Monday, March 23, 2020

The Wedding that Didn't Happen

We had planned to get married Saturday, March 21st, but cancelled due to coronavirus, specifically, our concern for the older members of our family (fortunately, there are many of them) and the various recommendations, orders, etc., requiring seniors to stay at home in California, advising Americans not to gather in groups larger than ten, and requiring restaurants to close.

The transactional attorney in me had seen the likely need to cancel on the horizon and reviewed each of our vendor contracts in advance so as to understand whether we should preemptively cancel or allow the government's action to force the vendor to cancel on us. In almost all cases, the termination provisions in the contracts worked such that waiting for the vendor to cancel minimized our financial loss. So we waited. Here are the results:

  • Chapel and chair rental: full refund of our deposit
  • Officiant: no fee involved since the officiant-to-be was the groom's brother
  • Photographer: no charge*
  • Musician: full refund of deposit (contract explicitly provided for cancellation and refund in the event of an epidemic)
  • Restaurant: no charge (contract provided that restaurant would charge us $2,500 if we cancelled our dinner for 20, but because they cancelled first due to a government order that shut down the restaurant, there was no charge)**
  • Flowers: we ordered a bouquet and boutonniere from Farmgirl Flowers, who wasn't able to process our order cancellation because the company chose to staff customer service with a skeleton crew after San Francisco issued its shelter in place order; customer service was not taking any phone calls; by the time customer service replied to my cancellation request by email a few days later, they indicated our bouquet and boutonniere had already shipped and therefore we would not receive a refund, but a credit for a future purchase
  • Wedding license: our application fee was just $21 since we had completed a marriage counseling class at M's church, but it looks like we will need to re-apply because you only have 90 days to get married from the date that you file your application and pick up your certificate
  • Invitations: we used Paperless Post because we planned the wedding quickly, so we're only out of pocket $10.50 on invitations
  • Wedding bands: we'll hold on to M's wedding band for use when we eventually marry; at my insistence, I'm not getting a wedding band because I discovered M is making payments on the engagement ring
  • Groom's updated dress uniform and shoe rental: we're out of pocket here as M had to buy an updated set of medals and a new dress shirt and pants, and his rental shoes arrived at the house before the wedding was cancelled, however, we assume we'll use all of this when we eventually marry and he'll just need to re-rent the shoes
  • Bride's dress and shoes: we're out of pocket here as my dress (which I don't like, but chose as the best of the available options given that we planned the wedding so quickly) cannot be returned because it had been hemmed
* Our photographer didn't collect a deposit from us because we were booking her for just two hours. I asked whether we could make an arrangement to pay her some amount now for photos to be taken later and she declined because she has a day job that will keep her afloat. Still, if the world is still upside down in two weeks, I plan to circle back to her and make the offer again just in case she needs help.

** We understand that many restaurants are struggling to survive and plan to eat our first meal out post-pandemic at this particular restaurant.

We are one of a great many couples that have had to cancel or postpone a wedding this week. I use the word "cancel" here because, at this moment--after planning and unwinding a wedding all in the span of less than 30 days--I have no appetite to plan another wedding. Seems more likely we'll just get married at a courthouse. Time will tell.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Getting Married (or Not) During a Pandemic

Two weeks ago, an opportunity to get married at a venue that we love opened up. We jumped on the opportunity and managed to plan a small (~20 person) wedding and dinner for our family members to attend. The planning was going as smoothly as could be expected:

  • we used Paperless Post invitations because there wasn't enough time to print high quality invitations (the part of me that adores fine stationary was a touch heartbroken about this)
  • we found a photographer 
  • we tried to find a harpist, but ended up with a violinist and cellist to play at the ceremony
  • we ordered a bouquet and corsage 
  • we found a restaurant near the venue to host our group (after a few restaurants closer to downtown laughed at our inquiry because they were booked to the brim due to SXSW--of course, now that SXSW has been cancelled, these restaurants have circled back to us)
  • my family found flights and hotels located outside of downtown and closer to the venue (his family lives in town or within driving distance)
  • he updated his dress uniform to reflect his current rank
  • I found a great pair of shoes and a mediocre dress (a three-week planning period wasn't enough to order a real wedding dress)
And then SXSW was cancelled, the work conference in California that I should have been at this very moment was cancelled, and the US reaction to COVID-19 escalated.

None of our vendors have cancelled on us, as of yesterday, some family members began notifying me that they'd cancelled their travel plans and wouldn't attend. Ironically, the guests at highest risk (late 80s and 90s) appear to be the least concerned.

It seems like everything could change in an instant. I'm not confident that the wedding will actually happen.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Weekend in Tampa

This year, M wants to take a few weekend trips, the first of which took place last weekend when we went to Tampa to see Billy Joel in concert (a bucket list item for M), watch the Lightning play the Islanders, and visit M's old stomping grounds.

We got lucky in that we both had accumulated enough miles with Southwest to book free tickets. It's a short, easy, and direct (!!!) flight from Austin to Tampa. This meant we arrived in Tampa ready to hit the ground running, take a drive down Bayshore, and visit McDill.

The Billy Joel concert was great. M is older than me and the youngest in his own family by a wide margin, so Billy Joel's music features prominently in his childhood memories. While my memories of his music are not so clear or close to my heart, I still enjoyed the concert. By the time Billy Joel pulled out his harmonica for Piano Man, I felt downright sentimental. We had wonderful seats in the first row of the first tier, sitting right above the tunnel that connected the side stage to the arena exit. This meant that at the end of the show, Billy Joel and his band walked offstage and right underneath us. It was a fun and memorable moment for M :)

Fuzzy Billy Joel (bc I want to remember the great view from our seats)
The next day, we ate lunch at Ciccio Cali, which was by far my favorite meal of the trip. I had the Hot & Crunchy Bowl--seared Ahi, cucumber, jicama, scallions, soy sauce, avocado, crispy tempura onion, sesame seeds, and sriracha aioli on a bed of sticky rice. I'd love to eat like this more often!

That night we went to the hockey game. It's one of our favorite sports to watch live. M picked out another great set of seats. In the final minutes of the game, the Islanders were just one point behind the Lightning, so they decided to pull their goalie and make a run at a tied score. They didn't succeed, but the Lightning scored on the empty goal and won the game.

All in all, the trip was much more relaxed (and less educational) than the vacations of my childhood, but I really enjoyed the trip, appreciated that M took the lead on planning our activities, and came home well rested. Thanks M!

Thursday, January 23, 2020

New Dessert/Snack Recipes Tried in 2019

One of my 2019 goals is to try six new-to-me dessert or snack recipes. Mission accomplished!

1. New Orleans Bourbon Bread Pudding

We got engaged just before Christmas, traveled to California for the holiday, and celebrated NYE at home with steak, brussels sprouts, and New Orleans Bourbon Bread Pudding.

M picked bread pudding out of my all-time favorite cookbook: America's Test Kitchen's Complete Cooking for Two CookbookTruth be told, I did not have high hopes. I mean... golden raisins? But I've learned to trust the recipe and the process where America's Test Kitchen is involved.

How did it turn out? A delicious vanilla custard. Golden raisins transformed into bourbon flavor bombs. A crisp, buttery crust. Y'all, it turns out I love bread pudding.

The cookbook includes a variation using chocolate chips in place of the golden raisins that I plan to try in 2020.

2. Peanut Blossom Cookies

My grandma had a habit of making these during the holidays, but I've never found a written copy of her recipe, so I turned to America's Test Kitchen's The Perfect Cookie 2019 (this was a magazine that was sold at Costco during the first quarter of 2019, not the current hardbound cookbook).

I made a batch of peanut blossoms because we needed a treat to gift to M's dad in appreciation for his help with a project. They turned out great--loved the addition of 1/2 cup ground, salted dry-roasted peanuts to the cookie dough.

3. Chocolate Turtle Cookies

I like caramel, so I thought this cookie would be a slam dunk. It's a chocolate thumbprint cookie crusted with toasted pecans and filled with caramel. That I didn't like. I don't have the words to account for this--was it holiday fatigue? Maybe, but this recipe is not on my repeat list.

This recipe can be found in America's Test Kitchen's The Perfect Cookie 2019 (this was a magazine that was sold at Costco during the first quarter of 2019, not the current hardbound cookbook).

4. Peanut Butter Cup No Churn Ice Cream

We have been debating using an old gift card to purchase an ice cream maker for over a year, but we don't have space to store any additional small kitchen appliances. A discussion of no churn ice cream on the America's Test Kitchen Instagram account has solved our problems. Easily the best ice cream I tasted in 2019 (and I have ready access to Bluebell!).

This recipe can be found on the America's Test Kitchen app.

5. Wheat Thins w/TJ's Everything but the Bagel Seasoning

I made Smitten Kitchen's Homemade Wheat Thins numerous times this year. Easy. Tasty. A great way to use up some whole wheat flour that had been sitting in my pantry a little too long. I love the addition of Trader Joe's Everything but the Bagel seasoning.

6. Confetti Cookies

They scream celebration. I look forward to resurrecting Smitten Kitchen's Confetti Cookie recipe when/if I have little kids in the house at some point in the future.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Stretch Goals


One of my exercise goals for 2019 was to make time to stretch for at least five minutes on one hundred days. Mission accomplished (albeit a tad late--I didn't finish my 100th stretching session until today).

I'm a bendy person by nature. I plopped down into a full center split as a toddler and never looked back. Sure, I had to work on developing strength to support my flexibility, but flexibility itself hasn't been something I've worked at in a long time.

This changed once I started spinning thanks to a helpful nudge from Peloton in the form of a prompt to begin a five-minute post ride stretch after every ride. I'll probably never be as limber as I once was, but I feel better now that I'm stretching again.

Speaking of "stretch goals," in 2020 I plan to tend to the (many!) 2019 goals that weren't completed timely and stretch to complete the goals listed under my 2020 tab (and copied below), which include some items that are less practical than in years past on account of my recent engagement to M.
  1. Engagement photos
  2. Plan wedding
  3. Plan 1 date night per month
  4. Finish pre-wedding counseling @ M's church
  5. Prepare for baptism
  6. 2,020 miles cycled on my Peloton
  7. 400 cumulative Peloton cycling classes
  8. 250 cumulative Peloton stretching classes
  9. 100 cumulative Peloton strength classes
  10. 100 cumulative Peloton meditation classes
  11. 12 yoga classes
  12. 12 barre classes
  13. 15lb weight loss (resulting in weight of 120lbs)
  14. Vegetarian Mondays
  15. Trip to Joshua Tree
  16. Birthday trip/honeymoon
  17. Big, out of town concert
  18. Max out 401(k)
  19. Max out 437
  20. Hit net worth milestone
  21. Earn $25k side hustling
  22. Finish IPL series
  23. Build out/use Skinceuticals skincare routine
  24. Finish future family member's Bucilla stocking
  25. Take four dance classes w M
  26. Pass CFA Level I exam
  27. Pass CIPP exam
  28. Attend two work conferences
  29. Finish reading PE treatise
  30. Apply for adjunct position
  31. Read 12 non-fiction books related to investment management and private equity
  32. Call grandfather at least 1x/month
  33. Create tutoring modules
  34. Interview Stanford applicants
  35. Mentor law student
  36. Repair weather stripping 
  37. Paint garage
  38. New auto insurance
  39. Update personal investment strategy

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Peloton: 200 Rides In

In April 2019, I wrote about completing my 150th ride or cycling class on the Peloton I purchased in August 2018. In early December 2019, I finished my 200th ride.

Generally, rides 151 - 200 were shorter and less intense than the first 150 in the aggregate. I've included some data points below:

Rides 1-150

  • Average length: 42.33 minutes 
  • Average output: 304.99 
  • Average distance: 12.24 miles 
  • Average calories burned: 390.53 kcals 

Rides 151-200 

  • Average length: 35.10 minutes 
  • Average output: 227.32 
  • Average distance: 9.73 miles 
  • Average calories burned: 290.22 kcals 

What happened? Something is wrong with my knee. I injured this same knee in a dance performance in college and had a surgery to repair it. The repair has held through regular exercise and even a few half marathons, but started giving me trouble for the first time in 2019. I visited the ortho for insight and ended up with an X-ray and cortisone shot. The doctor indicated that this sort of problem could require exploratory surgery that's unlikely to be a success and that it's best to hold off. This is discouraging, especially since cycling is viewed as pretty low impact. As a result, I've reduced the intensity of my workouts in order to avoid pain.

Still, a workout doesn't need to be perfect to be worth doing. The big win here is that I'm exercising consistently and I've added regular stretching to the routine. Over the course of 200 rides, I've cycled 2,313 miles. I'm hoping to complete my 400th ride by the end of the year. Onward!