My First Barter Experience

For years I’ve heard people in the personal financial internet-space talk about bartering.  And for years I’ve said, “Well that won’t work for me.”

I was wrong.

Yep, I said it.  I’m not too proud to admit it.  I was wrong.  This past weekend I had my first barter experience, and it was completely by accident.

During my last grocery store trip I saw ripe bananas marked down, so I scooped up a bunch to make banana bread.   (Renaissance Kid and I can take down an entire loaf in a weekend.  That kid loves anything and everything banana.)  After I finished baking, I snapped an artsy-fartsy photo and shared it on social media.  Because if I don’t post it, did it even happen?  ūüôā

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Then something magical happened.  A friend commented, jokingly asking when she could pick hers up.  I teased back to just let me know if she wanted me to make her some.  Then she took me up on the offer!  She asked if I wanted to trade a crocheted piece of my choice!!

Was this really happening?  Someone wanted something I cooked?

I screamed “Deal!” and immediately went to Pinterest.

It didn’t take me long to find this little cutey.  I sent it to my friend, worried it was going to be too much.  (I have a few sewing projects coming up and thought it would be the perfect inspiration to get started on them!)  My friend already had all of the materials to make it and had it whipped up the next day.  When she came over to exchange goods, she said, “Well at first I was just joking, then I thought, why not? I do love banana bread!”

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So all-in-all, how do I feel about my first barter experience?  Honestly I can’t help but feel like I got the better end of the deal. lol

I get extremely nervous cooking for people.  I hate that I can’t always taste the finished product before others do, so there’s a little bit of uncertainty that it didn’t turn out quite right.  Also, “good” food can mean different things to different people.  I badger my husband with a thousand questions after every meal to try to gauge if he really thought it was good or is just being polite.  (Bless him that after 6 years he still eats meals that aren’t so great without saying a word.)  I guess you can say I have the same gold-star tendencies as Mrs. ONL.  

But I’m extremely excited about the door this has opened.  It’s definitely motivation to keep practicing cooking and also look for more opportunities to barter.

And my friend texted me after she got home to tell me how tasty the banana bread was.

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The Most Important Scientist You’ve Never Heard Of

I was always the kid who liked school.  Today, four year after finishing undergrad, I miss it dearly.  I love the structure, the feedback, and most importantly, the learning.

One of the easiest ways I’ve continued to learn is by subscribing to Dan Lewis’s “Now I Know” email. ¬†Dan has no idea who I am, but I love what he’s done. ¬†Each day, he sends out a short email summarizing some random or lesser known fact with links to further reading on the topic. ¬†I highly recommend it if you’re into that sort of thing.

In his “Weekender” editions on Fridays, he sends out links to various long-form articles from across the internet that he has found particularly intriguing. ¬†That’s where I stumbled upon this gem:


“For 60 years, American drivers unknowingly poisoned themselves by pumping leaded gasoline into their tanks. Here is the lifelong saga of Clair Patterson‚ÄĒa scientist who helped build the atomic bomb and discovered the true age of the Earth‚ÄĒand how he took on a billion-dollar industry to save humanity from itself.”

If you’re into science, environmentalism, industry-corruption, history, biology, geology, doing what’s right, or just super cool people, you’ll love this article.

The Most Important Scientist¬†You’ve Never Heard Of by Lucas Reily on

Mid-May Check Up

At the beginning of the month, I talked about a few goals I had for myself in May:

  1. Declutter my kitchen cabinets, KonMari-style

  2. Hang the outdoor baby swing (currently sitting in my dining room floor)

  3. Get all of the ‚Äúdecluttered‚ÄĚ items out of the house

  4. Read 1 fiction book (no learning, just fun)

I promised a mid-May report, so here it is, albeit a few days late.

1.  Declutter my kitchen cabinets, KonMari-style

Not complete.  Although I did talk to Renaissance Man about it, and he agreed to help me sort through everything.  Since he usually does the dishes and often has trouble putting things away, I think his offer was slightly self-serving.

2.  Hang the outdoor baby swing

Not complete. ¬†Renaissance Man and I keep disagreeing about where to hang the swing. ¬†It was a birthday gift, and I mistakenly thought we had a solid wood beam on the edge of our back porch awning that the swing could hang from. ¬†So I gave my mom the go ahead to purchase said swing. ¬†Turns out I was wrong. ¬†The “beam” is wrapped in plastic, so neither of us is sure what’s under it. ¬†But neither of us have climbed up to investigate it either…

3. ¬†Get all of the “decluttered” items out of the house

Partially complete. ¬†I sold a bunch of baby clothes to a local consignment shop, netting us $50 with little effort. ¬†I also sold our unused cloth diapers (a failed pre-baby decision) on Facebook, although this was a little painful. ¬†The purchaser was almost an hour late to our scheduled meet-up. ¬†But since it was someone I knew from school, I was a little more forgiving. ¬†There’s still a room full of stuff to get rid of though, and I’ve very torn between having a yard sale and just donating everything. ¬†Donation is by far the easier option, but I can’t help thinking about lost payback.

4.  Read 1 fiction book.

Complete! ¬†I had a free copy of the Time Machine by HG Wells on my Nook, and I love reading classics, so I gave this one a shot. ¬†At first, I really did not enjoy the book. ¬†It was boring, and I felt like I was supposed to be reading between the lines for some social commentary. ¬†However toward the end the storyline picked up dramatically, and I couldn’t put it down. ¬†I really want to read a literary analysis of the book and then reread it in the future.

So with only 1.5 goals complete, I’m behind for the month! ¬†Better step up my game this weekend!

Continue the conversation…

What’s your opinion on donating vs. selling unwanted items? ¬†How are you doing on your monthly goals?

Kicking Our Eating Out Habit

Anyone in the personal finance world will tell you that one of the fastest ways to cut your spending is to stop eating out. ¬†It’s no secret that dining at restaurants is far more expensive than cooking at home. ¬†Still, we’ve justified our eating out habit for years.

At the beginning of our marriage, Renaissance Man worked at a hospital and received deeply discounted meals from the cafeteria as a perk of his employment.  He ate breakfast, lunch, and snacks there.  I was still in college and used leftover scholarship money to make daily runs to the bagel shop in the engineering building or the Union for meals.  For dinner during the week we cooked overly-processed pre-prepared junk and hit up restaurants over the weekend.

It wasn’t until I started working full-time and Renaissance Man switched to a cafeteria-less job that we started to notice how much we were spending. ¬†It was nothing for us to drop $500 a month just on lunches out!! ¬†We quickly realized how insane this was and limited ourselves to just one work lunch out per week.

But you know what? ¬†Sometimes that one lunch becomes two. ¬†And sometimes I don’t feel like preparing lunch all week, and so we go out every day. ¬†And if I don’t feel like prepping lunches, then I probably didn’t feel like cooking dinner either. ¬†Which means we go out for dinner every night too. ¬†All this in addition to our usual routine of eating out 3-5 times over the weekend. ¬†I know. ¬†I know. ¬†You don’t have to tell me how ridiculous it is.

And get this.  I love to cook.

It’s true. ¬†I think nothing is more fun than spending an hour or more preparing a complicated meal. ¬†I’m even pretty good at cooking. ¬†But I often fall back to the “I don’t have time” excuse. ¬†It’s extremely easy to say I don’t have time¬†with a toddler and a husband who doesn’t get home until 6pm or later due to his soul-sucking commute. ¬†We regularly eat dinner around 8 or 9 pm.

So why are we finally interested in making a change? ¬†Well, I’m not 100% sure that Renaissance Man is, but I am.

Not only is food the third largest expense in our budget, it’s also the number one contributing factor to my weight. ¬†I’ve noticed that with more meals out, the scale goes up. ¬†I tend to consume less healthy food and more of it at restaurants.

I also just don’t find meals out as enjoyable as I used to. ¬†I get stressed out dining with a toddler: ¬†wondering if he’ll sit still long enough for me to eat, worried he’s making too big of a mess, not wanting to bother other diners. ¬†I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to willingly add stress to my life.

As the primary cook in our house, I know that if I want our family to spend less on eating out that I have to be the one leading the charge.  Here are my tactics:

1. Buy whatever I want from the grocery store.

That means splurging on fancy cuts of meat, the good ice cream, and produce that’s not on sale. ¬†My goal is to get us in the habit of eating at home first, then I’ll put a bigger focus on optimizing our grocery budget later. ¬†I know that for this to work for us we can’t feel like we’re being deprived.

2. ¬†Don’t shy away from “difficult” or time-consuming dishes.

If I’m going to cook, I want to¬†cook. ¬†Standbys like spaghetti with meat sauce made with jarred sauce doesn’t create the desire in me to cook or to want to eat at home more. ¬†Homemade lasagna is a different story.

3.  Be better than the restaurants.

If I can make fancy coffee or a killer steak at home, there’s no need to dine out to fill those cravings. ¬†Restaurant food isn’t cooked by magicians, it’s cooked by a person. ¬†Usually a person just like me (no fancy-pants chefs at most of our favorite spots). ¬†Therefore with a little practice, I should be able to cook food that’s just as good or better at home. ¬†Even the simple stuff makes a difference. ¬†Breakfast is forever changed after adopting Alton Brown’s scrambled eggs recipe.

4.  Reduce food waste.

I hate when I only need a small amount of an ingredient for a recipe then have no idea how to use the rest of it. ¬†Or when we can’t stomach the same leftover meal a third time. ¬†Nothing makes me angrier than throwing food away. ¬†It seriously feels like throwing dollar bills in the trash. ¬†So I’m taking steps to learn to properly store fresh ingredients and seeking out new recipes to recreate leftover or use-up extra ingredients. ¬†(The Kitchn is my favorite resource for storing produce.)


I’m still struggling with exactly what my specific goal should be. ¬†It’s hard for me in envision us completely eliminating eating at restaurants from our budget since it currently makes up such a large part of our food consumption. ¬†I think I just want to start spending less on eating out each month – maybe at least $100 less each month. ¬†I definitely see this being a slow process for us. ¬†It’s ok; you can call me weak. ¬†I’d even agree with you. ¬†But I think this is the best way for us to set ourselves up for success. ¬†And don’t worry; I’ll update y’all occasionally on how things are going.

Continue the conversation…

How often do you dine at restaurants?  Where do you fall on the Goldilocks scale (too much, too little, or just right)?  Who are your favorite food bloggers?



Outer Order. Inner Calm.

From Gretchen Rubin

I feel like I’m seeing references to shopping bans, decluttering, and minimalism everywhere (see here, here, here, here, and here). ¬†Well, you know what they say. ¬†If you’re seeing the signs, you should probably pay attention to them.

If you ask Renaissance Man, I’m a hoarder. ¬†That’s not 100% true. ¬†I just have a habit of gathering items for a specific purpose, and then never letting those items actually fulfill their purpose. ¬†I’m great at starting new projects and hobbies, but I kind of suck at finishing them.

For example, I have no less that 10 books in my house that I’ve purchased to read but haven’t. ¬†An unfinished puzzle sits on my dining room table. ¬†I’ve been working on the same cross stitch pattern since I was pregnant. ¬†There is a pile of decluttered items in the spare bedroom that I haven’t decided if I should sell, donate, or trash. ¬†A unopened box of kitchen storage containers, extra pitcher, and spare toddler food are stacked on top of my refrigerator.¬† I have a box of college t-shirts that I’m saving to make a quilt. ¬†I think you get the idea.

So what?  Why does it matter?

Because I’m starting to realize these things cause minor stresses in my life. ¬†And these minor stresses culminate to form a constant buzz.

The stack of books gives me anxiety because they make me feel like I’m not spending enough time on myself. ¬†The dining room table is the first thing I see when I enter the house, immediately reminding me of tasks to be done. ¬†The unfinished cross stitch pattern is preventing me from moving onto to a hobby-business idea I have. ¬†The “decluttered” items in the spare bedroom are preventing me from having the carpet in that room replaced. ¬†The items on top of the fridge are a sign that I’ve run out of cabinet space, which leads to a lot of frustration when preparing or cleaning up from dinner. ¬†The stack of t-shirts represent fond memories relegated to a shelf.

My goal for May is to focus on completing just a few nagging tasks. ¬†My hope is that by wrapping up these unfinished projects, some of my minor anxieties will start to disappear. ¬†And since I want to make sure not to induce even more stress by creating a lengthy list, I’m keeping it short and interjecting a task that’s just for fun. ¬†These are my goals:

  1. Declutter my kitchen cabinets, KonMari-style
  2. Hang the outdoor baby swing (currently sitting in my dining room floor)
  3. Get all of the “decluttered” items out of the house
  4. Read 1 fiction book (no learning, just fun)

I’ll check back mid-month to let you know how I’m doing, then do a wrap-up at the end of May.

Continue the conversation…

Have you also noticed the deculttering/minimalism/shopping ban trend?  If so, how has it affected you?  Are you good at finishing projects that you start?  What are your goals for May?


A Great Friday

Our daycare was closed to celebrate Good Friday, and Renaissance Man took the day off to stay with our toddler while I trudged to work. ¬†About two hours into my day, my phone starts ringing – it’s Renaissance Man wanting to FaceTime. ¬†I answer and see my smiling little boy’s face, swinging in the adult-child swing at one of our local parks. ¬†Renaissance Man told me how they were the only ones at there and the weather was perfect.

He called me again when they left the park, saying our son was so sleepy that he passed out as soon as they pulled out of the parking lot.

A park

A few hours later I met them for lunch.  We sat on the patio and laughed at how messy Renaissance Kid got feeding himself black beans and spitting out the lettuce I tried to get him to eat.

After lunch, the pair went back to the park where Renaissance Kid laid under the playground structure and poked stuff with a stick he found, watching the older kids run by in a blur.

After I got home from work, we finished the night with dinner, about an hour of playing in the backyard, and a walk around our subdivision with the pups.

“Today isn’t just Good Friday,” my husband joked after everyone but us had gone to bed. ¬†“It’s been a great Friday.”

I just smiled. ¬†I can’t wait until every day is “a great Friday.”

A Renaissance Soul

For the longest time I’ve struggled to find my “passion.” ¬†If I could just figure out what my passion was, then I’d know what to do with the rest of my life. ¬†I’ve taken all kinds of quizzes online, read articles, and just generally spent a lot of time agonizing over it. ¬†My conclusion? ¬†I like a bunch of different things. ¬†And when it comes to those different things, I’m not satisfied with a basic level of knowledge. ¬†I want to become an expert on the subject, reading everything about it that I can.

Like any good millennial, I Googled a several different combinations of “is it ok if I like a bunch of different things and don’t actually have a single passion.” ¬†Google never fails.

It turns out there’s a term for people like me: polymath. ¬†Per Wikipedia, “A polymath is a person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas…. The term is often used to describe great thinkers of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment who excelled at several fields in science and the arts…. This was expressed in the term “Renaissance man” which is often applied to the gifted people of that age who sought to develop their abilities in all areas of accomplishment: intellectual, artistic, social, and physical…. Leonardo da Vinci has often been described as the archetype of the Renaissance man.”

Now, I’m no da Vinic, but it’s something to strive for, eh? ¬†Also, being a renaissance woman sounds much cooler than being a polymath. ūüôā

So I decided to stop beating myself up over not having one interest and instead embrace it. ¬†This blog will be the place where I can talk about my quest to life a renaissance life. ¬†There will probably be a lot of talk about personal finance, as I see financial independence being the ultimate way to make a renaissance life possible. ¬†But besides that the content could range from books I’ve read, hobbies I’m currently into, travel, cooking, home improvement projects, and if you’re lucky a couple of tales of life with my husband of almost six years, our 1-year-old son, and our two dachshunds.

Life’s too short not to enjoy every second of it.