Some years I’m Scrooge and I don’t care at all about the holidays. Some years are stressful, and I spend too much money (or not enough! oh no! I forgot to get you something! It’s okay! I forgot too!) and the month is over packed and some years I’m too far from the people I love. Some years the weather gets to me and some years I don’t want to hear yet another Christmas song.
This year? FORGET ABOUT IT! I’ve been thinking about Christmas since late September. Planning gifts, making gifts, spending enough money on crafts to make a bunch of “feel good” homemade gifts. I’ve spent more money on crafts than in bars for three months in a row. I’ve made my list, I’ve checked it twice, and things are set to go out in the mail next weekend.
I’m that obnoxious person. I don’t intentionally play Christmas music, ever, since it is ubiquitous, and I don’t need to overdose. I have captured the Christmas Spirit and I want to keep it!
I’m going to help my parents decorate for Christmas, and then I’m going to do girly things (shop for wedding dress? drink pink drinks?) with my best friend on Saturday afternoon, into the evening. I won’t apologize for ordering holiday drinks!
There are a number of gift guides popping up in my RSS feed — if they’re amazing, I’ll share. So far, though, I’ve only read the one from The Meadow, and that is a very cool store. It’s so hip actually that there is one store in Portland, and their second store is in (wait for it) New York City. You know you’ve hit the big time when store number two is in the big city.
Need some help with Christmas cheer? Rent Elf. Sit down, watch it, and try not to smile.
- Film Friday: Elf (popculturenexus.com)
So, Thanksgiving is easily one of my favorite holidays. The weather is just plain gross out there, so we’re stuck inside anyway — why not hang out with people we love? Add in delicious food, some football, a parade and a dog show and really — I could not be happier.
This year I’m thankful for a lot of things. Since I love lists, I’ll just list some of the things I’m thankful for (things for which I’m thankful?) here.
I’m thankful for:
- Staying grounded. Literally. I’m glad I don’t have to fly to see my loved ones.
- Shelter. When it’s pouring down rain, I’m grateful I am inside.
- Words with Friends, the Scrabble game on my phone — I’m koprim if anyone wants to play!
- Scarves with pockets.
- The fuzzy feeling of a new sweatshirt.
- Christmas jammies.
- Coffee in the morning. A working coffee pot, and a boss who’s nice enough to buy me a coffee when the pot breaks.
- Fresh sheets.
- Other people’s pets. All the fun, none of the responsibility!
- Realizing that every single one of my problems is a first world problem.
when I’m debt free:
take someone I love on a surprise vacation.
In anticipation of birthday weekend, I baked. Of course I did. I made brownies and caramels. And something new. I found this recipe from a collection of gluten free recipes on Food & Wine. Then I went to the liquor store to find “elderflower liqueur” which is fancy speak for “goodness gracious that’s expensive and who spends forty dollars on a bottle of perfume booze to use in an untested and maybe gross recipe?” So I wavered. Fun fact: wavering in a liquor store where there’s one employee, one line, and ten people in it makes you a jerk. I ended up buying lemongrass-lime vodka from Indio instead. I felt better about my purchase, but let’s be honest. I still spent twenty dollars on booze for a recipe.
Oh my stars, what a recipe. Since I can’t ever be bothered to buy the right thing, I bought solo almond filling instead of almond paste. It was liquidy, so I added about a half a cup of almond flour to the filling. And substituted lemongrass for elderflower.
I’ve made a lot of baked goods in my day, and these were absolutely in my personal top three of any baked goods ever. And that includes back when my baked goods included flour. They’re not for everyone. My sister, for example, doesn’t like almonds, or lime. I told her not to try these.
Here’s the recipe, with my modifications:
Recipe: Almond, Elderflower and Lime Travel Cakes
- 10 ounces almond paste, broken into 1-inch pieces (1 cup) or the can of almond filling plus 1/2 c. almond flour
- 3 large eggs
- 2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
- Pinch of salt
- 4 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 1 tablespoon St-Germain or other elderflower liqueur or whatever you have on hand — I’m not sure booze is entirely necessary
- 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 2 1/2 tablespoons heavy cream
- 2 1/2 tablespoons St-Germain or other elderflower liqueur again, not super necessary — how about some Indio lemongrass-lime vodka? It makes for a delicious cocktail if you use the leftover lime juice you’re about to squeeze!
- 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
- 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lime zest, plus zest strips for decorating
- MAKE THE CAKES: Preheat the oven to 350° and line a muffin pan with paper cups. In a food processor, pulse the almond paste several times until broken into small pieces; don’t overprocess or the paste will become oily. Add the eggs and pulse until smooth. Add the cornstarch and salt and pulse until smooth. Add the butter and St-Germain and pulse until incorporated.
- Scrape the batter into a small pitcher (I used a 2 c. Pyrex) and pour it into the muffin cups, filling them about two-thirds full. Bake for about 22 minutes, until the cakes are golden, puffed and firm to the touch. Transfer the pans to a rack and cool for 20 minutes, then invert the cakes onto the rack to cool completely. Or, leave them in their paper and leave them upright.
- MAKE THE ICING: In a bowl, mix the confectioners’ sugar, cream, St-Germain and lime juice. Using a handheld mixer, beat at low speed until smooth. Beat in the 1/2 teaspoon of grated lime zest. Spoon the icing over the cakes, allowing it to drip down the sides. Garnish with lime zest before serving. Eat one while it’s warm. If you don’t like it, ship the rest to me!
one sister + one parent + two best friends + one boyfriend + one weekend in Hood River =
the happiest Kathleen
Tomorrow afternoon, a handful of my favorite people on earth are joining me in Hood River to celebrate my birthday. We’re renting a vacation home that is walking distance to all kinds of fun things.
On Saturday, a few more people are coming over to have dinner with us. We’re having a pasta bar. Several different sauces, several different pasta shapes (plus roasted cauliflower for the weirdo!), salad and bread. And creme brulee for dessert. A really nice way to celebrate 30. Planny pants is also putting together a sparkling wine taste test, which should also be very fun. Especially since I love sparkling wine. I’m hoping I end up liking the cheapest one best.
There will be pictures of course! If you’re reading this and you’re not going to be with us, we will miss you! (That’s you, Dad, who accidentally got the same disease that the new dog gave you — try not to chew up a slipper!)
I recently posted that my consumer debt (credit card, Toyota, and student loan) was just about $20K. This is a staggering number, since my annual income is just about double that. I was nervous to publish this number as having debt of any kind (except you, student loans) seems like a failure in the educated circles where I hang out.
Just publishing that number has made me much more conscious about the money in/money out cash flow scenario. Accountability is key! So, here are my debts, listed in the order of most painful to least painful:
Credit Card Debt: $4244. This number is the one about which I am most ashamed. It’s not from Thai takeout or shoes (though I’m sure I wasn’t frugal enough about those either) — it comes from an investment I made in a friend-of-a-friend’s no-fail, no-brainer business. Long story short, it failed. I didn’t use my brain. Takeaway: do not use the checks that come with your credit card, for any reason. Also known as: do not use one form of debt to pay another.
Toyota: $6600. Okay, so this one isn’t Lamborghini, so there isn’t any real reason to feel bad about this. But I cannot recall a more upsetting sales/buying experience, and will likely never go to that particular dealer again. I can’t help but think I got taken for a bit more money than my trusty Corolla is worth.
Student loans: $8411. This one doesn’t keep me up at night, because the rate is fairly low, I did not abuse this line of credit in any way, and needed help paying for college. Also, I went to a college which, at the time, was a reasonable “deal” and gave me financial aid. I’d go to college again if I had it all to do over, but it’s still consumer debt, and I’d still be happier once it’s gone and out of my life.
Using the debt snowball approach (which says to ignore interest rates and pay off the debt that hurts you most first), I will pay off as much of the credit card as I can. I’m paying $450 a month automatically, and if there is anything left at the end of the month after everything else has been paid, then I will pay a bit extra.
Thanks to my very generous mom, the balance is on a 0% card for the next 18 months or so. According to mint (my favorite way to track pennies in and pennies out) I’ll have that gone by June 2012.
I’m trying to think of an incentive to get me motivated to pay it off more quickly, and at this point I’m thinking stick, not carrot, and holding off on getting a hair cut until my credit card debt is paid off. Problem is, I’m a little worried that I’ll end up looking like Harry from Harry and the Hendersons if I wait that long. I may make an exception if there’s a Groupon deal worth doing, but I’m going to wait until 2012.
In order to have more room in the budget to throw at the credit card, I will:
- avoid buying clothes
- make more dinner at home
- cut the amount of “stuff” in my house, selling anything that might be useful to someone else (but is no longer useful to me)
- move into a more affordable place after March 1, 2012 (when my lease is up)
- start working on websites for friends and family and start marketing those in my spare time
- get creative with holiday gifts
- stay away from retail as a general rule
- visit my parents more to get food from their freezer ;)
- be thankful for what I have, and try not to focus on things that I want but do not have
- start bartering. What could I get for a batch of delicious salted caramels?
Adults sometimes wave their hands and say, “I was in my twenties” as if that simple statement somehow justifies ridiculous behavior.
I’m going to come right out and say it. I’m jealous. I don’t have any crazy antics to shrug off, no wild stories, no DUIs, nothing.
So, to remedy that, today, I tried heroin and drove under the influence to a tattoo parlor where I had an expiration date of Nov 8, 2061 tattooed on my forehead.
I went to work, about half an hour later than usual. Ate my leftovers (pulled pork from my mom!) for lunch, and then went indoor rock climbing after work. Then went home and contemplated making brownies.
Another navel-gazing post!
Deal with it. It’s my birthday week. Until Thanksgiving. Then the pilgrims can have November back.
Things that I will do while in my 30s:
- Get (and stay!) completely out of debt — that includes credit cards, car loan, and student loan. Only after those debts are paid in full am I allowed to contemplate buying real estate. I’m going to keep myself honest and track my debt here, on or around the first of each month. As of today, my total consumer debt is a whopping $20,269.35. Next update: beginning of December.
- Start a side business — I’m starting that now, actually. I’ll be helping people create very simple, very elegant web sites. I’m of the (very strong) opinion that every business (no matter how small) needs a website, but I’m of the equally strong opinion that it shouldn’t be too expensive, and it should be easy, once in place, for the person who owns the website, to update it. I’ll even teach you how to update it in the future. Any takers? Other ideas include Kathleen’s caramel, snuggle pants, advertising here, opening a distillery, an Etsy shop, etc.
- Write a Novel — this will happen in the next decade. And it will be somewhere on the spectrum, between “mindless drivel no one will read” to “Pulitzer material” but it will absolutely happen.
- Make the product I work on profitable. We’re close, but not quite there yet, and in the next decade, I would like us to get to the point where we fire all of our other clients and work solely on the product I love.
- Travel. I love traveling to new and familiar places. I intend to do even more of this, once my #1 goal is met and I have more room in the ol’ budget.
That’s it. I want to be a better friend/daughter/sister/granddaughter/niece/coworker/girlfriend too — not just while I’m in my 30s, but forever.
I was going to put “marriage/babies/mortgage” on this list, but then I thought long and hard about it, and decided against it. I would love to be a wife and a mom and a homeowner but those aren’t in my ten-year plan. Which means that instead of plotting for those, I’ll focus my energy on getting out of debt, starting a side business, writing a novel and traveling, and let the other pieces fall where they may.
In six days, I will no longer be in my twenties. I joked with my friend yesterday about how I had a week to get married, have a baby and buy a house. She said I better get started!
When I was a kid, I could imagine some day, well into the future, where I would be 30. I would have a family, my best friend would be my neighbor, and our kids would play, and have just as much fun as we were having. I probably thought we’d live in the same houses, since he was my neighbor when I was a kid. And we did have fun.
I bet even ten-year-old Kathleen wouldn’t be disappointed with how her life turned out. If she could see me, she would see that I’m still independent, I’m working in a cool job, I have really good friends, and I still consider my best friend from childhood to be among my favorite people. She would see that I’m lucky, and she would understand why I don’t have a house or a couple kids of my own.
In my twenties, I accomplished many things.
- I graduated from college
- I traveled extensively, both in the US and abroad
- I fell in love
- I got my heart broken
- I spent too much money on an investment that sounded good
- I moved across the country
- I moved back to Portland
- I held hands
- I kissed in the rain
- I had so many adventures with friends, family and loved ones
- I faced a few hard truths about myself
- I took many jobs
- I left many jobs
- I followed my heart
- I learned about the importance of family, close and extended
And as far as ten-year-old Kathleen? If I could tell her that the two kids in the neighborhood — one girl, one boy — are absolutely worth hanging on to, I would. One will become a very good friend who mails you scarves when you talk about scarves with pockets and lives in your computer except you’ll get to see her more than you could ever hope to; and one will be a friend who moved back to Olympia and you can go months and months without talking to, and one day you can pick up the conversation right where you left off!
I’ve been staying in hotel rooms lately (it’s odd, really, when the boy comes to town, we stay in hotels since I have a roommate and he doesn’t want to mess with her schedule) which means that the television has been on. A lot. Like, every night.
I’m usually someone who does not watch TV, except for a few shows that I stream on Hulu (like the Office). But put me in a hotel room? I can sit in front of it for hours, while my book is lonely on the bedside table.
So, the other night, we were flipping through the channels (the boy does not like commercials at all), and we landed for a few minutes on TLC’s Sister Wives, which is a reality show that follows this family of a polygamist cult (spinoff of LDS) of one guy, four wives, and sixteen children. The partial episode we watched showed them going back to the town where the man grew up and meet up with all his old friends. Of course, this is awkward.
This cult states that they don’t proselytize. Great. The friends are mainstream LDS and they are not on board with the polygamist lifestyle.
There were a few things that bugged me:
- The friend was really against the polygamist proselytizing, but he said one sentence that started with “when I was on my mission” — Okay sir, now how do you think us gentiles feel when you are proselytizing? HMMMM?
- The polygamists defended their faith but not in a logical way. To the casual observer (that’s me) the only difference between this cult and the mainstreamers was polygamy.
- Their definition of polygamy is quite unfair. It’s more like polygamy for him and monogamy for the ladies, except when she is the chosen wife for the sleeping. Unless there’s one giant bed.
- The show is set up for the casual observer to judge these people harshly. That shouldn’t be surprising, but ladies, if you think that you’re just showing your faith to the open-minded public? You are mistaken.
It’s an odd show that made me feel angry, riled my feminist feathers, and made me feel better about the way I live my life. And I only watched ten minutes!