Graduated Learning: Life after College

I got my degree, I got a job…now what?

Updates and Link Love (powered by snacks, naps, and tired legs) July 13, 2013

Filed under: Boston,Food,Travel — Stephanie @ 10:11 am
Tags: , , ,

Inspired by many of you (especially NZ Muse, with her link loves powered by assorted things)

These past few weekends were awesome.  So I’m going to share about them.  And stay tuned to the end for some links to blog posts by other bloggers that I really enjoyed this week.

2 weekends ago, my sister and brother-in-law came to visit.  They haven’t visited in ages, so we packed the weekend with lots of food and fun!

Food:  Instead of taking them to the tourist traps (we considered them, but too pricey/overrated!), we took them to some of our favorite local restaurants.  I’ll share the list with you, but don’t all go there, or there will never be any room for me! 🙂

Tenoch Mexican, Delicious Mexican food (especially, in my opinion, their tortas and horchata)
Boston Burger Company (epic burgers with all sorts of awesome)
Trident Booksellers and Cafe (both times I’ve been there, I’ve gotten their Lemon Ricotta French Toast.  Also, they have Poutine!)
Flatbreads (you can’t go wrong with their salads, pizza, and beer (though we forgot to leave room for their desserts!))

Fun:  Friday was museum day:  Isabella Stewart Gardner museum AND the Museum of Fine Arts Boston!  We managed to get discounted prices by getting passes from the local library.  Quite a few of the libraries around here offer passes for free or discounted tickets to the area’s top tourist locations.  Definitely a deal.  Other discounts to try:  Your employer, AAA, or other memberships (especially teacher’s unions).  Walking throughout both museums definitely tired us out!

Saturday, we amped up our walking by touring Boston on foot.  Parked in Kenmore square, then walked down Commonwealth, Newbury, and Boylston all the way to Boston Public Garden, then through to Boston Common, where we started walking on the Freedom Trail.  We didn’t take an official tour, but followed the red brick/painted line all the way to Faneuil Hall and the Union Oyster House.  At that point, we decided it was time to head home.  But instead of taking the T back to Kenmore, we walked ALL THE WAY BACK!  This time crossing past City Hall, then going back through the Common and Garden, then taking the tree-lined (i.e. shaded) walkway on Commonwealth all the way back.

Yes, we tired ourselves out.

The following week included the 4th of July in Boston(we watched the awesome fireworks from Storrow Drive), then a drive up to Vermont for some relaxing.  Well, not JUST relaxing.  We also went for an early morning hike up (and down) Mt. Abraham (total time: 3hrs 36 minutes, which included a few stops along the way to enjoy the view), and then headed to the Farmer’s Market to walk around and enjoy some tasty food.  The rest of that weekend was really just lots of reading books and napping.  YES.

Speaking of books, I just finished reading Helaine Olen‘s book, Pound Foolish, about the dark side of the personal finance industry.  I’ll try to write up a review of that soon.  And I’m most of the way through Paddy Hirsch‘s Man vs. Markets.  I’ll review that as well once I’m done.

Oh, and if all that walking and hiking wasn’t enough, I’ve ramped back up my running.  So that might also cause some tired legs.  Though I have started wearing the ProCompression socks I got recently.  I’d heard good stuff about them, and compression gear in general, so I figured I’d buy a pair to try them out.  I tend to wear them after runs/to bed.  (and I wore them on the 4th of July, because the pair I got was so darn patriotic!) A few friends on twitter had asked what I thought of them, so here’s my short review:  it feels good to wear them after a run.  I don’t know if they’re actually helping with faster recovery as most compression gear is supposed to do.  But they do make my legs feel better.  (p.s. I bought them on sale, and apparently all their stuff is on sale for 40% off+ free shipping until August 4th using the coupon code JULY)

And now for the link love I promised.  Just two today, but I did read a lot of good stuff this week:

Krystal of Give Me Back My Five Bucks wrote about the latest idea discussed this week regarding paying for college.  The proposal:  Instead of taking out loans, you pay a percentage of your salary for the next 20-25 years after college.  Krystal touched on quite a few of the points I was thinking of, and the commenters have also made some really excellent points as well.  Check out her post!

I happened across a post from someone I hadn’t been following before, but I really liked it (and will now follow her :P) She wrote about how she’s gotten sick of the health and fitness “ambassador” programs.  If you’re unfamiliar with these programs, they’re basically blogging/social media networks that, at their core, are just groups of people interested in health and fitness.  But many of these programs connect with brands, and then the bloggers are given free stuff in exchange for tweeting/facebooking/blogging about the brands or products.  And so Carly wrote about how she wont be involved in any of this branded speech from now on.  I agree with her on many points.  As I’ve mentioned before, I love free stuff as much as the next person, and will review things that I like (and even some stuff that I’ve even gotten for free!), but I want to be open and honest and not have to conform to a brand’s marketing plan.  I tweet about brands I genuinely love, and review books I’ve read and products I’ve tried.  I have reviewed things in the past that I’ve experienced for free, but have always disclosed it, and I hope you never would think I’m trying to market anything to you.  I like sharing my opinions on things, so hopefully you enjoy reading them and know that they’re completely honest!  Please let me know if you ever think I’m not keeping up with this standard!

Well, that’s over 1000 words in one not-so-short update.  I guess I had a lot to say.  Maybe I should try to update more often, eh?

So, have you recently been a tourist in your own town?  Do you only check out the sites when tourists are visiting?  Have you tried any of the restaurants I mentioned?  Do you have another favorite restaurant to add to the list?

Read any good books lately?  Found any awesome links you’d like to share?

What do you think of Krystal and Carly’s posts?  Agree or disagree with their stance?

Don’t worry, more blog posts coming soon, including more of the Graduate’s Guide to Being a Grownup series, some book reviews, and plenty more.  I’m still blogging!

 

Soup-er Bowl weekend! February 6, 2013

Filed under: Boston,Fitness,Food — Stephanie @ 9:46 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

I realized that quite a few of my highlights for the weekend revolved around food.  There’s nothing wrong with that, right?

Well, let’s get going on this Soup-er Bowl weekend, then, shall we?

Friday:

Might as well kick off this Super Bowl weekend with some super soup, right?  My boyfriend made a nice big batch of Butternut Squash soup (using a recipe from America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook).  It’s a fan favorite, as we discovered when we hosted a party with multiple soups back at our housewarming a year and a half ago.  And it’s such a great soup for those times where you just want to curl up on the couch.

Which is what we did.  After seeing an ad for yet another installment of the Die Hard franchise (opening on February 14th, what a romantic Valentine’s Day!), I admitted to my boyfriend that I’d never seen ANY of the movies.  So we settled down to watch the first Die Hard movie.  Yippee-ki-yay!  Can I just say, Bruce Willis and Alan Rickman look like babies in that movie?!

Saturday:

The big event for Saturday was the MIT Club of Boston Annual Ice Skating Party. I look forward to this event every year.  It’s usually very well attended by fellow MIT students and Alumni.  We get the ice rink at the Johnson Athletic Center on campus for an hour with help from the MIT Figure Skating Club, plus we can stick around for the free-skate afterward.  We got in 1.5-2 hours of skating!  Lots of fun.

Check out the evidence of fun below.  I’m the girl in the brown fleece (you can see my new haircut from last weekend).  My friend Jeff is in red, and my boyfriend Aaron is the one in the navy sweatshirt and awesome hat.  This is just one of many photos taken by a fellow MIT Alum Clinton Blackburn.  You can see some more pictures from the event at his website.

IMG_1712

Sunday:

Headed to morning Mass with one of my good friends.  Especially enjoyed hearing the Second Reading, the very well-known “Love is Patient, Love is Kind…” reading.

Then I had some baking to do.  I was headed to a Super Bowl party later, and I had promised to bring some dessert.  So, with an insane number of very ripe bananas tucked away in our freezer, I knew it was time to make banana bread.  Two batches.  And even though a few of my twitter/blog friends disagreed on my decision to add chocolate chips to the mix, I ended up making 2 dozen chocolate chip banana muffins (plus 14 mini muffins…I had a lot of batter to use!)  I used the recipe for the batter from the same ATK Family Cookbook we got the soup recipe from.  They have an option for adding chocolate to the bread, where you add slightly less sugar (by 2 Tbsp) then add a heaping half cup of grated bittersweet chocolate to the dry ingredients.  In my case I used a half cup of semisweet chocolate morsels.  As for the baking time, I had to adjust it for a different pan (they recommend a loaf pan) so I baked the mini muffins for 15-20 minutes and the regular sized muffins for 25-30 minutes.

The results:

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

And I wasn’t kidding about a Soup-er Bowl!  My friend Jeff (the guy in red at the skating party) has hosted a Soup-er Bowl party for watching the Super Bowl for the past few years.  He serves up delicious home-made soups that always impress me.  This time we enjoyed a hearty chicken noodle soup.  So delicious!

Oh yeah, and I guess there was a football game?  And a power outage at the game?  I guess that happened, too.

What was your favorite part of this weekend?  Did you watch the Super Bowl (or the ads)?  Stuff yourself with snacks (and then recoup the next day)?  What are your favorite recipes to share with family and friends?

 

Birthday Fondue: A Delicious Tradition October 27, 2012

Filed under: Food,Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 4:09 pm
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For the 5th year in a row, we hosted a fondue party to celebrate my birthday.  Basically, we buy the cheese and the chocolate, and a few bottles of wine, and some bread and fruit to start us off, and then ask that our friends bring along something to dip in the cheese or chocolate fondue.  This year, my boyfriend included an awesome flow chart to help our guests figure out what to bring:

Fondue Flow Chart

I love hosting this party every year.  It’s fun to celebrate with friends and have different sets of friends meet each other!  And they’ve said how much they look forward to this every year 🙂  Plus I much prefer this to the birthday dinners out, where you invite a bunch of friends to a restaurant and at the end of the night there’s that awkward moment where everyone offers to pay for the birthday girl/boy.  Instead, friends come to my place, bring something way cheaper than a fancy meal at a restaurant, and get to chat and eat and have fun!

I prefer hosting this than any other potluck party.  Plenty of options, and as long as you know it tastes good in chocolate or cheese, you’re in the clear!

Suggestions for cheese fondue: bread, veggies, pretzels, crackers.

Suggestions for chocolate fondue: fruit, pretzels (again!), marshmallows, cookies.

Plus, if you think about it, it’s a pretty frugal party.  No one has to spend much money, and everyone gets plenty to eat!

We pick up cheese (and some wine) at Trader Joe’s.  We have a go-to recipe we use for the cheese fondue, though once we lucked out at Trader Joe’s because they had a pre-made fondue mix (all the ingredients in the linked recipe already added) and it was actually cheaper!  And just as delicious!

And chocolate fondue is pretty simple, too.  Chocolate chips, some heavy whipping cream, and then a splash of a flavorful liqueur (amaretto/almond, cherry, etc.) or extract.  Mmmmm.

And we’ve had the same electric fondue pot like this one for years.  It’s served us well for quite a few fondue parties.

So, have I convinced you that fondue parties are a frugal, delicious way to celebrate anything?  Do you host fondue parties?  Does it make you feel like you’re living in the 70s?  Are you jealous of the deliciousness?  Should I put you on the invite list for next year?  What are your favorite foods to dip in chocolate or cheese?

 

On not sweating the small stuff October 7, 2012

Filed under: Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 9:40 pm
Tags: , , ,

We’re often told not to sweat the small stuff.  And sometimes, it’s the small stuff that makes life that much better.  Grabbing coffee with a friend.  Getting pampered with a mani-pedi.  Going out on a double date with friends.  Or meeting up for beers at the local watering hole.

But at the same time, we hear the refrain from personal finance types:  Beware the latte effect!  Skip the salon!  Cook dinner at home!  Just order water or turn friends down!

It gets confusing.  On the one hand, I want to enjoy my life, and I think that, while there are plenty of things you can do for free, there’s lots of small stuff that does cost money (maybe $5, maybe $50).  But I don’t like having to stress about every expense.  Of course, all that money can add up.  All the little things you spend money on throughout the week (a cup of coffee, a few lunches, a cab ride or two) can start to make a decent dent in your wallet.

So, how do you weigh what’s actually important?  Or is it more important to cut out all spending when you’re in dire straights than it is once you’re on your feet and making decent money?

I sometimes feel guilty wanting to treat myself to something.  “I could put the $10 for this meal towards paying off my student loans”.  “Skipping the $4 ice cream sundae will probably help me lose weight and become a millionaire”.  I mean, I know that if I put that $4 into a savings account that somehow has an unobtainable interest rate, and I let it grow for 500 years, it’ll be worth millions.  But I also like going out for tasty crepes and hot fudge sundaes.

I go back and forth.  Some days I spend with abandon.  And by that I mean I go out for a few meals and buy a new dress.  Other days I force myself to walk away from a coffee shop or bakery.

So, which side do you lean to?  Saving every penny and aggressively saving and paying down debt?  Or do you treat yourself (or others)?  I’m wondering if it would help if I actually set a budget for “fun stuff” so that I’d know it’s okay to spend it.  How do you find the perfect balance and not sweat the small stuff?

 

Going out for Ethiopian food January 13, 2008

My boyfriend and I have restarted a tradition of going out to eat once a week. It’s fun to go out on dates, what can I say? We’d seen an Ethiopian restaurant and figured we should check it out.

We headed over to Addis Red Sea near Porter Square. The website is actually for another location, but the menu listed is pretty much the same, so I think the site applies for both locations.

We shared the Addis Red Sea Special Combo, which had Doro Wot, Doro Alcha, Lega Tibs, Zenge (Exotic Beef Stew), House Salad, and Gomen Wot (collard greens). They were all served on top of inerja. The links point to the menu pages that describe the different dishes (check out this wikibook or the menu for more information about what we had). We also ordered the lentil sambusa for an appetizer and shared a glass of Axum, Ethiopian honey wine.

The food was very tasty. Some flavors were a bit too spicy for me (I’m a bit weak when it comes to spice!) Total for the dinner for 2 plus appetizer and wine came out to $49. It was my turn to pay (we trade off for dinners out). This actually helped me save money and eat healthily the rest of the week because I didn’t want to spend any more money! So, sometimes dining out can save you money (if guilt works for you!)

 

A Matter of Taste: An evening of Fine Wine and Fine Art December 18, 2007

A while back (I forgot to post this!), I went to a wine tasting event at The Danforth Museum of Art. The weird part is that I don’t really like wine. It was really a bit of peer pressure. Well, one of our friends works there, and she told us all we should come (and that if enough of us went, we could get a discount!) I originally wasn’t going to go because it was going to be pricey ($45 with the group discount), and I wasn’t really interested in paying to eat just the wine accompaniments. I think it helped that my friends mentioned that there was going to be dessert from Finale Desserts!

So, we all got dressed up and headed to the museum for A Matter of Taste: An evening of Fine Wine and Fine Art.

The food was all very tasty, with a Mediterranean collection of food, a Greek collection food, and some fantastic cheeses. I tried different wines in the different rooms. My favorite room, of course, was the dessert room! They did a wine and dessert pairing: Quady Essensia, California with White Chocolate Mousse, Starbord Port “Batch 88” with Milk Chocolate Mousse, and 2003 Schmitt Söhne Beerenauslese with Coconut Cream Tartlet. They also had Toad Hollow Risque sparkling wine(love the top on it!) and Quady Elysium to try.

I thought all the dessert wines they offered were really tasty, and I was impressed at the pairings they made. The only wine I found outside of the dessert room that was as sweet as the dessert wines was in the International Room: Banfi Vigne Regali Rosa Sparkling Red. I’m sorry to admit that I still haven’t quite acquired the taste for wine, so I was drawn to all the sweet wines. I don’t mind other, not so sweet wines, but I’m still working on finding non-dessert wines that I’d be willing to have more than a few sips of.

Anyway, I figure, if anyone out there is looking for a few sweet dessert wines, they can at least start here and try them. I would have no idea how to figure out what to buy. So maybe it was a good idea to go to the wine tasting, after all!

Oh, and the art?  Very neat!  Some stuff is moved in and out, some is more permanent.  One temporary exhibition was Andrew StevovichSolitary Demons.  I liked how there was an array of different levels of work, that is, there was a pencil sketch, then a more detailed illustration, and then a final work.  One of the paintings on display was Subway Station.    I also really liked Pearce’s A Village Funeral in Brittany, 1891I also really liked Rani Matar‘s collection, in particular, Barbie Girl (found in the Aftermath of War collection).

 

My Trip to Nicaragua: Day 2: Masaya November 2, 2007

Filed under: Travel — Stephanie @ 4:21 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

Tuesday:

Like I mentioned in my last post about my trip, the hotel came with a complimentary breakfast! We could choose among a list of meals (some were more “American” than others, since the hotel is popular with business travelers). We all picked the Nicaraguan Breakfast (red beans, rice, scrambled eggs, cheese, corn tortilla, fruit juice, coffee). We checked out of the hotel, and off to a pharmacy to look for some aloe, as well as some more sunscreen. Due to our not-perfect Spanish, we ended up getting some diaper rash lotion that contained aloe. Close enough, eh?

Took a cab to get to the bus going to Masaya. At a couple of the stoplights, people came up to our cars, trying to sell us bananas, cell phones, birds, and baby turtles, among other interesting objects.

The bus (well, it was more like a van) to Masaya was a bit crowded, but we all fit in there pretty well.

We found a great hotel, Hotel Monte Carlo, which had rooms for $10 US per night! (You could splurge and get air conditioning for an extra $10)  The woman running the hotel was super friendly. She hailed a cab and made a deal with the driver for a trip up to Masaya Volcano National Park.

The volcano was AMAZING!!! It was like nothing I’ve ever seen before. The park rangers handed us gas masks because there was sulfur emitting from the active crater. I definitely coughed quite a bit before we put those on! We went all the way up to La Cruz de Bobadilla (The Cross of Bobadilla)…though I think there was a sign saying not to go up there! We read in a guide book that there were demon parakeets that lived in the volcano…they were able to survive even with the toxic sulfur gas, an interesting adaptation. There was also a dormant volcano that had been so for centuries. It looked very different: instead of brown and gray rockiness, it was green, grassy, full of trees and flowers.

Back to the city for a tasty buffet for only 38 Córdoba, which is about $2 US!

We wandered around the market for a while. I obsessed about what to buy. I knew I wanted a hammock and an ornament (or something I can turn into an ornament). Now before you think I’m some silly tourist, let me explain the ornament thing. I realized that a big part of decorating the tree at Christmas is remembering where all the ornaments came from. And since I also don’t have any ornaments up here (they’re all at my parents’ place), I figured this would be a good way to start.  I’m pretty sure we all bought hammocks.  M bought a few paintings as well.   We also grabbed some ice cream before heading out!

We relaxed for a bit at our hotel, and then ventured out to Lake Masaya, to see the sunset. It was beautiful to see the sunset over the volcano and lake.

We had a late dinner at a nearby restaurant. We were the only people there, and by the end, the guys working there had gotten ridiculously drunk and giggly, which was fun, cause some of us were getting giggly too!

M and L headed to an internet cafe to check on some things, and A and I headed back to our hotel to get a good nights sleep.