30 New Things: Read Twilight

 

I am not particularly snobby about most things (witness my list of the ridiculous music I listen to and the fact that I eat entire boxes of fake bacon in one sitting). But! I can be quite snobby about books. I’m very much that annoying person who refuses to read the type of books that make people line up outside Borders at 12 am. Harry Potter? Who’s he? The DaVinci Code? Never heard of it.So it was with a huge dollop of cynicism and several bouts of eye rolling that I picked up Twilight. Never mind the fact that The BFF and every other girl I know was singing its praises. I was bound and determined to hate it. I think I may have even snorted derisively as I cracked the cover.

And as you probably know, the writing is crap. Shocking. I wasn’t aware that someone had stolen my eighth grade creative writing project and turned it into a best seller.

Witness this gem:

During lunch, the clouds started to advance, slinking across the blue sky, darting in front of the sun momentarily, casting long shadows across the beach and blackening the waves.

Ms Meyer, is the beach becoming overcast? Is it getting a bit cloudy? Because I’m not sure. Maybe if you could add another visual to that run-on sentence I’d get a better picture of what’s going on.

Lordy.

But, of course, I got sucked in. And who hasn’t? Maybe it was Bella’s unassuming, pseudo normality. Or the fact that Forks bears a passing resemblance to my tiny, tiny hometown. Or that I, too, dated a vampire in high school. Wait. What?

The book is damn engrossing, guys. And as someone who isn’t particularly impressed with the ever-decreasing age of sexual activity in teenage girls, I love how sweetly chaste this book is. Well, perhaps ‘rife with unresolved sexual tension’ would be a better way to phrase it, but french kissing and collar bone grazing seems to be as far as it goes between these two pale young things. I love that this book is setting some sort of example for teenage girls that they can have a romantic, intimate relationship with a boy without humping him into next Tuesday.

What about you? Have you given into societal pressure and read Twilight yet? Are you obsessed?
(P.S. if you are cataloging your 30 New Things on your blog, drop me a line and I’ll link to you on my sidebar!)

How To Live a Champagne Life on a Beer Budget

Yes, you CAN live a champagne life on a beer budget! A cute home, a nice wardrobe, even travel - it's possible! // yesandyes.org

Dear Sarah,

So this is a pretty awkward question, but I do hope you’ll answer it. I know that you are a teacher at a non-profit and you’ve made a few references to you salary of “two dollars.” But you are always dressed so well! And you travel all the time and it sounds like you live in a really nice neighborhood! How do you do it? You don’t have a trust fund do you? ;D

You’re right! That is an awkward question! But, in an effort to hook up some other ladies who are trying to squeeze liquid gold from the proverbial stone, I’ll share my secrets of financial skulduggery.

Style

Buy second hand

Guys, it is not an exaggeration that 75% of my wardrobe is thrifted. And a lot of it is swankity swank brands pilfered from deep in the racks of my local Goodwill. Not only does thrifting save me heaps of money, I feel endlessly clever and lucky when I score an Anne Klein cocktail dress for $20.

Anybody can walk into Anthropologie and put together a cute outfit for $500. It takes an artist to create an ensemble out of the $2 bin. Here are my trusted thrifting tips.

Swap clothes with your friends

Most of us have tons of perfectly nice pieces that – for one reason or another – we’re not wearing. Maybe it doesn’t fit anymore, maybe we’ve progressed past our stripe obsession, maybe we got dumped while wearing it.

Whatever the reason, you can rehome your gently used goods and get some free goodies of your own by hosting a clothing swap! Essentially, you just invite all your girlfriends to your house for drinks and bags of second-hand clothing, but if you’d like a better breakdown, check out this post.

Be extremely intentional + strategic about what you buy

You won’t spend as much money on clothing if you think very, very carefully before you buy something new. Before you add something to your shopping cart (either in real life or online) ask yourself these questions:

  • Can I wear this with at least three other items that I already own?
  • Do I feel comfortable and confident when I put this on?
  • Is this the best cut for me? 
  • Is this the best color for me?
  • If I layer this with other things, can I wear it for more than one season?
  • Is this classic enough that I’ll still be able to wear it next year? And the year after this?
  • Is this well-made? Will it still fit and look good in a year or two?
  • Does this fit my body today? Not five pounds from now?
  • Am I comfortable with the production practices of the company that’s selling this item?

Ooooof. That’s a lot of questions for a fitting room at Marshall’s, right? You might not be able to check every box for every item you purchase, but keeping these questions in the forefront of your mind when you go shopping will reduce buyer’s remorse by approximately 99 percent.

And a weird tip: I feel better about my thrifted, second-hand clothes when I display them nicely and keep them in tip top shape. I splurged on those fancy ‘huggable’ hangers so everything I own hangs nicely. I display all my prettiest jewelry and I keep my boots shined and my sweaters lint-free. My wardrobe looks like a million bucks even though it costs $20!

Free 5-day money bootcamp

Food

Eat out less

Under the heading of “so incredibly obvious I hesitate to mention it,” eating out is expensive. And unhealthy. And unless you’re enjoying haute cuisine, you’re probably perfectly capable of making food at home that is just as delicious as the $13 plate of pasta that TGIFridays is serving you. My favorite pizza is $20 for a 12-inch. I CAN BUY THREE FROZEN PIZZAS FOR THAT PRICE.

If you find yourself eating out because it’s Friday night and the cupboards are bare, make a practice of stockpiling “emergency” food for such occasions – frozen pizzas and burritos, Trader Joe’s curries, or those frozen vegetables with sauce. These cost a fraction of a meal out and you can store them almost indefinitely.

Learn to cook awesome things at home

Again, painfully obvious. Cooking will help you save money, maintain a healthy weight, and impress potential lovers.

If you, like me, are lazy, you can spend your Sunday night making one giant pot of soup, one giant pot of oatmeal, one non-lettuce salad thing, a casserole-y thing and eat all of that over the course of the next week. Super easy! Super cheap!

Leann Brown’s cookbook Good And Cheap is a revelation and teaches you how to eat well on $4 (!!!) a day.

And a weird tip: I find I enjoy dining at home a lot more when I make it a proper ‘experience.’ I use placemats and cloth napkins. I plate my food nicely and garnish it if I have some parsley kicking around the crisper. I put ice in my water and light a candle if I’m feeling ambitious. You can create a restaurant-worthy atmosphere in your breakfast nook with pretty minimal effort!

Be your own mixologist

Did you know that most bars charge a 1,000% markup on their bottom shelf liquor? A ONE THOUSAND PERCENT MARKUP. Why is no one rioting in the streets?!

Of course, there are lots of reasons people go to bars, but if you’re really going there for the Vodka Gimlets, you’ll save yourself a lot of money if you just learn to make them yourself. Here’s what you need to stock a party-ready home bar and here’s a bartending guidewith 780 drink recipes. Get to mixing my friend!

Stop wasting food

Americans waste 165 billion dollars worth of food every year and I’m responsible for at least one billion dollars of wilted fresh herbs that I only used in one dish.

You can waste less food if you only buy what you need and eat what you buy. It sounds obvious, but check your fridge and pantry before you head to the grocery store and always shop with a list. Only buy enough fresh produce for that week and learn to adjust recipes to fit what you’ve got on hand.

Freeze extra portions if you don’t think you want to eat soup every day this week and if you see that fruit is about to go bad, peel it, chop it and freeze it for future smoothies.

Figure out which foods make you feel fancy and purchase accordingly

This post is titled “How to live a champagne life on a beer budget” but you might not feel very champagne life-y if you’re eating beans and rice every day. We’ve all got a few foods that feel “fancy” to us – mine is a nice chunk of high-quality Parmesan. Maybe yours is prosciutto or chocolate souffle.

If that food makes you feel like a baller, find a way to make it part of your life. Use it as a garnish or watch for sales. Learn to make it yourself. Eat soup for lunch so you have more space in your budget for cured meats.

Transport

I have the least awesome car you could ever imagine. Seriously. Does it get any less awesome than a 2003 Ford Focus? But it’s rust free, only has 100,000 miles on it and isn’t going to get stolen when I go thrifting in a dicey neighborhood. And I bought it with a personal check. No big monthly payments for me!

Home

I do, in fact, live in a nice, slightly swanky neighborhood. I’m a total design and home whore, so living in a boxy, seventies-style apartment in the suburbs was simply not an option. I squeezed my way into this pricey real estate market by sheer luck and by taking an apartment in need of a really good cleaning and a new paint job. I’ve gussied it up using these tricks.

Entertainment

I am huge fan of the thriftyhipster and generally trawling the internet for free or cheap fun. Honestly, you can usually find me doing ridiculous things to entertain myself (see “visit Scientology church” 30 new things goal) but I’m not opposed to dropping change on an event I really want to see.

Travel

Of course, travel can be expensive. But it doesn’t have to be! I religiously follow my own advice for traveling on the cheap. And honestly? I just make travel a priority. I’m always planning and saving for my next trip (Next time? Mt. Everest base camp and the Trans-Siberian!) Some girls save up for Jimmy Choos, I save up for Jakarta.

Money Tricks

I only really have two bits of financial wizardry, but I’m happy to share them.
I created a basic budget for myself, just using a spreadsheet and cataloging my monthly income and bills.
From there I figured out how much money I should be putting away each month for retirement, future travel, etc and then a gave myself a weekly allotment of fun money.
I go to the ATM once a week, withdraw that amount in cash and once that money is gone, I’m stuck eating at home and watching library dvds till Sunday comes round again.
I realize that putting yourself on an allowance seems pretty dire and deeply unsexy, but it has actually made shopping more fun and made me appreciate my purchases a lot more.
The other trick I employ is the money vs. time mind game. I think about how much time I’d have to spend at work to equal the cost of the thing I’m about to buy.
It’s crazy to think that I could take two days off for the cost of a purse! And given the option, wouldn’t you rather have two days to do what you want rather than a different thing to carry your phone around in?

How to do you guys fake the good life?

 photo by graham, cc 

30 New Things: Drive-in Movie

A double-showing! But we are old ladies
and only game for one movie at a time
The BFF is a professional drive-in attendee/nest-maker.In case you were wondering, we are the kind of
girls who eat spring rolls and drink coffee at the drive-in.

Heaps of kiddos playing on the hill before the movie
starts, most of them already in their pajamas.

Mini-van central

Ever one to dig joyfully into a new list, two lovely friends and I headed out in the suburbs last night for some drive in tomfoolery. We quickly discovered that a Friday night, at a drive in, in the suburbs? Showing a Pixar movie? Kidville, population: gajillion.Buuut, it was mostly adorable, watching the kiddos run around in their pajamas, making blanket nests on top of their family’s minivan, and rolling down hills. Even better was hearing them guffaw at the movie’s kid jokes and then repeat them to their parents “Haaaawwww! Mom! The big bird ate the old man’s cane and then he coughed and he threw it up and it was covered with spiiiittttt! Grosssss!”

Up is, of course, completely adorable and enjoyable, like everything Pixar does. I won’t attempt to explain the plot here as it would sound ridiculous and bizarre, but lordy, it is good. I am particularly enamoured with a certain chubby and overly enthusiastic boy scout who bears an uncanny resemblance to a former student of mine. An awesome, lovely night – highly recommended.

Thirty New Things

Did you guys know that despite my propensity for living out of a backpack and watching movies with talking animals I am nearly 30?! Yes. Good lord, I know.

I am trying very hard not to do the pre-birthday freak out. And in an effort to calm the eff down and enjoy my life as it is, I’m trying to undertake 30 new things over the next three months, before I turn 30 on August 29th.

I haven’t come up with 30 things yet. Here’s what I have so far:

1. Try one of those horned melon things
2. Go to a strippersize class
3. Try water skiing
4. Drink wine on a boat
5. Get a brazilian
6. Get my palms read
7. Read Twilight
8. Read a Harry Potter book
9. Go to the Scientology “Church” and, uh, see what that’s all about
10. Eat Ethiopian food
11. Engage in Guerrilla Gardening
12. Make sweet corn ice cream
13. Make beer cheese cupcakes with bacon frosting
14. Go to a drive-in movie
15. Eat dinner by myself in a decent restaurant, without a book

17. Get a ridiculous manicure involving decals
19. Go on a date (Okay, I have done this before. But not in a loooooong time)
20. Ride the Munger Trail

Do you guys have any ideas? I’m looking for things that cost under $50 and are doable in one day.

Also, I’d love it if you joined in the fun! I’ll be blogging about all these shenanigans and I’d be happy to include a link to any other bloggers who want to part take in 30 New Things!

So suggest away!

Girl Meets Couple, Part 2

This is the second half of an interview with my friend Elizabeth who happens to be dating a couple. Here’s the first half.

What are the challenges and benefits of dating these guys?

Challenges

Time

We date each other long-distance (3.5 hours) and because of busy schedules, that means about one weekend together a month—that’s it. But we’re very conscientious about communicating online and on the phone every day. I know a lot of people deal with long-distance relationships, but since I can only talk on the phone with one at a time, it requires a decent chunk of my day to keep up with both of them. But I feel very close to them, which is worth the time spent. It does add up, though!

Communication

Along these same lines, however—on days when one of them is having a tough time or there’s conflict (granted, they have a solid relationship and talk about everything—no one’s throwing vases or anything), I hear both two versions of what happened without being there to form my own impression, and have to try to get a sense for what went down. That gets tense…but fortunately, they don’t expect me to take sides or negotiate because I would feel super awkward in that position.

Benefits

Doubly satisfying

Dating two people may involve extra complications—three sets of feelings, more time and energy, more stuff to keep track of—but it also pays off double. I have two people telling me every day that they adore me, that I’m cute, that they’re grateful to have me in their lives. I have two sources of comfort and validation when I’m having a terrible day. They make me laugh twice as much, and I always know I’m being discussed affectionately by two people I’m crazy about.

Yay for women!

I don’t know if it’s because I’m dating a lesbian and the open-minded guy who worships her, but I will never be in a more pro-girl relationship in my life. I think women often feel pressure to downplay or defend their girly traits, like they’re silly or trivial. My gf and bf are each big fans of girlyness and are feminists like I am, which makes me feel more gratified about all my woman business than ever before!

How have people reacted when you told them about this?

I’ve told most of my good friends and my brother, and some have met my bf and gf—most everyone has been wildly supportive in a way characteristic of the wonderful people in my life. Here are a few responses/questions I seem to get a lot: “Soooooooo…pretty hot, huh?” Well, yeah, but not at all in a kinky 70s shag-carpeting, circular bed kinda way.

Men in particular (some, not all) seem to assume at first that this is primarily a sex thing. We have great chemistry, but there’s a huge emphasis on feelings. We are good friends before anything else. Also, my bf would be the first to say he’s a sensitive, non-macho type (I’m a big fan of this, as it turns out), so it’s absolutely not about serving some typical male fantasy of watching two chicks together, nor is it solely about my gf being able to express herself as a lesbian. Everything is mutual—as long as we’re always talking honestly, gender politics don’t seem to get in the way.

Alot of people can’t imagine sharing someone they love. How does this work for you guys?

Speaking of sharing —people seem curious as to how a woman could share her husband with another woman (again, it’s rare that anyone asks how a dude could share). All I can say is that it works for this couple because of her sexual orientation and his emotional makeup, to paraphrase the way they put it. Trust is vital—we’re very open. They’re both privy to anything I say or write to either of them, and nothing sexual happens unless everyone’s included. Sorry if that’s more information than you wanted, but it’s important!

What kind of future does this relationship have?

Fair question—if my significant others are married, where’s this going? Something I’ve noticed since I started dating this couple is the extent to which a traditional relationship is fraught with expectations—little markers signifying progress toward some sort of destination. It’s profound to be in a relationship where affection is given purely for its own sake; they’re not lonely or in need of a mate—they just like me! But the flipside of that is that I have a wonderful bf and gf but no prospect for partnership of my own, which is something I’ll want eventually. They understand this and tell me they’ll be happy for me when I decide to pursue that. For now, I’m content and enjoying myself.

What advice do you have for anyone else interested dating a couple?

Find the second-awesomest couple in the world and go from there? It’s such a unique scenario—but if you meet a couple with whom you want to spend your time, make sure they’re VERY caring, considerate, mature people who want to know you and not use you. Make sure it’s safe—otherwise, it won’t be fun. Be open about it with the people close to you—their perspective will be helpful, even if they can’t advise you from experience. Trust yourself, too—only you can say if it’s right for you. And never say never—believe me, no one who knows me would’ve figured I’d go for dating a couple. Happiness comes in unexpected forms sometimes, I guess!

Girl Meets Couple, Part 1

I met Elizabeth* as a senior in college, sharing the editing software in UMM’s newspaper office. I immediately wanted to be her friend because a) we were hair twins b) I had heard an urban legend about her class project “Yeats: The Musical.” These days, she throws theme parties, works on her PhD and dates a couple.

Yes.

You read that correctly. Girlfriend’s got a boyfriend. And a girlfriend. Elizabeth was kind enough to give us some insight into the workings of a healthy, loving relationship that just happens to involve three people.

Could you describe your current romantic status to us?
For the past few months, I’ve been involved in a romantic relationship with two people–a man and a woman who are married to each other. My girlfriend identifies as a lesbian (always has) who just happens to have fallen in love with a man perfectly suited to her. They are very compatible and happy as a pair–their interest in dating another woman together is not about making up for any lack in their own relationship–they just have a lot of adoration to give, and love being able to share the experience of showering it on another woman. And while I’m sure a lot of people are capable of expressing feelings for more than one person, I think these two are uniquely suited to do so without hurting their marriage–I’ll go into more detail about their natures below.

How does one go about meeting a couple to date?
Well, this is a characterization of events that I’d want to dispel–I initiated a discussion about us getting to know each other that lead to dating, but none of us were “looking” to get involved like this randomly–as my gf pointed out, it wasn’t in any way “desperate”. The idea of dating a couple had never occurred to me until I met them, and part of the appeal of dating them was that they were looking for something that made sense to me: a legitimate, caring relationship as opposed to some indiscriminate, raunchy swinger action.

I met them like this: my bf and I have both been active(ly NERDY!:) commenters on a very well-known, hipstery pop culture website. After months of poring over posts, you get to know people’s personalities a bit, so a handful of commenters have ended up becoming Facebook friends. He and I bonded over the rad late-80s monster adventure comedy “Monster Squad” (seriously–run, don’t walk) and sort of peripherally left each other FB comments, did some shameless meme-tagging, etc. I was curious about him, and also would read comments from his cute wife on his Wall which invariably gave me that “this person and I are meant to know each other” feeling.

One day, he left comments on our hipster website hangout about his non-traditional marriage that intrigued me to no end. The way he described their own relationship was gorgeous and moving–that they’re best friends and deeply committed partners (who, I hasten to clarify, have a super-hot sex life between the two of them) who like the idea of sharing a relationship (as opposed to a casual hookup) with a woman they can mutually adore. You guys, I was fascinated. I sent my FB friend a message letting him know that, to my surprise, I could not stop thinking about how lovely and hot this all sounded. It turned out that they were not involved with or seriously pursuing anyone else at that moment.

I started talking to both of them so we could get to know one another, first on FB and then on the phone and then after some time, we began to meet up and it turned out that…well, there’s no modest way to put it. We’re sort of perfect for each other. These are people with whom I would have become good friends anyway–we have heaps in common and our personalities are very well-suited–and the attraction was pretty incredible from the get-go. I don’t meet many people with whom I vibe in a romantic way–I really have to LIKE whomever it is as a friend–so to meet TWO hot people that I truly dug at once was really exciting…and mutual!:)

Has your couple dated like this before?
Yes. It’s been challenging for them to find someone who’s on the same page about what kind of relationship they wanted to have. They have gone on a number of dates with women (mostly contacted through the Internet through personals sites, using a really careful, lengthy, detailed ad meant to weed out the sleazoids) whom they weren’t into or who ended up being unable to develop an attraction to both of them. Some simply became friends. Before me, there were a couple of short relationships (a few months each) that both went south for one reason or another, nothing that should also end up becoming a problem for me. They took those seriously, but neither one ended well, as so many relationships don’t. Honestly, they were about ready to throw in the towel on finding something functional when they started getting to know me. Yeah, I know, I’m a back-patter:).

Are you really equally into both people?
I am! Thank goodness. I wondered about this, too, at the very beginning, especially because I’d never been involved with/kissed/seriously considered dating another woman. I mean, I’ve always been hardcore pro-GLBT and had lesbian friends and super-close female friends, but I never really thought I’d have an honest-to-goodness romantic response to a woman, or a sexual impulse I’d feel comfortable acting on. I had convinced myself that all of that “person-specific” rhetoric I’d heard in college was just the prattling justification of horny people who got all hot for anyone who found THEM attractive.

But it’s a real thing, guys—turns out I happen to like this woman a lot. And though some aspects of it have been new, it hasn’t been weird for a second–it’s been just like it should be, just like it was with my darling boyfriend as well–that thing where you meet someone and you just feel you’re going to get each other, that you long to be near that person as often as possible.Of course, my relationship with each of them has its own characteristics–I relate to each one in our own way, which is really fun because I get to share different sides of myself really intimately with two people at once.

But we all agree that one of the most crucial factors that makes us work so well is that I adore them as a couple. I was drawn to their rich, loving relationship and am constantly touched and rewarded to be included. They like that a lot–without it, a lot of jealousy could creep in from all sides, which, I probably don’t have to mention, would be a surefire way to screw everything up, including our relationship AND their marriage.

Tomorrow: Part 2, the benefits and challenges of dating a couple

* super sexy and exotic fake name