Sunday, January 30, 2011

Home Ownership 101

If you'll remember one of my goals for 2011 was to Learn all there is to know about home ownership. So far Justin and I've made some great first steps towards that goal.

A little background for you. Justin and I are currently in a 2 year lease at our apartment (ending in May 2012). So, we are really in no place to purchase a home yet, but that doesn't mean I don't window shop. 

What is weird about spending so much time looking and worrying about buying a house is that I still remain unconvinced that buying a house in the Seattle area is that great of an idea. I know it is an investment in your future, I know about the tax right offs, I now know about all of that stuff. But houses around here are so expensive for what your get and if you can't put a substantial amount down you end up paying out the ass in interest. Plus property taxes, HOA dues and years of home maintenance and remodels. It is a money nightmare to think about for a miser like me.

Anyway, despite my many questions and apprehension, Justin and I decided to go see some houses in person. I just needed to get it out of my system. So, last Saturday we took a Redfin tour to indulge my curiosity.
  • First, we saw this house. I had fallen in love with this place on Redfin. It looked so perfect. This is a great example of how good photography can go a long way. The house was on the end of a street lined with single wides in a terrible neighborhood. The rooms were small and awkwardly built. I went into what I thought was a garage and found another room. When I opened the door in the room it led to a an area only a couple feet in width with the garage door in front of it. What? Why?
  • Second, we saw this house. It was also in a terrible neighborhood with no real redeeming characteristics. The backyard was flooded and the house was filled with poor construction materials and choices. Plus it was under the airport flight path. Yuck
  • Finally, we saw this house. This place was actually kind of cute. It is a single floor, but had plenty of room and was made well. However, the backyard had a fence, but neighbored a car dealership or something ugly. Pretty awful neighborhood.
In the end I was reminded how many undesirable areas there are in Seattle. Also, I learned something about Redfin. The agents who work for Redfin receive a salary and do not receive commission from the sale of a home, but instead receive a bonus only if the buyer gives them a positive review. I think that system is the main reason the guy who showed us the houses was not pushy at all and extremely honest. I like honesty.

I signed us up for a Homebuying 101 class at BECU in Tukwila last Monday. I really enjoyed the class. I learned more about loans, short sales, closing costs, etc. The first speaker represented BECU and I took copious notes because everything she said was interesting. The second speaker was a realtor. I stopped taking notes a minute into her presentation because she was hard to follow, cold and condescending. Ugh I would never sign up to buy a house with her.
I did enjoy the seminar, but I hoped to leave the class filled with knowledge and excited to buy a house next year. Instead, it made me even more worried about costs. It answered a lot of my questions, but brought up a whole bunch of new ones. Justin and I aren't poor, but the idea of buying a house makes me feel like we are and makes me worry about every aspect of the process. Do you think some people just aren't meant to buy a house? Well, unless they can buy it with a majority of the cost paid upfront.
This is not a subject I pretend to know all the answers to, so I would love to hear your thoughts. Do you own a home? What was your experience in home buying and what is home ownership like now? Does the financial aspect of it stress you out or make things easier in the long run? Do you want to buy a house in the next few years?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Masters in Indecision

A few months ago it dawned on me that I should go back to school. Well, it probably dawned on me a while ago, but I started taking it seriously then. I feel like I am setting out to get my Masters in the fall, but don't really know if it is the right next step for me.

I do not like school. Some people really like school and seem to make every attempt to keep going to school forever. I, however, found college to kind of be a waste of time at certain points. I am somehow smarter than the average bear, but have a great degree of difficulty retaining information. College is not organized for people like me. You are expected to learn a lot of often unrelated things in a short amount of time.

Since I don't like school, I am really only considering getting my Master's so I can 1) further my career 2) hopefully learn more about a specific field and 3) feel superior to other people (j/k!!). Unlike most people considering a Master's program, I am only looking at one school. Justin works for KPLU NPR & Jazz, which is affiliated with PLU in Tacoma. Since he is an employee I receive 75% off tuition as his spouse. Not a bad deal! PLU has an abhorrent selection of graduate programs, but they do have a MBA Program. In an ideal world I would love to go to UW because they have an amazing MBA program, but I'm also cheap. $40,000 vs. $12,000

Since I love bulleted lists, I'd like to show you the pros and cons of going back to school

  • Relatively inexpensive. The discount I get through Justin makes it only about $12,000 for the whole program
  • More experience and overall knowledge 
  • PLU's program includes an international trip
  • Evening program that meets 2 days a week would make working and schooling quite possible
  • Opportunity to advance my career
  • Still costs money. If we plan to buy a house next year life will be expensive
  • I don't like school. Despite always being a good student, I find it hard to pay attention and retain knowledge sometimes
  • Not sure PLUs program is all that good. Wasn't terribly impressed at the January info session
  • Will involve Math. Math is bad and I think I have to relearn all of it
  • Is the program right for my needs? What are my needs?
  • Not sure it will help my career. What am I doing with my life?
  • I don't want to lock Justin into working at KPLU for another two years, so I can get a discount
When it comes down to it, I think I want a Master's degree just to have a Master's degree. I guess there are worse reasons. So far, my first steps have been attending the info session and enrolling in South Seattle Community College to take a Statistics pre reg in the Spring. Next steps: applying and taking the GMAT

What are your thoughts?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Tale of Two Fatties: Past & Future

My goal to lose weight is inspired by currently being pretty husky. Blogging about it at least once is inspired by this chick and this chick. Please join me on a historical journey through the history of Justin & I being fat...and not that fat. Then look at our goals and cheer us on.

Justin and I both started out as dramatically gorgeous babies and children (sorry no photos available, so just believe me). After age 6 or 7 we plumped up significantly.  I've never been a "skinny" person. Actually, up until my senior year of high school I was overweight practically my whole life. I started exercising like crazy and eating less as a senior and maybe got down to 130...for like a day. By the time I left for college I had already gained some weight back. Causing my mother to ask if I'd already gained the Freshman 15. Thanks, Mom!

Justin played football in high school, so he was pretty fit the entire time. In fact, I'm convinced if Justin and I had gone to high school together we would not have even spoken to one another. Cuz he was a cool kid and I was not. Haha

We dressed like this every day
Heeeey, what's your name?

When I got to college I remained on the chunkier side until I slimmed down slightly after...sophomore year? I have no idea how much I weighed at any given time. I will guess I hovered between 145 and 155? Between sophomore and senior year of college I think I felt pretty good about myself. Probably wanted to lose some weight, but nothing drastic.

Justin was on the svelte side for some time after he got out of college. He stopped smoking at some point and the plumping began. Apparently, smoking is good for something.

Nice helmet

Justin and I looked roughly the same as above when we met. He was pretty overweight and I was okay. I wanted to lose weight, but probably weighed slightly under or over 160. My first job out of college put me on the road and away from Seattle 6 days a week. I think the sadness of this caused Justin to not eat for 8 months. He lost roughly 50 pounds during that time.
Awkward poseGood work, sir

Look at us lookin' good together
I had hoped to lose weight for our wedding in September '09, but that didn't really happen. I didn't look too bad, so it's okay. After we got married we settled back into our routine. We went on our honeymoon in December, which was filled with lots and lots of food. I think that started the slippery slope. By the time I knew it I weighed nearly 190 pounds by May '10.

I feel like my weight gain effects every aspect of my life. Naturally, I feel much less attractive, which makes me less outgoing. I don't want to meet new people. I have no energy for exercise or physical activity and I hate getting dressed in the morning. I'm also mad at myself for gaining so much weight in such a short period of time. If I'd just been paying attention and got on a scale! I know I have to lose weight to feel good about myself again. The only positive about the way my body gains weight is that my boobs grow exponentially with the rest of me. : )

Now, it is January 2011 and this is what Justin and I look like:

198 lbs
280 lbs

Our Goals

My goal is to lose at least 25 pounds by the end of April and an additional 15 or 20 pounds by the end of June. My goal weight would be 150 or 145 pounds, but anything significantly less than now is an improvement. Justin wants to lose 50 pounds eventually, taking him down to 23o pounds.

I don't really have a strategy planned. Honestly, I eat pretty terribly and way too much at times. I plan on exercising at least 4 times a week in some way and just eating sensibly. Also, drinking a lot more water.

I hope you will encourage me along the way. I don't plan on blogging about any weight loss very often, but motivation from my friends and family would be great! I also would love to do more active things. So, instead of getting dinner or going to a movie, maybe we can go for a walk around Greenlake?

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Introducing That Girl: A Guest Blog

Forward by Liz McNeil

Hi everyone. So, in case you didn't know my blog is H-O-T right now. So hot that my good friend Ms. Heather R. Sambrook requested she be allowed to test out the blogging world by guest blogging on Life as Liz. Since Heather is as, if not more, witty and fabulous than myself I responded with an excited, "Please do! I would adore it!"

Give Heather a warm welcome and please leave a comment to support her blogging efforts!

Blogging is the new black. It seems like all I hear about whether it be at work, from friends or from “the media” in talking about social media.

In my role as a marketer in a mid-size company, I see so much possibility in the way businesses can utilize this (usually) free media, engaging their customers and building buzz.

In my real life, as a 24-year-old girl from the ‘burbs, I love blogs. I like funny blogs. I like cute blogs. Long blogs and short blogs, its like looking through the window into someone’s mind and seeing what is most important to them. The way people manipulate their blogs and address what is happening in their life (here, now and for reals). Yes!

So, as an avid consumer of other peoples’ wittiness, cleverness, humor, and ideas, I have wanted to write a blog. Just dabble. Maybe a witty post here and there to showcase my own awesomeness.

BUT, here’s the problem. I have a job. And a social life. And a boyfriend. All three major time-suckers. Only probably because I also like to sleep everyday. (Some people, I know!). But now, Liz has agreed to let me guest blog!!!

HOORAY! I can try it out without the commitment. I wish all of life were like this! Imagine, “Oh, I’d like to take these jeans home, wear them a couple times, then decide if I’d like to buy them”, or “Yeah, this place looks nice, but I should probably live here awhile before making a decision”, or even, “Yes, I will order this plate of food, but if the person I am eating with’s looks better, I’m switching *Insert cute smile with arms up adorably image here*.

SO, awesome people who follow Liz’s blog (and I know you’re wonderful because she has very discerning taste and is incredibly witty and awesome herself), please let me know what you would most like to hear about. Here are some of my first ideas:

  • Awesome words that I have learned from Liz and how they make my life better.
  • Coupons, and how they are taking over my life (Groupons, especially Groupons, included.
  • The Pros/Cons of Bridesmaids
  • Grab-bag (something AH-MAZING to be determined at a later time, like when I’m not at work…)
So, leave a comment and expect something wonderful in a week or so! Christmas is coming early this year kids! Or, well, really maybe a little late, but I’m glass half full, so it’s coming early.

Your Guest Blogger,

Saturday, January 15, 2011

It's Not All About Me, Volume II

I was in the middle of writing another blog for unveiling, but was inspired to slip in a different post first.

Last week I was contacted by a guy at our old building on Capitol Hill who informed me a package with my name on it was there. So considerate to tell me! Thanks, Steve. Anyway, I thought, "What fool is sending packages to our place from 2 years ago??" : ) I found out who the package was from beforehand, but just picked it up today.

Look what I got:

Okay, so far this blog does sound like it's all about me. It's not. The package came from my friend Jill who is currently living in the armpit of the world, Abu Dhabi. Don't be embarrassed if you don't know where that is, I didn't. I've included a map for your reference. Jill is on her second year of teaching in the deserty region and even though I do not envy her general location I am continually impressed by her many adventures.

Jill is the kind of friend you talk to other friends about. Maybe because she lives in the armpit of the world, which is always interesting. Or maybe because she is wonderfully unique, incredibly creative, always generous or super cute. Pretty much her only downfall is she keeps befriending Canadians in Abu Dhabi. Ewww Canadians.

Jill blogs about all the cool stuff she makes and her weekend vacays to India, Egypt and Jordan. Most importantly, she blogs about NOVELTY SNACKS. I love reading them and wish I could go on so many faraway excursions.

When I was doing some of my own traveling, she sent care packages that would be waiting at my hotels before I got there. She just thinks to do stuff like that. Here I am enjoying a mud mask sent to me. I've known Jill for a relatively short time compared to some of my other friendships, but I know she's a keeper. Not that I routinely throw away friends. Haha.

Anyway, thanks for the stuff, Jill! Sorry I publicly made fun of Abu Dhabi...and Canadians, but hopefully this makes you smile. Or smirk bemusedly? Anything?

Also, I have so many cupcake cups now! I really need to get around to making ALOT of them. I want to use the cupcake stands like whoa. I've looked on Etsy and think there is a serious market for individual cupcake stands out there. I think I might start with these as a template since they come in pieces and make some of my own.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Two Very Different Books

Since I only read about 6.5 books a year, you needn't worry about me writing many blogs about my adventures in reading. However, I read two books since Christmas that I found worthy of discussion.

The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule
A friend gifted this book and Rule's telling of the Green River Killer to me as a Christmas present. Although I am very interested in true crime stories I was mildly embarrassed to receive both at the same time. Only because I thought the Thai restaurant patrons would think I was creepy for some reason.

I'm going to assume you know at least something about Ted Bundy and his connection to the Pacific Northwest. I thought I knew a good amount, but this book opened my eyes to how uniquely horrific he was. I also realized I didn't really know that much about him or what he did. I'm kind of okay with that. Some random thoughts:
  • I feel like I've heard a dozen stories from people who say their mom new Ted Bundy or somehow have a connection to him. This guy got a round, so it is quite possible anyone living in Florida, Washington, Utah and Colorado could be separated from him by six degrees or less. 
  • Ann Rule knew Ted personally. They worked at a help line (iroooony) together for three years and he confided in her for years during his trials and imprisonment. This connection to Ted made her an unreliable author. Ted Bundy was so unbelievably awful that I would've flicked the switch to his electric chair myself. So, reading along as someone doubts his guilt, talks about how charming/attractive he is constantly and empathizes with him the whole way was mildly disturbing.
  • The creepiest part about this book, and society in general, is it shows that if you're even mildly attractive and charming you can get away with murder - literally. People fell in love with Ted Bundy everywhere he went and some fool even married him and birthed his baby when he was in prison. Plus, law enforcement retards let him get out of jail on two separate occasions. The second time he went to Florida and killed 3 more poor women. 
Anyway, serial killers suck ass. Rule's attention to detail and my overall rage about what Bundy was able to get away with kept me glued to the book. It was also interesting and frightening to read about so many familiar places - UW, Seattle, Tacoma, etc. Intriguing read.

One Day by David Nicholls 
I read this book in the truck on our way up to WA from California. I ordered this book because Entertainment Weekly led me to believe it was about two people who have a one night stand and then decide to meet on the same day every year to smush. It was not about that at all, but still very good.

Are you a When Harry Met Sally fan? You should be. Despite thinking Meg Ryan is awful and finding Billy Crystal unsexual, this is one of my favorite movies. Most love stories in movies and even books are based on pure passion and brief heated affairs. When Harry Met Sally is one of those rare gems that is about best friends who fall in love and live happily ever after. I heart when friends become lovers.

Anywho, One Day is similar to WHMS. It's about Emma & Dexter who have one night of snuggling and snogging and continue to be friends for the next 20 years. I can say snogging because they are British. Oh, how I love the British. Em & Dex face trials and tribulations over the course of their lives and the question of whether or not they will ever get together looms throughout. It doesn't help that Dexter is an incurable man whore in search of fame and Emma is bookish and conservative.

The book was engrossing and a tear jerker for sure. I hear Anne Hathaway is slated to play Emma in the big screen version. Hmmm whatevs

Monday, January 10, 2011

Road Trip

Justin and I went on a weeklong vaca and just got back on Saturday. I don't feel like doing much writing, but I'll give you the highlights.

We flew down to Los Angeles on New Year's Eve. We stayed with these people:

Aren't they totes adorb?

We did a lot of shopping when we got off the plane and saw this guy:

New Years Dog

We went to Carissa's friends' house in Irvine for New Year's Eve and I did this (note the adorable little woman in purple). I'm not a good dancer and I think you can see familial embarrassment on my cousin's face.

We hung out with our cruise friends and saw my aunt and uncle. I fell in love with a baby who smiled at me alot. We went to Denny's twice in three days.

Why are you the only place open 24 hours with alcohol?

Then we went to Justin's aunt's place in Studio City. Her boyfriend Mark is part of one, or several, fancy Hollywood guilds. So, we watched awesome movies still in theatres while we were there. We saw:

The Fighter - I have no idea what all the hype around this movie is. It wasn't terrible, but just kind of lack luster. Waaaa waaaaa. Plus, I may never find Christian Bale attractive again.  C-
127 Hours - Looooved it. Amazing story. Great acting. A-
Casino Jack - I saw less than half of this, but I give what I did see a D
I Love You Phillip Morris - Interesting story and pretty good acting. B-
True Grit - This was really good up until the end, which kind of made the rest of the movie seem not so great anymore. The young girl in it should def get an Oscar nod. B-

We left Studio City in a Penske moving truck filled with lots of old stuff and headed back to Seattle. We stopped in Lodi, CA and saw these people. We drank beer, talked about weddings and admired all the red and black in John's apartment.

We left Lodi and drove to Medford, OR. We drank wine on the way (not in the car, at wineries). Stayed at my favorite hotel chain - Hampton Inn. Drove from Medford, OR to Salem, OR. We stopped in Grants Pass and got this at a questionable looking Chinese restaurant:

So much greasy food
After more wineries and more driving, we got to Puyallup Saturday evening. We unloaded the truck and Season 3 of Hoarders played out in front of my eyes. 

1,107 Miles. 3 Hotels. 1.5 Million Calories Consumed. 6 Wineries. 1 Book Read. 5 Sets of Friends & Family Seen. $100 in Movie Tickets Saved. 110 Gallons of Gas