eat! craft! live!

Baking, crafting, mama-ing and taking photos of it all. When I remember.


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No Spend 2019: April-June


Areas where I was successful over the past few months:

  • I paid off my car! My goal was to get it paid off by the end of the summer (before I have to start paying aftercare again) and I did it!
  • Our bills, again, were pretty consistent and reasonable. I expect some of them to go down further for the summer – natural gas, electricity, gas for the car, tolls… No heat, no commute to/from school!
  • I bought a couple new summery dresses and a pair of sandals, because my wardrobe was looking a little scanty recently. Why is this good news? Because I purchased second-hand items – better for the environment, better for my wallet!

Areas where I could have improved:

  • We spent way too much money eating out. It’s one of the few luxuries we have, and I’m loathe to rein it in, but we really do need to cut back. The end of swim lessons will put a stop to eating at the Holy Donut every week, which is sad for my tastebuds but good for my budget.
  • I tipsily bought a handful of new enamel pins. They’re fun! They were on sale! Excuses.

Areas I spent more than expected, but mindfully:

  • I bought a folding stationary bike. I consider it money well spent, since it’s exceedingly hard for me to leave my house, without kids, to work out and I really need to invest in my health!
  • I paid for part of my trip to Rhinebeck in October. Could I not go and just save that money? Sure. Do I really need to get a way once in a while? Absolutely.
  • I spent a small amount of money on embroidery and cross stitch supplies. It’s my “summer craft” – portable, inexpensive, and not woolly! It does wonders for my mental health. Stitching in the hammock is pure joy.

All in all, not too bad. Now that my car is paid off, I’ve upped my retirement contribution and I’ll start saving money while I have it to save, because my financial situation in the fall will be very different, unfortunately!

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No Spend 2019 – March

Well.

Good intentions, AMIRITE?

To be fair, a lot of my spending in March was due to a trip* to Washington, D.C. I took for work and which I’ll mostly be reimbursed for. Also it was tax refund time and while I never go wild when I get an unexpected windfall, I did loosen up the purse strings just a bit last month.

That said… Areas where I was successful:

  • Regular bills – they don’t change much, we’re thrifty with our energy usage.
  • Home & garden maintenance – I purchased some seed starting materials, but that was about it.
  • I also spent way more on my car payment this month, which is the general idea of spending far less in other areas – gotta get that car paid off! Between budgeting and tax refunds, I was able to pay more than 4x the usual car payment…plus the actual car payment. Woo!

And then there were areas I was less successful:

  • Groceries – somehow I ended up spending far more on groceries, despite being out of town for a week?!?
  • Clothing – a series of unfortunate (and fortunate?) events led me to be at Old Navy unexpectedly. *ahem* I went searching for one particular dress I knew was there and in the process picked up a few more items on clearance. So it goes. I also bought new shoes for walking around DC and I’m so glad I did – I walked 10+ miles one day!
  • Eating out – Spent loads in this category last month. Again, due mainly to being out of town…but not entirely.
  • I also picked up a handful of things in DC as souvenirs. A giant pompom (which delights me to no end) and enamel pin from Fibre Space. An enamel pin from the Library of Congress.

There were also some expected, but irregular, expenses, namely:

  • yearly car registration
  • 6-month car insurance policy renewal (I pay in full)
  • dance recital tickets

It wasn’t the greatest month, with regard to the budget, but it wasn’t terrible either! I’ve done some math and I’m hopeful that I will actually be able to meet my goal of paying off my car by the end of the summer. Fingers crossed and belts tightened!

*The trip was to the Digital POWRR Institute and it was amazing. The whole training was fantastic, the weather was perfect, the food was great, the Library of Congress was awe-inspiring, the museums were phenomenal…

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No Spend 2019 – Jan/Feb update

So, now that it’s March, are you wondering how I did with my spending in January and February?

Probably not, but I’m going to tell you anyway.

It wasn’t until a little ways into January that I decided to be intentional about my spending this year, so there were a few purchases that slipped into the beginning of the month that I may not have made otherwise. (Some home stuff, a new [secondhand] dress, skincare products.)

Interestingly, my February spending on home improvement actually went up…by a fair amount. Oops! I bought some under cabinet organizers and a new toilet seat to replace our cracked one. My household bills were about the same – they really only change with the weather and it isn’t warm yet. I spent less on gas & tolls – entirely because of February vacation and not driving my kids to school every day that week. I spent slightly more on groceries and far more on eating out, which I also attribute almost entirely to February vacation. I spent much less on personal care (no new skincare products this month!) and clothing. I did end up buying a pair of leggings because I wear them religiously and my many pairs are starting to become hole-y. (See what I did there?)

It was also my birthday this month and I did choose to spend birthday money on fun* stuff instead of getting ahead financially. All work and no play, y’know… And thus, I now own proper bread proofing baskets, a fancy lame, and some lightweight lidded containers so I no longer have to lug around a heavy glass bowl. My bread today was fabulous, yes.

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Cranberry walnut sourdough. Amazing.

*I am now at an age where fun = bread baking supplies and storage systems. Yup.


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Operation Try New Restaurants: Shindig

grilled cheese & tomato soup

Amazing grilled cheese. Amazing soup!

While on my nearly-yearly trip to New York for Rhinebeck, we ate at Shindig in Woodstock one evening. It was super cute, and tiny, and I had a grilled cheese and tomato soup that were amazing.

Delightful.

The whole weekend is always a great time. Friends, food, fiber. Last year was no exception.

And now for some photos!

The most amazing buttons!

These button! My heart.

Baaaa!

Sheep. What we’re all here for.

Falling leaves

Falling leaves at the fairgrounds.

YOU ARE

You are here. At Jill Draper’s, to be specific.


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No Spend 2019

I debated whether or not to even post this, but I rather want some accountability, so I’m going to. Even just posting this will help me hold myself accountable.

So hi! My name is Laura and I’m not going to Buy Things* in 2019.

I have a lot of reasons for this. Mainly to do with trying to save money, but also about trying to consume fewer resources.

As a newly-single-income household, I’m going to need to pay even more attention than usual to where my money is going. I’ve always budgeted and I’ve never been a big spender (it’s…uh…never really been an option) but this year I’m really going to say “no” to most everything, spending-wise.

I have two major financial goals for the year:

  1. Pay off the kids’ summer camp before 2020’s summer camp payments come around
  2. Pay off my car (so I can afford to pay my rent come fall)

Summer camp…is expensive y’all. I don’t exactly make it easy on myself, financially, sending my kids to a summer camp they love (that’s more expensive) instead of the cheap one in town (that E hates). I don’t feel guilty about it though – they’ll remember it for the rest of their lives. My mom sent me to a fantastic summer camp that I know she couldn’t afford and I loved it and have incredibly fond memories of it to this day.

My car isn’t due to be paid off for another 16 months or so but in order to be able to afford rent on my own, I can’t have a car payment. (Or…some other payment. But the car payment is the only thing that I’m going to reasonably be able to get rid of.) The good news: a lot of y’all have been incredibly generous and I’m all set for rent for the next two months…at which point I will be done paying for aftercare for the school year… So! My goal is to pay off the car while I have no aftercare payments so that once they kick in again in August, that car payment will be gone. The good news: I have a tax refund coming at some point for an as-yet-unknown amount (but probably a lot) and I have a freelance job through at least May, hopefully September. Can I do it? Stay tuned!

Financial reasons aren’t the only reasons though. Lately I’ve been feeling really tired of consumerism. I’m trying to eliminate single-use plastics from my life. I’m trying to purchase mindfully. I’m trying to reduce, reuse, recycle, y’all. It feels cheesy to say so and I know that my own tiny actions aren’t going to save the world, but at least I can do what I’m able to. For instance, recently I ran out of cotton balls, which I use morning and night. I thought, “There has to be some reusable option for these…” and proceeded to buy some washable organic cotton rounds from an Etsy seller, made from scraps. I haven’t used them yet but I’m looking forward to trying them out tonight!

*My exceptions for my No Spend Year are that I’m allowing myself to buy necessities, replace things that break/run out/wear out/whatever, and purchase second-hand items, as needed. For instance, on a trip to Goodwill I found a like-new popover pan, frying pan, and curling iron. They were all things I’d wanted for ages and second-hand cost me under $10 for the lot. And those cotton rounds? I was either going to have to buy more disposable products or I could spend a bit more and have a reusable option for, hopefully, a very long time into the future. I make my own rules, yo.


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Operation Try New Restaurants: April

OK, y’all, I’m a wee bit embarrassed about April’s new restaurants. After all the excitement of March, I guess I just had to tone it down a bit?

One new-to-me place we hit up was Goody’s Pizzeria, near the kids’ school. And truly, the only reason we went there was because there was some school function or other that required us staying near school instead of going home for dinner and coming back again. It’s within walking distance. They have mediocre pizzas and an assortment of salty snacks and sugary drinks. It’s not McDonald’s, which was the main draw. The inside was old-school charming and my kiddos got a big kick out the photos over every table and the tiny bathroom. It was perfect for what it was.

The other place we went in April was…99 Restaurant. Restaurants? The 99? I don’t even know how to refer to it. Basically the only big box, chain-type restaurants we go to are Chipotle and McDonald’s. But this whole casual style, eat in, chain restaurant thing is new to my kids! It was a family adventure – we met up with my aunt & uncle in their town and they took us out to lunch. I can definitely see the appeal of eating at a place like this with kids. Crayons! Coloring papers! Chocolate milk! Lemonade! Everything included in the kids’ meal, even dessert! (Which I’m fairly certain we never got and never mentioned because really how much sugar do my children need.)

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Everybody wants to sit next to Uncle Jim.


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Operation Try New Restaurants: New Haven, CT

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Oh, y’all. Back in March (yes, March! Again!) I went to so many new-to-me restaurants while on a work trip to New Haven. I was in town for the New England Archivists spring meeting (which was wonderful, by the way) so all the places I went to were new to me.

I picked Shake Shack for lunch because I’ve Heard Things about it. It was good, fine, tasty but nothing mind-blowing. I very much enjoyed my lunch. Crinkle fries!

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We had one dinner at Pacifico, where I dined solely on queso fundido since I wasn’t terribly hungry. I mean, if you can’t eat a dinner entirely made of cheese while on “vacation” then what are you doing with your life?

We had another dinner at Heirloom, which was truly wonderful. I chose some sort of soup, if I remember correctly, which the server really wanted to make sure I understood was soup. (I guess there were some issues where people didn’t quite get that?) It was delicious. You can’t go wrong at a place that serves this:

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I also opted for dessert – butterscotch pudding with a toasted marshmallow, sea salt & caramel milk jam. Oh, my heart. That was delicious. My zebras helped me eat it.

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Another lunch consisted of bubble tea (yum) and pad see ew (also yum) from Koon Thai, right near the conference center we were at.

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Zebras like Thai food too.

That evening I was lucky to be able to meet up with my sister (!) who lives near New Haven. It had been ages since we’d seen each other! I got to meet her partner, a Very Nice Young Man, and we got appetizers and drinks at the Cask Republic. It wasn’t my usual sort of place but my drink was great – some sort of fancy Moscow mule. Heck yes. (Zebras also like drinks.)

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From there we wandered rather aimlessly around town, looking for something for dinner. Most places had stupidly long wait times, but we found a table at Kitchen ZINC and ordered ourselves some kale! (And pizza!) It was a cozy little place with good food and good cider.

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Finally, on our last morning, we revisited a place we’d been to every day while there – Atticus Bookstore Cafe. This place was heaven. I got a fancy croque monsieur with asparagus that was incredibly delicious. This place satisfied my coffee needs every day, plus it was just such a pleasure to peruse. I ended up buying gifts for my kids there, as well as a few things for myself, and wanting to buy so much more than I could’ve carried home.

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Thus ends my culinary adventures in New Haven!


If you’re wondering about the zebras – they are the unofficial mascot of the Yale Center for British Art, which I visited while there. They also had a presence at the NEA spring meeting, where they were giving out these adorable little zebras. I got two for my kiddos, one of whom is now missing his legs. It was such a pleasure to visit a museum all alone! Highly recommended.

Another non-food honorable mention goes to the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library. (See first photo.) It. Is. Amazing. You can visit this place! Don’t be intimidated if you’re not doing “research” – it’s OK! They have exhibits you can see and the facility itself is just breathtaking. Go. Now.

Finally, I wouldn’t be a proper knitter if I didn’t also give a shout out to Knit New Haven, where I snuck off to during lunch one day. It was a lovely little store with a nicely curated selection. I picked up a couple skeins of Spincycle Yarns in the most gorgeous pale blue/brown/multi colors. I’m in love!