Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Viva La Resolution!

Not mine, but funny. 
It's the day, time of year, frame of mind to think about beginning again. I like new beginnings. Even if it's only on the calendar. New beginnings mean new possibilities and what's life if we aren't thinking of how it could be even better.

Or maybe that's just me.  Maybe you've already accomplished all your dreams.

I, on the other hand, have not. So instead of just wishing things were different, I pictured how I wanted things to be different by the end of 2014 and worked my resolutions from there. Not sure it will be any different, but I'm trying it.

By the end of 2014, I will:

  1. Have a literary agent. So to do that, it means that I have to have something I want to show an agent, which means I need to get to work. I'm dreaming big here, so go with me. . . 
  2. Have 1,000 per week visiting my blog. I'm halfway there now, so really it means that I'll just have to post more, read more, share more, and generally be more engaged. I think I can do that. 
  3. Be down 40 lbs. I'm beyond pudgy, and I don't have to be. I run consistently. But I also eat consistently. Consistently bad. I'm over it. Time to hunker down and shed some lbs. 
  4. Say 'no' more often. Specifically 'no' to a few things: 1) time-wasting activities like TV for the sake of TV and Candy Crush. 2) Events or activities that I get guilted into doing or going to. 3) People who are draining without any benefits. 
  5. Say 'yes' more. Specifically to new things that I've wanted to do but might be too chicken try and to hanging out more with friends who I say 'no' to for no good reason. Additionally, this also means that I'm going to ask more of others, specifically to take Chef up on his offer for us to go out to eat more. 
  6. Made unplugging from technology a habit. No more answering emails at 10 p.m. because my phone is by my side. I will use the sleep mode on my phone. I will learn what items are truly emergencies and what ones are just other people's emergencies.
  7. Put more into my time instead of putting more time in. This includes writing, reading, working, and being present for my time at home with Chef. 
  8. Use my money for good instead of evil. This not only means spending or saving more wisely, but also not buying stuff that leads to negating other resolutions--like toys to waste time. My one exception is the aforementioned dinner dates with Chef. 

So that's it. That's my list. What's on your list?

Monday, December 30, 2013

Women and Politics

I did many things over my little break from work last week. I hung out with Chef, ate way too much, watched movies, got used to using my authoritative voice to get the Xbox One to obey my commands ("Xbox Watch TV!"), and watching tons of movies and TV.

I finally (and almost sadly) am now caught up on Scandal. It was watching this current season that I stumbled upon a monologue so well-written that I thought I was watching a different show. (The show is fairly well-written, don't get me wrong, but not a lot stands on issues per se). Oh and Lisa Kudrow delivers it like a bad ass so bonus for that.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

What Are You Gearing Up For?

I can't decide if these books
make me want to set a new
reading goal or a goal around
clutter for 2014. 
Only a few more days before the new year begins. I always get really excited at the new year. Mostly because I like the idea that things can change in a year. That hard work can make dreams happen. It's the wholesome American Midwest in me that likes to believe that working hard is rewarded. 

So I'm gearing up for what I'm going to concentrate on next year. This year I wanted to be well, write daily, try new things and be a better blogger. For the most part, I kept those resolutions. The end result is (the past week--okay, month--aside on the health part) has been more blog traffic lately (funny how that happens when you actually post more than 1-2 times a month), a solid draft on the novel plus several new stories and outlines for future stories, a fairly consistent running schedule, and an indoor skydiving experience under my belt, among other things. 

So now I'm thinking, what next? I will have a goal around writing, one around reading, one around my health for shiz, and then something else. It will have to be realistic, but maybe this time I'll start backwards. I'll start with what I want to have accomplished at the end of next year and then work backward on what it'll take to get me there. 

What are you preparing for in 2014? Any big goals on the horizon?

Friday, December 27, 2013

My Happy Holiday

My 2013 Holiday Card
My holiday joy was mildly interrupted by yesterday's call, but the joy definitely outlasted it all. It started on Christmas Eve. Chef and I had some massive dollars to spend in our FSA account, so we did something we'd done before and got eye exams. Very festive, right? While we were waiting on Chef's glasses, we went to lunch at PF Chang's. It was delicious, but also indulgent because I had a glass of wine at lunch, and then topped it off with a decadently awesome Vanilla Bean Bourbon Milkshake.  Heavenly.

We had a great Christmas, and a good meal at Ruth's Chris, which sadly left us a little ill for the rest of the day.

However, all in all, it was an awesome holiday. And two more days off to boot. Going back will be hard, as usual.

Hope everyone else's day was just as wonderful!

Eye Exam selfie--that's how close I had to be to see myself

Vanilla Bean Bourbon Milkshake

Mid-milkshake: Look at that smile.

The last of my Holiday Spirit Quest: One of two stockings stuffed

My First Flask

The beautiful green satchel my husband got me. Lucky me!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

A Holiday Shakedown

My crude diagram of the accident. I'm the heart car,
the Ford SUV is the asterick and the square
 behind me was the one that nudged me. 
I spent the morning with Chef--out and about. Doing some gift card spending and having a good ole time. We had picked up lunch and were heading back into the house when my phone rang. It wasn't a number that I recognized but it was from LA, so I picked it up. It could've been a client or someone work-related.

It was neither. The guy said "I'm Martin X. Ben's dad. You remember? Last week. . ." The signal was bad, the call dropped, and I couldn't discern who it was. I was trying to rack my brain thinking if I had been working with some kids lately at a charity, and frankly I couldn't think of a "Ben" to save my life. A few steps later, my phone rang again.

And here's where things got interesting.

A few weeks ago I was on my way to a work event in bumper-to-bumper (aka normal LA rush hour) traffic. The car to my left, a Ford SUV-type, was in a left hand turn lane, but their butt was sticking out so I couldn't move. The cars in front of me had gone on the green light, but I was still blocked. Apparently the car behind me didn't care. A black sedan, probably a Prius but I couldn't remember, nudged me forward. I knew I had been hit, and stopped but didn't realize that my car's driver side mirror had hit the taillight of the car who was blocking my lane. The black sedan took off around me and I got out to check my car. A few scrapes on the back bumper, a scrape on my side mirror and then I saw the Ford SUV had a broken taillight. I got the driver to pull over, I pulled over, we exchanged information, and I went on to my work event. A little rattled and a lot pissed that after 12 years with no insurance claims, poor Liam Nissan had two claims within 5 weeks. I also waved my fist at every black Prius that I saw, which was a lot because it's LA and everyone drives a Prius.

I knew the driver of the Ford SUV was mentally challenged in some way. I didn't know what in particular, but I tried my best to make sure he had everything he needed and I did too. He said the policy was under his dad's name and that his dad would probably get a hold of me.

And his dad did. But not before calling my insurance company. The Ford SUV had called my insurance company before I could even call them and alert them. I wasn't going to file a claim for a scrape, but gave my testimony, uploaded pictures of my car, the Ford, etc.  And then I thought I was done.

But the driver's dad called me today---more than three weeks after the accident, and asked me for $150 for the damages to his son'ts car. He kept saying that I was at fault and that I just needed to pay him and that he just went to get an estimate today and that's what took so long.

It felt wrong. He felt pushy and I KNEW that someone on his end had already alerted my insurance company. I told him that I was not admitting fault, that he had already filed a claim with my insurance company and I wasn't going to pay him if he still has something pending against me. Martin told me that they hadn't called my insurance company at all. That he had no idea how my insurance would have their information. He closed by saying "My son is autistic. You know you are at fault. But fine. Do whatever. I'll assume you will call me back to take care of this."

I called my insurance company and the long and short of it is that they denied his son's claim because it was determined that it wasn't my fault. So his insurance company would have to cover it. That no one on that end should have contacted me at all. My insurance company (who I love!) gave me a copy of the denial letter in case he called me again.

I have a feeling he won't be calling back. I might've had some sympathy if he had been honest, but the total ambush about month after the fact AND after the denial really pushed my limits.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Kittenz II Cats

Nothing says Christmas like dressing your cats up like tiny little members of the world's furriest boy band. I only have a few items left on my Holiday Spirit Quest and last night I took care of #7- Have the cats sporting their holiday ties at least once this holiday season. That means that I only have to watch a cheesy holiday movie (one of which is sitting on my bedroom DVR) and stuff a stocking (or two) which I (or Santa) will do tonight. I have to say that I still love doing these spirit items. Mostly because if I didn't, I wouldn't try at all to get into the holiday mood, and what fun is that?

So, today we also went to use the last of our flexible healthcare spending for the year and got glasses and contacts, as well as eye exams. This has become somewhat of a Christmas Eve tradition. We get exams, Chef gets glasses, we wait for the glasses by walking across the street to the mall. We did all that today PLUS had a delicious lunch at PF Chang's. It's not quite opening presents with the family, but it's not bad at all.

In the mean time, here are pictures of the furry family of boy band members (and Mila) in their holiday attire. Enjoy!

Attila looking dapper in his plaid tie.

Genghis and Khubla wondering how they could've worn the same outfit.

The closest I could get to having all three in the picture at once.

Genghis kinda likes his tie.

Genghis and his half-brother Attila looking very much like they are ready for their holiday choir concert.

Genghis and Khubla waiting for their cue to sing.

The best one of Khubla by himself
Mila did not like her holiday fur collar AT ALL.

This was the most she would do with it. I can't blame her. It had bells so she couldn't hide at all from the other cats. 

Engineers + Cats = Pure Genius

I had yet to experience the love or anguish of cat ownership when the first part of "The Engineer's Guide to Cats" came out, but I do appreciate a good sequel.

We too practice corporal cuddling in our household. Wanna see the first one? Click here.

Monday, December 23, 2013

72 and Snowy

Yesterday I got to play around in the snow. It was man-made snow, but still a good time. A festival had ordered snow and it rained so they weren't able to use it by the date, so they donated the snow to the Pasadena Ronald McDonald House. They're a client, so I was pitching cute kiddos playing in the snow in 70 degree weather to the news media and got a bite. All in all this snow day was a win-win.

The local Fire Department came by and got into a snowball fight with the kids.

This little girl was enamored by the camera. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Shopping, Singing and Giving

A VERY large tree at the Citadel
Outlet Mall
 So I'm happy to say that I've conquered a few more items from my list a while back. There's 4) Listen to Christmas music for a week's worth of commutes (it's Friday, so check!), 5) actually go to a mall or shopping complex to buy a present, 10) have all my presents bought a week before Christmas, and 12) Give to a new charity. Nine tasks complete, three to go and 5 days until Christmas. Not to sound overconfident, but I think I got this.

The most trying of these were numbers 5 and 10. Last Saturday I got up early to be at the outlet mall at 10 a.m. when the stores opened. I got there at 10:05 and ALL the parking was already taken. I had to park on a side street a quarter-mile away. They were running shuttles from other parking
This was JUST the line to pay
at the Coach outlet store. It was a
30 minute wait to hand
over your money.
lots miles away to accommodate the shoppers. It was, sadly, the first of three malls that I went to last Saturday, but because of this marathon of shopping that took six hours instead of my estimated three, I was able to have everything bought AND shipped before the 16th--a full nine days before Christmas. And I also had my fill of Christmas shopping so next year it's all online!
Merry Xmas from Xtina

Lastly, I give to a lot of charities. Mostly because I was in non-profit for so long (American Heart Associations) so I give to that one, plus to the ones my previous co-workers now work at because people tend to stay in non-profit, PLUS the new ones like Ronald McDonald House of Southern California or UNICEF that are clients PLUS my tie with breast cancer causes will always be strong (shameless plugs for great causes). I decided to donate to one that personally moved me and WASN'T health 826 LA. It's the local branch of a national organization that encourages young kids to write and provides tutoring. I hope to volunteer there one day but until then, this will have to do. I hope you gave to your favorite this year too!
related. So I donated to

Thursday, December 19, 2013

#11 Drink a Holiday Inspired Coffee Drink

I've had a couple in my quest because I prefer the gingerbread or egg nog or pumpkin spice lattes to regular ole coffee, but below is a picture of my favorite coffee for a couple of reasons. I was so hot that I had to get it iced. It was 71 degrees at almost 6 p.m. less than 2 weeks before Christmas.

Yup that seems to describe the holidays in LA in just one mundane snapshot.

It was an iced non-fat, no whip, no molasses Gingerbread latte, by the way. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Cookies and Candles

Didn't turn out TOO bad
So I decided that I didn't really want to make shaped sugar cookies, but really just wanted the frosted sugar cookie taste. So I found a recipe for sugar cookie bars and VOILA! However, the cookie part tasted a little too floury in the end, but the icing is delicious. And from scratch. Not as hard as I expected.

Homemade icing-delicious! Wish I had food coloring though.

One carby delicious cookie bar

And of course, I also put up my decorations a while ago. In fact, I have already bought another holiday-smelling candle because my old faithful had burned too long. It might not look too much like the holidays, but it certainly smells like Christmas.

Nothing says Christmas like my touch of tacky from 2011-- Snookie! 

And the stockings were hung.  . . to drive the cats crazy

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

#2 Give a Gift to Someone Who Isn't Expecting It

Sure, I might've been a little fast and loose on the name tag, but she totally knew who it was from. The one danger about giving a gift to someone who isn't expecting it, is that they feel the need to reciprocate. Which wasn't the purpose of this exercise at all. I found something that said my friend's name so I got it. Simple as that.

In case you were wondering, here's what I got her. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Holiday Spirit Quest Continues

I've slowly but surely been making my way through the list of things to get me into the holiday spirit. Some of them got me into the spirit, but that spirit was "why the holidays can be stressful." I guess you can't enjoy the highs of the holidays without some lows. But I digress.

In an effort to capture my smaller list and to hit one of my personal goals of hitting 100 blog posts this year, I'm going to break my spirit quest up even more!

Today's quest item is #1 Make a list of for Santa (and Chef).

I'm a big believer in telling people what I want. If not in every day life, at least at Christmas. I love the concept of the wedding registry. It might be because I never actually had one, but the idea of letting people know what you like and the items you want seems like a sensible way to do things.

In that spirit, I always make a list for Santa. This year, I used Pinterest, but there are some things you just can pin (here it is). So here is my list. This is not to insinuate that I want you to get me anything. That's just rude. This is just to help those who are getting me something.

And as a bonus, my birthday is only a month away, too.

  1. A literary agent (this girl's getting close to selling her book)
  2. An understanding editor who sees potential in my manuscript
  3. An Apple Macbook Pro (13" or 15" with retina display)-- I'm tired of burning my legs off with my current computer. That may be why I'm writing everything long hand. That and I love buying notebooks.
  4. To hang out with my niece and nephew for a few days that aren't holidays
  5. A Large 15" green satchel from the Cambridge Satchel Company 
  6. A variety of kitchy things from modcloth
  7. More time with my hubby
  8. A variety of lovely shoes from Sole Society
  9. A new blender (although I'm not thrilled about giving up a blender from 1970 that still works)
  10. A new women's XL Andrew Luck Colts jersey
  11. A Colts bucking bronco vintage t-shirt in women's XL 
  12. Gift cards from:
    1. Amazon
    2. Sephora
    3. Ruth's Chris
    4. Arclight Hollywood Cinemas 
    5. Sole Society
    6. Target
    7. Bauble bar

Friday, December 06, 2013

It's Not Really Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

As my family gets pounded by snow today, I am searching for the Christmas spirit. I think I'm still relishing the post-Thanksgiving of it all. That week between Thanksgiving and December was non-existent this year so I haven't had time to physically or mentally adjust. Although for its part, LA is trying to get me in the mood. I've been to two hotels this week that were both decorated to the nines for the holiday and the weather was LA cold this morning (a brisk 42 when I woke up and only hit a high of 59).

So, to continue my tradition, I will embark on my third annual Holiday Spirit Quest. The list will be shorter this year because of the lack of time. I will keep it to a dirty dozen items--the twelve days of my Christmas, so to speak.

The guidelines are the same. To do things that have traditionally made me think of Christmas. I can repeat items from previous years' list but I have to add new things too.

Here goes:

  1. Make a Christmas list for Santa (or Chef...or both).
  2. Give a gift to someone who isn't expecting it.
  3. Make homemade sugar cookies.
  4. Listen to Christmas music for a week of commutes.
  5. Actually go to the mall or shopping complex to buy a gift. 
  6. Put up my Christmas decorations, sparse that they may be. 
  7. Have the cats sporting their holiday ties at least once during the season. 
  8. Watch at least one NEW cheesy holiday made-for-TV movie. 
  9. Stuff a stocking (or two).
  10. Have all my presents bought a week before Christmas. 
  11. Drink a holiday-inspired coffee drink. 
  12. Give to a new charity. 
What would you add?

Monday, December 02, 2013

I Think I Felt it More than LA

It's hard to believe it, but Chef and I have officially been in LA for THREE years now. Three years, one address, two jobs and one wedding. Crazy. When I moved here I was scared to apply at a PR agency because I had watched too many horrible Bravo reality shows about PR people who were all waifish, dumb, self-centered girls. And while there are plenty of those in this town, there are also lots and lots of smart, funny, sarcastic women (and a few men)sprinkled in with agency life as well. Plus a lot of fun things. That's one thing that people in PR won't tell you, but people figure out pretty easily. 

I mean, what other profession can have me making oatmeal for high school students one morning and then meeting the CEO of McDonald's at a meeting right after? Not many, that's for damn sure. And besides work there is the wonderment that is LA. I remark about it all the time and it still doesn't cease to amaze me. Whether it's the traffic (it's worse than you've ever imagined people) or the beautiful skyline or the way that a good neighborhood can turn into a bad one (and vice versa) in the matter of a block. It's all what makes this place so fun to be at and now makes it home. 

After three years I can safely say that LA has left a bigger mark on me than I on it, but who can really say the opposite and mean it? Maybe like a Son of Sam serial killer, but those have never been my particular aspirations. 

Thanks for three great years, LA!


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