Weekend Recap

Hi friends! It's been a little while and I'm a slacker but I figured that since I had a slightly more exciting weekend for once that I should share it!

Saturday night we went to My Morning Jacket concert in Forest Hills stadium. It was our first time going there and the space didn't disappoint. We loved that it was outdoors and lucky for us it turned out to be a warm, sunny day.
Our seats were good and I honestly don't think that you could go wrong with any of them because it's a pretty compact venue. There was lots of standing room and I'm impressed by how many people chose to stand the entire time, the concert was like 3 hours. I'm just that lazy :)
Things eventually got pretty busy and show got on the way. It was an enjoyable experience, which says a lot since I wasn't very familiar with My Morning Jacket (Alex was the one who wanted to go). Clearly they have lots of fans, which is cool.
A kind stranger who was sitting behind us  volunteered to take a photo of us, which was great because I was doing a terrible job capturing a good selfie.

The following day one of my friends who lives in Queens came out for a visit. She hasn't been to our Brooklyn apartment before so she trekked over. We had to show her a good time in Bushwick so we took her to Roberta's for lunch. It's a very touristy spot and there are lots of famous people who have been there (Hillary Clinton and Beyonce are some of them).
You can have a sit down experience in the restaurant or you can get takeout and eat on the patio. We decided to go casual so we went to the takeout area to grab our pies. I went with the "Little Stinker", but I knew what I was getting since I've tried pretty much every single pizza on the menu. My work is right around the corner so from time to time we go here for lunch. Only when I'm being bad and not bringing my lunch.
This pizza has great flavor and I highly recommend trying it out if you ever make it to Roberta's. Even if you're out on the patio there's a full bar available for drinks so that's really convenient.
Here's me just anticipating my delicious pizza. Yeah, I ate pretty much the whole thing by myself. It was Sunday, also known as eat whatever you want day. I blame New York for having so much excellent pizza which tempts me every single weekend. 

How was your weekend? What's your favorite pizza place? 

Day Trip To Kykuit

We've been meaning to go somewhere new and exciting around here. I started looking up good spots for a day trip and came across Kykuit. It's a pretty easy place to get to, we had to take Metro North to Tarrytown, which takes about 1 hour. The train goes through the east side of Manhattan from Grand Central and you get to catch some city views which is pretty cool. Majority of the way the train runs along the Hudson river. If you've seen The Girl on the Train that's the train route that the main character takes. We even passed the stop where she supposedly was from.

You can purchase tour tickets ahead of time online (you have to arrive 30 minutes before the tour to pick them up) or you can show up and buy whichever ones are available next. We decided to just show up and get them and we had to wait an hour, which wasn't too bad. There are different tours that you can choose from, we did the classic tour which covers some of the gardens and the first floor of the house. In case you don't know, Kykuit is a Rockefeller estate.
Our tour guide was an awesome lady and the whole tour was very informative. We were there on a really odd day, half the time it was pouring and the other half it was really sunny and hot. Unfortunately, we were unable to take photos inside the house but I think that outside looks much much better. The house itself felt rather small on the inside and wasn't as impressive as we expected. There is a lot of unique artwork all around and in the basement of the house that we got to see, but there are lots of outdoor pieces as well.
Our classic tour lasted 2.5 hours, but there are other options too if you want to spend more time there. I think I would probably do the grand tour if given the opportunity but it was still a good time. The view outside was amazing and the gardens were rather impressive. Overall we had a great time and it felt like a quick and easy getaway from the city.

What's the last day trip that you've been on?

This past long weekend we didn't really have any solid plans which we slightly regretted so we went ahead and got our Labor Day weekend all planned out. We're taking a train to Washington D.C. and spending a couple of days there exploring it. I've never been but I'm really excited for it because I can only imagine how much there is to see and do there. If you've got any good recommendations please let me know! 

Are you planning any trips in the near future?

June 2017 Reading Wrap Up

June may not be over yet, but I'm currently reading The Goldfinch so I won't be finished any time soon. It's a really enjoyable book and I'm happy that I went back to give it another go. It's over 900 pages and I'm at around 350 so it should be another couple of weeks.

Other than that last hiccup June was a great reading month for me. I was able to get out of my reading slump and managed to get to some books that have been hanging around on my shelves for way too long.

Into The Water by Paula Hawkins - (4/5) I love her writing so I would probably love just about anything she wrote. This book had A LOT of characters and all of them shared their perspective on the story. I'm a fan of multiple narrators and getting really confused by some untrustworthy accounts but this one took me a little while to get into. Pretty much all of the characters were bad in one way or another. All of them had dark secrets that they were hiding and overall it was a decent read. Not quite as good as The Girl on the Train but I didn't really expect it to be.

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker - (5/5) This was an unexpectedly good read. I haven't heard much about this book but it turned out really well written and the subject matter was very interesting to me. It's about a time when the Earth starts slowing down its rotations and this causes a bunch of unfortunate events. It's written from a perspective of a teenage girl and I feel like it's been forever since I've read a book with a young narrator who didn't have special powers or was really cheesy.

Snow Hunters by Paul Yoon - (3/5) This was a decent and quick read. It was beautifully written with lots of descriptions and overall it was a great story about life. I haven't read anything by this author before and I didn't know what to expect. The biggest downfall for me was not being able to connect with any characters since the book was pretty short and covered a lot of history of the characters before the main character got to meet them.

Mother Night  by Kurt Vonnegut - (4/5) Alex has been reading a few Kurt Vonnegut books and this one caught my eye. This book is about a double agent during WWII. While it covers a serious topic the book has a lot of humor in it and the read was very entertaining. Reading this book made me want to read more of Vonnegut's books.

Human Acts by Han Kang - (3/5) This was a well written book and I can definitely see why her other books are very popular. This book is quite dark and sad so definitely read it when you're feeling up to it. There are a lot of graphic descriptions and lots of stuff that makes you cringe. It was interesting to read about a time period in South Korean history that I knew nothing about and it definitely made me want to know more and to become better informed about it.

Have you read any good books lately?

Saving Money For Travel Part 2

When I first moved to the US I needed a cell phone and a provider. Alex was with Sprint, and he was paying around $80 per month. They had one of their basic promotions, basic because I feel like that's the kind of promotion they typically have, where you could get unlimited talk, text, and data for around $100 a month for 2 phone lines. It sounded like a great deal, especially since we could lease the phones and pay an additional $40 for those per month. With taxes, fees, and all of that other good stuff our phone bill was around $160 a month. Not bad for an unlimited plan, except that we never used more than a couple of gigs of data and having an unlimited plan didn't really make sense.

We stayed with our plan for 2 years, so we paid around $1920 a year. And total it was around $3840, which is crazy. Our contracts were set to expire this summer so we really had to decide what we wanted to do and if we wanted to keep paying so much a month when we don't really utilize our phone plans to their full potential. 

I began searching for different prepaid plan options, being locked into a contract wasn't very appealing to us and we found that all of the plans were more on the expensive side. Living in NY, we do have the luxury of getting great service from the majority of providers so that enabled me to look even at the most obscure phone providers and plans. There are a lot of phone providers that are MVNO (mobile virtual network operator) which means they don't own their own towers and are using someone else's (like AT&T or Verizon's), but that's how they are able to keep their prices so low.  Also some of them don't have physical store locations which makes their whole operation even cheaper. 

Most of these plans are great if you don't use a lot of data and it's even cheaper if you own your own device or don't care about owning the latest and greatest phone. Here's a list of some decent options along with the providers that we ended up going with:

T Mobile - This is what Alex switched to since he's a slightly heavier data user than me. It's a prepaid plan from T Mobile, and luckily the coverage area is great in New York so it was an easy decision to go with them. He pays $45 a month for unlimited talk and text, and has 4GB of LTE data which after the 4 gigs goes down to 3G. It's not a bad plan and definitely beats what we had before with Sprint. 

Project Fi - This is what I switched to. This is a phone plan from Google, which has very straightforward pricing. It's $20 a month for unlimited talk and text. It also includes international texting which is something that I need. Each GB of data is $10, and if you use less than 1GB they credit you back whatever you didn't use. So if you only used 0.8GB of data you will get $2 credited back on your bill, I really appreciate that. Also, your data is good internationally so there isn't any unexpected roaming charge if you travel abroad and have to use your phone. You keep paying that $10 per GB even if you're in Europe or Asia and you just link up with the local networks. I've kept my data turned off unless I need it so my phone bill this month is $25 which is pretty amazing. The only caveat is that Google Fi is only available to those with Google phones. I switched to a Google phone from an iPhone and I've been loving it!

There are plenty of other cheap plan options, but I'll only mention the cheapest of the cheap.  Ting which lets you decide how many texts, minutes, and data you'd like per month and that way you are able to keep your plan very cheap. They say that their average phone plan is $23 per line per month. Definitely something to consider if you're not a heavy user and are always surrounded by wifi. Another great option is Mint Sim that lets you pay $35 for 3 months, which comes out to $11.67 a month. That's dirt cheap and you actually get a fair amount of data and some of the other good stuff. Unlimited talk, text, and 2GB of 4LTE a month. There are also other options for more data but they are slightly more expensive, definitely still pretty cheap though!

So there you have it! We now pay around $75 a month, which is $900 a year so we're saving around $1000 just from switching to a cheaper phone plan. It's definitely not for everyone and if you don't have wifi at work and at home it makes it kind of impossible to be comfortable with a light data plan. Also, if you live in a rural area you may not get great service with these but it's worth a shot. I do like feeling a bit more disconnected and at times avoiding using my phone because I don't feel like using my data. That just means that when we're out somewhere for dinner I pay more attention to the conversations that we're having and spending less time mindlessly browsing the apps and the web. 

What kind of phone plan do you have? Do you like it?

June Catch Up

Hey guys, I feel like I've slacked a bit around here. That might be because we've had some out of towners visiting and things got a bit busy on the weekends. Things have since calmed down so I'm back with a June catch up!

Watching -  For some reason I haven't had time to watch anything in depth lately! But I've been slowly but surely getting through The Handmaid's Tale which is such an awesome show. If you liked the book I highly recommend it. I'm also watching The Bachelorette, if you know me you'll know that I watch every single season so I couldn't miss this one. I liked Rachel when she was on The Bachelor and I'm so excited for her to meet someone special :)

Reading - I'm on a reading roll right now (hopefully I don't jinx it by mentioning it lol) so I've been getting through books pretty quickly. I'm currently reading Snow Hunters by Paul Yoon and I'm not far enough into it to know how it's gonna turn out. The writing is beautiful and the book isn't too long so that sounds like a recipe for success.

Listening To - I've been listening to a lot of podcasts! Okay not a lot, that's a lie, but a couple of solid ones (in my humble opinion). I know I've recommended Call Your Girlfriend before but it's an awesome podcast that I always listen to. I also listen to NYT Book Review to get some scoop on good books, and finally I just got into Death, Sex & Money which has been entertaining so far. Another excellent podcast is Strong Opinions Loosely Held, it's one of my favorites.

Doing - Waiting for Alex to get home from work so he can help carry our new mattress up the stairs! Yes, we cracked and got on the "mattress in a box" bandwagon that's heating up right now. After doing endless research about all of the companies we narrowed it down and finally got a new one. If you're interested in that I can share my online mattress shopping experience!

Planning - All of the recipes that I will make with my newly acquired Crock Pot, seriously it was like $25 on Amazon and since we left ours behind when we moved to New York I was beginning to miss it. I went on a recipe searching spree and I found so many delicious sounding ones. If you have a great Crock Pot recipe that you like to make please share with me so I can continue bringing tasty lunches to work!

Wanting - To get a high yield savings account. I've been looking up a lot of money saving tips and tricks and I feel like high yield savings accounts are a pretty easy step to increase savings. I know there are a lot of them to choose from and it's tough to know which ones are the best but I've been doing a bit of research online and I think I'm pretty close to finding the one!

Loving -  Gin and tonics. Whenever it comes to getting well drinks and all of that I never know what to get. I finally tried a gin and tonic and absolutely loved it, they are so tasty! I know I sound like I have a problem but seriously, where has gin been all of my life? I feel like I've been missing out.

What's new with you? What's your favorite mixed drink?

May 2017 Reading Wrap Up

May was a decent reading month for me and I finally feel like I'm out of the reading slump that I've been in for a while. These book are all pretty random and different so maybe switching things up is the way go to.

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Ngyen - (4/5) This is a Pulitzer prize winner from 2016. Having previously been slightly disappointed by All The Light We Cannot See I was a bit worried about how this one would turn out. To my delight this book was filled with dark humor and an incredible storyline. I haven't read any books that had Vietnamese characters so getting a glimpse into their history and experiences was very interesting and made my reading that much better.

How To Be A Woman  by Caitlin Moran - (3/5) I've read her other book before (How To Build A Girl I think it's called) and I didn't like it. I was feeling iffy about this one but since it's a nonfiction I thought it would be better. For the most part it was a pretty funny read and I could relate to it in some ways. On the other hand this book had a lot about her childhood and it felt like I was reading her other book because a lot of the stuff that she always talks about turns out very similar. Near the end I really tried to work through it to finish it.

The Violet Hour by Katherine Hill - (4/5) This is a random book that I picked up, I didn't know what to expect since I've never heard anyone any anything about it. It was a family drama type read, and it felt like a mix of the HBO show 6 Feet Under and a book called This Is Where I Leave You. I was really into this book and finished it in 2 days. Very well written and the family drama wasn't as those annoying kinds (The Nest).

California by Edan Lepucki - (4/5) I don't really read a lot of dystopian novels but when I come across hidden gems I end up really liking them. This book was great and had an interesting "cult" aspect to it which made it that much more interesting for me. I think that if you liked Station Eleven you would enjoy this read too. This is the first book I've read by this author but she recently came out with another book so I'm looking forward to reading it too.

Have you read any good books lately?

Favorite Budget Products

I like high end products from time to time, but what I like even better is some budget steals that do the trick. These are all under $10 but have been working out pretty great for me so far! They're not the best of the best in each category but I've been pretty pleased with them and will continue to repurchase.

  1. Acure Dry Shampoo - This brand is awesome if you care about organic ingredients and cruelty free products. I'm also currently using their shampoo. This stuff comes in a glorified shaker style container so you have to sprinkle it in your hair or on your hand. I just sprinkle it on my hand and work it through my hair. Very pleasant stuff and is super easy to use. 
  2. NYX Retractable Eyeliner - Just recently I've gotten into eyeliners, as I had no idea how to work them before. I find that retractable ones are easier for me to use so I decided to go with this no frills option. It applies ok, not super smooth and not super bumpy. Definitely not the best of the best when it comes to eyeliners, but it claims to be waterproof and is easy to remove with my makeup remover at the end of the day so there isn't much more that I could ask for.
  3. Not Your Mother's Beach Babe Texturizing Spray - This stuff smells amazing, like you're on a tropical beach drinking a piƱa colada. It works well too, my hair isn't as super frizzy as it would normally be and has a decent amount of volume. I've never come across a super effective salt spray and I like to use it for pleasant smell and to add a bit of bounce. 
  4. St. Ives Fresh Skin Apricot Scrub - This is an oldie but a goodie. I've repurchased it numerous times and it works great. It is on the rougher side so I use it a couple of times a week but it smells amazing and the price of it really can't be beat. 
  5. Alba Botanica Very Emollient Body Lotion - I'm a fan of body lotions with a pump because if you get a big enough jug of it you won't have to repurchase it for a while. This stuff has been great, and you can choose from scented and unscented versions. My skin tends to be on the dryer side and this stuff does the trick in keeping it moisturized. 

What are your favorite budget products?
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