Friday, January 24, 2014

A Wee Bit Productive

A blustery cold front hit Houston, Thursday afternoon and evening, accompanied by the ever-dreaded 'sleet'. I was aware that it was a possibility, so I arose earlier than usual to check the weather and road conditions before heading to work.

At 6:30 a.m., there were five wrecks on Houston highways caused by ice on the roads, and the roads leading from my little apartment to my office were hella iced up.

I emailed my supervisors and our receptionist to tell them that I would not be in the office, due to ice. Did I mention that the drainage runnel that flows through the middle of my apartment complex's parking lot was also full of ice? And that the funny fabric awning over my balcony had icicles danging from its scalloped edges in a slightly obscene manner?

No? Well, there was ice and icicles everywhere.

So. Home.

I did get out around 1:00 pm to pick up a feather-bed I'd had dry-cleaned, and I briefly considered going in to the office. It didn't happen, though. Instead, I will be in the office on a Saturday - hopefully with heat, but possibly not. I'll make sure I take my gloves and a hat.

Instead of going to the office, I stayed home, cleaned my kitchen, un-bagged tons of dry cleaning that never quite made it into the closet, and pulled a few things out of my closet that I can't wear, these days (mostly because my chest decreased in size, along with my waist and twigs - er - thighs, and so they're now obscenely low cut).

Saturday morning, prior to going in to the office, I will run to the recycling center and then to a goodwill depository, because I'm not going to bother trying to consign two silk blouses.

In repentance for staying home from work, I worked on my taxes, too.

Did you know that $10,000 of medical expenses when you've made more than $40,000 in a year will get you absolutely jack squat of an income tax return? But add in $6000 of tuition paid, and voila! Enormous return.

Hopefully, that return will pay off the $3000 of health expenses that have been sitting on my credit card, accumulating interest, for the past few months. And, hopefully, TurboTax's return estimator is as accurate as it seems.

After I pay all of that business off, I'm going to try to go credit-card free for a while.

I've been paying for everything with credit cards, but I'm starting to realize that I don't pay as much attention to my monthly spending as I do when I pay with a debit card or cash. So I'm considering switching to a debit card, even though it means I won't get all of the free money - er - points, that I get when I use my credit card.

We'll see if this actually happens, because those points sure are handy when I want to buy, say, two chairs and a ceramic garden stool so I can sit out on my balcony on beautiful days the week before we get an ice storm.

Hooray, Houston.


Saturday, January 18, 2014

Health Blog

In the past two months, I've had the flu twice.

The first time, it was probably swine flu (but not a definite thing, because I wasn't tested for it at the time: I was too sick to get myself to the doctor, and too sick, literally, to pick up the phone for a period of about 24 hours. Terrifying. The "probably" comes from the doctor I saw for my second bout). The second time, it was probably Influenza Type B.

Get your flu shot people. I didn't think I could, because I'm egg-intolerant, but the doctor told me that, so long as I'm not deathly allergic to eggs (I'm not. My body just dislikes them intensely), I can get a flu shot.

Wish I'd known that back in October...

Anyhoo, as a result of my Flu Type B, I had to go on antibiotics - hooray, secondary infections! - and that brought back my candida infection.

Sigh.

It isn't the first time it's come back (that was in October, and the guy I was dating broke up with me as a result of it).

When I was first diagnosed and went through the first yeast cleanse, I lost about 10 pounds - I weighed in at 135 pounds, at the time. I was a healthy weight. At 125 lbs, I was still healthy.

However, since getting the flu - twice - I've lost another 10 pounds, and I'm down to a frighteningly skinny 115 lbs.

I know. Wah. Poor Ms. StrainedConsciousness is too skinny.

But here's the thing: if you get too thin - which I am now - you'll start having health problems, not just now, but in future (hello, osteoporosis). And I'm getting ready to start another serious yeast cleanse, with no fruit for two weeks, 6 tbsp. max of coconut creamer per day (and no other coconut products except for coconut oil because of the sugar content), no sugar, and one serving of sweet potato per day.

For a normal person who could eat eggs and gorge themselves on almond butter, this wouldn't be a problem: just buy some egg white protein powder, drink 1 or 2 protein shakes per day with some almond butter thrown in for healthy fat, and voila! no unhealthy weight loss.

 
I don't have that option, though, and I can't have whey protein either, because I'm allergic to that, too.

I'm allergic to everything, essentially.

I just spent the past hour scouring the internet looking for breakfast-appropriate foods that will help me gain weight (yup, actively trying to gain 5-10 lbs. Quite possibly the only woman I know with this problem).

I finally found a source for it, too. Thanks to the Detoxinista, who actually understands that you shouldn't have ANY dairy or fruit or a full cup of coconut milk when you're doing a yeast cleanse. You better believe I'll be whipping up an avocado-based chocolate shake, every day, from now on!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

17 Shades of Gray


I'm currently working on a project that I first worked on back in 2007. Back then, I lived in Dallas and worked for a different firm, and I was master-planning the project.

Then, of course, 2008 had to go and happen, and I lost my job, and the project was shelved for a couple of years.

Fast forward to 2013.

When I graduated, I began work at an amazing firm in Houston, and I love it there. Here. Wherever. I'm also back on that 2007-era project, albeit designing apartment units for the client, instead of laying out the site.

I confess, I'm happy I'm no longer a part of the master-planning shennanigans. They were pretty miserable, because of all of the codes, covenants, and restrictions governing what could be done on the site, where, and how.

The client decided that they wanted us to design the units' interiors, as well, which is a bit of an unusual request, for us. Typically, the interior designer who handles the amenity spaces - the club room, lobby, gym, etc. - also does the apartment interiors.

Not this time around.

Since we technically don't have any interior designers working in our multi-family studio, I was nominated to the post of temporary interior-designery-type person.

It's been crazy. For three weeks, my desk - and the table I technically share with three coworkers - was drowning in a sea of carpet, tile, quartz, and cabinetry samples. Now, fortunately, I just have a few cabinetry samples and a few errant tiles lying around, because I claimed space in the Resource Center for my very own: a basket, labeled with the project name, containing samples of everything needed for three separate buildings.

I didn't mention that, did I?

Yep, three buildings, with three price-points for rental, three target demographics, and three distinct characters.

It's fun, but a bit overwhelming.

In a few days, I'll be drowning in 17 paint samples, because trying to go through the fan decks in our Resource Center to find a decent shade of white and a nice shade of gray was just overwhelming, so I ordered some that looked likely from the Benjamin Moore professional website.

Also, it's almost impossible to tell what a color's going to look like from a tiny little swatch on a fan deck.

The process of choosing a perfect white and a passable gray reminds me of this fall, when I helped my sister select whites for her new house (it's gorgeous. Seriously.). We painted umpteen-million swatches of paint on the wall in search of two whites - one for the wall, and one for the trim and cabinetry.

I think we did a good job, though the contractors probably thought we were insane, what with all of the whites we went through (a bazillion, in case I failed to mention).

I look forward to the next few days, when I'll receive my new paints - which will hopefully be neither too green nor too blue nor too pink, because apparently, gray can be too pink, as can white - and meet with two product reps about engineered hardwood floors, which I'm having some trouble pinning down for one building.

Fortunately, right now, all I have to do is pick fixtures for the bathrooms and kitchens - two of the buildings will probably end up with the same fixtures, because it's difficult to find ones I like and that I think the client will also like. The mid-priced building and the value-priced building already have their floors selected, fortunately.

Unfortunately, I wouldn't be able to afford to live in even the value-priced building. Good thing it's in Dallas, so I don't have to worry about it!


Sunday, January 5, 2014

Once in a Blue Moon...

Once in a Blue Moon, I'll decide to post something, come onto the ole blogsite, and then sit in front of my keyboard, absolutely clueless about what I'm going to write.

It's been about 6 months since I last blogged. The reason for my lack of blogs is that I now have a job, and I often work overtime at said job (and get paid for said overtime, at that), and when I get home, the last thing I want to do is sit in front of my computer and stare at the computer screen.

And when I am at home, looking at my computer screen, it's because I'm: 1) still working (but in bed); 2) looking online for things for my sister (like bedspreads for my niece's bedroom in my sister's and BIL's new house); 3) researching stuff for the story I'm currently writing; 4) on eHarmony, scoping out the hunks.

Yup, still on eHarmony.

Or, should I say, back on eHarmony.

For a while, I was "inactive", because I was dating someone (for about... 4 months? ish?). I really liked him, even though he was an architect.

Okay, he is an architect, but he's dead to me, now, so we'll say was.

Our relationship was going well: I'd told him about my health problems - which is always terrifying for me, because I've had guys find out that I have them and *poof* disappear - and he seemed okay with it. He was cute and funny and intelligent and could fix things himself.

And then, my candida infection came back as a result of antibiotic treatments during which (like an idiot) I ate a less than stellar diet.

It took 6 weeks of treatment - medication again, super-strict diet again - before it was cleared up, and during that time, I was really tired and weak.

And the now-ex-boyfriend found out exactly what I meant when I said "I have health problems" and explained them to him.

Essentially, after I got better, he disappeared. He just quit calling me.

At first, I thought that maybe he felt like he was having to make all the effort at communication, and so I called and texted him just to check in, and suggested we have a meal, or something.

We met for breakfast - for the first time in two weeks - the day before Thanksgiving, after which I went to a doctor's appointment and then flew to Dallas for the holidays.

Once I returned to Dallas, his lack of communication continued. And then he was busy.

I made one last-ditch effort - texted on a Sunday afternoon to see if he was free any night that week - and his response was "You can come over after I go for a run, tonight, if you want to."

In other words, if I wanted to see him, I'd have to drive 30 minutes (he didn't live close to me). And I had to work that evening - as I'd been doing quite a bit, at that time, because of a looming meeting. I was trying to plan my week - rearrange my schedule if need be - so I could see him.

When I told him I had to work that night but was free any other night, his response was "Bummer."  There was no suggestion that I come over another evening.

I waited an hour to see if he'd suggest I come over another evening, and then said, "Screw you, a*$#@*%!" (but not in a sexual way) and reactivated my eHarmony account immediately.

I've since been on two dates - one was a definite "Aw, hell no!", but today's was excellent if I pretend his hair is different - and I'm okay.

Oh bla dee, oh bla dah, life goes on.

(But seriously, f**k that guy.)

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Ignore Previous Post

After absolutely GUSHING about the wonderful apartment I found outside the 610-loop, I had some serious renter's remorse. I quickly realized that 1) I will be working overtime, pretty soon, and a 30 minute commute each way was really going to be annoying when that happened; and 2) the increased commute - when calculated in terms of the IRS dollar/mile thingy - would mean I'd be paying MORE each month than if I lived inside the loop at a considerably more expensive rate ($226 more per month for driving, in fact). So I decided to keep looking, as I hadn't yet signed a lease for the palatial apartment in the Memorial area.

And I obsessively checked the Houston Area Realty website every night, hoping I'd find a gem.

Guess what?

I totally did.

It doesn't have a washer-dryer in the apartment, but there's a laundry room literally right outside my door. It's a secure access building - you have to buzz people in, and there's an alarm on the external doors, so if they're open too long, someone knows - with covered and gated parking. All bills are included, and it's 100 SF larger than my current apartment (200 SF smaller than the one in Memorial, but hey, it's also 10 miles closer to work). And it's $1000 per month.

I'm ecstatic.

It's owned by a doctor and his wife - the doctor lived in it when he finished medical school eons ago, and now they live in a larger condo near the Galleria - and they rent it out, preferably to single professionals.

I walked in and immediately knew I wanted it. It's on the third floor - of an elevator building! - with an interior entry. Because it's a third floor apartment, it has 10' ceilings, and the smallish kitchen manages to cram in TONS of cabinet space, while still leaving room for a crock-pot to cook while I'm away at work (once I buy a crock-pot, that is).

I had to sign a lease beginning June 15 - a full two weeks earlier than I'd hope for - but if I hadn't, another woman would have gotten it. I was the first person to see the apartment after it was listed, and I rented it on the spot.

So now, I've begun the task of purging my apartment of architecture studio supplies, books, and clothes that no longer fit, or are no longer how I want to dress. I took a carload of stuff - some dishes, some clothes - to Goodwill yesterday, and last weekend, I set a box of books outside my door with a sign saying "Free books! Take one! Or five!" Two inebriated young men took In the Garden of Beasts, after some very amusing conversation, and someone Monday morning cleared out all but three of the rest (so about 15 books) and scrawled "Thank you SO MUCH!" on the sign.

Always happy to share my literary treasures with others. After I'm done with them, anyways. Otherwise get your own damn books.

Time to get back to cleaning out and sorting and tossing things.

And dreaming about my new place.

Friday, May 3, 2013

I Will Not Be Homeless, Come July

I have an apartment.

(Oh, also, the date last Sunday was highly enjoyable, so he totally made up for his initial misstep. Just FYI.)

Although I originally wanted to stay within the 610 Loop - and thus close to work - I quickly figured out that if I wanted to have 24 hr access to a washer and dryer, a dishwasher, and more than 550 SF, I was out of luck.

One of my major concerns has been finding somewhere with a rent that would financially allow me to:

1) Join a gym so I can work on getting my physical strength back up (because I can't have a post without mentioning my health, can I?)
2) Save money for a rainy day, aka a down payment for a new car (in the future, because I'm driving the Civic until it falls apart), a down payment for a condo, etc...
3) Have a little bit of mad money so I can do things like slipcover my sofa.



I ended up finding a place close to my sister and her family, however, which will make my commute 20-30 minutes in the morning. Not too terribly, and plenty of time to down a cup of coffee and eat some bacon, en route to the office.

The place I found is also HUGE. It's 960 square feet, on the second floor of a 2-story building.

I am ecstatic about not having someone stomping around overhead at all hours of the day and night.

And I have vaulted ceilings, a wood-burning fireplace that will never get used, and washer/dryer connections, so I'm reclaiming my washer/dryer from a friend who's currently using them in Dallas.

Earlier today, I put the floor plan into SketchUp so I could look at furniture arrangement. I quickly realized that the difficulty I have in my 660 square foot apartment will not be an issue in my new apartment: namely, I will have more space than I can handle.

My dining table - an antique gateleg that sits unused and unloved, folded up against a wall, at present - looks absolutely tiny in the dining room, which is 150 SF. That's twice the size of my current dining area, which is occupied by my desk and a buffet.

My living room will be over 400 square feet - it's 23' by 22', approximately. Fortunately, my desk and computer and computer chair and bookshelves will all be able to fit beautifully in the living room along with my sofa, end tables, TV and console, and chrome chair.

My bedroom is approximately 14 feet by 17 feet (all the measurements are approximate, because the floor plan I have has no dimensions, so I scaled off the width of the queen-size bed shown). That's more than enough room for my Scottish chest of drawers, queen-size bed, and bedside table.

Essentially, my apartment is going to be palatial.

And I need curtains. And possibly a bigger dining table, because it's seriously tiny, on the floor plan.


The dining table can wait, but the curtains...


See, the thing is, I already have curtains that I can use in the dining room. But the dining room is open to the living room. I can no longer buy the curtains I will use in the dining room, so that means I have to either buy curtains that intentionally don't match, or I will have to buy all new matching curtains.

What's a girl to do? Especially when she's a girl on a budget?

So I have a decision to make about the color direction in which my apartment is going - because you can't be a designer without being OCD. It looks like I'll by poring over the design scrapbooks for a few days, and probably wrangling my sister to get her opinion, while I'm at it.

At least I have two months to make a decision, right?

Right...

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Two in One Week!

You lucky dogs!

So, I had intended to be at a design/art fair thingy, today, but I was stood up by the fellow who asked me to go.

I do NOT take kindly to being stood up, and I kind of made that plain when he called (45 minutes after we were supposed to go to the fair) to apologize profusely and beg for a do-over, to take place tomorrow. I am making an exception, this time, and granting one.

And I will give him s*!& forever about it, if he manages not to sleep through our appointed date time (we were going to meet at his house - near the location of the fair - and I sat outside the place for 20 minutes. After knocking. And calling. And texting.)

SO.

What am I doing, instead? Reviewing my annual budget figures using the new numbers from my salary (woohoo!) and looking for places to live.

My lease is up July 9, and I don't like to leave these things until the last minute. I'm in the process of negotiating to see an apartment in Montrose on Tuesday, hopefully, that's in my budget and will allow me to make decent contributions to my 401(k), Roth IRA, and savings accounts, because I have some serious catching up to do, now that I'm leaving grad school.

Because "smart women finish rich," according to an excellent book my mom once gave me (by the same title) that helped me target my financial goals. Of course, it also caused huge anxiety when my 401(k) from 2007-2008 lost 2/3 of its value, but whatever. I'm young, right? Right...

And now, I think I'm going to work on my much neglected design scrapbooks. They're big (12" x 18"), and I miss working on them. So here I go to wreck some scissors and get my hands all sticky! Fun!