Thursday, December 18, 2008

Envelope System: Halfway through December 2008

I decided to make December my "test" month for trying out the envelope system. I put $150 in my Groceries envelope and $200 in my Eating Out envelope. We're now a little more than halfway through the month and here's how it's looking so far...

Groceries
I've spent $104.62 on groceries so far, of which $14 was for vanilla extract that will probably last me for the next two years and $7 was for pure entertainment of friends (some chips and dip). It's gonna be tough to stick to this and I may have just allocated too little to this envelope. Especially with cooking Christmas Eve dinner and co-hosting a New Year's Eve party. I only have $45.38 left and the standing rib roast I want to make will likely take up $25 of that even with the meat on sale this week. Hmmm... Maybe if I can spend less in the eating out department... How's that looking?

Eating Out
Tonight was my major outing for the month, an annual Christmastime tradition of eating $18 AMAZING grilled cheese sandwiches at Campanile. Add wine, cheese as dessert and a mandatory gratuity for a large party (not that they don't deserve it because the service at Campanile is excellent!) and you've got yourself a $50 dinner. I am proud of myself for not falling into the valet trap. I found street parking for free, a block away, while everyone else paid $6.50 plus tip for valet parking. I will gladly walk two blocks to save $8 dollars for nothing. I had planned on spending up to $60, so I am happy that it was only $50.

Back to the progress report... I've spent $104.86, so I'm on track to be OK for the month if I don't go crazy. I've been invited out for drinks tomorrow night with one group of friends and dinner with another... I might have to skip one or both if I want to have leftover money to put towards extra groceries and party supplies.

Overall
I'm happy with the budgeting. I've been taking some ribbing from friends, but I can take it. It's my money and sure, I might look cheap sometimes, but at least I am in control of what I'm spending and more importantly, I'm consciously spending my money. The envelopes definitely help with this because seeing the money in the envelope and writing down on the outside of the envelope exactly how much I spent helps me keep an eye on it. I've also been enjoying cooking more at home. It makes me feel more productive. It's a nice feeling.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Bike Hero

It's fun and boy, do these kids have a lot of extra time on their hands. Strangely compelling to watch...

Friday, December 05, 2008

Tightening the Financial Belt

I have been completely avoiding looking at my Vanguard account because I knew that my stocks must be down. I invest mainly in index funds, so I've been positive they would be down, down, down... I finally logged in to check on them and sure enough, they're so low that it's almost enough to make my stomach turn! I haven't stopped my regular contributions though. I'm gonna struggle through the emotional side and just keep plugging away at it. It did really help me resolve to buckle down on cutting my spending.

Which brings me to the next big thing that I've put off and off... trying to make a budget! Or I should say: MAKING a budget. I guess the even tougher part will be STICKING to it.

That is one of my goals this weekend. To figure out how much I am spending on the essentials and then how much I want to spend. I'm dedicated to eating food out of my pantry and freezer though, so that should get me through a lot of December. I have a lot of food in there!

I am pretty certain that my biggest expenditures are traveling (one of the downfalls of having a long-distance boyfriend) and eating out (foodie friends will kill you in that department!). So, I'm going to institute the Envelope System for the eating out and maybe groceries. I have no idea how much I actually spend on going out to eat each month, but should I be spending more than $200? I think not, so I'm gonna stick $200 in an envelope and every time I eat out, I'll take it out of the envelope. If I run out of money, I won't go out to eat. Luckily, so far, I only have two times this month that I KNOW I'm going out. I may adjust this amount if I come up with some data while making the budget that makes sense.

How much to budget for groceries? I'm a single woman who entertains often... $150 a month? Hmmm... that's a toughie. Maybe research is required on that one. I guess I could try $150 a month and see how it goes. December has the danger of being more expensive with New Year's and Christmas dinner thrown in there. Meat's expensive!

As far as traveling goes, most of my traveling can be broken down into: going to see Greg and gaming conventions. Gulf Games is coming up in February and I really don't want to miss it. I have a roommate lined up and maybe I could use a free ticket I got from United for being bumped on my white water rafting trip. That would make it more affordable for sure! *sigh*

OK - I can do this. Deep breaths...

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

No Christmas Gifts This Year

I don't know about you, but I've definitely been much more conscious of my spending. Buying a new-to-me car took a big bite out of my savings and with my 401(k) and investments taking a dive, I've decided to just chill out for Christmas and not buy Christmas gifts. *gasp!*

This decision was also helped by doing Ramit's savings challenge the month of November. He created a website called No Christmas Gifts This Year and I've already used it to send out cute emails to some of my friends to let them know that instead of exchanging gifts, I'd much rather spend time with them playing board games or cooking a meal together. My free time has really become more precious this year and spending it with people I love is much more important that having more stuff. Especially when I'm constantly trying to fight the battle of The Stuff in my one bedroom apartment!

That said, this isn't a hard and fast rule. I adopted a woman through my church who needs some help and I'm planning to buy something for my boyfriend and my nephew. I might also give away things I currently own as gifts. I already started before I left town by clearing out my closet and giving Shane some clothes. I have my eye on something else to give her as a gift.

I also plan on sending out Christmas cards. I think I failed to accomplish that last year and I want to remedy that this year. I usually participate in the BGG Secret Santa exchange, but I downgraded myself to the Christmas card exchange. I'm very much looking forward to it as I have several people on my "to send" list and half of them are out of the country! If you aren't sure you're on my Christmas card list and want to be, send me an email with your mailing address!

The final issue is this... I'm not sure about buying a Christmas tree. I love having one and decorating it, but they do cost about $60-90 depending on how tall they are. That may have to be my one Christmas indulgence. I'm hosting a couple Christmas get-togethers and I think a decorated tree will be a nice addition to the festivities. Maybe I could get a shorter one? I love the big, tall trees though. And I know the fake trees are more practical, I don't know if I can revert to one! The real ones are just so darn pretty!! Oh, the dilemma! I think I'll just buy one. It just won't feel like Christmas without the tree...

Next to try... the Envelope System...

Friday, November 21, 2008

BGG.CON 2008 Day 1

OK - so it's now 4:36 AM and we're winding down Day 1 of BGG.CON 2008... I'm in the Rock Band room, chillin', trying to stay awake while I write this. I think I officially missed a day yesterday, but my goodness, there's just too much happening here. I've been having fun with the webcam, talking to people all over the con (when my aircard and the ustream.tv website will cooperate).

If you're bored at work tomorrow, make sure you tune in! I think I'm only "planning" on webcasting around noon (or whenever I get downstairs) and then later at 11 PM before the drawing. That's CST! And we'll do the midnight drawing and then later, Ca$h'n Guns Live and maybe Time's Up? I'm not sure how popular the Werewolf was last night. The website crapped out and probably dropped the feed before they finished. I have no idea.

So far, it's been a blast. I'm still not fully recovered and I've been talking all day and I'm starting to lose my voice. I really need to try to get some sleep and take it easy.

I only played one "real" game last night and that was After the Flood, the new Martin Wallace game. It was fun and I think that if you like Martin Wallace games, you'll probably enjoy this one. It's really tight with resources and you really need to manage everything, planning both your short-term and long-term goals. I definitely need to play it again to grasp a basic strategy fully. I played with Michael Weston (delta1119) and Janna. Janna schooled us! It was awesome!

Other than that, I think I just played Time's Up! and Title Recall. I got to see Davebo act out all the works of Mark Twain in 30 seconds - white washing a fence, cajoling someone else into doing the white washing, a trip down the Mississippi River, burning at the stake(?) and other stuff. If I do stream Time's Up! tomorrow night, I will do my best to get Davebo in that game. He's so good at the third round (AKA: the no-words round).

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

BGG Application for the iPhone

So I haven't caved and bought one of the fancy iPhones (not yet at least), but I did see the BoardGameGeek application created by Ryan Christianson (BGG ID: ryanch) for the iPhone tonight.

It's similar to MiniBGG in that you can search on BGG and download information as well as record plays. Click here to link to the Apple iTunes store if you're interested... the best part is that it's FREE!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Twittering from BGG.CON 2008

Do you want to know what everyone's up to at BGG.CON 2008? You can find out by checking out this link:


Set it up now on your RSS feeder or bloglines.com or whatever you use to keep up wtiht he latest and greatest... We've already started posting and I don't expect it to stop until Sunday night!!


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Gift-free Christmas

I've been discussing this with several of my friends. The concept of a gift-free Christmas. And I think we're in agreement. We're going gift-free!

I mean, really... do I need more stuff? I've been slowly working on getting RID of stuff. I really don't need more books, CDs, games, clothes, or anything else.

Shane suggested regifting as a possibility and I think I might do that. I already sent her home with a bag of clothes and have something else I could possibly send her way for Christmas.

The couple exceptions will be children. I have a few kids in my life that I want to buy a gift for. Nothing extravagant, just a little something. And probably Greg too.

More than anything, I just want to spend time with everyone! I'm in Dallas for BGG.CON, then off to Athens for Thanksgiving plus some and then back in LA on December 4th. And then I'm in town for one more month!! And looking forward to seeing everyone!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Random Stuff

I'm feeling better. I have a cough, but in general, I'm feeling much better as of this morning... I'm going to get lots of sleep the next couple days and I'm packing cough drops and Dayquil for the trip, JUST IN CASE. Maybe going to Texas tomorrow will help because the fires are making the air so gross and it is NOT helping my cough. At. All.

I'm not sure how much time I'll have from blogging... hmmm... maybe some live blogging from the con? Anyway, I think I'm going to schedule some posts in advance of the con so that I am not worrying about the whole posting every day in November. Actually, I think it's just 30 posts in November, so I guess in theory I could post twice in one day to make up for a missing day!

I'm pretty much all packed up for BGG.CON, just going to stop by Trader Joe's in the morning to pick up a few snacks to take with me to the con and then to Greg's afterwards.

The couch surfer is leaving tomorrow morning. She seemed nice enough, but I can't imagine living so loose the way she does. More power to her, but living gig to gig is definitely not for me!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Modern Long Distance Dating

Because my boyfriend lives across the country... Georgia, more specifically... We don't have the "typical" dates that people who live in the same city might have. It usually consists of late night chats when we can squeeze them in and silly text messages to say "hi" or some such.

What we've been doing lately is setting up "date nights," which usually go like this:
He comes home from work, eats something, takes a nap and then calls me so we can get caught up on each others' week and hang out. Last time, we played some Dominion on BSW (a German website where you can play all kinds of Euro games).

I'm waiting for him to call so we can commence with our date tonight and tonight it'll be a little different. I bought him a webcam from Amazon and had it shipped to his house. He hasn't yet opened the box and he doesn't know what's in it, so I hope that he actually likes it. I picked out one with good reviews (4.5 stars with 402 reviews), so I hope it installs nicely and doesn't give him any trouble. As much as I love our date nights, I think I'll like them even more if I can see his smile!

And really, webcams are quickly becoming the norm. I was chatting about this with my waxer and a customer in the salon overheard us and said, "Oh, are you going to talk to your child with it?" Apparently, her son is in Japan and she just shipped him a webcam so she can see him when they talk via Skype. She loves it.

In fact, Google has just released video chatting! I can't wait to try this tonight. I guess we'll find out!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Couchsurfer #3

I'm hosting my third couchsurfer. This one is a different from previous surfers in that (a) she's a woman - both of my other surfers were male and (b) she's not from out-of-town. She's an actress/set decorator/industry person who lives in LA and is apparently in between homes at the moment. So, she's crashing here for three nights. So far, it's going fine and I have no reason to believe that won't continue. Jason was over here when she arrived and he was asking her some questions about her experience with couchsurfing (as a host and surfer) and he seemed very skeptical of the whole idea. She said that typically men are more suspicious of it. I wonder why that is?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Oh no! I'm sick!

I felt fine when I woke up and then halfway through the day, my throat started hurting. And then I started coughing. And now, I'm going to take Nyquil and crawl into bed and turn off my phones. UGH. Why is this happening right before BGG.CON? BOOOOOOO...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Countdown to BGG.CON

Only nine more days until BGG.CON! I can't wait!!

I'm really excited because I know even MORE people from the SoCal area that are going and I get to see some of my favorite gamers that weekend! I can't wait! I'm going to have to stock up on sleep beforehand and sweet tea during the convention!

I'm going to bring my laptop with me and camera and I'm hoping to post pictures up on my Flickr account and maybe some videos up on YouTube while we're at the con... Just to keep everyone who isn't there in the loop somewhat while it's happening!

Live blogging from the event? Maybe!

Monday, November 10, 2008

I bought a DIFFERENT car!

This afternoon, I took my car back to CarMax because it was scraping on my driveway every time I drove in and out of my garage. I showed the mechanic in their service department where it was hitting on the driveway and asked if I should be concerned. He said, "Well, it isn't good..." and so I returned the car. CarMax has a policy that allows you to return a car within five days for any reason. THANK GOODNESS!!

So, I came back this afternoon and drove some more cars and I must be a Honda person because I ended up with another Honda. Specifically, I got a 2005 Honda Accord EX. It's awesome!!! I'm in the waiting room right now, waiting to drive it home. The only slight negative is that it's silver. I'm not sure about the color, but I think I can live with that. My other color choices weren't fabulous, so I'm OK with that.

It has leather seats, seat warmers(!!), a six CD changer, 6 cylinder, 240 HP, dual AC and roomy inside without being too big. Most importantly, it's QUIET inside! That was the biggest complaint with my Civic. The road noise while driving was a bit annoying, especially while driving on the freeway and trying to chat on my cell phone. So, I'm looking forward to driving it home.

Also, I do have to add that my experience with CarMax has been VERY positive. Especially with regards to the sales people. They have a no haggle pricing policy, so you just see what the price is. They try to upsell you on their CarMax Full Protection policy and LoJack, but they don't put the hard sell on which is cool. I might have been able to pay less if I had gone somewhere else or bought from a private party, but I wouldn't have been able to return the car, which really gave me peace of mind. In addition, I don't have to worry about the past of the car as much since they do a thorough examination of the car before taking them in to sell.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

I bought a car!

I'm not really a "car person," so I went to CarMax in Burbank today to just look at cars to see what's out there. Well, I ended up leaving with a 2003 Infiniti G35! And it's this burgundy/red color, which is very different from the black cars I've had for the last 10 years... Once I take a picture, I'll post it here.

I have five days to return it if I change my mind... When I drove home tonight, the bottom scrapes on my driveway. I'm not sure if that's a huge problem? Any opinions on that? It's a moderate scrape, not tooooo bad, but it definitely scrapes. Plus, I smelled something that smelled like burning plastic or some kind of chemical. I'm going to see if Jason can look at it for me.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

The idea behind the Mime

I talked to Evan today and I was asking him how he came up with the idea for the mime costume. There's a downloadable PS3 game called Pain that is essentially VGA Bomb meets Tony Hawk. You put a person on a ramp and shoot them out into the city and try to make combos by exploding yourself and destroying stuff. It's totally over-the-top gross-ness, but really, really fun. And hey, you get to learn about physics while you're at it. Anyway, there's a mime that you get points for hitting in the game. Here's a slo-mo video of the PS3 mime...

Friday, November 07, 2008

Evan's Homemade Halloween Costume 2008

My sister always does an awesome job with Evan's costumes... I think this year was mainly handled by my brother-in-law, who did a great job! My sister is a hard act to follow after the first homemade costume in 2006 and 2007. After those gems, I waited with baited breath to see what Evan would be for Halloween this year....

And the verdict was...

A sad, sad mime...

I can safely say that I handed out candy to 1,000 children on Halloween night and did not see a single kid dressed up as a mime... My nephew is unique and I love him!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Personal Assistant

I've been contemplating the idea of hiring a personal assistant for a while. I even kinda softa offered the job to my former co-worker, but that didn't really work out. I've been really busy with work and as a result, some of my personal matters have just fallen by the wayside.

A couple weeks ago, I bit the bullet and put an ad on Craigslist for a personal assistant. I didn't want to pay a ton, so I put an ad out to pay $10 an hour thinking that I might get a few responses. Imagine my surprise when I received a dozen replies in less than eight hours, from people as far away as Culver City and Northridge! I turned those people down immediately just because it doesn't make sense that someone would drive 30-45 minutes to make $10 an hour for a few hours.

When I saw that someone applied and they lived right around the corner from me, I called her immediately and scheduled an interview. She came over, was fabulous and I hired her on the spot! I had her file all my bills that have been piled up for the last six months, call the vet to make an appointment for Evie, make a few phone calls that I'd been putting off to insurance companies and had her drive with me over to the body shop to take my car.

When we were at the body shop, I asked her if I could move some stuff from my car to her car because I thought I'd be leaving my car there so they could fix it.

When I moved a big bag of games I had in my car from the games day the past weekend, she asked if I liked board games and I said, "Yes!"

She said, "I have some friends who are really into that too..."
I said, "Oh really? Who are they? Maybe I know them..."
and then she said, "Do you know Lincoln & Nikki?"

I said, "Seriously!?!?!" I guess that's my one-in-a-million for this quarter... Turns out she worked with Nikki for two years at the hellhole company and she's still friends with them!

Her name is Danielle and she's working out great. I think the next project I have for her is to rearrange my game closet! It needs it!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

White Water Rafting Update

I never gave a recap of the white water rafting... In one very short sentence: It was awesome! It was freezing cold, but awesome.

Saturday was Bridge Day, which happens every third Saturday in October and it's the only day that base jumping is legal in the US. We rafted down the New River and that was OK, not too exciting. However it was great to watch people jump off a bridge over a gorge that's 876 ft above the river and freefall or flip and then toss their parachute into the air. It only takes eight seconds from bridge to river, so they don't even bother packing the chute because there just isn't enough time for it to deploy!!

Sunday was the best. There are two entries in the book "1,000 places to see before you die" for West Virginia and I've now hit one of them. We did the Gauley Marathon, which is the entire Gauley River - covering 23 miles and eight class five rapids. It's impossible to describe, but I'm hoping to get a picture posted soon. I haven't developed my film yet. On the way down to the river, the guides kept saying, "Be nice to us! Today's the last day of the season, so just remember.... we can't get fired!!!" And then the bus erupted into laughter! There was a lot of rubber cock talk going around too because one of the guides carries around a rubber chicken to be his boat mascot. It was hilarious!

I should add that when we woke up on Sunday, it was 30 degrees and we had to melt the ice off of our windshield. Yes, COLD. FREAKIN' COLD. Here's what I was wearing... under my wetsuit!!!
I know it's hard to tell, but I'm wearing TWO layers of long underwear, topped with a SmartWool sweater, wool socks and later, a cap under my helmet! Did I mention it was chilly? On top of all that, I put a farmer John wetsuit and a neoprene jacket & booties. Brrrrrr!

Here are a few more pictures from the trip:
With our river guide for the Gauley Marathon.... Leif!
And with our crazy, enthusiastic kayak-happy videographer... John Petro

BTW - I'd highly recommend our rafting company... If you're looking to do some beautiful white water rafting in West Virginia, call Ace Rafting. They were fabulous! All the guides were cool and had a lot of experience. When they sent me the online survey, I was only too happy to fill it out with glowing reviews. I'm not sure if it was that OR the tip that prompted this note from our guide...

I was completely surprised that he wrote that note and touched. I had a great time hanging out with him all day and you could tell that he had a great heart.

I hope some of the pictures I took on the Lower Gauley turn out well because I took pictures of the fall foilage. It was gorgeous!! I've never seen anything like it!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Boyfriend Update

Greg came out to visit last month and we had a good visit... Much too short, but fun. We've both been really busy over the last month, so since that visit, we haven't been talking as much as we were a couple months ago. In theory, he'll be finished with one major obligation after this weekend and that should free up his weekend time quite a bit, at least compared to the last month!

Maybe then we'll be able to talk about something other than how tired we are and how busy we are! We still have our book of questions to go through and I feel like there's much more to learn about each other. It's as if this last month of dating doesn't even really count because it seems like we've talked SO little. Ah, well... He told me more than once while visiting that he's working on changing his schedule so he won't be so busy and he'll have more time to spend with me and I believe him, otherwise, we wouldn't still be dating.

I'm currently planning to go see him for Thanksgiving... I'll be heading there straight from BGG.CON. Once I come back from that, I'm not sure when I'll see him again. There's been talk of me going to see him for Christmas, but since we've hardly been talking, I want to see how everything is going before & after Thanksgiving before buying a ticket for Christmas.

We have very different communication needs. I could talk to him pretty much every day, even multiple times a day (which I know is probably overkill and not for everyone), while I think he could get by with a couple times a week. He's been making an effort to call more often, which I really appreciate because it says to me "I want to make you happy," a message I am glad he's sending. As a result, I've been patient about these last few insanely crazy weeks. Which I've taken as an opportunity to grow because God knows that patience is NOT my strong suit!! But I swear, I'm getting better.

I think the biggest challenge for me is that it's hard for me to feel connected to someone with whom I have very little contact (without having a pre-established super-strong connection like I do with some of my friends who I don't talk to for years at a time and then we do and it's just on...). So, an unfortunate side effect of all this non-contact over the last month has me feeling less connected to him now than I did when we first started dating. Not exactly the trend I want to see in my relationship, you know? It feels like we're going the wrong way. However, I'm doubt he feels that way, based on our very different communication needs. I've been trying to be optimistic about the future though and I hope that we can continue to tweak this so that we're both happy with how much communication we have. We were doing better before the last few weeks when he's been super-busy.

I'm very happy that we have a "date" scheduled for this Thursday night! I'll have him all to myself and get to talk to him about everything I've been saving up over the last week. He is a wonderful person and I love and admire many, many things about him. I want to feel a stronger connection to him, so I hope that once things settle down, we can get back to talking more often and hopefully, growing our relationship. Keep your fingers crossed for us!

Monday, November 03, 2008

My Poor Car...

Greg came to visit the second weekend of October and while he was here, we went to see Davebo's son in a play out in Thousand Oaks. When we were done, I asked Greg what he'd like to do and he said, "Let's go to the beach!" Well, he didn't have to suggest that to me twice! I love the beach and have been out of town so much, I haven't really had the opportunity to take advantage of the beautiful natural wonder that is the Pacific Ocean.

So, we headed down the 101 freeway and exited on 23 and headed south going through the canyon. We were meandering, taking our time because we had about an hour or so to go before the sunset and we were enjoying the views. I commented on how the road had a speed limit of 25 because it was so curvy! I think I was even going below 25 as to not make us both car sick!!

As we approached one leftish turn, a car from the opposite direction came screeching over the line and while I swerved to get away from him (but not too much as we are on a frickin' mountain), he hit me. And my poor car. He hit my driver's side back door and quarter panel. This is my poor car...



Last week, my new personal assistant (that deserves a post too) Danielle took me over to a body shop (finally!) to have an estimate done. They estimated it would cost $4,500 to fix, not including any possible suspension damage that there may be.

I got a call this morning from State Farm's Total Loss Unit. Yep, my car is a total loss. We reviewed the condition of my car and she's going to get back to me with updated numbers, but the preliminary numbers are:

If I want to keep the car, they'll cut me a check for $5,244.04. If I want to get rid of the car, they'll cut me a check for $6,599.58. Choices, choices... I think I'll probably keep the car while I figure out if I ultimately want to keep the car. My sister really needs a car, so I could give her the car and let her fix it. She works for a school district and her office is on the same campus as their continuation high school, so they have a body shop on campus and they'd probably fix it for her cheap! Or, I could keep the money and keep the car and just drive it around with a big dent in it.

The real question is, what kind of car would I want to get? I'll probably just stick with that for now while I decide what to do.

So, State Farm called back and the new numbers are:
If I want to keep the car, they'll cut me a check for $6,323.32. If I want to get rid of the car, they'll cut me a check for $7,678.86.

I'm definitely going to keep the car, it's just a matter of what I do after that.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

The Financial War Within

I try to be good. Really I do. I want to save money. Heck, I do save money. But I know I could be saving more. Much more. If I was more disciplined... If I didn't travel to see friends... If I didn't have a boyfriend that lived across the country... If I didn't get talked into eating out all the time...

The problem? I haven't been disciplined enough about money. I've been thinking for months that I should make a budget and stick to it so I can save more money than I am now. That's why I'm happy to be focused for November with Ramit's "Save $1,000 in 30 days."

I am going to BGG.CON this month, so what I'm focusing on this week is not going out to eat. I go hiking almost every Tuesday and we usually go out to eat afterwards, so I'll probably do that, but other than that, I'm going to reduce how much I go out to eat. I haven't decided if I should pick a dollar amount to stay under or adjust the frequency? I think I'll aim for less than $40 this week. We'll see if that's doable! I think it should be. I don't have any plans to go out for lunch this week and other than hiking, so far, I don't have any set plans to go out for dinner, but I'm sure something will pop up on Friday or Saturday...

Saturday, November 01, 2008

NaBloPoMo 2008?

I will try, but with my schedule lately, I don't know if I can guarantee a post every day, but it's a worthy goal. I've been meaning to post anyway. It should be interesting because I'm also trying to do Ramit's "Save $1,000 in a month" challenge! So, if nothing else, I can post about how that is coming along.

I encourage you all to check out his posts on the topic. If you haven't read his blog, it's definitely one of the more enjoyable personal finance blogs out there. Speaking of, I should probably update my blog roll...

Friday, October 17, 2008

Weather Update from Beckley, WV

While I'm happy to be having the opportunity to go white water rafting for the first time... I didn't count on the high to be 52F and the low to be 31F. At least the high on Sunday's supposed to be a balmy 61F!!

Sheesh! It'll be fun! I'm psyched!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

White Water Rafting This Weekend

I've been very neglectful lately on the blogging. It seems I've barely had enough time to sleep lately, much less blog! Hopefully that will change by next week. I'm going on a trip this weekend, but after that, I'll be home for a shocking four weeks in a row! I'm really looking forward to a few weeks without flying off somewhere. It'll give me a chance to start thinking about Christmas! I feel like Christmas is right around the corner. Where did this year go?!

I'm a bit nervous (and excited) about my next trip. I'm heading out to West Virginia this weekend to do some very chilly, white water rafting. I've never gone rafting before, but it's something I've always been interested in doing. Whenever I've imagined it, I've pictured myself in my bikini, drinking beers on a toasty day on the river. I certainly didn't imagine wearing wool long underwear to keep warm because the water is in the 40s! My friend who went last year said she had a great time, so I'm keeping focused on that! I am already anticipating the sheer exhaustion that will undoubtedly come along with class four and five rivers. I'm just glad I'll have a helmet and a personal flotation device. My goal is to survive!

And as a related side note... On Monday, I made my first trip ev-er to REI. That place is a money pit. I bought some SmartWool long underwear and a sweater. The sweater retailed for $140!!! But it's super-cute and I can wear it hiking on Tuesdays and I love it. They gave me a coupon for 20% off, but even with that, I spent more on clothes than I did for the actual rafting trip. On the plus side, I'm stocked up on all the winter clothes I'll probably ever need for the rest of my life!


Quick update: Here's a video they sent out that shows (in warmer weather!) where I'll be this weekend. Also, I forgot to mention that this weekend is Bridge Day and there will be base jumpers hopping off local bridge that crosses the gorge. We'll get to watch from the water below!



More blogging to come next week... I'm sure there will be a boyfriend update in there somewhere! Until then...

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

City Race LA

I'm getting excited about City Race LA!! It's this Saturday and I'm signed up to run around with Chia, Travis and Ron! I have no idea if we'll win, but I'm ready to have some fun! I'll have a full report this weekend! I'm a little concerned because it's taking place in downtown LA and I'm not quite familiar with the area...

According to the website, we'll get a packet of clues that range from very easy to very difficult, along with a list of scavenger hunt items. The team that finishes in the three hour time frame with the highest score wins!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Relationship Update

I went to visit Greg for two and a half weeks and had a wonderful time. We spent lots of time just hanging out with friends, talking, playing games and of course, going to football games!

I arrived Friday night and we headed straight to Dragon*Con to go see Valerie and Tyler and to see all the crazy costumes that people wear! Feel free to browse my Dragon*Con photo album. It was so much fun to check out all the costumes and just people watch. I want to go next year and stay for the whole weekend. We didn't stay the whole weekend this time because we were scheduled to go to the first Georgia Bulldogs game of the season...

While I was getting ready on Saturday morning, Greg surprised me with a piece of jewelry! A necklace with one charm that said "My Heart Belongs to" and the other has a Georgia logo on it. I told him it was true in a sense. Unsurprisingly, my Georgia fan of a boyfriend has given me two gifts that are Bulldog-related. The first is my favorite teddy bear, Harrington, who sports a super-cute Georgia hooded sweatshirt.



Greg with a fellow newbie... Miller!


The game started at 12:30, so we started tailgating around 9:30. It was my first time ever tailgating, so I shared that honor with the two other new people at tailgating: babies who were born this past spring!! :-)











These Georgia Bulldog fans go all out! Here's a picture of the spread they had from our second game:

Steph in her Georgia gear by the snack table

The games we went to were smaller games, but FULL of people! A sea of red wherever you looked! And man, oh man, they were hoooooooooot! Both Saturdays, the temperature was about 90! We slathered ourselves in sunscreen because his seats in the first row of the visitors side right at the 50 yard line and in full sunlight the whole game. By the end of the game, we were both drenched in sweat! Mmmmm.... sexy... We got home and showered and just collapsed. Being in the sun all day is exhasting. Here's a picture towards the end of the second game (and you can see the necklace!)

Steph & Greg after a loooong, hot game

Other than football, we ended up hanging out a lot with his friends playing games, both board games and some Rock Band! That was super-fun and I got a chance to practice my drum skills, so now I'm getting decent at the foot pedal and can do the double and triple bass kicks. I can definitely tell that I'm getting better.

I also had a chance to cook for Greg a bunch and his dad a couple times. His dad is really sweet and was very kind to me the whole visit. I can see why Greg likes him so much. We invited Greg's dad and sister (who was in town the last weekend I was there) over for dinner and to watch the Bulldog game on TV. I made my favorite beef stew on the planet (Barefoot Contessa's recipe called "Parker's Beef Stew") and it was a huge hit. They all loved it, even Greg, who doesn't care for onions all that much.

Overall, it was a great visit... I was worried about spending that much time together, but it was better than I expected. I went out for "Girls' Night Out" one Thursday with some of his girlfriends and one of them said, "I was telling my husband, 'If they haven't killed each other after spending two weeks together, that's a good sign!' " Greg has never lived with a woman before, so I know I was probably encroaching his space, especially since he's a bit neater than I am, but he said that he liked it. We make a good team at home too! I do the cooking and he does all the cleaning! It works out great!

After three months of dating, I still am amazed by what a great person he is. He's sweet and thoughtful and I love him. And I told him so. He's so wonderful, it's hard to imagine not loving him. It's different from anything I've felt before. In fact, he's a walking version of my "Ideal Husband List." We don't fight, in fact, we hardly ever have disagreements. Not all that surprising considering we agree about all major subjects. That alone is completely different from being with Jason and some of the guys I've dated over the last couple years. And I like it. I like not feeling at odds with my boyfriend. It's relaxing and it makes it so easy to talk to him. He doesn't get upset when I bring up anything and likes to talk about whatever might be bothering me. I really appreciate that about him.

I'm happy that he's coming out to visit me in a couple weeks. Our plans will probably consist of hanging with friends and some gaming. I'm trying to figure out some other "L.A." stuff for us to do... I'm planning on going to see him for Thanksgiving after BGG.CON.

Another thing we did while I was there was spend time discussing a book I borrowed from my friend Chia called The Hard Questions: 100 Essential Questions to Ask Before You Say "I Do". We're not engaged, but since we're both interested in getting married, we thought those questions would be good ones to discuss. The book is split up into several chapters that have questions about your home, money, work, sex, health & food, children, community & friends, and spiritual life. We started covering a few of the questions, but it's going to be an on-going project. Some of the questions are no-brainers, but they are all things you should discuss with your partner. So far, it's been fun going through them together. I think we're going to have to start doing some over the phone too, otherwise, it'll take forever to get through the book.

I'm curious how the next few months will go. I'm looking forward to seeing him more and more and extremely thankful for my job which allows me the flexibility to stay with him and work from his home. I shudder to think how awful it would be having my old job and not being able to see him nearly as much. I would be very, very sad. As it is, I'm hoping we'll start talking more than we have been lately, but I think it's more of a question about setting aside time for each other because we both have pretty busy schedules. I think our relationship will continue to improve as we get to know each other more and more! I know I'm certainly looking forward to the process!

Friday, September 26, 2008

From the TiVo to my iPod

I've been using the TiVo Desktop program for years. However, I just purchased the Desktop Plus program that allows me to convert programs from my TiVo at home to play on my iPod!! I'm so excited! I still haven't watched the Heroes premiere, so I've downloaded it to my iPod and I'm planning on watching it while I'm on the plane tomorrow morning, flying to Denver to see my sister! I'm so excited! I tested it out with an episode of Jeopardy and it works like a charm! This will be a great way for me to keep up with my TV watching when I'm on the go!

So far, I've transferred Heroes, Jeopardy! and Survivor: Gabon. I'm not usually a Survivor watcher, but Dave loves it so much, I gotta give it another looksie. We share the Amazing Race and Beauty & The Geek love, so I'm guessing I'll love Survivor too.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Rollover 401(k)

I rolled over my 401(k) to Vanguard in July. It was super easy to do, but earlier this week, I finally sat down and figured out what I wanted to invest my money in. When I did the transfer, it defaulted to a prime money market fund, which is basically a cash/savings account at 2%. I put a chunk of it in the Vanguard 500 index fund based on this recommendation, but then split some of it out into other index funds. I moved about 20% of it over and I'm going to set-up an automatic exchange every week or two to make it move money over so I can do some dollar-cost averaging. Although, I'm wondering if I do it over such a short period (six months to a year), if it will really matter or not?

When I get home, I do want to start looking at my finances a bit more to see if I can save more money. The longer I date Greg, the more I start thinking that not working (or cutting back) after having kids is a real possibility, so I want to save up as much as possible to prep for that! It's a ways off I'm sure, but saving early is always a good idea!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

My Cousin Donna

I found out last week that my cousin Donna died. I'm not sure exactly when, but I think it was a couple weeks ago. They are waiting on the results of an autopsy because she was a relatively healthy 40 year old. She smoked, I'm not sure how much, but I suspect it contributed to her death. The preliminary cause of death is due to an enlarged heart. Which, according to my aunt, may run in my family! I am going to schedule an appointment with my doctor to talk to her about it.

She's my favorite cousin and I can't believe that she died. I haven't talked to her in ages and I'm feeling terrible about that. It only emphasizes that you never know when someone is going to pass away. I keep imagining that she had no idea that she would just basically drop dead that day. What if she did know? What would she have done differently?

What should I do differently? I don't want that distance to happen with my other friends and family. I'm going to start reaching out to some that I haven't spoken with lately. To me, friends and family are important, but it's so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day events that happen in my life. That whole "out of sight, out of mind" in motion, you know? I have a tendency to procrastinate also, which doesn't help anything.

First on my list of people to contact when I get home next week... Donna's sister and husband. And recontact my Aunt Terry to called to tell me about it. She's the person in my dad's family that I'm closest to and it's been ages since I've talked to her...

I encourage you to contact that friend or family member you haven't called lately. I know why I didn't call her... She was living in Virginia with her husband and kids, then moved back to the OC into my grandparents' house. We exchanged Christmas cards, but then I was having all my marital problems with Jason and I didn't want to call her just to dump my problems on her and admit that my marriage was having so much trouble. After enough time had gone by, it got to a point where it was just kind of embarassing that I hadn't contacted her sooner and thus, time passed. She moved back to Virginia and then I never saw her. The last time I did see her was at my grandfather's funeral. Why did I let pride get in the way? She would've understood and she would've been happy to hear from me... *sigh*

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Stir Crazy?

I've been working from Greg's house while he's at work all day which is fine. I started feeling antsy the other day though. I think it's because it's so quiet here. There are no cars going by, no planes flying overhead, no random people talking in my apartment complex and no kitties bugging me for affection and food (not necessarily in that order!).

I think I miss the random sounds of chaos. We'll see if I've adjusted to all the quietness by the time I leave. I do, however, thoroughly enjoy the absence of any real traffic. Oh, and cheaper groceries!

I think this time is a bit different than last time when I had the car and we were going out at least twice a day. This time, I've been hanging out at his house a bit more and I think I just need to get out of the house, or socialize more. I'm not used to being cooped up with just one other person (or alone!).

I had my first small-town experience yesterday! I played Power Grid on Tuesday night with Greg, Brett and Brandon. When I walked into Wal-Mart yesterday, I ran into Brett and we chatted for a while. He's a really nice guy and I found out all about him. It's not too often I run into people I just met at the store! I guess that's what it's like to live in a small town!

Meanwhile, Greg and I are getting along well. I've been cooking a lot since we went out for every meal last time I was here. His dad and friend are coming over tonight for dinner and then we're gaming afterwards. It should be fun! In fact, I gotta get started cooking, so I should probably post this...

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Busy days ahead

I am home for Thursday, but have a TON of stuff to do, both work-wise, socially and to pack for my trip. For some unknown reason, I chose to leave LAX on Friday morning at 5:40 AM. Thankfully, I think Travis is going to give me a ride (thank you!!!), but that pretty much means everything needs to get taken care of tomorrow.

Things to do Thursday
Getting up early for hiking
Dropping off stuff at Travis' apt.
Eating/showering
Work, work, work - lots of phone calls
Dinner with Robert
Packing/cleaning

Yikes! I'm also trying to break my work down so that I have plenty of stuff to do on the plane so I can get that mundane stuff that I hate doing when I'm at home.

Once I land in Atlanta, we're going to Dragon*Con in Atlanta, a huge sci-fi/fantasy con. I am really looking forward to it since I've never been, PLUS I'll get to see Valerie & Tyler and Mark! It should be pretty fun. The first event planned in our evening there is finding Valerie in the Dr. Horrible's Sing-a-long Blog room!

Then on Saturday (and the next one), I get to go to my FIRST University of Georgia football games with Greg and 97,000 of his closest friends... I'm taking some of my "bacon-of-the-month" bacon with me as my peace offering to the tailgating gods! The Bulldogs are seeded #1 pre-season, so hopefully, they can do it and win it all! The whole town is obsessed with that college football. It's like straight out of the movies.

On Sunday, I get to see Greg sing (finally!) in the choir at church. He has a solo in the early service, so we'll be getting up early to make it to that!

Whew, I'll be ready for a holiday by the time Labor Day rolls around! It'll be nice to have nothing to do on Monday and have Greg all to myself. I'm really looking forward to seeing him. It's hard living across the country from each other!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Our First Fight

First fight? Check!

We've had our first fight. I would wonder sometimes what our first fight would be about considering we seem to get along so well and 0ddly enough, it was about the same exact thing as my first fight with 42. The subject? Calling when you're out of town.

With 42, when I look back at everything that ended up happening, I've thought, "I should've known when he didn't call that weekend that things weren't going to work out." To me, it was a sign that I wasn't a priority to him and I should've listened to my gut about it. Especially when the reason why he didn't call was that his phone died and he didn't want to stop gaming to go outside in the snow to get the charger out of his car. This coming from the guy that plays Ultimate in the snow and thinks it's fun. I should have heeded the big red flag when it made itself known. But I didn't and I gave him the benefit of the doubt, but it ended up not working out for a multitude of reasons.

So. Now it's happened again with Greg, except it wasn't just a weekend, it was six days. He texted me every day, but just didn't pick up the phone to call. (I did check and he does know how to use a phone...) And this is just the dating tip of the month to everyone out there: Texting is not the same as a phone call. I talked to him Monday night and by Thursday I was feeling a little antsy and cranky about it, by Friday I was upset and all I can say is thank goodness I was playing games all day Saturday to keep my mind off of it. So by the time he called me Sunday night, I was not happy with him.

I try to love like I've never been hurt, but it can be difficult. I mean, I was upset that he didn't call, but I think it was compounded by the fact that the same thing has already happened with 42 and look how that turned out. Greg was very apologetic on Sunday and Monday and tonight I told him that my first fight with 42 was over the same thing. And then I made sure that I told him that I didn't think he was like 42. Because I don't. They're like night and day in all the right ways.

After he apologized again tonight and promised that he would try very (very, very, very) hard to make sure it doesn't happen again, I made the decision to not be angry with him anymore. I believe him when he says that he did want to talk to me and thought of me often. I believe that it's hard to shift from being single and carefree to having a girlfriend and having to think about someone else in a different way than you have had to do in a long time. I was married for 10 years and am the oldest child in my family, so for me, that's more second nature. Not that I don't fall down on the job from time-to-time because I'm sure I do, but for the most part, I try to incorporate my significant other (or friends/family as the case may be) into my thought processes.

In any case, we made it through, unscathed. Again, I was able to talk to him about what I was thinking and feeling and we seem to communicate well. I probably could've been more up front with the fact that I was upset and why I was upset. But to be honest, I forgot that my first fight with 42 was about the same thing until last night. And remembering that kind of made it worse to me. Also, I think my pattern is that if I'm angry, I'm very loud about what I'm upset about, but if I'm hurt or feel vulnerable, I get very, very quiet. Which is why I was being more quiet about being upset. I am feeling pretty confident though that it won't happen again.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Feeling the Urge to Purge

Before I left for Athens, I lent my xBox 360 and and PS2 to some friends and noticed how much nicer my whole living room looked with less stuff. My game closet had room in it without the drum set taking up room... So that got me thinking, I should get rid of stuff when I get home.

Greg has nothing in his house. It's very minimalist and it's good in that it feels really open. It made me think even more that I should get rid of stuff. I think I see some purging in my future. I know I have a couple boxes of books that I've never looked at once in the last two years. And I have a box of my piano books that I'll probably never use again either. With my new job, I certainly don't need all those dressy work clothes anymore either, so I think I will be purging my closet even more.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Diets of all Sorts

I have eaten SO much during the last month. So, here's my plan that I'm focusing on for the next two weeks...
  • I'm swearing off all fried foods.
  • I need to just eat less!
  • Drink just water, UNsweetened tea or diet soda... but mainly water.
  • Exercise!! Even if it's just 15 minutes...
I'm really contemplating trying Tim Ferriss' technique of how to lose 20 lbs. of fat in 30 days... Although I'd only do it for the 15 days... Anything to help!


On a total random side note... Well, actually, I guess it's not totally random. It's kind of like a financial diet! :-)

I've also been stressing about retirement funds lately. Probably an odd thing for a 33 year old to worry about, but for some reason I do. I get obsessed sometimes about being prepared enough for retirement, worried that I won't have enough saved.

I was obsessing on this earlier this week and lucky for me, I had the good fortune to sit next to a retired person on each of my flights. I picked their brains and turns out, both of them were government workers, so they have pensions coming from that along with saving other ways. One of them told me to just save, even if it was a little bit and do it with every paycheck. I do that, so I am satisfied with that, but I feel like there's more I can and should do. I guess in reality, there's nothing more I can do about retirement since I'm maxing everything out. What I need to do is focus on saving more outside of my retirement accounts.

Anyway, random thoughts about the money stuff, I don't have a firm plan on that just yet. I think the first part is just looking at all the income and expenses and see how much I could possibly save if I wanted to and see how feasible that is. Luckily, I think I can make the next couple trips out to see Greg without actually spending anything by using miles that I've accumulated over the last few years.

I wonder how many people have budgets? And how many people stick to them? I should give myself a challenge of doing that! Making a budget and seeing if I can stick to it. For now, I'll do the research to see how much I'm actually spending. To be honest, I really don't know how much I'm spending other than my fixed expenses. My guess is that I'd be shocked at how much I'm spending going out to eat each month. Probably traveling too! Getting paid monthly should make it easy to divvy everything up if I make a budget. First step... see how much I'm spending and what exactly I'm spending it on...

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Short and Sweet about My Visit with Greg

I have two rather lengthy posts about my trip to Athens, but really, I don't think it's that interesting to anyone except me and maybe Greg! So, I'll just say that Athens was very different. I have lived in LA for so long that I've forgotten how jaded or cynical you can get living in a big city. Greg's friends are extremely sweet and almost wholesome! It was very different. Not necessarily in a bad way and it definitely seems like something I could adjust to.

Disclaimer: I know I make a lot of comparisons to Jason, but I was with him for 10 years, most of my adult life, so it's hard NOT to!

After spending a week with Greg, I appreciate even more things about him. He's very laid back - something that has required some adjustment. I'm used to dating (or being married to!) guys that have little dark rainclouds that follow them around and I didn't think it was possible, but I think Greg is even more sunny and optimistic than I am!! At least on my good days... It's a change and it's something I've always wanted in a partner, but it's been a little more difficult to adjust to than I imagined it would be. But I'm working on it.

Related to his laid back-ness, he is very easy to talk to about ANYTHING. We talked about all sorts of things and some subjects that potentially could cause tension and yet, they didn't. It's a big change from Jason, who I had to choose very carefully the time, the method, the everything so that I could try to catch him at his most receptive. I don't have to worry about that with Greg and it's weird, but good.

I love that Greg lets me do stuff for him. He was going to do laundry on Saturday while we hung around the house so that he could pack for his trip. Instead, I did his laundry for him on Friday while he was at work so that we could run around Athens and see some sights. I asked him on Friday during lunch if he did anything special to his laundry (so I could make sure I did it the way he liked) and he said, "You don't have to do that..." and I said, "I know, I want to!" Jason never wanted me to do anything for him. I'd offer to do things for him all the time and he would turn me down. Even stuff as simple as getting him a drink. It's just nice being with someone who will let me do things for him. It's really nice. And he was very appreciative after the fact. I'm looking forward to being even more domestic on my next visit and cook for him!

Most of all, I love that we just have lots of stuff in common, even more than I thought! The stuff we don't have in common, it just seems to work out and we're very complementary. It's really cool.

I think I'm just having to adjust to someone who is different than the "typical" guy I'm attracted to. I am confident that I will make the adjustment though and I think I'm going to be MUCH happier for it overall. I still think he's really awesome and I'm really looking forward to my next visit!

I miss him.

Friday, August 01, 2008

The View: Kill me now

I never really watch daytime or morning TV. If I do, it's because I'm sick and I'm usually watching "The Price Is Right," although Drew Carey ain't got NOTHIN' on Bob Barker and never will. His personality really falls flat.

That said, my roomie had "The View" turned on when I got out of the shower this morning. After about a minute, I asked her, "Women watch this show every day?! I've been listening to it for a minute and I'm ready to poke my ear drums out!!!!" Who watches that show? Wow. I figure it's gotta be women who are staying at home and don't have girlfriends to talk to? I don't get it. But then, I don't "get" women in general. I've been trying very hard to branch out and try to connect with women more. This morning I got up and went walking with some ladies here at Gulf Games. It was really fun.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

No, I'm not sick...

As I shuffled off to bed at the early, early hour of 1:30 AM, Michael put the back of his hand on my cheek.

It was very warm, so I asked him, "Are you feeling okay?"

He said, "Are you feeling okay? This is the second night in a row you've gone to bed early!!" Which got a good laugh from everyone standing around because they know it's so true. I'm usually one of the last to go to bed and I'm typically encouraging everyone to stay up late with me!

I replied, "I'm saving up my energy..." I certainly can't meet up with Greg on Sunday night, go out to dinner with my mom, then fall asleep as soon as we get back to his place! Oh no... I'm sure we'll be up late and I've already thanked him more than once for taking Monday off from work. He's brilliant! And a realist!

OK - off to bed I go!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Only a week left

Only a week left until I get to see Greg again and I can't wait!! Luckily, I'll have something to distract me before then, namely payroll for the next day or two and then games... Lots and lots of games...

I'm heading out to Nashville for Gulf Games on Wednesday and staying there til Sunday around lunchtime. Then I'm hitching a ride down to Atlanta, where I'll be meeting up with Greg and we're going out to dinner with my mom before heading back to his place for the next week.

More things I appreciate about him:
I love that he's somewhat of a planner. He already scheduled Monday off, so he can spend my first day in Athens with me, showing me all the sights and basically being my personal tour guide. We have plans to have dinner with his dad on Tuesday, after work and before gaming. I think the rest of that week is lots of friends and lots of eating, which sounds perfect to me! He's already started planning parts of the longer trip in September, in particular the long weekend we're going to spend in Savannah! It's so nice to be with someone who is pro-active and just takes care of stuff. I mentioned to him once that I've always wanted to go there and then we just made a plan to go. It was so painless!

He lets me call him in the middle of the night. Often, he heads to bed around 1 AM and is totally cool with me calling when I finish up *my* evening, also usually somewhere between midnight and 1 AM, so I am often calling him at 3 - 4 AM Eastern, rousing him from sleep. He'll often talk to me for 30+ minutes. It's nice being able to call him and to hear his voice and catch up. He's a busy bee like me, so often it's hard to match up our schedule during the day, which is why I appreciate that he welcomes my middle of the night calls. In fact, he's about to receive a call from me as soon as I brush my teeth and change into my PJs!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Welcome me to 2001

I had heard so many great things about "24" (a show that started in 2001!) and when season one came out on DVD, my sister and I split the cost of it and she took custody of it first. She and her husband ripped through them and then gave it to me to watch. Which I finally started to do on Sunday. I'm at 4 AM and I can totally see why people love it. I totally want to watch another episode, but I really need to get some sleep!

Yes, get ready... 2001, here I come!

Monday, July 21, 2008

My Quarterly One-in-a-Million

I love to post about the weird things that happen to me because it's usually a case of "Whatta small world!" So, drum roll please... this quarter's weird happening is this...

Last week, I got reconnected with some friends from high school, so I decided to comb through a few years of graduating classes to see who was on Facebook. I saw this guy Andrew on the c/o '89 list that I wasn't friends with, but I knew him because he was a few years ahead of me (c/o '93!). I clicked on his profile and saw that he lives in San Diego and thought, "Yea, someone else who escaped Florida to beautiful California!" But I didn't friend him because I wasn't actually friends with him. Knowing who someone is doesn't really qualify you to be "friends" with them, right?

So, I was hanging out with Travis on Saturday and he was checking his email... I peeked over his shoulder and saw a message from Facebook that said, "Andrew has added you as a friend on Facebook..." I asked Travis, "Wait, open that email... do you know that guy?" and he said, "Yeah, he's one of my San Diego friends, he's really cool!" I couldn't believe it! I told Travis (probably loudly and excitedly), "Oh my goodness! I totally know that guy! He went to my high school! In FLORIDA!!!" And then I got the scoop on him because apparently, Travis has known him since 2002! And Mike knows him too. Isn't that just weird?! Chris said that the fact my high school is across the country does make it even weirder. Especially considering our classes were pretty small back then. I think my class had about 250(?) people and his was even smaller.

So I friended him with a message something like this: Hey, this is Stephanie ____ and I went to ____ HS too (c/o '93) and I just found out that you know Travis & Mike!"

And he friended me back. It will be interesting to see him again. I haven't seen him since 1989. Wow... what are the odds?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Sixteen days and counting...

Ugh, there are sixteen more days until I see Greg again. I've been missing him a lot lately. He's been really busy this week, so we haven't had a chance to talk as much as we did last week. In general, I've been feeling more emotional this week too, so I'm sure that hasn't helped. We've had several short conversations and lots of texting/IMing. We finally got a chance to talk tonight for a while which was really nice, but it sounds like he's pretty busy this weekend, so I don't think I'll have much of a chance to talk to him this weekend. And then I'm out of town next week... I just want these sixteen days to fly by!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Twitter

I'm a little late hopping on the Twitter train, but I'm trying it nonetheless! I added the badge to my blog and we'll see how it goes. I guess I've already been slowly adjusting to this type of thing by updating my Facebook status almost every day. Twitter seems to call for more frequent updates though. Luckily, I can update my status via text message! Hurray for unlimited text messages! Not only good for Twittering, but also for having a boyfriend who lives cross-country.

The upside is at least there will be these mini-updates all the time even when I don't have time to write up a full blog post! Should be helpful as I'm roaming around the country for the next two months. I think I'm home for about two weeks during the next two months. Good grief. I really *am* a maniac!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Vanguard is still awesome

I originally opened up my Roth IRA account with Vanguard in mid-2002. In September 2006, I opened up an investment account with them. Both times I was very happy with how easy it is to open an account and how easy it is to get a customer service rep on the phone to help with questions.

So naturally, when I decided to rollover my 401(k) account that I have at my old company, I chose to roll it over into Vanguard. They have a very easy-to-find phone number on their website and I was promptly connected to a live person who helped me set-up an account online. It took all of about five minutes.

I wish all companies were like Vanguard. They really make everything SO easy! I highly recommend them!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Visits are scheduled

It's hard to believe that I've only known Greg for three weeks. It seems like so much longer than that! Unfortunately, it's going to be another three weeks before I see him, but when I do, it will be for a whole week! I'm very much looking forward to it! He has a list of places he wants to take me to and he wants me to meet his dad and some of his friends. It should be really fun.

Following that visit, I'll be gone for a little less than three weeks and then I'll be back to stay with him for two and a half weeks! Now that should be a real test! If we can still stand to be around each other after 18 days, I think we're gonna be juuuuuuust fine...

As an extra bonus, I was able to use 25,000 Delta Skymiles (the cheapest ticket they offer with points) to fly out there, so it's no extra money out of pocket. And I have 25,000 more miles for us to use on the next visit! I've been building them up slowly, but surely over the last few years and now I finally have a good use for them!

I'm so glad I have the job I do... He doesn't have much vacation time left so he'll be working most of the days I'm there which works out just fine for me because I can just work from his house. It's soooooo awesome! He's buying a multi-function printer so that I have it available to use while I'm there. And I set up an eFax type line so that I can get faxes electronically while out of town. It's perfect!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Smitten...

After having an awesome weekend with Greg (his real name), what is the only thing that could make it better? Flowers and a super sweet card! :-)



I am thankful for him every day. And I can't help but to tell him every day how awesome I think he is.

This has just been such a different feeling than anything I've experienced before. It's freaky weird. I mean, he didn't annoy me one single time during the whole weekend. And I felt completely comfortable and relaxed around him. I think this is the first time I've ever felt genuine admiration for someone. He's such a good person. He has an amazing heart. Every time I look at him I feel happy. This is the easiest relationship I've ever been in. Shane commented on Monday after he left that we noticed how comfortable and relaxed we both seemed to be with each other and that she liked it. She said that it seemed different than when she's seen me with other people in the past. It sure feels different.

You know, it's one of those things... People always say that you should try to find someone that you respect and care about and have a lot of stuff in common, but anyone dating knows that it is practically impossible (or at least it feels that way). Because maybe part of it will line up, but then you don't want to kiss him. Or maybe ALL you want to do is kiss him and ignore the little (or not so little) red flags that are popping up all over the place. It's hard to have both. Even when you find someone that maybe shares common life goals, he might not share interests or personality quirks or something else equally important.

Before I was even divorced, I started compiling my "Ideal Husband Checklist." I wrote it up because I didn't want to get carried away by hormones and end up with someone that didn't share common goals/values/interests as me, so I wanted a checklist that I could use. Just the facts, ma'am... More than once, I've been told that I'm "too picky" or that my standards were too high or that maybe I shouldn't exclude guys that already have kids...

I'm so glad that I didn't settle. Because Greg meets or exceeds all the points on my list and even has bonus points for stuff that wasn't on my list! He is the best. I am so lucky to have met him.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Day 3: Saturday

We met up with some friends for a BBQ lunch on Saturday. Davebo brought his kids and I sat near the kids' end of the table and fielded questions (mainly from Kate) like:
  • What kind of food you would not want to have on a first date? (My answer: BBQ? but I wasn't really sure if that was a good answer. Suzie had the best answer which was spaghetti. Unfortunately, that was exactly what I had eaten the night before when we stopped at the House of Pies, so not sure if I looked messy or not...)
  • What kind of food would you want to have on a first date? (My answer: sushi! All the kids agreed that sushi was a good answer and we chatted about what type of sushi we'd order...)
  • What was my favorite NFL team? Was Shane upset that Brett Favre was retiring? (That one got a big "oooooooooogggh" from Shane when asked... But nooooooo, she's not upset! [sarcasm])
Those kids are so darn cute. After kissing Athens at lunch, I was teased (again, by Kate) with the "Stephanie and Athens, sittin' in a tree... K-I-S-S-I-N-G!" First of all, I haven't been teased with that particular song in about 25 years. Second of all, there apparently is an updated follow-up verse that goes "...and that's not it, that's not all, the baby's drinking alcohol!" Oh, taunted by an 8 year old... my weekend. Thou art complete.

After lunch, we headed over to the Reagan Library in Simi Valley. It was my first visit. It's nice! Reagan is the first President that I really remember and I know surprisingly little about him and his wife. It was interesting to learn more about both of them. They seemed like remarkable people. We also went on board the Air Force One that was retired in 2001. That was neat. We took a picture before boarding AF1, but it's too cheesy to give prominent blog space to... check the flickr account if you're interested.

After the library, we went to the store to pick up snacks to munch on while we were at the Hollywood Bowl for the "Bugs Bunny on Broadway" show. It was so much fun. I haven't been to the Bowl in several years. The show itself was very entertaining too. The music was great and the cartoons were classics. He had a great time too, so I was really happy about that.

Overall, it was a busy Saturday, but fun and relaxing at the same time. While at the Hollywood Bowl, we were talking about how nice the weekend had been. The thing I was most surprised (and pleased) about was that he hadn't done anything to really annoy me! Which is saying something because I can be easily annoyed.

I was sad to see him go on Sunday, but really happy that he came out to see me and that we had such a wonderful weekend together.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Day 2 aka: Independence Day

We went to Chris' house for the 4th and had a fun time. We ended up just gaming and munching all day, but it was nice because Shane came with her dad.

I was in the kitchen with Shane and she asked me how the weekend was going and I said, "It's going really well." (Might I add here that it's so cool to have a man singing in my shower!) OK, back to yesterday... Meanwhile, Athens was sitting in the dining room playing (arrrrrrr) Rrrrum and Pirates with the boys. She said something about how he seemed to be fitting right in with them and I said, "Yeah, it's so nice not to have to worry about him in social situations. Because I know if he doesn't know anyone, he'll start up a conversation and I'm never worried he's going to say the wrong thing because he's well-mannered." Shane agreed and said, "Yeah, that IS nice."

I was with Jason for 10 years and always felt (whether justified or not) like I needed to worry about him to make sure he was having a good time in social situations because he was introverted. I just always wanted to make sure he was having fun, partly for him and partly for me. If he wasn't having fun, chances are, we were going home early. And we didn't go out much to begin with, so... It's just nice to not have to worry about someone in that respect.

He had a blast meeting all of my friends there and then we went to House of Pies so I could have him taste the yumminess that is their pecan pie.

Today we're off to a big lunch with friends and some BBQ! I suspect we will be having fun and I HAVE TO remember to take some pictures today!!! Time is running out.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Day 1: So far, it wasn't a fluke

He's almost been here 24 hours and it's confirmed. It wasn't a fluke, we definitely are still crazy about each other. His flight got in early and instead of arriving at 1:06 AM, he was off the plane, with baggage in hand by 1:06! I was glad to see him. I just love being with him. I swear, he keeps doing more and more things to make me like him that much more. For example, he made it so my second laptop talks to my new printer. It would've taken me forever to figure out how to do it and to be honest, I never would've. Instead, he printed something out from the printer and typed it in and installed the drivers and we were printing in less than 5 minutes!

We had plans to go eat lunch with Davebo because he wanted to meet Athens. Dave was also going to try to go. I got a call from him this morning saying that he was coming and I was getting a bonus Winton in the deal! So we all carpooled out to meet Davebo for lunch and had a great time. It seemed like everyone liked him and he liked them all so that was good!

Then we came home and took a nap and that was even better. Dave called that later and asked what we were doing and when I told him that we were taking a nap, he said, "A delicious afternoon nap! Ahhhh, that's the best part about having a boyfriend!!!!" And really, I don't think I can argue with him. Afternoon naps are the best... especially when you're running on just a few hours of sleep and have a full tummy from lunch.

Our plan for tonight is to go see Hancock at the Arclight and then go get something to eat. We'll be right next to Koreatown, so I think we might have to get some Korean food while we're there, especially since he has never had it before!

Agenda for tomorrow: Din Tai Fung and gaming/BBQ/swimming at Chris' house...

Monday, June 30, 2008

Rock Band 2 News

Here's a link to an article about Rock Band 2...

Luckily all the equipment for the first version will work with the second one although they claim to be improving all instruments. Looks like they're really working to keep the fans happy. Another biggie for everyone (except me so far!) is that all the downloaded content will work with RB2. Rock on!!

Friday, June 27, 2008

He's coming to visit!

We had talked about when we were going to see each other next and I'd pretty much resigned myself to having to wait until the beginning of August to see him, but instead he suggested buying a ticket for the 4th of July weekend! And he bought one!

SO... he'll be arriving Wednesday night and staying through til Sunday! Now I have to decide where to take him and try to figure out how to have him meet all my friends while he's here! I can't wait for everyone to meet him!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

I have a boyfriend!

I went to Atlanta a single woman, not looking forward to seeing her ex and worried about a guy that I had just broken things off with back at home. The last thing on my mind was "Hey, maybe I'll meet someone..." But, that's exactly what happened! I met him on Wednesday night and forgot his name like five seconds after he told it to me, which he gave me a hard time about...

Then on Thursday, I sat next to him at lunch and he proceeded to give me a hard time about just about anything I said! In fact, Michael, John AND Athens (that's what I'm calling him) were ALL giving me a hard time and I was loving every minute of it! This lunchtime was a pivotal point because I ended up getting a lot of facts about him. I already kinda thought he was cute and his personality seemed good... He mentioned that he had just bought a house in January (good...), but that he hadn't had time to really work on projects because he was too busy with church, gaming and volunteering. Yes, in one breath, he named three interests I would LOVE to share with a boyfriend/husband!

On our way back from lunch, Valerie intercepted me for a debriefing in the ladies room about various items (more on that later), one of which was that she wanted to impress upon me was that he was single, looking, an overall great guy and definitely wants to have kids! Also things I'm looking for... (Valerie, for the record, is an awesome wing woman... she really helped me out a lot this past weekend!) In fact, when compared to the Ideal Husband Checklist, so far, he's passing with flying colors. No negatives and a few unknowns still, but based on what I know about him so far, they most likely will be checked off. I think I'm going to have to assign bonus points for being an Eagle Scout too.

In fact, throughout the entire weekend, he didn't say or do anything that was even remotely flag-raising... We spent almost four whole days together and the only thing we could find that we're not in huge agreement about is music tastes and he's a hardcore Bulldog and I was born a Gator (although truth be told, I'm fine with switching because I look better in red anyway). Every time he opened his mouth or did something, it just got better and better.

Things that he did that I adored...
He opened all my doors for me, carried around anything heavy if we were walking somewhere, kept my mom company while I said good-byes and paid my hotel bill, killed two bugs for me that happened to cross my path, paid for my lunch on Sunday (and then said, "I've been trying to do that all weekend but everyone else kept buying your food!"), didn't hesitate to try to rescue me from a conversation with 42, (even better) didn't get jealous at all when I talked to 42, reminded me to send a postcard to my friend, and just overall is really cool.

We spent a lot of time talking over the weekend so I feel like I really got a sense of who he is. He is a really solid, dependable, upstanding person. I really admire him. Like Tim said... spending four days together at a con is the equivalent of a month of regular casual dating... I can't wait to spend more time with him. We talked about that and it looks like I'm going to go see him after Gulf Games for about five days. Possibly longer, but we'll wait to see on that. The sucky part is that that isn't until the beginning of August.

As for the boyfriend/girlfriend thing... We talked about it today and decided that it's "official"! And just so I didn't run into the same problem as with 42, I clarified to make sure that us calling each other boyfriend/girlfriend also meant we weren't seeing other people, which is exactly what he meant. (I never would've thought to ask someone that until that happened with 42...)

Because Valerie was instrumental in the whole pointing us at each other, I texted her to let her know that we were "officially" a couple and she was thrilled. I started getting texts from her, IMs from Dale and more texts from James (they're all at Origins together) until finally Valerie just called me and put me on speakerphone so I could tell them the whole story and fill them in on the details! Then Tyler piped up with "Did you change your status on MySpace?" I couldn't stop laughing, mainly because I hadn't (since it had just happened), but I had already been considering changing it even though it wasn't official. Yesterday, I contacted eHarmony and told them to quit sending me matches because I knew I wasn't interested in anyone else at this point. I did change my Facebook and MySpace status. It's funny! It's like a big announcement to everyone who's on Facebook! I told FaceBook that Athens was my boyfriend and they sent a request for confirmation to him so he could OK it. I guess it's a good thing I never tried to falsely say Josh Charles was my boyfriend! :-) But I can assure you, Josh Charles ain't got nothin' on my boyfriend.

The best part? It's completely mutual. We both really like each other, I'm not stressed at all when I think about him (a new feeling or rather lack of feeling) and there's no doubt in my mind about how he feels about me because he lets me know often. He's very communicative which is something that is a must-have for me.

All I can say is that I know it's good when I find myself laughing and giggling when alone in the car and thinking of him. I can't wait for all my friends to meet him! No set plans just yet on when he's headed this way, but hopefully soon!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Mini BGG

I'm kinda geeky when it comes to games, but I'm not really a girl for all the minute details. I can be if it's something I am really interested in, but for the most part, I just lack the patience to chase down little details.

Case in point: MiniBGG

It's a streamlined website that takes all the essentials of BoardGameGeek.com and compresses it down for those of us using phones and just need to look up a quick fact or two. The awesome thing you can do with it is log your plays! You look up a game and then log your play from your phone. As someone who logs all her plays, this is awesome. No more keeping track of what I played on a little piece of paper so that I can transpose it to the website when I get home. If I remember and if I don't lose it!

The problem was this... You log in with your same user name and password at BGG. However, I could never get my password to work! I've known about MiniBGG.com for months, but could never figure it out and never took the time to go figure it out.

Thank you Valerie! She posted an article on BoardGameNews.com on how to get MiniBGG.com to work! And as a result, I logged all my plays in real time while at Oasis of Fun! It rocked!!!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

In Hotlanta Once Again

I'm in Atlanta once more for the Oasis of Fun which starts tomorrow night. One thing that is definitely different this time is that I will be seeing 42, whom I haven't seen since we broke up. I am feeling completely fine with it and we've already arranged to play Race for the Galaxy together. I'm curious to see how I'll feel after seeing him. My guess is that I'll feel the same way I'm feeling now... We've communicated a fair amount over the last few weeks and apparently, he's busy with a hoard of women, including his ex-girlfriend (and I think he was including me!). Just a month ago, I was feeling some fairly strong residual feelings for him, but a lot has happened since then and I think they've severely subsided. I guess I'll know exactly how much once I see him this weekend!

I'm really looking forward to seeing my friends, some of whom I haven't seen since the OoF last summer! Also, Dale is unable to make it so I promised that if I could acquire a webcam (I left mine at home), I would stream up some video so he could check in on us every once in a while! So, there may be some streaming video this weekend! He put out the call for the webcam and if anyone has one, I guess I'll find out soon!

I saw my friend MeeMe today who I haven't seen in ages!! I think the last time I saw her was about 14 years ago. Here's a picture of us from lunchtime today!


When I get home, I'll have to dig up the old picture I have from the last time we saw each other. She looks a little more "grown-up" but other than that, exactly the same. She said I look exactly how she remembered me too. I guess it might be time for another hairstyle? I am quite partial to long hair though... Maybe a haircut for the summer is in order.