Oatmeal confetti

Once upon a time it really bothered me to see all the milk and floaty-melty cereal bits going wasted in my kitchen every morning. I didn’t like buying the cereal boxes, which seemed expensive, and the cereal seemed to fill the girls up for about fifteen minutes before they were hungry again. I wanted them to love oatmeal like I did but they were always complaining that I had mixed theirs wrong, made it too hot, let it get too cold. Goldilocks was feeling less like a fairy tale and more like a fable of my life. Maybe I should have tried suggesting walks in the woods while our porridge cooled. Maybe I could have tried calling it porridge.

Flinging caution to the wind, I stopped controlling their bowls. I put out frozen berries, chia seeds, a jar of brown sugar with a spoon, and heavy cream, and let them portion everything. The girls spent the first week heaping their bowls with syrup-level brown sugar. No commentary from me. The next week things seemed to balance out. Now they each make their own delicious bowl and, generally, eat the whole thing.

I also discovered if I used a big glass bowl I could mix two cups of oatmeal with a little over two cups of water and microwave it for four minutes to make the perfect batch amount every time.

When we go by the cereal seduction aisle we have a little routine where they examine the cartoon characters parading past and I say something distracted like, “maybe when we go on vacation.” Take into account the frozen berry mixes and I don’t think this method is saving us any money after all. But I do think it’s a better breakfast.

Once you are undeniably in charge of your own things like bills and phones and the ability to drive, you can take on out-of-control things like placidly overfilling your bowl with odd textures. With that in mind, here are two adult variations that I love to make for myself:

homemade granola, frozen berry mix, marching line of chia seed (the funny thing is I don’t like chia seed in smoothies but I love it as a sprinkle), heavy cream.

heavy cream to the side, sliced banana, coconut sugar (such a crispy flavor), chia seed.

 

 

That First Year

on the occasion of our 8th anniversary

Rachael.Joe 

I remember the overwhelming satisfaction of moving into an apartment that was only for us. We firmly believed it was a perfect apartment. Each guest that came to visit, we waited for them to observe the perfection aloud (many of them instead noted the petite bathroom). The curtains we bought for the bedroom were the wrong color, the shelves Joe built in the kitchen were exactly right. The insanity of the wedding gifts, how amazing all those things were! We were given a beautiful, enormous wooden salad bowl that June. I found it bizarrely large, couldn’t seem to fit in anywhere in our apartment, couldn’t imagine making a salad that large, and I returned it.

Now, age-old-like-cheese me, longs for an enormous wooden salad bowl.

I don’t remember the quarrels, but I remember we had them and that they seemed Very Serious. Perhaps it is age (again) but based on how rarely they happen now, I feel sure they were nothing but the mumbo-jumbo of believing all of your emotions deserved to be said aloud.

It must have taken a year, maybe two, to discover was how to motivate each other. There’s a theory that you give the type of love you hope to receive (debatable), but certainly you encourage in the way that encourages…you. For me that is soft phrases implying the work has already been finished, I need only to do a bit more to dust it off. Even better if it is implied that the work doesn’t need to be done at all, but if I cared to, well then, it would be nice. For Joe, what wakes him up in the morning are stark roadmaps that give way to how much still needs to be accomplished. The sight of a nearly-burned-out building, for him, is just the thing to set to work on.

The metaphor carries easily to housework—I keep up with tasks like clean countertops, a full fridge, and the constant reincarnation of dirty dishes. Joe prefers overhauling the bathroom or vacuuming the entire apartment after five wool blankets were dragged over the carpet.

But mostly I bring up encouragement in the meaningful adult sense—ideas you want to pursue, important shifts in your habits, projects at work, projects for yourself. Encouraging each other in these areas is one of the best elements of marriage.

My parents asked us to take a financial course within our first year of marriage. The sessions ironed out most wrinkles in our mental wardrobe of crumpled habits. (We had revealed a few subliminal expectations already through reading the book Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts which suggested asking about things like do you always order dessert? and, when you stop for gas, do you buy a snack? The book is not amazing, but it did have its moments.) The course encouraged a joint bank account, something that we would have done anyway. It required that we document, on paper, all spending for three months. First month: document. Second month: document, set a goal, but go easy on the slip-ups. Third month: document, set a goal, do your very best to reach it.

We tracked ours on a small library card tacked to the fridge, his and her handwriting marking small deductions by turn. When you do that you encounter the thrill of marking down something you were excited to buy together, but also the sapping drag of a purchase already you wished you’d skipped. Three digit bills seem enormous, but endless tiny ones add up as well. Without noticing, you began to value the days you didn’t have to write anything down.

I remember grocery shopping and not knowing what to buy; me in the aisle with my hand hovering before a box of crackers wondering do we both like these?

I wanted to be impressive in my capacity to cook well, but spend little. But I believed true couples’ cooking was Cook’s Illustrated recipes—expensive meals, perfectly executed, preferably heavy on the carbs. I wanted to make only new things. It took us a year, at least, to pin down that we usually wanted to eat different things. Joe wanted chicken breast and a vegetable. I wanted four cheese pasta. We both wanted tomato egg sandwiches, caramels from the shop around the corner now and then, and in the summer–peaches and cottage cheese for dinner.

(Though I remember cooking a garlicky shrimp pasta from the tomes of Cook’s Illustrated for a classmate of Joe’s. And as he ate, he sighed and quietly said, like a restaurant.)

Shoe Shine

Boston is rife with cobblers, though not all of them are great. Cobbler recommendations are traded with enthusiastic tips or side-eyed-please-avoid. There are also a number of nail salons, at least in my neighborhood. So many, in fact, that I’m not sure how they all stay open. (are they selling something else on the side?)

And I love this idea that my friend* Ruth Meeter shared on instagram:

She said she never gets pedicures but can’t resist a shoe shine. Which is such a good point and money well spent when you’re talking about salt, slush, and winter mud. Pedicures are really the territory of summer, and shoe shines for the rest of the year? Have you ever gotten a shoe shine at one of those stands?

*actually we’re more like acquaintances, but I wish we were friends. So we are instagram friends.

Weekends Away

This weekend, at long last, we’re meeting two of my high school best friends in New Jersey with their husbands. It’s my first time visiting New Jersey for vacation and I think it will be beautiful! The water is supposed to be warm, and the beaches should be empty. I hope Jenny brings her favorite Nicaraguan rum and I hope Grace treats us to Vegan gourmet. We found the place where we’re all staying through airbnb. It has a fireplace and bikes, and best of all: just a quick trip to the beach.

If you’ve never browsed airbnb.com, beware! The site is completely addictive. In October a friend is having a tiny wedding in the Hudson Valley, and we found a spot on airbnb for that too. A little cabin with farm animals. Before Lux I would have been like “um, animals in the morning? No thanks.” But now I booked it almost immediately after I found it. It also has a hot tub, Check it out:

This would never work in our tiny apartment, but I love the idea of renting a room in your home for passing travelers. I also think airbnb attracts a hipper younger traveling crowd than other rental sites, so it’d be a great way to meet new people. Have you used them before?

 

Road Trip

October is going to be a roadtrip for Joe and me. We’re one of *those* couples that skipped the honeymoon, and we’ve traveled less as a married couple than we did as singles. Yikes! So far the itinerary is looking jagged. Haha. Actually it’s look good, like 4-weeks on the road good (don’t worry, that’s erasable marker and a crummy map, so don’t try to squint and see your city). I’ll post a city list soon, and you all can contribute your favorite BBQ joint, museums and flea markets. I’ll also be hunting for some new favorite cd suggestions for the ipod pre-loading.

My First Grill

Hey all, just a little product promotion for you. I ordered this grill from Urban Outfitters a few weeks ago and it is just awesome. Why, I ask myself, did I not spend all of my college years grilling on the porch among the cornfields? What is it about college students that make them unable to think of the most practical applications for their surplus of lazy afternoons and casual friendships??

Anyway, it was $50 and I’ve heard my neighbors muttering with envy several times. I’m not even worried about carting back to Boston. On to crafting marinades and not mixing fish with meat.

$99, 700

That’s how much we are now officially in debt to Harvard University. Shall we ask for $300 more to make it a nice number of zeros?

So what’s the plan? Do we cut all costs, tighten our belts, move out of our city apartment, and start an all-out fight to pay it off? Or do we sigh, and note that it’s annually tax deductible after all, jot down a fifteen year plan, and take that two week trip this fall? Loans give me sort of a sick feeling. They make things feel delusional: I look at my bank account, I look at my wallet, and see what I “have” but in reality, I don’t truly have a right to any of those numbers.

What does $1,000 mean to you? What do you imagine when you hear it? Do you ever plan to give away $1,000, in one clean check to one fine cause? Do you see it as a source of much, or sort of negligible amount that seems to scurry away? If someone asked you to pick between your plans for the weekend, and receiving $1000, which answer would spring to mind? Can you imagine surprising your best friend with a plane ticket, just so you can visit each other? Would not eating out at all for six months be worth the money you’d save?

Like most people, my spending efforts are a study in contrasts. $1000 does not cover one month’s rent for our apartment in Boston. It is 8 solid trips to the grocery store–the cheap one, where I stock up  for a two-week hit, but if I go to Whole Foods,which is much closer to my apartment, it seems to go much quicker.

Money can really be a rather delightfully powerful thing. As a small business owner I know what purchases can mean to the person behind the counter, so I really love to buy things from businesses I admire, or appreciate,or just find important. I love to call in to Emerson College Radio (which happens to be one of my Top Ten Favorite Things about Boston) and pledge during their pledge drive. I have several friends working for nonprofits who must raise their incomes every year, and it sort of shocks me that I personally can be part of paying their salaries.

When we are young and perhaps poorer than we think we might be in the future, it can seem easier to pretend that we don’t have any money at all, besides (and this part is mumbled) the money we spend everyday. I bet if we saw the total amount of money that has passed through our bank accounts so far in our lifetime, we would be stunned. All of that went somewhere.

Photo by The Sartoralist.

Money Money Money

Even though Joe and I spend a lot of time puzzling over/tweaking/rewriting our budget, and we try to buy decisively (I always think of that word in capital letters, DECISIVELY), of course I’m still shocked at the end of the month at how it all added up. And the absolute worst thing is when I can’t even remember what I bought in the first place.
I think that might explain why I find Kate’s Obsessive Consumption drawings one part cute, one part edifying and one part genius (does three parts make a whole? Or do we need one more?). Kate posts sketches of whatever she bought that day–milk, pens, new t-shirt–making light of the fact that she seems to buy something new every single day, but also acknowledging that a small part of her  put energy into finding exactly what she needed, and that shouldn’t go forgotten or ignored.
Plain old unabashed materialism is always boring, but you can find out a lot about a person by hearing about what they spend their money on. It’s always fun to hear people talk about their favorite possessions, or something new they just bought, especially if they are the type that agonizes the details and makes mental charts of the positives and negatives for each new purchase.