Learning how to save, twelve (point seven five) years later

You’d think I’d have found time to write this while “snowbound in Tahoe”, but my priorities then were jigsaw puzzling, snowshoeing, and cooking good food from scratch, full stop. In truth, Stephanie did most of the jigsaw puzzle, because I had begun puzzling over something else: where to live once she had chosen Fresno State for grad school.

We’d already surveyed several apartment complexes, so we had a good sense of the quality and price points available. But still I found myself asking the question, what if we bought a place? How would 3 years of rent compare to the costs unique to buying a house (i.e. real estate agent commission, property tax, homeowner’s insurance, closing costs, etc.)?

My simplistic and admittedly flawed analysis (flawed because I assumed both a flat stock market and a flat housing market; also I didn’t foresee the extent of the renovations we’d take on, nor can I predict the impact they’ll have on a future sale) suggested that we’d throw away more money renting over three years than buying, even without any price appreciation. So I started looking at listings, got in contact with an agent, and we found ourselves in contract on a house while still in Tahoe.

The house we bought in Fresno
Our house in Fresno

Continue Reading

Snowbound in Tahoe

When I wrote that “we’re heading to Tahoe for the bulk of February, fulfilling a dream we’ve both had to be ‘snowbound’” there was no way I could have known that we’d be there during one of the snowiest Februaries on record, and thus, literally snowbound. And when blizzard after blizzard strategically hit right before each weekend, almost no one could come up from the Bay Area (including some friends who made a valiant effort to visit). We felt as though we had Lake Tahoe entirely to ourselves.

With the snow falling so heavily, there were some days that we didn’t even risk going out, so the jigsaw puzzle we brought, a 3000-piece Ravensburger, was our chief entertainment—aside from refilling the pellet stove and watching the snow accumulate. It was particularly therapeutic for Stephanie, who anxiously awaited a positive response from the grad schools she’d applied to. Her tension was released (and our future was decided) when she received word that she’d been offered a spot at her top choice, Fresno State.

Stephanie almost done with the 3000-piece Animal Stamps jigsaw puzzle by Ravensburger
Finishing the puzzle (while on the phone with her maman)

Continue Reading

Our Fresno Summer Salad

While we were in France, eating and drinking with gusto, Stephanie started to pine for the lighter fare she hoped I’d make when we returned home…to Fresno! Of course the home we returned to has no kitchen—only a refrigerator (because renovations), so for the last four weeks (and likely three still to come), I’ve been making a sort of insalata caprese alla California for dinner almost every other night.

It starts with a handful of arugula (enough to mostly fill a small disposable paper bowl while our things are still in storage). Sure baby kale could work, but arugula is smaller and more flavorful, in theory (somewhere along the way, I feel like its peppery bite has been breed out; note to self: grow my own). Then I halve enough heirloom cherry tomatoes so there’s nice coverage in the bed of greens. I cut 10 small balls of fresh mozzarella (aka ciliegine) into eighths and divide them between the two bowls. The tomatoes and mozzarella get a healthy grind of sea salt before I halve and distribute 10 pitted Kalamata olives. Each salad gets half of a sliced avocado, sprinkled with a little more salt, and a generous broadcast of pine nuts. I garnish with several coarsely chopped basil leaves, and then the whole affair is drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. It’s basically all of our favorite things together in one bowl. And with so much in flux right now, it’s comforting to end our hot and occasionally hectic days with something so reliably satisfying.

I’m famous! (in Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan)

It’s been a long time since I posted one of these, but a few weeks ago I received a comment on the aforelinked post that read:

…just saw your qr code on episode 1 of Amazon Prime’s Jack Ryan. It was on the back of Greer’s CIA ID pass. Still got it J!! —Baddie

At the time I was in the middle of a Wilderness First Responder course (more on that later), so I didn’t have the mental space to actually watch the episode, but thanks to Stephanie’s Prime Student account, I “fast-forwarded” through it on mute until I got to the scene where James Greer’s ID badge flips over as he berates Jack Ryan—around minute 26:35. (Note: I still haven’t watched the episode, so I don’t know what was really going on.) The only problem is that given my laptop’s resolution and/or the video quality that Amazon Prime Video sends to laptops, I wasn’t able to verify the QR Code as mine (despite my best efforts to enhance it).

Screenshot from episode 1 of Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan, showing QR Code on James Greer's badge
Hmm, is that my QR Code? Not sure.

Continue Reading

San Francisco Sunset

We got to Ocean Beach a few minutes before sunset on our last evening in San Francisco. When we moved from the Mission to the Sunset a year and five months ago, I didn’t anticipate developing such an affinity for the quiet streets and wild oceanfront of the city’s western flank. In search of a change of scenery and cheap rent, we landed there mostly because it was near SF State. Now I joke that I can’t see myself ever living east of 42nd Ave.

Stephanie and Justin on Ocean Beach in San Francisco, CA at sunset on January 31, 2019
Our “last” San Francisco sunset

Continue Reading