Friday, July 31, 2009

An Update on the Cash Jar

It's the last day of the month, and I can proudly say that for the first time (as long as this blog exists) I have managed to save some serious money for my great travel plans!

To be honest, I already threw in some of next months paycheck. It's just an amazing feeling to be getting closer to my goal! I'm so sure I can actually do this now (and I've had my share of doubts!) - YAY! Tomorrow I'll celebrate in style and go out - I can't wait! :)

Free Virtual Hugs&Muffins for everybody!

(You get one if you follow me on twitter! Promise! :) )

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Sneak Peek

It's like a tradition for me to go to one certain movie theatre with my friends, when they're in town. For years, that cinema had the same feature on mondays, 11 p.m., the Sneak Peek. You get in for half the money, and you get to see a movie that officially doesn't start in theatres until the next thursday. Awesome!
The catch is that you don't know which movie you are going to see. That way, I already ended up in horror movies, soppy lovestories, terrible cartoons and about everything in between. The worst by far was "Waiting for Angelina", by the way, I saw that last year. Oh my, the boredom. But in those movies, the audience simply takes over.
Just to give you an idea what that's like, imagine this: An old-fashioned cinema that still seems to dream of it's grandeur back in the days. The faded velvet seats are crowded with scruffy teenagers and young adults - almost everybody is under 25, holding a beer, the usual suspects for a pub rather than a cinema. And when the movie is crap, the commenting sometimes is louder and so much more fun than the actual movie.

I'm sorry I digress :)

So, this week I watched "The Horsemen", starring Dennis Quaid and Ziyi Zhang. Boy, was I scared. It's rather unappetizing, but here's the trailer for the not-so-faint-at-heart amongst you. Don't let the trailer irritate you though, it's actually not a bad movie. Dennis Quaid is the grumpy detective, Aidan Breslin, who has the worst of relationships with his sons because he can't deal with the loss of his beloved wife. When an extremely gruesome series of murders commences in the city, Breslin finds that all the evidence directs at his own family. From huge red writings on the walls at the crime scenes, Breslin deduces in a painstakingly slow scene, that the first Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are in town and they take their toll, so to speak.
If you're going to watch this movie, don't read the rest of this!

It's just a real shame that about halfway through the movie you can't stop thinking of it as "Revenge of the Emo Kids!" ... I guess they have a point, those kids had pretty crappy lives, but the measures they take seem very drastic. It's a well-made, entertaining though extremely bloody movie, so if you feel you can handle it, go and watch it.

I have to admit, I hid behind my jacket half of the time. I'm a scaredy cat :)

Monday, July 27, 2009

How to Fly for Free

Oh, I got your attention now, don't I? :)

Alright, so I exaggerated a little bit to keep you guys interested. Here's a little trick to get seriously cheap plane tickets on a proper plane, that's not covered in ads inside and out (I'm looking at you, Ryanair!) or overbooked.
I always think it's quite a hassle to get those "cheap" tickets that you have to book 78 months prior to the actual flight, and that only go from/to the middle of nowhere, like Frankfurt/Hahn. Ever been to Hahn? No? Good for you, because it's almost two hours away from Frankfurt on an overpriced bus.
So how do you fly in style, spontaneously, and don't spend the better part of your savings on the ticket?

Very simple. Ask a flight attendant in your circle of friends to take you along as they go. It's not much of an effort for them, and saves you so much money! I just saved over 100€ when I took that flight to Frankfurt last saturday. I had the most pleasant flight, chatting away to my stewardess friend as we each had one of those tiny airplane beers. Also, my friend didn't mind, actually she was quite delighted to have somebody to talk to during the (admittedly short) flight.

So do ask around. Nobody is going to be offended, if you ask politely to be taken along. You get to see some more of the world that way and you don't want to miss out on that, do you? :)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Why go to the gym ...?

... if you can have a fun workout for free AND without being in the same un-airconditioned room with 20 other sweaty people?

Staying in shape is not about hitting the hippest gym in town where skinny models break their behinds as they try to lose another half a pound. It's more about being healthy and looking fit, not thin. As I don't believe in gyms, but in a shapely figure, I had to find other ways of working out.
Here are a few, maybe you can incorporate them in your daily routine, too:

1) If there are stairs to climb, climb them!

Escalators are only allowed if you have more than 3 storeys to ascent. That's a great workout for your legs! Make sure to walk very upright, not leaning forward, that'll get the muscles in your bottom and tummy going!

2) Take the bike to work/school/everywhere!

My bike is one of my most prized posessions. I go to work on it, and almost everywhere else. Even if you only need 20 minutes to work, that amounts to 40 minutes of work-out for your legs and back every day!
I understand that people don't want to go to their job on a bike because you arrive all sweaty and gross. Recently, I solved that problem by depositing basic toiletries at work, but of course not everybody has the room to do that.

3) Walk like a Pageant Queen! In Heels!

Walking around in heels all day is an extremely exhausting thing to do, most men will never appreciate that :) I will not call myself an expert on the subject, but I do have some experience. On a normal day at work, I stand and walk for about 9 hours and I love my heels too much to not wear them.
For starters, wear tights or stockings, otherwise the shoes are going to give you blisters, no matter how comfortable they are when you first put them on. Again, make sure to walk upright. Get into the Pageant Queen Posture (PQP) : Hold your chin up high, shoulders back (but relaxed!), make your back long and straight, and suck in your tummy a little bit. Uh, that's not comfy. Now, try to tense the muscles in your buttocks. Still not comfy - but that's really the whole point. Consciously trying to throw yourself into the PQP will probably give you sore muscles in your thighs, tummy and bum. But it looks good while you're at it and even better when those muscles get in shape over time.
When you try this at work, bring flats, too. Surviving an entire day in high heels is not for the faint-of-heart.

4) Got a park nearby? Use it!

I'm very lucky to live within walking distance of Tiergarten, a huge park in the heart of Berlin. I go jogging there (Get yourself some proper running shoes if you go jogging. It makes such a difference!) and sometimes, I just hang out, play frisbee with friends, or play with my pois. Going out and playing something, anything really, from soccer to hit-the-pot with your friends is probably the best and most fun workout you can have. I promise, it won't even feel like a workout.

Oh, and please share your free workout tips with me :) It would be very much appreciated!

Pimp my Balcony!

Having a little refuge, something that belongs to you and nobody else, is a great luxury. To me, it's my balcony. I might not have the best of views (my neighbors ^^) but I love sitting out there and read, think, have an after-work-glass-of-wine or my sunday breakfast.

But I neglected my balcony this year, and by mid-june it looked somethings like this :

Not so pretty, and definitely not the right place to be spending relaxing afternoon hours on. It actually looked like this, I did not mess it up more for effect.
So I went to buy some flowers at my local florist, and got a little discount because I bought so many plants. Also, that gave my the satisfying feeling of supporting small local businesses. Try it, it's a good feeling ;)

These beauties will even come back next year. Isn't that one amazing colour?

The hibiskus I got for my birthday. It has three huge pink blossoms by now and by the looks of it, there's going to be more of them!

Star of Bethlehem and lobelia make a great colour combo. Who said you can't have flowers that clash? :) The pink hibiskus sits right next to them...

Of course, you can get edible plants too. They are not quite as pretty usually, but having them also means having free organic food all autumn - rad! I have a tiny chili tree that's more like a chili bonsai, but has great super-hot chilis, some herbs (all legal ;) ) and tomatoes. I wanted to get more, but ran out of room for plants. Instead of giving up, I got this wrought-iron shelf and now have more space than plants. I'm sure I can solve that problem soon!

Growing your plants from the seeds and being able to enjoy the results as a dinner is probably the most gratifying thing you can do on a balcony that won't cause your neighbors give you cross looks :)

I cleaned up some more and planted new flowers since I took the pictures and will update you soon with a few tricks to make balcony-fit furniture out of almost nothing. Now go outside and enjoy the sun!

Concerning Brands

Today I want to share some common sense with you. Maybe you are going to read this article, nod, and wonder why on earth I had to write down something so obvious. In that case, I'm sorry for wasting your time, because you already have what it takes to be a fabulous budget hedonist! :)
Maybe not though. Find out!

I have been marveling at the concept of brands for a long time. Just because, say, a pair of jeans has a certain name printed on the inside (!) it's more expensive. The only claim the company makes to justify the price is the qualities described in the respective commercials - and more often than not it's a "lifestyle" rather than actual characteristics of a product, for example the sturdiness of you new jeans or the taste of the joghurt you are supposed to buy at the supermarket.
My favourite example for this phenomenon is perfume ads. Watch any old perfume ad on youtube, and afterwards you'll know exactly what kind of style the brand's art director wants you to live - but do you know what the perfume actually smells like? Even have an idea? Nope. Usually not.
So let's first of all try to ignore the suggestions of commercials. Do you really and honestly care if celebrities show their faces in combination with some sort of product? Does it improve the product? No.
I claim that consciously ignoring ads when going shopping makes you happier. It takes away the pressure. The other day I went out to buy a pair of grey skinny jeans, and I could've gotten those for 150€ I'd seen on that ad, that had a fancy brand name on it. I went for the cheaper ones, and now have exactly the jeans I wanted for 20 bucks, without the brand name. What is a brand name good for, anyways? Impress your friends?! If they can be impressed by the money you spend on things, think again if they are really good friends and therefore people you WANT to impress.

However, I'm not against spending money (and lots of it) in general. Sometimes you see something in a shop window that you need to have this second or else you won't be happy for the rest of the week. That's ok. Or you really want to order the most expensive dish they serve at the restaurant. That's ok, too. Just make sure to listen to what YOU really want, not anybody else.
Trust you own taste, that's as simple as it is.
And if you really want something and it's not ridiculously overpriced, go for it.

Just like I really, really wanted to have this fun and colourful beverage instead of the bland table water when I went to the café yesterday. It was more expensive, but it made me happy that moment.

Figure out what you spend your money on. How much do you care for the brands you buy? Does it matter what company puts their name on your baked beans? No. Does it matter to you to get a certain brand of joghurt? Yes, because your mom always bought that kind? Then get it. Otherweise go for the no-name version and you'll find out it's probably just as tasty :)
Finding out your own priorities takes a while, but is well worth it.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

What happened to ...

... the Cash Jar?

I know I promised to keep you guys up-to-date about my savings and I tried very hard to save all that money to put a new piece of candy in the jar. However, I'm standing in my own way in this case by being my forgetful self... I locked myself out of my apartment the other day and calling the lock and key service actually cost me 211€. Ouch.
The money that was supposed to go to my Australia-savings now went to the lock&key-guy who took about 3 minutes to open my door. I'm grumpy about it, but I learned my lesson about forgetfulness.

I hope everybody had a great week-end so far! :)

Friday, July 17, 2009

Photo Shoot Results!

TADAAA ! Results of my shoot with Ilja Hendel!

Remember, I was supposed to look younger for that shoot. I think I managed - these might not be the most exciting pictures that have ever been taken of me, but some of them are quite cute. If you keep in mind that one of them might be used as a book cover, they're even better ;)

It was a cold, rainy and very windy day, hence the mess on my head. The photographer, the two other girls and myself stopped by a café to warm up in mid-shoot. With the permission of the coffeemama behind the counter we just kept taking pictures inside, getting weird looks from the other customers. I see why, too - we didn't look glamourous or even above average, so why would that pro photographer be buzzing around, taking pictures of us from every angle...? Ah well, the price of fame ... ;)There were geese in the park ! And fluffy baby rabbits! Seriously!
In the background you get a glimpse of Luisa, and those jeans belong to Josefin. I honestly don't HAVE better pictures of the two yet. Apparently Ilja is going to photoshop a few more photos and send them over in august. I can't wait!

Here's one last pic that made me laugh out loud.
Hell yeah. No bunny rabbits or geese were harmed in this shoot.
For more photos, click this!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

An Apple A Day...

... is a pretty boring diet. There are better ways to stay healthy. Who said, that just because you have to spend your money carefully, you have to buy the mundane and bland stuff? In fact, you get all kinds of exotic fruit at the discounter, too.I tried out fresh lychees for the first time. They really aren't my thing, but I believe in trying things before I judge them :) Then there are a couple of physalis (79 cents !), a gold kiwi fruit, flat peaches and more little bits and pieces you can't see in the picture.

Spoil yourself with some fresh fruit that might be a little out of the ordinary. It's healthy and tasty, in fact it might be better than candy. Arrange the fruit nicely to give it a sophisticated touch - let out your inner Martha Stuart :) However don't buy more than you actually eat! You don't want mouldy fruit in your kitchen ...

Now isn't that so much better than a bunch of ordinary apples ? Enjoy ! :)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Small-Scale Hedonism

Having to live on a low budget sometimes is a very tedious affair. You start to envy those folks who don't seem to work hard (or at all) and have money to burn. But here's a little bit of wisdom I read in Teresa de la Parra's excellent novel "Iphigenia: Diary of a Young Lady Who Wrote Because She was Bored".

The theory is, that very rich people don't actually enjoy the expensive things they have, the good food and the hip interiors and all that - because they can have it all the time, and it seems normal, boring. They can't be excited by anything, because they have seen and had it all. And the worst part is, that they don't even realize that they suffer from boredom, the finest food and drinks may be flavorless to them but they hardly notice.
Think about it - your appartment right now might not seem very impressive to you, but even if there's nothing fancy about it, millions of people around the world would consider it pure luxury.

So here's my trick to get rid of those pointless pangs of jealousy of richer people:
Don't waste money on expensive luxuries or status symbols that don't mean anything to you personally. Why imitate vain people who don't even have enough of a taste of their own to get dressed without a stylist? Spend your money wisely, that is, on things that you really enjoy. Make a point of appreciating what you have. Share it with your friends.

Applying the above to the real world sometimes is hard. But I really believe that the key to being a happy budget hedonista is following your own style (because you cannot allow yourself to waste money on copying somebody else's and wouldn't be happy with it anyways) and really appreciating the glorious things that already surround you.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Lazing on a Monday Afternoon

That's hedonism, baby. Yeah.

Last week, myself and the lion had a little time on our hands before we were supposed to catch a ride that would take us from Berlin to Frankfurt. We indulged in donuts and huge coffees for breakfast and figured that three hours would be enough to visit the famous Berlin Zoo. Now visiting the zoo is a thing that families, tourists and tourist families do. But who said that locals aren't allow to enjoy the beautiful park and the amazing animals? :)

At the cash box I realized that I forgot the coupons that we got when we went on top of the TV tower. I pointed that out to the very friendly lady at the cash desk and - lo and behold - she actually believed me and gave us the discounts anyways! Yay!
By the way, I read this article on Creepy Queen Mag yesterday, and I agree: there's no shame in coupons! They saved us 6 bucks, you can translate that to "free breakfast". Yay again!

The animals at the zoo seemed to be putting on a real show just for us, it was incredible! The elephants were bathing and playing, the nandus displayed their plumes, the brown bears stood up on their hind legs for the camera. We found out that the Canadian wolves have a doggy door to the bears' enclosure so that they could go over, but the bears couldn't get into the wolves' bawn. The penguins came close enough to pet them ( We didn't though. It seemed wrong to just go and touch a wild animal. They have some mean beaks, too. )

But all of that couldn't stop me from nagging my boyfriend to go and see the lions. To see them passed out like this was pure glee to me :)

Technically, we could have just reached out and stroked that soft, fluffy fur on the lion's belly. But the thought of teeth and claws made us think twice... and in the end, the sign that read "Warning! Lion may pee through the grate at visitors!" made us change our minds. You really don't want lion pee on you when you're about to get in a car with well-meaning strangers for the next five hours. Then again, you probably don't EVER want lion pee on you. Excuse my ickyness :)

In the end, three hours weren't near enough to see all of the beautiful zoo. We resolved to go and see the zoo of every city that we travel to. I'm just afraid that in other zoos, the animals will have smaller enclosures and I won't feel anything but pity for them. I hope to prove myself wrong ...

And when was the last time you went to a zoo? :)

Friday, July 10, 2009

Budget Glam - The Frog Edition

The other day, I found this incredible brooch in a shop window:

Oh my... How could I not fall in love with this super-ugly, white-painted, glitter-adorned, over-priced pug?! But obviously, I can't just go and spend so much money on a brooch that I might wear once or twice and then hide in my jewel box. So I decided that what these kids at the store can do, I can do, too. And I went shopping for a plastic pug.
But, I was bewildered to find out, the plastic miniature pugs at my local toystore were sold out! A little confused (who on earth buys plastic miniature pugs ?!) I settled for a plastic frog. In the same store I purchased gold and red paint, a little brush and a bag of pins.

And the rest was rather easy! First I painted the belly of the frog and let it dry. Then I applied two thin layers of colour on the upper side of my frog, making sure I don't smear over the structure of the frog's skin. It didn't even take very long to dry. I had to bend the pin a little bit so it would sit flat on the frog's little tummy. I used my gem glue to attach the pin. That glue survived just about everything so far, pulling and tossing the brooch, just not the washing mashine. But heck, I just glued the pin on the frog again and that was it.
I wear my little frog as often as I can and already bought more brooch-material.

The turtle will be sparkly and decadent when I'm done with it. For the crayfish I have to go and buy silver paint. Oh yes, I'm serious. The sealion is not going to become a brooch, it's too heavy and bulky. And that weird green shape at the bottom of the picture is a seahorse... I already got started on painting it gold, but will add some serious glam with gems :)

Now, regarding the budget...

Original Pug Brooch : 85 €

Plastic frog : 1,80 €
Gold paint (enough for 20 brooches!) : 2,59 €
Brush : 1,50 €
Pin: 0,25 €

Total : 6,14 €

And I get to use the paint and the brush again, of course. The sea animals I got even cheaper than the frog, they were 75 c each!
Getting a little creative about things like acessories is easy and saves money, and you have the priceless feeling of wearing something unique. Who knows, you might even start a mini-trend and be THE local fashionista all of a sudden :)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

What Matters Most ...

... at a festival: the concerts and the party of course! :)

That's the Hangar Stage. The name sort of makes sense, as it used to be an actual hangar on a soviet aerodrome and there were hangars all over the place, all decorated and rebuilt as stages or dancefloors. Some of my favourite decorations :
Part of "Neuland", a random clearing in the trees that surrounded the camping area, which had been decorated to the max to look like a weird scene from "Pirates of the Caribbean Abducted Alice from Wonderland". I swear I saw the Mad Hatter too. They also had a glitter stand there, where you could get your face all glittered up and decide afterwards how much you like it and how much you want to pay.Some random decoration and the Willow Dome, an area for jazz concerts, hanging out in the relative peace and quiet and the massage tents. Yes, you heard me. Massage stands! Halleluja! Of course I was lucky enough to have my own masseur (the lion) but I loved the stands anyway.
Moonwalk to Mekka! Obviously myself and the lion had to go and watch this!!! So many people showed up, about 200 (!) did the actual Moonwalk around the Tower Stage, and hundreds more watched it and cheered! The vibes were incredible, but I have no pictures to show for it. Damn.
The organizers of the festival encouraged spontaneous outbursts of creativity, so we ran into these two amazing musicians who took "drum&base" very literally. We also saw a group of 12 incredibly talented drummers (more than half of which were girls, by the way) and they really got a big crowd dancing and partying on the spur of the moment. I was impressed! :)

So in the end, we walked from stage to stage, staying whereever we liked, enjoying the all-vegetarian catering and the diverse styles of music, talked to friendly strangers and danced our tushies off :)

Sunday morning came way too soon. I look half dead here, but that's a good thing because it means I had a blast before :)
Now I can't wait to go to Fusion next year and I'll make sure to pack a bunch of friends! Camping is even more fun if you have your buddies there with you!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Sports and Recreation at Fusion Festival

I love trying out new things. Really. And at Fusion Festival I had the great opportunity to try lots of fun new sports and artistry, like climbing up those long red cloth things (I'd appreciate if anybody could tell me what they are really called :) ). It was supposed to look something like this:

I tried. I really did. But it's a LOT harder than the instructor made it look. I managed to get one knot right, and that was about it. It was fun though and I'd give it another shot anytime!
Apart from that, my boyfriend showed me how to juggle, I molested just about everybody with pois because I forgot to bring my own, I tried out slack-rope walking which is SO hard to do when you get started, that I got a little frustrated and so much more. And then I found my new obsession, fairywings. They work just like pois, but look even better. I spent about an hour at the stand, trying out the small and the HUGE ones. The big fairywings were a little more complicated to handle because they get tangled easily but I had the time of my life. Oh, and I realize that I look rather grumpy and clumsy on the picture and that's exactly why I'm not so happy with most candid shots of me :)

These are the small fairywings, by the way. I want the big ones, that you can see in the background here. So as soon as I got back from the festival, I did some research and figured that 40+ euros are not in the Budget for silly toys. Of course I'm not going to give up that easily - I'll make my own fairywings, with fabric that I bought for some other project that I never finished (shame on me...). They will be very hippie, very girly and hopefully a lot of fun. Can't wait to get started, really :)

Of course I didn't play and juggle all through the festival (although I wouldn't have minded that so much). The most important thing was the music, obviously, and the party and the great crowd. I'll tell you all about that later today, including the reason why I don't get to add any candy to the Cash Jar this month.

Have a great day :)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A Little Planning Goes a Long Way

I am probably not the right person to preach about how "planning things" will reduce stress, save money and all the rest of it. It's true though, and before the Fusion Festival (June, 25 to 29) I put my planning skills to the test. With only a week to go and still no tickets, no tent and no clue as to where exactly the festival is, I thought I was facing quite a challenge.

First, I got myself and my boyfriend tickets for a bus that would take us to the festival. A lot of luck was involved, because the original tickets had been sold out or reserved but I managed to get my paws on two that hadn't been paid for yet. However, I paid a little more than necessary because I got my tickets so late, which annoyed me a lot. Planning could have easily saved me 20€ and a lot of phone calls there. Next year, I'll learn from my mistake and book the damn ticket early. The same happened with the actual festival ticket. Booking it early could have saved me and the lion 20 bucks each. That might not seem like a lot of money - but it's 8 beers at the festival and we were pretty broke to begin with :)

But as we got on the bus friday morning, we regretted nothing. The people were very sweet and excitement about the upcoming weekend was in the air. The lion and I had a few lukewarm beers, chatting away happily with the others or (in my case) dozing off as I watched the tiny villages go by. When we arrived there was a massive queue of cars waiting, but the bus simply went past them and we could enter the festival without a second of waiting or standing in line. I absolutely recommend taking a bus to festivals, because it's comfy and air-conditioned, you get to meet other festival-goers, police is less likely to stop you (it's a hassle, even if you have nothing illegal on you!) and you get to enter the festival without waiting around as you still carry your heavy festival gear.

Speaking of festival gear: I was so lucky that my parents still had a tent and sleeping bags. Before buying new stuff, ask your friends and family if they can help you out. They might even be glad to get rid of that old stuff that's been taking up space in the cellar/attic :)
Here's our glorious tent that we actually set up in no time at all (I was very proud of us, yay :) )It was packed when we arrived, as you can see ... we hardly found a place to camp!
More stories of the fantastic Fusion Festival coming up later, now it's time to go back to the real world :)

Friday, July 3, 2009

It's been a while...

... but now I finally have enough time to tell you all the new little stories. Let's start where we left off, the theatre.
I absolutely loved the performance, and I was very impressed by the actors. "Waiting for Godot" is so very abstract that it seems almost impossible to empathize with the characters, while at the same time they are, of course, very human and you might even recognzie yourself to a certain point. The four (and a half) actors however made the performance look almost easy, and you may call me biased just because my boyfriend was up there on stage too :) but I hardly remembered I was in an amateur theatre at all.
The lovely interior probably helped, it didn't have the vaguely dull off-theatre-feeling to it that I've seen in Berlin.I'll admit it was small, but that made the after-show-party all the more comfy and fun. As I was being introduced to everybody it dawned on me that people were actually looking forward to meeting me beause they'd all heard of me from my boyfriend. I felt like such a VIP, even though this whole party was not about me, obvously, but the cast and director of "Godot" :)
We left rather early, around 1:30 a.m., after the champagne, wodka sour and the delicious buffet had been depleted. I only broke two or three glasses during the entire night and got a handful of very sweet compliments for my emerald green pumps. I think I can call that a success :)

So, what now?
Do you remember the last time that a friend (or family member etc) performed anything on a stage? I'm sure everybody knows somebody who is in a band, a amateur theatre group, does fire shows, catwalks or something else on a stage. So why don't you just go and cheer them on? I'm absolutely sure your friend is going to appreciate the support - and you probably get in for free, reserved seats waiting for you. How VIP is that ? :)

Have a great week-end, everybody !