January 2014: What I bought, watched and read
FAVOURITE BLOG OF THE MONTH:
I love it when I find a new fashion or style blog I otherwise have not stumbled across (you know, the normal “heavy hitters” are always everywhere like Blair, Wendy, etc..).
She’s an admitted lover and geek about personal finance (although she doesn’t talk about it on the blog) and loves to shop.. LIKE ME.
LIKE ME!! 🙂
WHAT I READ
[ FICTION – HISTORY OF RACIAL RELATIONS BETWEEN BLACKS AND WHITES IN THE 1940S ]
What a seriously amazing book.
I tend not to care about Oprah’s Picks or Oprah’s Reads (this is the first one of her picks I’ve read), but this was a GOOD ONE.
I couldn’t put it down once I got to about page 150.
I just simply had to read through it, which was a good thing, seeing as I have been forced to rest 3 hours a day on my left side by the doctor because apparently I am too active for a pregnant woman…
I highly recommend it.
I am going to watch the movie as well.
[ BIOGRAPHY / WINE KNOWLEDGE / SMALL BUSINESS ENTREPRENEURSHIP ]
I am not someone who drinks but I do have a partner who really enjoys wine, and I’ve always been curious about what the big hoopla has been all about.
I can’t say I really learned anything about specific wines as in what the difference is between a Bordeaux .. and.. some other red wine, but I did come away from this book with an appreciation of WHY people enjoy wine and why it’s such a big deal for them to taste all these flavours and notes.
What I actually ended up enjoying the most was Marco’s accounts of how he went about trying to set up a wine shop, the trials, tribulations, backstabbing employees.
It’s all quite interesting and although he glosses over certain parts (like deciding to be too nice to sue this employee who basically nicked his entire customer mailing list), it’s a good book for people who want to open a shop to get a feel for the emotions involved in doing so.
Would I say: Everyone, run out and read this RIGHT NOW?
No, but if you are interested in wine, how a small business starts up (although he seemed to have a lot of connections), then you should pick up this book and immerse yourself in the language of wine.
[ BIOGRAPHY / INVESTMENT BANKING INDUSTRY / HIGH FINANCE ]
Ahh the world of investment banking!
This is a book I’d recommend to anyone who wonders what the heck investment bankers do and to get a feel for what it’s like.
Frankly, I wondered that myself and I went to a business school! (I kid. I kid.. somewhat..)
It is extremely well written, and concise without being dry.
I was turning page after page (admittedly my eyes were glazing over many investment banking terms), and I really felt as though Greg brought me through each step of the interview process and what a day in a life of someone at an investment banking firm would be like.
Of course it ends with him being disillusioned (hence the title), which is an interesting twist on it all.
I also picked up a lot of terminology that they use (out of curiousity I’m interested in how people use slang at work), and while I am SURE he glossed over the rather sordid parts of the investment banking with strippers and super wild nights out, it still gives a good, professional look into what you might be getting into if you want to be part of that culture.
The book just reaffirmed for me that I do not want to be an investment banker and I am happy I did not even try to become one coming out of school.
[FICTION – MYSTERY LINKED TO TV SHOW SERIES ‘CASTLE‘]
I wouldn’t say that the ghostwriting is on par with Tess Gerritsen‘s works by a long shot, but they are enjoyable reads that are FAR, FAR better than the Derrick Storm novels by the same fictional author.
The ghostwriters for this Nikki Heat series do a much better job. The Derrick Storm ones feel like hacks.
I think it’s probably because I can picture the characters from the TV show Castle in place of the characters in the novel.
[FICTION – MYSTERY LINKED TO TV SHOW SERIES ‘CASTLE‘]
Namely these four:
I was disappointed in all of them. I preferred the ghost writers who did the NIKKI HEAT series, because the Derrick Storm ones are frankly.. kind of crappy.
Still, I read them because I like crime fiction but it was just awful.
[ PART BIOGRAPHY / PART .. JUST PLAIN FUNNY ]
I only knew of David Sedaris via This American Life podcasts and it made me curious enough to read his books and am I ever glad I did!!!
Fantastic writer. He’s dry, witty… and super funny, especially nearer to the end (for me) where he recounts going to live in France, learning French with Parisian teachers and this whole bit about Americans versus the French.
I also read out a few sections of the Parisian teacher basically berating and humiliating the class in an effort to motivate them to pick up French quicker, and BF laughed out loud because the style of teaching in France is to make fun of you to get you to change, whereas in English cultures (England, Canada, U.S., Australia, etc), the style of teaching is more to encourage you!
So for instance a French-style teacher will say:
You’re all stupid and no one understands or cares about what I am teaching!
You suck at this language and you will never learn it!
Even a French toddler is better than you are!
This is meant to challenge and motivate you to succeed (which I think does the opposite).
An English-style teacher will say:
Don’t worry so much!
Your English is not perfect, but I can understand EVERYTHING you are saying.
Keep going, I think you will really speak quite fluently in a short amount of time with a little more time.
See the difference?
I myself have also noted that English speakers tend not to correct anyone on their English (unless explicitly asked to do so, like what I do with BF) because we think it’s impolite, and French speakers are naturally and unconsciously eager to correct your French even though they understood what you said because they want you to do their language proud.
They kind of do it without thinking. Even in Quebec (which is something I totally don’t mind!).
I can’t wait to read the rest of his works.
[FOOD – RELATED / SERVICE INDUSTRY ]
I really enjoyed this book. It’s a biography of a woman who CHOSE to be a server at Per Se (Thomas Keller’s restaurant in NYC).
She gives great advice, tips, anecdotes while working there, and while it is a biography of sorts it is also more about the food business in general without being crass.
I found it to be an engaging, easy and fun read and would recommend it to anyone who is curious about restaurants, and the service business in general.
(Also, who knew they made 6-figures working there as captains? They totally deserve it with the kind of training they have to go through, not to mention the PRESSURE.)
This is obviously geared more towards women but the concepts in there don’t cover the basic personal finance rules like budgeting and tracking expenses.
I really liked that they covered the hazy, vague side of personal finance — wills, benefactors, how to become an entrepreneur and ask for money, what to do with your career, how to manage your kids coming back to nest with you when they’re adults, etc.
This is not a book for the stuff that most personal finance books cover, it’s really a book that covers topics that other books gloss over or tend to avoid.
A good read.
[ PSYCHOLOGY / SOCIOLOGY ]
Who loves anything by Malcolm Gladwell? THIS GIRL!!!
That said, it was not my favourite of his books. I liked it, I got the premise that you should really trust your gut instinct sometimes (okay a lot of the time) because it’s based on your experience and unconscious mind working at rapid-fire speed, but he didn’t need to make a whole book on it.
All said, it was still not a waste because the anecdotes, stories and people are extremely enjoyable to read about (as always).
[ MINIMALISM / SOCIOLOGY / CONSUMERISM / PERSONAL FINANCE ]
I never picked up this book in the past solely because of it’s rather drab title and the book cover.
Shallow, I know.. but I do judge books by their cover. If it doesn’t LOOK interesting I am not keen on trying out my brain power on it.
That said, I liked the book.
I could have done with reading it back in 2005 before I became a minimalist obsessed with $60,000 in student loan debt repayment and tracking my expenses, but it basically reaffirms what I learned since 2005.
Quite a good read for anyone who is starting out in personal finance or feels like they just can’t get a handle on things for some reason. It is LESS about personal finance rules per se, and more about your mindset, habits and the way you use and look at money.
An excellent book for beginner money managers, as in, how not to marry a Money Moron and basic concepts like not spending more than you earn and so on.
I really liked that she just kind of brain dumped all her concepts and ideas into these “rules” and each page is half a page or less sometimes for a rule because it’s self-evident.
I found it to be an enjoyable read and would recommend it to anyone starting out in trying to learn how to manage their money, although it will not teach you how to budget and track expenses.
[FICTION – SINGAPORE / ASIAN LUXURY SPENDING WITH A BIT OF FASHION]
I think if you were from Singapore or that Asian cultural set you’d understand and appreciate this book a lot more than someone who is new to it all.
…but even so, I kind of enjoyed it.
It’s chicklit in a way even though it’s written by a guy, and the descriptions of outfits and the outrageous spending (which I am fairly sure is 100% true and from real experiences or stories) kept me intrigued and engrossed all the way through.
I’d probably read it again JUST to get outfit / ensemble / fashion descriptions and think about using those pairings in my own life.
It was also nice to learn about how people think in terms of cultural stereotypes or just in the details in the way they act in a fictional manner but written from an actual native’s perspective; I believe he is Singaporean and is/was actually part of that group he’s writing about which is what made it so real and believable in a sense.
Anyway I thoroughly enjoyed it as a guilty read but it is not everyone’s cup of tea.
One minor point is as I do not speak any of the languages in the book, I found it a bit annoying in some spots that I had to flip to the end of the chapter to read the chapter notes on what they were saying in the various languages (Cantonese, Mandarin, Hokkien, Malay, etc) in spots rather than just seeing the footnote at the end of the page to help me understand as I am reading.
[BIOGRAPHY OF A CHEF]
Foodies from North America won’t really recognize his name (unless you’re a foodie like me who also reads chef biographies, watches TV shows and is kind of in the world but not really…) but he’s a big deal in the culinary world just across the pond. I only recognized him and wanted to read his biography after seeing an episode of “In Search of Perfection” where he went over how to obtain the perfect stock and perfect roasted chicken.
Totally. TOTALLY cool. Very scientific, exacting.. all the things that most chefs are not.
If you are really into food and know who Ferran Adrià or Marco Pierre White is, you should read this book.
[ BUSINESS REFERENCE BOOK ]
This is kind of a reference book for me. It’s not exactly useless but it goes over stuff I already learned in business school and frankly, do not apply to my own career except for a few parts about how to get along with folks in there.
A section that might be interesting for you PF folks out there is the one on Finance. It goes over how more complicated things like puts and calls work in a simple manner.
Anyway I can’t say I recommend it unless you’re really keen on getting an MBA education without requiring the paper or the prestige.
I’d use it as a reference book when you want to learn about higher-level business concepts in a pinch (let’s say if your boss asks you questions one day or wants you to research on something you don’t understand).
This would be more for professionals starting out in business environments let’s say in marketing where you can apply some of the principles laid out in the book.
[CRIME FICTION / SHERLOCK HOLMES WANNABES]
Touted as the “Sherlock Holmes” equivalent I was disappointed. I couldn’t even get through a chapter or two before forgetting what the whole plot was about, and I am normally REALLY into crime fiction.
There’s something about the way it’s written that eludes my brain because it seemed to have gotten good reviews on Amazon but.. I was not sold.
The best (and ONLY) decent Sherlock Holmes wannabe book so far was The House of Silk, hands down. It was really well written and in the style of Holmes, which surprised me.
WHAT I BOUGHT
Adonit Jot Mini Fine Point Stylus for iPad, iPad Air, iPad Mini, iPhone, & Kindle Fire – Turquoise – $21.76
I use my iPad to play the piano (I keep sheet music on there), and sometimes I need to make notes, which can become very awkward when trying to write little tiny music notations with your finger.
I’ve been eying a precision-tip stylus for a while but NEVER saw it in stores in Canada until I went to Staples, so this was an immediate purchase for me.
It’ll be a huge relief not to have to use my finger to try and make tiny notes, not to mention make mistakes while trying to make said tiny notes on my sheet music.
I bought the mini version because frankly I don’t plan on using it a lot and the other versions were $9 – $20 more expensive just because they were in “gunmetal”.
Actually the Mini fits quite well in my hand so I don’t really think I need to upgrade to a longer, more expensive version.
Here’s my sample of how different it is to write with this pen instead of your finger:
It took me longer to write because my finger kept sticking to the iPad screen, and I couldn’t really form precise curves of the letters like “W”.
As for clothing, in keeping with my promise to NOT BUY RETAIL, I bought these items secondhand… and during Black Friday to boot, which saved me a bit of moolah.
My only exception this month was spurred on by my mother who said:
You need a nursing tank or a bra.
I know you think that you don’t and you can just lift up your shirt anywhere, but you will be exposing your belly and/or all other parts of your body to the world in doing so in public.
JUST BUY IT. YOU NEED IT.
Since this falls under Baby Bun-specific purchases, I am definitely giving myself a pass on this in regards to my retail challenge.
And I only bought ONE. Who needs 3-5? I don’t.
So I bought this:
Ridiculously priced of course, but totally practical (I tried it on before I bought it).
I got it at BB Buggy in Yorkville and it is made of 92% organic cotton, 8% elastane and manufactured in Portugal.
I bought the small, which is US Size 4 – 6 (it runs rather tight, otherwise the XS would have fit), and I also accounted for the fact that my chest will get bigger.
I bought the “singlet” or tank top version rather than the t-shirt version because I don’t really like sleeves on t-shirts given the width of my shoulders.
WHY I CHOSE THIS DESIGN OVER OTHER NURSING SHIRT OPTIONS
Instead of the Nursing Bra:
I’d have to wear it with button-up shirts, unbutton my shirt, then unhook the bra. No thanks.
Instead of those Nursing Tanks with the hook on the strap/shoulder:
I’d have to unhook it then try and REHOOK that shizz?
Again, not my thing. I am not dextrous and I am sure Murphy’s Law will guarantee that I will screw up some how… in public.
32GB LEXAR MICRO SD CARD – $32.99
Can you believe it? I ran out of space on my e-reader.
I guess this makes sense because I read 80 books in 2013 alone. I’ll aim for 100 this year.
Just kidding… Sorta.
Anyway, I used every byte of my main memory 2GB and I was not willing to delete any books because I like having my whole library with me, and I only delete books I really hated, couldn’t finish, are useless, or otherwise refuse to keep.
So I bought a micro SD card to give myself a 32GB boost.
That should give me enough reading material for a lifetime. I think. I HOPE.
It even came with a mini reader for it which is useless for me because I had already bought an SD card reader for $12.50.
[GIFTED] UGG AUSTRALIAN MADE BOOTS IN SAND – $0 (Gift but retail cost is $189 AUD)
I had a family member pop by Brisbane recently and they picked up a pair of UGG boots for me as a gift because they know I’m a freak about stuff being made authentically and not in China.
They’re made IN Australia (the little tag says so), they’re super warm, comfortable, and look better than the ones from UGG Australia (an American company).
It’s like wearing little, warm, (hideous) clouds on your feet and I am happy to have them.
DIFFERENCE IN UGGS MADE IN AUSTRALIA OR CHINA
So this is really confusing to non-Aussies, but I am hoping to clear this up.
- UGG is a generic term for this style of (hideous but super comfortable and warm) boot.
- The term “UGG” can’t be trademarked (although it should be by at least Australian companies).
- There is some sort of trade law that prevents Australian-made boots to be sold outside of Australia
- Ergo, you cannot buy Australian-made UGG Boots outside of Australia
Basically we North Americans cannot buy Australian-made UGG boots outside of Australia.
You need to go to Australia to buy them or buy them online.
All the UGG boots you see here in stores in Canada or the U.S. are made in China as they’re sold by American companies.
The names are confusing and even the logos (I’m surprised there isn’t a trademark infringement on the logo since it looks so similar).
- UGG Australia is a brand that is an American company and they make their boots in China
- UGG Australian Made has a confusing name, but they are boots made IN Australia and the logo looks very similar to UGG Australia
- There are a lot of imitation brands out there with fake “Made in Australia” tags
- EMU Australia is also a brand that is an American company and they make their boots in China
Aussies, feel free to correct me or add more info.
I’m rather proud I’m wearing real, authentic UGGs.
[THRIFTED] RAY-BAN POLARIZED COCKPIT SUNGLASSES – $57
But it was a total of
$88.37 …$56.37 after shipping/duties
Update: Received a refund of $32 USD back so the final total was $56.37
This is the only item I bought in January. Literally the only wardrobe item other than my necessary nursing tank above.
I actually didn’t think I was going to win the auction on eBay but I think the lack of proper photos and details in the listing kept the price rather low selling at $57.
These are the exact style of sunglasses I bought: Gunmetal frame with green polarized lenses
(ALWAYS buy polarized lenses. They cost more but your eyes are more protected.)
Very minor scratches because they are used, but for $57 I am not going to kvetch as they normally retail for $168 USD – $200 USD.
It’s an older model with gunmetal and green polarized lenses.
I already have a pair of Persol sunglasses which I love, but they’re best suited for cooler months where my face doesn’t become a sweaty mess (otherwise the sunglasses slide down my face).
I had been hunting for a pair but kept buying and returning glasses because the price tag ($300 range) was making me cry.
These ones have nose pads, and I plan on wearing them in really hot summer months.
Plus they’re not brown or a warm tone, but a cooler gunmetal / green style which would look better with other outfits depending on the colour palette (yes I actually think about this stuff when I get dressed in the morning).
I also chose the cockpit style because I find the aviator style (it has a longer more prominent bump at the bottom) is not flattering in the slightest on my face and it digs into my cheeks.
The cockpit style is apparently more modern .. whatever that means and it looks like this on a face:
I also received a refund of $32 USD back because I got the glasses and there was a chip missing out of the top left corner. It doesn’t affect vision or even really bother me (I don’t even see it), but it was sold as in “Excellent condition” when it wasn’t.
I asked for half of the price back (a little more than half), and ended up scoring a pair of usable Ray Ban Polarized glasses with a defect that I don’t even notice when I wear the glasses, for $56.37 in total after taxes and so on.
I’m pretty pleased!!!!
THE FOLLOWING ARE PURCHASES MADE LAST YEAR IN 2013
I made these purchases in 2013 (late November and December) but didn’t receive the packages until January 2014 so I couldn’t really post what they were about..
[THRIFTED] WHITE VINTAGE SHEATH COTTON DRESS – $66
Then I saw this all cotton, vintage dress for sale, and fell in love with it.
Sign me up!!
Even if I have to take it in for $50 of alterations, it is still cheaper than if I were to try and find an all cotton, perfectly tailored, well-made white dress for retail.
I especially love the detail at the neck.
It doesn’t look lined, but that doesn’t bother me, I can wear a nude slip or nude underwear.
Look at the gorgeous construction at the back. You just can’t find that these days, let alone for $66.
And a close-up of the gorgeous neck:
[THRIFTED] VINTAGE JAEGER CAMEL HAIR IVORY BLAZER – $25
Camel hair is apparently a lot lighter, softer and better than cashmere… that is, if you don’t get the cheap stuff which is called the “guard hairs” or the long, scratchy hairs of the camel (they don’t kill the camels, they shave them).
Anyway, if you get the soft underbelly hairs of a camel and you make a coat or a blazer out of it, it stays warmer during winter.. or so they say.
This blazer is exactly what I was looking for! An Autumn-weight blazer I could wear basically as a jacket with a scarf.
This is a real STEAL at $25 because when I put it on, it was super soft, comfortable, warm..
I’m going to wear it just like an autumn jacket. It’s a little longer than modern blazers these days (it’s a riding jacket so it comes down to just over my butt), but I really like it.
SO warm. SO comfortable.. and $25!!!
[THRIFTED] 100% COTTON WHITE AND BLUE STRIPED DRESS – $35
This dress just called to me. Even if the top half is not flattering for inverted triangles like myself (thin straps), I will probably just wear a light wrap or something over my shoulders, or ignore the rules and wear it how I want.
Or I can just buy some white cotton and make thick cotton straps out of it so I can wear it as-is and not have to worry about the straps looking too thin for my body type.
At any rate, a beautiful dress.
UPDATE: MADE THE BELT INTO STRAPS
I took the belt and decided I would make straps out of the belt to match.
White straps looked too… odd. It was just out of sync with the style of the dress when I did an experiment in the mirror with white fabric, and I sacrificed the belt to its new cause.
It also helps because I am an inverted triangle and I have larger shoulders, so I need thicker/wider straps as opposed to thin, stretchy spaghetti straps that just make me look larger up top.
I’m waiting to get the dress back from the tailor to see what it looks like (probably 1000X better).
[THRIFTED] 1958 GOLD MULTI-CHAIN NECKLACE – $16
To get about $19 off in shipping (seller had a buy 3-get-great-shipping deal on), which pretty much paid for the price of this necklace, I chose this multi-layered vintage necklace. I love me a chain necklace and I do not have gold yet. Silver, gunmetal.. yes. But not gold.
[THRIFTED] 1970s JAEGER CAMEL HAIR TRENCH COAT – $157.19
I’m a sucker for coats.
Especially ones that are super soft and made out of camel hair (note: ask or test for yourself if it is soft and really the better quality of camel hair, it should feel like cashmere, not like some scratchy guard hairs).
Anyway, it’s a trench style, and very cute, plus in good condition.
The camel hair on this coat is DIVINE. It feels like cashmere and is not at all scratchy (unlike low quality camel hair coats).
I really think I found something special here..!
Coats like this, usually go for $2000 or more because I am SURE it is of the same quality as that $2000 Max Mara wrap coat I was eying last year, and this coat is THICKER to boot.
The Max Mara one was a bit thin compared to coats I am used to (see above for the first camel hair wrap coat I bought)
The sleeves are about 3 inches too short and I am debating wearing long gloves with it or finding a way to sew on ribbed knit cuffs or something to give it a modern twist or flair.
I don’t know what it is with vintage coats, but their sleeves are always a bit short. Maybe it was to show off their long gloves?
Something like this: How to add ribbed cuffs to a coat, except I’d make the ribbed cuffs visible.
It would look kind of like this Sonia Rykiel coat which I think looks quite cool and retailed (sold out) for $950!!
Haven’t decided yet.
I’d also need to find said ribbed cuffs and take them to a seamstress to get it done.
I’m on the hunt for some thick, warm wool, cosy ribbed socks that I can cut and bring to a tailor to tell them to sew it on my coat as rib cuffs.
UPDATE: I BIT THE BULLET AND TOOK THEM IN FOR RIBBED CUFFS!
I don’t want to have to always wear long gloves. It looks ridiculous on me if I have bare arms (what!? I might not wear a sweater), so I decided to get rib cuffs sewn in the coat.
I went to Marks Work Wearhouse, bought some thick ribbed socks for $11 and brought them into the tailor. I asked for her to basically sew in these socks as ribbed cuffs to lengthen the sleeves a la Sonia Rykiel.
At $11 for the socks (which I am putting under Repairs), and about $55 for the cost of this tailoring job, it’s about $66 to update a coat to a $950 vintage, style status.. or at least I hope it is.
(Actually more, because this is 100% super soft camel hair that retails for $2000 or more if you were to buy the name brand designer Max Mara).
Waiting to get the coat back from the tailor next week and I will update what it looked like.
Hopefully a ton better but at the very least, if I hate it I can always remove the cuffs and find another solution.
[THRIFTED] VINTAGE BURBERRY NAVY BLUE PLEATED WOOL SKIRT – $56.14
Perfect for winter. Plus.. it’s BURBERRY! VINTAGE! $56!!
It’s just a simple, plain, navy wool pleated skirt but it would pair really well with a striped top, a blazer, etc. Sometimes you need the basics.
The skirt was of a really high wool quality (it looks brand new to be honest), and I can see myself in it in the winter.