Sunday, December 27, 2020

December 2020 Shopping Reflections

via Unsplash

I hope that all of you are having a good end of the year! After 16 days of strict quarantine - in which K and I didn't even go into our apartment building's lobby - K's parents picked us up in their car last week so we could spend Christmas and New Year's with them at their home in the suburbs. Since then, we've just been staying home with them and helping with the cooking. It's been a good, very quiet, and relaxed holiday. I've taken many naps. 

Because our pre-holiday quarantine was so strict that we weren't even going into our apartment building's lobby to pick up packages from the doorman, I've been avoiding online shopping. Accordingly, December was another "no-shopping" month for my wardrobe, the third such month in 2020. (The other two were in February and July.) I don't consider this a noteworthy achievement or anything, it's just a reflection of how strange this year has been due to the colossally poor handling of the COVID-19 pandemic here in the US. 

When it comes to the shopping plans for the remainder of 2020 that I wrote about back in October, I ended up ordering two of the three items to try. I really liked that wool and cashmere-blend "Classic" wrap coat from The Curated, though I admittedly won't get a chance to actually wear it outdoors until we can move freely and safely about in public again. I really did not like that polo sweater from The Reset, unfortunately. After trying it on, I saw that most polo sweater designs are probably not likely to suit my more busty, somewhat top-heavy body shape. It's easy for the collar and v-neck combination to look awkward on me if the proportions aren't just right. The sleeves on The Reset's version also puff out too much from the oddly too-long cuffs - looking almost like a balloon sleeve on me, albeit a somewhat subdued one - something I didn't think was apparent from the store photographs. 

As for the gold-plated fringe earrings from Lingua Nigra, I ended up not ordering them this year even though they look beautiful and should suit my wardrobe and tastes very well. For some reason, out of all the types of clothes, shoes, and accessories out there, the idea of buying jewelry just makes me feel particularly sad right now, wistful about the life we're not living, the places we can't go, and the things we can't do. It's weird of me, and I obviously didn't have this mental hang-up about shopping for jewelry back in September, but I guess 2020 is a strange year. 

Happy new year to all, and best wishes for a better and brighter 2021! 

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Link List: Some Money-Related Things

I hope that everyone is doing well as we head into the year-end holiday season! K and I are now 13 days into our stricter-than-usual pre-holiday quarantine, in hope of spending Christmas and New Years with K's parents. I'll also be taking the last two weeks of the year off from work - using up the remainder of my 2020 vacation time - which will be nice. I'm feeling a bit of writer's block on blog-related writing, so I think my posting here may slow down a bit for the the next two or three weeks. 

Not a huge link list post today, but there were a few interesting money-related links I saw recently, so I figured I might as well share them now, instead of waiting to try and find other links to add. Sometimes I hold onto links for so long while trying to compile a longer post that it becomes too weird to share them because they were from so many months ago!

1. // Corporette occasionally does reader-submitted "Money Snapshot" posts, and the most recent one - from a doctor in a very high-paying Public Service Loan Forgiveness ("PSLF") eligible job - ignited quite a bit of discussion, both at Corporette and at r/MoneyDiariesActive. Be forewarned, the Corporette discussion is particularly negative, with a lot of people unreasonably criticizing the doctor for using PSLF when it's not her fault the program is structured in a way such that she is eligible for it! Also, while I'm no PSLF expert, I'm pretty sure both discussions are peppered with commenters misunderstanding how PSLF works. 

The student loan forgiveness programs available to some federal student loan borrowers here in the US - generally after relatively lengthy periods of income-based repayment before the remaining balance can be forgiven - are sometimes seen as controversial. (In 2018, I wrote a post that discussed a somewhat viral story about an orthodontist relying on PAYE or REPAYE to handle what had apparently grown into a million dollar student loan balance.)  

2. // Anne Helen Peterson just published the first article in a planned series for Vox about "America's Hollow Middle Class." I thought this was an interesting read, and I'm looking forward to more! The author notes on Twitter that it's by design that this first article is a bit broad and general. Future articles in the series will be more focused on some of the many relevant underlying factors to this discussion. 

3. // Amanda Mull wrote in The Atlantic about the Afterpay, Klarna, and Affirm-type interest-free, "buy now and pay in installments" options that are popping up at various online retailers. Even one of the big fountain pen shops has partnered with Affirm! I confess, I've never really been able to understand why there's a market for these payment arrangements. This article does somewhat begin to answer this question - it may be, in part, for people who don't use credit cards - though I still don't quite understand why customers are interested.  

4. // Abra at Capitol Hill Style recently wrote in considerable detail about her experiences with running a monetized blog. Whenever a more popular blogger writes about the business side of blogging, I'm always interested in getting that behind-the-scenes look. She's probably somewhat unique among more prominent, longstanding fashion bloggers in that she chooses not to do sponsored posts. 

Abra's commentary about her past experience with ShopStyle's Pay Per Click ("PPC") program was particularly interesting to me, as someone who also may ultimately prefer that affiliate link model for my blog. She notes that her PPC earnings - before she transitioned to the sales commission-based model - had ranged from $0.04/click to $0.09/click. My own PPC earnings never rose above ~$0.075/click. The only other data point about peak PPC earnings I'm aware of is that Ariana of the now-shut down Paris to Go (I miss the blog dearly! I still follow her on Instagram) has sometimes discussed her past blog earnings in Instagram stories. I vaguely recall that it sounded like she sometimes got significantly above my typical $0.06 to $0.07/click commission rate because she was very focused in how she approached affiliate links. 

Regardless, in-depth discussion about ShopStyle's previous PPC model is largely irrelevant now, as I don't think the company is particularly interested in supporting it anymore. But I'm still interested in looking back on it sometimes. 

I'll probably write at least one or two more new posts before the end of 2020. But in case I don't manage it, best wishes to you and your loved ones for this holiday season and for the new year! 

With the start of Pfizer COVID vaccine distribution to front-line healthcare workers here in the US and FDA approval of the Moderna vaccine likely to come soon, I'm feeling more optimistic about 2021. As a younger-ish adult with no risk factors and who works a non-essential, mostly remote for now job, it likely won't be my turn to get a vaccine for at least a few more months. Once it's available to people like me, however, I'll be rushing to get it. 

Friday, December 11, 2020

Money Life Lately: Year-End Holiday Tips and Office Gifts

Here are a few small things happening with my money and spending recently, in areas outside of shopping and fashion. I can't believe it's already December! It's difficult to get fully into the holiday spirit this year because it's logistically impossible for my mom, sister, and I to safely travel and see each other. But the show must go on with regards to certain holiday-related expenditures of mine, namely: (1) year-end holiday tips for the staff at my apartment building and (2) year-end holiday gifts for the receptionists and assistants!

I don't often discuss these year-end gifting expenses. I think the only time I've ever mentioned them was a few months ago when talking about how I calculated my total savings from staying home and socially distancing. Even if I don't discuss them, however, these particular costs have been a regular part of my life - and reasonably so, in recognition of the recipients' hard work all year long!- since I graduated law school. (Except that there weren't any year-end holiday gifts at work when I was clerking.) 

Health Insurance and Prescription Co-Pays

Longtime readers may know I like to complain - at excruciating length - about my experiences with the cost of healthcare here in the US. That's despite being fortunate to not actually have much to fuss about, relatively speaking. Generally, with the exception of when I had that accident requiring a bunch of urgent dental work, what I'm complaining about is just a few dozen extra dollars here and there. Even the very small unexpected medical expenses aren't fun, of course. But compared to all the possible problems with medical bills here in the US, my issues are small potatoes. 

My biggest perennial problem with my medical expenses is that I've often been charged co-pays on my birth control under most of my workplace health insurance plans, even though that really shouldn't happen under the Affordable Care Act. (The insurers' general rationale seems to be that they fully cover plenty of other types of birth control - including other pills and IUDs - just not yours.) It's an on-again, off-again problem that comes and goes depending on the workplace, but I've had this issue more often than not.

For my first few months at my current job, things were good, my co-pay for my birth control pill was $0/month. Sometimes I got the generic, sometimes the brand name, but I didn't really care about that. Then all of a sudden, things got weird. Suddenly, I was paying $35 to $45/month in co-pays for the same pill. To add insult to injury, my insurer covered the brand name at that level, but didn't cover the generic at all. The co-pay also seemed to change every time I got a refill. It wasn't my first rodeo with having a co-pay for birth control, but previously, I only ever had a $10/month co-pay. 

After a certain point, I started using GoodRx coupons to keep costs down, because the ~$25/month or so GoodRx cash price was always cheaper than getting my birth control through my insurance. And even then, the price I paid was rarely exactly what was listed on GoodRx, it was often a bit less, sometimes more like ~$15/month.

All of a sudden this month, however, my co-pay for my birth control pill on my insurance was back to $0/month. And for the brand name, no less! I swear, I don't understand the logic of how this works. But I suppose we can consider this a happy ending, for now. (The co-pays for this particular prescription have constantly changed on me practically every time I picked up a refill in the past two years or so, so I'm not sure I believe my recent good fortune will last...) 

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Random Thing I Like: Whimsical Sweaters

Even though I've been overthinking everything to do with my wardrobe and fashion purchases for six years now, I still don't really know how best to describe my personal style. I know my tastes and preferences well, what's practical for my lifestyle, and how to identify items I'll keep reaching for and wanting to wear. But there's a significant gulf between what I like - in principle or in theory; maybe we call this my "ideal" or "fantasy" personal style - and what actually works for my body shape, lifestyle, and budget. 

In practice, my style - as seen in all my shopping since January 2015; keeping in mind it's not a perfectly representative picture because I still wear a moderate number of things I bought before 2015; I don't report gifts, including from my mom, sister, or K, which usually adds something like three or four items to my wardrobe every year; and some of my documented purchases have since worn out, or been resold, donated, or given away - is heavy on neutrals and fairly classic, basic designs and silhouettes, but with many "pops of color," particularly in jewel tones. I'd also love to add more prints to my wardrobe, but in practice it's rare to find a print I like, in colors I think will suit me, and on an item I think will suit my body shape, so I've mostly only bought fairly subdued, more "neutral"-looking prints in recent years. 

One aspect of my "personal style in practice", though it doesn't pop up often, is that I'm fond of occasional, distinctly un-subtle touches of whimsy. Think the bright pink limited edition Longchamp "Miaou" tote and the llama decal Soludos slip-on sneakers. And actually, were it not for the constraints of my budget and practicality concerns, I'd love to bring in even more of these rather in-your-face touches of whimsy into my wardrobe. 

There's been one particular type of whimsical item or design element I really like, which hasn't been represented in my monthly shopping budget posts: The sweater with whimsical motifs, typically flowers or maybe something animal-related. 

As far as I'm concerned, the ne plus ultra of this genre, based on all my online window shopping ever, was the Mansur Gavriel flower sweater pictured above. (I believe it's from 2016 or 2017. They also did a similar oversized sky blue sweater with a white cloud motif around this time, which I also thought was adorable.) If I ever see one of these Mansur Gavriel flower sweaters in my size - in either the pink or navy blue colorway - on the secondhand market for a remotely reasonable price, I probably won't be able to resist. Though if I recall correctly, the fabric composition wasn't ideal, there was a fair bit of nylon in it, and also alpaca (which I've never tried on before and could be itchy for me). 

Friday, December 4, 2020

Shopping Life Lately (and Curology Update)

I'm more than a bit surprised I've managed to not buy much for myself in this year's round of Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. In fact, I haven't bought myself any clothing, shoes, or accessories this sale season. That is quite out of character for me: Just compare this year's Black Friday "haul" of zero things for my wardrobe with my 2018 and 2019 performance! 

Anyway, I definitely don't believe in Black Friday sales having special ethical or moral significance, whether one abstains or partakes. (Though my overall preference is generally to consume less, and to put what I do consume - particularly new items bought at retail - to the most rigorous, long-term use possible.) It's just another sale season and, frankly, there are many women's apparel and accessory sales all year round. In past years, particularly before I started this blog, I'd typically found that Black Friday and Cyber Monday weren't even a great time for discounts on women's fashion, though that's changed somewhat more recently. But, for the largest discounts on clothing and accessories this general time of year, it's still the post-Christmas sales one should really keep an eye out for. 

Black Friday Purchases (and a Return) 

I ordered that collared polo sweater from The Reset, and it arrived this week. Upon trying it on, I realized an important detail I overlooked when the design first caught my eye: The collar and v-neck design on most polo sweaters might not look quite right or proportional on me, as I'm busty enough that they won't look the way they do on the models. Plus, this sweater is a bit shorter in the body than my usual preference - it's not unusually short, and I definitely wouldn't call it cropped, but I personally prefer my tops on the longer side - and that combined with the neckline and the somewhat boxy fit made my torso look... stubby. I also found the sleeves puffed out a little too much just past the awkwardly-long-on-me cuffs. In other words, this sweater did not suit my body shape and proportions, and straight back into the mail it goes. 

Mostly because 2020 has been such a strange year, this return to The Reset is actually the first return of any kind I've done with any retailer this year. If you'd told me in 2019 that I'd spend 11 months of 2020 not making any shopping returns at all, I'd probably have laughed, it would just sound so outlandish given how much I typically rely on online shopping and my admitted propensity for ordering multiple sizes of a single item to try. 

Please note that this post contains affiliate links that could result in my earning a small commission - at no extra cost to you - if you click and make a purchase. Thank you for your support!

I was also briefly tempted by Vince's site-wide 30% off Black Friday sale, particularly by this year's medium blue version of that boiled cashmere funnel-neck sweater I liked so much from last year. But I already have a very similar-looking sweater from Brora in basically the same color, and I definitely do not need two different medium blue high-necked sweaters. (Though between the two designs, the Vince one is definitely more elegant-looking!) 

As for what I did buy during this year's Black Friday and Cyber Monday sale period, I did my Christmas shopping for K and his parents.* I decided on L.L. Bean Wicked Cozy blankets for his parents because I enjoy mine so much and had no better ideas for them while they're also stuck at home. (My Christmas gift for them last year was a set of nice, lightweight carry-on suitcases. For obvious reasons, those have gone unused.) For K, I pre-ordered a copy of the upcoming Cyberpunk 2077 game for Playstation 4. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Blog Thoughts, Year Six

via Unsplash

In two weeks, it'll officially be Invincible Summer's six year blog anniversary! And gosh, what a wild ride this year has been, albeit for reasons completely unrelated to keeping this blog. Back in May, when I wrote my belated "blogiversary" post for 2019, I was still cautiously optimistic that NYC might be able to return to mostly normal life with face masks and other precautions within a few more months. Unfortunately, that hope did not pan out long-term, as things are trending badly again here. The 2020 US presidential election did come out the way I wanted - thank goodness for that! - denying Trump a second term, but his team seems determined to do all they can to try and burn down our democratic system on their way out the door.

As always, I remain deeply grateful to all of you for reading here. It's been difficult to know what to say this year, especially because my normal wheelhouse as a writer is shopping; overthinking everything to do with my purchases and wardrobe; and my own personal finance management, all very navel-gazing topics that simply aren't important in light of everything that's happened in 2020. But I'm happy you're here, and I hope I've also been able to offer you something with my writing here at Invincible Summer.

There's been one big, important change when it comes to my blog income disclosures: In November, I opted in to the  Shopstyle Cost per Acquisition ("CPA") model, so I'm no longer getting a flat rate of a few cents per click on my Shopstyle affiliate links. Instead, I will earn a commission, at a percentage negotiated between the  retailer and Shopstyle, from actual sales resulting from use of my links, at no extra cost to you as the shopper. 

When Shopstyle first introduced CPA sometime in 2018, they originally said they'd force all users to switch by sometime in 2019, although that never ended up happening. But it seemed clear to me Shopstyle would eventually phase out their original Pay Per Click ("PPC") model; they'd stopped recalculating my commission rate every quarter like they used to - I spent roughly a year at $0.06/click before my rate was dropped to $0.05/click this June - and their new announcements and tools all seemed focused on CPA. So I figured it was time to lean in voluntarily to the change, rather than to be quietly transitioned with minimal notice at some unknown time in the future.   

I've felt nervous about this switch. I'd liked earning a flat rate on every click regardless of whether anyone ever made a purchase, it felt... neater, I guess. When my compensation is tied directly to someone's purchases, I feel more responsibility for how those purchases turn out. It's important to me that I don't let the switch to CPA change how I write about products, I'll continue to be completely honest about how I feel about products I've personally tried. I'm also personally committed to not letting CPA change how often I mention products I haven't tried, but that have caught my eye or interest. 

I think I'm helped in my efforts to not let the CPA model affect how I write by how small this blog is, and how few sales are historically made through my blog. From the limited Shopstyle tracking data available to me when I was on PPC, there's a lot of randomness to how many sales occur - or not - in a particular month, and I think it's averaged out over the years to something a little less than two sales a month. (Keeping in mind how affiliate link tracking cookies work: The most recent blogger or other influencer whose links for a specific retailer a shopper clicked will get the "credit" for resulting sales, if any. Tracking may remain active for a period of either a few days or weeks, depending on the affiliate link platform or retailer. My understanding is that cash back program cookies like from Ebates/Rakuten or Jewel may also "cancel out" affiliate link cookies, and I highly encourage everyone to use cash back programs to their own benefit when that's an option.) Furthermore, it appears that the vast majority of my sales are L.L. Bean boot or J.Crew sweater blazer-related, rather than anything resulting from newer posts. 

But because CPA commissions are based on a percentage of sales rather than a flat few cents per click, I think my total Shopstyle compensation will likely increase - at least slightly - even with all that randomness to whether and when sales are made through my blog. Before the pandemic, I would have been confident that my compensation would increase by a significant margin over the ~$15/month PPC commissions I used to earn, but because of the pandemic I believe many retailers have cut commission rates. (My PPC earnings also decreased to ~$5 to $7/month for a time, mostly because Ann Taylor and J.Crew briefly left Shopstyle, probably due to their bankruptcy restructurings.) So now I don't feel like I can make a reliable educated guess.  

Before jumping in to specific 2020 numbers, a quick note about taxes. As far as I can tell when entering the relevant numbers into Turbotax each year, I pay my marginal tax rate of ~40%+ on my blog-related income, which I continue to report on a Schedule C-EZ. To date, I still have not made enough from this blog in one year from any single source to receive any 1099s for blog-related income. (This is not to be taken as legal advice about the tax implications of blog-related income.)

Please follow the link below for a detailed 2020 blog income report. Thank you again for your support of Invincible Summer all this time!

Monday, November 30, 2020

The COVID-era NYC Rental Market

via Unsplash*

As I mentioned briefly back in May, we signed our most recent lease renewal then, in the earliest months of the pandemic. K and I live in a rental-only apartment building in Manhattan - somewhere south of 59th Street, in a distinctly un-hip neighborhood, and a bit far from the subway - run by a large, corporate landlord. They initially sent us a lease renewal offer in early March, before the US started shutting down due to COVID-19. That initial offer was for a ~6% rent increase over our previous lease renewal in 2019. 

At the time our landlord extended their initial offer, the proposed rent of ~6% more than the previous year was perfectly in line with market rates for new leases on comparable units in our neighborhood. (One can search online and get a fairly accurate and up-to-date sense of the NYC rental market using StreetEasy.) But because we live in a building marketed as a "luxury apartment" building, there were tons of cheaper, similarly-sized apartments in less fancy buildings nearby. We also have that somewhat rare for NYC luxury of in-unit laundry, which, in normal times, adds maybe ~$100 to $150/month in rent over comparable apartments without that feature. In other words, we were starting to feel like our apartment was too overpriced, particularly because we were also thinking one or both of us might lave biglaw - or, in my case, biglaw-ish - private practice sometime in the next year, likely resulting in a significant pay cut. 

Then came March 12 and my abrupt return from my business trip, which also felt like the first day a critical mass of people in NYC realized COVID-19 was already a serious problem here. Barely a week later, the state government would order a full shutdown of all non-essential businesses. 

K and I didn't really have the mental energy to think about our lease renewal until early May. By then, the number of COVID-19 cases here was still high, and the first phase of NYC's reopening would not begin for another month. We were in agreement that we felt safer paying slightly inflated rent - we each held robust cash "emergency funds" of well over six months' living expenses at the time and could reluctantly weather overpriced rent costs, even if COVID ended up bringing salary cuts or layoffs down the line - than trying to move in the middle of the pandemic. Furthermore, the pandemic had scuppered our plans to leave private sector legal practice in the next year, we were no longer looking to switch jobs for a possible pay cut.  

After two months of shutdowns, the NYC rental market was already starting to turn, at least in our neighborhood. Whereas that ~6% increase over our 2019 rent was in line with market rates for new leases for comparable apartments in early March, rents had fallen slightly by early May, to maybe ~$100 to $150/month less for new tenants compared to our 2019 rent, after factoring in the standard one or two months' free rent concessions. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Black Friday and Cyber Monday Sales on Things I Like

via Unsplash

It isn't too common for a Black Friday or Cyber Monday sale to include clothing, shoes, or accessories I've had my eye on. Generally, the better sales for products in that category come after Christmas or New Years, provided the specific products I was looking at didn't sell out in the meantime. This year, I thought I'd make a list of Black Friday or Cyber Monday sales that include specific items I've bought and liked - generally available in at least slightly different colors than when I bought the item - or fairly narrow categories of items I feel I can somewhat vouch for. 

I'll keep this list updated throughout the next few days. Happy Thanksgiving to those of you in the US, or who are currently celebrating the holiday! 

Please note that this post contains affiliate links that could result in my earning a small commission - at no extra cost to you - if you click and make a purchase. Thank you for your support!

Babaa Sweaters and Lounge Sets: The Spanish slow fashion knitwear brand Babaa is running a fairly broad holiday sale, apparently through this weekend. The brand doesn't offer sales too, too often, and their products are - reasonably - quite pricey, so this is an alright opportunity if you've been eyeing some of their sweaters or lounge sets. A number of the merino wool lounge sets are on sale, through sadly the light turquoise "seaside" color I bought is sold out. That dramatically chunky No. 15 jumper I got is also on sale in a few colors, including the gray-brown "oak" color I have. Admittedly, the No. 15 jumper is so intentionally oversized and chunky that it isn't too practical, I can't layer it under any of my coats. 

Jasmine Chong Ella Silk Organza Scrunchie: This handmade pleated silk organza scruchie was a social distancing-time pick-me-up I purchased in June this year, and I think it's quite lovely and well-made. I was happy with my purchase at full price, though I know I won't likely get too, too much use from it once I'm back to working in-person. I definitely don't expect super-small brands and businesses to run Black Friday sales, though I certainly appreciate when they do. Jasmine Chong is running 20% off accessories this year, including this scrunchie (use the code HOLIDAY20). 

Cuyana Leather Totes and Cases: Cuyana has put a limited number of their leather totes and leather cases on sale through Monday, with a 15% off discount applied at checkout. K got me this set of two leather travel cases for Christmas one year. I also own the non-zipper version of their classic leather tote -  the zippered version of which is on sale - and both are good, unbranded, and very simple-looking leather tote for work. Their classic totes are nice and feel sturdy, but the leather is also very soft and pliable, which makes the bags a bit floppy. 

L.L. Bean Boots and Blankets: L.L. Bean is running a sitewide 15% off sale (with code THANKS15) that includes both the Wicked Cozy blanket I've recently become so fond of and my trusty L.L. Bean boots lined with Gore-Tex and Thinsulate

J.Crew Sweater Blazers: This is admittedly a set of products that doesn't get any use from me while I'm not going to the office - for now, I prefer softer, less structured sweaters - but in normal times I wear my J.Crew sweater blazers frequently throughout the fall and winter. (Though always layered under a wool-blend or down coat, these are not made to block the wind, as I personally found from wearing one out without a coat on one chilly day.) I particularly like the collarless Juliette sweater blazer (styled for work here; styled casually here) for wearing over sheath dresses as part of my "work uniform". I mostly keep the collared Sophie sweater blazer (styled for work here; styled casually here) at my office for use year-round as an "office sweater" when the HVAC system runs too cold, though I think it suits my outfits best as a more casual piece. Note that, at least when I bought them, both sweater blazers ran very large. I ended up taking a size XS in both, which is almost unheard of for me! 

As of today, November 25, J.Crew is currently running a 50% off full-price items and extra 60% off sale items Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale (use the code EARLY) that includes both sweater blazers, though some colors seem to be backordered and might not ship until after the New Year. 

In the past, I believe J.Crew has sometimes run a pretty good sale leading right into Thanksgiving and then slightly hiked up the discount percentage afterwards for Black Friday or Cyber Monday. But given the size of the discount right now, I'm not sure that's likely this year. One relevant anecdote: I specifically recall holding on to a bunch of potential J.Crew purchases to take advantage of this hoped-for increased discount in 2018. I wasn't the only one with that idea, because J.Crew's website couldn't handle the volume of customers throughout the Black Friday weekend that year, and it took me several hours of trying on and off before I could check out successfully online. J.Crew's social media accounts were inundated with a dramatically large number of complaints that year, and I was taken aback at how intensely angry people were willing to get on Twitter and Instagram, where the comments are publicly visible. 

Vince Boiled Cashmere Funnel Neck Sweater: I was just talking about how much I enjoyed this cozy, very soft (but a bit unusually fuzzy, zoom in on the most close-up store photos to see what I mean) sweater I bought last year. Sizing-wise, it's intentionally oversized, and even at a 38'' bust measurement, I still get a slightly oversized look from the size S. Vince is currently running a 30% off sale site-wide (use the code NOVEMBER30). (I feel like I  recall last year's Black Friday or Cyber Monday discount being only around 15%!) From browsing the Vince store and Nordstrom in person back in pre-COVID times, I've found that Vince sweaters for the fall/winter season generally all feel nice, thick, and soft in person. Though I'd still look carefully at the fabric composition details when shopping, because I'd prefer all-natural fibers at their fairly lofty price point! 

Alighieri Jewelry: As is typical, based on at least some of the past few years, Alighieri is running their own sale this year on a limited number of designs. This year's "Archive Sale" has the most generous discounts (more than 40%, I think) I've ever seen for the brand, though not on any styles I own. But because this is from the London-based brand's own store, prices are in GBP (and will incur a foreign exchange fee unless you're using a payment method without one) and international shipping will also be fairly pricey. 

More Alighieri Jewelry: A number of Alighieri jewelry designs are currently on sale at SSENSE and Matches Fashion, though not any of the styles I own. I've bought a slightly extreme number of Alighieri pieces over the years, and haven't seen any tarnishing with the 24 carat gold plating they use. I just love their organic, antiqued aesthetic. (I store my jewelry in a set of stackable jewelry trays with a lid from Amazon, to keep the vermeil and gold-plated pieces away from too much exposure to air. But that isn't enough to keep some of it from tarnishing, unfortunately, as most of my Mejuri collection isn't doing that well...) I'll drop my favorite of the currently on-sale designs of Alighieri jewelry into the Shopstyle widget below. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

November 2020 Shopping Reflections

It may be premature to draft this post before some of the post-Thanksgiving Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales have begun. But given that any post-Thanksgiving orders I make will almost certainly be delivered after December 1 - and that I generally don't report purchases until I've made a final decision about whether to keep or return, with occasional exceptions for made-to-order items with a longer lead time - I think the tally for November should already be final.  

No surprises this month, my sole purchase is something from my planned shopping list for the rest of 2020. Preorders for The Curated's Classic Coat in camel (many sizes still available) opened in the first few days of November, a little earlier than I originally expected. Shipping was also remarkably fast, they sent out my package barely five days after I put in my order! 

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!

I'm satisfied with my Classic Coat purchase and I think the price is very fair, but my feedback also needs to be taken with a huge grain of salt because I likely won't get a real chance to road-test this coat outdoors until some time in 2021. As The Curated is a very small direct-to-consumer company - and each of their out-of-stock items seem to be on its own schedule when it comes to when the next preorder might begin - it can be a bit difficult to shop from them. I felt like I needed to follow their Facebook group (thank you to Kristy for recommending it!) and Instagram to keep track of things. But the company owner is very responsive in their Facebook group, and I'm sure their customer service team is responsive by email as well. 

Fashion - (TOTAL: $375.00) 

  • The Curated Classic Coat, camel - $375.00 - The price of this coat for US customers is $350 and shipping costs $25. They generally use DHL to ship items from abroad, which may account for the significant shipping price, particularly with larger packages like coats. Much like the bloggers I linked to in my previous post about this coat, I really like it! The 70% wool, 30% cashmere blend feels nice and it's fairly thick and soft and drapes nicely over the body, even though the coat is unlined. I don't have experience with many good comparator items because wool or cashmere-blend coats with no synthetic fibers in the shell are not common at this general price point. 100% wool Fleurette coats on sale may be the only generally available thing fitting this criteria. A number of Fleurette designs get into the ~$350 range when discounted, for example at Hautelook or Nordstrom Rack here, here, and here. (I tried on a 100% wool shell Fleurette coat in 2018 and it felt nice, but was also a bit stiffer or more structured than this coat feels.) I own an older Polo Ralph Lauren coat (no longer available, worn here) - a generous birthday gift from my mom -  that's 90% wool, 10% cashmere and which started at ~$550, but went on sale for closer to ~$350 when my mom got it for me. That material is noticeably thinner; a little rougher to the touch; and drapes less well, even with a lining. I'm 5'3'' and roughly 38''-28''-38'' right now, and the size M of this Classic Coat was the correct choice, I think it fits exactly as intended. One thing to watch out for is that this coat is very straight up and down, it doesn't taper out at all around the hips, unlike most other women's coat designs. I think the smaller-than-expected hip measurement tends to be what throws things off for people who feel they ordered the wrong size. 

Happy Thanksgiving to those of you in the US! K and I are staying home, and we'll cook a special meal for just our household. We'll use Google Meet or FaceTime for a video chat with his parents and my family. K's cold symptoms last week were super-mild and fleeting, he's already feeling much better. But given the timing and our inability to get COVID-19 testing without additional indoor exposure to people outside our household, canceling our Thanksgiving plans was absolutely the correct and responsible thing to do.

As for Black Friday or Cyber Monday sales, I'll definitely only be shopping online, but that isn't too different from other years. The Reset is doing a 25% off discount code starting now, so I'll think about that polo sweater a bit more and possibly put in that order towards the end of the week. Recently, some sparkly slippers have caught my eye, like these colorful sequin Ugg "Scuffette" slippers (I particularly like the dark purple "medallion" color) or these gold glitter Birdies (mostly sold out, may not restock in time for Christmas), but I've never really liked wearing slippers at home when given the opportunity, so I think I should stay away from this idea. Plus, I'm not sure either shoe will be part of any special Black Friday or Cyber Monday sales. 

Friday, November 20, 2020

Social Distancing Life Lately: Change of Thanksgiving Plans

via Unpslash 

Well, we always knew this was a possibility. Two days after my previous "Social Distancing Life Lately" post went live - on the ninth day of our stricter-than-usual 14 day pre-Thanksgiving quarantine - K started experiencing some very mild cold symptoms. Naturally, our plans for K's parents to come pick us up and to spend Thanksgiving with them are now officially cancelled. 

K's feeling just fine, the symptoms are almost nothing compared to when we both came down with nasty colds a few weeks ago, and I haven't been sick at all this time around. But in this situation, where symptoms began within 14 days after our last outings - one masked grocery trip together and my visit to the office for some work that needed to be done on-site - and it's not currently possible for us to get a COVID test without additional indoor contact with people outside of our household, the right thing to do is clear. We cannot spend time indoors with K's parents and risk getting them sick. (See, for example, this CDC-derived graphic that's been going around, and these charts from the New York Times, which I learned about here.)

We're all disappointed. K's parents haven't seen him since February, except for a few curbside exchanges where they drove to our apartment building in NYC and stayed in their car with masks on while we also masked up and dropped off some things they'd asked for in their trunk - typically some Asian groceries delivered by Southeast Asia Food Group - and picked up items they'd gotten for us, including their extra Instant Pot. We wouldn't be able to live with ourselves if we got them sick. Cancelling our plans now is the correct and necessary thing to do. 

To tell the truth, K and I had been feeling some uncertainty about whether our original plan to spend the holiday together was going to work. Because we would need to travel through our apartment building's lobby - a shared space that generally has at least our or two other people around, even if everyone is masked - at least one time when they picked us up, it's impossible to have a perfectly airtight 14 day quarantine before we see each other. The risk there is probably minimal, it'd take barely a minute to pass through, but it can't be eliminated. 

Plus, COVID-19 conditions in all parts of the US can change so rapidly, both the NYC-area COVID data and the national conversation surrounding how to approach Thanksgiving kept shifting between when we first formed the plan in late October; when we started quarantine after I got back from the office on November 10; and as the days of our quarantine ticked by. The situation throughout the US has only gotten worse - far, far worse in some parts of the country - throughout those weeks. 

It's strange, I felt sometimes like K and I had sort of been outliers since July or August, in terms of still taking so many precautions and staying home so much while NYC was doing great with its COVID numbers. But, by having potential plans with his parents until today, we suddenly sounded reckless and foolhardy in the past week or two. So many of my friends - generally all very cautious, but who didn't always stay in quite as much as we did during the summer, particularly if they had their own car or could rent a car - cancelled potential holiday plans with their families at least a few days before we did. 

K, his parents, and I are still holding on to plans to start another 14 day - or longer - quarantine before Christmas Eve, in hopes of maybe trying again to be able to spend a holiday together. (We may even be able to arrange for it to be 17 or 18 days.) Once again, we are all in agreement that we would pull back and cancel if any of the four of us gets any symptoms during the 14 days, or if work makes it impossible for me to adhere to the quarantine due to being needed in the office again. But with how easy it seems to be to pick up a cold just from masked grocery trips outside the home - and with our lack of easy access drive-through COVID testing in NYC and the unknown availability of outdoor testing -  the likelihood of moving forward with December holiday plans may not be great. 

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Recent Small Joys

Part of me still feels the occasional flutter of stress about the recent US presidential election. Obviously, the outcome it abundantly clear, it's not a remotely close call. President-Elect Biden and Vice President-Elect Harris will be inaugurated next January. But with all the undignified posturing and truly bonkers lies about election-related litigation coming from our outgoing President and his team, it's hard for me not to feel some momentary distress at times. 

All that "amateur hour" litigation work done on behalf of the Trump campaign by the time major news networks called the election results last Saturday has been followed only by maneuvers plumbing shocking new depths of incompetence. I cringe frequently from secondhand embarrassment when reading about their lawyers' statements during hearings and in some written filings, knowing these are the sort of things that'd likely earn a well-deserved scolding and withering retorts from basically all judges I've ever practiced before. And that's usually exactly what happens. 

Admittedly - at least in the SDNY, where I practice most frequently - judges regularly administer remonstrations and sharp words even when it actually isn't particularly warranted, something I've personally experienced more than a few times. So any tale of judicial exasperation or anger, no matter who it's directed to and how richly they deserve it, brings back bad memories. But I digress. Long story short, anyone as pleased as I was with the outcome of the US presidential election has nothing to fear at present from the courts. 

Ah, but let's move on, because this is meant to be a light-hearted post about things that have brought me some small bits of joy and levity in recent days! 

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Election Celebration: Following the widespread acknowledgement of the presidential election results last Saturday, K and I couldn't help but want to celebrate, just the two of us at home. I made the Cook's Illustrated "Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies" and K made us Instant Pot ribs. (His parents gave us their extra Instant Pot - not sure how they ended up with two - during a socially distanced and fully masked curbside exchange a few months ago, when we gave them some Asian groceries they requested from Southeast Asia Food Group's delivery service.) Both recipes are pretty good.

The Swan Rescue: I thought this was a sweet and very NYC story, about how an experienced wildlife rehabber rescued a sick swan from Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in Queens. Getting the bird to the Wild Bird Fund in the Upper West Side of Manhattan was apparently an arduous journey that involved taking the swan on the subway, where apparently none of the other passengers had any real reaction. (It's definitely typical NYC behavior to ignore strange sights on the subway.) There's a video update in this Daily Show clip, among other places, and the swan seems to be on her way to recovery. 

Time's 100 Best Fantasy Books: I've read and enjoyed 27 books on Time's list of the "100 Best Fantasy Books of All Time". I thought it was a great list, with an expansive view of the genre, including works geared towards all age groups and books that aren't all shelved in the sci-fi/fantasy section of your average bookstore or library. My one small quibble is that maybe it's a little arbitrary to include two books from certain series but not others. (Though in each instance where I've read both books on the list from the same series - C.S. Lewis's The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader; the Harry Potter books; and Ken Liu's The Grace of Kings and The Wall of Storms - I agree that both books are strong.) 

Standout favorites of mine include: The Ken Liu books, particularly The Wall of Storms, though you'll need to read The Grace of Kings first; N.K. Jemisin's The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, but the only reason I can't yet vouch for her other novels on the list is that I haven't been able to read them yet; Guy Gavriel Kay's Tigana, though I'd personally recommend The Lions of Al-Rassan or Sailing to Sarantium instead to a first-time Kay reader; and David Mitchell's The Bone Clocks. But it's really hard to choose, because so many of the books I've read on this list are wonderful!

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Social Distancing Life Lately: Eight Months, The Holidays, and Beyond

via Unsplash

EDITED 11/22/2020: Nine days into our pre-Thanksgiving quarantine, K started coming down with super-mild cold symptoms. Because there is no way for us to get COVID testing without risking at least some indoor exposure to people outside our household, we decided on November 20 that we needed to cancel our Thanksgiving plans in order to protect K's parents. We're all very disappointed, but I think what we know about the science makes very clear that this is the right and necessary thing to do. The original text of this post, from before we made this decision, is below.

- - - - -

When I wrote my previous "Social Distancing Life Lately" post in mid-September, I was really hoping it would be the last. Obviously, the COVID-19 pandemic wasn't over, and it probably wouldn't be over in the US until an effective vaccine was widely distributed. K and I knew we were going to need to continue taking precautions and practicing social distancing until then, at least through the end of 2020 and probably for at least a few months beyond. 

But the COVID data had been relatively good and stable in NYC for several months by mid-September with gradual reopening. I hoped this meant we had settled into a "new normal" here, in which life could continue moving forward, with further reopening of schools and other indoor settings in a limited way with heavy precautions without causing serious spikes in new COVID cases. In other words, I was optimistic that while social distancing would certainly need to continue here in NYC, there wouldn't be any new, significant negative developments worth writing about. 

Unfortunately, that hasn't quite been the case. When last I wrote about our COVID progress, NYC had maintained a citywide percent positive rate of ~1.5% or less since mid-June, trending closer to ~1.2% or less since mid-August, all with robust COVID test availability. By mid or late September, public schools reopened for in-person classes two to three days/week for students opting in, and indoor dining rooms at restaurants were also permitted to reopen at 25% capacity at the end of the month. To my knowledge, those were the only significant new indoor activities allowed by our state and city government since September. 

Our citywide COVID percent positive creeped up towards ~1.7% or so in early October, but remained stable there. That number didn't seem to be considered a "danger zone" in terms of closing schools or anything else back down. There were local hot spots or clusters with significantly higher percent positive rates, which the state government responded to with targeted shut-downs in those neighborhoods. This month, our citywide percent positive climbed solidly past 2%, then 2.5%. At 3% positive, NYC public schools may be shut down. Like in other parts of the US, things aren't moving in a good direction. 

The Holidays

K and I are currently halfway through a stricter-than-usual 14 day home quarantine in preparation for spending Thanksgiving with his parents at their home. To tell the truth, this two-week period of stricter-than-usual social distancing doesn't actually look all that different from our typical lifestyle these past eight months. We generally went at least three or four weeks between trips outside our apartment building regardless, so the only newly stepped-up precaution is that we're also avoiding picking up packages from our doorman. When we've completed our quarantine, K's parents will drive from their home in the Connecticut suburbs to pick us up. 

Our quarantine is not completely airtight. When K and I leave, we'll need to pass through our apartment building's lobby - mask on, of course - and while it's never crowded there, the doorman and maybe one of our neighbors will probably be in that medium sized space. We take out our trash to a chute down the hall - mask on, again - once every few days, though generally there's no one else around when we do so. K's parents may ask us to make a grocery delivery order or two for our visit - generally brought by contactless drop-off - if they're not comfortable with shopping in-person due to increased COVID cases in Connecticut. Those are the only weak points from our end. 

K's parents take the same day-to-day precautions we do - generally encountering no one outside their household but for occasional fully masked trips to the grocery store, pharmacy, doctor's office, and so on - except that because they live in a single-family home and own a car, they're able to go outdoors more easily while staying socially distanced. If they decide that Thanksgiving groceries should be done by delivery to us instead of their taking an in-person trip to shop, they won't come into contact with anyone outside their household in the two weeks before they pick us up. (They'll stay in the car when they're picking us up.) 

Obviously, if any of the four of us comes down with what looks like COVID symptoms in the meantime, our Thanksgiving plans will be scrapped. COVID testing is not part of our visit "protocol" because - having recently gotten a test at our closest NYC public hospital-run testing site - I know from experience that one encounters at least as many masked people in an indoor setting while waiting to register for the test as one does at the grocery store. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Skincare Update: Trying out Curology

Via Unsplash, where I think Curology has provided a lot of their own stock photography.

One random and somewhat unexpected consequence of life in the COVID-19 era is that my skin really doesn't seem to like my new working from home, never really going out lifestyle. My persistent adult acne - a decade-long issue for me, unfortunately - is noticeably worse than it generally was for the past year or two before March 2020. And it's almost certainly not because of wearing face masks whenever I leave my apartment, as most of the breakouts are on parts of my face that aren't covered by a mask. 

It's probably silly - and clearly premature - to write a blog post to announce I'm trying Curology when I only just received my prescription serum yesterday and haven't yet spent much time using it. (I always start slow with new products for my face, testing on my wrist on the first day; on a small spot on my face or neck the second day; and on a larger patch of my face the third day.*) But I've been around the block more than a few times - alas! - when it comes to seeking medical assistance for my acne. With all that experience, I'm comfortable with Curology's approach so far. 

Curology is, essentially, a dermatology telemedicine startup that prescribes custom compounded topical treatments with combinations of some of the active ingredients typically found in prescription skincare products. My prescription topical formula currently includes tretinoin, clindamycin, and azelaic acid. The first two active ingredients are ones I've used for years in other prescription products.  

I've been aware of Curology - originally called Pocketderm - for a while. It was popular with the skincare bloggers I was reading back in 2015. And over the years, a few different readers here have also commented with positive feedback. If I remember correctly, the fees have always been ~$20/month for acne treatment. I have this vague memory of their offering a higher price tier for anti-aging treatment at some point, but that's no longer the case. These days, the prescription formula is $19.95/month, plus tax and $4.95 shipping after an initial "free" month's trial, for which the new customer just pays shipping. Customers can also add Curology-branded cleanser, mosturizer, etc. for an extra fee. 

Until now, I've never been interested in trying Curology for myself because the numbers simply didn't work. Back when I first heard of them, my total co-pays for doctor's visits plus acne-fighting prescriptions always worked out significantly cheaper than the ~$20/month cost of Curology. Unfortunately that started to change for me by 2017 or so. I've always had fairly good insurance coverage, but the co-pays for the same dermatology prescriptions I've used - some on and off, some constantly - for over a decade have just kept climbing. From 2015 through late 2016, my Retin-A Micro 0.1% and Clindamycin topical refills still cost ~$10-$15/each, like when I first started using those products around 2005. From 2017 on, the co-pays grew to ~$40-$45/refill per product. Since 2019, it's more like ~$75/refill. Ouch! I believe my experience is consistent with larger industry trends for dermatology prescriptions. 

Saturday, November 7, 2020

What a Week (But it Ended Happily!)

Because of my worries about the outcome of the US presidential election last week, I wasn't able to write anything here. (Nor was I sleeping well nor able to focus much on work either, I was doing even more doom-scrolling for news on Twitter than I was at the start of the COVID-19 shutdowns here in NYC!) I'm definitely in the group of people still traumatized by the memory of 2016 and by the specter of Bush v. Gore (plus the knowledge that we have a 6-3 conservative US Supreme Court). 

Americans were waiting on pins and needles for several days before any of the major news networks were willing to call the election outcome for President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris. By and large, I think most sources were giving us enough information to be fairly certain by sometime on Thursday or Friday, but it's still hard to feel sure until everyone actually starts announcing it. 

Throughout the week, I was also keeping an eye on the election-related litigation with considerable trepidation. But it was quickly becoming clear that the election was not likely to come down to a single state (one of the necessary conditions, it seemed to me, to create a real risk that a Supreme Court case could decide the election) and that none of the currently pending cases was likely to affect a large enough quantity of votes in any state to affect the overall outcome there, in any case. Of course, we never know such things for sure until every vote is actually counted, but these seemed like very reasonable educated guesses by Thursday or Friday. And the Trump campaign's election-related litigation strategy to date has been a truly hot mess, it's all extremely "amateur hour."  

I breathed a huge sigh of relief when the major news networks and the Biden campaign made their more formal announcements this morning. The fight is far from over, especially with the runoffs for Georgia's Senate seats coming up, but for now, there is something to celebrate. 

Friday, October 30, 2020

October 2020 Shopping Reflections

K and I are both feeling pretty well now after our recent brush with unusually severe cold symptoms. By the time my post went live, we were already starting to get better, and thank goodness, that trend has continued. My COVID-19 testing experience didn't go too smoothly - there was a problem with my first sample and I needed to go back a second time - but I ultimately tested negative, so all's well that ends well! 

In accordance with my doctor's COVID precautions, however, my routine appointment will still be postponed a few weeks. I've also confirmed with my work supervisors that I'll be staying home until my symptoms are gone. (So I don't feel like I need to get a second negative COVID test to be safe to others, since I won't be going anywhere for a while regardless.) Oh, and K and I will both be getting our flu shots as soon as we can, after we've fully recovered. 

I wrote recently about my shopping plans for the rest of the year, with a list of three items I have my eye on. And as you can see, neither of my purchases this month - two colorful Aerie sweatshirts - were on that planned-for list. They're velour sweatshirts, no less, which... definitely isn't a fabric I'd ever have thought I'd reach for. 

I'm old enough to remember when those Juicy Couture velour tracksuits - a definite example of why people say the early 2000s had questionable fashion - were all the rage. I never even considered owning a Juicy tracksuit because it was too far out of the acceptable price range - I had a Victoria's Secret Pink-brand sweatshirt and sweatpants, both from the sale section, instead - but I was aware enough of the Juicy tracksuit trend that the idea of a velour sweatshirt still has a strong association with the 2000s in my mind. 

I found these colors - a bright teal and a deep purple - charming when I first came across these Aerie sweatshirts maybe two weeks ago. But I had been good about resisting the impulse because I now have plenty of stay-at-home loungewear. 

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I ultimately blame both my lingering cold symptoms and Mitch McConnell for this month's purchases. I placed the order a few days ago on Monday evening, when I was still feeling ill and after it became clear the Senate Republicans would ram through their replacement for Justice Ginsburg's seat. I know, I know, retail therapy is a terrible vice and isn't actually helpful. Since starting this blog - where I reflect on my years of closet decluttering, KonMari method, and new additions to my wardrobe, all in excruciating detail - I've gotten much better about not shopping just to soothe my feelings. But 2020 has proven to be... a special year, in the worst possible way. 

Fashion - (Total: $69.92) 

  • Aerie Velour Sweatshirt, jade - $34.46 - (sold out, other colors here) Between this month and the last, I guess it's clear I have a hard time resisting teal sweatshirts! Velour is definitely outside my sartorial comfort zone, but I'm only ever going to wear these sweatshirts at home. While I have plenty of other recently-acquired stay-at-home loungewear, I think it's clear now that I'm going to be stuck in my apartment and rarely able to go anywhere else for several months more. So new loungewear will certainly still be put to use! According to customer reviews, these sweatshirts are dramatically oversized, so I got this in a size XS because it was the only one left by the time I ordered. (I'm no longer strictly opposed to doing mail-in returns, like I was at the start of the COVID-19 shutdowns, but I'm still endeavoring to avoid returning things whenever possible. If the XS turns out too small for me, I may pass it on to my sister instead.)
  • Aerie Velour Sweatshirt, fresh bright - $34.46 - I don't know why they call this deep purple color "fresh bright." I ordered this in a size S, and we'll see whether both sizes work for me. While Aerie made matching velour joggers in some colors, neither of these shades are available as matched sets. It's a bit hard to get a good read on exactly how oversized these sweatshirts are, as I feel like Aerie intentionally didn't size down for the models in the store photos, while the average customer would probably size down, maybe even by two sizes. Here are a few photos of customers or Aerie store employees wearing the sweatshirts or the full sets on Instagram, which may give a better idea of the fit: here, here, here, and here. (Aerie may have done a social media campaign encouraging people to incorporate these sweatsuits into stay-at-home Halloween costume ideas, as you'll see from some of these examples...) 

Does anyone else remember when Juicy Couture tracksuits were cool? (Particularly when worn with Uggs?) I only learned about the trend in college, towards the late 2000s, which I think was a few years after it hit its peak. In college, colorful sweatpants with Uggs were a super-popular look, but only a few people on campus wore - or could afford - the matching Juicy tracksuits. Victoria's Secret Pink sweatpants and sweatshirts were far more common.

And is anyone else also finding that 2020 is eroding their typical resolve against retail therapy? I confess I also engaged in other retail therapy this month, not just for my closet. I ordered a few more bottles of fountain pen ink. I also bought more Cocofloss, after spending some time using normal drugstore floss when my previous pack ran out. I know it sounds kooky and extravagant to buy fancy dental floss, but every time I switch to a drugstore one again, it doesn't take long before I switch right back. I just feel I get a better clean from the thicker, more "grippy" texture of the Cocofloss. 

I'm filled with so much trepidation about the outcome of the American presidential election. I've long been of the view that our current President demeans our Constitution and the values and ideals embedded in it. I'm not sure the rule of law, which his Department of Justice actively undermines, and our legal norms can take much more. I'm genuinely afraid of what happens if he wins a second term, particularly to immigration law. This doesn't quite fit in a post that's otherwise about this month's shopping, but I just needed to get that off my chest. 

Monday, October 26, 2020

Life Lately: Sick Day(s)

via Unsplash

Last Tuesday, K and I went out for some in-person grocery shopping at Trader Joe's. It was our first trip outside our apartment building in a little over four weeks. The Trader Joe's in our neighborhood continues to limit capacity inside the store and to require face masks for all employees and customers, so it always feels like a reasonably safe and socially distanced shopping experience. We were, of course, wearing face masks the entire time we were out - as was everyone else in the store -  and we also washed our hands immediately upon returning home and then again after putting our groceries away. 

Two days later, we both started coming down with symptoms of what could be a nasty cold, or a mild flu, or COVID-19: headaches, muscle aches, sore throats, moderate coughs, extremely runny noses, and sinus congestion. I briefly had a low-grade fever on Saturday and haven't been able to smell much since Saturday evening*, though my nose isn't currently too stuffed up otherwise. We have - of course - stayed home since the symptoms first appeared, with no contact with anyone outside our household. We have not, unfortunately, been able to get our flu shots yet: We would likely have gone last Thursday or Friday if we hadn't gotten sick.  

And yes, because we can't discount the possibility that we have COVID-19 until we've been tested, we'll need to test negative before we even consider going anywhere but a COVID testing site in the near future. I got a COVID test earlier today, and even if it comes back negative, I may still want to get another negative test before I personally feel it's safe for others for me to go anywhere. (COVID test availability in NYC is extremely robust and has been for months: basically everyone who wants one can get tested anytime, as often as they like.) 

With our household's continued adherence to fairly strict social distancing, I wouldn't have gone anywhere for fun, in any case.  But I may have a work task that would have required my presence in the office next week if I weren't recently sick. I also have a routine doctor's appointment on my calendar for early next week, though at this rate, their office's COVID-19 precautionary guidelines may require me to reschedule.

At their peak, my symptoms were right on the edge of being bad enough that I'd have taken a sick day away from the office in pre-COVID times. But it would have been a difficult choice because - at least in the pre-COVID era - the culture in some private-sector legal workplaces discouraged employees from taking sick days. Presently, with all the government-directed health and safety precautions in place for reopened - or partially reopened - white-collar offices in NYC, I wouldn't be allowed to enter the office while I'm showing any typical COVID-19 symptoms. (For now, I still have the sore throat, slight cough, and loss of smell, so no office time for me until those clear up!) 

And ugh, I must say, it hardly feels fair that K and I got sick from one relatively fleeting grocery outing after a little over four weeks of staying home, especially when we were properly masked the whole time, as was everyone else in the store. I mean, seriously?! We were barely out, were fully masked, didn't have sustained social contact with anyone, and washed our hands multiple times as soon as we got home! 

Anyway, K and I are doing well, just staying home to continue our rest and recovery. Whatever we have, it really doesn't feel much worse than a nasty cold. It's not severe enough for us to even suspect it could be the flu. I'm a little behind on replying to comments and writing other entries for this blog, though, since I haven't felt like being on my computer as much as usual. Oh, and K and I already voted by mailing in our absentee ballots last Tuesday. We've confirmed through the NYC absentee ballot tracking system that our ballots were received last Thursday and deemed valid last Friday, so our votes are officially in. 

* My current best way of testing out whether my sense of smell has returned is to open one of my many sample vials of Sailor brand fountain pen ink and take a big sniff. Sailor inks have a pronounced chemical smell, likely due to their use of preservative chemicals to prevent mold from growing in the ink. And if I can't smell even a bit of it when I open the vial and stick my nose up close, then well, that's how I know my loss of smell is definitely significant!