Monthly Archives: May 2011

Money for Musicians

(Photo source)

I live in a big city, and one of the great things about living in a big city, is the diversity and talent of the people living in it.  And I realize that I don’t take enough time to enjoy and recognize the talents of my fellow urbanites.  Specifically, I am referring to street musicians.

On the Subway

I take the subway at least 3 – 4 times a week, and as I am rushing off to work in the mornings, the street musicians are already there.  Some sing, others play musical instruments.  A lot of times, I’m too busy focused on my destination that I don’t even pay attention to anything else.

Every so often, I would drop some change in their guitar cases or tin cans, as a token of appreciation.

Last Week

I missed my train, and ended up waiting on the platform for a good 5 minutes.

The musician there played a beautiful melody which I recognized from the Sound of Music soundtrack.  It sounded so serene and beautiful.  When I went to drop off my change, I told him that I thought he played beautifully.

He was very modest, and explained that he didn’t quite know how to play the entire song, and asked if  I knew it.  I asked him if it was from the sound of music  he seemed so pleased that I recognized it.  I thanked him again, and boarded my train.

That made my day :)

Stopping to Appreciate the Music

Like many urbanites, I rush from one place to another.

This month, I am making a conscious effort to not only stop and appreciate the music more, I am going to try to always have some change on me, so that I can show these street musicians that I appreciate their efforts.

What are some of the things that you are making an effort to do this month?

Cheers, 


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Thoughts on Parenting “Fails”

This is a reflection of my own family after reading one of my favourite bloggers, Revanche on her posts, “High Cost of Parenting Fails” Part I and Part II.

My Immediate Family

I am the oldest of three daughters for my parents.  I think that they have raised us to be fairly independent (though, sometimes they think too independent).  I have no doubt that my younger sisters will not depend on my parents to live as adults.

My “Failed” Aunt

I guess every family has at least one, and in my family’s case it’s my aunt.  She is my father’s sister.  My father side of the family has 10 siblings altogether.

When my grandmother was still alive, she lived with her, and chipped in a whole $200 a month to cover living expenses, food and everything else.  When my grandmother passed away, she moved in with one of my other aunts (her older sister), and I’m not sure what she paid.

My older aunt drove her to work and cooked for her.  My younger aunt worked a decent job at a factory- which is no different than any of her other siblings.  But for some reason, she never had enough for a car or for her own place.  However, she always had enough to buy nice Movado watches, always the newest and greatest cellphones/smart phones, traveling to Vietnam every year and brand name clothes – to name what I saw.

The Falling Out

Shortly after my grandmother passed away, my aunt had a falling out with the rest of her siblings.  My aunt went to Vietnam for 6 weeks without telling anyone.  Not even my older aunt – who had no idea where she was.  When she finally came back, she was locked out of the house (no one home and locks were changed), any mother and sister ended up picking up so she could stay at my parents’ place that night (and the next two weeks).

Everyone was hurt and angry that she just took off.  Things just went sour from there.  She blamed everyone except for herself, that her older sister wanted to “get rid of her”, and that everyone was on the older aunt’s side.   That no one genuinely cared about her, etc., etc.

My father offered she could stay at his home until she got back on her feet – and she even lashed out at him, afterwards.  She said his offer wasn’t “genuine” because he said it once and never mentioned it again.  Then she took off again.

When family members tried to contact her, she wrote a hateful email listing the faults and allegations she had against every single sibling. She blasted my father, my older aunt, all my aunts and uncles – for not caring about her.  Then told everyone that she was going back to Vietnam for good, and she had found a good job there.

We haven’t heard from her since.  Except for a relative who said they had recently saw her around the City.  I really have no idea if she is in the City or Vietnam.

My Talk with my Sisters

Last weekend, I had a little chat with my youngest sister.  We talked a little about my aunt, but more about how much help is too much?  And when does helping do more harm than good.

I told her that I will always be willing to help her out, but only to the point where she can help herself.  I will not be like my older aunt and let her live with me indefinitely with no payments or responsibility.  This is not to be cruel or mean, but to help her become an adult.

In my culture, parents will never ask their kids to move out.  Many don’t even ask for rent.  Heck, I know so many of my classmates and friends whose parents would bring pre-cooked food for them each week in university.  One even had his mom come up to do his laundry, every weekend!  *palm to forehead*

All I know is, “kids” don’t grow up if they don’t learn the consequences to their actions, and it’s parents’ responsibility allow their kids to learn from their mistakes.  Having said that, it may not be so black and white that it’s the parents’ fault or the “kids’”, it’s probably a certain combination of the two and their attitudes.

What are your thoughts on parenting “fails”?  Do you have anyone in your family who hasn’t learned to “grow up”?

Cheers,


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My First Guest Post

Check out my first guest post over at the bargain hunting mommy about Reasons to go on a Shopping Ban! :)

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Mother’s Day

It’s Mother’s Day this weekend and I am going to share some stories/tidbits about my mom :)

My mom is super mom

My mom was a stay at home mom for most of my childhood, and I realize now that I was very lucky in that sense.  Mom was always there to make sure I did my homework (both school homework and mom homework).

She always made dinners from scratch, and I have probably taste most Southeast Asian and Asians cuisines right from my mom’s kitchen.

My mom stayed home because I have two younger sisters.  My middle sister is 3 years younger than me and my youngest sister is 5 years younger than me.  It would have been too costly to pay for babysitting, and so my mom stayed home to raise us.

My  mom didn’t stop there, she also babysat my cousins (2 of them), a family friend’s son and daughter, and also my best friend.  That was the usual bunch, but on certain days of the week, there would be another addition to the Brady bunch.

She would take care of all the kids, and do all the housework (including cooking and cleaning), and make time to teach us Chinese lessons.

I have no idea how she did it.

Mrs. Frugalista

Even though my mom made a very modest income from her child care gig, my father brought in most of the household income through his full-time job.  My dad worked a various factories doing manual labour, and his income was used for the day-to-day spending and running a household.  My mom’s income was primarily used for saving.

I remember one time, I asked my mom, “So, mom, how many millions do you make in a year.”  (I little, okay?)  She laughed.

My mom is the best bargainista I know- like many Asians. I believe it’s in the genes.  A price is merely a suggestion, when it comes to my mom.  I remember being so embarrassed when I was little.  We would be in Chinatown buying bra’s from the street vendor and my mom would be haggling for an additional $0.50 – $1.00 off each bra because we were buying ten.

My mom has the equivalent knowlege of the Canadian price index for supermarkets and veggies.  Eggplants for $0.69/lb – she’d be all over it because they are usually $1.99/lb.  We’d be eating eggplants for the whole week, cooked different ways at that price ;).

Looking back, it’s because of the frugal habits of my mom and dad that my sisters and I are able to have the life that we do now.  $1 here, $0.50 there turns into $100, and a few $100′s saved will eventually become $1,000, and so on.

Life Habits

I joke that if everyone shopped like my mom, our economy would be in trouble.  But the truth is, if we all shopped like my mom,  there would be a lot less waste in the world.

There would be a lot more time in the kitchen and spent with family.  There would be more relaxing and less rushing from one event to another.   There would be steamed birthday cakes made from scratch, and Vietnamese salad rolls with freshly washed veggies from the garden.

It’s always hard to get my mom a gift, because she never seems to want anything.  Unlike myself, she does not get googly eyed over the latest gadgets or drool over fashion.  She just likes having a family meal, at home – with everyone present.

I would be nowhere today with the constant love and support of my mom (and family), and for that, I am truly blessed and very grateful.

I hope everyone has a happy mother’s day!

Cheers,

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April Luxeries

April was not a cheap month. It was also my birthday month and I let myself enjoy a few items of luxeries.

Facials at Pure and Simple

I enjoyed my first facial after reading glowing reviews of this spa. I’ve suffered from acne most of my life, and my skin was acting up the last few months. You can read my full review here.

I got the pure complexion facial, and I bought a package of 5. This brought the price of each facial to $115, but also cost me $570 before taxes. Steep but worth it in my opinion.

Sidenote:  For those of you in the Toronto area and would like to try out Pure and Simple.  They have a special the month of May for the Clear Complexion Facial.  It’s $149 $99.  I think it’s a great deal and highly recommend it if it’s in your budget.

The Lion King Musical

I LOVE musicals and my sister scored cheap(er) tickets. We paid $85 each for CC orchestra seats. Not the best seats in the world, but not too bad.

It was an amazing musical! The costumes, props, dancing, and singing was breath taking.  I highly recommend it. It’s one of the best musical I have seen, so far!

Staycation

BF and went on our vacation turned staycation this month. I spent the equivalent of my monthly eating out budget in one weekend, but that’s ok. :)

It was worth it.

Car insurance

I wrote in some previous posts about the cost for me to own a car and my thoughts of going car free thus far. An opportunity came up and my parents offered to let me use their car.

I will write another post on this, but since I now knew the costs of car ownership, I wanted to show my appreciation by paying for all insurance costs ( including my parents’ portion), this year.

Summary

I’m hoping that next month will be more low key as BF and I have plans to go on a two week vacation somewhere in June. :) Will share details as soon as we make some decisions regarding that.

How was April for you?  What are some luxury items or splurges that make your life better and are worth it to you?

Cheers,


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Review: iPod Touch, Playbook, smartphone or netbook?

Last week, BF got me both the iPod Touch and the Rim Playbook for my birthday! He knew that I wanted to get an iPod Touch to use a “mini computer”, but many talks and figuring out what I needed it for, he got them both for me to try before making my decision. (Side note: Up to this point, I have been using the iPod Touch to type up this post.)

Here is my non-techie review of the Playbook, iPod Touch, and other products I considered.

What I Want the Device to do

This is coming back to the “first principle” of why I want a “mini computer” in the first place.

I spend a lot of time away from home and I miss having my laptop with me, especially on weekends. Usually, I am either at BF’s or my parents. It would be nice to have something to check email, review comments or read my favorite blogs while on the go.  (I don’t feel super comfortable doing that on anything other than my own devices.)

Last year, I bought a backpack with a special laptop sleeve which I have been using for the past year to lug my laptop back and forth. It was working out great, but these past few months, I’ve been feeling the toll on my back.

I know there is a plethora of “mini computers” to choose from.  I was looking at netbooks last year at this time, but hadn’t taken the plunge.  This year, I tried out all the “mini computers” I could think of, including the Playbook, the iPod Touch, and even contemplated several “smartphones.”

Factors in my Decision

I prefer Wifi over data.  I primarily want to use the data available from Wifi,and would rather not have a data plan added to my monthly phone plan.  I know that I must be last dinosaur to not own a smartphone… but I really think that I have so much access to the internet via my laptop, at work and via Wifi, and that’s enough for me, for now.

Portability.  I would like the device to be portable.  Something that I could bring in a purse or bag.

Reading and typing.  Even though I’d like the device to be small, I would still like the screen to be big enough to read, and whatever mechanism typing mechanism it had, it should be easy to use.  Picture me in a coffee shop on a beautiful afternoon working on a blog post.

Battery life.  I know that the bigger the screen, the more juice the device will use.  One of the main reasons why I don’t want to go with a smartphone – if my primary phone is also my mini-computer, I would have to charge it almost every night.  My current “dumb phone” lasts me 4 – 5 days a charge, and I love it.

Extras.  Some extras would be to have something like a personal planner with me to write down notes or check me calendar.

In a nutshell, those are the factors influencing my decision.  Onto the product reviews :)

RIM Playbook

Being the techie that he is, my BF just couldn’t wait to get his hands on the Playbook.  ;)  So, he got it for my birthday for me (and him) to try.

Tablet. The Playbook is a great tablet device.  It was perfect for reading my favourite blogs and had a really intuitive interface.  The swipe motion was pretty easy for me to use and the it used the same “pinching” motions to zoom as the iPod Touch and other Apple products.

The keyboard.  The keyboard was big enough and typing was easier than I anticipated.  The touch screen keys were responsive and spaced far enough apart that typo’s weren’t too big a deal.  However, I was still finger pecking away, and my pinky got tired after a while.

Battery Life.  I got a solid 6 – 7 hours of battery life from this little guy and was pretty happy with that.  That’s with some gaming (Tetris), surfing the web, and generally playing around with my new toy.

Cost.  BF bought it but I’m pretty sure it cost $499 + taxes.

Shortfalls.  I’m sure that real techie review sites have more.  These are just the things that I noticed.

  • Gmail. For some reason, my GMail never worked whenever I tried to login on the Playbook.
  • Drop down menu responsiveness.  When I tried to check my WordPress dashboard, I couldn’t get the little arrow to drop down.  It kept activating the “My Blog” big button next to it.  I wish RIM paid more attention to details like this.
  • Tethering.  I don’t have a Blackberry, but BF did, and could not get his to sync, properly.  Not sure if it’s just his, because it worked well for his roommate’s Blackberry.  (Update: I think it only works for the later versions of the Blackberry, or you need to update your older Blackberry)
  • Not too  many apps.  This isn’t a huge deal for me, since I don’t have a smartphone, but it’s just something I noticed.

Apple iPod Touch

I have been drooling over the iPod Touch since reading Fabulously Broke’s review on this nifty little device and playing with my sister’s.  I was really excited and hoping that it could do what I wanted as my “mini computer.”

Screen size.  As I was reading my emails and Google reader feeds, I realized that the screen was a little small for me.  (I know, I know, I did want a mini computer.)

Keyboard.  I typed the first portion of this post using the Touch to see what it was like.  I know that the touch screen takes some getting used to, but I  was making a tonne of typos, and the “suggestions” Apple had were hit or miss.  It’s also a lot easier typing when I turn it lengthwise.

Camera.  Camera was pretty cool and sharp, but I doubt that I will use it much.  It’s got the two faced camera, which seems to be all the rage.

Battery Life.  The battery life was decent.  Not sure how long this lasted me since I used it on and off for most of the week.  I also turned off wifi when I wasn’t using it.

Portability.  I LOVE this pint size of the iPod Touch.  I just picture myself carrying it with me everywhere, and checking my calender or playing Sodoku on it.

Cost. BF got this for me, but it costs $249 + taxes.

Camera.  Pretty cool. It’s got the two faced camera, as well.  I will probably end up using this camera more than the Playbook, just snapping pictures out and about.  I have a Canon point and shoot that I usually carry with me, so this isn’t a deal breaker, just a bonus.

WordPress & Internet.  I tried writing a post in WordPress and it was not the greatest interface.  The formatting was off, and I couldn’t figure out how to change the formats for heading vs paragraph texts.  On the other hand, it was great for commenting and reading other blogs – I could easily switch from the mobile site to the full site.

Extras and accessories.  I’m not gonne lie.  The plethora of cute cases for the iPod Touch makes me do a little happy dance.   I also love that I can have my calender and notepad in one device.  Kinda like the paper agenda I carried around with me throughout high school, but cooler.

Netbook

I hadn’t thought about this for a while, but am re-evaluating as I am typing out this post on BF’s Acer netbook.  After all, it’s literally a “mini computer”.

Screen.  The screen is the perfect size. I can do and see everything the way that I would with a computer.  No more mobile sites for me :).  I think this one is 10 inches.

Keyboard.  I love that I get to type on a real keyboard and use a touch pad.  Enough said.

Battery Life.  The juice is pretty good.  This netbook is a 6 cell battery and has at least 5- 6 hours of life on it.  Even with me typing this long post and playing music at the same time.

Portability.  This is definitely not the size I was picturing when I thought about my “mini computer”.  It still weighs about 2-3lbs, and I can’t just toss it in my purse, like I can with the iPod Touch or smart phone.

Cost. $349 plus taxes for a netbook with a 6 cell battery.  Not bad at all, much better value that the Playbook, IMHO.

No extra features.  I wouldn’t be able to use it “on the go”, such as checking my calender or using the camera.

Smartphones

I will lumping these all together as I’ve not fully reviewed a smartphone.  I have searched and inquired about various data plans, and also played with friends’ and co-workers’ smart and asked them questions about their phones.

Battery Life.  The consensus is that if you have a smart phone you will be charging it every night, if it has a nice 4″ display screen (unlike the Blackberries).  Even though smartphones have evolved quickly, the evolution of batteries hasn’t quite kept up.  I don’t like it when my phone is dead (it’s my primary landline, as well), but would find it bothersome to bring the cable with me everywhere (since I’m not always home).

Data plan and $$$.  The way I see it, there’s isn’t much of a point of getting a smart phone without a data plan.  And data plans cost $$$.  The best deal I could find was from Rogers for $53 after taxes and fees, on a 3-year contract.

  • My 5
  • 100 Texts
  • Unlimited evenings and weekends
  • Early evenings at 6pm
  • 500 mb data
  • Caller ID & voicemail

If I didn’t have a data plan, I could probably get away with a plan for about $20 a month, since I will have more leverage after my current contract with Rogers is up.

Contracts.  I hate contracts.  Remember my post on Rogers?  The last thing I want is to be stuck in a 3-year contract with them just to save $500 on a smartphone.

$500 for most smartphones.  I could always buy the smartphone outright and not get trapped in a contract.  I’ve been looking at the Nexus S, HTC, and other Android phones.  But then, I’d still be paying for data.

Get a “tab”.  With Koodo or Wind Mobile.  Again, Koodo is under Bell – aka a worse provider than Rogers.  As much as I rant about Rogers, Bell is worse.  Wind Mobile, I haven’t heard great things about them either.  So, why should I give them my money for data plans which may or may not work?

No need.  I have survived thus far without a smartphone.  Why get one now?

Verdict?

I’m so glad that I typed this all out.  I’m sure that I must be driving BF up the wall with my constant jumping back and forth between which device to keep/choose and discussing to death the pro’s and con’s of each one.

After looking at all the different angles, I think that a smart phone and the Playbook are definitely not for me.  Too many compromises on what I want it to do.

It’s still down to between the iPod Touch and the netbook.  I’m not sure if it’s crucial I be able to type and edits posts in my mini computer, since this will definitely compromise the “mini-ness” of it.

I’m interested to hear your thoughts, as well.  Feel free to chime in, and share your experience with any of the device that you have used.  Verdict coming up… :)

Cheers,


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Link Love

Some of my favourite posts  :)

Life

  • Costs of Parenting Fails, as discussed by Revanche from A Gai Shan Life.  I have someone like her brother in my family, sadly.
  • Don’t Go on Vacation by Free at 45.  I do believe that we all need to go on vacation, at times.  Taking a day off here and there do not make a vacation for me, but perhaps it’s the timing of the vacation?
  • A Step back to Where I grew up by Shannon.  I love her blog and her writing is so real.
  • Smiles by Well-Heeled.  I love this girl!  And yes, I was the creepy dork who emailed her congrats 2 seconds after she posted she was engaged.
  • A Day at the Spa is hilarious.  Go check it out!
  • How to Become a Math Whiz by study hacks.   This is so true.  I was a stubborn math brat in high school and half of college.  I would try and try a question until I got it.  It worked, and it didn’t (not enough time to do that for every question of every subject).
  • 38 Life Lessons shared by Zen Habit’s Leo who turned 38.

Personal Finance

  • My First Home.  Krystal breaks down the numbers for us for her first home purchase.  Congrats to her, again!
  • No Spending Week by Jen.  Jen talks about her thoughts on not spending for a week.
  • 9 Alternatives for pricey software on Mintlife.  I use WordPress and am really happy with it, so far.
  • Clothing is not an Investment by Well Heeled.  I completely agree that good quality clothes which are versatile can really help someone look very put together. But that is not an investment.

Fashion

  • How to Style a Leopard Cardigan by Extra Petite.  Jean shows how to wear this bold print cardigan from day to night.
  • Inspired by Milly by Look4Less.  I love this look and would love to recreate it when I can go shopping again.
  • Draped cardigan.  I can’t tell the difference between the expensive one and the Ann Taylor one!
  • The Secrets my Heels are Hiding by Alterations Needed.  I always envy girls who can wear heels, but maybe it’s because I am not wearing them right.  I’m going to try some of these secrets and report back.

Other

And of course, congratulations, once again to the Duchess and Duke of Cambridge.  From the 10 minutes of footage and various photographs on the internet, it looked like a lovely wedding.  I wasn’t on the royal wedding band wagon, but it’s so nice to see something so positive in the world.

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