$100 Challenge

February 28, 2016

Hi Guys.

I suck at money, you know that. I love to think about money, you also know that. The next 14 days I’m going to combine these into the $100 Challenge.


Basically this is a way to feel better about the fact that I have $100 to live on for the next two weeks, after having paid my bills today. And it’s a way to get back into the habit of posting on this blog.

Every day until pay day (which is only 12 days in reality) I’m going to post at the end of the night how much I spent, and on what. Also for value-added, I’ll put what I managed to scrounge up to eat, since that’s really the only non-negotiable expense I’m going to have.



So there are some things that are making a difference for me right now.

A very big one is that I’m not traveling at all. In case you’re new here, I travel for work – at times it’s a lot: once or twice a month for three to five days. If you’ve ever traveled for work, you know that whatever money you think you’ll save expensing meals while you’re away is destroyed at least three times over by the effects of the frequent disruption. For a few days before you leave, you don’t want to do a big food run – it’ll go bad! And you’ve gotta get all the stuff you need from work settled, laundry dealt with (at least a little bit – enough to make it through your work trip), your apartment cleaned up a little, and get packed. So the day or two before is mostly the run around and you eat out a bunch. Then you get back late, or early, or in the middle of the day and go straight to work, and you’re very tired from the weird schedule and strange sleeping places. Maybe you traveled over the weekend so you lost a lot of regular life time, to do things like hang up that hook you bought for the door, or run to the hardware store for a thing. It takes a minute or two to settle back in and make plans for cooking. And shit you’re out of coffee so you guess you’ll just stop on the way, it’s only a few bucks and you’ve really got a lot back at your desk to catch up on.

And another thing has happened as well: maybe you’ve been away for a couple parties, and with all the run around and plans you haven’t seen your friends in forever. So you go to dinner, or drinks with them throughout the week, to help decompress from spending 96 hours at a conference with your game face on. And days go by and you still haven’t made it to the store. So, yeah. Doing the basics is harder than it seems like it should be, and it’s really easy to get yourself into a hole.

But as I’ve said – I’ve been off the plane game for a bit now, and I’m not due to go out again for a few more months. So I’ve had a lot of time on my hands. For a while I was just lazy and dumb like usual, buying coffee and croissants, hitting the bar after work, ordering dumplings. You know, the best life. BUT I CAN’T AFFORD THAT SHIT. I spend way too much money on food and alcohol when I’m not paying attention. So I’ve started cooking again, which is another thing making a big difference for me. And now we come to…

Things I’ve done that have really helped:

  • made batches of muffins a couple weekends to eat in the car on the way to work. bonus: these were morning glory muffins that have a ton of fruits and carrots in them
  • I love fancy yogurt, but I can also make do with homemade yogurt, so I did that. Living with a Vermonter means an endless supply of maple syrup in the fridge, which is nice with the yogurt. A half gallon is about $4 and has lasted me for almost two weeks
  • My great roommate made a bunch of granola – so I put that in yogurt. I pack a tote bag of giant food containers to bring to work every day now.
  • Between the two of us we’ve been gradually filling the fridge with edibles. This is the part that travel really messes with: you don’t get a few days in a row to do little dishes that can stick around and supplement other leftovers. Now I’ve got a little backlog of food going which makes bringing lunch and eating dinners easier and more varied: a half a roast chicken, some tomato soup, a farro and ricotta quiche, some stuffing, etcetera etcetera etceteraaaa
  • I’ve stopped being a pansy about making coffee in the morning, because you know what? It honestly takes like five minutes and it’s easy. I have to take the dog out anyway, so I put the water on before I go out and it’s ready to be coffee when I get back. (small wrench thrown in: this week I left my ceramic travel mug on the top of my car when I drove away and it shattered into a thousand pieces…)
  • Great superfriend Bethany reminded me of this awesome free cookbook her friend made: http://www.leannebrown.com/. I’ve used a few recipes, and adapted a couple others in the last few weeks. The meals average less than $2 a serving – which kind of ups my thrifty food game from ramen noodles to stewed chicken over cheesy polenta. It’s been good.

And finally, a thing I always try to do: invite friends over to my house. You know, bars and restaurants are fun but we’re usually there to spend time with each other. We can do that in my kitchen, or yours, and spend way less money. It helps that roommmate is really good at cocktailing, and this is usually a good way to practice.

So, those are some things that have been helping me reduce my spending. I know, it’s food and drink and that’s a little boring. I’ll get into some deeper water soon.




March 22, 2013

I’m so loved and so lucky.

I face the world aggressively because I know you have my back. 

I pick fights because I have the privilege it requires.


A thing I’m trying.

December 23, 2012

I’m going to try to start writing a little. Here’s a first try, not sure what my point is, but practice makes perfect they say.


I think everyone sometimes forgets there were hurricanes before Katrina. Which is understandable and pretty legitimate, even though the mention of Andrew usually rattles some vague memory, depending on your age and proximity to Florida in 1990. Three weeks ago Sandy shouldered out even those two massively destructive forces in the limited tropical storm awareness of most Americans, as it is apparently the most costly natural disaster in our history. Being a Floridian for much of my life, however, I have an outsized appreciation of these swirling lime green satellite images and the rhythm of their paths every year.

Yes, I’m from Florida. And yes, I’m writing about hurricanes. But you should understand, I can’t not. They are the annual road trip. They’re the tuna salad sandwiches your mom forced you to take for lunch in 7th grade. They’re your grandma’s beach house you went to every May and the day your brother left to go to college. At once a constant rolling presence under the shape your childhood took and a potent foregrounded flash that would maybe classically be called an epiphany. I think much of this importance is a direct result of their names. The fact that they have them, I mean.

I always forget the name of one of the four 2004 hurricanes, the way you can’t ever get all the seven dwarfs in one try, and usually you’re missing Bashful but sometimes it’s Doc, even though he’s so obvious. I also can’t always remember which caused which power outage or twilight curfew. I mainly remember the general existence of living under thick, humid, and dark days punctuated by deafening rain – Charley, Frances, Ivan, and the other one. Jeanne. I always want to call her Judith, but generally I just refer to her as “the crazy one that left and came back again,” which is what she did. This would possibly be notable enough for me to consistently remember her name if not for the fact that Ivan had already done that earlier in the year, and nobody remembers the copy-cat.

You may notice I share a name with one of the 2004 litter. She was massive, and slow. A true Leviathan that just sat on top of the state for over a week, drowning us. This meant I was blamed for all sorts of problems in headlines daily. My far and away favorite was “Frances’ Long Term Effect on Trees Unknown.” You’re damn right it is! Who knows what sorts of problems I’ve been causing trees for the three decades of my existence?

Back to the issue at hand, though, Frances wasn’t the flashiest of that season and is one of the more easy to forget parts. Charley was the real star – months of power outages in some parts of the state, thousands of downed trees, massive flooding; a tight and strong punch of a storm. Generally hurricanes are cowed by their inexorable trail inland, so neighborhoods around my parents’ house in the middle of the state hadn’t seen damage like this in a long time. But there they were, thousands of dark homes, temperatures inside inching towards 100 degrees, the air stale and thick, and no traffic lights in the entire city.

My parents were visiting family in Texas at the time, but I was supposed to be at a wedding near their home in Orlando. I had planned to drive down from college the night before, but at the last minute my brother talked me out of it on the phone while I sat in my car in the Publix parking lot next to the highway ramp. There were tornadoes spotted between me and my destination; it wasn’t worth it. I drove down in the morning after the worst had passed and only realized there was no power in the house when I tried to iron my dress for this thing. The wedding was miserably hot and dark (no power in the restaurant, after all), but at least the bride had booked a string trio instead of a DJ. And we all had something to talk about instead of sitting awkwardly through a well-lit sit down dinner. I was wrinkled and my hair was wet, but no matter, we were candle-lit anyway.

Several days passed while I sat with my sister-in-law in her house, both of us trying to figure out places we could go with A/C. We spent a lot of time at Border’s. Around 2 in the afternoon we heard a cheer go up from a few places on her street and noticed the blinking oven clock: 12:00…12:00…12:00.


Here’s a thing that happened today. And I think it will be first in a series of stuff I chat about with people I know.

4:46 PM me: I think I’ve actually blocked out Dick Cheney
4:47 PM when I just saw a picture of him, I was like…wait…he was our VP? For real?
 Ben: yeah
  i watched the Harold and Kumar Guantanamo movie with Pree the other day
  and I was just like
4:48 PM oh, God, he was president
  wasn’t he?
  and all these assholes really were in charge of everything, weren’t they?
4:49 PM me: it’s like a bad dream now
  and they just want to chloroform us back into it
 Ben: http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2012/08/ann-romney-switches-focus-from-wooing-women-to-hispanic-voters/
  “Get past your biases, you dirty illegal mud-language people, and vote for us!”
 me: haha
4:50 PM Ben: “Vote for us, and then get the fuck out of here!”
4:52 PM me: obviously people of color just vote for democrats because….
  LIke seriously, can somebody fucking ask them that?
  Do they think that the Democratic party just gives ice cream to brown people?
4:53 PM It certainly can’t be because they evaluate their interests and vote based on their own priorities
  their rank racism is just so banal at this point
4:54 PM Ben: it’s because the MACHINE is so good at MACHINING
4:55 PM i mean, we as smart white folk, see the LIBERAL LIE MACHINE
  but they’re too dumb!
  “Hey idiot, go vote for the democrats!”
  and they’re like “Si, senor!”
 me: haha
  it pumps the air full of spanish torilla smell
  and then they’re like…oh tortillas!
4:56 PM vote for tortillas!
4:59 PM oh god
  I just read to the end
5:03 PM she also accidentally said “that country”
  instead of the more obvious “this country”
  which is sort of weird…but I think she really meant to say this country?
  I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt on that one
5:05 PM Ben: haha
 me: she obviously knows that PR is part of America
  she says it in the sentence before
5:06 PM Ben: There really is only one way for prosperity, for small business, and that is, this is the simplest way I can say this: If Mitt Romney wins, America wins.”
  oh, ok then
  why didn’t you just say so?
 me: yeah, oh yeah
  great, sounds good.
  that’s all wrapped up then. I don’t have anymore questionsl
 Ben: i like winning, and america so
  Romney said her “importance in speaking out is making sure that those coalitions,” referring to women and Hispanic voters, “that would naturally be voting for another party wake up and say, You’d better really look at the issues this time.”
  don’t be a bunch of mindless idiots this time around, brown people!
5:07 PM i know it’s easy for you but try weally weally hard okay?
5:09 PM me: ugh, yest
  I’m gonna blog this! with out gchat notes!
 Ben: i mean if she actually gave a substantive reason for people to do anything, i guess that’d be the real shocker
5:10 PM instead of just “Trust us! Whitey knows best!”
 me: I love my husband. So make him President, please.
  And please stop asking us for our tax returns, our charity is just too embarrassing!
5:11 PM Ben: and…Puerto Rico! I went there! Look, here’s my son speaking your mush! Now go vote! No, not the Democrats! Think this time!
 me: Oh those brown people, always voting for the brown person.
5:12 PM Every single election for the past 250 years, the brown people have always voted for the brown person
 Ben: or the ones who want to deport them less aggressively
  silly browns!
5:13 PM me: because as we all know, all browns are here illegally
 Ben: which is fine, as long as they just take care of our lawns and children
  but then they have to cause all this fuss about staying here
  oh, and pick our produce

25. The MFA

February 4, 2012

25. Visit the new wing at the MFA

Ok, well when I wrote that the new wing was the refurbished Art of the Americas wing, not the even newer Contemporary Art wing, so I stuck with my original plan.

The new little bistro in this atrium space is sort of weird, honestly.

So I popped in for a couple hours and tried to use my time wisely in such a large space. I get museum fatigue pretty easily, so I try to pick out specific rooms and objects to spend time with. This was inordinately difficult in this wing, however, because the MFA has neglected to put together any useful publications for finding your way through it. It’s four stories of galleries, with another 4 story annex and the only thing the museum has for you is a list of featured works and where they are. Luckily there were still copies of the Boston Globe special for the opening that included a map of all the galleries and their contents. I don’t know what I’ll do when they run out of those. Anyway, the galleries in general are hung with pieces in context, which I think is a great choice. This is probably influenced by my preference for decorative art.

Mixed format presentation of the Arts and Crafts movement works particularly well

The strength of this strategy is most on display in multi-medium galleries. The Arts and Crafts movement didn’t just influence one format, it showed itself in ceramics, furniture, glassware, and also fine are forms like painting and sculpture. The small gallery really evokes the atmosphere of the time and synthesizes conversation between the pieces by putting them in a natural arrangement.

The elusive red glaze

If you read The Children’s Book by A.S. Byatt, you’ll recognize the significance of these little red vases. The glaze was based on an old Chinese style and was very difficult to achieve. It’s like somebody just painted them with blood.

A temporary exhibit of American embroidery

During my visit there was a temporary gallery of embroidery, mostly from a family on the North Shore, I think? Skirt panels, stomachers, and bed curtains, all in beautiful vibrant palettes like this one. The work was precise and amazing, and always had a little bit of humor – check out that tiny squirrel up in the tree!

Mate cups and bombillas in the Latin room

One thing I appreciated about the new interpretation in this wing of the permanent collections was the transparency about gaps in the collection. There is only one small gallery of Latin American works (although the pieces there are some of the most extraordinary in the whole wing – just look at this silver!), but the signage and placards honestly detail the culturally bigoted reasons the museum did not pay much attention in acquiring Spanish and Native art throughout its history, and the efforts they are putting into aggressively collecting in these gaps.

So that was my trip to the museum! More to come…


Number 28

January 6, 2012

28. Take a trip to Seattle

This was one I was nervous about putting on the list. It seemed big at the time. But I think the lesson I learned is this: if I want to do a big thing, I need to put it on a list.

So in March, I prioritized going to Seattle before I started my internship at YNP. So I flew out, spent some quality time with Juli and Conor (and then got stuck and spent some more quality time watching Top Chef and drinking bottles of Rose). I also bought a car. I explored Seattle a ton. I was there long enough to get a little routine going, and have the guys at the coffee shop recognize me (or at least my headphones). I had a nice time, even while being in limbo and getting homesick. So here are some pictures I took. Unfortunately I don’t think I got a single one with me in it, but I’ll show you Juli at the end.

Outside what boomers think is an amazing museum.

Outside the Experience Music Project. Personally, the museum was a bit of a bust, except the Battlestar Galactica exhibit. But the building is cool.

Okay, it was a good turkey sandwich, for sure. Not The Best(tm), but good. The stinky cheese, however, was divine (and I’m sure J+C agree, right?)

The Asian Art Museum. It was wonderful.

Camped at Larrabee State Park. Mountains and Ocean, that’s why people love Washington.

Drinking wine on the deck with Juli. Pretty much the best part.

30×30: updated

January 2, 2012

Here’s the list I made last year:

In no order:

  1. Take a trip to Cape Cod (“the cape”)
  2. Read Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
  3. Go to the ICA
  4. Make pizza dough
  5. Quit Harvard Book Store
  6. Write a short story
  7. Call my senator(s)
  8. Take the Roosevelt Island Tramway
  9. Go to the opera as an adult (haven’t been since I was 10)
  10. See the Boston Symphony Orchestra
  11. Write my nephew at least 5 letters
  12. Go to Franklin Park Zoo
  13. Go to Forest Hills Cemetery
  14. See The Graduate
  15. Finish a sewing project
  16. See Brokeback Mountain
  17. Read a presidential biography
  18. Send a letter to Camille
  19. Send a letter to Brette
  20. Go on a sailboat
  21. Read a book by Agatha Christie
  22. Register in Massachusetts
  23. Get a Massachusetts ID card
  24. Go to a local council meeting
  25. Visit the new wing at the MFA
  26. Grow an edible plant (excluding herbs)
  27. Fully catalog my books
  28. Take a trip to Seattle
  29. Watch Roots
  30. Build a (good) personal website

Time to update, beginning with:

8. Take the Roosevelt Island Tramway

That’s the tram returning from the island from inside our tram. Here’s another one from inside the tram:

And special thanks to Jerry, who overcame a lot to be with us on that weird little island. And my brother, for looking so cool all the time.


Large Hadron Collider at CERN

Lately I’ve been realizing that there are things that I would love to be doing, but I didn’t know that I would love them early enough to actually be doing them. Mainly I’m talking about being a scientist. And right now, at this moment, I think I’ve realized it might have been the fault of AP classes. I failed Chemistry, flat out. After acing AP Bio that was a real shock. Later I crapped out on Physics, even though I loved it. All of that was stupid. I shouldn’t have been in those classes…nobody should have. If I had just gone through grade-appropriate Chemistry and Physics I could have realized that I do have an aptitude for them, and enough interest to make up for lack of immediate mastery. Instead, I was pretty sure I should just major in English. Pfft.


September 13, 2011

Back from Yellowstone, and back to the blergh-o-sphere.

I don’t have enough things in front of me or attention span to actually blog right now, though, so just look at my pictures in the meantime.


I’m going to update my 30by30 in the next few days, watch for it!