An experiment in non-spending…

Well…I did it…I went an entire month without making a non-essential purchase.  It wasn’t easy…there were actually quite a few things that I wanted to buy.  But I stuck to my goal and I made it through the month.

I ended up spending more money than I thought I would.  At the beginning of the month, I’d kind of assumed I would only spend money on gas and groceries.  Anything else, I’d decided, was not essential.  Turns out I was wrong.

One of the things I’d originally decided was an absolute indulgence and was off-limits this month was taking a taxi from the train station to the office.  There was no reason that I couldn’t walk or take the subway.  That is…until I got sick and had to drag myself to work anyway.  On those days when I probably should have been in bed, I gave myself the present of a ride the 15 blocks to the office.  Totally worth it.

I also ended up driving to work a few times…twice because I had to go out after work and it didn’t make sense to go home first.  Another day I was just too sick to get onto the train.

There were also a few other things…like the crazy expensive fruit from the deli.  I don’t know what kind of voodoo magic they are working at the deli, but the fruit is super sweet and delicious and far superior to what I was getting at the grocery store.  So I spent the extra money on it.  Then there were the scones…the amazingly fresh and delicious scones from Alice’s Tea Cup that had been calling to me for weeks. I treated my coworkers to breakfast last Friday and those scones were possibly the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten.  I bought a few books…but with two hours of commuting each day, books are a necessity.

And, of course, there were the lottery tickets.  It was a record-breaking jackpot…I couldn’t not take a shot.  I won $2…which is not the same as winning $640 million…but at least it wasn’t a total loss.

The thing is…there were a bunch of things I didn’t buy.  The dress I saw that was cute, but totally not practical.  The somewhat expensive desk I liked to replace the perfectly functional desk in my craft room.  The gorgeous Marc Jacobs bag that I spent a week staring at online.  I also didn’t set foot inside a Target, Michael’s or Christmas Tree Shop…my top three favorite places to buy all the things I never even knew I needed.  I swear…I walk into those places and it’s like the money just gets sucked right out of my wallet.

It was a really good lesson for me.  By forcing myself not to shop, I took a second look at the things I had around the house.  I got to cross a lot of things off my to-do list with all the extra time I had.  If I wanted to do a project, I used what I had on hand…which forced me to be more creative.  Making dinner was also interesting because instead of running out for fast food or takeout, I used what I had in the fridge…and I definitely threw out less spoiled food because of it.  And stopping to think before making a purchase made me realize that the dress was something I’d never wear and with a few slight modifications my desk will be perfect for what I need.

It also made me realize that not all purchases are bad and it’s ok to splurge on myself.  So I’m still contemplating that new bag.  I don’t really need a new bag…but it’s just so pretty.

This was a great experiment for me and I think it has really changed the way I look at spending money and buying new things.  I’m not sure I will go back to mindless spending.  I see a future filled with less impulse buys and less buyer’s remorse.

Free Your Mind Monday…

Here we are…at the last set of questions.  And after I answer them I can cross one more thing off my 101 list!

46. What would you do differently if you knew nobody would judge you?

Not much.  I don’t much care what other people think of me.  Well…sometimes I care, but I don’t let other people opinions or judgements dictate my choices.

47.  When was the last time you noticed the sound of your own breathing?

Often.  Life is noisy…the dogs are barking and the TV is always on and there is traffic and the phone is ringing.  So I seek out the times that are quiet so I can just sit and listen.  When it is quiet, I like to just sit and enjoy the quiet…and often, the sound of my own breathing.

48.  What do you love?  Have any of your recent actions openly expressed this love?

The first part of this question is stupid.  How are you supposed to list all the things you love?  So I’m skipping the first part and moving on to the second.  Life tends to get in the way…work, housecleaning, errands…there is always something.  But I make sure that I make time to spend with the people I love and doing the things I love.

49.  In five years from now will you remember what you did yesterday?  What about the day before that?  Or the day before that?

Well…not yesterday…but Saturday and last Wednesday and two weeks ago Tuesday.  Days can get routine and start to blend into each other…but I think I do a pretty good job of making days count.  There are enough days that are special and memorable to break up the routine and to keep things from getting boring.

50.  Decisions are being made right now.  The question is, are you making them for yourself or are you letting others make them for you?

There was a long period of time when I let other people make decisions for me.  But I’ve taken back the control.  I make the decisions now that affect my life.  I am in charge.  And I’m so much happier for it.  If you let someone else take control of your life you might not like the outcome.  Make sure that you are in charge of your own life.


Well…there you have it.  I’ve answered all 50 questions.  Some of them were great…and some of them were stupid.  Some made me think…and some just irritated me.  But I am happy I went through the exercise.  I feel like I learned a little bit about myself.

What did you guys think of the questions?

An impossible task???

One of the tasks on my 101 list is to go one month without making a non-essential purchase.  I included this task for several reasons…

  1. I wanted to save some extra money (which is another task on my list)
  2. I wanted to examine my spending habits…which have been feeling a little out of control lately
  3. I wanted to actually use up some of the things in the house before bringing more things in…especially in the craft room

I’ve decided that March is the perfect month to undertake this task and today is day 1!  The plan is to spend money on things that are absolutely necessary to my survival…like food and gas for the car…or things that are going to enrich my life in some way…like going to a museum or a ticket to see The Hunger Games and getting a mani/pedi.  I won’t be visiting a craft store, The Christmas Tree Shop, Home Goods or Target for the entire month.  I also will not be taking a taxi from the train to the office…a very expensive habit that is very unnecessary. 

I can see some challenges coming up…but I’m determined to make it through.  Wish me luck!  And if anyone’s done this before…I’m open to any tips you used to get yourself through.

A 101 update…

You might have noticed that things have changed a little bit around here.  I have a whole new look!  I’ve also made the switch from to…but that’s not really important.  What is important is that it’s so much prettier in here now.  And since this pretty new design allows me to cross another item off my 101 list, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to give you all an update on how I’m doing…

Things I’ve completed since I last updated you…

16. Redesign the blog…Obviously this is done.  I worked with the amazing Kayleen from Booyah’s Mama and it was a completely smooth transition.  All I had to do was pick the colors…she handled the rest.  If you are thinking of doing a new design or a switch to, Kayleen if your gal.

65. Write a love letter…Over the last eleven years I’ve written J tons of cards and letters and notes…but none truly qualified as a love letter.  So this year, for his birthday, part of his gift was a love letter…one that told him all the reasons I loved him.  It took me a while to write it because I didn’t want it to sound sappy or cheesy…and I went through a few versions before it was just right.  He was thrilled with the final product and it’s now tucked safely into his bedside drawer.

93. Play hooky from work for no reason…I shouldn’t be posting about this because people from work might read it…but in early September I called in sick.  And it wasn’t really a lie…the state of my hair was making me physically nauseaous every time I looked in the mirror.  So I took a day off and I got my hair done and I got a pedicure and I took a nap…it was a perfect mental health day.

Things I’m in the middle of or are almost complete…

15. Participate in NaBloPoMo…as you know, I started this a few days ago and it’s going really well.  I’d fallen into some bad blogging habits…or I should say some bad non-blogging habits.  NaBloPoMo has forced me to sit down and make a plan and get my posts written early.  I don’t know that I can maintain a daily posting schedule after November, but I think I will certainly be prepared to maintain a much more regular schedule than I was before.

18. Crochet an afghan…I was about halfway through with this project and I hated the way it looked.  So I tore it all out and started over again.  I’m hoping to have it finished by Christmas so I can give it as a gift.

25. Make a calendar to give as a Christmas gift…I’m in the middle of this and was actually working on it before I started writing this post.  I bought a Groupon two weeks ago for Picaboo and downloaded their terrific software to my laptop.  I’ve got most of the pictures chosen and now I just have to customize each of the three I’m making.  Hopefully, I’ll be done early this week.

27. Create a journal of things I love…I bought a Smash Book about a month ago and I’ve been having a great time filling it up.  I bought several of the accessories as well and I have created pages for quotes, for pictures, for tickets stubs.  I even have some fortune cookie fortunes in there.  I’m loving the book so far.  I also joined Pinterest…after a few months of resistance…and that has become my online “journal” for all things fabulous.

31. Reach my goal weight…I’m still working on this one.  I was great at first…I was motivated and the weight was coming off easily. Now, it’s gotten more difficult to lose and my motivation is waning.  I’m hoping to get some renewed sense of purpose and get back on track before the holiday eating starts.

62. Reach 500 blog posts…well, as of today’s post, I’m at 371.  I can’t believe it’s been such a long time since I had the idea for starting this blog.  I can’t wait to get to the big milestone.

72. Read 100 books…I just finished #50…so I’m halfway there.  As you may have noticed, I started a new feature here called What I’m Reading…on Thursdays.  I wanted to share with you guys some of the better books I’ve read.  I hope you enjoy it.

Things I decided to change…

28. Changed Complete the P90X program to Create an emergency kit for both houses…When I first wrote my list, everyone was doing P90X and I thought “hey…this might be fun”…but then I remembered that I hate exercising like that.  So I decided that while I do need to increase my activity, P90X is probably not the way.  Emergency kits for my houses though…that’s important and something that will probably be extremely useful someday.  So I made the switch.

48. Changed Redecorate the den and guest room to Pick a day to perform random acts of kindness…My den and guest room definitely need to be redecorated.  However, they also need to have the windows replaced and the plaster walls ripped out and replaced with sheetrock.  These are jobs I will not be doing myself and the ultimate redecoration of both rooms is incidental to the repairs that are going to take place.  So I decided that leaving this item on the list was sort of cheating and I thought I could use the slot to do something else more important.

59. Changed Give everyone on my Christmas list an “experience” gift to Give everyone on my list a handmade gift…There were several people on my list for whom it is very difficult to get out and do things.  For example, I would love to take my grandfather to a Yankee game or a Giants game…but it would be far too much walking for him and I don’t think he’d enjoy it.  Leaving this item on the list, but omitting my grandfather and J’s parents and a few select others seemed like cheating, so I changed it to something I thought would work much better.

66. Changed Spend an entire day with my nephews to Organize every room in my house…Spending a full day with my nephews would be awesome, but with their school schedules and my work schedules, trying to do something like that was a logistical nightmare.  I do plan to spend several partial days with them, but again…it felt like cheating to leave it on there.  So I changed it to organize my house…which I was in desperate need of.  I’ve already completed the kitchen and my master bedroom closet.  My next project is the bathrooms and linen closet.

That’s where I am with my list.  If you want to see the full list it’s here.

A 101 Update…

I can’t believe it’s August already.  The summer is going by so fast.  I thought today would be a good time to update you guys on the progress I’ve been making on my 101 list.

I’ve gotten some things crossed off…

8. Visit the Statue of Liberty…Ally and I did this on her visit to NY.  I had always avoided going because there is a lot of waiting in line and going through security, but it was definitely worth the trip.  The views were amazing and it was very interesting to see Ellis Island the way my great-grandparents might have seen it.

17. Comment on every blog post I read for a week…I do most of my blog reading during my lunch time and sometimes I just don’t have time to comment.  But I love reading the comments people leave me, so I wanted to make more of an effort.  For one week, I commented on every post I read and since then I’ve continued to make more of an effort to leave comments for everyone.  Some days I do better than others, but I definitely comment more often than I used to.

45. Keep my inbox empty for a month…I have a tendency not to clear emails out of my inbox.  I would let them pile up for months, until there would eventually be three hundred of them in there.  One day I sat down and cleared them all out.  I emailed people back, I bought a few things that I’d been wanting, I forwarded some things and I deleted the rest.  And I’m very proud to say that my inbox has been clean since.

53. Go to the zoo in spring to see the baby animals…this was something else we did while Ally visited NY.  We saw the most adorable baby monkeys.

I’ve got quite a few things in progress…

18.  Crochet an afghan…I’ve been at this one for quite a while.  I haven’t gotten very far.  I’ve been directing my energies to other things.  I’ve got to get back to it and just get it done.

19.  Refinish a piece of furniture…I’ve also been at this one for quite a while.  I need a few days of nice weather so I can take the table outside on the deck.  But first it was too cold and rainy.  Now it’s too hot.  Hopefully I’ll get it done before the fall.

31.  Reach my goal weight…I’ve been at this since February.  I had a lot of success since I started Jenny Craig, but I’ve been a little stalled recently.  I seem to finally be back on track now and I’ve lost 27.3 pounds to date.  Two weeks ago I wore a bathing suit and it looked not awful…so that’s something.

41.  Go to five museums…I’ve been to three…The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Ellis Island Museum and The Discovery Times Square Center.  I think I want to go to the Museum of Natural History next.

52.  Answer the 50 questions that will free your mind…Again…I’ve been at this one a while.  I’ve gotten about half of them done.  It’s been pretty interesting so far.

57.  Get a bra fitting once a year…I’ve done this twice so far, which s more often than planned…but the weight I lost came mostly off my boobs…which made a new fitting necessary.

68.  Watch all the movies in my Netflix queue…I’ve seen a lot of movies.  Over 100.  Amazingly, there are still hundreds on my list.  I’ve seen a few good movies, but I’ve seen an awful lot of crappy ones.  Stay tuned for more information on this.

72.  Read 100 books…I’ve read 36 so far.  There were a couple of duds, but most of them have been great.  Stay tuned for more info on this too.

83.  See 3 Broadway shows…I saw Elf back in December and Ally and I saw The Motherfucker in the Hat in June.  I’m going to see Wicked next…trying to get tickets for sometime in August.  I can’t wait!

89.  Watch one season of Arrested Development, Mad Men and Glee…I started with Arrested Development and I watched 6 episodes.  It’s funny.  A little stupid…but mostly funny.  I’m looking forward to the rest of the season.

96.  Cook my way through a cookbook…I started this two weeks ago.  I’ve made about five of the recipes so far…there are 95 left.  I’ve always hated cooking, but I’m actually enjoying it so far.  Although it’s a bummer that I’m on Jenny Craig and I can’t eat more than a bite of each dish I make.

I’ve got a few things coming up too…

5. Travel to five places I’ve never been…I’m leaving next Friday for Edmonton to visit Robyn and I’ve got a trip to Lexington, KY planned for October.  We’ve also been throwing around the idea of a beach vacation and we might end up going somewhere new then too.

29.  Drink 64 ounces of water for 64 days…I had big plans for this during Lent, but it was a miserable failure.  I am jumping back on the water bandwagon this week.  I’m hoping it will help with my weight loss.

63.  Do three blog giveaways…I’ve done two and I have another planned.  It’s coming up in the next week or two.

That’s where I am on my list.  I’m going to make a big push in August to see how many things I can get crossed off before the end of the summer.  Wish me luck!

One item down…

Friday night, I had some errands to run after work so J agreed to eat fast food for dinner.  I was sitting at the McDonald’s drive-through and I saw the opportunity to fullfil something on my 101 list…I decided that I was going to pay for the person behind me.

I had no idea that my simple request would throw the whole restaurant into a tailspin.

I placed my order and drove up to the first window as instructed.  I handed over my credit card to pay for my order (I know it’s crazy to use a credit card for a $12 order, but I had no cash) and while the kid was swiping my card, I told him that I would like to pay for the person behind me. 

First he looked at me like I had three heads.  Then he called the manager to come over.  They were speaking in Spanish but I got the idea that running my credit card twice in a row was going to cause some sort of problem. 

The manager came to the window and asked me what the problem was.  I explained that I wanted to pay for the car behind me.  She asked if we were together and I said no.  She asked me why I wanted to pay for them and then I started to get annoyed.  I realize that this isn’t an everday request, but was it really so complicated?

Apparently so.

Finally, I was able to work the process out with them, but I had to give them a different credit card.  So, with my order and the other person’s order paid for, I drove up to the second window to collect my food. 

Guess what…more confusion.  I pulled and the window was open so I listened to the conversation between the employees.  The woman who was packing the food was apparently talking to the kid at the first window.  She just kept repeating “Who paid for what? This woman paid for who?”  It was almost like a joke. 

Finally, the woman came to the window and said “Can you please explain the situation to me?”  Really?  So I told her, I was paying for my own order, but I also wanted to pay for the order of the people behind me.  “Just because?”  Yup, just because.

And finally, I got my food and I drove away. 

Who knew doing a nice thing would be so complicated? 

Our McDonald’s was really yummy.  I hope the people behind me enjoyed their food as much as we did.

101 in 1001…

I’ve finally done it…a 101 in 1001 list.  I’ve been wanting to start one for a while now, but I’m a procrastinator.  Also…it’s hard to come up with 101 things to put on the list!   It took me about eight months to decide to do it and then another two weeks to actually compile the list. 

If you aren’t familiar with the concept here’s the deal…

The Challenge:
Complete 101 preset tasks in a period of 1001 days.

The Criteria:
Tasks must be specific (ie. no ambiguity in the wording) with a result that is either measurable or clearly defined. Tasks must also be realistic and stretching (ie. represent some amount of work on your part).

Why 1001 Days?
Many people have created lists in the past – frequently simple challenges such as New Year’s resolutions or a ‘Bucket List’. The key to beating procrastination is to set a deadline that is realistic. 1001 Days (about 2.75 years) is a better period of time than a year, because it allows you several seasons to complete the tasks, which is better for organizing and timing some tasks such as overseas trips, study semesters, or outdoor activities.

With today being my start date, I have until May 30, 2013 to complete the following goals…

  1. Send someone flowers for no reason
  2. Pay for a strangers meal at a drive-through
  3. Give a microloan through
  4. Find out my blood type and donate blood
  5. Travel to 5 places I’ve never been (one down, four to go)
  6. Take a road trip alone
  7. Take a walking tour of NYC
  8. Visit the Statue of Liberty
  9. Spend a weekend in Atlantic City
  10. Go on vacation with my sister-in-law
  11. Travel somewhere by train
  12. Go to Disney World
  13. Write a novel
  14. Participate in NaNoWriMo
  15. Participate in NaBloPoMo
  16. Redesign my blog
  17. Comment on every blog post I read for one week
  18. Crochet an afghan using the yarn I’ve had in the closet for a year (in progress…)
  19. Refinish a piece of furniture
  20. Use my sewing machine…finally
  21. Take a photography class (class started October 20th)
  22. Take 48 pictures in 1 day and create a photo book of a day in my life
  23. Do a 365 day photo project
  24. Create a monthly scrapbook every month for 1 year
  25. Make a calendar to give as a Christmas gift
  26. Buy a Flip camera and make 1 home movie per week for 1 year
  27. Create a journal of clippings, photos, quotes and other things I love
  28. Complete the P90X program
  29. Drink 64 ounces of water every day for 64 days straight
  30. Complete the Couch to 5K program
  31. Reach my goal weight and stay there
  32. Take the dogs on a walk for at least 30 minutes every day for 1 month
  33. Take a yoga class
  34. Save $10,000
  35. Pay off all my credit cards in full each month for 1 year
  36. Go 1 month without making a non-essential purchase (food is essential)
  37. Sell 5 things on Ebay
  38. Sell something I make on Etsy
  39. Study something entirely new
  40. Conquer a fear
  41. Go to 5 different museums
  42. Create a house cleaning schedule and stick to it
  43. Go to bed at 9PM every night for 1 week
  44. Wake up at 5AM every morning for 1 week
  45. Keep my inbox empty for 1 month
  46. Write a will and advanced medical directive
  47. Write “in case of death” letters
  48. Redecorate the den and the guest room
  49. Watch the sunrise and sunset on the same day
  50. Watch the sunset and the sunrise without going to bed
  51. Get a library card
  52. Answer the “50 Questions That Will Free Your Mind”
  53. Go to the zoo in the spring to see the baby animals
  54. Eat a meal alone in a restaurant
  55. Go to the movies alone at least once every 6 months
  56. Get a henna “tatoo” on my hands
  57. Get properly measured and buy 3 really good bras once per year
  58. Go to mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral
  59. Give everyone on my Christmas list an experience (like tickets to a play) instead of a thing (like a sweater)
  60. Get a bikini wax
  61. Purchase a 1 year subscription to the NY Lottery
  62. Reach 500 blog posts
  63. Do three more blog giveaways (one down, 2 to go)
  64. Order room service
  65. Write a love letter
  66. Spend a full day with my nephews from when they wake up until they go to bed
  67. Buy myself a diamond ring (like Oprah’s pinky ring)
  68. Watch every movie currently on my Neflix queue
  69. Watch all the movies we own on DVD…even the stupid ones
  70. Meet a blog friend in person (Allyson from Magnolias & Mimosas)
  71. Go snorkeling
  72. Read 100 books
  73. Have a girls night once per month
  74. Do a boudoir photo shoot
  75. Visit a psychic
  76. Spend a day lying in a hammock reading and napping
  77. Take a walk in the rain
  78. Ride in a hot air balloon
  79. Build a snowman
  80. Color an entire coloring book
  81. Carve a pumpkin
  82. Go on a date with J once per month
  83. See 3 Broadway shows
  84. Go to 5 concerts (One down, 4 to go)
  85. Dress up for Halloween (10/31/10)
  86. Buy a completely impractical dress just because I love it
  87. Throw a party
  88. Go out dancing
  89. Watch season 1 of Mad Men, Glee and Arrested Development (to see what everyone is talking about)
  90. Go to a midnight movie premiere
  91. Celebrate Champagne Friday every week for 1 month
  92. Shoot a gun at a shooting range
  93. Play hooky from work one day for no reason
  94. Attend a taping of a TV show
  95. Take the pastry class at ICE (Finished 10/8/10)
  96. Cook my way through a cookbook
  97. Create a signature cupcake
  98. Put together a recipe book from all the random recipes in the kitchen
  99. Give a copy of that recipe book to someone as a gift
  100. Write a blog post about each item I complete on the list
  101. Write a new 101 list

There you have it.  I am determined to do every last item on the list.  I have a feeling that some are going to be really hard for me…like #40 and #60 (man I hate those!).  But I’m going to finish it.   I will update you guys whenever I finish an item and I think there will be a few good stories that come out of it…because #11 and #92 have disaster written all over them.