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 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!