Monthly Archives: June 2009

Well, well, it’s been an interesting week.

We have a new TV. A flashy, flatscreen Samsung.

When BF told me his sister wanted to buy our TV, I asked what we were going to do without one. I could probably live without TV, but he watches a fair bit (he’s also the kind to keep it on just in the background) and finds it hard to fall asleep without it on (thank god for timers!).

He assured me that I should leave it to him and I was more than happy to…and the next day a massive flatscreen appeared in our room.

Apparently someone he knew had had it for quite a while because it wasn’t working – the screen wouldn’t turn on.

BF realised it had a blown fuse, and offered them cash on the spot. He brought it home, fixed it, and now we have a pretty mint TV.

Now we just have to sort out a new cabinet because it’s way, way too big to fit in our old one – it had a space perfectly designed for the old set. Pity, because I really like the cabinet (lots of compartments and storage space). And get rid of this one.

BF also produced an iPod for me as an early birthday gift. Again I don’t know where that came from (probably another friend or maybe family) and I figure I’ll let him keep his little secret. He’s always been like that – when we first got together he’d bring me random little gifts, like a great old necklace handed down from his grandmother.

Making small change, with online survey sites

Here in NZ we don’t have half as many online moneymaking sites as they do in the States, by the looks of it. There just aren’t as many people to sustain online survey sites and focus groups.

There are three main sites I use. I visit Smilecity everyday – there are “daily web clicks” (you just click through to a link, wait ten secs and get your 2 points) and “quick survey” poll questions. At least once a week you also get “reward mails” – click through the link to get points. And every so often, you’ll get sent survey opportunities which can give you anywhere from 20 points through to the hundreds! Smilecity also partners up with a bunch of retailers, so if you buy anything from one of their partners you’ll also get Smilecity points. It’s a pretty comprehensive scheme now that I think about it…

You can use points to buy things in auctions, or just cash out. I simply take the cheque option. Once you reach 3300 points you can get a personal cheque for $30 sent to you (used to be 3200 points). Make your balance grow faster by putting them in the “ebank”, where they’ll compound with interest. I’ve been using the site for a few years now and usually cash out once or twice a year, depending on how it goes. It only takes a few seconds every day, plus the odd survey, which adds up over time!

I’m also signed up to Valued Opinions and Your Voice. They’re both really similar. Even the sites look like! I have trouble telling them apart to be honest, especially since I realised their rewards are almost identical. Every so often you’ll be emailed links for surveys and if you qualify for it you’ll earn reward dollars for every one you complete. It’s worth the time – sign up on a rainy afternoon, fill out your basic profile and wait for the survey invites to roll in! You can donate to charity or get vouchers from the movies, Farmers, Rebel Sports and similar stores.

I’ve also recently joined Buzz The People - I’m currently just shy of the 2000 points needed to redeem a reward, so can’t really gauge how good it is. But I must say, I only joined earlier this year and have hardly noticed the time it took to earn these points. I thought I’d surely still only be in the few hundred points range! So it’s been relatively quick and painless – most of the surveys are fairly short, interesting and straightforward. A lot of them give you entries into prize draws (I can’t remember if that’s in ADDITION to, or INSTEAD of, points). I might donate my points to charity, or get out a supermarket of petrol voucher. Still undecided!

Don’t get me wrong. None of these are big moneymakers by any stroke of the pen. But they’re relatively painless ways to make a little extra or to earn free vouchers. And, if you care about that sort of thing, you’ll often get to give your opinion on products/services/advertisements while you’re at it.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (some spoilers)

Finally rented the movie on DVD.untitled

Loved it. 4.5/5.

Cate Blanchett was absolutely sumptuous. Her glowing skin, her gleaming red hair…what a siren! And the makeup was amazing. They got that papery, powdery, thin texture just right – her ageing face was done so well. I wasn’t a fan of her mannerisms though, in particular her voice, and her way of speaking. Her accent drove me nuts!

I have a newfound respect for Brad Pitt. I think he’s gotten better with age. It broke my heart when he said “I feel like there’s this whole life I can’t remember”. Other memorable lines: “Will you still love me when I have acne?”

Didn’t like: the hummingbird. The Katrina tie-in (or really, the whole retelling from the hospital bed, but it was needed because Benjamin couldn’t have retold his own demise now, could he?). And that irritating narrative sequence in Paris. And overall it was a tad long – scenes like the “pygmy” excursion could have been cut.

I wasn’t surprised to find the Forrest Gump writer also wrote this script. There were so many parallels.

Thoughts?

Lunches at work – to bring, or to buy?

Always the Planner and Broke Grad Student recently posted about bringing your own lunch vs buying it.

I bring my lunch every single day. Occasionally I allocate myself $10 for one lunch out (while I worked fulltime over the summer I did that once every couple of weeks, and I usually went to Revive and used one of their vouchers which they send out in their weekly e-newsletter). I usually have something like pasta, sandwiches, salad, leftovers, fried rice or soup, along with fruit, a muesli bar and crackers/cookies/my own baking. Yeah, it gets repetitive, but for as long as I can remember I’ve never really had exciting lunches. For most of primary school I had tuna sandwiches (I don’t know how I did it) and after I first moved out and was living on a shoestring, I ate jam sandwiches for months on end (can’t stand the stuff now!) So as long as I rotate the main component every so often, it works for me.

It doesn’t take me that long to make my lunch – just a few minutes the previous night most of the time. Eating out takes time. You have to leave the building, decide what you want, walk there, order and wait for your food. THEN you get to eat it. Places like Subway and restaurants with ready made food, that’s not an issue, but if you go to a food court or something you could be waiting for a good 15 minutes. That’s a pretty hefty chunk of time! I only have a half hour for lunch, although nobody is too strict about that. By the time I get my food and walk back to the office, my lunch break’s pretty much over. And sometimes work is just too busy to take any time to go out. What then?

Luckily, most of my coworkers bring their lunch. A few gather everyday at noon in the lunchroom, without fail. Others eat at their desks. (I’m a desk eater!) Like ATP, most people at work  socialise in passing – in the hallways, in the lift, while making tea or by the water cooler. So I don’t feel ostracised for bringing in food.

I’m also a person who gets kind of paralysed by choice. I’ve gotten even worse of late, because eating out used to be a big treat when I was little. We rarely ever ate Wendys, Subway, BK, KFC, or imitation butter chicken/chow mein, etc. It’s not that I’ve overloaded on any of those things – they’re still expensive, after all! – but now I’ve eaten all of them enough to no longer be impressed. Very little appeals to me anymore; in fact when BF and I are looking for a quick dinner, it inevitably turns into a marathon quest because nothing looks or sounds especially good to us. It’s the same with lunches in town – they’re incredibly overpriced, and too often don’t even taste good.

It’s all about the eyes

I have worn glasses since the age of about 10. My first pair was a huge, round, brown pair that took up half my face and literally made me look like an owl. I also had really thick, heavy glass lenses; I wore them for about two or three years and by the time I changed frames, my head had grown so much the legs stuck out at an angle like this: Untitled

Then I progressed onto a much less frumpy oval purple pair, followed by a gunmetal grey pair and the funky patterned pair I wear today (Pictured below). I started wearing contacts at the beginning of 2007, just before starting uni at the ripe old age of 18. Contacts were one of those things my parents never entertained the thought of, like dating and driving. I would have been really gutted if contacts hadn’t worked out, to be honest, but luckily I took to them pretty well – better than I ever could have imagined.

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I wore contacts pretty much exclusively that year and the next, but in late 08 I started having problems. I’m pretty sure it was dry eye and possibly a minor infection. Gritty, dry, sore eyes, a lens that wouldn’t move with my eye ball, always my left eye, and usually began around 2pm (like clockwork). That’s when i bit the bullet, got my eyes tested and finally upgraded my glasses. By the end of the summer I was regularly wearing contacts again, but now instead of wearing my glasses once or twice a month it’s more like half the time.

Krystal at GMBMFB wrote a post about how LASIK completely changed her life. I’ve never thought Lasik was for me; from what I’ve heard it’s really only suitable for those with mildly bad eyes, in which case, NOT worth it for me (I’m at -6 or thereabouts, so pretty freakin’ blind). Although maybe in the future it’s something I should find out more about…when I have money to play with. (But honestly, if I had money to burn, there are so many more things I’d do with it first, namely travel!)

But it would be nice to wake up and be able to see. I can’t actually imagine what that would be like. I have to admit, I’m used to being shortsighted; I can’t remember any other way of living. I’m used to moving around the house in a blur in the mornings (and late at nights) before washing my face and generally humanising myself before work. And…bear with me…the frequent swapping up between glasses and contacts is frustrating, hair-wise. I have a side fringe…sometimes. Sometimes it hides itself away. When I wear contacts, I really need a fringe to cover up my huge forehead and soften up my face. With glasses, I DON’T want my fringe because it gets in the way. (And my forehead is less noticeable because my strong frames dominate my face). It’s hard to find a flattering style that works both ways.

I know, it’s a small thing…but I’m somewhat obsessive-compulsive over little annoyances like that!

Tracking purchases

When I first got my credit card in my first semester of uni, I used it for online purchases, or really large purchases. So honestly, I hardly ever used it, and tracking purchases wasn’t even an issue.

Then I started to realise that A) I could be making rewards points by using it for things like groceries, gas, etc every week – easily a couple of hundred dollars and B) I could be cutting down on my bank statements. Seriously, they were running to about 5 pages a month, once you factored in all our payments, purchases, and flatmates depositing rent and bill money. Instead, I ended up wih longer Visa statements (the print is tiny, though) and it means when I graduate and no longer have unlimited free transactions, I won’t be stung with nasty EFTPOS fees.

I used to meticulously make notes in my phone every time I purchased anything on my Visa. You know, $20 for gas, $10 for lunch, $120 for food, whatever. Then I’d get home and transfer over the full amount (usually, before the purchases even showed up on my transaction history).

But I’ve been SLACKING lately. No more keeping track of purchases. Nope, I have been lazy and caught up in the craziness that’s been 2009. I’ve just been waiting for everything to show up as a transaction, then transferring over money to the Visa. I don’t like it. It’s sloppy and it would be far too easy to overlook one or two purchases.

Can’t moan about it to BF though – he just goes “Oh, so you’re finally using it like normal people use their?”

ARGH!

I…will….breed….this train of thinking out of him.

These little moments

Sometimes you just have to stand back for a moment in time and marvel at how much has gone by and how much has changed.

Four years ago I was heartbroken from my first real relationship coming to an end.

I had just moved out on my own and at times I felt like nobody else had ever felt so alone.

I had another year left of high school and I wished I had been able to go to uni a year early (thankfully, I made the most of seventh form and don’t regret a moment. It was a fantastic year).

I had about $10 wiggle room in my budget and I lived on about $30-40 a week for food. I made toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, skincare and toilet paper last as long as it possibly could.

So much has changed since then.

Today I look back and think, it’s amazing how much can happen in just a few years. I have a job related to my field of study, I’m about to graduate, I finally learned to drive, I know how to clean an oven and how to slice an onion. I met BF, someone who had gone to school pretty much alongside me but who I barely ever spoke to. He’s been in the army, worked a few jobs and is about to go back for more schooling. His nieces are 7 and 8, and they now have a baby sister and another on the way. They have a cousin, a baby boy. BF’s brothers have left school and started working, and are nearly old enough to start high school, respectively.

And yet I still think his nieces are about 4 and 5, and his youngest brother about 8. I still think of my brother as about 12, for goodness sake, and he’s almost 15. I guess it’ll always take me a few years to catch up – I’ll always be lagging behind. Isn’t that the beauty of being older? You’re expected to not know these things; to ask “what year are you in now?” and to squeal “but you were only THIS tall last time I saw you!”

This is life, and today I’m going to take a snapshot of it for posterity.

When is cheaping out okay?

Dog and Kristy posted about the things they refuse to cheap out on. I always like to read these kinds of posts; everyone has different priorities and no two people are ever going to have the exact same list.

I definitely agree with Dog on going for the better neighbourhood. After living here, I’m determined to only go up the suburban ladder, not down. This story about a family who’ve been burgled seven times (why haven’t they moved by now??) elicited floods of responses, with people wanting to share their stories of being robbed. Anecdotally, Auckland’s burglary rate seems ridiculously high. If you haven’t been affected, no doubt you know somehow who has. The common theme was just how powerless and helpless you feel after being hit by thieves, and how little (if anything) police can do. Even with proof. There’s only so many times you can claim insurance before your premiums hike, and if you’re a homeowner, moving may not be as easy a solution as it sounds.

And kitchenware for sure, if you can afford it. Especially knives. Nothing worse than hacking away at a cut of meat with a blunt knife, or trying to slice through a stubborn tomato (and probably nicking yourself while you’re at it!).

We also try to make better food choices when we eat out. Less greasy, fast food crap; we try to pay a little more for maybe Thai or something, instead of nasty food court sweet and sour pork or Maccas.

Work clothes are also something you need to invest more in, methinks. That’s really going to hit me once I graduate; I’m going to need to build a proper work wardrobe, and seeing as I don’t have truckloads of cash at my disposal, I’m going to have to go with fewer, but better quality pieces.

For me, I also need good skincare and foundation. I have difficult skin – super touchy, super sensitive, yet super oily. I think I also have mild rosacea, so I need gentle products that aren’t extra moisturising because they’ll turn me into a grease slick. So many products are designed with sensitive, DRY skin in mind (which granted is more common than my kind), so it’s a struggle sometimes.

And sheets! I can’t stand cheap sheets. They get scratchy and lumpy in no time at all, and I twitch in revulsion at the though of having to lie on them (even with a layer of pyjamas in between). Nope, gotta be good sheets that last awhile.

Batteries and electronics. I mean this in the sense that I’d always go for a name brand – generic batteries tend to have very little power in them, and when I’m buying a phone/tv/computer, I want to know that I can trust the manufacturer.

Then there are the things I’d prefer not to cheap out on (bras, shoes, appliances) but usually do. Thoughts?

Scars and stretchmarks

I really need to get my hands on some rosehip oil.

It’s the dead of winter, and it’s bloody freezing. (According to WHO, the minimum temperature indoors is 18 degrees. Pretty sure it’s colder in here – I can see my breath in front of me from time to time.) So although it’s not like I’m showing off skin on a daily basis, I’m not exactly taking care of my skin either. But I have a ton of scars from old eczema and insect bites – mainly on my legs and around the hips and torso – which I really need to do something about.

I have really thin, delicate skin which bruises and scars easily; all the spots where I get eczema have thinned out my skin and are still extremely prone to itching (NOT good, as you can imagine!) Having thinner skin there also means I flush more easily when I’m drinking – quite scary to get home half cut, try to undress yourself and fall into bed, only to catch sight of scary red blotches scattered over your torso.

But it beats my high school days for sure. I had bad acne for a couple of years, and it was AWFUL. My forehead was dotted with purplish scars (one brilliant guy made the insightful comment to me, “Your forehead is speckled!”) and I tried to cover it all up with makeup – not very well. I remember being out shopping and browsing through the makeup department in Farmers, and my friend gently pointing out that my current foundation “wasn’t very good”. I still haven’t found my holy grail foundation; with oily, sensitive skin, it’s really hard to find a balance. Thankfully the facial scars have since faded, and with gentle skincare and makeup, my face isn’t totally ravaged by the elements anymore.

Things I like about winter

I know most of the blogosphere seems to be coming into summer, and looking forward to sunglasses, shorts and sandals.

But for the rest of us, who only have sleet, rain and snow to to contend with, here’ s what we can appreciate about winter!

That, and the shortest day of the year is now over – it’s all uphill from here!

Hearty stews
Chili
Beer battered fries
Open fires
Hoodies
Hot chocolate
Boots
Stockings
Coats