Archive for June, 2012

June 21, 2012

So I Bought a Car This Weekend

This past month was pretty hard on me car-wise.  I drove my 2001 Hyundai Elantra home again from Tulsa with no problems in late May and then the next day woke up to a huge puddle of oil under the car- not a good sign.  My parents helped me get the car in for repairs and it turned out the oil pan had to be replaced.  Greaaaat.  Oh, and it costs over $600.  Super great : (

My dad had them do a couple other maintenance things which brought my repair total to almost $1,000 (thank god he helped with that), and then I figured even with the hit to my strained teacher salary, I was probably good for awhile.  Well, I figured wrong.  4 days later Maggie and I went to the beach and didn’t make it back because the TPS sensor failed making it almost impossible to accelerate the car.  I had to pay a $190 tow bill, plus about $130 to replace the TPS.  This hit hurt more since I thought I was home free, and my parents and I started discussing the pros and cons of getting a new car more seriously.

A couple weeks passed and I felt better about my car.  I could drive it without it dying or blinking repair lights at me, which made me happy.  But then a week ago my parents and I came back to find my brake lights on because a tiny plastic piece broke by the pedal.  The lights would stay on and drain the battery until I got it replaced the next morning.  I think fumes came out of my ears when I discovered this.  I ended up having to go to Tires Plus 3 TIMES the next day to get this tiny piece fixed and replace a brake light that went out.  I declined a minor gasket fix and changing the air filter because I didn’t want to imagine one more cent going towards my malfunctioning car.

I did some research the next few days online about what cars I wanted, what was a fair price, pros and cons relating to safety, mileage, and  other features, etc.  Then my mom and I went to the Hyundai dealership.  To my dismay, all the 2012 Elantras (my top choice) were sold out.  I could either get a different car, get a used Elantra, or look at the 2013 model.  Boo.  I tried the Hyundai Accent despite bad reviews and while I thought it was acceptable, driving it actually made me car sick.  I wasn’t too surprised this happened because I feel sick in the Nissan Versa and Honda Fit when I drive with my friends and family.  I thought that might change if I was driving, but no.  The car is too small and doesn’t absorb enough impact when you’re driving.  Soooo getting the next size up (and next price up…) was necessary.

As I expected, I loved the new Hyundai Elantra immediately, and was only discouraged by it’s price.  My parents offered to cover the down payment over my trade in value, but I needed the monthly payment to be as close to $250 (or lower) as possible based on my salary.  The only deal we could come to that first day was $2000 trade in, $7000 down, $250 a month for 5 years.  Uhhhh, I’d rather not have my parents own a third of my car in a down payment.

I declined and left, telling them the next day that I would likely keep my car another year and try to nab a 2013 Elantra when it was on its way out.  Well, that didn’t really work for them and suddenly they could work out a better deal.  Yeah….I thought so.

My NEW car- 2013 Hyundai Elantra

It took awhile, but I was finally able to get it where I got more for my trade in, my parents put a whole lot LESS down, and I still kept my payments to roughly $250 a month.  My biggest obstacle was not having any credit since I buy everything on debit and never had student loans.  This made it really hard to get a low interest rate, but I think in the end it was 2.39%.  Much better than the 9.99% it started at (WTF!).

I know I should have been ecstatic about getting a new car, but taking on the financial responsibility is weighing on me a bit.  I basically am on a shopping lockdown until I see how much I have left after this added expense.  I also was kind of sad to get rid of my old car.  I’ve been driving it since I learned to drive, and for the most part, it’s been great.  Katie told me after I left that it would start singing the song from Toy Story 2 (see below).  Thanks Katie- thanks.

I took some farewell pictures with my car before I left on Saturday to go pick up the new one.  I almost cried which sounds really pathetic, but that car was the place for some first and last kisses, my home away from home last summer when I traveled, a makeshift mini-van to drive my friends in high school, etc.  Maybe  everyone feels that nostalgic about their first car.  The only way I got past the sadness was comparing my old car to a good TV show- you hate when it’s cancelled abruptly (totaled car) or when it is on way too long that by the end you don’t like any characters or plot points (paying for tons of repairs that make me hate my car instead of love it).  I gave up my car when I still liked it and could give it a proper send off, and that does make me happy.

I’ll end with the goodbye picture with my old car, and then go start loving my shiny new one (I say I’m driving a car from the future because it’s a 2013…haha, I crack myself up) that is sure to hold a lot of memories, too- or at least mark another point in my entering adulthood- taking on a car payment! Joy.

My car 2004-2012. That’ll do pig ❤

June 20, 2012

Navigating Theme Parks Like a Pro: A Guide to Being a Better Tourist

This summer I had the pleasure of taking my friend from Tulsa around the Orlando theme parks. This tour guiding is some what of a specialty for me seeing as how I was raised in theme park central from age 5. I have accumulated a lot of knowledge which has allowed me to put together some tips and tricks for navigating the parks successfully. Keep in mind- I am big on getting on as many good rides as possible, so I don’t hit a lot of shows (except absolute must-sees). Show lovers- you have been warned.

Look for signs like this to remind you where you parked.

1. Don’t forget where you park! A lot of first timers are so excited to get to the park that they don’t look at the colorful character signs and 3 foot long numbers painted on the ground identifying your car location. You may have a general idea of where your car is, but the more exact you can be, the better. Take a cell phone picture of the parking row if you have to. Believe me, at the end of your day, you will be grateful for any seconds you can shave off between you and the prospect of sitting down in air conditioning.

2. Parking Trams are not always worth it. If you are like me and get to the park early, you usually park close enough to walk to the park entrance. If you can see where the parking lot ends and other roads or entry ways begin, you ARE close enough to walk. It is likely you will even get to the gate faster because the trams wait for all the slow pokes in the parking lot who mosey along up to the vehicle (don’t be that person- I beg you).

3. Get to the park before it opens. This is crucial. A lot of parks end up letting you in 10-15 minutes early so you can walk around and shop at their stores up front. You can use this time to walk to the rides you want and get fast passes if needed. I usually aim to be parking my car 30 minutes before opening time (add 15-20 minutes to that if you have to buy tickets at the gate). Any extra time you can squeeze in before 11 am is great anyway because that is when lines are the shortest and you are not squeezed in a mob of people as you move around the park.

This is what happens when you come later than 9 am.

4. Go to popular rides first- no matter how long the wait currently is. Yes I see that a ride no one cares about has no wait while a popular ride already has a 20 minute wait, but trust me- it is worth it to go now! Those lines will likely be 1.5-2 hours long when you try to visit them later. At the very least you can grab free fast passes (offered at Disney, not Universal) for a good time slot. Fast passes for really popular rides run out early, and even if you get them after an hour of being open, you might be given a time slot for 6:30 pm (when you plan on already having left the park by then). Here is a quick list of where you should go first at each park:

Magic Kingdom- Splash Mountain

Disney’s Hollywood Studios- Toy Story Mania

Epcot- Soarin’

Animal Kingdom- Expedition Everest or Kilimanjaro Safari

Universal Studios- Rock It Roller Coaster (even though I hate it…)

Islands of Adventure- Harry Potter: The Forbidden Journey or The Hulk

Sea World (does anyone still go here…?)- Manta

5. Choose lines wisely. A lot of rides have long lines- that’s a given. However, some are MUCH easier to wait in. Rides like Space Mountain and Soarin’ at Disney usually have hour plus waits, but their entire lines are indoors (and have mini games along the way!). This makes a huge difference in how you feel while you wait. Any line can bore you, but I’d prefer a line that doesn’t leave me sunburned and dehydrated, too. Note: The Harry Potter: Forbidden Journey has a big portion of its wait outside, however, it has a lot of fun things to look at throughout its line that makes it worth it.

6. Eat lunch at a show. I tried this strategy with Maggie this year and loved how well it worked out. If you are just getting a quick, counter service lunch, consider eating it while you watch a parade or an outdoor theater show (ex. Beauty and the Beast at Hollywood Studios) to save time. You get to fit in one extra attraction and get a food fix : )

7. Unless you are trying Tip 6, don’t go to parades or big shows. These shows grab so many people’s attention and keep them rooted somewhere away from any ride line. Use this brief window to get in line for something that will likely have a huge wait again once the performance is over. Parade times are really great for using this strategy.

8. Eat lunch early or late- even if you use Tip 6. Counter service lines can take up to an hour at peak times (I’m not kidding- I did wait an hour once). If you go before 12 or after 2, you are very likely to wait no more than 15 minutes before food is placed in your hand. You also won’t have to worry about finding a table amongst a huge mass of people, which can be really annoying and force you to share 2 chairs between 3 people or sit at the gross table in the corner with ketchup spilled on it (or if you’re really unlucky, having to deal with the lack of chairs AND gross table).

God bless the single rider line option (see right sign).

9. Single rider lines are your friend- especially at the Universal parks. Think about it- how much do you really talk with your friends or family while on a ride? Not much I’m guessing. You’re too busy listening, screaming, or laughing to chit chat. Because of this, you should be getting in as many single rider lines as possible. These lines are usually 10 minutes max, and in many cases, don’t even have a wait time. You probably have a good chance of being on the same vehicle as your companion, just likely in separate rows. And more times than you would think- you end up sitting right next to your friend anyway (bless those odd-numbered parties who waited in the real line). Single rider lines are also great for repeat rides if you want to go on something a few times, but the regular wait is daunting. My best picks for single rider lines would have to be Men in Black (Universal) and Revenge of the Mummy (Universal). Other ones can be slow, so if you feel like it isn’t moving, get out and try it later.

10. Bring as little as possible. Bags WILL slow you down. At Universal and Islands of Adventure you will constantly be putting them in lockers because they aren’t allowed on rides. While these lockers are free, they can have long lines to put your stuff in AND get your stuff out. You also will have to go through security check points at the gate, which can use up those precious minutes in the morning. My go-to park items are an individual car key and a snack size ziploc with cash, ID, ticket, and a debit card. No more, no less. Anything bigger will get you sent to the lockers for rides because the workers are trained to look for phone shapes in your pockets. Disney is much more lenient on what you can take bags on (I can’t think of anything you can’t bring a bag on at the moment…), so choose to bring more then.

11. If you do bring a bag, bring everything. If you are going to bring a bag despite the locker rules, get one that can double as a backpack (hands free is always better for navigating around the park). Stuff it with a lot of items to help keep your day cheap- sandwich lunches, snacks, water bottles, ponchos if it rains (or for water rides), camera, batteries in case your camera dies, medicine for headaches or stomach issues, etc. All of these things you can get in the park but the price will be hiked up like crazy. It’s really either bring nothing or bring everything when you make the bag or no bag decision.

The most reliable ride…ever.

12. Take advantage of sissy rides when you are tired. You know what I’m talking about- those rides that never have a long wait because they aren’t shiny, fast, or related to a specific film or character. These are GREAT for when it gets really crowded after lunch and you just want to escape people and sit for awhile. The ultimate example of this is the PeopleMover at Magic Kingdom. This automated tram type ride guides you through Tomorrowland about 3 stories in the air. I’ve never NOT walked on this ride, and its 10 minute length is a decent amount of time to relax and regroup. While nothing compares to the magic of the PeopleMover, other rides to consider would be the train around Magic Kingdom, The Haunted Mansion (depending on the time of day), boat ride in the Mexico pavilion (Epcot), Carousels (at any park), and 3D shows like Shrek (Universal) or Phillharmagic (Magic Kingdom).

13. Do your research before you go. You should look up parks you plan on going to and look for these two things: ride closures and “extra” hours. Ride closures help you avoid walking out of your way to get to a ride just to find out its closed, and it also helps you gauge how other lines will be. Right now, Test Track is closed at Epcot. That’s always been a big draw for the park as its main thrill ride. With that closed, other lines can and will be a lot worse. The “extra” hours is good to know because the morning ones are only offered to guests staying at the theme parks’ resorts. You probably want to go to the park that doesn’t have these so that when you are let in, there isn’t an hour’s worth of people ahead of you (note: if the extra hours are tacked on to the end of the day, then this might be a great park to go to because lines die down considerably after dinner no matter how late a park is open).

Don’t do it!!!

14. Don’t wait longer than an hour for anything. If it isn’t a thrill ride, you probably shouldn’t even be waiting an hour. When lines get really long after lunch, take advantage of easy rides (Tip 12) or see a show. So many people still get in line for Peter Pan when it is 75 minutes long. The ride is over in about a split second and its just Peter Pan!!! It’s not like it’s based on a Disney Princess or something. Dumbo-type rides (the ones that load, spin you in a circle in the air for a bit, and then end) are HUGE time wasters. Avoid them at all costs. Once you’ve been on one, you’ve been on them all. Trust me.

15. Push the red button as soon as you see the giant alien. You’ll know it when you see it- and you’ll thank me when you do.

If you are an Orlando native and have your own tips, please feel free to comment below and add them. Or if you are still lost and want more specific park advice and recommendations, let me know. Park knowledge isn’t always the most useful skill, but nonetheless, I’ve accumulated a lot of it.

June 7, 2012

The Many Interpretations of Gotye

I have a little bit of a problem when it comes to identifying songs because of one very obvious reason:  I don’t listen to the radio- ever.  I listen to songs almost solely on my iPhone.  Now, I do pick up new music from TV shows and movies a lot, which accounts for my eclectic playlists (it’s rare for me to like a lot of music from one artist), but identifying Top 40 hits?  Not my best skill.

So when Glee did their rendition of Somebody I Used to Know (see above), I was completely unaware that this was already a popular song by something called “Gotye” (a.k.a. Wally….yeah, I laughed, too).  The song didn’t make too much of an impression and I forgot about it for a little while.  Then it came up again in my shows because Gotye was the musical guest on SNL.  I kept thinking when the song came on…WHERE IS THIS FROM??? Oh, Glee.  This time I found the song more memorable, and was intrigued at what the video looked like based on the SNL sketch below.

My Gotye journey continued on and I watched the original music video.  I downloaded the song shortly after, and have listened to it often since then.  The song puzzles me, though, because I’ve found in talking with friends and reading about the song that it is interpreted in different ways (specifically who the girl that sings is meant to be).  Here are the four groups of thought I’ve found regarding who Kimbra plays, but I’m sure there are more opinions (maybe even you make a new group?).

Group 1: She’s the Mistreated Ex

People in this group (including Entertainment Weekly who say “it’s about a guy who screwed over his ex-girlfriend”) believe Gotye was mean to his ex until she left and is now complaining that she didn’t have to make such a clean cut from him in the end.  Kimbra is singing from the ex’s point of view insisting that she’s the victim of Gotye’s actions, and not the other way around.  I could see this, but she recalls that he said he “could let it go, and I wouldn’t catch you hung up on somebody that you used to know.”  Isn’t he singing about that somebody now?  How could that be her?

Group 2: She’s the Extension of His Voice

My sister feels that Kimbra is simply just another voice in the song, not really talking to Gotye, but continuing his sentiment.  I think this is discredited by the music video because she is looking at Gotye when she sings and he shows small sings of distress like looking down, sighing, and closing his eyes, which indicate to me he is affected by what she is saying.

Group 3: She’s the New Girlfriend (My Group!)

I have always thought that Gotye is talking about an old relationship which he tried to make work, but in the end it was probably better that they weren’t together.  However, he hasn’t really gotten over the fact that this girl pretends like she doesn’t even know him now.  Kimbra is his new girlfriend who is being mistreated by Gotye now and complaining that he is still hung up on this ex that cut him out of her life.  This to me explains the body language in the video, and the specific lyrics of Kimbra’s part.

Group 4: I Don’t Care

This group likes the song, but doesn’t really care to piece a story out of it.  They just want to listen to it when it comes on the radio and move on.  This group also has those that are over the song and don’t care about the story as they switch radio stations to avoid it.  To each his own.

I’ve always been one that hates when things are open for interpretation.  I’d rather know what the artist or director was thinking when they created it (ex. Did Sarah remember at the end of the Chuck series? Did Rose die at the end of Titanic?).  These questions don’t keep me up at night, but will definitely be on my mind should I run into these famous people by chance someday (because that’s likely).

By the way, if you are a Gotye fan, tickets just went on sale for his North American tour throughout the rest of the year.  You might want to snag them now if you plan on going.  You can view the concert information here.

June 6, 2012

Not All Questions are Created Equal: The Miss USA Story

This year I watched the Miss USA Pageant because last year when I didn’t, one of those 16 finalists became my new manager at Teach For America.  Now Brittany’s a pretty awesome and positive person (you can read her fresh blog here), so I was a little more open-minded and invested in this year’s telecast.  I still am not sure how they judge the swimsuit and evening wear events, especially because they insist on judging the girl instead of her outfit.  They all look to have the same exact level of poise and confidence (maybe an infinitesimal difference?) to me.  But the final question section?  That you can judge a lot easier.

Brittany made a comment, which I completely agree with, that the questions aren’t made equal.  They were about sugary drinks, women in movies and TV, Toddlers and Tiaras, Miss USA contestants failure to know the Vice President, and…. is it fair to have a transgender contestant win the Miss USA Pageant.  Seriously?  I felt bad for Miss Rhode Island getting a much harder question, but it ended up working in her favor when she gave a stellar answer and won the Miss USA title later that night.  I was really worried she was going to say it wasn’t fair, but was glad when she said it is fair and still addressed that she could understand why people would be apprehensive about it, too.

I think the worst answer of the night came from Miss Ohio (who looked great in yellow BTW).  This is mainly because she was asked the question I wanted to answer the most- if women are portrayed in an accurate and positive way in movies and television and to give an example.  Of all things, she went with Julia Roberts from Pretty Woman and defended it with “she was going through a rough time but she came out on top and didn’t let anyone stand in her path.”  What?  This is weak, and doesn’t really explain the actual positive things the character did in the movie.  She could have mentioned that she stood up for herself when others misjudged her (who doesn’t love the shop scene?) or that she didn’t need a man to be strong and independent.  I suppose even those arguments are stretching, though.

Please Note: I am not one of the many people bothered by her saying a prostitute is a strong role model (see here), but instead just feel her answer was kind of lacking.

As soon as I heard that question, I thought of two women.  The first one that came to mind, I’m not sure why, was Gloria from Modern Family.  I feel she is portrayed well because she is very girly and likes to have a strong man in her life, but she is also a woman who puts family first above anything else and would defend them (and herself) with a fiery rage if needed.  The second woman I thought of was Buffy, who was a great role model to me growing up.  She was a girl hero (for once!), someone who chose herself over a guy, and was consistently a devoted friend.  There are also a million other examples to work with, but Pretty Woman was definitely not the best choice.  You can even tell in the way she responds that it isn’t very genuine.  I almost wish they were all asked the same question (without hearing other answers) so you could truly compare each of them.

You can watch all the questions and answers in the 5 minute clip below to judge for yourself:

In other Miss USA news…I watched Good Morning America this morning (my mom DVR’d it because One Direction was on- I learned their names today…and now can only remember 2 1/2 of them….) and saw that they were covering the Miss Pennsylvania story (you can view the segment here).  Miss Pennsylvania resigned right after the Miss USA Pageant because she claims another contestant saw that the Top 5 were picked ahead of time.  Donald Trump, the head of the organization, claims that this is COMPLETELY false, and even said his people interviewed the contestant Miss Pennsylvania referred to and she denied seeing anything.  I figured it was possible for it to be rigged ahead of time (maybe based on previous judging), but Trump made one good point- “It doesn’t matter who wins.”  This seems mean, but it’s true.  They are all beautiful girls from all different backgrounds, and choosing one over another won’t have any huge backlash because they all deserve it.

HOWEVER- Donald Trump sounded like a complete ass on the segment as he insisted Miss Pennsylvania was a sore loser and that he saw her for the five seconds she was on stage and didn’t think she deserved to win.  The studio was full of “oooooh”s after this comment, which he repeated later, too.  After this statement, I didn’t really want to side with Trump either.  What a mess.  I know Trump has a ton of money, but he really needs some more class.  Save those snide comments for home- not national television.  He could have easily said “I’m not sure why she would do this, but it’s disappointing,” but to attack her looks and attitude is a douche move that was completely unnecessary.

In the end I must side with Good Morning America, who tried to remain as neutral as possible and get Trump off the phone quickly once the conversation turned ugly.  Good job guys.

June 5, 2012

5 Cheap Cures for the Summer Blues

Since I decided to become a teacher, I still get a summer break.  And since I still get a summer break, I still hit that same period about a couple weeks into summer break where I feel completely bored. Yeah, sure, I’m grateful for the extra rest, but eventually sitting around doing nothing becomes less exciting.  I know a lot you are not teachers and don’t have this summer break problem, but perhaps you still feel a little bored with the lack of television options (another brutal reality for me the next few months) or you still feel phantom summer break boredom pains from your younger ears.  Here are a few ideas to add some fun into your life until the end of August rolls back around.

1. Rediscover Magazines

Remember when getting mail was fun and not just full of bills?  You can have that again!  Magazines are extremely cheap now because the industry is dying out with so much media being consumed online.  While print magazines may be out in a decade, you still have some time now to embrace their twilight years (at excellent prices, too!).  Amazon has several magazines available for only $5 a year!  This is how I subscribed to Marie Claire.  I feel you can get $5 worth out of any yearly subscription, especially if you are interested in the overall subject matter.  My sister got me into Marie Claire because while it does have a lot of fashion pages, it also has articles about real girls doing real things you can either relate to or admire.  I particularly loved the article “Love and the Single Girl” in this month’s issue.  Knowing there are single ladies out there thwarting parents from buying online dating subscriptions for them or being asked to move to make room for a couple, yet still completely content with their lives, makes me realize that being single at 24 is not a life sentence.

I will constantly recommend Entertainment Weekly till I die, but I am also one to love me some pop culture news.  Entertainment Weekly offers an extra tablet edition of their magazine free with your subscription, which is great on the go and offers extra interactive features (ex. jumping to a trailer of a movie you are reading about).  This has been especially useful to me while I am in Orlando.  EW runs about $25 for the year, but for $9 more you can get it for two years (remember, it’s “weekly”).  You can check out EW’s offer here, or pay less for a shorter subscription over at here.

I know there is a lot of digital media for us to consume, but nothing quite beats sitting down for an hour to flip through a magazine by a pool, curled up on your couch, or killing time during travel.  You will always get a little more written content than if you read the articles online, and you will help make sure future generations get the opportunity to post pictures from magazines on their wall (I still have EW covers as decorations in my apartment…haha).  Click here to check out Amazon’s current $5 deals on magazine subscriptions (through June 17th).  Also make sure to stalk Groupon and Living Social for magazine deals, as I have gotten a couple $12 subscriptions there, too.

2. Try out Fitness Classes through Summer Deals

Gyms are not stupid.  They know we as a human race hit summer and go oh….swimsuit season…damn those extra pounds!  I think even skinny people feel awkward sometimes when they pull out that swimsuit that has been at the bottom of their drawer the past few months.  But this ends up working in our favor because the gym and exercise class deals that pop up are great!  A lot of boot camps run shorter session deals where you can do a few weeks of classes at a highly reduced rate.  Tulsa Fit Body Boot Camp, the place I went in March and April under a Groupon deal, is offering 2 weeks of classes and a meal plan for $25.  You can e-mail for more information.  For my Orlando friends, Fitness-n-Fun boot camp is offering 6 classes and a consultation for $29 on Living Social (ends by June 6th…so check it out now).  I just bought the Jazzercise deal on Groupon today (ends in a few days).  It’s offering 10 classes for $39 or 20 classes for $59, which is really good compared to their regular monthly and start up fees.  I’ll probably end up using this half in Orlando and half in Tulsa since it’s valid at any location.

If you are really tight on cash or really fickle about your choice of exercise, most classes offer the first class free to try.  You can be really budget conscious and spend weeks just hopping around to different classes.  Gyms will offer similar free day or week passes, though they might bug you a lot afterwards to make a financial commitment.  Just think of the summer as a time to play the field, exercise-wise, to find that one place you could see yourself making a long term commitment to come Fall ; )

3. Make New Friends, But Keep the Old (TV-wise of course)

After May, my busy DVR takes a 4 month siesta- this is probably crucial to its ability to function, but can be quite a bummer when night after night I struggle to find anything worth watching.  This is where my DVD/Blu-Ray player gets its yearly workout.  When June comes up, I usually dust off my DVD collection to find those few shows I feel I’ve taken a long break from and need to re-watch.  In past years I’ve gone through Buffy, Friends, Lois and Clark (90’s love!), and Roswell.  This summer I chose some old Grey’s Anatomy episodes (select seasons…I don’t have the patience to watch some of it’s dark periods, a.k.a. The Dr. Hunt Years) and The Vampire Diaries (TVD).  I’m watching TVD with my friend Erin, which has been really fun.  TVD is probably one of my top favorites on TV right now, and I’ve never re-watched episodes since they aired (minus one in Russian while I was in Moscow, haha).  Watching shows with friends who haven’t seen them is much more exciting than watching them by yourself, because you get to see them go through all the shock and awe you did when you first saw all the drama play out.  There’s nothing quite like marathoning through an old favorite…

…except maybe marathoning through a show that’s new to you!  I tend to pick up at least one new show each summer that’s been on the air already by watching reruns, taking advantage of the Hulu Plus free week trial, mooching off a friend or relative’s Netflix capabilities, or visiting the magical place called the Orange County Library System (once you go OCLS, you don’t go back…sorry Tulsa).  I’ve picked up Big Bang Theory, Parks and Recreation, Covert Affairs, Downton Abbey, How I Met Your Mother, The Middle, and Chuck this way.  It’s even fun to do this with series that have finished because then you can relish in not having to wait after any cliffhangers (people who did this with LOST are so lucky!).  Here are a few of my recommendations for TV shows to catch up on based on your interests and time:

a) For people who don’t want to catch up on too much before the shows start next year, check out Revenge and Once Upon a Time.  Both of these were freshman hits for ABC this year, and have a pretty good following due to their unfolding mystery plots.  You’ll want to be up to date on these for break room conversations next year at work.

b) For those who take forever to go through episodes, try Downton Abbey.  It’s a hit with most and only airs for a short period each year.  It’s been on two seasons already, but only totals 16 episodes.  Note that season 2 is better than the first, so be patient if it seems a little dull in the beginning.  Like wine, it gets better with age.

c) Comedy fans should check out the underrated Community.  They just did an episode almost completely as an 8-bit video game!  If that isn’t awesome enough to entice you, there is also a fake flashback episode, a zombie attack episode, and 3 epic paintball battle episodes.

d) For fantasy/sci-fi fans, Supernatural is still one of my favorites.  It is one of the few TV shows to be banished to Friday and then sent back to a mid-week slot.  And it was just renewed for an 8th season….so I am not the only fan.  Two hot brothers solving supernatural crimes with rich, long-running plot lines to support the series? Win.

4. Create a Personal Style Book

Now this is something I haven’t tried before, but that I thought of while perusing the latest Marie Claire.  There are so many times where I have random thoughts while browsing online, walking through stores, or flipping through a magazine- “I love that print on that top!” or “I wonder what that nail polish looks like on…” or “I need to decorate my apartment like that.”  I feel like in my mid-20’s, I’m finally coming into my own style…or maybe I’m just beginning a new chapter of an ever-evolving life cycle of style (this is coming from someone who wore bike shorts in elementary school (they were comfy!!!) and every single Old Navy solid color top in middle school).  I kind of wish I had a book that had all those likes and interests together.  When I described this to Katie, she said..”Soooo, you want to make a Pinterest book.”  I went to defend it, but she’s right.  It’s a Pinterest book.

I like the idea of Pinterest, but never really got into using the platform.  I’m more drawn to creating a book by hand.  Not only will it take up some time (it can really be infinite if you fill it up a little at a time as time passes), but it’s more unique than a bunch of links on a website.  It creates a good way to get a second use from my magazines, forces me to be more aware of current styles (and the types of things I’m drawn to), and can be a great coffee table book for my apartment : ) I imagine my final product would have pages like this:

The above picture is from a blogger that already created books like the one I’m describing- one for fashion and one for home decorating.  I think this can be a fun project to help you get your ideas together whether you are freshening up your wardrobe, furnishing a new apartment, changing up a room in your house (ex. preparing it for a new baby!), or creating an idea book for special occasions.  I picture this done with a blank notebook with cardstock-like pages.  I think notebook paper might be too flimsy for a lot of gluing, but those notebooks with dividers built in are tempting to separate your idea collections.

5. Learn (some of) a New Language

Raise your hand if you’ve vowed to teach yourself a new language, bought a bunch of stuff to support your learning, and then given up this dream after a week?  ::Raises hand…3?…times::  I really want to learn some Russian so that when I go back to visit our family friends I can converse a little.  I was on a good roll by the end of my trip last year, mastering about 75 words and phrases, as well as learning how to read the language (just pronunciation, not comprehension).  But now most of those words I have to check on in my language book, and I only remember how to sound out a handful of letters.  Boo.  This summer I’m going to try to use my extra time to make a little more progress in my russian language acquisition.

For anyone else bold enough to take on a foreign language this summer, I highly recommend checking with your library concerning any free programs they offer.  OCLS offers an online program that is self-paced called Mango Langauges (oooo, Tulsa offers Mango Languages, too- see here). I worked with this a little last summer before all my TFA training started and loved it.  I made flash cards as I went (which I recently found!) to support long term learning.  All you need is your library card to access the online courses they offer (note that you can’t learn the whole language, but these free tutorials are great for building a good general knowledge to have short conversations with native speakers).  Here is a list of the languages offered:

If your language isn’t too obscure, you can also find CDs and workbook kits at the library to learn the language as well.  I wouldn’t recommend Rosetta Stone until you are fully committed to learning the language.  Even the cheaper kits online can put you out $30, which is only worth it if you’ll stick with it.  Try Mango first and checking out audio CDs for on the go…this could be you by the end of summer : )

I hope one of these (or all of these!) suggestions struck your fancy and will help you cure any impending summer blues in 2012.  I myself will be imploring all five, but then again, I’m an overachiever.  Even if you don’t get a break from work or school, find some time to pretend you have all the time in the world to just relax and enjoy the sun : D

June 1, 2012

For Anyone Who Has Been In That Awful “Friend Zone”

This past week I had a blast from the past experience.  Me and my friend from Tulsa were looking around a store at Universal when we realized the guard at the front kept eying us.  He went out of his way to talk to us both times we went into the store (we had to go back for something), and my friend was convinced he was into me.  I was on the fence about it after our first store visit, but then during our second visit, I was convinced he’d rather chat up my friend.  She’s married and could probably care less about the situation (besides being a great wingwoman, of course), but at some point during this second stop, I felt really sad and just wanted to go.

In middle school, high school, and even grad school, I can pinpoint a time where I was friends with a pretty girl and wasn’t even in the running (whether I was interested or not) when it came to guys.  I’ve been told (after a significant effort on my part to show *my* interest) how interested a guy is in my friend.  I’ve been told by guys I’m in the middle of dating that they like my friend a little bit, too (yes this happened).  I’ve been asked why my beautiful friend shows indifference to a guy’s efforts when I could ask them the same question regarding my own.  I didn’t realize how much this affected me until this week when I felt all that hurt from 13, 15, and 21 year old me hit me all at once in a Universal store of all places.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I think I am a pretty, smart, strong woman and all.  I know I can improve in certain areas, but I don’t wake up hating myself or anything.  I am happy to put together a cute outfit or get my hair looking just right for a night out like any other girl.  But the past can kick me in the ass just like anyone else, too.

So guys of all ages, please don’t overlook the friend of the pretty girl you are dying to be with.  They are probably the one that has listened to you, offered advice, shared your interests, checked you out, etc. and you are completely missing their signals.  They may not be your one true love, but at least give it a second thought instead of trampling over their self-esteem and feelings without even realizing it.

And to pretty girl best friends- telling your friends sorry that yet another guy has fallen for you only makes the friend feel worse.  Trust me.  You could help by being straightforward about not being into guys you don’t care about so they don’t annoy you or stomp over your friend’s feelings.  You could even be a little bitchy in front of unwanted guys to throw them off the scent.  I promise, it’s okay if a few guys see that you aren’t perfect.  There will soon be another line of guys for you around the corner.

And to my fellow sisterhood of “friend zone” girls (and guys!), I’ve been there.  It sucks, and I wish I could give you all (and the incoming class of us) a hug.  It’s time to let these semi-scarring past experiences go, and not let them get to us in the middle of cartoon character stores over an only okay-looking guy when your married best friend is just there trying to get souvenirs for family members (run on sentence alert).  One day the guy will be looking at us, and we don’t want to miss it because we are excusing it as a “he’s just not that into you” moment ; )