Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Everyday Silver

In the last year, I've inherited (if you want to call it that) two collections of silver. The first was a beautiful, velvet-lined box of mostly Rogers Bros. Adoration pattern — dainty silver-plated flatware that belonged to my great aunt Norma — mixed in with some other random pieces that must have belonged to my grandmother, and Norma's sister, Freda. Grandma Freda's mismatched additions are easily identified; like most everything else valuable and metal she owned (keys, platters, used batteries that still had some juice), hers are marked on the back with a dot of bright pink nail polish.

The second silver collection — each set individually wrapped and tied — came from Kyle's grandmother (who is still living in Iowa but recently moved into a smaller place), along with a full set of Haviland china.

For our last few dinner parties, I've busted out the china from Kyle's family and the silver from mine. Because I'm classy like that.

The silver required a good polishing, which was easily accomplished with Bar Keeper's Friend (though as I later found out, that is a major a no-no). Since then, after using it, I've hand washed each piece, dried them with a soft cloth, and put everything back in its box, which I then shoved into an overstuffed makeshift sideboard in our cramped dining room. Well, all of the pieces except for this one spoon, which somehow never made it back into the box and has been through at least five cycles in the dishwasher.

To my surprise, it's totally fine. I was always told I wasn't supposed to put silver in the dishwasher, but I was also always told I wasn't supposed to wear lipstick and eyeliner at the same time, or wear a black bra with a white shirt, and I've been doing both comfortably for years. I'm pretty sure the scratches were there before I was born, and even if they're the result of my abrasive "polishing," I'm okay with that.

So, I think this collection is about to become my everyday silver.

As I prepare for our neighborhood garage sale (and hopefully for a move, should my terrible credit not prevent us from buying a house this summer), I'm trying to get rid of anything we don't need or really, really love.

We simply have too much stuff to live simply — especially in the kitchen.

To try and adapt to our stuff, or at least tame it, I've turned our breakfast nook into an appliance pantry, and trained Kyle on my storage system: "The turkey baster goes in the Not-Commonly-Used-Utensil Drawer, as opposed to the Commonly-Used-Utensil Drawer. Duh."

While I understand (and have supported with many gifts) Kyle's need for a meat grinder, meat slicer and mandoline, and he puts up with my collections of vintage Pyrex, tiny juice glasses and blue Ball jars, there are many more things that can go. The hodgepodge of cheap flatware I've been accumulating since I moved to New York when I was 18 should be among the first. A household of two does not need three different collections of utensils. 

Enter everyday silver. 

Worst-case scenario, a few pieces end up in a nasty fight with the garbage disposal, or after five more trips through the dishwasher, I learn why I'm supposed to wash it by hand. Maybe I'll need to get a few replacement pieces from eBay or Etsy, and mark them with bright red nail polish. Either way, we'll still have a set of "nice silver," right?

Maybe this is why I shouldn't have nice things. But I'd like to think that the practical part of Grandma Freda (no matter how small that part was; the woman did tell me on more than one occasion to always sacrifice comfort for beauty), or at least my Great Aunt Norma (who was a lawyer before it was cool for women to be lawyers) would have appreciated my utilitarian approach to their utensils.  

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Sunday, May 26, 2013

Doing What I Say I Will, or The Best-Ever Pasta Salad

I like to think of myself as a very flexible person, at least when it comes to my schedule. If plans change at the last minute, I just roll with it, whatever "it" is — and especially if something gets canceled. Unexpected free time is always appreciated.

Flexibility is a great trait for the professional world, but as I'm learning, it's not so great when it comes to family time.

Looking back, my family was always making and breaking plans, and no one ever got too upset when it happened. However, as my husband has pointed out on more than one occasion, not all families operate like that, and when he makes plans with me or my family, it's frustrating when things get changed or canceled as we're just about to leave the house.

Growing up with such an elastic sense of commitment has turned me into an adult who doesn't always follow through with things I say I will do. That's not the kind of person I want to be, and I certainly don't want to raise my kids to be that way.

When I decided to do this project, I wanted to also make more of an effort follow through on what I say I will do (I have subtitled it "Belated Lessons in Life and Economy," after all). It might mean committing to fewer things, and doing some things I'm just too tired to do, but I'm going to try to do them nonetheless. Not following through with the things I tell myself I will do — diets, marathon training, writing that novel, keeping my desk organized — is one thing, but when I tell someone else I will do something, I should do it. And if I can get in the habit of keeping my promises to others, maybe I can start keeping the promises I tell myself. 

My first experience with this new way of thinking came when I told my mother-in-law I'd make pasta salad for a cookout she was planning. Her brother and three of his six kids were passing through town on a road trip, and she wanted everyone to help with the menu. I was happy to do it; I love introducing my cheesy, balsamic pasta salad to new people. But a few days before the cookout, I learned that I was going to have family in town that night, too. My first thought was to cancel — Kyle could hang with his family and I could hang with mine — but, at Kyle's suggestion, we found a way to make both work, and I realized I'd still have plenty of time to make food during the day.

Though we ended up arriving a bit late to Kyle's parents' because it was the first day of his summer job at Boulevard Brewing Company, we were able to see both families and I don't feel like I let anyone down. Pasta salad may be a small commitment to keep, but it's a step in the right direction for me.

Here's the recipe.


1 pound of elbow macaroni, cooked to al dente and cooled (I use Ancient Harvest Quinoa pasta)

1 red onion, finely chopped
1/4-ish pound of smoked gouda, finely chopped

1/4-ish pound of sharp cheddar, finely chopped*
A few spoonfuls of mayonnaise
Balsamic Vinegar

Sea salt

Freshly-ground pepper

Cayenne pepper


Mix everything together, use the balsamic vinegar and spices to taste (I encourage you to use lots of spices, the cayenne really enhances the flavor of the cheddar). Eat immediately or refrigerate. The next day, if it’s dry, just add some more balsamic vinegar and stir. Enjoy!

*Ingredients I picked up on my trip to Aldi

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Obligatory Whiny Post (Because every new blog needs one, right?)

Today started off okay. I did a sunrise yoga class — though it was unusually and almost uncomfortably crowded — and work was work. But in the early evening, in the midst of some delusional excitement, I started to realize the possible consequences of a decision I made a few weeks ago. No, it was not starting this project; in fact, it's more like the antithesis of this project.

Best case, it's likely to slow down my financial progress a bit. Worst case, it may prevent Kyle and me from doing some really important things we had planned to do this year. There's not really any turning back on this decision, and I don't want to, which is another part of the problem. I believe I did the right thing, I maybe just did it at the wrong time.

So, we argued. I shed some tears. We didn't assemble the kimchi we planned to start tonight for our upcoming supper club. Oh, and neither of us ate dinner — though I did inhale an entire package of black sesame candy from the Asian market after I let Kyle go to bed alone. It should also be noted that whilst stuffing said sesame candy in my mouth, I clicked on a traffic source link for this site that took me to a close-up, very high resolution picture of a woman's butthole.

I'm sorry. Not for telling you about the asshole I just witnessed, but for this whiny post. It's really not meant to be one of those annoyingly vague, rambling updates, though I know that's exactly what it is so far (save for the butthole imagery you can't forget). I promise to write more about this decision and its consequences in detail very soon. For now, it's just meant to illustrate that today didn't end on the best note.

And then I got this response from someone I copied on a very professional (yet as stern as it needed to be) email I wrote to resolve an issue for work this afternoon:
"Let it be known: EMILY FARRIS WILL NOT TAKE YOUR SHIT! I will wear that on a t-shirt." 
While it didn't quite make everything better, it came pretty damn close.

If I weren't on a spending diet, I'd have two made and send her one. Seriously. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Crappy Boxes, Great Prices

When I was a kid, I never wanted to go to ALDI. Ever. Shopping at ALDI always served as a reminder of just how poor we really were. And I was really, really self conscious about "looking poor."

My parents divorced when I was three, and not long after, my mom, my younger sister and I moved into a subsidized townhouse in Independence, Missouri — a suburb of Kansas City best known for Harry S. Truman and meth. For the most part, I was oblivious to the whole meth thing. Until I was 21 or so, and had lived in Brooklyn for a few years, I honestly thought that the people in Independence were skinny and had bad teeth because they were poor. (Hey, at least I didn't look that poor, right?)

Because of our economic status, I was a free-lunch kid — I hated flashing that pink punch card every day! — and we were on food stamps. I always thought that if we were going to get help buying groceries from the government, the least we could do was get them where everyone else did. ALDI didn't carry any of the brands my friends' parents used to stock their pantries... not that my mom ever stocked our pantry with the knock-off brands, either.

The worst part, I think, was that ALDI didn't even have bags; you just had to find an empty box and carry your crappy groceries to your crappy car in your crappy found box with the top cut off (probably with a crappy box cutter). When we unloaded the car at home, there would be no hiding the fact that our groceries came from ALDI.

I knew when I decided to do this frugality project that I would have to go to ALDI again. There's one five minutes from my house, and I'd heard multiple stories from friends who'd cut their grocery bills in half by shopping there. So, I decided to get it over with early.

Last Tuesday, I made my first voluntary, adult trip to ALDI. To be completely honest, at first I was self conscious, but in a very different way than when I was a kid. I was carrying my expensive blue leather tote, I didn't know how to operate the quarter deposit lock on the carts, and I appeared to be the only woman within 10 years of my age who didn't have at least two kids in tow. I felt like I didn't belong. I mean, I went into a ton of debt and made a lot of impulse purchases to get to a point where I felt like I didn't belong there anymore. But there I was, back at ALDI because I needed to be, and because I was ready to make smart decisions about my spending.

Once I focused on shopping and prices, most of my self-conscious thoughts slipped away. ALDI had some decent products at great values. I ended up with 16 items — enough food to fill at least three large crappy boxes, including sweet potatoes, apples and onions in bulk; garlic; peppers; lettuce; goat cheese; natural peanut butter; canned tomatoes; frozen berries; and organic almond milk — for $35. Other than the apples and lettuce, I'd probably buy everything there again.

For the sake of full disclosure, and the sustainability of our more ethical food systems, I will also admit that (save for the goat cheese) I decided to get my animal products at my locally-owned store. On the way home from ALDI, I stopped at Hen House for a whole chicken and a dozen eggs (both from Good Natured Family Farms) as well as quinoa and smoked Gouda (neither of which ALDI carried). My bill was $35 there, too.

Once my vegetable CSA begins in early June, and we can harvest some of the vegetables we planted last weekend, I probably won't be buying much produce from any grocery store.  I'll continue to get free-range, natural chickens and eggs (though I'll surely cut back on quantity), but I imagine I'll be making frequent trips to ALDI, too.

It really isn't that bad.

When you're a kid, shopping at "poor people places" can feel like the most embarrassing thing in the world. When you're an adult with a history of overspending on fancy cheese and olive oils, patronizing ALDI — and, in turn, not blowing an entire paycheck on food I might throw out — feels pretty damn great.

Plus, I almost always take tote bags to the grocery store with me. So no crappy boxes needed. Not that anyone would ever notice, anyway.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Photo of the Day: Stop and Smell the Roses

Mornings are usually very hectic for me; I often arrive late at work with wet hair (that, or it's so dirty it looks wet) and end up putting my on my make-up once I'm settled into my cubicle. So it's rare I take the time to enjoy anything, even a cup of coffee, before I get to the office.

But this morning I decided to take my time doing things. I hit snooze for half an hour (which is not so unusual), I helped Kyle get the trash out, I loaded and started the dishwasher, I attempted and failed at an outdoor run, and I took the dog for a short walk before dropping him off at the vet for his check-up. On the way home, without Jack tugging on the leash to get through the front door, I had a minute to stop and snap these roses before the Midwest heat kills them.

As far as roses go, these aren't so bad. You see, I'm not really a rose fan. In fact, if you said, "Emily, I am in love with you and want to send you flowers to show my affection. What should I send?" I would reply: "Anything but roses." (I would think not sending carnations would be a given.) But, someone planted rose bushes in the front of the house we rent and, unlike Jack, I'm not one to destroy someone else's landscaping. It was a good reminder to just slow down and be a bit more deliberate about things sometimes.

Of course, with my dilly-dallying and chasing the cat around the house to give her meds, I was half an hour late to work today. But I had mascara on when I got there, and I remembered to take my lunch — that I had planned the night before — so that's something, right?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

(Not) Recipe: Eggs in Tomato Sauce

This isn't really a recipe, and that's exactly what the person I stole (er, adapted) it from said, too. But it is delicious, and easy, and affordable, so I wanted to share.

I posted yesterday about my failure to plan meals, and got some great tips from my friend Ruth. One was to keep frozen shrimp in the freezer. Always. The other was to make eggs in a quick tomato sauce. Because Ruth is usually right about most things, and because I love eggs and tomato sauce, I tried it.

Here's what I used: 

2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large, white onion, chopped
A pinch of crushed red pepper
1 28-oz can of crushed tomatoes
About a teaspoon of honey
A few pinches of dried basil (because I didn't have any fresh basil handy)
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 large, brown eggs
A handful of shredded Parmesan cheese 
Salt and pepper to taste 

Here's what I did: 

I sauteed the onion in the olive oil in a pan over medium heat. When the onions became translucent, I added the tomatoes, garlic, honey and spices, and cooked everything down until what was in the pot resembled a red sauce. I then salted and peppered it to taste and (tried to) gently crack three eggs into sauce. I let the eggs poach for a few minutes — until the whites were cooked and the yolks were still runny. Then, I transferred it all to a bowl and sprinkled some Parmesan cheese on top.

Then, I put it in my mouth. I expected it to be good, but it was even better than I imagined. The white Two Buck Chuck I had in the fridge didn't hurt the situation.

I still had about half of the red sauce left over, and since I bought two cans of tomatoes and a dozen eggs, that makes four easy, affordable meals. Definitely not a great option for when I'm cooking for Kyle and myself, but a wonderful naturally gluten-free dinner for one (or for two who don't require a meat and a starch every night).

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Cheap Cheat: Dollar Sushi

One thing I need to do better if I am to succeed at this project is meal planning. It’s something I've always talked a lot about, but have never actually pulled off for more than a day or two. In fact, I'm not really good at eating regular meals at regular times and it's been a point of contention in my marriage.

It's not that I don't like to eat — anyone who's ever seen me in person can probably imagine the vigor with which I put back pulled pork — but I like to eat what I want when I want it. Sometimes it’s a bowl of Brussels sprouts and a glass of wine at 10 pm, other times it's a really late lunch followed by a few spoonfulls of peanut butter before bed. That doesn't necessarily work in in a marriage, especially when my partner is on a very regular schedule, and doesn’t feel satisfied without a big slab of meat, a side or two of something starchy, and a sweet treat at the end. (I, on the other hand, could go without dessert for the rest of my life without noticing.)

Kyle is great about planning and making those meals for us. And I am great at eating them. Sometimes I even do the dishes. But when it’s my turn to think about dinner, I think about going out. I don’t like feeling rushed when I cook, and I don’t usually have time to think about anything other than work when I’m at work. It’s just easier to go somewhere and have someone bring us food and take away the dishes when we're done. But eating out so frequently is a big part of what’s gotten me into this financial mess, and I know I need to make some serious changes to my eating habits if I ever want to pay off my student loans.

I just haven’t made them yet.

Distracted by birthday celebrations, gardening, Mother’s Day (I have a mother, a step-mother and a mother-in-law to worry about, and for a few hours on Sunday, I honestly thought my biological mother was dead) and a sick kitty, I didn't do any planning or grocery shopping over the weekend. By the time I got home and did a few things around the house after work yesterday, I was ready to eat, but there was nothing ready for me to eat, and really nothing that I could prepare quickly. We hemmed and hawed for a while, and then got into the same argument we always do, except this time I was more difficult than usual, because I wouldn't consider the option of going out for an overpriced dinner. 

I was just about to send Kyle out on his own, and turn to my trusty jar of peanut butter, when I remembered that it was Monday, therefore it was Dollar Sushi Night.

Now, calling this weekly special “Dollar Sushi” is a bit of a stretch, because only the sushi is $1.00 a piece. Rolls are $3.99 each, and the miso soup we always order is regular price. But it was much more affordable than it would have been any other night, even if our $25 bill didn't come close to the realm of extreme frugality. It was, however, exactly what we needed, and because it was nice out, we were able to walk there and back.

Tonight, I will go to the grocery store on my way home from work. I just have no idea what the hell I’m going to buy when I get there. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

When Furry Babies Cry

Last night, after we got back from a Mother's Day dinner over at Kyle's parents, we plopped down on the couch like we always do. Kyle flipped through the channels and found something to watch on DVR while I finished up a freelance project.

I didn't notice that my cat, Eve, wasn't sitting behind me on the couch like she does every night.

By the time I made my way upstairs, Kyle was in bed, almost asleep. I started my evening routine, and as I was brushing my teeth, I heard a hiss come from our bedroom. Then a low howl, like a cat in heat, or one in pain. Then the same thing, again. I ran into the bedroom to see what was going on. Kyle (who, most days, could care less about the cat) was upright, and I was just confused. "Where is she? What's going on?" I asked. Kyle pointed to the closet.

Eve was in there with her head down in one of my shoes. She wouldn't look at me, so I very carefully bent down to see her face. It was puffy, probably twice its normal size — she's a very petite kitty — one eye was swollen shut, there was a dried steam of blood under her nose, and it sounded like she was having trouble breathing. She also smelled, well, infected.

Of course, I freaked out. Eve is my baby. I've had her since I was 18. I got her when I was working in a church office in New York City's West Village. One of the parishioners — who was quite literally a crazy cat man — heard I was looking to adopt a cat. This man owned a beautiful Tribeca loft that took up the entire floor of a building, but the only things visible in the whole place were stacks of newspapers and cats. So many cats. He rescued them, apparently. But instead of finding them new homes, for the most part, he just let them live among his other cats (and their collective stench) and the newspapers (which, when stacked high, were actually great scratching surfaces). But Eve was different. For some reason, he thought I should have her. I did, too, even though, at six months, she was completely feral and wouldn't even let me touch her.

The first two weeks I had her, she never came out from under the bed, at least not when I was home. Eventually, she let me pet her, but if I touched her in the wrong spot — which was anywhere on the back half of her body — she'd scratch or bite me. Over the years, she got more comfortable with me, and when I was lounging, would hop up on the bed or couch, though never in my lap.

Everything was always on Eve's terms. If she wanted to be petted, she would let me know by nudging her head against my hand or shoulder, or, if I were asleep, gently sticking her claws in my face to wake me up. The only thing she couldn't control was moving, but she sure did try. Eve has lived in nine different homes with me, eight apartments and one house. That's seven trips in the carrier — which always ended with me looking like I'd botched a suicide attempt — and one three-day journey from Brooklyn to Kansas City in the back of a U-Haul. 

Not long after arriving in KC, I adopted Jack, a Beagle-German Shepherd mix, as far as anyone can tell. Eve didn't want anything to do with him, but he was determined to play and get a good whiff of her butt whenever she passed by.

One day, when Eve decided she wanted to try Jack's food, he tried to ward her off with a growl and a nip. He ended up with a clawed-up face and no control over his own food bowl (I remedied the situation by feeding them at the same time after that) or much else when it came to Eve.

But last night, Eve wasn't in control. I'd seen her sacred, but in the 13 years I've had her, she's always had some fight in her. I think that's what scared me most, the fact that she just seemed so helpless. So, I called the 24-hour emergency vet's office near our house. Without seeing her, they couldn't tell me anything, so I went downstairs to get the carrier... which turned out to be a terrible idea. Getting her into that thing was always beyond stressful for both of us, and my half attempt to get her in there let me know she actually did have some fight in her. Being the Lady MacGyver that I am, dumped out the contents of a laundry basket, put her in it, and taped a box on top in case she tried to climb out. It looked pretty janky, but we didn't have far to go and she wasn't making any attempts to escape.

As soon as we arrived at the animal ER, the staff was super helpful; it was a much better experience than any human emergency room visit I can recall. The technician immediately took her back, and the receptionist explained to me exactly what they'd do, and why it was best if I stayed in the waiting room. I agreed completely — my presence would just cause poor Eve (and poor me) more stress.

Within about 20 minutes, the doctor came out to talk to me. Apparently Eve had suffered some sort of trauma to her face —an altercation with another animal, an insect bite or sting, or something else — and that it could have happened any time within the last few days. (Though I try to keep her inside because I think she's going deaf, she still sneaks out every now and then, and there are lots of stray cats in this neighborhood. And possums. Disgusting, awful possums.)

The next step, he said, would be to put her under, shave her face and try to find the source of the infection.

I felt like such a shitty cat mom asking how much it would cost. "It starts around $350," he told me. The visit alone was already going to cost me $83.

"And can I set up payments?" I asked.

"No, all services would need to be paid for tonight," he said.

I had the cash. But that was a lot of cash. And once he found the source of the problem, it could have cost hundreds more to fix it.

"And if I don't opt for that, is she in any danger of dying, or will she be in a lot of pain? Is there another way to treat it?"

He assured me that she wouldn't die, or be in any more pain if he started her on pain medication. If she didn't get better in a few days, he told me, I could just take her to our regular vet for further examination. (For the record, if her life were in danger or she would be in more pain without it, I would have paid any amount to treat her.)

So, they gave her an antibiotic injection, put her in my laundry basket, taped the box firmly back on top, and brought her out to me with pain meds and antibiotics that they explained I would I need to give twice daily. Anybody who has ever tried to force a cat to do anything knows the terror that went through my mind at that moment.

The bill came to $162.88. It was a lot, but it could have been a lot more. And the truth is that if I weren't doing this project, I might not have even had that. I usually just treat myself the weeks leading up to and following my birthday, and I usually end up in the red.

I was glad I was able to pay the bill. And if this gets worse before it gets better, I'll be able to take care of Eve and still be able to eat and put gas in my car. I think this is the first time in my life I've ever felt that way, and I've only been frugal with one paycheck.

As far as Eve, she's doing okay. I had to put her in Jack's kennel last night, and this morning, she didn't want to come out. I set her up in the corner of the living room with a blanket, some soft food, water and a litter box. She hasn't touched any of it. Giving her pain meds is actually less bat-shit insane than I thought it would be; she's resisting, but not running. Her face is still puffy, and she's not moving much, but her breathing sounds better, which leads me to believe the swelling is going down. I'm watching her closely, and administering the medications as directed. If she's not moving around or eating or going to the bathroom by tomorrow, I'll take her to our vet and see what we need to do to get my little Evila back to her sassy self.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Carrots (Hopefully)

Yesterday, we planted our community garden plot. It's about a block away from our house (though we have to cross a busy four-lane street with no light or crosswalk to get there). This is the second year I've had this plot, but the first year I've had Kyle to help. Last summer, he was working at a camp in Wisconsin, and left to my own over-eager devices, I just kind-of shoved lots of seeds in my 6 x 2.5-foot plot. I ended up with some Brussels sprouts, lots of lettuce and kale, a pretty decent tomato yield and a bounty of herbs. Other things didn't do so well, especially my carrots.

Determined to have a more successful garden this year, we planned, plotted, purchased, measured, marked and planted. 

Everything has enough space to grow — and maybe even thrive.

While we didn't start with as much as I did last year, I'm pretty sure our harvest will be more plentiful. Over the next few months, we should have various herbs, lettuce, kale, broccoli, Japanese eggplant, Brussels sprouts, peppers, green beans, tomatoes and carrots (hopefully).

Closet Shopping: My Birthday Suit


This is the first year of my adult life that I didn't buy myself something new to wear on my birthday. So last night, before Kyle took me out to Justus Drugstore — our special occasion place — I had a hard time finding something in my closet I wanted to wear. Over the last few years, I've given away so many clothes, I really felt like I had nothing but dresses and t-shirts left. But it was too cold for a dress so I went with jeans and a flowy linen and lace top that could (and probably someday will) be a maternity shirt. For now, it does a great job of concealing my food baby.

I did end up wearing one new thing: the sweet harmonica necklace my friend Diddy (not that Diddy) got me for my birthday. I promised Kyle I wouldn't play it in the restaurant, but I may have drunkenly played it in the cab on the way home. Maybe.

jeans, shoes, cardigan: Target | top: Purchased in 2008 at Dalaga in Greenpoint Brooklyn | ring: Vintage | necklace: JennsJemsJewelry.etsy.com | bag: TJ Maxx

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Photo of the Day: Bitter Old Coot

No, this pricey cocktail from Justus Drugstore is not in my budget, but someone bought it for me, so that doesn't count, right? Right. Plus, as of last year, this drink is my new birthday tradition.

This is going to get a lot harder when people stop buying me birthday drinks.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Day 1: A Coffee Crisis

Yesterday was my 31st birthday. It was the first day of the rest of my life, sure, but mostly it was the first day of my year-long commitment to extreme frugality — or at least what will feel extreme to me. It was easy. There's a complimentary coffee bar at work, my coworkers brought treats that became my breakfast and lunch, and my wonderful husband took me out for tapas and wine. (No, he is not committed to a year of extreme frugality, but that's another blog post for another day).

Why can't every day be my birthday?

Today, I'm home working on a freelance project. I got up early, went to yoga (we committed to two years at the gym about a month before I decided I was going to do this project; it would be more expensive to quit) and came home to get started writing. Except, my brain wouldn't work. It took me a few minutes to figure out why, and then I realized I hadn't had my coffee.

My initial impulse was to grab the leash and my wallet, and walk the dog to my favorite little coffee shop in all the land: Hi Hat. I always spend at least $4 there, if not $5, with tip. I should have made coffee here, but because we always get our coffee out, we didn't have any in the house. Plus, the screen from our French press was unfortunately covered with a stubborn mold that wouldn't even come off in the dishwasher. This was not our first replacement screen. (Always wash your French press when you're done with it, people.)

So, my options were these:

1. Just go get a cup of coffee already (it was 11:19 am).
2. Go get a cup of shitty coffee.
3. Buy a replacement filter and a bag of coffee, which is the most economical long-term solution.

I have to admit, I was leaning toward option 3. I mean, I totally imagined this blog filled with precious hipster-y pictures of my French-pressed coffee in a vintage Fire King mug in the late-morning light. And you have to spend money to make money; this freelance project was not going to do itself. But I couldn't very well buy something on the first day of my frugality project... could I?

Just as I was about to crack and make my way to Sur La Table for a replacement screen, I remembered that I had received samples of "nutritious" instant coffee at a food bloggers conference. I'll be honest: it sucks, so I won't name the brand. But it was coffee, or at least it claimed to be.

It may have tasted like foot, but I got my caffeine fix and my hipster-y picture.