Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Pre-Budget Jitters

Aight.  It's the night before my super-extreme budget kicks in and...I already have a week/weekend chock full 'o things to do.   Things that cost money.  In fact I just spent money on dinner at a really good thai place in a really ugly strip mall.  Oh, and I spent two hundred (!!) dollars yesterday on such necessities as a straw fedora and new kitchen towels (THESE kitchen towels, as it were) and a really expensive bra.  But all that will change tomorrow...

Can I do it?  Can I go to these awesome festivals and not buy beer?  Can I do trivia without french fries?  Can I socialize without...well I guess everything that comes to mind sort of revolves around beer.

Anyway.  I'm just musing.  Does anyone care?

Monday, May 30, 2011

Denver on the Cheap

As promised, I am going to talk about some awesome things to do in Denver this summer for...drumroll please...FREE.

First of all, our lovely city has some amazing museums, and most of them have free days every month or two.  Yes, it's kind of a madhouse and yes, you don't get into the featured exhibit (which costs extra even with regular admission), but come on: FREE.  For the next couple months these are the museum and other attraction free days:
Denver Art Museum - June 4, July 2, Aug. 6 (first Saturdays)
Denver Botanic Gardens - July 19
Museum of Nature and Science - Aug. 22 and 28

Also remember places like the Denver Mint and the Denver Capitol offer free tours on a weekly basis, which is a fun, nerdy and completely offbeat way to spend a few hours.  In addition to historical landmarks, Colorado is home to a ton of breweries that offer free tours as well - think Coors, Golden City Brewery (both in Golden), New Belgium, Odell (both in Fort Collins) and on and on.  And of course my personal love, Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey, gives free tours of their distillery in Denver.

In addition to tours, a lot of organizations host free performances and events, like City Park Jazz on Sundays starting in June.  Plus there's my personal favorite, First Friday Art Walks, where galleries and shops in Denver's art districts stay open late on the first friday of every month - basically a big block party in the summer, complete with random street performers and entertainment.  The major art districts are Santa Fe, RiNo, the Golden Triangle and Tennyson - you'll have to Google them though, I couldn't find one cohesive page for the event.

And don't forget the many farmer's markets all over the metro area, which can be a fun way to spend a lazy morning, sampling gourmet food and supporting local farmers.  Cherry Creek Farmer's Market is on Saturdays and Belmar's is on Sundays, but for a complete list of times and locations check out websites like Colorado Fresh Markets and Denver Farmer's Markets.

Of course, it being summertime, there are a myriad of outdoor festivals and street fairs going on throughout the season.  There's no way I can find or list them all, but the biggies (as far as I know) are:
Denver Chalk Art Festival (formerly La Piazza dell'Arte) - June 4-5
People's Fair - June 4-5 (hop over from Larimer to City Park for a REALLY full day!)
PrideFest - June 18-19
Cherry Blossom Festival - June 25-26
Cherry Creek Arts Festival - July 2-4
Irish Festival - July 8-11
Dragon Boat Festival - July 30-31
Plus there are several smaller, more local fairs throughout the season, like the Wheat Ridge Carnation Festival, the Boulder Creek Festival and the Highlands Street Fair.

Like I said, there is no way I can give you an exhaustive list of all the free events going on in Denver this summer, not to mention the cheaper paid events.  There are, however, some great resources you can use to look them up, my top two being the Westword events calendar and Denver 365, which I believe is hosted by the city itself.  Plus, this website Mile High on the Cheap is a cool resource for discounts and insider info if you have just a little money to spend.

So...that's what I got.  Comment or email me if you know of any other festivals or events that I missed.  Otherwise...see you there!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

I Heart Freebies. And Cookies.

I am now considering taking up Freeganism as a way of life.  For those of you who don't know, Freeganism is essentially dumpster-diving, or living a life that you don't have to pay for.  It's not mooching, though; Freegans only use things that would have gone to waste anyway.  If you want an interesting look at it go to Snagfilms.com and look up the movie I Love Trash.

Okay, so I'm not really going to become a Freegan.  I'll do a lot of things but I don't know if I have the time or fortitude to eat food out of the trash.  Anyway, my real point is we were cleaning some stuff out of the classroom yesterday at work and it turns out we had a massive tub of old craft supplies that the teacher didn't want, so I came home with this loot (and this isn't even a fraction of what was there):


So I'm pretty excited to craft (and maybe even sell!) some stuff with it.  Neato.

Also, I've been baking cookies for my coworkers to celebrate the graduation of one of our toughest students (I guess I should mention I work at a school for kids with behavioral and developmental issues - and by kids I mean my class is 17-21 year olds).  These were dinosaur cookies with rainbow sprinkles, by special request:


But I also do holiday cookies every year:




Although very time-consuming, sugar cookies are one of my specialties and I have a freakishly steady hand with a pastry bag.  However, I'm also currently obsessed with homemade breads and pies and cakes baked in jars, all of which are fantastic and (maybe?) cheap gift ideas.  People are going to be getting a lot of baked goods from me in the next twelve months...

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Anybody? Bueller?

Is anybody reading this?  Good question.

Anyway, I just stumbled upon this cool site called Not Martha, which has some how-to craft and food tutorials but mostly cobbles together helpful, domestic-y stuff from the interwebs.  Lurvely.

Beyond that I've been spending money on glass and resin cabochons from Etsy suppliers and eating way too many meals out before my spending diet kicks in!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Savings Practice

Well, I went out today and bought a bunch of kitchen implements, including some baking pans, a grill pan and some big glass jars with screw tops to (eventually) hold flour and sugar and the like.  I'm such a little homemaker at heart...and yes I cook in an apron.  I also went thrifting and got a couple new shirts that I REALLY don't need, but it's better than hitting up Cherry Creek, right?

Anyway, even though my spending diet clearly hasn't started yet, I'm already brainstorming ways to save money.  Number one is stealing those little creamers from 7-11 (well, they're free, so...you know...I just grab a few more than I need).  This would be a great money-saving trick except I don't normally USE creamer, but hey, now they're here if I need or want them.  The best part is you can have lots of flavors at once without crowding your fridge.  Observe:


So beyond stocking up on things I don't really need, I'm still thinking of other ways to save and be creative.  The biggest part is just going to be resisting the urge to eat out whenever I want, since I'm pretty sure frivolous food is responsible for most of my spending.  Hence all the new cooking toys!

But the truth is I'm already a pretty thrifty person in a lot of ways.  I shop at thrift stores, hunt down free entertainment (more on this later) and make things like jewelry and cards and gifts for people.  Like these two cards, one for my mother on Mother's Day and one for my great-grandmother on her recent 95th birthday:

Still thinking of more good ideas though!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Monogram

I love this vintage typewriter key necklace from this Etsy seller (I know, I have an Etsy problem).  Even though I'm not on a budget yet, I'm going to be good and not buy it...sigh.

Spending Hangover

You know when you wake up after a night of boozing and, after a hazy moment of realization, you're hit with a wave of regret about what you did the night before?  That's how I feel the next morning, except what I regret is usually how much I spent on drinks, food and friends.  And that's how I feel this morning. Of course the night (out to dinner for a coworker's birthday, then drinks and a comedy show) was worth the expense - I think socializing usually is.  I just can't afford to do it as much anymore...nor do I really want to.  I can find ways to spend time with people without breaking the bank.

Okay, addendum time: I will have a one-drink MAXIMUM if I'm out at a bar.  Unless someone else is buying.  Wink wink.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Zoo Trip

Yesterday we took our class to the zoo (yes, Denverites, in the rain...and I had to take the bus back too.  Saw a funnel cloud though!).  Here are a couple pictures I took that I really like:

The Binge

Okay, I admit I'm sort of "bingeing" before my two diets - I'm baking peanut butter cookies (this after having a lavender cupcake, too - but come on.  Lavender.  It was delicious. And cookies are needed because it's cold and rainy outside.) and trying to figure out what I should buy before my Spending Diet.  What I really want/need is some new kitchen implements. I'm assuming this should include this trivet and this cookie jar from Anthropologie, right?  But honestly, I'm super excited to start being the healthy, crafty, simple person I imagine, so I'm going to be cooking and baking a lot.  So far I need/want:

Cooling rack
Bread pan(s)
Roasting pan
Rolling pin
Rolling mat
Good measuring cups and spoons
Wooden mixing spoon
Grill pan
New cooking utensils??

And of course I'd like all sorts of other things.  I get kind of silly with kitchen items.  That and storage options.  I don't know why.  I'm secretly really domestic, that must have something to do with it.

Also, as a side note, I checked out a ton of books on starting a small business, creative exercises and writing business plans from the library.  Let the entrepreneurship commence!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

What I Really Want

Okay, so I must confess I haven't really sat down and made a well-thought out list of rules and guidelines for my diets, budget and otherwise.  However, an anxiety-ridden and frivolous evening has compelled me to write this post (as in, right NOW), so here are my rules, completely on the fly:

Spending Diet Rules (effective Wednesday, June 1):
  1. All necessary expenses will be paid in full: rent, utilities, internet, cell phone, cat food, prescriptions, gas*, and any essential incidentals (doctor's co-pays, car insurance, veterinary bills).
  2. I will buy gas as needed, but try to keep the total at or less than $200/month.
  3. I will eat in and buy groceries as needed, but only "essential" items, as defined by my good judgment; since I want to cook real, wholesome meals and eat well, I won't limit myself to cheap foods, but I will only buy "treats" (i.e., snack foods or desserts) once a week.  Although I don't have a limit, my goal will be to not spend more than $200 a month on groceries.
  4. I will withdraw $100 at the beginning of each month and use this for eating out, clothes, entertainment, etc.  I will not go over this amount.  For now this also includes craft and art items, but since I'm essentially starting a business around this I might have to make a separate allowance for these items in the future.
  5. I will mend, make or beg anything I possibly can.
Eating Diet Rules (effective Sunday, May 22):
  1. I will only eat sugar (as in something that might clearly be considered candy or a dessert) once a week.  It will only be one item and not exceed 500 calories.  However, I may have honey and dark (at least 70%) chocolate in moderation.
  2. I will cut back on processed snack foods and eliminate high fructose corn syrup from my diet whenever I have the choice/knowledge.
  3. I will keep my calorie intake at or less than 1500 calories at least six days a week.
  4. Er...I guess that's it?  I actually eat pretty well when it comes to meals, it's just the snacking and REALLY the sugar that get me to the point of binge-eating.  So I guess those first two rules, with the help of my budget stipulations, that will keep the crappy refined foods at bay.

I know some of these rules are pretty vague and I could possibly argue my own way around them since some of them rest on my "better judgment", but I have faith I'll do the right thing.  I want this.  I'm sick of starting over tomorrow, of saying that soon things will be different.  I'm sick of failing.  As someone who's being dragged behind the wagon she fell off of, I'm making the final decision to just get up and walk.

Drooling

I could never afford this blanket, found at this Etsy seller here, but I am completely in love with it...orange is the new happy.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Spendy McSpenderson

So lately I've been reading this cool blog called And Then She Saved (Denver-based, yeah yeah!) about Anna Newell Jones' Spending Fast (and now Spending Diet) to pay down her debt.  It's been inspiring and eye-opening, and even though I have no debt and generally live within my means, I've decided that I, too, should go on a spending diet.  Or, as the regular folk might say, a budget.

I'm conflicted about how to do this.  I mean it's the middle of the month, and I just need so much.  Like that new little paneled cabinet thing I just bought (albeit at Goodwill - only $10).  Or the flowey purpley spring hoodie I just put in my online shopping cart at Anthropolgie.com (on sale!) that will totally go with my gray cigarette pants I just bought at Buffalo Exchange (also thrifted - and half off - only $8!!).  These things help me envision the artsy eclectic bohemian life I am absolutely meant to live...they're essential, clearly.

Okay, okay, so I'm apparently already pretty thrifty.  Writing out my latest purchases (not including the 1888-1988 National Geographic index book I bought for art projects, also from Goodwill) made me realize I'm actually creative and frugal when I make personal purchases.  But still, I buy a lot of household items and new clothes and what not because of how I'm sure they'll make me feel, because I can just see the life I want in them, which isn't really the case.  And anyway, my biggest expenditures by far are on food and eating out (compulsive overeating is wicked wasteful, fyi - which is what I do when I'm too emotional.  Like majorly.  I'm really working on it.).

I'm also excited about getting my hands dirty and getting REALLY creative in my daily living, so I think this spending diet/budget will be a great idea.  The question now is when to start: on the one hand, there's no time like the present, but on the other hand it makes sense to start at the beginning of a month.  I also need to think of rules for myself (and at the same time recommit myself to my NO DAILY SUGAR rule); Anna's were a good start but not exactly what I need.  So this is my project for the next few days: decide how I want to live my life in respect to money (and, by association, food).  It'll be fun and force me to be crafty and simplify - my next post will be the rules, and then it begins!

Side note: I use a lot of parentheses in this post, no?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Newest Obsession

I am absolutely obsessed with Dala horses right now. I love the antique, agrarian and distinctly Nordic style of them.  I think I'm going to start integrating them into my crafts...

It's Been Too Long

Oh my, it's been a while since I posted here.  I guess that's because a lot has been going on: Cirque du Grivois fundraiser cabaret show, Create Denver art and business expo, pub trivia, Mother's Day brunch, catching up with old friends, immersing myself in arts and crafts.  All good things, and all things which are making me extremely happy.  So mission accomplished.  Blog over.

Just kidding.  I know you (and by you I mean the NO ONE who reads this blog) were aghast.  I am just so interesting, right?  Actually, I was sort of looking over this blog (all - what - ten posts?) and it's the type of self-absorbed insipid cliched drivel I always feared (and knew) it would be. I really want to revamp my focus - the whole find thyself theme actually served its purpose, as it got me motivated to jump back into a lot of things I love, but now I want to concentrate more on art, style, thriftiness, food, events, etc. specific to Denver.  I love love love my city and the Create Denver Expo coupled with some introductions to Denver-centric blogs have really made me want to be the essence of a Denverite in my own right.  I don't know exactly what it will look like (I also want to focus on some art/craft/style in general) or if I'll use this blog as my base, but we'll see.  This is what I love!