxiety, many moons of being on total shopping lock down, and more recently shopping just for the house I am finally shopping for me AND enjoying it.  It's about time and I love it!!

          Cinnamon Biscuits

          They taste even better then they look
          Whenever the topic of Cinnamon biscuits comes up my sister always reminds me of how crazy I was for claiming that I didn't like them...even though I had never even tasted them.  She'd make them and go on and on about how good they were and beg me to try but I refused.  I'd wrinkle my nose in disgust and say "I don't like 'em."  Probably for something silly like that they had butter on them and I don't like butter.  I have no idea how I resisted that cinnamon aroma.  I have a tendency to dismiss foods without trying them and as a result I didn't start eating pineapples until this year and I've only been eating strawberries now for about the last 4 years.  I didn't like the way they looked.  I know...crazy right?

          Cinnamon biscuits was a childhood breakfast favorite for me and my big sis.  Once I finally gave in and decided to try them that is.  I don't know where the recipe came from but we really loved them as kids.  Many Saturday mornings we would get in the kitchen and make and devour them together.  I don't think I've eaten them since I moved out of my parents house.  It's been a long time.  Over the last few years I've mentioned to Mj how good they are.  "If they're so good then why don't you make 'em for me?"  So, I finally did this morning.  I introduced this yummy childhood favorite to my husband and needless to say he's a fan too.  They are so delicious.  It's like this warm buttery cinnamony sugar explosion in your mouth.  You definitely won't find it on the weight watchers menu so don't even try.

          This just so happens to be the only thing I can make without a recipe.  They are just that simple and quick.  I measure out the butter, cinnamon and sugar just by eye balling it.  Here is how you make it in case anyone wants to give it a try.  We've always made them for breakfast but they really could be dessert too.

          • Pre cut Biscuit dough-1 Can Pilsbury
          • Butter  2 Tbsp
          • Sugar 2/3 Cup
          • Cinnamon 1 1/2 Tbsp
          Cooking Directions:  Mix the Sugar and Cinnamon together in one small bowl.  Melt the butter in a different bowl inside the microwave.  With a fork dip one biscuit at a time into the melted butter so that it's totally covered then  dip it into the cinnamon sugar mixture until the entire biscuit is covered. Place each biscuit in the cake tin so that they slightly overlap. Repeat until all biscuits have been dipped and bake on 400 for 10-13 minutes.  Remove and enjoy.  That's what I did.

          I used I can't believe it's Not Butter but there is no sugar coating it-excuse the pun.  Even that can't detract from the fact that I am eating biscuits coated in butter, sugar and Cinnamon.  They are definitely a guilty pleasure and means I can eat....uh not much else for the rest of the day! It was definitely worth it though.  I am certain that I should work out after such decadence to burn it off but I'm not really in the mood for it....when am I ever? With my bikini filled honeymoon coming up..... lets just say I won't be making a habit out of this.

          Wedding Wednesday: Pro Pics in The Park

          [July 10, 2010] So, without further ado I will start with the pro pics we took in the park before the ceremony.  When I first saw Mj in his tux walking towards me outside the hotel I started to cry.  He looked so handsome.  This was the first of many unexpected tears of joy throughout the day.  Originally we weren't going to go to this park even though they have some of the most beautiful backdrops in our city.  This park is huge and always bustling with activity.  There is always something going on there and I didn't think we had time to deal with traffic or parking.  I told the photographer we'd meet him at a less grand but closer to our hotel park.  "Do you trust me?"  Mj asked.  "Don't worry.  Schedule the shoot at the park and I will arrange the transportation."  And arrange it he did.  We were whisked away in a shiny black limo.

          I felt like a star stepping out of the limo

          We were supposed to meet the photographer at 2:00 pm but after such a rushed and crazy morning we were just making our way into the park at 2:30pm.  Our photographers tracked us down and started snapping pics as soon as we got out.  I had to force myself to calm down and stop being frazzled and worried about the time so we could just relax and take some good pics. It was actually fun walking around the park as bride and groom.  Every few steps we'd get a "congratulations" by some passersby and definitely attracted attention. This is a very popular photo destination.  So many times I have seen pretty young girls in elaborate quinceanera dresses and glowing brides with their dashing grooms in tow at this very park.  It was so exciting that this time it was us.  We were that couple and it was OUR wedding day.  I really wish we'd had more time but I glad we got to do it at all.  We didn't do engagement photos.  And why not have as many pics as possible in our wedding day finery?  It's not like we get to dress like this very often ever.
          Such gorgeous architecture in the background

          I am really pleased with the pictures.  We look happy and the backgrounds are amazing.  We guzzled some champagne in the limo on the way back and got ready for the next part of our day.  The Ceremony.

          Labor Day Weekend Fun

          The plan was to do something fun every day this weekend and that's exactly what I did starting with Friday when I met a girlfriend for happy hour.  It took exactly one glass of wine for me to feel it. I'm such a light weight! Eb and I had a great time chatting and catching up.

          Delicious.  I think we will call again.

          Saturday started out with some errands, a mani/pedi and something I always love to do.  Shop!  I was lured to Express by coupons.  Those marketing manipulators know what they're doing because I've been falling for it quite a bit lately.   I got 5 very cute cotton tees with my $30.00 off coupon.  The average cost per top was only $16.60!  These tops are casual yet still fashionable which is just my style. We haven't been to a movie in a while so we went to see Inception with Leonardo DiCaprio.  I have a tendency to get lost on overly complicated plots so I was a little reluctant to see it.  I had no idea what the whole first 15 minutes was about but I did better then I thought I would.  I enjoyed it and managed not to be totally annoyed by a lot of it not really making sense to me.  After the movie we got some groceries and by the time we finished we were starving.  Cooking was out of the question! Mj had a craving for some good Chinese food.  There are Mexican taco shops on every corner but hardly any chinese food places right where we live.  He got a suggestion from a co worker via text and we went and got take out.  I normally go to generic places like Panda Express where what I order comes in a bowl and was so excited to order food that comes in those cute little Chinese food boxes they always have on TV.  My beef and broccoli was delicious...and so was Mj's Pork fried rice!  We watched Paranormal Activity that night.  It starts out pretty slow but builds at the end causing me to scream really, really loud.  So freaky!!!

          Sunday morning Mj woke up early and went for a 40 mile bike ride with his friends.  I was sitting at home on my butt doing nothing so I figured if he can do 40 miles on a bike then I can at least do 45 minutes on a Pilates video.  Then when he got back we were off to our picnic.  We finally got to use one of our favorite wedding gifts-this easy to pack picnic backpack.  I couldn't have asked for a more perfect day. The sky was such a pretty blue and the sun was reflecting off of the bay.  Our picnics are pretty simple.  We had wine, cheese, crackers, french bread, ham, grapes and cookies.

          Everything you need for a great picnic
          Perfect day for a picnic

          Monday was spent at mom and dad's house where we ate hot dogs, burgers, and other holiday food goodies.  I got to change my nephews diapers.  He has gained a couple pounds in his whole two weeks of life and is so precious.  I had a great three day weekend but as always it went way too fast for my liking. The inevitable return to work always happens but at least it's a short week.

          Get To Know Me-Pass It On

          Jacin-who happens to be getting married in less then a month-over at She Said Yes honored my blog with a mention and a tag to answer eight questions of hers then create eight  more to pass on to eight of my favorite blogs.  I've been meaning to do a get to know you post like this so the timing couldn't be better.  I never feel like I have any "good" or interesting answers so I normally don't like this sort of thing but here goes!  Thanks Jacin and here are my answers to your eight questions.

          1. if one song were to describe your life, what song would it be? Wild Horses, by Natasha Bedingfield.  I don't have nor do I want a horse although I do find them beautiful.  I find the lyrics very meaningful and relevant to my life and the journey I have taken. 

          2. if you could be another person for a day, who would you be? Nastia Liukin!  I have to wonder what it would be like to be a person determined and talented enough to be an Olympian.  To have the guts to do gymnastics at the Elite level just boggles my mind.  Now that she won her gold medal she gets to do all kinds of cool stuff.  Stuff that I would much rather be doing then sitting here in my cubicle.
          3. what has been your favorite aspect of wedding planning?  Almost everything!  It was so, so much fun!  Getting to have control and pick everything was awesome!  When you plan a wedding it really is your party and it's so much fun to have a chance to pick what you like and put it all together.  Who knows when or if I will ever throw a party again?  I lived it up!
          4. if you had one wish, what would it be? To be wealthy.  I know money doesn't by happiness but neither does poverty.  I always say it can certainly help.  And I know the question said ONE but I would also like to eat whatever I want and not gain a pound.  It's really a toss up between those two.
          5. what is your favorite movie?  There are so many.  One that just really sticks out in my head right now is Black Snake Moan with Christina Ricci, Samuel L Jackson and Justin Timberlake.  It just spoke to me.  She and her love were so emotionally damaged yet they wanted and deserved love like just anybody else.   The story line was so unconventional-risque even.  The acting was great for all three including JT and Christina managed to look hot in a pair of plain white cotton panties.

          6. what is your guilty pleasure? (not thinking in the gutter here, girls)  French fries and molten chocolate lava cake.  If I order either one of those I am splurging big time!! Can't happen very often.
          7. if the whole world were listening, what would you say?  Uhh....no clue.  I try not to say too much in front of too many people so this is hard!  Ummm....
          8. what's the best piece of advice you've ever been given?  "Let yourself be happy."  It didn't come naturally or easily for me at all.  It was such a long hard struggle but to finally be able to do that has made all the difference in the world for me.

          Now, for eight of my favorite bloggers.  I can count-I did 9 instead of 8 because I wanted to mention Dancy even though I know she will not be playing along because of the whole getting married any day now thing!

          Silly Girl at Notes From The Voices

          My eight questions that I lovingly pass on to you are below.  No pressure if you don't want to do the questions.  Just consider yourself tagged.

          1.  If you could have one wish granted what would it be?
          2.  Do people in your real life know about your blog or do you keep it to yourself?
          3.  If you could change one part of your body or appearance what would it be?
          4.  If you became a billionaire would you quit your current job?
          5.  What do you like best about your body or appearance?
          6.  What is something that people might be surprised to know about you?
          7.  If you were forced to give up one of your 5 senses which one would it be?
          8.  If you could have any superhuman power what would it be?

          Thank goodness it's a 3 day weekend.  The cleaning and laundry got done last weekend and we are having the best weather right now which we didn't really get during the Summer.  I plan on doing something fun every day.

          Enjoy your Labor Day weekend everyone!!!!

          Old Pants Die Hard

          My two pairs of black pants must be about 10 years old.  I'm not exaggerating.  They are from Express and so old that they don't even use the same clothing labels anymore.  One of them has little white elastics busting through the material in the butt area.  I figure no one else is getting close enough to my butt to actually see it, at least they shouldn't be, so I've continued to wear them because I didn't have anything else.   On one of the legs on the other pair the hem is actually held up by safety pins.  How embarrassing is that?  Not only are they old but they are both way too big for me now.  Too much extra fabric hanging around is so not flattering.

          Nice dress pants are not cheap.  I like to buy them from Express or the Limited because I love the fit and they are long enough for my legs but I'm on a budget so they tend get pushed to the bottom of my list whenever I do have money to shop with.

          The time is just never right to spend bucks on black pants.  Yeah, in 10 years.  When I get coupons or have extra money to spend the last thing I wanted to get is a pair of work pants.  I would rather get something fun.  Something to wear someplace other then to go sit in a cubicle all day and at $60 bucks a pop I would much rather get two of something else instead of one pair of pants.  I like to look professional but my job doesn't even technically have a dress code.  Needless to say, my work wardrobe tends to suffer due to this overall attitude.   I did buy some new work pants in Navy and Brown the last time I had The Limited coupons but I didn't get black.  I was trying to expand the variety of colors I had to wear and old as they were I still had black.

          When I got some Limited coupons in the mail I told myself once and for all I WILL get a new pair of black pants. According to me the time is never right but the wear and tear on those pants tell a whole different story and I have clearly gotten my money's worth.  It's time to move on.  The coupon was for 25% off and after finding out that all their pants are on sale for $39.90 right now I decided to get grey and black 'cause my grey Express pants are also 10 years old too!  I got The Limited Exact Stretch Boot Cut pant and I love the material.  Mostly something called Viscose, Nylon and about 2% spandex so they have that perfect amount of stretch with a nice classic look that makes your legs look long and lean.  The rise hits my hips perfectly and they have cool textured pin stripes.  I spent a total of $65.00 for two pairs of nice pants that normally cost $59.50 each. 

          Oh, I didn't even mention my Express khaki pants. They are part of the 10 year old pant club too but the fit isn't as loose and they are not falling apart.  Yet.  Maybe I'll see if I can get those to last for 20 and if The Limited pants last even 1/2 as long as The Express ones did I won't have to do this again for awhile.