Thursday, May 23, 2019

Changing my Mind: On Trench Coats

I've debuted a new page, "Shop the Sales", accessible from the navigation bar at the top of my blog. Inspired in part by how Kathy and Luxe share sales, I've decided to maintain a page for sale finds that are related to things I have purchased before, or that I have seriously considered purchasing at some point in the past. I'll keep updating the widget over time, generally at least once a week, based on new sale finds and/or to remove outdated listings. I'll occasionally flag certain sale highlights in new posts. 

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!

Current sale highlights include Matches Fashion and Net-A-Porter's discounting that APC Clare dress I mentioned a while back, which, between the two sites, is on sale in almost its entire size range. SSENSE is also doing a big sale that includes a number of Alighieri pieces, including coin necklaces like the Il Leone and the Kindred Souls. I don't think I'll be shopping for jewelry anytime soon, but I was sorely tempted by the Flashback and Trace of a Tear necklaces. 


Looking back over the years, my feelings about trench coats as a wardrobe staple for myself have gone through a few reversals. In the beginning, I was quite skeptical, mainly because of weather patterns here in NYC. As I complain often, we generally get only the briefest flashes of balmy spring or fall weather, sometimes just one or two lovely days that truly feel like a comfortable spring or fall, before the harsher temperatures of summer or winter quickly start setting in, leaving us with as little as two or three weeks of reliably trench coat-friendly temperatures each season. 

But then I got my current trench coat, the Everlane Classic Trench (discontinued, current version with a few design changes), and it really grew on me. It's still a big part of my wardrobe today, in any time of year that's a suitable temperature for it. Currently, the Everlane trench continues to be my only jacket or coat that's particularly well-suited for those all too brief weeks of in-between temperatures around spring or fall. The next best candidates in my wardrobe, that J.Crew collared Sophie sweater blazer or those collarless Juliette sweater blazers, don't block the wind on the cooler days in that range, and are also a bit too thick and heavy for the warmer, sunnier days.

I even liked my new trench coat so much, that, when I thought about my vague hopes to someday splurge on a fancy designer purchase, once I felt like I'd earned it, I no longer wanted a handbag (though that's mostly for lack of seeing any bag design I liked enough). I started wanting one of those classic Burberry trench coats instead. Those coats really are extremely, almost unthinkably, fancy by my standards, whether it's the mid-length Sandringham or Westminster, or the longer-length Kensington, all of which are $1795-plus at full retail, several multiples over the next most-expensive single piece of clothing I've ever purchased for myself (specifically, the Ted Baker midi-length wrap coat, at ~$418 when I bought it on sale). Nor have I ever tried one of the Burberry coats in person. I suspect it'd be hard to find a good size for me, maybe enough that I wouldn't be able to bring myself to buy it after all, because I've heard that they all have a super-slim fit through the chest.

More recently, though, as I've started finding that I only wear my Everlane Trench coat open and unfastened these days (partially because it's been fairly warm for spring, and also because the waist tie has always been fiddly, it regularly slips down my waist on its own, or even unties itself if I've only tied a single knot, and the belt is just barely long enough to tie a bow), my tastes in trench coats have shifted again, towards less traditional, less structured trench coats that omit some of the classic design elements. The trench coats I'm thinking about now are often made of softer, more flowy-looking and drapey materials, many of them without any buttons at all. With those features, I think they could look a bit more "intentional" when worn open. For instance, in the photo above are two colors of the same Club Monaco Claudine trench on the left and right, the blue is also available at Shopbop. The middle one is a possibly misnamed Mango "classic trench with bows" that doesn't appear to have any bows anywhere.

Given that I've only suddenly become interested in this general look in the last two weeks or so, I think I may actually be far behind the curve when it comes to this particular trend. I can't find all that many coats with this look in stores right now, in colors that I like, and I remember that it might have been easier to find similar coats a year or two ago!

And well, maybe by writing a whole post about these less traditional trench coats, and pinning a bunch to my Pinterest wishlist, I'll find that this whole thing is a passing fancy that I forget about in short order. In any case, the spring season for wearing coats like this is fast coming to a close in NYC, it'll almost certainly be completely over in the next two or three weeks. Also, I suspect this is a fairly trendy look that might not age well. Even so, I also think I'd enjoy wearing this type of coat because it feels more relaxed and a bit less structured or fussy than the classic trench coat look. (Recall how eagerly I sought out "almost" blazers and jackets for work that'd be less structured and less closely fitted than a standard blazer.) We'll see if this sudden craving of mine ends up going anywhere, or if it's one of the ideas I end up discarding after it's sat on my Pinterest shopping list for a while, as has happened a few times since I started being more regimented about how I track my shopping plans this year. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Maui Trip 2019 (With Brief Tangents About Ocean Safety)

Kaanapali Beach, on one of the few days of our trip where the water was somewhat calm. 

We had tons of fun on our recent 10-day family vacation to Maui! The island is absolutely gorgeous, and very different from any other beach resort-type location I'd been to in recent memory. While I don't think I'll be back anytime soon (Hawaii is a long and onerous trek from NYC, and I'd rather see the other islands there next time), I have a decently long list of things in Maui that I'd happily do again on a second trip. This is the first of two posts about my trip, the next one will focus on food.

A week, maybe even five days, might be enough to have a good time and see a lot of the major attractions in Maui, particularly if you're a high-energy traveler or trying to squeeze in another island as part of a longer Hawaii trip, but I also liked having the full 10 days to do everything at a relaxed pace. Early on in our trip planning, we thought briefly about doing two islands in ten days, but between the travel time required for my sister and I to get to Hawaii from the East Coast (no direct flights and at least 15 hours in transit each way, including waiting time at the airport) plus expected jetlag, we ultimately decided against it. Looking back, we could also possibly have cut the trip down to eight or nine days and still have been able to do everything we wanted to, weather permitting, at what would still be a fairly leisurely pace.

The Hotel

We stayed at Kaanapali Beach Hotel which, based on my research when I booked, is generally one of the more affordable large beachfront hotels in Maui, and is pretty much the cheapest large hotel on Kaanapali Beach, south of Black Rock (a.k.a. Black Rock Beach). It's neighbors with the Sheraton, and on the same beach as a Marriott, Hyatt Regency, and one of the multiple Westins in Maui. We paid ~$260/night, including tax, for a non-ocean view room with two queen beds (and $14/day for parking, it's very helpful to rent a car). Most of the other hotels I named would generally be at least $100/night more for the room at this time of year. The hotel is a bit dated both outside and in, pretty much all the others are a fair bit newer and look it, and the pool is quite small, but service is friendly and I think it's a good value for travelers that don't plan to spend too much of their time hanging out at the resort.

One other nice thing about our hotel location: It was very close walking distance to the Whalers Village shopping center where I bought my new Ray-Bay Wayfarers (affiliate link) and where there's an ABC Store that sells just about anything a tourist could need, including plenty of reef-safe sunscreen and a wide selection of souvenirs, like these Hawaii-themed Gudetama plushes.

Although I thought our hotel was an excellent value for its location, if I were to go back to Maui, I'd probably stay somewhere else where the rooms have kitchenettes. Restaurants in Maui are expensive (close to $25/entree at most nicer sit-down restaurants in the tourist-geared areas, and ~$15/entree at fast casual places). While the food was generally tasty everywhere we went, on future trips, I'd probably prefer to save money by doing some basic cooking, particularly for breakfast. (Oh, but I must put in a recommendation for poke, which, even at grocery stores, was much fresher and tastier than anything I could get in NYC. Poke in Hawaii has ruined me for the dish anywhere else in the world!) An eight day-plus day trip might also be enough time to stay in two different locations on Maui, which is also something I'd consider next time.

Ocean Safety

One other factor that's somewhat relevant to choosing where to stay in Maui, and maybe in Hawaii in general: At least with the surf conditions on Kaanapali Beach, I'm not sure I'd be so eager to select a beachfront hotel again, given that this feature tends to come at a premium price. On past beach-y vacations, I've always enjoyed spending most of my time lounging on the beach, with frequent breaks to cool off in the water. Kaanapali Beach wasn't really the place for swimming or wading while I was there, and after reading up a bit on ocean safety elsewhere in Hawaii, that may be the case for quite a few other famous beaches there. 

Ocean conditions at Kaanapali Beach changed dramatically throughout the trip, with maybe two days where the water seemed very calm with only small, relatively gentle waves, followed by several days in a row of much stronger waves coming in at unpredictable intervals (at least to my eyes). It was a shock to see a beach where the water looked calm enough one day for parents to let their small children play in it suddenly become one where some waves that looked almost as tall as I was were crashing down onto the sand, punctuated by less intimidating, but still kind of scary and powerful-looking ones, just a few days later.

And on one of the days were conditions were in between those extremes, but far closer to calm than not (there were young children playing in the waves just a few feet from where I was, and the waves mostly looked barely tall enough to reach my calf or knees), I had a rather scary moment in the water. Even though I'm a reasonably strong swimmer, after taking a decade of regular swim lessons as a child, I was scared. I'd been swimming around just off the beach for a bit with no problems, in what looked to me like fairly calm water with small waves. But when trying to get back to shore (approaching at an angle, never turn your back on the ocean, especially in Maui, there were so many rogue waves just in the relatively little time I spent watching the beach) I got caught in some deceptively strong shorebreak that pushed me down underwater, head and all; spun me around underwater; and bumped my shoulder into the sand, leaving a quarter-sized abrasion with some bleeding. I was in very shallow water at the time, probably just past my knees if I was standing instead of wading. When I got back out, there was sand coating much of my body, including under my swimsuit, and stuck in my hair down to the scalp.

All things considered, it was a minor ocean-related mishap, I climbed out without too much trouble immediately after, and I didn't even get much seawater in my nose or mouth. It happened so fast that I didn't have time to panic. But, in part because I didn't see it coming (and I don't think the kids or other tourists right near me in the water got swamped that way either, it was probably a freak incident), it scared me so much that, for the rest of my trip afterwards, I'd wince slightly every time I saw a tourist in the water at that beach without a boogie board or surfboard.

Admittedly, I may be unusually nervous in the ocean for someone with my swimming abilities. I even get anxious sometimes while snorkeling in completely placid conditions! And I once booked a "discover scuba diving" dive in super-calm water in Thailand with a good, highly-recommended instructor, but I still got too scared to actually dive. So maybe I'm not the most reliable narrator for this, but I really felt like an inexperienced swimmer could have easily gotten into a bad situation on that beach, as has happened before! (That particular beach is No. 3 on the "deadliest" list.) Plus, Black Rock, just north of where I was, is supposed to be a top snorkeling spot, but most days of my trip, it likely wouldn't have been safe to try and get in and out of the water with snorkeling equipment on. I even saw people struggling to do exactly that from the same patch of beach on one of the less calm days, they gave up because the waves were just too strong.

A few more unsolicited tips for first-time snorkelers, which might be terribly obvious, but that I wasn't told before my first time trying the activity and didn't figure out until later: No matter how strong a swimmer you are or how calm the water is, if it's your first time, please use a flotation device! (I had another scary moment in the water years and years ago due to never receiving that advice before my first snorkeling session.) Before swimming too far from the boat or shore, please also take a few moments to make sure you're comfortable with the equipment and how to use it. And, although I've admittedly never tried one myself, I personally think those full-face snorkel masks look unsafe, given what gets me into potential trouble while snorkeling (mostly feeling panic ramp up suddenly due to leaks or breathing issues, which is at least easier to solve quickly with a traditional snorkel mask by lifting your head out of water, spitting out the mouthpiece, and pulling off the mask).

Hah, that turned out to be a long and not particularly fun digression, but I feel like it's important, and I don't think all of this information is particularly obvious or intuitive. For a return to the actual fun details about our trip, please follow the link below!

Monday, May 20, 2019

Outfit Post: First Signs of Summer (and the Madewell Medium Transport Tote)

Top: LinenFox Kimono Top, milky white, size S/M
Dress: Grana Silk V-Neck Slip Dress, size M (old version, current)
Shoes: FitFlop "The Skinny", light brown, size 7 (old, limited sizes)
Bag: Madewell Medium Transport Tote, english saddle
Bracelet: Coach hinged bangle (old, similar or similar from Kate Spade)

And just like that, it's starting to feel a bit like summer here in NYC! I'm actually a bit surprised we had such a relatively long burst of more spring-like weather this year, I've been wearing my old Everlane Classic Trench (discontinued, current version with some design changes) for most of the last month and a half, which is a bit more use than I normally get out of it each spring. We might have only another week or two, however, before the really miserable hot, humid, and muggy weather starts setting in. 

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!

My LinenFox Kimono Top order finally arrived in the mail late last week! Their basic shipping option doesn't come with tracking information, so it was a mystery to me when it would arrive, until it was actually here. After it was made to order and shipped, which took around four weeks from when I bought it in early April, it ended up taking around two-and-a-half weeks to get from Lithuania to my apartment. I had done a lot of online browsing between all the popular linen shops on Etsy before deciding on this top. I liked the look and shape of it a bit better than that of the similar NotPerfectLinen "square" top. (I do slightly wish that LinenFox had a wider range of colors though, the way NotPerfectLinen seems to.)

I'm quite pleased with my new top! The linen feels nice, I haven't found it scratchy. As with many other white tops these days, particularly with a fabric that's light enough to be comfortable in our hot and humid NYC summers, this top is a little, but not overly, sheer. As you can see above, a faint hint of the black dress I'm wearing underneath is visible in the sunlight if you really squint to look for it, but the black fabric isn't showing through too badly, in my opinion.

The size S/M of this top is, in keeping with the design, a bit boxy on me, as it's meant to be, and I think it's the right size. On me, it's a bit more cropped and boxy than it looks on Elaine, because I'm likely quite a bit wider around the bust (which can pull up the front hems of some tops and dresses a bit), and maybe have a slightly longer torso. For reference, I'm 5'3'' with legs slightly too short for some non-cropped petite sizing pants and a mostly "regular" sizing torso for tops and dresses, and I measure around 37''-27''-37.5''. If I were to buy another one of these tops, I think I might consider asking them to customize it by adding just a bit of extra length to the body. As it is, this top might be just a little too short on me to easily tuck into skirt or pant waistbands that hit at my natural waist (I could do it, but the top might be somewhat prone to slipping out, or might look a little odd to me). I do think it looks good when untucked though, like in this outfit.

And I know, I know, I totally said I once ordered the Madewell Medium Transport Tote and sent it back because I just didn't need another leather tote, so one might be surprised to see it here now. But after K got it for me for Christmas, and after trying it on in person again, I've changed my mind and found that I actually really love it, and that it fills a different enough niche from my other tote bags.

I've been carrying the Medium Transport Tote as my work handbag almost every day for the past month and a half, and I've found it very functional. (But do keep in mind that I don't have a work laptop anymore and rarely need to bring papers home, so I generally don't carry much.) This bag is very light, so my shoulder doesn't get antsy the way it sometimes does with my other favorite work bag, the noticeably heavier Coach Rogue in dark denim (old, current colors). It's really a perfect size for me in that, unlike the Rogue, it's just big enough to comfortably accommodate a medium-sized stack of letter-sized papers and a letter-sized notepad, though it probably won't fit a large binder. I particularly like the look of this bag when I carry it by the adjustable long shoulder strap like in the photos above, it's comfortable to do so throughout my entire walking commute (please note that the strap is not quite long enough, even when adjusted to the maximum length, for me to comfortably carry this bag cross-body, that could be a downside for some).

My only small quibble is that the top-handle straps feel just a touch too short for me to comfortably carry it tucked under my shoulder sometimes. It's alright and comfortable-ish to do so, though still a little short for my preferences, when I'm wearing lighter clothing in spring or summer, including my trench coat, but might feel like a bit of a squeeze if I had a thicker wool-blend or down coat on. One other potential quibble for some, though it's actually a plus for me, as I like the look of patina-ed and aged brown leather, is that when seeing it on other people (whether out and about or on social media), I've seen that this "english saddle" shade may change color and take on some noticeable wear and tear over time. I'm actually eager to see that happen with mine! The only other potential complaint I can think of is that the leather on the entire Madewell Transport line of bags can feel a bit dry or stiff in comparison to the softer pebbled leathers I usually prefer for handbags (like that of the super-squishy "classic" Cuyana totes, which are in the same general price range). 

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Unpopular Facts: On Biglaw and Biglaw-ish Financial Trajectories

Did you notice and hate this graphic when it went viral via CNBC's twitter account recently? I felt that way too, but maybe for different reasons from the norm.

Eagle-eyed individuals using certain RSS feed readers may have noticed that, for just a minute a few weeks ago, I accidentally published a half-finished draft of this entry. I'd only ever made that specific mistake once before, on another post I also thought could be a little controversial. I'm terribly embarrassed, in part because, as it turns out, I actually wanted to approach this topic very differently than how my half-finished draft originally did. 

Recently, CNBC regurgitated, with little critical analysis, a somewhat infamous graphic from a certain personal finance blogger who shall not be named. Among many other things, this person had recently been known to gleefully and repeatedly revel in their own ignorance during the recent "manifesto" kerfluffle I alluded to, so theirs is, let's just say, not a blog I'd ever recommend. Here's an link to the original source, so that we may all refrain from giving it page-views. People hated this graphic, and all that it implied, and one understands their reasons. I hated it too, though for maybe slightly... nontraditional... reasons, ones that may turn out even more unpopular. 

Specifically, I think it slanders (in the colloquial sense, not the legal one) the good name of attorneys like me, attorneys who started off with substantial student loans, who are now inching into their early 30s, and who have been in biglaw or biglaw-ish for most of their relatively brief careers thus far, as this purportedly real couple allegedly is*. (Please note that, throughout this post, I make the assumption that both halves of the couple earn roughly equal shares of their alleged $500,000/year household income.)

Just about the only thing the graphic gets right is that we're all very lucky and financially privileged. We work hard for that, and often take out a jaw-dropping total in student loans to get there, which gets difficult sometimes. Nonetheless, it would never be cute for any of us to complain about our finances too much. 

But this supposedly real account gives unrealistic views of too many important things, from actual student loan payoff timelines, to typical family planning decisions in my cohort, to sensible approaches towards car ownership, and so on. And that's just the things I can speak intelligibly about, before even getting into nitty-gritty details about the actual numbers associated with the cars, the house, childcare, and so on! I also suspect the tax numbers are a bit off. (My own effective tax rate in 2018, making in the general ballpark of half of this alleged couple, was ~31.8%, including federal, state, and NYC city taxes, fairly far off from 40%. Though of course, tax laws change frequently, and I don't know much about what taxes look like for my peers who are married with children...) So many of the most important details are so implausible, so incapable of passing the "sniff test", that I don't think there's any way there wasn't tons of rounding up, rounding down, or wishful thinking involved, most likely in the service of making up some clickbait, such that there's no way the graphic and accompanying post are a particularly accurate or helpful picture of much.

I'm totally being overly dramatic. And I'm also totally doing that thing again where I'm overthinking something, likely devoting far more time, effort, and energy than the original author probably did in the first place. But really, it hurts my feelings to see people like me so misrepresented! There's many a complaint or somewhat typical for our demographic negative trait that can be laid at our collective doorsteps, but not this annoying fairytale, no sir. 

Monday, May 13, 2019

April 2019 Shopping Reflections

Much like in March, this was another month of shopping for things to wear once summer weather fully settles in, which might not happen in NYC for another few weeks. Both of April's purchases were made quite early in the month, and were already mentioned in my recent money diary posts (part one, part two), so there's nothing too new or exciting to report. The Linenfox top shipped about a week ago, during my vacation, and I'm looking forward to receiving it and trying it on.

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!

Oh, and here's a spoiler for next month. Early in our family vacation to Maui, I bought a pair of Ray-Ban Wayfarers because the sun was quite intense every day. My last pair of sunglasses was a pair of dinky, unbranded 9 Euro sunglasses from a beachside stand in Santorini, and I was never quite sure how much I could trust them for UV protection. In the years since, I'd thought about buying a pair of "real" sunglasses, but never needed them in NYC, as I'm rarely out in the sun for long. My mom and I also chipped in to get my sister a pair of super-cool Ray-Ban Clubmaster folding sunglasses as a combined birthday and belated Christmas gift. (In my family, gift recipients pick out their own gifts, sometimes long after the relevant occasion.)

I suspect any other purchases in May will also be summer items, most likely including a dress. At the moment, the summer dress design that stands out to me most is the Elizabeth Suzann Georgia dress in mid-weight linen, paired with an Asawa belt in the same color and material (like in this photo). That particular outfit comes across as being potentially slightly more dressy than most other linen dresses I've seen in all my browsing, enough that I think I might be able to wear it to my office without feeling like I'm pushing the casual side of the business-casual spectrum too far. If I end up getting it, I'll have to think carefully about which color I want. Almost all of my summer dresses are black or navy blue, which makes me somewhat interested in trying another color. But I also worry that the very light colors like white or flax might be impractical because they could get dirty easily, plus those colors are a little outside my comfort zone (I don't own much white clothing). I like the terra cotta shade on Elizabeth Suzann's models, but I'm not sure the color would suit me. Any colors in the same general family as orange or yellow often don't work for my skin tone.

A few months in, I think my new method of being more consistent and regimented with using Pinterest to track my shopping wishlist has been working well. It's still a bit too soon to say, with any credibility or certainty, that it's actually changed my shopping behaviors in a significant, quantifiable way, but things feels different. On average, I'm feeling a lot more sure about a larger proportion of my purchases, and that feeling has grown stronger in the last two months. Melissa and Jess have also mentioned using Pinterest more heavily in recent months to track their shopping wishlists. We'll see how it works out for us as the months go by!

Fashion - (TOTAL: $108.11) 
  • Fitflop "The Skinny", dark beige (past season, limited sizes) - $46.61 - This is my third pair of these shoes, which I've had in various colors and wear all summer long on the weekends and whenever I travel anywhere with hot weather. I find these super-comfortable, even when I'm doing a lot of walking in the city or on other easy terrain. It must be said, however, that these are not particularly attractive or stylish by any stretch of the imagination. Still, I remain loyal to them because I'd never really had a pair of comfortable sandals before these. I also like how, with their slight platform, they're not too flat, so I feel like my feet are kept a bit further away and better protected from the substantial NYC sidewalk grime than with a lot of more trendy-looking flat sandals. I think my extreme attachment to this specific shoe can be considered a bit of an odd quirk. I'm not sure I could readily recommend them to anyone else because I can fully acknowledge that they're not very fashionable!
  • Linenfox "Kimono" top, white - $61.50* - This top shipped from Lithuania (where Linenfox, NotPerfectLinen, and a few of the other popular linen shops on Etsy are all based) early this month, and I haven't received it yet. Hopefully, it comes in the mail soon. I have high hopes for it, based on Elaine's review. I was interested in a linen top that would be a bit more substantial and potentially dressy than my Everlane linen scoop neck tee (which is also nice and is still going strong now, but I don't need another linen tee), and this top had the look I was going for, something breezy and with a relaxed fit. I'll report back once it's arrived and I've had the chance to try it on and wear it out.
*Indicates that price includes shipping charges. 

And that's it for my April shopping. How was your shopping month? Any recommendations for comfortable sandals, particularly ones that might have a less casual look than my Fitflops? I'm due to return from our family trip to Maui in a few days. It's been a wonderfully relaxing trip, and I'm so pleased that we were able to celebrate Mother's Day out here! The natural wonders of Maui, including Haleakala and Molokini Crater, are amazing to look at. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Life Lately: Vacation Plans and "Big Cleans"

Photo from a recent visit with a good friend and her cats. Her other cat is much more shy and still spends much of the time hiding whenever I visit. This one is much more outgoing!

Things have been hectic at the office recently, which I think is actually the new normal, given the current status of some of my biggest projects. We may have several months of steady work to look forward to, but that's a good thing. And don't worry, it's not going to be anywhere near as intense as the busy periods I had earlier this year! We likely won't have court filings of quite that size and scale again for a few months, and thank goodness for that.

I have a good number of fun and relaxing things coming up, though: A law school friend is visiting from out of town this weekend, and then I'll be heading off for vacation in early May. For this year's big trip, my sister and I are chipping in together, in shares proportional to our income, to take our mom to Hawaii. (Alas, both my sister and I completed graduate school with student loans a bit in excess of our first year salaries. But we're both working hard on repayment, and still get to splurge once in a while, clearly!) None of us have ever been before, so we're very much looking forward to it. We'll be in Maui for around ten days, and will also get to celebrate Mother's Day there. Any travel recommendations for Maui would be greatly appreciated, of course. 

This past weekend, I spent Saturday cleaning the apartment to get ready for my friend to visit and stay over. K was working all weekend long, so I did 100% of the cleaning this time around. See, even if he's far more likely to initiate and do the lion's share of our occasional "big cleans," including a few weekends ago, I'm capable of doing my part too... when I absolutely have to.

And good golly, if I may fuss for a bit, my back and my joints ached something awful the rest of the day, mainly from scrubbing the bathtub and the tile floor in the bathroom. (For the floor, unlike in the kitchen, the Swiffer has always proven entirely unequal to the task of scrubbing hard enough to get it clean.) This may well be what drives me to the point of finally declaring that we must hire semi-regular cleaning help. Now that K and I are both consistently busier at the office, the decision calculus for that particular question has changed significantly since this time last year. And I absolutely plan for us to pay well and tip generously, given that I've been driven to this choice by a deep appreciation for the difficulty of the labor.

On Sunday, I was shocked to find myself completely without the motivation to write anything for the blog. That almost never happens, I spend some of just about every single weekend writing or revising something that will eventually be posted here. Alas, I think I'm just very ready for that vacation. Given how my schedule looks between now and my departure flight, it's probably safest to assume that I probably won't be able to write here in the meantime. See you again in mid-May!

Oh, and in other recent blog-related news, I only recently realized that Disqus's default settings for website moderators resulted in my not getting email notifications when comments here are automatically blocked as spam. And it's not even particularly easy to figure out where on Disqus's site to view and moderate such comments, it took quite a bit of clicking around. To add insult to injury, the algorithm they use to flag spam is prone to inaccuracy, with maybe only a 55% success rate at best (at least when it comes to comments here). Nearly half of the dozen or so things they flagged as spam since I started using Disqus were real, substantive comments, including from people I frequently have conversations with in the comments here. I've approved all the wrongfully flagged comments now, some of them from more than a year ago. I'm terribly embarrassed that I didn't notice this problem sooner. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

That Five or Ten-Year Plan

Via the New York Times, from a series where they interviewed a group of women junior associates at one biglaw firm in 2001, and then checked in again with some of them in 2013.

I'm a regular reader over at Corporette, a habit that began around 2016 or 2017. It's a bit of an odd internet community, more a message-board for whatever readers want to talk about rather than anything to do with the blog's actual content. Things get weird sometimes, people occasionally say absurd and unkind things (see, e.g., this discussion), and there's the occasional troll about. But many other comments can be insightful or interesting, and so I keep going back. And hey, to the extent that I still feel a powerful nostalgia for an old-fashioned and "retro" style of blogging (circa 2009), Corporette certainly fits that bill! I specifically remember a college friend recommending the site to me in 2009, but I couldn't quite get into it then, maybe because I hadn't yet started working. In any case, the site has changed very little since.

There was a great discussion there recently about people's five or ten-year plans, both on a personal and professional level. A little over five years ago, in November 2013 (so if one is inclined to split hairs, it's turned out to be a discussion about six and eleven-year plans instead), they'd posted something asking about where readers hoped to be in five years, and then in ten. This year, it was time to check in about whether things had gone as planned. The answers were a mixed bag, which isn't exactly surprising, as life is complicated and unpredictable. When it comes to my own life, things also didn't turn out exactly as I hoped. But that's actually a good thing! If things had happened the way I planned, I wouldn't be in this new job that I greatly enjoy.

The original inspiration for this discussion was a set of New York Times features that had done essentially the same exercise in the decade prior, interviewing 21 women junior associates at one top biglaw firm in 2001, and then going back to some of them in 2013. And the pattern of how things changed between 2001 and 2013 is, in my view, substantially similar to the pattern of changes for the 2013 and 2019 group. That's consistent with how diversity and equality-related conditions have not improved substantially in the legal industry between 2001, 2013, and now. (Things are far better than when Justice Ginsburg was starting out, when many firms openly stated they would "engage no women" as a matter of policy. But it's commonly understood that, at some point in the decades since, things began to stall.)

One theme common to many of the Corporette updates was that people (particularly those on the cusp of starting their career, or in the earliest stages of it, in 2013) often found that certain obstacles in their industry or workplace, particularly ones related to discrimination, including harassment and #metoo problems, were far more powerful than expected. Oftentimes, people who, in 2013, were optimistic that discrimination might not directly affect their own career trajectory or workplace had those hopes dashed somewhat, and would now describe themselves as having been too naive about these realities in 2013. Many who encountered those types of challenges made a choice that it wasn't worth it to stay where they were. A lot of those people were attorneys, and I can vouch for how common that experience is in this industry.

More happily, there were also many who found that, for serendipitous reasons, life moved in a different direction from what they originally planned. And indeed, even for some who ran face-first into discrimination-related challenges and found that they couldn't stay with their original company, or even in the profession they originally planned on, there was also some of this more positive effect at play. That's another thing I've also found to be true for myself.

With that context in mind, this is how I would answer the questions about where I was in 2013; where I am now in 2019, and whether things had gone according to plan; and where I hope to be in 2024:

Friday, April 12, 2019

Outfit Post: First Signs of Spring

Top: Grana Silk Raglan Tee (old)
Shoes: Sam Edelman Lior Loafer, gold glitter (old, similar design or similar color)

On the morning I was getting dressed in this outfit, I managed to accidentally navigate my phone to the weather for the California Bay Area, where I'm originally from, instead of for NYC, so I thought I was dressing for 55 degrees Farenheit and a clear, sunny day, instead of for something in the mid-40s with a chance of rain. It was only after I'd already put on the entire outfit that I realized I was looking at the weather for the wrong place, but I decided to wear it anyway, though with a wool-blend coat and these shoes (which hold up okay to rain and don't get dirty easily), instead of the pink canvas Soludos llama sneakers (only size 9 left for now) that I was originally planning on. 

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!

K joked that, if I was willing to speak to the Google Home and ask it what the weather was, I would not have had that mix-up on my phone. But I continue to categorically refuse to talk to my technology, much in the way I refuse to use Siri on my phone. It just feels too awkward to me, the idea of talking to a device! I'm pretty sure I'll never be willing to do it. 

Anyway, with a heavier coat, this outfit was reasonable for the weather we had that day. It was the first day I was able to wear my new Uniqlo x J.W. Anderson wrap skirt outdoors, and I was happy to find that it stayed put fairly well throughout the day, and that it was easy to adjust the way I liked without too much fussing in the morning. The tie did loosen up a little and the waistband did shift slightly by the end of the workday, but not so much as to be annoying, or to need any significant adjusting or re-tying throughout the day. It's a true wrap skirt, but with enough fabric that there's no real risk of a wardrobe malfunction. Although the size S of the skirt would have worked for me as well, and in fact, looked quite similar in the mirror, I picked out the size M so that I could wear the skirt a bit more relaxed at the waist if I wanted to. 

I really enjoyed wearing this outfit, and I loved wearing my new skirt. The look is quite simple, but it was nice to be able to go out with bare legs for the first time this year, even if I had a heavier coat on. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Money Diary: A Somewhat Typical Week, Part 2

And now for the rest of the Money Diary for my somewhat more typical week (part one here) than in last year's diary (part one, part two)! This week is not fully "typical" in the sense that I don't spend like this every average week of every month. That ~$45 Target order should be our only large purchase of shared household goods or cleaning supplies this April, we typically spend around $50 to $60/month on that, and we split the cost. Sephora orders are a twice per year-ish thing for me, and my next one this year, if needed, probably won't be anywhere near as sizable as this week's ~$109 order because I only wear makeup twice a month or so, and none of my other products are running out. Also, I don't get any skincare products from Sephora anymore, and the only other things I buy there are the Cocofloss and Olaplex No. 3 treatment. Furthermore, I think the additions to my closet captured in this Money Diary should be close to it for the whole month.

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!

With that additional context, this Money Diary gives a good sense of what my spending looks like most of the time. A few of the biggest things are happening off-screen in other weeks, of course, including my student loan payments and travel spending. (I generally go on one big, long vacation per year, and maybe take one or two additional long weekend trips to visit friends or family.) And I'm often a little coy about the exact amount of my rent, mostly because I'm a bit embarrassed by the fairly high total. Outside of that, though, the diary is accurate in how it depicts my typical approach to spending, including for restaurants, groceries, and coffee shops. My food costs combined are the next biggest spending category for me by far, after student loans and rent.

Another fairly typical day at the office, and I can't help but order the same Sweetgreen salad with kale, spicy chickpeas, spicy broccoli, chopped tomatoes, chopped red onion, and burrata again. I may be ordering it almost every weekday from now until they discontinue the burrata at the end of the season.

With the upcoming trial, K's been having a hard time at the office, so after leaving work a bit past 6:00 PM, I go a bit out of my way to stop at a nearby bakery and coffee shop to get a brownie, cookie, or chocolate croissant for him as a little pick-me-up. I didn't realize that they actually close at 7:00, so they've already sold out of most of their baked goods. Happily, they have a few of their giant chocolate chip cookies left, so I get that and it comes out to $4.87 with tip. Normally, I'd get a second item so we can split both, but they don't have anything else left that I think we'd like, so I just get the one cookie for us to share later.

As for dinner, I get Chipotle. Unlike in last year's diary, this time I add guacamole to my steak salad, as I often do these days (one of the many bits of lifestyle inflation I've indulged in since graduating from law school), bringing the total to $13.50. I eat at home, and after resting and digesting for a while, I use the stationary bike in our apartment to do a workout. Afterwards, I try to do some pilates exercises, but it's been a very long time since I was last doing those regularly, and so my muscles are no longer capable of much. K gets home pretty late, and we share the cookie.

Please follow the link below for the rest of this week's money diary!

Monday, April 8, 2019

Money Diary: A Somewhat Typical Week, Part 1

Almost exactly a year ago today, I tried my hand at a Money Diary post (part one, part two), having been inspired by the Man Repeller format. That week turned out to be highly non-typical, involving no less than two purchases of small household appliances, one (an upright vacuum cleaner) that K and I had dragged our feet on for more than a year, and the other (a hand mixer) brought about by my sudden desire to try baking, a hobby I'd never previously shown an interest in taking up before at any other time in my adult life. As it turns out, I enjoy baking, but don't often get inspired to try new recipes: I've since made Alison Roman's chocolate chunk shortbread cookies four more times and two batches of cheesecake-swirl brownies (using Smitten Kitchen's recipe, but with sour cream added to the cheesecake mix the second time, adapting from an America's Test Kitchen recipe found here, I'm still figuring out the right balance of cheesecake to brownie). 

A few things have changed since the week of my last Money Diary. I've refinanced my student loans. I've quit Blue Apron and eventually quit Hello Fresh with no plans to try another similar service for a while. Hometown Hot Pot has become a lot more popular and much busier on Friday and Saturday nights, to the point where the wait is generally well over an hour, and we don't go half as often as we used to (sad!). I've switched around my preferred lunchtime orders; I now go almost exclusively to Sweetgreen and rotate between two salads, the kale caesar and a custom one.

Most other things have stayed the same, however. K and I still have similar grocery and eating out habits. We still split shared expenses in the same sort of eclectic way. And of course, I continue to pay a similar (very large) proportion of my take-home pay to my student loans, $3650/month now, and will continue to do so for at least another two calendar years, probably closer to three. Alas. (Those payments still happen offscreen though, in other weeks.) 

I wake up late this morning, around 11:00 AM (as is my usual weekend inclination). We used to go out for brunch once a weekend most weeks, but while the weather is cold, we've started staying in. I cook brunch for us, consisting of hash browns, eggs, and bacon. K cleans up after, as is our usual practice. 

Before long, I head out for a quick trip to Trader Joe's, by far our cheapest local grocery store. I've found that Friday nights and Saturdays are generally the best times to go. People in our neighborhood really like to stock up on Sundays, to the point where even Fairway (worse quality produce, also more expensive for everything) gets heinously busy, so I make it a point to get the grocery shopping done on Friday or Saturday if I plan to cook. Today, I get ingredients for dinner tomorrow: flank steak (the most expensive item at ~$11), the "potato medley" (a quantity that lasts us two meals), and some broccoli. I also get more frozen hash browns, maple chicken breakfast sausage, cereal for K, fresh mozzarella balls, truffle cheese, and these chocolate cookies. We still split groceries the same way as before, where I'm typically the one who shops for us, a bit more than 80% of the time (strange as it might be, I actually enjoy grocery shopping*, even in NYC where the aisles are cramped and popular stores, including Trader Joe's, get heinously crowded). When I go, I keep track of amounts I spent on bigger items we'll both eat, such as meat or fish, and we'll split those. I cover everything else fully, such as vegetables or snacks for both of us. (On the rarer occasions when he shops, he pays and doesn't record what he spent or "charge" me for my half of anything he gets.) It may sound weird and nitpicky or complicated, but I swear it's not!

K's parents are visiting us today before they head off for a long vacation, so while I'm out, K starts doing one of our "big cleans" so we won't be embarrassed by the state of our apartment when they come by. He cleans the bathroom and vacuums, and is pretty much done by the time I get back. Whenever K starts one of our "big cleans", I usually jump right in and help (but as I mentioned over at Jess's, I'm almost never the one who thinks to proactively start doing one of our "big cleans"). But today, by the time I've put away the groceries, he's completely done and I don't see anything left for me to do, and so I relax and work on my blog.

Later in the afternoon, I go to the in-building gym and run on the treadmill. These days, I only wear my newest pair of running shoes when I actually run. If I'm doing any other kind of workout, I wear an older pair that's been "retired" from the high-impact exercise of running. It seems to have helped with the longevity of my shoes.

K's parents arrive around dinnertime and we head straight downtown to Congee Village, one of our favorites. Normally, we might suggest Hometown Hot Pot when they visit, but these days, the wait on Saturday nights is just too long. As it turns out, Congee Village is also quite busy, so we end up waiting close to an hour anyway. (It would have been an hour and a half or longer for hot pot, though.) We get seafood chow mein, sauteed string beans, pan-fried bean curd with soy sauce (one of our favorites!), sweet and sour pork (not something I'd normally get, but it's great here), and clams with black bean sauce. And we actually eat almost everything, except maybe 1/4 of the noodles and 1/3 of the string beans, which K's parents take back with them as leftovers. Dinner was $94 before tip, tip is $19. K treats us, as he often does when his parents visit. (Thank you, K!)  Afterwards, we head home to relax and chat in our apartment for a bit, before they drive back home.

Please follow the link below for the rest of the week through Tuesday.

Friday, April 5, 2019

Link List: On "Wealth" and Other Miscellany

By now, everyone has probably already seen Nathan Pyle's comics, but if not, I highly recommend them! His Strange Planet series, example above, is cute and clever. His other comics are also good, expecially this one, which I think is too frequently relevant these days, alas. 

1. // And here are some other things on the more light and cheerful side of the spectrum: After seeing her work on the the Pokemon Go subreddit, I've started following @miscellaneousmao, who does some really awesome baking and dessert-making, including some Pokemon-shaped truffles. Her April Fools' "sushi" cakes also look remarkably like the real thing. What a talent!

I don't follow celebrity red carpet fashion and street style quite as much as I used to in my teenage years, though I check in at Tom and Lorenzo a few times a week to get the general scoop. Not much celebrity fashion catches my eye, even if it's often nice to look at, but I just had to share this round-up of Marsai Martin's recent red carpet and public appearance outfits because every look is so fun and awesome. And her upcoming movie, Little, in which she is both the star (along with Issa Rae and Regina Hall) and executive producer, looks really funny. 

2. // I keep doing that thing where I save up a bunch of links related to a general theme, in hopes of writing a longer post about them, but then other current events or viral stories come along and displace my older post ideas. One idea I was working towards, but that I don't think will get its own post anytime soon (it wasn't very focused, was maybe a bit too abstract, and I don't think I have enough useful things of my own to say about it regardless), was about the nature of "wealth", and social perceptions of where the line is at which a person becomes "wealthy." It's a question I don't think American society at large understands. That's probably why we perennially get those really annoying articles about households that make multiple six figures, but apparently feel very middle class and far from "wealthy." I don't have a good answer for that question either. 

My set of links related to this larger theme are, in keeping with the amorphousness and half-formed nature of the idea, a bit all over the place. A few months ago, I mentioned that I was enjoying the money-related content on Glamour's Youtube channel, particularly the "Different Women, Different Salaries" series, where they gave a money-related survey to several anonymous NYC women across a range of different incomes, and then had a set of actresses read the responses. It's not quite as much information as, say, Refinery29 Money Diaries, but I think this small set of interview questions, combined with only minimal additional details about each respondent (just their income, age, and occupation), is still quite illuminating. It's a very interesting series, though one thing to keep in mind is that the way each actress "plays" the "character" of their corresponding interview subject may, of course, not fully reflect the exact tone or "feel" of each answer as the respondent intended. I even got a little attached to the first set of "characters"/actresses, but haven't been able to get into the more recent set they just started.

When I watch the videos one after another, it really struck me that, for the women earning $100,000/year or more, their answers to a lot of the tougher questions often sound more relaxed, more self assured, and a lot less stressed out than for the under $100,000 group. Okay, okay, it's a totally obvious and unsurprising observation, and the reasons behind it are also extremely obvious. But I thought it was still a helpful extra set of perspectives that really drove home the point that $100,000/year is a lot. And it allows for a lot of comfort, splurges, and luxuries, while still leaving room for saving (at least before taking into account children and other dependents, which few of the survey respondents seemed to have yet), even in an ultra-expensive locality like NYC.

As it turns out, the other links I saved may not have been quite as related to the exact same theme. I've also been interested in stories about how people view and manage their money in relation to their obligations to their parents and extended families, some of which are culturally learned. Aminatou Sow's interview with The Cut got into this theme, as did this article about one of the first things Ijeoma Oluo wanted to do for her mom after getting a big royalty check from her book.

3. // Lots of great blog entries to read recently: Speaking of the difficulties society has with identifying the line at which a someone is arguably "wealthy", Kathy initiated a discussion about something that was making the rounds on Twitter. Because the source material for the viral tweet she was referring to was purportedly about two attorneys very similar to K and I, I had to chime in too. As you can see, I was skeptical about the truth of the original personal finance blog source material that CNBC adapted the tweet from ( link in order to not give page-views to something I view as likely inaccurate click-bait).

Two bloggers I follow, Olga and Talia, both posted recently about their perspectives on how blogging and social media have changed over time. They come at it from different perspectives, one more focused on fashion blogging since 2010 and earlier, and the other more about general social media use since that time, particularly on Instagram, and how that interacts with what she wants to accomplish on her blog. Both raise very good points. I always love when Adina goes in-depth about thrifting, resale, and related topics, because she writes so thoughtfully, and from ample experience. This time, she wrote about her experiences with the challenges associated with reselling clothes. And Luxe wrote a great post about the process of choosing how much to pay for housing. I'll contribute my thoughts to the discussion soon, if I haven't already!

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Updated, Slightly Less Minimalist(ish) Skincare Routine

It's been ages since I last wrote about my skincare routine, and I thought it was high time for an update! All of my drugstore-priced, longtime favorite "holy grail" products are still in there, but the set of prescription products I use has changed slightly.

As I suspected, once I started my current job, I was no longer able to see my fancy dermatologist on my new insurance plan, but it's turned out not to be a big deal. My general practitioner has been happy to prescribe my acne-related medications, so it's all good. Insurance co-pays continue to be weird for my topical prescription medications, but that's not exactly new, as I'd already experienced paying anywhere from $40 (with manufacturer coupon) to as much as $80 per refill (a number I was previously shy about disclosing) on my old plan. Alas.

Please keep in mind that I'm not a medical professional, and can only speak to my personal experience with various skincare products and routines. To the extent that one has the misfortune of suffering from moderate to more severe acne (my sympathies!), the best first step for me has always been to start with the doctor or dermatologist, and what they prescribe.

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!

As background, I have long had bad skin. Its main problem, for at least 18 years now, is acne, primarily the big, icky, under-the-skin kind that could hang out for a month or more, even when I was on both Retin-A Micro 0.1% (the highest dose) and the contraceptive Yasmin or its generics. I get other, more typical breakouts with smaller blemishes too, but those heal so quickly in comparison, and are so easily covered up with makeup, that they've always been easy for me to ignore. Doctors sometimes refer to my acne as cystic, though anecdotally, there may be a distinction between what I  typically get (which eventually "comes to a head"; can pop, often by accident; and is then helped along by hydrocolloid bandages, in my case the CosRx Pimple Master Patches) and actual "cysts" which, on the thankfully rare occasions I've had them, tend to be smaller and and less inflamed most days, but also don't ever "come to a head" and start healing. Instead, they hang out for months on end before, sometimes, mysteriously disappearing.

Various combinations of additional products, including some over-the-counter ones, have helped reduce the frequency, size, and average healing time of my icky, under-the-skin blemishes. But even now that my skin has turned a bit of a corner, mainly thanks to prescription spironolactone, I still don't have perfect skin. I also don't think "perfect skin" is possible for me, it's just not a realistic goal, and I've long since accepted that.

Even if I never got another blemish again (unlikely!), the aftereffects of the years-long battle with acne will remain, mainly in the form of some oddly textured skin on my cheeks and chin. While those patches don't quite rise to the level of what's in photos of atrophic acne scarring, they're still noticeably bumpy if one gets really up close and personal, and the condition appears to be permanent. Nearly a decade of daily Retin-a Micro use hasn't been able to make that odd texture go away. Most days, I also have small dark spots left over from recently healed blemishes, but those, at least, tend to fade significantly over time, sometimes within as little as four to five weeks. (Though with my ongoing acne issues, by the time one dark spot has faded, another has popped up.) Whatever can be done about the oddly textured, slightly bumpy scarring, it's probably going to be expensive, and not covered by health insurance.

Some may remember the hullabaloo surrounding that silly The Outline article claiming that the entire skincare industry is one giant con. Many objected, including at Man Repeller, Racked, and Vox. Had I been paying attention then, I definitely would have objected too. From years of experience, including months-long periods where I stopped the Yasmin or dialed back the Retin-A Micro, only to find that I really couldn't do that if I valued the appearance of my skin, I've learned my lesson that, at least for me, there are times when extensive use of clinically-proven skincare ingredients (whether prescription or over the counter, and in my case, oftentimes both) is absolutely necessary, even if I just want to eke out a few weeks in an average month when I don't have one of those big under-the-skin blemishes hanging out.

In the meantime, however, I've also learned that "more" is not always better when it comes to those more clinically proven "active" ingredients. Indeed, though there was a time that my skin did very well with one of those Korean or East Asian skincare market-inspired 10-plus step skincare routines of legend (both morning and night), I may have been slightly in denial about how well it was actually working for me overall.

When that routine was working for me, as it did most of the time, it was fabulous! My skin got almost completely clear of those gross breakouts, for as little as two weeks to as long as a few months at a time (all of which is excellent results by my standards), and it often had an attractive "glow" that can't be replicated now that I've cut certain more expensive items from my routine. (In my experience the Missha First Treatment Essence, a SK-II dupe, is pretty unique in imparting a certain "glow" I don't get from any other product. Though your mileage may, of course, vary.) During the good times, my skin even got to the point where I honestly thought it looked better without makeup than with! Though I must admit, one factor there was that I don't have particularly excellent makeup skills.

When that routine wasn't working, however, probably because the combination of all those active ingredients, mainly the BHA (whether from the Paula's Choice 2% BHA Liquid or the one-two combination of the CosRx BHA Skin Returning A-Sol and BHA Blackhead Power Liquid) was a bit "too much" for my skin, I'd get irritation-related breakouts, or my skin would get red and blotchy, or dry and flaky, and would need quite a few days of rest with a dialed-back "gentle, moisturizing products only" routine. I used that 10-plus step skincare routine, switching a few products in and out, for nearly three and a half years before the dermatologist asked me to take a step back, to let my prescription products better do their work. Since then, I've realized that, while my previous routine was great sometimes, those "good skin" months or weeks were always punctuated by semi-regular bouts of irritation-related breakouts. So maybe that super-extensive skincare routine wasn't the best idea after all.

Please follow the link below to read about my current routine!