Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Money-Saving Tip of the Day

So this seems like a no-brainer, but to me it was a revelation. I shop at Tom Thumb for my groceries, almost exclusively. But when it comes time to fill up my car with gas, I usually just stop into whatever gas station is closest at the time.  I definitely won't be doing THAT anymore after realizing how much I can save by going to the Tom Thumb station and using my rewards points. Now, I'm not one to keep track of 20 different reward cards, but like most places, Tom Thumb stores your reward card info for access with your phone number. If you shop at Tom Thumb, or a grocery store with a similar rewards program, I definitely recommend going onto their website to see if they participate in a gas rewards program.  Tom Thumb's is pretty awesome - $1 spent on groceries = 1 point, and 100 points gets you 10 cents off per gallon at a participating Tom Thumb gas station.  (I realize I sound like a commercial right now...but I promise Tom Thumb isn't paying me to say this - wish they were though!) This may not seem like much, but believe me it adds up quickly! When I realized I needed to get gas before heading to work this morning, I made sure to drive the extra couple of blocks to the Tom Thumb station because I thought I probably had some rewards points saved up from the past few months. Turns out I got 50 cents per gallon off!!! So I filled up my entire tank for $45, which would normally cost me about $52-$60! Not a bad way to start the day at all...

Monday, October 1, 2012

Cha-Cha-Changes! (alternate title: Take this job and shove it)

Funny Workplace Ecard: The next best thing to quitting my job is fantasizing about quitting my job.

No more fantasizing...I've done it!! Yes, people, I quit my job. What?!? Eeek!!! *Chorus of angels sings*

Here are some things I am looking forward to now that I have my life back:

  • Catching up - With my friends, my family, my life in general. I feel like I've been so disconnected from everyone since I started at that job 13 months ago. Even before I was traveling on a weekly basis, I worked crazy hours in Dallas on the weekdays (and usually weekends...bleh). This means more time to visit my family in Tyler, catch up with my besties here at home and cuddle their babies, and make time to stay in touch with all my favorite out of town friends. 
  • Cooking and eating at home - I don't know if any of you know how MUCH I hated having to eat out three meals a day, 3-4 days a week as I traveled to New Orleans for work. Oh wait...yes, you do know, because no doubt if you've talked to me at ALL in the past 6 months, you've heard it more than once (a minute). I love to cook; it's therapeutic for me. Not to mention so much healthier and cheaper.  And when I'm not forced to eat in restaurants constantly, it makes me enjoy and appreciate even more going out to a nice meal or trying a fun new spot. 
  • Keeping my feet firmly on the ground - We all know I'm not a huge fan of flying. Doing it twice a week for the past 6.5 months was enough to give me several (more) gray hairs. Although I guess ONE good thing did come of all the flying...I am much less afraid of it now. My heart only speeds up a little upon takeoff, and my palms hardly ever get sweaty anymore. Yay for conquering fears! 
  • Getting back into shape - Cajun cooking (hint: butter is the main ingredient). Bourbon Street (hint: alcohol is not calorie-free).  My thunder thighs have reached an unprecedented level of jiggle. NOT OK. Now that I don't live half in NOLA, I can jog outside with far less fear of being mugged. I can go to my favorite classes at my gym again. And I can study up for that Group Exercise Instructor recertification I've been wanting to get. 
  • The possibility of changing my life's path - I am planning to go back to school.  Cue the "professional student" jokes...hardy har! But it's time for me to stop complaining about how I hate practicing law and DO something about it....nothing but my own fear and inactivity was forcing me to do it.  More to come on this later, but I'm hoping to go into a speech pathology and/or language therapy program so I can work with kids with developmental delays. I've always described myself as a patient person. Now I have to qualify that - I am a  pretty patient person WITH CHILDREN, ANIMALS, and occasionally, on a good day, adults. Most of the time I just think grown-ass people should know better. I'm really looking forward to making my passion of working with kids into a career. I'll keep y'all updated as that progresses. 
 Now, it wasn't ALL bad. Mostly...but not all.  The job gave me a thicker skin, something I needed in a bad way, and something that could have probably only come from working in a big law firm.  Also, so many of the stories just beg to be told because they are almost too unbelievably twisted to be true. The....how do I put this nicely....colorful bunch of crazies I worked with and for would make awesome material for characters in a book someday! Not all of them were crazy (in a bad way) though.  I'll miss the nutballs I came to know and love at my job - both in New Orleans and in Dallas...you know who you are! But don't think it's that easy to get rid of me...we're still gonna hang out, and actually the Dallas folks will likely see me more often. 

It's still hard to believe that I won't be going back to that office. I'm starting a new contract gig that will give me flexible hours and the benefit of free time and living at home.  Sure, I'll have to put myself on a strict budget, which is something I really haven't had to do before. But I've saved and planned for this moment for months. My happiness is worth so much more than a few new pairs of shoes. So for tonight, I'm not worrying about any of that. I'm kicking back on my couch with a cuddly, purring kitty, laying out workout clothes for the morning, and assembling the ingredients for a crock-pot meal to pop in before I leave for work. It may not sound too exciting, but to me, it is heaven!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Happy First Day of School

Happy first day of school to all the teachers, kids, and parents out there!

This may be weird since I don't yet have any kids...but I am SO looking forward to the day that I get to see my own children go off to their very first day of school. No doubt I will cry like a baby, but I can only imagine how much pride and excitement I'll feel as I watch them take that huge leap of independence.  It will be so fun to see their personalities develop and see the kinds of students they'll become. Will they be serious and studious rule followers and teacher's pets (like yours truly)? Will they be shy or outgoing? Will they be on a sports team, , in the band, on the yearbook committee, or on the cheerleading squad (good Lord I hope not...nothing against my cheerleader friends, but I just would not have the first clue about this!)? I look forward to cheering them on from the sidelines, sitting in the audience of their plays, doing flashcards and spelling practice.

Here I was on my first day of kindergarten...my mom wrestled me into a cute dress and bow, which I tom-boyed up by proudly toting a T-Rex satchel! I assure you I was much more excited about the satchel than about actually going to school.

But seriously, that's a bad-ass satchel! 

What are your memories of your first day of school? Any crazy, funny, or sweet stories about your (or your kids') experiences? 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Scrub-a-Dub-Dub: A White Girl's Guide to Dallas' Korean Spa Scene

A couple months ago, my friend Beverly excitedly Gmail-chatted me with a conversation that went a little something like this:

Bev: OMG you have to buy today's Groupon!!! 
Me: What is it? 
Bev: Discounted entrance into King Spa. 
Me: ?????
Bev: It's a Korean Spa. They do these intense body scrubs where they scale you like a fish. Seriously, you've never seen so much dead skin, it's disgusting. Oh, and everyone's naked. 
Me: Wait, what?! A naked spa? Am I unwittingly signing up for a happy ending? Is this safe and legal? I'm scared! 
Bev: Just buy it, you'll like it. Your skin is like a baby's butt afterwards and you will want to make out with your own arm! 
Me: Fine, I'll buy it! Am I going to be the only white girl there? 
Bev: Yeah, probably. They will all stare at you. 
Me: Fantastic. 

So we went to King Spa, my first experience at what I can only describe as a mega-spa. It's huge. Huger than huge. There's a picture of it from their website below, and it doesn't even capture just how big this place is. Plus, you can't even see the awesome assortment statutes and decorations, like the bronze lions and random gargoyles. Or an entire The Simpsons-themed frosted glass wall in the jacuzzi room. More on that later. Can't make this stuff up!

In case you haven't gathered as much by now, this is not a "normal" spa.  Don't walk in expecting to sit down in a darkened waiting room, sipping a cup of cucumber water and listening to Enya.  No. Upon arriving at THIS spa, you'll be given a bracelet with a key on it and shown to the shoe room where you immediately ditch your kicks (yes, shoes get their own locker). You then round the corner into the main locker room and there are NAKED. PEOPLE. EVERYWHERE. Women only, of course...it's freaky but not that freaky, y'all. An attendant issues you a spa uniform, which consists of a t-shirt and cotton drawstring shorts that you'll wear if you want to visit the co-ed group areas of the spa.  

More on that later. Back to the naked people. 

As a white-bread, fairly sheltered American girl, I've never seen anything quite like this. Naked women walk un-self-consciously through the locker room, pausing on their way to or from the jacuzzis to put on lotion, brush their teeth, or fix their hair. Nobody bothers to cover up with towels, and even if they did, it wouldn't do much good since the towels are about the size of a smallish dish rag. Bev and I made immediately for the booking table to sign up for our body scrub/massage combo - a 120 minute treatment for only $80. I'm sold already...nothing is EVER this cheap at a spa! So we signed up for our scrub time and they told us to go enjoy the jacuzzis before we are called for our treatments. The jacuzzi room is right off the locker room, and it is a fully nude room. No swimsuits, spa uniforms, or underwear allowed. A series of giant jacuzzis (think 20-person hot tubs) lines the walls; digital thermometers advertise the temperatures of each. There are really REALLY hot pools, warm pools, room temp pools, and absolutely frigid pools that make you squeal upon dipping in one toe. There are jets and bubbles and it's all very relaxing once you get past the fact that you just climbed nude into a giant hot tub with 5 other total strangers. Oh, and there's a constant reminder running through  your head "do NOT stare, DO NOT STARE" (or at least there was in mine). Because really it's not that hard to get over naked people wandering around in some hot tubs. But what IS a bit disconcerting is the rows of shower heads on the walls. No shower stalls, just a large open shower area where naked women stand ACTUALLY shower. Not like "hey I'm gonna rinse off before I jump in the jacuzzi" - more like "I'm going to sit on this weird plastic stool and shave my legs, wash my butt, and possibly brush my teeth right here in front of all you fools." Very strange indeed. But anyway. 

So we soaked and steamed and got our bodies nice and softened up for our scrub. It was while we were soaking in one of the jacuzzis that we noticed there were no private spa treatment rooms - behind a chest-high divider in the jacuzzi room, there's a row of plastic spa beds about 5 feet apart. Whatever treatment you're getting done, you just jump on up there (nude, of course...that's a given at this point) and get your scrub/massage/facial. A little odd, but whatever...in for a penny, in for a pound or however the saying goes. The most bizarre discovery was not that there was only a small divider sectioning off the spa treatment area - it was the divider itself. Picture a wall of frosted glass, etched with scenes from the hit show The Simpsons. Bart riding his skateboard, Homer eating a donut, Marge with her beehive hair wrapped in a bath towel. We couldn't really fathom where you might purchase such a fantastic piece of glass - are there really glass shops out there that put out such random products? Beverly opined that it was the last thing on the clearance lot at a decorator glass shop, and they recognized it for the bargain buy that it undoubtedly was. Whatever the circumstances, it was effing hilarious! 

When it was at last time for our body scrubs, the scrub ladies came to get us. Let me just take a moment to note that the scrub ladies are tiny little Korean women (probably between the ages of 45-65) who speak absolutely no English and are clothed in see-through mesh bras and panties. It was very odd indeed to think about getting scrubbed down by this sweet-looking mostly-naked Asian grandma, but Bev assured me they are not as meek as they appear and would soon make my skin feel like butter. So we headed to our respective tables, which are basically plastic massage benches that resemble a cross between a gynecologist's exam table and a "normal" massage table. But don't worry, they throw buckets of water on them and wrap them in fresh saran-wrap before you lie down...so it's totally sanitary. Then the little ladies get down to business. They put on these gloves that can only be described as steel-wool mittens and begin scrubbing the ever-loving heck out of your naked body with the surprising strength of an Olympic weight-lifter. Not gonna lie, those first few strokes were a bit alarming - I pictured myself walking out of the spa looking like Hannibal Lecter had just peeled the flesh off my body to make a skin suit. But after a few minutes, it wasn't so bad. Kind of relaxing, actually. And handfuls - LITERALLY - of dead skin roll off your body. It's icky but also fascinating. The scrub lady leaves no stone unturned, if you catch my drift. Every inch of your body is scrubbed and re-scrubbed and re-re-scrubbed for good measure. At one point my sensitive Caucasian skin actually broke out into somewhat disturbing purple hives...the scrub lady sort of freaked out and brought over a manager, who made me sign a waiver in which I undoubtedly signed away the right to sue them for any permanently lost skin. I wasn't that worried though since my skin often reacts poorly to harsh conditions - it wasn't hurting me, and I knew the hives would fade as soon as she stopped scrubbing me to death. After the scrub lady finished with the top side, she told me to turn over so we could get the back side. Side note: By "told me" I mean she uttered something totally unintelligible, I peeked open one eye to see if looking at her would help in the interpretation, and she made hand gestures and poked me in the side until I got the picture that she wanted me to flip over. So then she scrubbed my other side, threw a giant bucket of water over me, flipped me BACK over and commenced another round of scrubbing on front, back, and sides. Very, very thorough. At the end of the scrub, she administered the most painful massage I've ever fallen victim to. Was not a fan of that massage, actually. Loved the scrub...the massage, not so  much. At times (such as when she was standing on my back, twisting my arm behind me at an unnatural angle) I actually worried about the potential for broken ribs. Luckily the massage didn't last too long and was followed with a very refreshing cucumber facial and, strangely, a hair washing/conditioning session. 

Beverly and I regrouped after our scrub sessions were over, and she was dying to know how I felt about it. Did I feel sort of violated? Yes. But was my skin softer than a baby's butt, even the normally rough areas like elbows, ankles, and knees? YES! Was it worth it? Heck yes! 

We checked out the rest of the spa, which included a huge public area with a food court, movie theater, foot reflexology massage area, kids zone, lounging areas, and many different dry saunas that are HOTTER THAN HELL. If ever  you feel in need of detoxing and sweating it out a bit, this is the place to come. It really was a cleansing feeling, even if I could only stay in some of the saunas for less than a minute before freaking out about the hot, heavy air weighing down on me. 

I was in awe of the entire experience - Beverly was embarrassed that I seemed like a tourist even though we never left town. It would be a great place for an adventurous girls' night out or for an out-of-the box date. We saw a lot of couples hanging out together in the dry saunas, snacking on Korean fare, and lounging on straw mats playing on their iPads (they have free wireless internet). 

Recently we tried out Spa Castle to see how it compared to King Spa. I'd say it seems like a larger, more modern, more Americanized version of King Spa. You still get the same general experience - naked jacuzzi room, scale-you-like-a-fish body scrub, tons of dry saunas, and a giant mega-spa atmosphere. But you also get a giant outdoor pool with water massage chairs, swim up bar, and family-friendly slides (you wear swimsuits - not nude). And there's a napping room near the food court where you can curl up on a cushy recliner equipped with its own TV. And the body scrubs are given in private rooms - sure the technicians are still almost naked and the rooms don't have doors - but it's much more modesty-friendly, if you're so inclined. 

So there you  have it. The Korean mega-spa scene from a white girl's perspective. It may sound a bit intimidating, but I promise you it's a must-do in Dallas! I felt like I got an interesting cultural experience without ever leaving the city. Granted, it's not for everyone since you have to check your clothing - and your modesty - at the door. But if you can get past that, it's like nothing you've ever done before. Even if you CAN'T get past that, you should still go to experience the fully-clothed areas of the spa. I told Bev before we even left that I couldn't wait to come back and that I wanted to try out all the other similar spas in town. Now that I've checked out Spa Castle, the next stop is Russian Banya in Carrollton. I hear they smack you with a bunch of eucalyptus branches....sign me up! 

Behind these walls lie the secrets to baby-soft skin (and lots of naked people)

Photos courtesy of their respective websites. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Jill 2.0

Hey blog readers (all 5 of you)...sorry it's been so long. Here's why:

Last week, I turned 30. Last month, I got divorced.

At this time last year, I was writing my 30 Before 30 post, listing the things I hoped to experience or accomplish before I turned 30. Some of them happened - I ran a 10k, took a sewing class, and learned to cook more things from scratch. But most of the things I wrote on that list did not happen. And I realized, reading back over it, that many of them were meaningless goals anyway. So in this new decade of my life, I'm not writing a list. No collection of forced goals with an arbitrary timeline. Instead, I am going to focus on ONE single goal - finding happiness...whatever that may mean for me. I will do the things I love more often and discover new things I never even knew I loved. I will surround myself with the amazing friends and family who have stood by me throughout the years and meet new amazing people to bring into the fold. Everyone has been telling me the 30s will be the best decade of my life. I've been pretty blessed in life so far, so I can't wait to see what's in store for me next...

So this is my re-entry into the blogging world. I'm not going to remove any of my previous posts, because those experiences and memories will always be part of my life. My life is just taking a different course from here on out. It will be a make-over, a total re-boot...Jill 2.0 - the best version yet.