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Serendipitous Jamaica

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Trading the beach for the rainforest.

It is stupid cold and there is snow on the ground in Connecticut so I thought why not grab a cup of tea and close out 2017 by writing this long overdue post about one of the best things I did this year: I went to Jamaica!

Let me set the mood. It was July and I was tired. My soul was weary.

Between the national foolishness that by then was seven months young and a spring spent doing the absolute most in the best way possible,  my spirit was parched. And to top it all off, I was physically coming down with some type of bug.

But Jamaica.

My wonderful friend, hairstylist, and favorite Jamaican Karaine “Kay” Holness had let

Kay

Kay makes friends everywhere.

me and another friend and client know months prior that she was planning her annual trip home.She has made the pilgrimage every year since 1999 with a travel group she founded called Sistahs Jammin’. She told us that this year’s trip would be different from any previous one —  no turn-up, no structured days. Then she showed us the small boutique resort high up in the Jamaican Blue Mountains where we would be staying. We jumped at the chance to go.

It wouldn’t be my first trip to Jamaica. I had the pleasure of spending some time in Negril several years ago. But this was going to be different

I’d known I needed a retreat — unplug back when I said yes. So you can imagine how much I needed it by July. I was more than ready to lay my burdens down and pick up my carry-on bag.

And for seven days and six nights, we did just that.

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Best travel squad.

I must confess, the idea of group travel kind of makes my ass itch. I knew two of the women on the trip would be cool. But the other two? I didn’t know them.

Would they want to do a thousand things together? Would they be incessantly picky about everything? Would we all grow to hate each other and fall out? All possibilities. All wasted energy. Nothing close to my concerns ever happened. Because serendipity.

Serendipity is defined as “the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.” It also is the name of the resort where we stayed. And it is where we each reconnected with Markeshia, Babz, Karaine, Jackie, and Sharon.

At home in Connecticut, we are mothers, daughters, sisters, citizens, employees, business owners, lovers, and friends. We are all the things we do for others but don’t do for ourselves. We were all our secret anxieties and fears.

And we were a tired lot when we touched down in Kingston. But as soon as the heat and humidity of a Jamaican morning hit us, instantly creating a light dew on our skin, we began to unfurl like flowers greeting the sun.

It takes a harrowing ride from Kingston up into the Blue Mountains to get to Serendipity Holistic Resort. And this ride is not for the faint of heart honey. But when I tell you it is worth it, I mean it.

IMG_5500.jpgI don’t think anyone of us realized that our resort would be literally carved into a lush rainforest teeming with the sounds of animals, birds and the occasional falling mango.

We had the whole place to ourselves for the most part and we hadn’t counted on that. But serendipity.

We also hadn’t counted on every day that we would rise to the sound of the rushing water that flowed through the small waterfalls on the property. And the rooster. Never forget the rooster.

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I never thought that every night we’d want to come together and have amazing Jamaican dinners and laugh over the day’s adventures before tucking into the most comfortable beds at 9 p.m. or earlier.

Or that we’d rise early, for a first breakfast of the most delicious fruit our mouths had stopped to enjoy in a long time, with the juice dripping down our arms. And that at second breakfast, we’d linger over Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee so good that we’d often plot how to save the world one cup at a time.

There was time for hiking, swimming naked in a very cold waterfall, getting sunburned and being covered in the healing love of sisterhood and aloe. There was time for reading, coloring, sleeping, and yoga. There was time to think without all the responsibilities drowning out that still small voice.

And more importantly, there was time to discover the sound of our own laughter, the refreshing freedom of tears, and to listen to those hopes and dreams that we’d tucked away for someday.

The resort’s owner, who we serendipitously discovered was someone that our friend Kay knew from their younger years in Jamaica, would open her beautiful home on the property to us. And then she would teach us many things.

IMG_5550.jpgTwo things she said have stuck with me since we’ve returned home. My paraphrase of what she said is this: Guard your peace dangerously and do not leave this earth without knowing you are loved.

We would realize that everything about the resort — all of its natural beauty, the way that all of the cabins are designed, and the amenities offered — was designed with teaching these two principles to all those who want to learn such powerful things.

As I told Kay after the trip, Jamaica owes me nothing. I arrived nearly empty and left so incredibly full. Jamaica taught me the way. It’s up to me to keep up the practice.

Click below to hear what the sistahs of Sistahs Jammin 2017 had to say about the trip in this episode of LoveBabz LoveTalk on WNHH radio.

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When Less Is More: Goodbye Splurge September. Hello, OktoberFast!

In May, I wrote down a goal that I want very badly to achieve. I want to be Free By 40. Debt free that is. And since that time I have been plugging away at that goal. From May to August, I’d like to say I was pretty frugal. I also felt like I was clear in my commitment to the concept of minimalism (and you can read about that here, here and here), as it had organically developed in my life.

I had implemented a spending fast. No clothes, no shoes, no make up and nail polish, no hair products, no new books, no coffee out and absolutely no credit card use. (And if you know me even a little, this spending fast looks like no fun. I’m a thrifty chick, but this probably was even a little too rigid for too long.)

At first it was easy. I had splurged a little at a couple of thrift stores at the beginning of the summer so I didn’t need any new summer clothes. I’d given up on growing out my hair so I had no real need for hair products. It was summer time and far too hot to wear much makeup and ride my bike. And we have coffee in the office so no need to go out. I also had cut up one credit card and took the other out of my wallet. Out of sight = out of mind, was the way I saw it.

I had even started back cooking more, though eating out and not going to the grocery store enough was/is still one of my biggest vices.

But then came September — my birthday month — and things got a little ridiculous very quickly. To be honest, I went into my 36th birthday a bit melancholy. I don’t feel any kind of way about getting older, but I did feel down.

After working so hard to wrap up everything at work, and to save money so I could pay cash for my trip with Reese to Abu Dhabi and Dubai — a trip that we’d been planning since the end of last year — I was feeling a little flat.

So I started spending to get things I “needed” for the trip. We didn’t do a lot of shopping during our trip, but there was always something to pay for because when you’re on vacation you’ve got to eat, you’ve got to get to places and you’ve got ish to see. I got very comfortable spending money, very quickly.

While I thoroughly enjoyed our trip, that nagging sadness I was feeling before we left was waiting on me when I got back. I came back to a house that had almost no food in it, and since going to the grocery store is not my ministry, I cooked what little food I had (kale, y’all. All I had was kale), and ate out the rest of the time.

Eating out a lot seems to always result in low energy for me, and while I finally dragged myself to the grocery store and cooked some things that made me feel better, I was still feeling down. The alarms started to go off faintly. I was in a rut, a funk. I had to do something. But what?

Instead of spending a lot of time journaling through what I was feeling, I took a different, certainly less helpful approach. I watched a lot of YouTube videos and spent a bunch of money that I hadn’t intended to spend.

Splurge September, as I am now officially calling it, didn’t put me in the poor house, nor did it actually amass me a bunch of stuff that I can’t consume. But I quickly realized that it wasn’t helpful to my goal of being in the “free” house. Hence OktoberFast 2015. No it’s not me giving up beer in October. That would be just plain cruel.

For the 31 days of October I’m going to refocus my energies on my being Free By 40. I’m going back on my spending fast (yes, the one I previously said was too rigid), but this time I want to intentionally focus on what I can do instead of focusing on what I can’t do.

Ricks’s OktoberFast  Challenge Can Dos:

  • Journal my feelings instead of soothing them with “retail therapy.” Shopping isn’t therapy. It’s succor. Therapy is therapy and there is no substitute for that.
  • Save at least $300 by the end of the month. My savings game is off — way off. It’s time to get back on track.
  • Go to the one grocery store I like, Trader Joe’s, twice a month. I like to eat. I even like to cook. But going to the grocery store? Nope. I know I could get groceries delivered, but I actually like shopping at TJ’s. Though it’s in another city, I’m willing to make the extra effort to go there because I actually will eat what I buy.
  • Meal prep food I actually like to eat on Sundays. I usually go to the grocery store on a Sunday so it makes sense that when I get back I should cook while I’m still on my Trader Joe’s high.
  • If I “must” eat out, eat a vegetarian meal at a sit-down restaurant. I like to eat out, but far too often I’m grabbing something quick, made from questionable ingredients. My thinking here is that I will be forced to consider whether I a) have the time, and b) really have a hankering for eating something that I could make myself.
  • Use my library card. I like libraries. I want to get back to being more intentional about using them this month.
  • Replenish my personal hygiene products as needed. There is no need to stockpile. Period.

Reese is in on the OktoberFast Challenge, so look for a post from her about her recent move to Atlanta and how she’s holding down expenses for the next 31 days.

And that’s it.

Well no that’s not exactly it. There are the usual round of spending “no’s” mentioned above, plus no YouTube “haul” videos, but I will evaluate if the “do nots” are too restrictive at the end of the month.

It would be easy to give up on this Free By 40 goal, but I know the keys needed for getting into the free house. Discipline and persistence. I might not always win on the discipline side, but persistence is my ministry. I’m trusting all of you to hold me accountable, so I will be posting an update at least once a week.

Watch me work.

— Ricks

Below are three people I’m watching (instead of haul videos) that are helping me “fall” back in love with my finances. (See what I did there?)

Lydia Senn: I started watching Lydia over the summer. I should have been watching her in September instead of all those haul videos. While I was getting all splurgy in September, she and her family were on a No Spend September challenge. Check out her blog Frugal, Debt Free Life.

Focused Spender: This channel popped up in my feed one day when I was sad and binge watching YouTube videos. This video about the net worth of black women made me want to get back on the Operation Do Better train.

Cait Flanders: Check out her blog Blonde On A Budget because…life goals. She paid of $30,000 in debt, and then decided there was still more to do.


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When Less Is More: Thoughts on a Minimalist Life Pt. 2

I wrote a post almost a year ago about minimalism and promised y’all a part 2.  And here it is three months after I wrote it in June. (My bad y’all ’cause…life.)

My first post, which you should read here, was all about the genesis of how I came to live with less stuff in my life.

In brief, my journey to minimalism was about equal parts tragedy (dealing with my mom’s Alzheimer’s); necessity (the vicious cycle of living with debt and fluctuating finances) and desire (my quest for peace, presence and being awake to my life).

I have been going through this awakening process since Reese and I started this blog. Though we started Too Thrifty Chicks to curate a space where two quirky black girls could dream, and create our own virtual reality of funky style and sustainability, it has become soo much more.

As we’ve gone through the process of fixing our finances through Operation Do Better we’ve expanded what it meant to us to be Too Thrifty Chicks.

Spending less money necessitated shifting our focus on spending — even thrifty spending — to creating. We stopped poppin’ tags at our favorite thrift stores and started creating meals at home that we looked forward to eating together.

We created experiences with friends that costed very little. We even got to go on our dream trip to South Africa for which we paid cash.

This process of awakening also helped me think about my emotional attachment to stuff, and what it looks like to be focused on experience.

I love to travel, and I have either been to, or lived in more than half of these United States. I’ve visited our continental neighbors to the the north and the south. I’ve been to Africa, Europe and Asia and to three islands in the Caribbean. And I still desire to see more.

But I’ll be honest.

A lot of my pleasure travel was about escape. Being a journalist is as fun and exciting as it is emotionally and mentally draining. It can be particularly so when you love your job, and when you hate it, or when you live in a place that you’ve never embraced.

I confess that I was addicted to travel because I just didn’t want to be wherever I was, and I was always trying to get some place bigger and better than “here”. I also had this fantasy in my head of being a nomad who lived in exotic places abroad, and spending so much time living in southern states was cramping my style.

So I went on many a broke trip to escape my ho-hum life, and came back with the requisite knick knacks that proved I’d been somewhere. Some things I’d give away. Other stuff I simply held on to, feeding the fantasy of one day having a really nice house where I could display all my world treasures, and racking up a shit ton of debt along the way.

Movin’ On Up

When I had the opportunity to move to the DMV, I intentionally set out to do things differently. Living in Montgomery taught me that I could enjoy my life and where I lived even if it wasn’t the place I most wanted to live. I could make the best of it.

But now I was truly moving within spitting distance of a place I’d always wanted to live, Washington, D.C. I was going to be making more money than I’d ever made in my career. This was going to be great.

And in many ways it was. But just not in the ways I thought it would be. My job included travel, which was cool but exhausting, and made me think about whether I truly liked traveling and living out of a suitcase. My determination? I liked travel for pleasure, not for work.

Also, the realities of the cost of living and commuting in the DMV were staggering and I had to make some real grown up choices. I could have lived in the city, or lived in one of the ‘burbs for slightly (and I do mean slightly) less money. I chose the ‘burbs.

When I realized my mother needed more direct care, she moved in with me, and we moved into a townhouse. When I determined that that was not going to work, she went to live with my aunt; Reese became my roommate. When my old car died, instead of buying another one, I chose to give it up and use public transportation.

Little-by-little these things were preparing me for the life that I live now. When I left my job to work for myself, Reese and I changed our lifestyles drastically. We pinched all the pennies. I worked a temp position on the side while freelancing. She was babysitting and working a part-time position as a researcher in Baltimore County. We were miserable.

By the time that Reese knew she was heading to Memphis, I knew that I didn’t have the kind of financial cushion necessary to work for myself, and decided to get a job. But all that I experienced let me know I wasn’t going to go work somewhere that I didn’t love again. I wanted to a) live in a city that I could love, and b) live in a city that I could afford.

Traveling Light

I knew if I moved back to the South, I would need a car. Living in the North would mean public transit but higher rent. In the end it came down to two positions, one in Savannah, Ga., a place I knew very well, and a position in New Haven, Conn., a place I knew nothing about. Both offered an identical salary. If you’ve been reading me for a while, you know I chose New Haven.

Here’s why.

1) Roommates are temporary. Car notes are forever. I would have struggled to pay rent and a car note, and I had/have financial goals to accomplish. Unlike most journalism jobs, this one doesn’t require me to have a car. I walk, bike and bus to most places. It’s not perfect. And you can read a piece I wrote about how imperfect it is here, but it beats having to purchase and maintain a car that would spend most days parked.

2) Experience. I spent my first two years as an adult in Savannah, and while going back to a familiar place was attractive, living somewhere I hadn’t lived before was more attractive. Plus, it was closer to Philly where my mom is.

3) Community. I had initially hoped to live alone again, but then I remembered that there is community in sharing space with someone. As a single person one of my biggest fears is dying alone. And while I might technically die alone in the house that I now live in, my roommate and/or our landlords will certainly find my body if I were to meet an untimely demise. I find a strange comfort in that. Plus, I save money, and that leaves me room to pay off some bills.

4) The greater good. By not having a car, I am one less car on the road. One less person damaging the air. One less person contributing to the need for parking lots. Living with others also means I’m one less person consuming things to furnish an entire apartment or creating waste. That’s important to me.

5) Less really was more to me. Not living with more — whether it was more car, more apartment or more stuff — also had become important to me. Yes, I was probably influenced by the growing backlash against consumerism. But I also am influenced by my own personal experience being awake to my life and the reality of my situation.

Operation Do Better taught me that I could be a better steward of my finances, and overcome reckless spending. Dealing with my mom’s stuff made me realize that having an overabundance of material things is its own burden.

So today, I live in a city that I really enjoy, and I’m working in a job that is more fun than not. And while I have high hopes of being here for a little while, if for some reason I choose to move on, there is no “thing” holding me back. And that feels right.

– Ricks


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Destination Brooklyn: A Too Thrifty Day Trip

Me waiting for the bus to Union Station, New Haven.

Waiting for the bus to Union Station. IPhone has dope filters.

One of the clear advantages of living in New England is how accessible NYC is. Y’all already know that Reese and I love the Big Apple. (Read about that here and here.) But I had never taken a solo trip.

Truth be told if it weren’t for Google maps, I don’t know that I would have had the brass to go it alone. I mean, come on son. The NYC subway is mad confusing (at least to me). And compared to taking the Metro in the DMV? Fuhgettaboutit.

But I was getting crazy cabin fever in New Haven after the coldest, longest winter of my life and I promised myself a solo day trip just as soon as there was a beautiful weekend.

I wanted to accomplish two, maybe three, things: I wanted to have lunch at Smorgasburg; I had to get to the Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum; and I had to find the place where I bought these earrings that I so loved (and thought I had lost) from some random flea market-type shop that Reese and I had visited on one of our last trips to the city.

So on the last weekend of the exhibit, I hopped a Metro-North train and headed into the city.

Rocking one of my favorite pair of pants.

Rocking one of my favorite pair of pants.

The universe must have approved of my decision because I could not have asked for more excellent weather.

Pro-tip: It’s easier to get to NYC from New Haven than it is to get from New Haven to Hartford. Yes. As in Hartford, Connecticut which is in the same state and only about 40 minutes away. (Read about my transportation woes here.) Metro-North will get you to NYC in about two and a half hours. Round trip will cost you about $34. And the trains run incredibly regularly, so even if you get on the train a little later than you intended like I did, there is probably another one leaving in 15 or 30 minutes.

NYC bound on Metro North.

NYC bound on Metro North.

I arrived at Grand Central Station at just after noon, which is perfect because the absolute first thing I wanted to do was get my eat on. My friend Google maps let me know what trains I needed to take, and I headed straight to Brooklyn. I glanced in Brooklyn Flea, but gorgeous weather = ridiculous crowds, so I kept it movin’ because delicious food was on the agenda.

Pro-tip: Yo, Smorgasburg draws massive crowds. Bring cash, or do what I did and stand in a seriously long line at the ATM. No Bueno.

After I got my cash, I headed inside of what, to someone like me, is food paradise. Y’all should know this, but I really love food. And my favorite way to explore a place is through my tastebuds and stomach.

I wouldn't say the food was orgasmic, but it was tasty.

I wouldn’t say the food was orgasmic, but it was tasty.

There were so many options. And trust and believe, you will stop random strangers and ask, “Hey, where did you get that?” People were walking by with delicious looking barbecue, but the line was so ridiculous that I kept walking.

But then like a beacon: Buttermilk (Channel) Fried Chicken, or BFC, was my new BAE. Yasss! Not better than my g-ma’s fried chicken, but still tasty. (I mean really, can anybody cook chicken better than your g-ma?) I needed something with which to wash all this hot, delicious, crunchiness down. Agua fresca de sandia you say? Sold. Mexican corn, you say? Sí, por favor. I ate all this yummy deliciousness. Yes I did.

BK7And with this view? I was happy as a pig in mud. And my stomach was full.

So, I really did wander around Brooklyn thinking I could find this little shop, that I’m pretty sure was set up in a temporary space the last time I was in Brooklyn. Reese and I had come up to see the Kara Walker installation at the former Domino Sugar factory. I probably wandered for a good hour and a half before I gave up, and decided I had to get to the museum before it closed.

BK8As was the case at Smorgasburg, the lines at the museum were crazy. I was incredibly close to buying a membership to the museum, just so I would never have to stand in that line again. I still might. For $60 you get free admission for a year, and all these other bennies! Considering that the suggested donation is about $17, the membership pays for itself in about three and a half visits. I’m pretty sure I would use it. I’ve already got my heart set on attending The Rise of Sneaker Culture exhibit that will be there through Oct. 4.

So once I was tagged and released into the wild of the museum, I found the wait to be worth my while.

BK10Kehinde Wiley is renown for his portraiture, but when I tell you his sculpture is everything. I mean EVERYTHING. I loved how, in his hands, the every day became regal and extraordinary.

BK11A bonus treat: The notebooks of Brooklyn-born artist Jean-Michel Basquiat are part of an exhibit that has been on display since April. It’s called Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks. I was aware of Basquiat, but truth be told I didn’t know much about his work. His notebooks were fascinating in part because of their lack of pretension.

All of his notebooks were those old school black and white composition notebooks. Check it out and share your thoughts about it on social media using: #basquiatnotebooks. I enjoyed myself thoroughly and stayed in the museum until just after closing.

My contacts were so dry in this photo, but I was looking fierce.

My contacts were so dry in this photo, but I was looking fierce.

I took the train back to somewhere near Brooklyn Flea. The sun was getting low in the sky by this point, and of course, I was starting to get hungry again. After schlepping around the neighborhood, trying to make my mind remember some of the landmarks that were near the place I had purchased my earrings — the old factory site, the juice bar that was next door to the shop, etc. — I gave up and went into a little mini-mall that was one of the first places we did stop the last time we were in Brooklyn.

Though they didn’t have the beloved pair that I thought I had lost (and eventually found behind my dresser), I did find two other pairs that I liked and that was good enough for me! It was time to eat.

Real talk, there are so many sit down food options in Brooklyn it can be hard to choose. The only thing I knew for certain was that I didn’t want any fried chicken (Duh!) and I didn’t want pizza. New Haven has my pizza heart and I seriously don’t think I can ever eat pizza anywhere else again. Seriously. Pizza in New Haven is legendary and delicious. Period.

But I love Korean food and when I spotted a place that was doing a contemporary take on Korean food, and had their windows flung open to the street, I was like, in my best Usher-voice, “Yeah!”

This is the only picture I had in my phone because when the food came, I didn't look up until it was gone!

This is the only picture I had in my phone because when the food came, I didn’t look up until it was gone!

The place: Suoj Korean Gastropub. The time: Super Happy Hour at around 6 p.m. The Food: Yummy.

I had these amazing little steamed buns (that would have been more amazing if the waitress had written down my order and brought me the right ones, grr); my first Korean beer (not bad at all); and the Soju fries, which were poutine-esque with delicious braised short rib and melted cheese. (Yasss! Get in my belly).

With the sun going down and the chill picking up, I hopped a train and headed back to Grand Central Station, so I could make the trek home. I stopped at an outpost of Junior’s Most Fabulous Cheesecakes and Desserts for a coffee (now pronounced: caw-fee) and saw that they had red velvet cupcakes. You already know. I got one for the road.

#nomnomnom!

#nomnomnom!

The perfect end to a near perfect day. I probably spent about $150, and could have spent much less if I had skipped the jewelry and the Uber home from the train station, but I don’t mess around when it comes to Union Station at night.

And I only got on the wrong train in NYC twice the whole day. I’d call that a win.

– Ricks


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It’s A Dog’s Life: The Story of 1 Dog and 3 Humans

Just before the weather got too hot for, well, anything, we took a day trip to Shenandoah  with our good friend Keila and her dog, Nena. We all looked forward to the trip for different reasons: good weather, time to reflect, opportunity to get away from the city. We had a great time hiking (just a little…we were so tired), talking, and eating BBQ on the grass. But what captured our attention most was Nena. IMG_6644

Nena was THE happiest of us all. You don’t know the good life until you’ve seen a dog smile.

Between hanging her head out the car window and wandering off on her own to explore different things, she was so into her surroundings. So present. At first Keila kept her on a short leash (presumably to see how she would act on the trail), but the further we went, the more freedom she was given to roam.  And when she was tired or felt like she needed a nap, she took her rest.

Humans, with all our thoughts about, well, EVERY THING, can learn a lot from dogs.

Here’s are a few things we learned from Nena:

  • Be curious. Nena, let her senses lead her. Whatever she was smelling, seeing and hearing, she wanted to know what it was. She sought it out with boundless curiosity instead of cautious suspicion. Could she have gotten hurt? Possibly, but what’s life without a little risk? Examine the world before you with openness and curiosity.  Investigate whatever it is you’re interested in with the possibility that you will be pleasantly surprised. Do it now, whether you’re on a trail in the forest, or sitting in your living room.IMG_6628
  • Express your pleasure. If something pleases you, smile. Nena, sure did. She reminded us that it’s OK to be happy in the present moment and to feel a sense of well-being from even the simplest pleasures.
  • Show love and affection for your humans. Once Keila started letting Nena wander a little on her own, Nena always came back to show us some love, especially Keila. It reminded us that any time is a good time to show some love for the humans in your life, even when they don’t expect it.
  • Be present. When we stopped for an extended period of time Nena settled in for a little R & R — rest and relaxation that is. Even when she dozed off a little she was still aware of her surroundings. If she heard a new noise or felt a change in the atmosphere, her attention was immediate. Nena was completely present. She wasn’t worried about anything that wasn’t happening in the space that she was in.

Thanks Nena for your infinite wisdom.

— R&R

 


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A Too Thrifty Update

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From Ricks’ 34th Birthday Brunch Shenanigans!

Hey boos! Today is Friday and this should be a Food for Thought post but it has been a rough and tumble week! Reese is off to the Food for Black Thought conference in Austin, Texas getting her nerd on. Catch her tweeting at @toothrftychks.

I’m holding things down in the D.C. metro area. The government shutdown has put the kabash on my freelance federal work, but the universe provides and I am happily working my temp job. Catch me if you can at the Petworth Community Market this evening from 4 to 8 p.m. I will be checking out what promises to be cool vintage threads and whatnot. Address is 4130 9th St., N.W. Washington, D.C. Hope to see you there.

We promised to introduce you to some of the amazing person pairs we know and that is a promise we intend to keep! Once we are back in the same place, at the same, time we will crank out those posts.

Until then, have a great weekend!

R & R


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Tidbit Tuesday: Thrifty Travels to Toronto

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We’re back from Toronto, and can we just say we absolutely loved Caribana and the city?! The Caribbean pride coupled with beautiful architecture, walkable streets, and good food captured our hearts.

We arrived on Thursday evening, checked into our hotel and decided to stay in. Our 8 hour drive stretched into 12 hours due to construction and traffic, so we were pooped. Friday, we set out early to have breakfast at Sunset Grill (yummy local option), walked around downtown a bit, then settled into an evening of festivities as we enjoyed the music at a day party and then the live steelpan band performances at Panalive. Saturday  we  spent the majority of the day at the Caribana parade and spent the evening walking and resting. Sunday, we stopped at Niagara Falls before heading home.

20130803_125835We planned to travel with two other friends, but each had to bow out of the trip for different reasons. Of course having two other people share the cost would have saved money, but even photo (15)with the two of us we made the trip happen for $547 per person, which included hotel, gas, food, hotel parking (which was ridiculously expensive), tickets to the day party, tickets to Panalive steel drum competition, a little shopping, and souvenirs. We wish you could have seen the 15 second dance party we had when we realized we stayed UNDER budget! Woop Woop!

Costs add up quickly, and sometimes it may feel like you have little control over how much you spend…but don’t fret! Before you plan your next trip, consider these tips to keep you under budget.

  1. Use Hotwire to find hotels:  If you’re not familiar with Hotwire, you should be! The way it works is you search for hotels in a particular area. Hotwire will show you rates for anonymous hotels with different star ratings, and you pick one. Once you pay, they reveal the hotel. Yes, we know that’s scary for some folks, but have the thrifty chicks ever steered you wrong? So far, we have a 100% success rate with Hotwire.  We stayed at the Eaton Chelsea on Gerrard Street, which is right downtown. Total hotel cost with travel insurance: $298 for three nights.
  2.  If you’re close, drive: Full disclosure: driving can be a pain, and when we go back to Toronto, we’ll likely fly. With that 20130802_164826being said, however, it was a cheap way to get there and aside from annoying construction and a little traffic, it was relatively uneventful.  The good: driving gave us the flexibility to leave when we wanted to, which was a godsend because Ricks was sick the night before. The bad: driving takes a LOT out of you. Once we got to Toronto, we didn’t have the energy to do much the first evening.  But it was cheap…we drove to Toronto and back to Virginia for $180.
  3. Try walking before taking a cab: We probably walked about 20 miles while we were in Toronto. Besides the streets being walkable, we did our research and learned that Toronto is a really safe city, with crime rates lower than where we live. Because we were staying downtown, we were able to walk to nearly every place we wanted to be and only took a cab twice. Cabs in Toronto were really expensive, so we opted to walk instead, which gave us an opportunity to see more of the city, get some exercise, and save money.
  4. 20130803_195819When in doubt, ask about portion sizes: We didn’t spend a ton on food over the weekend, but there were definitely times when we wasted food because we ordered too much. For example, at Panalive, we each bought curry chicken and rice for $10 at the stadium, but ended up eating only half of it because it was so much. We definitely could have split it.  Consider ordering less and sharing. Worst case scenario? You’re still hungry and you order more food.
  5. Plan to splurge: The thrifty chicks love sushi, and we give mad side eye to sketchy looking sushi places. While in Toronto, we realized we have sushi on nearly every trip we take. This is our thing. We might eat fairly inexpensive meals for most of the trip, but we give ourselves room to splurge on a really nice sushi meal.
  6. If the forecast says rain, believe it: So, we knew there was a chance of rain. We also knew Toronto has a milder temperature than D.C. Ask us did we pack umbrellas or jackets….go ahead. ask. hmm? No, we did not. We packed cardigans, which worked well against the chilliness, but our trusty denim jackets would have been better. It rained during the day party, and with no umbrellas, we got a little wet. Wishing for sunshine might work, but you should be prepared if it doesn’t.

20130804_115317We’re going back to Caribana next year with umbrellas, rain jackets, and a crew of our sister-friends! We had a great time in the city and looking forward to even better times on the next trip.

Do you have thrifty traveling tips? Share with us!

Until next time,

R&R