Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Weekend Wanderings - The GRE

I took the GRE this weekend. I also saw one of my favorite infants, had tea with one of my favorite couples, and watched the Super Bowl with one of my favorite groups. But what really stood out was the GRE.

I studied a lot over the fall, and then once I started freelancing this winter, it fell by the wayside. I crammed a lot the last two weeks, and now I know all about geometry, which is really interesting to me. I guess that's what's sort of sad to me, is that all the math is pretty interesting to me, even though ultimately I did not do as well on that section as I should have. As my friend said yesterday, when I mentioned I only got in the 40th percentile for math, "It's a shame you're applying for business school." It is, but honestly? I'm pretty sure I did even worse on the Literature GRE in 2008. I think maybe I was in the 20th percentile for that? It wasn't pretty. It's a shame I was applying for English PhDs then.

If I don't get into grad school, I'll either have to try again with this test and with math, or consider to myself that I likely won't ever have to learn this math again. Except maybe when my own child is learning it in school, and I'm sitting at the dining room table, frustrated because it will be easy for me, and maybe less easy for them. What I'm saying is I wish I'd had a chance to realize I love math before 11th grade. I wish I'd had a chance to realize I love math before I already hated it so, so much, and had basically already devoted my life to being a Person Of Letters. Math is awesome, guys! Presumably I'll be saying the same thing to a crying child, 15 years hence. I was that crying child once.

And a note on that: I did reasonably well on the verbal section, and got in the 95th percentile, and then was instantly angry at myself for not having done better, for missing a few questions. And then I was subsequently angry at myself for being angry at myself about that. For a long time, I told my parents that they pushed me too hard, that they were never happy with anything I did, and they told me that they were always happy with everything I did and that I was the one pushing myself, and I honestly thought that was bullshit, until I looked at that perfectly reasonable score and got mad.

Anyway, that's over at least.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Monthly Spending in January 2016

Net Worth Change from Previous Month: -3.7%
Total Spent: $5,797 (or $347 monthly expenses)

I tried to get back on track with spending again this month (in honor of the New Year, maybe), and it semi-worked. I say semi-worked because I actually spent nearly $7,000, which, not great. But, $4,500 of that was for taxes, and was just waiting patiently in my tax savings account for me and $950 of that was for buying a plane ticket and then paying it off with credit card points. For my regular, non-saved for expenses, I used $150 in cash and gift cards from Christmas to live on for the first two weeks of the month, and then the second two weeks I ended up spending $197. So, I was technically $47 over budget for the month, but not that's not terrible, and most of that $47 was on gifts. I can't help myself, it seems, with gifts. Some other things I bought: a needlepoint pillow with a bunny on it and a Vera Bradley duffle bag from eBay, a Groupon to go to the Russian & Turkish Bath Houses. A few lunches out, but nothing too crazy, thanks to a lunch share with Cat every other week.

More freelance checks came in this month, which was fantastic. I've put some of that money aside for taxes and the rest of it went into my emergency fund, which I'm happy to say is 74% full. Next month, I may slow up on the emergency fund and put a little more into an account for when we get a dog. We'll have to see. I'm pretty sure next month will be a little lower in income, as this project starts to end. I feel really lucky and honored to have had the chance to work on it. I've learned a lot, and paying for a trip to India and getting 3/4 of the way to an emergency fund is nothing to sniff at.

For February, I'll take out $75 each week again, since I think that was a big part of my success this month. A few costs I'm anticipating: travel costs to Philadelphia for a wedding and to Albany for a baby shower, new contact lenses, and vaccines and malaria pills for India. Those last two I'm going to pull out of the money I have saved for travel (because I only really use contact lenses when I travel). The travel expenses and cost of gifts for those other two I'm going to do my best to pull out of the $75 I give myself each week. I've already bought gifts for the baby shower (see above) and I think if I scrimp a bit on lunches out, I should be okay to give a decent gift at the wedding, too.

How's your budget going? Did you meet any exciting goals this month?

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Trees and Straight Lines

I read an article, "German Forest Ranger Finds That Trees Have Social Networks, Too" this morning, and was so struck by this passage:

Stopping to consider a tree that rose up straight then curved like a question mark, Mr. Wohlleben said, however, that it was the untrained perspective of visitors he took on forest tours years ago to which he owed much insight.

“For a forester, this tree is ugly, because it is crooked, which means you can’t get very much money for the wood,” he said. “It really surprised me, walking through the forest, when people called a tree like this one beautiful. They said, ‘My life hasn’t always run in a straight line, either.’”

My life hasn't always run in a straight line, either. I can't stop thinking about it.

I spend a surprising amount of time trying to get our plants to grow straight. Roger does the hard work of keeping them alive, but I find myself turning them, tying their branches to stakes, trying to get them to just sit up straight and not keel over from the heavy personal weight of themselves.

I've been spending so much time inside lately. Roger's mother texted me this morning, "Remember, there's a big world out there." I was defensive. (I'm always defensive.) Of course I remember there's a world out there. If I'm anything, it's aware that things are going on without me. The party I wanted to go to tonight. All the ex-pat living I'd thought I would have done by now. All the poetry contests I know I should be sending my book to. The life-work of being in the woods, of being with friends, of reading books and playing cards, of existing beyond a screen.

I'll get to it. After this project, after the GREs. After the wedding and the baby shower and another wedding and then what? After spring, after summer. After grad school. I'll get to it. Life doesn't always run in a straight line.

Friday, January 29, 2016

New Years in Montpelier, VT - Part 2

Thursday, December 31, 2015

On New Year's Eve morning, we headed in to a local coffeeshop, where we saw this adorable pumpkin and enjoyed breakfast sandwiches.

Cece and Owen drove up from New York and met us at the Coop to buy a few more supplies for the evening, and then we all hung out at James's house and waited for Christine and her sister Joelle to arrive.

We also did a little shoveling/playing with the snow:

Christine and Joelle, after digging their car out from the road near their aunt's house, arrived that afternoon, and we all met up at the Three Penny Taproom for lunch. They have a great beer selection and their cheese soup and grilled cheese were both delicious.

We all bought a ton of beer and cider, and spent most of New Years Eve drinking by the fire, playing games, and catching up. The whole group of Jeffersons hadn't been together since graduation in 2010, so it was pretty amazing to see everyone together again. We all talked about our goals for the new year and how 2015 had gone. It was a ton of fun.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Unfortunately, all good things come to an end, and so did this amazing, restorative trip. In the morning, I snapped a few shots of my favorite people, including Emily, who somehow managed to not be in a single picture I took until this one:

This is one of my favorites from the trip. Back in 2009, Cece painting portraits of all of the Jeffersons to hang up in their dining room. After graduation, no one knew what happened to them, and I guess the last time we saw Christine, one of us mentioned it. Lo and behold, they were in Christine's childhood home, and she brought them to Vermont to surprise everyone. It was pretty magical:

It was hard to say goodbye, but there is a certain wedding coming up this summer where we'll all be together again. I can't wait to see everyone, because if it's even half as much fun as this trip (and I'm betting it will be double the fun!), then we're all going to have an amazing time!

Thanks for letting us ring in 2016 with you, James and Emily! This is going to be a big year for you and I hope we can celebrate many more New Years with you both!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

New Years 2016 in Montpelier, VT - Part 1

When I first learned that I get Christmas week off at work, I immediately knew we'd head north to visit Roger's old roommate, James, and his fiancée, Emily, in Vermont. We visited them about three years ago, shortly after they moved there, but hadn't been back since, and I hadn't seen them since they came to New York over a year ago. We were so excited to see them and to see the new house they bought, which is beautiful!

And, it turns out that, without even realizing it, we've spend half of our New Year's Eves since Roger graduated college with Roger's old roommate James and his fiancée Emily. We saw them in France in 2010, and they visited us in New York in 2011. It's sort of nice to have a little tradition like that!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

We headed to Vermont on December 27th. We stopped at the Yankee Candle Factory (and somehow spent almost an hour there?) because Roger's recently gotten into candlemaking and candle burning. We continued on to James and Emily's place in Montpelier and got there in the early evening. Dinner was some delicious soup at Pho Capital, and we hung out and chatted the night away in their gorgeous house.

Monday, December 28, 2015

The next morning, Emily headed to work and we were off to explore Montpelier with James. One of our first stops was the Hunger Mountain Coop, which was fantastic but less fantastic than our own Park Slope Coop. (New York: 1, Vermont: Still about a million).   

We visited James's gallery, The Front, and took a look at the show that was up there. I really liked everything on display, but I was especially taken by Janet Van Fleet's pieces. We wandering into and out of some of Montpelier's bookstores (there's more than one independent bookstore - not many NYC neighborhoods can claim that), and found ourselves at Down Home Kitchen for brunch. In a week of delicious meals, this might have been the very best one. Everything was perfect, especially the biscuits and corn bread.

We did some more wandering around town, and found ourselves at the top of Hubbard Park for some lovely wintery views of the capital building and town.

We made dinner that night and hung out by the fire, talking about magazines (thanks to Emily, I'm now a Fast Company subscriber and I might just subscribe to Yankee Magazine, too!), careers, and homeownership.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

In the morning, we woke to a bunch of snow, and experienced one of the joys of homeownership for ourselves: shoveling snow.

Seriously, though? People are always telling us how much we would hate shoveling and how lucky we are not to have to do it, but it was fine. I can imagine that after months of doing it every day, it gets pretty grating, but so is spending $24k a year in rent and knowing it could be going to paying off a mortgage instead. Anyway...

With the cars cleared off, I drove, white-knuckled, to Burlington, with a stop at the Red Hen Baking Company for my sanity some coffee.

In Burlington, we met up with Trisha for a delicious lunch at Penny Cluse Cafe, which comes in a very close second to Down Home for the best meal in Vermont.

We walked down to Citizen Cider, stopping in on a little art and antique gallery on the way. We each did a flight at the cidery. Dirty Mayor was definitely still my favorite, but it was fun to try the other varieties too. They were all delicious and it was a fun way to while away the afternoon.

That evening, we drove to Barre so James could go to his gallery's holiday party. Emily, Roger, and I walked around the main strip of Barre and then headed to Cornerstone Pub and Kitchen which was really nice. I had the Thanksgiving Pizza, which was pretty tasty.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

We had a pretty low-key day on Wednesday, and spent most of it wandering around Montpelier, checking out the antique stores (where we bought an oil lamp!) and getting food together for New Years Eve.

We also made avocado smoothies, inspired by James's order at Penny Kluse. They turned out pretty okay. I preferred mine with a little maple syrup.

And we made a dish that James taught me about three years ago, and that I've made pretty frequently since then: chocolate ricotta. It's pretty much the lazy girl's version of Moosewood's Chocolate Ricotta Mousse, which I'm pretty sure I'll try making one day, since that doesn't seem too hard either. For our version, you basically just stir melted chocolate into a container of ricotta. We used a leftover chocolate Santa from Christmas. It was delicious.

That night, Dave and Rob drove up from Boston. We all chatted until pretty late in the night. It was great to see them - I hadn't seen either of them since the HWS Reunion a few months earlier!

Next Up: New Years Eve in Vermont!