About Us

Independence Day

You know when you spend an hour wriitng something really good (in my case a blog post) and then your computer freezes and you lose everything?


Yeah, that just happened to me.


I can’t bear to recreate it now; it’s time to barbeque and remember the terms under which the country was founded, which were much more difficult then having to rewrite a blog post. Much more significant then my little blog.


If you want to read something cool today, check out The Declaration of Independence, and then think of having to come up with those ideas with a group of people (and having to write it all out neatly by hand).


Have a safe and happy Fourth of July.

A Moment of Zen In The Breakroom

Most days, I need a little afternoon pick-me-up. I don't mean necessarily caffeine so much as an excuse to leave the cubicle for a few moments. It gives me a chance to soak in some natural light and give my eyes a break from the computer screen, not to mention a moment to center myself…

Because I am now forgoing my coffee shop coffee, I have brought the experience to the breakroom. Since I now don't have to go anywhere to get my gourmet cup of happiness, that means I have more time to go for a quick walk down the street or even just peruse Better Homes And Gardens (I'm not sure who stocks the breakroom with magazines but I'm grateful!)

The french press that an old employee has left behind is nice though don't worry if you don't have such luck as to stumble upon one. The small Bodum three cup French press we have in there costs only about $20 (three European cups means one big 12 oz in America, land of the supersize).

My bag of coffee that I buy once every three months is $10. I know I've previously endorsed Rock City Coffee Jet blend and I'll keep endorsing it! I keep the coffee, Coffeemate powder, some cocoa powder, and some sugar safely in my cube (probably about $10 of coffee accessories total).

So for about $40, I have coffee for three months and more time in my afternoon break to enjoy the things I truly love: sitting in the quiet of the afternoon and perusing a magazine with pretty pictures. Not sure how Zen it really is but it sure relaxes me!

Anything tricks you have to make that work stress just fade in the middle of the day?

A Porch Of One’s Own: Part I

Outdoor Eatery Or Your Backyard Cozy-fied?

When I moved into Sean's house a year ago, I was very excited in particular about having a deck. It was the one thing my Vinalhaven residence lacked and I saw myself in cute sundresses mingling with friends at my theoretical deck parties.

Backdeckoasis Only the thing with a deck is it needs something. Something to sit on, eat on, or even look at. Otherwise it's a big expanse of wood. Kind of dull.

While Sean tinkered with his outside project (more on that later this week), it become my goal to make the deck more habitable.

I divided the deck into three distinct areas: the dining/lounging part, the sitting around the firebowl part, and the food/grilling part. In this post, I tackle the dining/lounging area. (Other areas will follow.)

Since Sean hates both wicker and plastic furniture, I'm severely limited on what will work here. I found wooden folding chairs at The Christmas Tree Shop for $5 each last month and bought four. Extra seating, tasteful, and foldable! The added bonus is I can always spray paint them to make them any color I want, though I do like the natual wood look. I used two chairs in my dining area. ($10)

I then made a makeshift table with some leftover lumber in our basement. It looks pretty silly underneath but a water-resistant but cute tablecloth does that trick of hiding my non-handiness. Use lots of brackets to make it as sturdy as possible; remember no one has to know! ($15 for the tablecloth)

To maximize the seating, I took advantage of the bench seating along the edge of the deck. Pillows can make things more comfortable and cozy and with some leftover batting and cloth, I made a bench seat cushion for the other side. (Forgot to take the photo from that angle to show it off. ($20 for batting and cloth on the bench, throw pillows taken temporarily from inside the house)

A planter with bonsai pine tree defines the corner of the deck, and subtly alerts people so they don't fall off the edge (planter $5, tree and rock from yard)

A citronella candle keeps things bug-free, at least relatively ($5). Tea lights on the table will give some light as night falls ($1).

So for just under $60, I can now have four people over (six if we scrunch) for an outside dinner.

Nicole's Tips To A Lounge-y Deck

1. Repurpose. Don't have lumber in your basement? How about a big bulletin board resting on plant stands? Or buy a wide two by four and rest it on a bench. Think of the table height you want (coffee table vs. dining table) and start looking around your house, basement, and garage for things you can use!

2. Invest in a wipeable table cloth. A cloth tablecloth will be in the wash every five minutes. Get one in a plastic-y finish that you can wipe for the occasional spill. Has the added benefit of covering up shoddy carpentry work. 

3. Test your table before people come over. Put plates, food etc. on it and make sure it isn't too wobbly. If it is, adjust as necessary. Remember, the tablecloth will hide your adjustments.

4. Fabric adds poshness. Don't be afraid to use cushions. They're fun and say that you care about your guests' butts. Just have an area close to your deck (but protected) where you can put things when you go in for the night. And make it so you don't have to squish them into storage; if puttint them away is a hassle, you'll never do it and after a season outside, you'll have to junk the cushions. (I have a shelf in our breezeway where the cushions and tablecloth fit perfectly.)

5. Think lighting. As night falls, how will your party transition? Like you would with a room, think of a variety of light sources: candles, Christmas lights, tiki torches, solar lamps… Tea lights and the citronella will be fine in this small space but other lighting will need to happen to make the whole deck useable.

6. Delineate possible hazards. If there is a place where your deck just ends, put a big planter plant. Light transitional areas like stairs (you can do this cheaply by putting a tea light on both sides of every stair). You don't want people to get hurt at your party; it's a real showstopper to have to drive someone to the emergency room!

As the other areas come together, I'll post photos. Hope you had an equally productive weekend!

A Porch Of One's Own: Part I

Outdoor Eatery Or Your Backyard Cozy-fied?

When I moved into Sean's house a year ago, I was very excited in particular about having a deck. It was the one thing my Vinalhaven residence lacked and I saw myself in cute sundresses mingling with friends at my theoretical deck parties.

Backdeckoasis Only the thing with a deck is it needs something. Something to sit on, eat on, or even look at. Otherwise it's a big expanse of wood. Kind of dull.

While Sean tinkered with his outside project (more on that later this week), it become my goal to make the deck more habitable.

I divided the deck into three distinct areas: the dining/lounging part, the sitting around the firebowl part, and the food/grilling part. In this post, I tackle the dining/lounging area. (Other areas will follow.)

Since Sean hates both wicker and plastic furniture, I'm severely limited on what will work here. I found wooden folding chairs at The Christmas Tree Shop for $5 each last month and bought four. Extra seating, tasteful, and foldable! The added bonus is I can always spray paint them to make them any color I want, though I do like the natual wood look. I used two chairs in my dining area. ($10)

I then made a makeshift table with some leftover lumber in our basement. It looks pretty silly underneath but a water-resistant but cute tablecloth does that trick of hiding my non-handiness. Use lots of brackets to make it as sturdy as possible; remember no one has to know! ($15 for the tablecloth)

To maximize the seating, I took advantage of the bench seating along the edge of the deck. Pillows can make things more comfortable and cozy and with some leftover batting and cloth, I made a bench seat cushion for the other side. (Forgot to take the photo from that angle to show it off. ($20 for batting and cloth on the bench, throw pillows taken temporarily from inside the house)

A planter with bonsai pine tree defines the corner of the deck, and subtly alerts people so they don't fall off the edge (planter $5, tree and rock from yard)

A citronella candle keeps things bug-free, at least relatively ($5). Tea lights on the table will give some light as night falls ($1).

So for just under $60, I can now have four people over (six if we scrunch) for an outside dinner.

Nicole's Tips To A Lounge-y Deck

1. Repurpose. Don't have lumber in your basement? How about a big bulletin board resting on plant stands? Or buy a wide two by four and rest it on a bench. Think of the table height you want (coffee table vs. dining table) and start looking around your house, basement, and garage for things you can use!

2. Invest in a wipeable table cloth. A cloth tablecloth will be in the wash every five minutes. Get one in a plastic-y finish that you can wipe for the occasional spill. Has the added benefit of covering up shoddy carpentry work. 

3. Test your table before people come over. Put plates, food etc. on it and make sure it isn't too wobbly. If it is, adjust as necessary. Remember, the tablecloth will hide your adjustments.

4. Fabric adds poshness. Don't be afraid to use cushions. They're fun and say that you care about your guests' butts. Just have an area close to your deck (but protected) where you can put things when you go in for the night. And make it so you don't have to squish them into storage; if puttint them away is a hassle, you'll never do it and after a season outside, you'll have to junk the cushions. (I have a shelf in our breezeway where the cushions and tablecloth fit perfectly.)

5. Think lighting. As night falls, how will your party transition? Like you would with a room, think of a variety of light sources: candles, Christmas lights, tiki torches, solar lamps… Tea lights and the citronella will be fine in this small space but other lighting will need to happen to make the whole deck useable.

6. Delineate possible hazards. If there is a place where your deck just ends, put a big planter plant. Light transitional areas like stairs (you can do this cheaply by putting a tea light on both sides of every stair). You don't want people to get hurt at your party; it's a real showstopper to have to drive someone to the emergency room!

As the other areas come together, I'll post photos. Hope you had an equally productive weekend!

A Letter To My Younger Self

Cheap Healthy Good had a letter to her younger self this week that made me laugh… and think about what I'd say to my twelve year old self.

Dear Nicole,

I know you are really expecting some divine intervention in the way of instruction as to what you're supposed to do with your life. You are figuring that Bernadette peasant chick from long-time-ago France got a sign from God and that you should get one too, gosh darn it. Let's just say either God's really subtle or that it's not happening. And that's ok.

I know this because I am you, only years into the future. I'm the 27 year old you more specifically. Don't worry, that's not nearly as old as you think. You know that list that you made of things to accomplish by the time you were 25? The list is still in your mind but you really need to give yourself more time to get there. You have, however, crossed a few things off the list. You've learned French and you are kind of a writer. I'll get to that in a little bit.

So you've just consulted a fortune teller you met in Old Orchard Beach on the last family vacation who told you 1) That you'd be a doctor or a teacher 2) that you'd have a hard time in your early 20s and 3) That you should trust someone with an initial of "A". You wrote these things down so you'd remember, in case she happened to be right about one of them. She was right about one thing; you did have a rough period in your early twenties. Don't dread it though; remember that deep down, you are a very happy person and have no regrets. You also don't worry about things in your adult life, which drives many people you know crazy. You are lucky. Just remember to take care of yourself always.

Let's get to the details you're curious about. You're not married yet. I know you think about that a lot, wondering if there is someone out there for you to share things with. The fact that you're not married says less about you being a weird person that boys don't want to marry and more about not having the luck to stumble on the right person. Someone asked you to marry them at one point but you had the guts to know that it wasn't right. You live with your boyfriend now and Mom and Dad are ok with it. He's not what you expect but he's wonderful. As you predicted, you don't have kids and aren't sure if you want them at all. You do love having a dog though, and your dog loves you.

You've traveled a little like you've wanted to and you will travel more. While you haven't written a book, you have written things that people read and enjoy. I won't get into the technicalities but there will a new technology that'll let you write and let other people all over the world read it. You'll love doing it.

I know you think about the bigger world out there and how you fit in a lot. I know that you feel a little weird because you are saying things no one else is saying. You will meet people in your life that'll value that about you. You'll have many friends and you'll stay close to your family. You are still friends with Robby and Laura, and you make new friends wherever you go.

I'm not sure you really want to know all this. There is actually a lot I'm not telling you that I'll let you figure out. Just keep being who you are. You turn into a great person that people want to know and be with. You won't ever be lonely, so stop preparing yourself in case you are. Trust your gut, you inherited the whole being right thing from Mom. And like I said, take care of yourself. Your friends and family will help but it is up to you to steer the course of your life. And you are not a bad drive at all.

Love,
Yourself

A Decision Made, Now A Deep Cleansing Breath

So thanks to those of you who commented or emailed about my job dilemma post. I think most of us have been in a situation (work or otherwise) where we've had to choose love or money. I chose love, for now anyway. I'm staying at my current job. Here's my rationale.

1. I like my job. I like my boss, I like my coworkers, I feel successful, I'm learning a lot. These things have never been as true across the board as they are now, even though the pay could be better.

2. I'm in a situation where I don't need to make a lot of money. I live with Sean in his house. I have no kids, I have no debt. Expenses are low, and the learning I've been doing from this saving money and living the good life blog is helping me get costs even lower.

3. We couldn't sell our house, even if we wanted to. There are comparable houses in our neighborhood that have been for sale for a year. Sean had the house appraised six months ago and it's worth less then he bought it for. So relocating would mean maintaining two seperate households and being a landlord from afar. So we're staying for now.

4. I don't have the energy to do another job search at the moment. Yes there are other communications-related positions around where I live in Downeast Maine, but very few. It tends to be competitive and there is no guarentee that I'll get a job in the field I want in any amount of time.

5. I live in a beautiful place and close to family and friends. It is a little expensive to live here but being close to Bar Harbor and close enough to my hometown of Fort Kent to drive there is nice, especially this past year with what my family has been going through.

6. I have no commute. I can literally be at work in 5-10 minutes, depending on traffic. The money I save on gas and the time I save not commuting is worth at least $200 a month (estimating a 30 minute commute that many people who live near me have). And the extra time I have in my day allows me to blog (among other things).

7. I have a lot to learn still. I've learned a lot about websites, blogging, newspapers and many other things this past year. I think there is still more to learn.

8. Sales could be a new skill I develop. The ability to sell things is one skill that is valued across many careers. If I can get very part time selling experience (5-8 hours a week my boss estimates), and if I become good at it, this could make me even more marketable.

9. Breaking Even, Inc. Communications (my very microenterprise) is still really important to me. If I am selling people on websites and web advertisements, it is just another way to make new contacts for my web content creation and blog consulting business. I think there is a market for this in my geographic area and I think I could convice people of that if I could meet them face to face. (Though I love this blog, I think I'm much better in person).

10. Doing more selling and content creation at work means I can get rid of the more boring aspects of my job. I talked to my boss about freeing up my time by eliminating some boring and seemingly unnecessary tasks. He is helping me look for solutions. One change taking effect next week will free up about 5 hours of my time.

So these last two weeks, I've learned a lot about not only the company I work for and those I could work for but about myself and what's important to me. Here are some lessons I've learned:

1. Talk to your supervisor about your job. You don't need a job offer to come up to set up a meeting. If you are doing good work in one area and having trouble with another, talk solutions. If you don't advocate for yourself (and sell your boss on why it's good for the company), no one else will.

2. Listen to those who see talents in you. You may be too close to it to see them. I would have never thought that I would be good at selling things but the ad manager has wanted me to sell web advertising for months.

3. Know what's important to you, not just your bottom line. Is it important for you to have an hour lunch everyday? Or not have to travel too much? Know thyself, and thou shalt knoweth thy bestest job.

So I feel good about all this. Resolution is a wonderful thing.

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