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Archive for September, 2011

Instead of doing takeout we made a new dish.

September 30th, 2011 at 06:13 pm

We had almost nothing in the fridge yesterday. Our moms have not visited for a long time (my since Sunday and DH's was out of the country for 3 weeks) so we did not go out grocery shopping since Sunday. (It is hard to get out shopping with the baby on a weekday -- by the time I get home it is almost time for baby to sleep).

And since we only cook fresh food we can only shop for a few days at a time.
Meats and produce don't last longer than that, and I don't know, I have something against freezing. Never done it, no one in my family ever did it, and even if irrational, frozen is not equals fresh to me. It associates with "very old" in my mind. I tried to freeze few times, but than I could never ever bring myself to use it. I just ended up throwing it out.

Anyhow, instead of ordering Indian or something like that, DH realized that we have ingredients for a recipe he has been meaning to try -- spicy stir-fried Japanese eggplant and cucumber.
He saw it in NYT and thought he'd give it a try.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/09/health/nutrition/09recipehealth.html

And after the baby went to sleep he made it. We had it as a main dish, it was delicious and healthy. I am glad we did not go out.
Next step will be trying Fish-flavored eggplant, I loved this dish when we lived in Sichuan during one of our semesters abroad, but here in the restaurants it inevitably disappoints.

Do you ever think I'm exaggerating NY prices?

September 29th, 2011 at 05:02 pm

Just posting some pics to prove it. And this is not in Manhattan. This is my favorite store in Westchester.

The selection and quality is great. And granted, these are premium items. But still, it is expensive for meat.





Random daily life pictures

September 29th, 2011 at 03:21 am

It is getting dark so early now. These are taken today on the walking part of my commute home, in the rain.

I like the rain.









(I'm putting my birthday gift to good use).

Luxury steakhouse dinner frugally.

September 28th, 2011 at 05:16 pm

How much would a steakhouse dinner with a good bottle of wine cost?

I have not stepped foot in Peter Luger in like 2 years. Last time I went I thought they were going downhill meat-wise.

So, living in NY, I am lucky enough to be able to buy prime dry-aged beef. That's the kind that is so tender at a good steakhouse. ymmm...

It is $30 a lb, but still far less than $90 for "steak for 2" dish alone (plus the tip) at a steakhouse.
1lb was enough for both of us. I seared the outside to a little crunch, but cooked it rare, and it was buttery soft....

We had it with a bottle of good Malbec -- I bought a groupon to a wine shop, so I got a $60 for $30! (and I did check online that its price was not inflated).
So a $60 bottle and a restaurant mark-up could be 100%-300%.

To be completely honest though, in Argentina you could probably buy such bottle for like $13, from great small wineries who don't know how to market internationally.

When we were on our honeymoon, we had a bottle every day for 30 days straight, so we learned Malbec. I can't tell about other kinds of wine nearly as well.

For a side DH made swiss chard with his new recipe.

So total price for a few hundred dollar meal was $60. ($30 steak, $30 wine)

A spontaneous date-night dinner at home, with great dry-aged steak, lovely bottle of wine. and few hours of conversation on a normal Tuesday night... priceless.

We had our gorgeous river view, we did not need to get someone to watch the baby (baby went to sleep at 8 and we cooked everything in 20 minutes), and we could have as much wine and "stay" as we wanted (did not need to drive home).

I love doing this randomly for no reason. It brings us closer and and makes routine workweek a little more fun.

Is it stupid to pay extra on some loans?

September 26th, 2011 at 09:42 pm

The only loans (besides the mammoth of a mortgage) we have is a car loan at 2% and a student loan at 2.13%(some of which is tax-deductible, which effectively makes it even less).

We could even pay them off if we used our savings, but we did not. Though I occassionally make an extra payment on my SL (irrational? emotional? I don't know).

But when I think of it, 2% is much less than the rate of the official inflation, let along the real one (for me, inflation should include gas and food, since we buy those a lot). So that money looses value every year. Does it make any financial sense to pay extra on such low interest loans? Am I missing something important?

DH really surprised me!!!

September 22nd, 2011 at 04:36 pm

I just had a birthday, and I thought I would go easy on DH by just telling him what I would like (He loves for me to tell him because I can be a picky nightmare to shop for).

Since my old "point and shoot" little camera I had in my purse broke, I mentioned I wanted another one. So after some research he got be a Canon S95.
I thought this was my gift.

It is a nice gift.

But it was a decoy gift!

What he really got me was a brand new solid-state drive MacBook Pro!!!!!!!!!

He put it in my drawer, where I usually keep my old Macbook for me to be surprised when I reach for it.
He pulled it off too -- I had no idea that he bought it. He received it when I wasn't home, he temporarily disabled mint access to his credit card, etc...
Of course I wanted one, but I was going to wait until my old one becomes very frustrating to use.

The new one is beautiful, fast, all things Apple. (Man, we are a household of Apple junkies.)

I'm very touched by the amount of effort and thought he put into my gift. See, sometimes men can read your mind.

Cheaper AND better - post your ideas.

September 21st, 2011 at 07:20 pm

Lets face it, we want money in order to improve all aspects of our quality of life. Financial security is only one part of it, other parts are just as important.

No reason to give up little pleasures, sometimes saving money and enjoying something of higher quality goes hand in hand.

Share your random small ideas for accomplishing both. Something creative and unexpected (not along the lines of "use a coupon on an already on sale can of soup").

I'll start with my latest little discovery:

I like Tea's Tea Lemongrass Green tea. I don't drink anything with sugar or sugar substitutes, so there are very few options besides water for a decent tasting non-alcoholic drink.

That tea is $1.75 a bottle in a grocery store and $1.99 in a convenience store.

So I looked up some videos on youtube.... and went shopping in Fairway.

Fresh lemongrass -- 1.99 a bunch
Fresh ginger root -- 50cents, even for organic
I already had some lovely organic green tea.

Making it was almost as easy as regular tea. (And I made one batch with ginger and one without -- not everyone loves ginger).
Just take out leaves of the lemongrass out, cut it up, bring it to a boil, than strain and make green tea with that water.

For ginger version I added some finely mint ginger for 2 minutes after it boiled, than strained.

For caffeine-free version, one can have just lemongrass/giner tea, without the green tea base. Not as good tasting, in my opinion, but very good if you have a cold, and is supposed to be calming.

And freshly made, it is a more potent and pleasant tea. Lemongrass has a lot of health benefits (and you know what is in your tea - real thing, not flavoring).

So while everyone says "make your own coffee", no one mentioned that great herbal teas can be made better and cheaper at home.

How many times a month do you get paid?

September 19th, 2011 at 04:19 pm

I discovered what is going on with my "missing" paycheck -- I missed the announcement that they are discontinuing the salary advance, and we will now be paid once a month only.
Math-wise it is not a big deal, I will just miss the excitement and a fuzzy feeling of a payday.

I wonder, how often do most people get paid? I will probably be in a minority getting paid once a month.

Wasn't paid yet. Payday was 16th.

September 19th, 2011 at 01:32 am

That has never happened before. Ever. They ALWAYS pay on time, often a day early.
This puzzles me.

No theories other than the glitch of some sort (which has never happened before).

I wanted to see what my new paycheck will be, since now my whole family will be covered under my health insurance plan. So I've been checking few times a day.

Views form my windows

September 16th, 2011 at 06:38 pm

I was downloading images from my camera and decided to make an album of how seasons change as seen from my window:



























I need a new name!

September 13th, 2011 at 10:04 pm

I haven't been a Brooklyn girl for a year and a half now, but I haven't changed my name.

Hmm, what should it be? *thinking*

Less segregated by income, NYC is social exception

September 9th, 2011 at 06:49 pm

When I hang out with neighbours, I sometimes think -- where else will millionaires live in the same building with school teachers?
Our co-op building has rich people, middle class people, and older fixed income people who bought their apartment decades ago.
There is a world-class photographer, few lawyers, super's assistant, few government employees, doctors, successful model, UN staff, Wall street finance guys... all sorts of people from different walks of life and very different income levels.

Anywhere else, if you have few million dollars you would not live in an apartment, you would live in a house in an isolated community and have very limited contact with people outside of it.

There is much less segregation by income in this city than anywhere else. People of very different incomes and backgrounds living in the same buildings, in the same community, going to the same pool, riding the same train. (Yes, they mostly take the train when going to Manhattan).

There is no set way you are supposed to look, brands you are "supposed to" wear or places you are supposed to belong to in order to be included. It is a more interesting way to live and in some way creates less pressure.
It also fosters an attitude of greater inclusiveness.

I know a lot of people who make much less than us, and a lot of people who make and have way way more than we could ever hope to. So I feel grateful on one end and it keeps me from getting too full of myself on the other.

Also, unlike in usual communities that tend to attract people of the same income, it is impossible to keep up with the Joneses here(so why try?).

Perhaps NYC's famous liberal attitudes are fostered by this lack of an isolated social bubble kind of living, where people are with "their own kind" financially (and often racially, religiously, etc..)

When that happens, people tend to think that society as a whole is mostly like them (or at least the "worthy" part of society) because this is all they see on a daily basis and so only their problems should be addressed, their class benefited, and everyone else is kind of hypothetical.

Ok, so that is my ramble for today.

A penny for your thoughts.

Week 1 spending list (accountability post)

September 8th, 2011 at 08:53 pm

I should do these weekly instead of monthly. Because it is oh so easy to give up on a month and decide you are going to start fresh next month and really do it right. Well no more of this kind of thinking. I will do it every week.

Mortgage and maintenance $2,920

No fuel assessment this month! Yey to the lower bill


Transportation $675:

car payment $250
mass transit $178.00
street parking $33.00
building parking $92
ezpass $65.00
gasoline $57.00
Nothing can be done about these expences.

baby fall weather stuff $116.72
warmer clothing, sleeping sacks, hat, new crib sheet)
I am already over the budget for baby clothing for the month.

formula $6.00

Way under budget for baby food (we cook him fresh organic food every day using baby cook, so it is under our grocery category)
I'm just not going to bother separating the cost of his portion of groceries.

groceries $155.90
on track, doing well so far

Food at work $15.28

I did a great job here! Only 1 sandwich and 1 bagel. It is partly because I did not work for 4.5 out of 7 days, but still... good job is a good job.

eating out $183.40

Even though we were treated to 3 pricey meals. So in one week we spend almost half of what I allocated for a month and potentially more (because we'll treat next time). But long weekends are killers that way. When my mom comes to watch baby we feel we should not waste this opportunity and go out. And if it is cold and raining, where do you go? To a restaurant.

laundry $20.00
household $22.97 (on track here)

my clothing $61.96
This is very reasonable. And I should really not go over my low number of $100 considering how much I spent in August.

$10.88 Netflix

Overall, we are doing better than average this month.

He is a joy right now and he has to go to daycare in one week.

September 8th, 2011 at 05:18 pm

My baby is such a pleasant, sunny, happy, playful baby in his cute exploring stage. He is smiling and making happy laughing sounds all day long. He just started to cruise and is delighted with everything.

He loves playing, horsing around... very curious and affectionate. And I feel bad about his happy, relaxed staying at home with parent time coming to an end. He is only 10 month old... so small for big world and long commute...

My last trainwreck.

September 5th, 2011 at 02:25 am


These are the train wreck fries from Virgils that I looove! Especially with Magic Hat #9 on draft... mmm. Their memphis pork ribs or wings are unbeat as well.

Anyhow, this was the last hurray. DH's LDL is 177, so from now on Virgils will be once in a couple of months occasion. It would save money too, which we will need to pay for childcare. *sigh*

So today's farewell in Virgils was $88.8.
Besides that, we just had moderate expenses:

1 toothpaste and a pack of floss $11 (cause it was in a pharmacy time square, but we seriously could not sqeeze even a milligram out of our old toothpaste anymore, we've been using it for 3 days since we ran out, and we had no time to go some place cheaper that's out of the way.

Zulily labor day sale: 1 pair of socks, fall hat, short cute rain boots(I don't have any) for me $35

pants for baby to crawl around the house and an organic crib sheet $32

A great and almost NSD.

September 4th, 2011 at 04:11 am

I take care of the little one on weekends. So, of course, had to get up at 7:30 again (not enough sleep as always).

But at 3 p.m, DH's mom decided to come over after work. So we got to spend a little time relaxing by the pool. The water was colder, but still it was nice to lay on the lounge and just feel the breeze.

Than we all went out for great Korean BBQ in Korea town (thats where you get the best) and she treated. I am still on track with the budget after day 3!!! yey!

The only expense today was $57 for a fill up.

Tomorrow my mom is coming over, so temptation to go out will be there. I wonder how we'll handle it.

I've been mostly good and used coupons!

September 3rd, 2011 at 02:54 am

Breakfast: bagel with cream cheese $2.5

Coffee was from pre-loaded starbucks card, so it does not count for this month.

I did not buy lunch, due to early release worked only 4 hours.

Dinner at home. My mom came over to stay with the baby for few hours. She bought us wild salmon and cooked it.
I ate when I got home and than DH and I went out for drinks.

We just went to UNOs and set at the bar. 2 large beers, 3 snack hour appetizers, and he had $10 coupon!
So $12 with tip came out to about $17

Buy buy baby was right next us us, so I bought 3 tiny things for baby and used 2 coupons.
I got "to go" packets of Enfamil. 10.99 and I used $5 off retailer cheque.

6 pairs of soft socks for baby (now that he constantly crawls his tiny feet get cold) and a thermal onsie (used $5 off $15 coupon). So total was 23.04, the least I've ever spent in that place.

When we got home we went to a pool party organized by a nice neighbor and had a great time. Some drinks, some cupcakes... free Had to cut it short by 10 because my mom needed to go home, but it was all and all a great day! We had fun, went out, socialized, worked only few hours, and spend much much less than on my usual Friday. I am on track!

So in total:
breakfast $2.5
UNOs $17
buybuy baby $23.04

Did some investing today too.
Shares of Mattel - about $700
investment into baby's ESA $250 (I try to fund my these things on the day when stock market is down).

oh, and some online shopping: a top for baby (I don't count the money, because I called and got an price adjustment for something I bought a week ago that should more than cover it) and a comfy hoody for myself to wear around the house in the fall - $26 on zulily. This one:


So that is all.



My inner btch is very judgemental today.

September 1st, 2011 at 07:31 pm

I'm trying to choose a gift from a wedding registry and my judgemental B is acting up today.

I can't help it, there must me something wrong with me. I keep thinking things like:

Do you really need a deep fryer if you are more than 100lb overweight?

Or a coctail/barware to the tune of $500 if your future husband had 3 DUIs and is waiting to finally get your drivers lisence back after several years?

And the rest of it looks like it has been put together without much thought. Incredible amount of stuff, most of it from the useless knick knacks category and china(about $3,400 worth) that will be used incredibly rarely. And this is not a high-income household.

I am having trouble finding something that would be used frequently and is reasonable. (set of cooking pans is usefull, but $400 is more than I am prepared to spend on this).

This is a wedding registry of an aquaitance (not really a friend) to whose wedding I will not go.

She wanted me to be the maid of honor, I was stalling and finally backed out -- it would involve travel, use of days off, arrangements to leave the baby and huge expences).

And she was not a close friend.
We mosly just spoke on the phone once every few months and saw each other the total of like 6 times in our lifetime. I still would have gone, but when she began acting as a bridezilla, I finally got the courage to back out.

Nonetheless, I feel guilty and wanted to get her something nice and really have trouble choosing.
Also, what do you think would be an appropriate amount to spend in this situation?

Realistic emergency fund

September 1st, 2011 at 05:17 pm

Running the numbers got thinking that just cutting out all the "extras" in an emergency may not be possible, and one should try to be as realistic as possible.

For example:

Eating out
if you are spending hours in a hospital every day with a loved one, your will eat out. You'll be exhausted, sleep deprived and worried and planning meals may be the last thing on your mind.
Having lunch with a group of friends who can be a job lead is another example.
so setting this expense to $0 may not be realistic

Grooming
If you are job hunting, getting haircuts is still necessary.
a freshly dry-cleaned suit as well.

Cable, data plan...
You know yourself, will you really cancel cable on day one in an event of an emergency? If not, it needs to be in there.