Saturday, December 15, 2018

Doctor of Philosophy

I successfully passed my PhD defense yesterday! And best of all, my committee passed me with no revisions, so I'm done as soon as I submit my paperwork on Monday! The defense itself went very smoothly, about as well as I could have hoped for. I was a little nervous before the actual presentation, but I felt prepared, and once I got going, the nerves dissipated. I was able to start strong and finish strong. During the closed session, my committee mostly asked clarification questions about my research, which I was able to answer easily. After my defense, one of my committee members (a more junior faculty member) told me that he thought it was one of the best defense presentations he had ever attended, which made me feel proud. Overall, I'm very happy with the end result, and I'm glad I can finally close this chapter of my life.

Right now, everything still feels pretty surreal. The best way I can describe it is by comparing it to that feeling you got when you lost a baby tooth as a kid. Your tongue keeps returning to feel the gap over and over again, because it's so strange and unfamiliar. I think it'll take a while for the reality to sink in. Yesterday after my defense, J and I got dinner with a couple friends who attended my presentation to support me. Then he and I went to our favorite cocktail bar to enjoy a celebratory drink. Today we're throwing a post-defense/holiday party, so hopefully things will feel more real after that.

For the rest of this month and also next month, my plan is to be a total bum! I'm going to sleep in every day, do all of the fun stuff that I've wanted to do but didn't have time for before, watch way too much TV, read all the books on my reading list, catch up on the maintenance/chores that I've let slide for the last couple months, and clean up our place. Also, I want to lose my extra dissertation weight and get back in shape (in time for J's family ski trip in early January). There's a bunch of other stuff I need to do before I start my new job in February, but I'll worry about that in a couple weeks.

Have a great weekend!

Monday, December 10, 2018

Exciting News

I have a couple big announcements. First of all, my PhD defense is this coming Friday! If all goes well, I will be done with grad school forever (minus paperwork and hopefully minor revisions). This has been a long time coming, and I'm really excited. So far I'm not too nervous yet. My dissertation is done, my slides are done, and I already held a practice defense. For the rest of the week, I'm planning to polish my talk some more, make paper copies of everything for my committee, and figure out what I'm going to do for refreshments. We'll see if the nerves hit later.

In other news, I accepted a job offer! The whole thing came together really quickly, much faster than I had anticipated. I did three rounds of interviews with this company in the span of about a month. It was grueling, but I'm pleased with the end result. The work sounds interesting, challenging, and flexible in scope. It's a bit of a stretch for my current skill set, but I think it'll ultimately be a good move for me career-wise. The compensation is fair (maybe even more than fair), and the benefits are good. The only downside is that first I have to relocate to a small East Coast city for 6 months of training. Then I'm moving to the Seattle area! (I'm already dreaming about all the hiking, rock climbing, and skiing I'll be doing in the Pacific Northwest...)

Last but certainly not least, J is going to move with me after all! When we had talked about it before, he thought it wasn't a good time in his career to make a move just yet. However, after we came back from our trip to Europe, he said that he had given it a lot of thought, and he felt that it was only going to become harder to move later on. We still need to work out the exact details and timing, but I feel really good that he agreed to come with me. Right now our tentative plan is to do long-distance for 6 months and then move together. I think long-distance will definitely be challenging, but at least we have a target end date.

You know, I'm amazed how everything came together in the end. Just a month ago, I was stressing out about well, everything. Now it's all pretty much settled. I feel like there's a lesson in here somewhere. I should learn to trust that things will work out, because they usually do. Now I'm looking forward to starting a new chapter of my life.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

November 2018 Budget

November has been an extremely eventful month! Between wrapping up my dissertation, submitting it to my committee, traveling to Europe, getting sick, doing interviews, and trying to schedule my PhD defense (it's in 2 weeks!), I've been very busy. I've also been (over)indulging in retail therapy. I already know I tend to shop more when I'm stressed out, so that was definitely a factor, plus I picked up a little souvenir while I was in Europe. At least most of my purchases were pretty practical. Let's take a look at what I bought this month.

Banana Republic washable merino wool boyfriend cardigan (burgundy red XXS) - I love this cardigan! If my size wasn't sold out, I would buy it in more colors. It's the perfect boyfriend fit without being oversized. It's long enough to cover my bum but not so long that it overwhelms my frame. I like the lightweight merino and the fact that it's washable. I've only tried to wash it once so far in cold water and laid it flat to dry. It turned out fine albeit slightly wrinkled afterwards. Next time I will most likely handwash and use a cool iron. If you like cardigans as much as I do, I highly recommend it. I found it to be true to size. Originally $78. Paid $40.91.

Everlane the authentic stretch mid-rise skinny (washed black 24) - As I mentioned in this post, I've been looking for a new pair of grey skinny jeans. I tried to find something at the usual suspects (Nordstrom Rack, Amazon, J.Crew), but nothing fit my criteria (true grey, no weird embellishments, small ankle opening, mostly cotton, 28"-29" inseam). Then I read Kimi's review of the new Everlane skinny jeans, and I immediately ordered a couple pairs to try out. I chose the mid-rise, which turns out to still be relatively high rise. Also, the sizing is inconsistent between different colors. The washed black colorway seems to run large. I ordered both the 24 and 25, and the 24 is a better fit (I wear 25 in most denim brands). It's a hair tight in the waistband (I'm a little overweight at the moment), but the 25 was too large overall and felt loose/stretched out. However, I later ordered the true black in size 24, which I couldn't even get over my hips. If I were to order another pair, I would probably go with my true size 25. The interesting thing about these is that they look like real jeans, but they kind of feel like yoga pants. They're not stiff at all and are actually pretty stretchy. The material is not the thickest, but it's also not paper thin. I think they're worth a try if you're in the market for denim. Originally $68. Paid $50.

(not pictured) Chelsea28 jacquard side button tank (grey micro XS) via Nordstrom Rack - This tank was an impulse purchase. I went to Nordstrom Rack to return a few things and then of course had to browse around afterwards since I was already there. I've been looking for some pretty camisoles and tanks to wear under cardigans, and this seems to fit the bill. The pattern kind of reminds me of a Chinese qipao. I was surprised to see that it was made of 100% rayon (I had assumed it was polyester), so I do have to be a little careful in terms of laundering. Originally $49. Paid $6.12.

J.Crew tartan scarf (red multi) - I purged the majority of my scarves before I moved in with J, so I only have one winter scarf. I wanted a new plaid scarf that would go well with my winter coats, and this fits the bill perfectly. This white, red, and green Christmas plaid somehow "matches" my red lady day coat, my camel cocoon coat, and my navy peacoat. It's also very soft and pretty big. Originally $59.50. Paid $30.61.

J.Crew ribbed beanie with faux-fur pom-pom (ivory) - I bought this hat for my trip to Europe and ended it wearing it every single day. It's not the warmest, so I wouldn't wear it in the depths of winter, but it did keep my head warm when the temperatures were in the high 30s to low 40s. It fits my big head pretty well, and I love the large faux-fur pom. Originally $39.50. Paid $20.32.

Madewell medium perfect leather belt (pecan S) - I've been wearing my cognac leather pieces nonstop, so I thought it would make sense to also add a cognac leather belt. I instantly knew I wanted to buy Madewell's version, because it matches my bag perfectly. I'm really happy with the purchase. The leather is very soft, and the width of the belt is perfect. Originally $45. Paid $36.75.

Longchamp large le pliage neo (black) - I purchased my first Longchamp Le Pliage Neo back in April 2014 (when it was still called the Planetes), and it instantly became my everyday tote bag. I used it for school, and I also used it for conferences/interviews/career fairs. Earlier this year, I noticed that it was starting to look shabby after 4 years of nearly daily use. The bottom had little holes, there were permanent scratches on the nylon body, and the leather trim was dotted with tiny teeth marks (my ex-fiance's cat used to like chewing on the corners for some reason). I decided to replace it after graduation. However, when I found out that we were going to Europe, I researched the price of buying it overseas and realized that it was considerably cheaper. For example, the bag costs US$190 while it only costs €115 right now. The current exchange rate is €1 ≈ US$1.13, so that comes out to about US$130. Once you factor in the VAT refund (varies by country but usually 10-12%), it definitely made more financial sense to buy it in the Netherlands versus in the US. My VAT refund ended up being €12, which has already gone back on my credit card. I was worried about going through the VAT refund process, because I had never done it before, but it ended up being pretty fast and easy with GlobalBlue. They do take a cut, but they also streamline the process, so I'm okay with it. Anyway, now I have a great souvenir from my trip! Originally $190. Paid $117.13.

RETAIL: $529.00
PAID: $301.84 (57.0% MSRP)

SUMMARY: During Q2, I spent $453.82. During Q3, I spent $549.52. For Q4, I have spent $776.48 to date, making me officially over budget for the year, and there's still December left.

How did you do on your budget this month? And have you ever bought a handbag in Europe, because it was cheaper?

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving (and Thanksgiving Sales)

Happy Thanksgiving, America! I am back from my European vacation just in time for the holidays. Perfect planning, I know. My trip to Amsterdam and Bruges was amazing! Unfortunately, I got sick while I was there, and I am still recovering. Since we don't have any special plans for Turkey Day, I'm going to just veg out for the rest of the week. When I feel better, I'll put together a post about what we saw/did/ate!

Obviously, Thanksgiving is synonymous with eating too much food and shopping Black Friday sales, but it's also a reminder to count our blessings. I want to take a moment to talk about what I feel grateful for this year. These are things I normally take for granted, but not everyone is as fortunate, so I should appreciate what I have. First of all, I am grateful that I am in generally good health, as are J and my parents. One benefit of being sick is that it always reminds me of how important good health actually is. With all of the wildfires that have happened, I feel grateful that I have a roof over my head this Thanksgiving. Not everyone is as lucky. I appreciate that I have had the opportunity to pursue a PhD, which is a luxury not everyone can afford. Also, I feel enormously grateful for the progress I have made with my mental health. I honestly can't imagine taking the trip we just came back from a few years ago at the peak of my anxiety. Last but certainly not least, I am grateful for J, my friends, and my family.


On a lighter note, here are the Thanksgiving sales I am most excited about. I confess that I already ordered a bunch of stuff. Probably too much actually, but most likely not everything will work out. (By the way, if I find any other exciting deals, I'll come back and update this page, so check back.)

BACKCOUNTRY // Up to 40% off select styles (plus 10% cash back through eBates). Backcountry is one of my favorite stores for outdoor clothing and gear. I am currently eyeing a new pair of climbing shoes for myself, although I may wait to see if Santa brings me some for Christmas. My pick is this hooded Patagonia down jacket, which rarely goes on sale past 30% off. If you didn't already know, I kind of have a love affair with Patagonia. I'm a big fan of their products and their company mission. I own the non-hooded version of this jacket and wear it all the time. In fact, it was the only coat I brought with me to Europe, because it's warm, lightweight, and packable.

BANANA REPUBLIC // 50% off with no exclusions through 11/24/2018 (plus 8% cash back through eBates). I own this merino boyfriend cardigan in burgundy, which I really like. I just ordered this strappy ivory cami, which I hope works out. I also like this washable silk cami and this longer open cardigan.

GAP // 50% off with code BLKFRIDAY and an additional 10% off with code TREAT through 11/22/2018 (plus 10% cash back through eBates). I love buying sweaters and PJs from Gap. This year they have some really great offerings in my opinion. I own last year's version of this 100% cotton cable-knit sweater. I also like this turtleneck tunic sweater and this popcorn sweater. I ordered these flannel shorts and these soft joggers.

J.CREW // 40-50% off your purchase with code GOLDENDEAL through 11/22/2018 (plus 6% cash back through eBates) 50% off your purchase with code TGIF through 11/24/2018 (plus 10% cash back through eBates). I bought this faux-fur pom-pom hat right before my trip and ended up wearing it every single day. It's not the warmest, but it makes me feel cute and fits my head really well. I ordered this Christmas plaid scarf. On Black Friday morning, I also ordered this camel sweater-blazer, this fair isle sweater, these black jeans, this lace tank top, this ivory cami, and this striped tee. My other picks include my favorite coat (I own a previous year's version) and this longer camel cardigan.

MADEWELL // 25% off your purchase with code DEALWITHIT through 11/25/2018 (plus 5% cash back through eBates). Now is a great time to get their jeans or bags on sale. I bought the zip-top mini transport crossbody a while back, and I really like it. It was the only bag I brought on my Europe trip, because it's pretty lightweight and surprisingly spacious. I've been on a cognac leather kick recently, so I ordered this belt to match my bag.

NORDSTROM // New markdowns now through 11/26/2018. If it's more convenient for you, you can buy Madewell items through Nordstrom. They will price match as long as the same color/size is in stock. I love Nordstrom's return policy, so I buy through them whenever possible. I ordered this pearl-embellished tee, these glitter loafers (what can I say, I'm attracted to shiny things), and this faux shearling coat. I actually saw a ton of chic women in Europe wearing similar coats, and it makes me want one too.

NORDSTROM RACK // Extra 30% off clearance items and free shipping sitewide through 11/26/2018. I've been shopping at Nordstrom Rack a lot, because I frequently find really awesome deals. I prefer shopping in store for the best selection, but I realize your mileage may vary depending on your local store's selection. My favorite things to buy here are jeans, bags, shoes, and bras.

SOKO GLAM // 30% off sitewide with code SGBF18 (plus 6% cash back through eBates). Now is a great time to restock your favorite Asian skincare products or to try out a new one. I own and recommend the CosRX low-pH good morning cleanser, the Missha time revolution first treatment essence, and the CosRX oil-free ultra moisturizing lotion. I am thinking about ordering ordered the CosRX advanced snail 96 mucin power essence, the Etude House moistfull collagen emulsion, the Acwell licorice pH balancing cleansing toner, and the Dr. G brightening peeling gel set. If you decide to order, I'd really appreciate if you would use my referral link!

What do you feel grateful for this Thanksgiving? And what sales are you shopping?

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Life Lately

It's been a while since I posted about general life stuff! I find that I need to be in a certain mood to write this kind of post, and lately I've just been too busy/distracted to really sit down and collect my thoughts. The biggest thing going on in my life right now is wrapping up the PhD. This past month I have been working on a research paper that is based on part of my dissertation work, which I am submitting soon to the top conference in my field. The decision doesn't come out until next March, but I hope it gets accepted! Now that I'm done with the paper, I can finally start working again on the last section of my dissertation. I would love to wrap that up soon, so I can submit a draft to my committee before everyone leaves for the holidays.

Also, I started casually looking for jobs again, and by casually, I mean, I'll-apply-if-I-happen-to-come-across-an-interesting-job-and-if-it's-in-a-city-I-want-to-move-to,-but-I'm-not-really-looking-that-hard-right-now. I initially started the process last fall, but I decided to put it on hold, because it was taking up too much time and preventing me from actually finishing the PhD. I got 3 offers at the time, but I felt like I could do better and turned them all down. Hopefully, I don't come to regret that decision, haha. Then again, I'm not sure I want to start working right away anyway. Since I still have some savings from before, I wouldn't mind taking time off after graduation to be a bum, travel, and detox from the whole PhD experience.

You never know how things will go though. So I applied for a position about a month ago, and things are moving faster than I expected. I already did two interviews with the company, and they want to fly me out for a third in-person interview. I would still like to explore my other options, so I've been trying to put the brakes on. We'll see how that goes. Also, my job search is complicated by my relationship with J. Right now he and I live together in the same city. However, there just aren't a lot of good opportunities for me here, and I don't want to stay in the area long term. Ultimately I want to move to the West Coast, ideally California or Washington. We've discussed the possibility of moving there together, which he is open to, but I understand that it's not a good time in his career right now to make a move. So there's a lot of uncertainty. I worry about what's going to happen to us in the future if/when I move, and the whole situation is stressing me out. I want to trust that things will ultimately work out, but I really struggle with it since I have generalized anxiety. Anyway, thanks for listening (reading?), and sorry if all this is kind of a downer.

On a lighter note, I am going to the Netherlands and Belgium next week! J has to go to Amsterdam for work, and we decided to turn the trip into an extended vacation. Honestly, I could use the break, and I'm looking forward to checking out the museums, the canals, and the local architecture in and around Amsterdam. I'm also looking forward to eating some Indonesian food (Indonesia was a Dutch colony) and going to Belgium for Belgian chocolates, waffles, and beer! (Yes, I travel to eat.) I expect we'll be doing lots of walking in chilly weather, so I'm prepared to bring warm clothes and comfortable walking shoes. Still need to plan our exact itinerary and what to pack!

How do you deal with the stress of uncertainty when you're faced with circumstances that are beyond your control? And do you have any recommendations for what to see/do/eat in the Netherlands or Belgium?