January 2012 archive
Image by airdiogo via Flickr
Life is hurtling by.
Here’s what’s going on, one month on into 2012.
I’ve crossed off a few things off my life list – making pasta, ice cream and mac and cheese from scratch, for starters. Between the cookbooks I’ve been given and the blogs I read, I have no shortage of recipes to keep me on my culinary toes. Bonus: it’s a good way to practise photography.
I started learning Daughter by Pearl Jam, which includes a pretty funky tuning.
I’ve also looked into volunteering opportunities and reached out to a few, so we’ll see if any pan out.
Elsewhere, I have a weekend trip coming up in a few days (hurrah!) and fitting in runs, reading, guitar and relationship time. Surely this can’t last?!
I headed back to work on the 5th. This gave me a couple of days to get settled in and get ahead before the full daily routine resumed. And it gave me the chance to get organised with my files and folders on my work computer – something I BADLY needed to do. Now to keep it up…
I’ve signed up to receive Ramit Sethi’s (of I Will Teach You To Be Rich) Dream Job course material via email. Most useful IMO so far have been his email scripts and videos with mock salary negotiation skits – I picked up some great phrases for future use. For all the things they teach you at uni, email etiquette in business communication is not one, and for all the negotiation advice to be found, actual wording is tough to come by.
I’m getting more active on my IRL Twitter account, making an effort to reach out and engage; getting more active in LinkedIn, now that I’ve found some groups that aren’t so spammy and full of self-promotion; and commenting on the odd industry blog under my real name. This does make it a pain switching between accounts. A work in progress, I suppose.
- A few thoughts thus far: It’s a good idea. The gamification and points earned element is fun.
- BUT. I feel there’s too much content covered in each silo. Slow it down, really drill home each new lesson, and do fewer of them in a week.
- Some of the exercises are poorly worded and some of the hints are confusing or unhelpful. Thankfully, there’s a user forum for Q&As.
- For me, the jargon is overwhelming. And the syntax! I’m used to very basic HTML, which makes sense to me. Here, I feel I’m passing each step but not really learning, or gaining a real understanding of what I’m doing.
- If you were any good at algebra, some of this may be less painful for you.
And just for fun, I’ve started up mock forex and stock portfolios on Investopedia. It’s unlikely I’ll be doing either of these in real life, but improving my financial literacy can only be a good thing, and a simulated environment is the best way to start. In picking my companies, I did some research on the likes of CNN Money, where you can find information on companie - financials, forecasts, etc. Of course, when it’s play money, you don’t necessarily take as much care as you would with real dollars, and it wasn’t till I’d bought about 10 stocks that I realised I was being charged $20 a pop on each transaction. (To date the extent of my individual stock investment experience has been in the Neopets stockmarket. Remember that site?) And I’ve done the same on the NZX, but the size of the stockmarket would seem to limit potential returns.
So, how has the year started off for you? What are you doing to make the most of it?
Tags: goals, life
Chalk another up for the cheap and cheerful folder.
Nasi lemak is, I think, a dish it’s hard to understand the appeal of unless you’re from Malaysia. Boiled egg. Sliced cucumber. Rice with a hint of coconut. Sambal. Curry. Laid out like that, it just doesn’t sound all that exciting.
But for us, it’s comfort food. At KL Cafe, the dishes of our homeland are front and centre.
There are oodles of noodle and rice dishes. Egg noodles, hokkien noodles, rice noodles, the mee that I suspect comes from a Maggi packet. Dry noodles, soupy noodles. A couple of dishes featuring prawns. Plenty more with the thick salty, oystery sauce perfect for sopping up greedily. All in the $10-15 range and more than adequate servings.
My first time there, I plumped for the nasi lemak – served with curry chicken and sambal with anchovies (or ikan bilis, as I’m still inclined to call it in this context) softer and moister than I’m used to. Divine.
But what I was really itching to try was the kuan lo won ton mee, and I returned the very next day for lunch, determined to put this dish into my tummy. And I’m pleased to report I walked out with a belly full of it. See those saucey noodles atop a layer of fried mince, livened up with spring onions and nuts, topped by tender, thin BBQ pork slices and dried prawn, er, stuff? Uber-satisfying, especially with a cute little bowl of wonton soup to accompany.
That’s also T’s har lo mee, with fatter noodles and a tart shrimp-flavoured soup on the side. Greasy? Yes. But were you expecting any different?
Oh, and the free hot tea is pretty good – not overpowering, like some Chinese tea can be.
There are no pretenses here. You can walk in with no shoes on, I’m pretty sure. And correct me if I’m wrong, but it may be the only place out west that does Malay. Bonus points.
Frugal factor: high. Dishes are around the $10 mark.
KL Cafe, Great North Express
4055 Great North Rd (in the large row of shops across from the converted petrol station)
Three totally random thoughts on money:
- Funny how you stop taking notice of minimum wage once you’re past that threshold. How you stop caring. In fact, maybe you would like it to stay that way because the higher it gets, the less your rate seems.
- Gangs are the corporates of the underworld. Those at the top are untouchable and keep their hands clean while their worker bees are not that different from cogs in the corporate machine.
- It feels like I’ve been tracking my spending for ages, but it’s only been two years. Thinking back to when I started tracking my spending religiously, I wonder what I would do today if ASB (one of the most forward thinking banks in the country, IMO, along with BNZ) had not introduced the Track My Spending tool at just the right time. I remember the first time I decided to sit down and calculate our spending in late 2007; I literally printed out statements, marked them up and busted out a calculator. 2008 brought on time of struggle as T was laid off; a household consisting of one student and one unemployed person does not make for financial stability or comfort. Then tracking came along just as I graduated, started working and really started getting ahead.
Two very personal money stories, shared by Adam at Man vs Debt.
Krystal explains why a line of credit shouldn’t be your emergency fund.
What is the most amazing thing you’ve done with money? Fabulous Broke wants to know.
Little Miss Moneybags lists money habits that make her feel either frugal or broke.
Katie Going Global explains how she financed her career break.
At Cracked, five stupid habits that growing up poor engenders (echoes my post here).
Three reasons not to go back to university, by She Bloggs.
Tips for being a great mentor, at Intuit.
Financial Samurai says even millionaires find it tough to quit their jobs, and at Untemplater, argues that you shouldn’t be in a rush to join the real world.
One teacher wonders what’s become of her past students, at Red Lips and Academics.
Girl with the Red Balloon has a potential new job in the works – but it’s not a clearcut decision.
At Grow, why every job seeker should be blogging.
Ms Career Girl asks if you’ve been depositing into your ‘social bank account‘ lately.
Thoughts on living life and leaving a legacy, at Stratejoy.
Are you backing up your blog, self-hosted types? If not, Geek in Heels has some tips.
Untemplater walks us through what to do when you’ve lost your wallet.
Cordelia reminds us to take things as they come and not play the result a moment too soon.
And lastly, a beautiful post by Andrea on the things her son has taught her.
Tags: blogging, money
The Help – Kathryn Stockett
If you were to ask me what I liked about this book, my first response would be something like: The heroine has the best name ever. Skeeter Phelan? It’s just godawful. And hence insanely great.
She’s an ugly duckling with a rich family and big dreams, which endeared her to me even more. While those around her immediately settle into their roles in southern society life, dropping out to get married and organising fundraisers for poor African children while refusing to share their bathrooms with their African-American maids, Skeeter has the balls to buck the trend and look beyond the uniforms, seeing “the help” as what they are. Real people.
Getting friendly with the help, however, doesn’t endear her to her snotty bridge club friends. And what would they do if they knew she – gasp – wanted to write a book detailing the experiences of local maids at the hands of their white mistresses? Fraternising with blacks can only lead to serious doo-doo in the sixties. Cue tiptoeing around as Skeeter leads a double life, telling her mother she’s going to church every night when she’s actually holed up in the home of her best friend’s maid, frantically transcribing the life stories of various local housekeepers (and even hiding it from her rich boyfriend. After all, you can’t trust anyone; apparently being an equal-rights sympathiser is akin to being a communist).
Inevitably, a project like this leads to learning things about your friends and neighbours you didn’t want to know (and begs the question of why Skeeter is friends with them in the first place). And what happened to her childhood housekeeper, the servant Constantine who practically raised her?
Aibileen and Minny, the two maids who make up the other two narrators in The Help, also make for gripping reading. Aibileen is a far better mother to toddler Mae Mobley than her cold, disaffected biological one – and while white children inevitably grow up to turn against the help, she does her best to instil a sense of decency and love in the child. Meanwhile, sharp-tongued, brassy Minny (who is, disappointingly, married to an alcoholic abuser) forms a surprising bond with her new mistress, the endearing white-trash Celia Foote who’s out of her depth in upper-class Jackson, Mississippi.
Stockett is brave, perhaps, attempting to write in a black voice. I’d like to think she does so elegantly and respectfully. Around the edge of the main story, she sketches out the horrendous things humans inflict upon each other in the name of hate – a man beaten and blinded for using a public toilet not specifically marked for blacks. Within that inner circle, she details both the cruelty of cold households, and the genuine affection that goes on behind closed doors in others.
My sole gripe is with an ill mother storyline that seemed to go nowhere. Otherwise, Stockett’s unfussy style and strong characterisation through speech and straightforward narrative gets the thumbs up from me.
Ever since I started reading personal finance blogs, I’ve come to realise that credit is never going to be as cheap in New Zealand as it is elsewhere. (As with food, cars, clothes, technology and pretty much anything else you can think of.)
Default credit card interest rates hover around 20%. You might see balance transfer offers around 5%. Car and personal loans around 10%.
You bloggers in the States, though (and that’s most of you)? I hear tales of 0% loans. 0% balance transfer rates. Cards without annual fees. Plus of course, you have access to so many more kinds of cards, and it’s easy to compare credit cards online.
Interest rates don’t overly fuss me, because I’m not in debt. What would be nice, though, is if there were local cards without annual fees.
I currently have one plain old Visa, and it’s with the bank I’ve banked with all my life. Luckily, it’s a pretty awesome bank with accounts that suit my needs and the single best online banking system available, IMO. It’s ridiculously easy to make instant payments onto it (because I like to pay off purchases right after making them) and the six-monthly fee of $12 is one of the lowest out there.
Recently I was tempted by Air NZ offering no joining fee on its Airpoints programme. (You know travel is number one on my list.) I could sign up for a credit card linked to Airpoints, and earn points on everyday spending.
Thing is, the fee is more than double what I currently pay – $25 every six months. And based on our annual spending, we would be lucky to rack up enough points in a year for a single domestic flight.
Maybe it’s worth it for frequent flyers, who also earn points when they book flights, but for those who are trying to save for travel, it doesn’t sound like such a hot deal.
Tell me, how many credit cards do you have? Anyone out there an Airpoints member?
Tags: money, personal finance
I’ve come to the conclusion that together T and I would make the ideal
Image via Wikipedia
Combine his skill with my caution and you would come up with the perfect blend.
T has the confidence, the quick reaction time, the coordination, the spatial perception, the ability to park effortlessly.
But he’s prone to taking too many risks, accelerating and braking too hard – which is just uneconomic in $2-plus-a-litre times – and belongs to the “try to get ahead at any cost” mentality. By that, I mean when stopped at a light, he always edges as humanly close to the car in front as possible without touching (and laughs at me for leaving “enough room to fly a plane” in between cars). On long trips through the single lane country roads, he overtakes cars only to then get stuck behind yet more cars further along the track. It’s a loser’s game, I tell you.
Granted, since he was in a string of accidents a few years ago he’s less reckless on the roads. But fundamentally, we’re opposites behind the wheel.
It’s the same with our personalities and approaches in real life, really.
We even each other out.
Combine his physical attributes (strength, perfect vision, coordination), quick learning, inability to sit still, some kind of charisma with my work ethic, stubbornness, patience, planning, attention to detail and we’d be a pretty formidable superhuman.
Does your driving reflect how you navigate the real world?
If it wasn’t for the interwebs, I wouldn’t have a job.
And while slow, bad tech makes my life (both work and personal) hard, good tech makes it exponentially easier.
Some of my go-tos are:
Syncs “notes” across all your devices. Radtastic. I use it for running lists and blog scribblings, mainly.
File storage in the cloud, accessible from anywhere. A godsend. Also much preferred over YouSendIt for sending/sharing items.
Enables you to tweet links right from the webpage, and “buffer” links to go out at scheduled times throughout the day. Also integrates with link-shortening analytics services like bit.ly. Has totally changed my social media flow at work.
A seriously awesome way to keep up with the stories of the day.
Compiles the big stories shared by your peeps on Twitter and sends a digest to you. Need I say more? (ETA: Since I first drafted this post, Twitter has acquired Summify, the bastards, and its lifespan looks very limited. Alternatives I’ve found are news.me and Percolator).
I despair if you’ve not heard of this. Hootsuite is much like a web-based version of Tweetdeck – a simple way to manage multiple social media accounts (including integration with Facebook, LinkedIn, etc), track links, lists and schedule tweets. I use Hootsuite exclusively for my own various profiles, and other various apps for work purposes, to avoid mixups.
I have a terrible memory for books I’ve read, movies I’ve watched, etc. Goodreads deals to the first problem, letting me list and rate what I’ve read, keep a “bookcase” of titles to read in the future, and suggest others. Plus there’s social networking fun to be had!
What apps can you not live without?
I’ve been baking up a storm.
Coconut chocolate blondies
I ran with this recipe from Brown Eyed Baker.
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1 cup chocolate chips or chunks
1 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon butter
- Combine the flour and salt; set aside.
- Stir together the melted butter and brown sugar until smooth; beat in egg and vanilla extract until well blended.
- Slowly beat in the flour mixture until blended, then stir in the coconut and chocolate chips.
- Scrape the batter into greased pan and smooth even with a rubber spatula.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until set in the center but still soft. Do not overbake. Let the bars cool slightly before drizzling with chocolate, then cool completely before cutting.
- For the topping, combine the chocolate and butter in a small bowl and microwave in 30-second intervals until melted and smooth. Using a spoon, drizzle over the bars.
I only used about half the flour; it would have been too dry otherwise. I’m guessing that in this case the 1/2 cup of butter refers to the melted volume, not the original amount… I definitely like to err on the side of moister when it comes to baking. I also skipped the chocolate topping altogether.
Anyway, I definitely recommend making this! For not much work, these are incredibly tasty. As you can see, though, my chocolate chips (despite being tiny, delicate drops) all sunk to the bottom, even though I mixed them through evenly.
Buttery, delicious biscuits with fluffy lemon icing? What’s not to like?
I used this Kidspot recipe:
125g butter, softened
¼ cup icing sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 cup plain flour
¼ cup cornflour
30g butter, softened
¾ cup icing sugar, sifted
1-2 teaspoons lemon juice
- Use an electric mixer or beaters to cream butter, icing sugar and vanilla essence.
- Sift together the flour and cornflour, add to butter mixture and mix on low speed until just combined and a soft dough forms.
- Place a piece of plastic film on a work bench, tip dough onto plastic film, wrap up and roll into a sausage about 2cm diameter (no messy bench or hands!).
- Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 160°C.
- Line two baking trays with non-stick baking paper.
- Remove dough from fridge and slice into about 30 rounds.
- Lightly flour hands and roll each round into a small ball.
- Place each ball onto the tray about 5cm apart.
- Dip a fork in flour and press each ball to 1 cm thick.
- Bake for 10-15 minutes or until just starting to colour.
- Cool on baking tray.
- To prepare filling, beat the butter, icing sugar and enough lemon juice to make a thick paste. Sandwich cookies together with icing.
In this case, I definitely advise erring on the dryer side. My first batch melted too much and flattened out. I left the remainder of the dough in the fridge overnight, added more flour the next day and the second lot turned out much better, if not exactly photo-pristine.
And finally, my coup de grace!
Minimalist lemon ice cream
My favourite food blog, Stonesoup, walked me through this:
1/3 cup lemon juice
250g icing sugar
300mL (1 1/4cups) whipping cream
- Combine lemon juice and icing sugar in a small bowl.
- Whisk cream until soft peaks just start to form and the cream has thickened slightly.
- Whisk the lemon mixture in with the cream and mix until the texture is back to the soft peaks.
- Freeze for at least 6 hours.
You really cannot go wrong, I tell you.
I ran out of icing sugar, so used mostly caster sugar, and it was fine. Super easy!
There are people who go from relationship to relationship, barely stopping for air in between.
You know the kind I mean.
Newly freed, they dive into the next one, seemingly heartless to heartbreak.
I once read that it takes half as long to get over a relationship as it lasted. So if you were together for two years, it would take roughly a year to truly heal. Etc.
I don’t know if I believe that. Lately, I’ve seen a good number of people exit a long-term relationship (numbering years of dating, not months) and march straight into the arms of a new squeeze. Rebounds, I thought at first. Yet they seem well on track to another long-term love. And who am I to talk? T and I got together only a month or two after the demise of my first relationship. I can’t say I expected it to last at the time, but lo and behold, we are betrothed.
That said, at that stage I certainly wasn’t over my ex-boyfriend by any means. I still thought about him plenty, particularly as he started going out with another girl I vaguely knew and liked, and always stayed tuned for any gossip involving his name. And I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I honestly could say that I had stopped wondering “what if” and fully threw my heart into T. Maybe it was six months in. My memory blurs.
What do you reckon? A solid rule of thumb or useless women’s mag trope?
Tags: reflections, relationships
Sooo, I finally updated my blogroll (click through to see it in the sidebar, RSS-ers) with some great career resources. I work in the creative industries, and you’ve probably noticed that many of my work-related links here relate to writing or social media. So if that’s you, have a squiz at some of those blogs – value guaranteed.
Really, the only thing missing from there now is book blogs – but as much as I love reading, I don’t read blogs about books. Ah, well.
Ten ways to tell freelancing isn’t for you, at Freelance Folder.
To make a living writing, be more than a writer, says Alexis Grant.
Better writers don’t always earn more, writes Carol Tice.
Oh yes. The pros and cons of being a web worker, by Deb at Kommein.
Shit first time homeowners say, by Little Miss Moneybags and Blonde and Balanced.
This is rad. At APW, Maddie’s guide to getting married young. (Love the line about staying out with the boys all night playing Rock Band. Can I get a hell yeah?)
Things that are hugely overrated in life, according to Marian.
The literary alter ego of Obsessions of a Workaholic is, apparently, a grad student.
Ginger kisses! Courtesy of a wandering food lover.
Via the $120 Food Challenge, Thai garlic chicken on rice noodles. Plus lime and garlic mayo.
Cate shares her recipe for squash and red lentil soup.