Tag Archives: Holidays

Holiday Prep for (Grad) Students

I’ve been trying to get myself to read my own paper for the past four hours, and it really hasn’t been working.

I feel like the cat that just won’t get into the water for a bath, and at the same time, I feel like the cat owner trying to get it clean.

Just like this one.

Something about going through the paper that contains the same information that you’ve written as a journal paper, as part of your thesis, presented as a thesis defense, and edited for a re-submission to a journal make you kind of want to avoid it as much as possible. My brain tells me that, since you’ve talked about it and wrote about it so many times, it should be super easy to go through it this time, and it will have to be the best communicated piece on the topic to date (theoretically). However, all my other side of the brain can think about is, “I’ve done it again and again, leave me alone~.”

One way I’ve been actively avoiding this important process of editing the paper is to think about the festivities coming up ahead.

More specifically, Christmas, winter break, and the New Year celebration.

As a grad student, this time of the year isn’t particularly the most jolly of them all as far as our bank accounts are concerned. In the past couple of years, I typically didn’t have the ‘luxury’ to budget for holiday gift expenses every year. I would typically take the stipend/fellowship money promised for the year, divide it by 12, subtract my monthly rent from that, subtract my monthly expenses like cell phone costs etc, and note to self the leftover amounts as my maximum cap for groceries, coffee fund, plus fun fund. It was tight just managing the essentials on a monthly basis anyway.

I think it would definitely make it easier to spend your holiday fund when you’ve set aside some money specifically for the occasion, because you already have in mind what your maximum cap is.

If you haven’t, however, and the Christmas lights at shopping centres and Robson street hits you (and your bank account) somewhat randomly, which happens almost right after the end of Halloween shopping season, then picking out gifts and scrambling to get things for those special people in your life can feel painful. Everything starts to look really expensive, and as you start to question whether you really want to send this person a present, or just a card, or nothing at all, you feel like this huge social pressure is testing your relationship with whomever you care about.

But I don’t think we should let the world question our relationship with so many of our friends/family/networks just because the social norm this time (and most of December I guess) of the year is to buy gifts for each other. I think there are many ways you can enjoy the holiday season and make it just as beautifully celebrated even if you don’t spend much money/time on gifts for others.

I have a couple of suggestions for those of you who suffer from the holiday finance dilemma.

1. Personalize (with fewer $$, and more time): If getting a batch of card, filling out people’s names, signing it, and giving it to people without a gift to go with it doesn’t seem personal enough, then I would suggest getting a batch of cards that don’t have messages written inside (or have super short ones). So, rather than just signing it, you can actually make use of the blank spaces to recount some of the things that has happened this year, things that you’d like to share, thank, etc. I’m a fan of meaningful and personal messages, and I think many people would take that to be even more memorable than gifts (depending on what you write, of course). And this way, you can actually cover a longer list of people on your holiday list without spending too much money. Of course, you’ll need quite a bit more time to draft those messages for everyone. Oh, and if you are thinking of gifts for babies, messages may not have the same effect, depending on the age of the baby… just something to keep in mind. 😉

2. Make something: For batch processing of gifts (for large group of friends/labmates etc) I think making something could be awesome too. For example, if you’re good at baking, I’d love to get a little bag of homemade cookies from you as a gift. Of course, baked goods as gifts are limited for those whom you can deliver the goods to (without having them go bad in the delivery process). But if you are fond of this idea of baking something for someone, look what I found in the process of procrastination! A Christmas cookie recipe list organized from A to Z, with a top 20 list and hundreds more.

Bah, I just want to wrap up my holiday stuff for everyone now instead of reading my paper (again!). But I’d better get back to it before I start jotting down more holiday ideas.

But to help me (and students in general) with the process of coming up with financially friendly, yet happy holiday ideas, please do share them via comments/email! 🙂

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas everyone! YAY~

I know, I know… Christmas is rooted in Christian culture. But it definitely grew past that for quite some time now. So, with mine and your religious backgrounds aside, I’d like to wish you a Merry Christmas (and Happy Holidays, for those of you who feel awkward about it).

Since the last time I blogged, about my experiment being done and how I am overcoming the emotional aftermath, I flew for about 5 hours and have been hiding at my parents’ place here in Ontario. I expected things to be a bit more cold and snowy, but it really haven’t been that way. I guess the climate change really is showing itself to us rapidly these days.

Anyway, when I arrived at the Toronto Pearson airport and was greeted by my family – whom I haven’t seen for about a year – I felt a sense of ‘Phew’.

The thing is, I have been living by myself for a while now that I got used to eating bad food (i.e., some of the foods I cook), same food (e.g., I ate five boiled eggs in about a day, just to finish them off before flying out for the holidays), and singles’ fool (i.e., instant noodles, spam, frozen microwavable whatever). And the kind of food you eat definitely shows on your face. My “same food, bad food, singles’ food” diet for the past year definitely left some noticeable marks on me (some call it dark circles, and some other terms associated with accelerated ageing). So, regardless of the fact that I tried my best to look presentable for my once-in-a-year reunion with my family, I didn’t look very well nourished – according to my mother at least.

Henceforth started the 3 kg of weight gain since my arrival. With a few happy sighs of being home, I was definitely reminded again how wonderful it is to have my parents treat me like I am still too young to cook my own food, and to pay for her own stuff.

Unfortunately, I am still being very much myself, and working under a journal deadline (and trying to write up my thesis as well). But the writing process is happening while I sit on the couch and mimicking the hesitation gestures my robot enacted.

Yes, that’s right. I haven’t forgotten about my thesis project.

I mean, lots of hesitations were necessary to express my uncertainties in choosing snacks while writing – whether to snack on a pecan tart or apple tea rings from a nearby Amish bakery delivered to me via my parents’ car (yes! I have access to a car!) – and dinner menus – oh the home made Korean food I missed for so long.

Anyway, I digress.

I guess studying at a place far from home/family made me cherish these little things a lot more – the things that used to be just everyday routine. I have a feeling that it’ll be harder going back to Vancouver this time. Partially because I know what’s in my fridge (I made sure I emptied it completely before I flew out), and partially because I know that I will remain far away from my family like this for quite a number of years.

But I am glad that I have people in Vancouver who are my family away from home. I would not have had the same exciting and eventful year without the support from them. And that’s definitely an understatement.

I know that a number of these family members are travelling to see their family. If you are one of them, please~ please~ stay safe, and have an epic time. And those of you unable to spend the holidays with your family, my warmest wishes goes to you. I will have to bake you some goodies when I get back – don’t worry, my baked goods don’t count as bad food in my dictionary.

I won’t write too much more, because I know you’re all going to be running away from your computers to enjoy the festivities – I hope you do even if you weren’t planning on it! Anywho, have a wonderful winter break everyone and thanks for letting me babble on the blog this year! 😀 See you all in 2012~!