Friday, August 27, 2021

August 2021 Shopping Reflections

With this month's huge purchase, I was originally going to rely on the secondhand market and wait for the right one to come along in hopefully decent condition and for the right price. There I heard some whisperings about an imminent 10-20% price increase on Celine handbags on August 25, which was corroborated by a sales associate I spoke to at one of the NYC Celine boutiques. So then I made the order, only to find that when August 25 finally rolled around, the price for this specific bag remained completely unchanged online, at least as of today. So that's a bit of a comedy of errors. 

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've been thinking about the large Celine Seau Sangle for quite some time. In fact, had the COVID pandemic not turned critical in the US and western Europe exactly when it did, I'd probably already own one, thanks to a lengthy Paris business trip that was scheduled for mid-March 2020 but ultimately never happened due to COVID shutdowns and travel restrictions.

Despite my longtime interest in this bag, I never seriously considered looking at the secondhand market for it - or for any similarly priced designer handbag, really - until very recently, when I was finally within spitting distance of completely paying off my student loans. After first dabbling with the secondhand designer handbag market through the purchase of the currently more modestly priced Balenciaga City, I felt more confident about potentially buying the Celine Seau Sangle that way. I've been tracking the secondhand market for the large Seau Sangles closely ever since, primarily on Fashionphile, but also on TheRealReal ("TRR") and Yoogi's Closet

Out of the three secondhand sellers I've been looking at for the past six weeks, only Fashionphile and TRR get new inventory in often enough and quickly enough to have had a few Seau Sangles pass through in that time. Fashionphile's pricing is generally quite competitive, they start many large Seau Sangles at ~$1,600 or less - sometimes a lot less - though more neutral colors like dark gray or black may start higher. I don't really trust TRR's authentication processes at all*, and they also tend to price large Seau Sangles much higher, often at least $2,100 for black, gray, or navy in decent condition. Seau Sangles in neutral colors tend to sell quickly - even the more pricey ones at TRR - they often don't stick around long enough for even one round of automatic markdowns by either Fashionphile or TRR. 

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Life Lately: A Spendy Month (or Two)

The green chickpea hummus at ABCV, which is quite tasty and also a suitable dish for my current health and fitness goals!

As of last week, NYC now requires restaurants and many other businesses to check for proof of vaccination before allowing guests over the age of 12 to participate in various indoor activities. K and I have been indoors at a few restaurants since the new policy took effect, and we've seen... a range of different levels of verification. 

One restaurant checked our vaccine cards - using the New York state Excelsior app, because K and I both got our shots from state-run sites - and our photo identification. Another asked us to self-attest to our vaccination status, but waved away our attempt to pull out our phones to actually show our vaccine information in Excelsior. Yet another restaurant didn't ask us anything at all. We'll see whether restaurants become more uniform in checking vaccination status in the next few weeks. 

Since I officially finished paying off my student loans last month, I've sort of been spending money like it's going out of style. There was that substantial jewelry gift to myself, which was planned out ahead of time, and then a round of orthodontic treatment, which was a bit less planned out. (I'd had a vague notion since the accident in 2017 that I'd seek out an orthodontic consult for it eventually, but had no concrete idea of when that should actually happen.) Our recent trip to Crested Butte, CO was also on the pricier side. 

K and I have also decided to move forward with a small, immediate family-only courthouse wedding ceremony, leaving any bigger celebration and reception for an as yet unknown date down the line - only after the COVID situation has calmed down both domestically and internationally - so there are also quite a few expenses related to that. For instance, K bought my engagement ring so I'm buying our wedding bands. 

I think K and I may have left it far too late to successfully book a photographer now for a late September date - even if it's on a weekday and we'd only need the photographer for two hours max because it's going to be an extremely informal and quick wedding - but if it's possible, we'd like to arrange that. It was probably extremely foolish on my part to have waited until last week to start looking for a photographer. Everyone I've spoken to so far is already close to fully booked through the end of the year. (I may have been lulled into a false sense of security by my own line of work. Clients who are willing to pay can easily arrange to retain a team of biglaw or biglaw-ish lawyers for significant, urgent work with barely a week or two's notice... Obviously, the legal business is very, very different from most others, which I should have realized, duh.) 

Also, I now have my new braces on, for a round of treatment expected to take four to six months. It's been quite an adjustment! I had braces when I was a teen, but I'd completely forgotten they come with restrictions against eating certain types of food. I never experienced much pain, discomfort, or other problems with my braces as a teen, but I think my teeth are slightly more sensitive this time around. My speech is somewhat affected, I can't pronounce some words well because the braces are in the way. 

After barely a week of wearing my new braces, I swear I can already see some movement! So I'm currently feeling reasonably optimistic that my treatment timeline might be closer to four months than six. Either way, because I'll likely be wearing a mask in all indoor public settings for the next several months - except when actively eating or drinking - barely anyone outside of close friends and family will ever actually see my braces. 

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Pandemic-Era Travel: Crested Butte, CO

Last week, K and I took our first plane trip in the 17 months since the world first shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. One of K's closest friends was having their wedding in Crested Butte, Colorado, and it was very important to K that we attend. (K was also in the wedding party.) COVID conditions in some parts of the US deteriorated significantly between when we first started planning our travel in early July and when we departed last week, which caused us some concern. But ultimately, because K and I are fully vaccinated; have no significant COVID risk factors; and only have direct social contact with fully vaccinated adults - additionally, all the wedding events were also fully outdoors - we felt safe taking this trip. 

Crested Butte is a very small town in a rural area, where all the major activities are outdoors. We didn't even dine indoors anywhere once we were there, as it was very comfortable to sit outside and eat everywhere we went. (K and I haven't specifically decided to stop dining indoors at restaurants in NYC, but it's also been three weeks since either of us have sat down at a restaurant here. Also, NYC law will soon require guests over the age of 12 to present proof of vaccination in order to do various indoor activities, including eating at restaurants.) 

Plane travel to Crested Butte from NYC is a bit long and difficult, and one pretty much needs to take a long drive from whichever airport one chooses to fly into. (I'm not really able to drive, so K needed to do all the hard work for us on that front.) We took connecting flights through Dallas/Fort Worth airport, which was extremely crowded. We couldn't really avoid being unmasked briefly to eat and drink while at the airports, though we did our best to find quieter spots in the terminals with fewer other people when we needed to eat or drink. Throughout our trip, people were very good about masking at the airports and on the plane - as US federal law requires - except when actively eating or drinking. 

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

That Gift to Myself

If you caught my Instagram stories on July 22, then you've already seen a spoiler about what I ultimately decided to do for that substantial gift to myself to celebrate the end of my student loan repayment journey! By coincidence, one of the rings pictured in the Mociun Instagram post I selected as an illustration for my blog post ended up being the piece I chose for myself. (As it was an older Instagram post, I think all the other pictured rings were sold long before my visit to their store.)

At present, one needs to make an appointment to shop at Mociun in person. Their online booking system doesn't seem to offer appointments sooner than two weeks out, so I actually made my appointment a little early, before I officially finished paying off my loans. I'm not sure if they'll be able to offer earlier appointments if you contact them by phone or email. 

When I made my appointment, I had a clear sense of what rings I wanted to look at: I knew I wanted a sapphire ring with at least one stone that was mostly blue or blue-green in color; I knew what my maximum budget was, up to ~$8,500 or so before tax, which excluded Mociun's larger sapphire rings; and I'd browsed their website so many times I was able to name the specific styles I wanted to look at. That meant my appointment was very straightforward and somewhat quick, they showed me the exact styles I was interested in and gave me ample time to try them on and think about which one I liked best. The sales associate was friendly, and there was definitely no pressure or pushiness. I had all the time and space I needed to figure out which of the sapphire rings in my price range I wanted, if any. 

At any rate, I'm not sure Mociun's line of mostly one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces generally allows for any realistic opportunities to upsell anyone. When I visited, they had a good number of sapphire rings available in my price range, and also a small number of rings designed around much larger stones that were, naturally, a dramatic step above my maximum price limit. This "Flying" Ring, for instance, with a ~4.5 carat kite-shaped sapphire... It looks amazing, but is very obviously not remotely in the realm of things I was considering! (Their current stock of sapphire rings in my general price range is not quite as broad, however.) 

Thursday, August 5, 2021

Money Life Lately: Less Biglaw-ish Than Before

Kate Spade "Buzz" Small Slim Bifold Wallet (affiliate link)

Today's post is a bit of a grab bag about some of the smaller things going on in my financial life recently, outside of the really big thing - fully paying off my law school student loans! - that just happened. 

Less Biglaw-ish Than Before

Throughout the years since starting my current workplace in 2017, I've always described my job as "biglaw-ish." This made sense because our attorneys are similarly credentialed; typically have biglaw work experience; sometimes have similar work hours; and also because we were on the same salary scale, even if our year-end bonuses were typically ~25% of what our biglaw peers were earning and we also never got any part of the "special bonuses" that started appearing in recent years.  

After a bit of a market-wide slowdown in the first month or two of COVID-driven shutdowns in the US, business has apparently mostly been booming at many American biglaw firms. Early this year, a round of new special bonuses were announced. I understand that assurances were also given by certain firms that these special bonuses would not result in the reduction of year-end bonuses later on. Given typical practices at my workplace, I naturally expected the biglaw special bonuses would not have any effect on my total compensation. 

A few months later, I was rather shocked when biglaw firms also provided a new round of across-the-board raises for associates, on top of the special bonuses. So, uh, business is clearly still extremely good at some biglaw firms, to say the least. 

As for me, my workplace is officially no longer on the biglaw salary scale. This isn't too much of a surprise because we're a much smaller entity, and accordingly, our practice is far less diversified than that of any given biglaw firm. Instead, we got smaller raises across the board, and it's unclear what will happen the next time biglaw firms decide to increase associate salaries again. Anyway, I'm not worried about this change, though obviously, more total compensation is always nice. I had a lot of reasons for joining my current workplace rather than returning to my original biglaw firm, and I've never truly regretted that choice. 

Monday, August 2, 2021

July 2021 Reading Reflections

July was another odd reading month for me. I wasn't that busy or stressed out at the office, but I've still mostly been in one of those moods where I generally don't feel like reading during my free time or before I sleep, I just scroll through social media or watch YouTube instead. 

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 got through two books in the first half of July, and since then I haven't been reading much at all, even though the other books I'm currently working on are both quite good and would normally be highly engaging to me as a reader. Here are the books I read this month in the order in which I finished them:

  • Yolk by Mary H.K. Choi - Mary H.K. Choi is also the author of an essay once published at The Cut - now only available for purchase in Choi's book of essays, Oh, Never Mind -  about how trying to make it as a writer and creative in NYC once drove her to make the wildly extravagant decision to buy a Rick Owens jacket. I've referenced that essay at least twice in past entries here. I remember it being an excellent piece, incisively written with a vivid embodiment of emotions I could relate to, about trying to "fake it 'til you make it" in a setting where one feels out of place and rather "less than." This book is similarly well-written. While my background is very different from that of the Korean American sisters at the heart of this novel, the story contains a number of moments and sentiments I found incredibly true to my own lived Asian American experience. That's something I really value as a reader. When I browse for ebooks from the New York Public Library, the genres aren't clearly flagged, so I was halfway through Yolk when I first realized it was marketed as a young adult ("YA") book. This came as a great shock - as I recently commented over at Gabby's - because Yolk addresses many adult themes with an unflinching directness I don't associate with YA novels. It has a grittier writing style than I'm used to from YA. (Admittedly, the last several YA novels I've read were the Hunger Games trilogy and prequel, so I may not be fully patched in to current genre norms.) This book definitely feels to me like it was written for adults, not teens. The only thing that seemed remotely YA to me was that there's a romance subplot that ties up more quickly and neatly than it probably would in a similar novel marketed to older audiences. 
  • No One is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood - This book reminded me of Jenny Offil's Weather, in that they're both somewhat nontraditional, brief novels written in a more stream of consciousness style. I liked this one a lot more than Weather, but this general writing style is not my favorite. Both books could get confusing at times, though they were also very engaging reads. Roxane Gay's Goodreads review is very accurate to my experience of this book: it's well-written; it feels a lot like two separate books because of the traumatic event that very suddenly fully takes over in the second half of the story; and if you're not "very online," then maybe this book might confuse you too much to be enjoyable. To tell the truth, I'm probably a bit "too online" - 30-50 feral hogs, anyone? - even if I've only been actively using Twitter since November 2018, but the narrator of this book is definitely much more online than I am. Because of the unusual writing style, it's hard to really describe this book, and I think it may be polarizing, but I did enjoy reading it. No One is Talking About This has also been long-listed for the 2021 Booker Prize. 

I'm currently reading Kate Atkinson's Case Histories - on the recommendation of a commenter here! -  and Andrew Solomon's The Noonday Demon. Both are great, and I normally would be eager to continue rushing through them most evenings before I go to bed, but because I'm currently in a weird mood where I don't really feel like reading for fun, that hasn't been happening. 

I'm roughly halfway through Case Histories. As someone who enjoys murder mysteries and police procedurals, I think this book is an interesting take on the genre. It's one of those more introspective police procedural novels - reminds me a bit of Tana French's Dublin Murder Squad series, though the main character in Case Histories is a private investigator and not a police detective - that's a bit more focused on the emotional life of the detective than on the case at hand. I'd definitely be interested in picking up the other books in this series. 

With Noonday Demon, I love Andrew Solomon's writing - Far From the Tree is right up there among my favorite nonfiction books of all time - but lengthy nonfiction involving lots of secondary source research is generally not the easiest genre for me to read on Kindle. I think I'd have an easier time reading this book more quickly in hard copy. So this one will definitely be a slow read, I wouldn't be surprised if I wasn't able to finish it until September, or possibly even later! Which isn't a reflection on the quality of the book, it's just a product of my reading habits using the Kindle. 

I don't know if you've been following the Olympics, but there's been a lot of surprises in the women's artistic gymnastics events. There's no question Simone Biles did the right thing withdrawing from the rest of the team final and many of her other events, and I'm so glad she wasn't injured because that vault in the team final could have gone so much more wrong. The rest of the team did such an admirable job rising to the occasion in the face of unexpected circumstances, winning the silver medal in the team final. The Russian team that won the gold also did wonderfully! I'm also so impressed that all the US women will go home with at least one medal: Sunisa Lee's all-around gold medal victory was incredible, and I'm glad she was able to win the bronze on uneven bars in an event final that was really tough for all. Mykayla Skinner also did great on vault, and now Jade Carey is a gold medalist on floor exercise!