Saturday, April 30, 2016

General Thoughts About Life in America

US is such a good place to live in if you have a stable income and don't fall sick. All the basic necessities are so affordable (imagine $0.30 cup noodles and $2 shampoos, body wash, towels, hangers and dental items). Clothes and shoes from F21 can be cheap during sales. I got a top from F21 for $3.50 once, that's even cheaper than Deseret Industries (second hand clothes store). Cars are cheap. A new Toyota cost $21-45,000. My room mate got her 15-year-old but still in good condition Chevrolet for $2,000.

In Malaysia, you have to pay RM20 for a shampoo, clothes' prices start at RM30, imported cars are taxed 100%, making them expensive as hell. But I think in US you have to pay a higher insurance to insure yourself against unforeseeable loss.

People here earn just about the same amount as you would in Malaysia but in USD. The minimum wage in Utah is $7.25/hour, but depending on your job you might get more. Babysitting as a side job can get you up to $15/hour. 

If you make a comparison of income:expenses on basic necessities ratio, US prices are definitely very consumer-friendly. However, if you fall sick, it will cost you $2000 to call an ambulance. With a health card, it is $25 to see a doctor and $75 for hospital stay. Dental services may cost up to $3,000. If you have insurance, it will cover you up to a certain amount.

America is a place of opportunities, and if you are an ambitious person, this is the place for you. But be careful, you might also end up homeless in the streets if tragedy strikes.

The Choc Wars

I love how US has all these delicious imported and local chocolates for less than $5 a pop. Generally, Walmart has a cheaper price in terms of Lindt truffles, while Smith's carry cheaper Lindt chocolate bars. As I had a $15 Walmart gift card, I wanted to exchange it for stuff I will use (eat) before I leave US. So off I went to Walmart. 

Walmart chocolate selections

Smith's chocolate selections

Smith's #2

I got the Lindt assorted truffles + sea salt caramel in dark chocolate and Godiva truffles. Godiva is considered a high-end brand. I bought 3 chocolate bars for $33 in the retail store in Chicago for my room mate's mom. When I saw the price of chocolate bars in Walmart today I almost fainted. They only cost $4 a pop. I tried to console myself saying the ones in the store are freshly made and have a better quality. 

This is sea salt caramel in dark chocolate. Yummy! Lindt never fail to impress me.

I got the assorted truffles because I wanted to try all of them. At first I considered buying 2 of these, but I changed my mind (thank god!).

Crème brûlée: Meh
Strawberry shortcake: Meh
Chocolate Lava Cake: This is a good one.

My complaint about Godiva is that they are unexceptional chocolates wrapped in beautiful high-end wrapping and labeled with sky-high prices. They did try to emulate the real taste of the flavours but it just didn't gain my favour. I would rather eat a real crème brûlée and strawberry shortcake than eating these chocolates. I'm just so disappointed.

Lindt, on the other hand, tastes like heaven, and is cheaper, without all that fancy shit. Just down-to-earth delicious chocolates made with the tastiest ingredients. It is also creamier and has a smoother texture.

So Lindt vs Godiva? I'd pick Lindt, hands down. I probably won't try any Godiva chocolates anymore, cos I gave it two chances (four if you count all the flavours I tested) but I don't like it. Still, both of these chocolates are way better than Whitman, which suck big time and taste like plastic.

Friday, April 22, 2016

First-time Skiing

 My friend Junfu won two tickets to Snowbird Center, and he generously offered me one of them. So the week after I came back from New York, we made plans to go skiing together. 


These pictures show the lounge area before you start skiing, and after you get tired and want to rest.

Coincidentally it was Easter's week, so they had someone dressed up in bunny mascot. Of course I won't miss the chance to take a photo with bunny.

The Chickadee Slope for beginners.

We went on the cable chairs to the top.

This is the only picture I have of Junfu. He doesn't really like taking photos. He has a few pictures of himself in his iPad though.

Finally found our place at the Mountain Kids. Basically the slope is a 10° angle which is perfect for absolute beginners. I fell around 3 times here, then it got easy and I could maneuver myself with a little effort.

After that my confidence level went up, and I decided to to challenge the Chickadee. Even though a Mexican guy was kind enough to teach me, I still fell at the bottom of the mountain where there is a steep slope on every attempt. I was scared to bump into people cos I didn't know how to control the speed, so I ended up falling on the snow to prevent collision.

Dani later told me that the Chickadee Slope is most certainly NOT for first-time skiers! No wonder I fell so many times there, cos it's not my level!

The skis will fall off if you have ice sheets at the bottom of your shoes.

Finally, before we went back, I got Junfu to help me take a photo with the sign. The clothes are loose for me because they belong to Dani. 

Cost breakdown:
Entrance tickets: $85 (free cos I got the lucky draw ticket from Junfu)
Ski rental: $35 (I paid only $23 cos Dani loaned me her clothes, helmet and gloves)
Bus round trip: $9 (remember to prepare exact amount, no change provided)
Subtotal: $129
(-) Discount: $97
(+) Add Extra: $1 (failure to give exact bus fare)
Total paid: $33

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

U of U Student Evaluation

Infographic: Student Course Feedback Process

Recently, U of U asked me to fill in the course + professor evaluation, and I realized a big difference between U of U and UM. From the above picture, you see that the ratings are actually made available to students to help them choose classes for the next semesters, which is very helpful. In UM, what happens to course evaluations is that they get sent to lecturers and that's the end of the story. But U of U has such openness and transparency that they divulge the ratings to students as well. Here's an example: 

 When you click on feedback, it directs you to this page.

You can see clearly the ratings that past students gave to the course and the professor, which helps you in making your decision whether or not to sign up for this course. UM should make this change as well, and it's not for criticizing any particular courses or lecturers, but simply to make it easier for students to decide whether the course is suitable for him/her.

By the way, I love this class - it's so fun and relaxing, and I get to learn something new! I had considered for quite a bit before signing up for this class because I'm not sure if I'm guitar material with my short stubby fingers, but thank heavens I did! This is one of the most enjoyable classes in my UGrad days! Prof Todd is always so kind and encouraging, he made the classes interesting even when we were playing open strings. He used to play in bands when he was younger, but now he's settled in Utah and teaches beginner and intermediate classic guitar classes.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Must-Have Floral Dress for Spring

It's finally Spring in Utah! In April! The weather is still cool, but you can feel the Sun's heat burning your skin. No wonder people say there are only two seasons in Utah: Summer and Winter. Now that the Winter is over, it's time to show some skin.

Springs are always the season everyone looks forward to especially in the fashion industry. It is the season where you can dress lightly and still look stunning effortlessly. Floral prints always have that relation with spring season and it brings a sweetness touch to anyone who wears them. For the ladies who have no idea what to wear during the Spring season, there are a few floral dress designs that is a must-have to add into your wardrobe. 

1. Small Prints

Small floral print pattern on your dress is perfect for the individuals who want to show off their innocent side. It makes you appear simple yet girlish in a way that is subtle. Simply match the small print dress floral design with a nice pair of ballerina flats and flaunt your elegance.

2. The Flare

Twirl around everywhere you go from the office, parties, weddings or social gatherings with your friends with a floral flare dress. The flare cut design gives you a sophisticated mature appeal while still maintaining a touch of sweetness. This dress is suitable to be worn to any occasion and can be easily accessorized. Pull together the perfect outfit with the right shoes and step out with confidence.

3. Floral Two Piece

The floral two piece dress is a versatile fashion item to own as you can easily mix matches the bottom skirt with any coloured top. Besides that, this dress gives you a casual feel which is perfect to be worn on dates or casual hangouts with your friends. Choose from the wide range of two piece floral dress designs that represents your personal style and show it off in front of others. Be the center of attention and never look out of style during the Spring time.

Highlights of New York Trip

Me and Ruth are hopeless. We made plans every night and ditched them the next day. We planned a lot but ended up visiting only a few.

17th March 2016:

I was very cranky today, because I was tired and confused. NYC subways DO NOT HAVE ESCALATORS like Boston (we were hauling our heavy luggage around on stairs!) and the lines are so confusing. I just don't get why they do not just put the end station or provide a clear map on each station. Even after 3 days there I still did not know how to get on the right train. And dinner didn't live up to my expectations too. So I was super upset, and I might have unintentionally projected my negative emotions on Ruth. So sorry, Ruth! :(

We checked in the International Student Residence located in Brooklyn. The location was rather shady at night, not recommended for solo female travelers. Cost $145.50 for 3 nights, which was pretty expensive.

There's an ATM up front.

The bunk beds were comfortable, free linen and towels.

The downside to this place is there is no privacy due to the open partition. You can basically hear everything your next-door neighbor is talking about, and sometimes it's an annoyance when you want to sleep.

My advice on hostels would be to find one located in the heart of Manhattan, there should be some other cheaper places, but you have to book early.

18th March 2016:
Breakfast at The Bagel Store. There was a long queue when we arrived.

Their trademark rainbow bagels.
I think they look yucky, like some Play Dough leftovers.

The variety of bagels available. 

I didn't like the bagel I ordered. Even though it's nutella cream cheese, it tasted bad. Conclusion: The Bagel Store is an overrated, expensive bagel place. But I don't like bagels to start with, so my opinion is probably biased.

We wanted to visit Statue of Liberty but ended up taking the wrong ferry to Staten Island. Thankfully the weather is good, and the skies are beautiful so we got many pretty pics on the pier.

Ballpark at St George on Staten Island.

We decided to stop by Staten Island Museum since we were already there.

After that we went back to mainland (Manhattan) and went to Wall Street to touch the bull's balls for good luck. Pictures omitted because it's too obscene. Hahaha.

We passed by a Museum, so we decided to enter. 

 I love how creative American Indian Artists can get.

 A picture of us taken by kind strangers. You have to be bold and ask for help from people you don't know when you're travelling. You just have to, or else no photos, araseyo?

Did someone say Happy Hour?

 By God's grace, we discovered Luke's Lobsters via Yelp.

Ruth sudah sangat lapar. Tengok muka dia.

I get excited when I see this. But for reasons unknown (probably due to the high price), we just ordered a plate for one for tasting.

And this, my dears, is the Taste of Maine, $28 after tax and tips.

Will you look at that pincer?
Fresh Maine crab. Yum yum!

Gan bei!


As we were walking, we found another shop. It's a patisserie called Financier. 

It's a very neat, French-style shop adorned with French articles.

And of course we ordered something, because Ruth was still hungry.

The Sacher Tort is pretty delicious.

We went to the Brooklyn Bridge.

And visited Chinatown.
Traveler tips: T-shirts here are cheap, you can get 4 for $10. If you negotiate, 5 for $10 is highly possible.

Saw an ice-cream parlor that is full of people. According to the Malaysian/Singaporean concept, if the queue is long, it's good.

It's called the 10 Below Ice Cream. And the shop is aptly an underground/LL level unit.

The menu. Ice creams are $7, with your choice of any toppings.

We got the strawberry shorty, and thankfully it was tasty. :)

19th March 2016:

Bad news: I lost my NYC 7-day unlimited pass. 
Good news: Lobster again.

Since trying out fresh lobster flesh yesterday, Ruth got addicted. So we went on to find other places that sell fresh lobsters.

TA-DAH! Presenting Chelsea Market Lobster Place.

Fresh Maine Lobster, choose your own size.

We got a medium-size to share.

Look at how big that pincer is! The meat is very tangy, but a little lacking in flavor, since it's only steamed.

For dinner, we went to Totto Ramen, because Isabella jio us there. But in the end she never waited for us and chao with her friends. Ended up one person $27 after tips. Not so worth it because you're better off chewing on lobsters. 

After that we went jalan-jalan a bit at Times Square.

20 April 2016:
Wanted to visit the American Museum of Natural History but was denied entrance cos I was carry my luggage with me. So I sadly took a selfie with the building.

New York Historical Society let me in with my luggage for $12 (student price). And I saw this bat car!

Selfie with Lincoln. Today everything is gonna be selfie or self-set timer because Ruth is not here anymore. I felt so empty without her. T.T

Went back to another Luke's Lobster branch for one last taste of Maine's sweet lobsters.
Taste of Main set includes: half prawn roll, half crab roll, half lobster roll, two crab pincers, your choice of salad or chips, one soda of your choice.

And then I saw their recipe book.

 So of course I stole their recipe. Mom you have to try cook this!

Stumbled upon the American Folk Art Museum. Free entrance but donation encouraged. I put RM1 in the box so that they know where I come from.

This museum is full of weird religious stuff. Some kind of occult/religious sect. Very weird. O.O

And then I headed to the airport to go back to SLC. I almost missed the flight because I was so tired and I slept overtime. I tried my luck and headed for the priority boarding lane, and luckily the security person let me in. And then they said they had to check-in my bag cos there wasn't enough space in the overhead bins. I was told to collect it during transit in Texas. I ended up running around and finally realized it was checked whole way to SLC. Almost missed my damn flight because of the misunderstanding. So traveler tips: If your bag gets check, make sure to review the label for final destination. Thank God everything worked out.

On a side note, PLEASE DO NOT STUFF YOUR BAG PACK IN THE OVERHEAD BINS. YOU ARE TAKING SOMEONE ELSE'S SPACE. PUT YOUR DAMN BAG UNDER THE FRONT SEAT IF YOU WANT TO BRING ONE. People can be so selfish and cause so much trouble sometimes. Some assholes put everything on top cos they want to have extra leg space, causing others trouble when there's not enough overhead space and their bags have to be checked in, thus leading to extra time wasted in retrieving bags at carousel.

This little girl insisting a picture with the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory grumpy Easter Bear made my day. :)