My Chinese New Year

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Photo: M.Y. Dim Sum Collection

Yesterday I gathered my SF friends and celebrated Chinese New Year. Growing up, the holiday was always about eating delicious food and receiving red envelopes full of money. Now that I’m living abroad, it’s more important than ever to keep my childhood traditions alive. It’s also a great way to share my culture with my non-Asian friends and super Scottish-Canadian husband, who thinks because he’s married to me that he’s practically Chinese – I quickly corrected him with a slap upside the head.

The famed chef Martin Yan (no relation to Canada’s Stephen Yan from Wok with Yan) recently unveiled his new restauran: M.Y. China. Located in the heart of the city in Westfield Mall, my husband and I had stumbled across it after watching Warm Bodies (zombie chick flick) at Century Theatres. We were pleasantly surprised by the service, cleanliness and tasty selection of classic Chinese dishes.

SO WHAT? If you’d like to try M.Y. China and have a big group like I did, book through Open Table. It’s the best way to go. Also, be sure they bring all the sauces out that need to accompany your entrees e.g. they forgot the garnish for our Peking Duck and charged us extra for the beignet dipping sauces ($3). They did surprise us by taking off the cost of the duck ($38), which erased any ill will I was harbouring against them.

Whether it’s dinner before a movie or a big celebratory dinner, I highly recommend M.Y. China. I give the restaurant 4 dumplings our of 5.

Gung hay fat choy!! (Cantonese) / Xin nian yu kuai!! (Mandarin)

Fave New App: Vine

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Vine is a mobile app that lets you capture and share short (6 seconds or less) looping videos with sound. Vine lets you createthree-part compositions on the go.  You can determine the length of each scene by how long you hold down your finger. The app then loops the content together to create a short clip which can be shared on Vine, Twitter and Facebook.  For PR Pros, Vine can capture an event/campaign in a 6-second video or series of videos to give viewersa much richer experience.

SO WHAT? Vine can be used to create a product/program demo, video elevator pitch for a company’s social media channels, media clips for a new business presentation or a “sneak peak” of a new product or program. It can also record media training sessions (record and play back first impressions, body language etc.), a spokesperson’s media interview or an industry event.

What can you do in 6 seconds or less?

To Spend or Save…That is the Question

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Today I picked up my first paycheque from my new job. After nine months of unemployment and seriously considering can collection to make a few extra bucks, I earned a nice bit of money. Ripping open the pay stub to reveal a cheque made out just to me was glorious. I forgot how good it feels. So instead of investing it, I’m going to blow it all on a shopping spree!!

SO WHAT? I’ve been trying to decide where I want to spend my hard earned cash and although I’ve given myself the green light, I’m finding it hard to follow through . When I was 15, $100 could buy me the world, or a nice outfit and some bumble gum. Now at 30, I’ve got responsibilities: rent, transportation, food, gifts etc.

If you were in my shoes what would you do? Spend or save?

Money Tips from a Cheap Mother

To this day I make fun of my mom for how thrifty she is but as I’ve gotten older her money saving tips have definitely rubbed off on me. From never paying full price to always making a b-line for the clearance rack, she managed to feed and clothe 3 kids plus one husband with money to spare.

I fell like an old lady saying this but remember when $20 could buy you a movie and lunch? And after school all I needed was $1.00 to buy a tasty treat from the local convenience store. Now, even the Dollar Store is going extinct – 20 per cent of the stock may cost a dollar (i.e. ugly mugs with teddy bears or oversized ladies underwear) but the other 80 per cent range from $2-$10.

SO WHAT? As more “stuff” enter the marketplace to seduce us into buying them, it’s getting harder to keep finances in check. I’m also at the age where many of my friends have bought condos or houses and are raising cute pets and/or babies. It seems like the older we get the more expenses pile up in front of us, sometimes threatening to cut off our oxygen.

Here are some thrifty tips from Mama So:

1. Buy in Bulk – We have two freezers at home, stuffed with meat and seafood. I’ve learned from my mom that when you buy these food items, separate them into smaller portions with ziplock bags or saran wrap and freeze them. This extends their life from 3 days to 3 weeks – saving both time and money.

2. Stalk Sales - Aside from Black Friday and Boxing Day, there are other times where sales can be extra juicy. Every couple of months stores try to purge old stock with big sales, so make sure to visit your favourite retailers to take advantage of huge discounts. Great discounters include: Joe Fresh, GAP and The Bay. Good times to shop: January-February for Fall/Winter stuff and August-September for Spring/Summer stuff.

3. Buy Cheap, Gift High - Christmas is when my mom shines and can get rid of her stockpile of discount goods which she’s accumulated over the past year. As early as December 26th she’s on the hunt for sales on tote bags, scarves and glassware that can be given as gifts for any occasion.

What are some of your money saving tips?

2012 Wrap Up: Ditching the FOMO

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Today is the eve of New Year’s eve and I just made the mistake of scrolling through Facebook to compare my 2012 with that of others. Instead of a smile, I came away with several questions: Why didn’t I travel more (i.e. Belize, Dubai), why didn’t I have a kid (tonnes of baby pics), and why didn’t I photograph all the food I’ve eaten?

Once I logged off, common sense flooded back into me and the answer to all those question is…don’t be stupid – be grateful for all the things you’ve accomplished this year. It’s easy to get distracted by glamourous snapshots from a friend or foe’s social network and feel like you haven’t done much with your life. Obviously this is 100% not true, so writing things down can definitely help put things into perspective and start you off on the right foot for the coming year.

SO WHAT? As I sit in my Hello Kitty pyjamas writing this post, I’m determined to end this year with a list of things I’m grateful for instead one full of resolutions for 2013. So here I go, I’m thankful for…

- My incredible husband who agreed to marry me this summer and again with a bigger wedding next summer

- The guts I had to uproot my life and move to San Francisco

- All the new friends I’ve made this past year – you know who you are  :)

- For my incredibly supportive family whose actions always speak louder than words – seriously, their English isn’t that good

- And lastly, all the opportunities that opened themselves up to me in 2012 i.e. writing for BetaKit, blogging, learning to live with someone, having the time to cook etc.

So it’s out with resolutions and in with Thank You’s.

What are you grateful for this year?

What I love About Christmas

Last year my brother-in-law Iain created this great snapshot of Christmas Day in the Ross household. My husband comes from an incredibly tight knit family and their home, especially during the holidays, is cozy and warm. From 20 year-old ornaments to a Hogwarts LEGO castle, I always look forward to celebrating the holidays with my favourite Scots.

SO WHAT? No matter what you believe in, December 25th is a great excuse to slow down, say thanks and spend time with family and friends. It’s the only day of the year where most of us (sorry movie theatre ushers, public transport workers & Chinese restaurants), aren’t required to go into work. So please sleep in, open gifts and stuff your faces with turkey, chicken, duck or all of the above (a.k.a. Turducken). I’m so grateful for this time of year and I hope you are too.

Holiday Gift Idea: For Little Dudes

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Tickle Toes Baby Boy Multi Sport Design Socks

For my friend Romina’s son, I wanted to get him something colourful and comfortable. He just turned one and is growing at such a rapid rate that his feet are literally exploding out of his socks. So I thought he needed some new, extremely fashionable ones.

SO WHAT? Thank you once again Amazon.ca for this set of 7 Tickle Toes sports inspired socks. Right now the gift set is selling for $6.12 and are perfect for babies 0-12 months. There seems to be one set left but the site has a tonne of cool baby socks for boys and girls to choose from. They range in price from $8-$30. So if you’re stumped on what to get the little guys in your life for Christmas, try these socks on for size.