35-for-35: The Fortune Hunter by Daisy Goodwin

While I enjoyed The American Heiress, I wasn’t as enthralled with this novel. Set in 1875, it’s the story of Captain Bay Middleton meeting the “Lennox Heiress,” Charlotte Baird and then meeting Sisi, Empress of Austria and trying to decide between the two. I mean, there’s a lot more to it (almost 500 pages worth) and all these folks did exist according to the author’s note at the end, but in the end, Captain Middleton is really trying to decide what kind of fortune he wants for himself.

Charlotte seems lovely, if stuck by the societal conventions of the day. The Empress of Austria is no gallant heroine and though I suspect you’re supposed to feel some sympathy for her, married to a man she doesn’t love, she’s royalty and her husband likes her enough to let her go off to England for hunting season, so it can’t be all bad. Given the state of women in 1875, simply being “bored” in Vienna doesn’t really seem like the human rights violation she purports it to be. Our Fortune Hunter is probably a nice guy, but it’s hard to tell most of the time and I’m not sure who to root for the further you get into the book. At one point, after a misplaced note causes a Three’s Company-level confusion for Bay and Charlotte, which leads Bay to just take up with the Empress without much thought or effort on his part to find Charlotte, I kinda gave up on him.

Everything works out in the end, or so it seems you’re supposed to feel it does, but it really feels unearned.

35-for-35: Out to Lunch by Stacey Ballis

This is the next book in Stacey Ballis’s line of foodie novels, full of cooking, food and recipes with ingredients I’d have to look up. The last fifty pages of the book are just recipes that have been described in the preceding novel. Luckily, I’ve heard that Ms. Ballis is putting out a cookbook compilation of all the recipes she’s written about so far, so I look forward to picking that up and maybe using it as some inspiration for my 35-for-35 project.

Jenna has just lost her best friend/business partner/soul sister, Aimee, to a long illness and is struggling to rebuild her life. Adding to the grief that she doesn’t want to express, Aimee has put her in charge of her husband, Wayne’s finances for at least a year. Jenna and Aimee had started different but complementary business when they got out of grad school/culinary school, which they had then combined and then sold to a big conglomerate. Wayne is a 44-year-old geeky manchild that Aimee loved to the bottom of her soul, but Jenna never really understood AT ALL. And Wayne is a train-wreck, but maybe it comes from a good place after all. Slowly Jenna starts to find her way in a world without Aimee.

It was a good book, a nice book, but not nearly the book I thought it might be (so that’s on me). I’m never quite comfortable with the amount of wealth that Ms. Ballis’s recent characters all seem to have. It’s like I need the protagonist to be poor, but never having to work again at 42 is NOT going to be a thing I understand. And while I enjoy eating and interesting food, I’ll never be a foodie, so the constant descriptions of elegant, complicated dishes start to wear after a while. I also wasn’t totally on board with the romance, but if Jenna’s happy, I’m happy.

35-for-35: Honeymoon Hotel by Hester Browne

My first book of my challenge is the newest novel by one of my favorite authors, Hester Browne. Her brand of British chick lit just works for me in a way that others don’t. I had to wait through two cycles of interlibrary loan before I got my hands on a copy, but it was worth the wait.

Our heroine, Rosie, is an events coordinator at a boutique London hotel, with loads of old Hollywood glamour and stories. It’s still a family-run place, which leads to issues when one of the owner’s vagabond sons arrives back on the scene after time in America. Rosie’s the best at what she does and she thrives on the chaos and perfection that weddings bring out in people. Her boyfriend’s a bit of a d-bag, but they rarely see each other due to their schedule, so it’s totally fine if they try to buy their own place, right?

As a type A, perfectionist, who loves to organize things down to the last detail, I loved Rosie and admired her goal of giving every bride she works with the perfect wedding she always dreamed of. I totally got her resentment of Joe, the owner’s son, who shows up with his talk of “the universe” and flash mobs instead black-and-white elegance. He doesn’t grow on me as fast as he does for Rosie, however. Also wished that Rosie had wised up by about Dominic, her d-bag restaurant reviewer boyfriend, who just never seems like the catch she thinks he is, much sooner than she did, but I guess that wouldn’t have given Joe a chance to shine by comparison. I definitely got a kick out of her wishing on medivac heliocopters, so he does have his moments.

Rosie’s right, someone should write a screenplay about their story, including his final speech, and fill it with lovely British actors. I almost missed the epilogue, which is filled with rich details of what happens next, which I appreciated because I wasn’t quite ready to let these characters go at the end. Fingers crossed for a sequel or a follow up in another book!

35-for-35 Begins Now (Okay, Wednesday)

With my birthday approaching on Wednesday, I’ve been thinking about my NEXT birthday, which is a bit of a milestone. And while that milestone could be a downer, I’ve decided to make it a challenge instead. I had originally thought about making a list of thirty-five things to do (like this one), but it turns out, I’m just not that creative on short notice. So, I’m challenging myself to complete the following before my next birthday:

1. Read 35 Books
Every calendar year, I try to read 50 books and I’ve failed miserably every year since I’ve been keeping track. So in 2014, I decided to try for 25 books, and I think I might actually get there. In 2015, I’m planning to up this to 30. So, I think this is a pretty doable goal, while still being a challenge.

2. Visit 35 New Cities
I was inspired by this post to expand my horizons with travel in the next year. My upcoming road trip to Oregon should help knock off a few spots, but I hope this will get me out of my comfort zone without breaking the bank.

3. Make 35 New Recipes
I know, I know! I’m afraid of my oven and I haven’t turned my stove on since I moved in, but I do have a slow cooker and a microwave. Between the cookbooks my mom has given me and Pinterest, I feel like I can add some variety to my diet without getting too crazy.

I’ll be documenting my progress on these challenges here on the blog as a way to stay motivated and accountable. Here we go!

A Win for the Giants!

Last night, George and I attended “Social Media” night at AT&T Park and it was fabulous! This year’s giveaway was suggested by the fans on Twitter (like last year), including yours truly, and was inspired by this:
Buster Hugs!My new #BusterHugs t-shirt features the Romo/Buster hug after winning the 2012 World Series. Personally, I would have gone with the 2013 Tim Lincecum no-hitter Buster hug, but really, all Buster hugs are awesome.

Also awesome? THE GIANTS ACTUALLY WON! Tim Lincecum pitched a fantastic game! There was a moment when Timmy loaded the bases in the 4th with no outs. AND HE PITCHED OUT OF IT! That’s when I knew we had a chance to win. Hunter Pence was also amazing, getting hits and making fabulous catches in left field. Too bad Akemi missed it because he was clearly showing off. :) It was my first win of the season (in three games), so I’m happy to finally see them do well when I’m at the stadium. I hope this trend continues, even when I’m not there.

Of course, today I’m home sick and feeling so wretched because I can’t have two good days in a row, now can I? Fingers crossed that I get back to my old self quickly as Mom and Dad are coming to town tomorrow and I’m ready to have fun!

Multiple Transactions for Maximum Savings

For the last three years, I’ve been couponing on and off, saving a few dollars here and there, but never really building a stockpile the way my favorite coupon blogs always seem to. As a single person, I’ve never been very good at figuring out how much of any given product I need to last the sale cycle. I went a little nuts with Pantene deals in the summer of 2011, and I still haven’t used all the shampoo and conditioner I bought. I usually end up running out of something and then looking for a deal at one of the three drug stores or Target. Saving 20% is nothing to sneeze at in my opinion, but I’m always jealous of those shoppers who can save 60-70%.

Last weekend, I decided to take a look at what Southern Savers had for deals with CVS. They had sent me a coupon for 25% off everything, and I didn’t want it to go to waste. I like shopping on the weekends because I can take advantage of two weeks’ worth of sales in two days.

6.21.14 HaulOn Saturday, I decided to stock up on face sunscreen (in advance of the July 4th weekend), body wash and hand soap. I used coupons for each of them plus the 25% off coupon from CVS. I knew it would be the most out-of-pocket I’d spend over the weekend, but the CVS ExtraCare Bucks (ECBs) would be worth it.

Total Value: $41.65
Coupon / Store Savings: $17.11
Total Spent: $24.54
Percent Saved: 41%

ECBs Earned: $11

On Sunday, I decided to split up my shopping list into three transactions. I’ve never been one to monopolize a cashier’s time to do multiple transaction in a single visit, but I realized that I could maximize my savings if I took the high value ECBs and rolled them into the next transaction. As I ran my errands that day, I visited three different CVS stores, each time rolling my savings.

6.22.14 OneThe first stop was to take advantage of a great razor/shave gel deal. Additionally, I have gotten a coupon from Carefree in the mail for a free box of their pads. It’s not my brand, but I rarely turn down a free product. Plus, Carefree was part of the Skintimate/Schick ECB deal I was working on, so it was the perfect time to use that coupon.

Total Value: $26.36
Coupon / Store Savings: $11.99
ECBs Used: $11.00
Total Spent: $3.37
Percent Saved: 87%

ECBs Earned: $10.00

6.22.14 TwoI had been clipping the numerous sunscreen coupons I found for the last month, knowing that a good sunscreen deal was on the horizon. Coppertone was on sale and had an ExtraCare Buck deal attached as well. Living in San Francisco, I don’t use sunscreen a lot, but it’s always good to have on hand for those rare sunny days.

Total Value: $22.48
Coupon / Store Savings: $9.00
ECBs Used: $10.00
Total Spent: $3.48
Percent Saved: 85%

ECBs Earned: $7.00

6.22.14 ThreeMy last transaction of the day took advantage of sales due to the Gas Card Deal that CVS likes to run in the summer. I’ve never spent the $50 required, but items on sale is items on sale. I realized I also needed to get more dish soap, but I didn’t have a coupon for it. Even still, I spent a minimum amount, thanks to my previous planning.

Total Value: $20.73
Store / Coupon Savings: $11.66
ECBs Used: $7.00
Total Spent: $2.07
Percent Saved: 90%

6.21.14-6.22.14 HaulTotal Value: $111.22
Coupon / Store Savings: $49.76
ECBs Used: $28.00
Total Spent: $33.46
Percent Saved: 69.92%

So in four transactions over two days, I got over $100 worth of products and only spent about $30, saving about 70%. These results aren’t typical, but I had to brag to show it IS possible to get those big savings while still buying for just one person and only get things you really need.

A Heart Transplant for Green Lightning (or The Writing on the Wall)

Green Lightning (otherwise known as my ’97 Saturn) gave me a fright yesterday when he wouldn’t turn on. Ever since I returned from the holidays, the car had not wanted to turn on properly, but would eventually turn over. Yesterday morning, however, he sputtered and sputtered, but would not come alive. Given the age of the car, I was quite nervous that this was the end of our journey together. I made calls to auto service shops and crossed my fingers that the damage would be minimal enough to get me through another couple of months.

Luck was on my side today because when AAA came to pick up my car to take it to the shop, the driver correctly diagnosed that I simply need a new battery. The sputtering was simply the car trying to do its best with the limited power and this evening, he was reduced to just a click. Twenty minutes later, the Mobile Battery Unit arrived to change out my battery right in my parking spot and I’ve got a car that starts again! Phew!

However, given the age of my precious vehicle, it seems that it won’t be long until Green Lightning goes to the Car Heaven and I have to find a replacement. I suppose seventeen and a half years isn’t too bad for an American car! I won’t be eulogizing the car yet (as I don’t think MY heart could take it right now), but for all those who have known and loved him, it is time to prepare to say goodbye to my little engine that could!

The End of an Era

The Chevy’s at Stonestown is gone.

(Actually, it may have been gone for a while as I seldom go to the mall next to campus and rarely go across the front of the mall when I do stop by. Nonetheless, there’s a Chipotle and a new sushi restaurant COMING SOON in its place).

Don’t get me wrong; if I never ate at Chevy’s again for my whole life, I’d be very happy. But that Chevy’s location is inextricably linked many of my favorite college memories and it’s very odd to think of it not existing any longer. It hasn’t been THAT long since I left college, right?

My first semester at State, I didn’t really make any friends, only going to classes and back home to study. The second semester, I was forced out of my shell by a fateful trip to Sacramento, where I made two of the best friends I’ve ever had (and still have to this day). After that, gatherings outside of class to studying and chat became more commonplace and Chevy’s was a prime location, given its proximity to school.

Christmas at Embarcadero Center

Christmas at Embarcadero Center

My last year in college, it was the site of many Political Science Student Association fundraisers, proving the even PoliSci nerds can throw back a pitcher or six of margaritas with the best of them. It was always great fun to hang out with our profs, as well as my fellow students, plotting our eventual takeover of the department and university. Of course, getting a grande strawberry margarita in me meant all bets were off. I’ll never forget the look on Prof C’s face when I told him his article was “totally boring,” before realizing I had said it out loud. Luckily, he found it charming instead of insulting. In fact, it was such a mainstay in our diet, that our end of semester celebration that fall was held at Chevy’s – but the one at Embarcadero Center, just to switch things up a bit!

Chevy’s was where I decided to take my first grad-level class, while still in undergrad. Margarita Mondays got me through the first time I had to present in said class. It was where Prof C starting laying the ground work for me to go to grad school, following in his footsteps. It was where I celebrated with my friends that after seven years and four universities, I was finally going to graduate college. And it was where I found a touchstone after graduation, when I felt a little lost in the big “adult” world, attending another PSSA fundraiser for the next class of PoliSci nerds.

Thanks for the memories, Chevy’s! It wouldn’t have been college without you!

Last Day of College EVER

Last Day of College EVER

Run 10K: A New Challenge

Almost five months after I ran my first organized race and swore I’d never run anything again, I’m back to training.

It started with a tweet from the Bay Bridge that the her new span will Labor Day weekend to people instead of cars. There are plans for a walk, a bike ride and two races, a 10k and a half marathon. I’d been looking at the Run 10k app for a while and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to break it out. I don’t think I’ll ever be a runner, but this will be a once-in-a-lifetime chance. While I could settle for a leisurely stroll across the new bridge span, I thought this would be a great chance to challenge myself and make history at the same time.

Yesterday was an absolutely gorgeous day, so I knew I had to take advantage of it. One of the hardest parts of training last year was having enough good weather days on days when I had the time to run. The app recommends that if you’ve already completed their Run 5K app that you start on Week Five. Well, I’m no overachiever in this area, so I was quite happy to start with Week One, Day One. I figured the easy pace would give me a confidence boost if nothing else. I was half right.

The first week is 30 seconds of running and four and half minutes of walking. I was barely getting into my stride when the man in my ear would say “Walk now.” As it was a gorgeous day in February, there were plenty of other runners on my trail and it was very difficult to quell my competitive side and let them run past me. By the middle of my playlist, I decided to go ahead and run the entirety of Neil Jackson’s Gonna Have to Change. It got a little run toward the end, but I finally felt like I was getting somewhere.

I finished Day One rather easily, tacking an extra minute of running on at the end, so the cooldown would feel worth it. Another two days of that should be fairly easy to accomplish and I don’t feel the pressure to get the training done in a particular timeframe for fear I’ll lose my progress. There are 29 weeks between now and the opening of the Bridge, so I feel no need to rush through this process. I know I can get there and I know that if I need to repeat a week or lose a week due to travel or illness, I’ll still be ready.

And it wouldn’t be a run if I didn’t make a playlist. This is essentially the same as my last week of Run 5K, with the addition of Neil Jackson and rearranging a few things. It was a bit too long, but I made it work.

A Trip to Giants FanFest

Though I’ve been a Giants fan since 2005, I’ve never attended FanFest before. My dear friend, Jen, has attended the Chicago White Sox equivalent, SoxFest, since I’ve known her and raved about it every year. I know that Giants FanFest is run differently and this year I finally got up the courage to go. My lovely friend, George, a FanFest veteran, agreed to go with me and be my guide. It was everything and nothing that I wanted it to be, but I had a great day and I know I’ll be more prepared the next time I go.
Together We're Champions

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