Monthly Archives: December 2011

A Look Back At 2011

It’s hard to believe that 2011 will be over in a few short hours.  It sure has been an interesting year, filled with lots of ups and downs.  Here is a look back.

January
We kicked off the new year at Nick’s best friend’s house.  I stayed completely sober the entire night and enjoyed waking up on January 1st feeling great, unlike years past.
February
It snowed in Dallas!  I can handle driving in the snow, but I’m scared of other Dallas drivers trying to drive in the snow so I worked from home for three days straight.  It was nice!  As quickly as the snow and ice came, it was gone.

 March
We headed to Oregon to visit my mom.  She lives really close to the Oregon Vortex, but it’s always been closed during the winter, which is when I usually get a chance to visit her.  But I finally made it to Oregon when the Vortex was open!  Nick was underwhelmed to say the least, but we still had fun!
We got to explore some of the towns in southern Oregon and got to eat some fresh seafood.
While we were there, we took a drive out to Crescent City, CA to check out the tsunami damage.  This also marked our first “trip” to California in 2011.
April
The month started off rough with Nick’s dad passing away.  We took off for the San Francisco bay area as soon as we found out.  It was a quick trip but physically and emotionally exhausting trip, cleaning out his dad’s apartment, closing accounts, and making arrangements.  Nick’s mom and step-dad came out once we were back from California (trip number one to the bay area and trip number two to California) to have some good quality family time.  It was perfect timing to spend a day checking out the Texas wild flowers, the Bluebonnets in particular.
May
May was a bit of a blur.  Nick was busy trying to take care of his father’s assets and my attitude towards my Mary Kay business was starting to shift.

June
We headed back to the bay area (trip number two to the bay area and three to California) for Nick’s dad’s memorial service.  His dad always voiced that he wanted to be cremated and have his ashes scattered at sea while during a fishing trip that his friends and family got together for.  And that’s exactly what we did.  The ocean was very choppy that day, so we stayed in the bay and scattered the ashes next to Angel Island.  It was very bitter-sweet.

While we were there, we met up with Nick’s good friend when he was a kid, Dave.  Dave was getting married in the fall and had asked Nick to be in the wedding.  So while they were together, we made a trip into San Francisco and all the guys were fitted for their tuxedos.  We almost missed the bus and had to run about a quarter of a mile to get there in time.  I was totally out of breath after this short jog.  It was a wake-up call that I was totally out of shape!

July
The 60+ days of over 100 degree temperatures began, so we didn’t spend a whole lot of time outside unfortunately.  We did, however, venture out to Canton to the Trade Days, which is one gigantic flea market.  It was on my list of things I need to experience in the DFW area and now it’s crossed off.  There isn’t much more to report on it than that.
 The following monday after our adventure in Canton, TX I sucked it up and joined the gym.  I signed up for four sessions with a personal trainer to get me on track.  Those four sessions grew into a total of 15 and I was building strength and endurance.  Shortly after joining the gym, I boxed up all of my Mary Kay products and returned them for my 90% buy-back.

August
I continued to go to the gym five to six times a week.  Twice a week I had my strength training sessions with my personal trainer and the other three to four days I was on the treadmill, alternating between running and walking for three miles.  Slowly, the amount I walked decreased while the amount I ran increased.

September
September was a busy month.  To kick the month off, this blog was born!  The next day Nick and I took off for Tulum, Mexico (trip number one to the Cancun, Mexico area for 2011).  It was a long day of work and travel and we crashed as soon as we got to our guesthouse, but Nick was up before the sun rose and yanked my out of bed for a walk on the beach to watch the sun rise.  A special treat was in store on our sunrise walk.
He proposed!  And I said yes!

Once we were back from Mexico, it was a short work week and then we took off for California one last time (trip number three to the bay area and trip number 4 to California).  Nick’s friend, Dave, was getting married and we made a vacation out of it.  First stop was to visit with my good friend, Megan, and her fiance, Mark.
The four of us headed to Sonoma for wine tasting for a day.  Then Nick and I took off to go to Tahoe for a few days and week one of half-marathon training commenced. (I didn’t stick to the schedule very well that first week.)
After a few days in Tahoe and Nick torturing my at the casinos, we headed back down to the bay area, meeting up with some of my friends from grad school in the city and doing a little site seeing.  Then it was time for the Dave and Ali’s wedding in the Oakland Hills.  Nick made a handsome groomsman.

October
Shortly after we returned from California, I took off for New England to celebrate with my best friend from growing up, Caitlin, at her bridal shower and bachelorette party.  It was a very quick trip, cover three states in three days- NH, MA, and CT.  Although I was eager to get home to see Nick, I gave up my seat on the return flight for a $500 voucher.  That will definitely come in handy with our travels in 2012!

Once I got back to Texas, it was off to our first race!  The Valley Ranch Pumpkin Dash 5K.
A few days after the Pumpkin Dash, I did the Santa Fe 5K, being my Pumpkin Dash time.
Nick headed to Colorado for a weekend and I continued to train for the half marathon on my own.  October brought a lot of struggles and doubt for me as I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to achieve my goal of crossing the finish line at the half marathon in December.  We wrapped up the month of October with the Four Seasons Cool October 10K.  This by far was the race I was most nervous for.  I don’t know why, but I totally psyched myself out about it for days prior.  But in the end, I did just fine.
November
We kicked off November by returning to Mexico for Caitlin and Peter’s wedding.  This time we were in Riviera Maya.  I still haven’t developed that disposable camera, though.
A day or two after we got back from Mexico, I quietly celebrated my 30th birthday.  A week later, it was time for the 8-Mile YMCA Turkey Trot.
The race was beyond packed and most of those who were running the 5K portion were doing it as a fun-run.  I on the other hand was taking my 8-Mile race very seriously.  When Nick and I finished, we were walking to the car and I was telling him how frustrated I was during the first two and a half miles.  I blurted out, “I’m not here for fun people!” and I have yet to live that down.

We followed up our 8-Mile run with a Thanksgiving feast for two.

December
I kicked off the month of December with not one, but two job interviews!  I’m still waiting to hear back, but hopefully I’ll have some news on that end for you all pretty soon!  December was filled with lots of holiday cheer and one last trip for 2011 to North Carolina.  But the most rewarding moment of December arrived fairly early in the month.  The day I’d been spending 12 weeks training for finally arrived: The White Rock Lake (Half) Marathon!  To my surprise, I never once felt nervous in the days, hours, and minutes leading up to it.  The miles passed by and I felt excited to be a part of this race, despite the pouring rain and 30 degree temperature.  Two hours nine minutes and 42 seconds later, I crossed the finish line, fighting back the tears of joy, relief, and excitement.
What a gratifying moment!  I achieved something that seemed so intangible six months earlier.  I went from being winded and out of breath after a quarter-mile jog in June to running 13.1 miles in December.  My body has changed.  I am stronger now than I ever have been before and I plan to keep getting stronger in 2012!

Happy new year everybody!  Be safe and have fun.  I’ll see you in 2012 with more excitement and adventures to come!

A Journey In Mary Kay: Lessons Learned

Wow, these posts on my endeavors in Mary Kay sure have been popular!  Although there haven’t been any comments on the blog entries, I can see the number of hits they’ve received!  Makes me curious as to who is reading this!

Anyway, I have one final blog post on my journey in Mary Kay and that is the lessons I’ve learned through the experience.  In other words, if I could do it all over again, which I can’t and wouldn’t if I could, this is what I would have done differently (and hopefully it serves as a useful tool for any of you who are thinking about becoming a Mary Kay consultant or any other direct sales).  My intent of these blog entries isn’t to bash the company.  As I mentioned yesterday, there are a lot of really great things about being involved with Mary Kay.  It is a business model that works for some women.  I witnessed it work for others around me, but it just wasn’t a good fit for me in the end.

1. Only invest in products that genuinely sell.
My customers were very patient if I was out of something and had to order it.  I would have done just fine by getting samples of a majority of the products, including most of the makeup line.  If my customers liked the sample enough, they would have waited a few days for me to order it from Mary Kay and deliver it to them.  With best-selling items on hand, I would have a worthwhile inventory and I wouldn’t have been overwhelmed by all the products that I could never sell.  My best-selling items include: Eye Makeup Remover, Replenishing Serum + C, Microdermabrasion Set, TimeWise Cleanser, TimeWise Moisturizer, Satin Hand Set, Satin Lips Set, Firming Eye Cream, and Ultimate Mascara in Black.  Beyond that, having only samples of everything else would have been better for me.

2. Invest at a lower level.
Really I didn’t need to go it at the diamond level, or any star level for that matter.  Fun prizes are part of the reward of investing at a “star” level each quarter.  While it was fun getting a “free” prize, most of the prizes I could choose from weren’t anything that I wanted or needed.  Of the prizes  I got, I’ve yet to use any of them.

3. Focus on why I got into it in the first place.
I lost sight of why I became a Mary Kay consultant very quickly.  Had I stayed true to wanting to make a little extra cash instead of wanting to become a director, making this a sole-income career, I don’t think I would have gotten so overwhelmed in the end.  If your goal is to become a director from day one, that is totally fine, just try to focus on what it is that you really want out of Mary Kay.

4. Maintain better balance.
I struggle with this one in general in my life.  If it isn’t Mary Kay, it’s something else, like training for a half marathon.  I let Mary Kay take over my life.  I got emotional about it and I let it get in the way of my relationships with my friends and family.  Again, this is a problem I have in general.  I wanted to give it my all, and at the end of Mary Kay, I felt like I was a total failure.  (At least with training for the half marathon, I crossed the finish line and felt the victory!)  Perhaps this is something I can work on in 2012, but for Mary Kay, I wish I had been able to put it down when it wasn’t Mary Kay time and enjoy my time with family and friends.

5. Stay true to myself.
This kind of ties back to number 3.  I felt myself being swayed into believing something that wasn’t me.  Had I stuck it out in Mary Kay, I know I would have been transformed into a totally different person.  Perhaps that is exactly what some people need, but I didn’t like the direction I was being moved towards.  Sorry this one is intentionally vague, but if you know me at all, and knew me through the experience, you probably know what I’m talking about.  (Okay, that’s probably just Nick and maybe one or two of my Mary Kay friends.)

I’m sure there are plenty more “if I could do it over again, I’d do it this way” items, but those are the major ones.  I don’t regret the experience at all.  Had I not become a consultant, I would have always wondered “what if” from the day I went to that skin care class back in August 2010.  In the end I learned how to handle the taxes of a business, something that truly freaked me out in the beginning.  I made good friends.  And, heck, I found a skin care line that truly has done wonders for my skin!

A Journey In Mary Kay: Why I Got Out

Holy cow, yesterday’s post brought a lot of hits to my blog!  I guess my crazy, life-altering decisions are somewhat entertaining.

Warning, this is going to be another long one!  So I left off yesterday in mid-August of 2010, right when I joined.  While the jewelry and cars were great perks, I was more interested in making some extra money and having the flexibility to do it when I wanted to do it.

Upon joining, my new director had me listen to a pre-recorded phone call from my national sales director, going over all the inventory options.  With Mary Kay, you don’t have to purchase an inventory, but it highly encouraged that you do.  And the more inventory you get, the better “deal” you get.  In other words, the more you spend on inventory, the more you get for free.  Based on what I told my director about my goals and time commitment, she recommended that I go in at the diamond level, and so that’s what I did.  It was a lot of money, but I told myself, there was a way out.  If Mary Kay wasn’t for me, there was a 90% buy-back of all my inventory.  I asked my director what the average timeframe was for consultants to break even on their investments.  She reported that on average it takes about three or four months, but that varies for everyone.  Some people can pay the investment off in two weeks, others it takes several months.

The boxes arrived a few days later and I was so overwhelmed, I let them sit in the computer room for a whole week before I opened them.  I was so freaked out about this decision, but my director assured me that everything was going to be okay.  Just give it a year, and if you totally hate it, you can get out, is what she told me.  A month later, I had a “debut” party and from there I was off running my new business.  I went to every weekly training meeting and held parties as often as I could schedule them.

Part of my Mary Kay Inventory on Display

I held parties a few times a month and the cash started to come in.  To keep my inventory balanced, I replaced what was purchased by my customers and had a “profit” of 50% on everything I sold.  Things were going just fine in October and November and the end of the Mary Kay quarter was nearing.  With the end of the quarter in sight and the holiday season coming up, I stocked up my inventory even more to finish the quarter as a star, in other words, finish at a rate of having bought so much from Mary Kay that I earn a prize.  Unfortunately my holiday prep didn’t yield so well as I barely sold a thing and didn’t have a single party.  At the same time, I got it in my head that the only way this would work, was for me to become a Sale Director.  At the time, I had recruited two sales consultants and I needed 24 in order to reach Sales Director.
I earned my Red Jacket in March 2011

January came, and I got another very strong team member.  The commission checks were coming in and I enjoyed seeing money being direct-deposited into my business account.  However, January was another slow month, with one single facial.  I kept my faith and pressed on.  February and March came and went.  Nick and I took a trip to visit my mom and I felt like I was on the phone, taking Mary Kay phone calls the entire time, all the while neglecting Nick, my mom, and being on vacation.  I felt terrible about it, but I had a goal in mind and I needed to keep going.  I had a few more parties here and there, but I always felt like I was leaving Nick behind and while there was flexibility to do Mary Kay when I wanted to, I felt like it was taking over my life.  On the up-side, I had made a bunch of friends through Mary Kay, and I realized that while I joined for the extra income, I really appreciated having the friends I made in the process.

April hit and Nick’s dad passed away.  This event triggered a turning point.  I had spent months and months giving it my all, investing in new products and building my inventory.  I had reached a point that I realized this wasn’t working the way I wanted it to.  I was not getting anywhere near breaking even on my investment and instead, had increased my investment with little return.  On top of that, I felt like I was pestering every friend and acquaintance I’ve ever had, asking them if they could do a Mary Kay facial or listen to a training call for me.  I felt like I was alienating everyone and I was hardly home to spend time with Nick.  (Sorry for those of you who are reading this who I pestered!  If you helped me out by doing a facial or phone call, thank you and I hope you liked your free gift for any inconvenience I put you through!)

I started to distance myself from Mary Kay.  I stopped going to the weekly meetings and I held my last party some time in May or June, which was a total disaster and complete failure.  I continued to sell products to existing customers, but I stopped restocking the inventory I sold.  I needed to actually make money and I had more inventory than I knew what to do with.  Then one afternoon, I ran into one of my Mary Kay consultant friends.  She was having a lot of similar thoughts and feelings that I was having.  We both had been on this huge mission to become Sales Directors that Mary Kay had totally taken over our lives.  She told me she was getting out.  I was so relieved to hear her tell me that.  I was afraid I was the only one who felt like I was in over my head and no longer enjoying this source of employment (if I can even call it that, as I was so far in the hole with my investment).  I wasn’t quite ready to return my inventory, although the thought was definitely in the back of my mind.  I really needed to take some time and think about it.  I’m not the person who typically jumps into huge decisions (although Nick would probably tell you otherwise).

About a month later, the middle of July 2011, I called up my friend who had recently gotten out of Mary Kay.  I asked her what I needed to do and who I needed to call.  She directed me to the right department at the Mary Kay headquarters.  I wasn’t planning on calling that same day to start the return process, but right when I got off the phone with her, I picked up the phone and dialed the return department at Mary Kay.  I was expecting the phone call to be a guilt trip to stay in the company, but that wasn’t the case at all.  The lady I spoke with was very nice and told me exactly what to do.  I was given the choice of returning the inventory via mail at my expense or, since I live in Dallas, where the headquarters of Mary Kay is, I could drive down to the warehouse and return it myself.  A form was being sent to me that I needed to fill out and then I’d be free and clear of Mary Kay, with my returned inventory 90% buy-back  coming my way.

(Okay, almost done… I know this is long, but thanks for sticking with me if you’ve made it this far!)  The form came in the mail a few days later and I jumped into counting my inventory, tabulating it in excel (I love spreadsheets), and filling out the form.  Alas, every thing was packed up and ready to go back to the Mary Kay warehouse!

My Mary Kay inventory, all packed up and ready to be returned

I loaded up my car in the middle of the week and drove down to the Mary Kay warehouse during my lunch break.  As I pulled up, I saw several charter buses in front of the warehouse.  It dawned on me that the Mary Kay annual convention was going on and this was one of several tours that consultants and directors could take!  I filed into the warehouse with all of these women who were all done up for the convention.  Trying not to announce it too loudly since it was so taboo, I told the woman at the front desk that I was there to return my inventory and she directed me on where to do.  I followed her directions, getting back in my car and heading to the rear of the warehouse.  Again, several more charter buses lines the back and more and more women were filing in through the back, exactly where I was supposed to go.  I followed the dolled up women in and again, made the announcement that I was there to return my products.  Nobody seemed to know where I was supposed to go, as the drop-off dock location was moved just for the convention.  I ended up having to call the Mary Kay corporate office as I sat there in the warehouse parking lot, asking for exact directions on where to go.  Finally, I was directed to the right dock (with no done-up ladies) and I finally got rid of those Mary Kay boxes.  What a relief!  I couldn’t have had any worse timing to drop the products off!  I was sp glad to be free and clear of it all!

In the end, I’m glad I got out of Mary Kay.  While I really enjoyed it for most of my time as a consultant, I wasn’t enjoying it at the end and I wasn’t anywhere near reaching my initial priority of making some extra cash.  When my director told me to give it a year, I took it to heart.  I told myself that if I was miserable or if I hadn’t broken even, I needed to get out, and that’s exactly how it ended.  There were several things that I did enjoy about the company and I made a few friends, but in the end, while Mary Kay really does work for some people, it just didn’t work for me.  And that, my friends, is (finally) the end of my Mary Kay journey.

A Journey In Mary Kay: Why I Did It

I’ve had this post topic in the back of my mind for a while, but I’ve put off writing it because I didn’t really know how it fit in to my blog.  But heck, it’s my blog, so I’ll write about whatever I want.  If you remember from The (un)Lucky Little Blue Dress post, I mentioned that I did Mary Kay for a while.  Here is the story of why I became a Mary Kay consultant.  Tomorrow’s blog will be part 2- why I got out.  (I’m breaking it up over two days because I know it will be long.  That, and I want to keep you keep you curious!)

To start this story, I have to go back before the beginning of Mary Kay, all the way back to graduating from the University of Michigan.  The day of graduation brought mixed emotions.  I was finally done with school, seven years of higher education, and no job lined up.  I was eager to be employed.  The grace period of the first batch of student loans was something minimal, like 60 days.  I didn’t want to waste time and money by going into deferment so I took the first job I was offered, packed up, and moved to Texas.  Unfortunately urban planning, and really the field of architecture, is the lowest paying profession that requires a professional degree (compared to doctors and lawyers), so my starting salary was measly.  I was getting by over those first few months, but another round of student loans were about to come out of their grace period.  Now, seven years of higher education didn’t come cheap.  I went to a private liberal arts school for undergrad, which my mom helped to pay for (thanks Mom), but I still had to take out loans to pay for the rest of it, and well, grad school, that’s another financial rant, but to give you an idea, all in all, I racked up six figures in student loans.  (I actually don’t know the exact number, but I have a rough idea.  Thinking about the exact number is too depressing for me.)  After calling the loan companies and changing the payment plans from regular to graduated (in other words, the same payment over what seems like a million years was changed to the same payment over two years, then increased to another level for the next two years, and so on over again what seems like a million years), I realized that I still didn’t make enough money.  It was getting close to the holiday season, so I decided I could pick up a retail job to bring in a little extra cash each week.  I landed a sales job at Pier One.  It was convenient, just across the street from my apartment (again, this is Dallas, so just across the street means crossing six lanes of traffic, lack of sidewalks, and walking through a huge strip mall parking lot).  So three days a week, I would go immediately from my day job to Pier One for a four-hour shift.  I didn’t get home to eat dinner until 10:00 PM.  It sucked, but a little extra cash was nice.

I stuck it out at Pier One until right around Easter, at which point I was dreading the shifts.  I wanted to have some time to myself and a second job in retail wasn’t giving me the “Me” time I needed.  Somehow, I was able to make due on just my full-time income and I did without a second part-time income.  And then the recession hit.  I saw coworkers being let go left and right and somehow, I still remained employed, but at a cost.  Our salaries were quickly cut to 80%.  My lease was up and uncertain of my future employment status, I packed up and moved in with a former coworker, renting a bedroom from her.  It was a month-to-month deal, no contract.  It was perfect for the uncertain times and it was cheap.  A few months after I moved in with her I hit the two-year mark on my loans, which meant a graduated increase.  Now my federal loan had a nice, easy increase of about $20.  While $20 was a lot during the economic circumstances, it didn’t compare to my private loan that had a one-time graduated jump of $300.  I couldn’t afford the $300 increase on this one particular student loan but I couldn’t find a way to make it go down.  Since it was private, I couldn’t consolidate it with my other loans.  I looked into moving it over to another private loan provider, but I was denied because I didn’t make enough money to support the loan (um, yeah, I don’t even know where to begin with that rejection statement).  I refused to go into deferment since the interest would keep building while I wasn’t paying.  To make the payments every month, I had to charge all my monthly expenses (food, gas, basic living needs) to my credit card.

The months passed by and I kept an eye out for other part-time employment opportunities that were worth their while.  (I learned that retail really just isn’t worth the money).  All the while, my credit card debt went up and up.  Then, by chance, a friend through the Delta Gamma Dallas Night Alumni Group asked if we could do a Mary Kay party for her.  A bunch of us girls got together on a week night some time in the middle of August of 2010 and she told us all about the company.  I had one other experience with Mary Kay several years back, but was never told all the information about the company.  She listed off all of the great things that you could earn as a Mary Kay consultant or director.  There was the cars, the trips, the jewelery, the extra cash, and the flexibility to do it when I wanted to do it.  It sounded great.  The business model was already set up.  All I had to do was follow it, and I could make some extra cash.  I filled out a “Tell Us What You Think” form and circled, “I’m interested, but need more information” and went home to tell Nick about the experience.  Nick’s first reaction was “Don’t do it”.  I told him I needed to think about it and that I was going to talk to my friend’s director later that week.

That night I went to sleep and I had a dream about Mary Kay.    Now what person in their right mind has dreams about Mary Kay, especially someone who wasn’t a consultant or director!  I took it as a sign and as I drove to work that next morning, I thought, really, what do I have to lose?  With the 90% buyback guarantee, there really wasn’t that much risk in giving it a go.  So within a day or two of my “revelation” I signed up and became a Mary Kay consultant!

Stay tuned for Part 2: Why I got out!

Christmas 2011 Recap

I’ll try to spare you the long-drawn out recap of Christmas since I’m sure my Christmas was much like yours; family, food, presents.

Nick and I took off on Friday afternoon and headed to Durham, NC to spend the long weekend with his step-brother, sister-in-law, and two nieces.  Nick’s mom and step-dad joined us from Washington as well.  We spent a few hours catching up with everyone before hitting the sack.  I was up bright and early on Saturday, mostly because I had to go to the bathroom and couldn’t fall back asleep, which meant Nick was up, reluctantly, bright and early as well.  We had brunch reservations at 11:00 AM at the Washington Duke, a very nice Inn right near the Duke campus, but I wanted to get a little bit of a workout in before we started to gorge ourselves.  I was scheduled to do a 15 mile run, but I knew that being a holiday weekend and in a neighborhood I wasn’t familiar with, I probably wasn’t going to do all 15 miles.  I got geared up and programmed 4 miles into my Nike+ GPS and took off.  Unfortunately, not knowing where I was going, I ended up going down lots of roads that ended in cul-de-sacs, so my initial plan of a 4 mile run ended up being a 5 mile run due to lack of neighborhood connectivity and running down too many dead-end streets.  Anyway, after the run, I got cleaned up and we all headed to the Washington Duke.

The rest of Saturday was spent lounging.  The boys went to the guitar store and ended up picking up monopoly on the way home.  Apparently Nick’s family gets very competitive when it comes to board games, so competitive that certain games are no longer allowed due to the trauma they’ve caused.  Although there was a bit of wheeling and dealing, our game of monopoly ended up being very civil (probably because we never actually finished).  After grazing on appetizers and a “friendly” game of monopoly, we put some cookies out for Santa and Nick’s nieces headed to bed.  Knowing we’d be woken up fairly early, the adults didn’t stay up much later!

Sunday morning came with two little girls knocking on our bedroom door, saying, “Nick, Kim, time to get up!”  Santa came and we were being waited on so we put ourselves together and headed down for the great present-opening festivities.

Christmas morning
The Stella Christmas Tree
Presents were followed by a yummy Christmas breakfast of eggnog french toast, eggs, bacon, and fruit.  Then it was on to stockings!  The festivities wound down and I made a spot on the couch to get some good quality magazine-catch-up-reading done.  (I hate falling behind on my magazines, but it seems to happen every month!  I guess that’s the trouble with having FOUR subscriptions!)

The day passed by and between lounging and chatting with the women, it was a very low-key Christmas.  Nick’s step-brother and sister-in-law made a wonderful Christmas dinner and when we sat down, we went around the room to say what we were thankful for.  This brought some tears as it’s been a tough year health-wise in Nick’s family, so we were all pretty thankful to have each other together on this day.

Monday came and it was time to pack up and say our goodbyes, but plans are being made for the next get-together.  All in all, it was a nice time spending the holiday with Nick’s family.  I’m lucky to have this new family welcome me in with open arms!

Fat Days Week 3

This week is the last week of Fat Days!  It actually ended yesterday since there is hardly anyone at the office today.  Out of my five years of Fat Days at the office, I have to say this year has probably been the best year.  Not a ton of sweets for a change and everyone seemed to create whole meals instead of just snacks.  Although this has been the best showing, I’m glad to see it go.  I’m ready to get back to normal eating habits and not have the temptation sitting there right in front of me every time I walk by the office kitchen!

Okay, onto this week’s Fat Days contributions!

Monday 12.19.11

Monday 12.19.11: Brisket Tacos, Tamales, Chips & Queso
Monday 12.19.11: Ice Cream Sundae Bar

Tuesday 12.20.11

Tuesday 12.20.11: Assorted Coffee Cakes
Tuesday 12.20.11: Carrot Cake

Wednesday 12.21.11

Wednesday 12.21.11: Mediterranean Fusion Gourmet Sandwich Bar

Thursday 12.22.11

Thursday 12.22.11: Fruit Kolaches and Sausage Kolaches from the Czech Stop in West, Texas!
Thursday 12.22.11: Ham and Cheese Roll-Ups with Various Dipping Sauces and Homemade White Chocolate and Raspberry Cheesecake.

Whew, that wraps up the 12 Fat Days of Christmas!  Happy holidays everyone!

Top 15 Christmas Questions

So I’m borrowing today’s blog idea from Food And Fitness 4 Real, who borrowed it from Clean Eating Chelsey, and beyond that, I don’t know where it came from, so thank you ladies for a fun blog survey!  This survey is going to be a little tough for me, since Nick and I have only had two official Christmases together and we will be out of town for this year’s Christmas.  So I’m going do a hodge-podge of our Christmases together as well as the Christmases from growing up.

1. Does Santa wrap presents or just put them under the tree?
Growing up: definitely wrapped, under the tree.  Where would the fun be of gifts that didn’t need to be unwrapped
Christmas with Nick: Normally wrapped, next to the fire-place.  This year they were (we did our Christmas a week early) unwrapped.

Christmas 2009

Christmas 2010

Christmas 2011

2. Colored lights on tree/house or white?
Growing up: White for sure!  On both the house and the tree.  I always wanted the colored twinkling lights as a kid, but in retrospect, I appreciate the white.  They are much classier.
Christmas with Nick: Mixed.  We haven’t had a “real” tree (see explanation below) since we’ve been together, but we’ve hung lights on the balcony outside as well as the staircase guard rail inside.  Nick bought the colored lights.  I bought the white lights.  (If I have my way, eventually we will use all white lights.)

3. Do you hang mistletoe?
Growing up: Yup!  We had a big ball of it.  It was fake, but now that my mom lives in Oregon they’ve got that stuff growing wild on the trees that line the drive up to her house.
Christmas with Nick: No, it’s hard to find mistletoe, real or fake, anymore  but I saw a write-up in a magazine that I recently read with a place that you can order it from (the company is in Oregon, of course).  If we were staying in town this year, I would have ordered some.  I would like to start that tradition up again!

4. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)?
Growing up: Probably breakfast.  I think it changed every year, but we always had a nice breakfast together on Christmas morning.
Christmas with Nick: Starbucks.  It’s not really a dish, but it’s something we’ve had together on Christmas morning the past two years.  We venture out to the Starbucks across the street- Nick gets a Venti Caramel Macchiato and I get a Tall Non-fat Chai- and bring them home to sip on as we open presents.  (Besides, I think of Thanksgiving more of a food holiday than Christmas.)

5. Favorite holiday memory as a child?
Growing up: Ooh, that’s tough.  I really have to think about that one…. I remember getting underwear that had frills on it and I was so embarrassed to open it in front of everyone.  I was probably 7 or 8.  I don’t know if that’s a favorite holiday memory, but it’s a memory that stuck with me, and it’s funny to think about it much later in life!
Christmas with Nick: This question doesn’t apply.

6. Snow, love it or dread it?
Growing up: Growing up in New England, it was part of Christmas and the holiday season.  As a little kid, it was fun to play in the snow, make snow angels, sledding, and go skiing.  As I got older, particularly when I was in grad school in Michigan, I HATED it!  It was pretty and serene for a few hours and then it was miserable.
Christmas with Nick: Now that I live in Texas, I miss the seasons.  It doesn’t feel like the holidays with out snow.  (The grass is always greener, right?)

7. Real tree or fake?
Growing up: Real, all the way.  Being in New England, it was almost a tradition (I say almost because it didn’t happen every year) to go to the Christmas Tree farm and cut our own tree down.  (Ah, that’s a good holiday memory from growing up!)
Christmas with Nick: Real miniature tree.  Our place is way to small for a normal sized Christmas tree.  Last year was the biggest of our trees, residing on top of the coffee table.
Christmas tree of 2010
Christmas 2009 was a rosemary tree.  This year’s tree is more like a fern.

8. What’s the most important thing about Christmas for you?
Growing up: presents.  Haha 🙂
Christmas with Nick: Spending the day with Nick and starting to build our own new traditions together (although there are very few right now).

9. What is your favorite holiday dessert?
Growing up: That’s another tough one.  Chocolate chip cookies maybe or chocolate chip pie.  I don’t really remember a lot of sweets from my childhood.
Christmas with Nick: Like I said, I think of Thanksgiving as being the food holiday.  I could care less about having sweets at Christmas.  But if someone brings a sweet treat to the office or we are at a holiday party, I’ll probably have a little nibble.

10. What is your favorite tradition?
Growing up: I guess this is the almost tradition of going to the Christmas Tree farm and cutting a fresh tree.
Christmas with Nick: Starbucks!

11. What tops your tree?
Growing up: When I was very young, we had an angel.  As a teenager, my mom changed it to a big red bow with the ends streaming down the tree.  It was very pretty.
Christmas with Nick: Our biggest tree we had (see picture above of the Christmas tree 2010) came with a bow on it (Thanks for the Christmas Tree topper, Whole Foods!).  This year our “fern” tree is too delicate for ornaments or anything to put on top of it.

12. What is your favorite Christmas song?
Growing up: I loved all the traditional Christmas carols.  I used to sing them with Jim, my step-dad, in the car to ourselves.  We Three Kings Of Orient Are really sticks out in my mind as one we sang a lot.
Christmas with Nick: My boss’s son, Austin, who is six, visits our office every now and then.  Back in September when Austin came for a visit, my podmates and I heard this little kid voice singing religious Christmas songs.  We all started to giggle, it was so cute listening to Austin sing the songs that he’d been learning at Catholic school (several months prior to the holidays)!  So while it’s not a specific song per say, hearing the songs from a little kid’s voice is always a hoot (and I’m sure that’s exactly how I sounded way back when Jim and I would sing together in the car).

13. What do you leave for Santa?
Growing up: Cookies and milk for Santa and carrots for the reindeer.
Christmas with Nick: Nothing, although, Nick probably pours him some Crystal Light in the middle of the night.

14. Do you have a Christmas morning tradition?
Growing up: Wake up early and wake everyone else up.  Open presents and eat breakfast.  Sometimes it was eat first then presents, other times it was presents (and coffee for the adults) first and eat breakfast after.
Christmas with Nick: Sleep in (which for me is 7:30 AM), go to Starbucks, come home and open presents and maybe have a bagel sandwich for breakfast.

15. Do you prefer to shop online or at the mall?
Growing up: Well, the internet isn’t what it is today back then, so for sure the mall!
Christmas with Nick: If I can get it online, I totally will.  Otherwise, I go to the store.  I avoid the traditional mall at all costs, going to stores that have stand-alone locations or are in more of a strip mall, like a free-standing or strip Gap or Target.  (Dallas traditional malls are the worse in terms of crowds that I’ve seen in all the places I’ve lived, while the strip malls aren’t nearly as bad.)

Of these questions, which is your favorite?  Answer it in regards to how you celebrate the holidays.