"Secret skimping is out, like false bosoms." - Marjorie Hillis, Orchids on Your Budget, 1937.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


As a frequent recipient of migraines for the past, oh, 17 years of my life, you'd think I'd have effective solutions up my sleeve. My "solution", as it were, has always been the old 3 advil, cup of coffee or tea, then off to bed to writhe in pain and nausea while praying for sleep or death.

Recently, my headaches have been cluster in nature (from what I can tell), and what sucks about those is that I'll have them for daily for weeks sometimes. You know it's a wonderful day when you wake up with the same headache you went to sleep with. They're not as completely debilitating as migraines, but they make it very difficult to behave in a friendly manner (aka doing my job), be productive, or enjoy myself.

I haven't been able to find anything to even take the edge off of migraines or cluster headaches without involving unconsciousness. Until now. I was watching Dr. Oz one afternoon (... not that I do that frequently) (... not that there's anything wrong with that) and he brought up pepper spray as a way to take the edge off cluster headaches. WHAT. AND IT ACTUALLY WORKS. WHAT?!?!! I read the reason it works, and frankly, I don't give a rat's ass WHY it works (ok, yes I do, look up how ben-gay works), I just thank god that it does. Don't get me wrong, the headache is still there, but for a sweet 20 minutes or so (I haven't really timed it), it is dulled. I haven't tested it on a migraine, but it's definitely effective for cluster headaches. So that's that. I would post this in my HG section, but I sort of feel like that's cheating.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Insurance Underwriting and Low-carbing

As part of our life insurance underwriting process we had blood tests and health histories taken to determine coverage and premiums, etc. My health history went for pages, but I was determined that my numbers be square and small. For that, as I am [still] reading Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taub, I decided to go on a low-carb extravaganza for two weeks prior. Breakfast on the weekends: bacon and eggs! Other days: pepperjack cheese. Many other meals: Canned chunk light tuna in olive oil with bagged cole slaw mix and avocados, seafood curry with cauliflower and mushrooms... and even calf's live and onions on one beautiful night. Two weeks and many, MANY avocados later, here's how my numbers shaped up:

Total cholesterol: 164 mg/dl
LDL cholesterol: 67 mg/dl
HDL cholesterol: 71 mg/dl
Ratio: 2.3

Triglycerides: 132 mg/dl

Not bad, no? Triglycerides weren't great, but for the record, last February they were 183, and my cholesterol ratio was 2.8. Improvement! I was disappointed that my fasting glucose was "not valid due to glycolys" and that my A1C wasn't tested, but I'm hopeful (...not too hopeful) those were down. Poundage was lost (6), but I gained most of it back when I fell hard off the wagon 2 or so weeks ago. Diabetes is all over my family tree, so after seeing these numbers, I think I'm going to get back on the low-carb gravy boat for another month or more and report back with another set of numbers... maybe.

And because it's Monday, a song for your enjoyment:

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Holy Grail: Bags

This is the third in a series of HG ("Holy Grail" posts). For all HG posts, click here.

I have a weakness for leather bags. I love smelling and fondling them. Yes, it's disgusting, but I can't help it.

My first bag-related memory is circa 1989 -- a Dooney and Bourke mental snapshot. The stiff, duck-emblazoned, forest green number my mother had. I distinctly remember thinking WHY. My, how times have changed.

My HG for bags is.. you guessed it, Dooney & Bourke. I visted the Factory store in New York last year, and holy god, I was in my own personal hell of unquenchable desire. I purchased the Dillen Tear Drop Hobo in T-moro/Tan and the Florentine Vachetta Leather Satchel in Natural. No, I didn't need two, but I fell victim to the BUYNOWMORE holiday frenzy. The Classic Calf's Leather Satchel in Saddle (or Coral) is featured heavily in my dreams, as well as the newest Florentine Vachetta Satchel in Natural, and anything from the Alto line. I bought a "vintage" small Black/Brown Dooney Satchel off ebay last year, and...wow, I don't need anymore bags.

My crunchier choice is Roots. As a sensible female, I LOVE cross-body bags, and Roots has the mother of all sensible cross-body bags: the flat leather Village bag. The design basically speaks for itself, but what it is is a small, flat bag to be worn across the body. And now that they've released an orange bag with gold-tone hardware, HOLD ME BACK.

Look at those front pockets. Phone. I-pod. Keys. Chapstick. A turnlock?? What the what? Amazing. They tried to expand this line with a slightly larger satchel, but I find that the larger size is cumbersome and sort of defeats the whole purpose of this light, efficient bag.

The runners up are Cole Haan and Coach. Love many of the Cole Haan designs, but there's always something lacking for me. Coach is very sturdy, but I don't know... Dooney for president.

April 2011 Net Worth

Wow. My last net worth update was in August. Since then, a lot has changed. Most noticeably, I'm basically a blank slate as far as savings. Where did it all go, you ask? According to my calculations (er, quick mental montage of the past 6+ months), my favorite online retail establishments, most probably. It was all rather quick and...horrifying. Anyway, a new season, a new start. Onward!

Emergency Fund: $500.06
Checking: $190.00
Travel (aka Other People's Weddings): $200.00
Medical/Dental: $100.03
School: $ 100.03
Roth IRA: $9,802 (I only contributed about $550 last year because I knew the picture would be complicated by my spouse's earnings.)
401k: $7,285.09
Sharebuilder: $178.30
Total Positive: $18,355.51

...which is almost EXACTLY where it stood in August 2010.

Rent: $PAID
Groceries/Utilities: $218.00
Phone: $60
Subway: $20.00
Credit cards: $45.26
Student Loan I: $6,062.63 (from over $19k)
Student Loan II: $0
Total Negative: $6,405.89

Net Worth: $11,949.62

In order to simplify things, I excluded the joint account we have that contains our > $2k tax refund.

You'll notice I added a "School" savings category, and it's because I am thinking about going back to school. Wavering back and forth, really. Quivering at the thought. As someone once told me, I'm not really cut out for grad school (rude, no?), but the option's there if I want it.

My financial goals for this year are as follows:
  • Save at least $1k/month;
  • Open an IRA; and
  • Record all spending.
Both the husband and I have been doing that last item for the past couple weeks, and I find that it really helps to keep me honest.

As of November, the husband's income has risen enough to make me ineligible to make Roth contributions. Since I have been gleefully flinging my money out the window anyway, I hadn't given it much thought. Now it's time to get down to business and start saving up to open that IRA. What about a 401k at my current employer, you ask? I can't believe it, but as of March, I am now eligible to enroll. Barf. I won't do it. Can't make me. As soon as I find something, ANYTHING else, I'm done-zo.

The final item of business is housing. We've been jonesing to move ever since our rowdy neighbors moved in upstairs. We've lived here for 3 years, and decided we don't need this much space. Our lease is up in June, and we ALMOST decided to move (we even put a [refundable] deposit down). Right now we live in a 2-bedroom apartment in a nicer area. Not downtown, not fancy, but safe and T-accessible. The unit is definitely priced below other 2-bedrooms in the area for various reasons, but our plan was to downsize and move into a 1-bedroom or a junior (glorified studio). The problem is that, even with a $75 rent increase this year, we can't find a cheaper place in an area I'd be comfortable living (eg. close to public transport since we don't have a car, not overrun by students, and not terrifying after dark), even though we're willing to downsize 1-2 rooms. We are willing to pay a bit more for a smaller place if it would give us some quiet, but we can't find a place like that. WTF, right?