Posts Tagged ‘Money’

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Cooking in 2012 – February: Lasagne.

February 2, 2012

So this month I made a dish that I have in fact made a couple of times in the past: lasagne. I love it, it’s perfect for the extremely cold weather we’re currently experiencing, and it’s Italian and therefore I should be able to make this in my sleep. I felt confident that I could impress Toby with this one, and be able to do it without any help.

Hah!

I used this recipe as a basis, but it was kinda confusing. My first big stumbling block was “crush the garlic to a paste with the edge of a knife”. Now, I don’t know if you have ever tried this, but it’s fucking difficult. I got irritated (because chopping the vegetables and preparing everything had taken a surprisingly long time), ranted on twitter, had a cigarette, and then just decided to chop the garlic cloves into really small pieces, smoosh them up, and call it sufficient.

My next issue was the completely unclear nature of the recipe. You put the carrot in after everything has been cooking for quite a long time? Huh? And you stir in the oregano practically at the end? Why? Most importantly, it never tells you to take the fried mince off the warm plate and back in a saucepan to mix it with the rest of the ingredients for the meat sauce. It leaves this completely to your imagination. Now, common sense dictates you would eventually reach the conclusion that this is what you have to do (and with Toby’s reassurance, I got there) – but I am far from a confident cook. Even though I have made this recipe before, I don’t ever remember it being so complicated or confusing, and recipes not spelling everything out for me explicitly is A BIG PROBLEM.

But we got there. I cheated and bought some white sauce rather than making it from scratch – this was probably a good move because as it was, we didn’t end up eating the finished lasagne until 9:45pm. Which is late. But it was very very nice – and better than a shop-bought one! I was proud!

With a night’s perspective on the whole matter, I can now ask myself the big question: Was it worth all the money I spent on ingredients, and all the time I spent stressing and preparing and cooking and washing up? I am very hesitant to say “yes”, to be honest. I did learn a lot from the experience, such as:

  • as much as I want to be independent, sometimes it’s vital to ask for help.
  • as time-consuming as cooking and preparing ingredients can be, you can always do chores / errands in the interim while the food is cooking / baking. Which is satisfying.
  • I take after my mother, as the Italian side of me is clearly a fashionista rather than a foodie (though my waistline lately might disagree). Oh well.

I am trying really hard with this cooking thing, and it is a resolution that I made so I will see it through for the whole year. And I sincerely hope that as I gain more experience with cooking, it will be less traumatic. But at this point, I genuinely hate it. I can’t lie – as good as my lasagne tasted, and as convenient as it was that I got two meals’ worth out of it (I finished the leftovers off tonight), I would have much preferred to have bought a ready-made lasagne from a supermarket and warmed it up. Less stress, more time to enjoy my evening with Toby, and less money wasted on ingredients – the remnants of which are now sitting in my fridge until I throw them away in a few days’ time. Perhaps if my circumstances change in the future, I will have more motivation to cook a meal for two more often – and perhaps a better kitchen to cook them in! But for now, at least Toby seemed to enjoy the meal (which is a big plus), and my family sounded impressed when I told them on the phone.

Next, I want to attempt to make Toby a moussaka the way my nan makes it – which is amazing. I don’t expect to live up to her lofty standards, but I will give it a go! Eep.

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Proust questionnaire.

January 18, 2012

The principal aspect of my personality.

I already knew that this questionnaire was going to be difficult because it is going to force me to look at myself as other people see me, while also considering myself from the point of view of the person who knows me best. I guess that therefore, the principal aspect of my personality is passion – my heart loves fiercely, and my brain works constantly.

The quality that I desire in a man.

Just one? Well, in that case, it has to be integrity. Or possibly, to be secure enough in himself to allow himself to be openly vulnerable and not get caught up in machismo bullshit. Perhaps the principal aspect of my personality should have been verbal diarrhoea…

The quality that I desire in a woman.

To be an independent thinker and not follow the crowd – in life just as in fashion.

What I appreciate most about my friends.

Their intelligence, their honesty, and their loyalty.

My main fault.

Overthinking things, second-guessing people and situations until it drives me quite mad.

Faults for which I have the most indulgence.

I can’t resist a mischievous streak.

My favorite occupation.

Singing and all that is music-related. Or otherwise, shopping with friends and sitting in a café, talking openly and honestly about love and life.

My dream of happiness.

To be with my partner forever, in a nice house in the city near the beach, and to have enough money to not have any real worries and to be able to provide for my family. I know it is predictable but I can’t think of anything that would make me happier. Oh, and throw in also having a killer body and a wardrobe that would be the envy of Tom Ford.

What would be my greatest misfortune?

To have not been raised by a mother who gave me her all (even when it was sometimes too much) and taught me important human values far more insightful than what is commonly and unintelligently accepted as “intelligence”.

What I should like to be.

Inspirational, successful on my own terms, genuinely original, and in love for the rest of my life.

The country where I should like to live.

This is quite an impossible question – I can choose 5 or 6 cities I am enamoured with from countries around the world. And I want to live in them all!

My favourite colour.

Red. Or black for clothes. I also like silver for jewellery, because it goes well with my black clothes. But then why choose silver when you could have gold?! So I will stick with red.

The flower that I like.

It’s a cliché, but I like roses – they are romantic and intricate. But when I was young, my favourite flowers were white trumpet lilies, and I still think they are beautiful.

My favorite bird.

The phoenix.

My favorite prose authors.

I am currently enjoying the Nordic crime novel trend (although I did feel somewhat embarrassed when I saw that Waterstones had a special section for this kind of book – I don’t like to feel so easily categorised) so Jo Nesbo and Stieg Larsson are up there. I have also always enjoyed Stephen King’s books, as well as Sapphire and Virginia Euwer Wolff. My favourite author that I studied at university was Faulkner, because the way he manipulated language and made the reader work to decipher and put together his images and plotlines was genius.

My favorite poets.

I don’t like traditional poetry that adheres rigidly to a form or standard verse / rhyme structure, because I feel that this often comes at the expense of true meaning and emotion. I enjoyed Ntozake Shange’s choreopoem for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf. And Herb Ritts was a poet with the camera.

My heroes in fiction.

I thought that Precious from Sapphire’s Push was inspiring and heroic. Other than that, I don’t really have a good memory for any literary heroes I have.

My favorite composers.

Classically, my favourite is Tchaikovsky. Speaking in modern terms, I adore Mariah Carey, and she is an accomplished artist in every sense of the word.

My heroes in real life.

My mother is beyond amazing. Inspirational in the way that she raised me, the ethics and conscience she instilled in me, and also the way that she has stuck by my father through all of his foolishness (I’m being deliberately vague because this is my private life) when most wouldn’t have, and ensured that their marriage lasted nearly 30 years.

My favorite names.

Toby and I discuss the names that we would like for our children. I love the name “Summer” for a girl. It just conjures up carefree beauty to me. For a boy, I really don’t know…

What I hate most of all.

Liars, people who are fundamentally inconsiderate, wasps, budgeting, and the fact that things which are bad for you are so much more enticing and delicious than those which are good for you.

The gift of nature that I would like to have.

I would love to be able to fly. I think that is what this question is aiming for? Either that, or have a body that does not store fat on its midsection.

How I want to die.

Youthful in spirit, if not in body. Part of me still has the childish hope that I may never die – I would like to live forever! But at the age that I am now.

My present state of mind.

Thankful that after so many years of thinking it would never happen to me, I have found happiness and true love.

My motto.

If you don’t feel good, then you might as well look great.

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2012, here we come!

December 30, 2011

The time has rolled around, once again, for my two standard end of year / new year posts. The first one is my own personal review of 2011, evaluating how I did with my aims for the year, and looking forward to 2012 and what I hope to achieve within the next 12 months. So, to recap, my aims for 2011 were:

1. Buy a car.
Tick! I not only bought a car, but I crashed it and then sold it 6 months later!  Driving was a major achievement for me, as it was 6 years in the making, and represented a triumph over my nerves and my previous failure (I have been a lucky person who generally didn’t have to deal with failure too much in life, up until I started learning to drive). But I also learned the hard way that it’s a big responsibility, that it comes with a whole trapping of expenses, and that while being able to drive is an asset and a liberation, living in London and not having to drive anywhere is also a blessing. When the public transport system is good, life is good. (Let me tell you, having gone home to Bristol for 6 days over the Christmas period, I immediately starting missing my car and how easy it made travelling from place to place. Bristol, step your public transport game up please!)

2. Get a job in London.

Tick! Although I miss the warmth and camaraderie of my colleagues in Cirencester (I yo-yoed about how much I enjoyed the job, but I became much happier and carefree once a certain colleague left), my new job in Notting Hill is a whole new challenge – I’m always busy, I’m never bored, and I am learning many new things. Plus, I am earning more!

3. Move to London.

Tick! As you know, I am now living in my own little studio flat in Earl’s Court, which is pricey but very conveniently located for transport (bus stop and tube station outside my front door), and also only a 15 minute walk from Toby’s place.

4. Stay with Toby and make sure that our relationship grows even stronger!

Tick! I love my baby and I realised early on in 2011 that the 100+ miles gap between the two of us wasn’t going to be feasible. We missed each other all the time, and although I may have ended up in London anyway (I’m a city boy at heart), he was the driving force between the transformation in my life and career that has occurred this year.

5. Buy a new microphone and record a new album.

Nope. The microphone never happened. I have recorded some new material (and written even more), but I am hoping that the album will be complete next year.

6. Pay off my credit card and student overdraft.

Sort of. I am debt-free, apart from my student overdraft and my student loan. My car ended up being a big drain on my finances, and moving to London required every penny I had. Plus, I did have a wonderful holiday to Seville with Toby in July, which I wouldn’t have traded for anything but did further delay me paying off my student overdraft. But with my first couple of pay checks, I paid my parents and Nonna back for the money they lent me to settle myself in London, I paid off my credit card, and sorted myself out financially. The student overdraft is my primary financial focus for 2012.

So I guess 4.5 out of 6 is not bad at all! I seem to have more success when I write my yearly aims down, so here goes for 2012:

1. Learn to cook a new dish every month.

Toby is a fantastic cook, but I want to learn to make healthy, interesting meals so that I can return the favour from time to time, and enrich my own skill-set and repertoire. Tonight, Toby’s housemates Michael and Naomi have made some very yummy sushi, so that is one thing I shall aim to make; I also enjoyed watching the British Bake-Off and am tempted by the idea of whipping up my own lemon tart!

2. Cut down on takeaways – to once a fortnight.

I’m not quite as svelte as I was this time last year. I have got into the habit of having desserts, of snacking unnecessarily from time to time, and from cooking quite simple dishes (similar to how I was at university). This is all fine, but I am going to moderate myself a bit and cut down on takeaways from Dominos, Pizza Hut and Jasmine Garden.

3. Move in with Toby.

I would like the two of us to move in together; it feels like the logical next step for our relationship, but we both need to be at ease with it and it also needs to be an affordable and convenient location. Moving in will happen when it happens, but I’m just putting this wish out there in the universe and perhaps in 12 months’ time, I will be able to tick this one off the list! 🙂

4. Pay off my student overdraft.

See above. This year I have really improved at budgeting and restraining myself from impulsive / extravagant purchases; therefore, I am determined to pay off at least £200 a month. So even if I don’t pay the whole thing off by the end of the year, I will have made a sizeable dent in it! Fingers crossed!

5. Learn Italian

Ok, let’s get this done once and for all. I am half-Italian, therefore it will not only be easy (especially having studied French and Spanish) to learn Italian, but it will be culturally enriching and give me a new understanding of my own heritage. Work have offered to pay for / subsidise an Italian course for me, but my initial plan of attack will be to buy an Italian novel, an Italian dictionary (and possibly an Italian grammar book), and keep a pen and paper by me as I read – and just have at it.

6. Learn to sew

Because I feel somewhat babyish whenever I have holes or rips in my clothes, and I have to take them to Toby’s to fix. I presume that sewing is a relatively simple skill, and therefore I should learn to do it and allow myself to be self-sufficient when it comes to repairing my belongings.

7. Finish my new album

This year will be the year! I am over halfway. Keep your eyes and ears peeled!

8. Go completely digital with my music and film collections, and only keep physical copies of what I really love

Having moved to London, I was unable to carry all of my DVDs and CDs with me. I would need a truck. Obviously, I have my computer, my iPod, and I was able to take quite a few of my DVDs here; but I have realised that I don’t really need most of the physical copies that I own. So I will sell them, give them away, and go digital. I will open myself up to buying things on iTunes much more (believe it or not, B.Slade’s album Diesel that I bought a couple of months ago was the very first album I bought on iTunes!), and perhaps I might need an extra external hard drive. But I am willing to embrace the digital age (only a few years late!), and also make it much easier for myself to move flats and houses as I go.

Wish me luck, and have a Happy New Year! x

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sixth sense.

September 3, 2011

When I was younger I used to believe in the supernatural – ghosts and the zodiac, stuff like that. I was fascinated by it all, but as I grew older I sorta decided that maybe some people had access to powers and things that the majority of us couldn’t see, but I just didn’t and that was that. I concentrated on what was concrete and tangible.

Nevertheless, I think that as humans we all have intuition and sometimes we have a sixth sense. I knew that everything was going too smoothly – I had got a new job, had found a buyer for my car, and had put down a deposit on a flat that was perfectly located between Toby’s flat and my new place of work. I have yet to hear from the landlord about when I sign the contract, but I figure that no news is good news as it means that he hasn’t changed his mind about renting the flat to me. (Did I mention I am a bit of a pessimist?) I was originally going to text him this weekend to let him know that I am around to sign the contract, but I decided against it as I don’t want to nag and put him off me. If I haven’t demonstrated by this point that I am organised (I met him the following day after viewing the flat to give him bank statements, a look at my new employment contract with my employer’s address and phone number, a copy of my driving licence, and the holding deposit and admin fee), then whatever. But at the moment, I am not feeling too worried about the flat – I’m kinda “c’est la vie” about it all.

But I felt that as I got closer and closer to the last day of driving my car (which is this coming Thursday), I knew that I wouldn’t get away without something going wrong. Every day that I drove it to work, I would say to myself “You only have X days of work left, so try not to crash it!” I haven’t crashed it. Then I drove up to London yesterday, and I was dreading this because I haven’t done so in quite a long time, and the last time I drove back from London, my door nearly fell off. But I just had to make one journey there and back. I drove up last night, and lo and behold, nothing bad happened. I drove successfully, and remarked about how crazy some of the other drivers on the M4 are! I met Toby once he finished work and we went home and had a lovely lamb moussaka for dinner. Then (because Toby’s street has controlled parking on a Saturday), I went to move my car to a street a few blocks away, so that I could park for free on Saturday (today).

This is when the problems struck – just when I thought everything was fine. As I was parking my car, suddenly the exhaust started making a very loud rattling noise. It made a similar (but quieter) noise once I picked it up from its MOT back in June, but Mike and I fixed it. But now it sounded horrendous. I got Toby to come and have a listen, and he said it was definitely the exhaust. And at this point, I just KNEW that this was the disaster that I had been waiting for. I knew that my car would not leave my presence without causing me one last problem, one last headache, and bleed one last lot of money out of me. I took it to Kwik Fit this morning, and they were supremely unhelpful and told me “It’s the heat shield. It’s not dangerous. It’s not worth spending the money to fix it.” They looked at my car for a total of 3 minutes. I was unsatisfied by this – how am I supposed to sell a car that makes such a fucking huge noise? If it were me buying it, I certainly wouldn’t – no matter how much the seller insisted “Honestly, it’s not dangerous!!!”

So I took it to another garage, who had a look at it and tightened some stuff up so that the noise was diminished (it does sound better now). They have recommended that I take the car back to the Car Clinic in Kingswood (where they originally fitted the new exhaust during my MOT) as they hadn’t done something properly, and it is their place to sort it. I have the receipt for when they did the exhaust as part of the MOT, and I am sure that they will not charge me much (if anything – after all, it is their mistake!) – however, I am also prepared that they might not believe that they are at fault as otherwise I should have reported the issue the first time it was rattling, instead of Mike and I fixing it ourselves. We’ll see what happens. Hopefully I will get back to Bristol in one piece – the car still drives fine, it’s just noisy in low gears. So hopefully if I am driving quickly along the motorway, it won’t make much noise.

What I am trying to say is that sometimes, when things seem to be going too smoothly, we need to be on our guard! I knew that my car would screw me over one last time before I got rid of it. I now have to somehow find the time between now and Wednesday to take my car to my local garage and get it fixed. I felt so guilty for ruining mine and Toby’s morning – which is ridiculous, because there is hardly anything I could have done to have prevented this, and my car is a law unto itself. It’s not my fault. But it is my car, and if I want to sell it on, I have to take responsibility for it and get it fixed. My intuition told me that my car would not let me go so easily. So I advise everyone to listen to your sixth sense, and be on your guard as misfortune can strike at any time.

And I also advise you not to buy a Vauxhall car, and to buy as new a car as possible / affordable, because in theory then you should have less problems with it! This car has been nothing but a drain on both my finances and my happiness, and while I have enjoyed driving (sometimes), the past 7 months of owning this car has overall been hellish. I will not be sorry to see it go, and now that I’ll be living in London, I am looking forward to making the most of a decent public transport system. It will hopefully be a long time before I own a car again – and next time, I will have a lot more money at my disposal and buy something much better and more reliable.

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on my way.

August 9, 2011

At the end of last year, I wrote down that this year I wanted to achieve:

1. Buy a car. (Tick. I bought a car, bought some tyres, had a small accident, replaced the door latch, paid through the nose for its MOT, and taxed it. So yes, I well and truly achieved that aim!)

2. Get a job in London. (Yes! As of yesterday lunchtime, I got a new job as Admissions Officer at Southbank International School. I start there in mid-September, and I am so excited. And relieved. And proud of myself.)

3. Move to London. (Now I have to find somewhere to live in London! I am more than ready to move out, and I am adamant that I want a flat by myself, which is going to be expensive. But I am ready for it. I am thinking Earl’s Court / Barons Court)

4. Stay with Toby and make sure that our relationship grows even stronger! (So far, so good!)

5. Buy a new microphone and record a new album. (Well, I haven’t got the microphone yet. I don’t know if that is going to happen; as you can guess, I have had a lot bigger things to spend money on this year. But the album is underway and I have recorded 5 or so songs, with lots more on the way! It’s a slow work in progress, but I have faith that it will be the best thing I have ever done. Watch this space.)

6. Pay off my credit card and student overdraft. (This one seems to be the hardest, but my credit card is nearly paid off. I will get there.)

In the last few weeks, I was feeling quite low. I wasn’t having any luck with finding interviews, my car just kept going wrong and needing more money spent on it, and work just seemed to pile more and more things on top of me, without my colleagues seemingly having to take on more tasks. I started feeling resentful, paranoid and questioning whether I was entering a depressed period. It wasn’t nice, and it wasn’t nice for my friends or for Toby who had to support me. Luckily, there were some things to look forward to: I went on holiday to Seville with Toby and I had my interview at Southbank, which held a glimmer of hope. Just before I finished work for my holiday, I had a long chat with Mike who said in no uncertain terms that I needed to snap out of it, or go and talk to someone professional.

I decided that I would try the former before I had to try the latter, and spent a long time thinking. About feeling taken for granted at work, and about why I couldn’t see that being able to manage additional responsibilities was a compliment as well as a burden. About the fact that I didn’t want to be down anymore, and I didn’t want to feel the guilt of burdening my friends when they could do nothing to help me, before I started helping myself. About the fact that I overcame a lot of obstacles to get my driving licence and my car, and that I shouldn’t give up now – I already achieved more than I thought I would. About the fact that if I give up, I end up nowhere, making no progress – and unhappy anyway. What could I, my family, my partner, be proud of then? And finally, about the fact that life is too short to be miserable all the time, especially about what largely boiled down to petty popularity contests at work. Just because I don’t want to be involved doesn’t mean that I should alter my whole routine and happiness because of it. It’s just a job, these are just people! I already have my friends, my family, my boyfriend. Life is good and I shouldn’t focus on the bad. So I decided that I won’t.

I let it go. At first, I was exhausted by it all, and there was an element in acting happily in the hope that my smile might be contagious. But it was surprisingly easy after a few days. Once I got to London, did my first interview, and chilled with Toby, my troubles started to melt away. Maybe I just needed the time off after all. The holiday in Seville was good for me (as well as immensely enjoyable and relaxing – the first of many holidays I hope to spend with Toby) as I was able to think and talk about what I wanted to do with myself. I have resolved to continue working on my music, but to actually start putting together a portfolio of music reviews (the Nadia Oh one is the first) which are kept to a strict word count of 250 / 500 words – perhaps alongside a couple of longer articles – and then sending these to newspapers and magazines in the hope of perhaps landing something. At first for free, but maybe – in the long run – freelance? Paid? Writing music reviews, at least for part of my living, would be great and I think that I am and would be very good at it. So I have a plan. I felt positive, and I felt empowered once again because my future is in my hands.

We came back from Seville, I had my second interview, and yesterday I got the job offer, which I accepted. I handed in my notice at college, and I realised from all the congratulatory tweets, as well as colleagues being so pleased for me, that I have a lot of people who are really happy for me and want the best for me. I am very lucky, and very grateful. But it’s also because I try to be a good person, a nice person, and a fun person – not only do I try to be those things, but I am those things, most of the time. So it’s not worth losing that to feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness. Because I am not worthless, nor hopeless – and as soon as I let it all go, my worth and my hope revealed itself once again. So I learned that: I don’t believe we can control everything that happens to us by any means, but you get a lot more in return when you are nice & happy. We need to roll with the punches life throws at us, take some down time and then come out smiling 🙂 Life can be good if we let it!