• Monday Money Checkup (belatedly)

    (via My Pretty Pennies!)

    1. The most I’ve spent this last week was on groceries, $167. That’s nearly $40 over budget, thanks to: buying mouthwash and a lightbulb ($15 together – we have these ridiculous huge light fixtures!), shopping last thing on a Sunday night when the shelves were half bare (no chicken, no mince, etc) and buying lots of treats (expensive bread, filo pastry, doughnuts, ice cream, Toffee Pops).

    2. Today I feel optimistic about my money. It’s been a wacky few weeks – T is working again, but with that came some new job expenses, plus extra gas and lunch food costs. And my paycheck this week will include an extra day of overtime.

    3. Money can’t buy happiness. One free/inexpensive thing I did last week that made me happy was going to a movie premiere. Also, free burgers (thanks to the goody bags we got there from Paramount Pictures) and settling in with a DVD on Friday night.

    4. I will consider this week a success if we manage to get organised and grocery shop on Saturday morning, and this PR guy comes back to me on time so a piece I’m working on comes together for deadline.

    5. My favorite room in a house is ooooooh. Probably the kitchen.

  • Things that make me sad

    1. Realising my parents only have limited years left on earth.
    2. Realising that I only have eight years to go until 30.
    3. Seeing people asleep on the streets of my city.
    4. Seeing people do the jobs that nobody else wants to do.
    5. Being dragged into a pet store by BF and seeing the adorable dogs and cats cooped up in a little glass pen.

    That’s my five minutes of wallowing for today.

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  • The colleagues you love to hate

    Every office has one. The scapegoat. The hated one.

    At mine, we’re blessed with two. One is just, shall we say, lazy. And incompetent. The other has no sense of personal space. You know what I’m talking about. Hovering over your shoulder, breathing practically into your face, slapping you on the back, somehow accidentally stepping on your foot as you converse in the hallway – even though you’re standing FACING each other.

    It’s a little easier to deal with when everyone else is around. You roll your eyes, sigh and get on with it. But there are times when it’s just the two of you holding down the fort. Those are the days I dread.

    I try to bite my lip and grit my teeth, but everytime colleague 1 calls my name, I want to scream. You know how little kids call out “Mu-um!!” in that whiney, demanding tone? That’s EXACTLY how he addresses me. Or maybe it’s not, and I’m just projecting my feelings onto him because it’s always followed up by a request to pawn bum work off onto me.

    What are your tips for dealing with difficult workmates?

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  • Link love (Powered by crockpots and budding herb gardens)

    It’s another bumper one this week, kids!

    Newlyweds Little Miss Moneybags and her man are going to live off one salary.  Woohoo! I think that’s what I’d like to aim for eventually, too.

    Krystal can’t wait to become a DINK household again – trust me, I know what it’s like. Every word in that post could have come from me!

    At Stratejoy, Marian explains why, despite the money worries, she’s glad she stuck it to the 9-5 routine.

    And Red negotiates a 65/35 electricity bill split with her husband. Although I can’t ever imagine doing such a thing, they have reasons for keeping their money separate. And it reminds me that I need to have a look at our contributions to the bills account – after all now that T is working again, he should be putting money towards the Sky bill as he’s the one that watches it!

    Kelly compares journalism to slavery and discovers that in London there are internships for just about every imaginable job.

    At Ms Career Girl, Rachel asks when it’s a good idea to take an unpaid internship.

    And Carlee urges “unemployed whiners” to create their own jobs. Perhaps easier said than done sometimes (especially if you’re not trade-qualified and aren’t part of the knowledge economy), but there’s plenty of healthy debate going on in the comments.


    Nicole and Maggie ask what your “cooking system” is and how to manage feeding multiple people.

    The Everyday Minimalist has 10 time saving tips for cooking for the week.

    Amber confesses to her binge eating tendencies and what she’s doing about it.

    Girl and City is in Hong Kong and has boatloads of amazing food photos to show for it.

    At Living Well on Less, Karen looks at the results of a study on what Americans consider necessities. (I’m going to disagree that a cellphone is a luxury, though, in today’s world. How do you call in late to work/appointments when stuck in traffic? If you’re job hunting, I’ve seen job ads require that you have a cell phone (well, at least in NZ). Doyou freelance? You’ll need one. Emergencies: what do you do when you break down on the motorway? And if you have any degree of responsibility at work, odds are you will need to be available for people to get in touch with you for work related matters. Even if you’re not important enough for a company phone.)

    What’s your ugly shame? If it’s eating food that falls on your boob, Jessica B does it too.

    Being Ruth explains why sci-fi is so appealing in hard times.

    Average Girl accidentally gives the rubbish truck guy a bit of a peepshow (seriously hilarious, go read it now).

    Suburban Sweetheart decides to start all over again (in a sense) and move back to her hometown, and wonders how to stop dwelling on the past.

    Is asking for donations from readers good business sense? Some of Marian’s readers (or more accurately, haters) didn’t think so. (Incidentally, I’m on her side.)

    Speaking of boundaries, Stephany and Dana blogged about the areas they won’t go, or if you like, the unbloggables. Some things you just need to keep for yourself.

    Unlike some, Girl Normal isn’t too concerned about her personal privacy online. Here’s her tongue in cheek take on the situation.

    Mo at World as a Muse tries to downsize her closet but gets turned down by a consignment store. Ouch.

    Little House on the Southern Prairie speaks the truth when she writes that life would be easier if she cut out about 15 per cent of the people she knows.

    Finally, Stacking Pennies reflects on married life and what’s changed as a result.

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  • Hollywood comes to Albany

    Initially, it was just a slightly irritating book title which mixed tenses. Tomorrow, When the War Began.

    Then I took the time to read through it, and the sequel, and the one after that and the one after that, all the way up until the seventh. I even read the first instalment of the second series it spawned, but I gave up at that point. Let’s just pretend it was only ever a trilogy, as the original vision went.

    So when news of the NZ premiere started trickling in, I entered every competition I could. And wonder of wonders, last week I got an email – I’d won a double pass.

    I’ve been to many movie previews before. But I’ve never been to a full on premiere like this, and considering it’s an Australian film, I guess this was almost the equivalent of, say, a London or New York premiere. There were quasi celebs, cameras, interviews. And while I guess it is, as others say, a “kidult” film, at least half of the audience was well out of their teens. These are some well-loved books. (And for some, prescribed high school English novels.)

    I won’t talk about how we got there at 7, when the screening was meant to start. Or how we stood and waited for the stars to arrive. Or how our phones were all confiscated. How it was quarter to 8 by the time we were seated inside, or 8 when the lights finally darkened. Or how when it was all over, everyone stampeded to the front of the theatre to scoop up the rest of the unclaimed goodie bags. Some people have no shame.

    Instead, I’ll just say that despite the wait, it was a worthy adaptation. The acting, the cinematography, and scenery were all spot on. They knew there was a lot riding on their shoulders, and acknowledged it in an ironic little line about book-to-film conversions- a nice touch.

    I don’t recall all the nuances of the first book, but I think the film captured the essence of the novel very well. Basically, it tells the story of seven teenagers who go away on a camping trip and upon their return find that a foreign army has invaded their home and imprisoned their families. Broadly speaking, the first part focuses on characterisation, while the second half of the movie illustrates their fight to survive, and their fight back. Trust me when I say the action scenes are up there with anything American-made.

    Minor annoyances – the score, some of the painfully predictable dialogue, and Robyn’s characterisation – it was humorous, yes, but bordering on farcical. And the familiarity of the cast! T immediately recognised Kevin from Home and Away (and so did all the screaming teenage girls); Ellie resembled a darker Emma Watson, Lee was a dead ringer for Heroes‘ Ando, Homer reminded me of Sayid from Lost, and I’m still trying to figure out who Fi’s doppelganger is.

    I hope they do well, because the second and third movies would be beyond awesome. And yes, the Australian accents are beyond annoying, but on a global scale, they’re probably easier to understand than ours.

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go to the library and track down the books so I can reread them.

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  • Kitchen confessions

    Guys, I don’t think I’ve ever fully revealed the extent of my culinary ineptitude. I have been reduced to tears upon losing the battle to a jar of pasta sauce, or spilling half a bag of rice grains all over the floor. I have been known to come home, stare into the pantry, and then sit back and wait – absolutely paralysed – for BF to get home because I don’t know what I’m going to make.

    To be fair, the reverse has also happened once or twice. But that’s a pretty rare occasion.

    If it wasn’t for him (and Food TV) I would probably live off stir fries…of the bottled sauce kind…and pasta. Growing up, I didn’t eat a lot of flavourful food. Most of the food Mum made was fairly plain. She rotated a few dishes, which in hindsight didn’t have a whole lot of taste, but which I ate anyway. Beans. Cauliflower. Mince.

    I think it was Eddie Van Halen who once said that at some point, you look at your guitar, and you stop seeing frets. Instead of the fretboard, what your eyes perceive are notes, scales, chords – music.

    Eddie Van Halen Shredding His Guitar @ "E...
    Image by Anirudh Koul via Flickr

    I’m never going to get to that level. I’ll be happy to play the songs I love. I’d even settle for one day being able to play while standing up.

    I think it’s the same with cooking. Some people have an innate sense of texture, flavour and spice. BF has this in spades. If I mess something up, he’s always able to swoop in, shake some magic dust over it and redeem the whole dish.

    I’ll settle for one day, being able to look in the fridge and in the cupboards, and whip up something quick and tasty off the top of my head.

    The highlight of my cooking this week (fortnight? Month? Quarter?) was chicken with lemon/garlic/yoghurt dip, accompanied by rice risotto – from a box, slightly burnt – and sliced up leftover roast beef. It may sound simple, but I agonised over that yoghurt sauce. I maxed out my knife skills chopping the garlic as fine as possible. And as for the addition of beef – pure genius, once I opened the microwave and remembered its existence, that is.

    You may notice a conspicuous absence of real vegetables from that meal. Never fear. I will conquer the greens. That’s going to be my next challenge.

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  • A sign of maturity, or insanity?

    magic of the holidays 9: the river of light
    Image by jmtimages via Flickr

    Thanks to Stacking Pennies, I recently found out that at Netflix, workers get to take as many holidays as they want.

    “Employees … were responding to emails on weekends, they were solving problems online at home at night. And every so often, they would take off an afternoon to ferry a child to the paediatrician or to check in on an ageing parent.

    “Since Netflix wasn’t tracking how many hours people were logging each work day, these employees wondered, why should it track how many holidays people were taking each work year? “

    In my industry – and many others I’m sure – the line between work and non-work is blurring. Thanks, technology.

    At this stage, I don’t really mind it. If I want to go above and beyond on my own time, then I will. I’ll do it for the benefit of the company that employs me, because I want us to be the best at what we do. Perhaps if I was regularly expected to, this might start to chafe. But for now, that’s not the case.

    By law, we are entitled to four weeks (which is more than fair – add in public holidays and it’s quite a lot of time off IMO). Also, business for us doesn’t stop on public holidays – there’s always someone rostered on, so there’s the opportunity to earn extra days in lieu. And barring last year, when the company decided that holding so much accrued leave was uneconomical in a recession and forced us all (even me, a very part-time worker/student at the time) to take time off, any way we want to schedule leave is generally fine.

    When I first started working, I thought four weeks off every year sounded like an eternity. Bear in mind that yes, we got summers off and at least three other breaks with a minimum of two weeks during the year during uni. But I had to work all of those periods. Bills don’t stop. Rent doesn’t stop. I didn’t have the luxury of taking off on trips. the last time I had any extended period of time off was the summer between high school and uni when I worked only a couple of days a week and spent the rest broke and bored out of my mind.

    I’ve been working full time since November, and I still haven’t taken any real leave. I had a long weekend in February, and I’ve worked every single weekend since then on my new schedule. I’m planning to take the weekend before T’s birthday in September off, and a couple of weeks around Christmas. I don’t care if we don’t go anywhere amazing – I just need a breather.

    So while I love the idea of such a flexible environment ala Netflix, I just don’t know if it would work in my office. It’s already difficult enough to manage a seven-day roster (and coverage for 14plus hours a day) with people taking their annual allotment of leave throughout the year. Can you imagine the carnage that would ensue in a free-for-all?

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  • Growing up is hard to do…?

    No doubt if you’re between the ages of 19 and 29, you read this week’s New York Times article, What Is It About 20-Somethings? It garnered tons of attention and sparked reaction pieces all over the web. Take the Salon piece, rather pompously titled: I became an adult at 22: Why can’t you?

    Patronising, yes. But you know what? I think much the same thing. (Except perhaps change 22 for 17 or 18). I wouldn’t say I look down on my friends who still live at home, but I’m certainly inclined to smile patronisingly inside my head and think “oh, how little they know. Join the real world”. I’ve been doing it for years, and quite frankly, I don’t see an end in sight. After all, if you’ve got it (fairly) sweet at home, why wouldn’t you stay there as long as possible?

    And if there are cultural expectations thrown into the mix, all the more reason to stay put. Some of my Chinese friends have expressed amazement that I live on my own. But the understanding was always that I’d go flatting after high school. (And while that ended up happening much earlier, I have no doubt that that’s how it would’ve turned out. It might not have been easy for the parents to cut me loose, but they would have done so nonetheless.)

    And yet, do I really qualify as a grownup? I pay my bills on time, file my bank statements, put out the rubbish, clean the oven, eat regular meals, do laundry, buy groceries. I do it all, but it’s still bloody hard work.

    Take Saturday. I got off work at 8, caught up with friends over dessert, then got home after 10 and had no energy for cooking. Dinner that night basically consisted of New York baked cheesecake (SO good), a little couscous with even less chicken, and a hunk of steak.

    I don’t think I’ll get to lord it as the worldly one much longer, though. One of my dear friends recently got engaged (the first of us to do so). She still lives at home with her family. She’s finishing up her degree. But while I don’t doubt her love and commitment to her fiancee, and know they have very practical reasons to be getting hitched so soon, I still think she’s rushing it a little.

    I think this gem – uttered by another mutual friend – sums it up better than I ever could:

    Sometimes couples go and get married. That doesn’t make them grownup.

    Some couples are grownup, but they’re not married.

    And don’t even get me started on the whole event planning thing. Nothing sounds worse to me than having to organise the engagement party, the wedding, the reception, etc. I can already see how much work it’s going to be…and I don’t envy her.

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  • 50 questions that will free your mind, part 4

    (Click here for Parts 1, 2 and 3.)

    16. How come the things that make you happy don’t make everyone happy?
    Because I’m an introvert.

    17. What one thing have you not done that you really want to do? What’s holding you back?
    Travel. Money.

    18. Are you holding onto something you need to let go of?
    I actually don’t think so. I’m feeling pretty emotionally healthy, touch wood.

    19. If you had to move to a state or country besides the one you currently live in, where would you move and why?
    Not a clue. I haven’t been to enough places yet. Certainly not back to tropical Asia. Nowhere south of Auckland, I don’t think, nowhere colder than here.

    20. Do you push the elevator button more than once? Do you really believe it makes the elevator faster?
    Is this for real?

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  • Keeping in touch

    A tag cloud (a typical Web 2.0 phenomenon in i...
    Image via Wikipedia

    Like most teenage girls, I spent the vast majority of my spare time on the phone. This was back in the day of dialup internet, no less; it was a battle of wills between whoever wanted the computer, and me, intent on continuing my conversation. I could quite literally spend hours talking to my friends, or in lots of cases, simply doing homework or watching TV together.

    Then I got older. And I eventually moved out. Texting became the norm. I still kept a landline, but mainly so I could have the internet, and in case of emergencies.

    Today, I honestly can’t be bothered tapping away at a tiny keypad to compose messages. My crappy touchscreen phone is a pain in the ass to use, and if I can conceivably get away with not replying to your message, I’m gonna take the lazy route.

    My workday consists of sitting at a computer doing stuff online; I spend so much time typing that my handwriting has become atrocious and the vast majority of my communication is done by email, Twitter or Facebook. And while that works for the people I know in a more professional sense, my personal circle isn’t online 24/7 like me.

    They have classes to go to. Extra-curriculars. (Heck, I am not even sure all of them have broadband at home. And smartphones? Forget about it.) They’re just not all that Web 2.0 in comparison. And I have to make concessions for that. Make the effort to drop them a line, to meet up in person, and touch base with a fellow human being.

    ** This week’s Carnival of Personal Finance is up! Thanks Paul for including my post, Does 60k constitute a high income? **

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