• October challenge

    There is a fine line between knowing your limits and your weaknesses, and sheer laziness. The former is why I don’t time or measure my runs in any way. I take different routes almost every time – I like mixing it up. For me, running has become enjoyable, and I don’t want to ruin it by making it a chore. I know if I started trying to, I don’t know, run 10k in an hour, all the fun would go out of it. That’s why I put my guitar down one summer and didn’t pick it up for more than three years. Practicing every day and turning it into some kind of competition with myself.

    This year I’ve set myself a few small challenges to stretch myself – take more photos, get familiar with my guitar again, bake, use more of my wardrobe.

    This month’s will be the hardest yet. I need a lot of sleep. I LOVE my sleep. But I’m going to set myself a goal of getting up an hour earlier from Wed-Fri – my work weekdays – and use them to get ahead on exercise, cooking and cleaning.

    Spring has finally sprung two months late, daylight savings is in full swing, and I am LOVING life. Winters may be getting harder, but that just means the onset of summer is soooo much sweeter. There is no way I would’ve set myself this goal last month or the month before…but spring is such a hopeful time, a time for do-overs, even.

    I’m also going to set myself a stretch goal of saving half my income this month. That’s going to be harder than usual, because taking leave (on weekends) means a big paycut. I get paid double time on Saturdays and Sundays. Therefore, not working on them and only getting paid my base, means a lot less in hand.

    And while I’m at it, I’m going to be completely Type-A about my finances. I will keep track of exactly how much I save, and keep track of T’s money as well. At the end of the month, I’ll tally everything up and see just what our combined incomes are doing for us…and if anything needs changing.

  • August goal checkin

    I didn’t do a hell of a lot this month; I worked some crazy hours coordinating a project. Over that time, basically, my life consisted of work, coming home, eating and collapsing. The state of our house was a shocker at times, but I did my best to make sure we had semi-healthy dinners and daily showers. After that, I was a zombie for another week until my body finally caught up on rest.

    Save 20 per cent of my income. Done, in no small part thanks to my tax refund.

    Try one new (to me) dinner recipe each week. Fail.

    Run once a week. Of course, it rained on all the days I had off after the 12 days from hell. I hate the cold, I hate the wet, and get sick at the drop of a hat.  (In fact, I was sick the first day I took off after that stretch. Ugh). But thanks to the way the dates fell this month, I still got in three runs. Who knows, maybe I’ll step it up to twice a week come summer (I just know all you fit freaks out there are laughing at me. Thanks for keeping it to yourself).  I know it sounds like I’ll use any excuse not to run…but I can physically feel it when I miss one.

    Donate to charity. Done – at the start of the month. Now to decide on a cause for September…

    My baking challenge went decently well, by the way. Photos here if you missed it!

  • September challenge

    Image via Wikipedia

    While eating healthy is second nature to lot of people, it doesn’t come easily to me. While I’m picky about the kinds of meat I eat, I’m just as (if not more) choosy when it comes to fruit and veg. And of the few I do like, most of them are out of season and stupidly pricey right now. Good news is, winter is officially over.

    So…my challenge for this month is to eat fruit or vegetables at least once a day. Potatoes only count as a half-win. Er, and I think the rest is pretty straightforward!

    I anticipate a lot of trial and error. I don’t really know what to do with vegetables. I know that may sound silly, but it’s true. Case in point: I was trying to figure out how to jazz up some spinach last week. I caramelised some onions and fried up tiny potato cubes. Thankfully it came out well, but coming up with interesting combinations is HARD WORK.

    In the meantime, I managed to make three new things this month. Er, I didn’t quite get to the cheesecake, but I did bake these instead:

    Cheese and bacon muffins, with a few ill-advised spring onions sprinkled on some

    Coconut ice. Nom.

    Even in smaller portions, after two weeks of nibbling I still hadn't finished it all

    Carrot cake. A little too moist and dense, but damn tasty with lemon cream cheese icing

    Finished the whole thing in less than four days 🙂

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  • Goal recap: July

    ** This week’s Carnival of Personal Finance is up! Thanks to Ultimate Money Blog for including my post, Purchase in Haste? No way **

    Well, that went by fast. July was an incredibly busy month for me. I read tons of books, did some cleaning and organising around the house, and did more socialising than usual. I didn’t quite make my goal of relearning two songs on guitar; one, yes, and a handful of other cool riffs, but I can’t say I managed two complete songs.
    That being said, I’m finding ridiculous amounts of joy in just playing, and sometimes sitting down and picking out stuff on my own rather than using tabs.

    Save 20 per cent of my income. Fail. Full July financial recap in the works.

    Try one new (to me) dinner recipe each week. Although I probably did cook at least once every week, most of those were along the lines of burgers/spag bol. I did attempt Kevin’s honey lemon chicken, which turned out okay (A little bit thin for some reason, but very flavourful. A bit too intense for the boy) and Iowa Girl’s Brazilian coconut chicken, which was also good (I found it a bit plain, but still tasty. He really liked it. Most amazingly, I made this at midnight on a Friday, without hurting myself in the rush to cook and eat, NOR did I wolf it down like a savage, thereby giving myself indigestion. How grownup of me.)

    Run once a week. Thanks to some potent winter bugs, paired with Auckland’s notorious winter weather (a formidable duo), I only made it twice. I really don’t feel like I’m making a lot of progress fitness wise…

    Donate to charity. After a few slack months, I can finally say yes to this!

    Okay, now to August’s challenge. It’s all about baking here. I’m going to have a go at coconut ice, carrot cake and a basic cheesecake. I’m also eyeing up this blueberry crumb bar, but the ingredients (mainly the berries) are looking far too extravagant. Wish me luck!

    (PS: Does anyone have tips on cleaning ovens? I grew up in a house without one and have no idea what I’m doing.)

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  • June goal checkin / July challenge

    I love to rant about poor customer service. See here, here, here and here.

    I have, no joke, been waiting SIX MONTHS to be able to tell you that I am back in business with my guitar. Now, six months and $13 later, my goal for July is to relearn at least two songs. What took so long?

    Well, Musicworks on Hobson St momentously failed me. After being dicked around since Christmas, I realised they were probably not ever going to get this part in, and if they were, they were sure as hell not going to bother to let me know when it arrived.

    Mainline Musicworks in Greenlane (less than 10min drive from home) told me they’d get the part in from their head warehouse and have it done in a couple of days. Now, why on earth would the stores not all be served by the same HQ? Again, they failed on the communication front; I had to call THEM two weeks later to follow up. Oh yeah, that’s all ready for you. Come in whenever, I was told.

    But they got the job done – in weeks, rather than months – and even replaced the missing string for me. I may have bought my setup at Musicworks in town six years ago, but the slightly creepy guys in Greenlane are getting my business from now on.

    Other things on my list this month: Catch up with recently returned friend; visit the pool hall in Newmarket, try made-to-order burgers at Burger Wisconsin, clean curtains and microwave. It’s an exciting life I lead.


    Save 20 per cent of my income. Still on track with this. Woohoo!

    Try one new (to me) dinner recipe each week. BF has been doing virtually all the cooking, but I did try a new recipe last week (an epic fail) and have plans to try another two new ones this week.

    Run once a week. Half a win. Winter is kicking my ass. Plus I was sick one week. And just what the hell does one wear to go running in the winter? I don’t own any long pants, aside from jeans and work pants. I need to get me some trackies or something.

    Make an upwards career move. Done as of May – I should probably note that down on my goals page.

    Donate to charity. I kept putting this off, and by the time I finally got around to it, it was already July. So I’m gonna have to fail myself on this one.

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  • May – 2010 goal progress

    Save 20 per cent of my income. I don’t think I quite made the 2o per cent threshold this month, because the majority of my take-home increase went towards our general living expenses and getting us out of overdraft. Once I get my next (and third) paycheck, which won’t have any overtime included, I’ll sit down and work out exactly how much of it I’ll be able to put away. Obviously I’d like to save all of it, but the raise came just in time to save our formerly-DINK-household asses. Ahh, those two or so months were glorious. Months that saw T’s car loan paid off and his savings increase, which is now back to, well, exactly where it was before.

    This month I also started my first term deposit (6 months, 5.1 per cent). I had just over $3k sitting untouched at RaboPlus, and figured why not take advantage of those rates. That leaves me $2k liquid in that account, and I’ll probably put another $1k into another term deposit in a couple of months. Laddering FTW!

    Try one new (to me) dinner recipe each week. I get to be the breadwinner. He gets to be the cook. But yes; where I only know how to make a few go-to meals, he’s the master of new twists and combinations.

    Run once a week. We had some of the worst weather EVER last week, so I kind of failed on this goal. It’s also looking pretty grim this week, so I’m going to have to make a real effort to squeeze in a run one morning if I want to make the June goal.

    Make an upwards career move. Officially done. Booyah.
    It’s amazing how great it feels to be rewarded for what you’re doing, and how I can now feel proud to talk about my work, rather than trying to gloss over it in conversation order to hide my dissatisfaction. Easily pleased?

    Donate to charity. The months are all blurring into each other, but my Visa statement shows I didn’t do this in May. Will have to make up for that in June.
    At least I’ve been playing a lot of freerice – it’s freaking awesome; where else can you brush up on your vocab, geography, art and other languages while simultaneously racking up donations? I’ve donated a LOT of grains of rice through the site, during moments of boredom at home and work. DO it – you know you want to! I’ve also donated a couple of bucks to Doctors without Borders through Opinion World.

    ** Don’t forget to pop over to this week’s edition of the Carnival of Personal Finance! Revanche was kind enough to include my post on crazy bargain deal sites. **
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  • April goals

    Save 20 per cent of my income. Done, with the additional help of some invoices which came in!

    Try one new (to me) dinner recipe each week. I think this goal has completely fallen by the wayside. T is back on cooking duties. He usually manages to whip up at least one dish with a new twist, however.

    Run once a week. Oy. I think I missed one run this month. Laziness + bad weather and crazy rain = demotivation.

    Make an upwards career move. Day job going well. Covered for a weekday shift this week, which was good for my profile. Usually I’m stuck in more of a support role during the week, while taking the reins during my weekend shifts. But staff shortages saw me called in to man the ship, which was exciting. Side job chugging along.

    Donate to charity. I contributed to the Red Cross cyclone fund, in wake of the Pacific Island storms. (And we put a coupla coins down charitable wishing well…the kind you get outside supermarkets and whatnot.)

    I also managed to accomplish my April goal of baking something new every week – chocolate slice, raspberry slice, peanut cookies and scones (okay, so the latter was a bit of a failure, but still exceedingly tasty with cream and jam).

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  • March goals

    How did I do last month?

    Save 20 per cent of my income. Done, even beyond 20 percent. Unfortunately, it’s going to be wiped out by that tax payment, humongoid phone bill, and a bond (at least that’s refundable) for the power company. And by wiped out, I mean to the tune of almost two months’ solid saving. Booo. I’d like to hit $10k at the end of the year, so will have to get cranking on bringing more in.

    Try one new (to me) dinner recipe each week. Well, BF has been taking charge of dinners as he gets home before me, but he’s a whiz at knocking together strange yet delicious concoctions. Menu planning is sort of happening…we’re making a conscious effort to go into the supermarket with a rough outline, at least.

    Run once a week. Again, I missed one week in the aftermath of the move, but made up for it with an extra long one the week after! Plus, we now live next to a huge park with field, basketball court and tennis court. T and I have been walking over to play our version of tennis (simply getting the ball over the net counts as a win) in the evenings.

    Make an upwards career move. Did some freelancing work which may or may not lead to future opportunities. Either way, it was great for experience. In terms of the day-to-day, my new duties are all going well and I feel like I’m really getting into the groove of it.

    Donate to charity. Grr, don’t think I’ve done this since last month…the past few weeks have been so hectic. Must make up for that next month.

    I’m also sloooowly trying to get through my list of books to read (you’ll find it at the bottom of the booklist page). Most recently, I finished In My Father’s Den.

    Other books I’ve read this month and really enjoyed:

    Octavia Butler
    Picture this: you’re a “modern” black woman who suddenly finds herself waking up in the heyday of slavery in the American South. The premise is a bit stretched (I mean, come on, this woman suddenly starts getting sent back in time each time her ancestor’s life is in danger?) but the story itself is vivid and jarring – a powerful reminder that although slavery is behind us, it wasn’t all that long ago.

    Kane and Abel
    Jeffrey Archer
    Again, a really unlikely plot sees two starkly different men’s lives interweave as they try to best each other. Born on the same day on opposite sides of the world – one in war-stricken poverty and one in the lap of WASP luxury – fate ensures their paths are irreversibly entwined on the journey to build their individual fortune and legacy. Written 30 years ago and set more than a century ago, it reflects the views and conventions of the time, but still a flaming good read.

    Under the Rose
    Diane Peterfreund
    Sequel to Secret Society Girl (which I haven’t actually read). A tale of a secret societies among elite universities where members meet in underground tombs, call each other by code names, make friends with the other rich, well connected “knights”, go through hazing and…well…everything else pretty much sounds like what a frat/sorority is, from what I know. Except that they’re highly secret and nobody ever reveals that they belong to one. Seriously, are these for real? Because from the author blurb, it kind of sounds like they are. And I don’t know if that’s more scary or amusing.

  • Charting course

    The other day I updated my About page, and one thing jumped out at me: the words “I’m not one to have a 10 year plan”.

    It’s true, I’m not. But I am the kind of person who sets short-term goals. Okay, so I never used to do that before I started blogging (none of my previous New Year resolutions to clean and exercise more ever came to fruition), but setting goals and keeping myself accountable has seriously changed my life. I’m talking small, but not insignificant ways. And there’s no way I’d ever stay on track if I wasn’t making them public and blogging about my progress.

    So, inspired by MPP – here are my rough financial goals for my 20s.

    1. Save $10k by the end of the year.

    2. Up my Kiwisaver contributions to the max 8 per cent

    3. Save for major travel – a trip around the South Island, a Pacific holiday, a cruise, the UK and Europe…and so many more places.

    4. Save for a house downpayment.

  • February challenge

    I’m liking this monthly challenge idea, so I’m carrying on with this month’s goal: take more photos! We’ll have a Wordless Wednesday every week; some will be (hopefully) pictureque, others not so much. But that’s not the point. The point is simply to make more use of my camera and hone my eye.

    In terms of my 2010 goals, they’re chugging along.

    I did save around 20%, although part of that was my first Kiwisaver contributions ($53.79 for a fortnight, matched by my employer’s 26.90, PLUS a flat $100 I added manually to make up for last month.) Otherwise, I fell a little short due to our shortfall earlier this month.

    I didn’t manage to make one new dinner every week. Sigh. I did manage to meal plan last week, and STILL ran out of food. Can you say fail? This week was a little out of whack with the long weekend and T going away. Back on the horse next week.

    I ran once each week and am quite proud! I can feel myself slowly clawing my way out of my total slobby funk and feel healthier and less hayfeverish (or perhaps it’s all the positive thinking I’m trying, after giving in and reading The Secret. It may all sound really BS, but we can all learn from the ‘thinking positive’ message, feeling happy and blessed, and visualising what we want.)

    I donated to charity – towards the Kiwi family who lost their husband and daughters in the quake, and can’t wait to do it again! The plan is to donate to another Haiti cause, and perhaps towards the foodbank next time we shop at Countdown.

    As for an upwards career move – still on the lookout for jobs. I’m working on a big thing right now; it’s a story that’s going to take time to get right, and will be great for my portfolio. Speed is of the essence though, and I already lost three days (two sick, one public holiday) since starting.