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Tips For Adulthood: Five Grown Up Beers To Drink

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

I’ve always been a beer drinker. In my youth, when quantity tended to weigh more heavily on my mind than quality, I wasn’t terribly discerning about what I drank. Budweiser…National Bohemian…Coors Light – it was all the same to me.

As I’ve grown older, however, I’ve come to be much pickier about what I drink. This is partly a function of my growing awareness that hangovers in adulthood aren’t nearly as much fun as they used to be. I also suffer from  migraines, and – for better or for worse – I can no longer drink anything but beer (and only one at that), unless I want to bring on a bad headache. And, let’s face it. I didn’t want to be another one of those middle-aged women drinking to excess.

But here’s the good news. Now that I’m confined to only one type of alcohol – and very limited quantities therein – I am far choosier when it comes to what kind beer I’m willing to drink.

Here are five “grown up” beers that I can recommend:

1. Kasteel Cru. This is actually a champagne beer – (not to be confused with Miller High Life, the so-called “Champagne of Beers.”) It’s made of champagne yeast that comes from malted barley. I sampled it the other night when my husband and I went out to celebrate our anniversary and we wanted to try something different. It’s got a clean, elegant taste and if you love normal champagne but it doesn’t love you, this is the beer for you. It’s also the ideal alcoholic drink for those of us who can’t decide if we’re really high-brow or low-brow in our tastes.

2. Badger Golden Glory – Admittedly, this sounds like some kind of moonshine you might get from your distant uncle’s farm in Appalachia. But it’s actually a quite refreshing premium ale subtly flavored with a hint of peach. And amazingly enough – despite the peach extract – it doesn’t come off as at all fru-fru. One of my more “manly” guy friends recommended it and I’ve been sold ever since.

3. Corona – Here’s a beer that never goes out of style. When I first began drinking it as an adult, I used to feel horribly guilty – like I’d never quite outgrown that Spring Break in Cancun during my junior year in college. (Yup, been there; done that; got the tee-shirt.) But when it’s like 100 degrees outside and you need a cool pick-me-up, there’s nothing better than a Corona with lime. Click here for easy instructions on how to put the lime into a Corona. If nothing else, you’ll score lots of “cool points” with those who’ve never seen this done before (speaking of not growing out of Spring Break…).

4. Daas Blonde – I love Belgian beer. But this one – which I was recently introduced to via my organic grocer – is a real gem. It’s a premium organic Belgian beer that uses fresh Wallonian spring water, organic wheat and barley and is certified organic by the Belgian and UK Soil associations. Because, really. If you’re going to consume all those calories, you need to know that it’s also good for the planet. But, seriously folks. Delicious.

5. Beer Ice Cream. OK, I haven’t actually tried this one yet. I only learned about it last week when my colleague Joann Weiner talked about it on her post about the unusually relaxing week she spent in Washington, DC and beer ice cream made a cameo. I’ve subsequently learned that beer ice cream has been around the U.K. for seven years now. I’m terribly excited to try it. As someone who loves ice cream *and* beer, I don’t think I’ve been this excited about a twofer since they invented the Fluffernutter sandwich!

Image: Hefe Weizen (Wheat Beer) from DOS82 via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

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Tips For Adulthood: Five Ways To Live Frugally

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

I’ve just moved. One of the things that happens when you move is that you get a chance to reassess your life . You reconnect with your past, you re-imagine your future and you start noticing things about your life that might have passed you by because you hadn’t opened a certain cupboard in four years.

One of the things I’ve noticed is how frugally our family lives in London compared to when we lived in the United States. Some of that has to do with the global economic recession of the past few years, some of it with the exchange rate, and some of it with the exorbitant cost of living in London.

But we’ve also made some smart choices about how to cut costs and I thought I’d share some of those with you today:

1. Don’t buy books. OK, this may sound insane coming from someone who regularly posts about books and reading, but it’s a good piece of advice. Owning a lot of books not only wastes a tremendous amount of space, but you have to ask yourself  how often you actually re-read them. (In my case: almost never.) Books are expensive. The average hardcover book retails for about $26 right now. Whereas in the library, you’ve got loads of choices and they’re all free. So as long as you request them sufficiently in advance, the sky’s the limit to how many books you can read without ever spending a cent. (OK, I’m not counting late fees….)

2. Don’t buy movies. I have a good friend here in London who watches a lot of films. But whenever I recommend one to him, he always says “Great! I’ll go buy it this afternoon!” This friend isn’t loaded and I always wonder why on earth he spends so much money on movies when you can subscribe to something like Netflix (US) or LoveFilm (UK) and see all the movies you like for a low monthly fee. (Or get them at the library for nothing. See above). We own a few films, but most of them are for the kids and almost all have been presents. It just strikes me as a really easy way to cut down your budget without losing out on anything.

3. Make your own coffee. This one is a no-brainer. If you add up all the money you spend on buying coffee out everyday – let’s say you spend $2.50/day on some kind of fancy coffee drink, that adds up really quickly:  $16/week, $74/month, $888 a year to be precise. (This is, by the way, is exactly the sort of logic we used to use when I worked at Chicago Public Radio in order to exhort listeners to donate to our station.) For $800, you can buy a really nice espresso machine these days, and possibly even a grinder to go with it. I’ve gotten to the point where I actually prefer my own coffee to the stuff they sell on the High Street. I can even send you a video on the optimal way to tamp your espresso (free of charge.)

4. Buy second-hand items. For years I resisted this. Part of the reason was that my mother always shopped at vintage clothing stores when I was growing up and for that reason alone, I was hell-bent on not doing it. But now I see her infinite wisdom. And it’s not just clothing. We’ve furnished half of our flat in London with (really nice) second-hand furniture that we’ve acquired from other American families who come here for a few years and then move on. Over the past few years, we’ve chalked up sofas, rugs, waffle makers, night lights, you name it…and all at a really moderate price. I’m a member of a local women’s group that lists such second-hand sales as part of its services. But many schools, churches and other community organizations do this sort of thing regularly. So keep your eyes peeled…there are some real treasures out there and people are often dying to offload them.

5. Do some travel writing. Granted, this one is going to be easier to implement for the journalists and writers out there. But it’s amazing what kinds of deals you can get on hotels and travel arrangements if you agree to do a review. We’ve done a ton of traveling around Europe over the past few years – to places like Helsinki and Vienna and Croatia – and most of it has been possible because I arranged to do a review of the hotel where we were staying. Note: you don’t necessarily have to be a professional writer to score this kind of gig. One site that I write for is mostly just a bunch of mums offering tips for family-friendly travel. And once you’ve done one of these reviews, getting more gigs is a piece of cake. Try it! You *will* like it.

Image: Unphotographable Otto Espresso Machine by CoffeeGeek via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

Cars In Adulthood: Are We Over Them Yet?

I’ve written before on this blog about cycling as the latest sign of maturity and the trend towards eco-friendly cars. (Pay no attention to that runaway Prius behind the curtain…)

Several trends now point to the beginning of the end of car culture in the United States. But are Americans seriously ready to embrace alternatives to automobiles?

Today I’m over on PoliticsDaily.com talking about the end of America’s romance with cars and what it might portend. Have a look…


Image: New Car by Sumlin via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

*****

A few months back, I did a post on why we ought to limit children’s computer time. Here’s an interesting rejoinder to that post in Babble, by a Dad defending his decision to let his son play violent video games.

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Tips For Adulthood: Five Ways To Make A Move Easier

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

I mentioned yesterday that we will soon be moving.

Did I mention how much I absolutely *hate* moving? If I had my fictitious wife, I think I’d put “orchestrate all moves” at the top of her list of duties.

Not everyone feels this way about moving. I think it’s a great example of something where there are just two kinds of people. One friend of mine, for instance, loves to move because it enables her to throw away all the things in her house that annoy her. My husband doesn’t actually mind it either. It gives him an excuse to re-allocate our many gadgets within an entirely new space. (Aha! So the Dustbuster really *can* fit on top of the television! Whaddya know?)

But for me, moving is the very embodiment of hell. So if, like me, you dread moving house, here are five tips to make the process easier:

1. Get boxes beforehand. Lots of them. This sounds obvious but it’s amazing how many boxes you need to carry out even a small move. Fortunately, after all of my work on the PTA soliciting donations from various local businesses, most of the merchants in my neighborhood on a speed-dial relationship with me already. So I don’t foresee a problem obtaining boxes when I need them. But if that weren’t the case, I’d begin collecting now. Buying them from Mailboxes Etc. really adds up. Trust me!

2. Make a Change of Address List. Right now – while you’re thinking about it – sit down and make a list of every possible place that needs to know that you’re moving. Not just obvious places like your kids’ schools and your doctor’s office, but all of your frequent flyer programs, any utility companies who send you a paper bill, your grocery store if you have food delivered, and especially your local voting authority. There are way more than you think.

3. Declutter Now. I’m not a natural de-clutterer. I tend to favor putting things into neatly stacked piles, only to ignore them until said pile topples over under the weight of freshly sorted material. And particularly with this move we’re about to embark on, it looks like we’ll be moving into a considerably larger space. So it’s really tempting to just hang on to that PlayMobil Castle and all its attendant turrets, even though my son hasn’t played with it for years. But that would be a huge mistake. Because there are so many things – clothes, toys, kitchen aids – that we simply don’t use and must go buh-bye. (Unsure of what to toss? Here are 8 specific tips from the decluttering guru, Gretchen Rubin.)

4. Have someone else pack for you. Sadly, we can’t afford to pay someone to pack up for us this time round. But I have done that twice in my life and my husband often comments that those may well have been the two happiest days of my life. (Too bad all I owned at the time was a suitcase, a guitar and a futon, which did take a bit of zing out of the pleasure, it must be said.) But there is *nothing* like having a couple of people whisk into your house and pack up your belongings while you sit there sipping a cup of tea with your feet up.

5. Buy some Xanax. Really, just do it now. You’ll thank me later.

*****

Speaking of moving, Aiden Donnelly Rowley had an interesting post over the weekend on Ivy League Insecurities about what it’s like to sell a house and that bitter-sweet feeling that accompanies the open house. Have a look…

Image: Packed Boxes Upstairs by Arthaye via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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Renting Or Buying: Which Is More Grown Up?

We’re about to move.

We just got notice from our landlord that we have 60 days to vacate our home. And among the many things we’ve had to contemplate on short notice is whether or not we want to continue to rent or go ahead and buy.

I’ll cut to the chase and reveal that it looks like we’re going to be renting our next flat (which – in an act I can only attribute to God or Karma or both – we may have miraculously already found, the very day that we got kicked out!) But for a brief moment over the weekend- 48 hours or so – we thought seriously about buying.

I’ve written before in this space about how I find safety in movement. For me, buying a house falls into a long list of things – jobs…careers…continents – which make me feel trapped, and from which I instinctively flee.

So I was heartened when renowned Yale economist Robert Shiller gave me an out from forcing myself to confront my commitment-phobia in a column that he wrote for the New York Times last week. Shiller points out that the United States government has been subsidizing home ownership for decades. And it has done so largely for cultural reasons:  for many Americans, owning a home is intimately bound up with our notions of citizenship. Home ownership is the very embodiment of individual liberty, whereas renting has been linked (culturally) with the oppression of the landlord.

Shiller wants to suggest that this American attachment to owning a home needs to end. Financial theory tells us that people should diversify their assets, rather than dumping them all in one place (a home). And by encouraging people to take a leveraged position in the real estate market at all costs, mortgage institutions have encouraged this culturally rational – but economically irrational – practice. And we all know where that got us. (Thank you, sub-prime mortgage crisis.) (For an interesting perspective that argues the exact opposite, see this article in Forbes.)

Shiller’s bottom line, then, is that we should re-think the idea of renting because it might make more sense for the majority of Americans. He gives Switzerland as an example of a country that has re-jiggered its housing finance institutions in the direction of rentals without sacrificing national pride.

Shiller isn’t framing it this way, but another way to put what he’s saying is that in the present economic climate, it may actually be more grown-up to rent, rather than to buy. Which is the exact opposite of how we normally think about this issue.

To which I say: Amen. When can I sign the lease?

*****

Yesterday, I was over on PoliticsDaily.com talking about the never-ending War In Iraq and its ongoing political and cultural legacy.Have a look.

Image: For Rent – Reduced??!! by Kelly Sims via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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Adulthood Quiz: What Can You Live Without?

Awhile back, I posted on five household items you can do without, as well as five household items you *can’t* do without. Both posts were inspired by the myriad tchotchkes that pepper our house, courtesy of my gadget-loving husband.

I got to thinking about this very issue once again this weekend on a somewhat grander scale when two things that had gone missing from my life unexpectedly reappeared.

The first was a dishwasher. As I noted when talking about why we all need a wife, my dishwasher died about six weeks ago. Ever since, I’ve been washing dishes for our four-person household by hand. On Friday, the new dishwasher finally arrived and I’ll say it here first:  God, do I love my new dishwasher. Yes, I could have managed just fine without one. But I literally feel *blessed* everytime I place a dish in its new home, rather than piling them up in the sink.

The second thing from a former life which reappeared over the weekend was – oddly enough – a health club. When I first moved to London, I wrote an essay for the Guardian Weekly about how the cost of living was so high in this city that my husband and were forced to become Green by default. It wasn’t so much that we embraced Green living as that we had no choice; overnight, certain things had just become prohibitively expensive. So we gave up those staples of middle-class American life: two cars…a tumble dryer… and our health club memberships. And both of us started exercising outdoors; he cycling and I running.

But this past weekend my son was invited to a birthday party at a health club. While the kids played, the adults got a free workout. I went nuts. I climbed a StairMaster, I used an elliptical trainer, I lifted some weights…heck, I even took a sauna. And I topped it all off with a lovely cappuccino in the adjoining cafe where – posh mama that I am…(not) – I purchased some long overdue yoga gear. In a word: spectacular.

But unlike my new dishwasher, I came away from the whole health club experience thinking that – much as I enjoyed being in a fancy gym for two hours – I’m not sure that it’s something I actually need in my life. I’m actually quite happy just going running. I like the feeling of freedom it affords. I like the odd assortment of people and animals that I encounter along the way (which in my hood’ runs the gamut from Helena Bonham Carter to wild foxes). I like the cold air waking me up as it hits my face. And most of all, I like that it doesn’t cost a penny (pence).

In short, I learned that I could live without a health club.

As we grow older, it’s worth reflecting now and again on what we need in our lives to make us happy and what we can do without.

How about you? What creature comforts could you let go of?

*****

I was absolutely thrilled to get this shout out from the blog This Bird’s Day about my essay “Married to a Metrosexual” in the forthcoming Chicken Soup For The Soul: True Love. It made my day!


Image: day1DSC_0055.jpg by journojen via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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Tips For Adulthood: Five Reasons We All Need A Wife

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

You know when you read something and it really doesn’t resonate right at the moment. But then – I don’t know – an hour later…maybe a day…maybe even a week later you think: “Ah yes! Precisely!”

I had one of those experiences the other day after reading Sandra Tsing Loh’s hilarious and spot-on reaction in the New York Times to the recent Pew Study about marriage, education and income.

Read about it here on PoliticsDaily.com

Image: Sasspony’s Pretty Bra by Hysterical Bertha via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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Signposts of Adulthood: Finding Your "Forever House"

I got a one-line email from a friend the other day. It read: “We’ve found our forever house!” Attached was a photo of a large, stately English country home, with columned entrance and a wrap-around drive.

I was really happy for her. I knew that this was exactly what she wanted. She recently left London with her husband and three children in search of more space, better schools and a better quality of life.

But a tiny voice inside my head asked: “Where’s *my* forever house?”

The truth is, I don’t have one and I’m not sure that I ever will. Unlike most people, for whom home ownership remains a universal aspiration, I’ve never really fantasized about having a dream house.

A lot of that has to do with my own (admittedly odd) psyche. I’ve written before about how I find safety in movement. This means that I actually feel more secure when I know that change is on the horizon, or at least potentially so. It explains why I like to change careers and why I like to change continents (though fortunately – so far, at least – *not* why I like to change husbands.) So committing to anything beyond my family – and especially a place – makes me feel…anxious.

In the extreme, of course, this kind of rootlessness can induce a certain anomie and soullessness. Mike T has a thoughtful review of the new George Clooney movie – Up In The Air – over on his blog A Boat Against The Current. Mike points out that when such mobility becomes a national past time, you get a country full of people who are loyal to plastic (in the form of frequent flyer miles) rather than blood or community.

Quite possibly. In my own case, however,  I prefer to think that I just have a different definition of home than most people do. It’s one that – as Kristen put it so nicely on Motherese awhile back – is rooted more in a state of being than in a place on the map.

Or maybe I just haven’t grown up yet…Gosh, let’s hope not. What on Earth would I blog about?

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Image: Evanston Art Center by beautifulcataya via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

Tips For Adulthood: Five Board Games (Still) Worth Playing

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

This year, for reasons that elude me – nostalgia for my own childhood? getting fed up with video games? – I decided to give my kids a bunch of board games for Hanukkah. And, as the story goes, I’m enjoying them more than they are.

If you’re in the same boat – or have simply forgotten how much fun board games can be – here are five that are worth your while:

1. Monopoly – Yes, it’s nothing more than unadulterated, crass capitalism. And why – in this day and age – would we want to teach our children that? But it’s loads of fun. And particularly for a child who has outgrown Chutes/Snakes and Ladders but isn’t quite ready for the strategy entailed in something like Risk, it’s a great introduction to what a real board game is, replete as it is with choices, consequences and a fun, colorful board. Best of all: kids love it and will happily play for hours.

2. Scrabble – OK, this is another old chestnut. But once your kids have a decent-sized vocabulary, it gets no better than this. I hadn’t played Scrabble in years, but when some friends showed up this summer, we played in teams (with our kids) and stayed up half the night. Plus, a great excuse to use the word poi. (I know I’m always looking for one.)

3. Scrambled States of America – On to the more obscure. Someone gave my son this game as a birthday present a few years back and I filed it under “random.” But then we opened the box and we’ve been playing ever since. It’s basically a really fun way to learn both the geography of the American states, as well as their capitols and nicknames. (Quick Test: What’s the nickname for Nebraska? Answer: The Cornhusker State. See! Aren’t you glad I reminded you?) Perfect for the 7-9 crowd.

4. Once Upon A Time – My mother gave us this one, so I knew it would be a gem. If you have a child who likes telling stories, this is a must. You hand each player 10 cards and they have to come up with a story that links the different people, places and events on their cards. But the other players can interrupt the story – based on their own cards – and take it in an entirely new direction, which you then riff off of when you interrupt them. Together, you jointly make your way to an ending. It’s loads of good, old-fashioned fun. (Remember that?)

5. Settlers of Catan – I can’t say much about this game yet – which we just bought for my about-to-be 9 year old son – other than to note that one of my husband’s colleagues said it was – and I quote – the best game “ever.” Based on this write up in Wired Magazine, I think I’d have to agree. The story behind the game’s invention (as told in Wired) was enough to make me buy it on the spot. Plus, it’s German. So it has to be good, right?

Happy Holidays!

Image: Come quando fiore piove by Auro via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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Tips For Adulthood: Unconventional Gift Ideas For Adults

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

Last week, I offered some suggestions for how to buy holiday gifts for kids. This week, I’m going to tackle adults. The premise here is that you are either broke, bored or utterly stymied and need some fresh ideas. Here goes:

1. Give A Charitable Gift. I’ve posted before about the trend towards un-gifting, or giving someone a charitable donation in lieu of an actual present. This could be as diverse as an animal gift for someone in the developing world or helping to pay down the UK’s national debt. The only addendum I’d tack on here is to always remember that age-old bromide: “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.” I remember one Christmas when my sister decided that we would all get $25 donations to the charity of our choice, but she’d be happy to take the brand new VCR, thank you very much. I’m not *quite* sure that her intended message got through.

2. Throw a White Elephant Party. This one comes courtesy of my colleague Donna Trussell over at PoliticsDaily.com. She recommends throwing a white elephant party, where everyone brings a wrapped gift, and people select one at random. It was at just such a party that she had the best laugh of the last 15 years when a friend of hers unwrapped a large (3-by-5-foot ) framed print of The Blue Boy by Gainsborough. And I quote: “It took five minutes for the room to calm down and move on to the next present.”

3. Give Money Or A Choice Of Gifts. Some people think that it’s really tacky to just give cash but I’m not sure I follow the logic. After all, why waste money on something that the recipient doesn’t want? One of my readers, newly married, was horrified by the plethora of “junk” which flowed to her from her in-laws after the wedding. Her feeling was, “If they insist on buying us gifts, then why don’t they just pay for our tennis classes next summer…buy us play tickets…buy us an experience?” Or – I would add – just give them cash to do any one of those things. Alternatively, if you really groove on the whole present thing, you can also give a choice of gifts. One year my sister-in-law gave my sister the choice between getting a haircut or a frying pan. My sister really appreciated the offer because she really needed a haircut and didn’t need a frying pan. Problem solved.

4. Give an Inbox Stuffer or Nothing At All. I was really intrigued by Huffington Post contributor Pavel Somov’s idea of the “inbox stuffer” as an out-of-the-box gift idea this holiday season. In an information age, he argues, it’s so much more useful (not to mention fun) to expand our loved one’s minds – rather than their cupboards – by sending them a list of our favorite readings. Another writer at the Huffington Post, Dr. Judith Rich, makes a compelling case for giving nothing at all. She recommends substituting the tedium of the gift-giving rat race with a list of alternative activities.

5. When All Else Fails, Give A Pap Smear. Ah! You think I’m kidding, don’t you? See for yourself

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Image: White Elephant 2009 by heyloved c via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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