Tuesday, June 13, 2017

We Bought a House!

When I say that this purchase was the culmination of all my hopes and dreams, I am only mildly exaggerating. Welcome to Gray Barns.

 It has everything we could have asked for in a place: a name and some history, plenty of space for entertaining inside and out, and an in-law apartment we can rent out for a little extra money. Getting here felt like it took ages, because I have dreamed of owning a home since I was a little girl touring the Newport mansions and because started saving for a house down payment in 2010, long before I had any idea where that home would be.

But then, like all good things I suppose, it happened so quickly my head was spinning, and on May 19th, we closed and embarked on what's probably the biggest project either of us has ever taken on. We're fixing her up slowly, slowly, and documenting the process (along with some of the fun artifacts we're finding along the way, on Instagram.

It will take years until everything is really finished, but we're excited for the journey and to customize everything just so. Because of this, I wasn't really able to feel like we actually live here, and like we're not just staying for a while until something else comes along. But driving home last night, listening to the Beatles and looking out over the country roads I now drive everyday, something clicked and I'm feeling really at peace with things. It's a good feeling.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Gratituesday: Tennis

A coworker invited me to take a tennis class with her a few months ago, and the lessons started last night. I remembered how much I loved taking tennis at Coles (RIP, Coles. You were so beloved.), but of course I got all anxious ahead of the class and convinced myself I would hate it. Happily, I loved it just as much as I did in New York. It was such a tremendous joy.

My wrists are a little sore from it (although to be fair, my right wrist has been acting up lately anyway), and I can definitely feel that my form isn't as good as it was in 2015, but it felt much more natural to me starting than it did back then. It's also a little more expensive here, but my hope is that the little group I'm playing with can take what we're learning in the lessons and perhaps take it up ourselves at a public court one day soon.

It was also a little surreal to walk around the fitness center where the lessons are run. It reminded me so much of the first gym I ever belonged to, Club Fit, which was fancy enough to smell good and have a little cafe where I would eat veggie burgers with Shelby and her mom. I did not realize, then, how fancy this gym was. In fact, I kind of forgot how fancy it was as I went to increasingly less fancy gyms, starting with the Sarah Lawrence gym, moving on to to New York Sports Club during their decline, and finally ending up at Coles, which had a pool and tennis courts but no climate control and a terrible smell of mold and body odor.

I didn't realize what a privilege it was to have had a membership there, to have had parents picking up my tab and wanting only the best for me, a chunky teen just learning for the first time to portion control and use a weight machine. There was so much I took for granted in my childhood. There is still so much I take for granted every day. Walking around the pleasant-smelling River Valley Club, I was reminded of home in so many ways.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Weekend Wanderings: Whoopie Pies at King Arthur Flour

This weekend, R. and I went to King Arthur Flour to take a class on whoopie pies! It was my Valentine's Day gift this year, and we had such a wonderful time. It was one of the most fun things we've done in a while.

The class was three hours long, and we made two different types of whoopie pie: Classic Chocolate Whoopie Pies and Mini Coconut Whoopie Pies with Lime and Raspberry Filling. Both turned out really delicious, but the classic chocolate was the clear winner! The class moved pretty quickly, with the instructor showing us how to do each recipe before setting us free to try it on our own.

She showed us how to measure ingredients by weight instead of volume, which I'd never done before. Measuring baking ingredients by volume instead of weight can really affect your final outcome. For example, measuring flour by volume can lead to a difference of 20% depending on how you do it. Using a scale for your measurements also makes things go much faster. You can bet we registered for one! (And of course the stand-up mixture was always on our list. And a few other King Arthur items. πŸ˜€)

Overall, the class was a ton of fun, and R and I loved collaborating on the baking. We ended up with 15 big whoopie pies and 15 small ones between us, so obviously my coworkers enjoyed a bunch on Monday. We had such a blast that I would 100% recommend taking a class to anyone visiting the area. You can check out the schedule here, and I'd recommend booking early because they usually sell out. Most classes are between $75 and $150, and in addition to being loaded up with new skills, great tips, and lots of baked goods, you also get a free coffee, a 10% coupon to the store, and a bowl scraper.

I can't wait to take another one soon!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Wedding Wednesday: The Registry

I'm no stranger to registries. I've had an Amazon wishlist for almost a decade, and I love getting and receiving gifts. Plus, I've been buying gifts off of registries for many years, and have always enjoyed finding something personal for a couple I love while still knowing it's exactly what they want.

Because of this, you might think—as I did—that it would be simple to put together our own gift registry. And, in some ways, it has been. For example, I know immediately that although we have survived as a couple for the last 6 years without fine china or a stand-up mixer and our home has not felt exactly empty (especially, ahem, the particularly small home we currently occupy), we would register for gifts instead of doing a honeyfund or trying to raise money for our down payment. I love the idea of using items either everyday or at key moments in our lives and remembering the person who gave them to us.

Lauren was incredible and bought us our very first gift, a crystal cake platter that I cannot wait to use at birthdays and other celebrations for the rest of our lives. The idea of cutting our child's first birthday cake on the same cake stand and with the same cake knife as we do our wedding cake is simply too sweet and full-circley for me to even deal with, and I know that when we do, we'll remember getting our first gift from a dear friend I've only ever met once, because we were brought together by the magic of the internet. Swoon!

Most of the items we knew we'd want: a really sweet set of knives, new camping equipment for our new lives in Vermont, games that friends regularly transport to our house from other states (so they have one less thing to carry, of course!). And I knew we wanted to register at Amazon, so we could put all sorts of things from different companies on it (because registering at LL Bean and REI and Crate and Barrel and and and ... seemed excessive), as well as a physical store for folks who don't love the internet, and Macy's seemed as ubiquitous as any, with a nice selection of items.

But, in case you don't know us very well, R. and I spend a lot of time researching and thinking and considering before we make purchases, which, to be frank, isn't super often. Researching all these different items, while also having it in the back of my mind that these have to be the pieces we will use for the rest of our lives has been pretty intense. It's also why a few key items are missing from our lists: I can't buy china without holding it in my hands first, and the pattern we want (Wedgewood's Nantucket Basket) isn't available in person at Macy's, so we're considering ordering a place setting ourselves to see if we like it before going whole hog.

So, in case you're also registering for gifts, here are a couple resources I found helpful:
I also checked many items on The Sweethome, which is a great resource for learning everything from what the best cast-iron pan is to what kind of vacuum you really need, and Good Housekeeping, which has never led me astray, helping me to pick out my incredible handmixer, food processor, and favorite tomato sauce. If GH gives its seal of approval, it's as trustworthy as a Royal Warrant to me. (Maybe even more so, though I do love my Hunter boots and Barbour jacket.)

What was the best thing you registered for? Anything you now wish you hadn't included on your registry?

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Wedding Wednesday: Answers from Married People

Thank you so much to everyone who responded to my marriage survey last week! I loved reading every single answer, and we got a ton of great advice (and learned some things about our friends and family that we didn't know already). If you haven't already taken the survey but want to impart some loving advice for us as a couple and tell your story, please go ahead and take it now!

We had answers from 21 people, including two couples where both partners responded. We had answers from couples married in every decade from the 1970s to today, and the most popular years to have been married were 2011 and 2012, with three people getting married in each of those years. Perhaps not surprisingly given the demographics of my friends and blog followers, we had 3 men respond to the survey and 18 women. Couples met at prom, at the auto shop, online, at work, through friends and family, and at Panera. Only one person asked that we not share their answers.

Also, I wish I could share every answer I got, because they were all delightful! But, I'm picking out just a few highlights here. If you have anything you think I missed or should definitely add, let me know in the comments!

The Secret to Making Marriage Work
"Marriage isn't 50/50, it's both people giving 100%."—Evie E.

"Understanding that you're both not done becoming people, and your relationship isn't done either. Everything always changes."—Liz O.

"Compromising while remembering we're doing it because we love each other. Compromising is the worst! I hate it! But we're both stubborn and it's the only way anything ever gets resolved. It helps to remind yourself that you actually like each other when you do it."—Anon.

"Always assume the best about your partner. Just because you see each other daily, that is no reason not to treat them with the same - or really, more - kindness, politeness than you treat other people out in the world. Pick up on "bids" for connection/attention and don't rebuff them."—Anon.

"Still allowing each other to enjoy the things that we did separately as well as the things the we do together; understanding the need for space."—Linsey H.

"My favourite bit is having our own little in-jokes that always get a grin or a chuckle out of the other person. And when you're with other people and you remember it, you can't help but grin. I guess that's representative of friendships and relationships in general, but what is marriage but a bit of both?"—Anon.

The Big Day: the Good, the Bad, and More of the Good
"It was like being at my own funeral, but I got to be there!!! Everyone I loved there to support us. Surreal. Beautiful."—Evie E.

"The worst was, by far, parts of planning where everyone wanted to give their input as if it was something that I hadn't been thinking about/working on all day every day."—Anon

"When the marriage officiant asked if we have anything to say to each other. I hadn't prepared anything and was nervous to speak off the cuff, but [my husband] went first and simply said, "I love you" without any hesitation."—Anon.

"No bad parts. It was the best party I ever threw. All the stars aligned to make a perfect day for an outdoor wedding."—Anon.

"The best part was the party. We had a simple cheap ceremony with a ton of friends and family in a park with kegs of beer and a taco bar. It was a fucking blast."—Luke W.

"Worst: my mother went rogue. She had birdseed to throw when the ceremony was done, but we didn't have a recessional aisle, so we just stood there and got pelted. So much birdseed came out of my bra many hours later."—Liz O.

Practical Advice: Finances, Family, Fighting
"I spend and he worries."—Maryann M.

"We're both personal finance nerds so we're really on the same page, which I think is important to both of us. We view our money as a shared pool, though we definitely discuss any large purchases beforehand. We have similar goals for our money (travel!) and both want to save but also want to live enjoyable lives, so we haven't had much conflict in this area, even though we had very different debt burdens after college—and still do. We were really serious about our relationship by the time we graduated, so even though we didn't merge finances until we were married, minus a joint account for rent/groceries, I think we were already both thinking in terms of shared resources."—Rachel H.


"Spending time as a family and taking turns with kid responsibility is really important to both of us. ... Even though we all need to work to afford to live, you can get another job, but not another family. If I had a husband who didn't get that, I wouldn't still be married."—Lauren D.P.

"[I found work-life balance] by becoming my own boss. It was priority in my life that I have flexibility for my family, so I make my own schedule and make sure to be home early and take days off constantly."—Regina

"Our biggest family rule is don't talk shit about your spouse to your family members. We are a team, first and foremost. I am the ambassador to my family and he is the one for his. That doesn't mean I am not close to his family - I am! But if there is an argument or we need to enforce a boundary, we know who's running point and who gets to make the final call."—Anon.

"Apologize! Even if you still think you were right, your ego is not more important than your marriage."—Jennifer C.S.

"We sit down and talk it out. We always try to see the other person's perspective and come to a solution together."—Lisa R.

"You're going to fight and you're going to disagree and have bad days. You're going to annoy each other. You're going to have to go through tragedies and such. Just remember that (ideally) you've picked the one human being on earth that understands you better than anyone else, that loves you the most and accepts you in spite of your many flaws. Remember that and why you love them in the first place."—Scott M.

Final Words of Wisdom
"There is no "right way" to marriage. However it works for you, is the right way. Vulnerability, for me, has always been the right path. Ultimately, don't be afraid of things failing. If you take risks and they don't work out and your marriage grows from it - yay! If your partner drops the ball or you realize you want something different, then you saved yourself wasted time. Keep striving for your own personal development even while being partnered. Marriage doesn't need to become the majority of who you are. ❤"—Lauren D.P.

"It's a big deal and you figure it out day by day. xoxo"—Evie E.

"Just love each other!!! Remember that what works for some couples may not work for you guys and vice versa."—Lisa R.

"It's pretty great. Also, people are going to write you checks immediately at your wedding to your 'married name.' You sign both your maiden name and then the name on the check on the back, one after the other."—Anon.

"Good boundaries during the wedding planning process will reinforce when you make decisions your families don't like later on down the road. (In our case, we were quickly labeled the "weird ones"- great! I'm going to do my own thanksgiving, weirdly.)"—Liz O.

"Love is easy. People who tell you you have to constantly work on it is lying. All the compromises, all the communication, all the figuring things out, is easy when you love someone."—Regina

"It can be very hard work, at times, but never lose site of the love that brought you together. And, keep laughing."—Anon.

"You guys have been together for so long and you clearly love each other. You're golden! Honestly our relationship did not change much after marriage except give us a sense of freedom, which seems odd. But I think we both felt a sense of comfort in being legally and emotionally tied to the other person. We could have bigger, more important fights without worrying the other person would just walk out on us. We could take bigger risks with our careers knowing the other person would support us."—Anon.

"Y'all have been a happy couple for so long, I think you're plenty ready. πŸ™‚ As for the wedding, don't forget to eat!"—Scott M.

"At the end of the day, it really is just a piece of paper; it has no magical power on its own to make or break your relationship."—Anon.

"You'll be fine! πŸ’–(If you still want to get married after 10+ years, god bless you.)"—Anon.

"Apparently people will ask you for advice, whether or not you're qualified to give it! πŸ˜‰ Haha - but actually, it's not so different from being in a committed relationship, though for me it does have a bit of an added cozy us-against-the-world feeling."—Rachel H.

"Just love each other and don't go to bed mad."—Maryann M.

"The commitment you make to each other and the legal condition of marriage are two different and separate things."—Luke W.

"Kristin and Roger, surveys and input are great, however, you will find your own way in working through any conflicts in your relationship (and happiness of course). All of your family and friends will always be there to provide support and advice. Weigh it out and decide what you want to use!! Love you both, and wishing you nothing but happiness now and in your married life!"—Linsey H.


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

On Confidence

I felt imbued, this weekend, with confidence. It was a good weekend anyway, filled with some of my favorite things (babies, bagels, bumping into friends in a random location), but there was just something about it where I felt very at peace with myself. I don't mean to imply that I've reached all my goals or never felt a pang of jealousy when looking at a perfectly-curated Instagram account, but I wore jeans and muck shoes to a networking event and felt fine about it, literally even when someone called me out for it. It's rare to feel that way, for me, anyway. Worth marking down here, I think.

I think it must have shown, also. Roger said, "My god, people can't get enough of you this weekend. Who knew?

Monday, April 3, 2017

How To Get a Rush Passport

Oh man, guys. Remember a little over a year ago when I didn't realize my passport was expiring less than six months after I would get back from India? And that's a requirement for getting an Indian visa? And I had two weeks before I had to get said visa?

And I literally cried from anxiety?

I'm here to tell you how to get your passport in a hurry, from experience, because R. and a few friends have only very recently realized their passports are already expired or about to expire, and we all have international trips planned in the next couple months.

First off, read the government website "How to Get a Passport in a Hurry," because that will have the most up-to-date information on it. But, here are the easy steps I followed that got me a passport in basically no time flat!

1. Figure Out What Kind of Expediting You Need
If you have foreign travel within 2 weeks or you need a foreign visa within 4 weeks, you can apply for in-person processing. If you have travel within 8 weeks, you can expedite through mail or at an acceptance facility (most post offices are acceptance facilities). If you have more than 8 weeks, good on you! You can just renew your passport as normal with no trouble. Now, go fill out your paperwork and stop reading. The rest of this is for us panicky people who wait until the last minute to check these things.
You're going to need to go to a passport agency. If you need a passport agency but live in the middle of nowhere, you might be surprised to find one near you! I, for example, was surprised to find one in Vermont and in New Hampshire, when I would have thought the closest one was Boston. Look up your closest one, and if it isn't close to your place of work, take a day off. You are going to need it.

Also, a thing that wasn't totally clear to me when I did this was that you get your passport on the same day you go into the agency, or the next business day, depending on the time of your appointment. In my mind, I had to drop things off and then wait for them to mail it to me (and if you know mail in NYC, you know how nerve wrecking this was for me). However, they must have a little passport factory in the basement, because I and many other people were able to pick up a passport right in that office. It makes a lot of sense now but wasn't totally intuitive from their website.

2. Make an Appointment at Your Passport Agency (Or Don't!)
If you have reservations for foreign travel in the next few weeks, call 1-877-487-2778 as soon as you possibly can. You'll make your appointment at the nearest passport agency this way, and it's automated, so you can make the appointment after you finish crying on a Sunday afternoon.

This is super important: before you get on the phone, make sure you have a note pad, working pen, your expired/ing passport, and a calendar in front of you. You'll make an appointment, ideally the next available one, and then you'll need to write down your confirmation number. SERIOUSLY, write it down. You do not get a copy of it anywhere else, and if you lose it, you are just shit out of luck. Don't lose it, guys. Don't even think you might have lost it and then cry while frantically tearing apart your house while you look for it. Just don't lose it in the first place. I say this from experience.

Or, don't! Don't bother making an appointment. Just walk into the passport agency on its next open day with all your paperwork (see below). You will wait literally all day, and it will not be fun, but it was something that nothing online told me I could do, so I thought I should tell you that it's possible, if you find this one day while crying because you lost your confirmation number. If you make an appointment, your day will go SO much faster, but you can just walk in if you can't get an early enough appointment.

Just go to the agency as soon as you can. The earlier you get there in the morning, the better. I got to the office 40 minutes before it opened, and there were already about 75 people waiting on line outside the building. Almost all of them, after security, were sorted into the waiting line, but I got to go right to the counter because I had an appointment. Either way, do what you've got to do. I will not judge you. Just get that passport, friend.

3. Fill Out Your Paperwork

At this point, you want to start a little folder with all your necessary paperwork. First things first, put your confirmation number in there, along with a black ink ballpoint pen because it turns out those things are like gold at government offices.

Get your passport photos taken. Go to CVS where they are overly expensive but will do things correctly. Here is a coupon to make it slightly more affordable. At this point, you should not be cheap about things. Just get things done, correctly, on the first try. If you're a lady, wear mascara and earrings. That is my trick for looking like the goddess I do in my passport photos. (See above.)

Follow these directions to correctly completely your paperwork. Follow them to the letter. Only by doing everything exactly as it says online will do get out of there in a single day with your passport. Probably you need a DS-82, but seriously, check this all out online and make sure you've got it in order.

Bring your supporting documents: your travel documentation that you are traveling immediately (I brought a print out of my India flight tickets and a print out of the website saying when I needed my visa by), your expired/ing passport, and your passport photos.

I brought two copies of everything, and made photo copies of the first page of my passport. I don't know if I needed them but I was very glad to have them, just in case.

You'll also need to pay up. The expediting fee is, IMHO, totally reasonable at $60. (This is especially reasonable considering that paying an outside agency to do this whole thing for you can cost up to $600.) At the passport agency, you can pay by credit card, check, money order, and exact-change cash. I also brought two methods of payment, and was glad to have them even though I only needed one.

4. Go to the Passport Agency and Wait Around
On the day of your appointment, get to the passport agency as early as possible. I arrived about 40 minutes before the agency opened (mine was the first appointment for the day), and security went relatively quickly once it opened. The first window, they checked to make sure I had all my documentation. At this point, people were being turned away. If you go, please bring everything you need!

I was directed upstairs with all my paperwork, and at the next window, I dropped off my paperwork. They gave me some more paperwork and told me at that point that I could just come back around 3pm. I worked just a 15 minute walk from the passport agency, I went back to work and got in a pretty productive day. However, there were plenty of space and people waiting, so if you're not nearby your agency, bring a book. It's kind of a long wait.

At 3pm, I came back and was led to a third window, on another floor. There, I brought the previous window's paperwork, and they told me to go wait around the corner at a 4th window. I waited for about 45 minutes, and then, miraculously, my name was called and a brand spanking new passport was handed to me with my old one. (You get to keep the old one, apparently.)

5. Get on that Plane Already!
And that's it. For someone who dreads paperwork and being late and travel logistics generally, I though I was going to melt into a puddle, but actually, getting an expedited passport was no problem at all. It took less time and less effort than I would have thought, and unless you are a famous person or a wealthy executive, I would absolutely recommend doing it yourself on a day off of work, rather than paying an agency astronomical sums to do it on your behalf.

Enjoy your travels, procrastinators of the world!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Weekend Wanderings: Maple Madness

Somehow, I hardly took a single photo this weekend! But, it was still a wonderful one. On Saturday, R. and I took the scenic route up to central Vermont to check out Maple Madness, an open-house festival all around Vermont where you can visit sugar houses and learn the process of turning sap into delicious maple syrup. We stopped for a tasty breakfast at the Rochester Cafe, since Sandy's Books was on spring break, and enjoyed the views from the back roads we were taking up to Randolph, VT.

Once there, our first stop was Brookfield Bees, a small sugar house (and apiary!) up a little dirt road. I was so glad to stop by there first, because Dan walked us through the entire process in detail before feeding us delicious maple cookies, hot cider, and maple on snow. It was great chatting with the owners and their neighbor, too, and we learned about the different ways of tapping trees, which can be done with buckets (like above) or through tubing that connects all of the trees to collect their sap.

After that, we stopped at Fat Toad Farm for some tasty goat milk caramel. We sampled a few of their flavors and then bought a bunch of smaller jars to put in our bridal party's gift baskets. (Shhhh!) Our last sweet stop for the day was Siloway Maple, a larger operation. It was interesting to see the differences between the larger sugar house and the smaller one, but seeing some of their similarities was also fascinating. For instance, both of them use wood fires to keep their sap boiling.

Afterward, we stopped at Worthy Burger for dinner. I wasn't starving after all the treats we'd enjoyed, so I just ordered fries, which were very tasty. I think Worthy Kitchen still holds my heart (oh, that brisket sandwich!), but this was also great.

Sunday was routine and lovely, with a nice run around the lake after church, and the evening spent chatting and hatching plans for the future.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Wedding Wednesday: Questions for Married Couples

R. and I have been asking each other (and answering and discussing) a lot of questions about marriage and our relationship. Some because of the marriage preparation class we're taking at church, and some because I endlessly read the internet. Some are so softball that it's surprising some couples don't know the answers before they decide this is the person they want to spend eternity with ("When is your birthday?" SERIOUSLY?!) and some are a little tougher to grapple with ("What type of end of life care do you want?"), but mostly it's been fun to chat about even the well worn topics as we think about them in a new light.

But, that's not what this post is about. This post is where I ask YOU, married folk, 10 questions to get your advice and wisdom from the other side. (If you're domestically partnered or long-term lovers or otherwise consider yourselves as good as married, feel free to share your wisdom, too!) Just answer the questions below however you see fit and hit submit. I'll share some of the best answers next week. (And, in case you're wondering, most of the questions came from this article, which inexplicably popped up in my Facebook feed recently.)

(If you're engaged and looking for discussion topics, I love this article in the New York Times, or you can email me and I'll send you a copy of the marriage preparation questions we've done so far. The first A Practical Wedding book also has a really comprehensive list. I think. It's in storage right now. Yes, even though I knew before we moved that we were getting engaged. Go figure.)

UPDATE: If you'd like to read the answers to this survey, they're here!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Weekend Wanderings: Montpelier Art Weekend

I started this weekend off with a chilly morning run near our lake on Saturday. The 3 miles were very cold and I was definitely a bit sore, but it was a nice way to start the weekend and an auspicious start to half-marathon training!

Afterward, we headed up to Montpelier for lunch ahead of the opening for James's show, #nomophobia. The show was really great, and very cohesive, which I loved. If you're in Barre, it's worth taking a peek in at Studio Place Arts to see. You might even catch a glimpse of Roger and me in the opening installation! It was also great to see a bunch of friends from the area, along with James's father, Rob, and Dave, who all came in from out of town for it. We had dinner at Cornerstone and then played a card game that I loved, but couldn't stay awake for, called Oh Hell, near the fire.

The next morning, we all made a big breakfast before Rob and Dave headed back to Boston. The croissants from Bohemian Bakery were delicious! Roger, James, John, and I wandered around Montpelier, stopping by Bear Pond Books, the Get Up, and J Langdon Antiques, which had an excellent pith helmet that unfortunately did not fit me.

We also stopped by the Green Mountain Film Festival's VR salon and hung out with Island Land, a really interesting piece that stoked a conversation about VR for social justice purposes.

We headed back home after that and spent the evening doing taxes. It was as thrilling as it sounds, but overall, the weekend was a blast!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Wedding Wednesday: A Letter from the President

When we got engaged, I couldn't decide: should I request a wedding greeting early and receive one from the president I've so far most admired, the one who, after the recession ushered me into adulthood, seemed to take my hand and fix things? Or, should I wait until our actual wedding day (October 21st!) and get a letter from the very first female president of the United States?

Presidential Wedding Letter from Barack Obama

I think you know how that went. I put in a request for our letter almost immediately after the election, and all through Christmas card season, I impatiently checked our mailbox, half terrified it would get wet, like much of our mail does, when snow melted through the rusted out mailbox. Honestly, I wish I could say that getting so many lovely Christmas cards was a consolation, but I was decidedly ungrateful for holiday cards, and each one felt like a reminder that I might not get a wedding letter from the Obamas at all. When we visited Emily and Taylor for New Years, I had just about given up, but they told me to hold out hope; Emily had gotten a signed photo some months earlier.

And then, the very day that we decided on our venue, it appeared in the mail, bone dry and perfectly beautiful. I literally jumped up and down when I saw it, and then proceeded to open it very carefully  with a knife. Right now, it's living in a bible on my bookshelf.

I read this article, To Obama With Love, and Hate, and Desperation, today and thought how true it is that we all just want to feel heard. I'm still mourning the loss of this president, the first president of my adult life, and all he represents, but for that one gleaming moment, opening the envelope, I felt heard.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Weekend Wanderings: Winter Trails Day at Long Trail Brewery

We had a nice, but cold weekend! On Saturday, we headed to Long Trail Brewery for the Green Mountain Club's Winter Trails Day event, which was loads of fun. I hadn't yet been to the brewery, which was packed, and the animal tracking workshop we took forced us outside for a bit when I know we otherwise would have stayed wrapped up inside.

We learned some animal tracks and some tips on tracking while we were in the warmth of the GMC tent, and then headed out behind the brewery to test out our new skills, identifying a bunch of deer tracks, a set of red squirrel tracks, and this really cool grouse feather:

Afterward, we headed back into the brewery for beers, soup and chili, and ice cream with hot maple syrup. It was a blast to learn more about the Green Mountain Club, and even though we ended up missing quite a bit of what we'd hoped to do (there were other hikes and workshops that we intended to catch but ended up being too late for), we had a really great time and are excited to get more involved with the GMC and hiking community here!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

International Women's Day

I didn't strike today, and I forgot to wear red, but I did manage not to buy anything. I'm honestly having a bit of mixed feelings toward the idea of a strike, though looking at my 90% female office did make me realize that the optics of all of us striking would have been, well, striking. I sometimes wonder if equality is even possible in a capitalist society.

But, I also want to take some time out today to say how vital "women's work" is, and how vital it is that men and women all recognize that. When a politician says that motherhood is the most important job in the world, I want him to back it up with parental leave policies for working families. I want traditionally female roles to be paid equal wages to traditionally male roles and I want to see women in all levels of government and industry, across all fields. I want equal healthcare, including equal medical tests and funding for diseases that mostly affect women. I want equality, now and always, even if I'm not sure it will happen in my lifetime.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Budget Comparison of 2015 and 2016

I've usually been generally okay with money, but after going a little crazy with my graduate school stipend money in 2013 and 2014, I realized in 2015 that it was time to get a handle on my money. In large part thanks to a couple really good freelance gigs, I was able to build up a 6-month emergency fund. I also started being more careful with my spending.

2015's breakdown on spending looked like this. (Keep in mind that this is my personal money and does not count money that went to our joint account, where we pay for shared expenses like rent, utilities, food, and going out together. Every month, $1,100 of my paycheck is direct deposited into that account and we spend almost all of it. It also doesn't count what gets taken out of my paycheck for health insurance and my employer-sponsored retirement plan.)

In 2015, I made $29,411 and spent $14,187. My net worth increased 23.8% over the year.

Last year, I continued freelancing and tried to be better about expenses, though moving in the fall and buying a new car definitely foiled that a bit. Shopping is higher than usual (in the last few months of the year, I went pretty crazy on clothes, though after this snapshot was taken, I did return about $700 worth of wedding dresses that I'd bought online to try on), but I'm pretty happy with my proportions otherwise. Any money I spend on travel always feels 100% worth it, putting a pretty big down payment on our car was a necessity and I couldn't be happier with the car we purchased, and I'm glad to have brought down my food and dining a bit.

In 2016, I made $45,050 and spent $25,493, and my net worth increased 38% over the year.

In 2017, I think my income will be a fair amount lower than that (it was only so high because of a gift, a hiring bonus, and freelance work that has since dried up a bit), but I'm hoping to keep things up with saving. We're also hoping to purchase a house together, which, while it won't affect my "personal" savings here, will certainly be a better investment than the money we pay in rent each month!

Finally, we're going to fully combine our finances this year, which is a scary and exciting thing, considering that our current system has worked so well for the last 5 years. I'm a little more high-strung about sticking to a budget than R. is, and I worry that our often willy-nilly joint spending is going to wreck havoc on the beautiful Mint.com account I've worked so hard to create. But, as we get married and eventually own more big ticket things together and start a family, it seems like now is a good time to bring everything together. I'll be sure to let you all know how it goes!

Monday, February 27, 2017

Weekday Wanderings - Dartmouth Underground Tour

A thing I really enjoy is apparently tours of factories. One of my favorite days at NYU was visiting our printing press, and I was really excited when I had the opportunity to take a tour of Dartmouth's steam tunnel and power plant a few weeks ago.

The tour was led by William Riehl, chief operating engineer, and I learned a ton about how Dartmouth supplies energy to all the different buildings on campus. I also learned that in steam plants like this, most of the employees come from the navy, where they use very similar types of technology on the boats.

Bill was very informative, and it was great to see a part of campus I would never otherwise have seen!

Friday, February 24, 2017

Weekend Wanderings: Ice Castles in Lincoln, NH

Two weekends ago, on February 12th, we went to Ice Castles! It's a tourist trap in New Hampshire! We drove there in a literal blizzard and spun out on the way home! This is all true, and honestly, it would have been underwhelming even on a beautiful day (and, I bet, crowded as hell—one godsend of going in the middle of a blizzard is that it was relatively empty, although there were still at least 15 people as crazy as we were). But during a blizzard? It was borderline insane.

And yet, having said that, I am still kind of glad we went. A lot of the time in my life, I have found myself thinking, I have enough stories. I would just like this trip to go well. But this time, I was all, it's cool. I guess that probably means I'm coming to terms with the craziness that is sometimes our wacky ideas. Roger is often suggesting fun things to do and I am often shutting them down because I am cheap or tired, which is not cool. This was a reminder that even the worst things we have done together usually turn out pretty great because we have done them together.

And, before this we had a killer good breakfast with the Montpelier/Barre HWS contingent at Down Home, and after this, Roger's bus home was cancelled and he got to stay in Vermont for an extra three days, so all in all: not the worst weekend. Plus, the ice slide was awesome and we got to go on it three times because no one else was around! If you're thinking of going, there are worse things you could waste $30 and some time on. If you have kids, probably they will really enjoy it.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Weekend Wanderings - Nora Visits and We Host an Ice Skating Party!

Our friend Nora visited this weekend and brought such joy with her, even if we're all feeling horrified at the new administration.

On Saturday, we made our way down to Brattleboro to meet some of my trail running camp friends at Hermit Thrush. On the way down there, we stopped in Rockingham to see the Meeting House, which was beautiful from the outside but unfortunately was closed, so we couldn't explore inside.

Poor Nora didn't have snow boots or any stabilizers on, so she ended up crawling up the hill to get to the meeting house, and then slid down (which seemed a lot more fun than getting up it!) when it was time to get back to the car.

Afterward, we spent some time in the Vermont Country Store, tasting samples and perusing adorable if not strictly necessary items. (Who wants a Lanz nightgown? This gal!) We made our way down to Brattleboro and met up with some lovely couples. While I tasted a few beers, Roger and Nora wandered around town, stopping in at antique shops and at the Coop.

On the way back home, we stopped by the Lyme Inn for happy hour. We were hoping to see some of their rooms to decide if we want to book them, but unfortunately they were all booked for the evening, so we didn't have the chance. Then, it was a baking festival, getting desserts ready for our little ice skating party the next day.

The next morning, we took a hike up behind the house. It really doesn't get old!

Then, it was skating time! About 15 of our friends from around the Upper Valley and Montpelier came and made the trek. It was great to see everyone, and I just wish the ice had been a little smoother. (Though, to be fair, everyone else seemed totally fine with it. I think maybe I need to take a lesson or two...)

Overall the party was a success, and it was a lot of fun to see everyone out on the ice (many, many meters in front of me). My friend Erin even brought her two adorable dogs, Cedar and Fern! If you're looking for a good hot chocolate recipe for a group, this Betty Crocker Slow Cooker Hot Chocolate was delicious and served all of us when doubled.

Thanks for visiting, Nora! Can't wait for you to come back soon!