Sunday, February 24, 2013

Lobsters Are A Girl's Best Friend

For those of you reading this blog that don't know me well you must understand that I love lobsters and all things Maine, our home state. (Fingers crossed there's at least ONE of you out there that isn't our family or close friends!) If I'm being totally honest, I don't just love lobsters, I LOVE lobsters. Some people might say it's an obsession. I will ignore those people. I have a lobster T-shirt, lobster PJ shorts, lobster PJ pants, a lobster hat, lobster art work, the list goes on. Okay, fine, maybe those people are right. But regardless, I promise that if you come to our house, you can't really tell. It's not like I have a bathroom entirely decorated in lobsters. Or lighthouses. Or anything like that.

Unfortunately, although Nate tolerates my crazy, he does not tolerate eating lobsters. But lucky for me, my best friend Mary from Adventures in Kindergarten feels the same way about lobsters as I do: our hearts yearn for them! So naturally, when I saw a Groupon for a lobster dinner for two for $30 at Dolphin Seafood Restaurant & Bar I had to snap it up and invite Mary. REAL lobsters in the dead of winter are a rare find so it was exciting AND cheap.

We finally had a chance to use our Groupon last week, after snowstorms, ear surgeries, and general school madness tried to prevent us from enjoying our crustaceans. It's hard to describe this place because at first you think it's pretty nice, and it does have a good atmosphere and beautiful fireplace.  But then when you look closer, there are some strange decor elements, like faux rock tiles made from stickers? And strange "wave" dividers between the bar? Basically, it was perfect.

We got to start with a shrimp appetizer and then we each got a lobster with two sides. The lobster was of course delicious and provided us with a serious workout. Those suckers were the hardest hard shells I have ever had. Ever. I'm not kidding. Like trying to break rocks. I really could have used a mallet to break the claws. Here's a picture of Mary's beauty. (I should have taken a picture of the table as well. Whoever thought linen tablecloths in a seafood restaurant was a good idea must have been nuts).

Since it took us so long to eat, their Sunday night trivia started so we played for a while: bonus! We held our own for some time, but trivia is really not a two person game. And we didn't have Nate to scream at us to stay focused so eventually we gave up. Oh well, we were really there for the love of lobsters... and the affair continues...

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Got Free Lunch?

We all know the old saying, "There's no such thing as a free lunch", right? Well, I am here to tell you that this, and potentially many other colloquialisms your grandparents threw at you, are in fact 100% false. Some caveats apply here as I am not simply advocating you start beating up school kids for lunch money and am certainly against the practice of dine and dash. First, with my method your proximity to a college campus and other large public building is critical to success. Secondly, while these lunches can be yours 100% free, depending on how your moral compass is calibrated, you may need to invest some of your time in order to secure these glorious free lunches.

So, how does this work you must be asking yourself? Good question, you brilliant reader of our blog. Here's how. On college campuses across America every single day, student organizations, research programs, professors and other related groups are constantly trying to promote their research, agendas and ideas to interested parties. Typically (but not always), these take the form of lunch talks, where someone pontificates in front of a supposedly interested audience about whatever topic gets their motor running and your attendance is bought with promises of free lunch. It's a sound strategy since it's a well known fact that college students are constantly starving and will do anything for free food, including listen to your lecture.

This is where I have taken things to a whole new level. Instead of simply participating in the unstated quid pro quo of free food for lecture attendance, I have begun to game the system. If all you seek is a free meal, then listen up and here is how you can eat like a king with no monetary and minimal time investment.

Phase One: Acquire Targets
First, find the nearest colleges, universities, or public libraries to where you'll generally be during lunch time as this will (literally!) be your feeding ground. All of these places have well publicized events calendars which will give you a road map to all your free food options (for example here is the Harvard Law School event calendar). Looking at today's calendar, there were 4 different events starting at 12pm and this brings us to phase two.

Phase Two: Don't Settle for Hamburger When You Could Have Steak
On almost any given weekday, there will be competing lunch events trying to lure in hungry and potentially engaged audience members. Use this to your dining advantage and make it a point of showing up 10-15 minutes early for these events to scout the food. That is generally when they'll have things delivered anyway to ensure the event can run on time. If door number one is pizza yet again, door number two may be burritos, or door number three may be something even better, like catered BBQ. Never settle for uninspiring free lunch food if you don't have to. You could also choose to differentiate competing lunches by topic of interest, but I already said we weren't sticking around to hear the lecture, so who cares what the topics are?

Phase Three: Attack and Disperse
Once you've selected the food spread you'll be pillaging, make sure to load up your plate with enough food to satisfy your appetite, but not so much as to draw undue attention to yourself. Nothing will draw the ire of event planners more than someone being overly greedy with the food, especially before the event even starts, and that makes the anonymous exit a lot more difficult. Be reasonable, be decisive and then head to the back of the room with your haul. After you've gotten your food, just pause for a second to make sure no one is trying to engage you in conversation or get you to sign up for their damn e-mail list and quietly slip out the door to enjoy your lunch in peace.

You have now successfully had your pick of free lunches and if you've outlined your battle plan properly and executed the phases perfectly the whole operation should take 10 minutes or less.

Pro Level Tip:
If you are still hungry or just want to stock up on non-perishable items that may have been present, circle back to the event right after it's scheduled to end. If you are lucky, there will be some leftovers and you can scoop those up to bring with you to stockpile. My drawer full of potato chips and fridge full of sodas say hello!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Kicking Butt & Taking Savings

As January came to a close, I thought it might be a good idea to look back over the month's finances and see if this whole saving money thing was actually working. I will save you the boring details of how I went back to each of our credit card statements and totalled up all the food costs for each month back to September. Well, I'll save you most of the boring details...

Anywho, for our purposes here (so people will still read the blog!) I'm just going to stick with a one month comparison: December. In December, we spent $477.47 on dining out. And by that I mean all food and drink purchased outside of grocery shopping. DO YOU SEE THAT NUMBER?! You don't even want to know about November. Or October. Or September. Suffice it to say that we seriously needed that resolution. Suffice it to also say that I was a tad bit seriously nervous to calculate January. I mean, it felt like we were doing a good job, but it also feels like we don't watch too much TV and eat healthy (ha!) 


This is where an HGTV show would cut to commercial.

Good thing we haven't gotten picked up for a show... yet. Alright, enough drama and stalling. I'm proud to report that our January dining out spending was just $109.58! DO YOU SEE THAT NUMBER?!! We. Are. So. Awesome. And rich. Or at least not poor. Basically, the lesson here is that we are dominating this resolution and with all the hundreds of dollars we're saving each month we'll have a house in decades years!