Monthly Archives: September 2011

The Drought in Austin

austin drought landI’ve never experienced a drought before. When I got to Austin, one of the first things I noticed when I was looking for a place to live was that everyone’s lawn was brown. The kind of brown you see after the snow melts in the winter. And the air smelled like autumn, that wonderful earthy scent of fallen leaves. Except instead of seeing reds and oranges strewn all over the ground, the trees were simply dying. Half green, half brown, with piles of fallen leaves blowing across the ground like plastic bags in the wind in New York City. This photo above was taken in Mueller Park on Saturday morning in what I imagine used to be a sprawling green field. It makes you want to just give that dirt a drink.

To see photos on the impact outside of urban Austin, check out the Statesman’s photo blog here. These are pretty disturbing and really show how serious of a situation this is.

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One Tour, Two Coffee Tables, and Three Hours of Football

After a very long week, and intense day of furniture hunting on Saturday, Dave and I were determined to take it easy today. Somehow though, we did it again.

10:30am: The Bad Impression Tour

I couldn’t stay asleep for the life of me last night, and instead of waking up at a decent time, I ended up rushing around the apartment this morning to get out. We had a 10:30am “orientation tour” of our building that we had to attend, which left me about 30 minutes to get dressed and run down to the gym for a workout. Because of this, I showed up ten minutes late and very sweaty, which caused the tour guide woman to stare at my shirt for the whole first half of the tour. In addition to my sweat stains, Dave’s eyes were practically rolling back in his head the whole time, and I had to secretly tap him to keep him from falling asleep while standing up. To combat us making a bad first impression, I gave very due diligant “ohhh really?”, “wow, that’s great”, “very nice feature” comments, mixed with the occasional “silent awkward stare” that I couldn’t get out of. I really need to practice my small talk. And look clean next time I see her.

12:30 pm: Football for the Men, Cute Butts for Me

After the orientation, we picked up a couple of our new friends (yay new friends!) and went to a sports bar called Cover 3 to catch the Giants game. Very few bars in Austin show New York team games, so this was a find for the guys. And I put in my good effort too, being that I don’t care about football. For the three hours that we were there I stared at all the football player’s butts, and studied commercials as only an advertiser could. Any commercial with a hamster in it is an automatic win in my book. While this doesn’t seem strenuous, it was a very serious analysis, indeed.

football butts

Indeed…

4pm: Are Those Coffee Tables in Your Pants? Or Are You Just Happy to See Me

And then. Somehow. We ended up at more furniture stores. But this time, it was different. This time I think we found multiple winners. At a last chance vintage store, we came across a set of furniture that has the worn wood, old school character vibe I was looking for. We talked the owners into an incredible deal (2 for $100! what??) and threw them in the trunk. The only problem was we already bought a coffee table at the place just before… which was also in the trunk of the car. And now we have two. What to do?

Future Times

Stay tuned (channel Mel) for the a look at the two tables, where I’ll discuss the pros and cons of each, and our ultimate decision. One random commenter will get a coffee table book about coffee tables. No kidding.

 

On Furniture Shopping

Going furniture shopping for an empty apartment is like going to the hair salon with the intention of “getting something different this time, dammit!” What happens is, you walk into your usual salon, and somehow walk out with the same cut you’ve always had. Another fail at embodying the super cool persona you dreamed up on the way there (you know, the one with the ripped jeans).

Well, when you walk into the first furniture store, every item is really cool, almost to the point of invigorating. You spend over an hour imagining how each piece really is the you that you knew you could be. Bright red plush rug with cutout circles? Totally retro. I can bring back Austin Powers! I always loved the 60’s. Wooden coffee table with a super secret hidden drawer? Very James Bond.  Yeah, I’m definitely badass enough. I’ll keep my phone charger in there.

Then, after a while, there’s something a little off with everything. You want the corners a little rounder, the color a litttttle darker, and maybe the whole thing just an inch taller like your old dresser—and you walk out thinking, I guess I’ll just head to Bob’s Furniture again. But really? Bob’s? Man I’m such a loser. Screw it, let’s just get some frozen yogurt and try again next weekend.

furniture shopping montage

I’m A BodyRocker

When I started this blog back in 2009 (read my first super cheesy post here), I was completely immersed in running. I loved running for two reasons: 1) it felt really good to use up all my energy- I love endorphins, and 2) it kept me in shape. I had been running for eleven years, dating back to the high school track team, and it was one of the only forms of exercise and release that I knew. It was just a part of me.

At some point though, I think I burned out mentally. I got bored of it. I struggled to find the motivation (I was even googling motivation.. hilarious)–and also started to get knee pain from my intermittent long runs, which scared me. So I finally decided to break free of my running regime and try something different. Besides, I always wanted a six pack (not beer) and let’s face it, I could run 10 miles a day but that wasn’t not going to give me the kind of muscle tone I was looking for. Am I right or amiright?

In search of a new workout, I came across a website called BodyRock while reading the Fitnesssista’s blog. And I become obsessed.

Meet Zuzana:

zuzana at bodyrock tv

Yes, she’s real. Pick your jaw up off the floor.

Zuzana and her husband Freddy write the BodyRock blog, and post a new workout almost everyday. The workouts are high intensity interval training (HIIT) routines, that never fail to kick extreme butt in a very short amount of time. Most of the workouts are between 12-20 minutes, and can be done at home. When I lived in NYC I did them in a gym due to my crazy neighbor, but now I can do them wherever I please! Shyeh!

Almost every morning I wake up around 7am, make some coffee, and watch the day’s routine online. I always wake up with a growling stomach, so I make myself half a piece of bread with pb&j on it to quell my hunger and get some pre-workout fuel without getting weighed down.

peanut butter and coffeeThen I bodyock.  Aw yeahh. It always hurts, and I’m always sore the next day. But I have to say, I’ve never seen better results doing anything else in my entire exercising life. I’m someone who once couldn’t do one real push-up, and now I can do 10+ (shaking at the end, but it counts!). I’ve been following BodyRock so religiously, that when things come up in life that I’m unsure how to handle, Dave says to me, “What would Zuz do?” I urge you to adopt this :).

This morning I did the “Caught Stripping Fat Workout“, after running outside for fifteen minutes to warm up. Click on that link to get your face melted by a video of Zuzana, OR read the steps below to see what I did:

Part 1 – repeat sequence as many times as possible in 6 minutes (I did 7.5)

  1. Commando Push Ups 2 reps (down on stomach, then push up and drive one knee towards chest. drop back down repeat with alt leg)
  2. Roll over (on your stomach a full 360 degrees so you end back on your stomach)
  3. Power up into a squat position
  4. Big jump forward
  5. 10 squats holding an 8lb weight on each shoulder
  6. Put weights down and do 2 small jumps back so that you are standing where you started
  7. Get down onto your stomach and roll over on the other side to the starting position

Part 2 – 6 minutes of intervals (alt 10 seconds rest and 50 seconds of go time)

  1. Sandbag swing (I used a 10lb weight because I don’t have a sandbag. Basically, stand in a squat position and swing weight in between legs and up. On the way up, stand up and squeeze everything. Your butt and lower abs will burn. Hot fire.)
  2. Sandbag situps (used 10lb. weight instead of sandbag again)

I was a sweaty mess after this, and ran up to my apartment to shower. Then proceeded to make oatmeal for a change, only to have it explode in the microwave.

exploding oatmeal

Have any of you ever bodyrocked? If you’re in Austin and want to give it a shot, email me and we can get a group together.

How to Eat Without Plates or Furniture

Dave and I finally went shopping last night to stock up on necessities that will make our apartment feel more like a home, instead of a real estate show model.

On the list of items to get:

  • breakfast food (eggs!)
  • snacks
  • fruits and vegetables
  • a pan
  • plastic utensils, cups, and plates (to use until our real stuff arrives from Brooklyn on Monday)
  • Windex
  • TP
  • etc.

We dragged ourselves through Walmart like zombies for two hours. So many things! All so much cheaper than everything that exists in NYC! We’re succumbing to the evil empire! It was ridiculous. Our cart was very hard to push after a while. But honesty, it was fun. They even had Dallas Cowboy paper towels on sale, though Dave adamantly REFUSED to buy them (Jets only). At the end of it all, we forked over a giant wad of cash that I’m thinking of as a “startup investment” to make myself feel better.

Cash wad behind me, this morning I woke up PUMPED to make my own breakfast in my own home home. After my morning workout, I took the elevator upstairs, showered, and entered into the kitchen to make eggs. EGGS! IT’S GO TIME! I grabbed the egg carton out of the fridge, the new pan, pam, salt and pepper. Then opened the cabinet to pull out a plate… but… there were no plates to be found.

Plates: a key ingredient to eating things that slips silently under the radar.

WTF was I going to eat my eggs on? Let me paint a bigger picture for you. Currently, the only furniture Dave and I have in our super swank apartment is an air mattress. Which makes our apartment super …blank.

This is what it looks like:

empty apartment

So, sans plates and furniture, I ate my eggs on a gladware container top, on the floor. With a nice cold bottle of Sam’s Club evil water.

breakfast on the floor

I’m a survivor.

When Car Dealerships Throw You Lemons

After finishing up my post yesterday about getting a car in Austin, I grabbed my bag, changed out of the sweatpants I was living in all week day, and jumped in the rental car to pick up Dave. I made my way to his office, pulled up, and he jumped in and said “Are you happy?? We’re getting a car today!”

And the answer was I was happy. Not exactly about the getting a car part, though. More that the car extravaganza would be over in about two hours and I could go back to thinking about cars right around.. never again. But life doesn’t always go the way we plan. If it did, we wouldn’t have sayings like “when life gives you lemons..” throw those bad boys back and aim really well. So the story begins.

…[envision Wayne’s World flashback music here]

We get to the dealership, and our awesome happy-go-lucky salesman greets us and brings us into his office to get everything started–“everything” being the actual lease application, car detailing and accessories session, getting insurance process, and immense endless boredom. Dave and I were all set up for this epic two hour adventure with a sweet ‘lil snack pack: sour cream and onion potato chips, pretzels, yogurt, a granola bar, and a diet Dr. Pepper. Yes. It tastes like real Dr. Pepper.

We were asked to give our personal information, salaries, name of first born (probably Chloe. Don’t tell dave. Dave, don’t freak out–I’m not thinking about kids. We’re not even married. I’m not even thinking about marriage! But her name will quite possibly be Chloe), and I happily ate my Strawberry Dannon yogurt thinking, “Hey, this isn’t that bad!” (the process, not the yogurt. though the yogurt wasn’t bad either).

Once that part was done, our salesman went into his manager’s office with all our info to submit it to Honda. All we needed was to Honda approve it all, and that would be it! We would be free! Weeee!! But then he came back out and said “Hey guys, we made an error. We need to talk to you… can you come in and we’ll explain?”

Cue internal thoughts while I walked towards the glass door of their office in slow motion:

  • Okay so they’re going to tell us our credit isn’t actually good, it’s zero. We’re having credit fail.
  • The car isn’t really available, someone else already leased it.
  • Woops! It’s going to cost a million more than we said!

one million dollars

Turns out it was option C. They made a mistake with a decimal point on the lease write-up… and the car would actually be about $1,500 more over three years than they initially quoted. The look on the sales manager’s face was like a kid’s hand caught in a cookie jar as she apologized profusely saying she understood if we didn’t want the car anymore. They just couldn’t do anything about the price. No specials, nothing. Then they both left the room so Dave and I could talk it over.

We stared at each other in silence for three minutes. Then we laughed.

This was literally the only Honda Civic within thirty miles… and we just didn’t want to deal with cars anymore! After five more minutes of debate and staring at each other, the sales people walked back in. We all looked at each other without a clue what to do. Then someone in the room had an epiphany–can we get an Accord instead at a similar rate??

YES! YES WE COULD!

And so, the second phase of the night began: frantic calls to Honda to change the order, a quick review of the Accord model, a favor called in to get us a free loner car until the Accord arrives (about two weeks… tear), and insurance to cover the loner. All in fifteen minutes.

For now we’re driving a gigantic Honda Pilot. It makes me feel like a five year old trying on my mom’s heels. Or a cowboy.

Getting A Car in Austin

At day eight in Austin, we’re checking off the list of things that will make us feel less like homeless wanderers:

  1. Get a place to live …. check
  2. Put a jar of peanut butter in said place to live …. check
  3. Get a car so as not to be prisoners in an empty apartment …. today is the day!

Neither Dave nor I are “car people”. For me, I just need to get from point A to point B and I’m all set. I don’t know any car models, and I don’t care about the sexy factor (it’s not an extension of my manhood, no). I pretty much like the color black and that’s all I got. Dave cares somewhat, but not like the typical dude in all 80’s movies who buys car magazines and wears driving gloves. Or maybe that’s just Sixteen Candles?

With these factors in mind, plus a rental car due back date of Wednesday morning, we wanted to get this done in two days. And we did.

I bought the party hats to celebrate.


We flip flopped between new vs. used, owning vs. leasing, and Nissan, Toyota, Honda, or Mazda. Ultimately we netted out with leasing a new 2012 Honda Civic.

buying a car in austin

Here’s why:

  • This is the worst used car market in a very long time. Due to the trickle down affect from the Tsunami in Japan and the economy in America, the supply of cars is lower and people just aren’t trading in their used cars as frequently, but the demand for them is still high because they are generally cheaper than new. This means the prices for used cars are at their peak–about 3k higher than they would be otherwise. That made buying a used car fairly uncomfortable. I said the word “budget” to each salesman way too many times and it brought me back to my homeless wanderer feelings.
  • The minute you drive a newly purchased car, the depreciation goes BOOM. Once driven off the lot, the value of a new car immediately drops thousands of dollars. So if you want to sell it in a year or two (which we might), you will lose money. That sucks. We looked at Mazda 3’s for a new purchase because they were just making the high end of our budget, but the car just wasn’t for us. And the salesman at the Mazda dealership talked more about wings and beer than the car. Fail.
  • Leasing a car meant more flexibility for us. To be honest, my gut reaction to leasing a car was: I don’t like it. Why do I have to give the dealership 2k down, also make monthly payments, and then give the car back without ever seeing that 2k again? That’s not how leasing an apartment works! Well, after lots of education (from my brother’s girlfriend and various car salesmen), I now get it. Cars are not investments like real estate. They don’t retain their value. They are a commodity you use, they lose value and efficiency, and they get trashed. So you’re buying the 2 or 3 years of the car that you’re using up in it’s lifetime of value. AND, for transplants like us who aren’t sure how long they’ll be in the city for, it feels better to know it’s not forever. And we will be covered for most repairs. And the car will be shiny.
  • Why Honda? It’s notably reliable. It’s crazy efficient on fuel – especially the 2012 Civic. And that’s all we need at this point in our lives.

My only qualms about the car are that the shape of the front makes it look like we got stuck in matrix mode moving at lightspeed, and the dashboard inside makes it look like you’re in a spaceship.

In fact, during the test drive the care salesman even slipped and said “If you press the economy button on the ship..” at which point I lost it and laughed the whole rest of the way. I asked the salesman (his name was Winthrop. for real.) if we could buy him with the car, but he said it wasn’t possible. Bummer, he was pretty funny. But then we called Spok and asked him to beam us up. And Keanu Reeves showed up in the backseat. So it was cool.

Let the sharing-one-car-good-times roll.

What do you think of our decision?