Monday, May 31, 2021

May 2021 Reading Reflections

I felt like I got my reading momentum back this month, although I'm not sure how long it will last. I always feel like I'm on a roll when I've selected a few particularly good and engaging books in a row, but as soon as I pick a single dud - not necessarily an objectively bad book, just one I'm not in the mood or right frame of mind to finish reading at the time - my momentum completely crashes. 

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At any rate, this month's books were all able to hold my attention and make me want to race through them. The second and third books I read this month were on the long side - 600+ and 500+ printed pages, respectively - so even if I was rushing to get to the end, it still took roughly two weeks of evenings to get through each. (I do most of my reading right before bed, and I typically work through two books at a time, switching between them on my Kindle several times during a typical evening. Whenever I find myself getting a little bored of where I'm at in one book, I switch to the other one for a while, and then back again.) 

  • Girl A by Abigail Dean - This novel is inspired by the Turpin child abuse case, so be forewarned that the subject matter is quite dark. I thought this was very well-written, though I think many readers find the nonlinear narrative a bit confusing and unnecessarily cryptic. This book is ultimately narrowly focused on the main character - "Girl A," the eldest daughter who escaped from the house - and her inner, psychological journey of coming to terms with what she experienced. Some would say the book is written in a fragmented way that "hides the ball," which could be frustrating, though I'd argue that this writing style is true to the main character's state of mind. A Goodreads reviewer mentioned that while the premise sounds similar to Emma Donoghue's Room, Girl A is actually a lot more like Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go, in that it's about a character looking back and slowly realizing dark truths about their past and re-evaluating their understanding of long-ago events. I find this to be a very accurate comparison. (Both those other novels are very good, by the way. They're probably both technically better-written novels than Girl A, but I enjoyed all three.) 
  • Empire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe - I really enjoy well-researched books about corporate wrongdoing, like with the excellent Bad Blood by John Carreyrou. Empire of Pain is similarly well-written and well-researched, but because its focus is more on the Sackler family than their company, Purdue Pharmaceuticals ("Purdue"), I enjoyed it slightly less than Bad Blood. The first fifth of the book discusses the roots of the Sackler family's wealth - mostly from before they bought Purdue - and I personally found that section a bit of a slog. Though I think Patrick Radden Keefe does an excellent job tying the whole story together by showing how the family's earlier work relates to later events, I just personally found the earlier part less interesting. This book is mainly about an extremely rich family and their personal drama and conflicts amongst themselves over control of family assets and Purdue. Let's just say the real-life version is definitely far less interesting or darkly entertaining than Succession. (A number of Purdue employees even draw the comparison between the Sacklers and the Roys from Succession.) Based on the book's descriptions, the Sacklers are a tedious and unpleasant bunch, all the worst caricatures about people living on absurd amounts of family money - blood money, given that their current wealth is based on selling opioids - come to life. It was an extremely interesting read, this book is definitely another frontrunner for my favorite nonfiction book of the year. Radden Keefe also wrote Say Nothing, which I also enjoyed.
  • Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz - I've read this series out of order, as I finished the second book back in March before picking up this one. I think Moonflower Murders is slightly better-paced, but that's just a small nitpicky comment, as I greatly enjoyed both. These books both contain the novel-within-a-novel device, except in this one, you actually start with the second novel first and only get introduced to the actual main story after finishing most of the other novel. I found that transition a bit abrupt, so I didn't get swept up in this book quite as quickly as with Moonflower Murders. Once again, I really liked Anthony Horowitz's writing style, even if I didn't have the background knowledge to understand many of the references he makes to Agatha Christie's books, Sherlock Holmes, or other whodunnits. (There were, however, a few references to European fountain pen manufacturers I was able to recognize, thanks to my relatively recent jump into that hobby!) I might pick up more of Anthony Horowitz's work now that I've finished all the currently available volumes from this series. Though I wonder if I might like his other books less because I think a lot of what makes the Magpie Murders series so good is the heroine, the down-to-earth and no-nonsense Susan Ryeland. 

I'm currently working my way through a few books that aren't quite as engaging or exciting to me, unfortunately. Which is not to say they're objectively bad books, I think my brain is still distracted and preoccupied from pandemic-time concerns and so my tastes in books aren't what they'd normally be. It continues to be difficult for any book to really hold my attention. 

Right now, I'm definitely still very fickle and fussy about what I'm reading, and it's easy for small, innocuous details to really annoy me and make me not want to finish a book I'd normally enjoy. For instance, I just picked up The Push by Ashley Audrain, which is the exact type of thriller-ish story focused on a woman's internal dialogue and thought processes surrounding some dark event that I typically love to read. While I can appreciate that The Push is objectively quite well-written, something about the premise and writing style just isn't working for me, even though I normally love books like this. 

Have you read any of the books on my list this month? If so, what did you think? Or have you read anything particularly good recently?

Thursday, May 27, 2021

May 2021 Shopping Reflections

This was a fairly expensive shopping month for me, but also a rather boring one by any objective standard. Business formal is a big part of my life - in the sense that meetings, depositions, or court proceedings requiring business formal wear can come up anytime at work, sometimes with little notice - but I find all the components so incredibly dull and tedious to wear. It was only with great reluctance that I shopped for a new suit this month, after realizing in April that I would probably need a new one just in case any of my government job interviews in the next few months end up being in person. 

There definitely exist ways for women to be more creative about business formal. See, for example, how Representative Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Pelosi dress at times. But with my budget constraints, personal style preferences (in which I don't even particularly enjoy wearing blazers), personal priorities about consuming less and about what types of clothes or accessories I'd prefer to spend on (so I'd rather keep fewer business formal items in my closet, which means I need to stick to conservative, boring pieces that can be worn in front of a jury, if needed); and relative lack of seniority in the profession (so my outfits need to err on the side of not drawing attention), it's not really in the cards for me to be able to push the sartorial envelope when I'm adhering to a business formal dress code. 

In other words, my design and style preferences for business formal have not evolved much since I wrote about my ideal law student interview outfit way, way back in early 2015. My budget for clothing, including workwear, has increased significantly since that time - and the general quality and types of styles available at many brands have also changed considerably in the intervening years - so my list of go-to brands is naturally very different now. And I don't think I was clear enough back then that I would swap in different-colored tops or more comfortable shoes - including loafers, wedges, or booties - and still consider the resulting outfits fairly conservative business formal that would still be appropriate for job interviews or court.

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I do think business formal style norms have changed a fair bit since I was last doing job interviews as a law student back in 2015. Among other changes, I understand that various jacket or blazer and sheath dress combinations - in either matching or contrasting colors - are totally common as women's business formal in most settings now. I would personally still refrain from wearing them instead of a more traditional suit in front of a jury, however, but most attorneys only rarely work in front of a jury, if ever. (I've never actually even been in the presence of a jury outside of my clerkship!) 

Fashion - (Total: $317.67) 

  • J.Crew Petite Parke Blazer in Italian Stretch Wool, heather coal - $235.17 - For this round of suit shopping, I initially ordered from both Brooks Brothers and J.Crew, but because Brooks Brothers didn't offer petite sizing in the fabric I wanted, I was quickly left with only J.Crew as an option. Particularly because I need to size up a fair amount - relative to my waist size and shoulder width - to accommodate my chest measurement, I quickly learned I absolutely need a petite sizing blazer. Any regular sizing blazer large enough to fit comfortably around my bust is also likely to be cartoonishly oversized on my arms (both in terms of length and circumference), shoulders, and waist. In other words, it's pretty clear I'd need too many alterations for a regular sizing blazer to be a feasible purchase purely from a cost of tailoring perspective, before even actually consulting with a tailor to determine whether it'd even be possible or reasonable to make all those changes. Between Brooks Brothers, Theory, and J.Crew, J.Crew was also the only brand to offer a more traditional-looking wool skirt suit in this darker charcoal gray-type shade, which I prefer over the lighter gray of my J.Crew Factory suit. I don't love that this is a single-button jacket, as two-button jackets tend to have a more sleek and fitted look on me. Because I'm on the curvy and busty side, this single-button Parke Blazer definitely doesn't look the same on me as it does on the model. 
  • J.Crew No. 2 Pencil Skirt in Italian Stretch Wool, heather coal - $82.50 - In my usual way, though I needed a petite sizing blazer, I preferred to stick to a regular sizing skirt. I also did this when I last bought a suit for myself back in 2017, that time from J.Crew Factory. Although this fabric is described as a "stretch wool" with 96% wool and 4% elastane (with a 100% polyester lining), I can't actually really feel the "stretch" when I'm trying it on. I imagine the elastane does help with making the suit marginally more comfortable to wear over a long day, but I don't think it makes the fit noticeably more forgiving than the same suit made in 100% wool fabric would be. I'd prefer if the waistband of this skirt was a little wider, as I think that would give this skirt a noticeably neater, more structured look when it's worn without the jacket. But that's a fairly small detail that really doesn't matter if I only plan to wear the skirt with the jacket regardless. 

Now that NYC is almost fully reopened and I know I'll soon be back in the office close to full time, my typical online window-shopping habits are starting to return. (I've already worked in the office three days out of this work week due to some issues that came up in one of my cases! But my workplace hasn't announced our formal return date yet.) So I think it may end up being quite a while before my next no-shopping month. 

I confess, I'm actually a bit unreasonably excited to be back in the mood to shop for jewelry again, since it's my favorite type of accessory in recent years. (As the COVID shutdown continued, the idea of buying new jewelry, which I only really wear outside the home, started to make me feel particularly sad.) For nearly a year now, I've been mentioning Alicia Goodwin's beautiful jewelry design work and her company, Lingua Nigra. Now I'm finally able to get in the frame of mind for making a purchase, maybe as soon as next month! Though I think I'm now leaning towards a necklace, rather than a pair of earrings, as I've realized I don't do well with bigger, more dangly earrings, I just can't stop worrying they'll get tangled in my hair or caught on something. 

Monday, May 24, 2021

First Outings

Things sure are opening back up quickly here in NYC! Last Wednesday, on May 19, the New York state government officially allowed many indoor settings - including restaurants and offices - to reopen at full capacity with no mask requirement for fully vaccinated people, in keeping with the new CDC guidance. (Restaurants, offices, stores, etc. may all continue to impose their own mask requirements, of course.) Surprisingly, I still haven't received instructions regarding the date by which I need to return to the office full time, or even part time, though I will have a mandatory in-office meeting for one of my cases today. 

I've been out and about a few times since May 19 to do things I wouldn't have done before I was fully vaccinated. K and I continue to make the personal choice to wear masks in public - both while indoors and outdoors, since we're always in transit to some indoor destination - except while we're actively eating or drinking. The photograph above is from this past weekend at one of our longtime favorite restaurants, BCD Tofu House in Koreatown. Which is another way of saying that, yes, we've now had our first indoor restaurant outing since the COVID shutdowns began last March. 

Now that K and I and all our close friends and family - in other words, everyone we could possibly expect to socialize with in the near term - are all fully vaccinated, it's feeling a little easier than I expected to quickly adjust to how we'll likely be able to resume many pre-COVID era activities soon. (The vast majority of our close friends in NYC do not have young children at home who are too young to get the COVID vaccination, which I think makes it much easier for us to just jump back in to things.) Much of our return to regular activities won't be entirely by our choice, including with my return date to the office and my possible late June international business trip that's still being discussed by my supervisors. At some point soon, K and I may also have job interviews that will take place in person. Certain court proceedings are also already back to happening in person. 

It's interesting to observe how quickly - or slowly - people's behaviors have been changing in NYC in response to the recent and extremely rapid changes in the CDC's mask guidelines (which our state government quickly decided to fully adopt). In general since May 19, I've seen that anywhere from 25% to 50% or so of the people I pass by on the sidewalk are still wearing masks outdoors while en route to wherever they're going, much like K and I have also been doing. 

Trader Joe's is among the many large national retail chains that have announced they'll follow the new CDC guidelines, so if the state government no longer requires vaccinated people to wear masks indoors, Trader Joe's store locations there will no longer require masks either. Thus, going strictly by the letter of the law, New Yorkers shopping at Trader Joe's no longer need to wear masks inside if they're fully vaccinated (but to my knowledge, the stores do not actually have the ability to verify anyone's vaccination status). At my neighborhood Trader Joe's, basically 100% of customers are continuing to wear masks inside. 

How's the COVID situation where you are? I hope that you and your friends and family are all doing alright! 

Monday, May 17, 2021

Things I Like Lately

via Goulet Pens

Somehow, I managed to strain my right elbow recently while whisking sugar and fully melted butter together to make chocolate chip cookies (specifically, with the Cook's Illustrated recipe, which is pretty good!). It's been a little over a week of resting that arm as best I can and I still feel a faint twinge in my elbow at times. Of all the silly and unlikely ways to get a mild injury... 

Today's post is a bit of a grab bag of some of the small things I've been enjoying recently while continuing to mostly work from home. With how quickly COVID vaccine access has expanded in the US, I suspect I'll be back in the office full-time very soon. 

Within a few hours of when my previous post went live, the CDC and the Biden administration even announced that - as far as they were concerned - face masks were now unnecessary for fully vaccinated individuals except when on airplanes, trains, and buses, and in transportation hubs! (Though people should continue to follow state and local government policies that may still dictate otherwise. But I guess the clear signal from federal authorities is that they probably expect state and local governments to fall in line with the new mask guidelines shortly.) My personal choice is to continue masking whenever I'm indoors around people from other households, except when having small gatherings with friends and family whom I know to be fully vaccinated. 

Curology Update, Seven Months: I'm now roughly seven months in to using my custom prescription topical treatment from Curology, and it's continued to be good so far. By around four months in, I would describe my skin as pretty much clear, I went nearly two months without any of those nastier, larger blemishes that generally take at least a week or more to flatten out and start to really heal. During that time, I also wasn't really getting any of those smaller blemishes that only take a day or two to go away. 

But last month, I unfortunately got a pretty bad breakout with two of those larger, nastier blemishes that take forever to flatten out - maybe due to a combination of maskne from needing to go to the office a bit more often that month and also stress from preparing for my job interview - so then my skin wasn't "clear" anymore. Oh well. My skin's gotten much better again, so I think that breakout was an aberration. 

On whole, my Curology formula (tretinoin 0.04%, azelaic acid 7%, and clindamycin 1%) is definitely much better for my skin than the 0.1% Retin-A Micro I was using before. I no longer get irritation-induced breakouts and my skin is generally a lot more clear as a result. 

Fountain Pens and Ink: So far in 2021, I've chilled out considerably when it comes to shopping for the fountain pen hobby I acquired last July. I've spent a little bit each month on things like washi tape, a new fountain pen-friendly journal, and yet more colors of ink, but I haven't bought any more pens. 

Most recently, I've purchased two sets of newly released ink from the Korean brand Colorverse. (Both sets are currently sold out. In the fountain pen world, new products from popular brands often sell out extremely quickly from the various small specialty retailers that stock them when they're first released. But the items often become easier to get later on, in subsequent months.) When it comes to fountain pen inks, I like to read reviews from the blogger Mountain of Ink. She reviewed both sets I just purchased, and I can confirm the inks are indeed that cool-looking in real life. 

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I've also been thinking a bit about my next fountain pen purchase, and I'm leaning towards maybe a Pilot Decimo in pastel pink or purple (also available at Amazon from Japanese sellers, though without any real savings compared to US retailers, which is a bit unusual). I'm also somewhat tempted by a new teal-colored limited edition pen from Sailor, the Pro Gear Slim in Blue Green Nebula, but I think that one is a bit too pricey for me now that I'm trying not to spend so much on the hobby going forward. I already have well over a dozen pens - mostly more affordable ones than the Pilot Decimo or Sailor Pro Gear Slim - so I don't really need any more!

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Social Distancing Life Lately: 14 Months (and Nearly Done?)

via Unsplash

K and I are now two weeks out from our second doses of the COVID vaccine. Our family members and our close friends across the US also all have their second shots by now. The New York state government is allowing most things to reopen - with indoor masking and certain other social distancing and public health precautions still in place, of course - on May 19. All in all, everything's turning around incredibly quickly here! 

I'm not sure when K and I will start resuming the activities we used to do. We're comfortable with small, maskless indoor gatherings with other fully-vaccinated - as in two weeks out from their last shot - adults, and we'll probably also spend a few days with K's parents in the NYC suburbs in the next week or so. My sister is currently planning to travel from the Washington D.C. area to visit NYC in early June. We're a little less sure about when we'll be ready to semi-regularly go back to restaurants and dining indoors around larger crowds. (We've been opposed to outdoor dining because NYC streets are kind of gross and I wouldn't like the feeling of cars passing by so close. We'd rather just bring the food home.)  

Return to the Office 

I expect my workplace to institute a full return to the office for attorneys quite soon, possibly as early as sometime in May. We'll continue to observe all required public health requirements, of course, including by still wearing face masks while in the same room as any of our colleagues.

I believe a late May return date is on the much earlier side of average for NYC-based offices in industries where achieving full productivity while working from home is relatively easy to do, including the legal industry. Certain biglaw firms have even announced that they're making a permanent move towards a partially work from home schedule. (My workplace has always been much more old-fashioned about in-office face time requirements than most others in the legal industry, so that is absolutely not in the cards for us.) While my personal preference would be to keep at least a bit of work from home flexibility - to be able to work from home once or twice a week most weeks, depending on workload and team needs; unfortunately for me, that's totally not happening - I'm also eager to be back in the office most of the time.  It's definitely been difficult for me to do all of my work from a fairly cramped one-bedroom apartment, even with noise-cancelling headphones on. 

There have been... limited discussions about an attempt to schedule yet another international business trip in late June, though I'm not certain how serious these discussions are. I think it's impossible to predict now whether the US and the destination country's international travel policies will actually allow for such a trip. (We'd likely scrap the idea if there were any quarantine requirements of any duration still in place, if we couldn't get out of quarantine due to being fully vaccinated.) I also privately doubt the other parties we'd be meeting with would even be willing to meet in-person, rather than over videoconference. But if the trip were somehow possible, I don't think I'd have grounds for refusing, now that I'm fully vaccinated. 

Unintended Effects of 14 Months at Home 

As we got to the one-year mark of social distancing, I started to notice various small physical symptoms from our new lockdown lifestyle. My body felt far more creaky than usual, with mild aches and pains that would come and go. (The most likely culprit is that my office chair at my desk at home is... not great.) And on the handful of occasions I've needed to head in to the office - which requires a roughly 15 to 20 minute walking commute each way, hardly a major physical exertion - I'm always completely physically exhausted by around 6:00 PM or so, when I'm ready to head home. 

On my first trip back to the office last November, I wore my trusty and extremely well broken-in Sam Edelman Petty booties - the older pair purchased before I started recording my purchases on this blog in January 2015, in the softer leather - and I was surprised to find my feet started to hurt by noon, my toes felt pinched and I ended up getting blisters on my ankles. It seems my feet have gotten too soft for most real shoes now, even the pairs that have always been comfortable and never gave me blisters or other issues in the past, even when brand new. (I don't think I'm the only person who has experienced this, as I was just commenting over at JENKR's!) Since then, I've worn sneakers on the rare occasions I've needed to go to the office, but I even needed to be careful about wearing longer socks to prevent ankle blisters with those. 

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

April 2021 Reading Reflections

via Unsplash

I didn't really get my reading for fun momentum back last month, after March got so busy with work and after I needed to spend a lot of my time in April preparing for and worrying about a job interview and many job applications. I'm finally starting to get back into the reading habit this month, so my next reading reflections post should be more interesting. 

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As you'll see below, I only managed to read one book this April. It was a fun one, definitely something on the lighter side and that is good for some distraction or comfort when one is preoccupied with stressful things. 

  • The Duke Who Didn't by Courtney Milan - This was a sweet, fairly light historical romance novel, and I quite enjoyed it. I definitely wasn't in the mood to read anything too serious or sad in April, so this book hit the spot. Because the main characters are of Chinese descent in a historical romance story set in the UK, this book does address the heavier themes of racism and prejudice, but I think Milan hits a good balance when bringing in that side of the characters' experiences. The book is ultimately not too sad, it has a nice "happily ever after" that feels true to the characters. 

I feel like the recent popularity of Bridgerton on Netflix has brought a lot of new readers to the romance genre? Or at least, that's what it seems like from social media and from how popular the Bridgerton ebooks suddenly are at the New York Public Library! I wasn't really able to get into watching Bridgerton, even though the male lead, RegĂ©-Jean Page, does a good job and is and incredibly handsome. (He's also good in the short-lived ABC series For the People, a series about SDNY Assistant U.S. Attorneys and Federal Defenders that I don't think anyone really watched except for me. That series was not very realistic, let's just say. A lot of the actors and actresses were quite charming though, but the show as a whole wasn't that interesting.) 

I've read a fair number of historical romance novels, but I can be extremely and unreasonably picky about this genre - a lot more than I am about other types of books - so it's hard to find new titles I enjoy. The question of whether I'll enjoy a specific romance novel doesn't really seem to come down to writing quality or skill, not exactly. Instead, it's really just about whether I personally feel like the story has "good chemistry" for me. 

My most reliable favorite author in the historical romance genre is probably Tessa Dare, I've loved basically every novel of hers that I've read. Her books tend to be fairly light and sweet, with a good sense of humor, which I really enjoy. My next favorite author is Lisa Kleypas, particularly some of her slightly older series such as The Wallfowers and The Hathaways.* I didn't find myself enjoying Julia Quinn's Bridgerton series quite as much, unfortunately, though I did really love the second novel, The Viscount who Loved Me

* Please be warned, however, that some of the tropes and norms from past eras in the romance genre - even from books published as recently as, say, the early 2000s or late 1990s - are not things that would fly in more recently published work. These two Kleypas series have some scenes where consent is not discussed as explicitly as it would be in a more recent novel. There are also a few important characters in these series who are of Romani descent, but issues surrounding prejudice and racism aren't really addressed well. Out of the books I've mentioned in this post, I think it's just these Kleypas series that have a few scenes readers might find problematic. 

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Costume Design in HBO's Succession

Karolina, on the left, and Gerri, on the right, are both high-ranking attorneys working at the large company that is one of the main focuses of the show. 

K and I just finished watching the second season of Succession, and it was incredibly good! I continue to highly recommend the show, the only real weakness is in the pilot episode and in how it takes a few episodes to get situated, understand who all the major characters are, and to better follow along with the story. 

But in recommending Succession, I still need to warn that nearly every single major character is morally awful in some significant way. The entire series is focused on incredibly wealthy people who will never need to worry about money, and so they spend all their time playing corporate power games. It's not going to be everyone's cup of tea, but dang, the series is incredibly well-acted and well-written. 

I'm always particularly drawn to television shows in which the costume design includes interesting takes on women's workwear, particularly if there's at least one character who looks like they dress in a way I could see myself dressing for work, or in a way that I could see real-life attorneys dressing. (Oftentimes, the characters aren't actually dressed that much like me, or like many real-life attorneys I know. Typically, the brands and items used to dress television characters are significantly more expensive than most of us would actually spend!) Succession actually has tons of recurring characters that dress in such a way, including the two women pictured above: Karolina, an attorney and the head of public relations at a major media company, and Gerri, the General Counsel of the company. 

Somewhat unusually for a television show that heavily features workplace settings - I'd say close to half the screen-time in Succession is focused on events taking place in the offices of Waystar Royco, a large multinational company controlled by the extremely wealthy family at the heart of the show - pretty much all the women's workwear featured in the show looks extremely realistic, like clothing that could be worn in real-life business formal settings. There are no overly trendy or fashionable items that could potentially be considered inappropriate for the office to be seen anywhere in the many scenes taking place at work or work-related events. (Unlike, say, in Suits, or even in Madam Secretary or The Good Wife at times.) 

Monday, May 3, 2021

A Gift to Myself?

Via Mociun's Instagram page, most of these designs probably exceeded my maximum price limit, however. 

My remaining student loan balance is now down to ~$18,700. At my current rate of repayment - I've been putting in approximately ~$5,100/month - I remain on schedule to finish paying it off in full by late August or early September this year.* It's going to be a huge milestone for me when I finally finish paying off the ~$195,000 or so in student loans I had when I first started working full-time in fall 2015, after graduating law school. I simply can't wait to be done with my student debt once and for all.

Even though I haven't been shopping much for my wardrobe in 2021 so far - and have now proven somewhat disinterested in window shopping for any more clothes, shoes, and accessories while my day-to-day life is still not restored to something resembling pre-pandemic normal - I can't help but think about maybe buying myself a significant gift to commemorate this financial milestone. 

One idea - though, spoiler alert, I'm almost 100% certain this won't actually be it - is a handbag, provided there was a design I absolutely loved and was certain would be highly functional for me and would be something I'd reach for often. This could be the Celine Seau Sangle bag I was seriously contemplating 15 months ago, when I thought I'd soon be visiting Paris as part of a lengthy business trip also including stops in London and Luxembourg. (COVID-19 international travel shutdowns intervened before we got to Paris.) In the end, though, there still isn't any single handbag design I actually like that much and am absolutely sure would be worth it. 

The more likely idea for this milestone-commemorating gift to myself is a piece of jewelry, specifically a sapphire right-hand ring. I've looked at quite a few jewelers and types of designs and don't really have any specific ideas about what my ideal ring would look like, and thus, what the target price range would be. Obviously, there's definitely a concrete upper limit on what I would be willing to spend on this, I'm not planning to go absolutely wild to the point of financial irresponsibility! But there's a fairly wide range of prices I'm potentially willing to consider.