A BLOG ABOUT A LITTLE BIT OF EVERYTHING

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Lighten Up!

Ah, another one of those hair posts. I was good this time and waited 3 months between appointments. When I saw Adam at James Joe Salon in Midland, TX, he claimed he thought I had moved. No, just more frugal than most Midlanders I guess!

I told him "Blonder!" and those were my only directions. I never bring pictures to hair appointments, and I never have a request for a specific cut. Instead, I always let the hair stylist do his or her own thing. I see a hair stylist as an artist, and I'm happy to be the canvas. I ended up with a natural honey, warm blonde and a couple of inches cut off with more layers and facial framing. I was pleased with the results, and my hair has left me ready to leap into March! It is windy here, as is usual for spring, so my hair was a little frazzled even by the trip home.

side view 
front view 
Not a lot of time for pictures today, as I had to hurry up and teach tonight. I love my hair, but I always love hair even more after a few washes. It just doesn't feel like "me" until then.

Well, I hope everyone enjoyed the extra day of the year. Shout out to friend and best ever reader Erica McCreedy whose birthday is today (and that's a pretty big deal when it only happens once ever four years!) She is finally 7!

Leap year is yet another excuse for sales. Go take this easy quiz and get 10% off your next Modcloth purchase. Did I mention I'm a 2012 Modcloth style ambassador? I'll keep you up to date on Modcloth happenings! Also, code "LEAPYEAR" used at Sephora online check out gets you free shipping on $29 or more of merchandise.  Yippee! That's all I know of people.

Sunny days are ahead. So, March on! In the coming days, you can look forward to an amazing book I read in February. Plus, we still need questions for He Said/She Said. Don't be shy, I know you have relationship questions that need answering and your info and identity is kept 100% confidential. You could even make up a fake email! I made email me buttons and put them all over my blog, so go ahead and click one. In March, I'll also be writing about my Bridesmaid debut, as my dear friend of 25 years, Kelsey, is tying the knot. What else can I promise? A look into how I lost 6 pounds in 6 weeks (it was super easy). And as if that isn't enough to keep you coming back, there will be pictures of my cats. Oh, and before I forget, check out our newest page.

Here's to the coming spring!
<3 S, B, L&Z

P.S.- Thank you all readers for making February a spectacular month for Lola and Zoe. We have never had so many pageviews and are ending the month with a record 1,286+ pageviews. Keep sharing and keep reading! 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Home Improvements

Friday, Brendan and I made some lovely improvements to our home. Remember when I mentioned Brendan's dad (the artist) did some amazing paintings and sent them to us? Well, we bought frames, hardware, and finally got everything together and hung. Here are the results:


This space over the couch has just been waiting for artwork since we moved in. All along, I wanted it to be something by Brendan's dad, because if you have someone in your family that can do fine art, it is a crime if you don't tell and show everyone that you know about it (in my opinion, thus, my brother's book of photography that is on my coffee table). I picked out the gold frame, which Brendan "wasn't sure about," but once he saw it together, he says he now thinks it's "perfect." Or, purrfect. HAHA.


The story behind this painting goes as follows: We were in Maine this summer with Brendan's family, and I happened to see a print of an obese tiger at a library auction. Unfortunately, the print was not only hundreds of dollars, but way too large to transfer back to Texas. Well, it turns out, Brendan's dad painted us a far superior obese tiger. It basically is my favorite thing ever, and I truly feel it completed the room. The colors in the painting completely compliment Brendan's rug that is in our living room.


I'm sure the artist is supposed to name the painting, but since this one didn't come with a name, I shall call it "Obese Tiger on Canvas." This name sounds very classy and sophisticated, don't you agree? I will refer to the painting like that when showing everyone I know.


Our guest room/office walls sat pretty empty, and the space never quite felt completed. The colors of these paintings of Maine just seemed to go perfectly with the colors of the room though. We also wanted all the paintings to be somewhere where there would be natural light. We are really happy with the result.


We had to make our own frames to accomodate these sizes. Fun fact: next to these paintings is a poem by Darrell Bourque, the former poet laureate of Louisiana about fishing. The poem was based on a photo that Brendan took in Louisiana. Darrell liked Brendan's photo so much, he bought it, and we have a signed copy of the broadside. Now, it is fitting that a poem about fishing hangs next to these paintings, as this lake is where Brendan's dad taught him to fish. 


I think these paintings are perfect to have in a writing space. They are so peaceful and remind me of a beautiful place and of Brendan's family.

In other news, we're still accepting questions for the second edition of He Said/She Said Relationship Advice. Here is a testimonial from a reader who received our advice:


"I meant to thank you for the advice sooner than this, but I came down with a cold. But I think you handled your first case with outstanding insight, and a healthy combination of pragmatism and humor. "She" is absolutely right; in essence, Manchild isn't the problem, only a symptom. "He" is hilarious and had me laughing out loud. Mercifully blunt, and also perfect, highly entertaining. I really liked being able to laugh about the whole situation again. It also rang very true, and I feel satisfied--all the answers coincide with my own instincts, and it's all good. So, in short, thank you! I think you could make a career of this, if you run out of things to do!" 

As always, your questions are confidential! So don't delay, email us at LolaAndZoeBlog@Gmail.com. 

Have a fabulous end of the weekend. I was feeling homesick this weekend for my family (who are gathered in Houston this weekend) and Brendan's family (who are in Florida and went to Universal Studios yesterday). I got great photos from both families of everyone, including my grandma and also Brendan's grandparents. I felt pretty emotional yesterday. The desert can feel like an isolated place, and sometimes, you wish you could be multiple places at once. But here are a couple of photos that cheer me up:


Zoe and her cute belly. 


 Bananas spooning (sent from Graham). 

:)
<3 S, B, L&Z 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

On Being Young and Doing My Job Well

This post is for the young professionals.

My entire working life, I have battled with ageism. Ironically, ageism is a term that was first coined in 1968 to describe prejudice against seniors in the workplace. Now, however, my own experiences and discussions with my peers prove that ageism extends to today's young professionals.

A recent trip to see family in San Angelo, TX brought up the discussion. My uncle, who had returned from taking his mother to M.D. Anderson said of the doctor, "She looked about 15." My aunt's friend chimed in with a story about leaving her dentist because he sold his practice to a man she coined Doogie Howser (who was, by the way, an early childhood crush of mine) comparing her dentist to the 16 year-old on the popular show from the early 1990s. The fact is, the doctor and the dentist were not 15 or 16, in all likelihood, they are, like me, in their mid twenties. The stories struck a chord with me because I am all too familiar with the similar scenario. I walk into the classroom on day one every semester and receive comments like, "I thought you were a student" or "How old are you?"

I don't answer that question. It just isn't relevant to the purposes of an English class. The fact is, I may be young, but I also have a Bachelors and two Master's degrees in my subject area. I'm an excellent teacher, and my students, some of whom are far older than me, quickly come to realize this. Being young has its advantages: I understand how to use applicable technology in the classroom, I'm on email far more than the average teacher, I grade papers quickly and have lots of energy, even in an 8a.m. class. I'm understanding, not grumpy, and easy to relate to.

My young professional friends have many similar stories to share. They are in all different careers: the arts, college recruiting, head-hunting, psychotherapy, advertising, finance. They constantly field questions from supervisors, clients, or even people they themselves supervise that are along the lines of "Are you really qualified to do this?" Even worse, people are sometimes patronizing, addressing them as if they are a child.

I get it. People want to believe that they are in the best possible hands. They want a knowledgable teacher, a capable dentist or doctor, people with experience. I forgive the ageist comments of my students or anyone else for that matter. I love my family, and I totally see where they are coming from. People are only human, after all, and it is only human to have concerns. However, I do want to put this out there: people don't last in jobs they are not qualified for. If I was incapable of teaching, I would have lost my position doing so in graduate school. I wouldn't be now in my fourth year of teaching higher ed courses. Likewise, doctors, dentists, therapists, and anyone you see in a professional position, would not be where they are without years of school and passing exams.

So, are people who are older and more experienced better at their job? Maybe. And maybe not. Every person is different. I know teachers with decades under their belts that I admire and aspire to be like. It brings me great pleasure to "talk shop" with them, and I am always looking to learn from them. I also know some that I wouldn't take a class with. Ever. Like every job, the performance is dependent on the individual and how much he or she cares about the job. True ability has little to do with the individual's age. And consider this: that doctor just out of medical school is coming out with the latest knowledge about the newest technologies and techniques. Even in high stakes careers, younger doesn't necessarily mean "worse."

I think we live in a hypocritical society of sorts. I sometimes hear people in older generations complain about what they deem to be "my generation." We aren't responsible, we want everything handed to us, we are too entitled to work hard, etc. etc. Yet, when people in my generation do take responsibility to become educated, find a job, and work our hardest at it, we are doubted and looked down on as somehow not being capable enough to do the job. Thank God the people with these attitudes are not the people in charge of every single hiring committee.

Hats off to those in the older generations who have done nothing but nurture my generation. I was lucky enough to come across many of these people during my time in graduate school at McNeese. These professors helped me not only to become better at my job, but to grow into a capable, dedicated teacher and adult. I consider them dear friends, and I will always consider myself in debt to them for their generosity and patience.

Times have changed. In my mother's generation, the mid twenties was seen as full adulthood. My mother, at my age, was not only working on her doctorate, but she had already been married and divorced, and held numerous professional jobs. Today, people perceive the mid twenties as a time people are still "discovering themselves," but many of us find that stereotype silly. While I'll be the first to admit, I know immature people in their mid-twenties (and mid-thirties, and early sixties, etc. etc.), I don't think all my peers are enduring a "quarter life crisis" that renders us only capable of committing to a job at Barnes and Noble for the next few weeks. The only thing that makes people's expectations of me different than the expectations that were placed on my mother is that life spans are longer now. The thought process goes, if we're all going to live into our 80s (hopefully), twenty something is basically nothing.

But, it's all I've got. I'm twenty something, and I've used all my years as wisely as I could to give myself the best advantages in life. I worked hard in high school, cried on the postman when I received my acceptance to a top notch university, and was thrilled to have the chance to work my way through graduate school doing something I love (teaching) in exchange for a stipend and tuition paid. I may still be a "child at heart," but I'm also an old soul, one that doesn't have cable T.V., enjoys a cup of hot tea, and reads a book every night. I also look younger than I really am. I am carded when ordering drinks, and last year, when I took a cruise with my mom, I was even invited to join the "teen club." But you know what? I keep telling myself looking young comes with its own advantages.

In the mean time, if you see me, or someone like me in a professional position, I only ask that you give us a chance. Like you, we just want to do our very best. We are hard working, caring, and committed to doing what we can to make this world a better place. We're the mentors of the future. We're the people who may help your children when they are in college or just starting out in their careers. I promise, if it turns out you don't like us as your teacher, dentist, or doctor, you are more than free to find someone else, but in the meantime, give us one opportunity to prove ourselves. Oh, yes, and please do so without asking us if we're 16 yet. It becomes less funny after a while.

You just might be surprised.

"This instructor was absolutely awesome. She made writing fun and kept everybody interested in the course. I got so much out of this class. I would recommend her to anybody, she is a fabulous teacher."
-one of hundreds of my positive student evaluations. (4 years in, and I've still never received a fully negative review).

Here's to all the young professionals. Keep on keeping on!
<3 S

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Sparkling Clean

I mentioned in my last post that Brendan and I were hiring someone to help with cleaning a couple times a month. Well, her first day was today, and I was so happy to come home from work to a nice, clean apartment (and Brendan).


We'll still do maintenance cleaning, but no more stressing about not getting to all the small stuff or things we always seem to run out of time for.

The experience taught me a valuable lesson. My friend, Corley, who reads my blog faithfully, (right, Corley?), said that the blog is funny because I seem like superwoman from the posts. She does a very funny "I read this book, cooked this amazing dinner, took a road trip, and then made this craft!" impression of the blog. And while somedays I do try to be a superwoman, this experience taught me that it is okay to ask for help, admit defeat, and say, I just cannot get to everything.

But what I have done today is met with several students and graded a zillion papers, and later, I will help Brendan cook dinner and clean up the dishes and will read for my classes and prepare tomorrow's lesson. And what will I do instead of spending time trying to clean? That's easy, I'll read for fun and enjoy time with Brendan. A little bit of money to outsource a task that causes you stress is a small price to pay. My friend, Lauren, shared some words of wisdom from her sister, Dana: "Happiness is a currency too." Amen.

So, here's to NOT being superwoman. And you know what? Being average woman is a lot more relaxing.

<3 S, B, L&Z

Sunday, February 19, 2012

On Living Together (For 6 Months)

When I first moved in with Brendan, all my friends asked how it was different. Friends that hadn't lived with a boyfriend wanted to know in what ways taking the plunge and moving in changes things. For better, for worse? Friends that already lived with boyfriends were like "have you experienced that weird moment where you realize that his stuff is everywhere?" At the time, I couldn't really speak to how it was different, but today marks 6 months for us in Midland and in this apartment, and now I feel that I have insight into some of the ways our lives have changed.

To back up first, I talk a little here about our decision to move together (one we made after only about 2 months of dating, though we wouldn't actually live together until 10 months into our relationship). We'll be the first to admit, our relationship moved fast in those ways, but it was the only decision that would have made sense for us (financially, practically, emotionally). I talk about that a little more here. Moving in together is a personal decision that every couple has to make on their own. I cannot say it would be right for everyone, but I truly believe it was and is the best decision we could have made.

We've easily been able to make co-habitation work for us, and it felt like a logical and natural progression in our relationship. And if I had to sum up our lives here in one word? Perfect. Not that every instant is perfect, but us being here, together, everyday, that part feels perfect.

We settled in nicely here. After one month, it finally dawned on me we were really staying. After three months, I had Midland pretty figured out and felt quite at home here and with our situation. And now? After six months, it just feels like one of our many homes. I suppose the word "our" there is key. At some point in all of this, in my mind, I stopped thinking in terms of "me," and started thinking about "us." I should add though, I still have a healthy sense of self, and I make sure to not lose sight of myself (more on that in a minute), but now I just consider Brendan in every decision I make.

So, how did living together change "us"? Honestly, it didn't really feel like there were these huge, significant changes. I think we are just closer in new ways. Moving in cemented us as true partners in everything we go though. This is our home base, the place where we are both safe, comfortable, and happy. We work together more as a team now in order to make decisions about most aspects of our lives (from how we decorated our apartment, to how and when we spend money, to what we're having for dinner). Maybe it was because we lived together with my parents this summer, but actually being with each other all the time didn't feel like an adjustment to me. As for annoyances that come with the territory of sharing space? There really aren't big ones on either side. We both take on an equal share of housework etc. and we both mesh in terms of our philosophies about how home should feel.

To be a little more specific, there are some things we did to make living together work for us. For people considering moving in, I think there is a lot to keep in mind.

Where to live: First of all, the fact that we found a space new to both of us I think was important. It was no one's territory prior to move in day, so we made it our space. Plus, decorating a place together is fun and involves perfecting compromising skills.

Money Matters: We opened a joint account, and for us, that made life 100% easier. Every couple has to come to terms with how they will manage money. For us, we each put in 50% of our income into a joint account. We only use that money to pay for rent, bills, groceries, and occasional entertainment (like going to a museum or dining out). We have the other half of our income for our own needs: clothes, lunches with friends, paying for our own bills, loans, gas, etc. For us, this solution works great (and makes checking out at the grocery store way easier than when we paid with two different cards).

Talk About It: Every decision we make, we discuss first. Will we teach in the summer? Where will we spend spring break? What do our summer plans look like? When will we go see friends? What are we making for dinner? Talking and listening are equally important. I always listen to Brendan's views, and often, I change my mind because I realize he's right about something!

Divide and Conquer (Chores): Brendan and I really are the same when it comes to cleaning. We do little things each day (typically he does dishes, I do laundry and general straightening up, and we both take turns cooking) and go on big cleaning sprees on the weekends. We do all the grocery shopping (and 3 flights of stairs carrying) together. We recently decided to hire someone to clean our place every other week, so we won't have to stress about all the little cleaning details we sometimes don't have time to get to (like dusting the ceiling fans, yeah, that never seems to happen!).

On Pets: I have two amazing cats, Lola and Zoe, that I had prior to the relationship. Brendan shares in helping me care for them (he usually feeds them because he goes to bed last, and night feedings prevent them from waking us up in the middle of the night). Brendan enjoys having them as pets, and loves having them around to play with. I still take on the bulk of the financial responsibility for them though (like buying food and paying for vet visits), though Brendan always offers to help, I just feel better about maintaining that responsibility on my own. We may one day get a pet together, but that day is far off until we have a much bigger space, and Lola and Zoe are happy to be the only pets.

Give Each Other Space: We are lucky because our work schedules are such that we are allowed to have our own time at home alone (for instance, Brendan has Tuesdays off, while I have Thursdays off). When we are here together, Brendan might be working in the office, while I am working in the living room. Often, we are in the same room but both occupied with work. I don't think either of us ever feels crowded.

Maintain Your Sense of Self: I said earlier, I still feel like it is important to maintain my own independent life (even though Brendan is a big part of who I am). I have made making my own circle of friends here a huge priority, and I have activities that I enjoy doing on my own, like book club and yoga classes. Brendan is less social than me by nature, but he still has his own writing life and friends he hangs out with on his own (good for sports watching).

Make Mutual Friends: There are a few couples in town we are friends with, and we also have our friends the Shews, who only live 2 hours away. I think that having other couple friends to do things with is important to any relationship. We also still both actively maintain our mutual friendships from Lake Charles, and we're starting to get to know and become friends with each other's friends from prior to the relationship.

Well, that's a look at how we make it work. Before I could end the post though, I had to ask Brendan "What do you think moving in together changed the most about our relationship?" He sighed, thought about it for a minute and said, "Without getting too much into it, I think we have a greater sense of responsibility to each other." I smiled because those were my thoughts exactly.

We hope this essay helps anyone who is considering making the move. Questions? We'll be happy to answer them. We're still looking for questions for our second edition of He Said/She Said, so just email them to us at LolaAndZoeBlog@gmail.com

Happy relationships!
<3 S, B, L&Z

P.S.- A friendship is the best foundation you can give any relationship. If you're going to live with someone, make sure you are best friends! That closeness will make everything so much easier. I love to look back at pictures from when we were "just pals," like this one from May 2010. It is so funny to think how much a little time can change things!


And also how much things stay the same...

January 2012
You're still my best pal, Bren :)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Treat Yourself

I had one of those "perfect" days today. You know, one of those days you are able to pay catch up with friends, eat good food, do all the things you want to do, and just generally live for yourself. Plus, it doesn't hurt that I received some very nice emails from students.

When my mom sent me some money for Valentine's day, I had no doubts about how I wanted to spend it.

Nails in "Hopelessly in Love" by O.P.I. 
Toenails in "Lunch in Delhi" by O.P.I.
I'm just one of those girls. I feel better when my nails are done! I went to Art Nails here in Midland, and I was so very pleased with the customer service, cleanliness, and atmosphere. I will definitely be back, and I know Art Nails will become "my place" here whenever I want to splurge on a mani or pedi.

I really feel spoiled treating myself, because Brendan and I received quite the gift yesterday in the mail: some spectacular artwork painted by his dad just for us. I'm so delighted to show it off, but we have to get it framed and hung first (this weekend). Pictures to come soon.

I'm happy that tomorrow is Friday. I hope everyone has time to squeeze in a "treat yourself" kind of day this weekend. There are many benefits to pampering ourselves, (whatever that consists of for us personally), and a better mood is just the start. Taking time to do something nice for yourself is like telling your body and mind thank you: Thanks for waking up early, working hard, working late, exercising, cooking, cleaning, and doing all that you do. We feel so good when other people do something nice for us, but often times, we forget that we can do nice things for ourselves too. Sure, it may take a little money, a little time, or both, but I guarantee you, spending some quality time with yourself is never a waste.

Here are my top 10 favorite ways to treat myself:

1. Mani & Pedi
2. Coffee/Lunch/Drinks with a Friend(s)
3. A trip to the movies
4. One new clothing piece or accessory
5. A haircut and highlights
6. A new book or CD
7. A new candle and a relaxing bubble bath
8. A trip to a thrift store
9. A day off from email/facebook/the internet
10. A trip to somewhere new (hiking spot, museum,--any new place will do)

Feel free to use all of these ideas, and treat yourself.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot: Brendan's mom sent me these cozy slippers as my Valentine's gift.
Pedicure protectors 
These things are sweet as cupcakes! Did I mention I love that woman?

Anyway, night night!
<3 S, B, L&Z

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day!

Hello Friends,

Brendan, Lola, Zoe, and I would all like to wish you a Happy Valentine's Day! While Valentine's is a day for sweethearts, I like to use it as a way to celebrate everyone in my life that I love (and believe me, I love a lot of people!) I remember fondly elementary school Valentine's and all the sweet cards from friends and family over the years. A fun fact about me: I never throw a card or letter away! I just cannot part with them.

Anyway, Brendan and I celebrate low-key Valentine's day. We really prefer it to be silly, sweet, and stress free.

I started the day with a heart healthy breakfast for both of us. Oatmeal with raspberries, honey, and cinnamon. Then, I got ready and headed to work.

We <3 Oatmeal 
When I returned from work, I noticed beautiful red roses from Brendan, and he was doing the dishes. Double love!
Brendan's mama raised him right! He knows what the ladies want :) 
We made a 7 minute Valentine's meal (seriously): Gnocchi with vodka sauce and fresh mozzarella cheese and a salad with onions, tomato, and cucumbers.


We learned from a mistake last year where we made risotto that seriously took 3 hours!

We had some wine we bought at a winery in Lubbock a few weeks ago ready for the occasion.

Afterwards, we exchanged cards and little gifts. Brendan made me a beautiful card with a photo he took in Midland and a poem he wrote. I'll cherish it forever from our first Valentine's day here. Then, he presented me with this, and my heart totally melted.

Meet Ralph, my very own Pillow Pet.  I have wanted a Pillow Pet for at least a year, and now Brendan has finally relented! He said this one is the only one he could even consider buying because all of the other ones were so distastefully colored.

I am so happy :) I burst into giggles when I saw my gift. I even let Brendan name him!

I gave Brendan this book with a cute bookmark in it.


It is by a McNeese M.F.A. alum whom we will be meeting in April! Adam is partially responsible for me coming to McNeese, so we can thank him for a few things when we meet him at our program's 30th anniversary celebration ;) Plus, I think this will be an awesome book.

Later, we'll have champagne and cheesecake I picked up for dessert.

Did I say low-key? Well, you know.

How did you celebrate today? Don't forget to confess your love to all your friends and family too!

<3
S, B, L&Z

Monday, February 13, 2012

How To: Make a Relish Tray

Brendan and I were asked to bring a "relish tray" to a dinner party this weekend. Though I had no idea what that was, I said I would do it, and then preceded to Google to find out how to make a perfectly pleasing party tray.

Relish Tray 
The result? An appetizer that everyone loved. On an aesthetically pleasing tray (this one is from Target and was a housewarming gift from our friend Erica) place: Bread and Butter pickle spears, olives in a small dish, Gherkins, baby carrots, celery and celery filled with Pimento cheese, and radishes. Arrange all around some veggie dip in a small bowl in the center.

So, now you know!
Here's to you and your next dinner party crowd pleaser :)
<3 S, B, L&Z

Sunday, February 12, 2012

How to Make Apartment Cozy for Kitty

Hello Friends!

I want to write today about Lola and Zoe, the lovely namesakes of the blog. This is the 3rd place I've lived in with my cats. We first lived in a duplex in Lake Charles, LA then a townhouse in Lake Charles, and now an apartment in Midland, TX. In between, they spent about 6 weeks at my mom's house in Austin. All in all though, the current apartment in Midland is the smallest space I've lived in with my cats (we have 960 square feet). Though income is higher than in graduate school, the housing/rental market in Midland is very tight, and we were incredibly lucky to get the apartment we did! While the days of Lola and Zoe having their own bedroom and 6 foot cat condo are long gone, I've still found many ways to make apartment living cozy for two active indoor kitties. We hope you enjoy these tips and tricks:

Sun Spots

Indoor kitties need their vitamin D too. One of my best tips? Set up a cozy sleeping spot for kitty next to a window where they can get plenty of sunlight. This window seat does double duty as a cozy place for me to read and a place my cats love to lounge.




A Cozy Bed 

Make sure your pets have access to their own bed. We tucked this one under a chair to create a private sleeping space.





A Scratch Spot 


We don't have room for the 6 foot cat condo, but our furniture still needs to be spared. Our solutions? 2 scratching mats and a scratching post that mounts onto the wall. Saves us space, but still offers the cats scratch surface.




Hideout 


This little condo doubles as a hideout and a scratch surface.


Also, never underestimate the power of free hideouts.


Or the hideouts you don't plan on them using!




Durable Furniture


We have durable furniture, so the cats can use it too. This whole apartment has to be their space too, so we don't try to keep them off anything.


Privacy 


Make sure you can still set up a private litter box somewhere for your cats. Ideally, a laundry room, but our washer and dryer is out on the porch, so we converted the coat closet (see the small white door) to the "kitty bathroom." We use door stops to keep it mostly closed, so the cats have privacy and we don't have to look at it. We clean it often, vacum with a small hand held cleaner daily, and use deodorizer and wall plug-ins nearby, so the odor isn't a problem. The box is far from the kitty food (which we keep in the kitchen). Cats prefer this!



Toys  & Treats


Last but not least, Lola and Zoe have about a hundred toys. I keep them in a box and rotate their toys every week or so. This way, they don't become bored of their toys, and we don't have all 100 scattered about at any one time. We have cat-nip filled toys, microwavable warm spot toys, toys on strings, chew toys, etc. The cats seem happy. We also give them treats and sometimes hide treats for them to find.

We hope this helps anyone who is trying to make the most use of their space to create a pet-friendly apartment! It is another snow day today, so we're all enjoying being at home! Happy Sunday everyone.
<3 S, B, L&Z

Friday, February 10, 2012

He Said/She Said: First Edition

In our first installment of He Said/She said, Brendan and I take a stab at some difficult questions. Remember, we did not consult each other; these answers are ours alone. As always, the identity of those asking questions will be kept 100% confidential. The following answers are our opinions. Brendan and I do not hold degrees in counseling, etc. 

The Question:

40 year-old woman is in a marriage that is “tanking. We’ve lived in separate rooms for several years.” Husband agrees “this is not a marriage” but both seem unwilling to go through with a divorce. Enter 24 year-old male who has been working with said woman for several months. Long story short, there has been an extended flirtation, much time spent together, and lots of text messaging between woman and this co-worker (who has a girlfriend, by the way). The relationship is emotional, not physical, but woman feels co-worker wants something more. Question: “I know this can never work out, not really. He is too young. I have enough people to take care of--I don't want to mother anyone else. And I am married. And he has a girlfriend, and a long life ahead of him. And we work together. All good reasons to keep him in his box in my mind. I know better. I just want to know: WHAT IS HE THINKING??!!!!” Signed-Hidingmyfaceinshame

She Says: 

Dear Reader,

First of all, thank you for reading and being willing to participate in He Said/She Said. This is a much more difficult question than I anticipated we would get, but I’ll take my best shot at it. Point blank: I don’t think it matters what he is thinking. I say this because you have already acknowledged 6 reasons why this relationship “can never work out.” The only thing important about this man is that he has taught you something very important about yourself. Namely, that you have the capacity to be find emotional fulfillment from someone other than your husband, and that you are interested in finding emotional fulfillment and more. I cannot say “What you really need is a divorce,” but I can only offer that if your marriage is “tanking” and you both consider it “not a marriage,” what is keeping you both in said marriage? You say you keep finding reasons to put it off, namely the benefit of your children, but if you and husband are “sleeping in separate bedrooms” and “speaking less than roommates,” that isn’t a positive example for the children anyway. There are really two steps here: one, you need to sit down with your husband and decide what you both want. Consider this: I’m a child of divorce and my mother divorced at age 39. I don’t think either of us are “ruined” because of the experience. In my mother’s situation, it was for the best (which is not to say that there were not difficulties and downsides to the situation, but we both survived, and she enjoyed her life more, which made her a better mom to me). Maybe you can find a way to work on your marriage and get the fulfillment you are so clearly craving from your husband. Maybe it won’t work out though. That is scary, but it is better to acknowledge that and move on than continue to live in a self-professed “limbo,” which you stated was “driving me nuts.” So, step one: work on marriage and stay married or decide to end marriage and divorce. You say that you cannot cheat, but carrying on this emotional affair is a form of cheating. To clarify: You wouldn’t get a divorce because of this co-worker, you would get a divorce only if you and husband agree staying in the marriage is not an option that makes (or can make) either of you happy. Okay, so, if you do decide to move on: I wouldn’t put any stock in dating this guy. He came into your life for a reason. That reason was to show you your life, as it is, isn't working. And yes, it is highly flattering that he finds you interesting, intelligent, and attractive, and no, you are not stupid for being interested in him. Your reaction is only human nature. But, the rational, logical person in you knows not to take this further. I say this for several reasons. One is, this co-worker of yours, from the descriptions you give, doesn’t sound very mature. He isn’t ready for an actual adult relationship and definitely cannot provide what you need. Two, he has been with his girlfriend for a couple of years, and obviously, he doesn’t treat her very well if he is involved in this emotional relationship with you. If you do move on, and you decide you are ready to date, there will be people out there who will be relationship material. Hint: look for people who are both mature and trustworthy, people who you don’t have to guess what they’re thinking all the time. Divorcing at 40 doesn’t mean you will never find another relationship. In conclusion: Now is the time to be honest with your husband and yourself, do not stall that conversation for another minute. Everyone deserves to be happy, but you cannot find happiness until your life is situated so as to welcome it.

He Says 

Dear Hidingmyfaceinshame,

I'm going to be what I hope is mercifully blunt with you. Office Manboy probably fiddles with fantasies of "being your cowboy"** now and again, but I'd doubt he seriously considers a "relationship" of any substance - with you or with anyone else.

But, is he messing with your head?  This is for you to decide.

This is how he sees you:  You are, by your own description, an attractive older woman, who listens to him and gives him little chores around the house... ahem... the office.

This plays into a pretty standard desire of young men (maybe especially of "sensitive and creative" young men with a penchant for the Cure and BBC Mysteries).   Manboy probably is turned on talking to you and thinking about what it might be like to take you home and let you give him a bath.  However, it is probably more pleasurable for him to keep this desire in the realm of fantasy than it is to act upon it.

This is where it gets even better for him.  He's got you figured out.  You are just as unlikely to act as he is, and so he can step right up to the edge of Cougar Sex Canyon without falling in.

It's not just you, of course.  That young chick from your office that he's always flirting with is just the target of a different set of fantasies (you know, the one with the rescuing and the submission to his Byronic will and stuff).

Anyway, your big problem here is dealing with the all-around passivity.  You could take some action.  Serve your husband a hot plate of divorce papers.  Go ahead and attempt start a rowdy public make-out with Office Manboy the next time you're drunk at the bar.  Naturally, neither of these are guaranteed to work-out in your favor.  Husband might make your next few years hellacious.  Manboy might flip and treat you like a predator.  But you never know.

On the other hand, you could just get comfortable with doing nothing.  You've got to have fantasies too, right?




The Question: 

So, as someone who did not grow up with texts and Facebook as means of social communication, what is the magic number (of texts, primarily) that qualifies as: friend, crush, and stalker, respectively? In a few months, are 800 texts from the same guy unusual? With my best friend: 300. With fairly good work friend: 300. With other work people: 150 combined.

She Says: 

Answer: Dear reader, thanks for the question. This texting question is another hard one. Reason: I’m not much of a text person, but I can tell you my students are addicted to it. I would say if someone is texting you 800 times a month, then yes, that is unusual. I wouldn’t put much stock in a text message, as they tend to be filled with unimportant information and are a casual form of communication (more casual than email or facebook even). If someone is really into you, he or she may text you a lot, but will inevitably also reach out with invitations for interaction. Also, I hope you have unlimited texting!

He Says 

I don't know what the eff "normal" is for text messaging with most people of my generation.  I'd be pretty pleased if I didn't get more than a dozen of them in a month under most conditions.  On the other hand, each of my college students sends in the neighborhood of six to eight hundred of them over the course of a typical class meeting.

Your mileage may vary?



Have a question for the next edition of He Said/She Said? Send us an email at LolaAndZoeBlog@gmail.com. Read more about the mission and purpose of He Said/She Said here

<3 S, B, L&Z 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Announcing He Said/She Said (Relationship Advice)

Do you ever need relationship advice or just someone to talk to about a situation that is going on? Maybe you don't want to involve your friends or family, but you want to gain some insight into your partner? Well, Lola and Zoe is proud to announce He Said/She Said, a relationship advice column different from any other.

How does it work, you ask? Easy. You submit your questions to our email account at: LolaAndZoeBlog@Gmail.com

You questions will be kept 100% confidential and anonymous; your name will never be attached to them. You'll get an answer from a couple, both his view and her view, but they will not converse with each other about the answers prior to publication. Your anonymous question plus both answers will all be published together in a He Said/She Said post.

It won't always be Brendan and I answering the questions, as it depends on the unique question: We know newlyweds, long time married, and a few years into marriage couples. We also know parents of children young and old, engaged couples, gay couples, lesbian couples, you name it! We want He Said/She Said (Or She Said/She Said or He Said/He Said) to be an advice column that is open to helping everyone. Perhaps we can all learn from each other?

Of course, it's free of charge! We don't have a degree in therapy, and we don't pretend to. Our answers will be our opinions, but we're both smart people and you don't know us, making us like a friend that can't judge or gossip about you. It's so perfect I wish I'd thought of it (Oh wait, I did, yay!)

Please spread the word by "sharing" this post on Facebook. We look forward to the first installment of He Said/She Said, but we need your questions to start rolling in first!

No question is too big or small! If for some reason we cannot answer the question confidently, we'll still get back to you.

Happy Relationships!
<3 S, B, L&Z

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Stick Together Better Beet Burgers (Vegan/Vegetarian)

Brendan and I love this recipe a friend in Lake Charles gave us for Beet Burgers. The only problem is those things fall apart and it makes them very messy to eat. Brendan didn't think the texture was exactly right, so we revised the recipe, changing several things. The result? Our Beet Burgers that stick together! I will put a star next to things we changed up.  


1/2 cup brown rice (doubled if you like more rice)
1 onion, diced small
*1 can of beets, drain and dice small
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons cider vinegar
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
juice from 1/2 lemon
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons parsley, minced
*1 teaspoon cumin 

*fresh thyme to taste 
*4 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

*2 eggs (see note below for Vegan recipe) 
salt and pepper
thin slices of provolone or monterey jack cheese (optional)



Prepare the brown rice. Takes around 35-45 minutes, so do this first. 
While the rice is cooking, dice the onion and saute until translucent in olive oil. Dice the beets and add to the mixture, cook until tender. Mince the garlic and add for a minute. Then deglaze the pan with the vinegar. 


*Using a food processor (new for our recipe), pulse the drained and rinsed black beans. Then, add the onion/beet/garlic mixture, pulse again. Then, add the rice and pulse again. 


Empty food processor into a large bowl and add 2 eggs, 4 tablespoons (big tablespoons) flour, the 1 tablespoon olive oil, the lemon juice, and all the spices. Stir it all up until you cannot see anymore flour and the egg mixes in well. Then, you're ready to cook your burgers! 


*If making this recipe vegan, please replace two eggs with vegan egg replacement, like Ener-g egg replacer. 


Using Olive or *Vegetable oil, coat a pan. Use high heat. When the oil is hot enough, scoop about *1/2 a cup of the mixture onto the grill and pat flat with spatula. If the patties are too big, they don't grill as well or stay together well. Cook for *3 minutes on each side. Top with cheese after flipping. The patties will get a little brown and crispy on the outside. That is when you know they are ready. Serve on a bun with all the fixings you desire! Yum, Yum, Yum! Recipe makes about 6 burgers. Save the mix you don't use in a tupperware in the fridge, then grill the burgers when ready to eat. 


Stick Together Better Beet Burgers 
Total Prep and Cook Time: 1 hour
Deliciousness Factor: 4.5 out of 5 stars. What Brendan likes about the recipe "Beets!" Thanks Brendan, that's helpful. What I like about the recipe? It is by far the best veggie burger I've ever had. The flavors come together really nicely, and one burger is very, very filling. It's also pretty darn healthy, allowing me to eat some french fries :) 


Happy Grilling, 
<3 S, B, L&Z 

Friday, February 3, 2012

Book I Read in January

Room by Emma Donoghue

Let me start by saying this: this is one of the most intense novels I have ever read in terms of how emotionally affected I felt by it. I read it in two days and couldn't put it down because I was so worked up over what was happening. I couldn't sleep, had nightmares, and did not want to be alone in a room because of reading this. I want to tell everyone to go ahead and click that button and order this book now, but I have to add the disclosure that this book is not for the faint of heart. I was both terrified and disturbed by reading this. But for those that are interested, here is the premise: an unnamed female protagonist (the choice intentional, I think, because it shows she could be any woman) is kidnapped at age 19 by a sexual predator who has built a soundproof, 11X11, password protected "room" in a garden shed behind his house. It is here that she is held hostage as a personal sex toy and amusement for her tormentor for 7 years (when the story begins). The narrator, is the woman's five year old son, Jack, a product of the sexual abuse. Jack knows absolutely nothing about the world outside room. He was born there. His mother has not even told him that the room is a prison, so to Jack, "room" is a comfortable and safe place. Knowing both her and her son's life are at risk, the woman must do the impossible and try to escape room, but can she outsmart the sociopath who has seemingly thought of everything when designing room? This is a story of humanity despite dehumanization, a mother's capacity and limitations to love, and bravery in the face of the complete unknown. Room is not a book you can walk away from without feeling changed. While there are times the voice becomes annoying, and times I wondered if Room was literary or just ironically exploitative (ironic because the book makes commentary on the media's exploitation of such victims of captivity) I would recommend the book overall. There are a few believability problems, loose ends, and inconsistencies, but overall Room wins my vote. But if you buy this book, you may want to consider adding a nightlight to your cart.

Happy reading.
<3 S, B, L&Z



Enjoyed this post? Check out Books I read in AugustSeptemberOctober November and December too! 


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Happy Birthday Lola and Zoe (The Blog)!

Today is an epic day. Lola and Zoe (The Blog) turns 1 year old! We've come a long way since our first post, bringing you recipes, essays, and a host of fun ideas.  We may have never settled on a niche topic, but a woman, her boyfriend, and two crazy cats have a variety of interests, and we're just sharing what we're into every step of the way.

Blogging has been a surprising and neat experience. Our blog has over 900 pageviews every month, almost double what we started with. People from all over the world are reading, but the 10 countries we get the most hits from are U.S., U.A.E., Germany, U.K., Russia, Latvia, Canada, France, Australia, and India. The most popular post has been read 172 times. We're still a small operation as blogs go, but we're happy to have each and every reader, especially our friends and family who keep in touch with us partially through our little corner of the world wide web.

What I've learned about blogging so far is to make my titles searchable. This helps generate traffic to the site from people who are interested in what I'm writing on. Who would ever think that so many people need a substitute for hair conditioner? The thing that really surprises me is how much traffic posts about my newest hairstyle get. I would think no one would care, but 3 of those "I just changed my hair posts" are in the top 10 most popular. This could also be taken as a sign that I need some more inspiration for interesting posts.

Well, before we wish the blog a proper happy birthday, here is a look at some of my favorite posts that didn't make the "Most Popular" list:

February- A Few Things That Make Me Smile- My review of books, C.D.'s, and all things I need to relax and stay happy.
March- Beauty All Around Us- A picture post of the very beautiful and very missed Lake Charles, L.A. Even checking out these pictures makes me homesick for it.
April- A Room of One's Own- An inspired essay about all the rooms I've inhabited in my life.
May- Happy Mother's Day- An essay about my mom and the role we play in each other's lives.
June- On Pet's and Why We Love Them- A love letter to the two ladies in my life, Lola and Zoe (my sweet cats for whom the blog is named).
July- Simple and Spicy. Perfect Vegetarian/Vegan Chili- My favorite thing I've ever put in a pot, stirred, eaten, and told all my friends to eat too.
August-Magic in Maine- Pictures from one of the best vacations ever.
September- How To Live With Your Parents as an Adult- Comic relief for anyone that ever has to cross this chaotic but unforgettable bridge.
October- One Year With My Best Friend- An essay about how Brendan and I took a chance on each other.
November-This Desert Life: Monahans State Park- Pictures and a review of a must do west Texas activity.
December-On Advancing to the Fantasy Football Finals!- Some called it bragging and victory was short lived, but who could remember the blogs first year without a glimpse at this exciting series of posts in which I prove that even someone who just learned how football works can win fantasy football? Even beating J. Bruce Fuller. Tony Romo, if you are reading, I want my dignity back. WHY? 
January- Small Resolutions, Big Differences- 10 things anyone can do (you can still do!) to make a positive change.

Want to participate in all the birthday fun? Wish Lola and Zoe (The blog) a Happy Birthday by checking out these past posts, becoming a follower (It's simple, click the "join this site" button and sign up using your google, yahoo, or twitter account), follow by email or feed, or tell your friends all about us on Facebook by sharing a post.

Happy Birthday Blog!
<3 S, B, L&Z

P.S.-Today is also our friend Will's birthday. Check out his bloggity blog too. 
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