Thursday, May 31, 2018

Still alive

Contrary to what it appears on my blog, 
I am still alive. 

I'm still in a bit of the slump I wrote about here 
(although I revived from the slump long enough to make two posts, 
before diving back into the slump) 

but also we are just BUSY. 

I know, I know, 
(eye roll)
EVERYONE is busy. 

We are no different. 
We'll be busy with summer activities and traveling, 
then busy with school starting in the fall, 
then busy with holidays, 
...so I guess I'll see you again in January 2019? 

Jk. 


Good news is that I've pulled myself out of my reading slump,
 so my May-June book recap won't be totally blank. 
I need short-ish, funny books. 
If I see the words "a novel" on the cover, 
it goes in the #nope category for me. 

So far I've read this book and am almost done this book
and you can expect recaps at the end of June. 


And in an effort to avoid this a totally picture-less post, 
here's a few photos from Memorial Day weekend. 
Don't worry, it's not a recap, just a smattering of unrelated photos. 

First up: 


How how HOW does a family of 4 need this much crap to go away for 3.5 days? 
It's truly embarrassing. 


A much more picturesque photo: 


My favorite-ever 6 mile run. 
Running in the Finger Lakes region of NY is breath-taking
I've run all over Philadelphia area and nothing compares to this. 
Dirt roads, white country chapels, and lakes in the distance. 
You'd think I'd have some country music on, 
but no, 
I listened to "The Greatest Showman" soundtrack the whole run. 
The song "'This Is Me" chokes me up every damn time. 


Also...

This is NOT a staged photo:


This is father and son "quiet time" at the lake. 
Adam has his kindle, 
Aaron his ipad, 
both with a lollipop in their mouth (not cigarettes!) 

Further proof of its non-stage-ness is the piles and pile of sleepgear all around. 
That's life at the lake. 
Piles. 
The OCD in me dies a little every time. 


And lastly... 


Not from the lake, 
but a photo I snapped at the park. 

I shared this story on my IG, 
but loved it so much I'm sharing it again here. 

Aaron and Oliver were scooting around the park. 
They collided and wiped out pretty badly. 
Aaron's knee i particular was beat up, 
bleeding all the way down his leg. 

Two older kids, roughly age 8 or 9, 
jumped on their bikes and rode to their house a block away to get us bandaids. 
For Aaron, bandaids fix everything so soon enough he was up and going again. 
It was really the sweetest, kindest gesture, 
from kids who didn't even know us. 

I hear so much about this generation of kids being spoiled 
and selfish 
and too obsessed with technology to look around. 
But not these kids! 
Their little act of kindness totally saved our day, 
and I hope they carry this kindness with them wherever they go. 


Friday, May 18, 2018

7 QT: Crunchyhood, Food, etc

Another round of "7 Quick Takes" 
also known as "7 mini novels


1. "Clean" Make-up 

I love "cleaning up" areas of our life.
I've become unbearably Crunchy, 
way worse than when I wrote this post
Adam, an unhappy participant in our Crunchy Journey, is beside himself. 
Some day I'll do a Crunchy Update so you, too, can roll your eyes at me. 
And sympathize with Adam's plight. 

That said, for all my progress, 
make-up feels so daunting
I've spent years and years trying to narrow down my favorites 
from Ulta, Sephora, and Nordstrom, 
and to start all over again is just... AHHHHH. 
But when Kelsey at Pardon My French started dipping her toes in
I decided it was time too. 

My Clinique foundation is running low, 
so instead of just mindlessly placing another Nordstrom order, 
I am trying a totally new item: 
I'm 50/50 scared and excited. 
Will it suck? 
Will it be awesome? 
Who knows! 
I'm no beauty blogger, 
but I'll report back!

(And yes, I know BeautyCounter is the authority on clean make-up. 
But anything that sniffs of "multi-level marketing" is a no go for me.


2. Composting. 

Last Crunchy comment then we'll move on. 
I mentioned in a blog post that I started composting 
with the idea of being a "lazy composter" 
who just tossed scraps in a corner lawn pile. 
Well... that make work in a big yard, 
but in a 0.25 acre yard... NOPE. 

So at the suggestion of my cousin, 
I purchased this composter 
and am REALLY loving it. 
It's discreet, easy to use, 
and the boys love spinning it like the Wheel of Fortune. 
(Boys = also includes Adam... sigh) 


3. $21,000 Plane Ticket 

On the totally opposite side of Crunchy, 
I stumbled upon this video of a guy documenting his free upgrade 
to a $21,000 first class plane seat on Emirates airlines. 
The video is a whopping 9 minutes 
(8.75 minutes longer than I prefer) 
yet I watched it twice because... 
I dunno... 
because it's eye candy?  


4. Gluten, paleo, coconut oil, and all sorts of food theory SHIT

I cannot stand food theory fads. 

E.g.: unless you are officially diagnosed with celiac disease,
 I don't want to hear a single word about gluten-free. 
NADA. 

Not to say that every food fad is bad. 
Whole30 most definitely has positives to it, 
like making us aware of all the added sugar in our diets. 
But if I have to buy avocado mayo, then no. 

This long ass article is by far the best analysis I've ever read. 
Ever. 
Standing ovation. 
I'd like to print this and tape it to my fridge, 
except Aaron's artwork already covers the fridge. 
My mother tapes Bibles verses to her front door, 
so maybe I'll tape this to my front door???


5. Foods before running? 

Still on the food topic. 
(I love food.) 
This is a great article about what/how to eat before a run. 
(Disregard the click-bait annoying title.) 

I have spent 10 years adjusting my food intake before a big run. 
(Big for me = 8+ miles) 
For my annual 10 mile Broad Street race, 
I finally found a combination of 
- PBJ (eating on the car ride down, about 2 hours prior) 
- Muffin or granola bar (on the subway to the start, 1 hour prior) 
- Fresh fruit or nuts (while waiting in the corrals) 

It was cool to see how years of evolving my race-prep food 
has perfectly aligned with what the article suggested. 
**Giving myself a little high five here**


6. Swim Lessons. 


After years of procrastinating, 
I enrolled both boys in serious swim lessons. 

I say "serious" because 
1) they cost a fucking fortune 
2) there is a strict advancement criteria 
3) Adam - a former lifeguard - took one look at the program regime 
and was like "whoa, this is really serious

Aaron, at age 5, is loving swim lessons. 
He's sooooooooo overdue, 
but we've been lazy parents sticking him in floaties and lifevests. 
Now his friends are starting to swim independently
and he wants to join. 
(All hail positive peer pressure)

Oliver, at age 2, is mostly loving swim lessons. 
He loves to dive into water with zero fear 
and we spent most of the time in Florida trying to prevent him from drowning. 
So swim lessons it is! 
The first class he was all smiles and laughter. 
The second class, there were 2 crying kids, and they rubbed off on him. 
Hoping we get back to smiles and laughter soon. 


7. Weather. 

RAIN RAIN GO THE FUCK AWAY. 

We had this gorgeous beautiful lovely spring. 
And then the rain clouds rolled in 
and - literally - rained on our parade. 

While the boys are loving the driveway puddles, 
I am missing some quality Vitamin D. 
Please send sun. 
Or a $21,000 plane ticket to somewhere sunny. 



Tuesday, May 15, 2018

6 Cost Cutting Ideas

Let's talk about money again. 
It feels like I'm always talking about money. 
But when one's  husband takes a 30% paycut to pursue a better work-life balance.... 
yeah, money becomes a bigger deal. 




Here's a confession:
 I've never lived on a budget before. 
I've always been hypersensitive about money, 
tracking every penny in Quicken for 8 years 
(and prior to that, in excel spreadsheets). 
We created a brief budget concept when we were engaged, 
but never had to revisit it. 

 From the time I started out of college, 
my [and eventually, "our"] income has always grown. 
Sometimes slow but steady, in pay raises and merit increases. 
And sometimes in big jumps like a new job. 

But we've never had an income drop. 
No lay-offs or pay cuts. 
Even when Adam went to law school, 
we had just gotten married so one income felt natural. 
This makes us INCREDIBLY fortunate/lucky
 (use any word BUT don't use "blessed" or I'll cut you). 

I've always been conscious about saving money, 
 always pay our credit card in full every month (without exception), 
and often doing mental math on big purchases, 
but again, no monthly budget. 

Until now. 
With Adam's 30% paycut, 
this required us to take a cold hard look at our spending. 
And I thought I'd share 5 of the items we've cut back on. 
Relative to expenses like mortgage and food, 
 these are very tiny costs. 
But they are simple expenses that are easy to chop. 


***

1. Daily coffee shop. 

Last year, Adam spent $645 on coffee, 
split pretty evenly between Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts. 
Every day he bought a $2.04 coffee at DD at the city train station 
and then less occasionally visited a Starbucks for an afternoon coffee break. 

This was one of the easiest things to eliminate. 
Adam's new job is in the suburbs, 
which means he has to drive - not walk - to the nearest coffee shop. 

He still has his cup of coffee brewed every morning at home, 
which he had had before too. 
I wondered if he would increase to two cups, 
but no, one is still just fine. 
He probably needs less caffeine since he's not working until 1am anymore!


2. Manicures and Pedicure. 

Last year I spent $896 on pedicures and gel manicures.
I got my gel manicure done every other week, 
and a new [regular polish] pedicure every 4th week. 
I loved having great-looking nails that lasted for a long time. 
It was a wonderful luxury. 

At the same time, it was time consuming.  
I took two different month-long breaks last year, 
when I was just tired of going to appointments again and again. 
So imagine how much that cost would be if I was most consistent! 

With Adam's new job, I eliminated this cost immediately. 


3. Ditching Cable. 

We eliminated our cable and moved to live-streaming TV on Playstation VUE. 
I wrote all about our live-streaming decision here
Cable & internet together were costing us $165/month. 

Now, we pay $70/mo for internet 
and $45/month for Playstation VUE, 
which saves us $50/mo or $600/year. 


4. Changing Diaper Brands. 

I have always used Pampers. 
High quality, 
my kids' skin didn't breakout,
 and they are available everywhere. 
But they are also pretty expensive.

and found that Target's Up&Up brand rates well. 

A big box of Pampers is $39 
and an equivalent Target box is $21. 
That's 45% less. 

Last year our diapers cost was $835, 
which means we could save $375/year just in switching brands. 
I did a test run of Target up&up and was pleasantly surprised. 
Would I trust them on a breastfed newborn with daily explosive poops? 
Maybe not. 
But for a almost-2-year-old, yes. 

And yes, cloth diapers are way cheaper. 
But I have my limits here. 



5. Kindle Unlimited. 

Kindle Unlimited is roughly $11/mo (they recently up'ed it) 
or $132/year. 
While I didn't find the book choices that great 
(and I hate reading on a device), 
Adam loved it. 
He loves reading zombie/apocalyptic books 
and there's a TON of those series on Kindle Unlimited. 
He would read over an hour a day on the train to/from work, 
which meant he got through books pretty quickly. 

Now that he commutes into the suburbs,
 he's lost that reading time 
and even if he buys the books he want,
 it won't add up to even $100/year. 
Done. 


6. Babysitting. 

This was the saddest things to cut. 
Previously, my sister came once a week after to work to help out. 
I was doing dinner & bedtime solo 5 nights a week (wrote a lot about that here
and so getting one night off was just heaven. 
I paid her $15/visit and I got 2-3 hours to myself. 
Plus I got to see my sister! 

Now, with Adam actually being home for dinner, it's not really needed. 
But I do miss my sister, a lot. 
So I came up with the idea of having her stop by for dinner 
every time she has her gymnastics class, 
which is near our house. 

Assuming she was here roughly 3 weeks/mo, 
this saves us $540/year. 


***

This is by no means a total list of our money changes. 
The savings here most certainly do not add up to his 30% paycut. 
There are tons of other factors,
 like lower health care premiums (his law firm did not supplement at all), 
eliminating the Philly wage tax since he no longer works in the city (5%!), 
eliminating the train pass and train station parking costs, 
etc. 

But again, just a few things. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Ramblings

I'm in a strange mood lately. 
Not a bad mood,
 just a different mood. 


I have zero desire to read. 
I've had several books checked out of the library
 (including "The Lilac Girls" which everyone says is great), 
but I have no motivation to pick up a book.  
Every time I have free time (i.e.: naptime), 
I realize I'd rather do anything else but read. 

I've gone through this phase before.  
I just need a really good book to pull me out of it.  
Something funny and light-hearted.  
No novels.  
Something that can make me laugh out loud, 
like "Class Mom" or "Where'd You Go Bernadette?
Any suggestions?


I'm also not in the mood to blog. 
Usually once every week or so, 
I get in a major writing mood, 
and pound out several blog posts that have been sitting in my brain. 
I have several draft posts
(Cost Cutting Ideas, Beauty Routine Update, Crunchy Update) 
but I don't have the motivation to sit and finish them. 

So when you notice this little space of internet has gone quiet 
(because EVERYONE noticed, right? Right?)
have no fear, 
I'll be back. 
Just takin' a little break right now. 


I'm also not in the mood to read blogs. 
Bloglovin is usually one of my first apps open in the morning, 
but recently I just don't feel like it. 
It feels like a chore to read. 
(See above = book reading / blog reading = chore)


So what am I in the mood to do? 


I want to clean house. 
Is this part of some spring cleaning fever? 
It feels like nesting, 
but without the giant belly. 
I keep a running list on my phone of "House Projects" 
i.e.: things that been irritating me to do, 
but just need time carved out to do them. 
This can range from 
rearranging a closet 
to backing up my laptop to the external drive 
to replacing batteries. 

As of right now, my House Projects list is whittled down to nothing. 
I need more house projects!


I also want to bake. 
Susie Homemaker over here! 

I've been baking muffins like crazy. 
and 
Buttermilk Oat Chocolate Chip Muffins 
(heavily modified from this recipe here). 
Do you have any favorite muffin recipes? 
I want something summer-y.  

I'm also DYING to bake cookies. 
But I need somewhere to take them 
otherwise I will EAT THEM ALL. 
I recently had Alison Roman's 
at a private chef event 
and have been DYING to make them. 
I even have all the ingredients, 
it's just my own willpower holding me back! 



What else? 

Can't forget the weather! 
Every good rambling post must include the weather. 

After a long winter, spring is here and it's GLORIOUS. 
We have spent every waking moment outside. 
I absolutely refuse to be confined by the walls of an interior structure. 
We have hiked in the woods 
and discovered new playgrounds (with a castle!) 
and visited both zoos 
and are soaking up every bit of Vitamin D we can. 


This past Sunday I ran the 10 mile Broad Street Run 
(my 7th time running it)
 and it was perfect running weather. 
Cool (high 50s) and cloudy. 
Maybe not the prettiest for pictures, 
but definitely the best running weather I could ask for. 

I finished in 1 hour 47 minutes. 
It's certainly not my best time, 
but I felt great the whole race.  



Another random topic: 
I finally reached a new low weight 
that I haven't seen in 7 years!!!! 

I've written a lot about my fluctuating weight
I gain weight quickly 
and lose it verrrrryyy slowly. 
So getting to this low weight is pretty epic for me. 
Now can I maintain it through summer drinking season? 
Ha. 
We'll see.