Reading Is Fun!

Reading is fun. And it’s cheaper than a lot of other equally fun activities! Here are some more book reports from my 2014 Reading List:

The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer, translated into Modern English by Peter Ackroyd

So proud of myself for finally reading this entire thing! Some stories are definitely better than others but if you’re a literature buff it’s definitely worth plugging your way through them. Or if you’re a history buff the stories act as a neat window into what life was like in 14th Century England. Also, I think the Wife of Bath was the original feminist, you should check her out.

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

I have read a lot of Victorian-style literature so I have what I consider to be a very high tolerance for subtle, understated, dry plot lines. This book, however, bored me to death. The characters are underdeveloped, the plot is vague, and when you finish reading the whole thing all you can think is, “What the heck was the point of that?” Unless you’re super into pre-WWII literature, skip this one . . . and even then maybe just watch the movie.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

This book was fantastic! It’s short, fast-paced, and entertaining. The narrator is a young boy with a talent for math and what he describes as “some behavioral difficulties.” Haddon does a phenomenal job maintaining the narrator’s strong, unique voice throughout the novel. Definitely a must-read.

Allegiant by Veronica Roth

LOVE. If only because now I picture Theo James as Four/Tobias and HE. IS. EVERYTHING. If you haven’t seen “Divergent” the movie yet, do it! Also read this Buzzfeed:

Theo James

** Money Saving Tip!**

If you live in the Greater Portland area of Maine, you should stop by Annie’s Book Stop in the Forest Ave. Hannaford Plaza in Portland this weekend! It’s sad news that the store is closing after decades of business, but you can get a great discount on books because they are trying to get rid of their stock. Today (Friday 3/28), all books are half off and then tomorrow (Saturday 3/29) you can stuff a bag full of books for a buck! You can’t beat books that are less than a dollar! Check out the article below for more info:


6 Job Interview Tips You Might Not Know About

In the last month or so I swear I have read articles with job interview tips in at least 4 different magazines. At first I couldn’t figure out why this theme was emerging and then I remembered . . . graduation is almost here! Whether you’re graduating from high school or college, you are most likely on the prowl for employment. Or maybe you have a job but you’re looking to take on your next career challenge. Whatever the situation, ’tis the season for interviewing! There are some key interview tips that I think we’re all familiar with, like updating your resume or doing research on the company you’re interviewing with. But here are a few tips I’ve picked up that are often overlooked:

1. Have Confident Body Language.

As the great philosophers Jesse McCartney and Timbaland once said, “I don’t speak Spanish, Japanese, or French, but the way that body talkin’ definitely make sense.” All jokes aside, social psychology research actually does support the idea that nonverbal cues have a strong influence on how others feel about us. Body language can even change how you feel about yourself. So use your body to portray confidence, enthusiasm, authenticity, and comfort in an interview. Sit up straight; don’t cross your legs or arms; keep your body open and inviting. If you sit or stand all slouchy and crumpled, you’ll seem unsure of yourself which in turn will make your interviewer unsure of you. If you’re fidgety or jumpy, you might as well be wearing a neon sign that says, “I’m nervous!” If you have a minute, check out this TED Talk by Social Psychologist Amy Cuddy so you can learn how to use body language to “fake it til you become it.”

2. Dress Appropriately.

An article in the April issue of Real Simple Magazine encourages job applicants to “leave the stilettos at home” when going for an interview. “The people I don’t hire are often wrongly dressed for the interview. Usually overdressed: too much makeup and jewelry or impractical shoes,” says contributor Barbara Corcoran. You want to look put-together and professional, but you also want to look ready to do a full day’s work. You’re not Elle Woods, so don’t go all Business Barbie on everyone. Dress just one notch above what you think the average attire for your desired position is.

Guess what Business Barbie's latest job is? Computer Engineer.

Even Barbie knows to dress for the job she wants – here she is as a Computer Engineer!

3. Arrive 15 minutes early.

My swim coach always told us that if we weren’t 15 minutes early, then we were late. To this day I have a crippling fear of being late as a result of this policy. Even though I know my boss at the credit union will not make me do wall sits if I run a couple minutes late for work, I still get all panicky and worried about tardiness. Until I joined the work force, I never realized what a valuable skill punctuality is; showing up on time shows an employer that you are reliable and that you value their time. Don’t show up too early to an interview though (like 30 minutes or an hour) because that will just seem weird.

4. You should maybe like watch your words.

I am a big culprit of saying the word “like” too much. I use it both as a place holder while I catch my train of thought and as a way to make what I’m saying come across less forceful or aggressive (as in, “You should like probably take brush your teeth more because your breath is kind of like a little gross.”) The same swim coach who taught me to be early to everything also told me that I would be unemployable because I am unable to finish a sentence without saying “like” at least once. And he was right. I find that if I force myself to slow down, I don’t need this word crutch as much; eliminating qualifiers such as  “like, just, actually, kinda, or sorta” makes my speech reflect the eloquent, well-educated young woman I truly am. Identify any bad speaking habits you have and work to eradicate them before your interview. You don’t want your speech to be overly deliberate, but you also don’t want to sound like an 80’s Valley Girl . . . ugh! Gag me with a spoon!

Moon Zappa was like the original Valley Girl. Unless you are her, don't say "like"

Moon Zappa was like the original Valley Girl.

5. Be constructive, not critical, of your old job.

No matter how much your old job sucked, don’t complain about it during an interview. Instead, give an example of a lesson you learned from a difficult or frustrating situation at work. Did you have a annoying coworker who was a pain to deal with? Instead of hating on them, explain how working with them helped you hone your people skills. Didn’t feel challenged in your past position? Instead of saying the job was boring, tell the interviewer about how it taught you the value of hard work or how it was a wake-up call that you might need to re-think your long-term career goals. You don’t need to be overly fake or gloss over things, but an interviewer would much rather hear you put a positive spin on a problem than listen to you whine about why a job didn’t work out. Be honest about your decisions but also diplomatic.

6. Keep the “what ifs” to yourself . . . for now.

I was recently skimming through a Glamour magazine and I was horrified to read the subtitle “Don’t Ever Say You’re Pregnant” in an article about interview dos and don’ts. Upon further inspection I discovered that what the author was not a pregnant-woman-hater, but rather was trying to say that some personal issues are best kept unsaid during an interview. Being pregnant does not have any influence on your job skills or qualifications as an applicant. Same goes for any other possible personal issue or complication. Bringing up personal issues to an employer who hasn’t even hired you yet will just make you seem like a worrier, an over-sharer, or worst case scenario, a problematic employee. The appropriate time to mention any concerns is once a company makes you an offer; these types of issues can easily be ironed out in a contract negotiation.

If you’re out their job hunting, I hope these tips help! Leave a comment if you have your own interview tips to share.

Bridal Shower & Bachelorette Money Etiquette

Last week, I got an invitation to my older sister’s wedding in the mail. I had two immediate thoughts:

1. I am not old enough to have a married sister.

2. I might just skip that.

I find it hilariously funny to make jokes about responding “Will Not Attend” to my sister’s wedding. I have made that joke 50 times since I got the invite and it still isn’t old. I think it might be because I tend to jokes about things that make me nervous. And the fact that this wedding is happening SOON makes me nervous. My sister got engaged a year and a half ago so for a long time the wedding has been a far-off, distant event I knew would happen but didn’t have to think too much about, like Christmas or the Apocalypse. And now it is three months away. And I have some Maid of Honor duties to attend to.

Two Christmases ago when she first got engaged, my sister bought me a book called “The Knot Bridesmaid Handbook: Help the Bride Shine Without Losing Your Mind.” I think she bought it half ironically, half because she was worried that I wouldn’t know what I supposed to do as her Maid of Honor. But I actually did read it and it was super helpful. I would recommend to any other clueless bridesmaids out there. The main thing I learned from that book is that I am in charge of organizing a Bachelorette Party and a Bridal Shower.

You can buy this on Amazon for $8. It's a solid investment.

You can buy this on Amazon for $8. It’s a solid investment.

In keeping up with my amazing stroke of genius that we should go to Las Vegas and see Britney Spears in concert for the Bachelorette Party, I recently secured my title of “Best Maid of Honor EVER” by deciding on a “Downton Abbey Tea” theme for the bridal shower. I know, I know . . . I am a good idea machine. I wonder how you get a job in a Think Tank, because someone should be paying me for these ideas.

There are a lot of things to organize for both of these events – invitations, reservations, decorations, food, etc. Luckily, I have three other bridesmaids and a mom who are more than willing to help me out. Despite being spread out all over the country, they have all been great about contributing ideas, time, and work. As usual, the trickiest (and often most awkward) thing about planning these events is figuring out who will foot the bill and for what.

From what I have read online, in Real Simple magazine (Martha Stewart knows all), and in the Knot book, here are some guidelines you can use to navigate the costs of being a party-planning bridesmaid.

Bachelorette Party General Rule: Each attendee, including the bride, pays their own way.

Modern day Bachelorette Parties cover a wide array of events. Some are one night out on the town. Some are a casual get-together at a bridesmaid’s place. And some, like my sister’s, are weekend-long extravaganza of awesomeness. The point is, this event is what you make of it. It’s a time for just the gals to get together and celebrate the bride. Because there is no set formula for what a Bachelorette should entail, the general rule of thumb is that each attendee pays their own way. If you’re hitting up the bars, each girl should pay for her own drinks. If you’re spending a weekend at a destination, each girl should pay for her own travel, hotel room, etc. Though the bride is the guest of honor at this event, it’s not expected that the Bachelorette guests cover her share of the bill; buy her a drink or pay for her dinner, but don’t feel obligated to 100% pay her way.

Do I get the bride a gift for the Bachelorette? Buying a gift for the Bachelorette is not a necessity. Your gift or contribution to the event is that you paid to get yourself there and to participate in the activities – your presence is the present. Some Bachelorette games include a gift, like Lingerie Guessing game I saw online, but gifts are not a must-have. Discuss with the other bridesmaids/guests before the event whether or not you would like to give gifts and be respectful of the group decision.

Fights among bridesmaids about money? The Dowager Countess is not amused.

Fights among bridesmaids about money? The Dowager Countess is not amused.

Bridal Shower General Rule: The host(s) pay for the event.

The Bridal Shower is traditionally a more formal event than the Bachelorette; this is the one your grandma attends, after all. Since this is a more organized occasion, it is expected that whoever is throwing the shower will pay for the expenses. The guests will attend and bring a gift, while the host pays for food, decorations, invitations, etc. The key is to determine a host for the event. It could be all of the bridesmaids who get together and throw a shower, in which case they would split all costs evenly. Or it could be that the bride’s mom is throwing the shower, in which case the bridesmaids do not need to contribute funds. My sister’s bridal party is made up of four girls, all of whom live in a different state. We decided to throw a shower at my mom’s house, but only myself and one other bridesmaid can attend. Since only one other bridesmaid and myself will be hosting, we will pay for the shower. The other bridesmaids are not expected to contribute. Whatever the situation, it’s best to discuss how you will cover the cost of the shower early on in the planning. Nothing is tackier than asking other bridesmaids or your bride’s future mother in-law for a check after you’ve had the event. Have a plan in place so you know who will pay for what.

Also, keep in mind that all people who are paying for the shower should be included in the decision-making process. If you want to throw an extravagant, luxurious shower with a big budget, make sure your co-hosts are on board. It’s not fair to spend $500 on invitations without asking and then expecting them to pitch in. Set a budget, confirm all decisions together, and no one’s wallet will get hurt.

Do I get the bride a gift for the Bridal Shower? Yes, even if you are the host, you are expected to give the bride a gift at the shower. Though you may consider keeping your gift small because you have spent money on the shower, it is still proper etiquette for you to give the bride a shower gift.

Bonus Shower Gift Ideas:

  • Give something personal or homemade. The shower gift is just for the bride, so it doesn’t have to be something expensive from the registry. If you’re crafty, maybe make her a wedding memento. Or if you know she enjoys going out to eat, buy her a gift card to her favorite restaurant in town. The gift doesn’t have to break the bank to be special; it truly is the thought that counts.
  • Throw a “Honeymoon” Shower. One of my sister’s biggest complaints about registering for her wedding gifts is that she really doesn’t need a lot of the items on the list. She and her fiance have lived together for 3 or 4 years now, so they already have stuff a lot of the traditional wedding gift items like plates, blenders, and sheets. Although she appreciates any gifts she receives and understands that her guests would like to give her something, she feels especially greedy about asking for wedding gifts AND shower gifts. So we have decided that in lieu of shower gifts, we will ask for contributions towards the couple’s honeymoon from shower guests. If they’d like guests can bring a small gift to be used on the honeymoon like flip-flops or sunscreen, but their main present will be contributing to the couple’s honeymoon fund. It’s something the duo truly needs and it’s less wasteful than buying household supplies they already have.
  • Another alternative to traditional shower gifts is to throw a Charity Shower. Have the bride pick a favorite cause and then ask guests to donate to that charity in her honor. You could even pick a local food pantry or animal shelter and have guests bring physical donations to the party. It’s a great option for a bride that isn’t in need of as many gifts or who is particularly passionate about a certain cause.

If you, like me, will spend the spring arranging center pieces and making party favors, I hope these tips about the money-side of being a bridesmaid makes your work a little easier.

More reading:

Mi Sweater Es Su Sweater

Sweater Swap! Just like April and Andy on Parks and Rec.

Sweater Swap! Just like April and Andy on Parks and Rec.

You know what I don’t do enough in my adult life? Borrow other people’s clothes.

My closet in college was 20 times the size of my closet now. Not because I had more money to spend on clothes or anything, but because I had a swim team full of girls roughly the same size as me whose clothes I could borrow (or let’s be honest, sometimes steal). If I was having one of those days where I hate all of my clothes and can’t find anything to wear, I would just raid someone else’s wardrobe. New clothes always look and feel better than old ones you’ve worn a hundred times which is why having a big group of friends with an open-closet policy is great – you have endless variety AND you don’t have to spend a fortune.

This week, a girl I work with asked me if I had a black cocktail dress she could borrow for an event she has this Saturday and I had a total flashback to my college days. She and I are roughly the same size, about the same age, and both have similar taste in clothing (although I admittedly wear much more animal print than she does). WHY have I never thought to swap clothes with her before? Why I haven’t I been raiding the wardrobes of every roommate, friend, or coworker my size for my whole post-grad life?

As you may have gathered from this post, I LOVE new clothes. I will use any minor event as an excuse to buy a new outfit. A date, a work event, a birthday party, a baby shower . . . nothing I already own is right for any of those occasions. If I don’t go to Forever 21 and buy something new, I will have to go naked. Nobody wants that. Although my budget is bigger than it was in college, I really don’t have enough extra spending money to drop $20,$50 or even $100 on new clothes every month “just because.” So if you’re like me and you frequently need new clothes in your life, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

1. Sweater Swap! Trade clothes with friends who share your size and style. If you need a LBD for a cocktail party or are looking for a fun top for a night out with friends, ask around. It doesn’t hurt to see if any of your girlfriends have something they’re willing to loan you for the day. Worst case scenario, you don’t like or don’t fit into anything they have. Best case scenario, you get a new outfit without spending any money!

2. Consign It! If you’re a fashionista and you haven’t been doing regular business with your local consignment store, you’re missing out. Consignment stores will pay you money for your gently used clothes. If you have items in your closet that you’re tired of but that someone else might enjoy, bring them in to a consignment store and get cash or store credit in return. Each store will have its own policies on which items they accept, how much they pay per item, etc. so you might want to visit their website or call for details before you go. While you’re dropping off your old clothes, you can shop around for yourself; consignment stores usually have great, good-as-new items for much less than a regular retail store.

3. Accessorize! More often than I care to admit, I buy a new shirt or dress that looks exactly like something I already own. I see a shirt in the store, I love it and buy it, then I get home and realize it’s identical to a shirt in my closet. The new shirt just “feels better” because it’s newer and I haven’t seen myself in it yet. So before you go out and buy new, ask yourself if you have something already in your wardrobe that you could makeover. A dress can look totally different if you pair it with a chunky necklace or big belt. Or a blouse can look new paired with a different jacket and pants. Play around with jewelry, headbands, shoes, hair, makeup and see if you can make an old outfit look new enough to be fun again.

Happy new-to-you clothes shopping!