Typhoon 8

Ok, so last night I was definitely hoping and praying for the Typhoon 8 (hurricane, for you North Americans) to last until this morning so that I’d at least get a half day off work. Now it’s 6am after not being able to fall asleep until around 3am, and I can’t get back to sleep due to the winds literally lashing at my window panes (my bed’s right next to my windows). I took a look outside and it’s weirdly yellow, so I tried to take a picture but the pic came out much too blue and I’m too tired to figure out the manual way of trying to expose it so that it captures the hue correctly.

Then I decided I’d try to take a lil video clip of it, but everytime I recorded (after figuring out how to do that on my camera) I’d never catch the lashings, just the heavy rainfall. Sigh. Failure, at 6am.

Just read the weather observatory’s site, which says:

Here is the latest Tropical Cyclone Bulletin issued by the Hong Kong Observatory.

The No. 8 Southwest Gale or Storm Signal was issued at 5:45 a.m. It replaces the No. 8 Northwest Gale or Storm Signal.

This means that winds with mean speeds of 63 kilometres per hour or more are expected from the southwest quarter.

…and they said that they will lower the typhoon signal to 3 (which means I’ll have to go into work after all) ‘later this morning’. Guess that means I better get back to sleep in case I end up having to go to work later today anyway. Blah!

I’ll post the pics later anyway, and possibly one video clip. Back to bed for me…hopefully I can shut out the noise of the rain – I mean normally I love curling up in bed when it’s raining hard outside, but this is just ridiculous!

Another awesome Speidi moment

Have you heard Heidi’s new ‘single’, Fashion? It’s hilarious! Not as cringe-y as Higher was, but just really really entertaining. LoL

Check it out here

Spencer, in true Spencer form, apparently says “It’s the greatest song of my life.” LOL! Don’t wanna know what else he listens to…

Some of the Lyrics:

Red One!

HEIDI!
Ohhh Ohhh
La La La
We Love Designer

I am, I’m too fabu-lous
I’m so fierce that it’s so nuts
I live, to be model thin
Dress me, I’m your manne-quin

(A bunch of designer names in a “French” accent)

[Chorus]
Fashion put it all on me
Don’t you want to see these clothes on me
Fashion put it all on me
I am anyone you want me to be
Fashion put it all on me
Don’t you want to see these clothes on me
Fashion put it all on me
I am anyone you want me to be
Ohhhh Ohhhhh
La La La
We love designer

I need, some new stile-ttos
Can’t walk, down the street in those
You are, who you wear it’s true
A girl’s just as hot as the store she chooses

LOL! Oh dear. Speidi may be seriously annoying, but they’re sure as hell entertaining.

I’ll be your Money Honey!

Ok, so not exactly like the lady to the right, but you can be your own money honey (unless you’re a guy – that might just be a lil weird) with the following tools and tips from me, because who doesn’t love having money?

Figuring out money stuff can be really confusing, especially when you have just started making it. I myself was really bad with it up until about 3 months ago, not ever knowing how much I was spending until I got my bills and statements at the end of the month, and never consciously saving anything. I didn’t really worry because I didn’t have to – I had a monthly income, didn’t pay rent or anything related (yay for living off the ‘rents!), and all my money was pretty much expendable.

But ever since I seriously decided to move to NYC (and found my 2nd job, after 4 months of job hunting and my savings practically down to $0), I began planning to save up for the move, picking a figure that seemed high enough and sticking to it. (I’ve already got just over 70% of my goal saved up, woo! 😉 ) And that was the beginning of my interest in personal finance.

I suppose my point is that money can seem really confusing, even if all you have is 1 source of income a month, a savings account and 1 credit card and no debt, much less when your company is awesome and gives you benefits like health insurance and retirement plans. So the NY Times wrote an article on deciphering what all those corporate benefits mean in this handy little article, so I encourage you to read it, now. I’m bookmarking it for when I get that awesome job with a ton of benefits in NYC 😉 (One thing that surprised me was that for most 401(K) plans, the company only matches up to 3% of your income if that’s what you contribute. In Hong Kong the Mandatory Provident Fund is 5%, which is kind of like the 401(K).)

Also, if you’re a beginner when it comes to personal finance, I highly recommend reading Smart Women Finish Rich (even if you’re not a woman, I swear) by David Bach. It’s super easy to understand, and reading it made me excited to save money and, well, be rich! (Although I’m saving way more than recommended at the moment b/c of the NYC fund, but once I’ve moved I’m taking that book’s advice!)

Fabulously Broke’s budget spreadsheet

Another thing that’s really helped me in terms of budgeting and all that is tracking my daily expenses, which I did for the month of April before I even began budgeting. This is good to give you an idea of how much you actually spend (and on what) per month, and also to get into the habit of tracking every last penny. I used April’s expenses as a guide to how much I should be budgeting for each different category, then I downloaded Fabulously Broke‘s expenses spreadsheet, which also has room for budgets for different categories, such as transportation, food, entertainment, phone bills, etc. Spreadsheets are super helpful, and now you can get FB’s “dynamic” spreadsheet here, for $15, or get the less cool one (the one I use) for free here. (Obviously, I tweaked everything to suit my needs, as I’m not in any debt and really only track my main bank account + my credit card, as I use those more than the savings account I have for my NY Fund. I also changed the colours, but that was just for fun. 😉 )

Now you have no excuse to be absolutely broke, or not know where every penny of your money is. 😉

mMmMm…Breakfast!

What is it about a good breakfast that is just so much more satisfying than a good lunch/dinner? At least for me, anyway. I could eat breakfast foods all day. Bring on the Belgian waffles, crispy bacon, buttered toast (possibly with jam!), English breakfast tea, soft boiled eggs w/strips of toast (or ‘soldiers’, as the English call them), eggs sunny side up, Eggs Benedict, bagels with salmon and cream cheese, hash browns/corned beef hash, French toast…the list goes on. I love it all! 

New York Magazine has a guide to NYC’s best breakfasts, where you’ll find the best Chinese breakfast, best Mexican breakfast, best eggs, best whatever-breakfast-food-you-can-think-of! Be warned, though, by the end of the article my mouth was definitely watering and I couldn’t help wishing it was time for breakfast instead of dinner! (Though tonight the lil sis is helping make some Mexican food at home, another fave!)

Most of my favourite meals from my last NYC trip were the brunches (although I think I really only had three – the rest of time I was eating artichokes for breakfast at my friend’s place, or the time I bought a bagel at Dunkin Donuts before walking 30 blocks uptown), and I’m excited to find new breakfast/brunch places upon my return. (Doesn’t that picture above just make your mouth water? Yummmmm! Go read the description of that French toast! (Scroll down to the 3rd paragraph). I guarantee you’ll be salivating. 😉 )

Photo from New York Magazine

Gramercy House

I love this ‘new series’ from the NY Times. They say: This is the first in an occasional series of articles offering inside looks at homes that stand out in the landscape of New York and other cities. It’s every voyeur’s dream! Ok, so I’m not really a voyeur, but I always found it amusing to imagine what goes on in a house or apartment or building, or am just curious and would like to know what’s inside, or how it looks.

Anyway, this first one is a one-storey house near Gramercy Park on 19th Street between Irving Place and Third Avenue, and used to be a carriage house. According to wikipedia, a carriage house, “also called remise or coach house, is an outbuilding which was originally built to house horse-drawn carriages and the related tack”. In this case, “at one time the wealthy residents who lived in homes along the park lined the block with carriage houses, most with a second story where the chauffeurs stayed”. Kinda reminds me of Black Beauty a little, minus the fact that Black Beauty was England, not New York. 😉

Currently, two Argentinian men live there, and have dinner parties every week. Fun!

Isn’t that kitchen gorgeous? And I love the disco ball! haha 

Read the full article here.

Avoiding the GRE

So, I was meant to take the GREs on Saturday morning, somewhere really far away on Kowloon side, supposedly by the old airport. I checked ypmaps.com and the closest MTR station was Lok Fu (who’s heard of that stop? Raise your hand. You’re the only one.) and I would have had to take a cab over because I did not really think it’d be fun to wander the streets of some distant land at 8am.

So Friday night I set my alarm for 6.30 (I would have had to leave at 7.30 to make it for 8.30), but woke up at 6am thanks to the POURING rain and thunder going on outside. I got up and went to check out the weather from our balcony, and they sky was green-ish and it was definitely not normal. I checked the TV and the gov’t had issued the Red rainstorm warning signal (it goes from Amber (lightest) to Red to Black (heavy rain)), and along the side of the screen it said that all schools were cancelled for the day (local schools in HK sometimes have 1/2 day Saturday classes). I asked my dad what he would do and he said he didn’t know, and I didn’t even have the phone number to call the school (not like anyone would really have been there at 6am anyway) so just sat around kinda anxiously.

This is what the view from my bedroom looks like on a good day:

This is what it looked like on Saturday:

I checked the GRE website, but that was absolutely no help at all (as usual). There was no number to call, only an email address for the ONE office that handles all of the Asia Pacific region. Um, email wouldn’t help me when the GRE is 2 hrs away.

At 7am I’m staring out into the rain and realize that there is no way I’m going to be trekking around outside in that weather for a test I don’t even want to take, and go back to bed, and just in time, too, as the Black rainstorm cloud signal was hoisted. I figured I’d deal w/the GRE later.

View from the balcony

Tuesday I email the Asia Pacific office and explain what happened and ask for a refund (heehee), and I get a reply yesterday morning saying that I need to print out the reply email (it’s got a tracking code & case ID in it) and fax it along with my ‘documentation’ – a newspaper clipping or online news article printed out to the number in the email. Luckily my dad hadn’t thrown out the Sunday paper yet and right there on the front page: “Record Rain Kills Two”. See, I wasn’t kidding about this rain!! 😉 Then I find one online from the Xinhua news agency that said all schools were closed for the day due to the rain. 🙂 Perf!

Now let’s hope I actually get a refund…!!!

Carrie’s Apartment, Part 2

As those of you who have watched the movie know, Carrie had her apartment completely redecorated and re-done, and it looks really fresh, gorgeous, comfy but modern, and definitely a LOT less cluttered than her previous apartment. Casa Sugar has two posts on the sets, here and here

Apparently, the new wall art (above) is called Love Too, by Paul Smith, a needlepoint wallhanging made of wool and silk, and is available from The Rug Company, as are most of the rugs that cover the wooden floors, such as the one in the picture below. 

That’s her new living room – weird, right? I mean, the whole apartment is gorgeous, and the blue walls definitely give it a very fresh look, but I’m still a fan of the old one too. Which one do you prefer?

(Pics from Casa Sugar, except the Love Too pic)