Thursday, December 11, 2014

Business Updates

It has been a very exciting month on the business planning front.  The company name has been successfully registered, which has allowed for the marketing to be started.  A good company needs a logo, a website, email....and the list goes on.  In my logo research I found a stack off companies that would help, for about $400+.  During the research I did manage to stumble across a company that could deisgn the logo, design all the stationery, design the website, host it for 12 months, register the domain name, create the emails and host them for 12 month, all for a fixed fee of $650.

The logo design was spectacular.  One afternoon I posted up a paragraph about some colour selections and what the business was going to do.  When I awoke the next morning, there was nine funky designs to selection from, and after one iteration the logo was done.

The website has been a little slower, but that is more about my thinking processes.  I did realise after asking some questions that the design house was almost certainly outsourced to India.  Regardless of that, I have zero complaints there. 

The web hosting fine print meant that I missed the fact I couldn't have an ".au" ending.  There was a number of other options, but I felt the ".au" was important.  The company sent me the detail of a domain registration company, and with a few short clicks and a small fee, I was away.

From there everything flowed well, until I found out that the design company had been blacklisted on several spamming sites.  That meant my company emails were often either sent to the receiving inbox under a spam folder, or simply blocked.  Turns out when I ask about this little dilemma, no reply is received.  Thankfully the domain company also hosts, and with a few short clicks and another small fee, I am migrated over to the new mail server.

I sourced a printer and the newly designed business cards look amazing, and they have surely impressed the people who have received them.  I also managed to endure a photography session for some updated profile shots.  Regrettably, I wouldn't recommend that company again.  But he did lead me to a company that digitised my logo and printed it on some hats.  Those hats then got added to the Christmas gifts to my client.  It was very cute to see the boys wearing my hats down the street after our meeting in a local coffee shop.

So for now, I am signing off from my current working location, for a lunch date with some executives from a course we attended last year.  More networking!  Although the weather looks dreary in the shot, the temperature drop from the 40 degree days is a welcome change.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Financial Planning for Teenagers

I have been watching on the sidelines as the young  family teenager navigates her way into adulthood.  Getting a driver's license, enrolling to vote, being able to go out and live
an exciting adult life.  It is what all youngsters dream of, isn't it?

The trick about parenting is making sure that you set up your children with all the skills they need to navigate the world with.  It is certainly my approach with my own child.  I guess I am super aware of how hard life can be when you don't have a parent there to guide you.  I try and make sure that my child has a strong sense of self, is confident, well balanced and grounded.  I want her to be able to navigate life, independently, and my approach to parenting is designed to support this concept.

Back to the teenager.  She has a personal loan for a car, and a trail of part time jobs.  The neighbour up the road regularly drops in mail from when they used to live in our street, many years ago.  I hear whispers that income tax returns are not being lodged, so I made some attempts at helping to steer from afar.  After all these have gone unheard, I bluntly said bring all your stuff here and I will sort you out.

There was relief from the niece as she arrived with a shopping bag of stuff!  So I have been spending some random moments of spare time trying to assemble a financial plan for this disaster!  Turns out that mail arrives from companies, some is opened, some is not.  The reader doesn't understand the contents, or care to.  I suspect there are many reasons, age appropriate ones of this stuff is not that important to me right now, and others like OMG what is this even saying, do I need to keep this, and URGH maybe I will look at this later.

There are many bank accounts, many superannuation policies, and many attempts by many people to try and get something happening from their correspondence.  But the sad end result is that this lack of life skills is actually impacting on the financial future of the individual concerned.  It is frankly quite scary to be watching unfold.

Every few days I send a nag email.  It is like a virtual nag note!  They are little emails with instructions on who to ring, what to ask for etc.  Slowly I will start to build some confidence and understanding about what one should be doing here.  Once we have some basics, a darn good clean up of accounts and some organisation about what to do, and who to ask if you don't know, maybe we can start to get a financial plan happening.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Replacing Vehicles

As I was posting up an article a few moments ago,  this image appeared at the bottom of one of the blogs;

My partner is going through the process of replacing the family car.  Coincidentally, both our vehicles are the same vintage, with about the same mileage on the clocks.  I have been procrastinating about replacing mine for many kilometres!  I had intended to do it a couple of financial years ago.  I see the transaction pop up in Microsoft Money, and I simply push it out another 12 months. 

I really like my vehicle, but as I contemplate the arrival of a new vehicle, it reminds me that I am due for a service, I have an oil leak, the scratch cannot be fixed without respraying the whole door, and a kid scootered down the other side leaving a nice scratch, and did I mention that my blue tooth connection for the phone is also not working?  Seems like a car destined for replacing now doesn't it.

I would love to replace it with the black Range Rover Evoque pictured above.  But the image on the other side talks about business plan strategy!  The accountant says return when you earn $400k or before if one of the other requirements arises.  $400k is hard work and long hours, and frankly not what this Gen X with a mantra of 'Balance' is going to be undertaking.  In deciding how much income is enough, I reverted to my trusty series of spreadsheets.  The retirement planning spreadsheet says I am about a year ahead of my progress goal.  The mortgage spreadsheet says I am six months says that next year that I will revert to being on track, and behind if I do not pull my finger out by the end of the year!

Behind, big frown.  It did make me look at an income tracking spreadsheet.  Things are not as easy with fluctuating incomes streams over multiple clients!  Also, contracting doesn't come with annual leave or sick leave. Despite what you may think, this is an absolute positive.  I control how much I work, and this year I have had more time off than I normally would, absolutely guilt free, and I enjoyed every minute of it.  On one occasion I worked from the resort for a few hours before the family headed out for Thai overlooking the water.  The next morning the adults headed out for a run beside the beach.  It's the control over life that I am enjoying most about consulting and contracting.

Back to the car.  If I replace it now and buy the lovely vehicle my heart desires, then next year I am frantically working my arse off to pay for it and still achieve the financial goals, or I move out the milestone.  But if the milestone moves, then so will the following one.  The one after the mortgage is the retirement plan to the beach.  I want to be able to trek up and enjoy it on weekends whilst the kids are finishing school, then work on more time at the beach and less time working!  The pull to that goal is stronger than the one to the new car.

After $1,000 the car is serviced, and all three oil leaks found have been fixed.  The scratch I can live with for now, and the phone is annoying, but I will get BMW to take a look at that one in the not too distant future.  I may even go and get the car all detailed, just as a special treat for seeing in the New Year :-).

Create Company Update # 1

The visit with the accountant was an interesting event.  Even more so when he didn't charge me for the hour long chat.  It turns out that the benefits of creating a company are not as impressive as one would think.  Here are some of the considerations of forking out the $2-3K to kick things off;
  • a low income spouse that I want to funnel money to
  • kids at uni that could do with some cash, almost tax free
  • annual income above $400K
  • the companies I am working with demand that I have my own company
  • I want to provide the illusion that I am bigger than I am
  • I directly employ staff
Increasing income to $400K, that was an interesting concept.  My partner was surprised to hear that I may be considering starting my own company.  'Aren't they long hours and hard work?'  Nah, I respond with, I think it will be ok.  Squinting at the $400K mark, yes, I do think that would be long hours and hard work! 
Thoughts of venturing out on my own are not for capitalist reasons, it is the being more flexible with hours and jobs, to work more autonomously without the influence of some self serving higher manager, or corporate politics.  After all, if you cannot find what you are looking for, then create it, that is my approach!
So an interim step feels like a good approach.  Sole trader for now, register the business name and progress onwards with marketing and website etc.  Create the illusion of bigger, whilst trying to avoid the complex company structure on the back end, at least until I need staff or income is above $400K.  Has the basis of a good business plan.

Rear Fencing Project - Completed!

This project took a little time, but that was nothing to do with procrastination on my behalf.  we all love the tradies!  Actually, there is still a number of rather large dirt piles that need to be levelled off, but that was last month, last week, this weekend, or maybe sometime next year!
It looks like we have built an Indian cricket pitch which may need a little rolling to take the weirdness of the bounce.

They also manage to find a little left over stump from my previous years of wood cutting.  It is really lovely of them to place it in a prime place of position, hoping that it will become some sort of garden feature.



House Painting Update # 2

Mid year update on the house painting progress for the year was fairly uninspiring.

It turns out the hardest part was picking the darn colour.  I painted the side of the house that no one sees, as a trial before you embarrass your self to the neighbourhood.  Worked well, the more I painted, the more I enjoyed the colour.
So now I am around the back, over the deck and onto the third side.  Actually, a bit of one side and then a bit of the front.  Turns out the afternoon sun is a scorcher, so I had to dash to the front of the yard for some cooler temperatures.  This of course means I have now started to show the neighbourhood that a new colour is coming to the pink (aka so not terracotta Mr Builder) palace!

Random Ingredients - Figs

My sister was found of a fig and cranberry ball recipe.  I would have to say that it surely wasn't my favourite.  Of course now as I am cleaning and organising cupboards, post her return home, I found a stash of figs!, please help me....

Now the really interesting thing is the roasting of hazelnuts in the microwave.  Just pop them in an oven bag and shake every minute.  The kitchen was soon wafting in roasted hazelnuts!  I did sneak one just to try before I popped the rest of them into the mixture, they..I delicious.  Off to the fridge with the slice, and I shall see later if I rate it better than the fig and cranberry number my sister keeps trotting out.

Regrettably, I still have figs left over, so I will have to search out another recipe.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Nearly an Accident!

Each week there is a public speaking requirement for class.  On a recent prep session we decided to teach the class how to make Play-Doh.  After a test run at home to make sure it would work when being done in five minutes by a child with no parental supervision, I set about writing up the instructions.....

Needless to say whilst you do need one of these, you can actually get by without using it in the recipe!  It is actually much safer to mix it all up in a BOWL.  I am sure that would have made an interesting discussion in the year 3 class room.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

New Goal - Create Company

Over the past 8 months I have been doing a range contracting and consulting roles.  I am often asked by recruiting companies about my company details.  After some consideration, I thought I might explore the option a little further.  I am trekking off to visit an accountant today, and a lawyer later in the week to review options and solicit some guidance.

The one great thing about not being 120% busy every minute of every business day and often many hours outside of this, you have time to embrace your entreprenurial side.  Throughout the ages I have often thought it would be great to run your own company, be your own boss, and not at the whims of bad managers who often have terrible self serving interests rather than great vision and strategic direction.  I regular read snippets of media documents from Ramit Sethi, the founder of 'I will teach you to be rich', renowned author, blogger and financial guru.  I have yet to actually undertake one of his courses, but many of his emails talk about the procrastination of people, often linked to their self imposed restrictions about 'finding an idea'.  I also had been struggling with the 'idea'.

So I now see a potential opportunity on the path ahead, but I need to align a few things to potentially bring the concept to fruition.  The good news is that both existing clients are keen for extensions that carry on for the next six months of next year, and both are flexible in terms of hours, locations etc which is an excellent starting position to be in.  I am not in need of raising capital or finding my first client which is fantastic, and the thought of starting something new and building it up, is providing a little spring for my step.

Goal 41. Catch Barramundi

The 65 year plan was crafted over twenty years ago, but this goal was one of the earlier ones added to the plan.  Unlike other goals, it was actually trickier to achieve, which makes it all the more enjoyable to tick off the list.  So here it is, my first...ok...only barramundi which has been safely landed on the shore.

p.s. - no animals were harmed in the taking of this photo, and said barra is now back swimming with his/her mates in the pond behind me :-)

Friday, September 12, 2014

Our First Ekka

Ekka, what the heck is an Ekka?  Turns out it is a fancy name for the local show.  Growing up in a regional area of Australia, I had avoided the huge crowds of the Ekka safe in the thought that I had seen all the animals I needed to, and avoided all the motion sickness rides I could.

The year 3 school excursion is to the Ekka, so I took advantage of spending some time with my dear child and her peers, and headed off to share the day.  Thankfully it was a work day, so the crowds were bearable.  The school also had enough parents volunteer, that we really only had to spend time with our own children.  Big downer for them, they had to wear school uniform and complete a work book!  Despite all of that, we had a ball.


After busting to try out one of those dagwood dog things that people had been talking about and walking around with....Mum can you take off the batter stuff so I can just eat the hot dog?!  We also managed to fit in one of those award winning strawberry ice cream cones, and that was delicious.  All the little ones enjoyed the day, but were quiet on the train ride homes, exhausted from the activities.



Happy 9th Birthday

After an awful childhood experience of no school friends over for birthday party celebrations, this year I did agree to hosting something.  After about two months of deliberations, the youngster decided that she would much rather spend her birthday celebrating with the extended family. 

I had arranged an ice skating morning, or so I thought.  Turns out "arrange" means to actually phone the public centre and confirm that some special event is not on that is booking out the entire block of ice!  After some quick public ridiculing about my ability to organise a birthday, we headed off to ten pin bowling instead.  Turns out this was a much better option and even the Grand Father got in on the action.  After 2 years of dating, I still learn new things about my adopted family, the old fellow hates to lose and is extremely competitive about bowling!  After looking at the scoreboard, I doubt that I will be invited back for the next outing, unless it is revenge he is looking for! 

After bowling I had to endure a session at Sizzler's.  Despite cheesy bread being a favourite of the youngster, my ability to consume food that may have been touched on the salad bar of life is fairly limited.

Rear fencing Progress Update

Remember that little fencing project we were finishing off  Well the mid point looked like the Great Wall of China being constructed in our back yard.

As I was down having a look at the progress, I noticed that the off cut boards were making their way into landfill.  Of course this saves on the tipping fees as the guys simply throw the boards behind the retaining wall and then place the fill on top.  Trouble is the frugal side of me sees potential and burning money, or burying money!  The boards are quite expensive, and already cut into metre or so lengths.  I see a future project of little vegie garden patches being a great outcome. 

The picture shows the retaining wall at a metre high, so I carefully balance my way along the 50m wall, bending over and picking up the off cuts and throwing them over the wall.  Then I have to walk along the wall and pick up the off cuts to carry them....

.....around the big holes, up the small hill, past the chicken pen, across the yard and put them in a new pile for construction on another day.  By now I am smiling at the conversation playing through my head from my adorable need variability in your fitness program, otherwise you will get bored.  I am fairly sure that this was not the variability that was being suggested!  And the love of outside landscaping is a very one sided passion in this relationship.  After a few more boards, the weight of them starting to bite into the legs and arms, and I am sure the chickens began to laugh and giggle each time I passed their pen.  Good news for them, even if I want to reach in and strangle the little darlings, I doubt I could have closed a fist to make a difference!

At the end of daylight my pile looked like this....


Monday, August 18, 2014

Fitness Update

Whilst the initial plan was to complete 30 days of burning 200 calories each day, life has thrown a couple of curve balls.  The first one was being struck down for a couple of weeks with a nasty head cold, which I am still trying to shake the last remnants of.  One also has to be super careful of balancing the fitness with prevention of an AS flare up, which I can feel lingering along in the background.  So to counter the time off, I though I would make things simple with aliging the challenge to being an August challenge.  That way, in September I could start the next one, and it would be easier to count the months rather than 30 days.

Next curve ball arrives with my sister announcing she needs some help.  In preparation for a 4 month work trip, she needs to shed more than a few kilo's and beef up her fitness levels.  What easier way to do that than to move in with Ms Motivation!  Right I say, after the bags were semi unpacked around me!

Day 1 and I am on the spin bike completing my 200 calories, sister is on the couch with iPad and watching television.  How the guilt didn't get to her I will never know, but each person is different.  Day 2 she wakes to a lovely note on the kitchen bench, week 1 weigh in!!!  The note is now complete and sitting on the fridge as a reminder.  I must say as a single working parent, life is a juggle, and we often don't have the time to do all the health and fitness things I would like to.  With another adult in the house, it is much easier to share.  I could one night, and sister cooks the following one.  So in truth, we are motivating each other.  We share out journey at the end of the day, laughing and giggling about the good and the bad points of maintaing our daily calorie journey.  It has been great to share setting goals and supporting each other to achieve them, it is one thing I love about life, and pretty central to someone who maintains a 65 year life plan.  I have been feeling a little lost of late with my focus.

In having some closer support around we have spurred each other on and created some very real accountability, both essential in the achievement of goals.  I am by nature a competitive person, not so much with bench marking myself against others, but using others to drive myself even further.  With my sister around, I will actually do some time on the treadmill and then the spin bike, increasing my daily calories burned.  It is not about beating her on the scales, it is about pushing my own results, and also setting some stretch incentives for her.  When the training and diet goals are pinching, it is important to know that the path will work, you just need to keep on trying.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

200 calorie challenge update

After a review of the mid year on the annual goals, I decided to make a start on trying to bring up the success rate on the fitness goals.  A small step forward with a 200 calorie burn session for 30 days.  I am pleased to report that I have now done seven days straight. 

But it has not been easy, and that has nothing to do with the exercise part!  200 calories on the spin bike took 20 minutes the first time, and it is now down to 15 minutes.  How hard is it to find 15 minutes in a day?  Well some days it is hard.  Try telling a nine year old that you need 15 minutes.  The benefit of setting a goal is that you have to commit to finding ways to achieve it.  As a parent I want to set the example that health and fitness is important.  So we managed to do our daily reading whilst Mummy was clocking up the km's.

With a family schedule that has two full time jobs, two part time jobs, one uni course, three kids, two houses and varying child are arrangements we absolutely run with an internet calendar.  Although in saying that, I had the calendar for running one parent, one job and one child!  It is the cornerstone of managing my time, reminders to do things and a method to allocate time for working on various goals.  For the balance of the year I have an hour in the diary to complete my 200 calorie challenge. As I look at my diary each day for what is on I can see the appointment there, it is an anchor to the goal.  That doesn't mean it doesn't move around in the day, but it does make me think about it when I have to schedule over it.  For example Saturday night we had AFL tickets, so in the afternoon the family headed out to walk the dog for 30 minutes.  Now without the challenge the family would not have made the time to squish in the dog walk before the football.

Of course my scheduling does drive my Arian partner absolutely nuts, as does my goals and planning approach.  We are like oil and water in our styles, so the challenge is how to find the happy medium.  How does a carefree and restraint phobic Arian cope with the Capricornian need to plan everything?  Not well, ignoring was working a treat until I added yet another entry to the calendar! Of course I could simply create another calendar and hide it all, but that is not how I want my relationship to be.

Just as I need to schedule everything, I also need to have patience and understanding that my approach doesn't work for everyone. It is entirely possible that others are successful following their own approach, and that approach may not include writing anything down on paper, or placing it on the calendar!  How you progress on the journey is not the important part, just that you keep moving forward is.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Mid Year Review
This year is just like any is fling by!  Almost at the end of July and 5 months to Christmas.  All the best intentions of the New Year's resolutions may be a distant memory!  The mid year mark is a great opportunity to pause and to take a look at where you have been, where you are and what to do before the Christmas shopping appears on your list of things to do.

So how is my year progressing against the 2014 goals? 
Business & Career Goals: - the main area of concern here was the significant amount of stress that my job was providing.  Despite my joy for the company, team and role it took 60+ hours per week just to survive.  Along came a redundancy and the business and career goals needed a quick revision for 2014.  Utilising the existing network, trawling through recruiters, writing applications and going through interviews.  I was fortunate to move quickly into the world of contracting with great hours and pay.  Now still looking at enhancing the challenge component, but picking up another client to consult too and finally selecting a university course to use of the training allowance has certainly assisted in filling up my day.
Personal Wealth & Finance Goals: - I am continuing to navigate the third phase of finance, but it often feels boring.  The superannuation spreadsheet shows I am ahead of schedule, the mortgage is also in the same boat, and I continue to build my share portfolio and undertake house projects with the surplus funds.  No change required here, all on track for the year.
Family Goals: - I am really pleased with the transition to the new school for the youngster.  Grades are up and the report card is good.  A few areas for us to continue to work on, but excellent progress.  We blitzed through the Naplan testing without any issues, struggled with the violin lessons, volunteered for speech and drama lessons, and chess lessons have started.  Full plate of academia and representing on the athletics team.  We have also finally learned that bike riding concept, and our kid sessions are slightly ahead of schedule on the progress front.  Our family meals are working out well and we are on budget for our $100 per week budget that kicked off several years ago.  Weekend trips away are on track and our December family holiday to NZ is starting to enter the planning phase.  Things are also well on track with the partner and we continue to navigate the future path ahead.  Bonding with the new children, well that is still a work in progress.
Health & Fitness Goals: - As with most past years, this area struggles the most.  Certainly the reduction is stress and the revision to the working hours has left me with an improvement in the health condition.  Despite having more good days than bad, I appear not to have taken advantage of this and my active sessions are still way behind for the year.
New change of plans, instead of trying to mentally prepare myself for a 30 minute session, instead I am working on a continuous month of burning 200 calories in a session.  At the moment that is a leisurely 20 minutes on the spin bike.  Day 4 down, and I did not feel like getting on the bike tonight.  But somehow 200 calories doesn't seem like much effort.  Of course in 30 days I hope to up the calorie count, or revert back to my normal 30 minute session.
I have passed my annual inspections with the specialists, so all good on that count thankfully.  I must be up to around year four now, so hopefully only one more year and then I can breathe a sigh of relief.  I continue to work with a Japanese acupuncturist to assist with managing my AS.  I sometimes wonder if I am really getting benefit from the process, but overall I certainly do take less medication, so I figure that is a good thing.  My monthly massage goal?  Well that bombed.  I did have one, and then worked out she wasn't going to work.  My backup plan was flatly rejected by the partner, and I haven't really gone off to try another new one.  My comfort levels around some random person touching me haven't been overcome....maybe I should make that a goal for next year.  Something like a random hug me sign that I wear around :-).
Lifestyle & Personal Enjoyment Goals: - I maintain a wish list, well really it is an spreadsheet, but you get the idea.  Each year I take five items and they make it into the purchasing program, guilt free.  As I age though I tend to want or need, less and less.  So each year it gets harder to fill this goal.  I did buy a flash road bike, has been on the road only a handful of times as I need to find room in my life to do it.  I have replaced the last two rooms of the house with new carpet, and the last piece of retaining and fencing is underway down the back of the property.  I did also hire a handyman to help around the property, even though he doesn't come often!
My social interactions are being ticked off, the annual visioning collage is laminated on the bathroom wall and I have watched a stack of new DVD series.  We have season tickets to the AFL and tickets for several international rugby games.  The cultural goals needs one more and I did manage to score tickets to the Lion King for later in the year.  I also managed to see Michael Buble in concert which was great, but the second concert for the year may not happen.  It has been a quiet year for visiting artists of interest.
Contributing to Others Goals: - My daily gratitude journal is way behind, although it hasn't dampened my feelings of thankfulness and appreciation for my wonderful life.  Also having a random instance of kindness goal I am often reminded how lucky and fortunate I am.  My constant quest for minimisation continues and the "Get Rid of 100 Things" project is bang on target.  Environmental goals include installation of a second water tank, once un-wedged from the side of the house (see earlier blog post for hilarity), a worm farm, chickens and fruit trees.  I do need to work on planting some more veggies, but our seeded avocado trees are ready for transplanting down in the yard. 
Personal Growth and Development Goals: - My reading program is way behind.  Perhaps this is a technological issue?  I do regularly read finance articles, blogs and websites of interest, but the actual hard copy book....blah need to do something with this one.  I am working on increasing my general knowledge, and I also maintain some limited practice with writing with my natural left hand, it is meant to open up both sides of your brain or encourage creativity or something!
Adventure and Holiday Goals: - 73 items are ticked off my bucket list of 100 things to do.  Of course with progression comes revision and there are now 125 things to do!  The cycling program will wait for the warmer weather, and hopefully the routine of the spin bike my hold me in some stead when it comes to my cycling partner.  It is hard to see her from the 2 km gap that I am lurking behind in!!  I am also waiting for the warmer weather to assist in catching the elusive barramundi.
All in all, not too bad for the mid year progress review.

Monday, July 14, 2014

National Emergency

The one perfect thing about contracting is the working hours, and absolutely no requirement for working at home after hours.  As we were driving home yesterday the car has a warning light of some description come on.  We have plenty of time to swing by the local mechanic.  It was lovely to see that he remembered my name, and he did an inspection and some work on the spot, and free of charge.  Unfortunately he thinks there is an issue, and they don't have time this week to investigate it further.  The bad thing about contracting is that you are super aware of the cost of your time when you charge by the hour!  

We made it home without further drama, and took advantage of the pre cooked spaghetti bolagnese from the freezer, with thanks from my lovely partner.  Taking advantage of the home delivery feature from the supermarket, we appear to be all out of cookies and have to survive another day!  Major disaster according to the child.  Quick scan of the cookbook and pantry and we can rustle up some rock cakes. This will also use up those cornflakes that have lost their appeal on the young taste buds.  Hang on, we are all out pf choc chips.  

The recipe actually called for raisins, so over dinner we were discussing the diets of children today, and the opportunities for improvements.  At nearly nine the smarty pants attitude often makes an appearance.  The box of Easter egg chocolates is still in the fridge, but the youngster has been caught eating bits and putting them back into the box, oh yes clearly that did not come from me, and the thought of just maybe eating a rock cake that has germed up chocolate is so not appetising.  The smarty pants indicated that she did like fruit, raspberries were a favourite.  Sitting there and having a momentary sigh about the concept of dried raspberries for cooking, I suddenly remembered that the back of the fridge has a block of chocolate with dried raspberries in it.  It's longevity in the fridge may just beat the Easter chocolates, but at leasto have not been eating from the block!

The house was soon filled with the smell of cookies, and the youngster was hovering with expectations.  After a quick trial the disaster of missing manufactured cookies for lunches tomorrow has been averted.

With plenty of time to finish chores and practice killing the cat on the violin, we were finished the evening routine by 7:30 pm.  No excuse not to spend some time exercising, so I jumped on the spin bike for a couple hundred calories, enjoying the fire that was going beside me.  At least I managed to burn off that chocolate bar that I ate out of boredom at work!  Thank goodness university starts next week, productivity will be going through the roof then!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Fear of Commitment

Catchy heading but this post is so not what you were thinking!  About 15 years ago and with severe decision fatigue, I looked at hundreds of 1/4 postage stamp sized shades of colours in an effort to select a colour for my house.

I remember the horror of walking out and seeing the two Greek painters rolling on the colour.  I shrieked 'OMG that better be the undercoat!' To which they replied 'It's Bewdiful'....not even in a cuppla days was that going to be beautiful!  

As the landscaping surrounded the house, the uniqueness of the colour has grown on me, or maybe I have grown to live with it.  With many of the projects completed, it seemed like a good time to re-paint the exterior.  It will bring the house up to a more modern colour scheme and be a solid foundation for when the time comes to sell.

After the shock of the first colour, it has taken some time to select a new colour.  Exhibit A;

After going through what looked great on the colour chart and being disappointed with the colour on the wall, we opted for a new strategy.  Random colours from what was left on the chart!  I also had the epiphany that the garage door is cream, so the exterior has to use the colour of the door as a contrasting colour.  It looks like the new colour is going to be iced tea.  I know that you are having a challenge in thinking what iced tea would look like painted on the wall.  Hang five on the desire to through your tea bag at the wall to get a simulation going as I will post some progress pictures....soonish!

I had intended in April to make a start after finishing work.  I was chatting to a friend and she laughed.  Supposedly she is pretty sure that she can finish a Masters quicker than I can paint my house.  I can't remember what we wagered, but I had better crack on with it.  Four months to select the colour, I am hoping that was the hardest piece!  In her defence, she was pretty sure that I would be kept busy with contracting and consulting offers, and she has been right about that.  With this contract nearing an end in 25 more days, I was already planning the progression.  Turns out that the company is intending on an extension, so unless there is a gap in the contracts, I may not be making tremendous progress just yet!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Random Tree

We have been working on cleaning up a few of the gardens over the past few weekends.  As I was weeding the old veggie garden I bumped into this plant.

As I was deciding what to do with it, I had a closer look at the top of it.  Hmmm, I think this may actually be a paw paw tree that has sprouted up.

I am not sure I like paw paw, but we will soon see.  Well not in the next few days, but certainly in time, unless it is not a paw paw tree!

Australia Zoo

With school holidays underway we took a quick trip up the coast with the family, stopping in for a visit to Australia Zoo.  It had been a few years since we had been there, actually Maddison was in a stroller, so around six years I guess.

For a zoo, I was super impressed by the cleanliness and the lush tropical gardens, it really was a lovely day out for the family.  We also got some super animal shots on the camera, and all the crew took turns with populating the album of happy snaps.  The iPad has been great with editing, and any action shots of creatures not quite in the centre of the frame have been edited to show almost photographic perfection!

We ended the visit at the African display, and for me it was the most impressive display of the day.  There was something magical about rounding the corner and having a goup of giraffe's munching away in front of you.  It was also fantastic to have an Army tent set up with hot coffee being sold.  Everyone's legs were getting weary from all the trekking so it was awesome to have the tourist train arrive and ferry us back to the exit gate.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Rear Fencing Project

With the addition of a new four legged family member, the schedule of projects required some re-prioritisation.  With the pool finalisation project, I did replace some 30 metres of boundary fencing with retaining walls and a new fence.  The end result was fabulous, but the construction costs mean that the remaining 50 metres was on hold for another year (or so)!

The next leg of the journey involves some fairly steep terrain, and loads of neglect.  The existing slope is too dangerous to be standing on with a brush cutter, and I don't fancy wading through it without it trimmed down.  Take a peek at the delightful area;

We are using the same company that constructed the last wall, as their pricing was the most competitive last time.  The quote this time was cheaper than a few years ago, so happy with that.  Also given our last interaction, we have a great relationship, so there is flexibility and trust on both sides of the transaction.

In order to assist in the process, I took the weekend to remove all of the pailings and two thirds of the rails.  I had to create two neat little piles at either end of the fence.  Remember that 50 metres in length?  I must have clocked up a few km's last weekend.  I also hired a chainsaw and took down as many of the trees that I felt comfortable in lopping myself.  Apologies to the lemon tree, I honestly planned for the tree to fall a different way!  I have cut the trees into bite size pieces and placed them into a pile for future relocation and drying for next winter.  This activity will save a few hundred dollars in wood costs alone for next year.

The remaining trees will be cut by the fencing company.  They were so surprised by my weekend activities that the three men stood around in awe.  Yes fellas, the family had their skates on over the weekend.  One of the guys asked what the heck I did for a living, and the owner replied with "Not sure really but I think she is a Doctor".  Our assistance has allowed for the additional trees to be cut down, and cut into pieces, along with a dead tree from the front of the property.  All outside of the original quote, but happily done by the crew.  The remnants of the existing materials will be placed behind the new retaining wall and under the fill.  This will save us the costs of taking the wood to the local tip.

The team had made good progress yesterday and the entire back yard was full of fallen trees.  Maddy and I did have a small moment of sadness when the family of kangaroos came up to eat and play in the yard.  Once the project is finished, they will not have a way into the backyard, and we will not have the pleasure of their company.

Retirement Planning

Retirement, it is an thought provoking concept.  I think a fair few of us contemplate working along until the government tells us we can access our superannuation, and then we hang up the suit and paddle off into the sunset.  But as our generation ages, the rules of life are starting to shift.  Perhaps it is the impact of living longer lives, or more ambitiously thinking it is that society has started to warm to the concept of financial independence, in whatever angle that means for each individual.  Generally, it is a life of less stuff, of more experiences, and one where having everything and working 70 hours per week to get it is not considered to be the best use of our finite existence.

My 65 year plan always included retiring by the water.  In the earlier stages, thinking surrounded a canal property down the Gold Coast.  As I travelled more and found alternatives to bull sharks swimming around with a increasingly seedy night life, I have fell in love with Caloundra and the Sunshine Coast as a location.  The past few years I have been fixed on a lovely apartment where I can hear and see the ocean.  Something like this was incorporated into the plan;

Of course with all good life plans, one needs to have some flexibility.  Turns out the partner's life plan always includes a family dog, which may not suit my images above!  So after some research my mental images have to take a slight revision, but we have easily come to a joint picture of what the retirement phase will look like, and the location.  So I have printed a couple of memory joggers and placed them on the fridges in each house as a reminder of what will come.

Like many others, I want to transition to those retirement years.  So we plan to purchase in the locality ahead of time.  The compromise is that I won't be able to have this option at first.  We have children that need to go through school, and that will take awhile, or more specifically another ten years.  But in ten years we are both in our 50's, so a house up the coast in the next five or six  will allow for us to start spending our weekends away.  The kids are older and are having lives of their own, and we will survive left at home for a couple of nights, or they can even join us up the coast, the life style is great with the beach just around the corner.

With the bigger piece of the puzzle sorted, we now just have to navigate the path through to the five or six year point!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Return to Uni

One of the perks of the redundancy package was a substantial training allowance.  I have been scouring the internet in search of options on how to use it up.  Nice dilemma to have I guess.

It isn't enough to cover a Masters, nor do I have the time or inclination to do one at the moment.  But what I did find was a Post Graduate Certificate in International Relations.  I also managed to find a Post Graduate Certificate in Business that was burried amongst my academic transcripts!  The degree was obviously more important, as I framed it and hung it on the office wall.  Not such an illustrious end for the next one!

Four subjects, about a year part time I guess.  Seems to fit in with life at the moment, it is a little quiet in the evenings.  The life of a contractor means that when the day ends, I clock off.  No evening work, no burning desire to do 60 hour weeks when you are only charging for 40.

Contracting is also a dilemma at present.  The hours are great, the pay is good and the roles are dead boring.  Definitely can tick off that goal to reduce stress this year!  I miss being part of developing a strategy and working with a team to achieve our goals.  Contracting can be a tad lonely, often the surrounding people are pleasant but not overly friendly.  I guess they think that you are a short term arrival, or even worse that you are here to encroach on their roles or future positions.

As I ended one role and started the contracting gigs the very next working day, I still have a redundancy payment sitting in the bank.  This provides a great sense of financial comfort, and the count down of 51 days to go for this role doesn't seem to bother me.  I spend my days and nights on the look out for the next opportunity, happy knowing that it will arrive when it is meant to.

Vegie Garden Still Growing!

Taking advantage of some spare time and room in the bin, we set about cleaning up the over grown vegie garden.  Turns out when you barracade out the turkey, you also do it for the gardeners!  That combined with what appears to be a shortage of outside time at home, well things are over grown.

Maddy loves time outside exploring, and often asks are we gardening today.  There was squeals of delight upon finding some potatoes.  She was so proud of them, she was announcing to anyone that came over that we had grown out own potatoes.  

Maybe I should be telling her that these are the potatoes we grew, you should definately be eating them!  It makes me smile that she doesn't really enjoy potatoes or chips, kids all over the world would have eyes wide open in amazement.

Athletics Carnival

After a few days of crappy weather, it was a fluke that we actually packed our sports gear for school that morning.  After the 45 minute morning drive, the sky was overcast but not raining when we arrived in the city.  I was the only parent arriving at the athletics carnival in a suit, but none the less I was present.

Although the school has fantastic facilities, they take advantage of a local university for their athletics carnival.  Looking back to my state school days, some hand drawn lines on the "school oval" were about as good as it got.  I also managed to land in the rep team for athletics, and even then the facility was the a nearby town's local footy field, hardly athletic facilities!

It was amazing to be sitting the the covered stands and watching the kids run on a proper track.  Even with the zoom lens I could tell that there was still some anxst on the starting line.  Possibly she was thinking back to her performance in the swimming carnival and wondering how you can go from the top of one school down to the bottom of another.

When the gun went off, she was away, and I was cheering just off the track, and the smile from her indicated that she had heard that Mummy was there.

Second in the 80 metre sprint and third in the 100 metre sprint, with sizzling times to land her in the final.  This means she made the top 8 for the 9 year olds.  I was so proud.  Apparently not so for the child, her harshest critic.  I may have been described as a driven over-achiever in my time, so I am super conscious of not placing my demands onto Maddison.  I think the schools schedules are demanding, throw in extra swimming, violin and speech and drama lessons and there is little down time for her.

To celebrate the success of the day, we headed off to Toy World to pick out a reward.  I was also super excited to get the official letter from the school, she made the schools reprentative squad for athletics.  Little did we know at that time that required three training sessions per week, and two of them start at 6:45 am.  It is winter now, the mornings are cold, but she never complains about having to participate. And each Wednesday afternoon I arrive to see the final half of training, often with a little chocolate something stashed in my back pack.  I am not sure she will make the final team, but I couldn't be prouder of her efforts.

Easter Bunny

The fact I am posting about Easter activities whilst in June is clearly an indication that I am way behind with my blogging!

This Easter was spent down in Yamba, NSW.  The Blue Dolphin Resort is an excellent kid friendly location.  Perfect paths for completing the learning to ride your bike goal, pools for swimming, close proximity to the water for surfing and fishing.

I also managed to survive a week of extended family, with only a few small sanity departures.  Although I thought I had thought of everything, I was caught off guard at 8.00 pm with the notification from the child that Easter Bunny needs a carrot!  Whilst still having my OMG moment, thankfully the in laws come to the rescue producing a carrot.  With much relief we headed back to our cabin to prepare for the evening.

The youngster had thought of everything ahead of time.  She packed the ears and her collection bucket!  Now in a small two bedroom cabin, there is only so far the Easter Bunny can go to produce a hunting trail.

It all panned out ok, with small shrieks of delight the following morning.  As she is approaching nine, that may well have been our last Easter Bunny, but hopefully she fakes for as long as possible....they grow up so fast.  If I blink, she will be starting uni.

Finally Riding

It has been a tragedy unfolding over many years, but finally the goal of teaching the child to ride her bike has been over come.  Many thanks to those who have more patience than I in contributing to the family success!

We still have a challenge in learning the rules of the road, but the passion for riding, especially with Mum or the broader family is away.  The tag along bike is now on eBay awaiting a new home, and the freedom of not having to pull the darling child along is a welcome relief.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Budget Gardening

Given the acre of land I live on, landscaping tends to be an expensive exercise.  So whilst in between roles I went off in search of some options.  I managed to find this little gem;

It is a Queensland based company, and the plant prices are fantastic.  I did have to order 12 or 15 plants to fill the box as a minimum order quantity, so I selection a random sample of plants to check it out.  Within two days the box arrived at the door, and the inspection began.  Seriously great at packing this company is.

After unpacking, here are how things looked;

Only one snag, I somehow managed to order Port Wine Magnolia and not Magnolia Little Gem!  So they will be on the list for next time.  All up with postage the plants cost around $50, and although they would be bigger from the local nursery, the cost would have been easily 3 or 4 times more.


Right of Passage

It is almost a right of passage for young girls, as they move from Mummy deciding on what hairstyle I will have, to controlling one's own destiny.  For the past six months I have been avoiding the request for lopping of the curls!

It was recently that several others over heard the pleas, and then made a comment to me about who really loves the curls the most!  OK, it is me, the parent with the dead straight hair, I love the tiny blonde ringlets that I managed to create over on the child!  So it was with a heavy heart that we headed to the hair dresser.

As the first snip went, I asked "Maddy, can you hear that?  It is the sound of Mummy's heart breaking!"  There was raucous laughter from the chair, so it appears that my comments were well received! 

I look forward to the few years time when the stage returns that OMG my image is everything, I must have my locks back.   Of course that stage also comes with other issues, but I shall await the return.


Am I Fat?

Got to love the family humour, do these clothes make me look fat?


First Strings Concert

It is really hard to imagine that my daughter was so afraid of being in the lime light, that she would cower in tears.  She refused to go to the stage to accept her student awards at assembly, and each little performance for Easter, Christmas or anything was met with a shower of tears and flat out refusal.

Fast forward a few years to a new school environment, and this kid is flourishing.  Doesn't matter the cost, the outcome is amazing and her transition to finding herself is a wonderful one to watch.  Violin lessons have only been a handful, and well what I have heard at home was bound not to be the reason that parents flocked to the auditorium for the first performance after less than a term of playing!

This rendition from the teachers was fantastic for all those who watched the Never Ending Story, and it certainly set the benchmark for what the parents would love to be hearing at home at some stage in the future!

But the proudest moment is watching the intent on the little face as she goes through the paces and routines of the concert.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Additional Time

In the time off between roles, it was pleasing to spend some quality time with the youngster.  So often with work, life priorities are harder to juggle, and although we have time together, the quality of that time is sometimes not what I would like it to be.  A careful reminder was an excited conversation after library day at school.  She is developing a passion for reading which is really great, but the cookbook coming home surely was a surprise.  I did have a big smile when the page was already marked, discussions had been held amongst the peers, and tomorrow she was bringing in these delicious little treats.....

Your reactions are priceless, and mine caught me a little by surprise.  On auto pilot the excuse for why I couldn't assist was already out.  I did react fast enough to say, actually we do have time, so let's swing by the supermarket and pick up the ingredients.  We also used that as an exercise to continue to hone our shopping and financial literacy skills, carefully selecting the right eggs for the best price.

With some additional free time I also took advantage of being present for extra swim lessons, time in the class for helping with lessons, working on presentations, being there when they were delivered and also setting the pace for the class with the first ones to make a movie for our demonstration.  We had a stack of fun doing it.  The out takes were hilarious, and it was fantastic to see the shy one evolve in front of the camera.