Too Lazy for DIY

Before I bought my condo, I was thoroughly convinced I was going to do all minor repairs and maintenance on it myself. I thought: how hard could it be?

So in the midst of renovation madness, fiancé and I got ourselves all the makings of a fixer upper toolkit: a nine-foot tall ladder, a drill with all the fittings, hammers and screwdrivers, joint knives, buckets, HEPA filter face masks, and the like.

We set off on our first project taking off the aging and peeling wallpaper from all 4000+ sq. ft. of wall space in the house. It took us about two days of scraping and peeling and spraying and scraping again to clean it all off. During and after, our bodies were tired, dehydrated, and just plain crabby.

I will never look at wallpaper the same way again.

There are other areas of my life where a similar DIY/anti-consumerist ethos has made its way into my brain, only to be majorly shut down.

For instance, zero waste and the urban homestead movement had me convinced for a while that composting and growing my own vegetables indoors would solve all my worldly problems. Reduce my trash waste and get free fertilizer for my hypothetical patio garden? Sign me up!

Here’s the rub, though: we don’t have much paper waste which makes our compost wetter than it should be. And digging caked wet matter out of my tumbler is no fun at all. Once every few months, it’s just me, a trowel, gloves, and a bucket in which I plop the insect-ridden gloopy masses. I’m not really sure this stuff can be used as fertilizer anymore. But I keep at it, because that one women with the tiny jar of trash for an entire year has made me feel guilty and, gosh darn it, I want to life such an aesthetically pleasing environmentalist life!

And I haven’t even gotten to the DIY projects still loitering half-heartedly on my to do list like: growing mushrooms using the blue oyster plugs that have been in my fridge for six months, clean out the dryer vent lest the clogged up lint causes it to catch fire, start my patio herb and vegetable garden so I can have basil and zucchini in spades.

But, over time, I am slowly coming to terms with the fact that I am too lazy for DIY. Gutter cleaning? I know a guy. Need to change an outlet? Email my electrician. Draining our water heater? Just take my money already!

Though the thought I can do something with my own two hands wriggles in my brain and we start all over again.

Are you a DIY’er? What stuff are you willing to do yourself vs. what would you rather pay someone else to do?

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All The Food I Ate Last Month – Part 2 of 3 (with some photos)

In this installment, I’ll discuss all the food I ate in the back half of last month (April 15-30). Check out my previous post for what I ate April 1-14. Luckily, I got it together a little in the last two weeks and remembered to take some food pictures for this post. Nothing Insta-worthy, I inhale poke too fast to bother trying to photograph it, but just a little something to add visual interest.

Second Half Of The Month: April 15-30

Here’s everything I ate in the second half of April:

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Toward the end of the month, I relied a lot more on takeout. And Pirate’s Booty. Soooo much Pirate’s Booty. Part of this was a function of work stress. When I’m stressed I tend to “treat myself” more. That is, let myself not have to cook and worry less about what it is I’m eating. Which, in retrospect, is kind of dumb. Stressful times are exactly when I should be sticking to healthy routines, not deviating from them. Oh well.

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I managed to finish off a couple of my loose leaf teas this month, including my “White Christmas” tea (white tea, vanilla, cinnamon and other spices) and shiitake tea (red and green rooibos, shiitake mushrooms). It’s probably for the best that I don’t reorder these right away. One of the things I’ve found is that I don’t hydrate nearly as well if I am sipping on teas all day vs. sipping on water.

As far as “free” meals go, Thursday April 19th I ate a client-provided lunch during an all-day meeting (stress ergo both cookies and a bag of BBQ chips). The next day work friend brought in egg custards from Chinatown which he was very generous to share with me. Fiancé let me eat some of his soba noodles as a late night snack April 23rd. The next day he did a grocery run for himself and, knowing I’d been having a hard time pushing on a work deadline, brought me back a chocolate lava cake, my favorite of all desserts.(@_@) True love, right there.

What I Cooked (April 15-30)

Here are all the groceries I bought in the second half of April:

groceries 415-430

More eating out than normal -> less cooking -> less groceries.

I skipped some of my usual vegetable pseudo-CSA deliveries this month because I wasn’t feeling up to cooking 10 pounds of straight-from-the-ground vegetables. As much as I love my pseudo-CSA and the quality of the produce I get, sometimes it can be a little too fresh. Like, dirt still lightly dusting most of my vegetables. It takes me a long time to clean that stuff off and for a while in mid-April, I just wasn’t feeling up to the task.

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In lieu of doing a big bulk cook, I ended up picking up a few items at the butcher (that sells other local items too), just to unwind with a little bit of light hobby cooking that’d last me only 1-2 meals. I always enjoy going there to buy foraged mushrooms, like the brown beech fruiting body I bought pictured above.

Second half of the month, I had my usual meat CSA delivery, where I get 5ish pounds which I mete out over the course of the month. I added six pounds of beef knuckle bones to my order so I could make homemade bone broth.

I managed to get by without too much home-cooking by trying a meal delivery service in the second half of April:

meal delivery april.png

This meal delivery service was super useful in getting me through those couple of weeks. It had been recommended to be by one of my coworkers. For around $50-60 a week, the service would deliver 7-8 servings based on produce and chicken from local, organic farms.

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The meals would get a bit repetitive typically contain some sort of salad or some sort of simple cooked meal (I got roast pork and beef butternut squash). But the sizes were very generous and the salads were much heartier than the word would suggest. For instance, pictured above are two salads I got: the Greek salad with red cabbage, chicken, cucumber, almonds, parsley, and greens on the left and the New England salad with pickled carrots, roasted root vegetables, chicken, parsley, walnuts and spinach on the right. They’d come in these huge containers weighing about a pound. Even I as a big eater could not finish them in a single sitting.

Here is what I cooked in the second half of April:cooking apr 15-30

The Week 3 items are a repeat from the previous post; I figured I’d display them again since I ate them during the week of the 15th.

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Weeks 3 & 4, I didn’t cook all that much since I was mostly relying on the meal delivery service to cover most of my weekday eats. But I did manage to put together a cozy little meal of Brussel sprouts, mushrooms, and sausage which was a nice hearty note to eat during the chilly early spring weather. Too lazy for any “real” cooking, I also put together a quick chickpea rollup during the week. It was super easy: mix chickpea flour and water until consistency of a pancake batter, toss in some spices, cook on the stove until firm. Once I had my nice fluffy chickpea pancake, I just topped it with an egg over easy, sriracha and spinach. Honestly, I’m not sure the sriracha and cumin flavorings really went together all that well. Next time, if I manage to think about it beforehand, I’ll probably do a curry based sauce on top instead.

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It wasn’t until Week 5 that I managed to get my act together and put together some vegetable based meals for myself. My favorite visually and flavor-wise was the roasted spring salad. At first the salad was meant to be raw, but I had cut the ingredients, particularly the beets, too thick to eat plainly, and I strongly prefer the mellowed out flavor of roasted radishes to raw. I particularly loved the cucumbers in this dish, which had this tangy sweet burst of flavor to them because of the apple cider vinegar and lemon.

I also spent a ridiculous amount of time cooking some beef bone broth in Week 5. I don’t usually make broth. I will throw a few bones into a soup or stew or something, but broth by itself rarely seems worth the hassle. But I wanted to try it, especially since my butcher charges $10/quart of the stuff. Here’s the thing though, making bone broth is so time consuming, at least the way I did it. Roasting the bones (I forgot to blanche them afterwards), cleaning and cutting the vegetables, siphoning off the fat and impurities, sticking around the house all day to make sure it didn’t bubble over, blowing out the bottom of a few mason jars after dunking a pint of jarred broth into an ice cold water bath… It was a lot. And probably not worth it time-wise, even though the bones themselves cost $18 or so, ultimately yielding 4-5 quarts (theoretically $50 in value).

Eating Out (April 15-30)

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When I’m feeling really, really down, I am wont to buy a pound of BBQ boneless chicken wings from the shop around the corner and just inhale them in fifteen minutes. This only happens, say, once a month. But if it happens more frequently, as it sometimes does, fiancé knows to take this as a very clear indicator that I’m not in a good place and intervention– sunlight, exercise, watering, a nice new pot of soil– is probably necessary to break out of the cycle.

As far as the types of fast food I typically eat, it looks like I’ve been on a poke kick lately. Not terribly surprising– I tend to crave raw fish when it gets warmer and I try to avoid sushi because of the rice. At some point, it’d probably be worth it to find a grocery store with sushi-grade fish around here, but I’ve been trying to avoid Whole Foods so it might be a difficult task. I’ve also been relying a lot lately on steak burritos (because they are delicious) and Sweetgreen, which has been winning me over with their complex-grains, compostable bowls, and online ordering. As their prime target demographic, I feel successfully pandered to.

Do you eat less/more or eat certain types of food when you’re stressed? Do you try to make your food look visually appealing before you eat it? Do you and your partner share food or do your own thing with meals? Do your local grocery stores offer sushi-grade fish?

All The Food I Ate Last Month – Part 1 of 3

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you probably have figured out that food is really important to me. But I also spend a lot on it, which makes me feel vaguely uncomfortable. So, in true personal finance blogger fashion, I decided to track my (food) spending! Below I itemize what I ate, what I cooked, and how much altogether food cost me in the first half of April.

Notes

  • I have an annoyingly long list of food sensitivities. I will sometimes eat things I know aren’t the best for me, but I try to systematically bake into my routine food that’s better for my gut. As long as deviating meals are occasional, I tend to be okay. This month I parted from my rules more than is typical due to work related stress, I think.
  • “Weeks” in my Cooking tables start and end on Fridays because that’s the day I usually get my pseudo-CSA deliveries.
  • In the food diary charts below:
    • yellow = takeout/restaurants I paid for
    • green = food that was given to me for free (snacks at job, gifts from friends, game nights where it’s someone else’s turn to order/pay for food, etc.)
  • I apologize in advance for the lack of food pictures. I am both very forgetful and a mediocre photographer.

First Half Of The Month: April 1 – 14

Here’s everything I ate in the first half of April:

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Overall my diet the first half of April was pretty meat and carb heavy. Leftover Matzo from Passover dinner, carbonara, saffron rice for days. As much as I love white rice in particular, by the end of the second week, my stomach was in knots from so much processed grain. It also caused me to rapidly gain weight and inches around my waist, which pretty quickly melted away once I pared back in the back half of April. Sigh.

In terms of free food, I get a lot of snacks from my work. One of the things I’ll miss most– you know, other than my colleagues and a salary– will be the snacks available on demand. I love having an ounce or two of almonds or cashews in the morning, though I don’t know whether I’ll be able to afford to substitute this expensive habit once I fall off the company payroll. Unfortunately, my office ran out in the second week and I think it made a substantial difference in how hungry I was all day long, probably because I was getting 200-ish fewer calories every day.

There were also a few times that I was treated to food by friends.

  • April 4th’s shahi paneer came as a game night offering. We take turns paying for food so it’ll come back around at some point as a one-time delivery $80 hit to my food budget.
  • April 7th I hosted a dinner with some friends at my home in order to get rid of five pounds of ham sitting in my fridge. They, in turn, provided me with some delicious homemade desserts.
  • April 9th, I ate some of Fiancé’s takeout as part of a second dinner (I blame the lack of almonds).
  • April 12th, Fiancé treated me to dinner at a new gourmet Peruvian restaurant that opened up in our neighborhood to celebrate his new job.

What I Cooked (April 1-14)

Here are all the groceries I bought in the first half of April:

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My second pseudo-CSA delivery had a lot less food for a lot more money than the first because I decided to go the custom vegetable route (where I choose what I want in my box) versus going with their default for the week. Plus, pint nuts are expensive.

I also stopped by my local butcher, which sells a lot of local specialty items other than meat, to buy ingredients for some home-made carbonara. I really enjoy their foraged mushrooms which, at $5/4 oz, are expensive but not unreasonable given the labor involved and the intense flavor they imbue. The butcher also has my favorite fresh pasta– I never buy boxed since the texture and flavor is rarely worth the stomach ache I often get eating wheat products. I figure if I’m going to eat something that is going to make me feel sick, it might as well be worth it.

Here’s all the cooking I did in the first half of April:

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This is a decent reflection of the meals I’ll typically make week to week. My cooking is really determined by what ends up in my veggie CSA, which due to the sheer volume of produce helps make sure my diet is largely plant-based. I mostly cook simple dishes– sauteed or roasted vegetables, a stew here and there. I think the most intensive thing I made was the tortilla for my Spanish-themed dinner party, but even that was fairly straightforward.

“Week 1” I actually cooked during the last week of March, but ate during the first week of April. The ingredients for those meals came in March and are therefore not reflected in my spending totals. Similarly, I get deliveries from my meat CSA once a month, so the first two weeks of April I was using up what was left of my March drop-off. I also keep a decent amount of non-perishable food in stock, from oils to spices to grains. It’d be pretty safe to assume that all my cooked meals also include olive oil and salt, but I thought’d be repetitive to throw it in over and over again.

The most decadent, almost-dessert like dish I made was the roasted cauliflower tossed in a rosewater-tahini sauce with pan-roasted pine nuts and raisins. I got the idea for this dish from a nearby Mediterranean restaurant that served something similar but with Brussel sprouts.

One thing to note is that I almost never use recipes for what I cook. I might use recipes as inspiration for flavor combinations or if I’m trying a new technique, but by and large I submit to the “throw things together and heat them up” school of culinary arts.

Eating Out (April 1-14)

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Yes, I do like Asian food. Why do you ask?

One of the things I notice looking at this chart is how much more expensive my sit down meals are relative to take-out, usually 2x the price even though all of these were lunch meals!

Part of this has to do with the volume and variety of food I order at restaurants. Usually during the sit-down meals I’m ordering multiple dishes since I guess is already a pretty luxurious feeling and I like to add to it? Plus throw in the cost of service and we’ve pretty much accounted for the difference.

At the end of the day, none of these meals were particularly noteworthy, but they tasted good overall and I think it was nice to take a break from my own cooking for a few days.

What kind of snacks do you eat at the office? How often do you cook versus eat out? Are there certain kinds of meals you tend to gravitate toward? Any frugal paleo recipes to share?

Bad At Moderation

I’ve been tracking everything I eat and buy food-wise the entire month of April (post to come). One thing I’ve learned, or I guess that I’ve always known but is just highlighted in the data, is that I’m terrible at moderation. I am and always have been an all-or-nothing kind of gal.

For instance, I have a general rule not to eat processed carbs. But once I’ve broken that rule I go all in. Ate some bread? Well some chips won’t hurt. And, here, let’s add a cookie in there too why don’t we.

On the other hand I am very good at abstaining from things in the first place. For instance, I almost never have alcohol– I never buy it, it’s not a part of my daily consumption, therefore it is easy for me to make the healthy choice without too much thought. (Luckily, I’ve not drunk enough to have acquired that much of a taste for it so moderation in that particular sphere is not terribly difficult.)

Really it’s where I deviate from the boundaries I’ve set for myself that it feels like all the flood gates have been opened and things go haywire.

I see this in the way I treat my work. Either I’m the superstar who’s getting everything done or I’ve messed something up (even something minor) and have decided that nothing matters and I’m the lazy duck who can barely string a sentence together. Actually, no, it’s not quite that severe anymore though it used to be. Still, success does seem to snowball into more success, failure to more failure. And so it goes.

It’s also apparent in the way I treat FIRE. I wake up in the morning and think: Man I don’t feel like working, but at least I make good money. And then I lean into that super hard. I optimize how much money I make, I save it, I kind of even hoard it. And maybe retire in ten years? That’s all a totally reasonable reaction to kind of sort of not wanting to go to work, right?

Anyway, that is all to say: maybe I should work on this moderation thing? Or at least create glide paths from minor failures back onto the regular track. Because the world is not all or nothing, even if my brain wants me to feel like it is.

Are you an all or nothing thinker? In what areas do you have difficulty with moderation?

Wedding Planning: An Update

We’re six months out from the “Big Day” and have made a lot of progress on our wedding planning. Here’s what we know:

Venue

We’ll be having our wedding in a public park. It’s a nicer park in a more well-to-do (read: expensive) town, so it’s pretty costly for a public space. The ceremony location is a tempietto which looks kind of like this but is on a pond.

Villa Olmo via TripAdvisor

Our wedding is scheduled for the early fall period so we’re hoping we can see some leaf-turning and get reasonably good weather. Most of our spaces are outdoors but have roofs, so a little drizzle is not the end of the world, but could get pretty miserable and cold for our guests. The reception will be in a covered BBQ shelter like this:

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I have no idea if we’re going to do any amount of decoration for the wedding. The caterer is going to be bringing linens for the tables. Maybe we’ll get some used chalkboards to indicate where the wedding is? Otherwise, I’m at a loss what sort of decoration we really need. If it wasn’t clear already, wedding planning is not my forte or interest. Thankfully Fiancé has been picking up my slack here.

Food

We’ve decided to go to with a Chinese-American woman-owned restaurant to cater our wedding. I came across this place as a food truck that sells near my work and I love everything they make. Fiancé and I had a tasting to make sure the menu was accessible to his family. No fermented black bean dishes, for instance, even though we both love the taste. Strangely enough, none of the Asian side of my family is likely to come– maybe my dad, except he’s having visa issues– but I know that my guests can generally deal with “weird” food.

Here’s our menu:

Appetizers

  • Sweet corn fritters with creamy maple dipping sauce
  • Scallion pancake bites with cheddar & pesto
  • Carrot & coconut soup shots with mint

Main 

  • Thai coconut curry with tofu & veggies
  • Red roasted pork shoulder

Sides

  • Honey butter roasted carrots
  • Beet salad with arugula and goat cheese

Drinks

  • Apple cider
  • Apple spritzer

Fiancé’s mom has graciously offered to pay for the wedding’s catering. This includes set up, tear down costs, silverware, etc. That just leaves fiancé and I to deal with the cake. We probably won’t go with anything custom, but rather get two half-sheet tortes (right now we’re thinking chocolate sacher torte and princess torte) which look presentable but can be served directly to guests without fanfare.

Sacher Torte
via Basheer Tome
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via Janelle

 

 

 

 

 

Clothing & Appearance

We’re using our engagement rings as our wedding rings. Fiancé has offered to make our clothes for the day, which is a big project. I’m a little worried he may be biting off more than he can chew. He’s made formal wear and has a lot of costuming experience generally, but it is a ton of work. So while the plan right now is that he’ll make our garments, I’m ready to pull the trigger on pre-made garments if need be. That said, we’ve already picked out patterns for the clothes we want and have already bought the fabrics.

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In terms of styling, I still don’t know if I even want to do any styling for the wedding. Like, I’ll get a haircut a week out that’s suitable, but otherwise I plan to wear that down and normal. I never wear makeup in my daily life (sensitive skin) so I might want to skip that too. Is that a terrible idea?

Fiancé knows that he wants to his usual hair stylist to prep his locks on the day of the wedding. His stylist has already agreed but also recently announced that he’s moving to Chicago. He noted that he plans to come back into town for the fall season since a lot of his clients are getting married then, but we should probably start looking for Plan B’s in case that falls through.

Labor

I know it’s probably gauche to rely on the labor of friends for a wedding, but in our defense there are some things we really prefer our friends be involved with.

For instance, officiating. Both fiancé and I come from mixed-religion families but neither of us are particularly religious. The things we value most are a sense of community and love toward one another. So we though it’d be nice if one of our friends officiated. I don’t know if this is a common thing everywhere, but it certainly is something many of my friends have considered or done for their own ceremonies. We felt it would be lovely if one of his friends in particular, who would have been his best man if we had a wedding party and is the picture-perfect definition of a Lawful Good alignment, would do us the honor. He’s accepted which is thrilling for us, but I want to make sure we give him some material to work with (without being overbearing) so he doesn’t have to work from scratch and we overburden his kindness.

Similarly, another one of his friends is a hobbyist photographer who is amazingly good. It was her wonderful and whimsical photographs, posted onto Fiancé’s online dating profile, that piqued my interest in Fiancé in the first place. We asked if she would be willing to photograph our wedding and whether she had a going rate. While she seemed thoroughly excited for us and graciously offered to help us for free (and some wedding food), we don’t really feel comfortable with that arrangement. Photography is a lot of work so at the very least, we want to give her a token $250 or so to show our appreciation. I still feel a bit guilty we’re being cheap here. I don’t know, thoughts?

Lastly on the labor list, we still have to figure out whether we should get a day-of coordinator or an attendant (i.e. someone who can help clean the park bathrooms). It would help relieve some of the stresses on the big day, but then of course there’s always the consideration of money.

Music

We were planning on Fiancé’s violin instructor, who is just a stunning musician, play at our ceremony. However she recently got accepted to a big-name conservatory in New York so she will be moving before our wedding. She’s promised to help find someone that can play– there’s a very good conservatory here and lots of musicians floating around. But we probably should be prepared if this falls through.

For the reception, Fiancé will be preparing a playlist for dancing / easy listening purposes. He thoroughly enjoys setting the soundtrack for performance events so this is right up his alley. He’s also mentioned that he’s been secretly putting together this playlist (for a hypothetical wedding) in his head pretty much his entire life. So, we’ll be taking the low-key route on that item.

Stationery

We used Paperless Post for our invitations.

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The only stationery we’ll theoretically need on top of that is for thank you notes. Do we have to write thank you notes if we tell people not to bring gifts and to donate to charity instead? I’m really lazy. Also, I have never personally valued correspondence I’ve received as mere formality, though I understand this sentiment isn’t shared by all (most?).

Flowers

The appeal of flowers is lost on me.

I remember one time I was at a quiz bowl tournament in high school. Each table had a pot of daisies in the center. Bored out of my mind at listening to introductory speeches, I started picking at and then eating the daisies. Which led to the rest of our team looking at me very strangely and then after a few minutes also picking at and eating the daisies with me.

So yeah, flowers. Food, friend, foe, decorative purpose? I don’t know. I imagine we might get a brooch for him and I guess flowers for the tables maybe? Or maybe not, because they are insanely expensive? Still on the fence here.

Second Reception

Around the same time as the wedding, either a couple weekends before or after, we’d like to have a second reception for all our local friends and acquaintances who we couldn’t invite to the wedding itself (since we’re trying to keep it small). Our thought is to have this after-party at a local roller skating rink and pay for folks’ shoe rentals and greasy rink food.

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via PfeifferPhotos

Cost Breakdown

Here’s the total cost of everything for our wedding, along with our previous budget.

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Note that since MIL is covering catering, we’re responsible for only $3750 of the above. That said, this is starting to get significantly more expensive than I had imagined. And we’re trying to keep things simple and small with an estimated head count of 65 people. Sigh. *braces self for overages to come*

How much did you or would you spend on your wedding? Would you ask a friend to help “work” your wedding? Are written thank you notes important? What’s the appeal of flowers? Any other tips?

Are You A Past, Present, Or Future Thinker?

Good news: after six months of job searching, it looks like fiancé has gotten a job offer! “Looks like” because he still has to go through various background checks and bureaucratic hoop-jumping. But as far as we’ve been told, he can expect to start working at the new place at the beginning of May. Trying not to count our chickens before they hatch and all, but uh those sure do look like seven chickens over there, yup.

I say we are trying not to count our chickens but really what I mean is I am trying not to. Literally within ten seconds of fiancé telling me the news, the first thing that jumped into my mind was Oh boy, I should update the financial projection spreadsheets!

Here’s the thing: I’m a very future-oriented thinker. I have often joked (not really a joke) that my discount rate– for stress, satisfaction, whatever it may be– is negative. I feel future joys with as much or greater intensity than present ones. When things are actively falling apart around me, I’m as cool as a cucumber. But if I anticipate things falling apart in the distant future, then I’ll be a mess for days.

Because of this future-orientation, I really like to plan things. It is my coping strategy for anxiety, of which I have a lot. It is also my coping strategy for everything going just fine and my brain just having some spare capacity to throw around. And sometimes I can get a little intense.

I remember one time, when we were going through a financially tumultuous period after buying and remodeling the condo, breaking out for fiancé The Life Spreadsheet. As in, the spreadsheet that summarized our entire lives for the next ten years. Our jobs, our salaries, when we’d have kids, what daycare the kids would go to, when fiancé would become a stay at home parent and the tax implications thereof. We’d talked about most of these things more or less, but he was still understandably intimidated by this gesture. It doesn’t help that fiancé is 100% a present-oriented thinker.  I don’t know what I’m having for lunch today let alone what I want my career to look like in a decade! 

Because you see– and I didn’t come to understand this until much later– when present-thinker fiancé read this grand plan he understood it to mean Here is what YAPFB is ordering you to do for the rest of your life. Whereas I understood it to mean Here is what I think will happen based on our current model, which is flexible but we need a starting point. Oh look we’ll probably do okay, let’s not worry about it too much then.

Taking a step back, his interpretation and therefore his trepidation makes a lot of sense. But it definitely took him pointing out his perspective for my deep-in-the-Excel brain to even process that one could feel intimidated and even constrained by the concept of a plan. This has resulted in many a long, heartfelt, sometimes heated conversation that involves a lot of listening and empathy and maybe also some Let’s maybe not show fiancé my annual meal planning spreadsheet.

I need to tweak it anyway.

Are you a past, present, or future-thinker? Is your partner the same? How do your orientations commingle?

 

All The Clothes I Bought Last Year, Rated

Last year I did a couple rundowns of all the clothing I bought. Basking in the shine of newness, though, I feel like I didn’t really gauge the pieces. Well now, after a few months wearing these pieces day in and day out, I have some opinions. What’s worked for me, what hasn’t. And so I thought I’d revisit my clothes from last year. What was worth it? What wasn’t? I’ll be rating each on a scale from 1 (worst) to 5 (best). I’ll try to note how much I liked/disliked a piece for me versus thought it was high/low quality in general.

Here’s my rough, completely subjective scale:

  • 5 = Perfect piece, wouldn’t change a thing
  • 4 = Would recommend
  • 3 = This is fine
  • 2 = Not for me, thanks
  • 1 = Never again

In general, let me know if you have any questions on the pieces I list here. My primary goal is to have a reference I can turn to in the future to know what’s been good for me in the past, but I also would like this to be useful to others if I can. So, without further ado…

Tops

All My Silk Shirts – 4.5/5

I’m just going to come out and say it: silk is my perfect fabric. Breathable in the summer, insulating in the winter. Light. Appropriate for work and play. Just so good.

Of the shirts I bought, all but the white Boss shirt were of crepe de chine. The Brunello Cucinelli tank was actually a crepe-backed satin which, my god, was just an extra level of decadence I didn’t see coming.

I was surprised that between my Everlane and Equipment shirts, I actually prefer the Everlane pieces. The Equipment shirt is clearly of higher momme silk and the shirt’s design is lovely, but the buttons used for the shirt aren’t great. I love the big thick minimalist gold design on them, but the loop that attaches them to the garment is quite large, which causes it to jut out away from the shirt. This is not so noticeable on the front, but causes the cuffs to hang limply and look a little sloppy. Also, I’ve just been moving away from button-up shirts generally. Short of hunching all day, almost any shirt seems to pucker on me, and I’m only a 34B.

All in all, though, these are some really nice pieces and I’m glad I went the extra mile in getting them tailored. I can really see them being staples in my wardrobe for years to come.

Workout T-Shirts – 3/5

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TIL: Workout tees are like regular tees, but more expensive and show slightly less sweat. Fine overall, but not worth the premium in price over a regular old, ratty cotton shirt if all you care about is exercising (though you’d probably look better in these, I guess).

Bottoms

J Brand Jeans – 4/5

These are probably the best jeans I’ve ever had. In particular, the black cigarette jeans are holding up as good as the day I got them. The blue jeans, after a few washes (no dryers) are starting to loosen a bit, but not too bad. The fit around my hips through my thighs continue to be good. Nothing too substantial in the way of fading. Overall, pretty good.

Banana Republic Sloan Pants – 3/5

BR’s Sloan Pants are downright magical for about two weeks. Day 1 I would have rated these a 5/5 hands down. They feel nice and thick but look sharp at the office and are comfy as all get out.

But then you wash them.

Keep in mind, you’re not technically supposed to wash these. They are clearly marked as dry clean only. But, you know, dry cleaning’s expensive and I was curious if I could get away with it. Hahaha, no. The viscose in these stretch out like nobody’s business, including in cold water. They were pretty much ruined after a single wash. Whoops.

Great if you have a dry cleaning budget. Otherwise, skip this one.

Lululemon Align II – 3.5/5

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I wear these suckers every time I go to the gym (around 3x/week) and they’re holding up strong. Waist band is very comfortable, no sliding when I’m moving around including for squats which is great. The biggest annoyance for me is that they don’t breathe well, which leads to a little bit of overheating in intense workouts. Minus that, though, these are pretty great.

Dresses & Skirts

Cara Hansen Wrap Dress – 2/5

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Like a dress version of the Sloan pants, except it wasn’t marked as being dry clean only.

Ann Taylor Pencil Skirt – 3/5

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I’m not really a skirt person. As far as skirts go, this one is fine I guess.

Blazers, Sweaters, and Outerwear

Ann Taylor Blazer – 3/5

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It fits. I’ve worn it like three times. Meh.

Vintage Blazer – 2/5

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Why did I buy a light cotton blue blazer? I have no freakin’ idea. It wrinkles a lot and doesn’t go with any of my clothing. And the shade of blue is weird in that I don’t even think it matches with black. Is that even possible? Mine isn’t quite the same as the shade of the blazer pictured above, but you get the idea.

Theory Marled Sweater – 5/5

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I get so many compliments on this sweater. Really, the picture here doesn’t do it justice. It’s just so nice and the threads are thick and give it this nice luxe textured feel. Very comfortable, just the right level of chic for casual or business casual.

Patagonia Quarter-zip fleece – 3.5/5

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Comfy, practical, about what you expect from it. Polyester, so not very breathable once you get to the overheated indoors. Pills like whoa, but that’s par for the course for fleeces.

Coach Lambskin Leather Bomber Jacket – 4/5

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I love wearing my bomber jacket. Honestly, I probably wear it too much. I feel badass walking down the street in this, my black jeans, and some shades; the embossed lining feels decadent; and with my Patagonia fleece, I’m pretty much able to wear it down to 20 degrees Fahrenheit if there’s no wind (if there’s wind, all bets are off).

But as much as I love my bomber, it’s not perfect. For one, there are no side pockets. Which, even if it weren’t freezing cold and I wasn’t try to hide my hands away, I’d still want because I’m a fidgety person who can’t figure out where to put my hands when I walk. The torso is a little long for pear-shaped petite folk, which means the bottom will ride up an inch or two to snuggle right above my hips. Also, lambskin is a bit fussy, which I can see being annoying from the perspective of long term maintenance.

Undergarments

Bali Wire Free Bra – 3/5bal6570_champ

I’ve never found a bra that’s made me feel like I’m doing bras properly, but this one is comfortable so it’s my usual go to. Unfortunately, like most bras, after a few months they get a little sad. I don’t know. Is there such a thing as a long-lasting, supportive, comfortable bra? Recommendations?

Hanes Cotton Underwear – 3/5

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Cheap underwear, doing what it does.

Wolford Hosiery – 3.5/5

I got two pairs of Wolfords– one in denier 50 (black) and one in 20 (nude). They’re definitely less scratchy and more comfortable than your typical drugstore hosiery. And still holding up strong. Not life-changing, but decent.

LL Bean Silk Long Underwear – 4.5/5

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Wow, just wow! I was seriously impressed by how these long underwear kept my legs warm. They were very lightweight to the point that if they’re worn alone they’re sheer. But in spite of that they really kept my legs feeling toasty throughout the cold af winter. And they were nice and loose with a comfy waistband which meant they weren’t constantly riding up, riding down, pinching my legs, etc. Not quite as warm as a high end pair of thick fleece underwear, but far more practical for wearing all day under work clothes. My only wish is that these weren’t quite so sheer. I’d’ve loved to have been able to wear these around the house as pajama pants as well.

Accessories

WHBM Obi Belt – 2/5

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Look. This could be a brilliant statement piece for someone. That someone just needs to have a longer torso with fewer curves than I do. Due to the hard plastic siding and the thickness of the belt– a good five inches or so– it doesn’t meld well to hourglass figures. Also, I found little bits of light-colored suede from the other siding kept shedding all over my clothes. Such a shame. This one feels so aesthetically pleasing but is downright impractical in person.

Cambridge Satchel – 1/5

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I replaced the low-quality push lock on this bag three separate times and each time the new lock failed within a couple months. There’s a little rod as part of the push lock that seems to be glued in place. Once it comes undone, the whole lock falls apart, bits flying everywhere. Since replacement locks from Cambridge Satchel cost $25 a pop to be shipped to the US, I’ve just given up on this one.

Coach Willis Messenger Bag – 4/5

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This bag is built like a tank. The leather is super thick and the hardware is clearly built to last. And after the constant frustrations with my Cambridge Satchel, it is nice to have something with a turn lock that doesn’t look like it’s going to break anytime soon. But from a design standpoint, like most cross-bodies I wish it had a couple more notches higher up for us shorter folk. And with such an old bag, you’re wont to see a little edge fraying on the leather. Nothing deal-breaking, but certainly noticeable up close.

Neck gaiter – 3.5/5

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I like neck gaiters more than scarves because they keep nice and close to my body, which helps with heat retention during the most brutal part of the cold season. This cheap one I got from Amazon with reversible fleece lining did it’s job, though probably could have been a little thicker or had some other means of wind protection.

Patagonia Better Sweater Mittens – 3/5

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While I like that these convert back and forth between mittens and gloves, frankly they just aren’t all that warm.

Patagonia Beanie – 3.5/5

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Not much to say about this one. Nice and thick beanie, generally unassuming. Good for the 30-40 degree range. Does okay but not great in the wind.

REI Silk Sock Liner – 3/5

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These helped me not break out while wearing wool socks this winter. Not a lot of give or stretchiness, but not uncomfortable either. They did that job well without wearing through in spite of their thinness. At the price ($10/pair), I wouldn’t buy more than 1-2 pairs though.

Red Coral Necklace – 4/5

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Great statement piece though a bit heavy.

Shoes

Mizuno Wave Paradox – 5/5

848bcb09bb7a91c67c872ef31ffbeb73The only sneaker that keeps my overpronation in check while running.

Madewell Leather Sandals – 3/5

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Okay sandals. Not at all resistant to any of the elements and hurt after walking a bit. But for the price point, the quality is fine.

Tailoring – 5/5

The absolute best money I spent on clothes last year was on tailoring. Hands down, far and away, bar none, superlatives to infinity and beyond. Really, if there’s anything I learned last year: buy less, tailor more.

Any pieces you bought last year you’ve since come to love more? Less?