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I love Century 21, an area discount department store.  It has great deals, and I often find hidden treasures, like a 40-pack of velvet space-saving hangers or a stainless steel bar that purports to remove the smell of onion and garlic from your hands.

But I hate shopping there!  Chris swears by the 8 a.m. trip, but I’ve never been able to make it that early to verify his claim that it is empty and peaceful.  Any other time of the day I’ve gone, it’s packed and an absolute madhouse.  And most of the costumers, from what I can tell, are foreign tourists.  It must be in the guidebooks: Everything’s cheap at Century 21!  Come and get it! Todo es barato en Century 21!  Ven a cogerlo!

The other day I stopped by after work to pick up a care package for Chris (a new shirt, undershirts, underwear and socks for when he sleeps over so he doesn’t have to plan ahead and bring clothes for work the next day).  It was about 6 p.m., and the place was typically crowded.  It’s kind of like being in the first rush at a rummage sale, or a somewhat subdued version of the wedding-dress warehouse sales I’ve heard about.  Everyone’s pulling things off shelves and racks, trying to get the best deal before anyone else gets it first.

I was looking for my own deal on undershirts, and I saw the following crazy scene play out:

Foreign man (opening pack of undershirts and laying them flat on top of the rack): Speaks to wife in foreign language.

Century 21 Saleswoman: Sir, you can’t open those.

Foreign man (continues opening package and removing shirts): Yes I can.

Saleswoman: No, sir, you can’t open those.

Foreign man: Yes I can, because I need to see what size they are.

Saleswoman: But sir, it’s store policy.  You can’t open those.

Foreign man: I’ve worked in fashion. I can open them.

I think the saleswoman gave up at that point, as would I have.  But what gall!  And plus, it says what size the shirts are on the package.  If you don’t know what size Jockey undershirt will fit you, maybe you shouldn’t be buying undershirts in a foreign country, no matter how good a deal they are.

Here’s another exchange that irked me even more.  Backstory: I had my care package assembled when I noticed that Clinique was having a bonus.  Always a sucker for free stuff, and also a sucker for the fact that the line in the men’s department was several people long and there was no line at the Clinique counter, I approached the saleswoman there.

Me: If I buy something here, can I pay for the rest of my things?

Saleswoman: Depends on how many items you have.

Me: Just a few.  Can I pay for them here?

Saleswoman: Well, it depends on whether there are other people who need to be helped when I’m done helping you.

Me: Wait.  So I can pay for them or not? I don’t want to wait in two lines.

Saleswoman: You can, but only if there’s no one else waiting.

We went back and forth for a bit.  I wanted a guarantee that I wouldn’t buy a Clinique bonus I didn’t really need and then still have to wait in another line, but she wouldn’t give it to me.  So I walked away, and she yelled after me, “There’s no one here!” and I said, “If you don’t want to help me, I’ll go somehwere else.”

I guess that makes me seem like more of the bitch in that situation, but I swear, her tone was totally rude.  I was having nothing of it!

I proceeded to get on line in the men’s department, which took about 30 minutes.  In retrospect, I’m pretty sure the Clinique woman would’ve let me pay for my stuff there, and I actually could use some new mascara.


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My boyfriend shared this lovely article in his Google Reader the other day.  “Avoid the Grade School Trap,” shouts its headline, and it goes on to explain that many people respond to a recession by returning to school rather than taking a job they feel is “beneath them.”  This is a horrible idea, warns our author (who is basically paraphrasing this argument).

I suppose I’m in a different boat since I got my grad school out of the way before the economy decided to tank.  I’ll say, though, that I would be having a lot easier time in grad school right now than I am having paying off my loans.  At least while you’re still in school, your loans are on hold, and you can skip merrily along from fellowship to fellowship and odd job to odd job, happy to have your nose in a book instead of in your pocketbook, scrounging for that extra dollar you’re sure must be there.  (Where is that extra dollar?)

I’m also in a different boat because most people going back to grad school have some sort of career goal in mind that the schooling is meant to equip them for, with the hope that, eventually, higher salaries will justify those loans.  My grad school experiment was a lot more self-absorbed.  Everyone wants to be a writer, but  I was one of the few who thought it’d be a good idea to spend tens of thousands of dollars pursuing that dream. (And I chose the even more  bizarre route of not once submitting anything for publication, to my father’s constant dismay.  Sure, I might have a certificate authenticating me as a fiction-writing MASTER, but I have a hunch that The New Yorker might not agree.)

Every day I check my bank account and my credit card bill.  I make monthly projections of how much I should be able to save.  I beg for babysitting jobs, and as of this week, I tutor four nights a week for a 5th grader who dreads my arrival and spends our sessions expressing his desire for me to leave.   (All kids hate homework, right?)

It’s not so bad.  I’m lucky because I love saving money, and I love coming up with new ways to do so.  I’ve cut my current credit card bill almost in half by being vigilant and super-aware of how much I’m spending relative to how much I’m earning.  I don’t like saying no to all those Anthropologie dresses I could otherwise easily convince myself are necessary additions to my closet, but it’s also kind of thrilling, even addictive, to be so in control of what I spend.

And today is payday, which is my favorite day of the fortnight, as well as my bank account’s, because it gets so much action.

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I just made the trek to a gourmet market to procure nine lemons and a big bottle of grade B maple syrup. You’d think that not eating for a few days would save me money, but that syrup is pricey!  This bottle put me back about $27.

For those of you intrested in jumping on the Master Cleanse bandwagon, the magic recipe is:

During the Day

  • 10 tablespoons grade B maple syrup
  • 10 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • cayenne pepper to taste
  • mixed with as much water as you need

“Dinner”

  • 2 tablespoons syrup
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • cayenne pepper to taste
  • less water (chug it!)
  • 1 cup senna laxative tea

The true Cleanse also involves a daily salt-water flush, which I tried last time I did this thing, but it made me feel so ill, and I really don’t see the benefits of flushing my system in such a drastic way when I’m already not eating and drinking laxative tea (which is delicious and has a relatively mild effect several hours later).

As with my previous Cleanse, Day 2 is pretty easy.  I’m not registering hunger as hunger but rather a dull tingling sort of feeling.  As a result, I’m drinking much less of my syrup and lemon juice than I did yesterday.  Cravings are mild, as demonstrated by my easy resistance to the otherwise oh-so-tempting fettucine with pesto cream sauce in the buffet at the market.

Tomorrow, if it’s anything like my first Cleanse, will be very difficult.  Our plan is to have soup tomorrow night, but we might decide to extend this for another day if we feel up to the challenge.  Chris is on soup duty since I have to tutor tomorrow night, and as mild as my cravings might be, I’m looking very forward to coming home tomorrow to the scent of pureed cauliflower and red pepper bubbling on the stove!

Also, in a side note, last night’s “Bachelor” finale was terribly anticlimactic.  History repeats itself, I guess, and Jason turns out to be as big of a douche to Melissa as DeAnna was to him.  Though I hesitate to place too much blame on him, since I finally wised up last night to the fact that Melissa was way too young and way too Dallas Cheerleady to be The One.

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Day 1.

So Day 1 of the cleanse is coming to a close.  I’ve done OK.  I’ve had some hunger pangs, but I know from experience that I don’t have to pay attention to them.  I drank my dinner and am about to have my special tea.

Things I have craved today include:

  • pizza
  • ants on a log
  • pasta with butter and cheese
  • the red-pepper gnocchi with goat cheese cream sauce that I had for dinner on Saturday
  • Big Mac (Chris’s suggestion)
  • soup!

The final item is a good craving, because that is the first thing I will eat when I come off this stupid thing.  Last time we made an amazing cauliflower-red-pepper soup.  We might have to repeat that one!  I remember that the Saltines we had with it tasted better than anything I’d ever eaten before.  You forget about foods like Saltines when you’re eating whatever you want.  Sometimes the simplest foods taste the best!

We’re shooting for two more days, with a celebratory post-bowling soup on Wednesday.  We can do it!

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Tomorrow Chris and I start another abbreviated round of the Master Cleanse.  We did four days in early January, and Chris had done it a couple of times before that for a week to 10 days.  We might just do two this time, depending on what our week looks like as we get into it.

Pretty much, it’s a fast.  You eat nothing but lemon juice mixed with maple syrup and cayenne pepper.  I know it sounds crazy, and I used to think that myself.  But it’s a good reminder of what our bodies don’t need.  We can say no to that extra cookie, or the larger helping, or the snack we aren’t really hungry for.  And we can say no to other unnecessary or unhealthy things in our lives, too!

That said, last time, my will power lasted for about a day after the cleanse was over, and then I pretty quickly returned to my old habits.  I’m going to try to do better this time.  I’ll spare you the glory details, but be warned that I might talk about food in my next few blog posts.  Last time I did this, I spent all of my free time looking up recipes online and dreaming about how good food was going to taste when I got to eat it again.

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Chris surprised me this weekend by accepting my invitation to take him shopping!  I think he just got tired of my asking him, but still.  This was a big step.

We spent the whole day in Manhattan, first at Filene’s and DSW, then at lunch with Nate, then at H&M and Banana Republic, then back to Filene’s.

The tally:

Chris

  • 3 pairs jeans
  • 1 polo shirt
  • 2 T-shirts
  • 2 pairs shoes
  • 1 jacket

Me

  • 3 T-shirts
  • 2 blouses
  • 1 sweater

I was impressed both with Chris’s stamina and willingness to try on new things and my moderation.  I haven’t been shopping in two months, and for me to come home with only six things (all great bargains) is pretty unprecedented.  It’s amazing how addictive not spending money is!

I can’t wait for next weekend, when I get to show Chris’s mom how well I’ve dressed him.

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Chris and I just made it through the latest episode of “The L Word,” which over the last two or thee seasons has spiraled downward to become probably the Worst TV Show Ever.

Here’s a list of recent things that have contributed to the show’s being just terrible:

  1. In a word, Jenny. I liked her in Season 1, maybe even in Season 2 (and Mia Kirshner is hot!), but she has become increasingly annoying and evil, and this season her character’s just totally unbelievable. She’s still super hot, though.
  2. Pam Grier. Was she ever able to act? If so, she’s making it very clear in “The L Word” that she no longer can. Inexplicably, the writers keep inserting her unnecessarily into scenes. Everything out of her mouth is awkward, and now that we’ve done away with the plot points of her alcoholism, her relationship with the super young babysitter, and her relationship with Kelly Lynch (who I’m pretty sure had a penis?), her character is totally useless.
  3. Shane being with Jenny at all. That just would never happen. But if it did happen, and if Shane actually stayed with Jenny — even after Jenny did crazy things like turn Shane’s bedroom into an office after they’d been together for, like, a day — then Shane would not hook up with Nikki Stevens in the dark room that Jenny just gave her (which was a totally inappropriate gift, as all gifts from Jenny are). Shane’s not a bad person! She can control her sexual urges! She’s done it before, and Nikki Stevens is not irresistible enough to explain why Shane would suddenly lose control of them now. Though Nikki Stevens is pretty irresistible.
  4. The hook of this season is that it began with Jenny’s death, and now we’re backtracking to figure out which of her “friends” killed her. In every episode, a new character becomes a victim of Jenny’s evil ways and promptly says, “I’m going to kill Jenny!” Actually, that’s so bad it’s actually good. I have a strange respect for the writers for being able to even attempt something so stupid. Also, obviously Jenny killed herself. I mean, I would kill myself if I were Jenny!

Oh, I have to stop here. If you watch the show, you’ve had enough of this stuff without my repeating it to you. If you don’t watch, the show is boring enough as a television program; I don’t need to blogacize it.

Why do Chris and I keep watching? I’m not really sure. It probably has something to do with all the hot girls.

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