gifts for writers

treepod

My friend S linked to this wonderful page of best gifts for writers.

On fb she tagged me, saying that the treepod would suit me. OMG, how did she know!?!11!?!! The treepod is a portable treehouse made from either canvas (for indoors) or canvas+mesh (for outdoors) that is secured to any ceiling or tree to give a private sanctuary for writing and other activities like reading or relaxing. It’s one of the gifts on the list that appeal most to me, even though there is zero space in my room right now. If I were back in the flat, I can consider it, it’ll probably fit the bay window space pretty well. Other drool-worthy gifts include a global wifi hotspot, not for writing per se but for travelling; and a bunch of notebooks, some of which are wifi enabled. I’m not big on notebooks, I can do with evernote, instapaper and scrivener plus a plain text editor. Talking about apps, scrivener is on there too. Hmm, I have a nano code again this year that I don’t need.

For some reason, the list has A LOT of coffee products. If I received any of those they will go straight to mm, hahaha. There’s snack box and wine subscription, and of course the obligatory Writers Tears, which I can get at the local m&s. There are some intangible gifts too that will benefit some people. Apps, membership of relevant societies, spotify subscription.

Get to the bottom of the list, and S has one of the best gifts:

helping your beloved author’s career

by buying their book, gifting their book, and helping promote it by reviewing it. Good one.

i know i’m back in the US when…

blueberrypancakes

i know i’m back in the US when I have pancake breakfast and then go outlet shopping. The pancakes were at one of my favourite place, Cracker Barrel. I could have had the big breakfasts with bacon, sausage, eggs, hash brown, biscuits and gravy. The blueberry pancakes with blueberry syrup were a little lighter, I was able to finish the entire order.

nikefree5.0

We were going to go to Costco, but drove further south to an outlet mall. I checked off one of the items on my shopping list by getting a new pair of running shoes. I had nike frees in mind and they had several colours. The ones I wanted, in orange and blue, were $85. A few colours were 30% off so I opted for grey. Quite pleased with it.

europe day 09: florence shopping

eutrip016outlet

We woke up at 9am, too late for breakfast at the retreat house. Had our coffee and tea at a nearby coffee shop instead. Bought sandwiches from the street market—porchetta and lampredotto (cow stomach).

First stop was at the religious shop near the Duomo, to give the sisters there a cake we bought at Siena. They were so nice. Sister Stefanie invited us to visit their chapel above the shop. So peaceful and blessed.

The rest of the day was quite boring for me. Walked to the bus station to catch the bus for the outlet. The bus was full so we had to wait for the next one. Good timing to have lunch. The outlet had a number of brands—Prada, Ferragamo, Coach, BV, Burberry, Tods, Hogan, EA and the like. Honestly I have no interest in branded stuff, especially since most of the stuff for sale was handbags, shoes and accessories. There were a few wallets that looked alright, and mm as usual was tempted by handbags. I don’t get why anyone will buy wallets for €100-200 or handbags for almost €1000, nice thought they were. We didn’t buy anything at the end.

Walked through the market back at Florence and looked more carefully at things to buy. Came across a couple of stalls where the salesperson wasn’t obnoxious or pushy. Bought two handbags (mm) and two belts (me).

Bought chocolate at lindt then headed for dinner at the taverna near the retreat house. We shared a 1kg florentine shirloin steak on the bone, good taste and well cooked.

best hip flasks

hipflasksteel hipflaskcopper

I can’t think of anything I want for Christmas. On my shopping list are a new ipad cover (but no hurry—the current one is chipped), a belt (more urgent as the current one is getting grotty) and a foam roller that I can store at parents’ place.

Everywhere I look, there are lists of what to buy as presents. What caught my eye was a list of best hip flasks from the people who recently took us on the bourbon trail and to whisky in Scotland.

And besides, I have a weakness for hip flasks, remember the ones inside hollowed out books.

Two caught my eye, and they can’t be more different. A bog-standard $10 stainless steel flash that looked surprisingly good with its clean lines and sturdiness. At the other end of the spectrum is a $200 copper flask because: a) copper and b) cork stopper. 

extra mile shampoo

shampooconditioner

I’m becoming a cheapstake.

The plan is good. Short run today, so run halfway to the normal turning around point, walk to the value mart to get shampoo, get a bus home. Yes, good plan.

Problem was, the value mart didn’t have shampoo. And neither did the Japanese good value shop. The other value mart branch disappeared, closed down. ARGH.

Yes, yes I know I can get shampoo from the supermarket or drugstore, but this brand of shampoo and conditioner is one of the cheapest I can find (still not as cheap as the $1 in the US, but I can’t shop for toiletries in the US).

I was walking around, trying to figure out what to do. Luckily I found where the other value mart branch had moved to. And they had the shampoo and conditioner.

I ended up walking something like 1 mile looking for these wretched bottles, so they’ll be called extra mile shampoo from now on.
 

converse color weave

conversecolorweave

A fb friend asked me to get a couple of pairs of these converse 2014 holiday chuck taylor star collection color weave sneakers because apparently they are limited edition APAC only. I went over to sneaker street to see if I can get them. The first shop was sold out of all but the smallest sizes but luckily the second store had them. I got the last pair in the larger size and there were only about 3 left of the smaller size. The sales associate told me they are Japanese limited edition, but I can’t find any reference to Japan online. Ah well.

I guess if I were a die hard converse fan I’d get a pair for myself too, but I decided against it. They’re equivalent to USD110, and I can get 2 pairs of Nike Airs at the outlet for that price. Guess I’m not a die hard converse fan.
 

hollowed book with whisky flask

hollowbook01 hollowbook02
hollowbook03 hollowbook04

Here’s something for the person who has everything, via bb, an etsy store that sells hollow books: hollowed out hardbacks with matching whisky flask. Edgar Allan Poe, Pride and Prejudice, DC comics, even the Bible.

I’m trying to de-clutter and minimalise my life. I have been collecting whiskies, now should I get one of these book whisky flasks to enjoy a wee dram? Tempting.

mass, bfast, lunch, drinks, watch

srwatch2013

Early start today, woke up at 5.45am and got the 6.30am bus. Every year in Sept and Nov we go to early morning mass in memory of mm’s sister. It’s 10 years to the day that she left us. I was at the church first, then their family started trickling in. Early morning mass on a weekday is short, so it was finished by 8am.

Breakfast at a nearby diner then went back to her parents’ place to pick up some stuff. Then had to bring th stuff back to mm’s place.

Lunch was just the two of us, I’d made reservations at a hotel café for buffet. We both agreed the buffet was a good one. Back to her place to rest, I actually did fall asleep while she was pottering around in the kitchen.

Drinks at the Marriott with her brother and his wife. Buy one get one free happy hour drinks, I had a malbec while she had a rioja. She drove me home, got home around 10pm.

Additional achievement today: we drove to an industrial estate and bought new watches. Both the same design and colour — taupe sports chrono. She got the smaller ladies size and I got the medium unisex size. Very sharp design, we like it. I haven’t worn a watch for a while, over a year, but I do find it a pain to have to dig out my iphone from my back pocket every time I want to know the time, may be I’ll start wearing a watch again.

market with mum

taipo001sweettofu

Really hot day, but Mum was going to the market so i went with her to help carry stuff. Before shopping we stopped at this hole-in-the-wall place that sold 2 products: soy milk and sweetened tofu. There was a 20-deep queue, although it was very quick. Even though it was a hot day, we opted for the hot sweet tofu because it’s way way smoother than the cold version. I was dripping at the end, heehee.

We each took a shopping trolley and we filled them. Fish, prawns, meat, vegetables, fruit, noodles, milk, dumpling. Nice.

bbmm2

winerackikea

Lunch with mm at a Japanese restaurant near the office, no reason, just felt like it. She had grilled hamachi head and I had the sashimi set. I then went to the market to get some stuff for the cruise, went home then went out again, we were going to Ikea to take advantage of their 40x point shopping days. She bought wine racks and I bought a replacement kitchen scale. Back to her place to put the wine racks together. Not really dinner, my dinner was a hot dog and meatballs at Ikea. She did give me some soup though.

korean lunch, shopping, sunset

sunset20130414

Korean bbq with family. It’s the first time my niece has tried it, and she said it’s “fun.” This is an all-you-can-eat so there was a neverending selection of vegetables, meat, noodles, rice, fruit, dessert and drink. I started doing the beef Korean style, wrapped in lettuce with kimchee and bean paste. Less meat, more filling.

Met up with mm in the afternoon for another drive, this time to an industrial building that had lots of outlets. Clothes and furniture and food. The one thing about this building is the lifts are very inefficient so there are people walking up and down the stairs. There are different stairwells and on some floors the doors don’t open. It’s a sort of adventure.

We were there till late, caught this sunset when browsing through a furniture store and took this on my iphone through their window. Nice.

miles for wine

riedelswirl

I have 10,000 airmiles expiring today, so I was searching to redeem those miles. Last year I exchanged 15,000 miles for a bottle of Ardbeg 10yr plus a tasting glass. Initially I was tempted again but decided I have far too many bottles of whisky at home. Besides, the Ardbegs I really want are Uigeadail or Alligator. The standard 10yr is really nice, but the others are nicer.

What I did end up getting for 8,000 miles was a Riedel Swirl set of 4 wine glasses and a decanter. The glasses look good and are perfect for everyday drinking. I have a selection of traditional stemmed and contemporary unstemmed glasses, and these are a great addition to the collection. I don’t have a wine decanter, so this is a plus.

While browsing the food and dining section of the miles catalogue, I saw a bunch of Manny O wines available for only 3,500 miles. I’d never heard of this brand of wines, and my first reaction was that they are plonk. A little googling revealed that it’s a custom wine blender from the Philippines, of all places, that have won some awards. I thought the rosé was interesting but it was out of stock so I got the 2009 Sumiler from Yecla, Spain — apparently from 40 year old vines. There are 2 bottles in the set, let’s see if they are any good.

sleepyhead

med00sunrisetunis

I went to bed before 9pm and was out as soon as my head hit the pillow. Woke up for a couple of hours at 3am, which was to be expected. By the time I opened my eyes again it was 2pm. Wow. Sleepyhead.

I’d cleared the fridge but there’s still a lot of food in the freezer and in the cupboard, but I just had my usual tea before heading out to the market and the supermarket. Got fruit and veg at the street market and did a big enough shop at the supermarket to get free delivery — coke zero, wine, comfort, toilet tissue, olive oil, campbell’s soup all add up.

Met mm for a glass of wine so we could update each other on what’s been happening the past 10 days. She had to go visit a friend’s mother at hospital so she couldn’t stay for dinner. I got the bus home and watched tv for a while. I know there are 800 pics waiting for me to sort out, I’ll try to get to them soon.

first world book problem

sweettoothuksweettoothus

I’m thinking of buying Ian McEwan’s latest book, Sweet Tooth, a layered intrigue set in 1972 during the cold war.

I do a little comparison, amazon uk £8.09 ($12.99) and amazon us $13.99. Even without the small price difference, I want the UK edition because I prefer the cover and I’d like to read it in the English it was written (I’m assuming it gets “translated” to US English). There’s just a couple of tiny problems:

  • my kindle is registered to my US account, so it will automatically go to amazon.com
  • amazon.co.uk won’t let me buy kindle books if I’m outside the UK

It’s not just amazon, WH Smith, kobo and ebook all sell a DRM epub version (just ignore the dirty word DRM), all impose geo restrictions, I guess by IP address. What if I were travelling, does it mean I have to wait till I get home to buy? What a ridiculous concept.

The twist is that amazon lets me buy the paper book from anywhere in the world but not the ebook. Apparently it’s due to contractual agreements. This post talks about Australia but is a good illustration. It’s also from 2010 and hints that things are changing. Riiiiight. It’s now 2012, isn’t it time for country boundaries in the electronic world to go away?

I’ve spent enough time on this today, there are other things vying for my attention. I’ll read another book (from an international-reader-friendly publisher/seller — thanks Bella!) or I’ll play bad piggies or whatsapp mm. It’s likely that Mr McEwan will never get my sale, the US book comes out in November and I doubt I’ll remember. Fine. I’m just one insignificant person, Random House doesn’t care about me. The problem is that Random House and the other Big Publishers insist on putting obstacle after obstacle in the way of legitimate book buyers, who then get frustrated and what will they do? They’ll give up and not buy the book. If the book is that good, it’s not like the buyer roll over and wait like a meek little sheep to buy at the store and price that Big Pub dictated, right? The best case scenario is to use a proxy, then at least there is a sale. Nowadays, unfortunately, the more likely outcome is a torrent, and that’s an ugly unending downward spiral.

swindon, bicester

A shopping day.

Picked up a rental car at Avis (£32.55, plus £30 petrol) and drove out to Swindon outlet mall. Had fish and chips for lunch and explored John Lewis and other outlets. She ended up having to spend a lot of time on the phone with the office because some crisis just popped up.

After Swindon we went to Bicester. Tod’s and L’Occitane were her targets. Tesco finally, it was late when we got home.

brent cross

I took the zipcar out and we went to Brent Cross. Most of our shopping was done at Lakeland and Tesco. No surprise. Had chicken drumstick and mm made pork ribs soup.

fan exchange

dysonhotcold argosfan

I will be needing a heater when I leave London, and I’d been lusting after the dyson hot+cold ever since it came out. Not only is it a fan heater, it’s also a fan for use when the weather is hot.

It’s also horribly expensive. John Lewis is doing a promotion where they take 20% off in exchange for a portable fan or fan heater. That’s more than £50 off the RRP of £269.95. I don’t own a fan or fan heater, but I wanted to take advantage of this, so I went to Argos and got a £9.97 fan and exchanged it. All in all I come out more than £40 better off. I’ve done this before, I bought a crappy Sinclair Spectrum and part exchanged it for my Mac LCIII way back when.

I probably could have gone to a junk store or market and gotten a broken fan for £5 or less, but this is already a good enough deal for me. The weather is supposed to turn cooler soon, but in the meantime today I’m enjoying my new fan.

shwopping

I only wear about 10-20% of all the clothes I own, I wear the same items of clothing all the time and the rest just sits in the closet. I did a mini clearout when I moved into this flat, but I think I should be more aggressive and downsize even more. And now M&S has come up with shwopping in partnership with Oxfam. Recycle old clothes while we buy new ones. Something to add to the weekend to-do list.

late christmas presents

A few things came today from amazon, that I ordered for myself. My sis had given me gift certificates that will expire in april, so I made some inroads into that balance.

sennheiser MX75 earphones

sennheisermx75

Only £9.99, cheaper than the US, I think it’s because there is a new model out. These are my regular non-running earphones. I haven’t been listening to my iphone on the tube, but I might start again soon. Of course, the headphones I really want are the Bose QC3. Sigh.

reflective vest

vest

I’ll have to start on my run home from work soon; the training program calls for 8-miles mid-week. It’ll still be dark, and I thought it’s better safe than sorry. I saw some reflective vests for cycling and running at Lillywhites and the cycling shop for £25, but this one at £5.99 I like, because it’s light and can go over clothing and a small backpack.

sonic dog repeller

dogrepeller

This sonic dog repeller, together with pepper spray, I’ve wanted for a long long time. I probably won’t need it for running on my local track, but perhaps further afield and definitely when / if I go back to running in Chicago. There seems to be a problem with American dog owners not able to teach their things to stay away from humans. I certainly hope it works and it HURTS. Take that, bloody dogs.

Oral B professional care 500 electric toothbrush

oral b

Replacement, at £18.50, price has since gone up already. Nothing much to say, just that it’s time to replace my one year old model.

my christmas sale

sproutsceleriacsale

Traditionally the boxing day sale is the biggest shopping day of the year. This year, with both Monday and Tuesday being bank holidays, it means record breaking sales at all the retailers. I had debated whether to join the madness, I don’t really have anything to buy; may be some new plates if I see good ones. Then again, I should go out for a little bit, just so I can say I ventured outside during the 4 days for something other than running and taking the rubbish out.

Wasn’t sure where to go, so I just walked over to the bus stop and waited for the next bus. Normally #6 (to the West End) is the most frequent, but I had a premonition that it would be the 187. And I was right. 187 goes to Swiss Cottage and the O2 centre. No big department stores but there is a Habitat. I bought a box of Christmas cards there, then ambled over to Sainsbury’s. Oh yes, my big Christmas sale shopping was at…Sainsbury’s. I got sprouts on the stalk and celeriac for 30p each, huge bargain. Also got small planters, a set of table mats and adjustable spanners at Homebase. Shampoo and laundry detergent at Waitrose. Kinda boring, but useful stuff. Pretty pleased.

ocado shop

Ocado Sprinter
image courtesy flickr user kenjonbro

I got a £15 voucher for ocado so I thought, instead of zipcar, I’d have them deliver. The conditions were that I had to spend at least £75, so I trawled through their website looking for all sorts of household items. Ended up getting loads of coke zero plus toilet paper, comfort, shampoo and such like. There were legitimate things I got too. The good thing is that their delivery times are flexible, up to something like 11pm. Actually, during the course of one evening, I saw 4 different vans at different times and was wondering if they could do better at planning. Quite happy with the service, it’s an alternative to zipcar to Tesco.

cornwall trip day 4: cheddar, clarks village, bicester

cwall238chedgorge

I’d originally planned to overnight at Cheddar, and was glad we didn’t as it would have been a longer drive yesterday. We did make an effort to visit though, a quick stopover to walk around to the gorge, buy cider and an ice cream.

This is becoming our nostalgia trip, we ended up at Clarks Village. It has changed, much bigger and a layout we’re not familiar with. Not much in terms of shopping though, we finished the circuit in record time. Since we had the car, we decided on something adventurous — hit Bicester Village on the way back. It’s a detour but not by much. I called to extend the rental by a day and there was no extra charge cos my rate was a weekly one.

Bicester was much nicer, we could have spent more money. In particular we had our eyes on Burberry jackets that we tried on for a long time. Finally though, spending £300-400 just wasn’t our style. I did buy 4 tall cocktail spoons for £10 at the cutlery shop. Hit Tesco on the way out and it was an easy 1.5hr drive home. Tonight we get to sleep in my bed. Happy again.

whole foods london

ldnwholefoods02

There are 5 Whole Foods in London, the largest, at high st ken is only a bus ride away. I’m so glad I made the trip. Had lunch at their restaurant — a kind of high end food court with salads, sandwiches, hot food, Mexican food, vegetarian, pizza, Japanese. Tried the shabu shabu of lamb with udon and veg. Nice, but pricey. A very decent iphone pic here.

The store itself is split on 2 floors and by London standards very large. Actually, it’s comparable in size to the Ashland store. I couldn’t help myself and came home with a veritable treasure trove of food I love and have missed: t-bone steak, osso bucco (in brown packaging underneath steak), tahini, clay pot yogurt, my beloved goose island beer, passion fruit, legbars (blue) eggs, abate pears, heirloom tomatoes, coulommiers cheese, st nectaire cheese — altogether £53, not cheap. I remember Car saying Whole Foods = whole paycheck.

And then I had to go to Tesco afterwards to get regular stuff like ham, fruit, vegetables and salmon, which set me back another £20. I was on whatsapp with mm throughout and I told her I bought more than enough food for 2 people for a week. Hee.

gps in the store

storegps

Tesco is testing out in-store sat nav system at one of its stores near London. Shoppers enter their shopping list items and the app gives a map of where the items are within the store. They’re only testing the android app at the moment, and from what I read, it’s a unit attached to the trolley. (Above image only an illustration.)

The aim is to reduce walking? Like those game show where you grab the most within 1 minute and you keep the stuff. It’ll be useful for Top Chef contestants. I’m not sure if this is coming from Tesco’s marketing department, won’t they want shoppers to wander around the aisles and see stuff that they impulse buy? Plus, isn’t the GPS supposed to be extinct in 5 years?

brent cross

another familiar place, we went to brent cross. It hasn’t changed all that much over the years, more people and more shops. Lunch of English Breakfast at John Lewis. Early home to pack for moving tomorrow.

sales lakeside

Because of the pre-Christmas bad weather and the VAT increase in January to 20%, it’s expected to be a bumper boxing day sales. We made our way to lakeside in the morning, and spent the day walking around the shops. Didn’t buy anything though, nothing screamed out to be bought. On the way back, we went to the bagel shop to get plain bagels, then it was home early so I can make mediterranean chicken stew with cous cous. Another great day for bbmm.

shopping lists

Things I haven’t been able to find yet. I think I may be able to find them eventually, probably in a larger store, so I’m keeping a list.

  • crest — there’s scads of colgate and some sensodyne, but no crest
  • olive oil mayo
  • vegetarian burger
  • ricola
  • fresh beet — I see peeled, pickled beets but not fresh ones and definitely not orange ones
  • low calorie fresh juice, ie no Trop 50 (yet)

On the positive side there is so much I was used to and weren’t available in the US:

  • ribena
  • all the familiar chocolate and biscuits
  • single and double cream
  • good cheese

another day

ldn162church

So I survived until the end of the week. Work was okay, I’ve been quite self-contained — I have email, I know who to contact to get things done, I have most of my stationery and stuff so I don’t feel much like a new hire. May be I should mix more with the people in the dept, sigh.

I found the Tesco. It’s a small Express off a side street about 5mins walk away. With the icy pavement it’s more like 10. Now that I know about shoveling and salting I’m wondering why people don’t do it here. Oh wait, I know. Nobody here knows how to handle snow.

Anyhow I got a whole chicken £4, much cheaper than breast or thigh parts. Also got some cherry tomatoes, rocket, fish fingers, ice cream and quavers. Fairy, washing up sponges and kitchen towel too. Plus a bottle of wine a Jacob’s Creek shiraz cab at £4.99. The whole bill came to £30, sigh. More things to re-learn: VAT included so no need to factor in sales tax; and leave the credit card in the machine until the transaction is finished…don’t slide it in and pull it out straightaway. I don’t think I can survive on just this tiny Tesco’s for 1-2 months. I’ll need to figure out where to get a larger variety of food this weekend.

This pic is for Car, cos she’ll get a kick out of the name of the church, St Botolph’s without Aldgate. And that is an old fashioned police box in front of the gates, yep. The current church was finished in 1744. The building at the back is 30 st mary axe, or the swiss re building, as much of a skyscraper as we get in London. And I’m back to being blasé about old historical buildings co-existing with modern buildings. Okay.

black friday madness

blackfriday

I had thanksgiving at Car’s house, a lovely meal of turkey, stuffing, mash potatoes, sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts, sausage & sauerkraut and other delicious goodies. Good company too, people stayed around to chat.

The day after Thanksgiving in the US is black friday sales, where there are a lot of discounts and stores open really really early. We woke up at 5.30am and was at the stores by just around 6am. I bought some kitchen stuff, Guitar Hero for Wii, socks, a pair of gloves, danish cookies, hot tamales, frangos and cereal bars from costco. We also made time in the afternoon to see HP7 for the second time. Tired now. Wallet much lighter.

whole foods

cherryrainier2

I left work early and took parents to whole foods. Not the big one at Halsted, just the small one on Ashland. Already good enough. We had a great time walking the aisles. One of the favourite things they bought was rainier cherries, which looks like just coming into season. $4.99 for a pound, cheaper than Jewel. Oh, I’m soooo glad for them, these batch of cherries are soooo sweet.

We went for Mexican food at a local place. It was great, they don’t get a lot of chance to try mexican food.

outlet shopping

Took Mum to the outlet at aurora. Just over an hour’s drive. Nicely organised mall, we were impressed. Ended up I probably bought more than her — new backpack, cubs cap, and a bunch of stuff from coach for mm. It was a scrum at coach, totally packed.

food shopping kind of day

mpchi028lake

This morning we went to the farmer’s market at lincoln park. Aside from small wet patches there were no signs of the heavy thunderstorm last night. Bought mushrooms and mom bought some handmade nougat.

Lunch at corcoran’s opposite fleet feet piper’s alley. I had a bbq southwestern chicken salad, mum had caesar salad with steak and papa had turkey burger. Sat outside in the sun, again no sign of the thunderstorm just last night.

Took me a while, but I finally got them to whole foods. This is the huge one at north & clybourn. And wow. Big. We were very controlled, didn’t buy too many — beer, cereal bar, carrot juice, mustard.

Early father’s day dinner at home. I opened a bottle of wine. Took them out to the lake and watched the sunset. It was the first time I’d sat over there at foster beach watching the sunset.

thunderstorm, costco

So we were going about our business on a friday afternoon looking forward to the weekend. And then 3.30pm building management told us of a severe weather advisory that strong thunderstorms were approaching. It was still sunny and dry outside.

Parents were coming downtown so I called them to tell them to call me once they get to our meeting point. I would then come out immediately. We were meeting at Sears Tower. The rain started to come when I met them at 4pm and we were soaked by the time we got to the car. Traffic down the Ryan was slow, 10-15mph all the way down. Windy and raining, but we were safe in the car. Turns out we were lucky, the storm ripped out some windows at Sears Tower shortly after we left the area. Phew.

By the time we got to Car’s house it’d died down somewhat. But they had a power outage. So we went to costco first. Mum was like an excited kid, wanting to buy lots of stuff. Papa too, was intrigued by some fabulous looking alaskan king crab legs. We got those, plus scallops, wild salmon, boxes upon boxes of cereal, cereal bars and other stuff. My boot was stuffed.

Also stuffed in person. Car’s mom fed us homemade spaghetti meatballs. It was such a nice meal. We had to leave in a hurry when the storm returned.

where’s the mascarpone

Mascarpone
image from flickr user daviderickson under cc

I couldn’t find any mascarpone in the supermarket. It’s ridiculous. First off, cheese is in 3 different places at my local Jewel — “speciality” cheeses next to the deli counter, cream cheese and yuck cheese slices near the butter and cottage cheese/ricotta/sour cream where the milk is. Stupid.

To me, mascarpone is a BASIC ingredient. But I guess to Americans who are used to non-food like cool whip, canned frosting/icing and spray cream (the thought of all these make me puke), something like mascarpone is just way beyond their comprehension.

So I had to buy regular whipping cream. It’s so frustrating.

Why did I need mascarpone? It will be revealed tomorrow (hopefully).

black friday

Black Friday in the US means the day after the Thanksgiving holiday when shops give big discounts to lots of stuff. They open at funny hours like 4am and people queue up overnight to get the best deals, which they call doorbusters.

Though we didn’t get up at early hours, we did set out early at 9am. We hit Sears, Kohl’s, Best Buy, Staples, Tiger Direct in quick succession. The others had specific stuff they wanted to buy, I didn’t. At the end I bought a wii fit ($99, not at discount) and an Epson NX415 for half price at Staples.

shopping day

It was a glorious day when I woke up, so I went running by the lake. All the way up to where the bike trail ends, then back down along the lakefront all the way to Montrose Beach.

After showering drove to Ikea. The route on google maps is bogus, there’s been roadworks at the Lawrence junction to the Kennedy for ages, so I just took Foster.

I was really hungry by the time I got to Ikea, so I headed to the restaurant immediately and had a large meatball, lingonberries and mashed potato lunch. The aim was to look at kitchen tables, to make sure that I wasn’t missing out on anything. There was one, table and 4 chairs for $129, good price but not what I was looking for. I ended up buying a bedside table to use in the living room by the fireplace, 4 glass bowls at 99c each and a bottle of chopping block oil. I never thought of oiling my chopping blocks, let’s see if it works.

The main shopping was done at home. I finally ordered the bar table and stools I saw at cb2. Delivery on Friday.

Also bought 6 ebooks, catching up on recent releases. And 6 mp3 cds:

  • oracular spectacular — mgmt
  • breakthrough — colbie caillat
  • rattlin’ bones —kasey chambers & shane nicholson
  • b.r.m.c. — black rebel motorcycle club
  • baby 81 — black rebel motorcycle club
  • the e.n.d. — black eyed peas

Oh yes, my musical taste doesn’t make sense, here’s acid, pop, country, alt rock and hip hop.

radio, sweets, rain

I left work early today to drive down to the dealership to get my radio installed. Finally. When I bought the car they couldn’t find the faceplate but for some silly reason they could only order the whole unit and that had to be replaced. Ah well, whatever, as long as I get some form of radio.

Then Car and I went to Walmart to buy sweets and stuff for our trip. While I was at it, I bought laundry stuff and shampoo and heavy stuff.

On the way home it started pissing with rain. Some people were still driving like maniacs, sigh. There’s recent talk about banning texting while driving, oh man these laws can’t come soon enough for me.

the familiar ikea shopping experience

soafbedred

I’m very comforted to find that the Ikea shopping experience is similar anywhere in the world. The difference is mainly to do with size of the store, which affects the inventory available. The one here at Schaumberg is the largest I’ve visited, it being the US after all.

I got there early. First stop was the restaurant for meatballs — it’s been a while and I was totally happy to find out that it’s on special for just $1.

On my shopping list were: sofa bed, small table, rug, kitchen table & chairs, floor cushion, dessert bowls. Obviously can’t buy all of them, but I wanted to see what’s available this season.

In the end, I did buy the sofa bed, the Beddinge system to be exact. Imagine when I took the stuff to my car to find…the box was too long, even with the back seats down. Yikes!!! So I drove home very slowly and carefully with the boot door open and held down by a piece of rope. It wasn’t too bad. My downstairs neighbour helped me take it upstairs, thanks Dave.

Assembly was a doddle. Oh, I also got a couple of square cushions to go with it. And a 3-cushion system for the floor in the bay window. I saw the kitchen bar table I liked, that will have to be another trip.

inconvenience

It took me 2 hours to get home. Then I had to dump my stuff immediately and trek to the supermarket to get stuff I couldn’t get a Costco — milk, juice, fruit & veg.

I know I say it doesn’t matter, but I really would like a car soon.

geeky purchases

Back home and feeling more in control of the unfamiliar pensiveness. Not in so much control of my wallet though. Spent a small fortune on apps, mp3s and ebooks. Even though most of the apps I’ve gotten are free, I ended up buying a couple of games (lexulous, slay), the livestrong app and the famous brushes app. Music-wise I caught up on the latest from Snow Patrol, The Virgins, but was chagrined to find that Daniel Merriweather isn’t available for download, and the actual CD is at import price, argh, should have gotten it in London. As for ebooks, got the new ones from a few of my fb friends, i’ll be cheeky and not say who.

delivery, new tv

I ordered a chairmat and in/out trays from staples. On the website I could print and sign a “driver release form” so the driver can leave the goods on the porch. But they decided to use ups instead, and the driver left a card instead of the stuff! Anyway, I signed the release at the back of the ups card, and they were delivered today.

In other news, I had bought a new 26” tv over the weekend. I briefly thought about the $299 Dynex (Best Buy own brand) but finally went for the sony, which was $479. When I plugged it into the cable box, there was no signal. Argh. So I had to make an appointment with the RCN guy to come in. He said there’s something wrong with the HDMI port, but got me hooked up using component cables. I still get the hi-def channels, so i’m not bothered. I have 4 yr extended warranty, so I can take it back for repairs whenever I feel like it.

big big shopping excursioin

This is the weekend of the BIG shop. We went first to Target where I spent $180 on top of the $360 I spent a few weeks ago:

  • floor lamp for living room — with 5 heads
  • floor lamp for bedroom
  • small step ladder
  • extension cord
  • swiss ball and mat
  • bin with cover

After dinner we headed to Best Buy:

  • Sony Bravia 26” TV for study – $480 plus $70 for 4 yr warranty
  • iHome deck for iPod — this will take the place of my trusted clock radio – $99.99

I also bought a HDMI cable and iron from Walmart. Total spending for the day: $870.

crazy gadget shopping day

First I went crazy at amazon and bought three earbuds. Then I met up with my parents for lunch, and went crazy with more gadget shopping. Here’s what I ended up buying today.

sennheisermx75 sennheisercx300-b skullcandy inkd

from left to right: sennheiser mx75 sport $27.68, sennheiser cx300-b $19.99, skullcandy ink’d silver $9.63. Also bought a ton of replacement earphone sponges and buds.

mytaxi

Bought the my taxi game for the PSP. This is quite an old game that I’ve played on the PS2, and mm’s brother let me play on his PSP at christmas, so I had to get it.

Another gadget was a spare card reader, 55-in-1, it’s the same one I have now. It doesn’t need a power supply, just plugs in straightaway.

Mum and I went to look at apartments cos I suddenly decided I can afford to buy a small investment property. Saw something quite promising, will explore further.

Early dinner at the casual restaurant at the wet market. Then had to go back across town to get the wooden car beads that I forgot to get. Those were heavy, man. And no, I don’t have a car. But I will in Chicago, so I wanted to get these now.

no need for brand

Yesterday’s post was about upgrading, but sometimes there’s no need for branded products. Sometimes generic or own brand stuff are equally good. In this case the opposite of upgrading isn’t downgrading, it’s not wasting unnecessary money.

  • inside clothing — by inside clothing I mean both clothes I wear inside other clothes and clothes i wear only indoors. Socks I buy in bulk, plain t-shirts are the $10 for 4 packs, underwear always from M&S. There’s no good reason to buy, say, Polo socks. I love the no label stuff from gap, muji, uniqlo — fantastic value and good quality
  • toiletries — there was a time when I absolutely loved the 99p Apple shampoo and conditioner from Tesco’s, and also the Boot’s own brand stuff. still have a small supply
  • pantry food — sugar, flour, canned tomatoes, dried herbs, all these i get the store’s own brand. mm and i wanted honey this week and looking at the huge variety available, we picked the store branded one. after all, it’s just to make honey and lemon drink, tasted perfectly fine
  • water — may be in a restaurant at a business meal I’d go for Perrier or what not, but generally I get the cheapest bottled water when i’m out and about
  • panadol — paracetemol is the same chemical whatever the brand. This goes the same for other OTC medicine too

It’s an interesting question, is the ultimate brand, no brand at all? Think Ikea and muji. There is no shoddiness about their products, yet they don’t feel the need to slap a brand on any of their products, they are distinctive enough. It’s like the mercedes without model label, those who need to know, will already know.

life hack upgrade

Jason Kottke was talking about upgrading your life by buying and using better quality items of every day stuff.

I rarely buy anything anymore but the things I do buy are usually better versions of things I already have. As things break or wear out, we’ve been replacing them with items that are nicer to use/wear/whatever and will last a whole lot longer than the cheaper stuff.

It’s the usual argument. Get cheap and cheerful stuff that don’t last, or more expensive higher quality stuff that may last longer. I find that when I was younger and just starting out in “life” I could only afford the smaller, cheaper things. Now I’m at a point where I don’t need to buy new stuff, so I’ve been upgrading my life, so to speak. Here are some of my upgrades:

  • aeron chair — I’ve had the aeron chair for over 2 years and considering the amount of time I spend sitting in it, it’s money well, well, well spent
  • dual monitors — especially at work when I need to work constantly with multiple spreadsheets
  • camera lens — it’s universally acknowledged that the kit lens that come with the camera body are no better than plastic toys but it took me a while before I finally got new lens
  • earphones — to be upgraded. i’m still using the apple earphones that come with the nano, although i bought a nike sports earphone for running. The plan is to get one of those Shure noise cancelling earphones — the reason I hadn’t gotten them yet is because they’re much more expensive than the US here
  • pillow — those tempur pillows really make a difference. I spend hours sleeping, so all the more reason for quality pillows
  • mattress — the Simmons I have are over 10 years old, it’s a good mattress. But time to get a new one, can’t decide whether to get it now or in Chicago though
  • knives — i have a set of le Creuset knives from London. When I bought them they were one of the high quality ones although now they’ve been taken over by carbon fibre Japanese knives. I sharpen them and keep them in good care, I think there’s a few years left in them. I pretty much only use 3 knives — a chef’s knife, a smaller chef’s knife and a small serrated one
  • pots and pans — i have 3 le creuset pans I use: an everyday pan with sprout, a large stockpot for soup and the grill-it. Additionally I have a daily use aluminium pan that is fantastic. I’ll probably gradually upgrade to lightweight Berndes
  • salt — kosher, salt, fleur de sel…good cooks know the secret of good salt. I use good with everything salt i get from lakeland, it’s sea salt plus a bunch of herbs, pepper and lavendar, i swear by it

Some people over at the ask mefi thread said macs, which is like, duh!

apple store

My first experience at an Apple Store.

My colleague wanted to buy a mbp for her friend, and I went along to offer support. We found a nice sales associate who punched in the order in a macbook. There were some small specs including bumping the RAM to 4GB and installing iWorks. Seemed to us very straightforward.

Until we were told to come back in 3 hours to pick it up.

What?

3 hours? It doesn’t take that long, surely.

I bumped my RAM to 2GB (max), and they wanted to take an hour to do it. Again, what?

But we had no choice, so we came back. My overall impression of the Apple Store? Lots of nice young sales people, how indoctrinated they are about the Apple culture I’m not sure. I guess they know their products but they seem more like shop assistants than mac geeks, you know?

a few dollars lighter

It was totally unintended. Met mm at the hairdresser’s … there were too many people so I was the only one who got the haircut.

During tea we talked about how to remodel my apartment, so it was only natural that we ended up at the “home decoration” street looking at tiles, taps, showerheads and show kitchens. I said I’d give her the right to renovate however she likes it.

Dinner at a sushi place we’d never noticed before. This one advertises itself as a tuna specialist. We thought about getting the most expensive, the blue fin tuna, but decided to go for the next one down. The fatty tuna chirashi was good. I ordered a large beer and we shared it.

sushi01fattytuna

With some time to kill, we went to the big department store and discovered a big sale was on. It’s been a long time since we were tempted in a big way. I bought a couple of new pillows and we both bought a foot massager for the times when we can’t go to the reflexology place.

So yes, our pockets were much lighter after today.