Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sundays at Tiffany's

Another benefit of the Junior League: I'm meeting people with similar interests, and am learning about some neat stuff. My new favorite is a website that allows you to track books that you've read, rate them, track recommendations and books on your to read list. It is taking my reading hobby to a new level. One of the cool features is that it provides the text for my update. This weekend it was James Patterson's novel Sundays at Tiffany's, that I believe got passed along from my Dad and Aunt Leslie.

Sundays at Tiffany'sSundays at Tiffany's by James Patterson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sundays at Tiffany's was very different from other James Patterson novels, and I really enjoyed the change. While the plot is somewhat unbelievable, I think that is what makes it magical.

View all my reviews

Monday, October 11, 2010

Sissy is headed to Dallas!

Sometime in life, things just work out. I love when that happens.

I got a phone call this weekend from my sister Abby. Her teacher cancelled clinicals on Thursday and Friday because she is going to a conference. Abby already has Wednesdays off this semester, and is playing hookie on Tuesday to get up here early. All of a sudden, I went from not seeing my sister until Christmas to having a week together. I. AM. SO. EXCITED.

Doody and Layne are really great men. They are giving up their time with their spouse, their money (because Abby and I are students with no income), and their reward points (Thank you Southwest!) so that their wives can have some quality time together. I am so appreciative, and I feel so loved.

There is nothing like time with your sister, especially with a sister like Abby. She's like a fresh whirlwind that blows through your life and leaves everything for the better.

Lucky me.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A $40 Co-Pay

The best investment I made this week was a $40 co-pay to the City Doc Urgent Clinic. I was told I had acute sinusitis and acute bronchitis. I got a breathing treatment, a steroid shot, and an antibiotic shot. I got a script for a  Z-PAC and another steroid pill. And an inhaler. And I feel A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!

Only Layne came home from a work trip last night and sounded like I did a week and a half ago. Lesson learned. Layne is going bring his co-pay to the doctor tomorrow...

The Coupon Queen

Instead of working on a school assignment that is due by 11:30pm tonight, I decided to procrastinate a little more by jumping on the blog to tell you about my new, self-proclaimed title, the coupon queen.

Don't get me wrong, I know there are people who are better at this than I am. There are more tricks for me to figure out. But in this household, I am running the grocery scene...and have started to master the art of it.

I've come along way. When I first started dating Layne, a trip to the grocery story together never ended well. I had no process, I just did my thing. Layne had a routine as to how he approached grocery shopping, and he didn't deviate. CLASH. I have this ingrained habit from when I was child of holding on to the side of the cart. I distinctly remember Abby and Gregory in a grocery cart with Stephen and I holding on to the side and mom pushing us in a cart and pulling the groceries behind her. (How she did this I'll never know.) Without realizing it, I still hold onto the side of the cart all of the time. It drove Layne nuts. CLASH. We've figured out how to go to the grocery together since then, but I will always look at those beginning days and laugh.

Now I am the one who has a specific approach about the grocery store, and it starts with my grocery list. It is so easy to go to the store for 12 things and come home with 20. I find myself buying extra things- things I want but don't need, or things I will use just not right away. Rarely are they on sale, and rarely do I have the right coupon. So the first step for me is to commit to my grocery list. Like anything in life, there are exceptions. But the conscious commitment to sticking to the list goes a long way.

Next, I compare my list with the weekly flyers. If you don't get the paper on Wednesdays and Sundays, look online. All of the grocery stores I use post them, and there is more information about other store discounts as well. After looking over the ads, it was obvious that Kroger was the right place for me to go this week. The last thing to do was to look through coupons and see if I had everything. The world of printable online coupons has really made a difference in the way I approach grocery shopping. I now list what I need, and find the coupon to match it. And you would be surprised how easy that is to do. Yesterday, I was able to find $1 off of the milk we use, and $0.75 off of my creamer. Finding coupons for our essentials is the best, and in total I used fifteen coupons last night.

My favorite steals of the day: 12 pack of coke zero and sprite zero $2.00, my Herbal Essences shampoo $1.45, Yoplait Frozen Smoothies $1.54, Kraft sliced cheese $0.89, Oscar Meyer Deli Meat $1.09, and my Quaker Rice Cakes $1.19

Was it worth it? Look at these savings and you tell me.

Manufacturer's Coupons (that I brought in) - $9.95
Bonus Coupon (I held my bread off to the side and used the coupon to pay for it) - $1.50
Kroger Plus Savings (why I chose to go to Kroger, they had sales on my items) -$27.41

Total Savings-  $38.86  (29%)

I invested about an hour of my time to prep. And keep in mind that I'm grocery shopping for Weight Watchers as well, so I was able to find steals and deals on the specific items I need to eat healthy. Totally worth it.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Meet Miss Vivian

This past weekend, Layne and I drove up to Bloomington, Illinois, to see his cousin Keith get married. We had a great time with our extended family, and cherish the times when we can together with his cousins. While we were in town, we had some quality time with Chad (Keith's older brother) and his wife Monica, and their two children Braden and Vivian. Vivian just turned one this week, and we were able to watch her learn to walk in front of our eyes. 

This beautiful blue eyed baby just stole our hearts. 
How can you refuse those big baby blues?

One day she's learning to walk, and the next she's running up the cell phone bill talking to her friends about nothing all night. They grow up too fast.
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Think Pink!

It's October, and in our family that means it's Breast Cancer Awareness month. As most of you know, our mom is five a year survivor. It's a cause we believe strongly in because it hits close to home. My favorite month of NFL football is October, and it's all because of Think Pink movement that has swept over the league.

Some people think it is stupid to see pink football cleats, or even better, the pink ribbon Tracy Porter had shaved and died into his head. But I think it is an an example of people at their finest. An increase in breast cancer awareness saves lives, and I am proud to be apart of an organization that has made an amazing effort in the fight.

See, in 1999, my sorority (Zeta Tau Alpha) partnered up with Tanya Snyder.... the wife of Dan Synder... who owns the Washington Redskins. Who is also a survivor. In 1999, the the Redskins were the only football team who participated. Local Zeta chapters showed up to pass out pink ribbons at FedEx field. Now, almost every team participates. Special towels... special hats... special cleats... you've seen it for yourself.

Like the ladies say... real men wear pink. And although there are those few of those few who don't think pink should be on the football field, it does its job. You remember. And awareness is half the battle.

So wear pink this month. You could save someones mother, daughter, sister, and wife. I know I sure am thankful who led the way for my mom... and it's time to pay it forward.

P.S. - I collect Yoplait pink lids, and if you save them I will be responsible for getting them from you and turning them in. Maybe we can't change the world ourselves, but together we can make a difference.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Layne's Been Replaced

The seasons have started to change, which means one thing for those of you like me: sinus infection. It happens twice a year, when we change from summer to fall and from winter to spring, like clockwork, for as long as I can remember. Lucky for me though, my old best friend Layne introduced to my new best friend, my Neti Pot. Yes honey, you have been temporarily replaced by a $10 CVS purchase. And while the Neti Pot will never be able to love me and provide for me the way you do (trust me, I do know you are AMAZING), you will never be able to flush out my naval cavities. Gravity and saline solution round out my amazing foursome. Together, I can breathe through my noise. I can smell if something is burning, and I think I'm starting to be able to taste again. Thank God for good company...

Junior League Bus Trip 2010

In college, bus trips meant a date, a costume, too much to drink- due to the consumption of too many shots. Post college, I don't think it really changed- a date (Layne), a costume (tacky Christmas sweater), and too much to drink. Enough said. But bus trips have now taken on a new meaning...

This past weekend, I spent my Saturday on my Junior League Provisional Bus Tour. It's a mandatory event for our provisional year, and it was WONDERFUL! The purpose of the bus tour is to introduce the new members of the Junior League to several of the organizations that the Junior League donates both their time and money to. We left headquarters right after 8am with caffeine in hand, and got done about 2:30. In between, I caught up with friends, met some new ones, we snacked, lunched, and visited four great organizations. I can't wait to share what we learned.

Living downtown has changed the way I see some things. We are definitely exposed to the homeless population in Dallas differently than I ever have been before. When is the last time you saw a panhandler on McKinney Ave. uptown? So the first stop definitely resonated with me the most-The Stewpot. It's located 2-3 blocks away from our loft on Park Avenue, so it will be easy for me to get to (I'm determined to make service a priority in life), and I was blown away by the services they provide. Did you know that the majority of the homeless in Dallas are women and children? How terrible is that? To think of children that are Addison, Reece and Grace's age on the street is disturbing, and motivating. The Stewpot is doing everything they can, and then some. Here are a few fun facts: Case managers and medical and dental staff are meeting the needs of over 500 of our homeless friends each week. The Stewpot's Second Chance Cafe at the Bridge has served more than 1,500,000 meals since May of 2008. And most importantly (in my mind) The Stewpot is host to 400 inner city kids in year round programs. Computer classes, art classes, bible studies, ESL classes.... the list goes on and on. The Stewpot is focused on helping people help themselves to get of of the streets and start living a new life. I can't wait to get involved.

Our second stop was off in East Dallas, at the main campus for East Dallas Community Schools. The first school was est. in 1978 in East Dallas, with a second campus at Lindsley Park in 1999, and a third at Bachman Lake in 2009. EDCS believes that all children, regardless of ethnicity or income, can succeed in school when they start young and involve parents. (Parents start meeting with the school during the pregnancy, and school starts at 13 months.) Their mission: to provide an outstanding education to culturally and economically diverse groups of children from primarily low-income families during the first nine years of life. (The program ends with 3rd grade.) Despite the fact that EDCS was awarded Gold Performance acknowledgements in both reading and math by the State of Texas, and despite the fact that that the EDCS charter school was rated exemplary, this is the statistic that nails it down: In contrast to the local high school graduation rate of less than 50% in the neighborhood, EDCS third grade alumni graduate high school at a rate of 94%, with 88% of those graduates attending college. This really was unlike any learning environment I've ever been exposed to, and I thought it was brilliant.

Our third stop was at the Senior Source, a nursing home for the elderly. I'll be honest- I don't like hospitals and I don't like nursing/ old-folks homes. I miss my grandparents enough as it is, and going back to a place like that makes me miss them even more. BUT... I believe it is important for someone to spend the end of life in dignity, and while it's important that people focus on the youth of our nation, the elderly should be just as much of a priority. The Senior Source was one of thirteen projects that provisionals could pick for their 20 hour service projects this year (mine is putting on Reptile week at the Museum of Nature and Science), and so far they've done a great job. Two weekends ago, they made a "wall of honor" and included pictures of every resident in the home that served this country in their lifetime. It was beautiful. The residents love it, and supposedly it's started all kinds conversations between the house mates. And check out this statistic- more than 50% of the residents at the home we visited have never had a visitor. PERIOD. They deserve more, and it's empowering to know that we can give it to them. So aside from regular volunteers who visit the home each month, the Junior League is also responsible for the biggest social event of the month. Different themes, different plans... same place, same great time. Just walking through the facility lit up smiles on peoples faces.

And finally, our trip ended at the Ronald McDonald House. Some people were really familiar with this organization, but I was not. The House is 60,000 square feet and has 60 guest rooms including six suites for families who have special needs due to a transplant, chemotherapy, or an immune suppressed system. The house serves as a " home away from home" for families of seriously ill children who are hospitalized or receiving treatment in area hospitals. The Ronald McDonald House in Dallas opened in 1981 and has served over 25,000 families. They just recently moved into a new facility by Children's Hospital which has doubled their capacity. No one is ever turned away due to inability to pay, although they ask for a $15/day donation. The House operates at an average 91% occupancy rate, and is dependent upon the community to stay open. There are more than 100 regular weekly volunteers, and over 300 cooking team volunteers who provide three meals a day for families. 94% of the funding needed to sustain the House comes from individual and corporate donors, community organizations, and special events.

Later this year, I'll get to select my placement for next year. It'll be a 60 hour volunteer commitment to the organization of my choice that the Junior League works with. Until then, I'm excited about Reptile Week at the Museum, and am going to check out The Stewpot once more.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Friday, September 17, 2010

Thankful on a Thursday

Once again time has flown by, and I am so behind on my blogging. I missed TOAT last week because of our vacation in Mexico, definitely not due to a lack of things to be thankful for. I am so blessed, and focusing on those blessings really makes life easier to handle. No point in waiting, let's get started!
19.) The Dallas Public Library Central Branch
If you look to the left side, you can see a smaller, red brick building... that's where I live! I love living around the corner for the library, and enjoy my weekly visits. Before we left for Mexico, Layne and I took a walk over to check out a few books for our trip. It was a nice walk, and I had fun with Layne in the library. Let's be honest though, when do I not enjoy the library? I am so thankful to have the library at my disposal- it's my favorite activity when I want to relax.

20.) I am thankful for Colin Cowherd- my favorite ESPN radio talkshow host.
Let's be honest- I spend most of my days alone right now. My office is my home office, and there are a limited number of people to bump into at the water cooler. The way I keep my sanity? My friend Colin. I enjoy his show, even when I disagree with him. I think he's funny and witty, and I enjoy our time together between 9am-Noon.

21.) Love, the greatest of all things.
The main reason we went to Mexico were to see our friends Sharon and Brandon become Mr. & Mrs. Sorrell. All I can say is that love is something beautiful. It's like magic. There is nothing better than to see your friends find their soul mate, and I know Layne enjoyed seeing one of his best friends from college commit herself to the person who makes her whole. I am thankful for love, because it warms my heart. It fills me with hope. It reminds me of what is important in life. Love is the greatest of all things (Thank you Zeta Tau Alpha creed), and being surrounded by it was something special.

22.) The US Postal Service
I am so spoiled. My mom sends me mail 2-3 times a week. My sister sends me mail all the time too. I love going check the mail box, and can't wait to see what was sent. My mom sends me clippings from the newspaper, magazine articles, wedding programs... everything and anything that keeps me connected to New Orleans. And my sissy, well, she sends short, sweet, and simple notes (usually with a treat, like some stationary, or M shaped post-it notes) that remind you she is always right there with me, no matter how far apart or busy we are. I am so thankful for mail, it brightens my mood on a bad day and reminds me of blessed I am.

23.) I am thankful for Weight Watchers, and the free iPhone App for it.
Eating right has become a priority in this household, and Weight Watchers makes is easy. This is my first week and I'm down 4 lbs., and I know it's going to get better from here. Having the iPhone app has completely changed the WW game. There are no books and a whole bagful of materials to carry around- it's all on the phone. Efficient, effective, time and space saver, which makes it easier to grocery shop and plan ahead. Week One: Score Mitzi

23.) I'm thankful for the ability to teach myself and learn.
Another semester has started, and I've just finished the first round of grades for both of my classes. I'm only taking two classes this semester, Economics and Decision Solving. My decision solving class is a handful. Seriously- I called Layne minutes after I bought it, panicking, because I thought it was written in a different language. I took a lot of time, and it took patience and work, but I did it. I've got a 95 in Econ and a 90 in DSCI after the first go round. I'm now confident in my ability to manage these classes throughout the semester.

25) I'm thankful for Collins Tuohy and the JLD
This week I was able to go hear Collins Tuohy, real-life sister of Michael Oher from The Blind Side, speak at a Junior League general membership meeting. What a great speaker! The Junior League's focus is to promote voluntarism, develop the potential of women, and improve the community, and I think Collins touched upon each of those in her own way. She shared intimate stories of her relationship with Michael, like the time she asked him to help move her from her dorm room to the Kappa Delta sorority house, and he showed up with the entire offensive line. They were personal, and I enjoyed learning more about the real Tuohy/Oher family. The thing I love about the JLD is the women- there is something empowering about developing relationships with amazing women and working together on something bigger than ourselves. I'm so blessed to have this outlet in my life.

26.) I am thankful for Louisiana State University, and I wish I walking across campus right now.
It's Fall Fest, and the Friday before the first home game of the season. The parade ground is filled with people. Tents are popping up. The RVs are pulling into the lot across from CEBA (it will never be the Patrick Taylor building to me). Fall and football season are upon us, and it doesn't get any better in Baton Rouge than this. I work a College Fair this week, as a volunteer for LSU, and spent a few hours sharing my love for the university, and thinking about what it's done for me. I remembered a t-shirt I used to have, and had to find it to share.

That was alot, but I couldn't resist. Life has been good to me. I hope everybody has a great weekend!