Tuesday, October 23


I did it... I sent a deposit for our apartment in Beaune (located in the Burgundy region of France). We will arrive on Tuesday, June 17th and stay through Wednesday, June 25th. I'm nervous and excited. I hope we like it! We will remain in Europe through July 6th. We fly out of Heathrow. What should we do from June 25th through July 6th?

A (long-awaited) budget update

Well we are into five months of this project to reduce our discretionary spending by 50%. By most accounts we have been successful. According to my husband, by using cash (instead of our frequent flier credit card) we are spending approximately 50% less than we were over the past year. He is thrilled to be contributing to savings again, rather than dipping into it to cover our excessive monthly credit card bill. There have been a few exceptions to this: there has been some manipulation of numbers, we have pretended that certain expenses never happened, and the debit card has found its way into my wallet several times.
Here are some things we have learned and observed:
#1. Do not carry the debit card!
Here is an example... Recently, I had to buy Advantage (flea medicine) for our cat. This was urgent as I woke up with 6 suspicious bites. I explained to my husband that this could not wait and I grabbed the debit card because I knew I would not have enough cash for a 7-month supply. Sure enough it was over $80 so I was glad I took it along. I "forgot" to remove the debit card from my wallet when I returned home. The next day I spent
$3.75 for parking
$30 at Chevron
$44.75 at Justa Pasta
$9.50 at Laughing Planet
$43.62 at Trader Joe's
and $16.69 at the dry cleaners.
It was fast... in a matter of hours, I quickly spent over $150! It is really a dangerous temptation. If you really want to stick to a budget do not carry a credit card or debit card. It is too easy to spend and not pay attention to how much you are spending.
2. Travel will blow your budget out of the water!
Our trip to Montana in August, Tyler's trip to the Duck game in Michigan, & my trip to Mexico cannot be paid for with our modest weekly stipend. By spending less overall, we were able to pay for these expenses without taking money OUT of savings -- An improvement of sorts.
3. Avoid BIG shopping trips!
I used to go to New Seasons every weekend... I'd take my time and stroll up and down every aisle. I'd buy whatever tickled my fancy. Lately, I have been making very deliberate shopping trips (e.g. I need milk, so I run to Zupan's and buy milk; I need cereal... I run to Trader Joe's and buy cereal). I end the week with 3-4 trips to the grocery store. I find I need to make a big shopping trip now about every 3-4 weeks. I'm certainly spending less on groceries and it seems that we are eating out slightly less.
4. Delay purchases as long as you can
In the past it was all about immediate gratification... If I saw a cute pair of pajamas (or whatever), I would just buy it. I didn't take the time to think, "Does my child NEED a new pair of pajamas TODAY?". My husband and I have all created on-going lists of items that we want, think we need, or will have to purchase in the near future. This gives us time to plan, save and look for sales or special promotions. We are not sacrificing quality. We are still buying exactly what we want, just not always WHEN WE WANT IT. The lists are getting long!
All in all, I can hardly complain. I feel more grateful than ever. I find that I appreciate all that we have and feel pretty happy and lucky.

Monday, October 22

Pumpkins, Pumpkins, Pumpkins!

It was a perfect October weekend... Nana Karen flew in from Montana and joined us for my son's preschool field trip to Lee Farms. We were so lucky to get a break of sushine for our visit. We saw lots of animals, sampled fresh apple cider, ate cider donuts, took a tractor ride around the farm and picked some pumpkins.
Later that evening, we all carved Jack-o-Lanterns and toasted pumpkin seeds.

On Saturday, Nana joined us for spin class and then we took her on her first trip to IKEA. Nana will return in December to watch Henry when I am in Mexico. We are lucky to have such a nice Nana!

Sunday, October 14

A big pot of Italian "Gravy"!

I grew up in Belleville, NJ -- A working-class Italian-American neighborhood, about 10 miles west on New York City. Many episodes of the Sopranos were filmed in my home town!

Every Sunday, Italian families would have a big pot of "gravy" cooking on the stove. "Gravy?", you may ask. Isn't that a brown, meat sauce that goes with turkey or meatloaf? No... It is a rich tomato-based marinara cooked all-day long with meat (meatballs, sausage, short ribs, etc.). Traditionally, this is not a fancy or expensive meal... just a basic Southern Italian staple. Gravy is served with piping hot pasta and grated Locatelli cheese, and followed by a simple green salad, it is a delicious meal!
I always loved this meal and longed to be invited to my friend Gina Mustica's house because her mother made the best meatballs and gravy. I would help to finely chop the garlic and/or fresh parsley. To this day, I make a pot of gravy and meatballs one to two times a year. I try to make enough to freeze some, and stretch it out for 4+ dinners.

Yesterday I shopped for the ingredients. I was horrified as I totaled up the cost of this "simple... poor man's meal". Can you believe that I spent over $75 for the ingredients?! I was outraged. What has happened to make this simple meal so expensive? A can of crushed tomatoes is suddenly $2.99 to $3.99 ($28). I needed 8 cans. 3 pounds of ground veal, ground beef and ground pork ran me almost $25. Locatelli cheese was $7. Two loaves of Paesano bread was $7. Then there were onions, garlic, red wine, olive oil, and parsley. Suddenly Justa Pasta's sauces at $5 per pint don't seem so bad!!!
In the end it doesn't matter. It was delicious and I loved watching my son devour two large servings. He told me they were the best meatballs he has ever had!

Saturday, October 6

Elevating Fitness

Strollercize Class - 2004 (not much exercise since!)

We did it... We joined a gym!

As you may know, the goal of my blog is to consume less... Buy less, spend less, waste less, use less, and eat less. Eating less is NOT EASY especially when you have a three year-old and consider yourself to be a bit of a foodie. As I'm getting older I find it more and more difficult to feel good about my body (and fit in my clothes).

I didn't start exercising until I was an adult. It didn't come easy. I worked my ass off for months to run my first consecutive mile at the age of 26. As much as it was difficult, I found it euphoric. An intense cardiac work-out, a good sweat, and an endorphin release really makes food and drink so much more enjoyable.

Since my son was born, exercise has really taken the back-burner and I've been feeling it. Underlying anger and frustration has been building. I love my life but why do I feel like something is missing? Last weekend we had dinner with our super-fit (and childless) friends, and they confirmed that they work-out EVERY DAY. I was so envious! I decided it was time to make a change and elevate fitness in our lives. We took the plunge and re-joined our old gym. I'm hoping that my son is old enough to enjoy the club and benefit from the children's play room, swim lessons and other family-related programs and activities. I'm thrilled that we can put fitness first and make a commitment to spend several hours a week at the gym. It is not going to be easy, but I believe it will be worth it. Wish me luck!