Thursday, February 18, 2010

He said, "I Love you"

Remember my post where I was worried that LeBlanc did not love me, or feel as strongly about me because he has never said, "I love you" to
me? And my wonderful readers assured me that I was worrying and moping over nothing.

Different people have different ways of expressing how they care. And I was learning that my definition of "love" was probably LeBlanc's equivalent of "really like."

I haven't written much lately, it's been crazy busy, and my blog has just taken a back seat to my life. But I feel as if I am falling even deeper in love with LeBlanc. Our weekends consists of cuddling on the
couch watching old episodes of Criminal Minds. Then going grocery shopping and making food together. We've made some elaborate dinners, and even hosted LeBlanc's parents a few weekends ago! LeBlanc made an out-of-this-world soup, and I will be judging all future soups to this benchmark!

Sometimes, LeBlanc and I venture out of the cozy house (and outside a 300m radius) and head for some exploring. This is a rare occasion since it's so cold! Actually this winter in Toronto is pretty mild, but I just like to complain! It's fun :)

A few weeks ago, LeBlanc and I spent another lazy weekend together. And then we talked a bit on the phone before I went to bed. LeBlanc was heading out of town for business and catching the 7AM flight out the next morning for the week, and I knew I was going to miss him.

As I wake up groggy on Monday morning, I see a text waiting for me. From LeBlanc.

Hey. Hope you're sleeping. I just wanted to tell you that I think I love you... Kiss kiss. Talk to you tmr...

I think I re-read that text a million times - not to mention I was grinning like an idiot the entire day at work (and re-reading the text, again and again and again!).

I got up and did my work out, then called LeBlanc before he left on his flight. And I tell him that I love him, too. And he responds with "I love you, too." It was our first "I love you" exchange.

Last weekend, as LeBlanc and I are about to go to sleep, I ask,
"Do you still love me?"

LeBlanc says, "Yes. What do you mean by still?"

I say, "You haven't changed your mind, right?"

LeBlanc says, "Of course not. I love you, Des."

I know that was probably silly of me to ask. I just felt like I had to make sure. Then again, unicorns did not magically appear by the bedside. And come to think of it, I think that I was loved all along. Because I feel so happy just thinking about him.

PS. Sorry if this post was so mushy that you wanted to puke. :P

Friday, January 1, 2010

2010 Goals

Lame? Cliche?

Perhaps, but I think that one should always strive to improve themselves, and what better way than to write them down?

Writing down things helps me see more clearly what I want. It is more difficult for me to come up with a long term goal, but breaking the large goal down to smaller parts makes it both more attainable and also helps me see more clearly what comprises my long term goals in life.

I decided to break down my life into different parts, and figure out what I would like to achieve.

These are some of my short term goals.

1) Professional
I would like to be promoted to the next position and gain more experience in the field. I would also like to explore different venues of income streams, such as taking a course in Canadian Securities course. I would also like to take a continuing education course or interest course, in a Masters program I am considering in pursuing in the near future.

2) Charity
I have volunteered for a community program which mentors kids in my neighborhood. I think it's important for young people to have someone they have fun with and look up to. If I could help a child to realize their potential in society, it would be very rewarding and humbling experience.

3) Personal Food
I want to incorporate more fresh vegetables and fruits into my daily meals. I want to try to be "closer" to my food, and make myself more aware of the things I am putting in my body.

4) Personal Hygiene
I think I have a pretty good personal hygiene regiment, but things can always be improved. I want try weeding out as many chemical products I use on a daily basis, as I can, starting with shampoo and conditioner, and toothpaste.

5) Clothing
I like nice clothes, but I think that I am going to do with less this year. I don't think I can go cold turkey, but I want to set a very minimal clothing budget for this year. (After I get my bag, that is!)

6) Personal Finance
I would like to track my spending every month. I was very vigilant with this earlier on in 2009, but as I got more comfortable with watching my spending, I also got lazy and lost track of my budget. I would like to set individual goals for the different categories of my spending and saving, and stick to a monthly budget of $1000*. I am aiming to save 50% of my take home income.

7) Friends and Family
With so many goals and events happening around me, it's easy to take for granted the people who are constantly there for me, and have supported me throughout my current and previous goals. Everyone has a busier schedule than ever, but I am going to work harder to do little things - like go out for dinner or brunch, or go visit my parents two weekends a month.

*I will be writing a more detailed post of my financial goals, and will also update this budget amount based on my spending in 2009.

What are some of your goals for this year? How do you break down your goals?

Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Fine Balance

Our society is based on an intricate balancing act.

Part of this balancing act is for survival.

Part of it is for the greater good.

Part of it is for greed and personal greed.

We are bombarded with some many images every day of what we should want in our lives and what would make our lives fulfilling. Fancy clothes, fancy house and cars, fancy toys. An education, a good salary and vacations.

But even when we take away the extra's, we are still left with a lot of dependence on society. Our basic needs: shelter, clothing and food cannot be met without the structure of our society. We go the grocery for our food, we buy a house and clothes. And we don't even really know where these things come from.

Where does our food come from? Where does our clothes come from? Where does the materials for our homes come from?

A lot of our food comes pre-packaged and pre-made. There are so many "instant" meals - just add water or microwave. Where do the ingredients come from? What is the quality of the ingredients? What about additives and preservatives? How do they make it?

Basically it comes down to what we are putting in our body. And with the rising obesity rates, this should be a main concern for everyone.

In the past few years, I have been cooking for myself and one of the important things that I have learned is that we are capable of more than we think. And the conveniences of modern day supermarkets has spawned many businesses and products that we have come to depend on only recently. For instance - baking bread, cookies, cakes, soups, pasta, rice, juices, cut vegetables and fruits.

LeBlanc and I love to cook together, and we love to make things that we would otherwise buy. For instance, cottage cheese and dumpling wrappers. And I have to admit, even though we were completely newbies at it, I felt that the food definitely had fresh taste.

Most of my clothes have a label thats came from China or a third world country.

I am aware of factories that do not treat their workers right who make clothes for major labels. But it's hard to make the connection between my clothes and people who I don't know. There are people who are suffering due to big labels taking advantage of desperate people in poor countries, but that's not the messages that we are made aware of in our society.

We are so separated from where our clothes came from, that we only see it placed nicely on a shelf with a big "sale" sign next to it. We don't know the rest of the story, and we may never.

But is it the fine balance that separates the raw materials from our final products that keeps our society running? Keeps the people of our society employed? Is our consumption what keeps the balance in our society?

I think back to my parents and how they sacrificed so much to give me and my sister a good life. In a way, I feel like they almost outsmarted our high consumption society.

How else would my father - working at a factory, be able to support my family (my mom, myself and my 2 sisters)? My mom stayed at home to take care of us, and together my mom and dad paid off their mortgage, and raised us. My sisters and I always had clothes on our backs (though un-stylish), we were always well fed, and most of all - happy.

To develop my consumer awareness and do my part to get back to the basics. Whether it be through my food, my clothing, or my household items.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Merry Christmas to All and a Happy New Year!!!

I know that there have been political debates over what is the correct terminology to use this time of the year.

I am sure that schools now are very different than when I was in school.

I went to public schools all my life, and have never been very religious though I consider myself spiritual. I remember when I was elementary school (between kindergarten to grade 5), we would get together in the school gymnasium a week or two before the holidays and sing Christmas carols together. The lyrics would be projected onto a large screen, and a teacher would be playing a piano and/or a guitar or another musical instrument for the musical accompaniment.

I especially remember "The Twelve Days of Christmas" because the grade five's always got to stand up and raise their hands when it got to "five golden rings."

Even though it might have been politically incorrect to sing Christmas carols in a public school, where many of the students are of different religions and backgrounds, as a child, I enjoyed this thoroughly. I didn't see it as a political anything, I just saw it as our school coming together at this special time, and find it sad that it's not done anymore.

So, even though, we are told that we should be wishing everyone a happy holiday to be politically correct, I prefer to wish people a Merry Christmas. It brings a warmer feeling to by heart at this special time of the year.

I hope you all had a very safe and Merry Christmas. I wish everyone all the best in the new year. May happiness find you and your family with many warm wishes from a chilly Canadian gal (moi!). Cheers!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Hair Experiment: Take Three

Every time I go to my stylist, I am always scolded for washing my hair everyday. It's very harsh on one's hair and working in a mostly office environment, there is simply no need since it doesn't really get that dirty. My hair is oily because my scalp has been trained to produce this much oil.

I started reading more about products I use, and realized the chemicals found in most shampoos are really harsh on the scalp. Essentially they contain very similar ingredients to detergent!

Essentially it's a cycle which I started way back in my elementary school days (I also had super oily skin and broke out a lot). I wash my hair every day, and my scalp is used to producing this amount of oil. The only way out of this cycle is to re-train my hair to produce less oils.

Simple solution, right?


I have attempted this THREE times this year, right now being my third attempt.

Attempt 1:
I was reading FabulouslyBroke's blog and was inspired to jump on the bandwagon of no shampoo. I made my own apple cider vinegar rinse and bought my boar bristled brush. I tried this for a little over a week and gave up. My hair was super oily. Very gross. I couldn't show up to work like this! FAIL.

Attempt 2:
I bought a shampoo (Kiss My Face) that was organic and much more gentle. I decided to try using this every other day and ease myself into the whole washing my hair less deal. This attempt lasted just under two weeks. My hair was still not used to this and looked oily.

Attempt 3:
I have been using the gentle shampoo for about a couple months now, and I felt that I was ready to try this again. I have cheat a little and tie my hair up the second day, and I also wash my bangs. I am no in my fifth week and I look presentable for work! Yippee! I finally noticed my oils decreasing this weekend on the second day!!! So excited!

I wanted to see this experiment through a 6 to 8 week period, and decide where to go from there. It's hard for me to stop cold turkey on anything. So by easing my way through this, I think it works best, even if it takes longer. In the end, I want to take better care of my hair, and also my wallet. It's a win-win situation which just takes some adjusting to. Will report back results in a few weeks!

What are some of your hygiene habits that you want to kick??? Any experiments that you conduct that you would like to share???

Monday, December 14, 2009

Poor Sucker

I went to a very technologically savvy school. In other words, I went to a super geeky nerd school where a high volume of my fellow classmates are socially disfunctional.

During my single two years of being single between dating Almond and LeBlanc, I have had my fair share of awkward encounters with socially disfunctional guys. Such is the life of a (female) engineering student.

But this weekend topped it off the stereotypical socially awkward engineer.

I know A. from one of my co-op terms. He is two years older than me and we used randomly bump into each other at school maybe once a school term. We would have some small chat, and that was it.

I have been out of school for almost 2 years, and him almost 4.

One of the girls, L, at work was in the same graduating class as him. He finds this out and suggests that we all go out for dinner to meet up and catch up. L and I see no harm and we go out for dinner.

That was about a month or two ago, and I haven't thought much of it since. Then out of nowhere, I get this in my inbox yesterday. Bam!

From: A
To: Des
Subject: A favour
December 12 at 10:30am

Hi Des,

I hope all is well with you. Are you looking forward to the holidays?

I am wondering if you could do me a favour. I am interested in your friend from your civil class, Jane*. I have met her a few times when I have spoken to a mutual friend (such as yourself). I often saw her with you, whenever I would run into you. She might recognize my face, but she might not know my name. Do you know what her relationship status is? Any idea if she might be interested in me? Sorry for throwing this at you. I would like to contact her but I don't want to shock her or come across as a creep. This would mean a lot :)

Let me know what you think.


From: Des
To: A
Subject: Re: A favour
December 13 at 6:19pm

Jane has a boyfriend.

From: A
To: Des
Subject: Re: A favour
December 13 at 8:01pm

Thanks for replying.

My first thought, "WTF is wrong with this guy?! And why did he reply back to a rhetorical email?!"

Awkward. Awkward. Awk. Ward.

I don't know this guy very well AT ALL.

The last time he saw my friend was probably THREE years ago.

This e-mail screams "creepy," and saying "I don't want to come across as a creep" doesn't make it any less creepy.

Why would you think this was a good idea?! What could be the best case scenario?

The sad thing is is that A probably spent a really long time mustering the guts to decide to make a move. Then, another chunk of time composing this email. Reading and re-reading. Writing and re-writing it to make it not come across as "creepy." Very ironic.

Conclusion: A part of me feels bad for this guy, another part of me feels that he should have known better. Poor sucker.

*Note: Jane is not her real name.

Disclaimer: This story is based on my experience and my observations as a female engineer in a dominantly male field. I am generalizing based on my experience. There is a bit of tongue and cheek, and this is not meant to offend any male engineers who are not socially awkward. (Besides, if you weren't, there would be no need for this disclaimer in the first place, right?)

Any thoughts on this matter?? How would have you responded to A if you were in my position?? Is it just engineering males??

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Mentors and Flashbacks of my Childhood

I am applying to a volunteer program in my community that is similar to the "Big Brother, Big Sister" program. We are matched up with a youth and we spend three hours together once a week for an entire year.

There are a few reasons I have decided to do this.

1) Having worked for a year and half, I have a better feel for my job, and feel that this is something that I can and want to work into my schedule.

2) I had a lot of good mentors growing up, and they have set me on the path that has brought me to where I am today.

3) I think that everyone can use a good mentor.

4) Kids are bombarded with so many different messages from media every day, that its good to have someone who is real, and ready to share with them their experiences.

5) I truly believe that education is the best gift you can give to yourself. It opens up opportunities that are endless. I want to encourage this thought to the future of tomorrow.

6) I already am a real big sister. I have two little sisters, and since they are all grown up, I can now have another mentee (aka victim).

As a kid, my mentors growing up are my parents and my teachers. For a very long time, I always felt like the awkward kid in class, but I remember my teachers always saw the potential in me.

Even though I was born in Toronto, my family spoke Cantonese at home, and I hardly knew any English when I started kindergarten. I was enrolled in English as a Second Language (ESL) programs until I was in grade 3. I remember kids in my class would make fun of me and call me names like "ching chong."

My mom was always very strict with my school work, and would make sure that my sisters and I were on top of our homework. She would assign additional homework, since she didn't think that we got enough from school. I quickly became the "brainer" in my class, and was also teased and made fun of. "Brainiac" or "smarty pants."

I wore glasses and had bad acne from grade 7 to grade 10, I can assure you that I felt very unattractive for what felt like forever. I'm sure that no boy ever liked me because of this, and I was always afraid to admit (except to my close group of friends) which boy I liked, for fear of the boy reacting with "Ewwwww. Des likes me!"

For anyone who has ever suffered from acne, it's a terrible thing. And even though, it looks bad on the outside, it feels worse on the inside. I had very low self esteem, and I remember wanting to just sleep until it went away. I couldn't even imagine myself without it. Would I finally be pretty without acne?

I started seeing a dermatologist in grade 10, and eventually my acne went away. I started to feel a bit better about how I looked, but I was still very shy and reserved. I was sure that no boy would still like me. I always convinced myself that I would concentrate on school first, and everything else second.

I had great high school teachers whom I still think of today for helping me get where I am today.

Ms. D - She was my teacher for grade 11 and Calculus. She was a wonderful teacher who really cared about her students. She encourages myself and other young women to take control of our financial future, and start saving and investing in our future. I wish that I had listened to her in grade 12, but I guess it's never too lateputting those thoughts to actions.

Ms. C - It was in her class that I learned to combine class lectures with text books stuff. I also learned to ask for help when I needed it. A lot of kids in my class didn't like her because she was tough, and gave her a hard time. Bullying could happen to anyone and it is never acceptable.

Mr. S - He used to be a student at my high school and was a complete genius. He went off to university on a full scholarship, and became a published researcher during his graduate studies. He decided that this wasn't the thing for him, and pursued a teaching degree and started doing what he loved - teaching high school physics. He would make up crazy, entertaining test questions involving Gingerbreadman and Secret Agent 001 (himself), and do fun projects in class.

In high school, I worked part time on weekends at McDonald's and saved every penny towards college tuition. I also tutored several nights a week for classmates, younger students, etc, and pu that money towards my college tuition fund. My parents are poor, and I was scared shitless that I wouldn't have enough money to go to school, and have to work my entire life at a dead end job.

After working for 3 summers, all my part time work combined, I saved about $14,000. Enough to cover me for 1 year! I applied to an engineering school with a Co-op program which allowed me to alternate 4 months of school with 4 months of work after my first year. My work terms were also a great opportunity to sample various civil engineer fields.

College was a great time for me. It wasn't just the schooling, but meeting so many new people who are also like me. They might have been the "nerds" in their class, and been teased the same way I was for being "smart" or wearing glasses. The classes were definitely more challenging, and I was learning all the math and physics I could possible want (my 2 favourite subjects in high school!).

I am very lucky to have been touched by so many mentors. I hope that through my volunteer work, I can be a good mentor to a little girl with some big dreams. And share with her some of my experiences and help her reach her dreams.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Performance Review

It went well!

My manager thinks that I will be ready for a promotion very soon. I am excited to be taking on more responsibility, learning new things and earning more money.

I've been working for a year and a half now. I feel very thankful for still having a job during these tough economic times, and having a job that I look forward to.

Talking to my manager about my future, I start to feel more like a career woman. I no longer feel like a student, and I am thinking more long terms towards what I would like to be doing. It's both an exciting feeling, and a bit overwhelming.

It's funny, when I was little, my parents always were very strict with me regarding my studies. They didn't want me to struggle financially, as they have. Never would I have imagined that this career stuff would be more of a journey, than simply a destination.

True, I graduated from engineering school, and started working as an engineer. However, the work doesn't stop there. And I feel that path is still not chosen, yet. Having got a college education, I feel has been the major step in opening up many doors to career opportunities.

This is just the beginning, and I am so thankful that my parents were such great role models and guided me on the right path.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Des's Financial Journey

Last summer, I started my financial journey as a full time engineer fresh out of school. I moved out of my parent's house and have been living on my own ever since.

This January, I had saved enough to pay off all of my $8000 in student loans I had accumulated during my studies.

After that, I had a net worth of just under $10,000.

I have been on a financial journey this year to learn more about my finances, and how I can work towards a future of financial freedom. I don't need a lot of money in my life, what makes me happy are the simple things.

I enjoy spending time with my family, friends, and now my wonderful boyfriend, LeBlanc.

I love to cook, and I love playing volleyball.

I always seek to learn new things, whether it be through taking a course, reading a book, or just experimenting with new things.

I am learning to live a more minimalistic lifestyle. Basically living with less, but better. I try to apply this principle in the various aspects of my life. I try to live below my means, but still enjoy the things that are important to me, by compromising on things that are secondary.

Growing up in a family where money was always tight, I've grown up watching my parents save every penny. The most important lessons I've learned from my parents is to alway live below my means, and that materials items aren't the things that really matter in life.

Here is a glimpse into my bank account over this year to date.

My Savings
My savings have grown from $5000 (lump sum) to $12,429. I have divided that amount into different sub funds, as follows:
Emergency Fund $5880
Travel Fund $1535*
Freedom Fund $4009
General Savings $1005
*I took out $1400 earlier this year for my trip to Europe with LeBlanc

My Retirement Savings
My retirement savings is split between my ING account and an account with Manulife where I have company matching from my work. I started by putting $1000 into my ING account in January in the Streetwise Balance Fund, and have been making monthly contributions.

In April, I started investing $200 directly from each paycheck into my Manulife account into mostly index funds, and hence, decreased my contribution into my ING account. I started investing more money into my Manulife account because my contribution was not taxed, and my take home pay was almost the same.

Altogether, I have saved $11,003 in my RRSP's so far, as follows:
ING Streetwise Balance Fund $7260
Manulife Account $3743

At the beginning of this year, I was a little overwhelmed by learning about RRSP's, index funds, savings, etc. However, about a month ago, I felt that I wanted to try my hand at investing in individual stocks. I opened up a Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA) and deposited $5000 in it to "play" with.

I invested in 3 stocks that I wanted to hold for long term: Birkshire Hathaway, Loblows and Rona.

Sometimes my stocks go up, and sometimes they go down. The highest balance I held was at $5260 last week, and this week it went down to $5045. I know this is all part of riding the market, and it's too soon to tell. Will report back in 6 months time.

In my checking account: $4780.

My total net worth today is: $33,257

I have one more paycheck this year, with expenses it will be $1445 and an additional RRSP deposit with company match of $470. For a potential balance of $35,172!!!

I have already paid my rent for this month and have about 3 weeks left of expenses in the year. I am so excited!!

Being realistic, I still haven't gotten gifts for my parents and LeBlanc. I don't usually exchange gifts with my friends and sisters, though we go out for lunch or dinner, instead. I also want to treat myself for doing a great job learning about my finances and working hard to stick to a budget. Reasonbly, I am looking at a year end balance of $34,500 after my normal expenses and some holiday expenses.

This is what I have in mind for my treat!

I love MAC makeup and I have been looking to buy some good brushes for a while now. They always have great deals during the holiday season (this set is for $58!), since these brushes usually cost at least $35 each, if you buy them individually full sized.

I love this sweater dress from! Unfortunately they are out of stock and there is a $20 shipping charge to Canada! Ouch! So, I am looking for a super soft, preferably cashmere sweater that I can snuggle up in while looking effortlessly chic.

Note: I am NOT a financial advisor, and these are stories from my experience. Please consult your financial advisor when seeking advice on your investments and financial decisions.

How is your financial journey going??? What are some of the financial goals you have accomplished this year???

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Pet Peeve: GreyPower Ad

I really loathe this ad. I don`t watch tv that much, but even in the short amount of tv time, this ad manages to show itself at every commercial break! It`s annoying and belittling! I can`t believe its has been allowed to air for so long!

As a woman, I find it sexist.

Even though they claim to be providing lower insurance premiums for middle age drivers, when I watch the ad this is what I hear:

We will provide you with a low insurance premium if you are a middle aged male.

I woman, I am offended and will never buy insurance from Grey Power. If they really wanted to enforce that they are specifically providing insurance for middle aged individuals, then why didn`t they use a teenager in the ad, instead of a forty something year old woman.

Newsflash 1: Men do not significantly buy more driving insurance than women. There is only about 5 - 7% more men with driving insurance than women. With this ad, they are potentially losing almost half their customer pool. (From a discussion with a friend who does research at an insurance company.)

Newsflash 2: Generally, women tend to outlive men. In Canada, the life expectancy of men is about 79 years old and the life expectancy for women is 84 years old. And I can assure you that when I reach my middle age and further, I will not be insured by Grey Power.

It seems to be me a very sexist and ageist ad that is discriminating against people. Just because you are a middle aged male does not make you a good driver. I am not saying that women are great drivers , or they driver better - that depends on the person. But it seems this ad is saying that middle aged men are better drivers and deserve a better rate than the rest of society.

When I was driving to work yesterday, some male bozo did the exact same thing this lady in the ad did. It was morning rush hour, and he felt it was necessary to swerve in front of me and cut me off to show that I should be going at 60kph instead of 55 kph. And, as if the 30 second honk did not get the message across, he also waved his hands and made demeaning hand gestures so I could see through his rear windows.

He was a middle aged male. Does he deserve a better premium than me?

What are your thoughts on this ad??? Do you think it is belittling to women or am I just being to sensitive???

Random Quotes from This Week

I went to get my H1N1 flu shot this weekend. My mom still thinks I`m a little kid and will cry over needles.

Mom: I hope you don`t cry, Des. When I got this needle the other day with your father, I saw a little girl cry because it hurt her so much.

me: How old was this little girl, mom?

Mom: I think 6 or 7 years old.

me: Mom, this little girl (*points to myself*) is twenty five years old.

LeBlanc and I were just hanging out on the couch and my arm was killing me. It. Hurt. So. Much.

me: I`m afraid that if you touch this arm, I will have to kill you.

LeBlanc: That seems fair. I remember when I got my shots, it was very painful.

me: Oh, yea. And I remember punching you in excitement about something. But you didn`t kill me.

LeBlanc: Oh, I`m sure I thought about it.

I decided to bake some cookies this weekend. I usually don`t bake. I love to cook, but I find the chemistry behind baking to be daunting and overwhelming. I bring in the extra cookies to work the next day to share.

Manager: Oh, you bake often, Des?

me: No, not at all. I had to run out to get all the ingredients!

Manager: Like cream of tartar?

me: No. Like flour.

And my manager bursts out laughing!

What are your funny quotes of the week???