First Time Going to a Psychic (and last)

A few years ago, when going through a tough decision in my life, I used my friend’s personal recommendation and saw a psychic. This was my first time going to a psychic. And my last. No, it wasn’t a $5 palm reading. No, she didn’t have a neon light in the window. No, it wasn’t at a fair. It was nothing like the photo above. The reading took place at the psychic’s condo in suburban Michigan. I had to call and make an appointment a few weeks ahead of time. It cost $90/hour. Was going to a psychic worth it? Well, no if you’re looking to get your future predicted but yes if you’re just looking for the experience.

Personal Recommendation

My friend had seen the psychic a few times before. One of this psychic’s specialties was seeing illnesses. She had told my friend to go get her ovaries checked out and turned out there was a growth there. It was benign, thankfully. From that experience, my friend strongly recommended the woman.

I was not looking for health advice but went regardless. The session was very normal. Her apartment was normal. We sat in a normal looking sitting room. She did put out some tarot cards. She read me, initially, as I came in. As we all can do to a certain point (that person looks scatterbrained, that person looks type-a, etc).

How do I remember all this? I don’t. As soon as I left, I wrote everything she told me down in a journal. I usually forget about it. But sometimes take a look through it just to see.

The Psychic Reading

When we sat down, she asked me if there was anything I didn’t want to know. I wasn’t certain what that meant so I said no. In hindsight, I should have said a few things. I didn’t see her to find out how many kids I was going to have or who I was going to marry. But she told me those things anyway. I didn’t even pay attention because it didn’t interest me. But I guess that was the type of thing I could have told her I didn’t want to know.

Okay, it’s true that I didn’t remember it. However, when going through my journal, it seems I wrote it down. So, here is why you need to be careful with future predictions. She was very specific saying that I the love of my life was “6’2″, named David, with a mole on the left side of his face, he would be carrying a briefcase.” Now, if I was desperately lonely and not cynical, I could easily roam around nyc looking for someone that matched this description, trick myself into falling in love with him, so I can say that the psychic was right all along. Not that any of that would be on purpose of course. Selective perception is a bitch. Thankfully I remember and then promptly forget this anyway.

She asked me to bring some things to show her. Pictures of pets, babies, family, and close friends. Or if I wanted to ask about anyone specific, to bring a photo of them. Also, any journal or item with handwriting.

There were a few cheesy moments. She said that the faces of pets and babies are “the most honest”. So when looking at pictures of my cat, she said he wanted me to get married. Okay. She did not, however, tell me that he was going to get hit by a car a year later and I should never let him outside! Now that would have been useful.

Medical Diagnoses

One of the most interesting things she did, was declare medical ailments by looking at someone’s photo. Cynically, many were generic and easily could have been lucky guesses. With that said, they were all dead-on. In a photo of some friends, she pointed to one (a guy I didn’t know very well then but ended up dating him later on) and said he suffers from allergies and used to have ear problems but no longer. I didn’t know him well enough then to know if that was true or not. After we were dating a bit, I mentioned it to him, and he did have ear troubles as a kid resulting in getting tubes put in. This is a common ailment among children, though.

Another diagnosis she gave was that my brother would suffer from high blood pressure until 2008. It was true that he had high blood pressure, as do many men. I am not close enough to him to know if he was able to treat it by that dead line or not.

Regardless of the truth in these, it was very interesting to watch her do it. She said a few other generic things for family, all were correct. She did say a few specific things. I am going to get into a car accident in a white vehicle. The car will be totaled but everyone will be fine. That hasn’t happened (yet?). I will not get breast cancer (it runs in my family). I will have a miscarriage or abortion. I will have a pregnancy scare that fall (this happened but I was 24 so not a long shot guess).

When looking at friend’s photos, she pointed out ones who were good for me, ones who were selfish, ones who had a temper. Told me to keep certain ones in my life, etc. None of this was too surprising or hard to guess either. In general, it was just interesting to watch her read people like that, in an instant.

A Higher Level of Perception

My general thoughts after this was not that she can actually predict the future, but that she has a higher level of perception than most of us. You know how some people are a good judge of character? It’s like that. She is very good at reading people. If you take your skill, then say fairly general things, you will be right a lot of the time. And for what you’re wrong about, people will just see what they want to see.

Now, this is not the only psychic experience I’ve had. While flipping through my journal to look up this conversation, I found something else that I had completely forgotten about. In 2009, so three years later, at a friend’s party, a guy with “psychic abilities” started reading me. I didn’t actually give him permission to do this. He just started spouting my future at me. This does not count. One of the things he, drunkenly, said was that me and my boyfriend at the time were going to be engaged by the end of the year. Nope. Now, he did say that I was going to have a miscarriage in the future. Part of me wants to say “weird!” but realistically, what is the statistic on that. How many pregnancies result in miscarriage? Enough that it’s a pretty safe bet to say that to someone. Granted, shitty to say to someone.

Setting up the psychic appointment and meeting with her felt a lot like a therapy session. You talked about what was bothering you, she helped you make decisions, she analyzed you, and it was kind of expensive.

I actually enjoyed the experience once but did not have any desire to go back. I am also cynical enough to consider any of the predictions that were ‘true’ to be coincidence.

Is Fresh Direct Worth It?

fresh direct in nyc

The Fresh Direct website offers a full stock of regular grocery items, meat, deli, cheese, other dairy plus home items like cat food and laundry detergent. They also deliver alcohol and wine in some locations. I had first heard of this service a while ago but kept asking myself… is Fresh Direct worth it? I knew there was a delivery charge and some of their items are higher priced. I’ve been trying it out for the past few months and am pretty happy so far.

If Your Closest Grocery Store Isn’t Close At All

My closest real grocery store, a Foodtown, is about a 12-minute walk from home. Usually this is fine but can become a hassle when carrying heavy groceries home. I really need to be conscious of buying only what I can carry. It is not on the way home from work at all. The only way to get there is directly from my apt. I’m not lazy but sometimes a 25 minute walk in addition to spending the time at the store, just isn’t something I have time for.

It’s also not the best store. The prices in the POS system always ring up incorrectly, often times overcharging me. Then by the time I get home, I’m too tired to go back. It doesn’t seem worth it for fifty cents but over time this adds up. Also, the quality of produce and healthier foods are iffy. If I try to go when it’s not crowded, like later at night, the produce will be practically gone. Some of their prices are better than Fresh Direct, like dried cranberries for example. But last time I saw them there, they were covered in dust. Gross.

When it comes to buying something heavy, forget it. I have to make a special trip for flour, sugar, olive oil, or milk. There was also the terrible time that I bought a giant thing of olive oil, carried all my groceries home in the rain, then as I stepped out of the elevator onto my floor, the bag slipped and the glass olive oil bottle broke all over. That’s some non-glamorous nyc living.

To avoid all of these hassles, I’ve been trying out Fresh Direct. Fresh Direct is a grocery delivery service providing an entire grocery store online that is then delivered to you. The minimum order is $30 and the delivery charge is a flat $4.99. They provide delivery service to NYC & Westchester. As well as some parts of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Delaware.

Pros and Cons of Fresh Direct

Some downsides to Fresh Direct are the prices. This is mainly because there aren’t many generic equivalents. So you will be paying full price for cereal, condiments, bread, etc. For produce however, most items are cheaper or at least better quality. They do have regular weekly sales & coupons, so it’s useful to check each week.

Another downside is that while it is very convenient to be able to buy groceries at work then have them delivered to your apartment at a later time, you will have to wait at least 24-hours for your delivery. So you cannot use this service if you need something right this second. However, if you are simply planning ahead for the rest of the week, then you’re good to go.

One large advantage to online grocery shopping is being able to avoid impulse buys. This alone pretty much counters the sometimes higher prices & delivery charge. Pretty much every single time I go to the grocery store, I come home with more than I expected. Or the cost is more than I had planned on when checking out. Using Fresh Direct, you don’t run into impulse buys when wandering the aisles. And if you do end up getting “click-happy”, you have a chance to review your order before purchasing. Sometimes I’ll put together an order and let it sit in my shopping cart for a day. By the time I look at it again the next day, I’m probably no longer craving goat cheese and crackers.

Another huge advantage for me is not having to deal with the anxiety I get when grocery shopping at a physical store. I don’t have to deal with a crowded store, small aisles, rude people, or long check-out lines. The only human interaction is with the delivery person, and they have always been friendly.

The delivery process has been pretty smooth for me. There are usually delivery time slots open for the next day, depending on your schedule. Some time slots have discounts, mainly after 8pm. Fresh Direct tells you in your confirmation email about their tipping policy. You do not need to tip the delivery person. But they can accept tips. I would suggest tipping if you live in a fifth floor walk-up. Or if the delivery person goes out of their way for you.

Fresh Direct offers a service called Delivery Pass. For $12/month, you can get unlimited delivery charge. Normally, the delivery charge is $4.99. So if you get at least 3 deliveries a month, this will save you money. You can also schedule automatic repeat orders. I don’t need this yet but can see how it would be very useful for a family. You can use a two-month free trial of Delivery Pass for one penny. This is what I’ve been using as a try out of Fresh Direct in general. For free delivery for two months, this is definitely worth it.

Because of some of the higher costs associated with only being able to buy name-brand items, you are paying for convenience here. However, the cost will still be less than your in-store impulse buys. It is very convenient if you don’t need your items right away. It is also most convenient if you do not have a near-by quality grocery store.

March Monthly Spending in NYC 2014

Marc 2014 - Monthly Spending in Brooklyn

March 2014 – Monthly Spending in Brooklyn

I spend 47% of my monthly income on a 1br in “I’ve never heard of that neighborhood” Brooklyn. This is a stabilized rent, so it has only increased by $80 in the two lease renewals I’ve been through.

I have needed a new laptop for a long time but was holding off. Finally, I decided in December that I would use my tax refund to buy a replacement. That’s exactly what I did. With most of my return, I bought a Lenovo Yoga 11S. I wish I could have put that in my savings instead but I really waited as long as I possibly could.

Once a year I see a psychiatrist to make sure the one medication, Wellbutrin, I’m on is still going well. The appointment costs $375/hour. But I get a $500 HRA from my company so I can claim it on my insurance and get all the money back as a reimbursement. Also, I can charge it to my Discover card and get rewards. I know it is crazy expensive (and she doesn’t accept insurance) but it all works out in the end. And I have no desire to find a new psychiatrist now.

Usually my cat spending is under $50/mo for food or litter. But this month involved a $650 dental cleaning for Scarface. He had to get four teeth removed!

It wasn’t an emergency but was necessary. And hopefully this means we won’t have to do another one of these. I am trying to actively brush his teeth (not a fun time) and keep an eye on his gums. As soon as I notice swelling I will bring him to the vet, instead of waiting forever like I did last time.

I spent about $60 more on food than I did the previous months. The main reason, which is logical, is because I’ve been running more. I just can’t eat enough when I’m running six miles in the morning.

January spending on groceries + eating out totaled $336.
February spending on groceries + eating out totaled $339.
March spending on groceries + eating out totaled $393.

I have been using Fresh Direct for most of this month. It is very convenient but some of the items cost more than my closest grocery store. This probably accounts for some of the increase. Running also makes me want to eat higher priced items like dried fruit and nuts.

Debt Repayment & Savings
These are both automatic payments that I will not let myself change. I already have an easily accessible emergency fund with one month’s rent. Now, I am trying to build up a larger savings, slowly, in a slightly higher interest savings account. It is through a different bank so transfers take a few days. I learned the hard way that having emergency money in a difficult to access bank account was stupid.

It’s Not Too Late To Budget

Once again, this is your monthly reminder to start budgeting! Start tracking your spending! Forget excel, just take out a pen and a piece of paper. Write down everything you bought today. Easy, right? Now do that every day. See, it’s that easy. Once you learn exactly how much you spend monthly, you’re be on the right track.

How To Make Plans Like an Adult

Scheduling in a Calendar

We never actually learn how to manage time or make plans. Social arrangements are made by our parents. Then when we go off on our own, we are just supposed to know how to make appointments. But we don’t so instead we spend a lot of time double booking ourselves, tiring ourselves out, or even burning bridges. It becomes stressful!

I certainly still make these mistakes from time to time but here are a few of my strategies on how to make plans like an adult.

Stop Saying “Maybe”

I know this is difficult because I answer “maybe” all the time to invitations. But it is a horrible habit. The feeling behind “maybe” or “we’ll see” or “I’ll let you know” more or less means that this person isn’t important. That you’re waiting to see if something better comes along. That you’re not really interested in being with this person. If that’s the case, then just say no outright.

Look at this way, your friend would prefer you say no right away, rather than saying maybe/yes and cancelling last minute. They’ve been looking forward to seeing you then you drop out. Now they’re disappointed. On the other hand, if you say no initially, then decide later you can make it, you can still (in some cases) attend. Drop in as a surprise and your friend will love it. Or ask them last-minute if you can attend. If you can’t, then it is your own fault. But at the very least your friend will be glad you wanted to come.

Start saying Yes or No. Never maybe’s. Respect your friends and their time.

Stop Showing Up Late

This is also related to respecting your friends and their time. Plan ahead! Stop underestimating how long it takes you to get ready. Or to drive somewhere. Or to walk to the train. Or construction work detours. Leave early. Let someone know right away that you will be late.

Being late is rude. This person has planned their day around this time slot and you being late will interfere with all of it.

At the very least, be conscious of the event you are going to. If you are meeting a group of people at a bar, you probably don’t have to be there from the beginning. But if you’re meeting for dinner, your lateness might really mess up the rest of the evening. In this case, it’s not only about you.

Stop Double Booking Yourself

Double booking always sounds like a great idea because you get the best of both worlds. For example, you decide to get dinner with your roommates around 6p, then you’ll still have time after to get to another friend’s birthday party by 9p. So you say yes to both.

Then the inevitable happens. Someone is disrespectful and gets to dinner late, so you have to wait longer for a table, and wait service is slow. It’s now 9p. You had a great dinner. Enjoyed yourself and had fun with your friends. Now they’re suggesting keeping things going by going somewhere else for a drink. You’re having a great time and want to spend more time with them. But you remember you have the birthday party to get to.

This will only end badly.

First scenario, you stay with your friends and cancel on your friend. Or you tell your friend you’ll be late, go get “one drink” with friends, then end up cancelling on your friend later.

Second scenario, you leave and get to your friend’s party. But you are already late now and it’s close to 10p. The party is much calmer than you expected and people start leaving at 11p, you barely get to see your friend at all and wish you hung out with your roommates intead. Or you spend the whole time thinking of what you missed out on. Or the party was crazy and your friend is already too drunk. You wish you got there soooner.

No one wins here. You are trying to please everyone but instead you’re stressed out from running all over, watching the clock, and barely getting to talk to anyone anyway. FOMO will get you no matter what.

Another way double booking gets you is if you are exhausted after the first event. Especially if things take longer than you expected them to. Or you waited around for someone who was late. Or it took longer to find a place for drinks. All sorts of unexpected things can come up. But now it’s 9p and even though you can still make it to your friend’s birthday party, you would rather just head home to watch Netflix.

So you can go to the party, be miserable and tired, and stay for such a short period of time you don’t even get to talk to your friend. Or you cancel last minute and head home, feeling guilty.

Sure you can chance getting a second wind but it’s hardly worth it. Just think things through and don’t double book to begin with. A better option is to tell your friend you can’t make it to her birthday. Don’t say “maybe”. Don’t say “I’ll see how long dinner takes.” Just say you won’t be there. Then after dinner, and only then, if you are feeling up to it, by all means stop by your friend’s party. (This is assuming it is something casual and not dinner where they needed a head count). Your friend will be happy and surprised to see you!

Stop Over Booking Yourself

Related to not double booking is also not over booking. This took me a long time to figure out. I would look at my calendar and see that I had plans every day but Wednesday. Then when asked to hang out that week, I would say “I’m free wednesday.” Well, after going out Mon, Tues, Wed, by Thursday I’m beat and end up cancelling on that friend. Now, it’s not their fault that i overbooked myself. That I didn’t make time for them.

Instead, I focus on only one or two social activities on week nights. Then I actually schedule quiet nights for myself. I will write in my calendar “Netflix” or “Writing” or “Cats” or whatever I need it to say to remind myself to not make plans that night. Because I do have plans that night. My plans are to stay in and rest up. Then I will be energized and not crabby for more social plans afterward.

Trust me, your friends will be grateful for this. It’s never fun to be cancelled on last minute or to hang out with someone who is exhausted.

Stop Forgetting Appointments

There is absolutely no excuse not to remember an appointment. Treat friend hangouts as you would anything else. You have a calendar on your phone. And your google account. And at work. Write things down! Seriously! Now! Forgetting or cancelling because you forgot is rude. It is telling people that they are not important.

Find what works for you. Phone reminders and notifications might be the easiest. I personally love my moleskine calendar. I keep it on my every day and write down everything in it as soon as I make the appointment. I also look in it every morning so I know what is coming up later in the week. This is the best method for me. But may not work for you. You have to find what works for you. Trust me, you cannot remember everything no matter how hard you try!

Stop Waiting To Respond

You probably already know that you can or can’t make it to that event. Why wait a week to respond? Just tell the person right now. Nothing is going to change. Especially if you can’t make it. Say that right away. Then if things change, it will be for good news.

Books To Read Recap: Alex Versus the Universe, Anthony Marra, Allie Brosh

I’ve started writing individual thoughts for books to read per week in my Weekly Updates posts. Look at those to stay on top of what I’m reading. At the end of the month, I’ll list all the books read here with a mini-review of each.

The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence


Also reviewed in my weekly updates.

The Universe Versus Alex Woods sounds like it would make for an interesting story. And the first hundred pages would you lead you to believe this as well. The first half of the story is strong, funny, and a really good read. Then the tone changes rather abruptly and the second half of the story goes in a completely different direction. The writing stays strong throughout. But the wit the book starts out on, gets lost as the plot becomes more and more serious.

Alex Woods was hit with a meteorite, lives with his eccentric mother, suffers from epilepsy, reads a lot, and gets bullied at school. This makes for a really interesting character and he is still a relate-able character for the reader. Extence’s description of school and bullying is on-point and hilarious. It just didn’t stick around in the story long enough.

What starts out as a strange and light-hearted story about a young boy in highschool, quickly turns into a Tuesdays With Morrie style plot. It’s not nearly as syrupy but gets pretty close. The story turns on a dime when Alex begins spending time with an elderly neighbor. This starts out as penance for destroying his property. But then they become friends. Of course the elderly man typically kept to himself and wasn’t fond of Alex right away but then he grew to like him quite well. Of course the elderly man lived alone and Alex soon began taking care of him. Of course the man is dying of some incurable disease. Of course Alex thinks he can save him and learn from him, etc. Any other predictable stereotypes you can think of for a teen + elderly platonic emotional relationship, it’s there.

I’d suggest knowing more about the story before going into it. If you’re looking for a witty uplifting story about a teen learning life lessons from the elderly, this is your book. Oh! There is also a quirky addition of Kurt Vonnegut. All of his books get discussed and summarized. I’m guessing the author is a fan? That helped to cut out some of the sugariness from the Tuesdays With Morrie part.

Author: Gavin Extence
Genre: Coming of Age
Rating: 3/5
Summary: Strong writing, witty first half, sappy second half.


Save Yourself by Kelly Braffet (DNF)

Being honest here, this book is a DNF for me. Did Not Finish. There wasn’t any reason in particular why I bailed on it. It was more so the combination of teenage-style writing, mediocre characters, and an obvious plot device. After 100 pages, I simply didn’t care what happened in the story or to the characters. There wasn’t a connection to any of them. I’m not even sure the book was about anything. There was a lot of rambling. And a lot of stereotypical character traits.

I won’t rate DNF books. Just because I bailed doesn’t always mean the book was bad. But it does mean I didn’t feel any desire to continue reading the author’s reading style or learn more about the characters. So take that as you will.

Author: Kelly Braffet
Genre: Fiction
Rating: DNF
Summary: Simplistic writing, mundane characters, obvious plot

Have You Found Her? A memoir by Janice Erlbaum

Have You Found Her? by Janice Erlbaum

Also reviewed in my weekly updates.

Just because I finished this book in one sitting (four hours) doesn’t mean it was good. Often I lose interest in predictable stories. And this one was predictable from the get go. But every time I thought the reveal was going to happen, things just continued. To the point where I thought that maybe my cynical thoughts were wrong. For that reason alone, I kept reading. However, I did consider bailing to look up the ending on line. Instead I trudged through it.

Don’t get me wrong, the story is interesting. Stories of manipulation are always fascinating for an outsider to see. The problem with the story is the pretentiousness of the author. This is a memoir from Erlbaum but is about her relationship with a young girl she met in a women’s shelter in Manhattan. Erlbaum’s ego is too big to hide. She really thinks she is saving the world by “helping” this girl. She really thinks she is a saint. Sometimes she becomes self-aware of this. For maybe half a sentence. But then goes right back to thinking she did something amazing.

Even by writing a story about how she was completely duped, she still manages to turn it into how much she sacrificed for someone she didn’t know at all. She details all of her good intentions even if things didn’t work out in the end. No apologies for these mild spoilers because the ending is completely obvious less than fifty pages in.

Author: Janice Erlbaum
Genre: Memoir
Rating: 2/5
Summary: Strong writing, pretentious attitude, obvious ending

Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh

I’ve known for a long time that I don’t have a sense of humor. If you ever doubted me on that, this review will confirm it. The Hyperbole and a Half book was fine. It was an enjoyable read. Eh. It’s difficult because I’ve seen some of the drawings before. Sure, they’re still funny and entertaining, but it did take away from the book for me.

I couldn’t tell what the book was trying to do. The organization was strange, especially the latter half. The beginning started out silly. Clearly her letters to herself and the self-deprecation those included were supposed to be funny. The second half featured her drawings on depression. These are great. But then right in the middle of these serious thoughts, was a funny piece, then it went back to serious mode. Not much new was added.

It seemed like she was trying to put herself out there then changed her mind mid-way and pulled back. Or was trying to please two groups of people. It just doesn’t work.

Allie Brosh is loved by lots so I realize this will be an unpopular opinion. Seriously, I just don’t have a sense of humor at all.

Author: Allie Brosh
Genre: Comics/Auto-Biographical
Rating: 3/5
Summary: Cop-out autobiography, drawings you’ve already seen

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra (DNF)

This novel has some truly beautiful writing. Unfortunately, the jumpy story makes it difficult to keep track of and care about the characters. Flashbacks in time, between characters, and between story lines happened far too frequently. Just as you’re getting back into the voice of one character, you get jumped to another.

With all that said, the writing is absolutely wonderful. Beautiful prose, descriptions that are magical. Anthony Marra takes a horrific subject and makes everything sound romantic and graceful.

For example, here is the most beautiful paragraph you will ever read about a man trying to take a shit:

The Silver Mkarov pistol was all Ramzan thought about for the two weeks preceding Dokka’s disappearance, in which he failed to produce a single bowel movement. Each morning, venturing into the cold in nothing but a robe and lambskin boots, he turned the corner of the house, passed icicles filling the gutter’s missing segments, passed the frostbitten fingers of fallen birch limbs, and waded down the sharp incline to the scattered pine cones that had amassed into an ankle-deep mound at the outhouse door. Inside, he sat with his elbows burrowed into his knees, a full-bodied clench that left him red-faced and winded. Snow flurries fell through the roof’s missing half, landing on the back of his neck, and melted into sweat. His scrotum was an empty coin purse flattened between his legs. He was enable to father even a soft dollop of excrement.

There’s 384 pages of that. It’s beautiful, don’t get me wrong. And it is this beautiful writing that keeps you from feeling absolutely horrible after reading such a sad story. This is a story about wars, and lost lives, and lost people. It is sad. Yet the writing is beautiful and flow and descriptive and it felt like I was floating while reading it. I would love to read a linear story by Marra.

Author: Anthony Marra
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: DNF
Summary: Chechnyan War, Flashbacks, most beautiful prose

Netflix Instant Picks: Jumanji, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Click

Jumanji (1995) / Family Adventure

Netflix Instant Picks Jumaji Robin Williams

Not only is this a fair adaptation of the book but after nine years it still holds up. Sure, the movie is predictable but it’s a family film at heart. The special affects also hold up when comparing to today’s visuals. They do a good job presenting the past and the future and making sure both are separate.

The story of Jumanji tells of a board game about the jungle that actually comes to life. You can actually be taken into the jungle. Lions can appear in your bedroom. You can turn into a monkey. The movie shows all these things very well without it coming off as too hokey. There are times things are forced and silly. Remember, family movie.

Besides, Kirsten Dunst is adorable.

Starring: Robin Williams, Kirsten Dunst
Runtime: 103 min
Leslie Rating: 4/5
Summary: A game about the jungle that becomes real life.

Click (2006) / Comedy

Netflix Instant Picks Click Adam Sandler

I remember watching this movie at the theater, in some mall in South Jersey. I was with some friends, two of whom might have been on a date. I don’t quite remember. The movie hadn’t sounded interesting to me but I went with the group anyway.

Turns out, when given the power to control your life with a remote, being able to pause and fast forward and rewind, not fun things happen. Click starts off with the basic use of the remote having Adam Sandler fast forward until he receives a promotion. He thinks he will get it within the next few months but it actually takes several years. Of course in that time he has missed part of his family’s lives.

Then it gets weird. And it’s not funny at any point. We’ve seen this story before… he sees how his selfish ways are ruining his family then he gets a chance at a do-over. Predictable and boring.

And that’s all I have to say on the topic of malls in south jersey.

Starring: Adam Sandler, Kate Beckinsale, Christopher Walken
Runtime: 107 min
Leslie Rating: 2/5
Summary: Being able to control life as though it’s a movie isn’t as great as it seems.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) / Foreign Action

Netflix Instant Picks Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon

It took me a while to warm up to foreign martial arts films but now I can’t get enough of them. This is definitely in my top three for the choreography alone. It’s not just people fighting each other.

These are beautifully choreographed fighting scenes. Dances almost. It’s about skills not just strength. Really beautiful to watch.

Among the eye-catching action scenes is a very strong story. The plot revolves around Chow Yun-Fat attempting to avenge his master’s death. With a tasteful side of romance thrown in. This film is beautiful and should be seen by everyone.

Starring: Yun-Fat Chow
Runtime: 120 min
Leslie Rating: 5/5
Summary: Beautifully choreographed martial arts movie to supplement a story of romance.

Buy My Cookbook Zine at MoCCafest 2014 – April 5-6

Cookbook Zine: Sweet Stuff

The weekend of April 5-6 at MoCCa Fest in Manhattan, my cookbook/zine will be available for purchase at Nikki DeSautelle’s table #D24!

I created and designed this cookbook zine last year at MoCCa Fest and am bringing it back! The cookbook features numerous delicious dessert recipes including cookies, brownies, cupcakes, and frosting. The layout is perfect for beginner’s as it breaks ingredients out by dry & wet sections. No longer be afraid of baking!

The layout and drawings are from scratch. All recipes have been tested and tried. That was the fun part.

MoCCa Fest spans both Saturday and Sunday, April 5-6th. The talented Nikki DeSautelle will be at her table all weekend. I will make a cameo appearance for most of Saturday. Stop by and visit us!

Big thanks to Nikki DeSautelle for letting me share a table with her again!

Mocca Arts Festival 2014, hosted by the Society of Illustrators, takes place Sat-Sun, April 5-6, from 11a-6pm. Tickets are $5 per day. The festival is located at The 69th Regiment Armory, 68 Lexington Avenue between E. 25th & E. 26th Street.

How Much Does A Cat Dental Cleaning Cost? A lot.

Don't let these cute sleepy critters fool you, they can get sick too

Don’t let these cute sleepy critters fool you, they can get sick too

Previously I wrote about not needing a large emergency fund if your life is generally low-risk. Not owning a home or car means there is a low risk for major life emergencies. I don’t have to worry about any surprise repairs.

And then I adopted two cats.

Before adopting them, I had determined how much food and litter would cost per month. It came out to $30/mo, which I I could handle. I knew that other expenses could spring up sometimes but didn’t really give it much thought. Indoor cats are at a much lower risk of danger than outside ones. That was what I told myself at least.

When it comes to pets, the common question is: “What is your limit of spending on your pet to save their life?” Some people will say they don’t have a limit, some will say $1,000, or $500, or whatever other arbitrary number that sounds like just enough.

The problem here is that the question assumes you’d pay this all at once. Rarely is this the case. Your pet might need prescription medicine or food that is costly. They may need regular visits or treatments. They may need pre and post appointments for a procedure. It won’t be $1,000 all at once but it adds up over time.

I currently have an emergency fund of one month’s rent but did not adjust this when I adopted the cats. My mistake. When I discovered my cat needed a dental cleaning, I immediately made a plan to use my tax return to pay for the procedure. I was lucky that it could wait and was not a medical emergency.

Of course, there is a conflict here. It’s not fair to my cats to not give them the help they need because I can’t afford it. However, I also can’t sacrifice my financial well-being. This is why it is so important to make sure you can financially take care of an animal (more than just the monthly costs) before taking one in. You are agreeing to take care of this animal. Make sure you can take care of yourself first.

Scarface cat hiding from the vet

Scarface hiding out from the vet

How Much is a Cat Dental Cleaning?

After owning my cats for a year, I decided to take them to the vet just as a check-up. Turns out, my cat Scarface has sensitive gums that were swelled up and infected. Some cats are more susceptible to tartar than others and he happens to be one of them. Because of his swollen gums, his teeth were being pushed out. This resulted in him having canines that looked like vampire fangs.

The vet recommended I bring him back for a dental cleaning. I was given a quote of between $250-$650 depending on teeth extractions and other complications. He would need to be put under anesthesia so it was a full procedure.

That first appointment was $100. Dental cleaning requires pre-blood work to make sure he could handle the anesthesia, this was $150. The dental cleaning itself resulted in my cat needing four teeth pulled, that came to $550.

All of the appointments including the cleaning totaled $800. Now, that wasn’t all at once and is how health bills usually work. It is more than I expected to pay for my cat’s health. But this is what I signed up for. Also, I hope this will prevent more serious dental issues in the future.

Weekly Updates: March Madness + Half Marathon Training Modified

Life: Half Marathon Training – Weeks 6 & 7

After receiving advice from a very helpful comment and another running friend, I’ve decided to completely modify my current training plan. I had been following Run Keeper’s sub 2:15 half marathon plan.

The plan itself is a bit advanced for what I need. So using advice from last week’s comment, and listening to my body, I wrote up an entirely new calendar for training. The new training plan consists of two runs during the week day, one of them speed work. And two runs over the weekend, one of them long. Then two days of cross training and a rest day.

For this race, my minimum goal is sub-2:20 to PR. In 2012 I ran the Brooklyn Half in 2:22:52 and the NYC Half in 2:21:13. I don’t care how much I PR by. For training purposes, I’m giving myself a goal race pace of 10:30mm. That’s an estimated finish time of 2:17:39. This current week was my first modified week and it’s been going really well. I might be able to take it up a notch. But it feels better than not being able to keep up. In the long run that wouldn’t help anything and could really cause injury.

Here’s my training workouts from the past two weeks!

Half Marathon Training – Week 6

  • 12 x 400: 5mi / 0:52:01 / 10:24mm
  • Treadmill: 3.1 / 0:33:55 / 10:56mm
  • 4 x 1: 6 / 1:04:57 / 10:49mm

Week 6 Total: 14.1 / 2:30:53 / 10:43mm

I also spent 30 minutes strength training three of the days. This is something I like about going to a gym. It is a nice change and is really helping me feel more fit.

Half Marathon Training – Week 7

  • Running: 4.01 / 0:54:38 / 0:13:37mm
  • Treadmill: 2.67 / 0:30:00 / 11:14mm
  • Elliptical: 2 / 0:30:00
  • Treadmill: 6 / 1:06:23 / 11:04mm
  • Running: 10.4 / 1:58:00 / 11:21mm

Week 7 Total: 25.08 / 4:29:01 / 11:49mm

Life: March Madness – Go Green!

Perfect Bracket Go Spartans March Madness MSU
Go Spartans!!!!!!!!!

I’m sorry if you don’t like basketball, really I am. I don’t get award shows and I know how annoying those are when they’re happening. And the NCAAM tournament isn’t just one night. But I do think it’s fun even if you don’t like basketball. Usually people who randomly guess brackets end up doing a lot better anyway.

I’ve made three brackets this year: two for groups and one for me. This year is strange with so many non-fans rooting for my team to win the national championship (MSU alum here). Even the president pick them to win! Thanks, Obama.

After two days, my brackets aren’t in terrible shape. My picks were all over the place but I am winning in one of the groups with 260 points. Thank you NDSU.

Really I love all the stories. Like the Olympics, I love hearing the struggles schools and athletes faced to get there. The records the underdogs break when they win. And the look of determination on all their faces. Remember folks, these are college kids. Little babies! The oldest on a team might be a 22 year old fifth-year senior. Little babies running around with a basketball doing amazing things.

Fun fact: North Dakota State University is the first team from the entire state of North Dakota to win a game in the NCAAM tournament.

Book: Have You Found Her?

Have You Found Her? A memoir by Janice Erlbaum

Have You Found Her? A memoir by Janice Erlbaum

This is one of those books I was able to finish in one sitting. That doesn’t mean it was good. I spent four hours on the couch last Sunday reading this memoir and being a bed for the cats. What kept me reading this pretentious tale was the predictable-ness of the story.

Within the first fifteen pages I had predicted an ending. I basically kept reading to see if I was right. It took a while, the reveal wasn’t until the very end, but it turns out my plot prediction was correct. It’s difficult to read true stories like this and not be able to understand how the author couldn’t ‘see this one coming too’. Yes, I know, it’s different being inside something than outside looking in. It’s just frustrating at as a reader.

The writing style was fine and easy-going. Erlbaum’s thoughts and actions were so goddamn pretentious though. Unbelievable in some cases. Like she really thought she was saving the world.

Erlbaum starts the story explaining she lived in a girl’s shelter in NYC for a few months as a teenager. Now she’s a grown-up living the good life in a fancy pants apartment. She wants to give back. So she starts volunteering at that same shelter. She immediately makes favorites, bringing certain girls gifts and things, getting pretty obsessed about how helpful she is. How much of a difference she can make on these girl’s lives.

Then she meets Sam. This is not a book about her volunteering at the shelter and all the different girl’s she meets. It is not about her learning the stories of other’s. This is her story about how her intimate (platonically) relationship with one of these girls. It is about how she tries to saves someone. I guess that’s why it is a memoir. It is all about her and her supposedly good intentions.

Then Erlbaum meets Sam and immediately starts taking care of this girl who is in and out of hospitals.
Sam is in constant need of attention. There is always a drama. There is always something wrong with her. Her life was extremely bad growing up. Though she can expertly play a piano (she said she learned from a drug dealer…)

It’s really one thing after another, which is enough to keep the reader interested. But only because you’re waiting for the truth to come out.

If you like memoirs, stories of mentally/physically ill teenagers, or NYC stories I recommend this. But it is easy reading and predictable. I give it 3/5.

Internet Best Of: Links

Impostor Syndrome and Writing – Fit is the New Poor

Baby Steps in the Morning – The Asian Pear

Cheap Eats: Dollar Samosa’s – The NY Budget

Food & Health
This Infographic Shows the Phytonutrients You Need to Stay Healthy – Lifehacker

Stick A Fork In It (Or: When Food Blogs Stopped Being Food Blogs) – The Amateur Gourmet

March Madness & Bracketology
Statistical NCAA Tournament Predictions – FiveThirtyEight

Brooklyn News
Driver charged after SUV ends up on subway car in Brooklyn – ABC News

Brooklyn History
How Brooklyn Neighborhoods Got Their Names – Mental Floss

Donate to Stephanie’s 2014 Walk for Hunger – Project Bread

Netflix Instant Picks: Gattaca, Taxi Driver, Men in Black II

Gattaca (1997) / Sci-Fi

Netflix Instant Gattaca

Gattaca, starring the talented combination of Ethan Hawke, Jude Law, and Uma Thurman, is in my top 5 list of best sci-fi movies.

A world where all babies are genetically engineered. No diseases. No imperfections. But some were born off the grid, In-Valids. Ethan Hawke’s character is one of these imperfects and is seen as weak by society.

The plot revolves around Ethan Hawke trying to assume the identity of someone who was genetically engineered. There are plenty of close-calls and suspense. Some parts are cringe-worthy as becoming someone else includes leg lengthening to match their height.

The take on genetic engineering is interesting and everyone plays their parts, perfectly.

Bonus: This is Jude Law’s first major movie role.

Starring: Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, Jude Law
Runtime: 106 min
Leslie Rating: 4/5
Summary: The lengths people go to for perfection.

Men In Black II (2002) / Sci-Fi Comedy

Netflix Instant Picks Men in Black Sequel

Taking a good concept and keeping it going, Men in Black II, is really more of the same. This isn’t bad but don’t expect a whole different story or anything. Will Smith’s character is still strong. And the aliens are still silly.

Starring: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones
Runtime: 88 min
Leslie Rating: 3/5
Summary: Strong follow-up with more silly alien antics and Will Smith.

Taxi Driver (1976) / Classic Drama

Netflix Instant Picks Taxi Driver

Watching Taxi Driver for the first time in a New York City theater was strange experience. The movie’s atmosphere was perfectly gritty and creepy. De Niro’s character is perfectly delusional.

The movie is very New York. I would say it is one of the most quintessential New York movies. Everything about the feelings it portrays is accurate including characters, neighborhoods, and caricatures.

There are many memorable lines from the movie (you looking at me?) and a killer ending. For a movie from the 1970′s this definitely holds up and I can’t recommend it enough. .

Starring: Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster
Runtime: 114 min
Leslie Rating: 4/5
Summary: An intense look at someone becoming psychotic.