Thursday, January 29

What I Bought in January: January 24 - January 28

I am not sure what to make of this fortune.
Thursday already! This weekend I went to Connecticut to celebrate a birthday. We stayed at J's mom's, on a semi-inflated air mattress.

Tickets for both of us, round trip, cost $80. That felt expensive, but maybe it's reasonable? I have no way of judging, now that MTA prices are going up, and gas costs less than $2.50 a gallon. It was snowy on our trip, but nothing dramatic -- just enough to make everyone in Connecticut want takeout Chinese. The wait was an hour and a half for delivery on Saturday night, so we borrowed a car and picked it up. Chinese food costs the same amount in Connecticut, in case you're wondering, as if there is a tri-state agreement about how much a combination plate should cost.

We played dominoes after dinner, and I lost. I probably called everyone at the table a monster at least once during the course of our game, including an 80+ woman.

Sunday there was a birthday brunch, and J & I covered part of the bill. Then we headed back to the city, and I chugged my way through an assignment.

Monday I anticipated snow all day long. At night, I went out with friends to High Dive where I got a whiskey (or, more rightly, where J got me a whiskey). A friend had invited me over for drinks in front of his fireplace, which sounded lovely, but the getting to and from sounded less lovely. I've lived for over a decade in New York, yet find myself with no reasonable winter boots or winter coat, because I hate shopping for boring things.

I abandoned my friends from High Dive, who were on a hunt for wings, and stocked up at the bodega on the makings for baked ziti. And gummy bears, because a day without gummy bears is no day at all.

It was anticlimatic to wake up on Tuesday to mere inches of snow, so I slept in disgracefully late, pretending that I had a snow day. Then I remembered that freelancers have no snow days, and got to work. At night I met friend at Buttermilk -- another birthday. We gathered to watch Jeopardy, and I foolishly bragged that I'd do well on the NYT best-sellers category and then did not.  I drank two whiskeys -- one that J bought for me, and one from when a friend bought a round -- then came home and made myself a cheese sandwich. I can't recommend that as a 10:30 meal, but it was thrifty I guess.

Wednesday, I worked worked worked and called my health insurance company. The automated "thank you for your patience" messages grow more and more infuriating as the clock's minute hand starts to approach a 360-degree rotation. I went out to Housing Works in the city to see Billfold Live, and picked up a burrito on my way home. I graciously shared it with J - payback for all those whiskeys.

Saturday, January 24

What I Bought in January: January 19 through January 23

Monday: I worked MLK Day, which feels wrong. I discovered something I'm editing contains plagiarism and spent an absurd amount of time figuring out how to share that news tactfully but directly. After that, I called it a (work) day. I went on a huge grocery trip, but forget important components to all my planned meals and treats: here's everything for baked ziti but the sauce! All the ingredients for cookies but sugar! Ready for tuna salad...except for mayo.

Tuesday: I spent all day refreshing the tracking information for flowers, which we'd bought as a birthday present for a relative. J and I got Chinese food for lunch, and I walked to pick it up for "exercise." I headed into the city for a meeting (one Metrocard ride) and then had a weird amount of time to dawdle before book club. I thought of how good it would be to do nothing, but went instead to the library, where I saw the amazing sign pictured above. I texted one of the girls from book club, and we met up for two drinks apiece at Fat Black Pussycat, followed up by sushi dinner and discussion of the book. TBH: I hadn't read it, and the discussion didn't really make me want to.

Wednesday: Working this week has been a struggle. When I feel that on a Wednesday, it's hard for me not to just dismiss the whole week. All day Wednesday, I thought, this week's a loss; let's just screw it and we'll start over next week!

After checking some stuff off my to-do list, I met best friends in the city for drinks. At the first bar, we had to escape because of terrible karaoke, and at second bar, some bros said mockingly, "Nice glasses hipsters" and I realized we were all wearing thick-rimmed glasses. I don't think of myself that way, but see why the bro did. I said no to splitting a cab home with a friend, and then was rewarded by amazing train luck -- the M to the B to the R happened like magic, with no wait time for a single transfer. Home, I reheated and ate Chinese food mindlessly, then toddled off to bed.

Thursday: J's friend - my friend - our friend arrived from Austin to visit for a few days.  Pretty much immediately after he landed, we went to Bonnie's to get him restorative buffalo sauce. I had a salad, but also stole mighty amounts of J's fries. Balance, right? Later in the afternoon, I met a friend for tea.

We went to a bar for drinks, and I put mine on J's tab -- it's my tab too, because marriage, but it feels so much nicer not to have to sign the credit card slip at the end of the night. I tried Knob Creek, and realized the Jefferson Reserve has left me thoroughly spoiled. Home to pizza and TV. I tipped the delivery guy five bucks because he has no change, and because after one drink, I'm overflowing with generosity.

Friday: I met an old coworker for lunch, and every train went wrong. If I was rewarded on Wednesday by the trains, today I was punished. I was pretty sure I know why, too, but I'll keep that private. I wound up getting out at Times Square and taking a cab; being late and taking a unnecessary-feeling cab made me anxious and I could feel my heart race as I glared at traffic. I reminded myself that ten dollars and fifteen minutes is not the end of the world. Lunch was nice and restorative.

Back in Brooklyn, I went to the library and resolved to be productive. I checked my email and got news that a project I'd just researched has changed scope; all my work was worthless. This has never happened to me before, so I resolved to think of myself as lucky that a) I didn't research more and b) this was only the first time it had happened.

We have "yah, visiting friend!" drinks. We crawled our way around 5th Avenue, playing pinball and enjoying the champagne of beers. We ate at Dram Shop (never have you seen people so focused on their fries) at around 10:00, but someone else grabbed the check for the whole meal.

On to the weekend!! P.S. Sorry about the tense screwups throughout - I wrote this all throughout the week, and then switched everything (very quickly & without double-checking) from present to past tense.

Monday, January 19

What I Bought in January: January 13th through 18th

Ooops. No surprise, a lack of tracking reflects means more spending. Tuesday and Wednesday are a bit of a blur. I don't think I did or spent much, but it's difficult to remember.

Wednesday, while J met a friend for lunch, I combined a daily walk with running errands and chatting to my mom. I bought milk for coffee at the very tail end of the hike, deposited some checks (yah) and mailed off my quarterly taxes (boo). And while it wasn't me that bought it, I happily partook of the Evan Williams that J. picked up at the liquor store.

Thursday, I met my old boss for a drink in midtown in the late afternoon. Irish bar, of course -- is there really an option in midtown? We had two drinks apiece, and then he raced off to Grand Central. I walked crosstown, and got on the train to meet up for another former coworker's birthday drinks. I had several -- enough so that the next day I was confused that I didn't have more money in my wallet. On the way home, J. and I stopped off at Sammy's Noodles and split lo mein: greasy and amazing

I wouldn't say I was hungover on Friday but my brain felt tired. I had my weekly phone date with friends -- delayed from Wednesday because of scheduling stuff -- and J went out and got us banh mi sandwiches and an Orangina for me because he is a prince of husbands.

Friday night, I met up with a friend for drinks in Bay Ridge. Still thinking about my not-hangover, I brought two slices of pizza to the bar. A preemptive strike! We had four generous pour glasses of wine each, and the bill for my half was $15. I took a picture of the receipt to share, and laughed when the bartender asked if I planned to expense the drinks. On the way out of the bar, and into the cold, an old man grabbed my hand and tried to dance a gig with me. The train was on my side, and I came home to tell J. every tiny detail.

Saturday, we popped over to my parents for brunch. My mom cleared out her closet, and I snagged some clothes. We went to a good friend's child's birthday -- we got him a book & Fischer Price plastic record player -- and watched so many children bop around to kids' songs. I remembered that I really like the song, "I've Been Working on the Railroad" and I wondered what songs they sing at kids' parties in England. Friends gave us a ride home, which was great, since I was still carrying two giant totes of clothes from my parents -- so much for my resolution to end the year with less stuff than I started it with. J. went out and got pizza dough, and we (let's be honest, J) made pizza for dinner, and watched the majority of the first disc of Happy Endings, season one. So good!

Sunday, I had allergies for ten hours straight, and spent nothing for that day of misery. 

Tuesday, January 13

What I Bought in January: January 11 and 12

Summary of my week: water, list, typetypetypetype
January 11th, I didn't buy anything. That's a bit of a fudging of the facts, since J. bought much stuff for dinner (sweet potato and black bean chili, yum).  And I guess I had an emergency run to the bodega to buy baking soda for a baking situation. I'm not sure how to account for money spent out of common coffers. It's probably clear by now that I didn't really think through this whole "what I bought in January" exercise; I just wanted a reason to feel like I was engaged with this sad, deserted space and to save money.

Monday, January 12th, I had an assignment to write about turning bad days around. (I'm taking a break from giving it a final edit now, in fact, before I email it off.) In an ironic twist, Monday was not the best day for me and I did not follow any of my own advice for making a bad day better, either.

It started with sleeping later than I'd intended, and then was compounded by having repairmen in to install a vent in our bathroom. Did you know it's illegal/not up to code in NY to not have one? I think my last bathroom had a window, so it wasn't an issue. The repairmen, while lovely, carried an odor that was a mix of dog, motor oil, and McDonald's, and had a lot of small questions and requests: Did I have a pencil? Could they borrow a small light? Where were our paper towels? We didn't use them!? What kind of people don't use a paper towel?

As a worker, I can be a bit of a delicate flower and all of this was enough to throw me into a unproductive spiral of emails saved as drafts and notes in place of solid first drafts. Of course if I'd had a real deadline, I would have powered through. But I didn't -- or, a Tuesday at noon deadline seemed ages away -- so I drifted off into reading the internet and avoidance, using the excuse that everything was going wrong anyway, so surely anything I created would be tainted.

That said, I spent very little money on Monday. I bought an app for 99 cents from Yes and Yes. With the app, you get a daily motivational message for a full year. You have to choose to go to the app to get the message each day, which at first I thought was a bug. But more and more I am thinking of it as a feature: having to remember to check the app on your own is important, and almost as meaningful as reading the daily message.

Sunday, January 11

What I Bought in January: January 8, 9, and 10

It is wearying, a bit, to report my spending. Wearying and overly revealing. But to stop a week in feels silly, so here goes: Thursday, January 8th, I worked at home, eating leftovers dutifully for lunch.

I had tea with a friend in the late afternoon, then met up with another friend for a late dinner at Pork Slope, which quickly devolved into a bourbon tasting. Now I have a new favorite bourbon: the expensive, smooth, and very drinkable Jefferson Reserve.

Sidenote: Being a lady who drinks the dark liquors is the kind of thing that gets you senseless admiration from men. It is no kind of accomplishment to order a bourbon -- neat or straight up -- but since I've switched away from my vodka tonic standard, I've gotten much ill-deserved praise.

At the end of meal/bourbon tasting, my friend insisted on paying -- it was both generous and awkward. I got the tip, but am still feeling self-conscious about the whole thing days later.

Friday, we watched Last Action Hero and ordered in. Lame! Can I blame the weather?

Saturday we walked over to South Slope/Windsor Terrace area, and ate mediocre sandwiches for lunch at Double Windsor. Then home for a kahlua-spiked coffee (courtesy of a homemade gift from our friend Linn), playing games, and watching Die Hard.

Thursday, January 8

What I Bought in January: January 7

I was hugely productive yesterday, cranking through a project I'd been avoiding and shoving down to the very bottom of my to-do list for weeks. I hate about myself how much I procrastinate. Hate it. But I also consider procrastination part of my process -- maybe even in a positive way.  Sometimes a project is whirring away in part of my brain while I avoid engaging fully in it, and then it's ready to explode out when I finally force myself to focus. Or sometimes it's just great to do the work, and realize how much better the doing is than my imagining of what the work (almost always writing) would be like. Would completing yesterday's assignment have felt so amazing if I hadn't avoided it for so long?

Blather aside, my busy day plus a lack of grocery shopping plus J's overbooked day all added up to Chinese food for lunch. (Cheap! Although I am concerned that even though I specifically asked, my soup most likely had meat in it. Chicken stock is my soup nemesis.)

For dinner I met up with a friend, and got a burrito as big as my head and a margarita. And then two more drinks, at a nearby bar, since there was too much to discuss to end our hangout after eating.

Wednesday, January 7

What I Bought in January: January 6

And then on the sixth day, I made a purchase that wasn't to beautify or feed myself: tickets to LA! You know it's official once I add a new folder to my gmail (hello, "travel/la.") Also when the credit card bill arrives. 

I've been eying tickets for months; a two-day sale on both Virgin and Jet Blue flights made committing to the purchase easy. I am indeed set to jet!

How else did I spend my money yesterday? I met my friend and went to see Bad Date Great Story at the Bitter End to the accompaniment of whiskey. The slap bracelet on the table was all free though, and I'm still wearing it today. And that's all for January 6th's money spent.

Sometimes I think this would be more fun if I mentioned all the things I didn't purchase. For instance, yesterday a fave blogger informed me of a Net-a-Porter sale, and I did not buy a deeply discounted bra. Sexy, no? Also one of the performers at Bad Date Great Story was wearing a sweatshirt of a dinosaur wearing a crown. I started Googling where to buy it during the show, and then realized I was being incredibly rude. So I waited for home, then deliberated for much time on how a men's extra small would fit. (Verdict: probably not so great.)

Tuesday, January 6

January 5th - Every purchase was a challenge on Monday.  I walked to Neergaard Pharmacy to pick out clear nail polish to use with my fancy nail stickers, and deliberated for entirely too long over which clear polish to purchase. Would the 10-buck Essie base really make my nails grow faster and stronger, in a superhero-like fashion? Possibly, but I'll never know, since I opted for the cheapie choice.

Next to the fish market. Salmon's been my go-to fish for too long, and I wanted something new. I walked back and forth through the small store like the fate of the world, and not just dinner, rested on my choice between tilapia or haddock, bass or basa. Haddock it was, with capers, lemon, and parsley over all the vegetables we had in the fridge (celery, onions, and kale, of course) in foil packets.

Have you noticed that all my purchases so far have been either to feed or groom myself? Prepare yourself, because tomorrow everything changes. 

PS: I am sorry about the food photos. I get that they're gross. It's just so hard to take photos of food (especially when hungry!). 

PPS: I also bought deodorant for J. at Neergaard. Just sharing in the interests of full reporting.

Monday, January 5

On Sunday Jan 4th, I went for a walk and resisted buying clothes at no fewer than four stores. Self-restraint was high. (Confession: there is one dress that I might need want to go back for.)

I went grocery shopping on the way back home, purchasing dairy and citrus items almost exclusively. That makes more sense once you know I made a cauliflower and mushroom quiche (for dinner) and a citrus-cardamom cake (for desert). Still sort of weird though! Cake pictured -- it was good! The quiche was also very yummy, but impossible to photograph even somewhat attractively.

Oh and last purchase: coffee.

Sunday, January 4

Saturday January 3rd it snowed, but the unsatisfying kind that makes New Yorkers hold up umbrellas foolishly. No accumulation at all. But a good excuse to make soup -- and play mancala, which I got as a Christmas gift from good friends and good gamers.

J. suggested mushroom barley soup, and we used a recipe from dearly-departed Gourmet magazine for inspiration. We doubled the carrots and celery, though, and added white beans.  And kale, too, because we can't help being from Brooklyn in the '10s.

Soup on a snowy Saturday in January comes highly recommended.

P.S. Also recommended, saving the rind from Parmesan cheese in the freezer and throwing it in the soup as it cooks for more delicious umami-ness. Don't forget to take it out at the end!


Saturday, January 3


Here's what I spent on the second day of 2015, in pictures. I have in mind to track my spending all month. We'll see how long I actually keep it up. I spent zero dollars on January 1st, due to a day-long brunch over at my parents.

Starting at the bottom is the very saddest of sad desk salads, poorly dressed and with just absurdly huge chunks of hard boiled egg and feta. You can say this about midtown: terrible place to work, but they know how to make a tolerable sad desk salad. Working in Chelsea west, I miss the salads a bit. 

Continuing clockwise is a drink that I didn't actually buy -- and neither did J. The cousin of one of the people we were drinking with -- a guy visiting from Ohio -- purchased everyone's drinks without saying, then ghosted on out. I'm including it because I came so very close to paying for it.

Next up is dinner: clams from La Villa, a restaurant squarely in the middle of Park Slope that feels like it more rightly belongs in suburbia. I can't say I think the food there is good, but I gave them another chance.

The last picture is of my eyebrows. I paid for them to be waxed, which I've never done before. I'd give the experience a good grade aside from the price, which was ludicrous.  I justified it though, feeling deserving of a reward for working on the day after New Year's in a near-empty office.

Monday, July 14

Camping with friends!

I've been camping before, but always in a suburban backyard, just yards away running water and a flushable toilet. This was a bit more real -- an occasion to be grateful for hand-sanitizer. We took MetroNorth to Tenmile River, which by the way, is not a typo.

Friends picked us up in their car. We bought groceries, firewood, and displayed restraint and did not visit the book sale happening in the little quaint town. Off to the state park! Without a sign or my knowledge, we'd crossed state lines into Connecticut at some point in our 10-minute drive. 


Frisbee golf was our first activity. I'd never played before, and everyone kept recommending that I throw "as if I were starting a lawnmower," and then we'd all laugh, since I've obviously never once used a lawnmower, except when dancing terribly, and even then, I usually prefer the shopping cart. City kid! 

Then we visited a lake and saw a frog. Joe was the last to arrive, so we had to leave him an old-timey handwritten note on the windshield of a car, because there was no cell phone reception. AT&T has not yet made its way to the state park (which was amazing until the moment we hit reception again and the deluge of emails arrived). We made a fire but sadly had left home graham crackers and chocolate, so had to roast marshmallows all on their lonesome. 


The sheer volume of stuff the five of us brought was amazing. We had three grills. An inflatable box for washing dishes. Four coolers worth of food. A keg, leftover from someone's 4th of July party. A tote full of frisbees, cornhole, tikki torches. A wizard-style canopy tent. Five chairs; two tables.

As a friend said, camping is essentially like moving apartments, but winding up in the great outdoors at the end.

Never have eggs tasted so amazing. Never. So good I had to take two pictures.  J and I had the NYC-sized tent -- and there was no real glamping for us. We slept on sleeping bags and our old quilt. (I'm proud, but also really jealous of the blow-up mattresses other people brought.)




Wednesday, July 9

I am making a list...

It's a list of words that only appear in fiction, which surely no one has said out loud in this century (and probably not the last one, either):

limn
gobbet
susserate
quim 
berm (added 1/4/15) 




Wednesday, June 4

Retro Snuff

I wonder why snuff grew out of fashion? I guess I also wonder how it became popular in the first place, but then I imagine living in the 1700 and 1800s sans television, radio, Kardashians, and under the threat of an infectious disease, and maybe sneezing from tobacco would be the best thing that could happen to your day.

Wouldn't it be amazing if snuff made a huge comeback? I can totally picture how it would happen -- first in some enclave in Bushwick, then wandering over to Portland and Austin ... finally it would become so widespread the New York Times would write a trend piece, and Chuck Schumer would denounce the evils of snuff on a weekend morning show.

Perhaps if the e-cigarettes hadn't become a thing, the mannered world of tobacco tins and discreet snorting of tobacco would have been on the rise. Please ponder, and enjoy this important photo-illustrated WikiHow with the fours steps to snuff-taking.

Tuesday, June 3

What I'm Reading: No Book But the World



Reading is a struggle lately, and Leah Hager Cohen's No Book But the World is sadly not the book to change that circumstances. I won't blame the book, which is prettily (too prettily?) written; it's a problem with the reader. I'm only sixty pages in -- too soon for a recommendation anyway -- but I will note that I did hit one passage that rang right:
"The November rain is blowing sideways, crazing the glass. What is it about extreme weather that gives one the feeling of having traveled back in time? As if the past somehow had more weather; as if weather is one of those things that has dwindled or languished with modernity."

Monday, June 2

A Visit to the Library on a Monday

Today I went to the library to work because I am worried the corner of the couch where I tend to perch most weekdays is becoming a bit too comfortable, and also because I was attempting to triple-task the laundry, returning an overdue library video (Dallas Buyers Club), and writing a complicated cover letter. The library felt like the perfect solution, although full disclosure -- were I not feeling underemployed lately, I would likely have perched at a coffee shop instead, an iced coffee spreading condensation close to my computer, while a timer for the laundry clicked down on my iPhone.

But I am glad that I went to the library. I have this very easily doable project in mind to visit and rate every library in New York. It is a sort of companion piece to my other easily achievable plan to ride the F train from end to end, Coney to Jamaica, getting out at every stop and taking a walk. Anyway my new local branch in Park Slope would get a solid B rating if I ever actually followed through on my project (points for the building itself, with its lovely high ceilings and feeling of significance; boos for shelving all fiction together regardless of genre).

Maybe you think you know the library from after work and weekend trips as a normally-employed person. But it's on the weekdays that the library lets loose, with a gamut of people from homeless to genius sitting, browsing, staring.

I sat today at a four-top table, across from someone's abandoned jacket, next to a man on a computer. We did not talk when I sat down, although we both took out headphones in unison when the woman at the table next to us starting a long but muttered conversation on her cell phone about how to use her computer. I would have given her my very best library disgruntled ssssshhh but didn't because who am I to shush. After thirty minutes, it occurred to me that the abandoned jacket might not have been abandoned, Maybe it was a carefully placed but not-so-effective ploy from my seatmate to get the whole table to himself. I stewed, and darted glances at him until I started to worry he would mistake my intentions.

Behind me was a cozy reading zone with fabric-covered armchairs and small round tables. I am suspicious of these areas in libraries. A teenage girl sat on the floor using a chair as a desk for her notebook; another girl sprawled directly on the floor. Maybe she was asleep. I sat facing the people at a bank of two double-sided tables, fitting about sixteeen computers, and when I finished my application I started another project but kept wondering what they were all working on. Did they wonder why I was there? We all worked intently, and I felt bad when I coughed. A man cat-corner to me flipped pages in his legal pad and made notes that seemed very important.

A man went up to the librarian arguing about his DVD that should have been on hold, and why wasn't it, and all the other people at the library would have helped him out except for her, she was so unreasonable. It went on for a bit, and I imagined how I would shut him down, move him along. I went back to work.

An older woman asked somewhat creakily if the fourth seat at the table (remember: it's me, computer man, and an "abandoned" coat) was available and we both nodded yes and the jacket continued to hang on the seat back, deserted. I saw that I got an email and held myself back from checking for ten whole minutes on the theory that if I waited awhile it might magically transform into a job offer but of course it wound up just being a "final day for your 20% off coupon" email from Bed, Bath, and Beyond. I looked up and the woman across the table had a brush and mirror out. She was combing carefully through her short white strands first with one brush, and then with a second that emerged out of her purse.

My time dinged. Laundry ready to fold. Don't even get me started on the people in laundromats in the middle of weekdays, or the weird and wonderful world of daytime tv watching that can be justified on a Monday afternoon visit. I left the library.

Monday, April 28

A delayed quarter life crisis

For my delayed quarter-life crisis, or my perfectly-on-time quarter-life crisis if I'm going to live to a biblical age, these the alternate careers currently under consideration: Beekeeper. Lawyer. (Bee-keeping lawyer?) Bar owner. Bar bookstore owner. Accountant. Professional dominoes player, Mexican train dominoes only. List maker. Farmer. Chronicler of foods that taste delicious with a poached or fried egg on top. Project manager. Reader of internet.

Suggestions welcome.

Sunday, March 10

Major problem

I had a dream last night that I was taking a nap. That was about the totality of the dream: just watching myself sleep, while sleeping myself. Can't help but be worried for the state of my unconscious.

Tuesday, January 31

Only In Dreams

I must be watching entirely too much Bravo lately, because the other night I dreamt I was a contestant on America's Next Top Diplomat, a show where contestants compete to become the U.S.'s next diplomat to Australia.

Why Australia? Who knows. All I remember is being in front of a panel of sophisticated judges -- maybe on the set of Meet the Press? -- making what seemed in my dream to be sophisticated arguments about America's foreign policy relations with Australia. Perhaps I am still processing through sleep the wonders of the political world this year.

Monday, January 30

Raisin Bread, Homemade

Midway through making this raisin bread, I realized what I really wanted was a cinnamon-raisin swirl bread, kind of like the classic Pepperidge Farm variety.

My improvised attempt to add a swirl didn't work (see picture). I thought it was really yummy. J. thought there should be more cinnamon, and I don't necessarily disagree. When I was making it though, the two tablespoons seemed absurdly heaping.

Recipe from King Arthur Flour -- next time I'll add more cinnamon & raisins, and see if I can make a swirlified version.