Posted by: Clare | June 11, 2011

Road trip planning 101

Before I get into the details of my road trip, I will give an overview of how I went about planning my route. I use the term planning pretty loosely here. I started with a vague idea of what states I would cover (“all of the western/some of the mid-western states”). I then made a list of places where I knew people I could stay with (Kansas City MO, Salt Lake City UT, Caldwell ID, Eugene OR, Patterson CA, Pasadena CA). I entered these places into Google maps, checking the “avoid highways” option (sometimes more than one result came up, in which case I picked whichever route looked like it might be prettiest/most interesting/I hadn’t driven before), and came up with a first daft route for the trip. This route didn’t cover all of the states I planned to visit, so I then picked random places within the states that weren’t covered, and entered those into my route (again, sticking with “avoid highways”, I had no interest in driving on interstates). This gave me a basic route to follow for my entire trip. I only carried my “Google Maps: Avoid Highway” directions with me, I didn’t have hard copy maps in my car, which turned out not to be a problem, but I would recommend that if someone were taking a road trip like this that they visit their local AAA office and pick up the free state maps, just in case.

Packing for a road trip is tough. It’s really easy to pack far more than you will need, just because you can. I definitely am guilty of this. I packed far more clothes than I wore, including an entire bag of work out clothes/hand weights/work out DVDs, none of which were touched. Best intentions! I also brought a twin comforter and pillow (both of which I did use when staying at a friend’s house), jumper cables/first aid kit/a few other potential driving emergency items (I didn’t end up needing them, but had I not brought them I have no doubt that I would have needed them!), a couple of gallons of water in case either I or the car had a dehydration issue, and a large bag of snacks healthier than those generally found at gas stations.

Posted by: Clare | May 7, 2011

100 to zero

My whole life I’ve been busy. In school it was homework, tennis lessons, netball, drama productions and babysitting. In college it was group projects, work and my friends. After college there was a period of time when I was working three jobs, and after that I worked full time, went to school at night and attempted to hold on to a vague semblance of a social life. Then on June 18, 2010 I was laid off. Two months later, I graduated with my MBA… and then there was nothing.

It’s said that looking for a job is a full time job. That’s a pretty accurate assessment and I threw myself into the task with vigor. What I didn’t expect, was for after just three days of trawling through the various job boards online and e-mailing my resume to everyone I could think of, depression to hit. It turns out that going from 100 to zero overnight, at least for me, is less a pleasant vacation for the brain and more a mentally exhausting battle to retain self-confidence. I learned that having just one task (and a depressing one, at that) is not my thing.

My solution? A road trip. A month-long, 18-state road trip, leaving a week and a half after I came up with the idea for it. I don’t really do things half way.

To be continued…

In 2007, I decided to go to graduate school. I enrolled in the MBA program at St. Edward’s University. After three years of working full-time, going to class at night, and working on homework in every other spare moment, in August 2010 I finally graduated!

The couple of months before graduation were pretty much hell – in fact it was actually a good thing as far as school was concerned that my last day of work was June 18th. From 8am until 11pm or later every day, one of my classmates and I would work on our final project (a consulting project for a client in Costa Rica). It was one of those “the rest of the group sort of ditched all the work on us” situations, but I wouldn’t change that for the world as it means that when I look at our final report I feel a true sense of ownership. I contributed to all of the research, wrote every word, edited, formatted and even personally printed and bound that report. Blood, sweat and tears, etc.

The graduation was the week after our final project presentation. This meant I did not have time to clear up my “MBA stress skin”, and it was a small affair in the gym because it was the August ceremony rather than the May one, but I didn’t care. I was so thrilled to finally be done!

I think my invisible friend was also happy to graduate.

My mom flew in from England to spend some time with me in Austin and come to the ceremony. We recreated a picture that we took at her Master’s graduation in Cambridge, England when I was eight.

That picture makes me happy.

Of course as with any major event, my graduation was pretty anticlimactic. The next day I did not wake up feeling different, or smarter. I still didn’t have a job. But wearing that cap and gown, while extremely hot and not particularly flattering, sure felt sweet on the day.

Posted by: Clare | March 22, 2011

30 Day Dead

Just a note to say that for the next 30 days or so (it’s likely to be longer, as I am committing to 30 times and some days may get skipped, realistically), you will also be able to find me posting here. I am getting together with a group of other women to support each other through the hell that is Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred DVD. Although I’m not sure that Jillian can throw anything worse at me than I just experienced when taking my measurements inordertopostthemontheinternetomgwhatdidIjustdo?!

Join us, if you dare!

Posted by: Clare | March 21, 2011

Costa Rica, in pictures

It feels like twenty years ago at this point, but in June of last year I visited Costa Rica for the first time! Anyone who has been around for a while may recall my complaints about the cost of the plane ticket, but thankfully my bitterness over that had subsided by the time I was ready to leave.

I was in Costa Rica for “work” (as part of my MBA program I did some global consulting projects), so I didn’t get to as many places or do as much as I would have had it been a vacation trip, but we still managed to sneak in some fun. We stayed at Punta Leona Resort, on the Pacific Ocean side of the country, near Jaco.

Playa Blanca

The setup for our “welcome dinner” – overlooking the beach view above. I can totally picture a wedding here.

wandering around Punta Leona Resort

I was very excited to see avocado trees

Scarlet Macaw

Punta Leona’s food was amazing – full, fresh buffets (and I am not usually a buffet person) 3 times a day…yet somehow I didn’t gain weight! My favorite part was the fresh fruit.

One of our mealtime companions. These little guys are very cheeky and bold – they jump down and grab food (and other things, don't leave your camera or wallet on the table!) the second anyone stepped away from their table


Punta Leona has a ziplining course on site. This was definitely a highlight of the trip for me!

We took a day trip to Tortuga island – it was as idyllic as it looks.

View from Tortuga.

We went snorkeling from Tortuga Island and I don’t recommend that – we didn’t see any fish. I may be spoiled, having had my first real snorkeling experience in Belize, but I was really disappointed. I imagine the snorkeling on the Caribbean side of the country is a lot better.

I hope to make it back to Costa Rica someday, but even on this work trip I feel like I got to see what all the fuss is about – it’s beautiful! A heads up though: wear sunscreen, and don’t expect your hair to stay pretty. Within 5 minutes my hair was totally Monica.

Posted by: Clare | March 8, 2011

Deep in the heart of Texas, with pretty nails.

I suspect that this isn’t such big news outside of Texas, but OPI has just released their Spring 2011 nail polish colors, and they are inspired by the great state of Texas! If you know anything about Texans, you probably know that they (heck, I think at this point I can say we, I drink the Texas lovin’ kool-aid too after almost six and a half years of living here) are a very proud bunch. Proud being a polite way to say out-of-our-minds obsessed with how dang fabulous the state is, and don’t you forget it y’hear?

I first heard about the Texas Collection on Friday, and of course I turned immediately to facebook, where my Austin friends in turn were as excited as I had been to hear the news. In particular, we all oohed and ahhed over Austin-tatious Turquoise, and many references were made to it being the color of this summer. I am a sucker for turquoise shades, so I am thrilled that it is that one that is named for Austin. On Sunday I jumped at an invitation from my friend Monica to go for a manicure, and of course the shade I selected was Austin-tatious Turquoise.

Today, I heard from several friends that the color is sold out in stores around Austin, and even in some other stores in Texas. Texans have been fast to rush out and stock up. I will be heading to my closest beauty supply store on Thursday, when I am told a new order will be arriving, but until then I invested in a few other Texas inspired shades.

L-R: Do You Think I’m Tex-y? (I think this one will be perfect for toenails – I almost always go for reds/pinks on my toes), Don’t Mess With OPI, Suzi Loves Cowboys

Which colors in the Texas Collection are your favorites? What colors do you like to wear on your finger/toenails in general? I have a few go-to colors, but I love to change it up often and try different shades.

Posted by: Clare | March 3, 2011

Well, hello there Internet. It’s been a while.

I don’t have the best timing in my disappearance, I realize that the last post I wrote was about being laid off. It may have crossed your mind that I have been wallowing in misery eating Twinkies and $0.99 hamburgers from McDonalds, crying myself to sleep each night at having to face the horrifying reality that is the current United States job market. Or perhaps I sat next to the CEO of some amazing company on a plane and s/he offered me a job and I have been busy wearing power suits and yelling pretentious acronyms into my Blackberry while waiting in line at Starbucks for my Trenti (?!) Skinny Chai Tea Latte.

The reality is somewhere in the middle, as reality usually is.

I am still unemployed. I spend most of my days doing some combination of: trawling the Internet for jobs and applying to the few I find that I even remotely qualify for, babysitting/chauffeuring my friend’s children, talking myself into going to the gym (with an approximate 40 percent success rate to date), watching TV, and sleeping. Some days I am gung-ho and excited/positive about the future and some days I feel utterly despondent. I am battling becoming nocturnal, which so far has led to just not getting any sleep at all as I force myself to get up at a normal time, yet can’t fall asleep until three or four in the morning.

I am hoping that in blogging again my brain will be forced to engage in something more challenging than what the Real Housewives of Every City in America are up to, yet less stressful than writing the Ultimate Cover Letter. So, here I am. Hello!

Posted by: Clare | June 14, 2010

Joining the masses

I have so much to write about! This is a new, and somewhat overwhelming feeling.

The biggest news I have is that the week before last, I was laid off.

So far I am not panicking. So far I am more relieved than anything else, because now I know. Knowing is better than not knowing, than wondering each week as I turn in my time sheet if this is the week.

I’m sure that at some point I will panic a little bit (or a lot), but for now this Friday is my last day of work and beyond that I plan on trying to come up with a schedule to keep myself on track with my four goals:

1. Finish my last semester of school strong
2. Find a new job
3. Get back in shape/lose weight
4. Relax

Posted by: Clare | May 21, 2010

I don’t even recognize myself

One of my friends from 6th form (the last two years of high school in England, if you want to go to college) tagged me the other day in a picture on facebook. An innocent action, common for all of us I’m sure, but seeing this picture was such a strange experience for me, it brought up so many emotions. This is the picture:

I’m the one in the black dress. This was taken at around this time of year exactly 10 years ago, in 2000. I was 17. It was the dress rehearsal (I assume, since there is no real audience) of my A-Level Drama class performance of Willy Russel’s Stags and Hens.

I barely recognize myself.

At the time that this was taken I thought I was the fattest, ugliest person to ever walk the earth. I looked in the mirror and hated everything I saw. I never felt like I was having an ok day, like maybe I looked alright, I always felt sick at the sight of myself. I was desperately shy, despite the fact that one of the things I loved most at the time was acting. I loved acting because for a short amount of time I could be somebody else.

I look at this picture and I cry for the girl I was then. I wish that person’s head wasn’t in the way so that I could see my legs. Look how skinny I was! I had a ridiculously small waist, and my collar bone could probably have cut someone had I let them get close enough. And my arms, not a bingo wing in sight!

I was good in my role in that play, and I looked good. Yet I couldn’t even look up at the audience to accept their congratulations because I didn’t feel worthy of it. I was too fat and ugly.

My goal right now is to get to my pre-college weight, which is around the size I was in this picture. But this time I want to do it as healthily as possible. Be not just healthy in the food that I eat and by exercising, but get healthy mentally, too. This picture was taken after I had been diagnosed with Body Dysmorphic Disorder and had been “healthy” for almost a year. HA, right. I remember my habits during that year, and they were far from healthy. I admitted that I had had a problem and convinced myself that I was ok again. But it just doesn’t work like that. You can’t click your fingers and fix yourself when you suffer from this kind of disorder (actually, I imagine it’s the same with any disorder).

Today, ten years later and around 80lbs heavier, I still struggle with the mental demons that Body Dysmorphia has placed in me. I am obsessive compulsive about many things, I am often depressed, and I still think I am the ugliest, fattest girl to ever live (I know that there are people who are literally bigger than me, but this isn’t about the literal – this is about what I see in the mirror).

I want and need (for health reasons), to lose weight. I get scared to go all out when it comes to working out or dieting because I know that my obsessive, unhealthy habits will come back. But I HAVE to work out and I HAVE to make healthy choices when it comes to the way I approach food. It is such a tough battle, but I know I can do it.

I suppose this is as good a time as any for an update on my goal. I am currently down 9lbs. This isn’t very impressive given that I started tracking it in mid-January, but if I’m honest I haven’t been going balls to the wall on exercise (uh, not even close, actually) and while I’ve definitely been making healthy choices I don’t eat necessarily like someone trying to lose weight. So 9lbs isn’t a bad loss. I definitely need to step up my game though. Stay tuned.

Posted by: Clare | May 11, 2010

Ten on Tuesday (13)

I have a few posts in my head but have yet to put…fingers to keyboard (? I can’t really say pen to paper, can I? Or do sayings like that just cross over even if it’s not literally true?), so here is another Ten on Tuesday. It’s hosted, as always by the fabulous Roots & Rings.

1. What was your high school superlative (if you didn’t have one- what would it have been)?
We didn’t do anything like this at my school. I think that people at the school I finished High School at had an inaccurate picture of me as I mostly was quiet and kept to myself there, so I’m not sure what I would have been. I was a big drama nerd so maybe something related to that, though I was very quiet and not very “jazz-hands” so I’m not sure that anybody really expected me to go into theatre long term. Hmmm. I truly have no idea!

2. What sports did you play in high school?
At my boarding school I played Netball and Field Hockey. I also ran the 75 metre sprint and did long jump. However I didn’t do any of these at what I would call a ‘real’ level. I didn’t get to be on the teams that played other schools, just intramural teams. I was very passionate and enthusiastic, I tried really hard, but I wasn’t all that good and the teacher disliked me so I never made a team. At the school I spent the last two years of school at I played Netball and I did make the team, but that’s because anyone who showed the slightest interest made the team, there were only 16 girls in my grade and a team has seven plus a few reserves so it wasn’t exactly highly competitive to make the team!

3. What was the best part about your wedding (if you’re not married yet, what are you looking forward to)?
I’m looking forward to having as many people I care about from different places in one place at the same time. I am excited to look around and see all the people I love there to share that moment with me. It’s very rare that anyone important from my life crosses paths with each other as they are so spread out across America and England.

4. It’s your last meal– what Appetizer, Soup, Salad, Entree and Dessert would you choose?
Appetizer: Spinach dip
Soup: Pumpkin bisque
Salad: Waldorf Chicken salad from CPK (with balsamic vinagrette)
Entree: Pear, gorgonzola and walnut pizza
Dessert: Vanilla ice cream with fresh strawberries and blueberries

5. What song is your guilty pleasure?
I try to embrace my love of uncool music, so I am not so guilty about it. If it’s cheesy pop, chances are I will love it – from any decade but the 90’s holds a special place in my heart.

6. What is your favorite professional sports team, and why do you like them?
Liverpool FC (football of the ‘soccer’ variety). I grew up obsessed with them for no real reason (I picked them to be my team when I was six years old) and I am still obsessed. I have cried tears of both joy and pain for that team many times over the years. I love sports in general though and have a favorite team for most sports.

7. What is your favorite reality show and why do you like it?
Biggest Loser recently became my favorite. It’s so inspiring. I like many other reality TV shows, but this is the only one that I actually get anything more than entertainment from.

8. How would you classify your home decorating style (modern, classic, french country)?
Right now it is “work with what I have”. My apartment is pretty modern (or, my decorating is, not the apartment itself) because 99% of my furniture was bought at IKEA. I am excited to start from scratch one day on a house or condo (ideally with an unlimited budget, which is probably never going to happen) – I am interested to see where my style would go with a blank starting point and money to spend.

9. Pizza- deep dish or thin crust? White sauce or red sauce? What toppings?
THIN CRUST! My favorites are either pear, gorgonzola and walnut (if you live anywhere near Austin, CRU has a good one and so does Taverna) or Hawaiian with as much pineapple as they will put on.

10. Favorite weekend getaway within a two hour driving radius?
I don’t think I’ve ever been on a weekend getaway within two hours. I love going to Port Aransas but that’s a longer drive. To be honest, I would love to spend a weekend with nothing to do right here in Austin! I am always running around on some deadline or other, a “free” weekend here would be great.

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