Thursday, June 23, 2022

The First Trimester

Our little bean at 12 weeks.

Some personal news: I'm pregnant, due in mid-December! When this post goes live, I'll be in my 15th week of pregnancy, just past the first trimester. K and I are so excited to become parents. I also feel incredibly fortunate that everything's been going smoothly so far, according to my OB/GYN it's all proceeding as expected and low-risk.

Today's post is about my first trimester. Be forewarned, I mention some detail about things like ovulation tests, irregular cycles when coming off the pill, side effects of pregnancy, and that sort of thing. Along with that, an important disclaimer: I am not a medical professional, but I always take seriously the advice of the team at my OB/GYN's office.   

Friday, June 10, 2022

The Post-COVID Era NYC Rental Market

via Unsplash

I don't know about your neck of the woods, but here in NYC the rental market has gone completely bananas! We got a sweet deal on our previous lease renewal last summer, thanks to the lingering effects of COVID on NYC rents, but those renter-friendly days are definitely long over

Within a few months after last year's lease term started, I was already noticing that rents in Manhattan were climbing back up, eventually increasing by early 2022 to the point where it was almost like COVID never happened. Around 2019, market rents in my not-particularly-hip neighborhood had suddenly skyrocketed over the original not-terrible-for-Manhattan norms that had prevailed since K and I first moved into our current building in late 2015. So when I say the local rental market looks as if "COVID never happened," I'm talking about fairly significant increases over the most recent high water mark of rents (from early 2020, before the COVID shutdowns). 

I was commiserating about the state of the rental market to a close law school friend who lives not too far from K and I. Both of us were bracing for some really painful lease renewal offers from our respective landlords. Somewhat... luckily, I guess we need to call it, even if the result is still a ~18% rent increase compared to last year for both of us... we both actually ended up being... pleasantly surprised by the offers we received. Despite that ~18% increase, both offers are also significantly under market compared to what new leases currently go for in our buildings. (Each landlord also made it extremely clear our offers left absolutely no room for negotiation. It's take it or leave it!) 

It's hard to get a perfect read on what market rates look like right this moment. Listed rents on StreetEasy for one-bedroom apartments in my neighborhood recently shot up by $300+ since the last time I looked in earnest, around four weeks ago when we were considering whether to accept our lease renewal offer. If current listing prices on StreetEasy are serious - I'm embarrassed to say I've never been great at negotiating personal business matters, so I don't know have any read on how much flexibility there might be on new leases - market rents on comparable units are possibly 35%+ more than my COVID-discount rent from last year, and ~17.5% more than I'm paying for my renewed lease, which K and I signed barely three weeks ago! 

If you're a renter, how's the rental market looking where you are? I hear things are pretty tough in a lot of big cities in the US, there may actually be some cities out there that have seen more dramatic recent rent increases than NYC at the moment. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Suiting Up for Job Interviews

Suit on the left is from Theory (blazer and skirt; affiliate links) and the one on the right is from Brooks Brothers. At present, it's difficult to find more conservative-looking wool or wool-blend women's suits at stores with more entry-level pricing!

Today's post is just a small life update: Part of the reason I've been so busy and unable to focus on blogging in recent months is that, in addition to things being so hectic at the office, I've also recently had more interviews for some of those government litigation jobs I started applying for over a year ago! At least two of the government offices I filed applications for in late April of 2021 only started interviewing candidates who applied in 2021 starting around March 2022. 

Many of those jobs can also be expected to have an extremely long hiring process; months can  go by between interviews. Should I be lucky enough to receive an offer, there's also a potentially lengthy background check process, one that can take several more months. 

I must say, I don't think I realized just just how long this process could take for me until I started with this year's interviews. But I'm extremely thankful to have the opportunity to interview in the first place. (With the nature of my current workplace, they don't mind that I'm looking at this type of government job, they're actually quite excited about it. It was also necessary for my current supervisor to write a letter of recommendation for my applications!) 

So yes, that's one important thing going on in my life recently. If I'm ultimately successful with getting one of the jobs I've been interviewing for, that will also involve taking at least a 60% pay-cut - the actual number may be well over 60%, though should at least be a bit less than 70% - from what I currently earn in the private sector. I'm definitely mentally prepared for that, it's part of why I rushed to pay off my law school student loans as fast as I could in recent years, finally finishing them off last July. Though the question of whether I'm actually really financially prepared - can anyone ever be for such a drastic change? - is a much more complicated one, as I'm just not very good at doing long-term financial projections. 

Monday, May 23, 2022

May 2022 Shopping Reflections

Getting this month's shopping reflections post up a bit early because I'm pretty sure my shopping for May is already set. Of course I'll end up feeling a little silly if I turn out to be incorrect about that! (If so, additional items will be listed in next month's shopping reflections post.) 

I was supposed to be extremely busy all month, but several attorneys on one of my cases have gotten COVID - most likely from separate events and not from each other - since my recent business trip to Palo Alto, which has ended up delaying our discovery schedule by several weeks. I continue to be well, none of my colleagues at my office have turned out to be sick right around a time when I've interacted with them. Everyone from the case is also reasonably well, all attorneys were fully vaccinated and most likely boosted so nobody is sick enough to require hospitalization, though it sounds like symptoms can take a very long time to fully go away. 

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!

This month's shopping was all quite impulsive. I was at Madewell returning something when I saw both items and became interested.  I bought the necklace in-store on the spot and then the tote bag online a few days later. Well, technically I can argue the necklace wasn't that impulsive, since I've been thinking about getting either a costume jewelry or fine jewelry version of a gold herringbone chain necklace for slightly over a year now. 

Fashion - (TOTAL: $186.52 $239.00

  • Madewell Herringbone Chain Necklace, gold - $34.00 - (on sale online) - I was returning something when I saw that this necklace in stock, and I finally bought it on a bit of a whim. I've thought about buying a gold herringbone chain necklace for over a year, but I've always held off because I wasn't sure what length would suit me best, plus I'm also not sure if the fine jewelry version might be a bit fragile for frequent wear, particularly if layered with other necklaces. This particular necklace is adjustable to approximately 15.5'', 16.5'', and 17.5''. I've enjoyed wearing it, though I don't think any of the length options are especially suitable for layering with my current main necklaces: a 16'' Tiffany's Diamonds by the Yard pendant (similar here, here, and here) and that Mociun sapphire solitaire (which is supposed to also be 16'', but looks more like 18'' because of the heavier pendant). One thing that might be obvious in hindsight: Those other two necklaces tangle much less when I layer them both with the Madewell one, maybe because it's a heavier chain than the other two.
  • Madewell Medium Transport Tote, Woven Leather, brown - $153.52 $205.00* - (also here, get 25% off online at Madewell with code "LONGWEEKEND" until May 30) - This bag is definitely a bit more of an impulse purchase, though I do find my standard, non-woven leather Madewell Medium Transport Tote in brown (worn here, also available here and on sale here) to be extremely practical and functional. This is an almost-identical bag, except for the woven leather body. When I saw the bag in person, it seemed like the woven leather would be a fun texture for summer, something fairly different from the other handbags in my current collection. I've only used this two or three times so far, but the woven leather seems quite durable, reasonably in line with the non-woven leather Transport Totes. I ordered this for full price when there was a promotional 15% cash back rate from Madewell on Ebates/Rakuten - for a total of $28.20 cash back - though I'm actually going to inquire with Madewell about whether I can get a price adjustment for the current 25% off discount code, since it became available less than seven days after my order was shipped. We'll see what happens! (If they honor the price adjustment, then that should reduce my Rakuten cash back amount accordingly, and I'll also adjust the price I listed in this post. EDIT: They honored the price adjustment, so yay, I saved a bit more, and my cash back amount will be reduced once Madewell updates the refund amount.) 
*Indicates that price includes sales tax. 

I've also put in for some made-to-order purchases this month, but those are not expected to ship until mid-June at the absolute earliest. Specifically, I've ordered two new tops and a dress from LinenFox, and another Cora dress from Heinui, this time in a slightly more subdued blue gingham linen. I'm hoping that should round out most of my summer clothing purchases for this year, though I can't quite guarantee that. 

I hope that all of you are well! Hopefully you've also been able to mostly avoid any known COVID exposures. 

Friday, May 20, 2022

On COVID-Era Business Travel

KLM gives out these adorable little ceramic houses as souvenirs for international business class travelers. We normally prefer to fly through London on another airline for our work trips, but that connection wasn't possible on Saturdays back in March.

I've done two lengthy business trips so far this year, one international in March and one domestic earlier this month. It's been a bit nerve-wracking both times because of worrying about COVID, including the negative test requirement to fly back in to the USA from abroad and the risk of depositions getting cancelled or rescheduled - after we've already traveled all that distance - if any of the many necessary participants get sick. 

In-person depositions generally include, at a minimum: the witness, the court reporter, the videographer, and at least one attorney from each side - so that's at least five people who need to be healthy before they spend several hours in an often windowless and cramped conference room together, in an event involving almost-constant talking. There's often also a second-chair attorney or client representative here and there, though their presence is not absolutely necessary. So it could be more like seven or eight people total. I'm not sure if my colleagues' strong preference for in-person depositions - though we have also done several remote ones since the pandemic started - is highly unusual in this COVID era. 

And ah, having done many non-remote depositions since February, in cities all across the US - and a few international ones -  most people generally choose not to mask during depositions, I'm often the only attendee in a mask throughout. The only exception is when the office we're using to host the deposition has rules in place about masking, but relatively few places do these days. (The witness is on video and we generally all agree they should not mask for that reason, but that's not necessary for anyone else.) 

My international business trip in March, to London and Luxembourg, ended up going completely smoothly from a COVID and COVID-testing perspective. The requirement to have a negative COVID test within a day before flying back in to the USA was a mild hassle, but we can generally always pay to get a suitable COVID test and documentation of the results from the types of hotels we stay at for work. 

Monday, May 16, 2022

Skincare Review: Dr. Jart+ Every Sun Day Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50+

As longtime readers may know, I rarely ever change the basic building blocks of my skincare routine, particularly when it comes to the over-the-counter products. Accordingly, I've mostly been using the same sunscreen - Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence - almost since I started this blog and through at least one reformulation. Though I originally switched regularly between a few Biore sunscreens, and have occasionally used other sunscreens here and there over the years. 

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!

Within the last year or two, however, I've become interested in switching to a "physical" or mineral sunscreen - one generally based on zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as the active sun-blocking ingredient - rather than a "chemical" one based on active ingredients such as avobenzone, octinoxate, or oxybenzone, among others. I didn't have any particular reason for wanting to make this change, I'm definitely not on top of discussions about new scientific studies regarding sunscreen ingredients or anything like that. I just wanted to try something different. 

I've never had a particularly easy time searching for a physical sunscreen I wanted to try out, as I think many of them tend to absorb a little less easily and quickly into the skin compared to the Biore Aqua Rich gel, and they generally leave at least a bit of a visible white cast on the skin. (Which is probably understandable, due to the nature of the active ingredients.) Plus, many Korean skincare brands tend to reformulate and completely redo their sunscreen product lines quite frequently, so while I've occasionally tried a purported physical sunscreen from Innisfree or Nature Republic over the years -I think it was those brands... my memories are fuzzy - the same product was rarely still available when I became interested in repurchasing. 

Eventually, one of my friends mentioned trying Dr. Jart+ Every Sun Day Mineral Sunscreen and that she liked it so far, so I decided that was one I should order. It's been my primary sunscreen for several months now, and I recently ordered my second tube. I'm embarrassed I didn't keep careful count of exactly how long the first tube lasted, but it must be something like four months or so. I recently cut the tube open to get at the last bit of product left inside and found that I still had around six days' supply left, so this is definitely one of the products you want to cut open when you think the container's empty.

The Dr Jart+ Mineral Sunscreen is a pretty good sunscreen. It absorbs into the skin quite easily and quickly, compared to other mineral sunscreens I've tried, and doesn't leave too much of a visible white cast after. It doesn't absorb as easily or quickly as some chemical sunscreens like the Biore Aqua Rich, which is natural and expected, I think. I've enjoyed using it and have had no complaints, definitely no skin irritation or breakouts. (I always test new products for allergic reactions for a few days before using them on my entire face: first on my wrist, then my neck, and then on a portion of my face.) 

My only complaint is that the Dr. Jart+ sunscreen is a lot more expensive than the Biore Aqua Rich, at $40.00/1.69 oz that might last only around four months or so (compared to ~$12.00/1.75 oz to ship to the USA something that's a drugstore product in Taiwan, Japan, and many other countries in Asia), but that's the only slight negative point. Also, I don't think there are any popular physical sunscreens known to be more cosmetically elegant/easy to wear under makeup and that are particularly affordable? Though I might be wrong about this, since I'm not very knowledgeable anymore about what's out there on the skincare market. 

Definitely let me know if there are any especially famous or popular physical sunscreens out there - particularly if they're known for being a reasonably good value - that I should try! What's your favorite facial sunscreen? 

Thursday, May 12, 2022

April 2022 Shopping Reflections

Well darn, I ended up disappearing completely from this blog for quite a bit longer than I planned! Work continued to be quite intense in April. Unlike in March, I didn't do any business travel last month - much less an international business trip to multiple countries - but the hours of work were still quite long, and I still haven't really had much of a chance to recover my energy after all the travel in March. 

Furthermore, I'll definitely continue to be very busy through the end of May. After that, I still have plenty on my work calendar for the entire summer, though major work events such as depositions, filing deadlines, and the like will at least be spaced out a bit better in June, July, and August than they have been in the first part of 2022. Long story short, I'm going to try to post more regularly from now on, but it's really hard to make any guarantees. For now, here are my monthly shopping reflections for April, two weeks overdue. 

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!

This month's shopping was mostly practical things related to my occasional business formal workplace dress code needs. With all the depositions recently, even if I'm mostly just the second-chair attorney, I've found myself needing more business formal options than I had. Candidly, in the last year or so, it's really only my most recently purchased suit that fits me particularly well (petite stretch wool blazer and regular skirt from J.Crew), and I do need a bit more than that for my work lifestyle, even if I only wear "full" business formal for depositions and court days (and I basically haven't had any in-person court days since the pandemic started). 

Fashion - (TOTAL: $338.95) 

  • Quince Mongolian Cashmere Tee, burgundy - $44.90 - I was quite satisfied with my first Quince clothing purchase last year, the cashmere batwing sleeve sweater, so when I was looking for new tops to wear under my suits, I thought this cashmere tee would be a good value. Definitely follow the sizing chart for this, which led me select a size L so that I could get a slightly more relaxed - but also not particularly slouchy - fit. I didn't receive this cashmere tee until fairly late in April, when the weather was already starting to warm up here in NYC, so I may not get to really try wearing this with my suits until fall. 
  • J.Crew Parke Blazer in Italian Stretch Wool, navy - $214.50 - I normally prefer two-button jackets with my suits, but alas, there really aren't many other women's wool or wool-blend suits available in petite sizing on the market right now. (The two-button Theory Clarissa blazer is close to the right fit on me - even though it's not available in petite sizing - but I found it too boxy on me and I also didn't like the Theory pencil skirt.) I also don't particularly love the design of the current J.Crew pencil skirt in stretch wool, I find the waistband a bit flimsy and think it makes the skirt a bit less sleek and structured than I prefer, but alas, there aren't really a lot of potentially workable alternatives out there for me. I also ordered the navy skirt to go with this blazer, but it's apparently very backordered and won't ship until July at the earliest. 
  • Porcelain and Stone Patina Eclipse Stud Earrings - $79.55* - I've had my eye on this specific design from this small, woman-owned business for quite some time now, so when I saw on Instagram that she finally had a small number of pieces available through her online shop, I quickly jumped right on it. Mine look a little different from the photo, the non-patina metal part has a hammered texture. I'm super-excited to finally get a chance to wear these. Stud earrings are definitely more suitable than dangle earrings or open hoops at the moment, while I'm generally still wearing face masks in all public indoor settings, except when I'm actively eating or drinking. 
*Indicates that price includes shipping fees. 

Anyway, I'll try to write more about what's been going on in my life - besides just work and billable hours - in the next few weeks. Nothing too exciting, but it's been a long time since I've really checked in here. I can't make any promises about how quickly I'll get those other posts up, unfortunately, but I'll do my best. 

Oh, and current events related to the Supreme Court remind me of this article from 2016. I'm floored, even though it was only a matter of time, once the composition of the Court turned to 6-3. Roe v. Wade is, doctrinally, a substantive due process case, and that line of cases includes Obergefell v. Hodges, Lawrence v. Texas, Loving v. Virginia and Griswold v. Connecticut. So yeah, things are... not good. 

Monday, March 28, 2022

March 2022 Shopping Reflections

Oh boy, long time no blog! Like I mentioned in February's shopping reflections, things continued to be extremely hectic at the office after my last post. In fact, I've only just returned from a week-long international business trip. 

I guess I didn't chill out quite as much as I originally envisioned when it comes to this month's shopping. But, as you'll soon see, I was right about one thing: My work-related stress was enough to cause me to make some arguably unwise shopping decisions. I may eventually resell or give away two out of three items this month, which is a rather poor "success rate." I think the likelihood is high that both items could easily find a happy new owner if that's what I choose, so it isn't the worst thing in the world, but I do feel silly about these likely shopping mistakes. 

As for how things are looking in the next month or two, it's hard to say for sure when I'll be back to blogging more regularly. My work schedule is going to be consistently busy for the next three months or so, just with what's currently on my calendar. More depositions and deadlines could always be added on top of what's already there. But I'll do my best to post here as often as I can in the coming months. 

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!

It's looking like I might defend my first deposition as the first-chair attorney in the next week or two, which I'm cautiously excited about. With this particular client, I'm never sure if they'll change their mind about various things - including very important and inconvenient things - last-minute, so I don't consider this a 100% sure thing yet. Definitely no big milestone gift to myself for this particular work accomplishment, if it happens, though I might be inspired to get myself something much smaller. It could be either the Jennie Kwon Jadeite Equilibrium Ring or the Catbird Ballerina Bracelet, both of which I've been thinking about for a while. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

February 2022 Shopping Reflections

Things have definitely been extremely hectic at the office for me since I last posted, so much so that this monthly shopping reflections post is late! As I previewed a few weeks ago, this month involved more shopping from Tibi, from their ongoing end-of-season sale and also from the secondhand market via TheRealReal ("TRR"). 

Not listed with this month's shopping is my recent milestone gift to myself to celebrate taking my first deposition. With this and last year's milestone gift to commemorate the end of my student loan repayment, I feel it doesn't make sense to list them with the rest of my shopping that month because they're one-time only, special event purchases.

At least for the next month or two, I'm hoping to chill out a lot on shopping. I've definitely indulged - a lot! - in recent months. I generally don't ever actually need anything because my wardrobe is quite robust in size and variety. Things are also busy enough at work that I'm starting to feel like work-related stress might cause me to make unwise shopping decisions if I'm not careful. All things considered, it's best to take a step back from shopping for now.  

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 also tried on a suit from Theory this month, their two-button "Carissa" blazer and basic pencil skirt in "Good Wool." Back when I was a college senior contemplating my future career - while staring into the long aftermath of the 2008 recession - Theory suiting seemed like a completely unattainable luxury, especially because I was not on track to enter a well-paying job at the time. Fast forward several years to law school, and Theory suiting still felt a bit too lofty for me to seriously contemplate. Plus, I didn't yet learn that I would get better performance from wool-blend suits than from all-synthetics (the relatively improved breathability and temperature regulation helps a lot with increasing the amount of times I can wear a suit before dry cleaning; even if linings are all-synthetic across the board at any price point I'm shopping at), so I had so many other options on the market. These days, Theory suiting is in line with what I'm comfortably able to spend on business formal if it's made of at least a wool-blend fabric and fits me reasonably well off the rack. Also, there's less and less competition from relatively lower-priced brands offering any wool-blend suiting at all. 

But alas, now that I could finally bring myself to try on Theory's suiting, I also found it didn't suit my body type at all. Both the jacket and skirt would be better on a less curvy figure, much more so than with J.Crew. Theory doesn't seem to do petite sizing for women's suits now, but I found that the size 10 regular blazer was mostly pretty close to being a good fit on my 5'3'' frame. I very conspicuously need a petite blazer from just about every other brand I've ever tried on, but the shoulders and sleeves of the regular sizing Theory blazer were actually close to right. The body was way too boxy, though, and made the two-button style look super-dowdy.

Fashion - (TOTAL: $489.24)

  • Tibi Asymmetrical Hem Merino Wool Sweater, black - $80.95* - I'd been following this sweater on TRR for a while, and was initially undecided. But then someone else bought and returned it, so I figured if I was interested, it was time to order it or else I might regret it if someone else snapped it up and kept it.  Separately, with how unseasonably warm it was in NYC through late December, I'd been thinking my sweater collection is too heavy on medium-weight or thick cashmere and low on thinner merino wool sweaters, the kind that used to be available every year from J.Crew and Uniqlo in a decently wide range of colors and necklines. I browsed J.Crew, and was surprised they didn't currently seem to have anything like that. I ordered a simple black merino wool turtleneck from Banana Republic, but I just didn't like the way it fit or the feel of the material (it wasn't too thin, but something about the texture just didn't seem nice). This used merino wool Tibi sweater on TRR was in great condition. TRR accurately explained that the only visible wear and tear was that the inner tag is partially detached (which doesn't bother me). The material feels nice, well in line with what I was expecting, and the price was definitely right! I've worn this size S sweater quite a few times, it has a fairly relaxed fit that almost feels like a unisex S. 
  • Tibi Cashmere Oversized Drawstring Hem Sweater, wheat - $408.29* - Both Shopbop, and Tibi have now discounted this sweater more deeply than when I bought it. This was a more impulsive purchase, as it's a bit more oversized and relaxed than any other sweater I've owned to date, and I would also never have considered it at its original full price of $750. At current sale prices, however, I think this sweater is a fairly good value if it suits your personal style. I've grown to like this sweater a lot, though it definitely has a more casual and "chill" vibe than most of my other knitwear, it falls somewhere between a sweatshirt and a sweater. There's an interesting asymmetrical shoulder seam detail, which I didn't fully notice until the second or third time I wore it. I don't find this sweater too bulky or oversized under my coats, I'd describe it as a medium-weight knit though it looks heavier and thicker than that in some store photographs. I got the size S/M suggested for my measurements on Tibi's official size chart, and I think it fits as intended (actually very similar to how it fits on Tibi's model, even if the model must be a lot taller). The Shopbop store photography shows a model who sized down, I think. 
*Indicates that price includes sales tax and/or shipping fees. 

How are you doing? Things in the world are pretty heavy right now, and I know I don't have the  background knowledge to speak intelligently about the Russian invasion of Ukraine. I've donated to World Central Kitchen to assist with relief efforts. 

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Still Totally Obsessed with Tibi

In recent months, ever since discovering Tibi founder and creative director Amy Smilovic's Instagram stories about personal style and the brand's Style Class videos, I've become rather obsessed with shopping from Tibi. Spoiler alert for this month's shopping reflections post: I continued my recent trend of shopping heavily from them, this time from the secondhand market and their ongoing sale. It starts to feel a little unbalanced to shop so much from one brand in a fairly short time! 

Before viewing Smilovic's Instagram stories and Tibi's Style Class videos, I don't think I'd have understood the brand's point of view and design choices. Many of their styles initially look far more fashion-forward and adventurous than anything I ever wore, or would have even taken a second look at while browsing online stores. If I just looked through their catalog on my own, my eye would probably have been too distracted by the "Modern" aspects of their designs - which generally isn't a primary style adjective for me - too much to even notice the "Chill" aspect I've come to love, including the more relaxed and intentionally oversized fit of many of their items. 

With the recent release of Tibi's spring/summer collection, I think my pace of shopping from the brand should slow down a bit in the coming months. The new designs and color story are fun, but I've never been a big spring/summer clothing person. Once the weather gets hot and humid in NYC, I gravitate to dresses in summer-friendly fabrics - most, but not all, in simple colors and shapes - and have relatively little patience for making outfits out of separates. In other words, most of the new spring/summer designs don't really suit my style preferences.  (My eye's only really drawn to two pieces in the new collection, one brightly colored silk slip dress with balloon skirt that would never actually work for me because it's not regular bra-friendly and a gauzy cotton blouse with voluminous sleeves.) 

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!

There are still a number of other Tibi items I have my eye on, both from their seasonless "Fundamentals - WOFs" or "Without Fails" collection.  The first is their classic oversized shirt.  Though I think it might make more sense from a value for money perspective to find an oversized white cotton button down on the secondhand market instead. The second is the Brancusi jean in classic light blue denim wash (also here). I already own the Brancusi jeans in the dark blue indigo wash (also here), and after getting used to the unusual-for-me barrel leg silhouette, I've really come to love them, and I reach for them all the darn time. 

I think the light blue wash lends a substantially different feel to the jeans, so it wouldn't necessarily be duplicative of my other pair of Brancusis. Though the light blue pair would admittedly feel rather duplicative of my Toteme Twisted Seam jeans in a similar blue wash (also here). 

Oh and one other completely unrelated-to-fashion thing I can't help but mention: I recently tried a new-to-me Korean snack food, Orion's "Turtle Chips" in the Chocolate Churro flavor, on the recommendation of someone on Instagram, and I'm now completely obsessed. (I bought mine from H-Mart.) It's sweet, but not too sweet - high praise coming from a fan of East Asian bakery chains. Something about the combination of super-crispy texture (aided by the multiple layers within each chip), the light coating of chocolate, and touch of cinnamon is just a perfect combination. I ate the whole bag with remarkable speed. 

Friday, February 11, 2022

Another Gift to Myself

Ever since I knew I'd soon be taking my first-ever deposition, I couldn't help but start thinking about a gift for myself to commemorate the occasion. That was before even factoring in that this deposition would be in a billable case concerning mid-seven figures, where my opposing counsel would likely be from a top 10 biglaw firms, no less! It may have looked like a bit of a David and Goliath situation because I work somewhere so small and niche  (I'm not sure most other NYC-based litigators have even heard of us.) Quite a set of circumstances for my first bit of "stand-up" litigation experience! 

For more junior litigators in biglaw these days, it's generally not that common to get much "stand-up" experience (whether in court, arbitrations, or depositions), particularly outside of pro-bono work. Many of my closest law school friends are biglaw litigators, and from our collected experience, getting that first piece of stand-up experience outside of one's pro-bono cases by the end of one's fifth year may require a bit of luck. (Though it's also not that uncommon or rare. Once you do get your first one, two, or three instances of stand-up experience in a billable case by around your fifth year, that alone isn't enough to make you a standout associate or particularly special.) 

Things work very differently at my much smaller biglaw-adjacent workplace, so I'm lucky to get my first go now, at the start of my seventh year. It was stressful, but I really enjoyed it and I think I did a reasonably good job thinking on my feet while taking my deposition. 

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Busy at Work Lately

via Serious Eats

Oh dear, pardon me for disappearing from this blog for a few weeks longer than originally expected! Quite a few things came up at the office after my deposition, and I'm only just now coming up for air for a brief moment. Things will be extremely hectic at work for the next three months at a minimum - and maybe for longer than that - so I can't make any promises about how often I'll be able to post in that time window. 

Many apologies, I wish I still had the energy to write blog posts in the late evenings after work, the way I used to earlier in my career. Alas, these days I'm only able to work on the blog over the weekend, and some weekends I'm just too tired. 

The photo above is from the recipe for Lacy Brown Butter and Ricotta Cookies at Serious Eats. Mine didn't turn out quite so lacy-looking. It's apparently a recipe where the finished product can look very different depending on the brand of ricotta used. The 35 cookies estimate when portioning the dough into roughly one tablespoon sized scoops is far off, by the way, I only got something like 19 cookies. For those with small households, I'd suggest baking only a small batch at a time and freezing the rest of the portioned out dough, as I found the texture was best the day they were baked.

I liked, but didn't enthusiastically love, this cookie recipe. It's a good addition to my limited baking repertoire and not very difficult to make. But if one doesn't do the toasted sugar or used vanilla pod upgrades, the flavor is not that nuanced. (Then I used the rest of that 16 ounce tub of ricotta to make a one-third portion of Maialino's ricotta pancakes, which was a good amount for breakfast for two.)

My recent - and first ever - deposition as the first-chair attorney took place in Miami. I was quite nervous about travel and COVID risk before my departure. It turned out fine, though I got a bit of a scratchy throat and sniffles afterwards. I took three at-home COVID tests in the following week - two of them in the days immediately after my very mild symptoms started - and all were negative. 

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

January 2022 Shopping Reflections

I won't have as much commentary on this month's purchases as I usually do. That's in part because I've been so busy at the office - I'm nervous about taking my first-ever deposition, in a multimillion dollar litigation no less! - and also in part because I've had the flexibility to work from home since late December due to the Omicron surge, so I haven't left my apartment much. (And I'm definitely not the type of person who gets dressed up while working at home, I just stick to sweatpants and sweatshirts.) 

A purchase that almost happened - but ultimately didn't stick - was one of those long-ago Mansur Gavriel flower sweaters in blue, which popped up on The RealReal ("TRR") in my size. It's an item I've kept thinking about and yearning for over many years, so I ordered it immediately, even though TRR was selling that gently used sweater for its original retail price, or even slightly more. 

Once I received it, though, I saw it was too thick a knit and too intentionally oversized for me to ever actually wear it outside in NYC. In other words, it has the exact same issue as the Babaa No. 15 jumper I recently sold (also via TRR), namely that it's so chunky and large a sweater it can't be layered comfortably under any of my coats. In my experience, there simply isn't an appropriate temperature or season for that kind of sweater in NYC. If it's cold enough for that sweater, it's also cold and windy enough to need a coat on top. 

This was my first time trying on any alpaca-blend sweater, and it did seem like alpaca wouldn't cause me to itch, so that's good to know. The alpaca seemed to make the sweater nice and soft (in a different way from cashmere, I think it's a bit more plush-textured). I was disappointed that what I thought would be the perfect, best-ever whimsical sweater didn't actually work for me, but I suppose it's good to learn from firsthand experience that this long-desired item actually wouldn't suit my lifestyle, so I can finally stop looking for it.

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!

For January, I ended up doing some winter sale shopping after all, despite my initial thinking that I wasn't interested in all that much that was actually discounted. My sale purchase is definitely a bit outside my style comfort zone. And maybe the non-sale purchase was also a bit outside my comfort zone too, actually, as it's an intentionally very-oversized blazer, something I've never tried wearing before. 

Thursday, January 13, 2022

2021 Year in Review: Books and Podcasts

2021 was far and away not the best reading year for me. For the first part of the year, I thought I had a better attention span and ability to focus on reading than I did in 2020, but then starting in September I suddenly became completely unable to read for fun, even if the books I was working through were fairly well-written and engaging. 

As reported in my monthly reading reflections posts for the months until I stopped reading for fun, I read 26 books in 2021. In today's post, I'll highlight some of my favorites for the year, though I don't think any of them will be a surprise!

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!

As for 2022, I'm doing a little bit better with reading for fun. I blazed my way rather quickly through Leviathan Wakes, the first book of The Expanse series. (By the way, the television series based on these books is really, really good; K and I binged it during the earliest months of the pandemic and we highly recommend it.) I'm roughly a third of the way through the second book now and I think I may be able to power right through the entire series in fairly short order, probably to the exclusion of reading anything else. The only downside with reading The Expanse books is that they contain very fast-paced stories, so they're not always the best pre-bedtime reading. Sometimes, they're too exciting, so I stay up a bit late to continue reading! 

I may hold off on doing more "monthly" reading reflections posts until I've finished the series, or maybe I'll only do those posts in the meantime if I have any other reading to report. Based on what I've heard from fans of the series, The Expanse should be consistently well-written throughout, so it's not the sort of thing where it makes sense to give my thoughts on each individual book as I finish reading it. It'd make more sense to evaluate the series as a whole. 

Anyway, without further ado, here are my favorite books of 2021. They're somewhat listed in order of how much I liked them, with the ones I liked most towards the top of my list. 

  • Piranesi by Susanna Clarke - There's probably no surprise that this was my single favorite book of 2021, as I sang its praises effusively back when I first read it. It's just such a beautiful, lyrically written novel, with such a unique fantasy concept behind it. I was also really glad I didn't accidentally come across any spoilers before I finished reading this book, since it allowed me to slowly discover what was going on right alongside the narrator. 
  • Crying in H-Mart by Michelle Zauner - I read a lot of great nonfiction books in 2021, but this powerful memoir about Zauner's late mother was my favorite of the bunch. I generally like the deeply personal stories found in all good memoirs, so any strong writing from that genre will typically have an advantage with me over other types of nonfiction. People often review almost all bestselling memoirs as being honest and raw in their way, but I think Zauner's memoir really stands out as being particularly unflinching and self-aware. 
  • Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker - This was a really well-written and well-reported nonfiction book, with a lot of empathy to the family at the center of the story as they did their best for each other through tough circumstances. 

I also thought it'd be nice to highlight some of my favorite podcasts from 2021. 

  • Maintenance Phase - This podcast focuses on analyzing various aspects of American diet culture and, to a lesser extent, wellness culture. It's a really fascinating look back at some of the things that were definitely part of my awareness when I was growing up through the 1990s and earlier 2000s. (Think things like the short-lived presence of olestra snack foods, the ubiquity of Snackwell's cookies, and the fact that the Biggest Loser television show exists...)  
  • I Will Teach You to be Rich - Ramit Sethi's the author of my favorite introductory personal finance book, also titled I Will Teach You to be Rich. His new podcast should appeal to anyone who enjoys the kind of personal finance discussion - emphasis on the personal - I sometimes mention here. His podcast focuses on interviews of couples who have some kind of fundamental disagreement about how to manage their money, which implicates larger questions of their values and lifestyle choices. He tries to help them work through their disagreements. The first few episodes have titles that sound like huge, intractable disagreements, but most of those couples actually were not in as contentious a spot as it sounded like. For instance, the $450,000 student debt in episode four was on track to eventually be forgiven through one of the non-PSLF income-based repayment programs - like with the orthodontist mentioned in the long-ago viral news story discussed here - so it was actually being managed reasonably, there was a plan in place. The more recent episodes have included couples that sounded like they might not be able to resolve things, however. It does make me a bit nervous that these interviews sound like they're trying to be financial therapy, which is maybe best left to licensed professionals? But it is a very interesting series to listen to. 
  • Blind Landing - This is a fairly brief but well-reported podcast series about a serious problem that occurred during the women's gymnastics all-around finals at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. The vault was set to incorrect specifications, which ruined the competition for some of the athletes and could easily have caused serious injuries. The series also touches on broader issues of athlete safety in gymnastics, including the lack of one-touch warmups in event finals. 

What were your favorite books or podcasts of 2021? I'm always interested in hearing recommendations for books and podcasts basically anytime, particularly if there are any other good personal finance podcasts out there that focus more on the "personal" side of things. 

Monday, January 10, 2022

(Mostly Non-Sale) Shopping Lately

Self Portrait "Prairie" Midi Dress (affiliate link) - Definitely not on sale, even though the design has been around a long time.

Before we get started, one quick note: work is going to be extremely busy for me later in January - I'll be taking my first ever deposition! - so my posting here may become more sporadic next week and the week after.  

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!

Today's post is about some of my shopping ideas recently, mostly not from the post-Christmas and post-New Years' sales. Have you been shopping any of the winter sales? I've browsed some - including the Tibi sale, where many sale items are 50% off - but I haven't really seen anything I was interested in that was also on sale. 

In terms of cool Tibi items currently on sale at various retailers: that plaid wool skirt I bought at full price in October is now discounted at both Tibi's website and Net-a-Porter, though only in extremely limited sizes. Both Shopbop and Net-a-Porter also have a good number of Tibi items on sale, though often only in one or two lucky sizes. This cutout cashmere turtleneck in sky blue is kind of cool, as is the plaid top that matches the skirt I bought (the plaid top is a bit more deeply discounted at Tibi's website). 

As for the non-sale items I've had on my mind, I've been thinking recently about whether it's time to shop for another "wedding guest dress", since I've felt a bit dowdy when wearing my existing ones to the most recent weddings K and I attended. With all my fussy and nitpicky criteria for party dresses - particularly if other people's weddings are the main type of occasion I'm shopping for; which means white, cream, and many white or cream background prints are off limits, as is red for weddings that might have a Chinese or Indian cultural component - searching for a new dress is likely to take a significant amount of time. It's rare to see many options in stores that meet all my nonnegotiable criteria for this type of dress and might, therefore, even be worth ordering to try on. 

Friday, January 7, 2022

A Year and a Half-ish of Fountain Pens

Back in July 2020 - with no real end in sight to COVID work from home and K and I's plans to continue adhering to fairly strict social distancing - I decided to try out fountain pens for the first time, after seeing Adina's Instagram stories about some of her favorite Pilot Iroshizuku inks. Almost immediately, I became completely obsessed. 

It didn't take long before I went from one pen to five and then far more than that, with an ink collection to match. And my pen and ink collection continued to grow somewhat in 2021 albeit at a much slower rate than before. (Which is good, because I was really a bit out of control with how quickly I jumped into the hobby and the acquisition of new pens, inks, and related accoutrements in 2020!)

Fountain pens and journaling were a perfect pandemic-era hobby for me while I was stuck at home at my desk in our one-bedroom NYC apartment all day long for months on end. It gave me all the time in the world to sit and write with the different ink, fountain pen nib, and paper combinations available to me, to marvel at and admire the various colors and properties of all my inks and ink samples, including some with shimmer, sheening, and shading. 

When I was home all the time, it was also easy to refill any fountain pen as soon as it ran out of ink. Some pens, or rather, their converters, have very limited ink capacity and are emptied after writing barely a few A5-sized pages worth of text; other pens might not be completely airtight so they dry out quickly. It was also easy to find 15 to 20 minutes to clean out a few of my pens each week, when I was in the mood to switch those pens to new ink colors. 

These days - now that I'm fully back in the office every weekday, save for a few recent weeks due to the Omicron surge in NYC, and not that I'm also close to billing normal amounts of hours by pre-pandemic standards - I find I'm not able to make as much use of my fountain pens as before. Back while social distancing, once I'd built that rather prodigious collection of pens so quickly, I generally kept around fifteen fountain pens inked at a time, and it was a simple matter to stay on top of refilling any that ran out of ink. I'd also switch up some of my chosen colors once a week or so. Nowadays, having eight pens inked at a time is more than enough. With just that many actively in use, I still have trouble keeping up with refilling the ones that run empty and almost never have the energy to clean any of them up to switch between inks. 

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Reselling More with The RealReal

In late 2021, I had a bunch of like-new items - including my Equipment silk blouses, that Babaa sweater and a Babaa lounge set, and a bunch of Smythson notebooks (similar, affiliate link) I bought on sale (that turned out not to suit my subsequently developed interest in fountain pens and colorful inks because the pale blue Smythson paper obscured some ink colors) - which I decided to resell through The RealReal ("TRR"). It'd been two years since I last had anything suitable for sending to TRR, and this time, most of my items for consignment were a lot newer than the ones from last time. 

As in 2019, my main reason for deciding to resell with TRR was that I prioritized ease and convenience over total returns. Last time around, none of my items were particularly new or in-demand, and I thought it was pretty certain that if I tried to list them myself on eBay, Poshmark, etc., it'd take weeks or months and a few rounds of re-listing to successfully sell them. This time around, I did think a number of my items - particularly the Babaa clothing - should have been reasonably easy to resell directly to other individuals fairly quickly, and for a much better price than the TRR commission. But alas, between work stress and pandemic stress, I wasn't really up for handling the listing and shipment of my items myself. 

Once again, I was fairly satisfied with my TRR consignment experience. Like in 2019, my only real goal was to successfully resell these items after having spent as little of my time or effort as possible to accomplish that. Obviously, by using TRR, I knew I couldn't be too picky about the price they chose to sell my items for because I had absolutely no choice in the matter. I also knew I'd only get 40-50% of the TRR sale price as a commission. 

All my items sold incredibly quickly this time, often within a week of each listing going live. That does suggest I could have had far better returns fairly quickly if I resold the items myself, without using TRR as a middleman, but alas, I wasn't really in a position to do that. 

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Pandemic Life Lately

Tory Burch Tanya the Tiger Bag (affiliate link) - I would never buy this because it's completely impractical for me, but I think it's kind of cute to look at. 

Happy New Year! I hope that everyone is having a good start to 2022 so far, as much as can be managed in the places - like NYC - where new COVID cases are continuing to increase dramatically. There is some data for NYC suggesting our recent surge is largely driven by unvaccinated individuals (if you click on "Recent Trends" under "Latest" data and scroll down, there is a chart that can show data by "vaccination status"). To tell the truth, I'd hoped I wouldn't need to use the "COVID-era life" tag anymore on any 2022 blog entries, but alas, that's not the position we find ourselves in.

I got back from my trip to see my mom in California in the late evening the Monday after Christmas. Early the next morning, I got a PCR test - negative - and felt lucky that the turnaround time to get results was less than 24 hours. The first Duane Reade I went to in person also had a good supply of Abbott BinaxNow at-home COVID tests, a maximum of four boxes per customer. And I must say, home COVID tests sure are expensive, those four boxes (with two tests each) cost me $99.96! (I believe that's the standard retail price at most stores, but some retailers such as Walmart may have them for cheaper.) I then took one of those at-home COVID test on Thursday - also negative - before seeing K's parents for New Year's. I'll also be required to have another negative COVID test result from after December 31 before my mandatory return date to working in the office on January 5. 

For the time being, I've also decided to switch from my Happy Masks to Powecom KN95s, which I buy from Bona Fide Masks (for ~$1/mask, or less if buying in bulk). I find the Happy Masks a bit more comfortable - mainly because they have slightly softer adjustable straps - and I like that they're a lower-waste solution because they're washable and resuable for many months, but I don't get as snug a fit or good a seal from the Happy Masks as I do with the KN95s. (I also get noticeably more condensation and fog on my glasses in wintertime from the Happy Masks than I do from KN95s, probably because of the aforementioned less snug fit.) 

K and I will probably avoid indoor restaurant dining in NYC for a while, until things settle down a bit on the COVID front. While my international business trips that would have happened in the next two months or so are definitely cancelled, I may still have a domestic business trip or two in the next few weeks. 

Admittedly this post is kind of a total downer, but alas, it's all that's really been on my mind recently. It's hard to avoid thinking about COVID-related matters when NYC keeps smashing all-time records for total numbers of new cases. I otherwise had a good holiday season though, with minimal delays for my flight back to NYC, and I was so glad to be able to spend time in person with my family and with K's family.