Friday, August 30, 2013

Fiscal Friday: Poor, Sad Net Worth

I think our net worth is going to increase by a whopping $100 or something this month, if at all. (Still waiting to get info on our investments before doing the final tally.) And the irony is, we had a pretty decent month, income-wise.

But then our health insurance bill was high because CodeMonkey had to add me at the last minute, so we paid my premium for August plus the September premium for both of us.

And then, like an idiot, I misunderstood the person helping me at the insurance company and paid the high premium twice. Whoops. They're giving us an account credit, but I ended up spending $1450 this month on insurance instead of $475. That $475, by the way, gets you a plan with a $10,000 per person annual deductible, which means it basically just covers the risk of something really expensive and catastrophic happening. We'll need to cashflow any medical expenses until I get a job that (hopefully) offers decent insurance for both of us. The current plan is: don't get sick.

I had a medical emergency back in February and used an ambulance to get to the hospital. Lesson learned: do not let the nice 911 people (I called to ask if I should be going to the hospital given the symptoms I was experiencing) send an ambulance unless you are hemorrhaging in multiple places. TAKE A CAB. Because, holy shit that ambulance costs. Yes, this is stupid and naive and I should have known better. That was a $900 bill*. Insurance covered $300. After multiple rounds of back-and-forth with the hospital's billing department, including using a medical negotiator to try and get the bill down (it failed), I finally just paid the $600 outstanding. Bah, humbug.

Then we overspent on groceries, just to top everything off.

*For comparison: the cab ride home from the hospital was $10, WITH TIP. The ambulance was not 90 times better at anything. Obviously an ambulance is different than a black car, and is staffed by two people with significant qualifications rather than a single fellow with a driver's license, etc. But we were both floored to realize it was 90 times more expensive.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The USDA Thrifty Food Plan

Another day, another soul-sucking stressful round of job-hunting. *sigh* I'm forcing myself to do one thing at a time rather than looking at the big picture, because otherwise I get overwhelmed and sink into the Despairing Pit Of Doom. Seriously not helpful.

Also, is it just me, or do tiny tasks become much bigger when you don't have enough going on? This morning, I was grousing to myself that I had to fold the laundry AND cook breakfast, which was JUST TOO HARD TO MANAGE AND NOBODY HAS EVER WORKED AS HARD AS I HAVE. I'm sure this is a symptom of not having enough to do in general, so I sort of yelled at myself to put on my big girl panties and deal with it.

Back when we lived Upstate, I used to extreme coupon. In a fit of domesticity, I recently reorganized our cabinet of household supplies. When the apocalypse comes, we will have plenty of soap, that's all I'm going to say. We can barter that and my hand-knit socks for useful supplies, I guess. Yeah, I don't foresee us lasting long in this post-apocalyptic scenario.

I've been looking at the USDA's food plan costs for July 2013. In the interests of keeping the grocery budget under control, I've decided to adopt a little challenge. I'd like to keep our grocery costs of September at or below $380.20, the "thrifty" food plan for a two-person household. I'll use any food in the house (mostly chicken, eggs, greek yogurt, condiments, rice and baking supplies. Note to self: go shopping), but I won't spend any more than that. Since I paid my mother for my share of a bulk order of Italian sausage that will be delivered Sunday, I'm down $50 already. This should be a fun plan. I'm also exempting any meals purchased for business networking purposes because hello, I'm job-hunting here.

The current plan is to go make a giant stock-up trip to BJ's on Saturday night and count that toward the Saturday total, since I have a giant grocery list pinned to the fridge. I'll try to post any good menus or recipes I come up with.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Fiscal Friday: A Money Order of Preference

CodeMonkey gets paid twice a month; I collect UI every Thursday, and we both freelance. All these taken together mean we can have 15 or more deposits in a single month. Since our income can swing wildly from month to month, I like to have only one financial goal to focus on at a time. After a few years of trial and error, I've settled on a system for managing our income. Whenever new income comes in, I go through the following mental flowchart.

  1. Money goes into the checking account from freelancing, paychecks, unemployment, tax refund, birthday gifts, whatever.
  2. Replenish the checking account balance to $700 for direct debited bills and ATM withdrawals. Is there money left over? If YES, proceed to step 3.
  3. Set aside next month’s rent money. Is there money left over? If YES, proceed to step 4.
  4. Pay off the credit card balance. Is there money left over? If YES, proceed to step 5.
  5. Check savings account balance. Is there six months* of living expenses in there? Add money until there is. Is there money left over? If YES, proceed to step 6.
  6. Check your Roth IRAs. Have they been fully funded for the year? Add money until they have. Is there money left over? If YES, proceed to step 7.
  7. Check books for self employed businesses. How much has your business netted after expenses this year? Do you have all that money set aside to put into your solo 401ks come tax time? Add money until you do. Is there money left over? If YES, proceed to step 8.
  8. Do you have a down payment for an apartment? Add money until you do. Is there money left over? If YES, proceed to step 9.
  9. Treat family to a moderately priced dinner out and invest whatever is left.
Every month my goal is to have the credit card zeroes out and next month's rent set aside by the 15th of the month so that the other half of our income can be saved and invested, though this doesn't always happen. Right now our big goal is step 7, but come the beginning of 2014, we'll be back to funding our IRAs again.
This system has a number of advantages. Because I’m only focusing on one goal at a time, I see progress very quickly. When we were paying off my student loans, it was really empowering to see the balance drop by a couple thousand dollars a month. If I’d been splitting that money toward multiple goals, it wouldn’t have had the same psychological impact.

*I'm really not sold on the six month emergency fund thing, as I've never had an emergency that comes close to that. Right now we have medical insurance plans with $10,000 per person deductibles, but come January 2014, I may take enough out of this fund to meet our 2014 IRA contributions in one go.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

I Kind of Hate My Life Right Now

I'm one of those people who likes plans. The hardest two years of my life were after college, when CodeMonkey and I were newlyweds living apart while he finished college and did a fellowship and I lived with my parents and worked. It wasn't the separation that made it painful, but rather the constant feeling of being in transition, as though we were waiting for our real lives as husband and wife to begin.

Right now is another such transition. CodeMonkey is transitioning out of being a CodeMonkey into another field entirely. He's doing a great job, still supporting us, and everybody seems confident he'll be a smashing success in his new career, but it's still hard to be waiting. I'm unemployed and I honestly have no idea what I want out of my life, personally or professionally. All of this is ruining my motivation to job search as I get wrapped up in trying to figure out what the heck I want instead of just applying to jobs and getting out there and talking to people to learn more about my options.

I'm not coping well with the reality that I don't know what either of our lives will look like a year from now. I don't know what the solution is aside from trying to put the anxiety out of my mind and doubling down on my job search.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Fiscal Friday: Talk Is Cheap

If you ask parents if they value their children's education, they will, to a one, say it's very important to them. After all, who is against education? It's like being opposed to kittens and flowers and sunshine.

But consider three demographically identical families who say they value their children's education and what the children do between 3:30 when school ends, and 8:30 when they go to bed:

  1. Family A's children go to sports practice for a couple hours, then eat dinner, spend an hour on homework, and then watch some TV before bed.
  2. Family B's children come home, do their homework, eat dinner, and spend the rest of the evening playing indoors before bed.
  3. Family C's children go to a math tutoring center for an hour after school, do some homework, eat dinner, go over material taught earlier in the term, review the notes from the tutoring center, read a book for a little bit and then go to bed.
Despite all ostensibly sharing the same values, Families A and C clearly have very different childrearing philosophies and place a very different value on education. That isn't bad (and there's good evidence to suggest playing team sports helps kids prepare for the workforce in important ways), but it brings up an important point. What people say is important to them is less important than how they act.

By the same token, pretty much everybody believes financial solvency is good, and their vision of The Good Life includes material prosperity. That isn't debatable; everyone would like to be well off. The more pressing question is: does what you do on a daily basis move you toward this? What will your sacrifice to attain it? Because that is the real measure of your priorities. Economics deals with the problem of scarcity, and how we choose to allocate our scarcest resources shows what we think is most essential. The question is not "What would you do with all the time and money in the world," but "Given the need to make tradeoffs and limited time and money right now, what are you doing?"

If the choice is between free time and freelance work, which one are you picking? If the choice is between cooking dinner when you're falling down exhausted or calling for pizza, do you order delivery or grumble, sigh, and put water for pasta on? Do you go on vacation while in student loan debt? Have you bought new clothes instead of hitting the thrift store? Do you indulge in an expensive hobby rather than saving?

I've chosen the less fiscally responsible option in some of these scenarios, as I'm sure most people have. I slashed budget a few months ago because I realized when I was doing wasn't in line with what I really wanted. Once I observed that I was letting my inner lazy toddler ("But I want it, I WANT IT NOW, I WANT IT RIGHT THIS VERY MINUTE!!!") rather than my rational adult self call the shots, I worked to get what I was doing back in line with what I was saying. That doesn't mean I always succeed, but it means what I say and what I do are becoming more aligned, as I had hoped. If you're pursuing any long-term goal, it's worth asking if you're making similar efforts to align your words and behaviors.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Domestic Wednesdays: Designing a Knockoff Sweater

I woke up this morning full of energy! And pep! And motivation to GET THINGS DONE! This is in marked contrast to the last few days where I've been unmotivated, exhausted, and utterly convinced that I'm completely unemployable.

It's also the first exuberantly sunny day we've had in a week. Coincidence? Probably not. Weather has always affected my moods more than most people, and I spend October through April in a sort of black, despairing funk of misery. My grandmother has a diagnosis of seasonal depression and has been pushing me to get one of the special lamps she has, which I should probably look into.

Anyway, Boden released their fall preview collection, I I fell for this sweater, which I'd eyed last year and decided wasn't in my budget. It looks like a lovely, warm, casual sweater, which would fill the niche in my closet that has magically appeared for it. One problem: even with a coupon, it's $80.

On the other hand, I knit! So I decided I'd make my own copy. I dug around in my massive, really it's quite scary yarn stash and came up with this lovely tweedy purple wool-mohair-angora blend yarn.

Looking at the Boden original, I'm guessing it's knit with a slightly finer yarn at 6 stitches to the inch. This was a bit thicker, so I knit a test square and measured. It's 4.625 stitches to the inch, which is called the gauge.

While I was at it, I took my own measurements: 35"-29"-38". Marilyn Monroe I am not. So I grabbed The Knitter's Handy Book of Top Down Sweater Patterns, which is an amazing "recipe book" that allows you to knit a sweater in any size at any gauge. There are patterns for every chest circumference from 26" to 52".

Just one problem: the book's gauges are in whole stitch increments. There's a pattern for a sweater at 5 stitches to the inch and one for a sweater at 4 stitches to the inch, but nothing at 4.625 stitches per inch. So I dusted off my algebra and calculated that if I knit the 5 stitches to the inch sweater pattern in a size 32" at my current gauge of 4.625 spi, the final garment would be 34.59". I'm between a size 6 and 8 in Boden clothes, and the original sweater in those sizes measures 34" and 35.5" around respectively. Since I know I'll be adding a wide button band which will up the finished garment to about 35" at the bust, this looks good.

On the yellow pad of paper above you can see my stitch tallies; I've already started knitting, but it looks pretty shapeless right now. I'll be back next week once I've (hopefully) finished the body of the sweater.

One more thing: this is not a strictly money-saving endeavor. I dug up my receipt from two years ago when I bought the yarn for this sweater, and it was $70. This is one of the more expensive yarns I've ever bought, but the point remains: it really isn't money-saving to make your own clothing. That's without taking into account the cost of your time; this sweater will take me between 10 and 20 hours to make. This is my hobby, though, and I find it a lot of fun.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Monday Sundries: The Days Are Long, The Years Are Short

The Mid-Autumn festival is approaching, and posters for mooncakes are starting to appear.

I can't quite believe that a year ago, I was eating mooncakes in Malaysia with my in-laws. We'd just moved to New York; I'd started a new job and CodeMonkey was offered a short-term contract in Malaysia, so he somehow convinced his employer to let him take enough vacation days to fly over and see his family.

A year later, neither of us have the same jobs, we've committed to another year in NYC, and I can't believe this much time has past. The days are long, but the years are short. It's been five years since I met CodeMonkey, four years since I finished college, and three years since I got married. I'm turning 25 in November. When did time start racing by?

I also found an auntie who has super detailed cooking videos on YouTube. If you've ever wanted to make amazing Cantonese food, but didn't have a grandmother to teach you, I'd start here, perhaps with the seasonally appropriate mooncakes? They're on my to-do list.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Fiscal Friday: These Are Not Investments

I enjoy reading fashion and lifestyle blogs (guilty pleasure) and I've noticed an obnoxious trend. People refer to a pricey pair of shoes, a nice coat, or a fancy piece of furniture as an "investment piece."

No. Investments are appreciating assets or tools that allow you to make money. Clothing, handbags and home furnishings almost always depreciate in value.

I have some nice things: a leather handbag, cashmere stole, and high quality clothes. I like them, and it gives me pleasure to wear and use them regularly. But they aren't investments, and it's a dangerous habit to identify them as such.

Your wardrobe is not an appreciating asset. You will not be able to retire one day on your stash of J Crew pencil skirts, classic black pumps and Kate Spade bags, no matter how timeless they are. Unless you are Macy's, purchasing clothing is not investing; it's consumption. Invest in stocks; consume clothing, and know the difference.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Consumerism Thursday: Needle Bait and Switch

I'm a rather fanatical knitter, and because of my joint problems, I'm very fussy about the tools I use. I only use nickel-plated circular needles with flexible cables and very sharp points. Wood, plastic, bamboo and stainless steel were to sticky for me, and the other nickel brands were blunt, so out of dozens of brands on the market, the only supplier I found with needles that didn't cause me hand pain was They had a lifetime warranty, so when I got a needle that broke or had a rough spot, I'd call and a new one would promptly be dispatched, no questions asked. Everything was lovely and happy for about two years.

Then this winter I ordered a few needles, and they just weren't the same. The points were blunter; the cables were darker and stiffer. Complaints built up in various knitting fora, saying the new wooden needles were more likely to split, that the cables were stiffer and the needles generally more fragile. Someone noticed that the needle packaging now said "Made in China" instead of "Made in India" and we concluded Knitpicks had changed suppliers without telling anyone. The manufacturer studiously ignored the complaints until about a month ago, when they sent this to their mailing list:

Forgive me, but this is the biggest piece of corporate bullshit double-speak I've ever seen. It's more like: "Thanks to savvy and subtle manufacturing improvements moving our manufacturing from India to China, we're now able to offer the same beautiful product, crappier needles that only visually resemble their Indian-made counterparts at an even more beautiful price a much lower price, while we capitalize on our customers' naive assumption that these needles are the same ones we've always sold. Cha-ching!"

I've long liked Knitpicks because their low prices let people try high-quality, natural fiber yarns which might otherwise be unaffordable. Most of my stash is Knitpicks yarn, and I've been very happy with their products, but I doubt if I'll ever buy from them again. I am not impressed by these kind of underhanded tactics. (Not that I need more yarn in any event.)

There is a happy ending to this story. The Indian factory had gone into business on their own, and now manufactures the same needles with only cosmetic differences, to the old quality standards, with a lifetime guarantee and a vastly expanded product line, under the name Knitter's Pride. Check your local yarn store or Ebay for them. I've been using some and they're just like the old Knitpicks needles.

ETA: In what is obviously a sadistic joke, Knitpicks released a new yarn line today that I'm totally in love with.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Monday Sundries

I knit a pair of socks:

Yarn: Loops and Threads Luxury Sock
Needle: Size 0
Pattern: Gusset Heel Basic Socks, by Wendy Johnson

Thoughts: It's not a trick of the light, those socks are two different colors, despite being from the same dye lot. At the top of the right sock, you can see that there's an dyeing error in the striping pattern. My mother will be happy to take these as socks, since her store has concrete floors and she wears wool socks daily in the winter, but I think they're dreadful.

This is why I love my neighborhood:

Two onions, two carrots, one golden melon, four potatoes and six pluots for $5. Everything is gone now, save for the melon (tomorrow's snack) and potatoes (part of tomorrow's lunch and dinner). Perhaps a few too many root vegetables for midsummer, but they were cheap and I didn't have enough pocket change to grab the broccoli that was $0.48/pound.

I made bread again. Every time I turn around, we're out of bread. I suspect it's the malicious elves again. Those are the same ones that generate all the laundry, right?

I bought white chocolate, since CodeMonkey requested his favorite cookies in lieu of a birthday cake. White chocolate was $3.04 for four ounces at Target. Yeowch. I bought a half dozen bags of Trader Joe's seasonal white chocolate chips when they had them at Christmas, and I should have bought triple that. Lesson learned.

I'm trying to stay focused on job-hunting rather than entering a despair filled spiral of "I AM UTTERLY UNEMPLOYABLE AND NOONE LIKES ME." That would not be productive.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Literary Saturday: Homeward Bound, Overbooked and Chosen by God

Books read recently:

Homeward Bound, Why Women Are Embracing the New Domesticity, by Emily Matchar

When I saw this book at the library, I jumped on it. I grew up canning, gardening, sewing and knitting, and I've watched in some bemusement as the weird stuff my family did has become hipster-chic. It was never a lifestyle or a statement when my mother made jam; it was just life. I didn't understand how weird we were until I brought my high school boyfriend for a visit home and he gawped at the quilts, the cottage garden, and the bread rising on the kitchen counter. But now, thrifting is no longer a sign of poverty, people brag about making their own clothes, and Mason jars are used as drinking glasses.

I really enjoyed the way Emily Matchar cobbled together a cultural history of canning, natural foods, baking, blogging, homeschooling and gardening. One of her main arguments is that these trends represent a rejection of government authority and an embrace of individualist, DIY solutions. She's right to a degree, but I just don't buy her conclusion that the new domesticity is the main reason middle-class white women aren't banging down doors on Capitol Hill, trying to get federally subsidized daycare, extended maternity leave, and other family-friendly political reforms passed. She has no numbers back up her thesis. How many would-be career women are leaving their jobs to attachment parents, extended breast feed and homeschool anyway? Is it really a social movement, or is domesticity just a short-term trend?

I think that if the new domesticity has taken off because many people, male and female, are finding white collar labor lacks a sense of realness that constructive domestic labor doesn't. Among other reasons, I knit because, after a day of breaking my brains working on spreadsheets, it's nice to do something physical, tangible, and easily quantifiable. I continue to bake not only because it tastes better, but because my husband really appreciates the food and I like to make him happy. It provides an intangible happiness to our lives that I quite like.

I was disappointed that Matchar didn't talk to any women who never stopped being domestic, because I would have liked to hear both how they view this movement and how they think of their own work around the house. She mentions Mormon mommy-bloggers briefly, but they are hardly the only group that has placed a high value on women tending hearth and home. It would have been nice to hear from more women from traditionally domestic cultures as a counterpoint.


I saw this book in Barnes and Noble and hit the library on the way home to nab it. I spent two years working in the travel industry, but this is the first thing I've ever read about the business as a whole. Elizabeth Becker points out that tourism is one of the world's biggest industries, but it is largely ignored by governments and economists. One billion people took a trip for leisure travel last year, and it's a multi-trillion dollar business, as big a business as oil or banking. None of the destinations I specialized in are covered here, but it was nonetheless fascinating.

Becker looks at how tourism affects the places visited. In Zambia, tourism is one of the best hopes for saving Africa's wildlife, while in Venice, so many people have bought vacation homes that it's almost impossible for actual Venetians to afford their own city. The U.S. government barely has a national tourism office, while in France, laws are passed to ensure that the country retains the rural charm and historic buildings that make it the world's top tourism destination. American cruise companies have their ships fly foreign flags so they can pay their workers $50 a month in wages. The tourism that draws millions to Angkor Wat is also causing the slow destruction of the temple complex, while locals make very little money in exchange. Sex tourism enslaves millions of women, boys and girls around the world.

One of the more depressing takeaways I got from the book is that ethical travel is very, very difficult, and you might as well stay home. That being said, this is a fascinating, illuminating read, and I almost considered buying a copy, and I never do that. Joshua Hammer, who wrote the book I reviewed below, wrote a very good review of the book in the New York Times.

My only pet peeve was that it was clearly edited by someone who was not in travel. Abercrombie and Fitch sells expensive faux-prep clothing; Abercrombie and Kent is a high-end tour operator. Only one of them was running tour programs to a newly-opened China.


I bought a used copy of this book years ago, and it's been kicking around the house ever since. I have a thing for religious memoirs, so when I was craving one, I picked it up. Author Joshua Hammer traces his brother Tuvia's (formerly known as Tony) journey from a Marxist actor to devout Orthodox Jew and father of six.

As I said, I'm kind of obsessed with the "person grows up secular, becomes religious" and "person grows up religious, becomes secular" genre of memoirs. I've noticed that most people who become much more or less devout than their parents had dysfunctional childhoods. It seems few people wake up one day with the revelation that the Torah is the complete word of God and a manual for living. More often, a person is unhappy with their life, and this throws them into a tailspin of questioning everything about their life.

As Hammer traces Tuvia's transformation, he considers how much his brother suffered when their parents divorced, their baby sister died, and both of Tuvia's best friends died, all while he was in high school. Hammer grapples with his brother's decision to so wholly turn his back on modern life, shunning work for religious study, teaching his children Yiddish before English, and generally rejecting his past self. It's a beautifully written book, which reveals as much about Hammer's own difficult childhood as his brother's history. The author swings from blind fury at his brother, to frustration, to finally, a grudging acceptance. It was a fantastic, fast read, and I'm passing it on to a friend.

And once again, I wish they had hired an editor who knew the subject matter better; there were translation and transliteration errors in the Hebrew and Yiddish words. Sloppy, but not the author's fault.


Friday, August 2, 2013

Fiscal Friday: Managing Post-Layoff

I got my last paycheck last Friday, which was a nice one, thanks to all those vacation days that got paid out. Between our freelancing work, CodeMonkey's long hours at the office, and my final paycheck, we actually realized a decent net worth increase this month. The stock market also went bananas, so we realized a pretty massive paper increase in our retirement funds. We have about $1800 to go to meet my revised net worth goal for 2013, so I may end up increasing it once more.

When I got laid off, we'd fully funded my IRA for this year, and funded 60% of CodeMonkey's. I had enough cash to finish funding it and was going to make the transfer the day I got laid off. Instead, I shunted it into savings. I normally keep a three month emergency fund, but I was nervous about my job situation and had upped it to six months. It's at about seven months now.

Right now, any extra cash we make is going straight into savings. It is my hope that our freelancing, CodeMonkey's paychecks and my Unemployment Insurance payments will cover our needs with a bit to spare until I get a new job. COBRA is so extravagantly expensive that CodeMonkey added me to his plan, which has a $10,000 per person deductible, so I'm just praying I don't need much medical care between now and when I get a job.

In the mean time, I've nixed as much recreational spending as possible, returned a couple of online purchases bought before I lost my job, and hunkered down. I'm searching high and low for work and seeking new freelance clients, because the idleness of being home all day is driving me batty. I'm also looking into volunteering in the neighborhood in the hopes of giving back and getting to meet new people.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Consumerism Thursday: KitchenAid Disappointment

Long-time blog readers all two of you and that includes my mom will be familiar with my ongoing rants about the declining quality of consumer goods. Here's another entry for the files.

My mother was a serious baker, and I grew up using her KitchenAid stand mixer, which is so old it predated her marriage to my father. So when I got married and my grandmother offered me one as a gift, I was thrilled. Nana wasn't messing around either; the mixer is a 6 quart professional series one. It's an absolutely gorgeous appliance. When we moved to NYC a year ago, I finally had a kitchen where I could really use the mixer.

And I discovered that this isn't my mother's mixer. My mother's mixer has mixed over a thousand pounds of bread dough, cookie dough and cake batters since the early 80's, and it's still cranking merrily along. Mine overheats, has an acrid smell if you let it run past ten minutes and struggles to handle a fairly simple, soft bread dough. I don't think I've even made a hundred pounds of dough in it yet, and it's already showing serious signs of wear.

I made bread last night, since CodeMonkey is not enthused by the idea of a low-carbohydrate diet. I realized that my KitchenAid nods its little mixer-head up and down in the most pitiful manner. My mother's never did that. It's like the whole mixer is thrown together half-assedly. I will be surprised if I'm using it 5 years from now, let alone 25. The bread recipe I'm mixing up in the video below has been made in my mother's smaller, older KitchenAid before with nary a wobble or complaint.

What bugs me most about this is that the KitchenAid professional series is the top of the line mixer for the home market. If this one is crappy, there's really nothing better to buy, unless you want to go the route my best friend did and buy a full-on Hobart industrial mixer. (That thing is beast; it's amazing. I totally covet it.)

So I called my mother to grouse about my mixer, and she told me that Hobart used to produce KitchenAids, but they sold the brand to Whirlpool in 1986, and the quality has gone downhill since. Good quality is increasingly hard to find at any price, and I'm getting sick of corporations trading on old reputations of high quality to sell crap.

But! You should really make that bread recipe I linked above. It makes the tastiest, most lovely sandwich bread you could imagine, and you can make the dough by hand. To bake it, you'll need a pullman pan, a sort of long, rectangular shaped loaf pan with a lid, that turns out perfectly square sandwich loaves. I can't say enough good things about that pan I linked above. It's sturdy, made in the USA, and has some kind of space-age silicon finish on the inside that makes loaf after loaf slide out of the pan perfectly. It's one of the only unitaskers I allow in my kitchen, and it's worth every single penny.