in other news

Seeing as I more or less failed at the writing thing, I’ll just go ahead and lead with it: I’m in! I’ve submitted my deposit and SIR, and I’ll be joining the FEMBA class of 2021! Woohoo. Three more years in LA. Do I sound excited or what?

These last few months have been on-and-off eventful. I alternate between being crazy on the go, and being a hermit in my apartment. It’s like I’ll binge socialize and then go into hiding hungover until the next round.

I’m also now on a budget, so I can pay for school and not deplete my savings. We’ll see how well that goes. I’ll do a little post on that at some point later, after my finances stabilize.

Nicole out x

A Month of No Shopping

The first step is always admitting it, right? So here goes: I have a spending problem. Don’t get me wrong – I still save quite a bit of my earnings. Before I moved down to LA this year, I was maxing out my 401(k), contributing the full amount to my company’s stock program, maxing out a Roth IRA, and still putting a little extra into savings. A lot of this was helped majorly by bonuses and unloading vested RSU’s, but nonethless, I made it work. I’m also very grateful to my parents (thanks mum) who put money in my account to pay for family travel expenses, etc.

Since I’ve moved, I’ve dialed back my retirement contributions in the interest of saving for a more immediate goal – paying for b-school (which I’ve still got to get into). Currently, there is a mandatory 7% pre-tax deduction, and I also put in an extra ~8% post-tax. I no longer receive all the nice bonuses and RSU awards I used to, since I work for the state now. I also took a pretty substantial pay cut, but I’ll talk about that some other time. Same goes for my personal finance strategy. Every person is different, but it’s something I want to examine over time.

Anyway, my point is that I have this bad habit of justifying spending sprees whenever there is a major life change or event that occurs. Some of it is definitely necessary, but a lot of is isn’t. I just get it into my head that a new phase in my life (or new travel adventure) necessitates a new wardrobe or new shoes or new toys. Yes, I did need to buy more “business-casual” clothes for my new job because I used to wear jeans everyday (that’s tech for you). Yes, I did need to re-furnish an entire apartment and am still in the process of doing so. And yes, I did need to buy that new $150 vacuum cleaner because for some reason, this apartment is dustier than any place I’ve ever lived and I don’t even open the windows? It was also my birthday month, which I subconsciously used to extra-justify all my spending (sigh).

What I didn’t need was to buy 8 pairs of pants in my quest for the perfect work pant, nor did I need to splurge on a gazillion new pairs of (nice) flats. And I most definitely did not need an X-Box. At least I had the good sense to return that one. I know this because I still reach for the same pairs of pants and shoes at least 2/3 of the week. And they’re not even the new ones. Sigh. So suffice it to say, I’ve been throwing my credit card around like nobody’s business and I’m pretty sure the UPS/FedEx drivers are very familiar with my front door by now.

So I’m going to press pause on any unnecessary shopping through the month of February. “Unnecessary” is categorized as just that – no clothes, no shoes. No toys. No sous vide gadgets. No junk food that I can make myself.


  • Furniture for my apartment. This most likely will consist of a TV stand and maybe a second floor lamp for my living room. A TV. (Bought it this weekend, actually.)
  • Groceries. But try to restrict buying things like pre-baked goods, candy, processed food stuffs. If I want to bake something from scratch, that’s acceptable.
  • Some house items. Stuff related to upkeep and cleaning are ok. Replacing things I’ve used up, but don’t have any extras stashed away for are ok (eg. I have a bajillion types of toner in my stash so I don’t need to buy new toner, but I’m almost out of face wash and I don’t have any of that).
  • Miscellaneous to-dos. Like repairing my major curb rash, or buying return flights and such.
  • Trip expenses. I’m going up to SF for President’s Day weekend, so I can spend on food and such then.
  • Kindle. After being lost to the void in China, I’ve been debating whether to replace this immediately or later on. What I’m worried about is having to take one last emergency trip back home, and not being able to read. TBD.
  • 1 movie. I might catch Black Panther in theaters this month.
  • Existing subscriptions. Currently just Crunchyroll and Shades Club. Spotify’s been paid for the year, and Elizabeth and Clarke is once a quarter.

There you have it. I’m going to make do with what I have, try to eat clean and enjoy watching the Winter Olympics this month. My credit card spending reserves have pretty much dwindled at this point, so I’m starting without any cheat funds available to put on my cards. To myself – good luck! You’ll need it. ;D

hello, hello


After a few months of hiatus, I’m back! Ever since our Half Dome hike, life’s been quite the whirlwind. I’m not even sure it could be called a whirlwind – it was more like a Class 5 hurricane, keeping in line with how this past year has generally gone on both the personal front and the national/global affairs front.

To recap the last several months of 2017:

  • I spent the entire month of September in Singapore for work. It was wonderful, spending time with my entire family.
  • I quit my job at Autodesk in October and left San Francisco, trading the fog for the LA beaches with the intention of applying to b-school this year.
  • I also bought a car.
  • In November, my heart broke again and we said goodbye to another family member.
  • Thanksgiving was spent in Texas with my parents and brother, for some quality bonding time with the Texas Longhorns.
  • Come December, I was a) frantically trying not to lose my passport (I did) and get my China visa (it worked out), b) flying to Singapore on Christmas Eve (yes, again), and c) adventuring around Yunnan province and getting stranded in Shangrila because of the snow.

I’ll do some thoughts on our time in China in a different post but needless to say, there was plenty of nice scenery, we ate a lot of yak, and endured quite the adventure trying to get back to Singapore intact. 2018 showed up while we were holed up in a rando little Naxi village somewhere on the side of the Haba mountain bordering the Yangtze river. It was great.

One of my goals this year is to blog more often about the things in my life that are meaningful, whether it’s things that bring happiness or things that are lessons well learned. Something tells me this is a time in my life that I’ll want to document. I used to be really good about writing posts for the better part of my college and grad school years, so I want to do the same as I start yet another journey into my late twenties (!!). Working life in a big city can make it harder to want to write here and there, but some day when I look back, I’ll be glad the internet is practically forever. A peek into Younger Me’s mind surely makes for an interesting read.

Cheers to an interesting year ahead! Let’s see what you’ve got for us, 2018.

hello (again)

You know what they say – third fourth what-number-again time’s the charm. I don’t know how many blogs I’ve started and abandoned over the years (two WordPress’s, a Tumblr, my own websites) but I’m going to make an effort this time for the foreseeable future. Why? Well, because Dad has a bucket list. On that list: Half Dome.

14-16 miles, 4800 ft gain, and those cables. Yep, the cables.

Guess who gets to climb it with dear old Dad?

I’ve set my little countdown widget to the right on this page >>

This is my concerted effort, my dedicated mission, to get in shape enough so as not to suffer a horrible painful demise or be unable to haul my body weight up to the top of that rather iconic granite rock formation.

I’ve been better these last couple years about exercising, going out for weekend hikes, trying to eat healthy (why yes, I voluntarily eat low-sugar oatmeal for breakfast now – my 13 year old self would never have imagined). But I’m still out of shape. I’ve never hiked more than 10 miles at once, I can’t run more than 1.5 miles without stopping, and I absolutely struggle when it comes to severe elevation gain. I also don’t have much upper body strength. On the flip side, I did manage to hike up to Takstang (Tiger’s Nest) in January, and I managed to keep myself from being swept downriver in the middle of the  Hawaiian jungle by clinging to slippery wet boulders last July. So really, I’m probably approximately average in terms of fitness. Maybe below average.

yep, below average.

The Formula:

Half Dome survival = Outdoor hikes + HIIT + runs + body weight/upper body

The Plan:

Outdoor hikes – nothing beats real life practice. The idea is to break in my boots, and work up my mileage to around 10+ miles. I only have so many weekends left to do this, so I’ve looked up hikes around the Bay Area that I want to tackle over the next 7+ weeks. I have a bum right ankle sometimes, so I’ll need to be careful. In order:

Castle Rock State Park – 5.5 mi, 1000 ft gain
Mission Peak – 5.6 mi, 2200 ft gain
Mitchell Canyon-Eagle Peak Loop, Mount Diablo – 7.8 mi, 2200 ft gain
Black Mountain – 9.4 mi, 2300 ft gain
Waterfall Loop @ Big Basin – 11 mi, 2000xx ft gain

+1-2 easier trail-run types if my body can handle it (maybe)

HIIT – for the first time in my life, I spent money on a workout training plan thing. After watching a friend complete it via Instagram posts, I decided to try the PIIT28 workouts to get my HIITs in. This should serve to up my heart rate, overall body strength, and help keep me on a schedule. I probably won’t stick to it for 28 straight days, but I’ll try.

Runs – instead of doing the PIIT28 stretch warm-ups, I’ll probably substitute a mile run at least half the time to keep some sort of low-intensity movement on the day-to-day.

Body weight / upper body – for days when PIIT doesn’t focus on upper body strength, I’ll add in some weights, push-ups, tricep exercises, and whatever will help make sure I make it up that rock.

I’ll document thoughts, progress, feelings, and failures over the next 50 or so days in this spot. Day 1 starts tomorrow.

Wish me luck! I definitely need it.