What to say?!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Oh boy. So much to catch up on. While I have been neglecting this blog (what else is new?), I've been shamelessly updating twitter (find me @LeannainLondon) and also continue to update my personal travel blog, which I link to through my twitter. It contains mainly travel photos, and that's about it. Of course with some personal anecdotes thrown in.

However, for your viewing/reading pleasure, I offer you a taste of what's been going on in my life for the past month.

  • I finally got around to making a BACON BOWL!

And yes, I ditched the "salad" idea in favor of Fab Broke's idea of mashed potatoes. Although, I regret that I had no cheddar cheese to put on top, but a sprinkle of parmesean cheese did the trick. And damn, was it delicious. Although really, bacon in and of itself is delicious.

  • I have also made a step towards returning to work in a couple of weeks, which is greately reassuring. I was unsure of when HMV might be contacting me again for work, so I had applied at some other places, but never heard back, which was slightly disapointing. I think I really need to work on my resume, but oh well. I'm really pleased to be going back to HMV, not only because I've only got enough money to last until mid-December before being out on the street, but because they are a great team and I love it there. Really.

(As a side, now that I know that I'm returning to work I've been on a frantic race to get everything I want to do in London done before then. Nothing like a deadline to get my bottom moving.)

  • I finally met STEPHEN FRY!!!!!

Okay, some of you... well, most of you might not know who he is, and that's okay. I'm sure you have the skills to Google/Wikipedia/YouTube your heart out about him. But the bottom line is that he's my celebrity crush. You might have picked that up if you follow me on twitter and see just how many messages I send in his direction. He's damn funny and brilliant and so very very kind. I got to see him at a book signing yesterday and have the utter luck to be seeing him again tomorrow at a fundraiser. Bloody brilliant! Love love love.

(Of all the celebrities I've met, and I haven't met that many, just a few, he's the only one that's made me feel completely comfortable and confident, which is no small feat as I tend to lose all verbal communication skills in the presence of famous people).

  • This month has been really hard for me, budget-wise.
And that doesn't mean I haven't stayed within my budget, which I'm sure I have, I just haven't had the energy to input any figures. Usually when I get home the first thing I do is fire up the spreadsheet and fill everything out, checking bank balances and updating everything. This month, I just can't be bothered. It's strange.

I think I'm reaching my peak of budget-ness. Back home I really had a lot of disposible income, even though I was saving for this trip, and so I could just spend a lot more money. I was just discusing with my flatmate how I spent about 20 quid on random transport stuff (very cool old rail signs) at the London Transport Museums Open Weekend, and I felt totally guilty - that's the most money I've spent on "fun things" all in one go in a long ass time. Which is surprising, since back home it wasn't uncommon to drop about $200 in one day at the mall. It's a strange flop. But yep, it's been hard this month.

  • I've been a cookie-baking-lunatic for the past month.
You name it, I've baked it. Raspberry thumbprint cookies, peanut butter cookies, oatmeal-raisin cookies, even brownies. I've done it all. Oh, and cinnamon buns, too. While it's been a delicious month, not only have I been a bad influence on my favorite flatmate who is currently on WeightWatchers (I'm a bitch I know... :( ), but I've managed to put on a bit of weight, too. At least enough to counteract the weight I had lost the previous month. So, I'm off the cookies for now. I'm getting tired of them anyways. I think I'll tackle making bread next.

(As a side, I did buy new jeans today as my old ones are nanoseconds away from tearing in an embarassing manner and I'm down one size. Hot damn! Cookies be damned... well, sort of.)

  • I've been to see more TV shows being recorded than I think should ever be done.
As part of this unemployed-ness that I found myself in (longer than I had anticipated, really), I started to fill my time by going to see TV shows being recorded. It's been, well, both super boring and completely hilarious, depending on the show. Sometimes I'd turn up to queue for a show and find that I'm the only one who isn't currently retired attending ... those shows were often a bit boring for me. At the same time, I've had a night full of laughs when seeing comedy shows starring the likes of Alan Carr, Sean Locke, Jo Brand, etc, etc. That's a reall pleasure. On

Tuesday I'm going to see a taping of Piers Morgan's Life Stories, which I've already seen a couple times. I just hope that this, for the third time, that the guest is someone I actually know. While the other two guests (Cilla Black and Boris Johnson) were entertaining, I didn't know who there were. It's more fun when I know. But that's what I get for not being British, I guess.

That's really about all I can think of to update everyone. Really, I know I don't update this blog very often, so do come find my on twitter, at least then you'll hear from me on a semi-daily basis. And through twitter you can track down my personal blog, which I don't mind you poking about. But it's not finance-related, I'm warning you. :)

Thanks for stopping by.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Ever since I got here, I've been reasonably dedicated to cooking rather than eating out. One peek at my pretty strict budget suggests that I don't leave a lot of leeway for expensive meals. Now, of course, that doesn't stop me from buying fun food while in London, mainly because the grocery stores have some amazing ready-to-eat food that is reasonably cheap, and the people who own Southfields Food & Wine down by the tube station make the most amazing samosas. Seriously. Go get one. Now.

However, only recently have I decided to try cooking new and exciting things. I had a pretty basic array of skills when it came to cooking - stirfrys, mashed potatoes and steak were among the things I ate most of the time. Recently, though, I've become awful bored with the food I can cook and bored with the instand things I can buy. My mother sent me a bunch of recipes just after I arrived here when I was feeling optimistic about cooking - and I never used them, until know. The past week and a half have been full of trying new and fun things, and I've had a lot of sucess! Things taste the way they are supposed too, which is always good.

I've even decided to tackle baking things, which I have never done before. One undercooked banana bread and a nauseous evening was my only downfall, the brownies and subsequent thumbprint jam cookies have been lovely. I'm looking forward to scouring the internet for some more amazing recipes to try! Once you get used to cooking, it's actually relaxing. It used to stress the crap out of me.

Tomorrow, I'm going to try and make a pork tortilerre (bad french for pie), and it's usually good. I'll post pictures if I have any success!

It's not 2 a.m. yet, but it's close

Monday, September 14, 2009

I've decided against another 2a.m. ramble, but, I will provide you with a short 1:40 a.m. ramble. I spent the evening standing against a concrete wall that smelt like pee, with the cold wind of the Thames whipping my face, in order to take photos of the fireworks for the 2009 Thames Festival. And now I'm home. I'm cold, tired, and have a pink face from wind burn, but I am happy.

I really am happiest when I have a camera in my hands. I could be walking down the street naked, but if I had a camera, I'd be okay with it. Well, maybe not. But it's be pretty damn close.

For those of you who live in London, I hope you went down to the festival, it was well worth. For those of you in other parts of the world, if you'd like to know more, you can see my photos on flickr.

Last night's ramble, if you read/skimmed over it, really helped me clear my head. I tend to be introverted in the sense that I don't always talk through my thoughts and problems, I internalize them and think about them for days and days. Sometimes though, I need to get them out. And since I don't have a lot of people here that I chat too in a deep sense, nor do I want to bother them with random shit that I don't feel is very important, I turn to blogging. I would write in a journal, and I do occasionaly, but ever since I left college I haven't written much, and I find that my hand cramps up bad if I try to write a lot, especially when I want to write and my thoughts are pouring out faster than I can read (or type!) them.

I forget how much writing helps clear my head, and I must remember to do it more often.

For now, it's closer to 3:15 a.m. (I took a break from blogging to chat with an old friend and then my mother on MSN), and my eyes are starting to fade yet again. Hopefully I can sleep in longer tomorrow morning than I got the chance to today.

Either way, thanks for sticking around, or reading this post, or reading yesterday's post... or just glancing at this page after a misguided click on Google landed you here. I appreciate it.

2 a.m. musings

Sunday, September 13, 2009

I can't sleep. And I'm going to blog. Mainly because, since tomorrow is Sunday, I have the liberty of sleeping and can't be bothered to try and sleep now. As well, people across the alley are talking out loud (as people do...), and there are things rattling around in my head.

So here goes. No guarantees that this will be coherent or logical or even factual. I'll try to keep it sound, though.

I went to see Alan Davies talk last night in Battersea as part of the SW11 Literary Festival (Google it if you're interested, I can't be bothered to hotlink it in my state). It was a lovely talk. He's become one of my favorite people since arriving in London, mainly because of his constant presence on a BBC show called QI, which is awesome. I got to the theatre quite early (I like to be early), and was there in the lobby when him and (I am presuming) his wife walked in. I have to admit I did stare for a bit, mouth half open, just because I am not used to seeing, well, famous people. I tried not to be too obvious about said staring, but alas, I was obviously there to see him talk, so I knew who he was. I'm sure I turned all shades of pink and then promptly looked away.

Since I was there early I squeezed myself a front row seat, which is nice, because I like being up close when I go see these smaller type talks. His interview/performance was really a pleasure to watch - it felt like we were all sitting in a rather large living room having a chat. He seems like a really genuinely nice guy. Very funny, too, which helps. He was promoting a new book that he's written, which I haven't read.

Here's the thing - afterwards he was doing a book signing. Now, I didn't read the book. I hate to say it, but I'm not sure I will ever purchase the book. If I find it on sale somewhere or see it at the library I might pick it up, but I just don't buy books that often. So I snapped a quick picture then walked out of the auditorium. (Felt like a total goon snapping a picture, too... it always feels so awkward and a total invasion of their privacy, even though they are there, doing their job as it were. It's not like I snuck into someone's bathroom...). I got about halfway out and I thought to myself "C'mon, this guy is one of your favorite people, you really should meet him"... then the other (more logical) side of my brain responded "No, you always embarass yourself meeting celebrities, don't do it." I should've listened to that side of my brain, but I didn't, so I scrambled for something to get him to sign and a lame esxcuse why I couldn't buy his book and waited in line, heart pounding.

Now, any type of confrontation makes me horribly uneasy. It's something I really have to work on. Now, I also know what you're thinking - this isn't confrontation, it's just a meeting. I know, but the anticipation of saying something to someone who is famous, was pretty overwhelming. At the end of it, I managed to find the only thing worth writing on - my Oyster Card (travelcard for those of you who don't live here) holder (made of plastic - says IKEA on it), and said something about not being able to buy his book now. Really, he was a sweet guy, the moment I said something about not being able to buy the book he responded with "What can I write on then?". He asked how I spelt my name and I said something about using the wallet as a bookmark when I buy the book. And that was it. Doesn't sound too impressive, yet not embarassing right? Wrong.

I'm pretty sure I left with my cheeks all shades of red. I don't even know why. He couldn't have been sweeter. And I didn't even say anything like "I love your work", or "Great lecture". Which I should have. I just feel like such a loser queueing up to see famous people, getting them to sign something like I'm going to parade it around, somehow thinking that it will make me more important amongst my friends if I have had so and so sign something.

So why bother to get anything signed then, you wonder? I wonder the same thing. I guess deep down I feel like I will regret not having the chance to have any kind of face to face contact with these people that I admire when I had the opportunity. Because face it, once I return to Calgary I doubt I'll ever meet these people again. I don't think Alan Davies or Micheal Palin (who I'm going to see at the National Theatre next month) or Stephen Fry (same - at the National Georgraphic Society - and OMG I'm so excited!) are ever going to come to Calgary. Living here in London is an amazing opportunity to see these amazing people, and yet I'm so traumatized from the anticipation that I'll make a fool of myself in front of them that it's too scary.

And at the same time, I need to remember that in their lives, I'm rather insignificant. It sounds sad, but face it, it's true. I'm just one of the hundred people that stood in line in the Battersea Arts Centre to have a book signed by a man who then went on to the Jonathon Ross show and probably did the same thing for another hundred people. I doubt that he even remembers me, and all the better, since I feel like I was a dork. I'm so well spoken and put together in front of regular people, but I get all clammy and embarassed in front of people I admire.

As a side, I once contemplated standing in line when I saw that the Pussycat Dolls (that's right, you heard me) were doing a signing at the La Senza store on Oxford Street, because I have a friend back home who is a HUGE fan. And I think I would've managed just fine in front of any of them, mainly because I just don't care about them. But anyone I admire I just lose it. It's so bad.

So now I have a dilemna. I've booked a lot of places to hear and see a lot of people I admire do talks and stuff over the next month or two (gotta take advantage while I can), and if they present the opportunity to do another signing - what do I do? Do I leave, passing up the opportunity to meet someone I absolutely adore? Or do I wait in line, feeling like a total loser, stammering something out and feeling embarassed for the next week? Who knows.

I wish I was one of those people who could stroll up to anyone and just start a conversation or just start asking questions without feeling embarassed or nervous - just act as if everyone is my best friend... I just can't bring myself to do it.

I guess it's a new feeling for me... this desire for other people and their friendship/approval. It sounds really self-centered of me, but back home, I was usually the one who was desired. And not in a boy-girl kind of way, since I've never had a significant boy-girl relationship to speak of, but in terms of friends, work, etc. I never had to invite people out, since they always called me first. I was always the worker that everone else pointed to and said either "Suckup!" or "That's how you all should behave." (Not always liked by coworkers, I fear...). Of course you dreamed about meeting celebrities when you went to the movies and what not, but they so rarely invaded my little city of Calgary that I never had to worry about actually meeting them! In my head I can be swave and literate and entertaining and it didn't matter! Everyone loves me in my head!

But here, in London... there's a real chance of just running into these famous people. Or seeing them in a more intimate setting that the theatre. And that opportunity never presented itself before back home. Sure, there was a time when I would run into the Cheif of Police in the elevator at work and turn all shades of pink, but it was always a very short ride. And there were usually more people in the elevator! Some of these book signing-autograph moments it's one-on-one. The thought of it is actually terrifying. And somehow, that makes me feel a bit pathetic. Because really... they are just people. And some of them are probably not as exciting as I imagine them to be.

It's that feeling... that feeling of being the smaller, less important, less good-at-things person that I don't like. Even though I wasn't the best at everything back home, I was good enough at enough things to make me feel important amongst my peers. I had things and traits that other people desired or wanted... and it felt nice. This sounds quite snobbish, and I assure you I'm not a brat. Being pulled away from your friends and family and everything and thrown into quite a big city seems to have had an effect on me, albeit not the one I was expecting. I'm starting to think that I much prefer being a big fish in the small lake that the other way around. I feel so inadequate to everyone else in this city. Well, not everyone... but still. I walk down the street and someone's got a better camera than me. Someone's got a better job than me. Someone's got a better flat for less money than me. Someone is more famous than me (... everyone is more famous that me.. I'm not famous).

It was much easier being on par with people. Here, well, I am, admitedly the youngest person in my flat, but everyone else seems to just have more. Have a life plan. Have a significant other, have a steady job with a large amount of income. Back home I was even, even slightly ahead. I like being ahead. I don't like feeling like everyone else.

I don't even know if any of this is going to make sense. In fact, I doubt anyone will read it all the way through. If you did, I'll send you a peice of the lovely brownies that I made a couple days ago. They are still good, trust me. I'm not even sure I'll post this. Oh what the hell. Maybe if Alan Davies decides to google himself he'll understand more about the goofy 24 year old who got him to sign her Oyster Card enveloppe. She appologizes for acting like a fool.

It's now quarter to three and I think the hooligans in my neighborhood have calmed down a bit. My eyes are starting to hurt and I fear that they will look like I've been up late doing cocaine. At least this is what I imagine your eyes look like on cocaine.

Maybe I should stick to financial related matters and start a new blog with all my random rants on the world? Maybe not... otherwise I'm not sure this blog would have any content anymore.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Here's a photo of a deer I took in a park just outside Hampton Court Palace. Thought i'd share a photo to mix things up. Hope you enjoy it.

There, I've changed (temporarily, I imagine) the layout to give me a boost, but have lost my blogroll... silly me. I've got everything saved somewhere, so I'll redo that at one point. In the meantime, stick around... good things to come!

Another fun fact about me: I also love stationary. Staples is one of my favorite Canadian shops.


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

I've lost direction with this blog. And purpose. That's not to say that I've lost interest in finances, nor have I stopped reading any of your blogs. I've just lost the desire to blog about my finances.

I'm inclined to say that finances aren't playing as large a part in my life, which is only partly true. While I was planning this trip here, to grand London, I thought about money day and night, and it ruled my life. Every day spent planning how I was to get here, and blogging helped me relieve that stress. I still check my finances on a daily basis, and I constantly readjust here and make sure that I can stay as long as I want, but the stress is gone. The stress is what makes me blog - and my money just isn't stressing me out anymore!

I suppose it's good, but I feel a nag everytime I log onto other blogs that I own (and maintain far better... ), and feel like I'm abandoning my baby.

So... a couple changes are in order. I am going to maintain this blog... and continue to maintain it, I promise. But I need to change direction. Not away from money, but towards everything and anything else. I need a blog just about me. And I need a change in decor. That'll come soon enough. I rearrange the furniture in my room quite often (as much as I can, it's a small room with build in cupboards), and need a change here too.

So welcome. Here's to some more blogging!

And a fun fact about me: I love Stephen Fry. Love love love.

Oh dear lord....

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

I just realized right now that I had switched on comment moderation and then promptly forgotten to moderate any comments! Not that I had more than one.... but still. Thanks for the concern regarding my absence, or should I say, total slackerish tendencies when it comes to up keep and the blog. I've opened two other blogs, not so recently, that I seem to be better at maintaining. One is a travel and photo type blog so that my friends and family can keep track of what I'm doing, and the other is strictly photography related, and it links to my flickr account and what not. Those of you following me on twitter will notice that my username have changed along with my blog, so if you want to track down the new blog, feel free. Not to say that I'm getting rid of this one, but I just don't seem to be good enough to maintain them all sucessfully.

My visits for the summer are done, and I'm up to my armpits in things to do in September, which is good. I've made the decision to push back my return to work for another month, in light of all the stuff I want to do in September. This will mean that the money will be cutting it close (not super close, but still close), and hopefully I'll be able to find a part time job to pair with the full time (er... 25 hours a week) job that I'm returning to this fall.

Still trudging... still trudging along. And I climbed up the Clock Tower to see Big Ben today! 334 steps and I don't feel too bad. :)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

I know I haven't posted in a long time.

Things are... different now. I've been in a bit of a slump for the better part of 3 weeks, and I can't seem to shake it. Part of it is a new obsession with worrying about bed bugs. I spent a night in a Bristol hostel and worried constantly about bringing one of those stupid critters home with me. Now, I haven't any real proof that I did bring anything, nor did I find any evidence of bugs at the hostel, but I've managed to work myself into such a state anytime I need to go to bed - I feel things crawl on me, and I'm sure they are imagined... but last week it was so bad I feel as though I'm grinding my teeth at night... which I think I am. Now, keep in mind that I'm super clean. I cleaned and vacuumed the matress and all the sheets and duvet and pillows and cleaned and vaccumed and bleached the inside of the box spring. I checked every inch of the matress and box spring and found no evidence... but still, I worry. It's gotten to the point where I feel anxious about going to bed... which isn't a good feeling. I need to relax, but I just don't know how... Hopefully within a week I'll have rid myself of this feeling... but I don't know how. I feel as though I should bring in a huge box of spiders and let them loose in my room to catch the little buggers.... but I don't like spiders! Yeeesh.

The second thing that is stressing me out is another relentless search for a new flatmate. We've been advertising the room for 6 weeks now, and it seems as though all the people show up within 3 days and want viewings. Very stressful. We've tentatively found a couple who are super nice, and I am hoping and wishing and praying that they want to take it. But the waiting is killing me. Bah.

In the meantime my flatmates mother visited last week, and it was so nice to have a mother figure around. I miss my family a lot sometimes, and I feel as though I haven't made a lot of friends while I've been here. Not like back home. I don't find that I make friends easily, except when I work, and of course, not working right now puts a damper on my social skills. Hopefully I'll be back at work within a month... and my sister is visiting on the 20th, which will be very exciting.

Everything money-wise is going fine. I'm living within my budget and should be able to stretch the cash until the end of September, before I go back to work. If I stay through until next March or April, I should still be able to head home with about $1,500 Canadian, which is very relieving.

As a side, to cheer me and my flatmate whose mother just went home the other day up, we went to see The Ugly Truth at the local theatre. It was a lot of fun and well worth it. Lots of laughs. And Gerald Butler is pretty. In a manly way, of course.

Hopefully over the weekend things will start to put themselves together. I hope.

Inner Geekiness

Saturday, July 18, 2009

I stole this list from Miss Fab Broke over at her blog, and she got it from GeekDad here. I'd like to rate my geekiness, mainly because I think I'd do pretty good. Let's see.... Everything I can't do will be in red.

1. Properly secure a wireless router.
2. Crack the WEP key on a wireless router.
3. Leech Wifi from your neighbor.
4. Screw with Wifi leeches.
5. Setup and use a VPN.
6. Work from home or a coffee shop as effectively as you do at the office.
7. Wire your own home with Ethernet cable.
8. Turn a web camera into security camera.
9. Use your 3G phone as a Wi-Fi access point. (In my defense, I don't own a 3G phone)
10. Understand what “There’s no Place Like” means.
11. Identify key-loggers.
12. Properly connect a TV, Tivo, XBox, Wii, and Apple TV so they all work together with the one remote. (To be fair, I don't own any of these, other than a t.v.).
13. Program a universal remote.
14. Swap out the battery on your iPod/iPhone.
15. Benchmark Your Computer
16. Identify all computer components on sight.
17. Know which parts to order from NewEgg.com, and how to assemble them into a working PC.
18. Troubleshoot any computer/gadget problem, over the phone.
19. Use any piece of technology intuitively, without instruction or prior knowledge.
20. How to irrecoverably protect data.
21. Recover data from a dead hard drive.
22. Share a printer between a Mac and a PC on a network. (I don't own a Mac...)
23. Install a Linux distribution. (Hint: Ubuntu 9.04 is easier than installing Windows)
24. Remove a virus from a computer.
25. Dual (or more) boot a computer.
26. Boot a computer off a thumb drive.
27. Boot a computer off a network drive.
28. Replace or repair a laptop keyboard.
29. Run more than two monitors on a single computer.
30. Successfully disassemble and reassemble a laptop.
31. Know at least 10 software easter eggs off the top of your head. (No! But I'm googling this when I'm done!)
32. Bypass a computer password on all major operating systems. Windows, Mac, Linux
33. Carrying a computer cleaning arsenal on your USB drive.
34. Bypass content filters on public computers.
35. Protect your privacy when using a public computer.
36. Surf the web anonymously from home.
37. Buy a domain, configure bind, apache, MySQL, php, and Wordpress without Googling a how-to.
38. Basic *nix command shell knowledge with the ability to edit and save a file with vi.
39. Create a web site using vi.
40. Transcode a DVD to play on a portable device.
41. Hide a file in an image using steganography.
42. Knowing the answer to life, the universe and everything.
43. Share a single keyboard and mouse between multiple computers without a KVM switch.
44. Google obscure facts in under 3 searches. Bonus point if you can use I Feel Lucky.
45. Build amazing structures with LEGO and invent a compelling back story for the creation.
46. Understand that it is LEGO, not Lego, Legos, or Lego’s.
47. Build a two story house out of LEGO, in monochrome, with a balcony.
48. Construct a costume for you or your kid out of scraps, duct tape, paper mâché, and imagination.
49. Be able to pick a lock.
50. Determine the combination of a Master combination padlock in under 10 minutes.
51. Assemble IKEA furniture without looking at the instructions. Bonus point if you don’t have to backtrack.
52. Use a digital SLR in full manual mode.
53. Do cool things to Altoids tins.
54. Be able to construct paper craft versions of space ships.
55. Origami! Bonus point for duct tape origami. (Ductigami)
56. Fix anything with duct tape, chewing gum and wire.
57. Knowing how to avoid being eaten by a grue.
58. Know what a grue is. (Heck yes!)
59. Understand where XYZZY came from, and have used it.
60. Play any SNES game on your computer through an emulator.
61. Burn the rope.
62. Know the Konami code, and where to use it.
63. Whistle, hum, or play on an iPhone, the Cantina song.
64. Learning to play the theme songs to the kids favorite TV shows.
65. Solve a Rubik’s Cube.
66. Calculate THAC0.
67. Know the difference between skills and traits.
68. Explain special relativity in terms an eight-year-old can grasp. (I do baffle my poor cousins when they ask questions about science...)
69. Recite pi to 10 places or more.
70. Be able to calculate tip and split the check, all in your head.
71. Explain that the colours in a rainbow are roygbiv.
72. Understand the electromagnetic spectrum - xray, uv, visible, infrared, microwave, radio.
73. Know the difference between radiation and radioactive contamination.
74. Understand basic electronics components like resistors, capacitors, inductors and transistors.
75. Solder a circuit while bottle feeding an infant. (lead free solder please.)
76. The meaning of technical acronyms.
77. The coffee dash, blindfolded (or blurry eyed). Coffee [cream] [sugar]. In under a minute. (Yeah... I don't drink coffee...)
78. Build a fighting robot.
79. Program a fighting robot.
80. Build a failsafe into a fighting robot so it doesn’t kill you.
81. Be able to trace the Fellowship’s journey on a map of Middle Earth.
82. Know all the names of the Dwarves in The Hobbit.
83. Understand the difference between a comic book and a graphic novel.
84. Know where your towel is and why it is important.
85. Re-enact the parrot sketch.
86. Know the words to The Lumberjack Song.
87. Reciting key scenes from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
88. Be able to recite at least one Geek Movie word for word.
89. Know what the 8th Chevron does on a Stargate and how much power is required to get a lock.
90. Be able to explain why it’s important that Han shot first.
91. Know why it is just wrong for Luke and Leia to kiss.
92. Stop talking Star Wars long enough to get laid.
93. The ability to name actors, characters and plotlines from the majority of sci-fi movies produced since 1968.
94. Cite Mythbusters when debunking a myth or urban legend.
95. Sleep with a Cricket bat next to your bed.
96. Have a documented plan on what to do during a zombie or robot uprising.
97. Identify evil alternate universe versions of friends, family, co-workers or self.
98. Be able to convince TSA that the electronic parts you are carrying are really not a threat to passengers. (Not that I'd ever try arguing with them....)
99. Talk about things that aren’t tech related.
100. Get something on the front page of Digg. (I prefer Reddit.)

Wow! 69%.... more than I thought. And the geek in me is Googling the rest as I finish typing this.... How sad. There goes my Saturday night!

How did you do?


Saturday, July 11, 2009

Okay, I did it. I joined the bandwagon. If you haven't heard of SwagBucks, it seems to be a way of earning money/rewards while surfing the 'net like you usually would. I just started using it today, but am already only 1 point away from a $5 Amazon.ca gift card. Very sweet. Everyone else seems to have quite a bit of luck with it, and if you'd like to check it out, please let me refer you:

Yep, give that link there a click andyou're well on your way to earning cash and rewards while you do your regular internet business. Let me know how it does (or doesn't) work out for you. :)

Ryan Air

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Aw man, some discount airlines just plain suck. As a side note, I've plain out refused to book with RyanAir, mainly because I hear that they are shit, but mainly because they recently decided to have an online vote to determine where their newly imposed extra fee should lay - and the savvy internet users decided to add that extra fee for plus-size passengers (ie. those whose hips touch both armrests). Now, I am on the heavier side, but certainly not enough to impede the comfort of my fellow airplane riders, and I would refuse to be embarassed by paying an extra fee.

I understand that horribly obese people cause a major problem for those around them, as they sort of, spill onto their seat-mates.

Okay, back to the point. My friends who were visiting were out in Edinburgh touristing and on their way to Belfast. They were flying with... ta-da!... RyanAir. No problem, dirt cheap flight, and they both have tiny hips. :)

However, they weren't aware of the baggage restrictions on RyanAir (and I wasn't either), and unfortunately they were (combined) over 10kgs over the 15kg per person limit. The damage? A whopping £150 fee for the baggage. That's right, RyanAir charges a whopping (yes, I know I've said whopping twice now - it's that, well, whopping!) £15 per kilo that a piece of luggage is overweight. Splitting it up won't work either, because while you can have up to 3 pieces, the combined weight has to be less than 15kg.

They paid it, begrudgingly (not sure about the spelling on that one). I think, if I had no time constraints, I might have just walked over to another counter to see if I could book a flight with another company for less than £150. Either way, that's rough.

Plus, now they've got to figure out what to do for the flight from Belfast back to London to see me. They'll obviously be overweight again, and if they paid another £150, that's just plain rediculous. That's over $600 Canadian dollars! Man alive. I suggested that they pack and mail a box to me in London, as it would probably get here before they left on July 16th, but again, they could just pack and mail a box back home. It's rough. Funny how some of these things that are meant to save money end up costing more and more with each fine print.

So really. Book with RyanAir, but for the love of god (and your pocketbook!), read the fine print. It might save you a whole lot of cash! Have you ever used RyanAir or something comparable?


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

My poor flatmate and his friend have just been scammed out of tickets to see The Killers on Friday. I feel bad for him, as its become a hectic scramble to find new tickets, plus sort out the chaos with their CC issuer for what I can hope will be a full refund. However, I also feel the nagging urge to lecture people about internet safety.

I consider myself reasonably adept at computers. On a scale of 1-10, where 1 being never used a computer and 10 being able to hack into a government database, I can safely rate myself a 6-7. I'm fully capable of blowing off and rebuilding a pc from scratch, and consider myself very savvy at using the internet. As much as I'd love the knowledge of major computer hacking, I've never found a useful medium for learning such things without the fear of making a mistake and accidentally erasing my registry (or something equally heart-breaking. Nothing like the Blue Screen of Death.)

Add my internet savvy-ness with a healthy fear of losing my money and a reluctance to trust other people, and I've become quite the leery shopper. I very rarely buy things online anymore, mainly because London has so much to offer. However, back home in Calgary, sometimes I chose eBay over Walmart and other equally boring stores in my search for unique things.

If you must visit it out of curiosity, the fraudulent website in question is Hyde Park Tickets. While my flatmate argued that it was a proffesional-looking website and his friend trusted it, there are several things that put me off this website - most of which were found within a quick 2-minute look.

Now, a lot of these don't raise any alarms on their own (well, a couple do), but when noticed all together it can be rather fishy. A-hem.

1) The website address is "Hyde Park Box Office" but the company name is "Hyde Park Tickets". In fact, both hydeparktickets.com and hydeparkboxoffice.com both link to an almost identical (but not the same) website. While big companies like Apple have purchased links such as ipod.com, they will link directly to the main website (or a sub-section of that website), not to a brand new website.

2) Under the "Contact Us" button - there is nothing except for a submit form. No phone number, no e-mail address (except for info@hydeparktickets.com - no mention of whether it is checked or just an automated e-mail system). While many website have opted for this type of form, for a legitimate business with a legitimate office, they will include a contact phone number or address.

3) They can't make up their mind on ticket prices. When I visit "hydeparkboxoffice.com", the ticket price is £65, while on their sister site, "hydeparktickets.com", the price is £45. Right then and there I would take my pounds elsewhere. But, just for fun, let's keep going.

4) Here's something fun. When I receive those annoying "faux-bank-account-crisis" e-mails in my spam e-mail account, I like to click on them and fill out fake information. 100% of the time, if it is a fake website, they will let you "log in" with any information, because they have no way to check its authenticity. Well guess what, this website does that, too. I just finished filling in a fake form, including fake name, address, phone number, CREDIT CARD (including fake - and invalid - expiration date and authenticity code). And it worked. Now, I'm sure that many websites do the same - accepting CC information without making charges right away - however, this just adds to the already very suspicious list of strange things.

And finally, the cherry on the top:

5) A quick Google search seals the deal. What did I ever do without Google? It's hard to imagine my life without it. It's that sad. Either way, I typed in "HydeParkBoxOffice Fraud" and got 6 hits. A search on "HydeParkTickets.com Fraud Scam" and got well over 107 hits, mainly forums, all with users poor reviews of buying tickets through these sites and, while being charged on their credit cards, never received the tickets. While 1 poor review isn't always enough to keep me from buying from someone (especially through eBay, as people can sometimes hold grudges and leave poor reviews for no cause), 107 pages of poor reviews is enough to turn me off forever.

Now, I've spent most of my adult (and teen... and childhood) life on computers, and have learned the ins and outs of the internet. I understand and respect that not everyone used computers as much as I do, but the internet can be just as dangerous as it is lovely. There are real people lurking out there, eagerly fighting others to take your money, with or without your permission. While there is no guidebook for internet use, a quick Google search could very well save a lot of stress, let alone your money.

Any other tips and tricks that you use to detect and avoid the fraud and scams out there?

Arguing about Apples

Saturday, June 20, 2009

My life has been quite hectic over the last money with so many visits from friends. It has been stressful and wonderful and above all, very very busy.

Other than the boring basics, I would like to share a recent argument I had with one of my visit friends, over something that would seem quite trivial, but really aggravated me.

We are at the grocery store buying some food for the following week while her and her boyfriend are staying with me - we are all buying food seperately, so it's not really any of my business, but here goes.

She goes to buy apples - debating over which kind of apples to buy, when they finally decide on a brand. She goes to pick up a carton of 4 pre-packaged apples, for a cost of £2.64. I point out that a bag of 6 identical apples is on sale half-price for £1.60ish. She turns around and tells me that she only needs 4 apples, and should buy the carton instead. I immediately give her a strange look and point out that the other bag is more than £1 cheaper than the other, and that she'd be getting more. She gives me a bit of attitude and says that no, she only needs 4 apples. And in the meantime I'm thinking Right, I know, but you could do something else with the other 2 apples, like give them to me, or my housemates, or the birds! Yikes.

I didn't press the matter further, for a couple reasons. First of all, she can be quite quite stubborn and argumentative, plus it's her money, and really, I didn't want to press the matter. But seriously, it would'be been such an simple answer for me - buy the cheaper bag, and eat as many apples as I could and toss the rest - all while saving over £1 - $2 in Canadian money.

She is trying so hard to save money and be frugal while out here, and while I didn't want to push the matter, it seems quite, well, stupid to me to spend money unneccesarily while on vacation. Especially on something like apples. Hmmm.

Am I crazy? It seems odd that I was quite worked up over it, but it frustrated me to no end. Argh.

Spoke too soon

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Well I got the quote from the camera repair place, and it's not pretty. Unfortunately they didn't tell me what exactly was wrong with the lens, just what they were going to go and the parts that needed replacing. I e-mailed them back to see if I could get a direct answer from them, but for now, I know that the labor and parts on the lens alone add up to £291.65. That's over £130 in parts and another £90 in labor, not including 15% VAT. Plus, that's not a final count. If I okay the repairs and they find more stuff wrong that value could go up. 

At this rate, it's more worth my while to get a new lens bought for me back home at the Canadian cost of $750 or about (£370), rather than paying almost £300 in repairs and risk the chance that they could find something new that's wrong and have that figure jump higher than the cost of purchasing a new one. Fortunately I have a group of friends coming to visit me on the 9th of June, and they could bring me a new lens. 

It's very frustrating and upsetting - mainly because this could've been completely avoided if I had just been more careful. Somehow its not really the money - about a month ago I had come to terms with the fact that I might need to replace my laptop while I was here - but that was because it was a pos and Vista sucks, not because I threw it down the stairs. It's the same amount of money, yet the fact that it is my fault makes it that much worse. Plus now, I'm going to be without a camera for the next 3 weeks - a HUGE amount of time for me. 

Either way, it sucks. A lot. So very very much. But, I guess it's just one of those things that happens. Not the end of the world I guess. 

Back from Vacation Land!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Hello! I am just starting to get readjusted to home life after a whirlwind of a month of vacation with my mother and aunt. As a quick recap, I'll go over quickly what we did:

My Mom and aunt arrived on the 25th of April. We spent the weekend in London before hopping an early morning train on Monday to Salisbury. We spent three nights at a lovely B&B in Salisbury, sightseeing and spending one day out to see Stonehenge. Thursday we took the train from Salisbury to Bath, where we spent two nights at another B&B. The first couple of days we sightsaw (is that even a word?!) around Bath. I saw the Roman Baths and the Salisbury Cathedral. The final day, before we returned to London, we took a day trip out to see Avebury Stone Circle, Stonehenge (again!), and two little villages called Castle Combe and Lacock. We took a late train back to London that night. 

We arrived back in London on May 2nd, and spent the next 9 days in London. We took one day trip out to see a village called St. Alban's, but other than that we toured around London. 

On May 11th, my aunt flew home and my mother and I flew to Edinburgh. My aunt had limited vacation time, while my mother had more, so she opted to stay longer. We spent 4 nights in Edinburgh and toured the city. We saw the several castles, a beach (I know!), the Royal Mile, and took a trip out to see Rosslyn Chapel. Very lovely. 

From Friday night on my mom and I spent the next 4-5 days in London. We saw some new parts of London, like the far East docklands and deep into the South Bank, which was a nice change for me from the usual. She flew home on Wednesday the 20th and I have just started readjusting to non-vacation life again. 

The month didn't hurt me as bad as I thought it was going to after the first week. Looking at the money we spent in our first week in Salisbury and Bath (which was more than I had planned!) threw me off, although I recuperated well and spent very little while in London. Edinburgh was also reasonably cheap - the flights cost less than 80 quid each and my lovely mother treated me to the B&B. 

It was a bit strange, thought, being treated to things again. Here, on my own, no one buys me things - we also buy ourselves dinner when we go out, and I'm not much of a dater. It was nice to have people buy me things, and lovely, but it also felt a bit awkward, especially when I know my mother worked hard to save money and come here. 

All in all I finished £855 shorter than I started the month with (and I got a paycheque from the old job, too) - and I'm waiting for my awful camera repair quote to come (eeek!). I'm pleased that I had an awesome vacation without going too much overboard.

It's also nice to know that I still have £6,527.96 left to last me. I'm glad to know that even with pumped up spending over the summer I could survive until the end of January 2010 without working again. Of course I am going to seek out work, most likely starting in August, and with that extra money I should live comfortably until I am ready to go home next spring. 

In the meantime, I am comfortably surfing the next week, waiting patiently for my camera repair bill (uuugh...) and looking forward to more friend visits next month!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

It's been forever since I posted, and I won't apologize since it seems pointless (even though I am sorry). I hope you all know how much I still love reading your blogs, and that it's been a very hectic two months. I have gone on a whirlwind trip of England with my family and am expecting more whirlwindedness over the next month with visits from friends. 

I am catching up on my budget, having fared reasonably well over the vacation season. I dropped my camera in the Edinburgh airport, resulting in some major damage to a major lens, with, other than resulting in many tears and curse words, will most likely result in a hefty repair bill. We'll see.

For now, know that I am still around, and still catch up with your lives on a daily basis. Adieu.

April Fool's!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Hello everyone and welcome to April Fool's Day! Now that I've been paid and settled and everything, I thought it was about time to do my March re-cap. 

I didn't do great in March, I ended up over-budget, and it was all because of food. I bought and ate way too much food, as well as went out too much. I don't often eat out, mainly because I don't have a lot of outside work and flat friends, but I did end up going out a couple times with friends to celebrate random things, and that all adds up - especially at the end of the month when I know I have no money left.

So, in all its glory, here is where I stood at the end of the month:
So there it is. It would be, in fact more than that, if I hadn't had some extra cash gifted to me, which I used almost exclusively on food. Food seems, now, like such a waste of money, since it's not something that sticks around... it's just fuel. 

Don't get me wrong, I love food - and I enjoy food a lot, but I can't keep spending so much money on snacking. I've been good the last week when it comes to food (mainly since I had no money left!)

I'm still toying with my budget for April. I have extra money set aside for the spring (to the tune of £1,500 - but I'm not sure how to work it into a budget. I think that I will create two budgets, one to cover the basics then another one specially designed for the trip. I'm already starting to buy things now for the trip, including plane tickets and boots and such, and it seems odd to ding my curent budget and drain it of all its fun money to buy things for next month. 

We'll see how it works out! Will definitely be better than March, though. :) 

Credit Reports and the likes

Sunday, March 22, 2009

While I'm a bit of a space cadet tonight (I don't really know why, I'm just all over the place), I'd really like to write a post. I don't think my brain can sit still long enough for a well thought-out post, so I'd like to share with you some thoughts that I've had recently:

I just looked up my credit report through Equifax (I opted for the paid one, rather than have one sent to my house in Canada where I am not)... and I'm pleased to announce that my FICO score has risen from 744 to 756! I have now officially jumped to the 'average' section from last year's appearance in the 'slightly below average'. It would be higher if I hadn't forgotten about a measly $10 I had charged on an HSBC card and paid 1 day late (back in 2006). Oopsie!

Other than that I like to know that everything is in order, which it is, although they still list my employment as Subway, when it hasn't been Subway in a while. Not sure if it's worth it to change it when I'm not working at all in Canada.

I have many credit cards on file (6 in total!), and I only use one of them regulary. Not sure if I should close the rest when I get home, especially since some of them (like the HSBC one), I've long since destroyed the card. Hmmm. 

My flatmate has just left back home to South Africa to scramble to apply for a Highly Skilled Migrant Visa before the end of March, since the UK Goverment has changed the rules and he would no longer be eligible under the new rules. He is still waiting on one last peice of documentation which was supposed to come in the mail Friday (and didn't...), so we're hoping it comes tomorrow and if it does I will have to scramble down to the Post Office and send it as fast as I can to South Africa. I am stressed for him, because I think at this point I would be a wreck of stress if I were him. 

I made sushi today! And I didn't do as miserable of a job as I thought! Yay! I made the rice a-ok, although it was a bit too soft I think (less water next time), and made one roll with crab and avocado and cucumber, and another with salmon (I used trimmings.... not as good as salmon steaks, but I didn't want to spend the $$ on high-grade salmon) and cucumber, and I made a couple hand rolls with shrimp. I'm very much pleased. I bought a big thing of Kikoman soy sauce (sooo good), although it was a bit too dark, it was very satisfying. I didn't buy any wasabi or ginger, since I don't really like either. My only problem was the knife - way too dull. I'm going to need a sharper knife next time around, as I pretty much butchered the sushi trying to cut it. I'm sure Waitrose or M&S has a cheap, sharp knife around. 

Other than that, It cost me around £20 for the following:
  • 2 packs of seaweed sheets (10 per pack)
  • 1 box of sushi rice (will need to buy more, cheaper at the asian grocery store)
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 bunch of spring onions
  • 1 pack of crab-sticks
  • 1 pack of salmon trimmings
  • 1 pack of pre-cooked shrimp
  • 1 huge bottle of soy sauce
  • 1 pack of chopsticks (can't eat sushi with a fork!)
  • 2 mini plates
  • 1 tiny bowl for soy sauce
  • 1 wooden paddle
  • 1 bottle of rice vinegar
  • 1 wooden bamboo rolling mat
  • 1 bag of sesame seeds
  • 1 packaged of unagi (seasoned eel)

I already had:
  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • Pots
  • Knife (although this one was no good)

Other than the rice, which will only do me another 3 or 4 rolls (1 c of rice or so), the rest will either do me permanently (chopsticks and plates), or a long time. I still have almost all of the veggies and sauces left. As well, I only used 2.5 sheets of sushi nori (seaweed). I would've only used 1.5 sheets, but I got water on one and ruined it by making it soggy.

I could probably spent the next week eating sushi without using all this up. It took quite a while, especially since I haven't made it in such a long time. Once I get better prepared I'm sure it'll go by faster. But, when I could spent £20 on one night of sushi, £20 for a week isn't too bad. Espeically when £6 of that went directly on some frozen seasoned unagi (eel). Mmmmm unagi. Can't wait to break that shit out. It's gonna be AWESOME!

I'm also glad to report that right now I've got a grand total of £7,507.61 in the bank. AND I haven't get gotten paid by the job, which (hopefully), will bump it up to over £8,000. Anyways. This all means that even if I spend double my budget for April and May (which is what I've planned), I can freaking make it to NOVEMBER on my current money and budget. HOLY CRAP! This just keeps getting better and better. 

During a low time a couple of weeks ago, when the old housemate was really killing my drive to live here (he was a partier/alcoholic - listening to shit dance music and getting out of control and abnoxious - THANK GOD he's gone!), I was really considering coming home sooner rather than later, and I did, at one point, tell my mom that I was thinking of coming home next January, rather than waiting until the summer when my VISA expired. She was pretty bummed, as I think she was planning to come out and visit me again in the spring. She loves it here, and as she doesn't have a whole lot of money, basically said that 'while I'm out here she's got a reason to visit when she shouldn't spend the money'. Now I don't want to be the reason for my mother getting in debt, but she's pretty much going to do it anyways. Now that the horrible roommate has left I'm loving it here again, and am planning to stick it out as long as I can. 

On a completely OTHER note, several of the people that have lived in this house waaaay before I got here (think at least 2 years ago), have gotten increasingly threatening letters from collection agencies about overdue debts. We used to just toss old housemate mail up on top of one of the cabinets, but I cleaned out and decided to send them all back. I opened a couple that were damaged, and that's how I learned about the debts. One guy owes a couple hundred quid, while another owes almost £3,500 to some phone company. No one has called the house as far as I'm concerned, but since we have no answering machine they might for all I know. However I just got a letter today, and peeked through the clear stuff to read "DOORSTEP COLLECTION NOTICE" in BIG red letters. Well shit. I don't want these people coming to MY HOUSE to collect debt for someone who doesn't even live here anymore. I'm not sure what to do. I'm going to send the letter back (I always write "DOESN'T LIVE HERE. NO FORWARDING ADDRESS" on all of them, but it doesn't seem to work). I'm just worried that someone will show up at the house and be mean and agressive. That scares me. I'm not sure what to do! Has anyone has this problem?

I mean, for all I know no one will be here when these people come. Everyone except me works 9-5 jobs, and I'm usually our touristing during the day, so none of us are home until the evenings, but if they came in the evenings, what would happen? I hope they would be nice and leave when I tell them that this person doesn't live here, but if they think I'm lying or harboring this guy? Gaaah! Why can't people just pay their freaking debts! Any suggestions? I guess I could pass on the land lady's contact information and hope that they leave ME alone, but I'm not sure she would appreciate that. They were HER tenants, though - she might have more information. 

Hmmm... what other news to share?! OH!

I bought some UGG boots last week. I know, I think they are ugly too, but have you ever worn them? It's like walking on clouds made of fog. lol. What an image. Anyways, I was looking at their fuzzy-lined rubber boots, since I need a good pair of rubber boots, but I couldn't even get my feet in them (big feet!), so I ended up buying a pair of fitted, slip on leather boots with the fuzzy lining. The damage? £146. Ouch. Yep.

I ended up taking them back 2 days later. I wore them around the house a bit and just decided that they weren't worth the price. I can buy cheap rubber boots for like, £20, and then just buy fuzzy socks. It's funny, I spent a lot of time in the store chatting with the sales lady, who actually ended up going into the back and pulling some of last years old stock for me to try on. She was exceptionally helpful and sweet, and I feel bad since she probably lost out on some comission, but I just couldn't swallow the price. Especially when the UGG boots that are £146 here, are only $146 back home. Same price, different currency. That basically means I'm essentially paying double. Yikes. 

I think by the time I had riden the hour-long bus home I had decided to take them back. And I absolutely HATE taking things back, since I avoid conflict, but everyone was quite sweet. And I had a huge sense of relief when I left the mall, which I take as a good sign. 

I'm still on the hunt for good boots, and will resume hunting next week. 

I have also received my tax refund, which was a fat $1,500. I find this impressive, especially since I don't contribute to an RRSP (I know, BAD pf-blogger!). This means that my office-job was WAY over-taxing me - since I usually only get about $600 back. Yeeeesh! This did help, since it bought me another month in the UK (or the inevitable flight home... lol). I haven't done my UK taxes yet, as the tax year doesn't end until April. I will get my P60 in the mail soonish, and will have to figure out how the hell to do my taxes after that. I don't think I will be entitled to a huge refund through the UK, since I've paid barely any taxes. 

I got a lovely £20 gift voucher from my job this week, as a reward for all us being awesome and winning some competition. I also traded in a bunch of my unused Nintendo DS games that I brought with me (most I haven't touched in over 6 months!), and got £51 on another voucher! I used part of this month to buy a new DS game: Grand Theft Auto Chinatown Wars! I'm very much enjoying it, and will definitely get my money's worth out of it. I still have £41 on the gift card, so I'll be able to buy some stuff in the future. I'm resisting the temptation to blow it all on crap I don't need and save it for things I need - like when my headphones eventually break. Heh. 

Well, I think that's enough rambling for one afternoon. I'm struggling to put concrete, coherent sentances together anymore, and I'm sure my spelling is getting to be atrocious. Maybe I'm hyped up on too much sushi! Either way, I'm very much looking forward to more sushi tomorrow.... after I find a better knife. 

Thanks for reading this far, you're a star!

Steps to Home Ownership

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Gail Vaz-Oxlade has written an excellent post about the steps to home ownership. It's in my future goals to own a home, in fact, I'd like to own  one before I'm 30, which is approx 6 years away. If I start to save for an eventual downpayment when I get home (in 2010), that gives me 5 years. 

However, this article really enlightened me about the true costs being buying a home. Of course, things like the cost of new furniture/dishes/other household items, as well as the obvious (bills, mortgage, etc), things like 'closing costs' and other home-buying fees didn't cross my mind. 

I'm really going to have to sit down in the future and budget a future plan for my home-buying adventure. Check out the article if you're thinking of buying a home in the future. 


Monday, March 9, 2009

Okay, I'll admit it. I'm a snacker. I enjoy snacking, whether it's on mini-oranges (I can eat them like potato chips!), or on potato chips, toast, candies, whatever really. I find that especially when I'm bored or stressed, I find that I turn to snacking as a way to release stress and waste time. 

I'm also horribly impatient and have a bad attention span, so I have to be multi-tasking all the time. I find movie theatres, while a lot of fun, boring sometimes because I have nothing to do with my hands. I think that's why people like eating popcorn so much, as it takes so long. I don't like popcorn, though. 

(For example, right now, I'm watching Top Gear on tele, surfing the net (blogging), waiting for dinner to be cooked and chatting with my housemates). And i'm still a bit bored.

What is the point, you ask? Well, this snacking has put quite a large dent in my food budget. In fact, so much so that I've eaten all but £16 in my food budget for the month. In fact, I ate about £8 of junk food in the past day and a half. Not good. Not good for me, or my budget. Junk food is expensive. Boo.

On another front, over the past 3 weeks, I've managed to work pretty much full-time (not too bad for only 1 guaranteed day a week!), which will make for a pretty paycheque at the end of this month. I've only got 3 more dedicated shifts at the store before I leave at the end of March for vacation fun-time, which is sad since I'll miss everyone there. 

On another good note, our store won a contest back in January, and as such, we all got £20 gift vouchers! Woo hoo! And I know exactly what I'm going to buy: The new Grand Theft Auto game for the Nintendo DS. Call me what you want, I loooove video games. Especially Grand Theft Auto.

I hope it doesn't suck.

I did it, I broke down...

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

... and finally bought a calculator! 

Yeah okay, I know that's not that exciting. But it is to me! I've been stuck using the crappy windows calculator and my mouse to do additions - I don't even have a number pad on my laptop! 


So the budget and doing simple math wasn't nearly as much fun as it will be now! Yay! All I want is to calculate something. Hmmm. How about the square root of 567? It's 23.811761!

Wow, I'm such a dork.

The Damage...

Sunday, March 1, 2009

...Actually, wasn't as bad as I assumed! Turns out that at the beginning of February, I had £7,590.60 in all my accounts. As of today, I have £7,534.25 in my account. How I managed to get through February and all my overspending without putting a dent in my account I'm not sure. 

During this time I earned £728.83 from paycheques over the month (one was a late one from January), so this covered everything I spent in the first couple of weeks (Amsterdam and rent, bills included). This means that I probably only spent a couple hundred £££ (if that) over the following two weeks. I didn't buy much except for groceries and some meals while at work. 

I'm very much relieved to see these figures. This also means that with my current funds, I will definitely be able to make it through the summer. Even if I spend my allotted £1,500 for both April and May, I will still make it to October before being broke. Plus, my current work said that they are more than happy to take me back in July (yay!!), and I'll be working from July through January again, which should give me enough cash to make it through next spring.

The only thing I want to talk to work about is the number of shifts I'll be working. Currently I work between 1 and 5 shifts a week. I need about 2.5 shifts a week (16 hours or so) to cover rent and bills. They only promised me 1 shift a week when I was re-hired in January, which was fine then, but for the summer I'd like a couple more. We'll see what they say. Come September/October, I know I'll get lots of extra shifts for the run-up to Christmas, just like last year. 

We'll see what they say. If I managed to get enough money to cover rent for at least July to October, then I'll only be spending about £300 a month in extras, which adds up to £1,200 pounds. After that if I'm back to working full-time, and netting about £700 a month. This will cover all my bills from November to January. After January, I'm not sure if I'll continue working or not - it depends what my spring plans are.

Here's a little chart I made - this might help illustrate what my future looks like. I always round down my earnings, just to give myself the benefit of the doubt. I'm also not factoring in any money I'll get back from taxes on either continent. 

So, not that this is concrete in any way, but it gives me a visual of what the rest of 2009 and 2010 will be like. I upped my budget in September since my Dad is probably coming out for a visit, then again over Christmas since well, it's Christmas. 

If all goes well, I will be in London until April or so. After that I'll probably leave my stuff in the closet upstairs, then head over to the Netherlands again for 2-3 weeks to bother (visit) my friends, then back to London in April or May, when my mom will probably come to visit, then I'll fly back to Toronto to waste about a month visiting family, then finally home. All these plans may get bumped up by a couple of months if the money runs short - we'll see. I have a friend who is planning to come visit in February, so I'll at least be here until then. 

But, either way, it's nice to have my finances laid out for now. Yay!

Financial Post

Friday, February 27, 2009

A couple of weeks ago I was contacted by Sarah Efron of Financial Post Magazine for some information about an article, and today I noticed that the article was up! It's my first time being mentionned in some kind of 'official' publishing, and i'm so happy!

You can read the article at its source here, but for kicks I'll post it as well!

Trend spotting
Sarah Efron, FP Magazine
Published: Friday, February 27, 2009

Krystal is a 26-year-old marketing coordinator in Vancouver. She's trying to declutter her house, she likes to go rock climbing in her spare time and, if you go to her blog, "Give Me Back My Five Bucks," you'll quickly learn every imaginable detail about her finances. Krystal is a member of a growing online community of personal-finance bloggers now baring their hopes and dreams - and their financial statements - online. Collectively, they're breaking one of the last taboos: talking about money. In a recent post, Krystal laid out her goals for the month: sticking to her $200 food budget, putting $300 in her retirement portfolio and going climbing at least five times. She regularly updates graphs that show how much money is in her travel, emergency and retirement funds. Other bloggers itemize everything from their investment returns to the cost of vegetable soup on their grocery bill.

Their motivation is self-improvement, not exhibitionism. When these bloggers aren't updating their own data, they're reading each other's entries for ideas and strategies. Many are young women, and most, like Krystal, choose not to reveal their real identities. Nevertheless, Krystal credits her blog with keeping her accountable and helping her get a handle on her saving and spending. "When I first decided I wanted to change my life and get out of debt, my friends made fun of me and called me a penny-pincher," she says. "So I turned to the Internet. There, I found such a wonderful, welcoming community of personal-finance bloggers. This blog has been the best decision of my life."

Not only has the blog helped provide emotional support for Krystal, it's also provided some cold, hard cash. In the past two years, she earned $2,239.44 from advertising and by writing sponsored posts - reviews of books, blogs or services - providing money that has helped her reach her goals. In fact, since she started the blog in 2007, her net worth has increased more than $33,000, going from about $5,000 in the red to $28,220 in the black.

Some of Canada's most interesting - and revealing - personal finance blogs

Give Me Back My Five Bucks

A mid 20s Vancouverite chronicles her rise out of debt and into the black.

Million Dollar Journey

A 27-year-old Eastern Canadian doles out investment advice as he builds towards his goal of having a networth of $1 million by the age of 35.

Apples and Telephones

A 23-year-old Canadian photographer living in England struggles to stretch the value of her Canadian dollars.

Fabulously Broke in the City

A confessed shopaholic travels down the path of financial prudence.


A woman in her 30s details her life and her spending habits.

Northern Living Allowance

A 40ish single blogger fights debt and angst.

So yay for me and everyone else who was mentioned. How exciting! Although, now that I may have a slightly upturn in my visitors for the next day or two, I feel REALLY bad about not having posted in the last 2 weeks.

I've been dealing with some rough homesickness, which had a good bout of 'annoying flatmate' and 'stresses' tacked on. Not fun. It's been a rough couple of weeks but I'm really out of it, I think. I'm very much looking forward to having my family and friends visit this spring, as well as experiencing London in the summer. 

Mr. Annoying-flatmate has moved out, thank GOD! He's only been here 6 weeks, and until the final days before he left, I didn't really think that he was the reason for part of my stresses, but looking back on it, after he moved in was when I started stressing a bit. I blamed it on spending the holidays alone, or the bad weather, or working a lot, but when it comes down to it, having him come home drunk (every night!), or high or just plain late at night and then listen to crappy dance music at 2 a.m. (my bedroom is just off the living room). I can't remember now how many times I've fallen asleep with earplugs in. 

*Sigh*. We're just not a party house. And i'm very pleased that the rest of us are not party people. Muuuuch better. Although one of my other fav roomies is moving out at the and of March, and I am sad. Hopefully we'll find someone equally good to replace him. 

I suppose everyone is going to have 'horror flatmate from hell' stories, and as far as i've heard, mine isn't the worst, and thank goodness for that. So far the people we've got in (a couple and another single girl), will probably be here long-term, which is nice. We've had a lot of change-overs recently. It's a pain in the bum and expensive (phone credit, having to stay home to do viewings, constant cleaning) to do. 

On a financial note, as tomorrow is month-end, it's not going to be pretty. I'm a little nervous. Although I kept a lot of receipts once I got home from the Netherlands, I most certainly blew my budget this month, and easily by a couple-hundred quid. I'm saddened by it. In the next day or two I will check all the bank balances and do the inevitable tally.

Another thing that's caught up with us - when our last flatmates left in December, they neglected to pay the gas/water bill, and since we were living there too (we each paid one bill and did the tally at the end), we've become responsible for a £300 bill. Boo. We requested the total from the gas company, and it's come up to almost £650 (including the water, gas up until January 10th.). Our landlady has passed on £75 pounds from the old tenants leftover damage deposit, as well as almost £200 from the pain-in-the-bum flatmates damage deposit, so then me and my fav flatmate will each have to fork out about £200 each for this bill. Booooooo. Fortunately I have saved up about £180 so far (odd and end money, etc) to offset the cost of this bill, which is nice. 

It's a pain, but again, now we know better. Now I pay all bills and get money monthly from everyone. If they don't pay, we can evict them and keep their damage deposit for our bills. It's a much better system. 

Either way, once this bill is caught up i'll feel better about it. Even though it's not my bill - I hate 'owing' people money. 

Keep posted for the inevitable February ugliness....


Thursday, February 12, 2009

I've been toying with the contents of this post for a while, and I thought now was as good a time as any. We all take measures and steps in our personal lives to save/conserve money, and in the last couple of months, I have heard many, many different habits of my friends, coworkers and roommates. Some are similar to things I do, while other are things I'd never do. 

However, I would like to know what you think! In no particular order, here are some of the things that I do/others do/things I've thought of doing. The things that I've done are in bold, the other things listed are things people have mentionned doing or have done.

  • Downloading movies (torrenting - not paying)
  • Downloading music (limewire or equivalent - not paying)
  • Take extra packages of sauce/ketchup/salt, etc from fast food outlets to use at home
  • Taking extra packaged/disposable utensils from fast food outlets
  • Stealing metal cutlery from restaurants
  • Taking pint glasses from pubs
  • Keeping the free mini wine bottles/cola cans from airplanes to drink at home
  • Looping past people on the street handing free things out to stock up
  • Taking extra pens/pencils/stationary from the office to use at home
  • Using the office printer/fax/scanner at the office for personal use
  • Taking bathroom supplies from restaurants/fast food outlets/the office for home use (toilet paper, soap, etc)
  • Taking all the toiletries provided in a hotel bathroom for use at home
  • Buying things 'for donation' and not paying/paying very little (think votive candles at churches, poppies for Rememberance Day)
  • Not correcting a cashier/salesperson when they forget to ring in an item/ring it in at a lower price
  • Switching price tags on items to avoid paying the full price
  • Using a student card to get a discount when you are no longer a student
  • Taking extra ziplock bags from the airport booth (for your carry-on liquids) to use at home
  • Paying for once movie and skipping from theatre to theatre watching movies all day on one ticket.
  • Working 'under-the-table' for cash.
  • Keeping a close watch on hours earned to cut losses on your paycheques because of forgotten hours
  • Lying to your supervisors about extra hours worked to make extra cash (lying about overtime, etc)
  • Stealing sattelite T.V.
  • Hacking (or plain ol' accessing) a neighbors unsecured wireless to do your internettin'.
  • Dumpster diving for used items.
  • Hitting the front of the local thrift stores before the store opens to loot through the donations people have left overnight (that the store hasn't claimed yet).
  • Using 'free trial software' for the period specified (let's say 30 days), then uninstalling it and reinstalling it, or hacking it to work permanently. 
  • Shaking a vending machine until a candy bar falls free, for free.
  • Buying an item in a vending maching from the same slot as a stuck item, so you get 2 for 1.
Well, those are all the ones I can think of for now. What would you like to add? You can plainly see the things that I've done - what do you think? Would you/Have you done the same? Do you disaprove of some of these habits, or do you know someone who behaves in a way you disaprove of to save money? Let me know!

Hurt by The Netherlands...

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

...My bank account was, that is.

I won't lie, The Netherlands wasn't pretty on my budget. This was due to several things: The exchange rate was horrible, transportation between cities was pricy, and I was on vacation. Not that I threw away all concept of budgetting while on vacation, but at the same time, we did splurge a bit on eating out. The first night we went to an awesome (AWESOME!) greek restaurant where a huge, amazing meal costs me €20. Then we went out for the BEST sushi I've had in months in Rotterdam, where the total bill for the three of us was €87. And finally, we went out for some old-school Dutch pancakes where I believe my meal was €14. I don't mind that these meals were more expensive, because I haven't eaten out in a long time. I don't really enjoy eating in restaurants by myself, and therefore don't do it.

I'm still thinking about that sushi thought. Omg it was so good. I ate so much unagi I probably dreamt about it all night. MMmmmmm. I really need to find an asian grocery store in London, as sushi is a lot cheaper (and reasonably simple) to make, as long as you can find the correct ingredients. Hmmm.

Anyways, so here's the damage:

Now, keep two things in mind: My roommates owe me about £50 in bills - as I overpaid their share of bills, plus, I haven't yet paid rent. So, when you add it all up, I've got about £15 to last me 21 days. Ooouch.

I've got enough money on my Oyster card to last me though the month, no problem, so I don't have to worry about Transportation. At the same time, I don't have enough food to last me through the month, as I used up all my fresh stuff before I left.

Here's what I've got in my pantry/freezer/fridge:

  • Cereal
  • Peanut Butter
  • Ragu
  • 1 bag uncle ben's rice
  • 2 boxes of Kraft Dinner
  • 1 can minestrone soup
  • 2 bags spaghetti
  • 1 bag butterfly pasta
  • 12 frozen meatballs
  • 1 frozen small chicken
  • 2 frozen fish patties (left by old roommates, unsure of quality/state?)
  • ice cream

Out of the spaghetti I can get 3 meals. From the roast chicken, if I get some vegetables I can get 2-4 meals. Kraft dinner will last me 2-4 meals. So, I'll be able to last for a while, but I don't have any breakfast/lunch meals. So, I am going to go out grocery shopping today, and I have the following on my list:

  • Ground beef
  • Green beans
  • Onions
  • Yams
  • Carrots
  • Chicken Breasts
  • Milk
  • Bread

Hopefully this combination of food will keep me going for at least two weeks. I've been lucky enough to pick up 5 days of working starting Friday, which will net me a couple hundred quid, although I won't see that until the end of March.

Siiiigh. Not the best start to February, but this was definitely a wake-up in how much a short 'mini-break' can cost me. I'm going to have to be very careful when I'm hosting my onslaught of guests starting April.

We need to be Debt Free...?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

I can't seem to access JW's blog at We Need to be Debt Free.... anyone having similar issues? Did something happen? I hope everything is alright.

On another note, unfortunately the Netherlands is turning out to be quite expensive. Well, it would be expensive if I was spending money, which I am not. The exchange rate between the Euro and the Pound is a close 1 to 1.07, which makes things here very expensive to buy. If I were to buy a coat at H&M, for example, it would cost me 30 pounds, but 40 euros. Usually, given the exchange rate, this would mean spending the same amount of money, however, right now it makes Europe very expensive. Too bad - there are some nice things here.

Anyways... back to being a social being and not hogging my friends' computer.

25 Things

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Well, while I don't have my spreadsheet around I can't exactly comment on much that is money related, so I thought i'd do my version of 25 Things! Everyone else seems to be doing it, and since no one has tagged me, I'm going to do it myself. So here goes, 25 things you didn't know about me:

1. I have an obsession with organizational stores - I once spent 3 hours in "The Container Store" in Seattle agonizing over what I should/should not buy.
2. I really hope Windows 7 is good, because otherwise I'm going to buy a Mac when I go home.
3. I no longer have any of my wisdom teeth.
4. I only sleep best when I am surrounded by at least 4 pillows - two under my head, and one on each side.
5. I can't stand it when my fingernails are short - I can't pick anything up!
6. I HAVE to multitask.... all the time. I can't just watch a movie, I have to be doing something else at the same time, even if it's doodling.
7. I wonder what YOU think I look like. (And I wish I knew what YOU looked like!)
8. I can type really, really fast. I believe that came from playing a lot of text-based games in my youth.
9. I also can't wait for the release of Diablo 3.
10. I love airports. There is an excitement in the air - people rushing, people meeting other people, jetting off to exciting places.
11. I can't take care of a plant to save my life. I just kill them.
12. I will visit outer space one day, even if it costs me my life savings.
13. I still worry that people think I'm a tourist when I'm in London.
14. As a child, I fell down in our living room and put my top front teeth through my tongue. You can still see the scars.
15. I have my conch peirced. And yes, it hurt like a bitch.
16. I have never broken a bone.
17. I would love to learn to speak many languages, including German, Spanish, Punjabi and Afrikaans, but I lack the devotion to seriously master any.
18. I do everything left-handed, except write.
19. I like the way I write.
20. When I was a child my sister, dad and I used to spend every Saturday having a movie-fest. We'd watch horrible old movies like Attack of the Killer Tomatoes and the Godzillas all day. I now have a love of crappy-old horror movies.
21. I hate modern horror movies, though. Can't stand the anxiety.
22. I want a tattoo. I have a design in mind but can't think of a good place to put it.
23. I made cookies from scratch for the first time 3 days ago, and they were good!
24. One of my biggest fears is losing everything. I don't think I am one of those people who could sell everything I own and bugger off. I enjoy 'things' too much.
25. I'm really good at putting IKEA furniture together.

Well, that was an odd combination of things. I hope you enjoy this little peek into my life. I enjoy reading all your 25 Things.


Monday, February 2, 2009

I guess I never really mentionned this, but I flew out of London Saturday morning to visit my friends in Leiden, The Netherlands (close to Amsterdam). I'll be here eating Dutch food and taking pictures of windmills until February 9th, so don't expect a whole lot of posts between now and then, although, I will state the following:

  • The exchange rate between the Euro and the Pound sucks! It's basically 1-1, which sucks for me.
  • Leiden is a lovely little city - it's got all the best parts of Amsterdam without the drugs and sex.
  • I'm trying my best not to spend a lot of money, and have been really successful so far, wandering around and taking pictures is much much easier than visiting museums, unless, of course....
  • It's miserable and cold outside here. Very very cold. Colder than London (although, today London got a huge dump of snow and none of the trains are working! Ha!)
Anyways, I'm out to take some pictures. I'll try and post here and there during the week.


Thursday, January 29, 2009

Okay, I'm trying to give this Twitter thing a go. I like the idea, because I'm always thinking random things during the day that I would enjoy sharing, however, the concept of logging onto this website to add them in seems to ruin the idea, and I'm not sure if they accept overseas mobile numbers on their website.

Either way, if you want to know what I'm thinking, just look to your left. Hope you enjoy it!

January in review...

Well, even though it's a couple of days before the end of the month, I have a couple things that have affected my decision to do my end-of-the-month tallies today!

First of all, it's my birthday tomorrow! (Whee!), and as such.... I won't be blogging. Well, that's a lie. I might be blogging since I have no plans for my birthday since no one here in London is aware that it's my birthday, and I'm not about to go blabbing it to everyone in the hopes that they will buy me something. Heh. Plus, I'll be at work most of the day. I might buy a cupcake or something fancy for dinner - who knows. I'll be turning the big 2-4! Whooo.

Second of all, I'll be leaving first thing Saturday for the Netherlands! I've got some friends there and I'll be spending until the 9th visiting Leiden, Amsterdam and the Netherlands. I'm really looking forward to getting out and seeing a different city. Now, I still love London, but after a while, all these old English buildings look the same! The Netherlands is a very different-looking city, and I am looking forward to that. 

In the meantime, it's been an alright month. I stuck (just barely) within my new, tighter, £700 budget. I am reasonably proud as this is the cheapest month I've had whilst in London - and I enjoyed myself, too. Now given that I spend 1 week looking for roommates and several other days working, but I had several days in London where the only money I spent was getting too and from the capital. I will definitely use this as a lesson for future months. 

So, onto the actual stats!

So, as you can see, I'm just barely £1.58 inside my budget. I'm pleased with the numbers - I never really felt 'deprived', and still managed to buy a couple things for myself this month. Now, of course, it helps that my aunt sent me £20 as a birthday gift, which helped to buy a new camera bag. *grin*. My mom also sent me $125, which I will put towards paying the plane ticket (which I will count under February) - and possibly buy me a birthday cupcake tomorrow. 

And here's a quick glance at my stats. If all goes well, I will still be able to make it to September on my current savings. I'm very very pleased with this, especially as now most of the people that are visiting me are doing so in the spring - so by mid-July, I'll be job hunting again and should have at least a month or two buffer. 

Of course... winning the lottery would always help.... heh. 

So that's January. Nothing too exciting. I spent all day today cleaning and doing laundry, since tomorrow I'll be at work and Saturday I've got to be up at the ungodly hour of 4-something to get to Heathrow by 6 a.m. Blah. But, I've never flown such a short distance before and it'll be exciting. It's also nice that my friends are comming to the Amsterdam airport to pick me up and therefore have relieved me of having to do any thinking of my own. 

I've got some more ideas kicking around the back of my head regarding blog posts so stay tuned!