Tuesday, January 19, 2010

To Sell Or Not To Sell

I'm really struggling with what to do with my house. Part of me is ready to move on from it. It's small and we are crowded in it. But on the other hand, it's my house and I love being at home in it.

After spending a significant part of the past month in hotel rooms with decent sized bathrooms, I'm ready for a house with an actual counter in the bathroom as well as linen storage. Living in a home with a single bathroom doesn't bother me. I've never quite understood people who live by themselves saying definitively "I couldn't live in a house with only one bathroom". However, I really would love to have a bigger bath room then I do now. The bath in my house is only as wide as the bathtub is long and as long as is needed for a bathtub, wall attached sink, and toilet. No cabinetry need apply as there is no room for it.

Over the past ten years of owning the house (I can't believe it's been ten already), we have improved it significantly, adding a closet here, a new window there, landscaping (which still has a long way to go) and other general improvements. There are lots of things yet to do, including refinishing the wood floors and putting up a fence to block my crazy neighbor's back yard and her dog who is dead set on attacking my poor old men dogs.

Another few doors up from the crazy neighbor, a house just went up for sale. Unfortunately, the house is a direct comp to mine and she is listing about $15K under where I would like to be for my house. It's not that I mind walking away with no money, I just don't want to do a short sale or take money to the table.

Also, a very good friend whose opinion I respect immensely, especially when it comes to money matters, once told me that real estate is something that you should always hold onto as long as possible because it builds wealth. While I don't have a ton of equity in my home, it's probably the only positive I have on my balance sheet right now so it makes sense to hold onto it until I need to move or can afford to buy/build my dream house.

Between the current housing market, the need for a modicum of financial stability, and the fact that I have too much upheaval in my life already, I think I'm going to hold off a couple of years before making a decision. In the meantime, I will keep updating the house and make it a great place to live. Just wish I had room for a counter in my bathroom.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Fine Art of Dining Out Alone

Eating alone is so challenging. I'm mostly eating in my room as previously mentioned in my earlier posts, but I'm going out some and it's always a bit of a trial. How it goes depends on what my state of mind is at that time.

When first in the door you have a choice to either be seated in the dining room or at the bar. At the bar is less risky because bartenders are typically easy to talk to. Failing that, other singleton's at the bar are usually open to conversation. The dining room option usually means poor placement, a table near the restrooms, the kitchen walkway, the servers station, or in a generally dark, drafty spot.

I have learned to turn down tables that look uncomfortable and generally undesirable. If I encounter resistance and it's clear that other tables are available I let them know that I will go elsewhere. So far, it's worked every time. If the restaurant is obviously crowded, I usually just take what's offered even if it's not optimal.

I usually take the dining room option unless I'm in a chatty mood. Most of the time by the time dinner rolls around when I'm on business travel, I'm done being sociable so I usually take the dining room option. It also helps that I don't drink if I'm driving at all so it's easy to not sit in the bar.

The next choice you have to make is whether to just sit and enjoy your meal alone with your thoughts or to read a book. Sitting alone and enjoying your meal without the distraction of a book or a phone call can be challenging, especially if you are a person that doesn't like to be alone with your thoughts so a book is a great prop to keep your attention.

I usually end up with the combo option: my book comes out after I order, but is closed once my food arrives. I enjoy good food and have learned to enjoy it without a book in front of my nose. It's also good discipline in terms of managing my eating. As most of us have learned over the years, eating with a distraction leads to mindless overeating.

Next, you have to decide what to eat. If you are a person that is concerned about what people think of you, then order a salad and no dessert. That was my MO until recently. I spent a lot of time worrying about what people thought about my weight and the relationship to what I was eating to what I weighed.

I have learned, and I will be the first to admit that losing a significant amount of weight has helped this, to not worry anymore. I order whatever I feel like eating. Part of that is due to my surgery, since I can only eat small amounts and I'm full for hours afterwords, I tend to choose whatever is piquing my interest at that moment. Tonight it was a Reuban sandwich with waffle fries. I ate about half the sandwich and about a quarter of the fries. While I feel guilty knowing that the food will go in the garbage, I at least don't feel so bad with all that food not going to my butt.

I like eating on my own when I travel, but miss having dinner with Alex and Lucille. I always prefer to eat with people, although when I travel I like it when they are people that are easy to be with instead of people I have to be on my best behavior when I'm dining with them.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Movieless Saturday

I was going to go to a movie this afternoon, but ended up just coming back to my room and relaxing. I had planned on going to see "Sherlock Holmes" but decided I will wait until it comes out on DVD. I pay Netflix every month for movies, might as well actually watch some of them.

What drove the decision is my annual resolution to address my debt load. Last night I totaled up the amounts I owe and figured out that I should be able to pay it off by the end of the year as long as I limit the little things I spend money on, like movies. So - put $15 extra towards a credit card today and stayed in watching TV. I am going out to dinner, but since the company covers my meals while I'm on business travel I don't feel too guilty.

I went out last night also as I was tired of looking at the four walls of my hotel room (even though the kitchenette is cute). I went to a Mediterranean place in Highland Park called
Phoenicia Mediterranean Cuisine. It was amazing. The owner served me and was as excited about the food as I was. He recommended the special, braised lamb with cinnamon scented rice and fresh vegetables. It was fabulous. I was sad I could only eat about a third of it after eating part of the soup that came with it. (Cream of carrot and Blended Lentil - one scoop of each in the same bowl - again the owners recommendation - again, amazing.)

I found this restaurant through United Airlines of all places. They have a mileage earning program partnerships with restaurants all over the place. You just register a card with them and every time you use it at a participating restaurant they credit you with 1-5 miles per dollar spent. Since I'm trying to get enough miles to go to out to the NW this summer I'm looking for opportunities to earn miles everywhere. (I get miles for my hotel stays, my car rentals, and groceries too.)

At any rate, the list of restaurants is pretty extensive and mostly locally owned places to eat. Tonight I'm headed out for Italian and tomorrow to a local bistro for lunch. Next week back on the grocery store plan until home on Friday.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Diversionary Tactics

Staying through next week as it turns out but staying at my current hotel and working in the office except for one day next week when I will be a the meeting in Chicago. Apparently the woman who does the event planning doesn't like party crashers and gets very wound up if someone horns into a meeting so I have to sneak in. It's kind of a funny thing. My boss and I decided that if there is a moment when the event planner might see me she will throw a pen on the floor under the table and I will dive for it and hide until the planner leaves the room.

When I interviewed with this company it was at an event at this same hotel in Chicago as the interview team were all (official) parts of the meeting. Apparently getting interview space had to be approved by a VP to get this planner to budge on creating a space other than a janitors closet for me to talk with the team.

So clearly I'm on the computer instead of knitting and relaxing. Maybe this weekend. I think I'm going to go out for breakfast and then to a movie on Saturday. As much as I'm enjoying cooking in my room, I am ready to see something besides my room and the office for a day or two.

Do what I mean not what I type

It's been snowing all day here which I enjoy as long as I don't have to drive in it. I have to say I'm glad it snowed because it actually had to warm up so it could so it's not as cold in the room I'm in as it was earlier in the week. I have spent the week in a conference "war room" implementing the code that we have spent the last six weeks developing and making sure that everything is working. It's been fun but the room has been freezing.

On the downhill slope on the implementation. Got my code working finally, although it took all day yesterday and someone else to find the typo that was causing it to break. I was so mad! Who would think that a plural vs. a singular would have that much impact on success or failure. Stupid computers. They should just know what I mean and not what I type.

Tonight I'm going to work on my knitting project and watch tv - no work, no checking email, etc. I need a creative break from all this left-brain stuff I've been doing all week. It's still up in the air where I will be next week - may get to come home early. There is a training session at another Hotel in Chicago but I wasn't budgeted in for it.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


I don't know how people that travel for a living function. I enjoy business trips just because they break things up, but overall I'm basically a homebody. Traveling just feels like a lot of work to me and then add on top of that all the work I'm doing anyway as part of my day-to-day stuff, I'm just tired.

That being said, I will say that the Residence Inn with it's kitchen is quite the revelation. I do feel more grounded staying here where I can make my own food, put my feet up and watch TV at night, and not have to stumble around the office in the morning and being nice to people I work with looking for a decent cup of coffee. (I will say that the coffee they have in the rooms here is truly heinous, honestly, probably some of the worst hotel coffee I've had in a while. Glad I had the foresight to buy some decent coffee at the grocery store.)

I will say that working away from home is bad for my eating habits in general. I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about food and if it's time to eat and what I want to eat and feeling guilty about not eating the right thing and and and...

I miss being home and watching my TV and spending time with my family. On the other hand, I like being in the thick of things at work. I didn't get a lot done today, at least not the things I wanted to get done. Maybe tomorrow.

I think I'm disgruntled today because I spent an hour-and-a-half plus listening to two people discussing Chicago and where to live and who was a snob and the politics of Chicago and on and on. Normally, I would find it interesting to listen to but one of the people doesn't finish their sentences and changes the direction of the conversation mid-thought and the other had a heavy accent. It got old after about 5 minutes. I honestly don't know how they get any work done if this is the normal MO. I finally started tuning them out even though they kept trying to draw me into the conversation.

At least I'm reading a good book. Conn Iggulden's Emperor series on Julius Caesar. It's pretty good. I really love the Genghis Khan series too, although I haven't read the last one yet, I've only been able to find it in hard-back and I won't spend money on that. I haven't been in town long enough to try to get it from the library - maybe when I get back.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Eating in a Hotel Room

I'm traveling a lot with my new job. I was in the Chicago area for two weeks, staying at the Marriott in Deerfield the first part of December. The room was great and I really enjoyed my stay, however, I got so sick of eating out for every single meal over the course of two weeks.

I'm back in the area, again for two weeks but this time I'm staying at a Marriott Residence Inn - which translates to cheaper rates (which as a good corporate citizen, I don't mind), no room service and a kitchenette. It is surprisingly well stocked in terms of kitchen equipment. Mind you - not as complete as my kitchen, but then again I'm such a Pampered Chef junkie that I'm the first to admit my kitchen is a bit of overkill. Not that I'm getting rid of anything yet though.

The other problem with eating out is that I don't make typically make the right menu choices when I eat out. In general I'm not a "salad for a meal" person, but even less so in the winter. (And it is really cold here right now.) On my last trip I gained 5 pounds and add that to the 3 pounds I put on over the holidays, I'm up a net of 8 pounds. I worked way to stinking hard and went through too much to get the by-pass surgery so I'm not blowing it by traveling and eating out all the time.

At any rate, I went to the grocery store tonight and spent $100 on groceries so that I can eat in for the duration of my stay. It was really hard because I don't typically eat food that can be cooked on a two burner cook-top and not in an oven or toaster oven. Fortunately Alex had some good ideas for me from their days living in a similar hotel when they first moved to Clarksville while they were waiting for housing to become available.

I ended up buying several mixes that you stir-fry on the stove or heat in the microwave. I also bought salad ingredients and some dressing, fruit, and pre-cut veggies ready for microwaving/steaming.

Tonight I had a Bertolli Oven Roasted pasta dish ($4.99). It was 4 Cheese Ravioli with Parmesan Cheese Sauce. It was pretty good. About 15 minutes in the microwave. That with a salad on the side and a cup of green tea I feel pretty good. There is enough left-over to have lunch tomorrow and maybe enough for a snack later in the day as well. Not that the cafeteria at work is bad, just not great and again, I'm totally challenged making the healthy choice. (Although today, I did have salad with a hard-boiled egg on it for protein she says patting herself on the back.)

Now - I will say that pre-surgery, it would have been only one meal for me. I'm always surprised when they say 2, but then it was eat or be eaten. Tomorrow for lunch I will take the left-overs along with some grapes and a salad for an overall meal cost of about $4.00 or so compared to the $8 or $9 for lunch and $20 or so for dinner. Plus I get to sleep with a self-satisfied smirk for being a good corporate citizen and saving the company a lot of money on my meals, I don't have to eat out and I get to write a blog post all about my dinner. It's a win-win.