Crazy Pet Lady: New Kitty House

As I’ve mentioned, I’m a little nervous about how our five and a half year old tortoiseshell cat, Neko, is going to act on our cross country road trip. I’m guessing she will probably not fare well. Thankfully, our wonderful vet, Dr. Sunny House, is all about drugging her. I am okay with that.

We registered for a new carrier, since the plastic one we originally bought for her is much too small now. I chose a soft one, since I’d like her to be as comfortable as possible during the 10-12 hour days on the road.

Our friend Carly was nice enough to buy the carrier for us (plus a new dog bed for Wallace!). I took it out of its packaging and set it down on the couch. Within five seconds, I kid you not, Neko had already sidled up to it and was sniffing it. I left the living room, and 30 seconds later, she had already settled into the carrier.

Neko has the ability to find anything – the littlest thing – out of the ordinary in the apartment, and very quickly. If it’s new and interesting, she will go out of her way to screw with it. I guess that’s what happens when you spend all day, every day getting to know the same 800 square feet. She, like most cats, also LOVES bags. Loves clawing at them, crawling into them, snuggling up inside them. One night a few months ago, we could not find her ANYWHERE in the apartment, even after checking her favorite hiding spots. There aren’t that many, really, because it’s such a small space. Imagine my growing terror the more and more we called for her, and she wouldn’t come out, despite shaking her beloved treat bag multiple times. This is very unusual for her – she is not at all a hidey cat, especially when you offer her food. I was just about to get the flashlight out so we could hunt for her outside, with panicked tears in my eyes (our indoor cat would die IMMEDIATELY upon setting foot outdoors, I know it) – when she sauntered casually out of our bedroom closet. I checked in there at least ten times and could not figure out how I missed her each time. Turns out that I left my big suitcase unzipped, and she had managed to squeeze her large body into it. Argh!


You Are Invited

I looked at wedding invitations online for a couple of days (no, really – that was all I did for two days straight) and was absolutely enthralled. So beautiful, classy, and elegant. I we couldn’t decide what I we wanted. Should we go with simple and refined? Or colorful and bold? What about the wording? What font? How many inserts do we want to include? And you want us to pay HOW much?

The lightbulb finally came on after seeing this blog post. Ridiculously adorable and just our style. I absolutely LOVED the idea of typing each invitation by hand. And with just a little over 40 to send out, why not? That’s why people have small weddings, right? To be able to make each invitation by hand? No?

The first birthday gift I received from my dear mom after moving to the United States was a sweet Smith-Corona electric word processor. My favorite hobby as a child was writing and I typed so many stories and plays on it. That thing actually stayed with me through sophomore year of high school, if you can believe it. I wrote all of my book reports and papers on it until we finally got a computer around 1997.

Weirdly enough, my mom has held on to it all these years and it still works PERFECTLY. She was really trying hard to convince me that I needed to bring it back into my life. “But Belle, you never know – you could still write the Great American Novel on it!” In 2011. Oh, Mom.

So, typewriters are near and dear to my heart. We took the general idea of a typewritten letter as the invitation and ran with it!

The typewriter took a little bit of work to find (this was before I discovered that my old Smith-Corona was functioning quite well!), but we lucked out big time. Thomas works in a newsroom and figured someone would have access to a typewriter. He turned out to be quite right. He found out that a co-worker, Peter, keeps at least 2 or 3 machines in his cubicle – apparently this guy’s handwriting is so terrible that he typewrites on Post-it notes (!). He lent us 2 vintage typewriters – a manual and an electric, both from the ’50s. Thomas drafted the letter (doesn’t it just sound like him?) and did most of the typing. The electric proved to be much easier to use, in the end – Thomas was zooming after getting used to the keys.

We bought the “From the Desk of Belle and Thomas” stamp from Notetrunk on Etsy. We chose turquoise ink as that is one of our wedding colors.

To go along with the personal, vintage vibe of the invitation, we enclosed a small photo of us from this past spring, taken by Thomas’ extended arm and my very favorite Instagram-type app on my phone, Vignette. We’re at Roozengaarde Tulip Gardens in Mount Vernon, WA. I handwrote that information on the back of each photo, since that seemed like an appropriately old-fashioned thing to do.

Now, the envelopes. Did you know that I used to collect stamps? Yup, I did. I was a child obsessed. In fact, I probably still have my favorite old stamps tucked away in a trunk at my mom’s. It’s not so unbelievable then that I had a blast picking out vintage stamps for the envelopes. I made a special trip to Champion Stamp in New York just for that reason. I specifically wanted to look at face value stamps only – old love stamps would have been nice, but those are all super marked up (because lots of people buy these up for their wedding invitations).

Did any of you figure out that each stamp means something to either Thomas or me? He was born in Kentucky, and took up dancing a couple of years ago. I was born in 1980. We live in Virginia. Yeah, okay – so the special meanings aren’t really all that great. But I tried.

The “calligraphy” (really just fancy writing with a fine point Sharpie) was the most time consuming part of these invitations. I wanted something big and bold that would stand out on the envelope. It was a challenge fitting some of the letters in, but I just made sure to place the stamps (didn’t glue them yet in case of mistakes!) on the envelope before writing the names and addresses.

We used an old embossed stamp for our names and address on the back of the envelopes.

We layered in one more sheet of onionskin paper on top of the original letter, folded them together, then tied them up with bright orange yarn. Orange is another wedding color, and the yarn is a shout out to my newest hobby.

Cost Breakout:
Stamps – $23
Paper – about $10
Envelopes – $7.98
Yarn – $3.14
Photo Paper – $9
Total for 43 invitations: $53.12 or $1.24 per invitation
We saved on postage by not including any additional inserts and asking guests to RSVP online. I don’t think anyone minded too much – and it was an excuse for people to go check out our site!

Teaching Group Exercise: Do I Keep Going?

A lot of people have asked me if I plan on continuing to teach group exercise classes in Seattle. I don’t really know how to answer this question. The truth is, I just don’t have a burning desire to do so, but at the same time, I might miss it so much when I get there that I’ll be seeking out gyms right away. So, yeah. I don’t know. That’s about all I can tell people at the moment. Deeply fascinating, I know.

I’ve taught all of three classes since my last regular Saturday morning Step class on August 27th. I’ve taken about 7 or 8 other classes as well, but other than that, I really haven’t spent much time at the gym. Frankly, I’m okay with that. While there are a few aspects of the gym I do like (all having to do with group exercise, of course), I just can’t be bothered. The gym is smelly and full of germs and makes me feel old and fat. Sorry. But it’s true.

I didn’t always feel this way. In my heyday of teaching group fitness, with 5 regular classes on the schedule every week – I loved it. Going to the gym meant socializing with my friends and regular participants and getting terrific workouts and listening to awesome music. And even getting PAID! I was given excellent feedback from my members, supervisors, and fellow instructors alike. I was fit, happy… and dare I say… popular? Hello, confidence. I had it in spades, and I enjoyed the hell out of it.

Then I started feeling not so good. Quite horrible, actually. I felt exhausted and weak and could barely teach classes. I thought it all had to do with my diet, so I tried to fix it – but that just overwhelmed me and I ended up gaining lots of weight. One of my directors even told me that a member complained about me, saying that I wasn’t fit enough to teach. Yeah, that sucked. To make a long story short, it turns out that I actually was quite ill and needed treatment.

I won’t get into that right now, though. Point is, after all that drama, I dropped classes from my schedule one by one. And the more I stayed away from the gym, the more I realized that it really wasn’t for me. My inner introvert really got into running, biking, and yoga. Teaching group classes and motivating others is all well and good – but I’m not energized by that. In fact, spending too much time with other people just makes me want to take a three hour nap. Running, biking, and yoga are sometimes boring but at least I’m not accountable to anyone but myself.

Don’t get me wrong – you can’t beat the accountability required in teaching group exercise classes. Is it really so bad to get paid to exercise? No. And I am truly grateful for having had the opportunity. But I just think I’m over it now. I have a feeling I’ll look back on this whole phase five years from now and think about that crazy four years I spent teaching at the gym.

Let me just emphasize that, despite all my bitching, I don’t regret becoming a group fitness teacher one bit. I’ve met the most gracious, kindest, funniest people whom I hope to be friends with my entire life. They have supported and encouraged me through the good and not-so-good. I’ve learned a ton about myself in the process. AND I can strap on a microphone and tell 30 people to step touch and lift their knees – and 60 minutes later, they will have gotten a good, sweaty workout. If that’s not effective public speaking practice, then I don’t know what is.

Okay, this post is all over the place and I still don’t know what the resolution is. Maybe I’ll continue teaching. Maybe I won’t. We’ll see!

(This blog gets a little uncomfortably personal at times, eh? Sorry. I hope it’s not too much!)

Things I Adore, Part 1

I have to be honest – I pretty much only started a blog because I wanted to write lists of my favorite things. I wanted to give this little feature a catchy name like “Mishmash Monday” or “Miscellany Monday,” but those are all taken. Maybe there’s something about Mondays that makes bloggers want to compile easy lists of random items that have nothing to do with each other, and pass them off as substantial posts? Eh. I’ll take it.

So, now, without further ado – here are the things I’m really into this week:

I was always Team Ben, but now I'm finding myself charmed more and more by dorky Noel.

Felicity on Netflix streaming. I’m embarrassed to admit how much I wanted to be wide-eyed, curly-haired Keri Russell when I first watched this as a senior in high school. Seeing this now, I’m amused by the fact that even though this show didn’t air that long ago, it began right before internet and cell phones became a prominent part of people’s lives. Felicity recording letters on tape to her old French tutor – how quaint!

New shipment of Uni-ball 0.38 mm Signos! It’s been a while since my last JetPens order (I’ve actually been purposely trying to avoid the site – it’s dangerous), so I’m really excited by these 10 new pens. I’ve tried a lot of pens (Hi-Tec-C, Slicci, Sharpie Pens, Zebra), but these are the best of the lot. I haven’t seen or spoken to her in years, but I’ll always be grateful for my old friend April from Italian class sophomore year of college, who introduced me to Signos.

Dark chocolate peanut butter cups from Trader Joe’s. Kill me.

Downton Abbey, also on Netflix streaming. Oh, English period dramas, how I love you! So much scandal and intrigue, and it makes me want to sit up straight!

Mindy Kaling’s new blog! I fully credit her hilarious and defunct Things I’ve Bought That I Love for my continuing obsession with Australian red licorice and Kiehl’s tinted lip balm. What can I say – I’m very easily influenced and besides, Mindy Kaling’s sense of humor is the gold standard. How is she this famous yet so relatable and BFF material? I love her. I can’t wait for her book to come out next month.

Fall Weekend

Crafty Bastards in the rain.

Flash mob in Dupont Circle.

Washington Ballet Company

Ouch. That would be Hannah from Urban Artistry.

Here’s Thomas dancin’ it up before the music died (and never came back – speakers kept blowing out):

Lauren’s 30th birthday.

I made vegan vanilla cupcakes!

Taneshia running the Woodrow Wilson Half Marathon.

Bad photo, but that really is her!

And while we were in south Alexandria, we had an obligation to stop at the most amazing place on earth.

Nothing like hot! donuts! after watching other people run a half marathon.

Not pictured: Bodypump with my awesome pal Chase, yummy lunch at Fireworks, and MOAR CRAFTZ with Amanda. Woo! Tired and not at all ready for my second to last week of work, but I’ll just have to buckle down. More fun coming up next weekend!

Moving Update

We interrupt our regularly scheduled boring wedding talk to update you on how moving plans are coming along. It’s incredibly bizarre to be driving down the street here in Arlington and suddenly think that in less than 60 days, we’re leaving this comfortable place behind for our Great West Coast Adventure. Weird. So weird! We still can’t quite fathom it.

I’ve modified our cross-country route a bit, after receiving sound advice from people who know what they’re doing (because we certainly don’t). Here’s what it looks like now:

You’re welcome to stalk us at our hotels, if you like. And speaking of hotels, how awesome is Motel 6 for no weight/breed/number restrictions on pets, and not charging extra on top of that? Done.

Here’s the itinerary, for now:

Nov. 25th: Leave Arlington early in the morning. Arrive in Owensboro, Kentucky about 12 hours later.
Nov. 26th: Drive about 10 hours and arrive in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Nov. 27th: Drive about 10 hours and arrive in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Nov. 28th: Drive about 10 hours and arrive in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Nov. 29th: Drive about 12.5 hours and arrive in Fort Bragg, California. This is not the most direct way to Seattle, but a friend advised us to avoid the Sierra Nevadas at that time of year, unless we enjoy putting chains on our tires. Besides, we’ll get to see California coast – and how awesome is that.
Nov. 30th: Drive for about 13 hours and arrive in Seattle. We may split up this doozy of a trip into two days – I’m pretty sure we’ll be exhausted by this point and not feel like driving so many hours in one day. Unless we experience some kind of end-of-journey energy resurgence, or something.

Maybe they'll do this the entire time in the backseat? Not.

Many people have asked me if we’re going to sightsee on our road trip. I wish, you guys. I’m particularly excited about driving through parts of the southwest (a region I’ve never seen before), and would love to stop along at many of the National Parks along the way. But… Wallace and Neko will be with us. If it were just the dog, I think we’d be fine – but can you imagine us carrying our fat, not very smart cat in her carrier while traipsing around the Grand Canyon? Yeah, not going to happen. She would probably jump, carrier and all. Or die of fright. So, the animals are making this trip a pain in the ass, but, of course, we love them and want to keep them safe. Therefore, we’re aiming to knock this out as quickly as possible. We’ll certainly switch drivers and stretch our legs every few hours – maybe we’ll just happen to stop at some lovely scenic overlooks.  Hopefully, we’ll get to do the leisurely cross country drive at some point in our lives.

We’re not driving a rental truck, not hauling anything – just taking the Subaru. Soobie (that’s her nickname, real name is Genevieve – yes, yes, it’s a thing) just crossed over into the 80Ks and we have high hopes that she’ll make it all the way across. In any case, we’ll have our awesome mechanic at Japanese Auto Clinic take a look at her before we go. We also just bought a basic AAA membership (thanks, Groupon), so there’s that in case of problems. Don’t worry, Mom. Although I’m not sure what good a tow truck will do if we’re stuck in the middle of the desert…

So as you can imagine, we have to conserve all the space we can in our trunk. We’re packing a few clothes, toiletries, small valuables, an air mattress, pet food and bowls, kitty litter, our laptops… that’s it. And you better believe we’re downloading a bunch of audiobooks and podcasts before we go.

The rest of our crap is going to somehow fit into a 5’x7’x8′ storage unit and be driven across the country by a separate company. It will be expensive, but actually cheaper than it could be – we found a great deal with Door to Door (they’re even based in Washington state). Okay, and I know that we have a TON of stuff in our apartment right now, but we will be aggressive in decluttering and minimizing everything after the wedding. We’re getting rid of pretty much all our furniture, except for our bed and mattress. Anyone want a Billy bookcase or two?

For some reason, the storage unit is going to take three weeks to get to us. Are they driving, like, five hours a day and spending the rest of the time sightseeing? Who knows. But this means we’ll be in our new apartment in Seattle for about two weeks with no furniture. Oh man, it will be kind of crazy, but I am weirdly looking forward to it. It! Will! Be! An! Adventure!

I’m taking a solo trip to Seattle November 1-8, and would like to sign a lease and (hopefully!) go on some job interviews while there. I will be the first to admit that I sometimes have dizzying nervous breakdowns in these very adult situations that require responsibility and maturity. Thomas is the levelheaded one and he is skilled at talking me off the ledge. But we decided it would be more cost efficient for him to stay in Arlington – we won’t have to board the dog and he can keep working at CQ. I’m sure it’ll be fine, but I can’t help but feel a bit apprehensive, anyway. Oh well. Buck up, sister!

Okay, wow. This probably wasn’t long enough, no? Sheesh. I’ll keep everyone updated as we know more. But, yeah. Seattle or bust!


One day, I will have some actual content to post on this blog, but for now, inane photos will have to do. It’s been busy. Very, very busy. I am up to my ears in fabric and ink and yarn and paper and glue. But! It is all good.

Side note: I actually started tearing up today at the courthouse, while we were sitting there waiting for them to issue our marriage license. The dude (who couldn’t have been more than 22) was just, like, typing shit into a computer and I was TEARING UP. People. I’m a mess.