Category Archives: How-Tos

Living To Save: Good Habits For Saving The Pennies

 

 So at the beginning of this month I moved out of my parent’s house into my own place in the town nearby, not a huge distance, but a big change! I was stressed out for weeks running up to the day, convincing myself it was an impossible task that I was stupid to take on – despite all the love and support from those around me. The stress made the whole process an ordeal and really tainted my last few weeks at home – I self-sabotaged the last weeks in the house I grew up in by making the move a way bigger scarier deal than it turned out to be.
Now I’ve been here just about a month and I love it, and living independently hasn’t been all that terrifying so far, just a bit more to keep on my mind day-to-day. The biggest of all these “grown up” issues is, as expected, money!
Making sure the finances are healthy is a big part of my day, making sure I have enough shifts, online and offline income to keep myself comfortable! Of course, my day job sorts out as much as I need, but in this age we need to save for the future, so I work hard to make sure I’m making and saving enough to stay afloat and keep some back for when I may need it!
Being raised by a family good at navigating the turbulent waters of life, who always made sure I had all I needed growing up, I’ve learnt a lot already, and I’m figuring out more and more as I go along!

1. Become a smart consumer!
Since moving around, I have started brushing up on my quick mental maths so I can easily calculate what I get for my money, and being more thoughtful with what I invest in, taking the time to consider each item and decide whether it is worth it.
Things like Ready meals seem like such a good idea at the time, but actually are bad for your wallet. When a microwave lasagne is only £1-2 from the shops, that may seem like a great way to put food on the table, but it’s a marketing trick. It is banking on the fact that it is quick to grab off the shelf, and they just hope that the consumer buying it doesn’t stop to work out that it would be a much better deal to cook a pan of lasagne that they could then reheat for the next day or two (or freeze) and have over a longer period of time. If I want something, I always quickly do an estimate of how much the ingredients would cost. The individual componets of the meal may work out as more expensive, but it is usually in quantities big enough that they will last for multiple recipes, rather than just 1 meal.
2. Plan Ahead
 My housemate and I have started doing big shops together in order to save money, because we find we spend less by doing our shopping in bulk. As we all know, when you go shopping you always end up getting some stuff you didn’t plan for, or you got hungry when you saw a treat, and there are always those little things you put in the cart that you forget about.
Planning ahead and doing one big shop every week or two actually really helps to organise yourself and save buying unnecessary junk.
Also before I go do a big shop, I make a list of the meals I plan to make and their ingredients and browse online supermarket prices, to compare where is cheaper. I tend to go to multiple shops to get the things that are cheaper from each one – it is a fair bit more effort, but you save a lot of money in the process, and after a while you start to learn where certain things are cheaper and naturally remember without the research!

3. Free Transportation

Being a somewhat lazy person, I never showed much appreciation for the fast and free mode of transportation available to me, that is walking. I always got the bus, caught a lift or, in dire circumstances, got a cab, but recently I adopted a zero-tolerance policy on transport and decided to always walk into work if time, weather and health are suitable to do so.
I live a half hour walk from where I work and the amount of effort the walk feels beforehand always fills me with dread, but it’s never so bad as I think it will be and I save upwards of £10 a week and get fitter as I go!

3. Go reusable

Integrating reusable items into your life can be such a great way of saving money. It reduces the need to re-buy (in some cases for life) items which you would have once used only up to a couple of times before discarding.
Reusable items are not only better for your bank balance, but often the environment too, reducing the amount of waste that to landfill dramatically

My favourite items online
Laundry Eggs
These are plastic balls filled with pellets that slowly dissolve over hundreds of washes, cutting out other detergents and saving money! They are usually refillable and eco-friendly to boot! They can be purchased plain, but there are also scented alternatives to give your laundry a fresh smell!

While they appear extremely expensive, a quick breakdown of the price divided by the number of washes shows that even some of the more expensive brands work out at only about £0.03p per wash, so saving you money as well as time and protecting the environment!
Here is a list of available brands online!

 

Dryer Balls
Dryer balls are a super helpful little gadget! You throw them in the tumble dryer with your washing and set it going, the dryer balls aerate the laundry, helping the laundry dry a lot faster, saving time, money and energy!
There are also brands that scent your laundry, to make it smell nice while they’re at it!

 

Reusable Straws
A bizarre item to think of buying a reusable alternative to, but if you have a tendency to get through a lot of straws, investing in a set of silicone or stainless steel straws could be a great idea!
While cool, they are also easy to clean, reduce plastic wastage, and save that little bit of money if you find yourself getting through too many.


Microfiber Kitchen Cloths
Microfiber cleaning cloths are a great reusable investment that make cleaning a lot easier and I would recommend anyone to start using them in place of disposable surface wipes!
I use them for most cleaning jobs- they even leave windows and mirror streak-free and clean!

Unexpectedly reusable
I would never have guessed it was a legitimate idea before seeing it in action, but I have met a lot of people recently who reuse kitchen sponges, throwing them in the hot wash with their tea towels to freshen them up every couple days! I am not sure whether this practice is recommended with them, but I have being doing it ever since and seen no issue from it!

4. Save The Pennies
Literally. Put those pennies into a jar and keep them safe, then get them swapped out for cash when it gets full! It’s a really good idea whe you stick to it, as pennies are hard to carry around and use, but do add up quickly! I currently have about £14 in pennies in a jar on my desk and am waiting a bit longer before lugging it all to the bank for the precious payout!
Getting a container that isn’t necessarily easy to raid is a good call, as it helps to prevent dipping in unnecessarily and slowing your progress.
I’m fond of the huge novelty banks that can hold hundreds of pounds as, while they take longer to fill up, the payout is so satisfying when you finish it up!
Here are some I can recommend, if you don’t want to go down the “coffee jar” route.

5. Side Projects

Finding easy sources of side income, even if it’s only a little amount, is a great way of taking some of the stress off finances. While this may seem obvious, it’s a step worth thinking really hard about – you would not believe some of the weird things I’ve made money from in my time!
Think hard about what you can do to bring in that extra bit of cash:
Cleaning
Drawing
Knitting
Freelance assistant work
Email editor
TV extra
Affiliate advertiser
The above are all little side things I have made money from personally so, trust me, I’ve been there and done that!

6. Get A Routine

Come up with a routine of saving, some small rules to follow that are feesible with your lifestyle. Decide what limitations you need, what percentage of your income you can set aside, and any goals you want to reach and in what time.
Make sure to be realistic with your goals, rather than pushing to have to stretch yourself too far to meet your goals- It will increase the chances of success and keep you motivated. Don’t trouble yourself too much by trying to set goals too ambitious, because you can always set a lower goal and exceed it, while overestimating and missing the mark will leave you disappointed and possibly result in actually saving less.
How much do you believe, with being careful, you could save a week? Or month?
What things could you cut down, without damaging your quality of life, to save that little bit extra on?

I hope these tips help you to improve your savings and reach a greater level of prosperity! Remember, having money is great, but do not make your whole life centred around it – Do what you can to make sure you have what you need, but remember to take that little bit of time to enjoy your life – don’t make every moment a scrabble for more, and make sure there are things in you life that really make you feel good, that makes all your hard work worth it.
Want to join the conversation? Join us on the Learn With Amy Facebook and Twitter!
Any questions or requests? Drop me a message using the contact form below.

How To Blast A Job Interview

Photo 25-01-2015 10 08 53Job interviews are one of those frustrating facts of life that, unless we’re either really lucky or really unlucky, will experience a number of times in life. They’re stressful, judgy and generally a (useful) nuisance. They CAN be fun sometimes, but I think both the interviewees and the interviewers out there can agree that there are probably hundreds of other things they’d rather be doing.

I’m lucky in a way that, at 21, that I have seen interviews from both sides and know both what it’s like to go to a job interview and also what I have in the past looked for in people I have interviewed. Now, I have just done a couple of job interviews and have another one coming up in a couple of days, so I figured now is as good a time as any to share with you my tips for job interviews (or, if you really want to bomb your interview, do the opposite of what I say next).

Presentation

Now, it is important in life that you never change yourself for something else, whether is be a job, relationship or… well, anything really! That still applies, but in some circumstances a kind of blending in technique can help you.
If I have a job interview at a chill looking pub, I’m not going to go in stressed like I want to work on Wall Street. If I want to work at a top class restaurant, I don’t want to rock up in jeans and a tshirt. It’s important to a degree to look at what role you’re aiming to fit into and doing what subtle things you can to look like exactly the jigsaw piece they need to fit the puzzle – make yourself the picture of the candidate they need.
I recently went for an interview at a pub and, knowing it’s a nice place with a good opinion of itself, I aimed to look clean and respectable. However, I also knew the manager to be somewhat of a big personality who likes to test people a little, so I aimed for a slightly less cutesy feminine look. And I also heard that the place could be one to get rough at times, so I made sure to ensure I looked capable of taking care of myself and tried to get across a “takes no shit” attitude.
At the interview coming up I know that it’s a very fancy place, therefore I will want to look clean and respectable, but also take into account it’s a busy place that requires an athletic and energetic nature to keep up.

Fun

11696527_850932034991471_1306743554_nI know job interviews can be a bit of a drag and, trust me, the person interviewing you is having even less fun than you most of the time! Interviewing person after person is beyond boring – it is frustrating! So, for your sake and theirs, you want to make sure you bring something fresh and new to the table and that will not only make the interview more fun, but it will set you apart from all the uninteresting interviews the other person has had to sit through that day.
Try your best to let your personality show, ask questions, try to have a laugh where you can. Don’t go overboard and start going off like a hyena and punching them in the arm, but show that you can have a sensible good time and could be nice to work with.
Being someone who the other person looks at and thinks “I could like working with you” is going to score way more points than “I could tolerate you”
Try to make the interview more relaxed and enjoyable by trying to keep your body language polite but relaxed, try to look at them as if you were looking at a respected friend rather than someone to fear and just try to genuinely connect with them. As someone who has worked in management, there is not much worse than that feeling of being treated like a monster as opposed to a human being just because of your job.

That’s a person

Following on from the last point, it’s so important to remember that the person interviewing you is a human being. They have hopes, dreams, fears, problems and have experienced some form of pain that you will never fully understand. We all have a life of our own completely separate from anyone else and they are just the same in that regard.
I don’t like using the “picture them naked” method as that just makes me uncomfortable looking at them – I personally like keeping seeing people naked fairly private! However, I do like to think about the fact that they aren’t always the person sat in front of you. Who are they when they are at home? Do they like to go play board games with their family? Do they sit in a onsie eating ice cream? What’s their favourite show on Netflix? Inside their head is a whole other universe and they are so much more than the role they are playing when they’re running your job interview.

Learning is okay

If you’re going in for an interview in a job you aren’t confidently practiced in, make sure you are clear that you are willing and ready to learn, but don’t make out that you know exactly what you are doing. I know people want to hire competent staff, but it’s better to say “I’m good at what I apply myself too, but I do need to learn more for you” than to tell them you know it all inside and out and to find yourself in over your head. TRUST me on that!
I was always way more likely to trust someone who went “I really want to do this, I will learn, will you help me be what you need?” than someone who was like “I can walk into this today and be exactly what you’re looking for”
Requiring training doesn’t make you any less able to do a job – if fact it can ensure that you are trained properly for the job you are going into! Working in a restaurant, I had a big issue with new staff thinking they could walk into the job, not really realising how a lot of places operate differently to each other. Yep, good work, you know where to keep the glasses in your old job! But we do kind of like them in the cupboard here.

Be yourself

I know, a fairly typical answer, but it’s important to remember that there’s no point being anything but who you are. However you behave when you get the job is how you’ll be expected to behave in the job, otherwise you have a lot of work ahead keeping up a facade that you’ll quickly get tired of!
Go in as yourself, offer the package that is your abilities, your work ethic and personality and then it’s genuinely you who has the job and you who has to continue it.
Of course, if you don’t really WANT the job but need the money, it probably isn’t a good idea to say that, but that’s in the realm of TOO honest!

Be on time and as they asked

Obvious again, I know, but you wouldn’t BELIEVE how many people I interviewed in my time who would roll in 5-20 minutes late for their interviews for no good reason, which really isn’t a way to make a good impression.
If you’re running late for whatever reason, call up and let them know and apologise and they will, more than likely, understand. If you’re going to be late, you may as well use it as an opportunity to show that you are courteous – could even add a couple points in your favour!
Also, if you have been asked to dress in a certain way for an interview or trial shift, then make sure you do! Obviously, if they have been inappropriate in their requests, then don’t bother with them, but do your absolute best to follow reasonable instructions.
I once gave a trial shift to someone and gave them very specific details of what to wear and also where to cheaply get anything to wear that they didn’t have as I really wanted them to have a good shot at the job and, as well as showing up late, they came wearing completely inappropriate clothes. I wish I could say it got better from there, but sadly that was just the start.

Listen, don’t panic

It’s very common, in my experience, for people to be focusing so much on how nervous they are and how much they want to impress that they forget to listen entirely. There’s a literal sinking feeling in your heart when you’re talking to an interviewee or new staff member and they are so panicky that they don’t hear a word you say, as much as you are trying to help them.
Take slow breaths, remember that you are going to do your best, everything will be okay and you don’t need to freak out. A little bit of nerves is great, letting it get out of hand can harm your chances. Take a moment to centre yourself and be in the moment and go at normal speed – no need to fly off at a hundred miles an hour!

I really hope this is of help to you and, if you’re going for jobs right now, good luck!
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Bye-bye Grease! Taking back my hair

10432552_1013181298695894_8304708746044163524_nEver since I hit that tender age where you suddenly feel super self conscious, I have had this strong aversion to having greasy hair. Even now, a more confident adult, I still feel this (literally) sickening upset whenever I have greasy hair. I feel dirty, ugly and ashamed of myself. I know it doesn’t make any sense, but it is a feeling that I have not managed to shed after 10 years of trying.

In recent years, I have found the problem worsening as my hair was becoming greasier even faster. I got pulled into a vicious cycle of my hair getting greasy and having to wash it as smaller and smaller intervals.
I read online and spoke to people about it and the only answer I could find seemed to be to wash my hair less regularly. WHAT?! NOT AN OPTION! I couldn’t just let my hair get greasy and embrace it. So, I did a little research and learnt why my hair was getting greasier faster and faster.
While stripping your scalp of grease can cause your hair to get greasy faster, it is also the fact that the chemicals in shampoos (even “natural” ones) can irritate your scalp, making your body think that it is being attacked and releases more grease to sooth your scalp.
Now, I can go about 3-7 days without my hair getting greasy, unless I’ve worked out a lot or have had particularly sweaty shifts at work. “How?!” You may ask.
The answer probably sits in the back of your pantry, waiting for you!
It’s Baking soda!
I began washing my hair with baking soda a month ago and I’m so much happier with my hair now. In addition to that, I started rinsing my hair with apple cider vinegar and that only made things better!
Photo 09-12-2014 16 12 06This simple, and REALLY CHEAP, switch has made a world of difference. My hair is soft, smooth, easy to style, and – best of all – not greasy! This change has only brought good things – the only thing I miss about shampoo is the nice choice of smells and also the bubbly lather that you don’t get (unless, you make a doosy and mix the baking soda and vinegar at the same time) with this method.

So, how do I wash my hair? It’s really simple!

In a plastic cup, put 1-2 teaspoons of baking soda in with about 1 teaspoon of water. Then, in another plastic cup, put about 3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar in a cup. Then (this is a very useful trick) get a little bit of the vinegar on a finger or spoon and use it to stir the baking soda mix. Doing this will cause a chemical reaction and make the baking soda fizz up a little bit, just like the volcano projects kids do in school, this will make it a tad easier to work the baking soda through your hair, as it’s much easier to work with a foam than a liquid that’s more likely to wash out of your hands as you try to get it on your head.
So, thoroughly wet your hair and then work the foamy baking soda mix through all of your hair. Really make sure you get it well onto your scalp – just don’t rub it in so hard that you snap your hair!
Let is soak into your hair for a couple minutes and then thoroughly rinse out.
When you have rinsed out all of the baking soda, wet your hair again and then pour the vinegar through all of your hair. Then let it sit for a minute or two and then rinse it all out.
Your hair may smell a TINY bit like vinegar, but you can easily spray a little perfume on to cover it up – but, I happen to love the smell of vinegar, so I don’t mind!

Photo 24-03-2015 11 56 31
Result!

So, there you have it, a cheap and very effective way of washing and maintaining your clean and grease-free hair!
If you have tried this method or you want to share your comments, suggestions or questions, please share them with us in the comments, or join us on Facebook and Twitter! Xx

Remember that this is purely based off my own personal experience. If you find that this doesn’t work for you, don’t continue this method. We’re all different and our bodies respond differently to things. Always use your common sense and take care!

Random Acts of Kindness

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We’ve all seen videos on Youtube and Facebook about people going out and doing random acts of kindness for others. They fill us up with that warm fuzzy feeling as unsuspecting people are shown gestures of kindness and good will. It’s really easy to watch these videos, but a lot of people don’t feel like they have what it takes to actually DO this.
Well, my sister and close friends have taken it upon ourselves to spread the love and bring joy to people’s day on a regular basis!

Inspired by videos of these kinds of events from big-hearted people like Ryan Higa and his crew, who regularly upload videos of themselves doing kind gestures as a way to inspire others to do the same. They give toys and flowers to people at Christmas and they went around their city giving food to the homeless for Thanksgiving. Popular Viner Thomas Sanders went around shopping mall for “Givemas” giving out gift cards to stores in that mall to happy customers and staff. These people are great examples of how selflessness can be both rewarding and really fun! These are the kinds of people who inspired us to start out own style of Random Acts of Kindness.

11041481_790157151068960_1238396688_nOne day a couple of summers ago, my sister and I traveled to a nearby town for a day at the beach together. It was nice – We drew pictures in the sand, paddled in the water and had a laugh before realising that we were surrounded, both on land and in the water, by literally hundreds of jelly fish and decided to flee the beach.
Wandering around and seeing a mixture of moods from passers-by. Some were loving the summer fun and enjoying the company of their families, while others were stressing out, sulking and generally being moody. We decided, as we were already having a great time, to do something nice to brighten other’s days a bit more. We put our heads together and decided that food and drinks were off the cards due to the insane numbers of seagulls that swoop at anything remotely edible and giving money just seemed weird, so we’d settle for something adults and children alike could just enjoy – Balloons!
After hurrying to the nearest card shop, we set off to deliver our handful of balloons to some lucky people.
Honestly, this first experience opened up so much for us. It was a great feeling to come into someone’s life, give them a gift and just let them go with a big smile on their faces. We met some absolutely lovely people and had some truly moving and enlightening conversations. And, just with balloons, we actually made a positive difference to the lives of others!

With that first experience a great success, we were hungry to do it again.

Valentine’s Day: Taking it a step bigger

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Valentine’s Day is known as a day of celebrating your love and putting on displays of affection for the world to see, but this day can be a huge downer for a lot of people with no partner and a glum attitude. In honesty, I meet more people who are miserable than happy on Valentine’s Day and that is because of the hype and weight put on having a partner. It reinforces the idea that having a boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife should be your top priority and not having one is somehow a failure on your part. That can seriously bring you down and Valentine’s Day can be extra bad.
My best friend, little sister and I decided that we were going to take a stand against this yearly downer and go out and spread the love for everyone!
1939724_583856765032334_271925713_nOn Valentine’s Day 2014, we went out armed with ‘Free Hug’ banners and 20 balloons.
Due extremely high winds due to the huge storm that was pelting Britain at the time (hands up if you remember #UKstorm) we moved our post indoors and instead we targeted the students and faculty of our local university!
Shy students didn’t respond too openly to the offer of free hugs, but the balloons when down (or up) a treat! We managed to brighten many days, meet some very nice people and even confused a business lecturer when half his class turned up with balloons tied to their desks!
It was a fantastic day and the three of us had a great time seeing so many smiling faces! It brought us three closer together, introduced us to some nice people and brightened the days of many people!

Despite the success of that day, due to people getting jobs, my best friend moving back to Japan, lots of changes and such, the next time we had the availability to do another Random Act of Kindness was the following Valentine’s Day 2015.
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Due to my best friend still being in Japan, we still needed another to join us. Funnily enough, a few months after Valentine’s Day 2014, my sister made friends with a girl whom we later discovered, when we happened to talk about Valentine’s Day, we had given a balloon to on that day and then had met by chance later! This friend came along to help us out this year and the tradition continued for a second year! Armed with about 25 balloons and a handful of silk roses, the three of us wondered the town.
Due to it being a Saturday, the high street was packed full of families, couples and children of all ages. Honestly, the minute we stepped out with all the balloons ready to go we were mobbed by kids who wanted their own. Seriously, pre-teens are scary!!
The first child we were moved to give a balloon to was a small toddler whose parents asked us where they could buy their daughter a balloon like ours. I wish I could have captured the expression of true delight when we responded by handing over the big heart-shaped balloon that their little one had been so keen on and told them it was their’s for free.
We met a lot of lovely people along the road and we were really well received by everyone we encountered.

The overwhelming feeling I was left with was that it is so easy to make a significant difference to a person’s day (and thus a person’s life) simply by doing a nice gesture as simple as giving them a balloon.

How YOU can try it!

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So, now that you know that it’s actually very easy to do random acts of kindness, there’s nothing holding you back from trying it for yourself. This kind of thing is fantastic for helping the people around you, bringing friends together and practicing the very healthy activity of giving.
In honesty, it is a LOT easier to do it with a group of friends with whom you can feel comfortable around and whom you can chat to and enthuse with. Going around doing these activities does cause a physical reaction of nervousness and it takes a lot of energy, so having friends with you will help to keep your energy up.
There are so many ways that you can try this out for yourself, but sometimes you need some ideas to get you going:
Giving fun things: Balloons, toys for children, gift cards, second-hand video games, etc
Motivational: Positive/inspiring sticky notes, a letter to a stranger, a supportive and inspirational letter to give to a parent to give to their child, Random compliments, etc
Helpful: Giving food or drink to the homeless, a group trip volunteering, a fun charity event, visiting elderly neighbours, etc.

Remember to be creative in your ideas. My crew plan to expand on the original balloon idea for next time, so keep thinking and try to think of some original, helpful and fun ideas. Remember, fun and positivity are the mail point! People will remember their experience of being chosen for a random act of kindness, so make sure it’s a lovely memory for them to share with others.

Remember:

Some cultures are not so open to the contact of total strangers. Especially in more reserved cultures, some of the more friendly ideas might be seen as inappropriate or even illegal, so always be careful of what you decide to do.
In some places, it may be more or less okay to do ‘free hugs’ than in other places, etc.
Be very careful to make sure that you aren’t making yourself at the risk of any legal issues. When I handed over a balloon, I always noted that they should be used with care. Sometimes the giving of stuff, especially to children, can put you at some risk, so make sure you carefully consider that.

Do you have any ideas or questions about Random Acts of Kindness that you want to share? Share them in the comments below or over on Facebook or Twitter! Have a great day! Xx

 

This is purely an informational piece and anyone who uses suggestions from this piece or other pieces on this website should do so with care, consideration, their own common sense and always behave well within the law. Safety first!!

Learning Language Like A Baby

IMG_1004.JPGLearning a language is easier than people think. Just look at yourself now, you are reading an article written in English by someone probably very very far away from where you are. You most likely learnt this language as a young baby – as your native tongue – or perhaps you learnt the language later in life.

Baby Amy
Me as a baby

Regardless of whether it’s your first, second or sixth language, it got in there. The hard part about learning a language is the getting around your own mind to allow it in. Most of us learnt a language growing up that serves to comminicate with our community in both a written and spoken form (however, some are not so lucky, due to physical or psychological issues) We learn it as we grow for one reason: survival. If we want to get fed, we have to communicate that we are hungry. If we are scared, we need to be able to explain the danger that is facing us.
As a baby, your parents were probably quite good at understanding the babblings and cooings you made as a kind of personalised pre-language to know when you were hungry, sleepy, scared or needed changing. Parents and guardians are very good at picking up on the needs of the people in their care. But you had to be able to communicate better. If you wanted one of the toys in front of you, it would help you acheive getting it if you said ‘Ball’ or ‘truck’, so the listener would know exactly what you wanted.
You aquired language as a necessity for your survival, pleasure and comfort.
Learning a second language requires a bit more work as we try so hard to learn it through our first language. It is very normal to say “What is this in English?” or “So ‘____’ is just like ‘___’ in English?”
When it is a language that is similar to your langage it is okay, but when it is two entirely different languages it gets confusing. One of the biggest problems I am finding in learning Korean and Japanese is that it is so hard to learn it through the context of English, because they are so vastly different. At times, I even find it a lot easier to learn Korean through Japanese, because they are at least slighty similar.
When you were a baby, the only way you could work out what something meant was through context. You would see and hear how it was used and learn from that.
A Korean baby can’t hear the word “비행기” and think “I think that’s Korean for ‘airplane’.” But they hear it said, maybe the parent points at a toy plane or a picture of a plane as they say it and the child will eventually put two and two together.
It can be a slow process, but it’s the best proven method to make you both natural and comfortable in that language – It made you fluent in your native language!
I know it is incredibly tough to learn another language without referencing your native language, but there are a couple of ways that you can try to work around your native tongue.

 

Go Sub-free

Copyright (C) SBS
Copyright (C) SBS

It’s so easy to watch television programs in the language you are studying and always have the subtitles on. It’s the safer and easier option which means you can take everything in as easily as if you were watching a show from your home.
But, you can find that you’ve watched an entire series and barely looked up from the words on the screen!
I love watching Japanese and Korean dramas without subtitles because I can really watch the performances and it’s a great way to test what I know and try to figure out the stuff I don’t know from other sources (i.e how it’s said, the context of the scene and the relationship between the speaker and listener).
It can be tough and you may miss some details, but it really does help (and gives you an excuse to watch it again later)!
Sometimes, as you improve, you will also find ways that the subtitle writers didn’t get it totally right or misunderstood and you can get an even clearer understanding of what the character is saying. I remember watching a Japanese drama where the subtitles consistantly made a mistake that confused me for ages until I watched it without, actually listened to the actual Japanese dialogue and suddenly it all made sense!

Stick to it

sticky note 1One method I use is to put up sticky notes around my bedroom and office space that have words in Japanese and/or Korean that have pictures to describe what the word or phrase means! I don’t put a single word of English on it so that I learn to recognise and appreciate it in that language. It’s a bit like pictionary, if you think about it!

sticky note 2Try to leave sticky notes or flashcards around for yourself so you learn to recognise them with ease. If you’re feeling tricky as you boost the difficulty, perhaps write a description of what the word or phrase means IN the language you’re learning. If you have friends who speak that language fluently, get them to write some of the words and answers for you so that 1) you can’t cheat (because, if you wrote it, you might remember it) and 2) you’ll know for sure that it’s right!

Read it and weep (or don’t weep)

Try buying a book in the language of your choice. Try reading a bit of it from time to time and see how much of it you understand or just try to look at the grammar and sentence structure to get a better understanding of that. Reading an original book in the language will give you a good feeling for how it is consumed on a day-to-day basis and help you really immerse yourself. Don’t worry if the book makes absolutely NO sense to begin with, just keep studying and soon enough you’ll start to pick stuff up.
I bought myself a book of Korean poetry (which was a difficult first choice) and I’m finding with time that I can pick out more and more that I understand. I’ve got a long way to go, but it really helps to have that as a marker of where I’m up to!

Take it social

Again, the more you immerse yourself the more comfortable around the language you will become. I try to make myself unescapably surrounded by all of the languages I am trying to learn – and that includes online too!
On Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, I try my best to keep my exposure to language high. I’ll follow Korean and Japanese people on Instagram and Twitter and try my best to read their messages. Interacting with people is great because it’s a perfect opportunity to test your written knowledge and try have a chat with people.
(Of course, always be careful of who you talk to online. There are creeps everywhere and in every language, so always use your common sense when talking to strangers)
I always keep my ‘Trending Topics’ bar on Twitter set to either Japanese or Korean and I’ll make sure that every time I check Twitter that I am reading every trending topic.
On Facebook, I follow the Korean Huffinton Post, Korean stores like G Market and Retrip (a Japanese online magazine) which is great for a casual glance over the news and makes a nice buffer between quizzes and stressed-out revision statuses!

Listen up

Listening to audiobooks, like reading, gives you a subtitle-free and pure exposure to a text but also has the added benefit of being able to hear clear pronunciation, often totally uninterrupted by noisy surroundings or music that you would find in at TV show or movie.
There is a huge wealth of audiobooks available online, so have a look around and have a listen!
I’m currently listening to the Korean radio play adaptation of Don Quichotte by SBS that is available to listen to on Youtube!

I hope this piece is helpful to you! If you have any questions, please share them in the comments or over on Facebook or Twitter! Xx

I’m counting on you! Learning to count in Japanese

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Japanese is a fantastic language and if you are interest in studying it, learning to count should be a high priority for you!

Numbers in Japanese aren’t the hardest subject to grasp, but can be tricky to begin with! Don’t worry, with practice and revision, you’ll soon have it mastered!

Just in case you need a refresher on how to read Hiragana, you can refer back to my original post here!

Evernote Camera Roll 120140625 002833First things first, let’s learn the numbers 1 to 10

 

1 = Ichi/一/いち

2=  Ni/二/に

3= San/三/さん

4=  Yon/四/とん (Shi/四/し is another word for four, but it is used less, because Shi also means death, which is written as 死  in Kanji)

5=  Go/五/ご

6=  Roku/六/ろく

7=  Shichi/七/しち (Another word for seven is Nana/七/なな. I believe this is because, like the word for four, ‘shi’ is associated with the word ‘Shini/死に/しに’ meaning ‘death’)

8=  Hachi/八/はち

9=  Kyuu/九/きゅう (Nine can also be Ku/九/く, but this is also thought to be bad luck as Ku also means suffering 苦)

10= Ju/十/じゅ

 

Not too difficult, right? I actually found the Kanji for the numbers some of the easiest to learn. An easy way to revise them is to write the kanji when writing lists, in place of 1, 2, 3, 4, etc you can write 一、二、三、四、and so on. It’s a little more effort, but that practice will help you memorise the kanji!

That’s pretty much the hardest part of learning the numbers, as counting beyond ten is pretty simple.

For example, 11 is Juichi/十一/じゅいち (simply 10 and 1), 22 is nijuni/二十二/にじゅに (Which directly translates as “two ten two”, meaning two tens and two) and 51 is gojuichi/五十一/ごじゅいち (five ten one).

This information will now get you as from 1 to 99

Here I will list the words up to 10,000

 

100= hyaku                      1000= sen

200= nihyaku                  2000= nisen

300= sambyaku             3000= sanzen

400= yonhyaku              4000= yonsen

500= gohyaku                5000= gosen

600= roppyaku              6000= rokusen

700= nanahyaku           7000= nanasen

800= happyaku              8000= hassen

900= kyuhyaku              9000= kyusen

10,000= ichiman

 

Basically, these work the same as the other numbers. The way I think of it is that the numbers go from bigger to smaller. For example, 10,146 is ichimanhyakuyonjuroku/一万百四十六/いちまんひゃくよんじゅろく

It’s a mouthful, but it makes sense!

 

I hope you learnt something new and exciting in this piece. Next, I will write about the next aspect of counting in Japanese, which is counters! Keep learning and see you soon! Good luck!

 

 

Reclaiming your space: Beating messiness

I’ve promised to always be honest on here and, in all painful honesty, I am a messy person. I have a habit of being rather lazy and also to pass up tidying and cleaning in favour of more “productive” jobs. It isn’t good, it isn’t fun and it’s got to change.

I am slowly starting to change this (on my days off work) and I wanted to share my ways of clearing some space.

Ask yourself what you want from your space.
Do you want your space to be a bedroom, an office, a dressing room, a wardrobe, a guest room? begin by asking yourself what kind of room you want it to be and think hard about what features that kind of room has.
Do you want it to have a lot of open space and clear walls? Then maybe you don’t want lots of stuff and shelves all over the walls.

Tough love
This may be the worst part of the whole experience. Where you have to bite the bullet and be painfully honest with yourself about the stuff you need to throw out.
Do you need the big prop sword you never use? Do you need ALL those bottles of perfume you never wear? Is it actually possible that you own too many storage boxes?!
It’s not easy to be 100% straight with yourself at this point, but force yourself through it. Gather up a load of your stuff and put it into two piles, being totally honest. One pile is for stuff you need and actually use, the other is for the charity or junk shop.

Spend a little money
it doesn’t have to be a lot of money, just invest a little into some good cleaning products, the right kind of storage for yourself and maybe a couple DVD folders for the thousands of movies you own.

One of the best things I bought for organising my space was this storage ottoman:

 

It can be folded flat, but when set up (and with some stuff inside) it also makes a fantastic seat! When I got it, I filled it with stuff and jumped on top of it to see if it would break and (while I WOULD NOT RECOMMENT doing this) it didn’t give way!

Make a list
For messy folks like me, we sometimes need a challenge to make sure we stick to our guns. Maybe keep a list of jobs you have to do, or keep a record of the jobs you to each day.
I own a little red notebook called my ‘task book’ in which I write all the jobs I did that day and how much money I earned that day.

Don’t get mad, get even
You wanted this. You want a tidy room/house and it’ll be worth it in the end. Chores and cleaning can be a pain, but suck it up and make your room perfect, one step at a time.

Slaying the beast
The biggest challenge we’ll face in this process is most likely the “sentimental monster” that creeps up behind you as you look at that Cow Keyring in your hand and whispers “That was an awesome day when you bought that. If you throw that away, you throw the memories away with it”
This voice is a liar and sentimentality should, one, be saved for REALLY special memories, and shouldn’t be on stuff like a cow keyring, unless it holds a LOT of emotional value to you.

Stay on top of it
Like with any war, it’s not just about the one battle. You have to keep winning each battle, and that means staying on top of things and not winning one and then just stepping down. If you do that, your space will go back to just as bad as before. Control your space, keep your stuff in check and don’t just let it slide.

To get my idea, here are a list of Keepers Vs Leavers

Staying                                                                                Going

10834088_731194146965261_990076668_n10808145_731195250298484_2125271517_n

This keyring has very strong personal value    VS.        A cow keyring that won’t actually clip

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A box I made myself by hand                               VS.  Some random jewellery boxes I collected

10818676_731193936965282_2076879136_n 10815840_731194080298601_1574198330_n

 

A scarf my best friend bought in Italy                VS.  A random brown square I knitted

10833953_731193343632008_1213429127_n 10819033_731193416965334_412169893_n

My favourite perfumes                                            VS. Perfumes I never use (Check out that dust!)

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My precious Batman and Maneki Neko             VS.    Some random “cool looking” bottles

I’m staying true to my word and the “Goers” are going in the recycling or the charity shop.

Good luck! X

Making 호박죽 (Korean butternut squash rice porridge) and Discovering Maangchi!

butternutIn Korea, 죽 ‘juk’ dishes are savoury porridges made from rice. Some are the same consistency of porridge or oatmeal, while others are more like soup with dumplings of rice. Juk is a popular comfort food in Korea and is commonly eaten when ill as it is simple and easy on the stomach, but tasty and good for the body.

While Juk is usually homemade, you can easily buy instant mix in Korea – however, it is incredibly salty!! It is best served warm, but most dishes can be enjoyed cold.

 

My first experiences of ‘juk’ were packets of instant 소고기죽 (Beef porridge) and, while saltier than a mouthful of seawater, was really nice! I’d never had any experience of savoury porridge before, so it was very new to me. When I started making it, I was dubious that the mix would even work. It seemed too small a quantity and too fine to expand into anything substantial, but sure enough it worked! This made me curious about how hard it could be to make it myself.

Being a big fan of butternut squash, I was so happy when I saw a recipe online for 호박죽. But this rice porridge was different from the one I tried. Instead of being an oatmeal-y mix, it seemed to be a kind of soup with dumplings. But, instead of suit, wheat flour and herbs, these dumplings were made of just sweet rice flour, water and a pinch of salt!

It’s so simple, but SO good

The recipe I used came from a lovely website and Youtube channel called Maangchi, which teaches a wide array of Korean recipes.

©Maangchi
©Maangchi

Maangchi is funny, cute, an incredibly talented cook and beautiful (inside and out). Her videos and articles sharing her recipes are clear and fun to make – and all delivered with charisma and a unique sparkle!

 

After one try, the 호박죽 turned out perfectly. And I can see why it is considered such a good comfort food! It’s so wholesome, yet simple! It’s not too rich, yet it’s so satisfying.

And Maangchi has literally hundreds of other fantastic recipes to try, including:

Roast Seaweed snacks

Korean style fried chicken

And Jjajangmyeon (짜장면)

After the brilliant success of the 호박죽, I will definitely be trying as many of her recipes as I can!

Make sure to subscribe to Maangchi, as well as follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Flickr.

Have you tried any of Maangchi’s dishes? Share photos with us on the Learn With Amy Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and make sure to tag Maangchi so she can see your handiwork!

Good luck!

Happy Halloween! How to have a safe Halloween!

10748868_717444431673566_657748307_nI hope you are all having a very happy Halloween!

I’ll be working away at the restaurant tonight — portraying the terrifying character of an exhausted waitress (whoooooooo, scary!) — so I won’t get to join the usual spooky celebrations, but I wanted to wish you all a very fun and safe Halloween!

 

Here are a quick few tips on how to make the best of your Halloween:

Lights on, lights off

I know Halloween is all about scares, and who isn’t at least a little creeped out by the dark? While you’re using the dark to set the atmosphere, be careful to make sure that the area is clear of any trip hazards, and try to have some torches on hand. (also, I recommend that stairs and steps stay lit, as no-one wants real accidents on Halloween)

 

Plan ahead

If you’re going trick-or-treating or to any Halloween parties, plan ahead your route and make sure you know where you’re going. Remember, on a night where everyone is wearing masks, it’s even harder to know who’s behind them.

 

Keep your wits

If something feels wrong, don’t just brush it off. Always keep your instincts with you and remember that safety comes first. If you don’t trust someone you are with, feel safe or have any worries, handle the situation as smoothly and calmly as you can– Don’t ignore it for the sake of a party.

 

Tamper-proofing

Free sweets, free food, free drinks! On a night with so much food and drink being passed around, there comes some risks. Don’t eat or drink anything that you think has been tampered with and just kindly decline. We’ve all heard the stories, we don’t want to live them.

 

Dress accordingly

Sure, you want to be a ‘sexy ghost’, but it’s still October and it’s still cold. Try to take warm clothes with you and avoid getting chilled. It can seriously spoil the authentic look of your costume if you’re shivering and sneezing all night!

 

Have safe fun

On nights where people often let go of their cares and senses to go have fun, a lot of stuff can happen that can ruin the fun. No-one wants to end a ‘fun’ night crying, scared or in the emergency room, so make sure your fun takes safety into account. That way, you can keep enjoying your night and future fun times to come without the burden of worry or upset!

 

10745084_717444415006901_1988275491_nHave a great night guys! Have any great pics from your Halloween parties? Come share them on the Learn With Amy Facebook and Twitter and come connect with me on Twitter and Instagram! Have a fun and spooky night! Bwahahahahahaha!

Tattoos and Tattoo aftercare

As I mentioned in one of my recent posts, I have 3 tattoos that I love very much that all carry very strong meanings to me.  They’re important and I want to make sure they last well.

A lot of people ask me

“Wasn’t that really painful?!”

firsttattoo1Personally, if you are worried about pain, probably best to leave getting a tattoo for a while. When I got my first one, I was very scared of the thought of the pain and almost chickened out a bunch of times. Then I laid down on the tattoo bench, and when I sat up I had a tattoo — it really wasn’t that bad!

I will be honest, some points hurt a bit and different areas hurt more or less than others, the thought of the pain hurt more than the pain itself, and the sting of getting a tattoo disappears very quickly.

“Aren’t you worried about regretting it?”

In life, there are some things that we just know and I knew that all of my tattoos were good ideas. They all had very strong messages behind them and I went into the tattoo room absolutely confident in my decision. Trust me, I’m not going to mark myself for the rest of my life if I’m unsure about it.

tat2“Did you get that for a boyfriend/ex?”

No. Getting tattoos like that is a very dangerous idea. Even if you and your partner last a lifetime of love and commitment, you might not always want a tattoo of their name/face/starsign/whatever stuck on you forever!

I 100% recommend against getting tattoos for friends or someone you are in a relationship with. There are so many ways it can go wrong!

“Are you worried about employability?”

Maybe once upon a time, people in western culture couldn’t have tattoos that were visible in the workplace, but times have changed. As long as the tattoos aren’t offensive in any way, then there isn’t much to worry about.

Yes, in other countries tattoos can be an issue, but more and more countries are learning to accept tattoos, especially on those from a culture where they are commonplace.

“There’s this band I love and -“

NO! Please, stop right there. Regardless of how much you love a tv show, band or movie, you don’t need a tattoo from it. Again there are so many things that could go wrong.

You could decide that show sucked, a horrible revelation could be found about someone involved in it, the band could go downhill and your opinion could change — those are just to name a few!

If you are so pushed to get a tattoo of something entertainment or pop culture related, sit on the idea for a good long while before you go through with it.

“So, does that mean you aren’t an actor now?”

So many actors, performers and artists have tattoos. They are a form of self-representation and artistry which artists often can’t get enough of. So many actors, from Justin Chon to Jackson Rathbone to Angelina Jolie, have tattoos and love them! If they have tattoos and can survive as actors, so can I! 🙂

“How do you take care of your tattoos?”

tat3So, the best advice I can give for caring for your tattoos is

1) Don’t sweat it – Seriously, try not to sweat on it too much. Keep that sucker clean and dry(ish)

2) Don’t scratch it – Scratching is can really damage it and cause some serious irritation

3) Careful of allergies – When I got my first tattoo, I used Bepathen  the baby cream to soothe my tattoo. However, I soon realised that it actually felt a lot worse AFTER I applied it and later realised that I am allergic to one of the ingredients in Bepanthen (Lanolin). So, watch out for stuff like that and find something that isn’t going to make you itchy as heck later on!

4) Keep children away – I don’t know how or why, but children have the amazing ability to locate and exploit your weak spots. With every tattoo I have had, some kid (or about 20 kids one time) have managed to cause me eye-watering pain by punching, pinching or scratching my fresh and delicate tattoo. Until it’s healed, keep ’em away!

 

To clean a tattoo, don’t use any drying or irritating product that contain alcohol. You want to keep your tattoo fairly dry, but you don’t want to damage or crack it. Just use gentle soap and water and then dab it try with a CLEAN towel.

If your tattoo shows any signs of infection, contact your tattoo artist and a doctor immediately and see if you need to be put on antibiotics. I have been incredibly lucky with all of my tattoos not to have had any complications, but it’s always better safe than sorry!

 

I hope this piece has been interesting and helpful to you. As always, we want to hear from you, so drop us a comment or send us a message on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #learnwithamy!