Category Archives: Lifestyle

This post is about Pocketbook

A few weeks ago, I joined Pocketbook. I’d been looking for an easy way to manage my finances, and my first thought was: “is there an app for that?”. It turns out there is — quite a few — but Pocketbook is the only one recommended by Kochie, so obviously it was the one I chose to commit to (it’s also Australian, which is nice).

I was a bit apprehensive about logging into my bank account through the app, but that’s the only way you can really take advantage of what Pocketbook has to offer. They say that it’s through a secure server, and I haven’t been robbed yet, so I say it’s pretty safe. From there, you can see all the transactions you’ve made in the past four weeks, set up your bills, and set a weekly budget for yourself. One of my favourite features of Pocketbook is the ability to categorise each of your expenses, so you can see what you’re spending your money on. This works particularly well if you prefer plastic over paper for your daily expenses.*

The main thing I use (or try to use) Pocketbook for is budgeting. I can’t remember doing this, but at some point I set my weekly spend limit to $200. This was dependent on the amount of income I had that fortnight, and as it turned out, was not realistic in terms of what I actually needed to spend my money on that week. The week I signed up for Pocketbook, I coincidentally had a lot of big expenses that I had to pay off, so I was constantly going over my set budget.

Every morning, Pocketbook sends a reminder through your phone notifications and/or email telling you how much you are allowed to spend until the end of the week, dependent on the budget you set. They also tell you when you’re about to go over your limit. It turns out, this is a very annoying feature if you are constantly going over your limit because you set savings goals that are misaligned with your spending habits. And it makes you feel really, really guilty!

But probably if you’re good with money, this wouldn’t be a problem.

I have since put my spending cap on “auto”, which means that the app will set my weekly budget depending on how much I have in my account that week, and it works a little better than a hard budget.

I think more responsible people would use Pocketbook for managing their personal or household budgets, or saving money or something. I just use it for a more in-depth look at how I like to waste spend my money every week; this way, I can chastise myself in more specific ways. But who knows, maybe in the future I’ll be using Pocketbook to reach my savings goals as well.

*I’d always thought I was more of a cash person, but recent transactions prove otherwise. See: Pocketbook is teaching me things about myself! [the machines grow stronger. they are more knowledgeable. the end is nigh].

This post serves as an entry to Pocketbook’s Valentines Day competition, to win a tiny amount of cash. That is how bad my finances are at the moment. If you’re interested, it’s still open for a few more days.

WHAT I READ: January 2014

Reading took a bit of a backseat for me last year; I didn’t read very many new books that I loved, and that in turn made me want to read less. However, the end of December saw a deluge of excellent book recommendations, which allowed me to start January 2014 off strong, book-wise. There are a number of great books I can’t wait to get to on my reading list, but here are the books I read in January.


This Book is Full of Spiders by David Wong

I read John Dies at the End in December 2012, and had vaguely heard of a sequel in the works. But I had completely forgotten about the entire series until I saw This Book is Full of Spiders on display during the Christmas rush. Judging from the last book, I knew the plot could get a  little dark (and violent!), and I wasn’t sure if I was ready to read something like that at the time. I read the first page to gage what kind of story it was (it had been a while since my last Wong novel), and I immediately found myself hooked.

It rides off the zombie apocalypse genre, except that there aren’t technically any zombies – but there are a lot of supernatural absurdities. The author is also a writer for Cracked (my favourite time-suck website), and wrote this excellent piece on suicide which I only read recently (he also writes about other things that are not suicide).

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg

This seems to be the book everyone was talking about in 2013. I was hesitant about reading it, because last year was riddled with me picking up non-fiction books, finding them too boring to hold my attention, and then never reading them again. But when Hayley G Hoover announced that she was picking Lean In as her first book of the Answerly book club, I thought “eh, why not – people have been raving about it, and I might as well see why”. I’m glad I finally picked it up, because I found it incredibly engaging and thought-provoking.

Essentially, we need more women in power, bit the realities of the workplace today, as well as the way society has conditioned women to think and behave prevents that. Sheryl Sandberg is an incredibly accomplished business woman in the world of tech; she has worked for World Bank, Google and Facebook, and she draws on her extensive experience, as well as the experience of other women, colleagues, and statistics to discuss the reality for women in the workplace.

Lean In starts an important conversation about women and you should read it! All of you!

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks

I’m a bit late to the zombie party, but I only realised how much I enjoyed the idea of a war against living corpses after reading This Book is Full of Spiders. People have been recommending this book to me for years, so when my hunger for zombie novels was whetted after finishing Spiders, my immediate reaction was to pick up a copy of World War Z and start reading it as soon as possible.

It is just as great as everyone said it was. The narrative is told through a series of interviews from survivors of the Zombie War, and some of them could be read as stand-alone vignettes, but together they paint a vivid image of a modern world, not too different from our own, having to deal with the outbreak of a zombie virus. It explores the theme on both a political and personal level, and it does it excellently.

After finishing the book, I read a few one-star reviews on Goodreads that complained about it not being a real novel because of it’s structure, and there being a lack of character development. While there is some validity to their concerns, I hardly think that those make it a bad book. I would argue that WWZ is more of a commentary about war and the power of fear, and the book’s structure only lends to that purpose.

I recently picked up Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris (another oft-recommended author/book), and so far it’s enjoyable. My friend Des also recommended the Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness and Jam by Yahtzee Crowshaw, which I hope to pick up while still riding the zombie/apocalypse high that I am currently on.

Got any book recommendations? Let’s make 2014 the Year I Read A Lot More!

Ch-ch-changes

It’s been really quiet around here, and that is entirely my fault. It’s not like I’ve stumbled into a particularly bad patch of writer’s block and haven’t come up with anything to say – my notebook is filled with ideas and half-realised musings that I’d meant to show other people. It’s just that none of them are finished, and most of them haven’t even progressed past the deranged-rambling-first-draft stage, so it’s safe to say that they will stay in the blog post graveyard for now.

There was a point in my life, maybe two years ago, where I fashioned myself a kind of blogging schedule that I would be able to realistically stick to; that worked – for about three months, before life intervened and the schedule and the blog was abandoned.

A lesson that I keep learning over and over again is that circumstances and the cast of people around you tend to change more frequently than you think. Life is mostly trying to adapt to these changes, often jumping and hoping that there’ll be something to reach for on the way down. It is difficult and scary, but if your life is remaining at a constant, you’re probably doing something wrong.

The past few years in particular for me have been jumping and sometimes finding a merciful ledge, but mostly falling and falling until someone else lifts me back up, or I hit rock bottom. It’s not been great, and I finally realise that in order for things to change, I have to instigate it. So in 2014, I have decided to introduce some new features in my life that will hopefully keep me on solid ground, and avoid my next fall from being too hazardous. Continue reading

HOW TO: take a bath

Baths are the best. They are relaxing and can help relieve you of the day’s stresses, even just for a little while. But only if you do it right! Luckily, I am here to prep you on the correct way to have a bath, so listen up.

What you will need:

  • bubble bath AND/OR bath bomb AND/OR bath salts
  • a book AND/OR laptop
  • a fluffy towel
  • a bathtub

Optional:

  • a face mask AND/OR hair mask
  • a bottle of wine

bath tools! Continue reading

Winter Essentials

It is coming into the colder months in this part of the world, and while my feelings towards Winter have previously fluctuated between resentment and indifference, I have recently come to embrace the chill.

SInce I am a millennial living in a capitalistic society, I believe I owe a lot of this newfound comfort to my material goods (I love you material goods). Thus, I bring you my Winter essentials for this year (or really, any year):

Toe socks

I love socks. I have knee-high, OTK, crew, ankle and bed socks — mostly in crazy patterns and colours — but the kind of socks I had been coveting for ages were toe socks. For one reason or another, I never got around to purchasing any, until last December, when Walgreens had a bunch of Christmas-themed toe socks for sale. They were the cutest, so obviously…

toe socks!

I also have a pair with Santa on them, and another with snowmen. They are like gloves for your toes! My extremities tend to get super-cold, particularly in the winter and even if I’m snuggled under a warm blanket, so wearing socks to bed is a definite must.

Sweat Pants

I’ve mention these before, but since then Kyri took the sweat pants home, and I suffered a few lonely, sweat-pantsless months. I experimented with pyjama pants, my own sweat pants, boxer shorts…nothing seemed to fit as comfortably. Then one glorious day, Kyri came over and he brought the sweatpants back! True, he did specify it was so that he could wear them when he’s over, but I mean, let’s be real here, I’m gonna be wearing the pants. Forever.

Space Heater

space heater

Another thing from Kyri, although this was a gift rather than a thing I shamelessly stole. Kyri is a big fan of temperature control, and a couple years ago he decided he would pass this onto me via this heater. It took me a while, but now I am kind of dependent on this little heat-provider; it’s the only thing that makes coming out of the shower during Winter tolerable.

Scented Candles

My family thought I was mad for burning candles in the summer — “why?” they would ask, milling about in their underwear and fanning themselves.

“do you not want the smell of a hot pumpkin caramel latte wafting through our home?” I would rebutt.

“no” they would say, walking away in disgust.

scented candle

Well now my candles are totally weather-appropriate — they’re cosy and smell of Winter things (because I bought stuff mostly from the winter range) and I will light a hundred if I want to! Who’s the mad one now, family?!*

Hilariously, the last time I used this candle I closed it in a way that trapped the heat and made the glass expand, so I can’t get the lid open. THANKS, SCIENCE. My first instinct was to add heat to the lid, so I immediately exposed it to an open flame…yeah, don’t do that. Because of the burning. Hot water or a hairdryer would have been better, but none of those are in my room. Only lighters.

Lip Balm

Lip Balm is for every season, but especially winter. Because of the cold and the chapped lips. I carry a bag of various lip products, including tinted lip balm, with me everywhere because I am obsessive. But also I keep a tube of Burt’s Bees Honey Lip Balm next to my bed for easy night-time access, because it is now the only non-tinted lip balm that I own.

IMG_4605

It is very moisturising without being sticky, and also smells strongly of honey. I don’t recommend it if you don’t like the smell of honey…but they have a bunch of other “flavours”, like pomegranate, grapefruit and mango. The only other one I have tried was the pomegranate one, but it belonged to someone else and I was kind of drunk and don’t remember what it smelt like. It probably doesn’t smell like honey.

Moisturiser

Again, because of the cold and chapped skin etc. I have at least three full-sized face/body moisturisers and several small samples that I use in rotation. I got them all from Bellabox, because they insist on giving me more than I can use. Not that I’m complaining.

But my most favourite moisturiser is one for your hands. I’d heard a lot of good things about Hand Food by Soap and Glory. It’s a brand from the UK, but I guess Sephora started stocking it as well, because that’s where I found it. Kit Cosmetics in Australia also stocks Soap and Glory stuff, so when this runs out, I’ll be heading to a Kit Cosmetics counter to stock up on more.

hand cream

It smells like marshmallow, and does exactly what it says on the tube: it’s non greasy and very hydrating. I use it pretty much anytime my hands feel dry, or I just want to smell product (seriously, it smells so good!). On the flight from San Francisco to Auckland, I managed to sneak the entire tube past the TSA onto the plane, because I couldn’t imagine a 14-hour flight without it.

So yeah, I like things. Let me know if you have any cold-weather recommendations, because me and Winter, we are still deep in the honeymoon phase.

* me. it’s still me.

Life after graduation: filling the void.

I don’t consider myself an expert on much, but I am fairly well-versed on the ins-and-outs of being a recent graduate; I’m at the point where I can still say “I graduated recently…” without it being a total lie, which is certainly more impressive than “I’m in between jobs at the moment”, which is really just a roundabout way of admitting unemployment.

Andsobut you find that you yourself are a recent graduate, or are about to become one, and you’re still waiting to hear back from the graduate positions you’ve applied for and/or you’re nervous about the big wide world. Big chunks of time that you used to spend studying are now voids of anxiety. Fear not! There are a number of activities you could do to fill your time; some of them are even productive.

APPLY FOR JOBS

This is the most obvious; you’re done with the study, so it’s time to get to putting the skills you learned to work. The wise thing to do would be to apply for jobs before you graduate, so you can jump right into Being An Actual Adult, but I totally didn’t, so if you don’t, I can’t yell at you without being a hypocrite.

Even if you don’t want to immediately face full-time, 9-5 work, it’s probably good if you can generate some income at a part time job or something. Just sayin’.

DO SOME INTERNING

While you’re waiting to hear back from all those jobs you applied to, why not become an intern? Sure, interns get stuck with all the crappy jobs no one wants to do for little to no money, but you’ll be getting experience and a chance to perfect your skills in a professional work environment.

Plus, if you do a good enough job, they may actually pay you with real money! Wow! I found most of my internships through my university careers board and The Loop.

VOLUNTEER

Similar to interning, but without the vague promise of future paid employment. Not that it doesn’t have its perks; when I volunteered at the Manly Jazz Festival, I got to wander along Manly beach while listening to jazz music all day…and I got a free lunch! and a 2011 Manly Jazz Festival t-shirt! What a great day.

When I volunteered at the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards I got to follow tween stars around all day and get slimed*! on top of the free lunch(es) and Nickelodeon Staff t-shirt. Seriously, I have amassed so many t-shirts from all the volunteer jobs I’ve done. If you want free shirts, all you have to do is volunteer for stuff.

GET ADDICTED TO A GAME ON YOUR PHONE

Preferably one of those “social games” that rely on you playing with one or more of your friends; Draw Something is fairly popular these days. This is how it will go down:

  1. Download Draw Something on your phone/tablet/whatever
  2. Badger all your friends to play it with you
  3. Start a few games with friends
  4. Everyone gets really competitive, and it’s fun
  5. Everyone gets really competitive, and feelings get hurt
  6. Friends realise how much time Draw Something has taken from them and abruptly stop playing — even though it’s their move — in favour of doing their job or studying
  7. You stare bitterly at all the unfinished games and try to fight feelings of abandonment

JOIN A GYM

Not exercising was acceptable back when you were a university student, and all your time was used to do assignments and attempt to maintain a social life, but now that those days are behind you, there’s nothing standing in the way of you and getting fit. Join a gym!

I personally enjoy using the treadmill, only because running outside makes me nervous and I get performance anxiety. I wish I were kidding. The elliptical machines are also pretty rad. If using gym equipment isn’t your thing, there are also classes. Take up kick-boxing, or judo, or yoga, or pilates, or yogalates; you get to meet new people with whom you can bond over bitching about how much of a hard-ass your kick-boxing instructor is.

START A BLOG

Then you can whine about being a graduate, and how getting a job in this economy is so hard and nobody understands me like you do, blog.

Or better yet, start a T*mblr. It’s amazing. It’s like crack. You will never leave your room again, your face pale with the glow of your monitor. So many pictures of kittens, so many memes, so many misattributed/paraphrased quotes…and they have this “endless scrolling” feature…

GET A SECOND DEGREE/A MASTERS/A PhD

When being a Real Person gets too hard, you can always get back to studying. Some benefits of higher tertiary education:

  1. You can list your occupation as “student” again
  2. Knowledge is power
  3. Put off paying your student loans by accumulating more student loans!
  4. If you get a PhD, people can call you “Doctor”
  5. Also if you get a PhD, you get to wear an awesome hat

(source)
imagine this badboy atop your head at graduation. you would be the coolest kid.

What I am saying is: enjoy student life while you still can! The “real world” is for suckers!

* getting slimed is only kind-of fun while the sliming is going on; “oh haha so much slime! I’m so gross, the floor’s so slippery! I’m…oh no I’m falling over! my butt! ouch.” but once the slime hoses turn off, all you can think about is how cold you are, and how you forgot to bring a change of clothes.

Adventures with Evolvex, part two

Building.

Remember that time I ordered something from Evolvex? Well, it came in the mail recently, so now I can write the follow-up post. YEAH!

packages!

My cube came in two packages because I’d technically bought two items: one box held the cushion, and the other held pieces for the cube itself, as well as a bag of screws and other bits you’ll need to put your furniture together. My piece has a door, so it also came with two hinges. They were wrapped carefully in padding to ensure that the pieces wouldn’t get damaged in transit.

all wrapped up

It also came with personalised instructions in a brown envelope, which I thought was lovely.

Building the cube was relatively easy; if you know how to use a screwdriver, it’s just a matter of identifying which screws go where, and popping the pieces into place. You can see this in more detail in the video below, in which I made Kyri put together the cube while I filmed, for your viewing pleasure.