Thursday, February 28, 2013

Greek sandals

The sandals I'd been wearing for over two years finally broke and I had a sandal emergency. Shut up. I live in Southern California and sandal emergencies are REAL.

I really wanted a pair of the Ancient Greek Sandals that I've been seeing all over the internet and Jamie loves her pair and I trust her. 

But, I couldn't quite do it. They are pricey, guys, and I prefer to spend all my disposable income on silk shirts and eating out too much. Priorities. 

When I was in Greece, everyone would just go down to Plaka and get sandals that I remember looking really similar to these ones. A bit of internet sleuthing and I was happy to discover that some of those shops will ship internationally. For $45 after shipping, I figured it was worth a shot. 

greek sandals
{greek sandals}

They took a few weeks to arrive, which I expected. I read some reviews which recommended half sizes should size up, so I did and they fit perfectly. They're definitely more rustic than the Ancient Greek Sandals. The ankle strap on the left sandal was slightly longer than the right, and I had to punch an extra hole in it. But I lived in them for a good chunk of October and November and they're incredibly comfortable and it seems like they'll hold up well.

I got this pair, from this shop. Please ignore the weird platform flip flops they're desperately trying to get rid of right now. UPDATE - they also have an Etsy shop and they sell the same pair I have.

As promised, they do darken. I only have a phone picture of them in their current state, but they're getting better and better.

sandals, 5 mo later
{sandals, 5 mo later}

I wrote this post shortly after I bought them but I didn't want to publish it right away in case they broke after two weeks. Now it's been a few more months and I'm still in love. I'm wearing them again today because we're having a few days of 80 degree weather, so it seemed appropriate to update it and put it up for those of you who are getting ready for spring. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

2013 budgeting

I've come up with new "budgeting" attempts the past two years and they've been flops. I didn't stick with my spreadsheet in 2011. I ran out of time to post all my purchases last year.

So at this point I'm somewhat embarrassed to be introducing yet another strategy, but hey! Third time's the charm, right? Right.

We let ourselves live pretty freely last year, without worrying too much about a budget. After saving for the wedding it was nice to have a year just to relax. We didn't go into any debt, but we didn't put a whole lot into savings either. This year we're going to tighten it up a bit. I drew up a really detailed budget and we have monthly goals for each category. (We've actually made a big change this year and we're fully combining our finances. I started to write about that here but it made this post even longer, so I'll go into it separately, if anyone is interested.) Keeping track of how much we've spent is our sticking point. There are basically three options that you see most commonly:

Track spending with receipts. D used to do this and it drove me nuts. His half of the table was perpetually covered in tattered old receipts that he needed to either enter or confirm in Quicken. Now we only save receipts for things we might need to return and once the return date is passed we toss them.

Track spending with an online program, like Mint. In theory I love this idea and I know other people have had great success with it, but I'm slightly freaked out by the idea of handing access to all my finances over to anyone. I know they are supposed to be totally secure. It still freaks me out. We also weren't sure how well it would work with our joint/personal set up.

Give yourself a certain amount of cash and when it's gone you're done. This will never, ever work for me. If I have cash, it disappears almost instantly. I spend it in the vending machine on snacks I don't need. I buy random items at the drugstore when I'm walking past. I think it's because there's no record of it so I never have to admit I spent it. I hate putting charges of under $5 on my credit card, so I'll just resist those things if I don't have cash. I love my credit cards and I love the cash back rewards.

tracking
{tracking}

Instead, we're testing out a new system that combines the concept of the cash allowance with our credit cards. D designed little cards for us that will slip behind our credit cards. Each card has different denominations on it to represent the money we have to spend that month. The idea is that they function like punch cards, except that neither of us carries around a hole punch (which would be way more fun), so we just have to cross them out with a pen. Our joint card has our "entertainment", "groceries" and "household miscellaneous" categories on it while our personal spending cards just have our allowances. I've already budgeted for our set expenses (phone, internet/cable, hair cuts, etc) so those don't need to get recorded anywhere.

I do most of the grocery shopping so I carry the joint punch card and D brings home receipts so we can mark them off as necessary. I know, we're back to receipts! But it will be relatively easy compared to entering them on the computer.

Will this work? I don't know but it's the best idea we came up with, so we're going with it.

I'm terrified of our grocery budget because we currently spend at least 1.5x that much almost every month. I think we can hit it, though. Honestly, a huge portion of that excess is coming directly from our fancy cheese and alcohol consumption. I'm not going to cut those out but I am going to try to be aware of how they fit in our overall budget. We'll make up for it with lots of farmer's market eggs and veggies and judicious use of cheaper cuts of meat from suppliers we're comfortable with. I also bought a 10 lb bag of my favorite black lentils which D thought was crazy but he'll soon realize how genius it was.

If we can't hit it we'll re-evaluate. I'd just like to be able to put more money in savings and it seems impossible given LA rental prices and the fact that we'll be paying off our student loans for another 5 - 10 years.

And once again I ask myself, as I do every year, can we live without cable? And then I hear that Game of Thrones is starting again and I put it on the back burner. But if it comes down to Humboldt Fog vs. HBO, I think the cheese might win.

P.S. - Can I just tell you how grateful I am that we started this project in the shortest month of the year? We really need to re-calibrate our spending.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Gin!

When we were making the tarragon cocktails I couldn't find the specific gin they recommend in the recipe so I used Hendrick's instead. It's my go to gin and it works well in almost all cocktails, so it's a safe bet.

But then we happened to be in Bar Keeper and while they didn't have the Watershed gin we were smitten with the tiny bottles of St. George. It's a California distillery and they have three varieties so we got small bottles of the two top contenders to test out. I would have gotten the third one as well but I was trying to be good. That reminds me - I need to tell you guys about our budget this year. Later.

We went home and had a gin off. Naturally.

gin off
{gin off}

The terroir is extremely pine-y (Like Pinesol! But so good! the owner of Bar Keeper exclaimed when we asked), which sounds off-putting but it's astringent in the best way possible and perfect for sipping neat. The botanivore is like an amped up Hendrick's but it veered just a little sweet for me, especially when tasted side by side with the terroir.

st george gin
{st. george gin}

The terroir won a place on our bar tray. We'll go back for a full sized bottle soon.

Almost completely unrelated but I can't resist sharing ...

bar keeper
{bar keeper}

how much do you love the coasters from Bar Keeper? If you're in the area, go. They have vintage barware mixed in with science equipment and standard glassware and an amazing selection of alcohol and bitters.

P.S. - It's Valentine's Day and I didn't make any cute cookies or cards this year. Bummer. On the other hand, gin is appropriate, right?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Eating and drinking

This recipe is the only reason I've opened the oven in the last month. It's one of my favorites and I've finally convinced D of how awesome it is (although he doesn't eat it with an egg - crazy). It needs no modification, but you can add sliced fennel bulbs if you happen to have them lying around. If you happen to have white wine open then you can use it instead of chicken stock. I also go heavy on the carrots. If you have a cabbage skeptic in your house, this could change everything. At least, everything cabbage related. Let's not sell it too hard.

braised cabbage
{braised cabbage}

We made these tarragon cocktails for a party and we've been drinking them for two weeks to use up the simple syrup. I'm not the slightest bit tired of them because they're that good. I can't wait to use the recipe as a template and swap in other kinds of herbs. Lemon and rosemary? Grapefruit and fennel frond? I am on it. 

tarragon cocktail
{tarragon cocktail}

I realize that tablecloth is crazy wrinkled but I have no intention of ironing it. I'm thinking maybe if I ignore it the creases will magically fall out. Or we'll just pretend it's a textural choice.



Monday, February 11, 2013

Lately

Work, work, Walking Dead marathon (!), work, family, krav maga, work, miserable cold, work, parties, work, NEW BUDGET, cocktails, work.

You're all caught up!

The year is off to a great start, actually. I've just been slammed with new projects at work and then prioritizing all my free time with people I love. I'm tired and we're eating scrambled eggs at least four nights a week and I'm not particularly inspired at the moment but I know it will pass when things ease up and right now I'm just enjoying where I am.

saturdays
{saturdays}

shadows
{shadows}

party
{party}

flying dog flight
{flying dog flight}

leaves
{leaves}

weekend cocktail
{weekend cocktail}

winter fruit
{winter fruit}

You should know I can't take any credit for those gorgeous appetizer plates but I did eat about 20 of the bite sized wedge salads. So clever.

Posting will probably continue to be sporadic until this work cycle is over but I miss being here and I have a few things I want to share soon. I haven't opened up my Google Reader since a few weeks before Christmas and I'm terrified. I know I should just delete and move on but I hate missing out on everything you guys have been doing so I keep telling myself I'll set aside time to at least skim through but then it doesn't happen. Someday soon.