Life of the Party

As a grown-up, you’ll probably be in uncomfortable situations from time to time. One of these will almost surely be a party where you don’t know anyone. It may be a work function where you’re expected to (gag) network. You could have been invited by a friend trying to get you to meet new people (ie. get laid). Whatever the circumstances, you’ll need a plan to which you can desperately cling as you navigate the social waters.

Below you’ll find what I like to call a “Party Pack,” a list of three things to prepare before a social function in unfamiliar territory. This is just what works for me. Leave your own suggestions too!

Party Pack:

1. Personal Blurb. I know it can be hard, but find something interesting to say about yourself. Have it ready ahead of time. Do you mountain bike, speak German, collect coins, or brew your own beer? Have you traveled somewhere interesting? Have you ever met a celebrity? Are you reading something really interesting? Try to have a little something extra to tell people about yourself in addition to your name and what you do for a living.

2. Interview Question. Prepare a question – or several questions – you can ask when you meet a new person, again, something other than name and place of employment. This way you won’t stare awkwardly across the room and yammer on about the weather. A good way to get people to talk about their interests is to ask about their favorite places. “So where are some good restaurants/clubs/music venues/etc around here?” They’ll be able to name off a few places they like, why they like them, what you should try, and all this talking can actually lead to real conversation!

3. Laughs. To help break the tension, you can whip out a joke. If you can make someone laugh, the rest of the conversation will go much more smoothly. Unless you know your audience really well, though, keep away from anything too off-color or possibly offensive. You can tell a funny or amazing story that happened to you, or you heard at work or on the radio. Tell a riddle that stumps everyone. You could even share a knock-knock joke, but make sure it’s actually funny and not just lame. Try to stick with one that has worked for you in the past. If you don’t have a “signature” joke, there are plenty to be had online. Search for jokes, riddles, daily humor, or similar.

Have tips for talking to new people, or a joke that you really like? Share it in the comments!

Cultivate Good Taste No.1 – Coffee

Coffee. Many of us know this beloved bean by a different name…”breakfast.” We may drink it daily. Heck, we may even drink it hourly. We like it hot, iced, creamy, sweet, black, with foamy milk, with flavored syrups, in ice cream, milk shakes, and even in marinades. A person’s day often revolves around it, and personalities are often affected by it (or at least by a lack of it). The size and importance of towns can be measured by how many coffee shops are located within the city limits. My hometown increased in stature (in my eyes, anyway) with the arrival of its very first coffee bar, and in the city where I live now , you can’t throw a rock without hitting a java-slinging establishment of some kind.

Coffee’s ubiquitous place in our society, though, does not excuse the drinking of cheap crap.

“Good coffee is expensive!” you might say. “If I want organic, fair-trade, fresh roasted coffee, I’ll go to a coffee shop. But I’ll keep my [insert cheap-ass pre-ground in a plastic tub coffee] at home.”

Bull. That stuff is for unsuspecting college freshmen and other adults with the discriminating palate of a Labrador and no sense of global responsibility. Part of being a grown-up is accepting responsibility. Do you know where your coffee comes from? Are the farmers paid a living wage? What are their working conditions? Is the land farmed in a sustainable way, or is it pumped full of chemicals and raped of nutrients? Is the coffee you drink every morning soaked through with pesticides? If you buy coffee (or any product for that matter) that is a result of these types of processes, you are tacitly approving this type of agriculture.

On a lighter note, another part of being a grown-up is cultivating good taste. Your body matures, your mind matures, why shouldn’t your palate mature? Expose yourself to new tastes, and learn to savor them. You’ll probably be amazed by how good a cup of coffee made from freshly roasted and ground beans can taste. I actually still order coffee from a roaster in Boone, NC, where I went to college, because it is honestly the best coffee I’ve ever had. When it arrives in the mail (smelling heavenly, I might add), I know it was roasted just a couple of days ago, probably the same day it shipped. This coffee costs me $10 a pound. That might sound like a lot of money to pay for coffee, but figure out how much it costs per cup. Depending on how you make your brew, a pound of coffee yields 30-40 cups . At $10 per pound, that’s only about 28 cents per cup. You’ll probably spend at least, if not more than, ten times that amount on a similar cup of coffee from the hands of a barista.

So try branching out your tastes a little bit. Nothing says “sophisticated adult” like a steaming hot cup of precision-roasted, freshly-ground coffee. Save a cup for me! (Cream, no sugar.)

Pet Ownership

There are few things that can add as much fun and joy to your life as a pet. But pet ownership comes with a lot of responsibility, too. When you bring an animal home, you’re making a commitment to provide for all of the physical, mental, and emotional needs of another living creature. This is not something to be entered into lightly.

First of all, you need to assess your lifestyle to determine what type of pet is best for you. If you’re rarely at home, work very long shifts, or never have time to go for a walk, a dog is probably not the pet for you. You’ll probably be better off with a cat, or perhaps some nice fish. I’m not saying these animals don’t need quality time, too. But if you have to work late, they can poop inside without it being a crisis.

On the other hand, if you really enjoy the outdoors, go for hikes on the weekend, swim in the lake, take a walk every day after dinner (or plan to start doing these things), a dog might make a great companion. (Our dog is a little guy, but as you can see in the video below, he has a ton of energy. He needs a long walk or run in the park every day to prevent wall-climbing craziness. He’s great to take on hikes, though!) Just know that when you get a new puppy, they rarely come housebroken. It might be a good idea to make sure your schedule the first week or so allows you to either work from home, or return home periodically to let the little one outside.

Once you’ve decided on a species, its good to think about personality. If you want a dog, but aren’t a really active type of person, you probably need a laid back, dare I say lazy, dog. A high-energy dog that isn’t given an outlet for that energy (ie. exercise) will have to get it out some other way, usually in the form of chewing, barking, or other behaviors that can disrupt your household. If you want an exercise buddy to run, swim, or hike with you, though, you’ll want to look for a pooch with some pep. Visit your local animal shelter or Humane Society, volunteer to walk some dogs, and you’ll get to know which personality suits your own.

Make sure your sound is on to watch the video!

The next rule for pet ownership is: BE PREPARED! Do your homework on your pet. Go to the library and check out a big stack of books on puppy training, cats, gerbils, lizards, or whatever furry/scaly being you’re adding to your family. Then read the books, talk to other pet owners, find some websites with recommendations. Know what you’ll need to have the first day you bring your pet home. Know how to house-train them, decide if you want to crate-train, find out when to get which shots. Does your city or county require your dog to have a license? What food is best? If you’re away all day, does your new puppy have access to the outdoors through a pet door or a friend stopping by?

My final rule for being a good pet owner is: have fun! Spend time w/ your new little buddy, and not just by lavishing hugs and treats on them. Dogs especially have fun walking or running with you, playing fetch or tug, and even training! We’re training our dog, Arthur, with the Sit Means Sit method, and he LOVES it! (Check out our trainer’s blog.) He enjoys the challenges of learning new things, and is visibly excited when we praise him for doing so well. Plus it gives him an outlet for his seemingly-bottomless supply of energy! Cats will have fun playing with balls or catnip toys, or dangle-from-a-stick toys. You can even train your fish to do tricks!

Ultimately, having a pet is a privilage, not a right. We are privilaged to get to live, work, and play with these wonderful animals, each with their own unique personality. They give us love, devotion, and a warm cuddle (except for the fish, hopefully), and in return we have a responsibility to provide them with exercise, discipline, and affection (to quote Cesar Milan), and a balanced life.

Please share your stories or comments of your relationship with your pet(s)!

Posted in Life, Pets. Tags: , , , , , , . 1 Comment »

Breakfast on-the-go, No.1

You’ve gotta eat something… it might as well be good! Living on a budget, you quickly learn that it just isn’t feasible to eat out three times a day, but there isn’t always time to cook a full meal, if you can cook at all! While your cooking skills may range anywhere from “master chef” to “barely able to make ice,” everyone needs basic recipes and cooking tips, especially now that you’re out in the real world, and your time is becoming more and more precious.

My rough attempts at food photography — I’m a musician, not a photographer!

Let’s start with breakfast. It really is the most important meal of the day, because it sets the tone for the day. Sure, you can just have a diet Coke and some cookies, or skip it altogether, but are you really functioning at your best after that sort of meal? Personally, cramming in a bunch of sugar just leads to a crash later on, turning yours truly into a raging bitch. I’ve found that the best way to make sure I get a decent breakfast is to prepare something on Sunday that will last me through the week, like a quiche. Then just pop a slice in the toaster oven and go! Here is my recipe, which is easily customized to suite your tastes. Just add what you like! Have it for breakfast each morning, or make it for brunch on a special occasion!

My quiche here has broccoli, spinach, carrots, lentils, and an Italian blend of cheeses. Yum!

My quiche here has broccoli, spinach, carrots, lentils, and an Italian blend of cheeses. Yum!

Crustless Veggie Quiche

Ingredients:

  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup baking mix (like Bisquick, but I use Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup shredded cheese of your choice
  • Lots of veggies (broccoli, zucchini, onion, carrot, tomato, sweet potato, etc), chopped to bite-sized pieces
  • Herbs or spices to taste (garlic powder, basil, ground black pepper are good ones.

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375F. Spray a 9″ pie plate with cooking oil.
2. Pile vegetables into pie plate, until it is about 3/4 full. Top with the cheese.
3. Combine eggs, baking mix, milk, and spices in a blender or food processor. Blend on high for about 15 seconds, or until well-mixed and a little frothy. Gently pour over veggie and cheese mixture.
4. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until just starting to brown on top.
5. Cool for 5 minutes before serving. Let cool completely before refrigerating.

Crap! I’m a grown-up!

Welcome to my brand-new blog! Thanks for stopping by!

I recently finished graduate school after being in school since… well, since kindergarten, really! I’ve lived on my own since age 19, had plenty of jobs, paid rent and utilities, etc etc. I thought I was an adult. I suppose legally I was. This past year, though, I have found myself floundering around in the so-called “real” world. I am, in fact, finally a grown-up, and an ill-prepared one at that.

It turns out that the college life is nothing like the one after college.

This blog is my attempt to share what I’ve learned with others in a similar situation. I’ll discuss food, finances, pets, relationships, and probably a lot of seemingly random stuff. I have learned so much it makes my brain feel bloated, but I’m made aware every day that I still have a very long way to go. So please, use my tips if you like, share yours with me, and hopefully we’ll all transition into grown-up-hood a little more smoothly and a little more wisely.

Welcome!

Hey! Thanks for stopping by! This is a brand spankin’ new blog, so check back soon for some actual posts!