It’s simply taken me all of this time to be able to recover from the Bat Mitzvah. Parting with as much money as I did has never been easy for me. I feel the need to provide a personal eulogy to each dollar as it passes from this world, into the next. I will try to let them know, how much each and every red-cent meant to me and how I know, that though it doesn’t seem right for us to be apart, there is a higher power, known as parental responsibility that steered our dividing path.
My Bank Account Epitaph
In order to pay the great homage required to such a sum of foundational, monetary bliss I need to first explain how long the money and I were together. The act of savings for me has always been one of safety first, smarts second and focus third. After the first two requirements of “Nicole’s Hierarchy of Needs” are satisfied all subsequent pots of money needs to have an end goal or purpose. They need to have a label. I’m a labeler.
So this pot (which by the way to all those who wish to hunt for the pot within my house, it does not exist. It is safely (and I use the term loosely because I am an American who loves her country) backed by Uncle Sam (at least up to $100,000, and I do not usually save that much in any one pot), was labeled – Maude’s Bat Mitzvah. Please, again, do not try to find it. It has been extinguished. Thus this epitaph.
The money began to co-mingle in the “keep for a monumentous day” vessel about 20 months ago. We knew that the day was coming in 1999, when we found out we were going to have a baby. But we did not begin the gathering of coins for it until we had paid for the new roof on the house. We are not made of money… one major endeavor at a time.
Over the months the increments of “sock away” continued and we shoved all we could into the rabbit hole. If it was a mattress it would have grown lumpier by the week.
And as I gathered all of these greenback children together – I grew to love them. I knew one day, like Charlotte, that my Wilbur’s were meant for something other than my security blanket, they were meant to shower my daughter with celebration.
And so the story went, we saved, we planned, we spent. And then we were literally spent.
I can tell you that there is no greater gift one can give one’s self other than piece of mind and self-satisfaction of a job well done. We got one extra to boot,”Mommy, this was all I ever wanted.”
Brave currency soldiers you gave your lives for something greater than yourselves or even the sum of your parts. You gave our daughter the Bat Mitzvah of a lifetime. Mazel Tov.
I’m in Pittsburgh. I flew in yesterday and boy, are my arms tired.
No seriously, I am here on business. It was a quick trip in to meet the Pittsburgh team. Successful. But what does a saver like me do to unwind?
Unwinding means, of course that there is something that wound me up to begin with – right? Travel is never easy on the body. You want to sleep, you can’t. Last night I spent 2 hours looking for Bat Mitzvah dresses for the big day. For me you ask? No, mine came off of the 65% off rack at Macy’s. Maude, on the other hand, is not so easy.
So we’ve been shopping for the big day. Pre-req’s:
- Never before seen in the Portland-metro area
- Stand out / Notice me
- (Did I mention short?)
Dresses have been coming in – par avion – in throngs of 3-4 poofs, sequins and chevrons (the in pattern of the season don’t you know) at a time.
First to arrive was Macy’s. I should be so lucky…not.
Next to materialize from Mr. McFeely (I am in Pittsburgh, don’t you know…) was Saks. Some would say it was full of potatoes the way Maude responded… that package contained the dress that will go down in infamy as “the swan dress”. Feathers on the boobs and a rhinestone-belted area. Thank G-d that one did not make it past Gate 1.
Bloomies came in a mean 3rd and went out as fast as it arrived. Too short, too long, too drab. “I need pizzazz.” (even though as a 13 yr. old, she doesn’t know how to spell it without shouting from the other room…)
What are a girl and her mother to do? Press on McDuff. I scoured the worldwide interweb and find about 12 more options online. Little missy sounds like she likes a few. We’ll see… let the boxes arrive and the expletives fly.
So what about celebrating in Pittsburgh? Well Mitch made a grand observation that the recently shut down Blockbuster has morphed into a dental office, a hairdresser and a nail shop. These represent three industry leading service areas that cannot be affected by the desire to shop online. You can’t get your nails painted, your tooth drilled or your hair quaffed without using your feet (and maybe your car).
I went into an IRON CITY nail shop, here in Pittsburgh, to splurge on a pedi. Until I heard the price. $40. I told the man I clearly did not have enough cash, turned on my rough heel and departed. Sometimes I tell you how I “SPENT” anyway and I deserve what ever it is. Today I tell you, honestly and proudly… my feet match my Volvo. Old, rough, and unattractive, but paid for.
I am always looking for a trend line. Ask Mary. (Which one? Take your pick… I’ve got two them at my office. BTW – for the record, I also have two Michaels and two Susans… Talk about a trend line.)
Usually I am searching for a pattern in the chaos. Now, I would not say that I am not the one creating the chaos at times… (For that you will definitely need to ask anyone I have ever worked with… anywhere). I would say that the marketing gal in me (thanks Bosco at the Mt. Park New Seasons Market for that nickname) is constantly looking for a string of actions or happenings that make up a trend. I usually hit them right on the nose. I am the “unpopped” version of Faith Popcorn (of the Popcorn Report).
Don’t believe in my powers of “trendspotting”? Well, if it pleases the court, I submit Exhibit A:
The time I said paella was in … Mitch did not believe me (as he helped me unpack the pan I shipped from Spain and the set of wooden eating spoons for authenticity)… and then Williams-Sonoma had it on their Christmas cover.
The Defense rests.
So lately, I have been turning a keen eye onto the way people socialize. Am I an anthropologist like Ross? No.
I am simply a social person. And I am a saver. Which simply means I am forcing myself to enjoy reality TV without the television. I am watching you. And at times hypothesizing about you actions and why.
One observation I made recently concerns dining with friends and the social norms of today’s economic environment. Before we can study the animals in their natural habitat however, we need to travel in the way back machine to a time called yesteryear when it all seemed will, simpler.
Dining with friends when you are young and poor: Eat what my Mom made us before she went home.
Dining with friends when you just had a baby: Pot luck. At 4:45-5:07 when the baby (ies) cry (ies).
Dining with friends when you have kids, a job and it’s 2002: Couvron (for those not in Portland at the time, this was an incredible French restaurant which moved to NYC (what?) and then back to Portland and is now Noisette on Vaughn and 23rd Place. I am fishing or a free meal with this shameless plug.
Dining post economic apocalyptic years 2008-present: Dining out with a coupon.
The trend I am finding falls into the social graces side of things: People are now bringing a coupon to share.
If this is a foreign concept your friends suck. I should lend you some of mine.
How it works:
Agree to a date night.
Agree to a restaurant.
Agree on a time.
Offer to share your coupon.
And actually do.
It’s as simple as that, but it is definitely the new thang in social norms. There was a time when no one wanted anyone to know they used coupons, clipped them or traded them. Housewives would slip secret envelopes under cover of night between cracks in each other’s external woodwork. (Why do you think the Western Wall has a separate Women’s Area? It’s for all of the Charmin 50 cent off trades happening. Please people, think.)
Nowadays though, if you want to be gracious, you share your savings. We had a lovely couple share with us. We appreciated the gesture, so we shared back, a “pay for-less forward” if you will. And another friend then offered to share her Groupon for Cinetopia tomorrow. That third gesture was the trend line sealer. It’s true. It’s great to save, but it’s even greater to share the savings. Everyone spends a little less, has a great time and it feels like someone wrapped a warm $20 around their shoulders.
Got a Groupon. Share it with me. You’ll feel great!
I hate buying parties.
As a thrifty – the thought of combining a festive gathering and needless spending seems as appropriate as Dulcolax-flavored ice cream. If you indulge in DL gelato please heed the warning label – “Money will flow forth from you – like you know what.”
For me – the term conceptual blending – known as the innovative process of mixing disparate ideas to come up with a new creative one, (which I recently learned about in Jonah Lehrer’s latest work “IMAGINE – How Creativity Works”) should be applied to better investments for the American public like “free” and trade”.
I personally enjoy mixing a good metaphor, a nice cocktail and some random nuts found around my pantry for “kitchen sink cookies”; but the thought of bringing people together for the specific point to laugh, drink and shop rubs me and my wallet the wrong way.
As you may know – I am in Marketing and consider myself a capitalist so there is a part of me that admires the Tupperware party of today gone all sparkly, smelly or gadgety. Truthfully, the concept of vertical marketing programs does tickle my revenue-generating fancy. And what’s more, I admire the gumption required to reach into one’s inner circle and sell through a fine balance of tea sandwiches and peer pressure. (Please hold the “that looks great on you” slice of cheese. I’m watching my (bank) figure.) But when push comes to shove, I should never be anyone’s first choice for buying parties. I will be a notorious disappointment.
Since I have NEVER purchased anything at a buying party I can honestly tell you, I am no easy mark. I drive up in my 1990 Volvo, which is pushing 229,990 miles and carefully close my recently fixed sunroof, which has been broken for about 7 years. (BTW – by repairing the sunroof – the vehicle seems to have recouped some of its new car smell. Of course, it could be that some of the old car smell has escaped and therefore it is simply neutral air I am now enjoying. The world may never know). When I enter the home – the hostess who is immediately enchanted by the tinkle of the doorbell which signals a new oinky to the trough – is quickly disappointed when … it’s me. She sighs, and thinks, “Another lost leader. Sandwich consumption-1, purchases – zero.” (Don’t put it out if it’s not for the taking. Capiche?)
This week I was still on a roll, a snack sandwich that is, at a recent Stella & Dot party. I did my best to enjoy the baubles while the well-trained capitalist in arms did her best to adorn me in riches far beyond my comfort zone. But I went because I wanted to show support to my feminine compatriots who are sticking it to the man by either working for themselves (the Stella & Dot rep who eats what she kills) and for the other friend – who is working for a wo-man. Awesome. Girl power.
So what was the best part of the event other than the warm welcome I received from my gal pals and the chance to giggle a bit with a new friend named LOIS who apparently shares her name with the new Lake Oswego water system? The location. The location. The location. Huddle up Buttercup – I don’t want to let everyone in on this secret. It’s too awesome.)
The buying party was being help at a CONSIGNMENT store called Consigning Women, in Lake Oswego, OR. Thank goodness, someone gets me!!
I have to say – this is the best place to have a buying party. Let people shop in an air of retail. Puts me in the right mindset…. At least this place did. The store is a lovely little place, which does a very brisk business. A close friend works there and she introduced me to owner Stephanie Sparkman, a wonderful financial whiz who has an eye for fashion, a brain for saving and a sixth sense for what appeals to all – a bargain. She was singing from my hymnbook all night!
There are rounders of great newish clothes, well priced and all laid out in a way that made me feel I was boutiquing, not slumming in any way. I usually cannot shop in smaller stores anyway; they do not cater to the rubenesque. (Who can carry the whole line of sizes… retailers have to stick to “the middle” and they unfortunately can’t serve the girl who has more on hers…). But in this store, there were a few things that worked for me.
One of those “things” at the store that worked WELL for me – I must say - was Stephanie’s “automatic markdown system” – her retail shout-out to the grandest of all savings experiences – Filene’s Basement in Boston – Park Street Station. I was so drawn to her pricing system; I almost broke down and cried. (But instead I broke into a comedy routine about how I would undress in the aisles in Bean town to avoid the communal dressing rooms and the chance to miss a perfect item. Sometimes you simply must undress in the moment.) Automatic markdown simply drops the price of an item according to how long it has been “literally” hanging around. It’s a modern marvel of mathematics and shopping. Conceptual blending at its best!
Bottom line. I bought at a shopping party. But it wasn’t the baubles that did me in. It was the Linen and cashmere Eileen Fisher sweater for under $25. Is the “no party purchase streak” broken? Who cares? The sweater fits my wallet and me. Touché.
For all of your observant Jews, please look away.
The rest of you – dig in. I am about to share with you a way to satisfy your craving for spending and eating meals our – without breaking the bank.
Surely at this point you feel you have either dreamt that I have started posting again you feel that you have been asleep – awaiting another installment of online me. Either way. Lucky you.
I could blame the hiatus since March on many things – health, travel, a large IP scandal (I am STILL fighting Al Gore about the internet issue).
But honestly, I think I was simply large (and largely) uninspired. And though I am still large – I am no longer uninspired. A friend at my new place of business let me know he stumbled upon my blog … someone told him it was funny (I likely owe that person some money) so he decided to read it. He thought I was funny. This is a person who is not blood related, he does not owe me money and he is humorous himself. ‘nough said. Someone out there wants to read my babbles. I am just the one to document them.
Onward, tally-ho! Meal planning to satisfy the belly, the wallet and the psyche.
On this topic I will refer to exhibit A. The workday. During such time you feel boxed in, you have responsibilities and you cannot do ALL the things you want to do, so you LOOK for ways to feel in control, and to be honest, special. I am sure that if you are at ALL like me – you long for things you think of – and then deny yourself until you buy a pony. (I am kidding, No equestrian stories in this post.) But at least you think to yourself, maybe I could go out to lunch. And $10-20 bucks later… you are sad that your money poured out of your wallet – especially since you BROUGHT today. Oy. What am I gonna do with you?
I practiced a new program today. I will know spill the beans (no I did not have beans).
I got myself out of the office, instead of sitting all day. A HUGE step forward in creating a little ME time.
I had a destination. This provided me with a path rather than an amble to St. Honore’ bakery.
I walked past West Coast Bento. This is a little whole in the wall that I had heard a lot about from Todd and Felicia. They LOVE it. (I speak of them as if you know them, yes? Well if you do, smile and think I know them. If you don’t move on to the next paragraph, Stalker.)
I stepped in, looked around, chatted for a brief moment and then walked ON. I did not stop for lunch. I had a destination (post office) and I already thought to bring lunch. So I did not need any food. I of course wanted it. I wanted to feel special. I wanted to feel like I could splurge. I wanted BENTO. Who doesn’t?
But as I walked to the post office I felt inspired – and I also hatched a plan.
The nice man had given me a to-go menu and let me know he takes phone orders (how nice of him to allow me to get frustrated at work I could easily satisfy my need to splurge right from the comfort of my desk?), so I glanced at it.
Char Su Bao. $1.50
Bento – $6.00
I went buck fifty bun. And you should to.
It was delicious and it complimented my tomato soup and carrots.
I had enough cash, so no VISA.
I felt like a winner.
I have heard this said another way…. But for me I will say “Go small and get home with cash in your pocket.”
Who knew buns could do this for a person? (All the people who post porn – and who produce for the Food Network.)
Until we meet again – good eats to all!
Today is Saturday, Shabbat Shalom, and on any given weekend I try, like the dickens, to squeeze a little “me time” into the “us time”. To do this, you need to take the “us” and turn it upside down, to get “sn”, which is required for sneaky.
It’s not usually very hard. Many of the rote experiences that make up “me time” are things that “us” is not interested in participating in, and therefore cornering the market on their own use of the “s” and the “u” turned wonky.
One of those things is the gym. I enjoy yoga at my $99 for the year exercise facility, Crunch! For all of you out there, with $100 in your pocket, yearning to be free of fat, go to Crunch. I have hardly missed a day since I joined and I can tell you, clean, easy and cheap. OK, that free commercial brought to you by Nicole’s “lovely handles”.
The other main thing I do on the weekend is go grocery shopping. Sometimes, if I am smart enough to plan – which is the main element to any savings adventure – I make a list for Mitch to go to the shops (how very British of me to call them shops… please pass the crumpets available at Trader Joe’s for $1.49). But alas, not this week. This week Mitch went to New Seasons Market because it’s “Nice”, he said. Also, we needed some specifics for a Shabbat dinner; so on he trotted, without so much as a thought to the other store… Winco. (BTW – this is not entirely true, doggie cheese and organic lettuce was needed and so Mitch did handle a quick trip to “that” store, who’s name shall only be uttered once here in a hushed tone for fear it may dangle another item of need in front of Mitch.) So while the family prayed at synago-go and noshed on bagels… I came, I yoged and then… I shopped.
Please note, I have already taken you through “that” store on a painstakingly detailed adventure many moons ago… so if you want the big W-xxxx low-down – search the blog. You’ll find it amongst some of my finest.
No, today I want to provide you with a small peek into the experience that does not happen every time. Like an Indy 500 race with a crash. They don’t occur each lap, but when the do, they draw a lot of lookee-lus.
As I entered the store, I knew that my experience was slotted for mundane. I hit the aisle, first, with the pineapple, then maneuvered the onions, passed the chip and soda center (most “centers” advertised for food are gooey, chewy centers. W-xxxx carries with it a salty-bubbly middle.) I traversed the canned goods and coupon clippers like the champ that I am. Mitch thinks it would be good for me to wear a head lamp/camera and map/chat/blog my experience through the store. (He finds it riveting, thus he is my biggest fan.) But the experience all changed… from the mundane to Indy500 in a moment. As I approached the check out stands, what revved my engine? We needed ice cream.
Let the games begin.
Now, to be clear, we usually don’t buy 1/2 gallon flavors, although Maude has requested ice milk (hello 1973). (I have yet to find it, likely because I have yet to look). The likely sweet coolness candidate to enter the cart and the house is “the novelty”. First of all, it’s because they are novel (it’s even in their name). Secondly, because they are portioned controlled. I would be embarrassed to grab (2) of any of these. I do realize that the price is higher for such individually wrapped items and therefore a waste of money. But let us all remember, this is not waste in the case of money spent on purposeful items and services and can assist in life. CRUNCH gym says, if you’re gonna do it, you’re gonna have to work it off. Therefore, we keep the investment high on the ice cream to keep the calories down.
I finished the “other shopping” and now strolled over to the check stands, surveying the lanes like a sprinter, sizing up the competition. If I am on the soft serve prowl, I need a plan. Buying ice cream for me is not like grabbing the fix in’s for chili. There is no “aisle life” for a can of kidney beans. You could get behind the oafiest, back-water idiot who forgot his list, bags and child in the dairy section and sure as I’m typing here, your chili’s gonna be plump perfect (BTW – is is not an endorsement for adding plums to your chili.)
This type of “limitless hand holding” can go on for weeks in places like Korea where there are contests to see who can hold the can of kidney beans longer. (Those people are plump mad for World Records.) But the same game does not hold true for the beloved ice cream, be she novelty, gallon (with or without red handle) or the simplest of all fruit sorbet. Every kind of frozen concoction has a hold limit. And by G-d we have hit upon one of my greatest fears. The meltdown.
Most parents fear this experience on a plane or in the shops (G-d save the Queen). Being the parent of a 12.5 year old, I now fear it only in the grocery line. What a waste it is for all that creamy goodness to lay in wait, due to a lack of haste, as it begins to morph into a soupy form of displeasure. It is now, as an adult who has seen the darkness before the dawn, that I stand and salute the Good-Humor man. (Though the one who travels my neighborhood is stoned…).My childhood bloke always delivered icy goodness in it’s truest form, on a stick and hard as a brick.
So this is how it goes down when ice cream is on the list. I say this, because as mentioned, this is not an every day item. We buy ice cream only when we are completely out. I like to purchase multiple boxes at the same time so that their huddled mass keeps their brethren as cold as cold can be, under the circumstances.
Another important element of the ice cream purchasing process comes back to planning. If one is well-thought out, one puts a cooler in the car with blocks of re-usable ice to keep it as cold as possible, before the great thaw begins. I am so concerned about this that I have been known to hold off getting the ice cream if there is ANYTHING that I think will stand in my way of getting it to the freezer as soon as humanly possible (If I could teleport it, I would). But this trip to W-xxxx was not a well planned experience. I had no cooler. I had a pretty full store to contend with (again – note to self, buy ice cream between the hours of 10pm and 5am or during church), and I had doggies at home, awaiting my arrival (an “act-fast” is now required here in parentheses).
Being the pro that I am – knowing the system and how to game it, I moved swiftly and without reservation. In this situation you must choose the longest line you can find for ample dash time. This is usually behind a man who rarely shops and if you are lucky, has a child he’s contending with. He could take decades to get through the check out. Now don’t be greedy and try for a double dad. That’s back to back padres looking for the Us Magazines they were ordered to bring home (or don’t come home). You only need one Papa for this race, especially if you know what you are buying from the freezer case. One dad is just about the time you need to ditch your cart “IN LINE” (don’t lose your spot), run to the freezer, grab your stash and head for the finish line. And I did. There was a yellow flag on the field, I fumbled the picking part of the party, when I grabbed the “Peanut Butter Swirl Skinny Cows” instead of the chocolate flavor, but I’ll claim,”Wanted to try something new…” and get away with it. With 4 boxes of novelties, a Mexican grandma waving me on with the crimson scarf around her neck, I was the Bull of Pamplona and if you got in my way, you were gonna get skewered by a Dulce de Leche stick – because it’s put up or shut up time in the W-xxxx corral. I was ready to win.
I got back to the check out line, dumped the items in the cart (never hug your novelties, first it’s weird no matter the novelty… secondly, your body temp is a little too powerful for those nuggets of frozen confectionary love.)
The dad had moved along. His items nearly all on the conveyer belt and mine about to be next. I tossed the items on with ease, lining up bottles, boxes, perishables and of course frozen, to make bagging easier and more efficient (that is a whole other posting….). And then, the challenge in the “Woman vs. Ice Cream Shape-shifting” competition came on – full force. Someone with four items, got in line behind me. What do I do?
For those of you with a heart 3 sizes too small, I can tell you that the nice thing to do is to let that person go in front of you. You have a bunch of stuff… they have four. I have been in this situation too many times to mention – but I will anyway. There was the time at New Seasons when the checker decided it was OK for the person behind me to go in front of me without asking… then the next time, the checker asked me, but in such a way that I was seen as a heel if I said “No.” Then, there are the times that I let the person ahead of you but they… forgot their money, an item or simply want to have a “conversation” with the checker. Screw that. This is war and I am meant to win. My experience being nice has lead me down the garden path one too many times. I’ll be nice tomorrow. Today’s about the ice cream.
I checked out. I drove home – 4 left hand turns (BRUTAL) and 4 rights. I pulled in, threw the ice cream in the closet freezer I have (the garage, you can never be too sure in those last 40 feet, ice can begin to form at any time…) and then I plotzed. Woman 1, Shape – Shifters – 0.
What did I stop saving? – My ideas. I have to admit to all 43 of you that I have been busy wasting my ideas, prose and general quips like some people waste money. Please, allow me to illustrate:
Since November 10th, 2011 I have focused quite a bit on the Bat Mitzvah (yes – we’ll get to the savings schema for that in next week’s post… today’s exclusively for remorse, with a side of “I’m sorry” for flavor).
I have started another blog, with is taking off like gang-busters! It took me 13 months to gather you 43, and right now I am already clicking along at a cool 3 views a day. You have no idea how fast the super information highway can really be. Check it out: http://yourcookingcoach.wordpress.com.
I have felt stymied by schedule. Too much happens the year of the Bat Mitzvah. It’s not just the prep shit that bites you in the butt, or the money that is required to make it “just so and away we go”. It’s the world that is changing around you. And I have been taking time to observe it.. Observations like:
- Maude is her own person and needs to make her own decisions. Feh. (Who needs it?)
- I have scaly skin appearing on the tops of my feet (a sure sign of aging along with the 4 grey hairs on either side of my head)
- China is becoming a big deal. (I am not sure that that is bat mitzvah-year triggered, but I needed to somehow demonstrate for you that I listen to NPR and am therefore smarter than I used to be, which makes me head and shoulders above anyone named Sven.) Subtle… eh?
What I am sharing with you, my royal loyals is that I am having to choose between prose and pose (yes, I went to yoga today before I started composing.)
But today I chose both and I think that though this might be double dipping – I am willing to try to keep up the posting. Why? Because I think that the above three points will enhance my writing and honestly, I miss it. Also, case in point, I have heard from #24 and #36 (double chai) – and they miss my posts as well.
The decision – The cooking blog will post weekly – and so will Clutching Coins!
(Summary: Basically, I spent my ideas, funnies and observations on memories I don’t remember and a few on people who don’t deserve them… But that’s not you 43. It must have been the Swedes….) Down with waste, up with pros who write prose. Onward – Tally Ho!