perfect black pants

ever since taking an office job 8 months ago, i have been on the hunt for the pair of perfect black pants. i didn’t want them too long; i had to be able to wear them with flats (without making a trip to the tailor first). i wanted them to be straight legged, but not super-skinny. i wanted them to have belt loops and pockets. and i wanted them to be machine washable, natch.

after spending over 3 years working food service retail, my closet was mostly made up of jeans and skinny pants that were a little snug around the waist. i took many shopping trips. i went to department stores, discount stores, store-hopping at the mall trying on everything that looked like would fit my requirements. nothing was working, and i got pretty frustrated and basically decided to stop looking.

i did stock up on some navy and gray pants for work, courtesy of (re-)discovering ann taylor loft. a co-worker really likes shopping there, and i took advantage of a few sales to order mass quantities of pants in various styles and colors (alas, black is almost never on sale). in the end i kept two pairs, returned the rest, and decided that when the universe was ready, i would find the right pair of black pants.

that time has come. i am now the proud owner of a pair of these pencil pants from loft. i love the fit, the length, and the fabric. i am happy to wear them for years to come.

do you shop at loft? what do you think of their clothes?

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NaNoWriMo

do you know about nanowrimo? it’s a month-long novel writing challenge every november where folks attempt to write at least 50,000 words of a novel. i love the idea, and it really speaks to my somewhat secret desire to be a professional writer in some capacity.

i feel like i always have great i ideas for starts of stories, i love thinking up characters and places. but i have too short an attention span to really look beyond the setup. i can’t seem to follow through with a middle and an end. i have always had a sneaking suspicion that i would be great at writing summaries of novels for book jackets. how does one get into that, i wonder?

as i’ve gotten older, my writing has veered more towards personal essays and stories. i’m not as interested in writing fiction. that doesn’t diminish my appreciation for nanowrimo and those who participate. it also does not diminish my feeling that it would one day be a great goal to accomplish.

have you heard of nanowrimo? have you ever participated?

the end of coffee?

in the past couple of weeks, i have come to the unfortunate conclusion that i cannot drink coffee anymore. i have some digestive issues that i have found to be triggered by drinking coffee, and i’ll just leave it at that. don’t want to go into any tmi.

now, this is purely from trial and error, and my decision to stop drinking coffee is a self-diagnosed cure. my stomach and my whole digestive system have felt so much better, so calm, ever since i switched to drinking tea exclusively.

i have been a coffee drinker for a long time. it has never been a ritual, like how some people always drink a cup in the morning, or always need a cup at 3pm. my coffee habits have always been more casual and free-form. i enjoy regular drip coffee, lattes, mochas, iced coffee. i also enjoy flavored lattes, including the now much-maligned pumpkin latte. i think i’ve always enjoyed the comforting warmth and strength of flavor that i got from coffee drinks.

i am now drinking around two cups of tea a day. one in the morning right after my shower, and a second right after i get to work. i find myself reaching for black teas, because i love the richness of them, the depth of flavor.

i am sad to think of giving up coffee permanently, but thinking of putting myself through that much discomfort and pain again just doesn’t sound like it’s worth it.

day of pampering

today was a day of pampering for me. on saturday, i did a little running race, so this was really a rest day for me.

this morning i relaxed while drinking my morning tea (old school russian caravan from peet’s, sadly not sold anymore). then it was on to a face mask (mario bedescu drying mask). next up was painting my nails (a lovely pink from essie, more muted than bright). the last part of my day of self-pampering was drinking a bigleaf maple autumn beer from anchor brewing. i had never tried it before, and overall i liked it. anchor steam is one of my favorite beers to drink.

i also did a little baking tonight. i baked blondies to bring to work on monday for my co-workers. the recipe was adapted from chef chloe coscarelli’s book of vegan desserts. i ended up using real butter instead of vegan margarine because i only had real butter in my kitchen. oops. usually, i keep sticks of vegan margarine on hand but in recent months i have been spending less and less time at my apartment. thus, i have been grocery shopping way, way less.

gettin’ my steps in

i’ve had my fitbit for almost 2 years. this past week i have really been hunkering down and getting in all my steps daily. my goal for the past week has been 10,500 steps a day. tomorrow (monday) i’m going to raise it to 11,000 a day.

i decided to get more seriously about moving more because i have a friend getting married at the end of september and there’s a dress i want to fit into for the reception. it’s not too too small, just about one size too small for me. so i’m working on moving more and eating less.

in march, i started a new job where i sit at a desk. even though i actually really really love my job, the fact is that i went from a job where i was standing and moving around for 75% of my day to a job where i’m sitting down 90% of the time. when i started my new job, i wanted to make it a priority to go for walks on my breaks. i didn’t want to become a sedentary slob.

when the weather is not unbearably hot, i usually get in two walks a day at work; when added up with the other moving and walking throughout the day, i get in my steps easily. however, this summer has been unbelievable hot. i hate leaving the office for much longer than a few minutes. and having to exert energy to take a walk around a lush botanical garden with hills and minimal shade…? i was getting sweaty and smelly regularly, and my clothes were gross. my walks basically were put on hold.

since deciding to really take control of my fitness and activity level, i knew that i would have to find a way to get in my steps with regularity. i began to take walks in the evening, usually post-8pm after the weather has significantly cooled down. i walk for usually around 45 minutes in my neighborhood and i make my daily step goals. these evening walks are also a nice and refreshing way to get out of my apartment, away from my laptop. it’s a good time to think about things, reflect on my day, gather my thoughts. it has definitely become one of my favorite parts of the day.

reading update

well, i’m still pretty behind on my reading for this year. i just finished my 8th book of the year yesterday (the utterly charming looking for me by beth hoffman) and started on my 9th (as always, julia a book of letters between julia child and avis de voto). i am still going with my plan of only reading books this year written by women. according to goodreads, i am 7 books behind schedule if i’m going to read 30 books this year. it’s a tall order, but i’m going to do my best. right now i’m really attracted to books that are light-hearted, mostly uplifting, and focus on female relationships.

this sunday, i am having brunch with my friend, and we are going to swap books. i have a short stack of books that i’ve read that i can hopefully swap for new-to-me books that i will enjoy. honestly, i have more books right now than i have space for on my shelves; i actually have a stack of unread books on the floor. it is a struggle to stop myself from buying books. i have many on my amazon wishlist, and just about every month a new book comes out that i add to my wishlist. right now it mostly functions as a to-read list. obviously i’m not currently buying myself any new books, but i never object to books as gifts. 🙂

one of my best book buying secrets is to buy used. i love going to goodwill to browse and i love buying used from amazon where i can usually find the book i want for $0.01 plus $3.99 shipping. this mostly works for books that are a couple years old, not new releases.

my cash envelope system

it’s been a while. i know; i got stuck in a writer’s block rut. sometimes i have so many ideas in my head and i can get them “down on paper,” so to speak. and then other times, i have so many ideas in my head, and i just can’t straighten them out enough to get them into a coherent post; they’re all jumbled and pinging around. when that happens, i need to step away and let things settle.

but i’m back now to talk about something that i’ve been really into the past month or so. i am really trying to make 2015 the year i get spending under control. with that in mind, i have moved to a primarily cash envelope system (it’s very popular, try googling cash envelope system to read about how it works). while there are many people who are now 100% cash based i would call myself more 80/20. i still use my credit cards, but i try to pay for as much as i can with cash. (i say all this just as i hit the order button for two new pairs of shoes from zappos…do as i say, not as i do.)

there are some people who are motivated to be more financially responsible by using their credit card for all purchases. the idea of handing over their card to be swiped makes them think twice before making a purchase. there are some who are motivated by using their debit card because it is tied directly to their bank account. and then, there are those that are motivated by the cold hard cash; seeing the cash disappear from your wallet can be a powerful tool for forcing people to think about what they’re actually purchasing. i fall into the last camp.

deciding to purchase and item is easy, handing over the cash to make that purchase happen causes me to seriously consider whether i really need that item or that fancy coffee drink. i hate to see my money be spent on things that end up being duds. now, i’m forced to step back and really think about my purchases, because once the money is gone for a certain category, it’s gone until the next pay period when i withdraw my cash.

as with any new system, there are kinks to work out. since i was starting from scratch, i tried to pick the most common spending categories and estimate a bi-monthly budget. after each pay period before going to the atm to withdraw the next sum, i assess my finances: how much i spent of my budget, where i spent it, could i spend it more efficiently, do i really need to budget this amount for certain categories. for example, the first month, i planned to budget $100 per month for skincare/makeup/haircare products. after my first two withdrawals, i really took a look at that number, and i realized that by budgeting $100 per month for these personal care products, i was telling myself that i was ok spending $1200 a year at sephora. i am not ok with that, so for july, i cut my budget way down; my only beauty purchases should be for replenishing what i finish, not purchasing new items.

so far, after 3 withdrawals, i feel like i am seeing real results. i am adding new categories, slashing budgets, and really thinking about how i can use this system to save for the future. at the end of every month, i will reassess my finances and make sure i’m still on track to meet my goals.