Tuesday, December 29, 2015


As luck would have it, I worked late on my birthday because it was the day before my flight home for the holidays. I trudged out to the parking garage to find that someone had backed into my car. Happy birthday! Merry Christmas!

Sunset on Christmas Day

Once I got to California, I rented a car and drove about an hour and a half "home" (my parents relocated away from my hometown while I was in college) in the rain. The rest of my trip was all sunshine and blue skies, of which California has had too much lately, if the brown golf courses are any indication.

I worked a moderate amount over the holiday (lots of deals are pencils down at the moment), but my dad worked more. One night, we took a pizza to the hospital so that we could try to eat dinner together while he monitored a patient. He was called away to labor and delivery after his first slice.

Hallmark's "Smokin' Good Times Grill" 2015 ornament

I will always be grateful to be home at Christmas, but as my family is whittled down by time, I feel more and more nostalgic for the past when the extended family was able to gather together under one roof. There were only four of us around the table this Christmas!

Speaking of family, check out this awesome snapshot of sisters Emma, Hilda, Berta, Immgard, Greta and Merrianna in Innsbruck, Austria in 1923. They were the daughters of my great great grandfather's brother.

Innsbruck, Austria (1923)

Monday, December 14, 2015

One Year

December is my favorite month of the year. I have many happy childhood memories of the holidays and all it takes are a few decorations and sparkly lights to bring on the nostalgia. (With each passing year, I'm more grateful for the incredible gift that is a happy childhood.) Now, I add to the collection of happy memories the anniversary of buying my first house. 

Welcome home!
I closed on my house a year and a few days ago. If I were Pinterest-perfect, I'd have a beautifully decorated home to show you by now. Instead, I have a house that's in great shape with some fundamental improvements that add value but a fair number of blank walls and empty corners. The upshot is a declining mortgage balance, a student loan balance rapidly approaching zero and another year in big law under my belt. I've been very responsible this year.

As a symbol of the incremental improvements I've been making, here's my little, artificial Christmas tree (a housewarming gift from my family and the first personal possession that crossed the threshold). This year I've added a tree collar to cover the metal base. I'd never seen or heard of tree collars until this year, but I like the clean, finished look. Maybe next year we'll get wild and add a star or angel on top ;)

This year in home ownership:

  • I scheduled a second home inspection right before the end of the one-year builder's warranty. (There is a 10 year warranty for major structural issues, but the builder covered smaller issues during the first year.)
  • I cut my first property tax check. (I don't escrow my taxes and insurance.)
  • I hired painters to seal my cedar fence to preserve it's beautiful color and keep it from turning grey.
  • I hired tree trimmers to take care of the beautiful 100+ year old oak trees on my lot.
  • I learned to dismantle the catch on my kitchen sink.
  • I learned to use a power drill and installed drapes.
  • I discovered that roman shades are even more spendy than I feared.
  • I sealed the grout in the kitchen, bathrooms and laundry room.
  • I started a vegetable garden.
  • I spent hours researching washers and dryers.
  • Favorite non-essential purchase of the year: new mattress for the master bedroom. (My old mattress was a hand-me-down that was probably 20 years old.)

The mortgage stresses me out more than rent ever did and I waste a lot of time wistfully perusing furniture, window treatment and home goods catalogs, but I love this house and hope that I'll be living here for many years to come.

Monday, November 9, 2015

The First Carrot

Gardening in Central Texas is going to take some trial and error. Between the 100+ summer temperatures and the intermittent floods, my fall/winter vegetables are struggling. I seeded some carrots mid-July--Scarlet Nantes, a variety that should take 65-70 days to mature. Figuring my carrot patch needed some extra time after the extreme weather, I waited to check on progress until this weekend. Here is the most robust specimen:

Scarlet Nantes

This variety is supposed to be 6-8 inches long! I'll give this little guy credit for tasting great, but it was two bites at most.

Patience is in order.

Speaking of which...

Here's a look at the backyard at 9am a couple of Fridays ago. It got worse before it got better and there were some nervous moments as the water crept up the threshold. Since then, my builder has graciously installed a french drain system. Now it's time to wait for the next big downpour to make sure the new system can keep up with the flow of water from three neighbors and my roof, all of which dumps into my tiny backyard.

Outside of the garden, life is good. I'm ready to return to the blog because, after a year without it, I've realized that writing here forces me to set and accomplish goals throughout the year. Otherwise, it's easy to let months at a time slip through my fingers without accomplishing much other than financial goals (my finances are nearly automated at this point, so I'm not sure that should count as an accomplishment)!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The First Cantaloupe

During my first year in Austin, I wanted to take a deep breath, navel gaze a little less, and adjust. This is why you haven't heard much from me in this space. I was a little surprised to realize that my first year is nearly up--it will be time soon for setting goals and making plans.

Until then, here are some pictures from the cantaloupe vine I've been growing in my backyard. This is the Super 45 Cantaloupe hybrid from Bonnie Plants. I transplanted the seedling in May. The first male flower appeared 14 weeks ago, the vine set its first fruit 5 weeks ago and the melon ripened last Friday. It's been a long wait!

This variety is resistant to powdery mildew and doesn't seem to mind the hot Texas summer. It has greedily taken over three separate trellises. All that space for just one melon! While plenty of other fruits have attempted to set over the past month or so, none have progressed (one theory: I don't have many pollinators visiting my backyard). Now that this first melon is off the vine it will be interesting to see whether another takes its place.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The First Tomatoes

In Tokyo, the fresh produce on offer was always of an exceptional quality. The fruit, in particular, was so perfect that it seemed unreal--much like the prices ($4 for one apple).

At some point during my two year stay in Japan and after shelling out more than my share of yen for fruits and veggies, I started thinking about the vegetables I wanted to grow when I returned to the US. I'd never had a garden before and wasn't sure I would have the yard for one any time soon. That's why it started with tomatoes.

A law school classmate with a green thumb suggested I start with a Patio Tomato. They grow well in containers, produce 3-4 ounce tomatoes, and mature quickly (70 days). For my first attempt at producing something edible, I didn't dare start from seed. Instead I bought my first Patio Tomato from Home Depot and later picked up another at HEB.

My efforts got off to a rocky start:

I let out a yelp when I found this caterpillar
chowing down on one of my first tomatoes.
After a little experimentation, I figured out where in the yard the plants would get the right amount of sun and how fend off pests. Pretty soon I had a little stockpile of ripe tomatoes in my kitchen:

Patio Tomato
Since I had also been growing some sweet basil, this means I've had more than my share of fresh, fragrant caprese salad lately:

Caprese with tomato and sweet basil from my garden
I've been surprised by how much I've enjoyed the process. There is something about the experience of growing edible plants that mirrors the excitement I felt in science lab as a teenager. The research, experimentation, and anticipation of results--there's a little suspense every time I walk into the backyard to see how things are coming along.

So much so that I've expanded my efforts. There are a few other varieties of tomatoes that I started from seed. I've recently started seedlings for a fall garden: broccoli, brussel sprouts, butternut squash, carrots, cauliflower, pumpkin and spinach. I also have mature herbs, watermelon and cantaloupe vines, and lemon and lime trees growing.

It all started with one little tomato plant from Home Depot. Thanks to TP for the encouragement!

Friday, July 17, 2015


The new firm doesn't have vacation days. I can understand why: when I left my prior firm I had enough vacation to net me a parting gift in excess of $10k. From an employee point of view, I find the no vacation day (or, alternatively, so-called "unlimited vacation") policy difficult. This job is all about maxing out billable hours or at least meeting the minimum requirement. Due to bar leave and the slowness associated with ramping up both when I joined and post-bar leave, my hours aren't as great as I'd like. That makes it hard to justify a vacation.

So, I'm making the most of being back in Austin by getting out and about on weekends. There are so many places I didn't see while I was a student holed up at the law school. One such place is Mt. Bonnell.  I visited on a foggy morning this past winter:

View from the Mt. Bonnell platform.
This excursion is a bit over-hyped. The number of stairs you climb to get to the viewing platform is grossly exaggerated, but the view is nice.

What's your favorite Austin weekend spot? I'd like to add it to my list!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Made in the Shade

Over the last few months, I've spent plenty of time in front of my computer at the office, but--in my personal time--have made it a point to close my laptop, get outside the house and interact with friends and family. It's been fun, but it's also why I haven't been checking in here often.

On New People

After a flurry of first dates last winter, I met M, a smart, charming and handsome guy, who I dated for a few months. He had told me his divorce was complete, but later admitted that it was not due to a protracted custody battle over... wait for it... their puggle. I am a dog lover and had warmed to this fun, wriggly little puggle in particular, but M obviously wasn't ready to let go (of the puggle or the marriage), so it was time to move on.

Once you reach your thirties, there are a lot of folks in the dating pool with baggage and I'm no exception. As a result, I've long been open to dating divorced guys, but after one too many lies regarding the status of these guys' divorces, it's time to make a rule that I won't be the first post-divorce girlfriend ever again. (Demanding to see a filed copy of the divorce decree is not an appealing alternative.)  In what may have been an overly dramatic course correction, I'm now dating a never married guy that I've known since I was nine years old. More on that later.

Happily, there is more to life than dating and I've been working on some new female friendships too.

On Family

Before the rainy season descended on Central Texas, my family came to visit Austin and see my new house. It was a lot of fun. The highlight of the trip from my point of view was kayaking Ladybird Lake and checking out the bat colony under the Congress bridge:

We got on the water in the late afternoon, saw the bats leave the bridge, and paddled back to the east side as the sun set. The weather was perfect and the view of Austin from the water was beautiful:

My extended family is in the process of moving to Texas (Dallas, mostly, but that's a lot closer than California). I am looking forward to the day that outings like this will be more frequent.

On my New Home

Improvements to the new house are happening at a snail's pace. I follow a strict budget (big law salaries aren't forever!), but have found a side hustle that requires minimal time investment and generates cash flow that I use to fund projects around the house. Here's what my process has looked like so far:

  1. Brainstorm a wish list of home projects;
  2. Divide the projects into two groups--those that will increase/preserve home value and those that do not;
  3. Set aside those projects that do not increase/preserve home value; 
  4. Rank in priority order those projects that will increase/preserve home value; and
  5. Complete each project after the side hustle generates enough net revenue to cover the cost of the project.

I have to admit it's a daily struggle to say no to beautiful decorative accents or picture-perfect new furniture. Pinterest and Instagram, you tempt me so! I hope, one day, I complete the projects that relate to home value and get to take on some of the more fun, decorative projects.

My first priority was to install window coverings on street-facing windows on the first level of the house. I picked natural fiber roman shades from The Shade Store. Here are the installed roman shades on a couple of my smaller windows:

Some people may not like the translucency, but I find that the shades provide just enough privacy while still allowing sunshine into the house. One day, I want to layer on some floor-length drapes for a more finished look, but this is a good start!

Just last week, I had my fence sealed in order to preserve the appearance of the cedar and extend the life of the fence. I seriously considered doing this work myself, but after pricing out the materials and equipment costs (I don't even own a ladder!), collecting a few quotes and considering my work load, I realized I needed to hire someone for this task. I'm happy with the results:

On Work

No regrets about the lateral move. I'm happy to be here. I'm challenged. I have so much more to learn.


Life is good. Really and truly.

Austin sunset (June 7, 2015)

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Texas Bar Exam

Due to a laptop malfunction on the first day of the bar exam, I have spent every subsequent day convinced that I failed the bar exam. Per usual, I took my pessimism to extremes and haven't even hung my framed artwork in the new house. You know--just in case I'm fired, lose the house and have to move out. (I'm rolling my eyes right along with you.) Today, as I walked from a partner's office to my own, I hit the refresh button on the browser on my iPhone, pulled up the pass list, and found my name. The surge of relief was every bit as powerful as when I found out I passed in California.

That's it. The final step in my relocation to Texas. Y'all are stuck with me now!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Running the Boardwalk

While I was away in Tokyo, Austin constructed the boardwalk trail at Lady Bird Lake. I followed the progress pictures and looked forward to the day that I'd get to check it out in person. This was when moving back to Austin was still very far from a reality, but I was holding out hope.

Hitting the hike and bike trail was something I did my very first weekend in Austin, but I didn't make it out to the boardwalk until the first weekend in January. It was a beautiful, but very cold day and I remember it clearly because that Friday night I had gone on a first date that had left me smitten. I picked up the message asking for a second date while I was shuffling along the boardwalk (you'll hear more about that story line in a future post).

Then I took this picture and stood there and soaked up the moment. The cold crisp air, the sun, the waterbirds fighting over bread crumbs, the sounds of the (English!) conversations of people passing by and water. It was one of those I made it to Austin, I made it happen (!) kind of moments. Even on the not so good days I find myself stopping to think of how grateful I am for this change in my life and how very lucky I am to be here.

And the boardwalk lived up to expectations.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

2014 - The Year I Stopped Waiting

In 2014, I experienced an amazing adventure that pushed me to my limits. Working in Tokyo, in the legal department of a Japanese trading company, gave me an invaluable practical education in global business, but living in Japan and surviving the crushing loneliness of that experience was the hardest thing I've ever done. It changed me.

Then, I discovered why the boyfriend that had always said he wanted to marry me never proposed. Surviving that heartbreak changed me too.

That's when I stopped waiting.

For the boyfriend to propose.
For the husband to buy a house with.
For the law firm to send me back to the US.
For things to get better.

In the space of a couple months at the end of the year, I moved to the city that's always made my heart skip a beat, started a new (better!) job with a perfect office location, and bought a beautiful, brand new house in my favorite neighborhood.

I have never felt more at the end of my rope than I did in 2014, but I have never had things come together as quickly as they did in those final few months. You know how people like to say it gets the darkest just before dawn? Yeah, that.

Things have gotten so much better, despite that I had lost hope, and, for that, I wake up each day feeling incredibly lucky. 

A heartfelt thank you to those of you who reached out to encourage me while I was in Japan. Thank you for helping me get here.