Saturday, October 10, 2009


Fall has finally come to Los Angeles, and I am positively euphoric about it. Made soup last weekend (chicken sausage, garbanzo bean and veggies) and will make some more tomorrow (beef with barley). It's not that cold--highs in the 70s--so I am enjoying sleeping with the windows open, burrowed under the down comforter. Walking to the farmers' market on Tuesday, I was practically skipping with joy about the weather. And then I remembered that the tomatoes I bought the week prior kind of sucked. Ah well. The one good thing about summer has come to an end.

Teaching freshman composition is more fun than I could have imagined. Most days, I am nearly giddy after teaching-- it's such a rush. It's hard, but I love working with freshmen and their writing. I'm already rethinking whether or not I want to return to academic publishing as I had planned post-MA.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Visits, Adventure, Etc.

Just got home from a road-trip with my guy-- visited family and friends in Utah, Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, and Missouri. Drove through Nevada and Wyoming, and little corners of Arizona and Iowa. I really enjoyed all the wide open spaces and dramatic landscapes, something I sorely miss in Los Angeles. And of course, all the family and friends. In fact, I saw all but a few members of my family. I visited with: both brothers, both parents, my sole remaining grandparent (maternal grandfather, age 92!) plus my step-grandmother (his wife of 13 years), all four of my cousins, five of their six offspring, and both of my uncles. Plus bunches of Bill's family. It was nice-- I really enjoy my family, and it was nice to visit by road trip, which takes the pressure off quite a bit. A few days of family, followed by a day in the car listening to audiobooks (Sarah Vowell, best ever) really does the body good.

Wednesday, my graduate school adventure begins!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Joys of Unemployment

Oh, friends, let me tell you how delightful I am finding unemployment.

I spent 11 days in the New Jersey/Pennsylvania/NYC area and saw friends and family, the Pennsylvania Dutch, and the trashiest place known to mankind (the Wildwood boardwalk). There is a reason so many reality show contestants come from the Jerz.

Then, back to LA, where I have gone to yoga, to the beach in the middle of the day on bicycle, to a movie at mid-day, to San Diego to drink beer and look at animals, and so on. I've read three books, and I've seen my first episode of Ellen. It's especially fun as Bill is in a less intense school period so we can have even more fun than usual!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The new economy

So today I am using my work time to read the archives of Chowhound's Table Manners, and I am now back in the 2007s. In case you think I am overly slothful, I will note that I am skimming and not reading every column. I am also getting laid off next month and working on an incredibly annoying project, so I suppose I am not highly motivated.

It is interesting to see the advice given back in those more prosperous times. I just read a column where we were told that brown-bagging it at work will damage your career, and another that stated taking your leftovers home from a date or a business meal is a major no-no. Granted, I work in an office where restaurants are inaccessible so most people brown-bag it. And as someone that endeavors to fiscal and environmental responsibility, I can't bear to see food go to waste. In either case, I can't imagine an advice columnist giving similar advice now.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

The Pleasure of the Layoff

Friends, I have volunteered to be laid off. We are letting something like 14% of the staff go, 20% in my department, and one of them will be me. I am glad of this, as it means that I will be spending my summer before graduate school getting paid and yet not going to work. Great news.

However, Bill will be at home mostly, deep within his own graduate work, and I won't lie, my summer presence is not thrilling to Bill. Apparently, I will serve as a distraction. He has even suggested taking me to daycare.

So, I am now excitedly planning my summer activities.

There are a couple of LA presses that I think I will contact about interning with;
I will sign up for at least one month's worth of unlimited yoga and become a bona fide yogini;
I will use all of my grown-up connections to score house/pet/plant/baby-sitting gigs;
I will visit friends and family in the following cities: Allentown and Philadelphia, PA; Clinton and Somerset, NJ; New York City, NY;
I will make a significant dent in my comprehensive exam reading list;
I will register to be an extra and hope to spend the day standing around on set;
I will continue to explore southern California;
I will sell random crap and too-big clothes on eBay.

I think that sums it up, although I am sure I will come up with many more goals and activities for my unemployed summer!!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Buying books

So, I've been killing my considerable downtime at work these days reading a blog, The Non-Consumer Advocate. Basically, a blog about living extremely frugally. She goes so far as to buy nothing new but consumables, and she drastically limits her purchase of those, too. I like to think I do pretty well with making responsible shopping decisions, but I know I could do much better. Hence these thrift-minded posts.

Anyway, I mostly buy used books. And I'm not talking the "like new" books found used on Amazon. I am talking 25¢ books at thrift stores and library book sales. I am usually content to choose my next book from a stack of acquired books of interest, rather than seeking out a specific title. Plus, last year I had the great fortune to attend BookExpo America, where I got dozens of advances that I am still working through. So, I almost never buy new books. And while the Kindle excites me on an intellectual and professional level, I personally shudder at the idea of spending $10 per book with no escape.

But... I work in book publishing! I love books, and I want writers to be compensated for their work. I do feel some guilt about my book-thrift (hence this post), but certainly not enough to buy new on principle, as some of my colleagues do. Plus, when I love a book, I buy new copies for gifts.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Frugality vs. Living Balance

As a few of you know, this fall will find me heading back to school. Which means that Bill and I will go from living on a paltry non-profit salary and a meager grad student fellowship to a meager grad fellowship and an even-more-meager grad student fellowship. In a very expensive city.

So, I am thinking hard about what cuts I can make, especially now that I still have a steady income (knock on wood) that covers my basic needs with room for a (very) little extra. I consider myself a fairly thrifty person. I am an awesome budget shopper, at least when it comes to clothes (seriously, I dare you to find someone better), but I've become that way mainly to compensate for my recreational shopping habit. So yes, I rarely spend more than $15 on shoes, but I spend that $15 a lot more than I should.

I am a value-conscious grocery shopper, but I admit that I will spend a few extra dollars on some cheeses that perhaps don't belong in the refrigerator of someone with my means. In general, I feel proud of my financial acumen-- after all, I don't have credit card debt, I've never defaulted on my student loans, and I contribute to my 401k (although so far that hasn't paid off).

However, I like to eat out, have a few drinks, go shopping, travel, go to events, take yoga classes, etc. I took a financially ill-advised but unforgettable trip to Peru last year (that I paid off a few months later). I don't really want to give up those experiences, but I do think it's time I figure out a way to manage my spending and cut it back.

I'm not sure how I want to manage that-- I think a more strict budget is in order. I'm toying with the idea of moving to a cash-based existence-- maybe ditch the credit/debit cards-- and give myself a weekly cash allowance? I love my credit card rewards but I think might be a good idea to get out of the habit of charging all of my groceries (even if I pay the bill in full). I have to say, the idea of rejecting dinner or drinks with a friend because it doesn't fit into my budget seems like a strange and horrible concept, but I think it's the only way I can get through the next two years.

Infrequent readers, how do you budget?

Monday, March 02, 2009


Yep, I am on a diet. I have decided to blog about it. Here.