How “large” can you afford to live?

I’m not here to rain on your parade: after at least a decade of delayed gratification, I have come to a grasshopper “carpe diem” decade in my life. We all know we should be saving for our retirement, but reality for me being what it is right now, that is not likely to happen any time soon. I’ve made the conscious temporary decision to save and spend money to make my youthful working life more enjoyable, as opposed to more delayed gratification saving for a someday that will rescue me from it.

Let me be blunt, the idea of life without work (for me) is actually a quite intimidating one. Most of my daily social interactions and sense of contribution comes from the work I do, and the idea of not having that outlet while it is still available to me is scary.

That said, I am at an age and income bracket where I finally am mostly debt-free and want to wisely apportion the reliable disposable income I am making to various saving and spending opportunities.

One of the biggest blessings of my personal coaching experience so far is exposure to a site called Mint.com

In the space of a few minutes (setting up a free account and providing online banking info), the “app” can sort through your various chequing, credit and other accounts and assign your electronically documented spending habits into various budgetary categories for you to see, at a glance, how much you are spending on necessities versus luxuries, for example, and over the longer term, compare these spending habits to a projected or historically established budget. How helpful would it be to receive alerts when you have overspent your monthly allotment on dining out? It’s like having a responsible partner to keep an eye on your finances (because, let’s face it, I’ve never been that partner) without having to deal with the dirty socks on the floor or toilet seat left up. Don’t believe me? Give it a try today!

Small Indulgences: Fine Coffees and/or Teas

I’ll admit it, I didn’t become a caffeinated adult until I moved to Europe for grad school. There was little to nothing about drinking doughnut store coffee that drew me into making it a habit, and the extent of my tea-drinking experiences was sipping Red Rose from a aged, stained pot belonging to my grandmother and grandfather’s during visits to the Island.

Yet, the combination of irresistable aromas and sleep deprivation encountered in Scandinavia quickly forged an unholy alliance between me and the caffeine molecule (regardless of liquid delivery vector). Today, each mug of french-pressed Bodum coffee, sip of fresh-brewed Illy espresso, or hand-held cup of David’s loose tea takes me back to the best times lived abroad, while rooting me in the warm support of another stimulating sunlit Saturday morning spent in front of the computer or with a stack of marking. These drinks have the kind of quality, strength of character that discourages any ambivalence – you either love or hate them for exactly what they are, rather like the average Soloist 😉

Trust me when I say that I consider these small indulgences life necessities for the weekend soloist. Yes, they may cost a little more, but this is one case where I feel money can buy happiness (or at least alertness). Without further adieu then, your supplies (I own/have tested all of these and can heartily recommend them):


davidsDavidsTea

Slaying “Selfish”

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Is it possible to live Solo, choosing the thoughts, actions, things, and activities that best serve you without enduring the societal (or unspoken self-) accusation that you are “selfish?”

Whenever I start to question my own self-motivations and potentially flourishing narcissism, I am drawn back to this quote, because the truth is, often, I do not remember to include myself in the list of people I love. And when I worry about narcissism, I remind myself that my pride is most often based in hard-won accomplishments stemming from a long period of dedicated pursuit, as opposed to semi-delusional love affair with unearned properties that I feel make me a better or more entitled person than those around me.

Still, it can be hard to push back against the “selfish” moniker when, by default, almost everything you do in “your family unit’s” (ie. your) best interests can only be labelled that way – especially when you live in a community of onlooking friends and family paired or grouped in ways that make compromise a necessity. This doesn’t mean I haven’t tried, but my success has been limited with the (biased) audiences attending, at best.

I think my turning point in ceasing to fight other’s accusations that I was selfish came when I finally came across a second quote. It made me give up trying to be right, in the interest of being the best partner to myself.

opinion

Should I browse for dates online like I browse for music?

Since the advent of on-demand, online music streaming services like Spotify and Rdio, I have fallen in love with music all over again (mostly because I can enjoy it at a price I can afford). I follow my favourite artists. I receive suggestions on similar artists I might enjoy. I read biographies. I sample small snippets of new artists’ most popular songs. I examine cover art. It’s hard to say exactly what I’ll find or what I’ll fall in love with, but even when I come up empty-handed, I feel enriched by the process.

Contrast my music browsing with my online dating experiences: in many ways, the idea is the same. I “follow” activity for the profiles of people who interest me. I receive suggestions of other people with similar interests that I might enjoy. I initiate small online chats with promising candidates. I make first impressions based on profile pictures. I browse looking for people with that certain X factor that draws me in. However, unlike my music browsing experience, I leave the online dating arena feeling more disconnected, more pessimistic, and often, slightly sullied for my experience.

All of this makes me wish my heart and my brain could agree on the ground rules and expectations of the average internet dating interaction, or at least extract useful information from this analogy that would lead to me developing a better profile that potential suitors would find more enticing. Are there lessons to be learned, aside from the fact that people shouldn’t be objectified as soundbites to be consumed as such?

1. Library size often matters, unless you know your niche well.
2. Most of what we browse is of no interest to us, not because it is inherently bad, but because it doesn’t suit our personal taste.
3. You have to listen to a lot of crap to find the hidden gems.
4. There is a lot more pleasure to be gained in being the person to find a hidden gem first than to jump on the bandwagon of what’s currently in vogue (though it’s generally popular for a reason).
5. Sometimes you need to listen to an artist more than once, or across an album, to truly appreciate their genius and value.
6. Although it’s about the music in the end, in a sea of choice, good cover art draws attention to good taste and content.

How much should hope cost?

It is a question that often comes to mind as I debate and budget my purchases at the drugstore, grocery store, cafe, gym, mall, and online. How much am I willing to pay for this embodiment of hope, or more succinctly, can I really afford this?

I do not currently find myself in the throws of a hopeless depression, or life rut, but I notice that most of my discretionary budget goes towards funding things that, at their base, are essentially “hope (noun): a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.” I buy anti-aging cream at the drugstore, hoping it will slow the appearance of wrinkles on my face. I buy vegetarian and local at the grocery store when possible, hoping it will make my world a little better and let me feel better about myself. I buy coffee at the cafe hoping I will reach a pleasant caffeinated state and maybe discover a new friend or lover doing the same. I train at the gym, hoping to get fitter (be stronger; look better in the mirror) and I buy a new top at the mall or online, hoping it will conceal the fact that I’m not quite there yet.

When I look at my list of purchases and motivations, I can see that a skeptical outsider might say I am ultimately purchasing items to increase my chances of connection with a romantic partner. And yet, as someone who is currently choosing to forego dating in favour of the less complicated targeting some other major life goals, I’d say I am funding the hope that I will justify my independent solo status to myself and the judgmental world around me so that everyone can finally lighten up.

Does this mean that I don’t sometimes worry that I’m the sucker who’s falling for every snakeoil salesman’s scheme out there? Not at all. But I’ve reached an age where I’ve already undergone at least one identity crisis/depression that made me realize you really can’t put a price on hope. Or more put succinctly, you can.

In my depressive months of outwardly-silent and inwardly-screaming desperation for my unnatural night to end, the pricetag I was willing to pay swelled to the multiple installment variety for a series of Tony Robbins self-help CDs. The CDs were a liferaft, and perhaps even a compass for navigating my way out of that dark terra incognita, but when I revisit those CDs now, I realize a lot of what Tony taught me boiled down to essential truths I already knew but needed to be reminded of, repeatedly, with the patience only a CD could have. As my sister has said, it was cheaper than therapy, but I think the real thing I took away from that purchase was that there is nothing wrong, and indeed even something worthwhile to be found in investing in the things that give you hope. So I budget for hope now, much as I budget for food, shelter, and my other basic needs. I will never be a financially rich woman, but I am confident in saying I will be richer for it.

Easy first step for healthy meal prep

I figured that in order to find and prepare healthy foods/recipes that I actually like enough to stick with in the long term, I needed to sit down and figure out what healthy (and not-so-healthy) ingredients I actually liked. Below is the first draft of my list (feel free to email or comment if you have great recipes that feature these):

Ingredients I like:

Vegetarian Proteins

peanuts
cashews
pistachios
walnuts
pine nuts
sesame seeds
sunflower seeds
some pecans
some pumpkin seeds
some chopped almonds
kidney beans
some baked beans and lentils (with sweetness or spice)
bean-based meat substitutes
some chickpeas
some tofu (flavour, not always texture)
some quinoa

Animal Proteins

salmon
cod
halibut
some trout/other less flavoured fish
tuna (raw) or flavored canned
budget roe/caviar
mussels/clams/scallops
oysters
some crab/lobster/crayfish/shrimp

lamb
beef
duck
chicken
turkey
eggs
rabbit
moose/reindeer/deer
bacon/back bacon
some spiced deli meat/sausage
cheese
sour cream
yoghurt
some milk

Fruits and Vegetables:

mushrooms
garlic
onion
leek
spinach
kale
some seaweed wrappers/some dulce
corn
some eggplant
some zucchini
some pickle for flavour/contrast
ruccola (spicy lettuce – arugula?)
some cabbage (red)
minor broccoli
green/yellow beans
snap peas/frozen peas
edamame
peppers (green, red, orange, yellow, spicy)
avocado(!!!)
potatoes (especially sweet potatoes)
parsnips
turnip
squash
plantain
pumpkin
carrots
cucumber
celery/celeriac
tomatoes
minor beets
apples
bananas
some orange
blueberries
cranberries
blackberries
strawberries
raspberries
cloud berries
currants
dried apricots
raisins
grapes
pears
peaches/nectarines
kiwis
lemon
lime
pomengranite
dates
figs
mango
watermelon
honeydew melon
some cantelope

Grains

Oats/oatmeal
Some bran
Pasta of almost every description (wheat or rice-based, whole grain is fine)
couscous
Rice (basmati, jasmine – can have small amounts of whole grain in)
Tortilla
Bread (not more than 8 grain)
crackers

Flavourings

honey
maple syrup
brown sugar
some white sugar (mostly tea/coffee sweetener and cookies/cakes)
spices!!
olive oil
peanut oil
flax/rapeseed oil
soy sauce
fish sauce (other asian sauces)
Herbs and spices (basil, rosemary, thyme, parsley, oregano, summer savory, curry, hot spices, gingerbread spices)

Extras:

dark coffee
teas of all kinds
juice/smoothies
wine (also to flavour)
whisky
some beer/spirits
chocolate!!!

Too Avoid:

Very sour/pickled, very acidic (especially tomatoes, grapefruit, pineapple, lemon, etc)

In General:

Cooked is better than raw for vegetables, better frozen than canned