Friday, March 30, 2012

Some of the best >$20 Purchases I've Made

Do you ever go through a de-cluttering phase where you feel like everything you spend your money on is crap?  As a frugal person, I get highly annoyed at the way that nothing seems to be built to last anymore, but I also get really annoyed with myself for often just buying something because it's a decent price and not really considering whether it's something I need or not--hope that makes sense.

The point is, I have huge buyer's remorse, usually because I just rip the band-aid off and grab the first item I see.  Sometimes that works out, and sometimes it doesn't.  Today, in the spirit of positivity, let's take a look at the few times I got it right.

1. Heating Pad
Leading off with the sexiest item in my house, my trusty heating pad.  Ladies, you feel me?  Sometimes, you just need one, and though I bought it somewhat on a whim, it has come in handy in countless ways.  Not only does it soothe my wounded muscles, but it also keeps me warm in a much frugal(er) manner that heating the whole house.  I keep it on the lower back of my reading chair, and turn it on when I sit.  Keeps me toasty warm and relaxes me.  Sometimes it makes me fall asleep, but hey, that's my perrogative.  I bought the heating pad on a total whim one late night at Wal-Mart (ew), but it has served me well for almost seven years.  It even has a safety shut off so I don't burn my house down through negligence.

2. LED Light.
Since I've moved to New England, we've had at least two power outages.  Compare that to the one in my entire lifetime in the Midwest, and I say: What the hell, New England?  I actually don't mind a power outage, it's kind of an adventure, but I realized very quickly that we only have two flashlights, which are the crank kind (frugal since they don't use batteries, but a pain in the ass for extended blackouts), and the only candles we have are scented.  Our house smelled like a day spa full of overly perfumed society gals and it gave me a terrible headache.  Then, one day at work, I got a call from a rather crazy person who was going on and on about this LED light that comes with a hook. It's super bright, the battery lasts forever, and you can hang it on things and just let it give you light while you busy yourself in other ways.  Sold.  Plus, it doesn't smell like cucumber melon.

3. Sweater Stone
I had been looking for years for the perfect sweater de-fuzzer thing, and I finally found it.  I've tried combs and those little fuzz eaters (which never work and always break). The Sweater Stone (my new best friend) takes the fuzz of my sweaters, doesn't require batteries, and only cost $7!  I recommend this to anyone, seriously.  My sweaters look so much better now.

4. Pyrex 14-piece storage set
Lest you think that I got the most amazing deal in the world on this set, I'll tell you right away--half of those 14 pieces are the lids.  Yeah, I thought it would be 14 sets--bowls and lids, turns out, not so much.  Still, I am really, really happy with this purchase and let me tell you why.

* They look good.  Prior to buying this set, I had been working my way through a collection of Ziploc and Gladware containers.  Those containers are plastic, and over the years have become discolored and cracked.  I still use them (though as they decay further, I throw some away), but I don't really trust them for liquids. My pyrex are unstained and just as good looking as the day I got them.  Maybe it's weird of me, but I just don't like to eat out of stained containers.

* They seal well.  See above, whenever I'd use ziploc or gladware containers for liquids, there was always some leakage.  As I am a girl who likes to make a large batch of soup bring it to work, this was a problem.  I almost got soup on a library book!

* Variety of sizes.  With this set, and a couple other pieces that I bought separately, I have pretty much all the sizes I need to store ingredients and finished prepared food.  At any one time, I usually have one medium bowl in the freezer with pre-cooked barley or something else in it (much faster to make a big batch and freeze half), and maybe a smaller bowl with pre-soaked beans in it (for the same reason).  I still have enough containers to store my daily food items, and when I start to run out, that's a cue that I need to eat up some leftovers.

5. Furminator
Not only is this really fun to say--also works as a verb i.e. "I'm going to furminate you, cat!"  If your cat is anything like mine, he/she will look startled but acquiesce-- but it pulls gobs of hair off your feline companion.  Wee Watson is a short-haired beast, but I still have to battle the constant kitty fur tumbleweeds that seem to blow through the house regardless of how often you vacuum.  This brush seems to pull out the under-layer of cat fur, and it actually works.
Picture from Amazon, not my cat, but
look at all that fur!!
Watson also acts really cute/strange when I furminate him.  It must work in that 'hurts so good' kind of way, because he seems to flirt with the furminator--walking away a little bit, then lying down, then biting it etc.  If he wasn't neutered, I'd swear he had a furminator crush.

Anyone else ever have a moment where you've looked at something that cost less than $20 and though my god, I'm so smart that I have that! ?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Fast = Broken

I am sad to report that after 2.5 days on the juice fast, I had to quit last night.  It wasn't really the hunger that did it, like I said, I wasn't even really hungry, but the headache and the dizziness was just something I didn't want to mess around with.  I don't really like the idea of fainting at work--that's embarrassing.

However, it wasn't a total loss.  Supposedly the first two days are the hardest and I proved to myself that I can do that.  I honestly think that if I attempted this at a time of the month when my hormones were more normal, I would have more success.

I think after only two days, I did get some of the benefits of the fast:

  1. After a sensible dinner last night, I bounded out of bed this morning, wide awake and feeling great.
  2. I feel like I'm really starting fresh, and I'm more aware of the food I put into my body.
  3. I'm no longer intimidated by kale.
  4. I lost two pounds.
  5. I now know that I can do this, if only for a short time.
What I learned is that, for women at least, timing is crucial for something like this.  I was worried about doing a long fast and messing up my metabolism, but I think that maybe short-term fasting is better for me.  This might be something that I do once a year before racing season starts because I've got more spring in my step and I feel clear-headed and ready to take on the world!

You know that feeling when you're really sick and don't eat for a couple days, then you wake up one morning and realize you're better?  That's how I feel right now, and granted, I did deal with a headache for two days to get to this place, but I daresay it was worth it because that is a great feeling.

Monday, March 26, 2012

How to Use Up Leftovers While Doing a Juice Fast

Before I started my fast, I tried to eat up all the things in the fridge that would go bad or that BF wouldn't eat.  I was trying to eat light the week before the fast, just so going without food for the first few days wouldn't be so painful, but even with my extreme focus, I wasn't able to eat everything.  Thankfully, I had a few leftovers that I was actually able to incorporate into my fast.

  1. Leftover boxed salad.  Yes, it felt weird to blend this, but it was a mix of 1/2 romaine lettuce and 1/2 spinach, which is perfect for a juice!
  2. Leftover beets.  I had a lone beet sitting in my fridge just waiting to become juice--and it was tasty.
The rest of the leftovers will hopefully keep, and I can try to entice BF to eat some of them by serving them to him on a plate.

In fasting news, I am now on day three, and am really starting to wonder how long I'm going to be able to do this.  I'm not hungry at all, actually, but I do miss the act of eating--a lot.  Going to the movies last night and listening to BF eat delicious, delicious popcorn almost did my head in, but I stood strong and did not even sneak a kernel when he went to the bathroom.

The problem is that I feel dizzy and light-headed.  I have a history of fainting, usually around a certain time of the month (read: now), so I'm a little worried that my timing was poor for this fast.  I also have had a headache basically since I stopped eating.  I often get headaches when I need food, so I know where this is coming from, but I thought it would have passed by now, especially since some people have found that fasting reduces or eliminates headaches.  Even though it's against the principle of detoxing, I took some excedrine a couple hours ago and it did make me feel better.

I just got back from a long walk and from running some errands, and the fresh air and exercise seem to have perked me up.  I've been a lethargic slug since starting this little adventure, and am really starting to wonder when this super energy that people say fasting gives you is going to kick in. After sleeping 8.5 hours last night, I ended up taking a disco nap in my reading chair while trying to read a book.  Yes, the book was a bit bland, but I usually don't fall asleep like that.  I don't now if that's the fasting, or the lack of caffeine.

The plan right now, as of midday day three is to keep this up for at least today, and see how I feel when I wake up tomorrow.  I have the day off today, so even though it sucks that I have this headache, it's only impacting my lolling around.  If it's like this tomorrow when I have to go to work, I'm going to eat something, even if it's only breakfast.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Spring Link Love

It's spring! It hit 80 degrees in Rhode Island this week!  That's unreal and I was in a panic about what to wear as I keep being fearful of being trapped somewhere cold.  But since spring is almost here, springlike weather is definitely here (my co-worker's turtle came out of hibernation this week), let's do some celebrating.

--Big props to Color Me Katie for reminding me that even though I don't have a plot of land to work with, I could still create a lovely green space for people to enjoy--and I will.

--Thank you, Heidi, for being such an awesome listmaker!  Now that it's getting warmer and warmer, we need to think about what kind of delicious cooling beverages would be most fun to drink.  Heidi put together a fantastic list.  including this one:
Classy and delicious?  Yes please!
--Even though I'm not planting a garden this year (I know, I know, I feel guilty every year, but maybe I'll plant something...), you might be!  Leah Ingram at Suddenly Frugal composed a quick and easy tutorial on what you should be doing to get ready for planting time.  And she also included a slogan, from Wal-Mart of all places, that I really like: “Spend $1 and get $20 worth of food.”

--Also, let us not get so blinded by the sunshiney days that we forget we also need to spend time in a dark movie theatre watching THE HUNGER GAMES!  Umm, I'm probably there right now, as you're reading this.  And I can guarantee, I'm pretty pumped.  Annabelle over at Shopping Detox composed a list of Frugal Fashion Lessons from The Hunger Games. Fashion + Frugality + Awesome = duh.

--And now for something completely different.  I suck at negotiating.  I've mentioned this before, and I chalk it up to my Midwestern "nice"ness, the fact that I don't know when negotiating is ok, and that I honestly just never think of it.  It seems to me that the reward gained by negotiating is not worth the feeling of discomfort it gives me.  But this is just me guessing, because I never actually negotiate.  Thankfully, laid out a lovely step-by-step guide to negotiation--and it's awesome.

This person, Christine Borne Nickras, hit on another reason why I'm trying to drive as little as possible, because being in your car isolates you.  It isolates you from the world, the weather and other people.  Part of the reason people find New york so invigorating is because people are out and about all the time.  I'm not a big house-leaver, my hobbies are reading and internetting, both of which are most comfortable from my home office, but I realized once I started going running outside just how much of a charge you get from people-watching.  And I don't even like people that much.  I think this line sums up the way that I try to look at my own amenities every time I get a little bit down about being poor, "understand that your car is a luxury. Understand that when you get in your car to run a ten-minute errand, the same errand might take someone without a car two hours on the bus. When you turn your key in the ignition, please feel the same sense of wonder and good fortune that I feel every time I take my dirty clothes down to the basement instead of hauling them to the laundromat: what a lucky person I am to not only live in a world where someone was smart enough to invent this thing that makes my life easier, but that I, by some additional happenstance of good fortune, can have one."

--Finally--for your awesome springlike polka dotted nails, we turn to The Beauty Department.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

How To Do A Juice Fast, Without Spending $150 On A Juicer

I mentioned a little while ago, that I watched the documentary Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, and it piqued my interest in doing a juice fast.  Like I do when I have a new (possibly harebrained) scheme in mind, I immediately hopped on amazon and started shopping for supplies.  BF then wandered into my office, saw me looking at juicers and said with extreme trepidation and disgust, "Oh god, you're not going to buy a juicer, are you?"

He then proceeded to rant about how much he hates juicers and the people who own them, and explained why they're really not that great at all.  "But how am I going to do a juice fast without a juicer?" I asked.

"All you have to do is replicate what the juicer does using a blender or something," he shrugged.  "Plus, you hate kitchen gadgets that only do one thing."

And there was the crux of the argument.  I hate, to use Alton Brown parlance, 'uni-taskers.'  You'll recall my recent post: Stuff You Don't Need, where I railed against quesedilla makers and the like (because they're ridiculous), so why would I then buy a gadget, a very expensive gadget, that really only gives me one result. At the very least, I owe it to myself to see if I even like this damn juice before I spend any money on gadgetry.

In my kitchen, I presently already own:
  • A stick blender purchased with points from my visa (free)
  • A fine mesh sieve purchased to help me rinse quinoa (approx $5)
  • A plastic pitcher that I fill with iced coffee in the summer, and other cool beverages (everyone has a pitcher, I assume) (approx $.99)
  • A mixing bowl purchased at Home Goods (approx $7 for a set of three)

What I know about a juicer from asking people who use them:
  • A juicer pulverizes what you put into it (vegetables, fruits, etc)
  • A juicer uses centrifugal force to separate the pulp from the juice
Therefore, I assumed that I could pulverize the ingredients with my stick blender and separate the juice from the pulp using my fine mesh sieve.

This is getting a little long, so I'll detail the process (with pictures!) after the jump.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Why I Love My Bank

I've mentioned once or twice (usually on facebook) my deep and abiding love for my bank.  As I understand it, most people are either neutral about or resigned about their banks (correct me if I'm wrong), but with mine, it's a love that knows no bounds.  Every time I start to feel ambivalent about my bank, they do something awesome.  Since I just received a letter from them outlining more awesome things they're going to do, I thought I would write a list of all the many reasons why I love them so.

1. Absolutely free checking.  I do not pay any checking fees of any kind, even though my balance is sometimes as low as $14 (why keep a lot of money in a non interest-earning account?).  Also, I get free check blanks and my debit card is completely free.  When all the big banks were going to add $5 fees, my bank updated their website with a message from the CEO:

2. Dime-a-Time rewards.  Every time I use my debit card, they give me $.10.  Now, they're starting a keep the change program where if I buy something for less than a dollar, I get the difference back.  Free money?  Yes, please!

3. Free ATMs.  Even though I live 1800 miles away from my bank, and there are no in-network ATMs, I do not pay ATM fees.  I get charged a fee every time I use one, but I just mail them the receipt, and they credit back the amount I was charged.  Now, they're going to automatically credit back the first three ATM fees every month, so I won't even have to waste postage. Since I rarely use cash/ use ATMs, this is perfect for me.  There is nothing I hate more than having to go miles out of your way to find an ATM within your network.

4. Free Cookies.  They have free cookies and coffee in the lobby, and they are good (coffee's a bit weak, but what can you do?).  When I lived in the same town as my bank, I used to grab a stack of cookies and bring them back to work with me for my co-workers.  After scoring a stack of the really good cocoa ones, one of my co-workers said to me "I love it when you go to the bank."

5. People answer the phone when you call.  There are no recordings, no 'push 0 for operator' a person picks up the phone and then transfers you to the place you need to be.  It's almost shocking to call a business and hear a human voice right away.

6. Quick resolution of problems.  Remember a while back when I was having that weird situation where my bank was cashing checks for more than the amount written?  Basically, I was writing a check to my landlord once a month for $530, but the checks were getting deposited as $536 and the next month $534. My landlord reported that he wasn't getting any extra money, so the error was the bank's fault.  I called them up, half expecting them to accuse me of some kind of shenanigans, but they took care of it right away, no questions asked.  Literally, the money was in my account within an hour.  The woman who helped me was so delightful, that I wrote the bank an email about how awesome she is.  Then she called me and thanked me for doing that.

7. Friendly service.  See above, and it's like that (maybe not exactly like that) every time.  I've honestly emailed this bank about six times telling them how happy they make me.

8. Bank by mail.  when I first moved to Rhode Island, I opened an account at the hateful local bank that would now like to charge a $10 fee for a checking account.  Every interaction I had with them just sucked.  The staff was always surly, there were always long, long lines at the teller window, the interest rates were laughable and they charged me $35 for the cheapest box of checks they sold!  I just hated knowing that I would have to deal with them, so I emailed my former bank (I had kept my account open and was in the process of switching over) and asked them if I could still do business with them from 1800 miles away.  Their response was immediate and enthusiastic: "Congratulations on your move!  Many people bank by mail and it's not a problem at all." They gave me the special bank-by-mail address to send deposits to and even mailed me a stack of pre-addressed envelopes.

What's most hilarious about my love affair with my bank, is that I never intended to get an account with them at all, and for the first couple years, I hated them.  About ten years ago, I needed to open a checking account, and I asked my friend Sara who she banked with and if she liked them.  She was with Bank of America, and said that she liked them a lot.  So I went to Bank of America.  The problem was, they were just down the street from State Bank & Trust, and they had taken their sign down for part of the day to replace it with a new one. Since these two banks are on the same street with a number of generic financial-type buildings, I wasn't 100% sure which one was Bank of America.  State Bank had their sign up, so I just got an account with them instead.

For the first two years, they charged $1.50 fee per month for my debit card, which made me loathe them.  Then, they abruptly canceled the fee, and started the dime-a-time rewards.  I immediately set out to earn back all the money I had wasted on fees by using my debit card for everything, and taking free cookies whether I wanted them or not (tacky, but delicious).

So there you have it, best bank ever.

Do you love your bank, or merely tolerate them?  Would you change banks if you found a better deal, or is that too much work?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Guest Post: No Buy Boot Camp

Our guest post today is from my friend Jenna.  Jenna and I met at orientation for library school and have been fast friends ever since. While Jenna is frugal in many ways (she always manages to leave a store without buying anything, which I can't seem to do), she also has certain areas of overspending--like so many of us, and I know she'd appreciate any advice anyone has.

My name is Jenna, and I am an extravagant spender.

No, I don’t go out and buy fancy outfits or makeup. I don’t wear any jewelry or take luxurious vacations, but I like to eat out. I take food really seriously, and I don’t mind spending a lot of money for something I like. However, a perfect storm of circumstances has put me in a unique position – I moved to a new place, got a new job, and moved in with my boyfriend.

My boyfriend is a grad student and is living on a fixed income. His favorite food is bar food, and since I don’t know many people in the area yet, he is almost always my dining companion. In trying to be fair to him, I ended up eating significantly more greasy food at loud places, and spending a lot of money. I’m sick of it. When I lived alone, in a bigger city full of better food, I could justify going out all of the time. But living in my new smaller city, with less food I really love, and more mouths in my house to feed, something has got to give.

So this week, the week of my $300 electric bill, I decided I would learn to eat in. My boyfriend and I are holding a self-imposed two week long no-buy-boot-camp. What I am already realizing is that if you are unaccustomed to grocery shopping for the week, and planning out your meals, it really does seem like an impossible task. I am a “shop for the exciting meal I thought to make tonight and spend 12 dollars on fancy cheese” type of grocery shopper. Going to the store and trying to think of 4 different meals that could include kale feels stifling and boring to me.

Plus there is the added complication of my boyfriend and my eating styles. I like to eat vegetarian a lot, I grew up kosher – I eat a lot of dairy, a lot of pasta, and really can’t bring myself to eat things like ham sandwiches. My boyfriend grew up in a world where you choose the type of meat you are making that night and work from there.  So we’re learning from each other.

Our first meal-planning eat-at-home purchase was frozen tilapia filet. So far we have thought to make: fish tacos and lemon white wine tilapia with potatoes and veggies. Beyond that, I don’t think I could bear to eat another day of fish. We made a big fruit salad that I can eat for breakfast and as a lunchtime dessert. I am also considering making a chocolate fondue and dipping the fruit in it, just to use it up, and because fondue is really fun. I have some tempeh and kale, which is my favorite type of stir fry – and I think we could make a big pizza with a number of different toppings and eat that for a few days for lunch and dinner. The world of casseroles is still a little too foreign to me. My feeling is that perhaps I can plan and make meals I know I will like that I hope my boyfriend will eat, and he can plan and make meals he will like, and I will try to have a more open mind to his more red-blooded American meat-centric take on things.

Immediately after making our pact I started to waiver. Two weeks is a really long time. What if I want to go get coffee with coworkers? How will I be social? I decided I will take it a day at a time, and tell people about our challenge so that there are no hurt feelings. So far, the second day wasn’t so hard. I made myself a frozen bagel and coffee for breakfast (and realized my coffee at home is way better than the swill at my job) , a passable turkey sandwich for lunch (cold cuts provided by my boyfriend’s mom, who never comes to our house empty handed – double frugality!), a fruit salad snack (also thanks to his mom), and a seaweed tamari rice cake (provided by your blogger in residence herself, who left them at my house when she visited). So not only do I have here a nearly free day of eating, I’d say I am eating very healthy too .

Though I am just a few days in, things seem to be running pretty smoothly. I am showing up to work a bit later, but I don't take my typical 10am coffee break. And my enthusiasm for the challenge has lead me to invite folks over to enjoy our home-cooked dinners, so my social life isn't hurting too badly. But I guess we will see if I am still so cheerful about the challenge by next week!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Small Substitutions

I'm sure most people have seen those annoying articles that say things like 'If you just take the stairs, you'll burn an extra 50 calories per day.  That's five pounds a year!'  Even though I know articles like that are total bunk, I still read them all the time because they have those deceptive titles like The One Diet Trick you Won't Want to Miss!  Of course I don't want to miss that!  Then I actually read the article, and it's crap.

The problem is, in a roundabout way, the advice actually does work.  Both for weight loss, and for personal finance.  If you stop drinking that daily latte, you'll save $1000/year and up to 300 calories per day.  The only problem with that advice is, if you skip the latte, then maybe you buy yourself a reward pastry, and then you've consumed more than 300 calories, and spent only slightly less money.  At least in my case, I found small substitutions that work for me, and it actually did work.

I've been involved in this weight loss competition for over eight weeks now, and I actually have learned something.  I've never really tried to lose weight before, and it's harder than I thought.  I assumed that if I just let myself get a little bit hungry every now and then, the weight would fall off like it did when I was in High School.  Apparently things change as you age.  Even though I supposedly burn 700 calories per workout (pre-injury), I wasn't really losing any weight because my body had become too efficient at running.  I needed a change up both in my workouts and in my eating.

Likewise, with personal finance, the times I've been most successful, is when I change up my routine--avoid old temptations, and sub in different things,  Instead of shopping recreationally, and telling myself that all that walking around is great exercise, I just go for a walk, or go to a museum.  Instead of checking daily, I try to find new blogs that I like to read, or drag myself away from my computer and read a book.  Lately, I'm still blown away with how much money I'm saving by walking or biking to work--especially considering how expensive gas is these days.  Sure, it's only a two mile drive, but four miles round trip certainly adds up.  I haven't filled my gas tank since March 5th, and I still have 1/4 tank left that should take me through the end of the week.

With my eating, I've made a few other painless substitutions that have had significant impact on my weight loss progress.

  1. I've substituted cucumber slices for crackers/pita bread.  I'm a late night snacker, and try as I might to purge this habit, it's just never stuck.  Usually my go-to is hummus and toasted pita bread (or crackers, but I've tried to stop buying those because they're expensive/bad for me), which in the grand scheme of things, is not the worst late-night snack.  Pita bread is rather high in calories though, and now that I'm tracking those calories, I realize I'd rather 'spend' them somewhere else.  Enter sliced cucumber.  Just as delicious as pita bread, but in a different way, and it basically has no calories.  So, my late-night snack just went from ~300 calories to ~75.  Also, cucumbers are cheaper than pita bread.
  2. Use less half and half in my morning coffee.  I had gotten into this rather ridiculous habit of dumping in way more half and half than I needed.  I think it's because I buy the 1/2 gallon sized container now.  I've consciously cut back though, and I'm not sure it's really helped me lose weight, but somehow it makes me feel better and more frugal.
  3. Hummus instead of mayo.  My typical work lunch is a tuna sandwich with mayo, something green (on the sandwich) and a yogurt.  I use the olive oil mayo that's reduced calorie, but the other day I wondered if I could use hummus instead (there is a theme here, I really love hummus).  Turns out, it's delicious!  Double bonus, I can use twice as much hummus as I was using mayo, and it's half as many calories.  Plus, my sandwich gets less soggy.
  4. Less beer.  Sigh.  This has been the hardest change by far.  I love beer.  I love it so much.  Some people drink soda, I drink beer (but not in the morning, obv).  Unfortunately, beer is high in calories, and it makes me want to snack.  So, I've greatly reduced the amount of beer I drink, and for those occasions when it's been a rough day at work and I just want an alcoholic something, I've been selecting red wine, or just having one beer instead of two.  Only problem with red wine, is then you have to finish a whole bottle, but you have a few days.  This has saved me money and calories, and possibly made me more productive.
So that's where I am right now.  I'm adjusting to my new income and my new weight loss plan.  Both are going pretty well, and it's refreshing to know that I can change things without completely upending my life as I know it.  Anyone else have any successful substitutions to share?

Monday, March 19, 2012

I Forgot I Still Have Three Jobs

What's that? You need coverage? I'm your girl!
Remember when I finally got a full-time job in January?  It's my first full-time job EVER, and the first time in three years that I'll actually have health insurance.  Because I still like my previous job (and I can always use a bit of extra cash), I stayed on as an on-call librarian, and am filling in at University Library while the head of reference is out on maternity leave (basically until the end of the semester).

It only seems fitting that while I was at my first day back at University Library, I should get an email from Public Library, where I am also an on-call librarian, asking me to cover some shifts over the summer.  Of course, I'm happy to help out, but after adding these extra days to my calendar, I started to panic a bit and feel like I was going back to that old schedule of no days off that very nearly made me crazy.  That feeling was amplified by the fact that I basically agreed to go to work immediately after running a 1/2 marathon.  I mean, I think I did.  My boss (former boss?) just sent me an email saying "you go girl!" So I assume that means "come to work."

However, one thing I have to remember is,  filling in at a library is really not like working there.  I don't have projects to work on, I don't really have any responsibility other than being there, and I have the bonus of people being really happy to see me--with time-and-a half on Sundays!  It's totally low-stress.  This is something I need to keep in mind.

I have to say, and please don't think this is me complaining, but working full-time has been a bit of letdown as far as my take-home pay is concerned.  I'm making less with this job than I was working part-time at two (sometimes three) places because now I'm paying for health and dental insurance, 401k deductions and union dues.  It was a bit of a jolt when I realized how puny my take-home pay actually is, especially since I have all this extra time to amuse myself with adventures.  I certainly make enough to live a comfortable life, but it's still shocking how a month of treating myself and then getting slammed by a major car repair bill have kind of decimated my cash flow.  I feel like I live a frugal enough life that I should have a bit of extra money. I rarely eat out, I don't go to movies that often, I don't shop recreationally, I don't do all of those things that financial advisors always tell people to cut out when they're trying to save.  Yet, I still feel broke.

When I wind up in a situation like this, I look at how other people live, and try to figure out how they can afford it, which is not a very healthy thing to do. Does anyone else ever do that, or am I just weird?

For instance, I used to work with this guy who was really into video games.  He was a stereotypical nerd, and we got to talking one day about travel.  He made a remark about how even though he really wanted to travel, he'd never be able to afford it.  Then he did the thing that I hate most and basically said that I was spoiled and my parents had paid for all my travels (not so).
This is not how I travel
 So I looked at him and asked, "how much do you spend per month on video games? How much do you spend on movies and tv on DVD sets?"  He had just paid me cash for my DVD sets of the show 24, seasons 1-3, so I suspected the number would be high.

His answer, "about $200."

My response, "That's $2400/year and plenty for a trip to Europe."
This is much more my scene
 The point of that story is that I'm letting my thought process get out of whack.  I need to stop feeling poor because I'm not poor.  In the grand scheme of things, I'm pretty well off and I don't need more than I have.  And if I don't want to take these extra work shifts, I need to get better at saying no.

No wallowing and no lamenting my lost free time!  If I think I'm broke, I should work when given the chance; if I think I'm tired of working so much, I should just say no.  It really is all up to me for good or for bad.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Frugal Limericks v.2

St. Patrick's day is fast approaching!  One thing the Irish are particularly good at is is making a tastey meal for not a lot of money.  Now that I live in an aggressively Irish part of the country, and I share a home with a person of Irish descent, once a year my house is full of the smell of boiled dinner.

The local grocery stores start selling corned beef out of large barrels in the aisle, and the whole place seems to be hemorrhaging cabbage.  We went grocery shopping the other day, and BF spent about fifteen minutes contemplating whether of not the cabbage would still be good for Saturday if he got it right then.  As much as I hate wasting food (and that's a lot), I had to say to him, "Even if it goes bad, you've only lost $.49"

From what I understand, boiled dinner is exactly how it sounds.  You put corned beef, cabbage and carrots + some flavor agents in a pot and boil it until your house is steamed up and everything smells like cabbage.  Then your boyfriend invites over a bunch of physicists, and they go to town on the boiled dinner while you eat something vegetarian.  At least, that's my experience.  Here's a recipe for boiled dinner from Allrecipes, but you really should have already started brining your corned beef, at least that's what Rachael Ray says.

Now for another limerick!

There's nothing I love quite so much as a deal
It's amazing to get nice things for a steal
Don't get carried away
I often say nay
For my hatred of clutter is real!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Home Stretch

We just passed the eight-week mark in the Newlyweds on a Budget 10 pound challenge.  That means we have just four weeks left to find out who is in the running for the prizes!  I'm really curious to see how everyone else is doing, and I also have something pleasant to report.  Despite the fact that I've been unable to do my favorite exercise (running) for the duration of this competition due to a muscle tear, I've actually lost five pounds.  Unfortunately, I suspect that a lot of those pounds are muscle.  I'm feeling a bit soft these days, but I've also been challenging myself to find other exercises that I can do pain-free and without risk of re-injuring myself.

Thankfully, I've been able to ride my bike quite a bit, and I even went to my first spin class, which was so fun!  I was so jacked up on endorphins when I came home that I convinced myself I'd be able to go running.  That was a mistake. I made it about one mile, and was in agony the next day  So now, I'm just focused on healing, moving when I can and eating less.

Do you spin?  I totally recommend it.

I also watched a movie the other day, Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead (streaming on netflix), which is a documentary about a guy with an autoimmune disorder, who goes on a 60-day juice fast, loses a ton of weight, basically cures his disorder, and then inspires another very unhealthy man to do the same.  It sounds a bit hokey, but is actually really, really interesting.  I've had friends in the past who have done juice fasts and the Master Cleanse where you drink a mix of maple syrup, cayenne pepper, lemon juice and water, and I've always been curious about that kind of thing.  Problem was, on any kind of a fast, I wouldn't be taking in enough calories to support my running training, and I was always training.

Now that I've been sidelined, it might be time to try this out.

My plan now is to see if I can make juice without spending $150 on a juicer.  I have a recipe, and I'm going to attempt to make it using my wand blender and some kind of straining cloth.  If it's not disgusting, I might just be fasting soon.  If it is disgusting, I might try a new recipe.

Has anyone ever done a fast?  What did you think of it?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Frugal Limericks v.1

In honor of upcoming St. Patricks Day, I will be posting a series of limericks dealing with frugality and money.  If you want to contribute one,post a comment or send me an email

It's fun, promise!

When I was in 4th grade, one of our English class assignments was to write a Limerick, and it changed my life!  I realize that sounds dramatic, but I thought it was great fun, and also that I was hugely talented.  For those who may not have had the same experience, here's how to write a limerick:

  • It's a five line poem.
  • Establish the rhythm.
  • Lines 1, 2, & 5 share rhythm and rhyme patterns.
  • Lines 3 & 4 share rhythm and rhyme patterns.
  • Think of limerick structure like a joke. 

  • The frugal life is the life for me
    Sensible shopping suits me to a T
    I pinch every penny
    Sometimes there aren't many
    But I make it all work with creativity

    Tuesday, March 13, 2012

    Having Opinions Gets Me Free Stuff?

    I've been using for a couple years to decide on restaurants, hotels, attractions and the like.  It wasn't until I went to a restaurant and had a truly terrible experience that I started actually writing reviews as well.  I started to get into it.

    At first, I just wrote negative reviews for all the places I hated the most.  It was incredibly cathartic.  You want to make me wait 20 minutes for a glass of water?  Boom: one star review beeyotch.

    Then, like always happens with me, I started getting feedback from other users, and it went to my head.  Just like Pinterest, where I was completely disinterested until someone re-pinned something I pinned, and that feeling of specialness sent me into a pinning frenzy, likewise, someone on yelp called one of my reviews 'funny' or 'cool' and thus began reviewing madness.

    I tried to boost the stars of the places I liked; I tried to downgrade the stars of the places I hated or found mediocre; and I started mentally evaluating every place I went.  I felt it was my duty to give an honest and well-written opinion of everywhere I went, and it seems to have paid off.

    Two days ago, I got an email from the Providence yelp head honcho.  I don't know if she's someone who gets paid by yelp (she must), but she's certainly someone who reviews EVERYTHING.  Some of her most current reviews include Alamo Rent-a-Car and the Miami International Airport (which I've flown into and out of, and I was more unimpressed than her).  She said that she wanted to feature one of my reviews on the yelp homepage, but I needed to update my picture first.
    Lovely foliage, but disappointing restaurant/coffee selection

    Since I'm all about glory, I updated right away, and found out that not only would my review be featured on the homepage, but I was awarded elite status!  What that means, is that local business hold parties where they show off what they do, and they invite yelpers to come along so they'll give them (hopefully) favorable reviews.  There's one in April that's for yelp elite only and a +1, and it includes free feed and drink!

    Similarly, the pizza place near my house that's always giving me free pizza, sent out an email recently asking people to review them on google reviews.  Everyone who did so, received a coupon code for free pizza.  You might think this a bit unethical, but certainly people on their email list were already fans, they just put it in writing.

    All in all, it's not a bad racket.  I like writing, I like sharing my opinion, I like holding businesses accountable and I like helping consumers make an informed decision.  The fact that I'm now getting (potentially) free stuff, is just the icing on the cake.  Of course, these events may be very similar to those time-share seminars you get talked into at the airport in Orlando (note: even if they offer you $500 cash, do NOT waste your time with one of those things--just walk away).  If that's the case, I haven't really lost anything anyway.

    Monday, March 12, 2012

    Cue the Hyper Organization

    For the next two months I'm going to be filling in one day a week at my old job.  This is awesome because it gets me a little bit of extra cash, I really liked that job and I was sad to leave it, and this way I get to swan in like a guest star doing a short run on a popular sitcom (yeah, librarianship is just like being on tv).
    Even though Heather Locklear was pretty much the star of Melrose Place
    She was always billed as a special guest--which is what I am now.
    Except I'm not a bitch.
    This new shift is Thursday mornings, which means that now instead of working 1-9pm Thursdays, I'm working 8-12pm, then 1-9pm.  Plus, that 8am shift comes with a 20 minute commute.  It's all very doable, but in order to do it well, I need to be very organized.

    Clothes--I need to make sure that I have my Thursday outfit ready to go Wednesday night.  Usually on Thursdays, I loll around in bed, then pick out something fabulous (in my head).  From now on, there's no time for that!  I need to have a work appropriate outfit laid out and ready to go.  Hopefully, the cat won't take a nap on whatever I pick out, but I'll have to be prepared for that as well.

    That's why I have that lint roller

    Food--There is no point working extra hours if I'm just going to blow all that money on food.  I'll need to pack a lunch and a dinner, which means I need to get back into the habit of making a largish meal on Sunday that will carry me through the week.  Also, I should probably pack my lunch Wednesday night--8am is awfully early.

    Is there anything else I'm forgetting?

    And my big plans for all this extra income:  SAVE.  

    I haven't added anything to my savings account since December, and I've actually had to take out money to pay for that stupid car repair.  I hate dipping into savings!  I mean, I know that that's what it's for, but I just hate it.

    Also, my goal for 2012 is to get my Roth IRA contributions to the maximum $5000.  I haven't even started my 2012 contributions yet because you can still add money to 2011 until April, which is what I've been doing.  So hitting $5000 between April and December will be a challenge, but I'm totally up for it!  I have my direct deposit for this job set up so the money goes directly into my different savings accounts and IRA, and I'm not even going to look at it as income.

    We'll call this my rebuilding phase.

    Wish me luck!

    Sunday, March 11, 2012

    Olive Garden Link Love

    Happy Sunday!  I've been behind on my blog reading this week because I've been feverishly following the saga of Marilyn Hagerty--see the bottom of the page.

    From Myths of the Midwest--often, when we get comfortable in a job, we forget how hard it is to find one.  Some people have never had a hard time finding work in their lives; and some intelligent, capable folk flounder.  My grad school buddy Fargo Jones is floundering, and I wish I could give him a job.

    Carla at My 1/2 Dozen Daily brought up something that I've never really thought about before: lying to other people about how much money you have.  Sure, plenty of people live beyond their means and act like they're richer than they actually are, but have you ever pretended to have less money so that people won't try to take advantage of you?  I've tried to hide more expensive purchases from my parents before, because I was in college, broke, and they would have (and did) lecture me about charging too much, but lying to your parents is pretty standard (in my case).

    John Hamm hates the Kardashians even more than I do!  Swoon!

    Have you heard about the Grand Forks, ND restaurant review of the Olive Garden that has gone viral?  This story is just blowing my mind.  Grand Forks is a smallish town about 90 minutes from where I grew up.  It's where we went when we wanted to go shopping or go to the doctor, cause we lived in a town of 1500 people.  Now Grand Forks has an Olive Garden, and Marilyn Hagerty, who has been working for the Grand Forks Herald newspaper for over 40 years, wrote a review of it.  The world has taken notice.  Here it is mentioned on boing boing, she was Hot Slut of the Day on Dlisted, and here she is being interviewed on CBS this morning: 

    Friday, March 9, 2012

    Frugal Challenge: Gas Challenge

    Gas prices, as everyone knows, are going way up these days.  Since it was 66 degrees in Lil' Rhody today, and daylight savings time either begins or ends this Sunday (we spring forward, I just don't know if that's standard or DST), which means that my bike/walk home from work will be better lit, I have decided to issue myself a little challenge.

    I filled up my gas tank on Monday for $38, and that was even with $.20 off per gallon because of grocery points.  Now my plan is to see exactly how long I can make that tank of gas last.

    If I'm just going from home to work and back, I will walk or ride my bike--no driving allowed!

    Thursdays, I'm filling at my old job while my boss is out on maternity leave, so I will have to drive, because it's 20 minutes away.

    I'm going to be extra vigilant about clustering errands to avoid extra trips to the grocery store and other places, plus, I should really just avoid most stores these days since I've still car that stupid car bill to pay off.

    I do have some meetings and a doctor's appointment coming up, so that's a factor.

    I've asked bf to replace the gas that he used to go to his mom's house the other day.

    It's a 13-gallon tank, and when I was commuting six-seven days a week, I usually had to fill up every week or ten days. Anyone want to take any bets as to how long I can get by on a single tank?  My goal is to make it to April, but that might be very wishful thinking.

    Thursday, March 8, 2012

    Weekend Reading: Diary of a Mad Fat Girl

    Regular readers will have noticed that I've been reviewing a lot of books lately that have nothing to do with personal finance.  That's because I've been participating in the BlogHer book club, where you read a book, write a blog about it, and contribute to online discussions.  It's been fun so far, and I like the books I've read--except for this one.

    Upon reading the description, Diary of a Mad Fat Girl sounded like light and frothy chick lit, which is something I enjoy tremendously.  In reality, it was a sloppy mess from start to finish, and I had to bribe myself into reading the whole thing.

    Book description from Amazon: Graciela "Ace" Jones is mad-mad at her best friend Lilly who cancels their annual trip to Panama City for mysterious reasons; at her boss Catherine for "riding her ass like a fat lady on a Rascal scooter;" at her friend Chloe's abusive husband; and especially at Mason McKenzie, the love of her life, who has shown up with a marriage proposal one year too late. Ace is never mad, though, at her near-constant companion, an adorable chiweenie dog named Buster Loo.
    Ace's anger begins to dissipate as she takes matters into her own hands to take down Chloe's philandering husband-and to get to the bottom of a multitude of other scandals plaguing Bugtussle, Mississippi. Then, she starts to realize that maybe Mason deserves a second chance after all.

    Sounds somewhat interesting, no?  Certainly that description didn't sound like a book that would wind up in my personal top ten, but I figured it would be entertaining enough to carry me through to the end.  Then I noticed on the back of the book it says: "A revised and expended edition of the smash hit New York Times bestselling ebook."

    You know what that means?  It means that this was a self-published book that likely sold well because it only cost $.99.  And once I started reading it, that was abundantly clear.

    Let's start with the first problem, the cover:
    The title is Diary of a Mad Fat Girl, yet the legs and ass on the cover are not those of a fat girl.  The main character is supposed to be a size 16.  The girl on the cover, maybe an 8.

    Also, this book is not written as a diary.  Why give it that title, if that's not the format?  They couldn't think of anything else?  Does the word mad in the title mean she's insane (I kind of think she is), or angry?

    Ok, I can get over that, and you may say I'm bring too picky, but the innards of the book are just one example after another of what not to do.

    The characters are not well-drawn-- at all, they're barely described.  The main character, Ace, is incredibly obnoxious and unlikeable, and these friends of hers just turn up with no description whatsoever and the reader is just supposed to figure out that they're been lifelong best friends?

    Ace's friend Chloe winds up in the hospital toward the beginning of the book and Ace infers that her husband had hit her.  Ace then freaks out, attacks him physically and winds up in jail.  I'm all for friend loyalty, but when this happened in the book I had no idea who Chloe even was, and I just assumed that Ace is the kind of moron who gets arrested all the time (she gets arrested two other times in the book).  She's one of those girls who may think of herself as sassy, but in actuality, she's just rude.

    There's a bunch of intrigue in the high school where Ace and her other best friend Lilly are teachers, but it's not very intriguing despite the author's insertion of steamy pictures, secret homosexuality and inter-departmental sexual shenanigans.  It's just dull.

    Ace seems to have handsome men falling all over her despite the fact that she's incredibly unlikeable, and at one point complains about how hard it is to be a bigger girl on the arm of a handsome man.  What?  That's pretty much the only time in the book her size is mentioned, so why does it feature in the title of the book?

    Despite the fact that this book seems to rush through everything that happens, it still drags on and on.  Reading 300+ pages took me forever when normally I could read a book like this in an evening.  There are about ten sub-plots, none of them intriguing, and all of which seem to cast our unloveable heroine as a mentally deranged barbarian with no regard for social mores or reason.  At one point, she breaks up with the love of her life because he has a short conversation with a girl he used to date.  Really?  Are you kidding me?  And then she proceeds to wallow about how much she misses him and how much she hates that she had to move back to her home town.  Then she and a friend inexplicably make the acquaintance of an older wealthy woman in town.  Those scenes just read like she was trying to insert a wacky granny character a'la Janet Evanovitch.

    Yeah.  These are not people I want to spend time with.

    So I do not recommend this book--for anyone, and I will probably just throw my copy away.

    Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book and compensation from BlogHer Bookclub, but the opinions in this review are (clearly) my own.

    Tuesday, March 6, 2012


    My frequently mentioned friend Melissa tagged me in that internet trend where you tag people and make then answer questions!  I was starting to feel like the loser girl at the school dance--no one tagged me!!  How can  I have so many bloggy friends and remain untagged!?!  It's ok, it's my turn now--and now I have to think of other people to tag--eep.

    First, the rules:

    1. Post these rules.
    2. Post a photo of yourself and 11 random things.
    3. Answer the questions set for you in the original post.
    4. Create 11 new questions and tag people to answer them.
    5. Go to their blog/twitter and tell them that you’ve tagged them.

    I don't put my picture on the interwebs, but here's my avatar!
    Melissa's Questions to me:

    1. Do you have any silly fears?
    I used to be really afraid that I'd never find the baggage claim area when traveling alone, but I don't really worry about that one anymore--mostly because I try to always carry on.  Heh, Keep Calm and Carry On (couldn't resist).

    2. What musical group/act changed your life?
    Sloan.  They just make me so happy!  Plus, they're unfamous enough that I don't feel like I have to share them with everyone.  Of course, the downside to that is that I live in constant fear that they'll break up.

    3. Do you collect anything?
    The only thing I really collect is vintage Nancy Drew books.  I read Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her a few years ago, and hadn't realized that they actually re-wrote the who series in the 1960 to update it and take out some rather racist (more just dated) language.  Thankfully, my reading that book coincided with the re-release of the first five books in the series, and I've had pretty good luck finding used ones in antique and used book stores.  I also have a friend who has been dogged about looking for copies for me and gifting them at various occasions.  The thrill of the hunt!

    4. What is your happiest childhood memory?
    Probably our family vacation to Mount Rushmore and the Balck Hills of South Dakota.  We went to Mount Rushmore, did some crazy cave tour, went to Storybook Village, went Flintstone Village.  It was the height of adventure for an eight-year-old.

    5. What beauty product do you have to use every day?
    Moisturizer with sunscreen.  Currently, and for the past five years, I've been using Cetaphil Daily Moisturizer SPF 15.  I'd like to use a higher SPF, especially since I'm outside so much more, but everything else feels so heavy!  Recommendations welcome.

    6. What is your favorite book?
    I'm sorry, you must have typed that wrong.  You mean what are your favorite books, no?  No one has just one!  For the sake of brevity, however, I'll just give you a top five (in no particular order):
    1. Three Musketeers
    2. East of Eden
    3. Wuthering Heights
    4. Jessica Darling series -#5 (not cheating, it's a series!)
    5. Since I've gone slightly overboard listing books, I'll throw in two essays: A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again and Getting Away From Being Pretty Much Away From it All by David Foster Wallace.

    7. What is the most adventurous thing you’ve ever eaten?
    Considering I don't eat meat, I've actually eaten some pretty adventerous meats.  My thoughts are, I don't really enjoy any meat, but I will try anything once.  I've eaten alligator, moose, octopus and probably other bizarre stuff I can't remember.

    8. If you had to be a celebrity, what would you want to be known for?
    Writing.  Maybe voice acting, if you can call a voice actor a celebrity.  I hate to be photographed, so I don't know if celebrity would suit me at all, but I do like attention...

    9. What movie can you watch over and over again?
    Muriel's Wedding.  Sometimes I even watch it in my head just for a chuckle.  Plus, the Australian accents are hilarious.

    10. What kind of animal do you look like?
    I have no idea.  A cat?  People start to resemble their pets, right?  People who know what I look like, what kind of animal do you think?

    11. What would you do if you could be a member of the opposite sex for a day?
    I'd probably ask someone to kick me in the balls just to see if it really hurts that much.

    And now for my questions
    1. What was your biggest accomplishment of 2011?
    2. What is your favorite phrase?
    3. If you had to wear one color for the rest of your life, which would it be & why?
    4. Don't over think this--you're in a coffee shop, what do you order?
    5. Are you a do your homework on a Friday night kind of person, or a frantic Sunday night scrambler?
    6. What would you do if you could be a member of the opposite sex for a day?
    7. What did you want to be when you grew up when you were eight years old?
    8. What book have you read the most and how many times have you read it?
    9. What would your version of an ideal Saturday be?
    10. What is your most shameful indulgence?
    12. What was your favorite toy when you were a kid?

     People I'm tagging: Crisa, Elizabeth, Sarah, Danie!

    Friday, March 2, 2012

    Random Thoughts

    --I don't know why it took me so long to realize that instead of trekking all the way out to Ikea for jars to store pastas, lentils and other things that I like to have but that may potentially get bugs in them, I can re-use old glass jars from pasta sauce, salsa or other things like that!  It's kind of shameful to admit  had never thought of that before (especially since I compulsively save yogurt containers), but I hadn't and now I have.  If there's anyone else out there who never made that connection--do not feel ashamed!  I just put that bulk nutritional yeast I got at the food co-op in Albany into an old Trader Joe's marinara jar--brilliant!

    --I'm super into beets right now, but I'm still scared to actually dismantle them myself.  Thankfully, a friend told me that Trader Joe's has pre-prepared beets that are ready to eat.
    I've beet eating beets almost daily, and I am unlikely to stop.  Bed of arugula topped with sliced beets, bit of feta and some vinagrette--OMG.  Plus, they're such a pretty color!

    --I had an epiphany the other day while riding my bike.  There's a summertime farmer's market in the park at the far end of my street.  Even though it's a very reasonable distance to run to (2.5 miles), it's always seemed just slightly too far away to walk to knowing that I'll have to walk back laden with heavy groceries.  But I won't be bummed out to put all that fresh produce in my bike basket!  Plus, now I actually have Saturdays off!

    --I have barely worn my winter coat this winter, and I've spent more time outside than probably any other winter since I was a kid.  That's weird.  I also haven't worn my new boots yet, which makes me a bit sad just because they're so stylish.

    --I'm going through an expensive time right now--one of those phases where the money seems to just vanish.  First it was car repair, then I needed a haircut, then Nike was having a mega sale on the shoes I really like plus I had a 20% off code (this may seem frivolous, but I need good running shoes, and if I can get them 1/2 price--that's a winner), taxes are due soon and I owe, etc.  Just a lot of things to pay for right now. I'm going to try to reign it in without sacrificing fun (I've sacrificed for too long!).  I'm going to whip up some super cheap meals, and drive to work no more than one day a week (unless it's downpouring or snowing).

    --My new job comes complete with a very active Friends of the Library group consisting mostly of older, retired people who just love the library.  I had forgotten how much I love hanging around older people.  Every one of them seems to have led a crazy interesting life, and for a bunch of senior citizens, they're lively and highly entertaining.  I was telling one the other day at the Leap Year Potluck about riding my bike to work, "Oh, that's so European of you!" she exclaimed.  This from a woman who is actually from Europe!  Score!

    --My goal for the year, now, is to be more European.  I imagine that this will include eating more fatty cheese, drinking more wine, riding my bike more often and living life at a more leisurely pace.  I was kind of hoping to incorporate all those things in my life anyway, but now I have a hashtag for it #moreeuropean. Speaking of being more European, I was telling my stylist (who used to live in Milan) about my new Friends, and she totally wants me to invite her to our next party! 

    --This weekend, I'm going to the ballet on Friday, out for crepes on Saturday, and on Sunday, I'm taking a fencing class (Inigo Montoya!).  Even though I just made this new 'be more European' goal like yesterday, I'm totally a success!

    Happy weekend, everyone!