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We live paycheck to paycheck. We are on a pretty tight budge. We talk about every thing we purchase, even something little like a new book, baby wipes, olive oil, or socks. I recently went on a trip to Target by myself and realized how much anxiety I have over spending money! I often find things I like, or want, or need but then, as I reassess my cart before heading to checkout, I panic and put most things back on the shelf. I look at the things and think, “I don’t really need that. I can make do with what we have.”

Sometimes that spending-related anxiety is frustrating, but most of the time I’m grateful for it. I can’t shake my mom’s classic, and somewhat old fashioned advice, which was to always think, “Is that worth __ hours of work?”, before purchasing something. I think about our car loan, my student loan, and the our minimal credit card debt. I also think about the trip we want to take, the weekend we want to spend at the coast, and the gas money it takes to get up to Seattle to visit our families. Suddenly, the cheap “3 for $24” tank tops from Target start to look unnecessary and spendy – even if I’m still wearing beat up tank tops that are a decade old. Sometimes I make the purchase, but it’s always weighed very carefully.

When we were staying with Kyle’s parents up in Seattle a couple weeks back, I was looking around and realizing the number of times that Kyle’s mom has said, “That was a wedding gift.”, about something in their home. It’s funny because I’d never really looked our belongings that way. I’d never looked at our pots and pans, most of which we’ve had for ten years or so, and thought, “We’ll have that same pot in 40 years.” Part of the process of getting rid of a lot of our stuff is that it’s getting whittled down to the bare necessities and the things that are going to stand the test of time. It’s not easy to be “make do” people. We are constantly encouraged to the upgrade our things, to get the newest iPhone, and to want more. But choosing to “make do” is becoming a big part of our lives.

As I continue to simplify our space, I am constantly surprised by what having less stuff has allowed me to see. I now see clearly what we have, which makes it easier for me to assess the shopping cart accurately. It’s incredibly satisfying to save our pennies (and pennies is about all we can save at the moment), and knowing that those pennies will eventually add up to something more substantial… maybe even something substantial enough to earn our family some stamps in our passports.

Choosing to make do with what we have and to pocket that five dollar bill for something special is a really great feeling. Making do with what we have is a sometimes-difficult choice, and in the moment it’s easy to feel envious, deprived, and frustrated, but when I zoom out and look at the big picture and the years to come, I can see that it’s actually more rewarding and fruitful. I find myself looking into the future and looking forward to the day that I will cook something for my grandchildren in a the Le Creuset dutch oven that Kyle’s patents gave me for my 30th birthday and tell them, “I’ve been making meals for my family in this pot for forty years!”

It’s definitely “in” to want the newest and latest, and my way of thinking may be old fashioned, but it feels good to think ahead, and to really look carefully at the things we own and the things that we buy. If that’s old fashioned – sign me up! In fact, I’ll add it to the list of all my other old fashioned attributes: an undying love for films like Casablanca, The Apartment, and Sabrina; a thing for aprons; an addiction to PG Tips; a desire to learn how to knit; a real enjoyment for tea parties with our retired neighbor, Elizabeth; a love for silence; and an obsession with watching old episodes of The French Chef with Julia Child. Maybe I am a bit old fashioned… and that is just fine with me.

One other old fashioned thing I love is Old Fashioned Cocktails. It’s actually moving up the list to join Hot Toddys at the top of my favorite whiskey based drinks. For Christmas this year I bought Kyle all of the key ingredients to make a fabulous Old Fashioned: Fee Brothers Bitters, Fee Brothers Cherry Bitters, Boissiere Sweet Vermouth, and Toschi Cherries. I got this list of ingredients from my friend who’s a bartender at one of my favorite restaurants. He makes a great Old Fashioned and when I asked him for his list he went above and beyond and actually helped get me the ingredients. I’ve been experimenting for the past several months and what I’ve come up with is a simple, sparkling, slightly sweet, slightly bitter Old Fashioned Cocktail.

I used to think of Old Fashioned Cocktails as something you would have maybe greeted your husband at the door with circa 1950, while dinner warmed in the oven, you wore a cute (but functional) apron, and sported a fabulous shade of red lipstick. Is it old fashioned of me to admit I wouldn’t mind doing that? Maybe I’ve watched too much Mad Men… or not enough? Anyway, since it’s not 1950, I’m happy to report that I’ve discovered that these fabulous drinks are great while sitting on the stoop with a girlfriend; passing an evening in the garden on your own; or enjoying episode after episode of Orange is the New Black with your husband. The options are endless really, but the best way, in my opinion, to enjoy these cocktails is while watching Casablanca. There’s something satisfying about taking a sip while listening to Bogart say, “ Go ahead and shoot. You’ll be doing me a favor.” Or, alternatively, you could watch Sabrina because there’s also something satisfying about taking a sip while listening to Bogart say, “How am I ever going to get along in Paris without someone like you? Who’ll be there to help me with my French, to turn down the brim of my hat?” So pop in your favorite Humphrey Bogart film, or take this as an opportunity to discover one, make this cocktail, and embrace being a little old fashioned.

old fashioned cocktailsPINOLD FASHIONED COCKTAILS
(I’ve listed the ingredients with my favorite brands but feel free to sub with your favorites.)

1/2 tsp sugar
3 oz. club soda
dash Fee Brothers Bitters
dash Fee Brothers Cherry Bitters
dash Boissiere Sweet Vermouth
3 Toschi Cherries, plus syrup
1 1/2 oz. Bullet or Maker’s Mark whisky
orange slice

In a cocktail glass, pour 1 oz. club soda, 1/2 tsp. sugar, one cherry, and 1/2 tsp of syrup from the cherries, and muddle until the cherry is well broken up and the sugar is dissolved.

Add in a dash of the bitters, cherry bitters, and a small splash of sweet vermouth, 2 more cherries, 2 more ounces of club soda, and 1 1/2 ounce of whisky. Stir to combine. Add a few ice cubes, and garnish with an orange slice.


Makes one cocktail.


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  • Elizabeth - Loved this post, Kacie. And not just the *perfect* classic yet creative old fashioneds. I totally relate to scraping by, pinching pennies, and taking waaaaay too much time at Target to sort the things we really, really need from the things we can do without. Before this never ending recession, I wasn’t good at being frugal. Though I’d like to have some not quite as leans times, like you, I’m glad for the simplicity of it all. Consumerism is the worst, and 40 year old Dutch ovens are the best. Cheers!ReplyCancel

    • - Thanks, Elizabeth. In this little internet world of ours it can be easy to feel alone in the “we’re realllly broke” category. Cheers to 40 year old pots and pans, and hopefully some not-so-lean times to come. 😉ReplyCancel

  • Mary - I so appreciate this post because my family too lives paycheck to paycheck. Just yesterday I was mulling over my wardrobe and how I desperately need some new summer clothes but how anxiety-inducing it is to shop. I was debating taking a trip to the mall but ended up a local thrift store instead. Before having a child and buying a home, I did not hesitate to burn up our expendable income on meaningless junk. It’s difficult to simplify in our consumer-driven culture. I’ve cut Target out of my shopping rotation – it’s so easy to fall into the trap of a $100 trip when you only walked in to buy toothpaste!

    I’m definitely going to have to try this recipe. Part of my husband’s father’s day gift was a set of whiskey stones as he’s a huge old fashioned fan.ReplyCancel

    • - Mary,
      I’m so glad this post connected with you. The ingredients for this are a bit of a splurge themselves but they last for ages! Sometimes I hate that we don’t live anywhere near a target, but I’m actually really grateful! SO easy to spend there!ReplyCancel

  • gaby - loved this post kacie! we’re very similar, you and i. except that i haven’t yet jumped on the whiskey based cocktails bandwagon, i just can’t stomach them!

    p.s. i’d love to Skype sometime! i’ve been meaning to tell you that for ages, sorry for the delayed reaction. what’s your username? xReplyCancel

    • - Gaby,
      We are very similar! In so many ways. Whiskey is the only hard alcohol I like! I can handle a little rum if it’s in a mojito but the rest of it is too much for me. YES. I never use Skype anymore… but I should! If I set it up on my new computer I’ll email you my username!ReplyCancel