Monday, February 28, 2011

Adventures in Unemployment

Apparently after a few weeks of dishing out unemployment, New York State wants to give you a talking to.  Resulting in this pretty blue invitation.

I know its hard to read, so I'll paraphrase.  Get your tookus down to the Unemployment Office on February 25, 2011 at 9:15am for a Re-Employment Workshop, or we won't pay you anymore.  All of this was fine and dandy until yesterday when the weatherman announced that Friday we'd get a storm and it could result in the heaviest snow we've had all winter at one time.  Of course.  So, I strapped on my big girl boots and ventured out into the frozen tundra.

My choice was to drive downtown (navigating the weather, traffic and the plethora of one way streets Buffalo seems to love), or park at the train station and get a round trip ticket for $3.50.  You win again, train.


The best thing about public transportation is probably getting to eavesdrop on people's conversations.  Like the gentlemanly fellows next to me who were engrossed in a riveting discussion about whether or not it was possible to get chlamydia in your throat.  They reached their stop before I could hear their final decision.

A blustery block and a half walk after my stop and I reached the Unemployment Office.  I only took one picture here because I didn't know if I was really allowed to and didn't want to push my luck.  But check out the ceilings at the Palace of Versailles Buffalo's Unemployment Office:


We had a half an hour PowerPoint presentation on the services they offer, which included GED services, making a resume for you, and setting you up with classes on how to use the computer.  All worthwhile items, but as my unemployment coach said after I sat down individually with her, there wasn't a whole lot there that was beneficial for me.  We checked their system quickly for any Marketing or Communication jobs, and upon finding none, I received a good luck and a handshake and I was on my way.

I almost stopped at the Central Library while I was down there,  but upon leaving I was still faced with this:


So I decided my best bet was to hightail it home before I had to dig out my poor car that was quietly getting buried in a parking lot in North Buffalo.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Weekend Homework

Image from here

This weekend is our turn to play host as Aaron's parents come to Buffalo for his mom's birthday.  Its always fun to act like a tourist in your home town.  Get out there and enjoy your city.

  • Get romantic with this swoon worthy engagement story.
  • We all put on a couple of pounds this winter.  Learn how to take them off quickly from your spring break photos.
  • I don't think I'm quite this open-minded just yet.  Would you be willing try out this new ice cream flavor?
  • Reclaimed wood furniture, get in my house.  I'll take one of each, please.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

House Hunting

Have an extra $700K floating around?  Let's buy a piece of history in one of the most beautiful neighborhoods we have.

This house is located on Bidwell Parkway (designed by Frederick Olmsted- who you may know from lesser accomplishments, such as New York's Central Park, har har.)  A lot of the houses in this area have been broken up into apartment buildings, but this house has thankfully survived a butchering.  Let's have a tour, shall we?

The craftsmanship, oh my.  I would sleep on that staircase landing every night.  And the beautiful windows everywhere.  And the fact that its been updated without compromising the integrity of the house.  Beautiful.  I hope whoever gets into this house next shows it the same respect....and can afford the heating bill.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Dress for Work

I can't wait to go back to work.  I love having a reason to get dressed in the morning, and I can't stop looking online at work clothes.  Is business attire an acknowledged fetish yet?

urban outfitters

mod cloth

urban outfitters


nasty gal

Michael Kors

Get me back in the game!  I yearn for dressing up!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


After returning home from Rochester on Sunday, I had another e-mail waiting for me from the "They're Not" company.  They had a cancellation and could see me Monday afternoon.  Short notice (remind me to join this decade and get a phone that I can check my e-mail on) and the coarse e-mail exchange had me nervous about exploring this company further, but hey, saying no to interviews is just not something this unemployed lady does.

So I decided I was going to go in skeptical and completely honest about my experience and what I was looking for.

I still can't put on a menswear blazer without reciting lines from Annie Hall.  Thanks, Diane Keaton.

Hey, snow, I just wanted to thank you because I sincerely love showing up at interviews with the bottom of my pants wet and salt stains on my shoes.  Also, a note about those shoes.  I don't have comfortable brown boots.  Normally those pants get worn with a pair of heels.  Although, I also don't have a pair of plain brown heels that I find acceptable (me and brown shoes clearly have a bad history together), so these pants typically get worn with white (faux) snakeskin pumps (oh yeah, I have a pair.  And they're awesome.  Don't judge.).  But I wasn't sure how much this company would appreciate my experimental footwear, so I had to suck it up and wear these boots, AKA: Boots of Agony.

That line embedded in my pale leg is just from the drive to the interview, which was 20 minutes.  Okay, I probably could have just worn taller socks, but I guess I'm just not that forward thinking.

I got to my 4:00pm interview about 20 minutes early:

Hey, there's my nephew!  Hi, Jake!

So, I drove around until I was a more acceptable 10 minutes early.  Contrary to my expectations set from the e-mail, the interviewer was very nice (jovial, even).  And what followed was a record setting interview:  Three hours.  From 4:00-7:00pm.  When I left, I had 5 missed calls and 7 text messages.  Aaron and my friend that I was supposed to be meeting for dinner post interview were watching news reports for car crashes and preparing their routes to drive out there and look for my mangled body on the sides of the roads (not an exaggeration, that was actually their plan.  I'm just thankful no one called the cops.).

But, about this interview.  Definitely the most thorough explanation of a company, position, and expectations that I've experienced.  And it was genuinely appreciated.  It ended up being a position that I am interested  in at a company that I could see myself working at.  After an honest discussion with the interviewer about pretty much every scenario that could come up (remember, THREE HOURS), we concluded with already talking about salary and bringing me in to meet other people in the company that I would be working with.  I should be getting a call or e-mail the end of the week to set up the actual time/date (I'll be sure to set aside a large chunk of time this side to not worry loved ones) for this meeting to take place.  So we'll see what happens there.

I also have a different job interview this Wednesday at a non-profit foundation.  I'm glad that things are starting to happen in this job search, I was starting to take note of the "Help Wanted" signs when I drove by Mighty Taco.

(And I did get my dinner finally at Amy's Place, a diner over in our University Heights District.  You can get 99% of their meals made with seitan or tofu!  And its delicious.  And cheap.  Followed by a much needed glass of wine at Shango.) 

Monday, February 21, 2011

Missing: Summer

First, before anything.  If you ever happen to be in Rochester, NY go to the Owl House.  That's an order.

We had a teeny taste of spring a couple of days ago, and then this bad boy appeared on our forecast for today:

Oh yeah, you're reading that right.  Thundersnow.  One word.  One intense word.  This winter is depressing.  Let's have a pretend summer.

It has to be right around the corner, right?  Coconut rum and sunburn, I'm waiting for you.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Weekend Homework

We'll be spending the weekend visiting Aaron's folks in Rochester.  It's always a good time.  Hopefully you spend the weekend with people you love, too.

  • Spend some time getting to know Miranda July,  you won't regret it.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Valentine's Day, Part Deux

Our Valentine's Day double header continued yesterday with Aaron's night.  And my fella knows me well.

The night started with some food from our favorite Chinese restaurant in Buffalo: Tokyo Shanghai Bistro.  They have some mighty fine choices for vegetarians.

Ma Po Tofu and Vegetarian Duck
And I know what you're thinking, "what is that creepy eye peering across the table over your food?"  The answer?  Aaron's hockey jersey, because after dinner we went to a Buffalo Sabres game! (And yes, jerseys are completely appropriate dinner attire in Buffalo on nights that there is a home game.)

And after a little snowy walk down by the arena (it was around 45 degrees yesterday!  practically a heatwave!), it was time to get down to business.  Hockey business.


Unfortunately, it was one of the worst played games of the season, but we did it right.  Sitting in the nosebleeds, surrounded by screaming drunks.  Love this game.  Thank you, Aaron.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A study in rejection

Let's look at 2 new examples of rejection.  First let's go traditional:

Dear Nicole,

Thank you very much for submitting your resume/ profile for employment with ****.
Your application/resume was reviewed for the above position. I wanted to let you know that at this time, the manager is seeking an applicant with knowledge of medical rehab as well as a marketing background for this position in this department. Therefore, you are not currently being considered for this particular position.
Please visit **** for an up to date list of opportunities at ****

We wish you all the best in your search.
Senior Recruiter

To be fair, I don't have exact experience in medical rehab, but I did work at a health insurance company for 3 years right out of school and combined with my marketing/communication experience thought that would perhaps give me an edge.  Perhaps not.

Second example: peculiar e-mail exchange.  A contact told me about an open position at this next company, and this is the email exchange that followed:

From: Company X
To: Nicole
Subject: Interview
Date: Tue, 15 Feb 2011 18:19:00 -0500
Hi, Nicole –

Let’s get together and explore a possible fit with what we’re doing here at ***.  Please bring your portfolio if you’ve designed any materials.  Can you meet on Friday, February 18th at 10:00am?

Vice President - Sales, Marketing & Support

From: Nicole
Sent: Tuesday, February 15, 2011 9:35 PM
To: Company X
Subject: RE: Interview

Hi ****,

I'd love to get together to discuss the position with you, however I do have a prior commitment for this Friday.  I'm free tomorrow, Thursday and Monday if any of those days work for you.  Let me know if any of those days are a possibility for you.

Thank you,
 From: Company X
To: Nicole
Subject: RE: Interview
Date: Wed, 16 Feb 2011 12:37:21 -0500 

They’re not.

From: Nicole
Sent: Wednesday, February 16, 2011 2:04 PM
To: Company X
Subject: RE: Interview


I'm sorry to hear that.  Since no day except Friday works with your schedule, it looks like we unfortunately won't have the opportunity to meet and discuss this position further.  Thank you for your time, and I hope you'll keep me in mind for future positions with ****.  I wish you the best of luck with your search for the right candidate for your company.

Best Regards,
No parts (except my favorite little stars, of course) were changed.  Which means that "They're not." response is exactly what I received.  Perhaps I offended this person by being unavailable, for which I am sorry.  But, even unemployed folk do have commitments that cannot always be broken.  Maybe suggesting a different day is a cardinal sin of job searching?  Alas, live and learn, I suppose.   
I have a sincere love of furniture makeovers.  I have a small collection in the attic of furniture snatched up with fervor from our local thrift stores that have just been sadly sitting there since they were brought home.  But, with extra time on my hands these days, I thought it was time to pay these little guys the attention I quietly promised them while crouching on the dirty linoleum at Amvets.

 Example A.) Beat up bench from 1972.  I've always secretly coveted benches I've seen in other homes.  Not that I'm ever very tempted to sit on them, but I feel like they're a great, albeit under appreciated piece.  Stick them in a weird nook or at the end of the bed.  Any place you're not sure what to put there but that space looks so empty?  BENCH.  (This bench also came with a back rest, but I was sure that I didn't have enough fabric so I didn't include it in the before shot.  Turns out I did have enough, so you'll see that little guy pop up later.)

Lets take a look at what you're going to need:

Not too scary.  Find a fabric you want (I went to Joann Fabrics armed with coupons for use on regularly priced items, but it turns out all those regularly priced items are about $30 a yard.  Never disregard the clearance section, I found this gray, swirly fabric I loved instantly for $6.99 a yard.  BOOM.), scissors, staple gun and staples.  I intended to redo the bench legs as well, so I busted out the best brush around, sandpaper, and paint.

If you're going to redo the legs, start with sanding them up.  You're going to have to wash them to make sure you get all the dust/general grossness off and you may as well let them start to dry while you're tackling the fabric.

Yes, that is my pale, bony hand.  Since I'm going to be painting them, I'm not worried about getting a lot of the stain out.  Just a quick sanding to get off any dirt and gloss.  Then wash those guys off and leave them to dry while you lay out your fabric.  A lot of benches and chairs that have an upholstered seat will just lift right out of the rest of the piece resulting in making it incredibly easy to just fold the new fabric over, staple it down, and then screw it right back into place.

But then there's always the other type.  My bench is just one giant piece with four little legs screwed in.

After figuring out exactly how much fabric you'll need after factoring in the wrapping around of cloth, its time to figure out how you want the cloth to lay.  Those corners are tricky, and I decided it was fine to see a little fold in each corner as long as they looked even and intentional.

Insert about an hour and a half here of me folding and refolding corners of fabric:

Make sure you use tape or pins here while experimenting!  You'd don't want to jump the (staple) gun, only to have to rip out all the staples if it turns out you don't like the way it looks!

After you've decided you like the way its looking, get stapling.  I probably put in more staples than is really necessary, but I've always been the better safe than sorry sort.

I used this same method on the seat back that I mentioned earlier, resulting in this:

Check to make sure your table legs are dry!  Now you can paint them as you wish, but I chose to screw them right back into the table and handle them that way (the color I used was 'Polished' by Behr).     

I know its tempting to just slather on the paint and have it be done, but (especially if you're working/testing gravity at the same time like I was) don't rush it!  You'll get the dreaded goopy paints drips and then you'll have to sand and repaint anyway.  Unless that sort of thing doesn't bother you, then go for it.  Better to put it on thin, almost like a primer.  Its okay if some wood still comes through, the second coat takes care of that.

After the two coats, the bench was almost finished:

We just attached the seat back by poking holes through the fabric, through the already drilled holes and attaching them with a simple washer and nut combo, resulting in the finished bench!

How much did it end up costing?

Bench: $4.00
1.5 yards of fabric: $10.97
1 qt. of paint: $14.48 
Total Cost: $29.45 

Sweet, new(ish) bench for under $30?  Go us.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Valentine's Day, Part Une

For obvious reasons, we tried to keep Valentine's Day a little low-key this year.  Since Aaron had to work all day yesterday and I, well, didn't....I decided Monday night would be my turn.  It all started when Design Sponge posted this article in their series leading up to Valentine's Day.  Of course, changes would have to be made, I'm pretty sure our landlord wouldn't appreciate me hanging hooks in the ceiling in order to drape paper cut out hearts and lanterns.  So here's what we ended up with instead:


You can't see the top, but if you could, you'd see that the drapes are hanging from curtain rods dangerously thrown over our hanging light.  What can I say?  We live on the edge.

Also, can you ever really beat a tapas meal?  Who doesn't love a good appetizer?  And wine.

Whats in that weird dish, you ask?  A tasty little recipe called Rosemary-and Balsamic-Roasted Grapes and Olives from Vegetarian Times:

2 1/2 tsp. olive oil
2 1/2 tsp. chopped rosemary
1 1/4 cups walnut pieces
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1 tbs. balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp. agave nectar
1 1/2 cups large red seedless grapes
1 1/2 cups unpitted black and green olives

1.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease 2 shallow baking dishes with oil.

2.) Warm 2 1/2 tsp oil with 1 tsp rosemary in skillet over medium low heat 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove fro heat; stir in walnuts and salt.  Spread nuts in 1 prepared baking dish.

3.) Whisk together vinegar and agave nectar in a bowl.  Stir in grapes, olives, and remaining 1 1/2 rosemary.  Spread mixture in a separate baking dish.

4.) Roast walnuts 9-12 minutes in the oven, or until golden brown.  Remove, sprinkle with more kosher salt, if desired, and cool.  Increase oven heat to 400 degrees.  Roast olives and grapes 20-25 minutes, or until sauce is syrupy, stirring occasionally.  Sprinkle walnut pieces over grapes and olives and serve warm.

Tasty indeed.  Aaron has some Valentine's Day plans for me on Wednesday, so part deux will follow!
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