Thursday, October 31, 2013

Blog every day in November - #blogember

I'm setting myself the challenge of participating this month in Blogember, a post a day challenge set up over at A Happy Girl blog. Lately I've been meaning to get back into posting more freaquently, and it just hasn't been happening, so hopefully by participating in something like this, I'll get back into the habit.

You can check out the full list of posts by clicking the picture above, or check in to see who else is linking up. In the mean time, I'll be using this post to check off and link up each of my posts for this month.

November 1: One of the best lessons life has shown you
November 2: Favourite inspiring quote
November 3: 5 favourite blogs
November 4: Write for 5 minutes on the prompt: Freedom
November 5: Share a favourite recipe (can be yours or someone else's just make sure to give credit)
November 6: 5 favourite apps
November 7: A day in your life
November 8: 5 minutes on the prompt: Time
November 9: 5 favourite places to shop online
November 10: A time when you felt unstoppable
November 11: 3 albums you would take in a deserted island
November 12: Your first pet
November 13: An epiphany you had this summer
November 14: 10 photos on 10 past the hour
November 15: Favourite Halloween costume of yours
November 16: 6 word memoir
November 17: Favourite year in elementary school and why
November 18: Happiest moment of your life
November 19: First job
November 20: Your first concert
November 21: 5 unique facts about you
November 22: 10 places you would love to visit (or have visited)
November 23: Reverse bucket list
November 24: 20 things you are grateful for
November 25: A love letter to yourself
November 26: Favourite teacher in your life
November 27: A book that honestly changed your life
November 28: Your life's soundtrack
November 29: Your take on the prompt Be Ridiculous
November 30: If you wrote your memoir, what would the title be and why?

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Harry and Lloyd for Halloween

This weekend, many of us will be costuming up, downing some drinks and celebrating one of my all time favourite holidays, Halloween.

From when I was just a kid, I would often have my costuming planned out months in advance, spend many an October Evening fighting with my sewing machine and rock an epic costume come Trick-or-Treating time. Last year I shared the past 5 or so Halloween costumes I've put together, some of which required hours of sewing and ordering bits on ebay months in advance.

Despite the hours I put into it, I only have one solo pic of this costume...taken in the kitchen!

This year was different. A mere 3 days before our Halloween Party, and I still had no idea what I'd be dressing as. Why? Couple Costumes!

I've never done a couple costume before, and this year Kev and I decided we would do one....months ago.

We tossed ideas back and forth, I put together photo collages of great couple costumes from the internet. We just couldn't seem to fall in love with any one idea.

One of 4 photo collages I sent Kev to help us decide... to no avail.

So, Wednesday evening I put my foot down, and insisted we were going out and were not coming home until we had costumes. We headed to a costume shop, and although normally I despair of the idea of buy over priced premade polyester costumes, we saw the pair of these and couldn't walk away from them!

Which just goes to show you.... I sure can rock a top hat!

And just in case you're still not sure who we were dressed as (don't feel bad, you might be born after 1994 as some of the people out at the bar last night were) here's a clip to help you out:

What are you for Halloween this year? Have you had success with couple costumes in the past?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Keeping a Budget with TOSHL

Something which I and (if watching any of Gail Vas-Oxlade's shows on SLICE has anything to say about it) most of my generation have a problem with, it's managing our personal finances, staying within a budget and saving for our future. While I may not be struggling under thousands of dollars of credit card debt and student loans, managing my finances for me mostly amounts to running my account perilously close to zero in between paychecks and occasionally calling up the bank of mom and dad. That being said, I'm probably doing better than many of my Grad Student Peers, however considering I'm officially closer to 30 than I am to 20, it's probably a good time to grow up a little as far as finances are concered.

So,what does any 20-something perpetually attached to their laptop and/or smart phone think when they want to start spending and saving smarter? "There's an App for that!" (which I see is an Apple Trademark... yeesh).

The App I went with... available on my Blackberry Q10 (as well as iOS, Android, Windows etc.)...

With Toshl (and I upgraded to Pro, for $19.99....but you can get a 20% discount if you share on twitter and facebook) you can track you expences and incomes, set yourself monthly bugets, tag your spending to see where your money is going, and track it all from your phone or your web browser. And a whole lot more, check out their website.

In my first month of using the free app, the daily ritual of inputing every dollar spent (from hydro bills, to that $2 tea every other morning) brings to light just how much money you can frivolously spend away without realizing it. Much like with counting callories in the kitchen, holding myself accountable to track my spending, naturally reduced it.

As I move forward, I plan to begin to fully utilize the budgeting features, with an aim to have money's going into my savings at the end of each month, and keeping that credit card balance at zero.

Now in an unrelated note about TOSHL, here's some information I stumbled upon on their blog that I found very interesting.

TOSHL put together an infographic separating it's biggest earners and it's biggest spenders by country and by operating system. Australia and iPhones came out on top, logging the biggest incomes and the EU and iphones were the highest spenders.

Although the TOSHL app balances your budget to let you know if you are in the plus or minus at the end of the month, the infographic neglected to show this, much more important piece of information and how it varies between demographics. So, after a few minutes in Excel, here we have it:

While Canada may not be earning the most money, we aren't spending nearly as much of it... coming out on average close to 600 dollars in the black each month. Compared to our neighbours to the south, doing nearly as much in the red.

And split up based on what kind of phone you have... well Windows phone users appear to be the only ones not accumulating debt. iOS lovers run close to $550 in the negative each month! And I'd like to think if they were showing data for blackberry lovers, we'd be making money (maybe more than the company even!)

Now of course this data is only reflective of finances being tracked on the app, and some users may only be tracking their spending, but it still gives you something to think about next time you go buy a cell phone!

What methods or apps do you employ to track your spending and manage your personal finances? Let me know in the comments below, I'd love to hear your tricks!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Things to do in Calgary - Nose Hill

The other day, Kev and I enjoyed some beautiful fall weather, and went for a walk around Nose Hill. If you haven't been up there before, whether to pick nick in the summer, bike in the spring or trail run through the fall, you're missing out. Here's a few picks of the beautiful view.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

This long weekend (up here in Canada) is Thanksgiving. We have ours quite a bit earlier than our neighbours to the south, on account of the fact that November is more or less fully winter, so there's not much harvest goodness left to be enjoyed by then.

I can't even remember the last Thanksgiving I spent home with my family, most definitely it was before I moved to Alberta, and probably it was the fall of 2009. In the years since then, I have spent it with either with my lab-family, my new Brantford family or drinking in Vegas with my cousin and friends!

A very non-traditional thanksgiving in 2010.

If I was home with my family, we'd have celebrated at our house yesterday, with copious amounts of food and drink, watching the dogs run around in the piles of fall leaves in the yard, and amid the hum of 30 or so people talking at once.

My mom may have made rum cakes.

My dad may have taken people flying.

I would for sure spend some quality time with this old guy!

I am so incredibly thankful for the wonderful family I have at home, for all the aunts, uncles, cousins, and growing number of plus ones! I wish I didn't have to miss out sharing this holiday with you all, year after year.

But since moving to Calgary, I have a whole pile of new things to be thankful for.

Being a stone's throw away from views like this one.

Having a family of guys like this one.

Doing my graduate studies at a school like this one. (source)

And spending my days with a guy like this one.

Thanks to all the family, friends, colleagues, mentors and students who have made the past couple years out here in Calgary such an amazing time of my life. You've made this city feel like home, and I can't imagine being anywhere else.