Thursday, August 27, 2015

Straining to Hear That Cha-CHING.

I've never been awesome at saving money.

You know what I've been awesome at instead? Shopping for clothes, shoes, makeup and fascinating works of literature. Drinking fancy lattes at 2 pm. Bringing a bottle of bubbly over to my friends' houses. Eating lunch and dinner at awesome restaurants and springing for a cocktail or two.

But since I've entered the decade of the thirties, which is when most people realize they'll get old one day, I've heard through the grapevine that I should be saving. So, in the last few weeks or so (don't laugh - I had to start somewhere) I've begun taking my money habits more seriously.

First, I opened a Roth IRA and there's already a little bit of money in it. YAY! Thanks to my Uncle Phil's speech in Litchfield back around Memorial Day, I set up the account without difficulty and I'm depositing money as often as possible. I feel so accomplished!

The other things I've done haven't been quite as fun.

I'm eating way more meals at home, for one thing. And yes, my cooking skills have improved. In the last week I've made tons of fruit smoothies, salads, new desserts (y'all read that post, right?), inventive pasta dishes ...and today I actually drove home from work and made coffee, eggs, toast and sliced tomatoes in my kitchen instead of going to Bagel Nation. Crazy, right? And I'm having hot tea at my desk now, made with some tea my thrifty best friend Mandie gave me.

It gets crazier.

I announced to my roomie John, after rinsing my dishes, that I was going to Barnes & Noble and buying a CD that I wanted because, well, who buys CDs anymore? I was in a funk earlier today and in need of a retro adventure, like opening some new music and unfolding a lyric sheet. Then I halted. CDs are like $18 bucks -- that's my whole day's allowance blown before dinner! So you know what I did instead?


I'm finally living within my means, I thought to myself, thumbing through Fleetwood Mac and Radiohead in the "Pop/Rock" section of the Mount Pleasant Branch.

But it's not always as bleak as I'm making it sound. Yesterday, I joined my sis at the Pickled Palate and had a yummy sandwich and salad for about $12. And the other day, I had a beer and shrimp tacos at happy hour for about $10. I've been tracking myself and sticking to this $20 a day thing. Most days, I don't spend the whole $20. I'm feeling ...probably the way most people feel when they start a new diet.

Is this forever? 

But it won't always feel like that, of course. Soon, this new leaf I'm turning over will become a habit. I'll waste less money and sock more of it away. And I'll become a better cook. And I'll develop a new appreciation for restaurants, libraries, vacations and treating myself.

Those all sound like good things in the long run, right?

My smoothie, pre-blend. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Sweet Tooth: The Next Generation.

I didn't grow up in a household with tons of snacks. I had to venture to my friends' houses if I wanted soda, Fruit-by-the-Foot or Star Crunches. My grandmother has always had an honest sweet tooth -- she just preferred to satisfy it with real desserts, not packaged kiddie treats. Thus, even though there weren't Twinkies and Kool Aid in my childhood home, there was almost always fresh pound cake. She loved making desserts herself. Even now, twenty years later, my grandmother still loves to come home from the grocery store on a Sunday and indulge in a new recipe. It's usually something sweet, because that's what she loves.

For the last couple of years, I've noticed my own sweet tooth -- which I've had since childhood, thus taking after her -- inspiring me in the same fashion. Once in a while I'll make a real meal, but I particularly love making sweets. Last week, I made what I called "peaches in a blanket" (rolled up peaches with cinnamon, butter and honey and baked inside dough) and tonight, I made frozen hot chocolate for the first time. I couldn't help but think about my grandmother. Sure, I've gotten the last two of my recipes off a Pinterest page and she gets hers from real magazines or cookbooks. And sure, she can still turn a Bundt cake right side up without a problem, whereas mine broke apart the last time I tried. Nevertheless, I think this is a trait that I can proudly say I got from my grandmother, sugar highs at 9 p.m. and all. 

During deadline, it can't be a bad thing to feel awake anyhow. 

Friday, August 14, 2015

Breaking Up With Love.

My goodness, it's been absolutely forever. I've had a busy summer, hanging with my friends, their kids and soaking up rays either at my house in Litchfield or right here at the beaches of Charleston. And I've noticed that the saying rings true, about happiness being a butterfly that will sit on your shoulder when you aren't chasing it.

I've been doing some thinking about my ridiculous romantic track record. I've been single for three and some change years now -- not just unmarried or lacking a live-in boyfriend but SINGLE. No flings, no plus-ones to call up for a movie night -- nothing. Yes, I tried Tinder for a bit and it didn't work. Yes, I tried to fan a few acquaintances into a flame; that didn't work either.

For a while, it saddened me. After all, I've been obsessed with love since I first took notice of it appearing in works of literature, classrooms and family sitcoms. I realized it wasn't the kind of love that lasted forever, but it was a taste -- enough of a taste to make me want it.

Though I didn't date as a teenager (I was entirely too awkward) I daydreamed about love constantly, even wrote entire screenplays about my crush during World History class. And, once I got to college and did start dating, I found myself engrossed in a series of relationships basically lasting from approximately age 20 until age 32. Sure, not all of those guys were serious boyfriends, but I always had an object of affection. I always had a goal pertaining to love.

Now, I don't. There's nobody I'm crushing on, nobody I'm engaged to, nobody I'm sleeping with, nobody I'm casually dating in hopes to watch it go further. I've reached the age when everyone has someone, usually a spouse, yet I'm the most alone I've been since adolescence. It's pretty ironic I guess. Here's the exciting thing though: I've finally accepted it.

It sort of happened like this. I was walking a bag of garbage to the dumpster at my condo complex recently (Don't you love symbolism?) and realized I've finally broken up with love as an idea. It took me a good few years. I'd been depressed, I realized, when I ended my last relationship at age 32. After more than a decade of having some dude at my side, it was jarring for me. Now, not only have I gotten used to no ball-and-chain, I've discovered I prefer it!

There are a few contributing factors to this. One: I watch other people in relationships and marriages and they seem sorta annoyed with their partners a good chunk of the time. No offense. Two: I'm a social butterfly and I'm selfish. How did I not realize it sooner? Three: I can redevelop my own idea of love now, because I've let the old one go.

I'm well aware that this might mean I stay alone for even longer; it could take time to rewrite the idea of love from scratch. But I think it'll be worth it, because the old idea I had was not working. Plus, I have other kinds of love that aren't the romantic kind. Sure, sometimes I still feel lonely. But just like other mood swings I'm prone to, it's unrelated to reality.

Breaking up with my original idea about love was hard, no doubt about it. But I feel so much happier than I did a year ago. Sometimes the baggage that holds us down isn't material or relational -- it's ideological.

Good thing it's in the dumpster now.