On rather inconsequential curveballs

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I had been mentally congratulating myself for keeping well within my budget in February. I’d had several high-expense months — I was still fixing up my new place, see, and it was the Christmas and summer holidays, so definitely a time to enjoy things. :P

But I’d more or less gotten everything I needed, so I resolved to get back into my usual budget. I was also panicking a little bit inside, thinking I was now a spend-a-holic and would no longer be able to get back into (my relative) frugality.

I had just gotten home from work drinks this past Friday night, and was on the way to dinner, a mere 2 KM away.

I started up my car.
A few grinding noises. Then nothing.
Incredulous, I tried it again.
And again.
Same result.

I’d last used my car 2 weeks before. It had started as usual. I drove as usual. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. I was positive I’d turned all lights off (I’m usually obsessive about that kind of thing.) I quickly messaged my friend I couldn’t make it. After the initial hysterical panic calling/texting about what I was supposed to do next, there was only one option: sign up for a certain roadside assistance program and request for a new battery ASAP.

As a friend advised, if the battery was really dead (and that seemed like the probable case, since I hadn’t changed it in years), jump starting the battery would fix it temporarily, but then I’d have to take it to a mechanic ASAP otherwise take the risk of getting stranded somewhere. Since I had an appointment early next morning, which would cost me $110 to miss, I didn’t want to take the risk of not finding a mechanic in time.

Total cost? $508.
$211 for the battery.
$109 for the roadside assist program.
$55 for the joining fee.
$133 for the immediate assistance fee.

Sigh. There goes my budget.

But then I try to think about it in a more reasonable manner. The $211 is for a product which will last me several years. The joining fee and roadside assist program fees were inevitable, because I’d already decided that I needed to get my car fixed before morning. Plus, it would give me additional peace of mind for the next year. The annoying thing was the immediate assistance fee — if I could’ve waited 48 hours, I wouldn’t need it — but then I reasoned that if I had missed my appointment, I would’ve had to forfeit $110 anyway. And if I took public transportation, I would to allocate around an hour each way. And having a busy day ahead of me, I didn’t want the trouble.

So yeah. That took a little bit of the sting off.

But still! $508! Argh! Haha. I’m a little bit annoyed because during my last car checkup, around 6 months ago, they said my battery was still OK. It’s probably because of me moving, and not using my car as much. Sigh.

Also reminded me — sometimes life really throws you unexpected curveballs, eh? Just when you’re mentally patting yourself on the back for keeping within your budget — bam. Bye, bye, $508. Well, I hope life has better curveballs for me this March. (And can you believe it’s already March?!)

Back to baking

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I finally have baking gear again! :) Back in the Philippines, my mom (who runs a small, home-based bakery business) would let me play with her stuff all the time. So I baked to my heart’s content — cookies, pies, cakes, cupcakes, muffins, breads, cookie bars, etc. It also helped that I had access to her pantry. (In retrospect, the stuff I made probably wouldn’t have tasted half as good without her top-of-the-line ingredients, haha.)

I didn’t do much baking when I moved overseas. I remember trying to make cookies at my uncle’s place in San Diego, then learning in horror that they didn’t have any kind of mixer whatsoever. It was then I realized that no, not every household has a mixer. My uncle tried to help me out by mixing my cookie batter by hand. Thank you, Tito. But I didn’t want to subject him to any more unnecessary labor, so that was the end of it.

When I moved to Australia, I asked my brother if he had a mixer — he said yes, he did. It turned out to be a hand mixer. I didn’t know there was anything other than a stand mixer. I was used to my mom’s professional-grade KitchenAid mixer (not to mention her assortment of baking tools), and the hand mixer wasn’t particularly powerful… so I made one loaf of banana bread and promptly gave up.

So anyway, I finally decided to get back into baking this year! Some things I noted:

Baking gear is expensive! The KitchenAid stand mixer I thought was a kitchen staple? Apparently it’s at least $600. I ended up buying a hand mixer for a fraction of the price. But even then, all the other things I needed — mixing bowls, cooling racks, baking pans — added up to a pretty substantial amount. Ah, well. But now I think I pretty much have everything I need, so no more baking expenses, hopefully!

I’m supposed to be cutting down on sugar this year. One of my resolutions in my quest to become super-fit is to cut down on sugar. So yeah, um it’s kinda at odds with this hobby, haha. I resolved to find healthier alternatives to my favorite baked goods. Maybe. And a girl can indulge sometimes eh? Er, wish me luck. :P

I still really enjoy baking. :) So far, I’ve made my chocolate revel bars* and chocolate surprise cupcakes. They both turned out well, all things considered — apparently my oven is a convection oven, which I’ve never had before. This coming weekend’s experiment: oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.

* The main photo they’re using for the recipe is mine!

“La da da me, la da da you…”

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I just watched “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2.” I thoroughly enjoyed the first one, and this one was super cute too!

Thank goodness I kept watching til the credits because this amazing song came on.

I lost the “Melange”

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As the story goes, when I first attempted to do the Rubenstein’s Revenge juggling trick several years ago, I ended up inventing a new trick. I couldn’t figure out what on earth David was doing, and I ended up doing something that was a little bit like, but not quite, the trick.

It looked pretty cool, though. None of my other juggling club mates had seen it before, so we decided to christen it “Mela’s Melange.” Juggling tricks are named alliteratively after the inventor — besides Rubenstein’s Revenge, there’s Mills Mess, Burke’s Barrage, Luke’s Lobotomy — interesting name, that last one.

S’anyway. I’ve been very good going back to juggling lately, and I decided to do Mela’s Melange again.

And I couldn’t.

Try as I might, I couldn’t. I tried to rustle up the muscle memory; it wouldn’t come. I tried to remember how it felt to do it, but I couldn’t. I felt the panic rising. I could do Rubenstein’s Revenge now, I guess that was some consolation… but I lost my trick, and with no record of it anywhere whatsoever, it was now lost forever.

All I could conjure up in my head were images of myself on a green patch of grass in the midst of Stanford campus, a group of bright-eyed fellow jugglers watching my new trick, trying to figure out what the hell I was doing, and if they recognized it.

I came up with a new trick the other night. It felt a little bit like, but not quite, Mela’s Melange.

New Year’s Resolutions

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There’s nothing too earth-shattering about my new year’s resolutions, to be honest. They’re pretty much a continuation of stuff I resolved to do last year. I made headway in some things, but not in others, bah.

1. Get rid of the horrible Lobster font on my blog.
I don’t mind the simplicity of my blog format, but seriously, this header font has got to go.

2. Keep in better touch with my friends and family.
Filipinos in general are bad at keeping in touch with people, methinks. I refer to “keeping in touch” in the more meaningful sense, and not the usual social media poking/tweeting/liking/commenting that seems to pass for communication nowadays. I’ve been making more calls using Skype and Viber lately, and I’m planning to make it a regular thing. :)

3. Learn to cook more recipes. Especially veggie ones.
Now that I have my own place, I can experiment as much as I want! I usually make simple meals I hack together with whatever ingredients are left in the fridge and pantry. I want to start actually planning my meals so I end up with something that wasn’t hastily put together.

I was successful with eating more veggies last year. Now, I want to learn how to really cook them! A big chunk of the veggies I had were microwaveable frozen veggies, spinach/garlic/onions/corn that I would chuck into a soup or stir-fry, or veggie dishes from restaurants. I need to learn how to prepare more fresh veg dishes.

4. Get really fit.
I mentioned watching “Totem” in my last post… gotta admit, that was my inspiration for getting super fit this year! Haha. I keep myself relatively active — I do a lot of incidental exercise (maybe 30 min a day of brisk walking as part of my daily commute, 6 flights of stairs up and down, plus general moving around), do weights at home, go hiking and paddling when I can, go dancing. While that sounds like a lot, I have to admit I wasn’t as active as I hoped last year. There were a lot of times where I would slack off, especially with my weights. I resolve to up my fitness ante this year, and while the physique of a Cirque du Soleil acrobat would be impossible for me, there’s a lot for me to do!

5. Be more mindful.
Meditate more. Not to surf mindlessly on the Internet. Check my digital devices less. Get more sleep.

6. Write more.
These past few blog entries have been painful to write, and, I’m sure, painful to read as well. My writing is rusty. Gotta change that! I read one of my old blogs all the way to 2008. I had a good laugh about the person I was… :P I miss writing the way I did, and I realized I also missed having that record to look back on.

Wish me luck!