Sunday, October 19, 2014

BYOP 2014

The Sweet Things Table: Kettle Corn, Pumpkin Whoopie Pies & Apple Fritters

Pumpkin Carving Tools After Washing

Friday, October 17, 2014

Let's Do This

It's about to get real. Real pumpkiny. BYOP (Bring Your Own Pumpkin) party is tonight, and preparations began about a month ago.

That blue smudge is almost certainly (not) a ghost, right? I hope it's a friendly ghost.

We totally confused the fireflies. 

Without the ghost this time.

Hector, our giant spider, made his annual appearance.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

No Idea What I'm Doing & No Time To Do It

Hey. I have been quite busy with the new-ish full-time job as the Visuals Coordinator / Supervisor (yes, two job titles for one person & yes, two jobs to be done simultaneously) at a clothing retailer, a freelance stylist project for a property management group and trying to maintain a social life.

I am not in super-love with my new job, but want to do the best work I can there. When my self-imposed year is done at this job, a few bills are paid off and money is saved for school, I am wondering if I should become a certified veterinary technician with a future goal of becoming a pet physical therapist or if I should go back to "real college" (as in not a community college with a certificate program, but a four-year accredited college for another bachelor's degree) to study interior design with a future goal of becoming an interior designer who specializes in commercial spaces. (How was that for a run-on sentence?)

I find working with pets, especially shelter/rescue group pets to be so rewarding. I like to slow down and observe a dog or cat to get a sense of what they need to feel safe, healthy and loved. Purrs and tail wags more than make up for the lower salary that this career field might fetch. I also love designing spaces for form, function and aesthetic appeal. I would focus on commercial spaces for interior design, because I can't bear to work with bored rich people who have forty five names for beige and really just want you to compliment their great taste, not really to give up one iota of control to let you help them design their space. No thank you very much. I'm truly torn between these two options. Luckily, I have ten and a half months to decide.

BTW: Be sure to check out my instagram photos on the widget to the right of this blog or follow me "therealjennc" on instagram to see more of my work & whimsy.

Monday, September 29, 2014

My Previous Position

I miss many things about my previous job:

Most of my coworkers - a lively eclectic bunch of about 35 unique individuals

Music - (except for during Christmas shopping season, of course) we enjoyed a nice mix of alterna-pop & retro alterna-pop songs

The view - looking out eighteen-foot tall windows, situated on a clean corner of mostly new low-rise buildings

Parking - a clean parking garage with free parking and security guards who tolerated no foolishness

The surroundings - clean sidewalks, Whole Foods, Starbucks, other retailers aimed at clean customers.

Clean - Did I mention how clean it was where I used to work? It was really clean, and never smelled like drug-tainted urine. Not once.

Respectful workplace - I was not manhandled, squeezed, kissed on the cheek or subjected to unwanted pats on my perky posterior. Sure, there was the occasional (very funny) double entendre joke.

Half of the customers - Half of the customers were just great. Half of them were anxious messes who seemed to have magical thinking that the right toss pillow would fix everything in their life that was amiss.

If the alarm went off in the middle of the night, no one called me. No one expected me to drive down and assess the situation.

I have to remind myself why I left:

The crazy, unpredictable work hours - 3:00 AM to 8:00 AM? Never again.

The on-call employment situation - You want to call me into work with 90 minutes notice on what I thought was my day off? Then you want to fuss about it for a week when I decline? No thanks.

Half of the customers - the aforementioned anxious mess half, like the lady who asked me to gift wrap an item, then timed me, and fussed when it took six minutes, because I had to find a box for the misshapen item

The general lack of appreciation and lack of humanity of working for a publicly traded conglomerate

The lower pay

The variable quality of the goods we sold for moderate prices being hailed as upscale. It was not upscale. Everyone calm down.

The crazy swarms of customers that would descend when a yoga class let out. There were five yoga studios in a two block radius that apparently practice the type of yoga that leads to cranky consumerism.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Heaven Forbid

Sometimes I have thoughts that might be considered morbid, but are actually emergency preparedness edicts. If anything ever happens to me where I go into a coma or a vegetative state, I need one of you to access my (like Facebook for readers) account. Find my "to read" list. Load audio books from my "to read" books list onto a listening device and play them in my ears. I can't think of a better way to spend time in case of a non-responsive state.

Thanks in advance. I'll owe you one.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

That's It. We're Moving to Abilene.

Don't freak out. We are likely never moving to Abilene. It's just the new thing Chad and I say in response to the overblown crowds, skyrocketing property taxes and ridiculous traffic of contemporary Austin.

Sometimes we long for a slower pace, lower cost of living and less crowded, more sincere way of daily living. Then we remind ourselves of all the conveniences and the energy that living in central Austin offers, and we try to calm down.

I want smallish town life with a decent smoothie bar and salad place. I want less traffic and crowds, but with cool stuff to do. I want to live in the smallest city that has a Whole Foods Market. I want to have time for hanging out with friends, and friends who have time for me, but also a decent vegetarian-friendly restaurant in town. I want a town with a 24 hour diner that is not a truck stop.

You guys let me know if you find that place. We can all move there together, and ruin it for the longtime locals.

Still Here

Working full-time downtown at a new job and keeping a house full of three cats and a big dog is difficult. I am tired. I have been reading only a few pages of magazine each night before passing out. I have just enough time to maintain an acceptable level of cleanliness in the 1952 House and get to the gym once a week.

Learning new routines, and deciphering new situations and personalities, is semi-exhausting. I am happy to be earning more money, to have more predictable work hours and to be working with two of my favorite sassy former coworkers again. My job title is Visuals Coordinator. Thus far I have been mostly selling clothes that are not exactly my style, and that are mostly tailored for men. I have done very little visuals creative work yet at the new place, and am excited to grow that part of the job. My goal is to keep this job for at least one year of fancy paychecks to pay off some loans and build up savings a bit. Then I hope to go back to school for an Associates degree in a creative field, such as graphic design with a concentration in illustration, or back to working in pet rescue with low pay, high-stress and high emotional stakes.  Warts and all, I keep drifting back to pet care and creative endeavors.

Maybe when this year of maximum earning is over, I can look back at it sheepishly as my "sell-out" year, or maybe I will learn to love my new job and stay longer. Right now, I'm trying to find enough daily joy to avoid over analyzing the situation.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

San Francisco... Again

I went to San Francisco about fourteen years ago with Chad, but maybe I was there another time since then. Honestly, I do not remember. I know, I'm awful. Chad has been to San Francisco at least five times for work and fun. 

view of Ferry Building Market from our hotel hallway

My favorite things about San Francisco on a previous trip (trips?), apart from what I consider to be MUCH nicer weather than Austin, was feeding coins to various antique amusement machines at the Musée Mécanique while it was still located in the basement of the Cliff House, seeing a Magritte exhibit at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, having amazing Viennese coffee at a little cafe and walking on the Golden Gate Bridge. Our friend from college, Jeffrey, served as tour guide on one of our previous trips, taking us around the Mission District and Castro neighborhoods. We also explored Haight-Ashbury which provided lots of chain stores, but little in the way of hippie nostalgia. We briefly hit Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39, before getting the heck out of the tourist trap horde.

This trip to San Francisco was much shorter for me. With limited time of just over 48 hours, I only wanted to do and see things I had not previously experienced in the San Francisco area. After a pleasant direct flight from Austin to San Francisco aboard Virgin America, Chad and I checked in at the Hyatt Regency on Embarcadero around noon local time. We were prepared to drop our bags with the front desk, but our room was ready early. We were upgraded to the top floor of the hotel with a private balcony! Nice! No idea how we scored that perk. I loved the atrium style hotel with art deco design flourishes, and highly recommend it. 

Our first stop after the hotel was just down the block at Ferry Building Market complete with its Saturday farmer's market on the plaza. Oh the blinding sun! Oh the teeming masses! Oh the yummy snacks! We got our requisite bread, fruit, cheese and nuts, quickly squirreling it back to our hotel balcony high above the masses for a private picnic.

view from our private balcony

We also needed showers, a costume change and rest before cabbing it to the Marrakech Magic Theater for a magic show. The magician, Peter Morrison, does some close-up magic and audience fact-finding-chit-chat in the "Sultan's Lounge" waiting area before the main show while the audience trickles in and enjoys drinks and appetizers. At showtime, groups are ushered into the intimate theatre space and strategically seated. Magician Morrison puts the audience at ease with his fun attitude, uncanny memory for individual details and winking delivery. My only complaint was that I wanted the show to last a bit longer. 

Before retiring to some much-needed slumber back in our hotel room, Chad and I enjoyed that balcony and view again.

The next morning after a decadent room service breakfast, one of Chad's favorite things, we walked down Embarcadero to the Caltrain station past AT&T Park during a Giants baseball game. The vast majority of Giants fans were outfitted in full fan regalia of Giants merchandise bordering on Halloween costumes with all the orange & black and crazy accessories. 

At the train station we caught the baby bullet train with limited stops out to San Jose to tour the beautifully bizarre Winchester Mystery House. Yes, it's a cheesy tourist trap, but I really wanted to see it. Sarah Winchester, heir to the massive Winchester fortune built a 160 room house with winding stairs, secret passages, doorways to nowhere and impressive architecture in an attempt to ward off evil entities. Our informative tour guide led us through 1.1 miles of meandering rooms explaining the history of the house and pointing out details. She, and other tour guides we overheard, seemed to be coached to give factual accounts and downplay any speculation as to Sarah Winchester's sanity or any hauntings. Sadly, it left the tour feeling a bit flat. Go explore the fancy-fun website for the Winchester Mystery House with its great photos and details, so you can skip the trip to San Jose.

We ate a quick meal at the Veggie Grill (like McDonald's for vegetarians & vegans). I liked the salads, which were awesome, but hated the vegan macaroni & cheez. That mess was not food. I think it was melted plastic. We glanced at the faux-quaint, touristy  part of San Jose before catching a grumpy cab back to the train station. Seriously, cab drivers should not complain about how they are losing money to traffic congestion as passengers watch the meter progress.  Unfortunately we missed the last baby bullet train with limited stops of the evening by two minutes, and nearly doubled our return trip time with twenty stops between San Jose and San Francisco. 

Safely back in our hotel room we enjoyed the private balcony and view some more.

My last morning in San Francisco, we had yummy breakfast in the hotel restaurant before cabbing it to Presidio Park for the Walt Disney Family Museum and the Mary Blair exhibit. I particularly loved the Mary Blair exhibit about a female animator who worked with Walt Disney beginning in the 1930s on such films as Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan and my personal favorite, Ichabod Crane and the Legend of Sleepy Hollow. I was pleasantly surprised by the Walt Disney Family Museum, which covered not only biographical details about Walt Disney, but also technical innovations made by Disney. I have new found appreciation and respect for Walt Disney: the man, the artist and the innovator.

I would have loved more time to explore Presidio Park, especially under the impressive cloak of fog that day, but we had to catch a cab (with a nice driver this time!) back to the hotel so I could grab my suitcase. Chad walked me to the train station, loaded my BART  fare card, and said goodbye to me amid the hustle, bustle and stink of the train station. (He had to go to important meetings and say important things for work for a few more days in San Francisco.) I wanted to grab his arm, and say, "I know I'm an adult, but do I really have to take this train by myself to the airport? Come with me, or at least take me back up to the surface streets and put me in a cab." I did my very best to KIT (Keep It Together) and walked through the gates to the train platform.

I hate subterranean trains by any name: subways, the tube, the underground. I'm a high-functioning claustrophobic, and I have trouble when confined underground. Add to the hot mess that I'm hurtling through unfamiliar territory surrounded by strangers, hoping that I'm headed in the right direction, and that I will reach my destination on time. My heart races. I have to work to regulate my breathing. After hopping the wrong train in the right direction, disembarking at a transfer station, I caught the correct train and made it to the airport to check in 45 minutes before my flight without having a full-fledged panic attack.

On my flight home sans Chad, I had mucho legroom (like I need it) in the "Cabin Select" section. In my defense, "Cabin Select" was the only ticket I could still get for the flight I wanted home when I bought my tickets. For $69 more than "Main Cabin", passengers get perks including one free checked bag, free drinks, free snacks, free in-flight movies & television shows and more legroom. I enjoyed a ginger ale while the tiny young lady next to me downed two beers and two, or maybe three, wines. Thanks to the gentlemanly flight attendant who politely advised her to drink some water and eat something, she did not get sick.

I arrived safely home for my last week of work at West Elm! (More on that later.) 

To sum up: I hate subterranean trains and tourist horde. I love private balconies at high elevations. I'm so glad we went to the Walt Disney Family Museum. The magic show was fun. Don't go to San Jose unless you have to work there.