Category Archives: Budget

Soapbox Time

What in the world has happened to education around here? Oh, right. It’s a business. First and foremost it’s a business, and that means that the focus is on money. Focus on test scores so that the kids will score high enough that the districts get money to pad their ever-shrinking budgets.

And what is lost? I’ll tell you – here in H-town, it’s kids’ exposure to the arts. I’m not talking about middle and high school orchestra, band, choir and theatre. Nope. Those are alive and well. But where do those programs get their numbers? Kids. Little kids who grow with an interest in the arts. And if they’re not exposed to it at a young age (by a teacher with a clue who shares their own love of the arts), then secondary programs are doomed.

I don’t get it. Back when I first started teaching, every kid in most districts around here had at least one opportunity during their elementary school years to experience the performing arts up close and personal – a live performance, trip to the museum, you name it. But here? That was the first thing to go when the budget started getting tight. It burns me up. No more field trips, no more excursions to the museum or the symphony. At least not in the districts around my ‘burb.

What are people thinking?? Obviously they haven’t read or considered this excellent article from The Washington Post. It’s not just the arts programs that suffer – it’s the whole child. What do we want as our society’s legacy? Constant connectedness through YouTube, Facebook and Twitter – or a lasting legacy of fine art. Consider this: we base our opinions of ancient societies based on artifacts and literature left behind. And right now our legacy of Tweets and status updates is becoming the norm.

It makes me miss home even more, because obviously schools and school administrators up in Big D have their heads on straight. Those kids still get the field trips to the arts, and many also get weeks spent in outdoor classrooms experiencing science firsthand. WHAT’S WRONG WITH H-TOWN?? IT’S THE FOURTH-LARGEST CITY IN AMERICA, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!!! Maybe it would help if our parents and teachers were more vocal – oh, wait, arts teachers continually lobby for greater presence. They’re already doing that. But to no avail.

Can you tell I want to move home today?

And just a side note – I hope some homeschooling parents read the Washington Post article too. I had a conversation about homeschooling just the other day with a friend who actually gets it – and does the deed properly, putting their kids first and foremost.

But the arts are still lacking for those kids too – unless they have exceptional parents who place a high priority on the arts, they’re not getting it. Those kids may be lucky enough to learn biology from a biologist and history from a medieval scholar – but that’s not the whole child. Listening to an iPod 24/7 or finger painting three times a week do not constitute exposure to and education in the fine arts. And the arts are a necessity for every child.

Stepping down from my soapbox now. Agree with me? Leave a comment. Disgusted with and ready to shoot me? Leave a comment. My point here is to make you think, and inspire some kind of action. Because I don’t know about you, but I sure don’t want humans three hundred years from now to think our greatest accomplishment to the world was the Tweet.

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Filed under Arts Education, Budget, Field Trips, Houston, Performing Arts, Public Education

The Scoop on Fashion Blogs

I apologize if this post is more editorial than anecdotal, but it is what it is. Guess I’m feeling opinionated today. And since this is my outlet, I’m just going to dive right in.

People who know me would tend to say I’m definitely not a slave to fashion. Friends of mine go all out. As in actually looking forward to, planning for, attending and spending lots of money at Fashion’s Night Out events. That’s not me. For one thing my budget won’t allow it. And for another, I’d rather do other things with my (rare) free time. Generally I avoid anything too trendy in favor of pieces that are more classic, relaxed and with the ability to be worn more than a few weeks out of one season. That being said, I do have an interest in fashion. I read Elle, Vogue, InStyle, etc. I do. Not gonna lie. And, while the piece on each page that I like is inevitably the most expensive (but just because I like it – I never look at price until afterwards) I really don’t shop by brand or designer. Well, except for handbags. That’s a whole other issue and one better addressed as a character defect.

Anyway, since I do enjoy reading about fashion, there are a few fashion blogs I follow on a pretty regular basis. But honestly, this is coming to a screeching halt due to a few factors that are really bugging me lately with said blogs.

·         One blog I follow, written by a chick in Vancouver, has started featuring cocktail dresses with stillettos and lightweight jackets. In Vancouver. In the winter. And apparently this is her regular work attire. She would fit right in down the hall. Of course, there is the random hair or skin care product review. These products never fit in with my Walgreens budget, so that doesn’t help me.

·         Another blog, from New York this time, has started featuring winter outfits that are both stylish and warm. Trouble is if I wore that many layers in H-town – even on a rare ‘cold’ day – I’d wind up with heat stroke in a matter of minutes. And even if I did live in a cold climate, if I wore a blouse, sweater, vest, blazer and coat, I’d look more like Randy from A Christmas Story than any kind of stylish. Wish she’d branch out a bit to include ‘warm climate’ winter ideas.

·         Still a third blog I check out, sadly, is totally out of my price range. Took me a week or so to realize that. So I’ve quit looking at that one. Budget restrictions aside, in my opinion it’s totally ridiculous to spend hundreds of dollars on a pair of shoes. I’m the kind of klutz that would scuff them on my way out of the store and get ticked. Really.

·         And finally, one of my favorites tends to feature classic pieces in black, white and shades of gray. Definitely my go-tos. Problem is, she only features clothing from her line, which is pretty limiting.

What does this have to do with anything? Nothing at all. Honestly, the women in my life I most admire are the ones who honestly don’t try to ‘put together’ a look – and always look fabulous. Natural hair, natural skin, livable clothes. I don’t have that gift. My natural look tends to come off as sloppy bedhead. Maybe it’s the attitude I’m missing. Hmmm.

And fashion don’ts? I’ve only got two that I live by stringently. Ready for my wisdom? (Insert sarcasm here – the combination of me and fashion wisdom in the same sentence is just funny.) But regardless, here they are:

1.       If you’re over the age of 25, you should not shop at – or look like you buy most of your clothes at – Hot Topic. It screams of a need to be noticed for some kind of anti-mainstream-society  rebellion. Believe me, the Goth black, skater boy beanie, Converse look was a fave of mine. In college. Not now. Same with the granola Birkenstocks and ponchos. Once you enter grownup land those things need to go.

2.       Hot pants. I think it was Brad Goreski who gave me my motto here: If you are old enough to remember when they were in style the last time, you shouldn’t be wearing them now. Agreed. But they were everywhere last month. They actually appeared at the office holiday party – in shiny black leather. Seriously. Granted, they were on someone’s date – who was within the approved age range, but still…

What are your fashion go-tos? Do’s and don’ts? Any ‘real women’ blogs I should check out? Ones that fall into my Target-Old Navy-Gap-occasional-splurge-at-Loft budget?? I’d love to hear!

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Filed under Blogging, Budget, Fashion, Mom Style, Trends

The Girls Down the Hall

I’m in a shopping moratorium. Yep, on a budget and sticking trying my darndest to stick to it. The holidays are coming, boys are getting older, house needs maintenance – you name it. I’m really trying.

But I’ve got a problem. The Girls down the hall.

See, our office dress code is officially Business Professional. But it could more accurately be termed Ultra-Conservative Business Professional. Meaning closed-toe shoes, skirts a maximum of three inches above the knee (the official measurement from the employee handbook), common-sense necklines, muted colors, etc. etc. etc. And that’s fine with me. Really. But when I started here I had to do some serious shopping. My fairly-dressy-for-an-elementary-school-teacher wardrobe just wasn’t going to cut it. So I shopped. And, I must say, managed to come up with a good solid Business Professional foundation.

Then I saw the Girls down the hall. For a split second, I was envious enough to want to work in their office – they seemed like a fun bunch. But after a few days’ observations, I realized something.

I don’t fit the job description. They do.

What job description? The list of qualifications that includes a height of at least 5’10”, long shiny flowing Taylor Swift-esque hair, a model size 00 figure and a perfect hand at applying the latest cosmetic trends. Seriously. They all fit the mold. I don’t. Enough so that I get the feeling of looking like I just rolled out of bed (even though I spend at least an hour on myself every morning) if I run into one of them in the elevator.

How does this relate to my current shopping drought? Well, everything that I’ve seen lately in the shops (that I thought I had to have) doesn’t fit the office dress code. But it sure fits theirs. Although I have had to remind myself a few times that, just because something comes in my size doesn’t mean I should wear it – at least to work.

Examples:

Seriously Sky-High stilettos
The grey sequined blazer
Brightly colored animal prints
Skinny jeans
Skirts that look more like a bandeau top
Leggings – with a black sequined mini
Skirts and dresses a minimum of three inches above the knee
Tops that enhance and show off the – erm – chest area

Now admittedly, I wouldn’t have bought all of these items – or even worn them – but they are actual items seen around the building. For real. Part of me wonders what kind of brain cell fires off when deciding to wear this stuff to an office. But then it hit me.

They’re real live Clackers!

Yes, Clackers. If you’ve never seen The Devil Wears Prada, I’m sorry for you. You’re behind the learning curve here. (Completely unrelated tangent – a friend of mine from high school works for Conde Nast and I’ve been tempted, more than once, to ask her if there really are clackers in the building. But I never do. I don’t want to seem like a hick tourist.)

What does any of this have to do with anything? Not a whole lot. But it just goes to show that you can always find wild and weird stuff going on somewhere in the city…

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Filed under Budget, Careers, Fashion, shopping, Work-Friendly Attire

Frugality!

Happy Friday! In the past, Friday has always meant that the weekend was close. Really close. And when I was younger, the weekend meant lots of ‘quality family time’ at home. That was pretty challenging during my teenage years. No, I wasn’t the typical rebellious teen, but looking back I’m not sure how my parents managed being in close quarters with the hormones, mood swings and attitude that teenage girls all seem to have to some degree. It’s moments like these that make me stop and thank God that I have boys.

But in the midst of teen angst and attitude, there was one thing my mom and I could do where we bonded. Actually bonded. Shopping. For some reason, then and now, when we go shopping we can just hang out – no issues, grudges, petty disagreements. Just hang out. And most of the time have fun. So you can imagine why my thoughts naturally turn to shopping on the weekends today.

In my currently unemployed state, I’ve pretty much declared a moratorium on shopping. Well, except for the occasional (necessary) find. Necessary being an extremely subjective term. But I have toned it down and in the process have found some sites I’d like to share with all of you frugally-minded folks (or at least the five of you that may read this.) Here goes…

Coquette:
Admittedly, her idea of frugal and mine are on different levels. Living in New York, she has access to all of the shows, shops and buffet of fashion-consciousness that I’m lacking in suburban H-town. But it’s fun to window shop – and most of the ideas she posts are easily doable with my resources and some help from Tarjay, Kohls and Old Navy.

Houston on the Cheap:
For you locals, this is a gold mine! Links to Groupon deals and other similar online discount deals appear pretty much every day. On the weekends she posts links to cheap restaurants and other activities in and around H-town. And – my personal favorite – there’s a Family Fun tab that gives tons of (cheap0 ideas for the fam on weekends out and about town. There’s even a Cheap Gas tab!

Penny Pincher Fashion:
This is my kind of girl. Able to put together outfits that rival anything Stacey London could put together, she posts lots of pictures of herself in said ensembles – to prove they actually work on a real person. I’ve also found really cool (and easy) basic sewing and crafting projects for reworking wardrobe staples or worn-out pieces into completely new (and cute) items.

Haute Mommy:
This is my college friend’s blog. She posts beauty tips and links to some of her favorite designer-on-the-cheap sites. Now, don’t get too excited – a pair of Louboutins on the cheap are still going to be too expensive for the likes of me, but there are really affordable, good quality pieces out there too. Ideeli, especially, has home accessories and kids’ clothes on occasion.

So there you have it – my top frugal faves! What are yours? Please share!!

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Filed under Budget, Coquette, Fashion, Houston, Ideeli, Moms