Days 22 & 23

Day 22

  • $13.51 – fresh tortillas, chipotle peppers and canola oil (I am trying to emulsify the canola oil even as we speak and trying not to watch it too carefully. It is the actual watched pot that never boiled problem.)
  • $7.62 – chips and snacks
  • $2.95 – hot chocolate and brainstorming

Day 23

  • $2.41 – mailing a present
  • $36 – a project I’m not ready to talk about yet.

I love Thanksgiving. Love Thanksgiving. I love the excuse to try new recipes, even if it means trying to emulsify oil, lemon and garlic by any means necessary and covering my entire previously-clean kitchen in canola oil in the process. I love returning to old recipes, like my dad’s cranberry relish and my man’s garlic and herb bread. I love bringing my old favorites to new friends. I love when my friend’s share their recipes with me, like a killer pecan pie I can’t wait to try (will be attempting it for friendsgiving in the next few weeks). I love doing new things, like going to the mountains, and old favorites, like long bike rides.

I’ll be out of commission for a few days. I don’t expect to spend anything, but will report back on Friday in case I do.


Day 13: Adventures in New Jersey

Today started with a plan to meet a friend in New Jersey to go hiking, but then the train doors closed on me and I only just barely squeezed inside, leaving my man stranded on the platform behind. That left me with half an hour to kill on a chilly corner in Jersey City.

Fortunately, fortunately, there was a bookstore. I believe you can tell a lot by a city from its bookstores, which says very little for San Diego and a lot for New York, or Jersey City in this case.

This was one of the good ones. I could tell right away because of their outstanding card collection and poetry section. The essays seemed a little small and the kids’ section a little large, so I thought I’d be able to sneak out of there without much trouble, when by the door I spotted Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine.

Well, reader, what could I do? I’m a sucker for essays and I’m a sucker for poetry, and I’m a big sucker for cross-genre poetic essays. And this week, of all weeks, it seems more essential than ever that we support political writers (which is to say all writers) and that we patronize independent bookstores and publishers. card

Reader, I purchased it.

And once I was ready to do that, all hell broke loose in the card section. And then the gift section. I’d say I’m embarrassed, and to be honest, none of it was necessary, but it’s really good stuff. And there are birthdays and Christmases and whatnot coming up. And honestly, in this day and age, the need for good cards seems more important than ever. (Is she justifying? I think she’s justifying? But is she wrong? Hmm.)

What can I say? I can’t resist a good bookstore.

Eventually the man showed up and we met up with our friend and finally went hiking. Apparently most of New Jersey is actually really attractive! Not something I would have predicted! But the leaves had turned and the whole forest was red and yellow. We walked by a river and over several streams, and the day was brisk and cool.

And then I found $10! No joke! Just lying in the middle of the forest!

After hiking, we grabbed cider at a roadside farm, then headed back to the city. We headed to the world trade center, but then skipped the line in favor of going home for a nap and a snack. Later tonight, I’ll check in for my flight, and we’ll get dinner. Indian, I’m hoping.

It was a really good trip, a really good day.

Today’s spending

  • $4 – large coffee on the way to the train
  • $114 – books, buttons, bags, cards (you better hope you get one!)
  • $2 – apple cider
  • +$10 – found money!

Adventures in Frugality: the Scarf Story

Knitting and I have a funny relationship, sort of a dysfunctional one. I get into a project, img_20161023_145247992_hdrusually around the holidays, and then I knit like mad until I can’t even stand to look at a string of yarn. That’s what happened to me this last time around (and the time before that), but I’ve started a new hat, which means I’m probably ready to tell this story.

You may remember back in August I posted a list of things that I could do to entertain myself while my man is off in the big city. One of the things was to knit through the box of yarn that I’ve got, which is stuffed to the gills with yarn I’ve inherited, the leftover bits from old projects, and yarn I just thought was too pretty to pass up. One of my good friends saw that post, and she had an idea.

While I was over at her house for dinner one evening, with my yarn in tow of course, she asked whether I’d be up for a knitting project. Would I be willing to make scarves for the bridesmaids in her wedding, which included me? I thought about it, and I knew the timing would be a bit tight, but I was bored and scarves don’t take that long right? Sure, I said. Let’s look at patterns.

We chose this one, which seemed challenging, definitely the hardest knitting I’d done so far, but it was pretty and felt doable. As long as I knitted a scarf a week, I figured I’d be fine. I stopped at a yarn store, picked up the right gauge needles and yarn, and went to work.

It was frustratingly hard, but the pattern was lovely once I got the hang of it (I thought). I took my friend back to the yarn store to pick out colors, feeling a little nervous, but competent.

We went to South Park Dry Goods, a locally owned yarn and crafts shop in her neighborhood. My friend, who is a little bit of a puppy sometimes, started touching all of the yarn and asking what I thought about colors for the other bridesmaids, whether they should wear the scarves during the wedding, whether they should all be the same or different, and because I don’t care about weddings and am honest, said I don’t care at all. So finally she asked the ladies who owned the store what they thought.

They were happy to help. “Oh we have opinions,” one of them said. “Just tell us what we’re talking about, and we’ll give you our opinions.” So my friend launches into the story of her wedding, telling the women, Susan and Elise, how it would be in the fall in Ohio, how much she loves handmade things, and how I’d agreed to knit scarves for the bridal party. The ladies were agog. They enthusiastically helped her choose colors, even going so far as to find a mustard yarn that matched the color of her accessories and march it down an aisle of colors so she could see how everything would match.

“Now,” said Susan, the yarn shop owner (and a saint among knitters), “when’s the wedding?”

“October 8th,” my friend said. About seven weeks away.

“What?!” Susan and Elise shouted in unison. Susan turned to me with big eyes.

“You’re going to try to knit six of these scarves in seven weeks?”

“Yeah,” I said, trying to sound nonchalant instead of terrified. “I figure if I knit in every spare minute between now and October 8th, I can do it.”

“Oh no,” Elise said, “you’re going to need help. We can help!” she volunteered. “Let’s see, I can take one, and Susan can take one, and you’ll take one, that’s three already.”

I demurred.

“Well,” Susan said, “try it out this weekend and on Sunday, come in for our open knitting session if you need help.”

“Don’t knit while you’re drinking and don’t knit late at night,” Elise warned.

That weekend, from Friday night through all of Saturday until Sunday at noon, I knitted. I knitted, messed up, ripped out, and knitted. I broke one of Elise’s cardinal rules and knitted until 10:30 one night and had to rip everything out and start over. It was brutal. By the time the open knitting session started, I had ten inches.

I came into the shop as soon as it opened and showed Susan.

“Oh honey,” she said, whipping out her phone. “I’m texting all my friends now.” And like the bat signal, Susan put the word out. Every woman who walked in the store that afternoon was handed a scarf and told the story. How I was in a wedding and I’d agreed to knit these scarves, but like Rapunzel with her straw, it was too much for me. Sometimes with a smile, sometimes with a little bit of a side-eye, each lady took her yarn and got started. By five o’clock that evening, five scarves had been assigned.

I knitted and I knitted and I cursed my friend a little bit and I cursed myself a little bit and I knitted some more. It got easier, both the pattern and accepting the mistakes I made and learning to keep knitting without looking back. The scarf grew longer and longer. I went back to South Park Dry Goods a few times a week, and every Sunday, for encouragement, and I’ll be honest, to check in on everyone else’s progress.

With a few weeks to go, I finished my scarf. I went back to the yarn store to show Susan, who gushed appropriately and told me how to block it, another new skill I was learning. There was still one scarf to go, so I took the last two balls of yarn, a lovely rusty brown, and got to work.

That weekend, my friend and I worked up at camp the entire weekend, with eighteen high school girls and eighteen high powered women who were there mentors. In every free moment, I knitted. I knitted during panel presentations. I knitted during mealtimes. I knitted after smores and before anyone else woke up. I knitted and I worked and I knitted.

When we got home after camp, we went straight to the yarn store. One woman had finished her scarf, two done. The others were still in progress, but doing well. We brought them champagne and lavender cookies and peanut m&ms (a specific request). I remember hoping, and I still hope, that when I am their age, my mother’s age, that I have as much fun as those women, that I laugh as much as they do, and that I have as many friends.

A week or so to go. I knitted my scarf. I crossed my fingers that the others would finish as well, and figured I’d just knit on the plane if they didn’t.

On the Sunday morning before I was to leave, I finished my scarf and went to South Park Dry Goods. Susan and Elise were there, doing a book making class and discussing Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic. All of the scarves were drying in the back room, lined up next to each other, and they looked gorgeous.


Five scarves, minus one that was already finished.

I sat around the store that afternoon for as long as I could, no project to keep my fingers busy. I listened to the ladies, watched them work on their books, touched the trinkets for sale. One woman knitted a hat between working on her book.

“She’s knitting hats for the Native American’s in North Dakota,” Susan said, “The ones protesting the pipeline. Now I didn’t volunteer you…”

“Of course I’ll knit a hat,” I jumped in. “I’ve got to give back to the knitting gods somehow.”

Which brings us back to the hat at the start of the story. The hat I’m knitting for someone to take to the protesters. I hope it keeps a head warm.


Me and three knitting queens

Hopes and Dreams Revisited

I was going through some old notes when I found a list I’d made back in April of 2012. It seemed worth sharing, so here it is:

Financial Goals & Responsibilities, Hopes & Dreams

1. Pay off student loans
2. Pay off car
3. Have own car insurance
4. Have health insurance
5. Rent/food/etc.

Roller skates
A cat
A 3 day vacation with Scott somewhere nice-ish
Food processor
Nice blender
Trip for Kate by the time she graduates

What struck me about this list was that I’ve managed to accomplish all of it, and that’s a good thing to remember.

I wrote this list a year before I paid off my student loans. I wrote this list just as I was starting to get into roller derby. I wrote it long before I adopted Hillary, whose butt is by my hands as I write this. I didn’t exactly accomplish all these things on their original timeline, but I did each one.

This week I crossed off #2. I sent in my final check to my grandmother for my car, 610 dollars. It feels good to have taken care of this, and even better to think of the $500 each month that can go straight to savings now. I’ve had that car since 2011 and even though I only started seriously paying it off recently, I still can’t believe how long it’s taken me and how much relief I feel to have that debt gone (even though there was 0 outside pressure associated with it).

#3 came quickly after moving to San Diego, though apparently not as quickly as I remember. I think I was on my parents’ car insurance until the time came to get California plates, and then my insurance was in my name. This is not something that gives me wild satisfation, like paying off a loan does. It’s a little bit of a pain actually because it reminds me that I still drive way more than I would like to, but it also reminds me that I’m responsible about it.

Health insurance took a long time to get. I was on my parents’ health insurance for awhile and worried about getting sick because it was a pain to use in California. I had health insurance when I worked at the law firm, so I must have just gotten it around the time I wrote this. It was good to have, but I didn’t like using it then either. It’s actually only recently that I’ve started to feel okay about using my health insurance. Girl Scouts offers a good policy and I like my doctor and my dentist, so I make appointments (well, I make dental appointments, but I would make doctor’s appointments if I thought I needed to).

#5. Rent/food/etc. It’s a responsibility. An ongoing one. I always had enough to make rent (it was the worst when I worked part-time for G.S., but I still made it). It’s only recently that rent’s become an easy thing. After I started working for Girl Scouts the second time, I just set an automatic transfer for my part of the rent payment. No more thinking about it. Now the money gets transferred on the first of every month and nobody has to remind me and I don’t have to think about which check I’m going to use. I’m going to use the money that’s in the account already. I feel like this makes it sound like I was always on the edge when I was paying rent before and I wasn’t; I just acted like I was.

Those were the responsibilities. The unnumbered part of the list were the hopes and dreams.

Roller skates–still one of the best purchases I ever made. I haven’t been skating much recently, i.e. in the last six months. I haven’t been going to practice and I haven’t been skating. I’d like to say I miss it, but I think I’d have to go back in order to realize if I miss it. So I’m planning to go back to practice and I’m hoping that once I’m there I’ll miss it. But I don’t know. I still love my skates though.

A cat–she’s been on the list for a long time. And she’s so so great.

A three day vacation with Scott somewhere nice-ish. We took a three day vacation for my 24th birthday in 2012 to Joshua Tree and we stayed in an adorable air-stream trailer. Mission accomplished. For awhile we only traveled to weddings, then we went to Glasgow and almost stayed forever (real talk: I almost stayed forever, Scott was ready to come home). What I’ve learned in the ensuing years is that three day vacations are important for me, not so much for him. I remember wanting this vacation, being so excited to be on the road after work even when we were stuck in traffic. I needed the break. And I needed the break this weekend when I took a couple extra days off. It wasn’t for us. It was for me. It feels good to know that.

A bike. I used Scott’s bike for awhile and then it was stolen and now I have my own bike! It’s great. I love my bike.

Food Processor/Blender. I have both now. Part of me thinks I only need one, and then I think that’s silly. They are very different. I wouldn’t say that I have a nice food processor or blender, but they also didn’t cost $400 so I don’t really care. They get the job done.

Trip for Kate by the time she graduates. I didn’t get this done by the time she graduated, but this year I took her and my grandmother to Washington, D.C.  It was important to me to do that with my grandmother, while she’s still with us and still mobile enough to travel, and it was also important to me that my sister come with us. It seemed unfair for her to miss out on that time with our last grandparent, who loves us both so well, just because she was still paying off loans and getting settled. So I took her too, and it was entirely the right idea.

My current list of goals & responsibilities, hopes & dreams is just as long if not longer than this one, so sometimes it seems as though I’m not making any progress. I’d like to be saving for a down payment on a house (why? it just seems like the next grown up thing to do). I’d like to be putting more toward retirement, like double or triple what I’m doing now (#dreambig). I’d like an emergency fund and a next-car fund, and a second bookshelf and some better knives. It’s easy to forget with all those other dreams out there that there was a time when I just wanted to pay off my student loans and get a food processor.

We’ve come, if not a long way, at least a long time, from those days.

Freaking Fabulous Friday

Yesterday almost seemed like it would be a non-fabulous Friday (do such things exist?). I woke up late and headachey because of the outrageous heat, then drove up north to work in one of our north county offices. Almost immediately after arriving, I lost a contact, so my vision was blurry and my headache increased, but I didn’t want to drive the half an hour back down to San Diego to get another contact, only to drive back north again, so I stuck it out for a few hours. I knocked out a few things that I needed to, and I basked in the air conditioning. I left early, intending to swing by the apartment before heading to our main headquarters for the big, annual fundraiser.

I didn’t realize that I had left a work laptop at the other office until I was already home. Since no one else was there, I turned around and drove back up and down again. At least I was able to see again.

So I was grouchy. I hadn’t gotten as much work done as I’d wanted, and I was feeling the pressure, plus I was about to work for another eight hours. That said, one of my coworkers had been having an even worse week, so I swung by Starbucks and picked us up two iced chai lattes (yep, my September game plan lasted less than a week). Then I parked in the neighborhood around council, the parking lot being occupied by fundraising activities, and headed back to work. I must have parked further away than I thought because I ended up having to hike through one of Balboa parks canyons to get to work, carrying my purse, my lunchsack, the laptop and two rapidly melting chai lattes, sweating profusely through my work clothes (what else is new?). My grumpiness reached new levels.

I finally got into the air conditioned (hallelujah!) and sucked back my own chai while madly trying to finish the budgets my boss had asked for before getting sucked into the fundraiser madness. But it turned out my boss had already gotten started on the budgets, and the remaining work took a matter of minutes. Whew! A weight off my shoulders! My colleague was extremely grateful for the iced chai and sorry to hear I’d had a rough day, which somehow made the day less rough. We jumped into event mode and had a fairly successful and mercifully smooth auction. I was home by midnight, tired and sweaty (it was still brutally hot), but grateful.

Grateful that I have good coworkers and I work for an organization I like, even when we’re doing my least favorite thing–raising the money.

Grateful that I have good friends at work and elsewhere.

Grateful for the Boy who remained calm in my tempest-in-a-teapot crisis as I worked half blind.

And grateful I think most of all that the next day would be Saturday. And here it is. I work tomorrow, but not yet. For today, I read Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, drank copious amounts of iced tea, and relaxed. The weather, still hot, feels slightly cooler, and I’m hopeful that one day we might feel something vaguely resembling fall.

Fabulous Friday #2

I left work early; that was probably the most fabulous part of today.

Work has been intense lately, with pretty long hours, and I don’t expect it to get better anytime soon. I used to wonder how one of my very good friends did it (she works even more than I do) but it is easy. The work is rewarding. Being at work is fun (being in a cubicle with your best friend all day makes being in a cubicle a lot cooler). Even when the work is painful and challenging, or I get yelled at, it’s still not life and death, and so far, that’s meant I’ve been able to leave it behind when I finally do leave the office. All that is pretty fabulous as well.

This morning I woke up early, 5:25 a.m., wrote my morning pages, went for a run, and wrote a little bit more. I’ve managed to do this four out of five days this week (my alarm didn’t go off on Wednesday) and it feels fabulous to be using my mornings so productively.

I even made some not so fabulous-looking chocolate chip cookies during my early morning hours, but they tasted good. #vegan #glutenfree

I braided my hair in Heidi-braids. #fabulous.

My extremely fabulous new laptop arrived this afternoon. It is so sleek and light and fast that it makes my old laptop look like a lumbering behemoth. I’m still figuring out some of the new features and adding the programs I use, but it’s nice to be able to work without fighting with the tool.

I’ll probably go running with the Boy in a little bit, then play with the new toy some more. I work tomorrow morning (#norestforthewicked) and then I’m supposed to be donating blood. I’m very, very glad it is a long weekend–looking forward to some rest eventually.

Fabulous Friday

“Today is the greatest day of my life!” I texted one of my friends this afternoon, quickly adding “since returning from Scotland.” So basically, the greatest day of my week, and the foreseeable future.

It started typically enough. I got up at the usual time, 5:40ish, which gave me time to write my morning pages, drink some coffee, and hang out with Hillary Kitten. It even gave me some time to play around with a little bit of poetry and do some reading. I ate my typical breakfast, oatmeal (glorious as usual) topped with a banana and some decadent strawberries I nabbed from a work meeting on Wednesday.

Then I biked to work, my favorite way to commute. I don’t usually talk about what I wear on this blog (except when I spend exorbitantly on my work wardrobe) but today I wore my favorite blue dress and my Scotland boots (so named because I bought them at a British Hearts secondhand shop in Glasgow for seven pounds).

Work was itself, which is not bad at all even for as much as I complain about it. I had a lunch meeting scheduled with a manager in another department and we went to this awesome vegan fast food place that I love. Fantastic burger and fries. I picked up a delicious piece of chocolate cheesecake (because why not) and was in heaven.

We continued our meeting back at the office and it was midafternoon when my cubicle mate texted me to say “I have a surprise for you.” Turned out she’d brought me back a snack, spring rolls, from my favorite restaurant in San Diego. Lunch at my second favorite place and a snack from my first? Hence, the greatest day of my life text. The spring rolls made an early dinner/late afternoon snack.

I biked home and read the internet (my favorite guilty pleasure/self-indulgent weakness) for a couple of hours. I had some almond milk and a cookie that I’d picked up from the restaurant earlier. When you go to a vegan restaurant with good desserts, you learn to pack a few to go is all I’m sayin’. Then I finally got off my duff and went for a run in the cool weather as night fell.

Early rising? Check.
Writing? Check.
Reading? Check.
Great food all day long? Check. Check. Check.
Running? Check.
More Writing? Check.

Not my most frugal day, but life doesn’t get much better than this.

Biking as Civil Disobedience

This weekend a couple of friends and I biked close to 30 miles, from my apartment up to La Jolla and back. We went with a local bike advocacy organization and enjoyed a “free” beer afterwards (the donation for the ride was $50 for the 3 of us, but it was a good cause) and some $2 chips.

I hadn’t been on my bike in awhile. Between offsite work meetings and general morning laziness, it had probably been a week and a half, maybe even two weeks since I’d ridden, and I’d forgotten the pure ecstasy of riding. Bikes are really, really fun, particularly my bike, which is fast, light and impressive. Seriously, bikers ogle my bike. They ask me about it (and then I reveal my ignorance because I know absolutely nothing about it except that I am unworthy). They practically drool.

And to be honest, my daily commute isn’t really long enough to all the pure bike joy I can. It’s a nice, peaceful start to the day, but this weekend was a great ride–long enough to really think about things and enjoy the surroundings: a beautiful bike path by the San Diego river, then some gorgeous (and expensive houses) in La Jolla.

Somewhere along the ride, I thought of biking as a form of social protest, as civil disobedience. This feels especially true in Southern California where car culture is paramount and bike lines are ridiculed in city planning meetings. Yet there we were, fifty or so of us, biking along the river while cars piled up on the highway nearby. From my vantage point on the bike path, I could see lots of snowy egrets and ducks, maybe even a great blue heron once (I couldn’t tell from the distance). I could smell the ocean, feel the sea breeze in my face. I like my car, but I don’t feel any of those things from inside my air conditioned vehicle. In my car, I’m unaware of all of that; I’m just one lonely pea in my own pod. On my bike, I’m part of the world.

And I think that’s why I thought of biking as civil disobedience. It connects me to things big business (even small business, hey there, five points business district) would rather I ignore, like the air I’m breathing. It takes longer and it goes slower, the opposite of convenient, instant gratification (though getting on a bike is pretty instantly gratifying). It’s sweaty. It messes up my hair. I come to work a little less perfect, a little more alive.

Biking is a way of living my values. How I move through the city is right up there with what I eat in terms of the impact it has on my daily life. It’s my chance to save some money, exercise, enjoy nature and avoid hurting it. Days when I drive I miss all of that.

It was a gorgeous ride and a great weekend. If I could go the rest of the week without driving, until we leave for Scotland, I would. I don’t know if I’ll make it that far. There’s a money exchange to do and my poetry class on Wednesday morning. But, if I can swing it, I would feel pretty good.

HK Update

My father always said “cats are cheap” but HK wasn’t born yet, so it wasn’t his fault he was wrong.

HK went to the vet again today. She’s got a little spot on one of her back paws that won’t heal up, so she’s been on antibiotics, but they’re not helping so it was back to the vet. Now she has to wear a cone-of-shame and topical ointment twice a day. And she had her temperature taken anally. And she still has to take her pills. She’s had a rough day.

I have a confession: she’s not wearing the cone-of-shame. I can’t make her. She’s too miserable. She hates it. She hides in the corner. She walks backward when she’s not hiding in the corner. So as long as she’s hanging out with me (and at the moment I can’t see the words I’m typing because she’s decided hanging out in between my arms is the best), she doesn’t have to wear the cone. I’m not sure how sleeping is going to go, or how she’ll deal with it when I’m at work tomorrow, but at least for now, no cone-of-shame.

Having a cat with a chronic condition (and being a natural neurotic who takes her cat to the vet more often than she’s a doctor herself) has made me realize that HK is always going to be a serious line-item in the budget, in a way I foolishly didn’t plan for when I picked her up at the shelter back in May. I knew pets were a commitment, but I didn’t realize how different it would be to have my own cat. I thought I’d already had cats because I grew up with them. I didn’t have cats. My parents had cats. I don’t think I understood what responsibility really feels like until I was physically, emotionally, and financially responsible for another life–her life. It’s sweeter and deeper and costlier than I anticipated, but mostly the first two.

And like my mechanic, I am grateful that I have a vet I trust, who is going to take care of HK even if it means prescribing a gold plated cone-of-shame.

In human news, I switched my health insurance (last day to do it if you’re on Covered California! Sorry if you’re too late!) so that maybe I can find a doctor as good as my vet and my mechanic. Otherwise, I’ll probably just start going to them for medical advice.

More about presents

Frequently, I wonder if my “daily present” is really a present, or if it is just something I would have done anyway and I’m only appreciating it more. I actually think it is probably the latter. In most cases, it just seems like I have a little more gratitude for the regular nice things in my life–reading in bed with a cup of cocoa or looking at the Christmas lights or getting to watch an episode of Gilmore Girls–more than that I am adding other nice things into my life like a yoga class or an extra trip to Starbucks.

And that’s okay with me. I actually think the gratitude for the nice things in my life is the real present, not the nice things themselves. It’s being able to notice the moments I take for myself and appreciate them, instead of diminishing or feeling guilty for them. Watching one of my favorite shows is not just a way to pass the time on an evening when there’s nothing else going on–its a nice way to treat myself. It gives the act more meaning and makes me more connected to my actions and the present (see what I did there?). A daily present gives me a little permission to enjoy something, even if normally I would think “don’t eat that” or “shouldn’t you be doing something else with your time” and it is small enough–just one each day–that I don’t go overboard with eating or spending or relaxing.

Tl/dr: daily presents are great! Everyone should do it!