Monday, April 16, 2018

Things I Like Lately

A sign at Cha Cha Matcha. I've gone an embarrassing number of times recently.

We're finally starting to see some warm weather, though only in fits and starts. This past Saturday was lovely, almost summer-like, but without the humidity. A few of my law school friends and I had a free day to walk around. We went to Nolita for brunch and hung out in Williamsburg. I expect things to be busy until the end of the month, but might have a bit of a lull after that, which will be nice. Here are a few of the smaller things that have been on my mind in recent weeks:

The (Matcha) Latte Factor

Because of the busy period at work, I started to develop a daily coffee habit, though that mostly just meant coffee from the communal pot at work, or from the office K-cups. (I get a  coffee shop latte maybe once or twice a week, and don't consider it a big deal.) More recently, though, I had a sudden craving for matcha lattes, and got one every day for an entire work week. I may anticipate continuing the habit in the near term. People who are trying to be more money-conscious are supposed to watch out for the "latte factor", but it seems like my problem is more the matcha latte factor, ha! 

I started with one from Starbucks which I like, although I'm fully aware their green tea powder is slightly more sugar than matcha. Then I remembered that we had a very trendy shop near us, a branch of Cha Cha Matcha, and I figured I should try it. I actually didn't like their matcha latte, as the milk diluted the matcha so much there wasn't any flavor left. I added sugar just so it would have some taste. Their matcha "cappuccino", with at least a third less milk, maybe closer to half, tasted much better though, with some of the bitterness that matcha is supposed to have, and I don't add sugar then. At least there's a loyalty card, so I'll get a free drink once in a while? 

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In all seriousness I may not feel that bad about this expenditure, even if it's really, really indulgent. I think making matcha properly would be a significant investment because good matcha is expensive (i.e. here or here) and the need for at least a whisk (though I wouldn't expect to spend as much as on this set from Anthropologie, of course). Also, I think having all the accoutrements for matcha latte making at the office would be a bit conspicuously "too much" and weird, and er, take an awkwardly large chunk out of my billable time each day. 

Flat Shoes and Achey Feet

I've worn my new gold shimmer M.Gemi Felize maybe ten times, usually for a full day of work, including my commute, which I think is enough for me to give a fuller assessment. They've done great, were comfortable the first day for a full day at the office, and have held up well. I'd worried that the driving moccasin-style shoe, with rubber stoppers rather than a full sole, would get completely destroyed quickly, given all the walking one does in the city, but it's actually been fine. Only a tiny spot of the sole, right at the edge of the heel of each shoe, has rubbed against the ground and has any signs of wear. (The gold shimmer effect did rub off quick in those two small spots though.) I do walk more cautiously in these shoes than any others I own, and am extremely careful about checking the weather forecast before I wear them out. Still, the shoes are pretty impressive, to be comfortable for an entire day. Compare that to my Cole Haan Tali bow flats, which are great for a half-day of going to meetings or court, but leave my feet with noticeable aches if I try to wear them all day, including on my commute.  

I'm still not super sold on the M.Gemi business model, which relies entirely on frequent, limited-edition releases, because that's just not practical for me. I waited a year or more for leather Felizes to come back, and at the moment, they only really have suede ones again.  They don't release classic colors all that often either.

The Bullet Journal Experiment

I'm quite a few months into using a bullet journal-like system for keeping track of my weekly to-do lists and some longer-term things. By now, I've settled on a weekly layout that I like, after a bit of experimenting. I don't go to any effort to make it especially neat or pretty, and only use black ink, with an occasional thing in blue or red when I'm tracking something and want to visualize progress more easily. I'm happy with the Leuchtturm1917 medium dotted journal I picked, though the cover is starting to show some wear and tear with daily use. 

Now that I'm pretty sure that this is going to be a long term habit, I'm thinking of getting a more durable cover for my notebook, as I think I might start getting annoyed at seeing the increasing wear and tear on the cover over time. There's tons of choices on Etsy, including fun printed fabric ones, though that may be a little too cutesy for my needs. There are also quite a few shops selling leather covers, which should suit better. My favorites so far might be this one from a shop called Uncommon Elephant based in North Carolina, and I also like the purple or blue colors from Balabanoff, a shop based in Ukraine. Finally, I don't think this is the direction I'll go in, but Crazy Organized in Australia does some really cool paint effects on leather covers. 

Anyone else a matcha fiend? The vibe at Cha Cha Matcha is a bit too painfully hip for me (store specifically designed to be Instagram-friendly, and the fancier drinks are expensive and sound fussy and odd), but the matcha cappuccino tastes really good. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

(Wednesday) Link List

Going back to an older photo - hanging out with my sister's dog!

I received some fantastic news recently regarding one of my pro bono matters. We had a far better outcome than I could have dreamed of when we started, and I was so happy! I'd been so worried about this case so many times in the last few months. I generally don't do a very good job "disconnecting" from my cases, and get emotionally invested. It's been fine so far, though I worry about how devastated I would be the first time one of my cases turned out poorly.

I'm experimenting with posting link list posts whenever I have one ready, rather than only on Fridays. It would still only happen once a week at most, I think, as I'm not able to blog that frequently. I think I've been finding my previous self-imposed "Friday Link List" and "Sunday Reading" concepts a bit more formal and restrictive than needed, given that it isn't realistic for me to make either feature a weekly thing, and I prefer flexibility.

1. // This is sort of random, but I enjoyed this Racked article about Victorian mourning dress, in particular a type of fabric called mourning crape. There's also this older Jezebel piece about Victorian mourning dress.

2. // Anyone else a fan of Grey's Anatomy back in the day? I loved seasons one and two, though stopped watching around season three before revisiting the series years later and racing through all of what was available on Netflix at the time. The series was always a bit too dramatic to be plausible, but I really love the Cristina character and her friendship with Meredith.

There's a good recent interview with Sandra Oh, which touches on, among other topics, how racism has affected her career. She discusses how, when her agent called about the offer to play one of the two leading roles in the new BBC America show Killing Eve, she just couldn't believe it:
In that moment, I did not assume the offer was for Eve. I think about that moment a lot. Of just going, how deep have I internalized this? [So] many years of being seen [a certain way], it deeply, deeply, deeply affects us. It’s like, how does racism define your work? Oh my goodness, I didn’t even assume when being offered something that I would be one of the central storytellers. Why? And this is me talking, right? After being told to see things a certain way for decades, you realize, “Oh my god! They brainwashed me!” I was brainwashed! So that was a revelation to me.
Anyway, it's probably not a surprise that I spend a lot of time thinking about Asian American representation. There's more in the interview too. 

3. // A few blog links: Happy one-year blogiversary to Luxe! She always writes really great, thoughtful content, so I'm glad I discovered her blog. YAPFB wrote about some good, helpful lessons she learned in her job, and that she hopes to pass on. I see them as lessons that are applicable to many industries, including law (though alas, for a junior biglaw associate, applying things like boundary-setting to protect your own health and well-being may be complicated, given firm hierarchies and the expectations of the industry). Talia's shower renovation turned out beautifully!

4. // A few discussions to highlight: I was grateful for all the tee recommendations. Because the weather is still quite cold, I haven't gotten around to shopping yet, but I'll refer back to the recommendations when I'm ready! Also, I really appreciated the discussion about whether to hire someone to clean, and seeing how everyone approaches this question differently. It seems like such a small, mundane question, and one that should be easily resolved (and indeed, if K and I were both working truly long hours, we'd just go for it already), but there's actually a lot that goes into it sometimes.

Please note that this post contains affiliate links that could result in a commission, typically a few cents, for me if you click. Thank you for your support!

5. // Also from Racked, though it's been covered everywhere else at this point, there is some drama going down at Deciem, the company behind The Ordinary brand skincare products, mostly thanks to its CEO, who seems to be... going through some things. I'd been intrigued by The Ordinary's products for a long time because of their modest pricing combined with their focus on scientifically proven ingredients, though I've been unable to try them because I was following my dermatologist's instructions, which included a directive to stick to a very minimal for me skincare routine. With all the drama, I'm more reluctant to try anything from The Ordinary. 

6. // Finally, I've done a bit of window shopping recently, and I noticed that a few of the Ted Baker long wrap coats, like the one I bought last year (similar, on sale but only left in one size), are on sale. There's a burgundy one in a a textured 100% wool rather than the smoother-textured wool/cashmere/synthetic blend of my coat. There's also a few other coats in their more standard blend, including a gray one with a pink contrast lining.

I was really intrigued by this Uniqlo two-way tuck design tee, as the gathered knot detail seems identical to the one on my favorite shell for  under my suits, a very old cream-colored Ann Taylor top that's pictured in my post about interview clothing. Because I'm quite busty, not a lot of tops I wear under suits look that great (the proportions are odd when tucked in to a pencil skirt), but that sort of v-neck effect anchored by the gathered knot makes the neckline hit in the exact right place to be fully covered-up, but still flattering. Of course, my Ann Taylor top is a completely different material - two layers of polyester, meant for work - while the Uniqlo top seems to be a single layer of cotton-modal tee material, so it's very likely not to look at all similar. I might be tempted to try it anyway, on the off chance it has that same magical effect.

Any thoughts about The Ordinary drama? Anyone else as fond of Cristina Yang as I am? I don't like the recent seasons of Grey's Anatomy as much, but Ellen Pompeo and Shonda Rhimes have really accomplished something impressive with how long the show's been on the air! 

Monday, April 9, 2018

Money Diary: Not an Entirely Typical Week, Part 2

via New York Times Cooking

And now for Part 2 of the Money Diary I started last week, covering a not so typical week. While much of my spending this week was routine, such that this diary gives a pretty good snapshot of my  daily life, there were also a few things that don't commonly happen, such as my getting inspired to bake, which required lots of new supplies. 


I get a latte at Starbucks on my way to work, for $5.17. I have a soft spot for lattes, though I try to keep it under control, and it's definitely not an every morning habit. In more stressful weeks, though, I might end up going as much as three times. I use the Starbucks app, and occasionally get a free drink, though it takes a while to accumulate the "stars" required. 

Today is more interesting because a few of my recurring expenses are being paid. The first is $81.14 for one of my student loans, an institutional loan from undergrad (very small, 5% interest as opposed to ~7.2% for my graduate student loans, and it was part of a generous need-based financial aid package mostly comprised of grants). This is my only autopay bill. I normally prefer to feel more "active" in managing my money, even if that means logging in to pay different student loans three to five times a month. With this loan, however, the servicer's website is a pain, so autopay it is. I've since refinanced my loans at an interest rate of 2.6%, so now I log in to just one place to make payments. Previously, my loans accrued ~$990 interest a month (yikes!), but it's a lot less now. 

The second thing is maybe a bit odd. I've mentioned that my Taiwanese-American family does money differently sometimes. I'm prepared to, someday, help support my parents financially to whatever extent is needed, just as they were extremely generous in helping me to the best of their ability (and often a little beyond their financial means) throughout my education. For now though, even as I make significantly more than both parents combined, my mom still tries to take care of me (red envelopes, generous birthday gifts, paying for meals when I visit, and covering the cell phone family plan). That, er, probably doesn't sound good, but I swear, it will be repaid. At the moment, I send her $60.00 per paycheck, twice a month. It's a small amount, more symbolic than anything else. My mom has said she saves it in a separate account and thinks of it as money for travelling someday soon, as she's never had the chance to go to Europe, among other places. (We're planning to take a trip together with my sister soon, sometime in the next fourteen months or so, and I also plan to cover mom's share directly rather than have her dip into those savings.)

Lunch is my usual kale caesar at Sweetgreen for $11.05. I head home on the earlier side, and pick up dinner from Chipotle, a chicken salad for $9.42. One of the more noticeable bits of lifestyle inflation since I started working is that I often get guacamole with my Chipotle orders now (the height of luxury!), but not today. 

For my Friday and Saturday spending, please follow the link below.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Money Diary: Not an Entirely Typical Week, Part 1

Sweetgreen kale caesar, my usual weekday lunch!

As I mention somewhat frequently, I'm fascinated by the Refinery29 Money Diaries format and the heated discussions it generates. I've thought about writing my own here, but it's always felt like too much of a production. I make a lot of choices that sound extravagant, so I worry about how people would react. Plus, past biglaw money diaries tended to be more unpopular than average. It was only after I saw Man Repeller's Money Diaries (thanks to Luxe's link), which are more relaxed and more narrowly focused on the week's spending, generally omitting monthly details that hint at the writer's larger financial situation, that I was struck with fresh inspiration.

Please note that this post contains affiliate links that could result in a commission, typically a few cents, for me if you click. Thank you for your support!

This week turned out to be a good one for illustrating many things about how I do money, both now and in the past, when one of my main spending vices, a way that money regularly disappeared without bringing much utility, was shopping on Amazon for an excess of home goods and supplies for new hobbies I often didn't end up sticking with. I don't think that's exactly what happened this week, but it gives a good illustration of what I meant. 


Starting with this particular Sunday might understate my typical weekend spending. On Saturday, I went out to dinner and took a cab, but was a homebody today. We have breakfast at home, bacon and eggs, and it's almost noon when we're done. I walk to Fairway for groceries. Trader Joe's is just as close and significantly cheaper, but on Sundays it's much too crowded after 10:00 AM. I buy some salmon (pricey, nearly $20 for ~1.6 lbs! at TJ's I'd have gotten ~1 lb for $12) and broccoli for dinner. I wanted less salmon, but some of the stock didn't look as fresh, and the best combination I could get was two pieces totaling  ~1.6 lbs. I also grab some other items (cheese sticks, coffee creamer for K, yogurt for myself, not much else) for a total bill of $41.37. NYC grocery expenses are killer.

K and I split utilities, household goods, and groceries for shared meals more or less 50/50 (hence the "Actually ~$112" above). We "net it out" at the end of the month and whoever owes the other, if any, does a bank transfer. K's paid the utilities on our behalf, while I bought household goods (like the $5.89 Kleenex subscription from Target) and more groceries. We don't go line by line and split all shared groceries though, just pricier items like the salmon, because sometimes, maybe 20% of the time, K does the shopping instead and doesn't keep track for netting out, so I don't track the smaller items I get either, and assume it all evens out. It's a little weird, but it just evolved this way and works for us. We're not sweating the small stuff, actually, though our method might make it seem like we do! Today, we've finally decided to get a bigger vacuum than the Dirt Devil Scorpion handheld we've used for years. K orders it, and I send him my half right away, $81.65, because it was pricey.

As for shared Seamless orders, we take turns paying. Some restaurants are more expensive, but it all evens out in the end. (We order together frequently, at least once a week, often more.) Today's lunch is K's turn, and it's sushi from our go-to place. My two-roll lunch special (salmon avocado and eel avocado) with miso soup costs about $16.00 including tax and my half of a ~$6.00 tip. We're having a quiet day at home, and K does a fair bit of work from home. We each make time for a workout, mostly using a folding stationary bike we keep in the apartment (which has proven to be a great purchase over the two years we've had it).

This is the first thing I'd be judged heavily for on Refinery29 (and it deserves judgment on  both environmentalism and frugality grounds), but we're also getting a Blue Apron delivery. It arrives in the afternoon. It's normally $51.95 for two meals for two, or ~$12.98 per meal per person, including shipping, but today was free with a friend's referral code. We've found that our schedules are too unpredictable to buy groceries and plan meals for weekday dinners, and we're hoping to reduce our reliance on Seamless. I've occasionally written about trying to meal prep and batch cook, but it hasn't worked out so far. I cook salmon and broccoli tonight, saving the Blue Apron meals for Monday and Tuesday. There's enough left over for one of us to eat the rest for a weekday meal.

For my spending on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, please follow the link below!

Monday, April 2, 2018

On House Cleaning and Sometimes Living Like a Student

via

Because of the gigantic student loan balances we graduated with (and the yet to be determined extent of our financial obligations to our parents and extended family in the future), K and I still live like students in some ways.  Our apartment is furnished almost entirely by IKEA. We are extremely slow and frugal in buying home essentials like a new vacuum cleaner (while my ancient handheld Dirt Devil Scorpion [affiliate link] is still powerful enough to keep a small NYC one bedroom apartment clean, we're starting to feel too creaky to keep bending over or crouching to use it) or new cutting boards (I waited two years after our old set started warping to pick a new one [affiliate link] - the key is to use food-grade mineral oil [affiliate link] for maintenance). We don't pay much for our entertainment, and rarely go to movies, concerts, shows, or bars (in part because of lack of time and energy). We also, don't, er, clean as often as responsible adults probably should.  

Every time we've had visitors blunt enough to express their opinion about our cleaning, i.e. immediate family members, they've expressed distaste, if not outright horror. Both our moms (who raised us mostly frugal) separately and cheerfully observed, as one of their first comments about our new home, that we made more than enough to hire someone to come in and clean on a regular basis. My younger sister (who had never been the responsible one with chores when we were growing up) bluntly said that we were gross. And we, er, actually did clean before each of those visits. 

All of that is an incredibly roundabout way of getting to the point. We're the exact people who probably should just hire someone to clean our apartment and be done with it, though I'm still struggling with that decision. If we hire someone, it will likely cost about $120 a session, and we'd tip another $20 on top, about once a month. This really should be worth it to us, as we're lucky to earn well, student loans or no, and we both work so much and get so mentally exhausted that there's many a weekday evening or weekend where the effort of buying groceries and cooking a meal is too much, never mind cleaning the kitchen or bathroom for real. Also, we seem to lack the cleaning products and know-how to actually get our bathroom completely clean - the white tile floors and shower walls just will. not. be. restored. to their original state. That may reflect an embarrassing lack of crucial life skills on both our parts. 

Except on those less often than once a month times when either K or I gets the energy up to a "big clean" alone or together, it never actually takes us long. There really aren't that many spaces and surfaces to clean, actually (partially a product of the small space and our slightly too-big IKEA furniture), and most of it isn't too difficult, except the aforementioned bathroom, for which none of our efforts are ever adequate. So hiring someone might not actually be worth it to us. 

Somewhat miraculously, It's also never been the cause of any relationship tension, because our habits and preferences for cleanliness have proven remarkably compatible, with no great effort on our parts. It takes a long time for the apartment to get to a state where either of us are annoyed by mess, and when we do, for both of us, our natural response is to roll up our own sleeves and clean. Despite our unpredictable and hectic working schedules, we've ended up with a fair arrangement, completely without talking about it. The vast majority of the time, he's the one who proactively takes on the "big clean" sessions and I chip in only a bit, if anything, while I'm generally the one to handle the smaller, day-to-day tasks a few times a week, i.e. taking out the garbage and recycling, wiping down the counters, and loading and unloading the dishwasher.  (We each do our own laundry and would not have that any other way, and when I cook, he cleans, or vice versa.) I tend to handle the lion's share of grocery shopping, often at times when K's busy with work, and making sure household supplies are replenished (we split the cost, but I handle the inventory management, if you will). 

Do you hire someone to come in and clean? Was it a difficult decision? I suspect that, if we had a bigger living space, it would be a no-brainer, but with our current apartment it just doesn't make much sense. It takes about two hours max for one of us  to complete one of those "big cleans", a little less if the other person helps, though that amount of work from us has imperfect results, as I've mentioned. Hopefully, we don't come across as being a gross and messy couple! I really do think our moms and my sister were exaggerating a bit.