Thursday, December 29, 2011

How to tip a bartender

How will you be spending New Year's Eve?

I'll be in Manhattan, Ks., the Little Apple. I'll watch the Little Apple drop  and exploring Aggieville for the second year in a row with my friends Layne and Abigail, and this year my roommate Katie will be there too!

As you celebrate the new year, whether you're going out, setting off fireworks, or just watching the ball drop at home in your PJs, I wish you a safe and merry start to 2012.

And if you are going out, I hope you'll remember your bartender!

Think back through those hazy nights at busy bars with the bass pounding: pushing through crowds, struggling to reach the bar, then leaning over it and trying to make eye contact. 

Your thoughts were probably about how long it was taking; you were sure she just looked at you but chose to help the cute guy next to you instead. What a bitch, right?

In your current state of sobriety, think a little harder. Was there a glass vase or plastic pitcher full of cash money anywhere between you and your next drank?

That, my friends, is the bartenders tip jar, and you should be helping to fill it.

I know, I know. The bartender is only filling a drink for you then moving on. But through the course of the night, he or she may get you three or four drinks (or five or six...) and each one is taking time. Like waitresses, your bartender probably isn’t getting paid full wages--the bulk of his income is coming from those tips. 

My sister Emily has been a bartender for more than five years. She’s bartended a country bar, a mmtss mmtss dance bar, at a restaurant and at private parties. She even mixes drinks for our extended family when we all get together. Here’s what she had to say about tipping your bartender:

“If they’re just getting beers all night, I don't mind if they don't tip as much. All I'm doing is taking the cap off and handing you the bottle--so maybe a dollar every three beers is good. 

But if you’re getting mixed drinks or shots, that’s taking my time. You should tip a dollar every time for those.” 
Some other pointers for being a good bar patron?

Don’t just start ordering when I'm close to you but not looking at you for your order,” Emily said. “So annoying.”

Emily is also annoyed by patrons who wave their money in her face (when is that ever acceptable?) and people who snap, whistle or yell to get her attention.

To get your drinks faster, you can also get a group order together--if you’re in a group getting the same drink, order all at once. Three whiskey cokes in one trip is easier for you and your bartender.

If you’re at a busy bar, keep your drink simple--one or two ingredients: rum and coke, vodka cranberry, whiskey sour. Your bartender doesn’t have time to measure out six ingredients for your one drink, and might not even know the name or make-up of your drink. 

Images from herehere and here.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

What I'm loving Wednesday

Hey all! Happy Wednesday!

Here's a few things I'm loving this week. Head over to Jamie's blog to check out what everyone else is loving!

1. The pajamas and slippers I got for Christmas! The pajamas are from my aunt, who long ago declared that every family needed an aunt who gave pajamas for Christmas, and she would be that aunt. I've gotten pjs from Old Navy ever since and I love this year's! They're flannel and warm but are cute/non-Christmassy enough that I'll be wearing them year round! Also, I asked my parents aka Santa for slippers for Christmas and got these lovely ones from JC Penney! They make getting ready in the morning much warmer!

2. I'm also loving another of my Christmas gifts, Water for Elephants. I've read it before and gave it five stars on Goodreads, and I'm enjoying it just as much the second time through!

3. I'm loving this song, Motorcycle Drive By by Third Eye Blind:

4. I'm loving this little guy I found on my car yesterday after work:

5. And finally, I'm loving this little girl:

I hope you all enjoy the rest of your week!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Weekend recap: Christmas!

Hey everyone! I hope you all had a happy holiday weekend if you were celebrating, and still a great one if you weren't!

I only managed to get a few pics, and for some reason, they're all pretty fuzzy. (I didn't even get one of the outside of my parents' house all lit up! For shame!)

My weekend started off Friday after work when my older sister Emily and I headed off to our hometown. The drive takes between three and three and a half hours, usually. Emily drove and I tried to hold her finicky iPod player in place.

When we got home we chilled with our family and caught up with each other. I think that's when we played scrabble?

Anna also turned Lucy into a dinosaur, aka dino dog!

Saturday, Christmas Eve, was a day of baking and wrapping.

My mom was a baking maniac. She made four kinds of cookies, toffee, cheesecake, coffee cake and chocolate covered pretzels. To manage all of this she turned the garage into a cooling station, resting the finished goods on my dad's jeep.

We kids went upstairs to sneakily wrap the presents we'd gotten for our parents--and discovered the tennis shoes I'd picked up for my mom still had the security tag on them! Anxiety set in, but was quickly put to rest the next day when she told me the same store exists in my hometown, and she can probably just take the shoes and the receipt in. Whew!

We finally watched The Help (which my sisters, mom and I had all read and I reviewed here). My poor dad had to keep hearing all the details from the book that got left out of the movie, but I think we all liked it.

Then, my mom decided each child would wrap her sister's presents--so I wrapped Emily's, Emily wrapped Anna's and Anna wrapped mine, taking a load off my parents' to do list.

Sunday was Christmas! All of us kids are finally old enough to sleep in and not wake up in the early morning from sheer excitement. Actually, it was my dad who woke us all!

We opened presents and ate (by this point my mom had also made a breakfast pizza to go along with all the baked goods). We watched Crazy Stupid Love and everyone but my mom took a nap. We had Christmas dinner--with a special guest appearance from a friend I hadn't seen in years!--and watched Cowboys and Aliens.

All in all it was a very merry Christmas indeed.

Yesterday Emily and I packed up around noon and headed back to Kansas. Em had to work last night, and I had to work today. I was pretty upset to be coming back to an empty house (with my roommates and boyfriend all on Christmas break, it gets kinda lonely) but it turned out one of my roommates was already home (yay!).

Aaaaaand! I got to skype with Pat, my lovely boyfriend!

I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend full of family, friends, and warm-and-fuzzy feelings!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Book review: The Help

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

The Goodreads description of this book is way long, but you can find it and other reviews here.

I may have been the last person out there to read this, but I thought I'd review it anyway. The Help was forced upon me. My older sister read it and decided my mother, younger sister and I all needed to read it and over Thanksgiving this year we would all see the movie together.

She only announced this plan to us the week before Thanksgiving, and between the four of us we only had one copy, so her plan didn't work. But! We all will be home for Christmas and plan to see it then.

Anyway, to give my own description, The Help is set in 1962 in Mississippi--a very prejudiced place. The book follows the stories of many women, alternating narration between Skeeter, a white 22-year-old girl trying to find her way after college, and two African American women who are the hired help to white women in the area. The three women begin a dangerous project together and hope to use this project to effect some change on the racist attitudes of the area.

As I said, I'd never had any intention of reading this book. Somehow, despite its being turned into a movie, I had no idea what it was about.

I ended up giving it five stars on Goodreads. I was invested in the story. I couldn't put it down near the end. I almost cried several times and, despite that the  book is quite long, I wished the story had continued because I so wanted to know every detail of the rest of their lives.

I immediately cared about each narrator. I recognized in every character truth from the people in my lives.

There's the quintessential mean girl, Hilly. Who hasn't had a Hilly in their lives?

Elizabeth, high school friend of both Hilly and Skeeter, is the kind of spineless people pleaser that gives mean girls the stage they hold dearly. Elizabeth has a young daughter, whom she graces with very little attention or affection.

Aibileen, Elizabeth's hired help, was kind and loving, but also fierce. She is the first to agree to the potentially life-threatening project the three undertake. I also related to and admired her attempts to help little Mae Mobley love herself and love people of all colors.

Minny is sassy and says all the things the rest of us wish we could. She is brave as many of us wish we could be.

I probably related most of all to Skeeter, who is, like me, a 22-year-old college graduate who wants to be a writer but has no idea how to get there or what she's doing, really.

There are reviews on Goodreads that say this book is an author hiding crummy writing behind a topic that can't be criticized. I disagree. Her writing style might not have been the best, but I don't remember thinking about it even once, so if it was sub-par, it was unobtrusive.

But anytime an author creates characters that are so true to life, that remind me of people I know or of how I am or wish I was--characters I can picture existing in real life--that is a huge thing.

I highly, highly recommend this book and can't wait to see the movie!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Weekend recap


How was your weekend? I'd like to tell you about mine, if you'd like to hear (isn't it kind of weird to say "hear" when really you'll be reading it? but maybe that's just the editor in me...).

Last Wednesday, I picked up my bfffff from the airport. She's home in Kansas for a few weeks before she has to head back to California, so on Friday I hurried home from work, excited to see her. We sat around and watched TV and did nothing, which is always wonderful.

I headed over to the boyfriend's for a while. We watched Tangled.

Later that night, we had a bunch of people over. Parties can go in a lot of different ways. Personally, I didn't think this one was our best, but then, I did get a headache halfway through and hide in the basement for a while. All the guests seemed to have fun, as most stayed till 4 a.m. and a couple even stayed overnight!

In the morning, I made pancakes.

Saturday was the day of the surprise adventure I'd planned for Pat. He's a bit tricky to shop for, so instead, for Christmas we headed over to Tallgrass Brewing Company in Manhattan, Ks. and took their brewery tour!

Neither of us had ever been on a brewery tour, so we both learned a lot. I actually don't like the taste of beer, but for those of you who do, it was a pretty good deal. The whole tour was free and we got free samples of their normal brews and a couple they're still testing out.

I was the only girl on the tour and was a bit embarrassed to bring out my camera, but I did manage to snap a few photos with Pat's iphone!

Here is their stack of empty cans waiting to be filled. Each row has about 389 cans, he said, and there were a few more pallets stacked to about the same height:

And this is the machine they use to get the beer in the cans. It was pretty cool--there were different sensors for liquids and foam and anoher spout that handled the carbonation. Then the lids are attached by machine, but a worker has to manually apply the four-pack tops they use for Tallgrass.

I wish we'd gotten a picture together! The drive was a bit longer for us than the tour itself, but we love roadtrips and driving together, so it was part of the fun. After we got back, Pat and I worked on the puzzle he'd given me for Christmas and listened to Christmas music. It was really fun and a nice Saturday night in after the party the night before.

Sunday we went to Applebees for lunch and watched TV, but then was the woooooorst part of the weekend. I had to take Pat to the airport to fly home for Christmas break.

Ever since I started providing his airport transportation, I think I've cried every time. Sometimes it starts the night before. When I was leaving after visiting Pat last summer, I started crying as soon as I saw the airport--I didn't even make it inside first.

Yesterday, I started crying as soon as we got on the highway. I know it will only be three weeks before he's back, but I can't help it.

However, here are the few things I thought of that are good about being boyfriend-less for three weeks:

1. I don't have to shave my legs if I don't want to. Wooo!

2. I will save money on pasta and popcorn.

3. I will be receiving lots of cute kitty pictures and videos. Like this one!

I'll keep you updated if I think of any more.

I hope everyone has a great week!

Happy Tuesday!

Happy Tuesday! Monday is over!

Isn't it always so much easier Tuesday morning? You still have most of the week ahead of you, but instead of five days to tackle, there are only four! Woo!

This week, thanks to Joanna at Cup of Jo, I found this lovely illustrator to help us celebrate. Please note that I in no way claim her lovely pictures. I'm just a fan. :)

Happy Tuesday, everyone!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Book review: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

I read a lot. Here's a review of a book I read recently, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling. You can read other reviews and see the official description here. (and while you're there, add me as a friend! aestrusz)

I’m not really sure why I picked up this book. I saw on twitter that Mindy Kaling (Kelly Kapoor/writer of The Office) was promoting a book. I immediately put it on hold at the library.

I think one of the reasons was the title. I mean, who hasn’t though that before? (Confession: previously I hadn’t realized anyone else did wonder if everyone else was hanging out without them.) I had just read Tina Fey’s Bossypants over the summer and enjoyed that a lot. I knew Mindy from The Office. (Although you definitely do not have to be an Office fan to enjoy the book.)

So I went into the book with pretty much no expectations and absolutely loved it. I can’t recommend it enough. The structure of the book is a modge-podge: Some chapters are written as full-fledged stories from Mindy’s past, some are lists, and some are just her thoughts on different topics, like celebrity roasts.

Mindy is humble without being fake. She doesn’t glaze over potentially embarrassing moments, like the awkwardness of her guest-writing stint on SNL or her terrible interviews.

I mean, just look at the back cover:

That is not someone afraid to tell of their modest beginnings.

The stories Mindy tells range from hilarious to heartfelt. She discusses serious issues but maintains the tricky balance between too-serious and too-funny. I laughed out loud a lot, and related to Mindy more than I expected to. She talks about job searching, a process I was in for months and hated. She talks about body image. She talks about what has made her cry. She’s a real human person and isn’t afraid to show it.

Some of my favorite moments:
  • Mindy trying to understand one-night stands and defending those of us who are just not interested.
  • Mindy’s description of the women in romantic comedies that just don’t exist in real life, including The Klutz, The Ethereal Weirdo, The Woman Who Is Obsessed With Her Career And Is No Fun At All, etc.
  • Pretty much every chapter title and caption: I Love New York and It Likes Me Okay, My older brother Vijay, and me, interrupted as I was plotting to eat him (caption), Non-Traumatic Things That Have Made Me Cry

Most of all, I loved that there were so many parts of the book that spoke to me personally, and I’m guessing to a lot of her readers. Like the chapter Best Friend Rights and Responsibilities, where almost every rule made me think of one of my friends. When she talks about being a chubby kid and chubby adult. Her chapter about marriage is everything I want my relationship to be.

I loved this book. I guess that’s all I really have to say.

Are any of you reading anything fun?

Monday is over!

Hello friends!

You made it through Monday!

For many of my friends, this meant making it through the first day of Finals Week here in Kansas. My boyfriend had one this morning and has another tonight!

Personally, I spent my morning looking through Time Magazine's Top 10 Everything of 2011 lists.

To celebrate the hardest day of the week being over, here are some of my favorite finds:

This lovely video was number six on the best viral videos of the year. I've seen it before, and I just love them. I hope this is how my relationship looks in 50 years!

This one was number nine on the best creative videos. I liked it best though. :)

And this one was number 10. Also pretty stunning. :)

Other lists include the top 10 best and worst movies, political gaffes, most over- and under-reported stories and more. Be warned--once you start looking at the lists, it's hard to stop! Great/awful procrastination if you're also studying for finals. And if you are, good luck this week!

Note: I found all three videos from Time Magazine's Top 10 Everything of 2011 lists. All credit/original sourcing can be found there!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Gifts that give back

Let's face it--the holiday season can be pretty materialistic. I have been obsessed for about a week now with what to get my boyfriend for Christmas. He already got me something, so now I'm left wondering what he got me and how much to spend on him. What if I give him a less awesome gift than he gives me? What if mine is way more expensive than his?

It's sickening, isn't it?

There are ways to give, though, that give back to someone who needs it. Donating in someone's name is awesome, and I've done that before too, but sometimes you feel like you need something under the Christmas tree (Hanukkah menorah?).

I've brainstormed some of the charities and organizations I know of where you can purchase gifts this season and also help out someone who needs it.


The first opportunity I’d like to spotlight is TOMS. I personally have three pairs of their shoes and have loved them--I’m wearing these now! TOMS are comfortable and come in styles to suit all personalities. If the shoes aren’t your thing, you can still support the cause by checking out the apparel or the glasses!

What is it?

The TOMS premise is simple: for every pair of shoes you buy, one pair will be donated to a child in need. The One for One movement. The website says, “In 2006, American traveler Blake Mycoskie befriended children in Argentina and found they had no shoes to protect their feet.”

Why shoes? The website explains:
"Many children in developing countries grow up barefoot. Whether at play, doing chores or going to school, these children are at risk:
  • A leading cause of disease in developing countries is soil-transmitted diseases, which can penetrate the skin through bare feet. Wearing shoes can help prevent these diseases, and the long-term physical and cognitive harm they cause.
  • Wearing shoes also prevents feet from getting cuts and sores. Not only are these injuries painful, they also are dangerous when wounds become infected.
  • Many times children can't attend school barefoot because shoes are a required part of their uniform. If they don't have shoes, they don't go to school. If they don't receive an education, they don't have the opportunity to realize their potential."

The TOMS One for One movement also expanded to include eyewear: buy a pair of glasses or sunglasses and TOMS will provide medical treatment, prescription glasses, or sight-saving surgery to a person in need.

How to help:

The One for One movement is easy for you to support this holiday season. You can give shoes, apparel or glasses as a gift to a loved one, and someone in need will also receive a gift. Worried about size or style for your friend? TOMS also has gift cards, allowing the recipient to make their own choice. We’re in the last days for a holiday shipping, so shop soon!

You can find more information here.


What is it?

Punjammies, by the International Princess Project: sells beautiful pajamas made by women in India rescued from prostitution who are now rebuilding their lives. Woah, right?

The International Princess Foundation was started in 2005 by Shannon Keith, who had visited a red-light district (a district with prostitution). There she saw “young girls, orphans, mothers trying to feed their children held against their will or trapped by economics.” Their vision? To restore hope and dignity to women formerly enslaved in prostitution, according to their website. I don’t personally have any Punjammies, but they look wonderful and support such a great vision.

How to help:

Buy a pair of these beautiful pajamas for yourself or one of the women in your life. When you buy Punjammies, your money will go to providing fair wages, savings accounts and recovery care to women who have been saved from forced prostitution.

You can find more information about the International Princess Project here and shop for Punjammies here.

I first heard of the next couple of organizations through an article in my alma mater’s magazine, Jayplay. You can read that article here.

Falling Whistles

What is it?

From the website: “The Democratic Republic of Congo is home to our world’s deadliest war since WWII. Over the last decade more than 6 million people have died, and nearly 1,500 people continue to lose their lives daily. Sexual violence is more rampant here than anywhere else in the world, and thousands of children are involved in the war.”

Falling Whistles began as a journal entry describing the fate of young boys involved in the war. These young boys are sent to the frontlines with only a whistle, no weapons. Their entire purpose is to warn of incoming enemies--and to take the first blows from those enemies, often costing the boys their lives. In his Jayplay article, Drew Wille describes the scene one of these boys might face.

“The boy isn’t trained or strong enough to use a gun, but Laurent Nkunda, Congolese Tutsi rebel army leader, doesn’t leave this child soldier empty handed. As the young boy fights back tears, he’s handed a whistle and sent out to serve as a temporary barricade. As he stands beside other child soldiers, he places his whistle in his mouth and takes a deep breath. Waiting for the Hutu rebels to approach, he hears the thunderous chants getting louder and louder, and then, it’s time. The young boy sees the army and blows. Out goes his final breath, the whistle an alarm sounding to scare the enemy and alarm the Congolese solders the war is imminent. This boy is one of six million other fallen whistles in the last decade, according to the website, because of the continuous battles between the Tutsi rebels and Hutu rebels – a conflict tracing back to the 1960s when Belgium lost control of Central Africa.”

The purpose of the group is to raise awareness--to “make their weapon your voice and be a whistleblower for peace in Congo.” The group also uses proceeds to advocate for and in the rehabilitation of those affected by the war.

How to help:

“Be a whistleblower for peace.” You can purchase a whistle necklace through Falling Whistles, for yourself or a loved one. Wear it to help raise awareness of the lives in turmoil in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Be a representative on their behalf in one of the world’s richest nations, and know that your money is going to prevention and rehabilitation.

You can buy a whistle or find more information here.

Invisible Children

What is it?

From the website: “In the spring of 2003, three young filmmakers traveled to Africa in search of a story. What started out as a filmmaking adventure transformed into much more when these boys from Southern California discovered a tragedy that disgusted and inspired them, a tragedy where children are both the weapons and the victims.”

Invisible Children is greatly about raising awareness about conflict in Uganda. The website says: “By documenting the lives of those living in regions of conflict and injustice, we hope to educate and inspire individuals in the Western world to use their unique voice for change.”

Invisible Children works to bring a peaceful solution to the war in northern Uganda. They hope to achieve this partially through encouraging a new generation of leaders.

Half of the money raised goes directly to helping children affected by the conflict and their families. Money raised by Invisible children also goes to educational scholarships, mentorships and to the rebuilding of secondary academic institutions.

The website explains: “In war-affected regions we focus on long-term development, working directly with individuals and institutions that are eager to realize their full potential. Through education and innovative economic opportunities, we partner with affected communities and strive to improve the quality of life for individuals living in conflict and post-conflict regions.”

How to help:

Invisible Children has an extensive store, including apparel, jewelry, bags and holiday cards. You can buy jewelry made from recycled jewelry or products made in Africa.

Some of the products even include details about the seamstress who created them. This bag comes with information about the seamstress and how your purchase is helping her family. By registering your bag, you can even sign up for updates on the seamstress.

When you buy any of these products, your money is going to the rehabilitation, education and encouragement of an entire generation of Ugandans. The store also sells the documentaries, making it easy for you to spread the word.
You can find out more about Invisible Children here.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

What I'm loving Wednesday

Hello loves.

I'm participating in What I'm Loving Wednesday again this week!

Head on over to Jamie's blog to see what everyone else is loving this week!

1. I'm loving the Christmas lights going up all over town! Driving home tonight, I saw houses all over with their lights up. I could even see some families' Christmas trees through their windows. I love the way downtown looks when they get all the lights up:

2. I'm loving my roommate, who saved me the chocolate from her lunchable. :) She's nice.

3. I'm loving that in a week I get to pick up my bfffffff from the airport and keep her for a whole three(ish) weeks!

This is Katie (my roommate) and Layne. They are the best.

4. I love that my mom has started a blog. We're both trying to figure out Blogger and different nuances of blogging together. Tonight she called me to ask a question and I ended up telling her she'd have to teach me how to do something! Her blog is for the sandwich generation--adults that are caretakers of both their own children and their aging parents. You can find it here.

5. I've also had the opportunity to help a couple students with their writing for school this week through a local tutoring event. I love, love, love helping people improve their writing, and both the girls I've worked with have been so intelligent and fun to talk to! I loved bouncing ideas off each other and helping them leave more confident in their papers and their writing than they were when they came in. I know the organizers of the event are disappointed with the turnout, but even so, I've enjoyed it. I recently finished applying to grad school and am considering more applications to do exactly this--help students succeed and gain confidence, especially with writing. Tonight and last night I was reminded of that passion.

What's going well in your lives? I'd love to hear! :)

Happy Tuesday!

We made it through Monday! Woo! The rest of the week should be easy from here, right?

Let's celebrate with a video. It's an oldie, but a goodie--and I hope you all are feeling this great this morning!

P.S. Today is the first day this winter I've seen actual snow. SNOW! It didn't snow in Lawrence at all--my window wasn't even icy--but as I was driving to work I noticed snow on the side roads. They looked quite slippery.


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