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Marriage and “The Bachelorette”

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Yesterday Marco and I went to the mall, and we made a stop at Popcornopolis.  We got a large bag of cheddar popcorn, and then discussed how we would sneak it into the movie theater.  Marco suggested stopping somewhere to get little baggies and hiding them in my purse, as the original bag was too large.  However, we decided to be good and go home to watch our Sunday shows.  This Sunday was special, though.  It was the season finale of The Bachelorette.  Yes, we watch every episode of every Bachelor and Bachelorette, including the reunion shows.  There are great recaps of every episode at Lost Angeles.  It’s a funny blog by a guy who watches it with his wife.

When we got home, we settled on the couch to watch Emily choose her final guy.  Anyone who’s been following this show knows that she feels a “connection” to Arie, but that Jef is the clear winner, despite the missing f.  He’s nice, they have similar senses of humor, they can both shoot clay pigeons like nobody’s business, and he’s hot.  A little tip: we are very likely to marry someone who we feel is like us; equal to us in looks, intelligence,  and humor.   Opposites don’t necessarily attract…we really just want another version of ourselves around.

Anyway, we were both sitting on the couch, on our respective sides.  [Any time we trade sides it feels very strange.]  Our couch is awesome.  It has two recliners, with a seat in the middle.  The middle seat NEVER gets used, unless I feel like cuddling, but it’s difficult to cuddle from the middle when he’s totally reclined.  So we were both reclining, with the popcorn bag sitting on the middle seat.  We each had a paper towel in our laps, and we were taking turns pouring popcorn onto the towels.

At some point, Marco felt the bag was going to spill all over the couch, so he moved it closer to his side and propped it up.  The mood instantly changed.  I gave him a warning look, because that popcorn was half mine, and now he was taking ownership of the bag.  On my next refill, I held the bag on MY side and propped it up.  Then he took it back, and we went back and forth like this, both of us suspecting the other was going to finish off the popcorn without sharing enough.  He finally relented and graciously handed the bag to me when we were down to the last few kernels.

What struck me during this hour was that we were watching a TV show where the sole purpose is to find someone to marry.  They go from one exotic locale to the next, alternately falling in love and getting dumped, just so they can finally find “the one” and end up sitting at home on the couch fighting with their spouse over who gets to hold the bag of popcorn.

Marco and I laughed over this, and I realized that this is what it’s all about.  It’s not about the big romantic scenes; it’s about the quiet, funny, everyday life that we get to share with one another.  I feel so lucky to have found “the one” who has a sense of humor like mine, and who loves me just as I am.

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Low Stress Summer: Vitamins, Exercise, Acupuncture

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As a high school teacher, I have the summer off.  The end of the school year was especially stressful, and it is my goal to lower my stress this month.  Here are some things I’ve done, and it has been wonderful to try them out!

First, I started going to the gym more.  I took a PiYo class, some Zumba classes, and I’ve been using the treadmill.  PiYo is a combination of Pilates and Yoga, and it didn’t seem too difficult.  But the next day…wow!  I could hardly sit down because my thighs were so sore!  Zumba is always fun, and I’ve posted about that before.  The treadmill is always one of my favorites.  I do about 20 minutes, and I try to run for half of that.

Second, I started taking vitamins regularly.  I always have them sitting around, but I’ve become accustomed to taking them every day now.  Also, I started eating breakfast!  I have cereal or oatmeal, with almond soy milk and wheatgrass powder.  I recommend wheatgrass for the energy it gives, but I do NOT recommend wheatgrass powder…it smells terrible, and it has a very strange texture.  Next time, I will either do shots of wheatgrass from a juice store or take wheatgrass tablets.  However, I am too stubborn to do it now.  I spent the money on the powder, and I’m going to finish it.  Luckily, I’m almost halfway done with the bottle.

 

I also started something I’ve never done before…acupuncture!  I was a bit apprehensive, but I was excited about it, because I knew that it might relieve the knots I carry in my shoulders and back when I’m feeling stressed.  I looked it up online, and here is a diagram I found:

It looks scary, I know, but I guess the needles are all supposed to follow “meridians,” or lines along the body.

I found an acupuncturist near my home, and at my first session he did a thorough interview.  He was especially interested in my activities.  He checked my pulse on both wrists, and he looked at my tongue.  I thought this was fascinating.  He said my tongue had a crack in it, which indicates digestion problems.  He said if I have digestion problems, I’m not adequately absorbing all the nutrients in my food.  He also said I seemed stressed.

The first thing he did was have me lie face down on a massage table, and he told me he was going to work my “meridians.”  He did this by giving me a chiropractic-style massage for about 30 minutes.  It was wonderful.  Then he had me turn over, and he put five needles in my abdomen (for digestion), and five needles in my forehead (for stress).  The needles were tiny, and the only one I could feel was right between my eyebrows.  The rest were in less sensitive areas.

He told me to lie still for about 40 minutes, and he put some heat lamps over me.  He left the room with the lights dim and soothing music playing.  The combination was very relaxing, but he gave me a panic button, “just in case.”

But the really fascinating thing happened the next day.  Not only did I digest my food well…we won’t go into that…but the crack in my tongue was almost imperceptible!  Unbelievable!

It’s really difficult to take a picture of your own tongue:

I will continue to try acupuncture, and more stress-relief techniques in the future.

Creditworthy

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After leasing the car, I started wondering about our credit.  It turns out it’s pretty good, and I wanted to know why!  Marco and I both made mistakes with our credit in the past, and we have been trying to get out from under that dark cloud.  Here are some things that worked for us, if any of you are in need of a credit boost:

1. Always pay on time, even if you’re just making the minimum payment.  Late payments lead to increased balances and astronomical percentage rates.  I have one that went to 30% in my early 20s, and it never went back down.

2.  Close your small store credit cards.  We had cards for Express, Victoria’s Secret, Home Depot, and Best Buy.  We bank at a Credit Union, and they worked out a deal with us to pay off a number of cards.  We ended up closing all of these cards, and we pay the bank each month to pay off the loan.  The nice thing is that the loan doesn’t seem to affect our credit score.

3. If you need to borrow money to make a big purchase, use things like Bill Me Later.  It didn’t show up on our credit report, and it has 0% interest for the first 6 months.

4. Look for alternative credit offers in the mail.  We receive notices two or three times a week, and they often offer 12 to 18 months of 0% interest.  I transferred a balance from the 30% card to one of these, and it has taken a great weight off my shoulders.

5. Remember that loans for education are what people call “good debt.”  Although you still need to make the payments, they are usually at a low interest rate (2-3%) and the lenders will work with you if the payments are too high.  When you get frustrated with the payments, remember that they have allowed you to earn something that will always be useful in life, whether personally or professionally.

6. If you get over-extended with credit, reign it back in.  Stop using the cards for everyday purchases.  Remember that every time you use your credit cards, the business is being charged 2-3% of the cost.  This causes them to lose money, and the widespread use of cards has forced them to raise the prices of goods, thus contributing to inflation.  If you stick to cash, you save them money, and you will be more aware of what you are spending.  Marco and I went to Italy for a week last year, and we only took $1000 cash.  By the flight home on the last day, we had just enough cash to eat.  It was perfect, because we watched our spending, and didn’t buy a bunch of useless souvenirs.

7. Take a look at your credit occasionally, on sites like FreeCreditReport.com and TransUnion.  Remember that these sites will start charging you if you don’t cancel their services, though, and they might charge you to download the report.

8. Pay off  a loan to increase your score.  This shows that you are a low risk to lenders.

People have different ideas of what good credit looks like, so here are a few scales of the different score brackets.

Car-ma

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Marco and I have been talking about replacing his 2002 Mitsubishi Montero for a few months (years, really, but he kept saying, “I think I can make it one more year with this car”) and we finally did it!  We test-drove a Prius and looked at some Kias, and walked around Carmax, but we finally decided on the Mazda 3, for the gas mileage.  We looked up local Mazda dealerships, and decided on Mazda of Orange, since the taxes would be cheaper in the OC than in Riverside County.

We went for a test-drive, and told ourselves we weren’t going to buy yet (famous last words), and we drove my car there.  Well, he decided he liked the hatchback, and our 22-year-old son-of-the-manager salesman awkwardly suggested that we buy it.  Actually, he was great, and we spent the whole test-drive talking about cameras.  After Marco parked the car and we got out, he hastily pointed out all the features one would normally discuss while on the drive.

Anyway, Marco picked the black one, and we sat down to see what kind of deal we could make.  We decided to lease it.  They ran our credit, because Mazda requires a 700 FICO score for a lease.  We passed!  Who would have guessed??  Apparently we have good credit!

We put $1,000 down, and told them we would trade in the old Montero.  They accepted our trade, sight-unseen.  Now, anyone with internet access can look up that car on the Kelley Blue Book site and see that it’s worth about $1400.  Marco told them he wanted $2000.  I almost choked, and he shot me a warning look.  They asked us to put down $1500, and I balked.  They said, no, $1000 down would be fine, and they would give us $1,000 on the trade (they hoped we weren’t offended), even though we had not brought the car in.  We tried to contain our joy, because we both knew we were getting more on the trade than the old Mitsu was worth.

After all the paperwork was done, our payment was $395.  On a lease?!?!  I was screaming inside, but I remained calm, and tried to tell myself that we would make a chunk of that back on the 40 MPG we’d get, compared to the 20 MPG he got in the Montero.

When we got home that night, I happened to look at the clock at 11:11.  I made a quick wish that we would be able to make the payments without too much trouble.

The next day, I took the Montero to the dealership, and they informed me we needed to sign the contract again, because they had made a mistake.  I nervously walked in, thinking they were going to add to the payment amount.  The finance guy (an Indian guy who believes in karma…more on that later) said our payment would now be $290.  What?  Really?  He pulled the contract back before I could sign it, said he needed to see his manager, and left the room with both the old and new contracts in his hands.  He returned a few minutes later, mumbled something about computer codes and confusion and too many managers in one business, and put the new one back down on the desk.

As he smoothed it out for me to sign, he said he had never seen this before.  He said Marco and I must be good people, and karma has brought that back to us, because nobody gets a new contract with a lower payment.

So here are my tips!

1. Don’t bring your trade with you…just get them to offer an amount, sight-unseen.

2. Don’t agree to anything higher…they will come back down to your highest price.  We said ours was $350, even though it was really $400.

3. If you are a good person, good comes back to you.  And I really believe that!

Here’s Marco with his new car.  He’s trying to get used to being so low to the ground, but he loves the ease of it.

The Continental Room

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This is an exciting time of year for high school teachers!  We are winding down the year, finishing up the last tests and projects, and the seniors have graduated.  To celebrate, I met some teachers at The Continental Room in downtown Fullerton.  Fullerton is a great place to hang out.  It’s a little college-friendly (too young for me), but bars like The Continental Room and Bourbon Street cater to patrons in all stages of life (post 21!).   Marco loves this place for its Mad Men feel…every girl is Joan Harris and every guy is Don Draper.

Here’s Marco doing the “Draper:”

The Continental Room is a fun place!  It inspires one to order something like an Old Fashioned or a martini.

It was a much-needed break after a long school year!  Here I am trying not to show my annoyance after school when a 7th period student grabbed my camera:

And here we are as we begin the weekend!  Much better.

The Continental Room has great bartenders who specialize in remembering drinks for their regulars…there were three guys on the other side of the bar who are in there every day.  They also have awesome little details, like a direct taxi phone:

The only thing missing at The Continental is a kitchen.  We went around the corner to Heroes for some huge nachos:

Only two more weeks, and it’s summer vacation!

LA Hipster Day

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Last Sunday was another LA day for us, but we weren’t just stopping on our way through town.  Sunday was normal at our house, with Marco editing photos and me working in the yard.  Then he suggested a drive to Los Angeles and visiting places we’ve never been.  Our first stop was the Brewery Arts Complex.  It’s downtown on Main Street, and it’s a live/work complex for artists.  Some studios are open to the public, but most of them are private residences.  Since we were there on Sunday, most were closed.  But it’s worth walking around anyway!  The area is a collection of old industrial buildings, including the old Pabst Blue Ribbon brewery, Paradox Iron, and the Edison building.

I loved the Paradox Iron building because it’s so rusted…it fits its name.

We thought the old buildings were so cool!  We had to pose.

The complex has been refurbished by the artists who live and work there.    There is a small park in the middle, with decor fashioned from old parts of machines.  I am amazed at how artists can take everyday objects and turn them into things of beauty.

It was very nice to walk around and see how the artists have turned a barren, forgotten space into individual homes.  The majority of them have brilliant gardens and gates serving as their entrances.

After our look around the Brewery, we stopped at the nearby San Antonio Winery.  We picked up a bottle of their Cardinale for my mom…it’s a very sweet red made from Concord grapes.  We found out that the winery’s grapes come from Napa, Monterey, and Paso Robles (my hometown).  They recently opened a new tasting room in Paso, too.

After looking around their tasting room, we made our way through downtown, and we noticed some very cool bridges.  We had to stop and take some photos.

From downtown, we headed to Silverlake.  We  love the little shops in this area, and one of Marco’s favorite Mexican seafood restaurants, 7 Mares, is there on Sunset.  We stopped for some shrimp tacos.

We continued on down Sunset and turned onto Hollywood Boulevard, and I introduced Marco to Wacko/Soap Plant.  This is a crazy store with books, toys, gifts, accessories, and work by many artists.  On Sunday, they had a taxidermy display.  Definitely worth a visit, and we’ll have to go back.  They closed shortly after we walked in, but it was enough to see how fun it is.

Loving LA

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The song “I Love LA” may sound silly, but it is true.  When you have lived in LA, you know the love someone can feel for the city.  Like a west coast disciple of Carrie Bradshaw, I spend time in the city whenever I get the chance.  In the last couple of weeks, Marco and I made a few stops around LA, and we have a renewed excitement for being tourists in our own corner of the world.  One interesting place we stopped was a consignment store called Nick Metropolis.  It’s a vintage Hollywood store, and they have tons of furniture and accessories that all look like movie props.  They rent out their merchandise for films and parties, also.

Some of my favorite items were the neon letters.  They had so many!

Marco and I also liked a couple of quirky things, like the shoe chairs and the bike mower.

This place is a lot of fun.  We asked about buying some furniture, but everything we liked was a little too expensive.  I’ve read that other people found great deals, though.  It’s definitely worth a stop to have a look around!  Places like this reinforce what a fun city this is.

If you feel like exploring, wander down the alley behind the store.  Nick’s is on La Brea near Wilshire, which is a great place to shop.  There are some wonderful furniture and accessory shops with a modern, urban feel.

We also wandered into a restaurant and decided to eat there.  It’s called Tinga, and it’s on the same block as Nick’s.

We went in the back way, but the restaurant is gorgeous inside.  It’s simple and artistic.  And they served wonderful food!  We shared a plate of pork loin tacos, cooked with peppers and in a wonderful sauce, served in hand made tortillas.  So yummy!  Marco had a watermelon juice, and I had a Mexican Coke.

Marco told me I had to see the bathroom, and he was right!  Unfortunately, I didn’t take a picture, but the bathroom is all black and white murals, almost like Shel Silverstein.  I looked it up, and the urban dictionary says that the word “tinga” means toilet or urinal in the Shamananalan language.  So maybe this is why their bathrooms are so special!  However, the closest thing Google can find to Shamananalan is M. Night Shyamalan.  So maybe it’s a language created by the quirky director.  Hollywood, again!  Gotta love LA.

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