A Weekend Experiment in Hybrid Living

I have always driven old, foreign cars. I’ve gone from a gas guzzling Volvo to a glorified Honda wind-up toy. I’m currently driving a 15 year-old BMW that I bought for its automatic windows last year. Clearly, the idea of having a new car is somewhat…well…foreign to me.

So, when Ford recently reached out to offer me a new car for the week, I decided to see what a new, American car had to offer. Being the Discountess, I requested a hybrid to see what all the hubbub was about. Plus, I wanted to make that free tank of gas last all week (and last it did!)

Now, when someone offers you a spanking new (and bright blue, I might add) C-Max for the week, it’s only natural to take a road trip. So last weekend, some friends and I tested out the open roads in my new car. Meet the “boo berry,” our sweet ride.

photo 1

The purchasing budget for the weekend was $200. Our destination – the new and improved J. Crew outlet. The new location is twice the size, and therefore has twice the deals. Yes, please! We used the Sirius satellite radio to pump ourselves up for the savings.

photo 2

 

The new store was even bigger and better than I had imagined.

crew

 

Yet, we each managed to stick to our respective budgets (total miracle). Here’s all of our loot.

 

 

photo 4

 

I got a dress, two skirts, a bracelet, a silk blouse, and a pair of pants for $148.36, approximately $52 under budget. Wahoo! I decided to use that $52 of savings to buy my groceries for the week on the way home. There is a Wegman’s right before you get on to 66, so we pulled in to check it out.

wegmans

Wegman’s is like an amusement park for people who love the grocery store (and I LOVE the grocery store). You could get lost in there, seriously. Somehow, I managed to keep it in check, and I walked out with $47 worth of groceries for the week.

Weekend expenditures:
Clothes: $148.36
Groceries: $47.00
Gas: $0 (!!)

Total: $195.36. Not bad if I do say so myself.

And, the best part is that I arrived home, after putting 400+ miles on the car, with just over a quarter tank of gas. That’s some pretty awesome gas mileage. I’m not in the market for a new car now, but I will say that driving this car made a pretty convincing argument for buying a hybrid when it’s time.

Sadly, I had to say goodbye to the boo berry last week, but we’ll always have our road trip memories together…

 

Destination: Frederick, Maryland

Last weekend, I went with my friend Mary to pick up some furniture she bought in Frederick, Maryland. Aside from a wedding shower a million years ago, I have never really been to Frederick, and frankly never thought I wanted to. I didn’t really know what to expect, but what we found was a cute little town filled with antiques shops and boutiques.

Our first stop when getting to town was Emporium Antiques on East Patrick Street.

This place was amazing. Ah-MA-zing. It’s the kind of place where you can pick up a dining room table, vintage fascinator, a tea-pot, and dress form all at once. There was one table that was filled to brim with silver plate forks and spoons. No joke.

I could have spent HOURS in there.  Basically, it’s heaven. I did manage to make one small purchase. I have been looking for a small foot stool for my living room for a while, so when I came across this bad boy I knew it had to come home with me.

stool

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m going to have it recovered eventually, but I’m going to have to wait for the next paycheck for that one. Recovering furniture is not Discountess-friendly.

Anyway, after Mary dragged me out of Emporium Antiques, we went down the street to this cute shop called Silk and Burlap. She had some adorable lemon yellow garden chairs there waiting for her, and this was waiting for me (sadly, it’s still waiting there cause I had no business spending $350 on a dress – boo). I would have been better served to pick up a more wallet friendly option at the neighboring, Chic to Chic, consignment shop, but we didn’t have time to go. That is definitely on the list for next time!

If you’re looking for a some additional info on what to see and do in Frederick, Washingtonian did a good write up last year. We had to cut our visit short since duty was calling back in DC, but I’m definitely planning another trip out this summer. Hopefully, one that will end with a meal here. (I love me some Top Chef!)

Any other stops that I should make when I head out there? Send them my way!

 

The Top 5 Things I Learned While Vacationing in St. John

So finally I get around to my St. John vacation recap. Better late than never, no?? We had a fabulous time, though it is not hard to have a wonderful time when you are swimming in crystal clear water off white sandy beaches. Don’t believe me? See below.

beach

 

Here are the top five things I learned while vacationing in St. John:

1. Vacationing in the Caribbean is not nearly as expensive if you rent a condo. We opted to stay in a small condo community near Cruz Bay. We had a small kitchen that was great for making breakfast and lunch. We hit the grocery store for basics which allowed us to splurge on dinner out most evenings. There were some great restaurants (including this one and this one), but this one was our favorite. Check out the fried fish plate that we got on our last night. Needless to say, we went to this place twice.

friedfish

2. Tour guides can show you a whole different island. We were lucky enough to have our cousin, Frank, and his wonderful wife, Mickey, who managed the B&B across from our condo. In addition to helping us find our way around, our fabulous cousins helped us navigate the island, showing us some of its history and some awesome lesser-known beaches along the way.  We also got to go to lunch at this little gem of a restaurant, which we never would have found on our own. If you go, I highly recommend the grouper reuben.

3. In the Caribbean, goats are domesticated, everyone has a rooster, and iguanas are like island squirrels. Seriously, I have never seen so much farm-life roaming around on paved roads. Goats and chickens were all over the place! It wasn’t a problem for most of the trip until a rooster set up shop outside our place the night before we had to catch the 6am ferry home. Ick. Iguanas were everywhere too. We saw 5 in one tree one night at dinner. 5! This is one that I caught hanging out on the path when were walking into town one night. If you want to see really unique wildlife, you need to look underwater.

iguana

4. Snorkeling on your own is overrated, go with someone who knows what they’re doing. I was a disastrous snorkeler, and my mom was no better. We did try, so I guess that’s something. For my part, I floated around for a while, not seeing much, when all of a sudden a HUGE snapping sea turtle crept up on me. It was so scary! (I later found out that sea turtles don’t snap, in fact, they are vegetarians. How was I supposed to know??) In the meantime, mom kept coming up for air, not seeing me, and began worrying that I had drowned. Guess she didn’t have much faith in those swimming lessons she got me! We returned our equipment after only a day (thankfully it was only $8/day to rent), and tried snorkeling Discountess-style the next day. Basically, we stood really still  in the water and looked down for long periods of time. Despite looking like buffoons, we did manage to see an octopus, (snapping) sea turtles, silver fish, sea urchins and more! If I try it again, I want to go with someone who knows what to look for (and what will bite you). I think I’d have more fun that way.

5. Don’t even THINK about renting a moped. When heading to a Caribbean vacation, people often dream of renting a moped and scooting around the island each day. Well, not in St. John. In addition to the fact that you’re driving on the wrong side of the road, the entire island is covered in mountains. Really, really steep mountains. So steep in fact that I spent most of the time in the car with my eyes closed, softly singing to myself. You think I’m crazy, but you try speeding up a switch back with lunatic drivers whizzing past you on the wrong side of the road. I think you’ll change your mind.

All in all a fabulous trip. If you’re looking for a Caribbean destination for your next vacation, I highly recommend it!

 

Packing for Paradise

T-minus 48 hours until I take off for my Caribbean vacation. And. I. Can. Not. Wait. I’m so excited to go that I’m already thinking about what to bring. This is a big deal for me, because while I love to travel, I hate to pack. I end up bringing everything under the sun, and throw in a sweater at the last minute for good measure.

This time, I’m trying to take a different approach, by getting organized and packing light. Our flight goes through Miami, and we only have an hour layover on the way there. I don’t want to check a bag because a) I don’t trust the airlines to not miss the connection with such a small window of time and b) they charge you $25 to check a bag in the first place.  For these reasons, I will be taking a carry on, and putting that $25 toward a massage on the island. Yesssssss!

Anyway, I was searching Pinterest for packing ideas, and I came across this handy-dandy packing chart from Doe and Thistle. According to my cousin (who also happens to live on the island), St. John is a very casual place. He said all you need is shorts, tops, and bathing suits, so this list is right on the mark.

I’m going to attempt to replicate this for my 6 day beach vacation (minus the cocktail dress). Other things I will not be bringing include a hair dryer, anything made of wool, and an umbrella because it’s not going to rain. Period.

Any other travel light tips for me? I can use all the help I can get!

California Bound!

I head out to California today for a bachelorette showdown for my bestie from high school. I’m flying into L.A., and then we’re driving to Montecito for the weekend for a little wine tasting (also known as my reprieve from “no booze” month).

I’m hoping that I can keep up my good saving behavior while I’m there. So far, I’m on the right track. Bought my ticket with miles, got snacks for the plane, have the kindle loaded up with good books (so as not to buy anything at the bookstore when I get there), etc. I think I’m all set.

My one potential stumbling block – the bachelorette has made a special request to stop at the outlets on the way to Montecito. I mean, it is HER weekend after all. It would be selfish to stand in her way, right?

I will do my best to behave myself while there, but if you took a look at the list, you know as well as I do that it’s going to be hard. The good news is that I WAY overpacked, so I have nowhere to put a ton of new clothes. A blessing in disguise? Perhaps.

Wish me luck!

 

Not-so budget vacation

Just returned from a fabulous long weekend visiting a good friend and her fiance in L.A. I was worried about maintaining my Discountess-ness while there, and it turns out I was right to stress. Here’s my current state of affairs:

1. Shopping budget – blown. Even with the money I saved from not heating or ACing my house this month, it’s all gone.

2. Food and Drink Budget – teetering on the brink. I have about $60 left, which anyone in DC will tell you is about 3 glasses of wine until the end of the month. Sad.

3. Transportation budget – blown. That included a $40 parking stint at Dulles airport, which was the cheapest option I might add!

The good news is that I had an awesome time. My friends and I cruised Manhattan Beach and saw all the surfers. I scored this awesome pair of earrings at a local boutique called BLVD. See below.

 

 

 

We also went to this adorable bookstore (like, the old-fashioned kind that has real books and is not hosted online). And, my life will be forever changed by the discount fish tacos at this place!

I’m deeming this a cultural/vacation success, but a budgetary failure. I have 6 more days in the month, but they include a visiting friend this weekend, a Halloween party (costume needed!), and two outings for drinks with friends. We’ll see if my bank account makes it.

 

Vegas Bound!

I’m in luck this week. I’m headed to Las Vegas for a work event through Friday. This trip is especially timely since, in an effort to stretch out my sad $200 budget, I haven’t been able to go to the grocery store for two weeks. Pros of my Vegas trip include the following:

1. Staying here.

2. Free Food (and wine for three days).

3. The weather.

Cons include being in close proximity to this, this, and this – not to mention the roulette table. We’ll see how I do…