Unemployment baking

Haven’t done one of these since November– that means you get some holiday baking too.

Greek biscotti with wine and spices from Home Baking. IIRC these were very sophisticated and good by themselves or dipped into a hot beverage.

Partybrot from The Bread Book.  It was fun but dried out quickly.

Jamaican coconut pie. This was sweet and gooey.

Torta di testa di proscuitto e formaggio from The bread book. It was fine. Lightly flavored and the fillings kind of disappeared into the bread.

Peanut butter chocolate reindeer from an online recipe. They did not last long.

My Ginger Cookies from Alice Medrich’s Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy cookie book.

This one is smiling. (Pizza from Williams Sonoma Pizza book in the background)

Olive Panini from Home Baking

Muffins? These are Dec 12, so who knows.

Chocolate Decadence cake from Alice Medrich’s Cocolat: Extraordinary Chocolate Desserts

Chocolate Prune Bread… I think this is from the bread book?

Melting Snowman cookies from the internet

Ekmek from The Bread Book

Lavender cake from the internet

Probably from the Williams Sonoma pizza book. I don’t always get pictures of them, but we’ve been making a different one each week (give or take) for a few months now. We’re down to fruit pizza and calzones at this point (and a few we skipped because I don’t like tuna on pizza or we have trouble sourcing ingredients)

Buttermilk fruitcake from Home Baking

Burekas from Home Baking. So good.

Piadina from The Bread Book

Pide from The Bread Book

Probably banana bread. Who knows.

Torta al testo from The bread book. “Not at all worth the effort, could make a better pizza in a fraction of the time” is what it says in our book. It sure looks nice though.

Mystery December bread!

Pain d’Epice from The Bread Book. “Christmassy w/o being too sweet (but it is sweet)”

Nutty Yogurt Bread from The Bread Book  This was a really nice quick bread that doesn’t seem like a quick bread, you know?  Less soda-y than a soda bread, even though it kind of is one.

I’m guessing this is avocado toast using the nutty yogurt bread.

Shrimp Pizza with Sweet Paprika. From Williams Sonoma Pizza. I think we all liked it. Or at least, I sure did.

Ciambella mandorlata from The Bread Book. This looks nothing like the picture which is a flat ring. It was enormous and a bit dry, but overall did not last very long.

OMG these were AMAZING. They’re called Beirut Tahini Swirls and they’re from Home Baking (Dugood and Alfors) and… I can’t even describe how wonderful they are. They’re chewy but flaky, not too sweet, filling. I loved them so much. Kids… didn’t like them. More for me! We tried them again with chocolate peanut butter as a filling and it just didn’t work, partly because the chocolate peanut butter was pretty poor quality, and partly I think because it wasn’t oily enough to make the bread flaky. The peanut butter version was more bready and not anywhere near as magical (though the kids liked them better).

Fougasse from The Bread Book

Yet another excellent pizza.

Pan de Meurto.

I think this pie was from Cook’s Country. Not entirely sure. January, man, so long ago.

Uzbek layered walnut confection from Home Baking. Not quite as good as it looks (the bread part itself is a bit cardboardy), but still pretty good.

Parker house rolls from cook’s country. I think we didn’t like these as much as the Old Fashioned Cookbook version, but they went fast and were good with jam.

Danish log from Home Baking. It’s got a nice marzipanny thing going. The first one lasted almost no time at all since the kids devoured it. The second one stuck around a bit longer.

British tea bread from an online recipe again.

Chocolate Bread Batons from Home Baking. I LOVED these. The kids were less enthusiastic. Maybe not sweet enough? I thought they were substantial and not too sweet.

Cherry strudel from Home Baking. Excellent.

A small portion of the Large batch whole wheat pan loaves from Home Baking. These were fine, but not special. Very similar to other decent whole wheat loaves, but made a huge amount. The kids went through a lot of jam with these and their loafy breathren.

Curried Fruit and Cream Pizza from Williams Sonoma Pizza. Very popular!

Peanut butter chocolate ganache brownies from cooks country. DC2 made these with a little help from DH.

Tender potato bread from Home Baking. Not our best potato bread recipe (I think Old fashioned is better) and boy was it way bigger than the loaf pan.

This is a foccacia version of the potato bread dough overflowing its pan. It was better, though not the most amazing foccacia we’ve made (probably the Bread Book’s is the best so far).

Carrot cake! From the internet. Using America’s Test Kitchen’s American Classics cream cheese frosting which is the best.

La Brioche Cake from the Cake Bible. It didn’t turn out as advertised, but was still a good brioche. And it was good soaked in rum. And it was good slathered with gianduja. Still not as good as the brioche from Pure Dessert, but all around a good solid brioche. Not the worst we’ve made either.

DH is back to making granola.

Challah. Not sure which recipe though.

Mystery bread loaf

Mystery pie

I think this was from the Laurel’s bread book, but I can’t say for sure.

I have no idea.

You would think I would know what this is, but I don’t!

We are missing some pictures.  One is of Double Chocolate banana bread from Cook’s Country which was AMAZING.  Definitely recommend.

Another was of Quark stollen, which we didn’t like as much as regular stollen.

There’s other banana breads and daily loafs and pizzas that are also missing.  It’s weird, I’ve been trying to take a picture of the recipe after taking a picture of the bread, but for some of the breads, only the picture of the recipe saved in my pictures (I tend to text both pictures).

On the usefulness of concrete numbers

This post was last modified in 2011!  We’re digging into the deep history of drafts to bring you things!

Remember when our personal finance Mondays were hardcore personal finance?  And not just updates on our own personal finances?

Sometimes it’s hard to visualize what numbers are when the information you are given is in percents, even if you’re good at math.  APR and APY aren’t the same thing.   Amortization, or how loan repayments are structured can make a big difference on the effects of paying off a loan early.

APR doesn’t take into account compounding.  That is, it doesn’t take into account the idea that if you don’t pay off all your interest each month, some of that interest becomes principal and starts accruing interest of its own, compounded monthly.  APY does take that into account.

When we’re talking about prepayment for revolving loans like credit cards or cars it gets even more tricky because the interest is generally calculated every month based on how much you owe at that point in time and you’re usually paying some required amount in addition to the prepayment.

Auto loan at 5% APY => each $1000 you prepay at the beginning of the year is $50/year you’re not paying in interest.  At 5% APR, that’s going to be a bigger difference.  How much bigger?  Well, you could put the numbers into the compound interest formula, or you could go online and plug into a debt payoff calculator and just look at the numbers to give you a realistic idea of how much you’ll be saving each month or each year or the life of the loan or how much more quickly you will retire your debt.  There are a lot of different calculators out there, each one giving you different inputs and outputs, so you may want to play around with different ones.  Here’s one from nerd wallet.

These numbers are different if you’re talking about something structured like a mortgage.  They’re amortized differently.  For that a spreadsheet is useful.  The way mortgages work, the percent doesn’t directly translate with prepayment savings the same way that it does with a credit card or auto loan. Prepayments early on are worth a lot more than prepayments later.  This is because when you pre-pay a mortgage, your monthly payment does not change, instead the term of your loan changes.  You’re paying your loan off earlier, not changing the amount paid each month.  Additionally, you cut more months off with early pre-payments than you do with later pre-payments because pre-payments pay down principal and early in your loan, you’re mostly paying back interest, not principal with your regular payments.  With later pre-payments you’ve already paid off most of the interest and your regular payments are mostly attacking principal.  In order to truly understand the percent savings from prepayment, it is helpful to use a mortgage amortization calculator or spreadsheet. We like the one from get rich slowly.

Looking at the actual dollar amounts can also tell you that something isn’t worth doing because it saves/makes less money than you initially thought it did.  Like that $1K Chase bonus that was really less than $600 when all was said and done, and not worth the hassle of opening and closing accounts and back again.

Has looking at the concrete numbers ever gotten you to change your mind?

Link Love

WordPress has taken away classic editing mode again which means it is very difficult to add things from my phone or to interact with posts. No more word cloud to easily pick tags. No straight-forward html view to fix stupid edits (it looks like I can still do this within a block). I hate this. (Aha! even though you can no longer navigate to wp-admin, if you use an old link it is still there. So I’m saved for a little bit. Not on this post though. And not on my phone.)

Fascinating article on backward contact tracing.

Poor big boat.

We haven’t done any activism for a few weeks, but voting rights are under assault in America right now. Call your senators about HR1 (now S1). Here’s a five calls link. If you do it now you can leave a message.

Ask the grumpies: Advice for trailing spouses?

Jess asks:

Advice for trailing spouses? I am not an academic, but my boyfriend is about to start a PhD program. Assuming we stay together, which I would like to, reading your blog makes feel like I’m signing up for a lifetime of moving to wherever there is a job for him (in potentially not great places). He promises that he will not take a job in a place I’m not happy with, but it’s still easy to get stressed about my lack of control and options. I am confident that I can get a job in most places, but I am pretty career-focused and it is weird to think that each job I’m in has an externally defined end date for the foreseeable future (current job prior to PhD program, 5-6 years for PhD, then a few years for post-doc before hopefully getting a professor position). Would love any advice from Grumpy Nation :)

So first off, don’t let your career become completely secondary.  A lot can happen in 5-6 years.  Don’t lean back.  Just because someone starts a PhD program doesn’t mean they’ll finish.  Just because someone gets a PhD doesn’t mean they’ll go into academia.  Just because someone starts an academic position doesn’t mean they will stay in academia!  (See:  #2, #1’s DH, lots of people, particularly in fields where post-docs are common.)  You may end up being the leading spouse and he may end up being the trailing spouse!  In either case, having savings and being very good at your job will give you more flexibility in finding new jobs or being able to keep your job as a telecommuter.

While it seems like it for people on the academic track while they’re in graduate school or reaching for tenure, there is more to life than just getting tenure at an academic institution.  Academia is just a job.  It can be a very nice job, but it is still a job.  There will be trade-offs (unless he gets a tenured offer at Stanford or Columbia, depending on your joint geographical preferences).  Working for low pay and a high teaching load in a tiny town at a university without a lot of resources may not be worth it, especially if there aren’t good job options for you.  In places that are better, there are more likely to be options for you because they are more likely to be in cities or more likely to have industry surrounding the university.  (Not entirely– my DH currently doesn’t have options locally unless he wants to change careers or work as an adjunct/research assistant, but he’s also telecommuted since leaving his university position because he is very good at what he does.  Though he is currently unemployed, so we will see what happens.) As one gets older one starts to value quality of life options more.  Industry salaries tend to be higher too.

You will have to make decisions about whether you are willing to live apart from each other for short periods of time.  If he has a one-year position, will you move for that or stay where you are and rack up a lot of frequent-flyer miles?  Sometimes time apart allows couples to focus on work and end up being so good that they can more easily find a place together.

And remember that people outside of academia don’t stay at the same job forever.  Follow your career aspirations and look at potential forced job changes as opportunities.

Basically:  My best advice is that you cannot predict the future.  Take these changes as they come and figure out your choice sets at the time.  Then decide on the trade-offs for those choice sets, remembering that nothing needs to be a permanent decision. You don’t need to make decisions years before you know what your options are going to be.  Academia can create a lot of unnecessary anxiety because it seems so clear what the “right” choices are, but that’s really an illusion that seems ridiculous to people outside of the ivory tower.  Also, the more money you save up, the more options you will have at these choice points and the less stressful some of those choices will be.

Grumpy Nation, what advice do you have for trailing spouses?


  • Recommendation:  Get yourself a container of Gochujang from the grocery store and use it when you have a rice dish like stirfry (if you like spicy food, don’t do this if you don’t have any spice tolerance).  It keeps like ketchup, so you can have it around for a long time and it’s just GOOD.  You can make bibimbap or just use it to kick up any rice dish a notch by stirring it in.  (Or seriously, use it in place of ketchup!  It works well as a fusion condiment.)
  • So remember how we did a lottery for last Christmas?  And we’re thinking of giving gifts only to the kids next year?  Apparently this has meant that instead of sending me a card on my birthday, my MIL is sending me gifts instead.  I don’t even know when her birthday is (knowing that is DH’s job and I’m not sure he does? he calls his dad on his dad’s birthday because his mom reminds him to), so I guess this is going to be one-sided!  Another example of the market trying to get around government regulations (and succeeding!)
  • From one of my econ prof friends:  A student wrote on hir essay, “The demand curve identifies as downward sloping.”  What if a demand curve wants to identify as upward sloping?  #GiffinGoodsArePeopleToo
  • I found out there’s a new version of Fruits Basket that finishes the manga and adheres more closely to it.  I watched the first few episodes and it was very similar to the 2001 animated version, but … Honda is a little smarter and the anime itself is a bit less funny and maybe a bit more foreboding.  Which is in-line with the manga.  And then I remembered how dark the manga gets.  There’s a lot of really messed up abuse.  And abusers don’t end up getting punished.  And then I wandered onto the fan wiki and I remembered a lot more that’s problematic with the manga.  Like how (spoiler) breaking a curse is synonymous with becoming CIS-gendered.  And how a previously likable person punishes the person he likes (and has wanted before that person was born…) by having sex with that person’s mother.  I don’t think that stuff is in the 2001 version, which, again, only tells about half the story and is brought down to about a PG-13 level.  2001 also has much better theme music.  It’s hard to believe that 2001 is 20 years ago, but that older version seems a bit more modern than the current version (which, admittedly, does follow an older manga more closely).  So… I don’t think I will watch any more of the new version.
  • DH has been watching a lot of Great British Bake-off.  He has found it inspiring.
  • Voss sparkling water is *really good*.  I know it’s $2/bottle, but it takes me to being pool-side at a fancy California hotel.  It’s lovely.  Tiny bubbles and flavor that makes you imagine one of those clear glass water dispensers where they cut up the fruits/cucumbers/herbs directly in with the ice and fizzy water.
  • DC2 just discovered Robin McKinley.  I have to make sure not to get Deerskin.  I’m trying to remember if Sunshine is appropriate for an 8 year old.  Hopefully the library has things shelved in the appropriate sections and I can just be careful about the stuff in YA and get everything in JV.
  • If you have a high schooler– remember it is not enough to *do* things that look good on a college application.  You actually have to write them down and remember what they were called and so on.  You can’t just say, “made regionals for some orchestra competition with the best orchestra that also plays with band instruments”… you need to remember the name of the orchestra competition and which orchestra it was and preferably what chair you were!  Similarly with volunteering, you can’t just say “volunteered at some math thing”… you have to remember what the camp was called and what kind of counselor you were and what year it was(!)  Write it down while you still remember or keep it in email or *something* because dredging old texts and disappearing schoology posts is not fun!  (You’re lucky if it is in an easily searchable email!)
  • In theory I get my second vaccine shot today(!)  This past week, our county and some of the counties surrounding us very briefly opened up vaccines to all adults over the age of 18 because they each had over a thousand extra vaccines they had to give out an no eligible people to give them to.  By the time we found out (2 hours after it was announced) it was too late for DH to sign up but we will be paying more attention next week.  The uni also has shots for eligible people and I’m happy to see that they have Pfizer, which means 17 year old students can get it.  One of my friends in MA said they just announced April 19th will open eligibility for everyone to get the vaccine in her state.  That isn’t very much longer from now!
  • That said, we got an email earlier this week saying that student cases had increased dramatically and our positive test rate was around 8%.  A few hours after that, we got a tone-deaf email from the provost announcing that we were going to have to completely scrap the course schedule for Fall because they’d decided we would be 100% in person with no social distancing instead of 50% with distancing.  I don’t know what the right answer is for fall, but I do know that the juxtaposition of those two emails was pretty awful.  Also they’d better require students to be vaccinated like they do with meningitis and similar things.
  • In the past two weeks I have had 2 students, 1 research assistant, and one paper referee all have to take time off for funerals.  :(  This isn’t over yet.  Stay masked!
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What we’re doing for summer: update

The other week we asked you all what to do with our kids for summer and you had some great ideas.

DC2 recently had spring break while I didn’t.  This reminded us that zie reallllly needs more mental stimulation and interaction than what we can provide.  Basically by Wednesday DC2 starting talking and didn’t stop until school started again on Monday.  School has been online all year and it has been great– it keeps DC2 entertained, talking with classmates, and mentally stimulated so we can get normal amounts of interaction at lunch and after 5pm when I stop working for the night.

Meanwhile, we’ve been getting ads for online college credit classes for DC1.  I was irritated to find out that my uni lets high school students take classes during the school year but not during the summers!  What is UP with that?

But there are plenty of programs willing to charge $4K-$6K per 3-4 credit hour class to take either their own special classes for high schoolers, or in the case of Wisconsin-Madison, anything that they’re offering over the summer.  Right now we’re leaning towards C++ at Georgetown, though it is tempting just to do the C++ Coursera not for credit.  We’ve also been considering Intermediate Spanish courses and academic writing.  Vanderbilt has an interesting mentorship program that isn’t for course credit that DC1 may apply to, but zie hasn’t decided yet.  Even though there are a bunch of schools DC1 can’t go to because they require people to be 16 (and zie is only 15), we’re no longer super worried that zie will be doing nothing over the summer.

But, back to DC2 because while DC1 may need to do something this summer for hir own needs *I* need DC2 to do something for *my* needs.  I looked up online summer camps and was a bit overwhelmed.  It’s hard to tell what is any good and what is a for-profit scam.  I did see that the science museum in the nearest city has something, but it is only an hour per day so I wasn’t sure that was going to be enough.  The descriptions for that camp also sounded a bit like they needed more parental involvement than we really want to give.

Then one of our friends who grew up in the midwest recommended NIU– that’s one of the regional universities in Illinois.  Apparently they run some really great summer camps for kids each summer and this year they’re all online this summer, unlike all southern camps that are mostly back in person this year.  An actual university and a personal recommendation?  I will take that.  And it looks like each one is around 4 hours online, with some being 4 hours straight and some having a break in between for projects, which is pretty similar to DC1’s online schooling this past year. They also seem to know what our rising 5th grader will enjoy.  The only thing that sucks is that there’s no creative writing week for 5th graders.  (DC1 has moved on from Bad Kitty fan-fiction to epic fantasy.)

So we did the jigsaw puzzle work with the different options (5th graders are eligible for both elementary school and middle school camps and several camps conflict and several repeat) and signed DC2 up for most of the summer.  There’s about 2 weeks on either end and two weeks sometime in the middle of summer that are unaccounted for, but we can figure that out later or take an actual vacation.  All told it will cost ~$1000 give or take.  But well worth it if it means I can finish an email without being interrupted 5 times.

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Link love

The 2021 Early-Retirement Update

Are college classes too difficult?

Ask the grumpies: How do you manage your email?

CG asks:

How do you manage your email? Mine is out of control.

We don’t.  :(

Ours is also out of control.

#2 once tried inbox zero and it worked for like 6 hours, maybe.

#1 has emails from 2016 still in the bottom of her inbox.  Don’t be like #1.

When times are good, #1 attends to her inbox but leaves stuff in there as sort of a to-do list.   When times are bad, everything gets converted to Last In First Out and things get buried for years.  This is no good.  Usually at some point #1 has to start scheduling an hour of going through email each day until she has scooped herself out to some reasonable point in time.  But it’s like shoveling during a snow-storm.  Ugh.

#1 has also given up on reading weekly newsletters of any sort– there’s a folder that says, “Research to read” that every week she puts all the journal and working papers emails in to read.  She used to read those every week, but now they just go in the bucket.  She feels bad about this and behind on what is going on in the field.  But… sometimes you have to triage.

Grumpy Nation:  How do you manage your email?

It’s Wednesday and cousins named Amy Jo

So, completely unrelated to the above:  There’s this person on twitter named Amy Jo Cousins that people retweet a lot.  And every time I see her, I think, oh, I wonder what she’s up to these days because every single time I think it’s my cousin named Amy Jo.  And then I’m like, … she came out?  And why did she change her last name from [mother’s maiden name]?  Did she get married? And then I suddenly realize she isn’t my cousin.  That’s her actual last name.  In fairness– she lives in the Midwest and looks a lot like my mom’s side of the family.

My actual cousin named Amy Jo, to my knowledge, does not write erotic fiction.

I guess I will front-load DC2’s 529 too?

Previously we decided to stop contributing monthly to DC1’s 529 and instead invest a lump sum equal to what we would have invested each month in the time before zie graduated high school.  Once we knew more about hir college plans, we could adjust.

DC2’s 529 we kept investing in monthly as before.  I guess we’d decided not to because we were expecting to pay for DH’s relative’s son’s college.  But he didn’t go to college in the end.  And I was completely wrong about the stock market– I always am!  The stock market is unpredictable.  It’s irrational!  Especially when we have such huge income inequality.  (We will be paying for 2 years of DH’s relative’s daughter’s college though, tuition and fees but not living expenses– she’s recovering from being sick taking this semester off and plans to finish her remaining two community college courses in the fall, then transfer to a state school as an English major.  Hopefully that will actually happen.)

Right now we have too much in cash savings.  Even with the 12K gone for our annual IRA Backdoor Roth conversion.

We could also use a little bit more monthly cash flow to help me with accounting given DH’s continued unemployment.  Another $750/month wouldn’t go amiss, especially since my health insurance costs have gone up $300/month putting DH on the plan and switching from the  the Traditional 403(b) to Roth 403(b) (now that Trump is gone, I’m more willing to pay taxes now) is taking more money out of my take-home pay.

So we could do a lump sum in DC2’s 529 equivalent to what we would put in between now and when DC1 graduates from high school (or some other target date) and then stop contributing until we know what DC1’s college plans are going to cost.  DC1 is currently a second-semester sophomore so two full years would be $750*12*2 = $18,000 and then $750 a month additional for however many months more we want to add.  If we do that, our savings account will drop to a more reasonable level– a standard academic emergency fund (3 months summer salary + 1 month for emergencies) and a little bit more.

Now I just need to get around to actually doing this.  (Which is why this post has sat in drafts for a while.)

If DH suddenly gets employed before I get around to doing this, I might not?  But I don’t know if that is going to happen or not.  After the four interviews last week I’m not sure that there’s anything obvious to set in motion unless we are willing to move.