Friday, June 30, 2006

Comments now fixed

There was something funny going on where comments were being sent for moderation into the ether. I never got them, so I couldn't publish them. Sorry Em!

Thursday, June 29, 2006

A Bear

Birthday: Friday the 16th of June, 2006.

Comment: I think it's a lady bear because she's done her hair.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Frugality: Victory and defeat

I started a blog at in June 2006, but wasn't dedicated enough to post to it regularly. I've decided to absorb the posts from this into my current blog instead, and send frugallady out into Blogger world to be recycled.

Right, on the frugal front, all is going fairly well. However I am currently failing miserably on the lady side of things, as anyone who has read my an9ie blog can see. It seems that I am fairly good at being a lady as long as I don't run into morons. Obviously, more application to the goal I have set for myself, and the cultivation of a thicker skin is required.

Savings: getting free parking, walking into work and saving $6.10 a day

This is usually one of the few mutable items in my budget. However, for the past two weeks I've had a bad cold, which led to acute sinusitis that had to be treated by antibiotics. The sinusitis then led to a bad case of sinus toothache in my upper jaw. Bear with me, kids, grandma is going somewhere with this story.

Sinus toothaches are not nice. Basically, because the roots of some of your upper back molars and premolars extend into your maxillary sinuses, a bad case of sinusitis causes pain to these nerves upon sudden or hard movement.

I ended up having to wear trainers in the office because shoes without shock absorption made my teeth go "Hello! Hello! Ow! Hello! Ow!" with each step.

Anyway, now all that is behind me and I can park at the station and walk to work again. It's about a 15 minute walk each way, but not unpleasant in this fine winter weather. Even more enjoyable is the knowledge that I'm saving $61 per fortnightly pay!

Savings: but only for this week - using frequent flyer points for petrol vouchers

Points really aren't what they used to be. With FlyBuys you need at least 10,000 points to get anything, and even then it's silly things like Paris Hilton's Eau de Toilette. And really, unless Paris Hilton's EDT is what wolfsbane is to wolves, then I don't think it's a very good buy.

Qantas have altered their points system so you need about 30,000 for a $150 flight. It's all getting very, very silly and I've decided I can't be bothered with either FlyBuys or Qantas any more.

What I am using are my Commonwealth Award points. As soon as they hit 3900, I exchange them for a $25 Caltex Fuel voucher. Because I put everything on my credit card, every few months I manage to save some money on petrol. Yay!

Note: With Commonwealth Awards, it's 3900 points for a $25 voucher, but 4000 points for $20 cash back. They really don't think very much of our intellect, do they?

Spending: the car needs new struts ($700) at its 100,000km service ($1000)

I do understand why the budgeting/frugal sites all recommend that you ditch the car if you want to do some serious saving. In October, I'll be due for a service, and have to replace those leaky struts that I put off from the last service.

Out comes the budget spreadsheet again. This time, for each pay until October, I'm going to try and put away at least an extra $150 to help pay for the impending service bill. This will be on top of the $100 I'm saving for holidays/travel, and the $100 I put into my mortgage and can't take out again FOREVER. This means cutting back where I can in mutable expenses, like parking, as I mentioned above, bringing in lunch to work instead of buying it etc.

Savings obstacles: turning immutable expenses into mutable ones

One area that I would like to be able to control, and cannot, is that of food/grocery shopping. I live in a share house with four other people, and currently this means rent is fairly reasonable, but I resent having to fork out $40 a week on groceries that I wouldn't normally buy if I were just cooking for myself.

When I have lived by myself, I have, out of sheer laziness, managed to subsist on a single head of cabbage and some tofu for a week. I tend to prefer a South East Asian diet, which I find more palatable and contains fewer processed (and hence more expensive) foods. I also don't eat a lot of meat when I cook for myself. In addition, my weekly visit to Mum's seems to garner enough food for at least four meals (and don't give me that look, it's forced upon me and if I didn't take it I'd be hurting her feelings).

I also stay at the FG's house four nights a week, so I'm not home a lot of the time to consume what I've paid for.

However, with 5 people sharing groceries, it would be too complicated to do my own food shopping and store it. (I have raised the idea but it was not met with delight.) At least soy milk and the breakfast cereal I prefer is on the shopping list now, so I do consume some of what I pay for.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Home food - rice porridge

Here's a staple that my mum whips up with leftover rice and whatever's around. Tonight it was rice porridge with chai poh* omelette**, some carrot, little bits of pork mince - "I put this in last," said Mum, before she nipped outside to snip off some shallots, grown from old onions in pots as a garnish.

To make rice porridge, put cooked leftover rice into a saucepan with at least enough water to cover the rice, and boil until it reaches the consistency you want. Some people like it watery, others like it firm. It's one of those inexact sciences where you play with proportions till you get what you want, a kind of kitchen alchemy.

Adding a little chicken stock to the rice porridge will improve the flavour of the rice, and just before serving, a few drops of sesame oil on top will make it smell divine.

*salted radish, usually comes in packets. Mum says to make sure the contents aren't too dark as this means the chai poh is old.

**To make chai poh omelette, simply rinse the chai poh a couple of times, make sure it's not too wet, and then pan fry with an egg or two.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Today's vitriol: people who ignore you

What a nasty cow I'm being this week. You wouldn't happen to be having your period, would you, Angie? Why no, I don't think so, I say calmly as I shove a Libra super tampon up your nostril. Actually, it's not that time of month, but sometimes a lot of things happen that cumulatively make me a little cross and plan elaborate schemes of revenge.

You know how you're out with a friend having a nice time, when suddenly you run into someone that you know and they don't. After the first preliminaries, "Hi, fancy seeing you here," and so forth, you recall, because you are a decent human being, that they don't know each other, so you introduce them, and then you try to start a conversation that doesn't exclude the odd man out, because that's rude and you've obviously chosen to spend time with this person, who is your friend, and you don't want them to feel awkward or excluded from the conversation.

If you do end up conversing with the person you've bumped into on an exclusive subject that your friend
can't be involved in, such as acquaintances that only the two of you know, or how your jobs are going, then you should keep this as brief as possible, out of courtesy to the person that you're with. Ideally you would try to draw them into the conversation, or at least maintain eye contact with them so that they don't feel like a third wheel. If you don't, the person that you came with is standing there feeling left out and wondering if they should wander off and leave you to your obviously absorbing conversation (rude), or stay there with a fixed smile on their face, feeling stupid. Or perhaps they should try to force their way into the conversation and look desperate (and rude). What a fantastic range of options.

I was the odd man out on Saturday night, and it jarred for me what had been, up till then, an enjoyable evening watching the Melbourne International Comedy Roadshow. We ran into someone that my friend knew, and this third person, who immediately reminded me of Ashley Simpson in both her demeanor and fashion sense, immediately launched into speech, talking about a wonderful party she had been to last week and why weren't you there blah blah blah it was so much fun? Finally she drew breath and my friend introduced me. "Hi," I said, offering a handshake. "Oh, sorry," she said, "I can't," holding up a beer in one hand and her purse in the other. Obviously it was too hard to tuck the purse under the arm so one hand could be free to observe the most simple of civilities. Other than when she was forced to acknowledge my presence, no other eye contact was made. I was then ignored again as they talked about their jobs, and I amused myself, as you do, by staring into the distance and wishing I was dead.

Just when I was wondering if I should go back to my seat, where I could fill in the time by plucking at the threads on the armrest and constructing a small but functional noose, her boyfriend came along. He also totally ignored me, and did not make any eye contact at all, although at one point his hair may have been calling out to me for help, but I can't be sure. After more talking, my partner suggested that we meet them after the show to talk some more, which made my blood run cold since I had been consoling myself with the thought that we wouldn't have to see them again unless a crazed hippo ran down the street and we were all forced to stay in the theatre for our own safety. (I still would have risked being trampled and swallowed whole.)

Luckily we did not see them at the end of the night. I can only thank the merciful kitchen gods that Ashley's stilettos probably prevented her from exiting the theatre as fast as I could in my Dada trainers. I was looking forward to a nice dinner after the show, and having to share it with two people I wasn't prepared to like, no matter how charming they showed themselves to be later, would have brought on some serious psychosomatic gastro and a phantom tapeworm for good measure.

Anyway, after all that, I did enjoy myself for the second half of the show. Jeff Green is a fantastic comedian, very natural, and extremely wry in his observations of every day life, but a tight oppressive feeling had come over me and although his antics made me smile, and sometimes, almost grin, I found it hard to laugh out loud, the way I had before intermission.

A part of me was fantasising that Ashley, who was somewhere in the stalls below, had somehow procured a boiling hot capuccino and had spilt it on her breasts. I was also concocting a scheme of elaborate and tortuous revenge where I would compose some incredible work that made me famous, and when that person, or someone like them came up to me to say how much they liked my work, I would throw back my head and laugh as I kicked dirt in their general vicinity. Hopefully in the optical region.

What a horrid creature I am. But you really don't want to get the women of our clan (on my mother's side) mad. Our tempers don't flare up and disappear, they simmer like seafood and tofu claypots on a slow boil, waiting to burn the tongues of infidels. I reckon, some time ago in ancient China, one of our female ancestors had the Great Wall of China built so that a Hun woman that she used to be friends with wouldn't be able to come over and borrow her clothes any more. "How dare she spill hot tea on my silk robe and not apologise!" I can hear her fuming.

I do resent awkward situations like that. I think what I hate more is the fact that I'm trapped there out of politeness, being bored, and feeling like an idiot, when all I really want to do is walk away. And I hate feeling helpless. But I've promised myself that the next time something like that happens, I'll extricate myself as soon as possible, perhaps make some excuse about going for a walk. Because any unpleasantness I face later as a consequence will at least be an honest disagreement, and not some subtle insidious influence that leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Trolley Theft

What a barrage of thoughts I've had in the past week, all clamouring to be put to the screen. Well, now that I have some spare minutes, here they all come!

I had a discussion (this means we disagreed) with the Frugal Gentleman a couple of weeks ago when I related to him the tale of what befell my parents at their local Bunnings Warehouse. (For those readers not from Western Australia, Bunnings is a hardware chain that is open seven days a week. It has serviced generations of Australian do-it-yourselfers with petunia seedlings, tile grout and the odd sausage sizzle on the weekends.) To me, this tale of proud possession followed by lowly theft is only a step below Le Comte de Monte Cristo with regard to the dastardliness of the petty thief who deprived my father of his plumbing accoutrement.

On the day in question, Mum and Dad were browsing through Bunnings and gathering items that they needed around the house. They had already picked up two red buckets and placed these in their trolley. To this charming collection, Dad had proudly added the very last drainpipe cleaning thing from a certain section in plumbing.

Suddenly a shifty looking person carrying some blue buckets (in a sinister way) approached them and asked where they acquired the aforementioned drainpipe cleaning thing. Mum pointed in the direction of the plumbing aisle, helpfully adding "But I think it was the last one."

The man loped off, and forgive my presumptuous imagination, but at this point I am imagining him as a hairy not-quite-werewolf-but-maybe-his-grandmother-had-had-some-
strange-tastes-if-you-know-what-I-mean Quasimodo-like creature. Sinister but pathetic at the same time. Oh, where was I? Right, Wolfman-Quasimodo loped off and my parents thought no more of it as they went through Bunnings looking at more potential purchases. Something caught their eye in the Garden Centre, and they left the trolley parked inside the main warehouse while they went to explore this new Elysium.

When they returned to the trolley a few minutes later, the drainpipe cleaning thing was gone! And to add insult to injury (if I may coin a cliché) their red buckets had been taken and replaced with two blue buckets! There was only the stench of unwashed cur and my father's palpable disappointment hanging in the air.

Oh, OK, that last bit I just added on.

Anyway, I related this tale of perfidy to the FG and instead of making noises of sympathy, he said "Well, they shouldn't have left the trolley unattended in the first place!"

I was speechless. I mean, really, it's a gentleman's (and lady's) agreement that items in trolleys, even if the trolleys are unattended, still belong to the people that collected them. If you come back four hours later and the trolley is still there, its contents could probably then be counted fair game. Call me naïve, but I've left trolleys unattended while I've gone to collect items in another aisle and their contents have been left untouched when I've returned. And I've never felt the need to pinch something from someone else's trolley.

Anyway, I'm sure opinions on the subject will be forever divided. But I hope bucket-swapper-drainpipe-cleaning-thing-snitch gets a nasty case of piles.

Internet reviews of...PEOPLE!

I've been doing some pretty intense research on digital cameras of the 6x optical zoom variety, and at first my heart was set on a Panasonic, but then after reading numerous reviews, I decided that a Canon would be a better option.

Internet reviews in places like Amazon and are fantastic. You get to hear from professionals and amateurs alike who have already tried the product, and had their lives scarred, or alternatively, ameliorated by product X.

Just imagine if these reviews could be used on people. Such as...

"All in all, Phineas would be a great date if you like hanging around furtively in parks trying not to sit on dog poo. He is also incredibly cheap, so you should eat dinner before going out to avoid passing out from low blood sugar. His entertaining conversation does make up for the lack of physical amenities, until you realise it's a load of avoidant narcissistic bull." See? Imagine how much easier that would make life for girls in the future if they encountered poor old Phineas.

"Tahlia wears skinny jeans (and therefore risks a nasty case of thrush) because they are in fashion, and this should really tell you more than you need to know about her. She will ignore you if she sees you at a party, unless you are speaking with someone she wishes to impress. By all means avoid this personality, unless your blood pressure has been a little low lately and you wish to elevate it to alarming levels."

I wouldn't escape, I'm sure, but I'm hoping reviews would be mixed...

"Upon your first encounter, Angie may come across as an aloof snobby ice queen, but if you are a nice person who is not a moron, and can hold your own in an intelligent conversation without being overly bitchy, you will find that her barbed-wire exterior hides a genuinely OK person who just can't stand idiots. Try not to irritate her before mealtimes, as her temperament can be uncertain when her stomach is empty."


Yes, I know this blog isn't ladylike at all, considering my aspirations (see The Frugal Lady blog), but you know, it takes a few falls before you learn to walk!

Frugality: Canon PowerShot A700 - inconstant woman!

I started a blog at in June 2006, but wasn't dedicated enough to post to it regularly. I've decided to absorb the posts from this into my current blog instead, and send frugallady out into Blogger world to be recycled.

From the latest Camera House catalogue, I bring you... the Canon Powershot A700. After reading through review upon review, it turns out that the Panasonic may have some image quality issues in low light, and has not scored well in comparison to the Canons and Fujis with similar characteristics.

The Frugal Gentleman, to whom I will also refer as the FG from time to time, has been an absolute champ. When I told him I was planning on buying a camera, he insisted on lending me his while I was saving up, so that a) I would have a camera to use, and b) be able to get a feel for what features I wanted so I could make a better choice when the time came to puchase.

It's a Canon Powershot G2, so still a pretty good camera, and I can get used to the Canon menu and layout to see if I like it.

Being a Frugal Lady is much easier with a Frugal Gentleman behind you :)

P.S. Thinking about Internet reviews has spawned another blog, go here to read.

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

I opine that too many novels have romanticised the vampire myth. I myself, dear reader, have fallen for the whole Lestat-Interview-With-A-Vampire line of how he's the one who's really been hard done by as he lives his glam-rock moneybags whinging lifestyle - "Don't blame me, blame the vampire that sired me", "Don't hate me because I'm going to be eternally young and beautiful", "Oh no, I can't have sex but I can do this thing that's really a million times better", "It's OK to kill people as long as they've been bad" etc etc nyah nyah nyah you piffly mortals.

In high school we all prayed for some Dark Knight (not Batman™) to save us from the drudgery of prep and school dinners (by the way, Jhonen Vasquez penned a hilarious satire on this theme in his Squee comic). We promised to make each other vampires if we were taken first. Not quite as kooky as goths, but equally whiny and depressing, I suppose we would have been emos if emos had been around then.

Anyway, it's nice to see someone resurrect the vampire à la Bram Stoker, and with such style. In some ways, The Historian reminded me of The Da Vinci Code, with its meticulous research unpeeling layer after layer of history like an artichoke revealing its heart. Happily though, Kostova's novel is much less smarmily self-conscious, and it genuinely draws you in instead of keeping you at arm's length. I greatly enjoy Dan Brown's works, I really do, but this novel has heart.

A girl finds some letters in her father's library addressed to "My dear and unfortunate successor", and their contents and consequences gradually strip away her reality to show her the chilling truth behind her family tree. To be quite honest, if someone had to pitch this novel as a movie, it would sound like some ridiculous gore-fest/collegiate romp/Indiana Jones monstrosity. I mean, really, if I were a movie producer and the person in front of me was saying "Now see, Dracula's actually ALIVE," I'd be pressing the button for security before they even drew breath for the next sentence.

However, written in Kostova's frank prose, the story unfolds so simply and so naturally that you start wondering where you put that crucifix your mother gave you and shouldn't you be wearing it right about now?

There are some plot conjunctions that are, of course, too convenient, such as the aunt highly placed in the Hungarian government who seems to be a kind of Visas-R-Us, but I like that Kostova even thought of these obstacles in the first place, and didn't skim over them as if her characters were James Bonds who could freely flit from country to country with no more trouble than a snowflake.

I truly like the characters in this book, well, all the good ones anyway. The human weaknesses of these people make them accessible and familiar, and in turn show their strength in adversity as remarkable and admirable. To quote Steven Levitt: "People are much less harsh on weaknesses that are clear than weaknesses that are hidden - as they should be."

Read this book, and rediscover Bram Stoker's Dracula. Crucifixes are optional, but you'll definitely feel less scared without one.*

*Note: This comes from a person who couldn't sleep or go to the bathroom by herself for two weeks after watching The Ring. If you're made of sterner stuff, you'll be just fine.

Friday, June 23, 2006


A friend who works in an IT Helpdesk role blushingly admitted to me that it was sorta kinda his fault that eBay got blocked at his work. Apparently a manager contacted them and said that a lot of her workers were wasting time watching Big Brother (oh the irony) and one person was running an eBay business from their desk. What the..?

So my friend goes, "Oh, that's easy, just send in a request asking them to cut off access to those web sites for those people."

"I didn't know they'd cut it off for everyone!" he wailed to me.

Obviously that eBay person was out of line. But you must admit, it's another example of slapping an Elastoplast (TM) onto a wound without determining why that person stabbed themselves in the leg in the first place.


You know what I mean, right?

Anyway, it appears to me that the person running the eBay business a) has not enough work to do, b) doesn't like the work they do, or c) feels that the job they are doing doesn't pay enough. All these are issues that should be addressed at performance reviews or at least through informal discussions with their manager.

But no one ever does, do they?

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Frugality: Here is my new baby (well, I'll be holding it in 9 months...)

I started a blog at in June 2006, but wasn't dedicated enough to post to it regularly. I've decided to absorb the posts from this into my current blog instead, and send frugallady out into Blogger world to be recycled.

Here is the camera as shown in the Myer catalogue. I won't be getting it from Myer though as I'll be damned if I get sucked into that 12 months interest free using our 20% interest a month credit card shpiel. I'll probably get it from somewhere good, like a camera specialist.

My plan is to allocate $450 for the camera on the basis that I can get a reduced price at a place like Camera House, $100 for a big big BIG 2GB memory card, and $40 for a battery charger. So at $590 in total, and putting aside savings of $40 per pay, I won't have this baby in my hands for about 7 months. So it'll be a preemie. Mind you, I might be able to have extra savings put away before then, the price could drop, someone might want to give me a CAMERA HOUSE VOUCHER (or just some cash :D) for my birthday and who knows? It could be mine a lot sooner.

Ah, delayed gratification... I hate thee...

Frugality: Just when I thought I was saving money...

I started a blog at in June 2006, but wasn't dedicated enough to post to it regularly. I've decided to absorb the posts from this into my current blog instead, and send frugallady out into Blogger world to be recycled.

Revision: really, there is no point to having a blog like this and just sighing, "Oh me oh my, looks like I shall have to pull my belt in tighter" etc etc
without actually detailing my strategy on how I am going to achieve this. Therefore I am going to try and give you, my audience of 0 and me, myself and I a better idea of how I am going to do this...

I've decided that I would like to get a digital camera, specifically one of the Panasonic Lumix models because of their mega O.I.S anti-shake technology. There was one in the latest Myer catalogue for $450 AUD, 6x optical zoom and 6.0 megapixel.

Why? So that I don't have to borrow other people's cameras when I'd like to take a photo. So I can photograph silly things like food and houses and people and put them on my blog. So that when I become a successful multimedia developer I have something to work with :) So that I can bring pictures back from my travels.

Anyway, this means I shall have to alter my budget a little to accommodate that. With car rego and the gas and phone bill due next pay - about $300 altogether - I shall have to look to budgeting my arse off to save an extra $40-$50 per pay to get this camera.

New addition to this area starts here:

Now, I DO have a budget. It is a simple little Excel file organised according to the dates of my paychecks. (I call this file Wealth_2006.xls, by the way, because I like to be optimistic and also it may be good feng shui, who knows?)

So each budget section has a heading like "Pay 23/06/2006 to 06/07/2006". It shows all my expenses, and next to the heading is "Total spend" - a total of what the expenses add up to, and next to that is "Extra" - my pay minus "Total spend". If "Extra" is negative, and this shows up as a lovely RED colour, then I have to adjust my budget until "Extra" becomes a positive number, or at the very worst, zero. Any amount in "Extra" goes into the mortgage to reduce interest payments.

Basically my expenditure consists of what I like to think of as mutable and immutable expenses.

Immutable expenses are things like mortgage repayments, extra repayments/savings for holidays into the mortgage (which I can redraw if needed), rent, insurance, and bills.

Mutable expenses are things like my clothing, toiletries, entertainment, petrol and takeaway/food allowances. Parking is usually a mutable expense but a dratted sinus infection has made it difficult to walk without the nerves above my teeth jolting so that's an immutable for the next week or so.

If I want to save up for something, I put it in as a regular immutable expense in my budget and play with the other numbers until everything fits. This can cause a condition my Hokkien side would refer to as xin tia (heart in pain), but that's that. Otherwise I'd be living outside my means and ladies don't do that :)

Fruaglity: Pronunciation is key, and something else I can't do without

I started a blog at in June 2006, but wasn't dedicated enough to post to it regularly. I've decided to absorb the posts from this into my current blog instead, and send frugallady out into Blogger world to be recycled.

I also think it would really help if you imagined someone like Julie Andrews saying "The Frugal Lady" with that delightful trill in her voice, as opposed to some redneck saying it.

And to the my vanity list I would also like to add an 8 weekly colour and cut. Ladies are always well-groomed :)

Monday, June 19, 2006

Frugality: The beginning

I started a blog at in June 2006, but wasn't dedicated enough to post to it regularly. I've decided to absorb the posts from this into my current blog instead, and send frugallady out into Blogger world to be recycled.

I know that when some people think of the word "lady", they basically think of nannas. And as lovely as nannas are, that is a shame. I think of ladies as being delightful creatures of any age. What defines them as ladies is that they are strong and graceful, loving and gentle, kind and gracious. I think of Emily Post and Laura Ingalls Wilder, I think of my mother. That is what I would like to be.

It's funny how frugal living is catching on. In part, I think it's due to events such as 911, which certainly made me re-assess what I wanted from my life. More women are choosing to become stay-at-home mums, and certainly living on a single income can (for most Australians) be construed "frugal living".

My main aim in pursuing frugal living is to retire early, to be able to live happily and independently (i.e. without needing to earn a salary) as soon as possible, hopefully before 40.

A large part of frugal living is cost-cutting, but the following is a list of things I will not compromise on:

- my health: I see my dentist and optometrist every six months, and have regular dental cleans and checkups, new glasses and contacts if I need them. I will not "soldier on" if there is something that a simple trip to the doctor will fix. Interestingly though, I believe that as you do live more frugally, that is, spend more money on home-cooked meals, eating good quality whole foods and vegetables and fruit, and fewer expensive processed foods, your health rebounds in return, necessitating fewer trips to the doctor.

- travel: one international trip a year.

- my car: Perth is not one of those cities where you can live quite happily without a car. Alright, let me just qualify that, it's not one of those cities where Angie can live happily without a car. Bus times are spaced far apart, always go far, far away from where you want to get off, and ticket prices don't save you much more than petrol. They also take a very long time. If I had the choice between a 2 hour round trip to work via public transport at $5 a day, or a 15 minute drive, I know which one I would choose.

- my vanity: I need to get those eyebrows groomed once a month!

More to follow when my eyes aren't burning from lack of sleep. I'll be back soon!