Friday, April 25, 2014

Speeding By

It's hard to believe it's already Friday -- this week went by quickly.  I hope the weekend takes its sweet, sweet time.

Wednesday -- 4/23/14

I didn't plan out a week's worth of outfits this week, so I was having to put my clothes aside each evening before bed.  (I mean, technically I could figure out what to wear in the morning and find all the pieces and all that jazz, but I really don't have time to mess with it in the morning.  I need everything set up and ready to throw on.)  Ready List of Outfits to the rescue!  It was raining, so I picked an outfit with boots (which I have weatherized, so they were OK for walking across the parking lot).

I wore the scarf this time in a way that was vaguely reminiscent of, I don't know, a 1970s stewardess (you know, back when they were still called that) or something, but I still liked it.  The cobalt blue/purple color (I can't quite decide which it is, or if it's some delicious combination of the two) of the dress and scarf was a delightful matchy-matchy, and the scarf gets bonus points for incorporating a bit of black in the print, too.

*Cobalt/purple dress from Kohls
*Black collarless jacket from JNY
Silk scarf (thrifted)
Black leggings
Tall black boots by Fitzwell

Thursday -- 4/24/14

Another rainy day, even drearier than the last.  But I finally remembered to photograph my new trench coat that I bought for protection on rainy days.  It was difficult to find a tan trench coat that was long (like, longer than hip-length) but I got lucky with this one on my first try (thank you, Zappos).  You can also see me in one of my stand-by Lands End weatherproof shoes (that I commuted to work in).

For some reason, I really, really love long coats.  Partly, of course, it's practical for staying warm and/or dry (though a bit less for getting into and out of the car, hence the existence of the "car coat," I suppose).  But there's another aspect to it -- for some reason, it kind of makes me feel like a bad-ass, especially when the coat is worn open or partly open so it swirls around the legs a bit.  (I was all buttoned up in this picture, but I haven't really been wearing the trench or my long, lightweight black coat -- the two coats I've been wearing this spring -- that way.)  Maybe it's some kind of mixed up association with wizard cloaks and gunslinger dusters (even if it looks more like Columbo in this instance), but I love it.

Is there any type of clothing you wear that makes you feel (not necessarily look) bad-ass in some way?

I wore the lavendar shirt/buttoned-up cardigan that feels like an homage to my mom and Easter all in one with dark grey trousers, and I really liked the combination.  Lavendar + grey looks just right to me.  I remain super happy that I struck thrifting gold to find these two items (both from Eddie Bauer and a perfectly matched pair) on the same trip to Goodwill.

Lavendar striped button-up shirt (thrifted)
Lavendar cardigan (thrifted)
*Dark grey wide-leg trousers (thrifted)
Grey leopard wedges by Cole Haan
Silver chain necklace (gift from my mom)

Friday -- 4/25/14

Today the weather dried out and ended up rather warm by afternoon.  I was just shy of being too warm for about an hour during the afternoon in this cotton sweater, but I stayed in the "just fine" rather than "merely tolerable" or "getting uncomfortable" zones.  I know this orange and black thing can look very Halloween, but (a) I don't think Halloween is on people's radar the week after Easter, (b) it's really coral rather than orange, and (c) it's what I came up with to wear with my Seeley Booth striped socks, the item around which this entire outfit was built.  Well, the socks and the Dockers pants.  Last night I realized that unless (or let's face it, until) I want to start wearing jeans on Friday, I really need to get at least one pair of more casual (cotton) pants to wear on Friday that are not black.  (And also not tan because tan "chinos" is just somewhere I'm not willing to go, sartorially; I am not a cashier at Target.)  Oh, and (d) it worked well wearing my rust utility jacket over the outfit in the morning, and I don't get a lot of opportunities to pull that sucker out.  Perhaps oddly, I also wore my lion necklace even though I was wearing the scarf; when I removed the scarf in the heat of the afternoon, I liked revealing the whimsical animal necklace.

Coral pullover sweater (thrifted)
Black Dockers pants (thrifted)
Orange/red/black/green/yellow/etc. scarf from Target
Seeley Booth striped socks from Sock Dreams
Vintage lion necklace (thrifted)

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Changeable Midwestern Weather

This past week has been a roller-coaster!

Thursday -- 4/17/14

Definitely still in a late winter mode here.  I took advantage of what I hope will be among my last opportunities to wear my heavy velvet-type blazer.

*Black/red/white patterned dress (thrifted)
Black velvet-type blazer (thrifted)
Black leggings
Tall black boots by Fitzwell
Red scarf from Target

Friday -- 4/18/14

A little warmer, but still cool enough to layer a long-sleeved shirt with a pullover sweater.  This is the top half of an outfit I wore earlier in the season; I just switched into work-compatible pants.

Navy long-sleeved button-up shirt (thrifted)
Orange and navy striped pullover sweater (thrifted)
88 cent navy pants (thrifted)
Navy bowtie flats from Rocket Dog
Hammered silver necklace from JNY

And then the weekend came, and it was in the 70s and sunny in the afternoon, which meant it was ferociously, impossibly warm in the apartment, like 85 degrees warm, even with the windows open and fans running.  The last couple weeks of April can be bad because the complex (and this was also true of the university) has not shifted over from heating to cooling yet.  It was too warm on Sunday for me to even feel alert enough to do the crossword puzzles in the newspaper -- I sat around sweating in my chair, reading a novel and playing Word With Friends on Robert's tablet PC.  (I know, poor me, right?)  Bah, I say.

Monday -- 4/21/14

The warm weather continued.  I'm glad I chose to wear such a lightweight shirt under the cardigan because even my office got a bit uncomfortably warm in the afternoon.  (Mostly, I felt like I wished I weren't wearing trouser socks.  I'm not sure why I didn't just take the suckers off.  Oh well, next time.)   I blissed out in my car's A/C for the 40 minutes home, making sure to blow air on my feet.  It was crazy uncomfortably warm in the apartment when I got home, so I changed immediately into a tank top and shorts, as though I were going to be exercising.  But this bunny don't exercise when it's 80 degrees indoors.  It is all about the flop.

Navy floral cotton blouse (thrifted)
Teal cardigan from Lands End
Light "denim" trousers from Kohls
*Teal and silver necklace from JNY
*Blue patent pointed-toe flats by BP via Nordstrom -- I got these in a few colors and I'm excited about them.  They're surprisingly comfy because the material is soft (it's synthetic, not leather), but may run kind of warm.  This pair was also a bit squeaky (in a subtle way, but I noticed it occasionally) on the first wear; I hope that subsides once they're broken in. 

Tuesday -- 4/22/14

I was prepared for another warm (though less so than the last few days) and sunny day.  When I left work without my cardigan on, it was actually a bit too cool, which was a wonderful change.

*Silky white/blue/red/black blouse (thrifted)
Royal blue cardigan from Lands End
Black Rafaella pants (thrifted)
Red bubble necklace from Outfit Additions
Black buckle flats by Me Too

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Work Picking Up Somewhat

After a somewhat slow start, the pace at work is picking up a bit.  Today I had a request in my inbox when I arrived (my manager warned me about it before I left last night, so I was not surprised) that it took me from 8 a.m. to about 2 p.m. to finish.  (However, I was surprised that when my manager sent it out via email, the people receiving it were all very high level, including our Very Biggest Cheese.  I enjoyed seeing the line "compiled by research analyst Sally Porter" in the email.  Yay, I'm doing work!)  I worked on it steadily and the time went very quickly.  By the time I had lunch, the better part of the day was done, and I spent what was left gathering some info and planning the next stage of the project (which involved figuring out what data are available, a harder task than you might think in my organization).  I've also been apprised of a few other projects coming my way this week and next.

I've decided not to write much about my job on this blog except in the very broadest terms, but basically things are good: I am sharing an office with somebody I like (and I think ultimately, it's going to be better and more fun for me than having my own office, even though that's obviously what I would have chosen for myself); the work is interesting and it's in an inherently interesting domain with lots of technical, philosophical, sociological, and political aspects; and with my bad-ass new car, I'm even enjoying my commute (now that I have a route that bypasses the parking lot that is the interstate after work).  The Easter Bunny (i.e., Robert) brought me home a huge iPod this evening so I can load up my music collection to listen to in my car.  I've been listening to the state public radio classical station, which I like, esp. in the evenings, but I think my mornings could use a little more energy and sing-along quality. 

My commute is longer than I would have chosen (it takes me about 25 minutes in the morning and about 40 in the evening) but I find that I am enjoying my time.  I'm really glad I bought the car I really wanted -- I'm spending enough time in the car to make it worth it.  It's great overall, but I am esp. thrilled with the blind-spot detection and the fact that my car has all the oomph it ever needs.  Also, it's so pretty!  I like walking across the parking lot toward it after work.  I'm also happy because my new route home has me going over my very favorite bridge in Snow City, which is both very cool looking and is the route Robert and I took when we first drove into town.  It has this great coming home feel about it somehow that always makes me smile -- and I am almost home (about 5 minutes out) when I reach that point, so I guess that even makes sense in a literal way.

I also finally got a smart phone (which turns out to be identical to the one Tam has), and I'm liking that, too.

Overall verdict so far: 
(1) Work, and the cool material items one can buy with the financial recompense from said work, is two thumbs up.  And yes, it's like a zillion times better than being in my PhD program so far.
(2) I don't always know my preferences very well (e.g., office sharing situation, length of commute) so it's maybe good for me that I don't always get to control my life.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Midweek Outfit Update

OK, people, it's been cold this week.  Not like finger-freezing mid-January cold, but below freezing every day before work (and yesterday, after work).  We have about an inch of snow on our balcony after yesterday's flurries.  In some ways this is great -- unlike 99% of the population of Snow City, I'm excited to be wearing my work-appropriate cold-ish weather clothes, but even I have this unsettled feeling like, Wait, tomorrow is Good Friday, and Sunday is Easter, and I'm still wearing a coat and wondering whether it's going to snow again tomorrow.  (It's not supposed to.)  I've had to switch up some of my outfits on the fly this week to account for the colder weather than I'd originally planned for.

Monday -- 4/14/14

The switch up here was adding this black ponte blazer from Target after realizing that a single layer of thin, silky blouse was just not going to cut it.  When I got to the office and it was cool inside, I was happy to have made this choice.

Black ponte blazer from Target
Red animal print blouse from JNY
Black-on-black striped pants (thrifted)
*Black and red fancy flats by Ivanka Trump

I was feeling the need for pointy-toed flats and ordered some from Nordstrom and Zappos, several of which were awesome ones that you will be seeing in the coming days/weeks.

Here's a ludicrously blurry close-up of these somewhat fancy shoes.  I would link to a better photo, but these seem to have sold out already (they were on sale).

There was a part of me that was like, Seriously, will you really wear a fancy looking pair of red and black flats often enough to justify buying them?  And the rest of me said, Fuck ya, I will.  Really, they are so awesome with this red animal print blouse that that kind of justifies the purchase to me all on its own, but any reader of this blog knows that red + black is one of my most common color combinations.

Tuesday -- 4/15/14

This one I believe I executed as planned, and I was mostly warm enough at work.  It was a simple evolution of an outfit I wore casually before; I just switched the jeans for these denim colored trousers and a new pair of grey trouser socks, and I was done.

Pink lace-front pullover sweater from Kohl's
Pink and grey 3-strand necklace (which I call the "pink planet" necklace in my notes) from Kohl's
Pink and grey striped cardigan (thrifted)
Light denim colored pants from Kohl's
Grey trouser socks from Sock Dreams
Grey leopard bow flats by Fergilicious

Wednesday -- 4/16/14

I had planned to wear this bottom half with a lighter-weight top half, but with the cold weather and snow already falling, I switched out a warmer version that I had already tried out and written down on my "ready outfit" list.  (That list is already proving its worth.)  I wore a pair of Lands End weather-resistant mocs to work and changed into these flats in the office -- they are covered in a satin-y fabric (which the website says is suede, OK) and ribbon, so kind of delicate for tromping across the snowy parking lot.

*Hot pink pullover sweater (thrifted)
*Pink and grey scarf from Target
*Pink and grey skirt (thrifted)
*Grey tights from Kohl's (Apt 9 brand)
*Grey pointy-toed flats with ribbon detail by Louise et Cie [adorable!]

So unless I mis-remembered something, this outfit was full of debut items.  Yay!  I bought the skirt and sweater on the same Goodwill trip and was excited that I was coming home with the backbone of an outfit and not two new pieces I wouldn't know how to wear (always a danger at the thrift store, especially).

Job Search Miscellany

No, I'm not still looking for a job, but I'm still getting contacted about jobs I applied for a while back.

Last week I got a call and email for an interview on a job I applied for on March 17 (the last job I applied for).  That's less than a month, so not too bad a response, especially given that it was with state government.

Today I got a letter in the mail telling me that a different state agency has hired someone else for a position for which I interviewed on January 16 -- 3 months?  Not very good.

But this takes all.  Today I also got an email thanking me for submitting an application with a company (note: not government agency) on a position that I applied for on August 10, 2013.  Over 8 months to acknowledge my application???  Well, maybe they'll be ready to do interviews 3 years from now when perhaps I'll be interested in looking at alternate job opportunities.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Week One Work Outfits

I not only put all these outfits together on Monday (and I mean, not only did I figure out what I wanted to wear together but actually tried them on in their entirety to make sure everything fit right, went together like I thought they should, etc.), I collected all the pieces and laid them out so that each morning, when I got out of the shower, I could just grab them and put them on -- no digging through the closet or jewelry box necessary.  (I also wrote down the items on a list so it's easy for me to later recreate these outfits if I want to -- sometimes it's really not obvious what black pants I'm wearing in a given photo, for example, but it matters because in person, they are not really fully interchangeable in terms of fabric or fit.  I'm including descriptions of the items on this post for easy future reference.)

Actually, I put together these and 19 other outfits -- so tomorrow I will select 5 more from my list of "ready to go" outfits, collect and organize the components of the outfits, and be ready for the week.

Tuesday -- 4/8/14

I'm so, so happy that my office does not get overheated on sunny afternoons (when the outdoor temperature is a lovely 60 or whatever)!  I would have been dying in long sleeves and a blazer at home, but it felt just right at work.

*Blue bowtie shirt from Lands End
Black pants with black stripes (thrifted)
Black herringbone blazer (thrifted)
Black buckle flats by Me Too

Wednesday -- 4/9/14

Yep, using the Business Casual 101 black patterned item principle here with the black pants, black shoes, and the black-and-blue floral scarf.

*Blue lace front sweater from Kohl's
Black pinstripe pants (thrifted)
Black oxford shoes (thrifted)
Blue floral scarf from Target

Thursday -- 4/10/14

Hard to believe I waited until Day 3 to show up in animal print, isn't it?

*Black and brown ponte knit dress from Lands End (this thing is made of incredibly thick and wonderful fabric and it has nice roomy pockets on the front -- highly recommended)
*Brown button-up shirt (thrifted)
Brown leggings
Brown riding boots
Black claw/tooth necklace

Friday -- 4/11/14

I noticed this week that some women in my department do wear (nice) jeans to work, but I'm not planning to go there yet -- I have not seen anyone at my level or above in jeans, and I have enough other pants that I don't need to rely on jeans to put outfits together.  So instead I went with the black + color + black/color scarf stand-by.

Black 5-pocket pants from Rafaella
Red v-neck long-sleeved knit shirt (thrifted, Lands End)
Red belt from Target
Red/purple/black scarf from Target
Birds of paradise patterned socks from Amazon
Red buckle flats from Me Too
Black travel cardigan (thrifted, Chico's)

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Business Casual 101

In the days leading up to starting my new job this past week, I put together a few outfits using my absolutely most brain-dead simple method of making up a business casual outfit -- the use of black patterned pieces with plain black items.

But first, a truly casual outfit.

More Fun With Stripes -- 4/1/14

This is probably going to be my last really casual purchase for a while (barring the availability of something as irresistible as, say, the Alice or Watership Down t-shirts or the determination that I'm lacking in stuff to wear when it gets really warm, as it will soon enough).  I got a great price on it, and it's a nice item for that inbetween kind of spring and summer weather we have in Snow City -- it's lightweight enough that wearing it with a short-sleeved or sleeveless t-shirt is not appreciably warmer than just wearing a long-sleeved t-shirt by itself, but with the additional flexibility that layering offers.

*Teal striped knit cardigan from Coldwater Creek
*Oatmeal t-shirt from Kohl's
Chunky stone necklace from Outfit Additions

Business Casual 101 Part 1 -- 4/2/14

Here is the most basic version of the formula:
* Black pants (or skirt)
* Black shoes
* Top with a pattern that incorporates black

The shirt is from the Kohl's 212 Collection, which appears to be designed with this formula in mind, given that almost all the prints they use -- even a light-colored one like this -- has black in it.  This is brilliant of them because I think black has to be the most common color for workplace staples like pants, skirts, and blazers to come in.  (I actually like the color black and like wearing it, but even I find that it's easy to end up too much black -- say, 6 black skirts and 7 pairs of black pants -- and difficult to find even one or two in grey or navy, the obvious alternatives to black for these items.)  And it can be hard (at least for me) to figure out how to pair spring-y and summery colors with black pieces on your own without it looking kind of weird and incoherent.  But add black to the pattern and it's a no-brainer.

*Coral and black shirt from Kohl's
*Black and white necklace from Kohl's

It's also easy to build on this formula by adding a topper (cardigan, blazer, jacket) in either black or, more interesting to me, another color from the shirt fabric.  This shirt is great because in addition to black, it has white and a tan/taupe color, both of which are also common neutrals.

*Grey/taupe ponte blazer from Target

Business Casual 101 Part 2 -- 4/3/14

Another version:
* Solid colored dress
* Black topper (blazer or cardigan)
* Scarf with black and the dress color in the pattern

*Hot pink dress from Lands End
*Hot pink/orange/black scarf from Nordstrom (I think)

Putting a bird on it is optional but does make your outfit extra awesome.  Also, it's kind of amazing how little black needs to be in the patterned piece to bring the outfit together.

A Casual Take on the Formula -- 4/4/14

I've put this idea forward with business casual because black is so common for basic pieces in the business casual wardrobe (taking the place that blue denim often takes in the casual wardrobe) but of course it works with a truly casual outfit, too.

Here I used the black in the animal scarf to match the black jeans and shoes.  The shoes look like Mary Janes, but they're not.  The black "strap" that kind of shows in this photo comes from these most excellent socks from Sock Dreams.

I call these my Seeley Booth socks.  (Are you thinking, "I don't know what that means"?  If so, good for you...and you're lying.  If not, time to get your Bones on, people.)  I'm looking forward to rocking them, Booth-style, at work with conservative black pants and my black oxford shoes.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Very Brief Update

Yes, I've started my job.  Yes, it's going well.  Yes, the drive home is long and annoying (today it was an hour from work desk to home door), though fortunately the drive to work is not bad.  Yes, I'm pretty much completely exhausted by the time I get home (though it's getting a bit better each day).  Yes, I'm glad tomorrow is Friday!

I'll write more later, but right now I'm too tired and too much enjoying the Game of Thrones/Runway comparisons here.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Out Like a Lamb...

...If By That You Mean, Wearing Wool -- 3/28/14

Can't believe it was late March before I pulled out this wool sweater to wear, but that's Snow City for you.  Almost anywhere else, a wool sweater decorated with snowflakes would look utterly ridiculous this time of year; here, it was only mildly so.

*Grey wool snowflake cardigan - thrifted, J. Crew

What To Wear When Buying a New Car -- 3/29/14

I wore this with jeans, my lavendar all-weather mocs, and a hot pink ski jacket. 

Striped shirt - thrifted, Bass
Pink statement necklace - Outfit Additions

Flower Power -- 3/30/14

I bought several things from Lands End, but had less luck than usual -- I only kept this silky flower blouse and a dress.  As my wardrobe shapes up, I'm getting pickier.  This print is really loud, but it has many useful colors and can be covered up partially with a sweater or jacket.

The running-errands on Sunday version of this look involves another great casual jacket I got at Goodwill during our "stock up on jackets for the trip to Yellowstone" visit.  It's a lot like my green military/utility jacket, only in a nifty rust color.

But in the afternoon, on a somewhat warmish sunny day, it was 78 degrees in the apartment upstairs.  Argh!  Soon we will move distinctly from "the season in which I talk about how cold it is in the Skyrim office" to "the season in which I talk about how hot it is upstairs."

*Bold flower print top - Lands End
*Rust utility jacket - thrifted, Kohl's
Beaded statement necklace - Outfit Additions
Jeans - thrifted, Talbots
Yellow flats - 6pm

Cleaning the Office -- 3/31/14

My office has gotten into a state of barely contained chaos.  School stuff (still), sewing stuff, job search stuff, Skyrim stuff, and miscellaneous crap piled up everywhere.  I knew I'd get warm moving everything around, so I went with the classic t-shirt and pants combination.  (Later, with the windows open and fans pulling in the cool outside air, I had to put on a cardigan.)

The good news is that my room is vastly improved (though the table you can see in the photo below is still a disaster zone).  I was very, very happy to get rid of some clothes that didn't fit or that I didn't like (I finished up a project I've been slowly working on for a couple weeks of trying on everything that I own to make a decision about them).  Between that and moving my most casual clothes and shoes to the office closet, I was able to find room in the bedroom closet for all my work clothes (except my interview suit, which I'm keeping in the office) and shoes!  (This is only possible because Robert takes up so little space with his clothes -- thanks, sweetie.)

I was also color-coordinated with my new car, which I drove home after dark in a rain/hail deluge.  (The blind spot detection was put to good use because my visibility was bad.  The car performed like a champ.)

*Striped t-shirt - thrifted (88 cents), Eddie Bauer
Black pants - thrifted, Dockers
Red statement necklace - Outfit Additions
Red flats - Me Too

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Outfit Catchup Again

Jen Recommends, I Deliver -- 3/24/14

I followed Jen's suggestion to try the cascading cardigan with skinny jeans and boots -- I used the second of the two cardigans and added a scarf (tied the ends together to make a long fauxfinity scarf).

I've also decided for my own documentation to list all the items in the outfits, indicating new ones with an asterisk.

*Blue cascading cardigan - Coldwater Creek
Geometric print scarf - Kohl's
Skinny jeans - thrifted, Old Navy
Black riding boots - Fitzwell

Animal Print and Maroon -- 3/25/14

I'm continuing to work up business casual outfits in advance of my job starting next week (eek!).  One of my dress-for-work mantras is "put a blazer on it" because that seems to make almost any outfit more office-environment compatible. 

Gotta see a close-up of these cool socks.  Grey-and-black leopard print + Grey-and-black stripes = awesomeness.

Animal print knit shirt - Jones New York
Maroon blazer - Lands End
Black pants - thrifted, JC Penney
Necklace - gift
*Grey and black striped socks - Sock Dreams
*Comfy black flats - Zappos

Pink for Spring -- 3/25/14

I was happy to find a couple of pastel colored pullover sweaters for the spring season.  Because it's not yet actually spring weatherwise, I paired this one with a fun striped cardigan.  (Yes, I love grey with stripes for some reason.)

Loved how this combination of sweaters with this necklace turned out.  Put this top half over grey pants and different shoes and it'd be a comfy but nice looking work outfit.

Apparently this outfit is brought to you by Kohl's....
*Pink lace pullover sweater -- Kohl's
*Grey striped cardigan -- thrifted, Kohl's
Jeans - Kohl's
Necklace - Kohl's
Shoes - Skechers

Caterpillars Don't But I Do -- 3/26/14

I liked the tall black boots so well that I decided to get a brown pair of the same kind while they were on sale.  The boots kind of look black in the picture, but they are brown -- albeit a dark brown. 

Man, wear riding boots with jeans and a blazer and it's very easy to get an equestrian vibe going even without the horsey scarf.

*Brown blazer -- thrifted, Ann Taylor
Green animal print scarf -- thrifted
Skinny jeans - thrifted, Old Navy
*Brown riding boots - Fitzwell

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Car Shopping

But before we get into that, I got an email that my new start date is Tues, April 8.  One more day to get my act together!

I also finally remembered, just before starting this post, that I needed to email my references and update them on the job situation.

So, OK -- onto cars!

As I think I've mentioned before, my job is not in Snow City, but in its sister city across the river, Coldtown.  There are buses that go between the two cities, but to get to my job in a residential neighborhood would require 2-3 buses and about an hour.  Perhaps the one hour commute wouldn't be so bad, but the idea of having 2-3 chances to miss the bus or the bus to run late and make me late for work just sounds terrible.  So I need to get a car to make this workable.

I haven't driven for more than about 15 minutes since we moved to Snow City coming on 3 years ago.  After my experience driving Robert's car (a hatchback) with its completely terrible visibility, my dad's discussion of the various safety technologies available, my impressively bad sense of direction, and this never-ending winter, it was not difficult to generate a list of requirements for a car:

* Four wheel or all wheel drive
* Navigation package
* Good visibility and/or (preferably and) blind spot detection
* The other driver assistance technologies (e.g., lane warning, rear view camera)
* Relatively small size (preferably a compact)

It is kind of amazing how difficult it is to get all those things in one car.

Almost all of the lower-price compact cars (the whole Honda Civic class) were out of contention because they don't have the blind spot detection or any of the other driver assist technologies and because they did not (if I recall correctly) have an AWD option.  The Subaru Impreza at least is reputed to have good visibility and comes with AWD standard, so it went on the list of cars to test drive.

Almost all of the lower-price midsized cars (the whole Honda Accord class) were out of contention because they do not offer an AWD option, though they did tend to have blind spot detection, etc.  However, the Ford Fusion does have the AWD option, so it also went on the list (despite being on the large size of the midsized car range).

There are several compact to midsized SUV/crossover vehicles that fit all my requirements except for not being, you know, a normal car.  Several went on the list, despite both me and Robert having doubts about my interest in this type of vehicle.

Once you get up into the luxury car lines, you get better (if obviously more expensive) options, and several of them went on the list.

The total list had 12 cars/SUVs on it.

On Saturday, Robert and I went car shopping so I could sit in and test drive some of these bad boys.  I chose to start with the two least expensive brands -- Ford and Subaru.

At the Ford dealership, I was able to narrow my interests, just from sitting in the cars, to the Ford Fusion.  I did not have high hopes for it because I do not like at all the way Robert's Ford drives -- there is a weird lagging when you hit the gas or brakes that was disconcerting.  As the sales guy explained, that's because it uses a dual clutch transmission to improve fuel efficiency.  The Ford Fusion I drove had a 2.0L engine, and it seemed OK in terms of power and responsiveness.  But the most striking thing about it was the ride -- very surprisingly smooth, like you're just gliding over the street instead of driving on it.  It did not drive big for me the way it (or its predecessor) did for Robert a couple years ago -- it was actually a really nice car to drive overall.  I thought it was rather pretty on the outside (the inside is very basic), too.  My basic take on it was that (aside from the size potentially making parking in our underground parking garage a bit difficult) it was a quite a decent car that I would be satisfied with.  All in all, a good first car to set a standard for comparison.  (Other than the Subarus, it was also the cheapest car on my list.)

At the Subaru dealership, I tried the Impreza first.  Yes, the visibility was good, just like in my late lamented 1997 Nissan Sentra.  Unfortunately, it drove in every other way pretty much like my 1997 Sentra, too.  Which is to say:  I could drive such a car, but I don't want to, and I really don't want to pay over $20,000 for the privilege.  Next we tried the Forester, an SUV/crossover which the sales guy was enthusiastic about (by his standards).  I cannot even remember the details well enough to describe the myraid ways in which I detested this vehicle.  Yes, it had good visibility, but it otherwise sucked to drive.  I do specifically remember feeling like I was in a 1930's movie in which our protagonist is acting out the fake-driving by twisting a huge steering wheel dramatically this way and that -- I could not believe how loose (is that the term?) the steering was.  It was so bad that I pulled into a church parking lot and let the sales guy drive it back.  Subaru = major FAIL.  This was too bad because these were the least expensive cars and the brand Subaru is by a large margin the most fun to say out loud.  (It is an amazingly satisfying set of vowels and consonants -- it has that same pattern that makes Maru's name so fun to say.)

At the Mercedes dealership, I quickly discovered that the new CLA is a no-go -- the swooshy coupe styling is not compatible with comfortably looking outside the car.  But I did test drive the C class (compact).  And it drove every bit as smoothly and comfortably as the Ford Fusion.  It really didn't feel like driving at all -- and that wasn't so bad for me, because I'm not much of a driver.  Unfortunately, with the V6 engine, this smooth ride meant that it was extremely easy to drive way too fast and not realize it -- as my dad put it, the "lack of tactile feedback" was problematic.  I also did not care for the interior of the car.  The one we looked at on the showroom floor was particularly hideous -- I swear that the Mercedes symbol in the middle of the steering wheel was 6" in diameter.  The one I test drove was a little better, but overall, I did not really care for how ostentatious it was about being a Mercedes.  (It had that flashy Rolex kind of luxury thing going that is not to my taste.)  This all being said, it was a really a nice car.  I just was having difficulty accepting the idea that it was $15,000 - $20,000 better than the Ford Fusion (even assuming superior quality in all kinds of ways that are not immediately noticeable).

By this point, it was almost 2:00, so we stopped for lunch.  Over lunch, I was like, OK, let's check out the BMW but that needs to be our last stop of the day.  I was feeling pretty wiped out.

But seeing the thing of beauty that is the BMW 328ix in red with the brown-and-black leather and wood trim got me pretty excited.  This particular car was fitted out with all the packages that I wanted (blind spot detection and all the other driver assist techs, navigation, winter package, etc.)  And it was fun to drive. 

And so I bought it. 

April Fool!  Do you really think I would spend that much money on a car?  My god, I don't even like driving, why do I need an ultimate driving machine?

Because if I'm going to be driving over an hour a day getting to and from work, it might as well be awesome.  I really did buy the car.  And with this purchase, I think we can say that Operation Cheap Ass has come to an end in a spectacular way.