Chicago

So the cat is almost 100 percent out of the bag, and that means it’s time that the Internet can… hear the cat, too? Continue reading

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Roasted Broccoli and Lemon Tahini Dressing

I can feel it in the salty sweat on my skin …Summer is coming.

Oh, blessed summer! How I love you for your sun, your care-free attitude, and your insistence that I spend all my time in flip flops. I love you for your heat, which rejuvenates me. You make me feel alive, and happy, and deserving of nothing more than treating my body and my spirit right.

Let’s treat ourselves right. Let’s make broccoli… Continue reading

The Perfect Week: A guide to setting up for an easier Monday – Friday

I don’t float through weeks; I wish I did. Instead, I tend to attack my work weeks, cramming as much as I think I can handle into five days, then either winding up pretty exhausted by Friday, or totally elated that I had a great one.

I want to talk about those great ones: those weeks when everything gets done and I still have time for myself. When I eat well. When I work out. And when I spend some qt with my family and friends. 

They’re the best! And they don’t happen by accident. In order to set myself up for a great week, I very purposefully prep my apartment, my food and even my work clothes, so that come Wednesday, when work keeps me late or I just don’t feel like doing anything, I can rest assured the critical business of living is taken care of.

Here are the steps I take each weekend to make sure my week runs smoothly…

First things first, I clean my apartment. Because let’s face it, that won’t happen M-F. I actually really enjoy cleaning – I play podcasts and generally feel like I’m getting good “me” time. Here are my current favorites:
– the Totally Laime series (Comedian Elizabeth Laime hosts three podcasts devoted to comedy, marriage and motherhood. She is hilarious and I’d really, you know, like to be her best friend some day.)
– This American Life (a classic for anyone who loves good storytelling)
– Freakonomics (The authors of the eponymous book dive into fascinating social economics topics.)
– Joy the Baker (My favorite bloggers, Tracy Shutterbean and Joy the Baker, host this podcast on a variety of topics and answer reader questions. Really, though, it’s just fun to hear about life through their friendship.)
Every Sunday I sit down with paper and pen (or an electronic notebook like Evernote) and plan what I’ll eat for the week. Here are the steps I take to do this:
1) I take a refrigerator/pantry inventory and make a list of what I have on hand already. This is an excellent way to cut down on grocery costs, and I waste less. Win-win!
2) I use cookbooks or Pinterest to plan a few meals I’ll make, and plop them into my daily meal planner. Here’s where I try to find recipes using the ingredients I have on hand. I also don’t plan for every meal of the week, since I’ve found that tends to leave me with leftovers.
trying to find a recipe to use up my black beans (I ended up making the Mexican Chopped Salad)

my Evernote daily meal planner
3) I make a grocery list of the ingredients I still need (and check off the ones I already had).

4) I do the grocery shop…
5) …and then prep what meals I can. This may mean prepping dinners for the next few days, but it always means prepping breakfast. Since I’m always pressed for time in the morning, it’s important to me that I can grab breakfast and go. 
prepping overnight oats for breakfast all week

Prepped and stored!

If I have to pick out an outfit in the early hours of the morning, you can bet I’m going with the least common denominator – the black work pants and the top that never wrinkles. Maybe a nice pair of earrings to make it look like I tried. And flats.

Prepping this stuff on Sunday and giving myself time to iron means I’ll get a little more creative and wear my non-go-to clothes, too. So! …First I lay out my outfits and iron them, if needed.

…then hang them up in the order I’ll wear them. Voila!

I hope you have an easy week this week!

Photo Review: 5.4.2014

Hey, Spring. You and I are usually on good terms. I always thought we had a good thing going: You give me warm air and long evenings, and I… well, now that I come to think about it, this may have been a pretty one-sided relationship. But c’mon, no need to ramp up the allergies. Please? Pretty please?
Okay. Now that’s settled, here are the past few weeks, in photos…

Chicago’s answer to the Texas bluebonnet

A visit to Evanston, IL: The upper 50s temperatures had me breaking out my leather jacket, but the Northwestern undergrads were using the occasion to break out their shorts and tank tops. Isn’t relativity amazing?

Banana maple pancakes. Woof.

newspaper flowers

“Spicy Zzolmen” at Oiistar – very much like bibimbap

The most amazing dish: portobello mushroom pan fried in reduced soy sauce – definitely on my list of dishes to recreate. Mmm!

my cute boyfriend

easy, pleasing place setting

evening jog through the hood

spring plantlings

In an effort to use the ingredients in my fridge before I grocery shop, I whipped up a soba noodle dish with seaweed, cashews, Korean spices and fried egg. It was delish!

Daddy bought me champagne flutes!

pancakes this morning

Perry was tickled that I approved so heartily of this tattoo he got on his 70th birthday.

wedding, string lights

Have a great week!

A Clean Slate

I so often feel that to start something – usually a new habit or routine – I have to have a totally clean slate: a fresh start. And this makes sense. It’s really fun, for example, to start the new year with a few resolutions. The clean slate that the new year brings – out with 2013 and in with 2014! – brings a feeling of possibility.
But life is messy, and I mess up. I falter and I don’t follow through with intentions, and then instead of picking myself right back up and doing the Good Thing, I wait because I feel like I have to have my Clean Slate, whether that’s a new day, a new week (most often), a new month or year.

But while the idea of a Clean Slate is lovely and often empowering, it is also enabling: If my Clean Slate doesn’t start until next week, then this week I’m free to make as many poor decisions as I’d like.
So I want to be done with the Clean Slate. I want to make good decisions all the time, and if I can’t do that, then I want to forgive myself and make them next time. Not tomorrow, not next week, but next time. I want to strengthen my Good Thing muscles so I can keep making the good decisions without thinking.

…And want to know something cool? 
I started the practice of dropping the Clean Slate with this very blog entry, which is defying the odds of being written, as I had earlier today thought to myself writing this week was a lost cause: I hadn’t planned anything out, so the plan was to start fresh on Sunday. 
It’s not perfect, but it was the right decision: I’m flexing my Good Thing muscles!

Photo Review: 4.20.2014

Happy Easter! I hope you had a good one, full of dyed eggs and rabbits and brunch. I hope there was brunch!
The last few weeks, in photos…

my morning, as per usual

!

I drove to Austin last weekend to pick Michael up from the MS150. Sans a brunch buddy but in need of fuel for the drive, I dined solo at Revival Market.

They accidentally gave me two espressos… I didn’t mind.

I made my favorite carrot soup! Really good chilled, too.

crawfish boil

sneak attack

pure joy

fish tacos to go (…and if you’re wondering, no, that wheat grass did not work out)

Saturday bike ride

flea market by night

More bike riding! Pretty streets.

Easter bloody

morning crumble prep

It’s strawberry season in Texas. Fresh from the farmer’s market!

wax, neon, protein

As a wrap-up to Easter weekend festivities, my family went to see my brother’s band, Black James Franco. They were great! Such a fun way to end the weekend.

Ira Glass just may be my idol

//player.vimeo.com/video/85040589
THE GAP by Ira Glass from frohlocke on Vimeo.

Ira Glass just really picked me up. (Isn’t he the best?)  Because while I’m trying not to be embarrassed about what I’m about to admit, I am.

…Okay fine, I’ll just say it… Sometimes I get really anxious that I’ll never achieve anything creatively worthwhile. 

Ugh.

It’s embarrassing to admit this because 1) it acknowledges the total lack of effort and quality of product I’ve put forth thus far and 2) this sentiment puts creativity on a pedestal, somewhere I actually don’t necessarily think it should be.

Creativity is great and all, but I know plenty of people who thrive when the world is at its most orderly and scientific, and I respect that completely. But lately (as I’ll write about at length later) I’ve had an insatiable urge to write, and I’ve realized that when I’m doing this – writing, working with images, even coding – I’m totally in my flow. And there’s something to that – gaining this satisfaction that can be gotten from nowhere else.

So anyway. When I watched this video, Ira Glass just picked me up. He’s been bad at his craft, too. He’s been in that state in which his work just didn’t live up to his product, and that’s reassuring to hear. It takes time. It takes practice. It takes just doing it.

Here’s to practice.

Photo Review: 4.6.2014

Who’s excited for Game of Thrones tonight?! I don’t know about you, but I’m all team Khaleesi. In celebration of the premier of Season 4, Michael said we are going to cook traditional Eastros food… I think that really just means a nice bottle of wine. :)
The last few weeks, in photos…

I did my first pedal party with a group of coworkers. For $45 a person, we pedaled our way through three hours’ worth of bars around Midtown Houston. It was SUPER fun, and my favorite stop was Mongoose versus Cobra, a German-style bar with these amazing pretzels.
Even though it’s still rainy and a little chilly here, the wildflowers have really sprung. It’s illegal to pick them, but I bought this bunch at last weekend’s farmer’s market trip. 

I bought a bike! Last year, Michael got a ton of use out of his bike, and it made me really sad that I was never able to join him. I vowed that this year I’d buy one, so I made true on that promise last weekend. I’ve already gone on a few rides and, besides the soreness on my bum, it’s been great.

breaking in my bike at the Bayou City Art Fest 

my beauty, next to Michael’s

One of my best friends moved across the country on Wednesday. Just before that we celebrated his 27th together… Ray, you will be missed!

hbd

Bluebonnet season never ceases to amaze me.

Do you see it? The perfect spiderweb? It was so complete and impressive I couldn’t take it down… though that will probably change soon.

Michael and I made sushi! Super easy… all about buying quality fish.

Enjoy GoT tonight, and have a great week!

Where to Stash Your Cash: Long Term {via The Rich Life}

Where to stash your cash long term edition

Hey everyone! As you know, I’ve been contributing monthly to The Rich Life. I want to share that with you, so here’s today’s post! 

We’re finally here – the long term. Remember back in December when I talked about the magic of compound interest, and how it would give us the ability to live the rich life, if only we would hurry up and get to investing? I hope you were picturing yourself, because you’re here, and that time is now.

Most people think of today’s topic – where to put your long-term savings – as the crux of personal finance. And in many ways it is: You’ll certainly have a harder time getting to your worry-free golden years without a 401(k). But you can only do this if you do it right, by first living below your means (something I’ve struggled with), saving cash for an emergency (something I’m still doing), and thinking through your needs.

Got it? Scout’s honor? Okay, then let’s get to it…

When investing for the long term, there are three rules:

Rule #1: Don’t invest money you’d like to see any time soon. By “soon” I mean 5 years minimum, but ideally 10, 20, 30, or 40 years down the road, depending on how old you are. You’re investing for the long term, and you’ll be penalized if you withdraw this money early. If you need cash in the short-term, stick it somewhere else.

Rule #2:Don’t turn down free money (read: employer match). Your employer matches the first six percent of your salary? Then I expect you to be stowing at least six percent of your salary in that plan.

Rule #3: Max out tax-favored accounts before investing in taxed accounts. Long-term savings can be stowed in a tax-favored account, like an IRA or 401(k), or in a brokerage account, which is subject to taxes. Needless to say, take advantage of the tax breaks the government offers in the first two types of accounts before moving onto the third.

There are a few typical places for your long-term savings: namely, a 401(k) or IRA, each coming in both a “Roth” and “traditional” version.

A traditional 401(k) is a retirement account offered only through employers. This is a type of investment account in which you, as the investor, elect to contribute a portion of your paycheck to the account, which (at your discretion) is then invested – either by you or a brokerage firm.* A major perk of 401(k)s is that many employers match all or part of their employees’ contributions. This is free money and it is not to be turned down!

There are two special tax advantages to the traditional 401(k): First, your contributions are made pre-tax, meaning any money you put into the account is deducted from your paycheck before your income is taxed, saving you immediate dough. Second, money within this account can grow tax-free (meaning you can buy and sell stocks to your heart’s content without paying any capital gains tax) until you withdraw it without penalty at age 59 ½. At that point, you would pay income taxes on the distributions you receive as if they were ordinary income. The government sets limits on how much you can contribute to your 401(k), and in 2013 this limit was $17,500.

A less common Roth 401(k) is similar to a traditional 401(k), but the tax incentives are switched. Under a Roth 401(k), rather than using pre-tax money to fund your account, you put in post-tax funds (meaning you had to pay taxes on that income). However, at retirement you’re free to take your distributions tax-free.

Choosing whether to go with a traditional or Roth 401(k) depends on your view of your income tax rate now versus when you plan to withdraw the funds. If you believe your income tax rate will increase as you get older – due either to a bump in your income bracket or legislators raising tax rates – then a Roth is the way to go. If you want to save the tax impact now and believe your tax rate will stay stable or decrease in the future, then a traditional is right for you.

If you don’t have an employer who provides you a 401(k) (or even if you do – you can and should get both types of accounts if possible), you can open an Individual Retirement Account, or IRA, which can be opened through any ordinary brokerage account. I opened one for myself my senior year of college through Charles Schwab.

The IRA – both traditional and Roth – functions exactly like a 401(k), with a few key differences. The tax incentives of an IRA mirror that of a 401(k) – the traditional saving you money now and the Roth saving you money later. Unlike a 401(k), however, anyone with income can contribute to this type of account, making it the most accessible retirement account. Unfortunately, the contribution limit is just $5,500 per year – much lower than the 401(k)’s $17,500 limit. Finally, the Roth IRA is actually restricted based on income – those making over $129k cannot contribute to a Roth IRA.

Finally – and only after you’ve maxed out both of these accounts – you can put as much money as you please into your own brokerage account to invest how you want. Gains on these accounts are subject to hefty capital gains taxes, so only do this as a last option.

Good luck!

*For example, my 401(k) funds are invested under a Fidelity plan I’ve elected out of a few different options based on my risk tolerance. Since I’m young (and have many years ahead of me to recoup losses in the market), I have a high risk tolerance: The plan I elected invests mostly in stocks, rather than “safer” assets like bonds, CDs, etc. Alternatively, I could have elected to manage my savings myself, in which case I would make all the decisions about exactly which stocks to buy, sell, etc. on my own. We’ll get more into investing later.

Jackson Hole & Roatan

Hey! It’s been a minute. I’ve got to admit, I’ve been feeling pretty languorous lately. It started when work slowed down in early March, and was exacerbated by my blissful 10-day vacation to Jackson Hole, Wyoming and Roatan, Honduras. I kind of just didn’t feel like doing anything, you know?  Here are the trips, in photos…

Jackson sunset

When Michael and I started dating he introduced me to skiing. After four trips over the last three years I’m finally on blues!

tumble

lunch break = frickles

the summit – which I did not ski down

taking the tram back to the base
…and then on to Honduras, where I spent five days with my friend Ray and his family. Sunshine and humidity were the perfect cure for my chapped lips.

giant glass o’ wine + beach

These sunsets!

lots of this

A baggage snafu meant I only brought a purse to Honduras – no worries, though: I had the essentials in my bag (read: passport and swimsuit) and bought this dress by the side of the road.

clear blue

Hot dogs or legs?