Update on our No-vember. (A month without spending anything extra)

You can catch up on the how and why here but just in case you’re walking into this post wondering where this is coming from …

What exactly is a no-spend month?

To be overly simple, it’s a month with no extra spending. Keeping the lights on and food in our bellies isn’t part of the “No-November” for us. If we have a bill, we pay it. If we need groceries, we pick them up. If there was a pre-planned event, we attend. It’s not saying no to having fun or being social, it’s just taking a month to recalibrate and evaluate where the funds are going by stopping the flow of all the extra’s.

No coffee’s from Starbucks, no lunch dates or dinners out, no last minute “I’m bored” spending on the weekends. Just, not this month.

And it’s officially over! The last 11 days were more difficult than the first 19. We had a school break in there, a holiday, a snow day. A lot of down time, is what I’m getting at, and while we stuck to our no-spend month … it’s true you can’t buy happiness, but you can delay sadness.

I had guessed we’d be “over” in our grocery budget but we ended the month within $100 of our usual burn rate at the grocery store – and without any eating out, this felt like a feat. But clearly a doable one.

We borrowed puzzles, drank a lot of hot chocolate at home, had friends over, hung out with family, went for walks, and the kids played with the chickens, it was all very lovely in hindsight.

We went a little stir crazy (Aaron and I more than the kids) BUT it was honestly eye-opening to do this and I’m so glad we tried it, for a few reasons:

We spent less than half what we normally would.

Which definitely made the month of no spending worth it, in my book. I’m the numbers person in our family, so it is very interesting to me to see what we went without and how that affects the bottom line. We can get comfortable and stop practicing discernment or patience in our spending, especially this time of year.

We appreciated what we already have.

Games, subscriptions, the library, relationships, natural resources. We definitely made the most of what we had, even though there were days we were tired of being creative or trying to think a different way.

This was more of a mindset change, and one we struggled with as a whole family, than anything else. Which is the true nugget of this month, I think.

One evening my daughter led a workshop for our family on how to make ornaments out of paper. We already had the paper and the string, even though she wanted to go get additional items like stickers or prettier paper or glitter, we all had to think outside the box at different times to just use what we had. And now our house is colorful, and it means something to all of us.

I actually made money.

We had a few things lying around that didn’t work for us any more, either furniture we no longer had a use for or nice items the kids grew out of – and I sold them. I also took a temporary job for part of November and booked multiple photoshoots this month. Which is not something I had planned on or even thought of as a bonus to a month without spending.

What wasn’t included.

You get to make up your own rules and no one is keeping score 😉

For our family – this is what we spent money on this month:
My medications and all the B.S. that goes with being diabetic
Groceries (food and drinks, people. We didn’t eat ramen all month)
Our monthly bills (gas, electric, mortgage, investments, water, trash)
Gas for our cars
And we did use a gift certificate for free pizza one evening

We also had already purchased tickets before November for a few events and even a girls getaway weekend for me and we happily attended.

Now, for the nitty-gritty:

We spent $71.15 that technically we weren’t supposed to which included Aaron’s coffee on the weekends (read more about that here), my oopsie lunch at the beginning of the month, and 2 “breaks” on different weekends for coffee out as a family.

All in all, a good reminder of how much we already have & how little we really need, but most of all, what matters most.

And I would totally do it again! Maybe once a year, but not during the summer 😉

Saturday morning

😍

Highway 1 // California Coast

Our adventure’s continue in California, when we left off we had just explored Tilden Regional Park and before that we had our first Airbnb Experience in a Vintage VW van through Napa. California just keeps getting better.

We turned off “highways” on our gps system and took the backroads to another winery called The Russian River.

Berkeley, CA trip 2018

Berkeley, CA trip 2018

Berkeley, CA trip 2018

Berkeley, CA trip 2018

We actually thought we would be able to get dinner at this winery from everything we had read, but we missed the part about needing a dinner ticket for their supper club. They were wonderful, offered to get us in that evening with their ticket holders but we decided on a shared plate, a glass of something white and to enjoy the quiet view of their farm for a while before continuing our backroads tour of the region … looking for highway 1.

I couldn’t tell you at which part we finally connected with highway 1, there were amazing little towns we went through and all kinds of winding roads and then our view just broke open. Just like that.

Berkeley, CA trip 2018

Berkeley, CA trip 2018

Berkeley, CA trip 2018

Berkeley, CA trip 2018

Berkeley, CA trip 2018

I mean, it was stunning. I probably wrote poetry about it. We just meandering through this weird and beautiful outcropping of water and rock and the salty air, and the little beach towns, and the dive hotdog bars, and the succulents! You guys. The weather-worn shacks and cottages with million dollar views, the surf boards. It was just as I’d imagined it would be: breathtakingly beautiful, a little haunting, but in a good way. A day I’ll never forget.

Tilden Regional Park // Berkeley, CA

While we were in California last month we explored a lot of the local area where we stayed, which was right in Berkeley. The hills in Berkeley are just nuts, driving was an adventure.

One of the places I had researched ahead of time was Tilden Regional Park, from what I could tell there was great hiking, a fun steam train (for the kids, but honestly – it was so much fun), gardens and much more.

Our favorite way to travel is to just get lost. Know enough, but then just go, and this trip was without kids so we had a lot more freedom to spend time day-tripping and getting lost without people losing their marbles.

Tilden Regional Park

I remember places by their public spaces. The parks, the gardens, the greenhouses. Detroit? Belle Isle. Holland, Mi? Windmill Island and the greenhouse in the middle of the city. Oregon? The International Test Rose Garden.

Berkeley, CA trip 2018

So Tilden was a must-do on my list, her Botanical Gardens a prize winning first place for me.

Berkeley, CA trip 2018

Berkeley, CA trip 2018

Berkeley, CA trip 2018

We spent the most time “forest bathing” as we walked around the Botanical Gardens from habitat to habitat. Desert, to hillside, to giant sequoia grove, to forest, to bridges and lawn, to pond life and prairie.

Berkeley, CA trip 2018

Berkeley, CA trip 2018

Berkeley, CA trip 2018

Berkeley, CA trip 2018

Berkeley, CA trip 2018

It was magical, what can I say? I loved it so hard. The parking was free and there was no admission to get in to the park. After we spent a couple hours at the garden we went to the Steam Train for a ride. Tickets were $3 each – the ride was a good ten minutes through the trees and little tunnels. It was like riding on the set of Thomas the Train with miniature buildings and working water towers for the train. You could buy 5 or 6 rides for cheaper, like a “pass”, which multiple parties did because once you ride the train you just don’t want it to ever stop. Many people got off and right back on again.

Berkeley, CA trip 2018

Every so often the conductor would ring the bell and blow the steam and we’d see this beautiful smoke stack rise through the trees.

Magic, I tell you.

Don’t miss it 🙂 On our way out we stopped at a couple of the lookouts off the road and grabbed some great views. The fog moved in almost every day we were there and it was as if a blanket was being gently laid over the city.

Berkeley, CA trip 2018

Berkeley, CA trip 2018

Later this same day we road-tripped to Highway 1, another winery in a small town called “Russian River” and meandered through some beautiful hillside as we made our way back to Berkeley which I’ll cover in the next post soon!

Our first ‘Airbnb Experience’ // Napa, Ca

We’ve had a busy summer traveling all over the PNW. I’ll write a few more posts about the other things we did and where we traveled but for this one, I wanted to tell you how awesome our Airbnb Experience was in California. And nope, this is not an ad.

We’ve been traveling and using Airbnb as our wayfinder for housing for just over 5 years now and we LOVE Airbnb. So much. So so much. Immersion travel is our bag. This past year Airbnb launched (or maybe it’s older than a year, I don’t know, I’m not the spokesperson, just super excited) “Experiences” and, I don’t know, maybe I’ve been trying to travel to places BECAUSE OF THE EXPERIENCES THEY OFFER.

I. Am. So. Jazzed. About. This.

Airbnb Experience: Napa Valley by VW Bus Tour

When it became clear that our kids would actually get into their respective sleep-away camps the same week it meant we could get away together. Alone. Our anniversary isn’t until the end of August but we used this week in July as our excuse to celebrate 15 years of marriage.

I had no idea where I wanted to go but I’ve never been to Napa so I looked at a map, picked Berkeley as our home base, and booked the Airbnb Experience of a Winery-hop in a vintage VW bus all over Napa.

Airbnb Experience: Napa Valley by VW Bus Tour

Airbnb Experience: Napa Valley by VW Bus Tour

The tour took us to 3 different wineries with another couple who had signed up for the same day as us. I think there’s room for a total of 6, but the day we went there were only four reservations. We met and quickly made friends with this other couple, celebrating her birthday all the way from Minneapolis.

Airbnb Experience: Napa Valley by VW Bus Tour

We had a ton of fun, she’s my kind of girl.

Airbnb Experience: Napa Valley by VW Bus Tour

Airbnb Experience: Napa Valley by VW Bus Tour

Airbnb Experience: Napa Valley by VW Bus Tour

Airbnb Experience: Napa Valley by VW Bus Tour

Airbnb Experience: Napa Valley by VW Bus Tour

Airbnb Experience: Napa Valley by VW Bus Tour

Airbnb Experience: Napa Valley by VW Bus Tour

Turns out wine tasting in California is much more expensive than in little ol’ Northern Michigan. When we go to Traverse City and Lelanau it’s $5 a pop for a tasting. In Napa? $40. Per person. So you know. Uh. Be aware that your adorable “anniversary trip excursion” will look like that really pretty necklace you were hoping for. But you have all the photos instead of a shiny rock. Some how it doesn’t feel the same.

Airbnb Experience: Napa Valley by VW Bus Tour

But it was so worth it.

Fifteen

The vibe

Those kids? They had zero chill about getting married. We celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary this summer and I’ve been thinking about this milestone for a while. There’s some fun stats I could outline, we could walk down memory lane … or I could just write about what it’s meant to be married to Aaron for 15 years straight.

Consecutively.

All together.

So far.

Little did I know as the Bambi child I was that getting married meant staying married. I mean, of course it means this … but in reality … in the doing … I had no idea. You can’t know what you don’t know. And I, simply, just didn’t know. My version of commitment was short. I was a teenager when I met the guy, the only reference to “10 years ago” I could give to anyone was to the first grade.

But I have to be honest with you, being married and staying married and working at marriage and getting to be Aaron’s wife and partner in life – has been one of the most rewarding things in my life so far. And now when I reference 10 years ago, it’s to our beginning. The hard part. It’s looking back and knowing we came through it, together. It’s knowing he’s always been there for me, he’s never wavered. He has waited for me and chosen me and he is my first safe place.

It will not surprise you, dear reader, to hear that I am a romantic. Somewhat of a poet about love or life. I can have rose colored glasses for almost anything, including pain. I’m here for the experience of life and man, has she thrown some at me. But everywhere I turn in my quest to know something or discover myself or become who I’ve always been becoming, there is Aaron. He’s kept pace with me, has often pushed me to be better and find my voice. He’s gifted me with his care, his love, his support.

When I look back, it’s his arm I see around me first before I can even glance at the past. When I look ahead, it’s his stride leading us toward our future hand in hand. And when I stop and just look around? He’s next to me.

How beautiful it is to have him next to me.

Mr and Mrs Schaap

I’m kind of a fan of those letters you write to your younger self, the lessons from the future you wish you could have given your perfect skin and flat stomach to ENJOY IT NOW. Not because it’s fleeting but because now I just know. I know how fast life changes, how little it takes to topple our expectations and plans. How often we claim control over things that simply aren’t ours to mess around with and how worth it this has been to keep trying at.

One of the things I absolutely love about Jen Hatmaker is how unapologetic she is about being obsessed with her big extended family. The love letter she wrote to her parents in her most recent book, Of Mess and Moxie? And a recent tidbit she posted on social media about how their summer days start with coffee on the porch with her siblings … this is not my experience. Certainly not my reality – but damn it if I don’t fist pump every time she regales the happiness this brings her … and to me as a fan, a reader, a hopeful lover of life. That this exists in the world. It might not exist for me personally, and thats ok. I don’t need all the wins … but this one small thing, this relationship that is evergreen … Aaron. This is my win. It’s less than perfect but we’re a beautiful and imperfect mess.

And I’m so thankful for our adventure in life together.

Happy Anniversary, babe.

15 years of learning to trust in love and you haven’t given up on us, yet. I like that about you.

Chicago Feb 2016