Monday, March 31, 2014

sweet and sour

Our lemon tree 
One of my favorite activities is gardening. It's not quite gardening season for us here in DC but I'm getting psyched. It's something I can do that costs very little money but brings me a lot of joy.

This year we got very lucky with the little lemon tree we got from my sister-in-law. We got six lemons. We used every single one. We made dairy-free lemon gelato with the last lemons and the candied the peels. They're even better than those gummy fruit slices you get at Passover.
Candied lemon slices

Unfortunately the poor little tree has died back now. We've kept it indoors through the cold temps, but we'll have to see if it comes back as the weather gets warmer.

Have you ever tried growing lemons? Did your tree die back?

Sunday, March 23, 2014

One thing they don't tell you in those self-help finance books

I've read a lot of self-help books about money management. I don't go into credit card debt, but I do have a nasty habit of spending any money that's not locked up in retirement.

Some of this is a result of a symptom of my bipolar II disorder. When I'm having a hypomanic episode, I shop. It helps the high I'm on during hypomania go even higher. That's usually when I'll blow any spare money I've had in my allowance. As soon as a reasonable expense came along, usually days later, I wouldn't have any money left. I'd go begging to the Chief Engineer and then I'd often spend some of "our" money on something I needed.

This seemed to stop when I went on my bipolar meds. For the first time ever, I'm almost at the end of the month and I have money left in my weekly allowance budget. I haven't gone on any shopping sprees this month.

But I'm far from cured of my poor spending habits. We spent an incredible amount of money redoing our kitchen and now need to be super duper extra careful with our moneys for a few months. But now I'm very restless. I want to go out and window shop. I want to think about what my purchases of fun stuff like hair coloring or a new shirt will be. But that needs to be put off for a while.

Now what? I used to always be planning some kind of big purchase, or setting a big goal for myself (I'd look great in a Tesla roadster....or not).  I'm not going to go window shopping or kill time on

So I'm feeling a little bored. That's what I wish I had been warned about when I read all of those personal finance books. You need to come up with activities to fill the time that you used to spend shopping or browsing. My eating disorder tells me that when I'm bored is a great time to eat. So I need a little help, need some ideas.

What do you do to keep busy instead of shopping, oogling, or planning to buy stuff?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A love / hate relationship with psychiatric meds

For about a month now I've been on medication for my newly-diagnosed bipolar II disorder. Here's how things have gone.

I'm definitely more stable. The Chief Engineer says that my emotions don't come out of nowhere anymore. I can feel emotional changes when they happen and be able to have a little bit of control over them instead of being completely swept away by a change in mood. So far so good, right?

Well, there's just one little problem. This particular med, Abilify, has some interesting side effects. Like making me want to go to sleep at 9 PM and wake up at 6 AM (not a bad thing!) But it also makes me feel incredibly restless. I need to bounce my leg or pace all the time. At least I have a standing desk at work so at least I can move around constantly. It's pretty frustrating, and bad enough to make me want to stop taking the med. But I will be a good little patient and wait until my next visit with my pdoc to say "TAKE ME OFF THIS STUFF NOW!"

She did tell me that she had a backup plan, one which involves Seroquel or Latuda. The Abilify hasn't made me gain weight but I haven't lost any more than the 5 pounds or so that came off right after I stopped the 20-pound pill-o-poison that was Cymbalta. I hope that the med she chooses doesn't make me gain weight.

I do hope that some of the other positive side effects, like being able to keep my mind on things and being more organized also happen on the next med. It's nice to have an organized house again.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

I just saved $50 with a needle and thread

And so can you!

I'm short which means that finding a pair of pants that are the right length for me is pretty much impossible. I used to get my pants professionally hemmed at $10/pair. That was fine when I was consistently one size and wasn't buying new pants every other month. This time I decided to hem my five pairs of pants by myself.
Here's a good video that shows you too can hem pants without much time or talent. Do you do your own hemming?


Saturday, March 15, 2014

An experimental haircut

We both panicked a bit after we saw the final bill for our kitchen renovation and thought it would be good to cut back on expenses for a little while. Naturally, this decision was made just about the time when my hair started looking really ratty. What's a girl to do?

My normal thrice-yearly fancypants haircuts cost $75. Long hair plus D.C. prices equals expensive! I get a super simple cut so $75 seems absurd. Instead I found a local beauty school.

Including tip it cost me $ 17. Not bad.

I'll probably splurge for professional color when I go up for a promotion at work. Hopefully soon!

Have you ever gone the beauty school route for your haircuts? How do you keep your haircuts inexpensive?

Friday, March 14, 2014

The kitchen work continues + before and after photos

The kitchen for us was one of the few places in our lives where we felt it actually made sense to try to get more space instead of cutting back on the number of items we owned. The food allergies we have mean that it's not necessarily safe to prepare items on the same surface or using the same spoon/fork/bowl, which means we own two versions of everything. Two sets of plates, two sets of mixing spoons, two sets of pots and get the picture. In spite of some serious decluttering we still own a lot of stuff.

To get more space, we knocked down the kitchen wall and replaced the wall with a peninsula with cabinets. Here's what the kitchen looked like in October after the wall came down and peninsula went up:

And now. Please ignore the mess!
The kitchen looks awesome and it is so much easier and safer for the two of us to work in together. The backsplash goes in next month and then we'll be finished.

We did a little extra decluttering when we put everything back in the cabinets. The number of kitchen items we own became a small problem when our new stove arrived. Our new stove has a warmer drawer instead of a drawer to keep baking sheets and the like. We decluttered a few things from our baking sheet cabinet so that we can consolidate the two sets of baking sheets into one (separated) cabinet. The five things that went out were a cutting board ($5), two purple cafeteria trays ($8) a broiler pan (free -- it came with our condo), and a small jar that we used as a bud vase. I'm very excited to be so close to done with the whole process.

Have you renovated your kitchen? What was the experience like?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Traveling a little too lightly

I love traveling and was super lucky to spend this past weekend in Austin, Texas. Not only did we get to enjoy celebrating two friends' wedding but I also got to meet Austin Eco Mama Megyn! She's an awesome lady and I was thrilled that we got to enjoy being outdoors and having a tasty lunch together. 

While the weekend was awesome, it had a few funny mishaps. I definitely learned that a little minimalism is good but sometimes it helps not to be trying to pack as little as humanly possible. Neither one of us had traveled by plane in over a year and we'd forgotten a few things.

If you're going to be stuck on a plane for hours, don't forget your entertainment at home!  I hate traveling without anything to do and yet managed to bring an audio book but no headphones. I spent $10 on new headphones. That's okay, I now have a spare for the office. 

If you do bring entertainment, don't leave it in the seat pocket! The Chief Engineer is mildly addicted to his kindle. Unfortunately the addiction wasn't strong enough to keep his kindle from finding a permanent home in the seatback pocket of a Boeing jet. I don't use mine much so I suppose he'll be getting that one instead of us purchasing a new one. 

A spare copy of your itinerary will keep you from accidentally leaving your car at the wrong airport. D.C. has a lot of airports and it's not uncommon to purchase airplane tickets that have you leaving from one airport but coming home to another. We neglected to print out copies of our itinerary and just went on our memories. Unfortunately this meant that we left our car at the Baltimore airport but found out on our way back that our return flight would take us into the Reagan airport in DC, a good hour away from where our car was parked! The Chief Engineer heroically metro'ed it up to Baltimore, got our car, and drove home after I took the train home from Reagan. 

Girl Scout cookies shouldn't be dinner! Food in airports and on airplanes is expensive. In fact, sometimes it's downright non-existent when you only have 1/2 hour between flights, like we did on our way home. I had potato chips and girl scout cookies for dinner on the way back because we forgot to pack a meal. 

In the end all was good and we had a very enjoyable trip. But next time I'm definitely going to write down what I need in advance and I'll follow that list. A few extra items would've saved us a bit of money and aggravation. But still, it was an awesome trip. Thanks again to Megyn for the wonderful afternoon out!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

When is a hoard not a hoard?

Hoarders often make a lot of excuses about how their hoard isn't a hoard. Some of my favorites?

"I'm just a clutterbug." As if saying that makes the piles of junk okay. 

"If I had time, I could clean this up." Never cleans it up even though the hoarder actually has plenty of time.

"I'll get around to it." Never does. Never will. 

"There's nothing wrong with this. It's not that messy." Completely ignores the fact that rooms are unusable for intended purposes. 

"This mess isn't my fault, it's yours." And the personal responsibility goes right out the window. 

All of these responses beg the question, when is huge, life-disrupting pile of clutter not a hoard? Let me give you an example of something that looks like a hoard but isn't. You saw the matrix room a couple weeks back. That was before we started having our kitchen renovated. Now 3/4 of our kitchen drawers are in the matrix room. And because clutter begets more clutter, the room has also been made home to our pile of stuff to donate, the things I require for telework, and my bike. 

The room is barely usable for its intended purpose. There's clutter everywhere. I've even got a collection of used glasses sitting on the pile of baking sheets. If you stepped in the wrong place you could get hurt, and hurt some valuable stuff too. So why isn't this room hoarded? 

This isn't hoarding because it's legitimately temporary. We know the kitchen will be finished next week. By next Friday this room will look the way it did before and it will stay that way. The "magnetic clutter" that found its way there mostly did so because we've had to move the contents of other rooms around to accommodate completely giving up our dining room and living room to our contractors for a while. But we have a plan for cleanup and we know when we will act on it. The stuff is not there for emotional reasons, it's there because our contractors needed us to remove the drawers to fix the cabinets. 

Thank heavens this isn't permanent. It's driving me insane in the mean time. And for fun, here's what the kitchen looks like right now.
There goes the dining room
And don't forget the stove in the living room.  

But at least this horrible, disgusting sink is gone. It was this 'clean' when we moved in two years ago. I am so lucky that we can have our kitchen renovated.