What the Belle is… a Circuit Breaker

Given all the DIY electrical stuff we’ve done in our home like installing this in our office and a chandelier similar to this in our dining room, I feel like I’m pretty familiar with circuit breakers. Each project involves a lot of me running up and down our back stairs and flipping a bunch of switches until I get the one that turns off the light we’re working on while Roberto waits patiently at the top of a ladder. Safety first kids!

If there is too much electricity flowing through a building’s wiring, the circuit breaker shuts off power to protect the home from any damage until the problem can be diagnosed and fixed.

In the finance world, a circuit breaker is essentially the same thing. It’s a temporary halt in trading when a surge happens in the market i.e. big price swings. These halts occur at pre-defined levels for set amounts of time.

If you’ve been too caught up in Eagles’ historic win or the birth of Kylie Jenner’s daughter (guilty 🙋‍♀️) to keep up with the markets this past week let me catch you up to speed.

2017 was lit 🔥 for the equity markets. The S&P 500 (representative of the broad US stock market) was up almost 22% for the year and not only did the market charge ahead it did so with little volatility (i.e. not a lot of big movement up and down). In fact, the stretch between November 4, 2016 (right before the election) through last week was the longest period of time without a 3% correction since 1928. For context, since 1900 the stock market has historically experienced an average of three 5% corrections a year and one 10% correction a year, so to go over a year without even a 3% correction is incredibly rare.

The market showed no signs of slowing down as we entered 2018. In January the S&P 500 was up almost 6% on the month alone which was higher than any single month in 2017. Then Friday happened.

My team was on our way to visit a client out of state for a quick trip and as we landed we watched in horror as the ALL CAPS notifications began to flood in indicating that the Dow had dropped over 500 points.

Sidenote: The Dow is a more old-school index, but also tracks the US stock market. I don’t want to get too deep into the differences from the S&P 500 in this post, but generally speaking, it has fewer stocks (30 vs. the S&P’s 500) and is price-weighted as opposed to market-weighted.

By the end of trading on Friday, the Dow was down 666 points 😈. On Monday, the fun didn’t stop with the Dow swinging wildly almost 1,600 points from the day’s high to the day’s low. After recovering a bit, it ended down 1,175 points marking the largest single-day drop in history (the last one was 778 during the 2008 financial crisis). However, keep in mind that this marked the largest drop in points, not percentage. So the 778 drop in 2008 represented a drop of 7% while Monday’s 1,175 drop was 4.6%. The worst drop percentage wise was October 19, 1987, otherwise known as Black Monday, when the Dow dropped 508 points which represented a 22.6% single-day decline. It was this crash that led to the implementation of circuit breakers.

When the market started spiraling on Monday, our traders began to seriously wonder whether the decline would be severe enough to trigger a circuit breaker. We didn’t hit those levels, but I figured it was as good a time as any to brush up. While these levels were previously marked to the Dow, the S&P 500 has been the indicator since February 2013. FYI the decline percentages are determined based on the previous trading day’s closing price and all times are eastern.

Level 1 Halt (7%)

  • If the decline occurs before 3:25 pm, trading halts for 15 minutes
  • If the decline occurs at or after 3:25 pm, trading continues

Level 2 Halt (13%)

  • If the decline occurs before 3:25 pm, trading halts for 15 minutes
  • If the decline occurs at or after 3:25 pm, trading continues

Level 3 Halt (20%)

  • Trading is halted for the remainder of the trading day, no matter the time

What the Belle Is…SRI

The National Climate Assessment report released last week basically confirmed what we’ve known all along… human activity is the leading driver of climate change. Since it appears this administration isn’t going to do anything to combat global warming (quite the opposite), it’s on us to make responsible choices in our own lives and to elect representatives who are committed to action. We’re focused on finance over here so let’s talk about putting your money where your mouth is a.k.a. Socially Responsible Investing (SRI).

Socially Responsible Investing means avoiding investment in companies that could be considered harmful to our community and our planet. In our communities, this usually means “sin stocks” which include industries such as alcohol, tobacco, gambling, and weapons. For our environment, investors who seek to be socially responsible will typically exclude oil & gas companies or those known to have a large carbon footprint.

There is no set framework so you can be as broad or specific as you’d like. You might decide that you’re not opposed to owning Heineken which owns the Bay Area’s very own Lagunitas. Or you could choose to exclude companies that don’t have a woman on the board of directors.

Avoiding harmful companies is great, but you can take it a step further by actively investing in companies that are doing good. So for example, instead of just avoiding oil companies, you might deploy those funds into a solar company.

Then again, if you’re all in on sin here are some options for you ?:

  • VICEX – Like the ticker would suggest, you can now easily invest in your vices. Skip the craps table in Vegas and get in on a whole basket of “being bad.”
  • WSKY – Yes, you can now buy a whiskey fund which is probably more of a legitimate investment than my husband’s so-called collection.

Bullish On: October

Rabbit Rabbit ??! Happy November! Hope you had a great Halloween… if you’re still in the spooky spirit don’t miss my post on FANG Stocks. October was a whirlwind and I’m currently writing this on the plane to NYC so we’re not slowing down anytime soon.

Anywho, here are a few of my favorite things from last month:

Dirty John

I started this podcast on my walk home from work on a Friday and I swear I was done within 24 hours. There aren’t many episodes so it’s a quick listen and I promise you’ll be sucked in! The story revolves around a mysterious man who comes into the life of a successful Los Angeles businesswoman and her family’s efforts to get to the bottom of who this John character really is. Let me know if you have other recommendations for podcasts… I’m always looking for suggestions!

Rose Gold Fitbit Band

Hi, my name is Kathryn and I’m addicted to my Fitbit. I’ve had one kind or another for at least 5 years and love tracking my sleep, steps, etc. I upgraded to the Rose Gold & Lavender Charge 2 earlier this year but didn’t like how the plastic band looked with my business casual work wardrobe, so I picked up this pink leather band. Unfortunately, with my constant wear, the light color was filthy, so I found this one on Amazon. I not only love the way it looks, but it was a total steal at less than $15. Win-win! There are a total of 10 colors if rose gold everything isn’t your go-to.

Quilted Velvet Makeup Organizer 

I picked up this beauty on a recent trip to Target cause the blue velvet just felt so fall I couldn’t resist. I also love that it has a separate section for brushes, sits flat, and isn’t too deep… I was always losing little brushes at the bottom of my old one. Really love this dark romantic floral set too…

New Running Shoes

Ok, this one is more symbolic than anything, but I decided on a whim last month that I want to run a half-marathon and the first order of business was new shoes. The farthest I’ve ever run is less than half the 13.1 miles, but the race I’ve got my eye on is in early February so I have plenty of time to prepare. I’ve been using the Nike+ Run Club app for training and also trying to convince everyone I know to run the race with me. If you’ve run a half before and have any tips or want to join lemme know!

Sharing Your Salary

I found this story really interesting! When I think back to accepting my salary for my first job there is so much I wish I had known/done differently. I didn’t negotiate and had no idea how my offer compared to the position/industry at all… I was just excited to have a grown-up paycheck! I do feel like my peers are sharing information about their compensation much more than they were even five years ago and I think it’s a positive for bringing to light pay gaps between genders and those from varying socioeconomic backgrounds. On the flipside, millennials have a reputation for being the “participation trophy” generation so I think it’s a point well taken that just because your co-worker with the same title is making $XYZ doesn’t mean you’re automatically entitled to that amount as well. What do you think? Do you talk openly about how much bacon you’re bringing home with friends?

What the Belle is… a FANG Stock

Happy Halloween! I figured I’d pop in with a little something spooky today and talk about FANG Stocks, which are companies from Transylvania ?.

Kidding! FANG stands for Facebook (FB), Amazon (AMZN), Netflix (NFLX), and Google (GOOG) a.k.a. how I spend my Friday nights. (Google is technically Alphabet now, but stick with me cause FANA just doesn’t have the same ring to it.)

So why did we group these four companies into yet another financial acronym? Jim Cramer (this kooky guy), coined the phrase a few years ago to represent the four most popular and best-performing tech stocks in recent history. In the last 5 years, the four stocks are up between roughly 140% and 1,665% each as you can see below.

When we’re looking at a stock’s performance, it’s important to look at it in terms of relative performance i.e. how did it do compared to its peers. A return of 10% might sound great, but if you found out the market as a whole was up 20%, you might be bummed that you’re underperforming. On the flipside, you’d hate to find out your portfolio was down 5%, but if the rest of the market was down 15% you might be relieved that you were actually outperforming.

So how do we compare stocks to their peers? We typically will use an index which is a group of stocks meant to represent the industry or market as a whole. For FANG stocks, we’ll look at two major indices: the NASDAQ 100 and the S&P 500. The NASDAQ tracks the performance of 3,000 stocks, many of which are technology and biotech giants. The NASDAQ 100 represents the 100 largest stocks out of that 3000, so it’s no surprise that the FANGs are in that 100. It’s the green line on the chart above.

You’ve may have heard of the S&P 500 as it’s commonly referenced when we talk about the US stock market as a whole. It’s made up of 500 large-cap US stocks and represented by the orange line on the chart above.

As you can see, over the last 5 years, these big four tech stocks have outperformed these two indexes by as much as almost 20x (looking at you NFLX… and yes we’re still watching).

As the FANGs continue to charge higher and higher there’s been some concern that we’re looking at a repeat of the tech bubble bust we saw in the early 2000s. Others argue that today’s tech environment is very different as we’re on the cusp of integrating new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) into our daily lives.

Weekend Update

Feels weird to post about our weekend knowing so many people went to bed on Sunday likely reflecting on their own weekend, and woke up to their world turned upside down. I wrote this post on Sunday night before hitting the hay and as we crawled in bed we smelled smoke. I headed to the kitchen to make sure all the burners were off and we hadn’t left the oven on. We had no idea we’d awake to the terrifying news of widespread fires throughout the North Bay on Monday. We’re so grateful Roberto’s parents who live in the area are fine, but the number of people who have been displaced is devastating. If you’re looking for ways to help see here.

On Friday night we celebrated my stepdad’s birthday at local South Indian restaurant, Dosa, which was amazing! We had only been once before and were stuffed before we even got to the main course (yes samosas, yes lamb sliders, yes yes yes). The cocktails were excellent as well; I ordered their Gin & Tonic and Roberto got the Steph Curry, but we ended up trading ?.

I slept in again on Saturday which is super out of character. On weekdays nothing can get me out of bed (#chronicsnoozer), but on the weekend I’m typically up and at em at least 3 hours before R. Once we got going we went for a run down along the Marina Green and got to see all the setup for the Fleet Week festivities. After we whipped up a quick breakfast (let’s be honest, brunch) and got cleaned up we headed to my friend Marissa’s for the airshow. She is the hostess with the mostess and had the best view from her roof! I’ve seen the Blue Angels more times than I can count growing up in San Francisco and it never gets old or less impressive. The weather always manages to be perfect and it’s such a great weekend out.

After taking in the airshow we got in our grocery shopping and headed to the movies for the first time in a long time. Roberto loves scary movies and we really wanted to see ‘It’, but there weren’t any seats available at Kabuki so we headed to our local theater and saw ‘Battle of the Sexes’. It was so excellent!!! I wish I had daughters to take to it. I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t know much about Billie Jean King and her story, but it was so inspiring… highly recommend! ‘American Made’ is on our list too. We ended the evening with a nightcap at California Wine Merchant. Perfect little date night!

On Sunday, we got all our cooking done early and headed to another friend’s roof to take in one final showing of the Blue Angels (like I said… never gets old!!!). Roberto whipped up some Frosé using a recipe similar to this one and it was delish. The cherry on top of a great weekend? Postmating a Sunday night burrito from Tacobar… YES.PLEASE.AND.THANK.YOU.

Menu for the week:

 BreakfastLunchDinner
Monday 10/9K - Broccoli, Turkey, Green Onion, and Goat Cheese Frittata
R - Arugula, Fried Egg, Sausage and Roasted Potatoes and Veggies
R - Leftover Moussaka
K - Sushi (not in the original meal plan 😬)
K - Leftover Moussaka
R - Jerk Chicken Tacos (1/5)
Tuesday 10/10K - Broccoli, Turkey, Green Onion, and Goat Cheese Frittata
R - Arugula, Fried Egg, Sausage and Roasted Potatoes and Veggies
K - Leftover Moussaka
R - Greek Turkey Meatballs and Shepherd's Salad (1/4)
Jerk Chicken Tacos (3/5)
Wednesday 10/11K - Broccoli, Turkey, Green Onion, and Goat Cheese Frittata
R - Arugula, Fried Egg, Sausage and Roasted Potatoes and Veggies
R - Jerk Chicken Tacos (4/5)
K - Work Lunch
Work Event ❤️
Thursday 10/12K - Broccoli, Turkey, Green Onion, and Goat Cheese Frittata
R - Arugula, Fried Egg, Sausage and Roasted Potatoes and Veggies
K - Jerk Chicken Tacos (5/5)
R - Greek Turkey Meatballs and Shepherd's Salad (2/4)
Pistachio-Crusted Salmon (2/2)
Friday 10/13K - Broccoli, Turkey, Green Onion, and Goat Cheese Frittata
R - Arugula, Fried Egg, Sausage and Roasted Potatoes and Veggies
Greek Turkey Meatballs and Shepherd's Salad (4/4)Cal Game!

Whole30 Moussaka

We made this Whole30 fave moussaka last week and of course had leftovers since it makes a ton of servings and I may or may not have splurged on CMG Friday which is becoming our best/worst payday Friday tradition (yes we’re geeks and refer to our lunch spot by ticker ?). We gotta stop the bi-weekly burritos and the nerdy abbreviations.

Turkey Meatballs

Roberto made up his own recipe, but this zucchini one from Gina is excellent. I think he just put onion, oregano, Italian seasoning, and lemon pepper in his. He made his usual Shepherd’s salad with fresh tomatoes from our friend’s family garden (thanks, Roscoe!) and cucumbers, olives and feta. I eyeballed some greek yogurt sauce from this recipe.

Jerk Chicken Tacos

This recipe is from Gina’s first cookbook and I’m including it below. We made it in our latest obsession, the Instant Pot, instead of the slow cooker and it worked perfectly. It took about 8 minutes in the Instant Pot, but if you only have a slower cooker it will take about 2 hours on high.

Ingredients:

  • 1.5lb boneless skinless chicken breast
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 2tbsp Jerk Seasoning
  • 1tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice

Season chicken with a little salt and jerk seasoning then toss in slow cooker/Instant Pot with the liquid. She includes a mango salsa, but Roberto isn’t into sweet and savory so we’ve been sticking to our homemade aioli. You can whip up a quick mayo using light olive oil, an egg, and an immersion blender (recipe here). From there I use a 3 to 1 ratio of mayo to Sriracha. Roberto is obsessed and thinks it’s some magic secret sauce but it’s literally just a few ingredients. We have the mild version of the jerk seasoning and it’s still super hot so don’t forget some avocado to keep your tacos cool and creamy!

Pistachio Crusted Salmon

Another super simple easy recipe. We have this little food processor that has stood the test of time, but we’re debating upgrading our gear to a bigger processor like this or this. We’re pairing the salmon with asparagus and sweet potatoes for a complete meal.

Bullish On: September

I was thinking about a couple posts I wanted to squeeze into the month of September this week and how I only had a couple days left to sit my butt down and write them. But… it’s not September and I actually have zero days left… how the heck is it already October? Last month was a complete blur between a couple trips back east and some extra long work hours. We were finally home for more than 24 hours last weekend and it was delicious. We tried out the new sushi spot in our neighborhood, Mamanoko, on Friday night (miss you Umami ?) and after a week of sleep deprivation, I stayed in bed till practically noon on Saturday. After resting up, we headed out for a night full of sports (hoorah!). We headed to a pre-season Warriors game (which don’t get me wrong I love) and then to our friends’ house to watch the Cal football game (womp womp). On Sunday we got all our meal prepping done early enough to enjoy a walk around the neighborhood while the sun was still out and it felt like things were finally getting back to our usual routine. I didn’t get our meal plan up this week but it was a bunch of old classics: turkey burgers, moussaka, & Instant Pot salsa chicken tacos. We’ve got some birthdays to celebrate this weekend and I’m hoping we get some of that San Francisco summer weather to enjoy some Fleet Week festivities! Here’s are the things that kept me smiling last month:

Blessings

There are two versions of this song (the other one is here). I love both. Roberto listened to Chance the Rapper’s whole album beginning to end on our redeye flight out to D.C. last month. I can’t remember that last time I did that (JK I totally can and it was when I bought a p.h.y.s.i.ca.l. copy of Taylor Swift’s Deluxe Red album from Target #notashamed). We were completely awed by his SNL performance last season, but I never took the time to listen to more of his songs (I know these aren’t new!). So glad Roberto brought these into my life cause they’re bringing me major happiness and gratitude every time I hear ’em.

Simple Things to Simplify Your Life

We got two game changers for our kitchen last month. Number one: a tea organizer like this one. Ever since we did Whole30 we try to opt for tea instead of wine on weeknights. I feel like I pick up a new box to try every week and our cupboard was becoming a serious leaning tower of boxes and bags precariously stacked up. We got a little organizer and it has saved us so much space and made the cupboard way more organized. My favorite flavor currently is the TJ’s Organic Peppermint Herbal Tea. Roberto sticks with his tried and true “Well Rested.” Word of warning: we both tried the Yogi Bedtime tea and it gave us nightmares ?(I never remember my dreams). Freaky deaky stuff. Promise we aren’t crazy… I mean at least about this ?.

Item number two: this simple spice rack. We got this spice rack as a wedding gift and it’s awesome since it doesn’t take up too much space and all the jars not only came labeled but pre-filled. The problem? My husband really loves his spices so we had at least twice as many as fit in this rack. We were previously storing them in a drawer, but since they weren’t labeled on the top it was always impossible to find what you were looking for without pulling out every single bottle. We got this simple rack and I absolutely love it for overflow storage since I can see everything and it’s so space efficient. We didn’t even nail it in since we aren’t even using the pull down feature.

Living Proof PHD Dry Shampoo

I am a hardcore Drybar Detox enthusiast. I absolutely love the smell and always come back to it, but this Living Proof dry shampoo has me potentially changing my tune. It smells equally amazing sans the white powder that plagues brondettes like me. One thing I’ve learned? There are two general types of dry shampoo that accomplish different things. If starch comes before alcohol in the ingredient list (i.e. Drybar), that formula is best for soaking up that post-gym sweat/oil. If alcohol comes before a starch like Living Proof? That’s great for re-upping your volume. Never one to give up the search, I just grabbed a travel size version of the Ouai foaming dry shampoo so I’ll let ya know how it goes. If you have another fave, please let me know!

The Evolution of Women in Stock Images

One of my favorite feel good articles from last month which I’m needing more and more of these days…

Teeny Tiny Hoops

I don’t think I’ve worn hoops since junior high, but I picked up these sparkly ones in rose gold during the big Nordstrom sale this summer. I was digging them so much that I went back and grabbed these teeny tiny ones for my second piecing and I haven’t taken them out since… kind of has me wanting a third…

 

Weekend Update & Meal Plan

Phew. Last week was a short one, but it was a w.e.e.k. After being gone last weekend it definitely felt like we were running on fumes and just trying to keep up. Case in point: I called Roberto midday on Friday to discuss the impending tax deadline (and our unfinished return) and he told me his life was on fire ? and that he’d talk to me on Monday ? (just to confirm… he did speak to me this weekend). We’ll also be gone next weekend and the weekend after so for that reason we kept this weekend super low key. I had to pack up my whole desk on Friday since they are changing our seating layout and I literally found baseball cards from the Melky Cabrera/Brian Wilson days (such a pack rat). I, of course, had plans of going through everything deliberately but ended up just dumping things in boxes at the last minute so as you read this I’m probably frantically searching for my things. By the time I was done packing and Roberto was done with his work for the night it was 8 pm. We walked home which is our favorite way to decompress at the end of the week so we didn’t get home till 9 pm. We ordered sushi for the second time in five days and essentially crashed. We slept until 11 am on Saturday which was glorious and much needed. Once we got moving, we spent the rest of the day getting serious about researching our next big trip and meal planning & grocery shopping for the week ahead.

After finalizing our research the day before, we finally pulled the trigger on the plans for our next trip yesterday! We’ve been talking about it for almost a whole year and now we’ve got another adventure to look forward to. We have our major flights booked so now it’s a matter of filling in some of the little gaps. Roberto is the research king and puts so much time and energy into putting together the perfect trip and I’m so grateful ??. The points/price situation for this expedition so far is insane and I can’t wait to share the whole strategy with you guys! Once we got our itinerary in order and Roberto wrapped up some (non-travel agent) work we headed to Off the Grid Presidio Picnic to celebrate a friend’s birthday. I brought some spicy watermelon margaritas and I’ll share the recipe soon (my other favorite spicy marg recipe is here). There were endless choices for lunch, but we went with the lobster roll from Sam’s Chowder Mobile. I wasn’t sure it could compete with the one we get from Cousins at La Costa every year, but it was chock-full of lobster meat and didn’t disappoint.

Last week we didn’t meal prep and since we started calculating the cost of our meals it made me extra aware of how much we spent! For example, the salads we bought ranged anywhere from $15-20 ?. What made one of the salads so expensive was adding chicken which cost us $5-6 for the single portion. That’s how much it costs us for four servings of chicken from the grocery store, so you can guess how I felt about that one. Don’t get me wrong… I absolutely love splurging on a meal out, but I felt like we easily could have recreated a lot of what we purchased last week at a much lower cost. I’ll save those dollars for the beignets at Spruce thankyouverymuch.

Since we’re both out of town this weekend and I’ve got some extracurriculars this week we’ve only got three recipes on the dockett. Here’s the plan:

 BreakfastLunchDinner
Monday 9/11K - Broccoli, Turkey, Green Onion, and Goat Cheese Frittata
R - Arugula, Fried Egg, Sausage and Roasted Potatoes and Veggies
Skillet Chicken Cordon Bleu with Roasted Zucchini (2/4)Slow-Cooker Banh Mi Rice Bowls (2/4)
Tuesday 9/12K - Broccoli, Turkey, Green Onion, and Goat Cheese Frittata
R - Arugula, Fried Egg, Sausage and Roasted Potatoes and Veggies
Slow-Cooker Banh Mi Rice Bowls (4/4)K - Giants Game
R- Blackened Tilapia Tacos (1/4)
Wednesday 9/13K - Broccoli, Turkey, Green Onion, and Goat Cheese Frittata
R - Arugula, Fried Egg, Sausage and Roasted Potatoes and Veggies
Skillet Chicken Cordon Bleu with Roasted Zucchini (4/4)K - Movie Night with Friends
R- Blackened Tilapia Tacos (2/4)
Thursday 9/14K - Broccoli, Turkey, Green Onion, and Goat Cheese Frittata
R - Arugula, Fried Egg, Sausage and Roasted Potatoes and Veggies
Blackened Tilapia Tacos (4/4)K - Dinner at SFO!
R - Client Meeting
Friday 9/15K - NYC
R - Tahoe
K - NYC
R - Tahoe
K - NYC
R - Tahoe

Skillet Chicken Cordon Bleu

Roberto loves this recipe and I used to make it for him all the time. It only has a few ingredients and comes together really quickly so I’m bringing it back.

Cost/Serving: $2.66 (excludes all the stuff I have in my pantry… flour, dijon, etc. etc.)

Cals/Fat/Carbs/Protein: 258 cals/10g/6g/37g

Slow Cooker Banh Mi Rice Bowls

I think I am most excited for this recipe out of all of them. We’ve been into the chicken bowls we’ve been doing recently (Chicken Shawarma Bowls from a couple weeks ago and Chipotle Chicken Bowls from two weeks ago) and this is another spin on that. We hardly ever (if ever?) cook with Vietnamese flavors so I’m excited to do something new. If we weren’t pressed on time or were cooking for guests I’d make these spring rolls too. I bought the pre-shredded carrots and used our mandoline to slice thin radishes rounds (instead of matchsticks). I tried out the slow cooker feature on my Instant Pot and it worked like a charm. Word to the wise: I checked on the pork 4 hours in and it was plenty done so keep an eye on your meat cause it may not need the full 6 hours that the recipe suggests.

Cost/Serving: $3.49

Cals/Fat/Carbs/Protein: 353 cals/5.5g/46g/29g

Blackened Tilapia Tacos

I was first inspired by this recipe from Cooking Light, but the basil-lime mayo was a little more than I’ve got the energy for this week (I know it’s like three ingredients, but cut me some slack). So instead I’m falling back on this oldie which is super simple and has perfect seasoning. This is the only thing I don’t already have prepped, but it should be quick since all I need to do is mix up the spices and grill the fish (we make our own hard shell tacos in our toaster ovenusing the little corn tortillas from TJs). The jalapeño sour cream is delicious if you have time, but pre-made salsa and chunks of avocado are just as great in a pinch and what we’ll be going with. We’ve also got leftover carrots, radishes, and cabbage from the Banh Mi Bowls for some crunch.

Cost/Serving: $3.68

Cals/Fat/Carbs/Protein: 380 cals/11g/32g/40g

Budgeting 101: The Personal Escrow Account


escrow ∣ noun ∣ es·crow ∣ \ˈes-ˌkrō\

Escrow is a financial arrangement whereby a third party holds funds in safe keeping pending the completion of a contract or other obligation

When we talk about escrow it usually has to do with real estate transaction. When a buyer hands over their money they want to ensure the seller doesn’t receive those funds until certain conditions are met and the transaction is completed. This could mean that the transaction is pending until an inspection can be done or the buyer confirms that they can obtain a mortgage for the purchase (if you read my post on buying your first home you probably already had your pre-approval letter ?). The funds are deposited into an escrow account where an escrow officer is responsible for overseeing them until both parties agree that all conditions have been met and the funds can be released to finalize the transaction.

Today, the escrow officer in charge of your funds is your future self. And instead of setting these funds aside for a real estate purchase, we’re setting savings aside for lumpy purchases.

If you haven’t read my last post on budgeting, hop to it ?. Before we can get your escrow account all set up, I want you to have at least a rough idea on what your monthly and annual spending is. It doesn’t have to be perfect… your finances are a moving target! But we need to separate out those regular monthly expenses like rent, groceries, Netflix, etc. from items that aren’t so regular, but that we still need to plan for.

In my household, the lumpy items are:

  • Gifts ?// We tend to spend more on gifts around the holidays and in the fall (we’ve got a strong Libra ⚖️ & Scorpio ? contingency between my and Roberto’s family).
  • Haircuts and hair color ?? // My hair color doesn’t happen every month and even then I alternate between root touch-ups and refreshing my balayage so the cost varies. (I see color queen Olivia Fadda… worth every penny)
  • Big box stores ? // We consider big box stores to be places like Costco and Target. We don’t visit every month, but when we do we’re normally stocking up on household items in bulk or doing seasonal spending on holiday decorations.
  • Car registration & insurance ?// Once a year
  • Property taxes ?// Twice a year

Once you figure out what those lumpy bumpy items are at your house we’re going to come up with an annual total and divide by twelve to figure out what we need to set aside each month to ensure those obligations are met. I’m a fan of setting up a separate checking or savings account to house these “escrow payments”. Take it a step further and automate your life by having either this portion of your paycheck direct deposited to your escrow account or setting up a monthly transfer so it all happens without you having to lift a finger.

Now that ‘contract or obligation’ that we’re waiting to be fulfilled? That would be spending in any of those lumpy categories that you’ve been setting money aside for. Gotta pay your car registration or go on a Costco run? No stress… you’re ready for this. Reimburse yourself out of your escrow account and keep chugging along with your regular monthly budget. Your future self will thank your past self for planning ahead!

How do you normally handle quarterly, bi-annual, or annual expenses?

Cuba Travel Guide: Santa Clara

        Guys, I originally planned to lump in Santa Clara with my Cayo Santa Maria Post, but here we are. We were only in Santa Clara for a hot second, but there is a lot to see (and I’m long-winded) so I decided to break it up. I promise this is the last Cuba post!  Like everywhere else we visited (whole itinerary here), I wish we had more time, but I’m glad that we got a chance to see even a glimpse of Santa Clara.

Stay

Casa Itaca // There was a little mix up (surprise surprise) and our original host was double booked so she arranged for us to stay with her friend at Casa Itaca, which ended up being fabulous. The owners couldn’t be sweeter and their little boy, Ulysses, is adorable. In our short time with them, they prepared us an amazing breakfast and made all the necessary arrangements to get us transportation to the airport. Such amazing hospitality in this country!

See

A lot of what there is to see in Santa Clara are memorials or tributes to Che Guevara. The revolutionary led his men to fight and win the final battle of the revolution in Santa Clara, which is why the town is still known as “the city of the heroic guerrillas.”

Monumento a la Toma del Tren Blindado // This site marks the location of the final battle of the revolution. Che and his men used a bulldozer to remove 30 meters of tracks and subsequently captured the 350 men arriving on the 22-car train. The bulldozer they used remains as do the train cars which are littered with bullet holes.

Mausoleo del Che Guevara // The outside of this site contains a monument and other statues dedicated to Che and his life (this is the location of the first picture too). You can also visit the indoor mausoleum where Che’s remains are housed along with those of 29 other soldiers who were killed in an uprising in Bolivia in 1967. His body was returned to Cuba in 1997 and Fidel Castro lit an ‘eternal flame’ in memory of the fighter. There is also a small museum with Che’s personal belongings and diary entries which were interesting to see.

Parque Vidal // We wandered over to this main square after arriving relatively late on our one and only night in town. It was buzzing with young people who had all gathered to hang out (and get online). When we returned to the square the next morning, rather than teenagers we found old men chatting on park benches while small children took turns riding around in carts towed by goats. This little guy was yelling “Caballo!” to spur his goat along (which means horse for those of you who are little rusty on your español). The same phrase was muttered all day by our guide in Viñales, so it was pretty adorable to see a little cowboy in the making.

MelaÍto Murals // If you walk over to the Mausoleo del Che Guevara from Parque Vidal you can’t miss these murals along the way on Marta Abreu between Iglesia Santa Clara de Asis and the bus station. They are regularly updated by staff members from MelaÍto, a local graphic artists’ collective. When we were there, the majority of the artwork was focused on peace.

Mercado Agropecuario // We stumbled on this gorgeous little farmer’s market as we wandered around near the Monumento a la Toma del Tren Blindado. It’s down a tiny trail right off of park or you can go around the other way and find it at the end of Buen Viaje off La Cruz.

A couple others we didn’t have time for:

Statue of Che Guevara Holding a Child // If you haven’t gotten your fill of Che lore, you can head up the road from Monumento a la Toma del Tren Blindado to see this famous statue. There are mini statues within the larger one.

Teatro La Caridad // Wish we had time to take a peek at the beautiful interior of this theatre.

Fabrica de Tabacos // We visited a cigar factor in Trinidad, but this one is supposed to be excellent as well.

Eat and Drink

We arrived in Santa Clara at about 8 pm and had to be at the airport by noon the next day so we didn’t have a chance to actually visit any restaurants in town. We ate dinner at the resort in Cayo Santa Maria before departing and then had breakfast at Casa Itaca the next morning. The below are famous spots that were on our list, but that we didn’t have time for:

Restaurant Florida Center // Famed as the best restaurant in Santa Clara. Bummed with didn’t have the time to try this place out. The lush courtyard looks absolutely dreamy.

El Alba // Cheap prices (in CUP not CUC… you can read about the difference here) and the cartoon covered walls had this place on my list early on. Give it a try for me if you make it to Santa Clara won’t ya?

Cafe-Museo Revolucion // A little bar filled to the brim with artifacts from Cuba’s history and the revolution. Next time my friends!

Club Mejunje // This club is legendary and we were so disappointed we didn’t get to see it for ourselves.

La Marquesina // Another famous bar that we didn’t have a chance to patronize.

That wraps up our trip to Cuba! If you are thinking of going and have any questions please don’t hesitate to reach out!

Weekend Update & (No) Meal Plan

washington-dc-weekend-update-mlkHappy Wednesday! Hope you had a nice long weekend and survived the first day back at work yesterday! We took a red eye out to D.C. on Thursday night so we could spend some time exploring our nation’s capital before a wedding in Baltimore on Saturday so ours was extra long. I hadn’t been to D.C. since 8th grade and I definitely have a much better appreciation for the history of our country returning as an adult. To me, Washington D.C. is like New York City… I can’t imagine that it ever gets old or less impressive. When we saw people out jogging I couldn’t believe that all these amazing monuments are the striking backdrop to their daily workout. We also had the best meal of our lives in recent memory at The Dabney so overall I’d say the trip was a great success. As usual, we were short on time so we quite literally spent Monday morning running from monument to monument in an effort to see as much as possible and get a workout in (we were clearly inspired by the locals). In addition to being squeezed on our sightseeing, we had more recommendations on places to eat than time to visit (or room in our bellies), so I’ll summarize them all in a separate post.

The bride was from Baltimore so it was a treat to visit her hometown even if it was a quick visit. Their wedding was on the waterfront and it was a truly breathtaking view. I rented this dress and it was absolutely gorgeous, but also a complete fashion tape obstacle course (we made an emergency cocktail hour run to the drugstore in full black tie). We were only in Charm City for about 24 hours so we barely scratched the surface, but, of course, we managed to squeeze in a baseball game at the famous Camden Yards. Given that our stadium in San Francisco seems to be permanently fogged in, we were previously unfamiliar with the concept of watching America’s favorite pastime while soaking up the sun… what a treat! We’ve decided our goal is to hit all 30 (soon to be 31) stadiums in the US by the time we’re 50… think we can do it? We’ve hit 6 so far so we’re 20% there.

We got back late on Monday and despite the fact that I dutifully came up with a meal plan and grocery list on the flight back, we just didn’t feel like shopping by the time we left the office last night. Because it’s a short week, we’re just going to make it work with what we have in our freezer and buying meals out. My $16 salad for lunch yesterday definitely stung, especially since we started calculating the cost of our meals and I know I could have made the same thing for a fraction of the cost (I got the Peach & Goat Cheese Salad with Grilled Chicken from sweetgreen).

Sooo check back next week to see what I had planned for this week… I’m super excited about a new recipe we’re planning to try!

Have a great (short) week!