Tag Archives: reviews

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!

WHAT I ATE: burgers and salads, oh my!

I should be practicing a little frugality, but it is extremely hard when there are so many delicious places to eat at. Here are a few noteworthy things I ate recently…

StreetSoul Burger Bar, Randwick

nacho-style fries

The Spot holds a place in my heart as the place to go for cheap films, but over the past month or so, it’s also been a default last-minute dinner destination because it’s filled with some serious restaurant gems. My most recent discovery is StreetSoul Burger Bar, because I love a good burger, and am always on the lookout for a new favourite place. StreetSoul is local, is open til fairly late, and offers a decent variety of burgers and fries — case in point, the nacho-style fries. This combines nacho toppings (guac, sour cream, and cheese) with perfectly-cooked fries to create what is essentially a Mexican poutine. Brilliant.

mushroom madness

I opted for a vegetarian burger and got Mushroom Madness, because friggin’ mushrooms! It had a rosemary-seasoned whole field mushroom, baby cos lettuce, tomatoes, spanish onions, mayo, pesto, red peppers and grilled haloumi. Seriously.

The Grounds of Alexandria

soy flat white empty

The Grounds of Alexandria has been on my list for a while, and after an impromptu visit, it’s not hard to see why. We dropped by at around midday, and the place was bustling — there was a decent line for take-away orders, and all the tables were taken, so there was the beginning of a line for sit-in diners. Thankfully we didn’t have to wait too long to be seated (it was windy as heck), but the food is definitely worth standing around for a while.

kale and baby beetroot

I am still at a loss on where to find kale in Sydney. A girl I met at a dinner party told me that it could readily be found in the salad section of Woolworths or Coles, but I have been to several stores in different suburbs and have yet to find any. Last year I did find a bag of washed baby kale in my local Woolworths, but since then it has unicorned itself.

In the meantime, I’ll have to get my fix at The Grounds — their kale and baby beetroot salad is drizzled with a lemon-yoghurt dressing that is a little too citrusy for my tastes, but is still delicious and filling.

fries and chilli aioliAnd I am a sucker for fries and aioli, so obviously I had to get this side-dish. The fries were accompanied by chili aioli, which is what clinched it for me. They did not disappoint.

So while my wallet may be a little disappointed in me, my stomach certainly isn’t. Hey, maybe if someone tells me where I can get some fresh kale, I’ll stop eating out so much

(no

that’s a lie

but please tell me).

On Beauty…boxes

Oh yeah, I have a blog thing. Hi.

Lately I’ve been getting way into beauty products and make-up. I blame it on my obsession with nail polish. Nail polish is a gateway that leads to harder things like lipstick and eyeshadow. I’ve been watching beauty vloggers on Youtube, is the stage I’m at. Beauty vloggers, guys. I devote a portion of my time to watching people talk about how to apply make-up, will spend 15 minutes at a time sitting through an entire haul video*. What have I become?!

Anyway, a thing that I keep coming across on my beauty vlogging voyages is the beauty sampler box (I’ve also come across this concept while cruising the food blogs, but I digress). Essentially, it’s a subscription service on a month-by-month basis — usually in one, three, or twelve month increments — and each month, you receive a box filled with around 5-6 beauty products, often sample-sized, but sometimes there are a few full-sized products in the mix. It gives you a chance to try out different brands and products to find out what you like or want before splashing out the cash for it. Birchbox and Glossybox are the big names in the US and Europe respectively, but alas! they’re not available in Australia.

I did a little bit of research, and found that there are a couple of different options available here, such as Lust Have It, I Love This Box, Bella Box and Beauty Basket. Although the Australian boxes are slightly more expensive than their American/European counterparts ($15 rather than $10), I was already enamoured by the idea of getting a bunch of beauty products in the mail.

So I signed up for a Bella Box. It arrived a couple of days ago, and I think it’s pretty rad.

bella box!

Continue reading

A Trip Down York Lane

Coffee is my comfort food and cafés are my safe haven. So having lived in Sydney my entire life and being a lover of coffee for most of that time, you’d think that I would be an expert on where to get good coffee. But alas, being a student means getting my caffeine fix around my schooling schedule, leaving me at the mercy of chain stores that are open ’til late. Hello, Gloria Jeans and Starbucks.

But my student days are behind me (for now), and I’ve suddenly found myself with more time to peruse my friend Kelly and I have been on the hunt for cafés to while away the hours in. We’re fans of good coffee, comfy seats and funky decor, and we’ve visited a string of particularly good coffee places of late; amongst them is…

YORK LANE

Café by day and a wine bar by night, York Lane is tucked away in a narrow alley in Wynyard. I found out about this place from Corridor Kitchen, but I wouldn’t blame passersby for wanting to drop in after spying the quirky bicycle-sign on the corner of Erskine Street and York Lane (the actual lane) advertising York Lane (the café/bar).

It’s a shame that I didn’t take more photos of the decor, but it was definitely quirky and cosy. The otherwise neutral-coloured café was pleasantly accented with pops of red from milk-crate shelving and the occasional red stool. What impressed me the most was the way they made use of the small space; a lot of tiny cafés tend to squeeze in as much seating as possible, making for a cramped dining experience.

Tiny cafés usually make me a wee bit claustrophobic, and I don’t usually stay long inside them, but this was definitely not the case in York Lane. The seating was spaced out quite well, and there was even a tiny ledge for Kelly and I to rest our bags on. The lunch crowd seemed to come in short cycles — unsurprising as everyone else seemed to be business people on their lunch breaks — so the café was never over-crowded, and there wasn’t any pressure to vacate our seats quickly to make room for other customers.

The menus are charmingly handwritten, and for lunch there were a variety of tapas dishes and wine on offer. We decided on the Pumpkin, Goats’ Cheese + Sun-dried Tomato Parcels and the Haloumi + Pea Fritters with Tzatziki, skipping the wine and opting for more caffeinated beverages (which is why we were there in the first place).

haloumi and pea fritters w/ tzatziki ($9); pumpkin, goats’ cheese and sun-dried tomato parcels ($10)

a mocha and a latte with two sugars

Although the dishes were small, Kelly and I both walked away feeling surprisingly full. I enjoyed my mocha thoroughly, though Kelly did remark that her latte was milkier than usual — take that as you will.

The service was pretty great as well; the guy serving us was super-attentive and lovely, and we didn’t have to wait long to give our orders. Ordering food shouldn’t be a chore. A repeat visit is definitely in the books, and I’d also like to check it out at night for a few drinks. It would be interesting to see how the York Lane crowd changes when the sun goes down.

Adventures with Evolvex, Part One

Ordering.

Remember that time I went to the Evolvex website launch? I fell in love with their furniture, but being a poor graduate fumbling through unpaid internships with no actual need for new shelf or table, I couldn’t actually justify buying anything at the time. But now, Evolvex have given me the fantastic opportunity to test out their site, in the form of a store credit, which I am psyched about.

So! This weekend I took another gander at their site, this time with my buying hat on (it’s a fancy hat, made of money) and tried out the Evolvex Builder. I was hoping that they’d made some improvements to it since the last time I visited, but alas, it looked pretty much the same, and just as clunky. I had fallen in love with a stool that doubles as a storage unit that was on display at the pop-up shop, and tried to recreate it in the builder. However, it got too finnicky trying to fit the pieces together and I just gave up in the end. I’ve been told the builder is still buggy, though the team is working on it.

gaze upon my failure in wonder

pictorial evidence of my failure

Another one of my issues was that there didn’t seem to be a way to purchase items separately. I  wanted extra panels to play with, but there didn’t really seem to be an official way to purchase them. I contemplated just putting all the extra pieces I wanted into the builder and clicking straight through to the checkout, but it didn’t seem right.

After a quick email, I was told that individual parts would be added to the store in the coming weeks, so that’s a relief. Regarding the Builder, in addition to working out the kinks, I believe they’re working on providing video tutorials, so it’ll be easier to navigate in the future; they’ve got a YouTube channel set up, and are slowly adding more videos, like the one below, so check that out.

But what do we do before then? Luckily, the site does have some pre-designed pieces for sale, which means you can probably skip the Designer altogether and still buy Evolvex’s wares, at least until they figure out a more user-friendly system.

They had a piece for sale that was similar to the stool I wanted in (unsurprisingly) the pop-up shop section of the site. What I wanted was basically a stackable cube with a door and a pillow to turn it into a seat; alas, the stackable cube doesn’t come with a pillow, but green and orange ones were sold separately for $45, again in the pop-up section. Hooray! I added the cube and pillow to my shopping cart, and was on my way.

behold, my purchases!

I already have a desk and bookshelf that serve me well, what I need is a box to hold things, and an extra seat to offer to people who wander into my room. The great thing is, once I move into a bigger (or even smaller) space, I can re-appropriate the box-stool into something else. I can buy more pieces and make a bigger box! or a desk or something. The possibilities are endless.

Anyway, delivery takes about two to three weeks, so stick around for part two of Adventures with Evolvex, where I’ll probably post a video of me trying to assemble this fine piece of furniture. OH WHAT FUN WE HAVE ON THIS BLOG!

Death before 10:30AM

McDonald’s are celebrating their 40th year in Australia, by bringing back the McFeast, Shaker Fries, and introducing new McFlurry flavours. Delicious! But they’re also celebrating with a Birthday Muffin, which takes the best parts of a McDonalds’ breakfast and squishes it between two halves of an English muffin.

"my muffin top is all that; whole grain, low fat"

muffin top; cheese; sausage patty; bacon rashers; circular egg; circular hash brown; muffin bottom.

If you know me, you will know that I love breakfast. Breakfast is the best food! I am wholly in favour of the all-day breakfast; I believe all food places should serve breakfast foods ’round the clock, because no one should be able to restrict when anyone can have breakfast. But McDonald’s seems to think this restriction is necessary. Their breakfast finishes at 10:30AM, and thus, in order to partake in what some may call a monstrosity of a breakfast food*, I had to wake up slightly earlier than I would normally.

But what I paid for in minor inconvenience, I got back ten-fold in deliciousness! At least on the first bite. As you can probably tell by the above illustration, the McDonald’s Birthday Muffin is kind of bigger than your normal McMuffin. Being a girl with a smallish mouth, I all but unhinged my jaw to try and get everything in that muffin on the first bite.

And my God, was it worth it! I could taste the bacon and the sausage patty mingling and creating some sort of delicious, non-sexual meat explosion. I could taste the right amount of hash brown and egg to counter the double-meatiness of the Birthday Muffin, and the texture of the muffin itself was perfect. I really like English muffins, so. Yeah. I could barely taste the cheese, but that’s okay, because I don’t trust McDonald’s cheese.

oooh yeeeahh!

The second, third, fourth bites and so on were not as spectacular as that first bite, that wonderful combination of flavours dancing across my tongue…shhh, stop judging me! Greasy, fast food makes me happy! And I got the Birthday Muffin meal, so I also got a juice and hash brown, which it turned out was unnecessary because the muffin itself was pretty filling, as you can imagine. But yeah, I ate it all, cos I’m a boss.

Next week I plan to conquer the Bavarian Bier Cafe’s Tuesday Schnitzel special so maybe look out for that post. Unless I have been put into a food coma by then. In which case, I regret nothing!

*but not me; though, my judgement may not be the best, seeing as I was one of the few people I know who thought the KFC Double Down was a good idea, and I was excited to eat it. More than once.