Sunday, October 30, 2011

Container Gardening Pests: How To Get Rid Of Aphids, Spidermites, Leaf Miners

Although this is a PF blog, most personal finance bloggers grow plants, herbs and vegetables for the most obvious reason. I grow mine for pleasure. Visual and edible pleasure : ) Lately, the wide range of plants, herbs and flowers on my balcony has attracted so many pests and it has been a struggle to deal with them so far until the last few days. I have found a new gardening weapon. It's called the humble sticky tape.

The Failure of Commercial Pesticide

Yates aphid and bug spray didn't achieve anything. The aphids still made out like crazy and flourished. It may have killed beneficial insects instead and left me with a swarm of spidermites that were out of control. I had to uproot my mint plants and dump them. My purple miniature rose were cut back to the stems and I'm not sure if they'll ever recover from the shock. The poor hibiscus cuttings are now under attack and the last thing I wanted to do was chuck another plant out.

Using Sticky Tape to Remove Aphids and Spidermites

Suddenly I had a brainstorm. If the humble sticky tape can remove dust and lint off every surface - then why couldn't I use it to remove bugs from my plants? With my 1.5 inch wide tape, I cut off a bit and stuck the tape to the aphids and the results were amazing - it picked up all the aphids in the vicinity of the tape! The bugs couldn't escape and I didn't have to squish them one by one which can take hours. I used a skewer and rolled it along the surface of the tape and suddenly the 5-10 aphids stuck on the tape were vanquished. Just keep reusing the tape until it's covered with dead bugs. It's gross but highly effective.

Day one= 150 aphids squished. Day two=20 aphids, Day three=40 aphids and Day four= 5 aphids only. The numbers are dwindling rapidly and at this rate, by day 7 there will be none left. You'll need good eyesite to spot your aphids. Check in between the flower buds, under the flower buds, on new shoots, on top of the leaf and particularly the underside of leaves are where they love to congregate and on the underside of the leaves near the soil.

Using sticky tape to remove the pests is non toxic(can someone prove otherwise?), easy, cheap and very effective. I've been sticking the tape to the underside of the hibiscus plant leaves, gently pressed the leaves against the tape to squish the microscopic red spidermites and crush the eggs, gently unpeeling the tape from the leaves. Hundreds of squished red spider mites, eggs and webbing were on the tape. If I had done that one by one by hand it would have taken hours, I would have missed heaps and you can barely see the mites anyway so it would have failed. The sticky tape picks up so much due to its sticky residue. It was gross but the option was to either spray a lot of pesticides frequently or use a tiny bit of sticky tape over and over again on the infected leaves.

Using Water Spray and Natural Methods to Remove Aphids and Spidermites

Advice on the internet is to use pesticide or spray your plant hard with water and water jets. They will simply just fly or climb back onto your plants. Spraying with water just doesn't work and I've tried all those techniques. Even using a soapy spray mix doesn't work. I've tried the garlic + chilli soap spray method and it doesnt work for me. Admittedly I haven't tried mixing soap+oil+water which is another 'natural' option. Some people buy ladybugs/lady beetles to eat the aphids. I also haven't tried filling a bright yellow dish with water- yellow is supposedly attractive to the aphids.

Using Plants to Ward Off Aphids and Other Bugs

Some recommend planting dill, geraniums, chives, corriander, garlic, onions, petunias and radishes etc to attract beneficial predatory bugs but that doesn't seem to work with my container plants. Sure the aphids doesn't eat my geranium and chives yet they aren't scared off either. They love to munch on my corriander so that advice isn't effective.

There are so many plant bugs around that love to dine on my tasty plants. The sticky tape solution will work on aphids, mealy bugs, spider mites and soft scale. It's still early days yet to see whether it will fully solve my problem however there are significantly less and less bugs! This should help the plant to recover somewhat and eventually all the pest eggs will have hatched and will be removed via the humble sticky tape.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The expert email 'forwarder'

Before you click that "Forward" button on your email, stop and think, 'I can do this, but am I just being lazy?'

The 'Forward' function in Outlook and email clients exist so that we can share information but it's not there simply for people who want to shirk their work duties. Lately, I've been getting annoyed because a staff member at one of our vendors prefers not to do any work but forward my requests and give me phone numbers to call and follow up for myself. It's understandable if his sole function is to divert emails but his role is to assist me in work related matters and action my requests.

At work it's been a rant of mine ever since one of the staff at a vendor of ours got promoted and she was totally awesome. Her promotion is awesome but she's left us in a bottomless pit with her new, crappy replacement. If I sent her any request to action or investigate, she would be onto my request immediately and she chased, she pursued, she followed up, she diarised and she got results for me. It was a like working relationship dream come true. Even if it was a request that was not her immediate duty, she would forward the request to her colleagues but she would follow up with them first and then get back to me with her results. I email her my requests, she emails me her results = working relationship dream come true.

Her replacement however is a total fail. He likes to forward emails. Not once has he actioned any of my requests without me having to repeatedly hassle him for results. I'm not his mother and I'm not his girlfriend nor his secretary. It's not my role to chase him for answers, replies and results and I've got deadlines to work to. He doesn't understand the concept of using diaries and calendars to schedule in tasks. Everyone has one of those in the office. The expert forwarder. The expert forwarder is extremely experienced in pressing the forward button and passing the work and responsibility to others. Sometimes they don't even read their emails because they know that once it has been forwarded, it's not their responsibility anymore unless it comes back.

It would be a dream come true if the expert forwarder that I have to deal with right now gets promoted because he fails on all my requests. Unfortunately the possibility of him being promoted are slim simply because if his manager asked clients to rate his service, we'd all give him a zero. How does one handle expert forwarders? How can you compel one to actually do some work instead of passing the buck around? How can you manage an expert forwarder to actually perform the work instead of trying to flick you off to other departments when their role is to field all enquiries from you and act on your requests internally?

Monday, October 24, 2011

"You should buy more clothes"

Recently I was gently told by my mum and G's mum to buy more clothes. Whoa right?! I'm not exactly poorly dressed, just casually dressed and you can tell that fashion isn't something that I'm obsessed with. I do have favourite gorgeous dresses that I wear again and again. That was probably the issue at the heart of the comments.

They were telling me that while I'm young, I should go out shopping more and buy loads of pretty clothes and dresses so that I can enjoy them all while I'm young. They said that when I'm older, I'll regret it if I didn't doll myself up to the nines frequently in heaps of super trendy clothing. Isn't that ironic. I thought mothers generally despair at their kids' lack of financial acumen and how spendthrift they are!

My mum even gives me shopping allowances(infrequently mind you-not every week) to encourage me to go out and spend more on clothes, outfits and accessories. Denial doesn't work because she just hides the money in my bag, inbetween my books, in random clothing pockets of mine. I'll just discover the money randomly when I pull certain things out to use. That probably sounds like a dream come true for many females but it's not my dream come true and exerts a subtle pressure. I'd prefer that she saves the money for her own retirement and I want her to travel the world and live luxuriously in her retirement. I just know that she wants me to be dressed to the nines every single day because she's much more glamourous than I am and way dressier whereas I'm not as fashion conscious.

How am I going to know what I'll regret when I'm older until I'm older?! They were right to some extent - I hadn't really been shopping for a while and I have re-worn the same items for a few months and some items for over a decade. I don't even find it embarrasssing since I try to buy good quality fabric and timeless designs.

With the recent onslaught of weddings these past three years, it was reasonable to expect me to go shopping for something different so I went on Saturday. It felt like I was on a mission. To stock up my wardrobe in a utilitarian manner - must buy dresses and must buy shoes. Shopping is pleasurable when I'm overseas travelling but back at home, there's so much to do every weekend that shopping feels like a duty and not as enjoyable.

What's the damage? I spent about $760 these past two weeks on three pairs of dressy shoes, two beautiful dresses. I bought two dresses for $438 and usually two dresses costs more than $500 so that was a positive surprise. My friend said I could have bought an ipad or upgraded my iphone to the latest one but our priorities aren't the same and I don't care for new gadgets.

The two dresses I bought were from Event and they have an online shop which is pretty awesome for browsing.  Here are pics of the dresses that I bought (pictures are from Event's website and it's not me posing lol). The black and white dress is super elegant, stylish and has an amazing slimming appearance. The second dress is like a sheath and drapes over curves in all the right places:

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Failed relationships: Hiding your money

Have you ever thought about what happens when defacto relationships and marriages fail? There was a sneaky search query from a Melbournian who stumbled onto my money and relationship post, 'What's mine is mine, what's yours is yours.'


Best advice for the googler is - seek advice from your solicitor/lawyer/accountant immediately.

Usually it's a bit too late to be looking at salvaging your assets from a defacto breakup when you've already split up. I won't be covering how to hide assets from your spouse in the event of divorces because that's rather devious particularly when there are kids involved. Obviously there are several means of hiding assets from married spouses but that's not for me to tell you.

It's different when it concerns defacto relationships. Just because you've lived together for six months shouldn't mean that you or your partner are entitled to one another's assets. Unfortunately the law behaves otherwise. If you're in a defacto relationship and you've got all the assets and your defacto didn't sign any 'binding financial agreement' then you're probably up to your neck in trouble if your defacto decides to take you to court to clean you out.

The unethical side of hiding your assets

In some cases, it's fair that your defacto should be entitled because they helped pay for half the furniture, half the mortgage despite their names not being on the title document, half the bills for maintaining the property when something breaks down (if they were renting, they wouldn't have paid for maintenance) - so the law does look at several points in arriving at their decision about what to split and how much to split. They look at the dependency of the two parties, the financial contribution from each party to the household bills and expenses, the housework, how intertwined your finances are, joint accounts and several other aspects of the relationship such as whether or not there are kids involved.

How can you hide your assets?

You can hide your cash money by transferring it out of your account. You can hide your assets by 'selling' them to your family and friends and buying them back again later. You can hide portable assets by simply relocating them elsewhere. The law doesn't like to tamper with any assets that have been transferred and or sold to third parties. Or if you want to really put various assets out of reach, you can open up some family/discretionary trusts and transfer your funds into them. You'll probably get some whopping bill from your accountant and solicitor but how much is at stake? Work out the pros and cons. The hardest part to hide is your property and your superannuation.

Your property and your superannuation can be split upon dissolution of a marriage and a defacto relationship. As assets, they're very difficult to hide, sell and in the case of superannuation - impossible to hide or transfer.

Before couples move in together, they should take a long hard look at each other's financial state. If you've got plenty of assets and the other party has nothing then you should take steps at ensuring that your assets are protected by having them sign a 'binding financial agreement' (commonly referred to as prenup). It's not the most romantic idea but so many relationships fail and aren't everlasting. Everyone wants to find 'the one' to love and grow old with but this notion is outdated with the divorce statistics.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Mortgage Brokers Rebating Commission

Next time I get myself a new mortgage, I'm leaning towards applying for my mortgage through a commission rebate broker. We've got to be careful with mortgage brokers. They're not always independent due to the commissions that they receive from the loan provider.

It's only natural for mortgage brokers and financial planners to recommend products that they receive the most commission and trailing fee from - if you were running a business, that's the course of action you would have taken too, so it's understandable. So as long as you are aware of the pitfalls, you can work to minimise this problem and also maximise benefits for yourself.

Research the various mortgage loans on offer out there. Once you find a loan that you want, check to see if there are commission rebate mortgage brokers that can broker the loan for you.Some of the commission rebate mortgage brokers are,, and

How does it work? If you went into a bank for a standard variable home loan with a variable rate of 7% then your interest rate will be 7%. If you instead obtained that exact same standard variable home loan via (the mortgage brokers) then they will broker that exact same 7% loan for you however because your bank (and most financial institutions) pays a trailing commission of a few percentage points out of that 7%, they rebate a portion of their commission to you - essentially the mortgage rate that you end up paying is less than 7% if you go through the broker as opposed to going to the bank directly.

That sounds awesome right? Getting a mortgage rate that is under the standard variable rate. You can even get that standard variable rate reduced even further by asking your financial provider for mortage home loan interest discount packages. All of them have some type of home loan interest discount packages available. You will end up saving tens of thousands and possibly even hundreds of thousands of dollars just by utilising those options (the bigger your mortgage the more you're saving).

The steps that I plan to take this time around for my new mortgage loan:

1. Research the property mortgage loan provider that I want to use and decide on the mortgage package that I want to go for. I already know that I want this mortgage to have the following features: variable, 30 year term, redraw facilities, offset account, ability to make unlimited extra repayments, no penalties for early loan repayment.

Eg: I aim for a CBA standard variable home loan which is 7.81% currently

2. Check for the professional discount package. All the larger banks have these mortgage discount packages. You pay anything from $200 to $400 for a package each year and you can get up to 1% off your mortgage depending on their "specials" and their discount package. This annual fee is cheap because the percentage discounts will save your thousands annually. I won't crunch the numbers here but you can do it yourself using the mortgage calculators freely available online. There are always branch specials happening so will remember to negotiate all the way throughout the whole process.

Eg: CBA has a 'Wealth Package' which costs $350 annually but its interest rate discount depends on how much I borrow. So if I borrow anything from $250,000 to $500,000 then I can get 0.75% off the 7.81% standard variable rate

3. Check out the commission rebate brokers to obtain my loan through them. They could rebate anything from 0.2% and greater depending who I go through.

Eg: I go through and they rebate 0.2% of my loan interest back to me offmy 7.81% standard variable rate.

The results?

1. Instead of paying the advertised standard variable interest rate of 7.81%, the mortgage loan rate has been reduced to 6.86% and it could be even lower depending on how hardball the negotiation process is and how prudent I am in checking on special rates and special discounts that some branches offer

Eg: Carrying on from my example above, if I borrow $400,000:
a) At 7.81% interest rate, total interest over the life of the loan (assuming no extra repayments have been made) is $637,612
b) At 6.86% interest rate, total interest over the life of the loan (assuming no extra repayments have been made) is $544,532.42
c) Total mortgage interest savings from going through the discounting process above saves me $93,000

If I have to pay the $350 annual fee for the 30 year term then that will cost me a total of $10,500. That's cheap compared to the savings of $93,000

How can you pay even less mortage interest?

I've already covered that topic extensively in '15 tips on paying your mortgage off faster' and 'Paying off your mortage faster- the scenarios'

I'm aiming to pay off the $400k mortgage in 10 to 15 years. It may take longer than that if I decide to buy additional investment properties along the way. 10-15 years sounds like forever but it'll come around faster than you think. Look how fast high school flew by. And the uni years went by just as quickly.

[Edit 12/02/2012: Other commission rebate providers are Commission Refunders and - they don't cover home loans but covers managed funds, insurances, managed funds. Commissions will be banned from 1/07/12 but that will only apply to new products and it doesn't cover insurances held outside super or to mortgages]

Chalet Girl: Kim and her financial struggle

Chalet Girl is a romantic, snowboarding chick flick. I found myself watching a chick flick mid-week because when times are tough- we all need to de-stress ourselves somehow and snowboarding videos or random movies are some of my favourite past times next to reading and raiding the fridge for food.

If you want to watch a movie about how not to handle your dough, Chalet Girl is the movie to watch. It's about a girl, Kim Matthews who used to be a competitive skateboarder until her mother died. Since then, she and her father have been unable to recover from the trauma emotionally nor financially. A few years have passed and we find Kim working in a dead end job, living in an untidy house with a slob of a father. I can understand if her father became a slob due to the death of her mother however as the movie plays out, that's not the case.

When Kim leaves to work for three months at a private chalet, there are scenes of her father not knowing how to reheat food, wash up nor clean up after himself. He eats frozen food, directly from the freezer because he doesn't know how to defrost nor reheat. It's pretty gross. By implications of this, he's a 50 to 60 year old, long term unemployed father who doesn't even know the basics of domestic life. His wife and his daughter has really done him a disservice by mothering and babying him. He's like a grown up who needs his nappies changed. As I mentioned previously, simply gross. Fortunately there is redemption in his character once his daughter ditches him for a temporary job on the ski slopes.

The movie is set in the Alps and every scenery shot simply makes me drool. The mountains are beautiful, the slopes look amazing and the terrain parks are awesome looking. There's a huge bouncing air mattress at the end of one jumping ramp and I soooo want to try that out. Our friend TJ injured himself on one of those bouncing mattresses because the strap on his snowboard broke when he landed. Ouch.

For those who are keen on skiing or snowboarding, it's a movie that will bring back memories of when you first started to learn. I was commiserating with Ed Westwick's character Jonny when he learnt how to snowboard because we've all been there and done that. Face plant, head plant and whiplashes when the edges of the snowboard catches.

Even the injuries in the movie were unfortunately all too familiar. Various friends of mine have been carted off on medical snowcats with hospital trips made. We all keep doing it despite our various injuries. We keep pushing ourselves to try bigger jumps and steeper runs. Through trees and rocks and God knows what. Some of us have broken an arm, fractured shoulders, cartileges, torn our ligaments, broken wrist, fractured knee, sprained ankles, injured backs, slight concussions and so forth. Several of them are popping neurofens, panadols, panadene forts and pain killers every single morning before heading out to the mountains. It's like a pharmacy in their suitcases.

So Kim finds herself working as a caterer in a swanky chalet which is ski in, ski out. Her employers are a wealthy American family with two sons. One of them is sleazy and gives me the creeps. The other one, Jonny, is not too bad although almost just as sleazy as his brother. How could he just ditch his fiance on the very night of their engagement party? And that's after he slept with Kim for several days. His character isn't convincing enough. It's the case of 'rich boy falling for a poor girl' but from what we see, they don't really have much in common except for their joy of the snow.

It's unrealistic for the movie to finish up the way it did. Any keen snowboarder would know that it takes years and years to even do the tricks that Kim learnt with just three months on the snow. Even if she had a skateboarding background. Being able to do all those boxes and rails not to mention 1020s and 360s etc all take years and years of practice. And to beable to compete competitively after only three months? Okay okay, it's a movie and I know I should 'suspend my disbelief' and let movies stretch the truth every now and then.

Now onto the topic of Kim and her personal finance skills or lack thereof. She's been working in a dead end job and she needed more roster hours however her boss couldn't give her more work hours so she applied
for a temporary 3 month role to get her out of her rut. Her father hasn't been working so she's been supporting the pair of them. She should have asked him to help find work so that he could contribute to the household finances instead of soldiering on alone and stressed. Being emotionally depressed and distraught due to trauma is understandable but life goes on and he can't expect her to support him indefinitely. He is still her father but he was heavily lacking in that fatherly role. She shouldn't have carried the burden for so long. That was an erroneous judgement on her behalf.

While she was working at the chalet, she received tip money but then was cajoled into blowing the lot on a night in the pub/club. We see her buying rounds and rounds of alchohol. Viewers know that she's got bills to pay at home because we see her father asking her when she'll be depositing the funds. I don't blame her. She's been looking after his sorry ass for a long time and finally decides to live in the moment and screw responsibility. She does take her devil may care attitude a bit further as she splashes out on snow gear, clothing and a hot new snowboard. Sure the prize money is $25k but then again, this movie does make a lot of assumptions in terms of her snowboarding skills.

Working in a chalet and being introduced into the high life, her horizons are constantly expanding. She has the opportunity to go heli skiing twice. Five friends of mine went heli skiing two months ago in New Zealand and it was about $750-$900 for the day which involves about 7 runs down the mountain in almost untracked terrain. They said it was an awesome experience.

Anyhoo, the movie had the typical ending of an American film. Kim triumphs. She even embraces Jonny when she sees him for the first time since she realised he cheated, Jonny's father is smiling at Jonny and Kim's embrace and even Kim's father finds romance. It's all so unrealistic that it comes together like that because real life just doesn't flow that way. Movie critics label those type of endings derogatively as the 'big finish'. It was an enjoyable movie simple because of all the snowboarding and skiing scenes. It's not going to be like the Art of Flight or specialty snowboarding films because it's a chick flick and it was a decent enough romance movie.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Bill Granger's Chicken and Sweet Potato Curry

We are entertaining tonight. So after cooking last night's dinner, I prepped and cooked part of tonight's dinner. At 11pm I finally called it quits in the kitchen.

The curry is now in the fridge, ready to heat up after work. It has all the south east Asian flavours with ingredients like lemongrass, fish sauce, ginger and sweet potatoes. Those are ingredients that I grew up with. It was surprisingly easy and quick to make. I had all the ingredients and loads of lemongrass in the freezer from my parents' farm.

I've yet to make the dough for the corriander and onion flatbread, the cucumber relish and roll the gyoza's(little Japanese pork dumplings). So tonight will find me frantically working in the kitchen again.

The Age and SMH published the recipe and you can find it online but if you want to try it, I'll provide a copy of it here:

Bill Granger's Chicken and Sweet Potato Curry

I've split the recipe up into four sections because it's prepped and cooked in four distinct steps.

8 skinless chicken thigh fillets, cut into quarters
2 tbsp curry powder
sea salt
1 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, sliced
1 red chilli, finely chopped
1 stalk lemongrass, crushed with the back of a knife and split
5cm piece ginger, peeled and sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp caster sugar
500g sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
400ml chicken stock
250ml coconut milk
fresh lemon juice
small handful fresh coriander leaves
steamed rice

Place chicken and curry powder in a bowl and toss to coat well. Season with sea salt.
Heat oil in a large heavy-based pan with a lid over medium heat. Add onion and chilli and fry for 2 minutes.
Add chicken and cook until sealed and browned all over.
Add lemongrass, ginger, garlic, fish sauce, caster sugar, sweet potatoes and stock to the pan. Bring to boil, cover, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until sweet potato is tender but still holds its shape.
Stir in coconut milk, cover and simmer for another 5 minutes. Season with lemon juice to taste. Scatter with coriander leaves and serve with steamed rice.

Coriander and onion flatbreads

150g wholemeal flour
2 tsp baking powder
150g yoghurt
3 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
2 green (spring) onions, finely chopped
1/2 tsp sea salt
olive oil

Place flour, baking powder, yoghurt, coriander, green onions and salt in a bowl and mix well. Knead for a couple of minutes until dough is smooth. Place in a bowl, cover with a clean tea towel and set aside to rest for 1 hour.
Divide dough into 4 equal pieces and roll out each piece into a rough circle about 20cm wide and 2mm thick.
Place a frying pan over a medium-high heat. Brush with a little olive oil. Fry each bread 1-2 minutes on each side until lightly coloured and cooked. Serve warm.

Cucumber relish

Granger's cucumber relish really looks like my mum's Khmer (Cambodian) cucumber pickle/salad. Even the ingredients and method of cooking are very similar. I can't wait to try this recipe to see whether is more Thai or more Khmer.
125ml rice or white vinegar
115g caster sugar
1 Lebanese cucumber, quartered lengthways and finely sliced
2 red Asian shallots or 1/2 red onion, peeled and finely sliced
2 red chillies, seeded (if desired) and julienned

Place vinegar and sugar in a small saucepan over a medium heat and stir until sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Pour into a bowl, add cucumber, shallots and chilli and stir to combine.

Makes 1 Cup.

(Photo credits: Marina Oliphant)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Uncertainty over courses and work choices

My friend's cousin A was tossing over whether to pursue a career in IT or in science. He mentioned that IT came naturally to him and it was easy and cruisy. Science was harder and it wasn't as natural for him but it was more interesting. It's a common dilemma for most of us. Choose the path that's easiest or the path that may be more challinging but is more interesting to us?

I've included a few useful pointers from an article written by Judy Barnsley. By completing the following sentences, you may find out what your interests are:
* I can ...
* I find it easy to ...
* I have a flair for ...
* People have told me I am good at ...
* I have done well in ...
Which area of life do you ...
* Get the most satisfaction and personal enjoyment from?
* Spend the most time on?
* Put the most energy and effort into?
* Feel the most positive and excited about?
* Gain a positive or confident self image from?
* Experience peace and harmony from?
* Wish to invest more time or effort on?

Many people start studying courses that their parents have pressured them into studying or they followed their friends into courses. The problem with not quite knowing what you want to do isn't a huge problem - it may result in you pursuing a few career changes across your life but that's not a big deal unless you're going to end up with a huge student loan once you've finished your degree. In that scenario, it's best to stop and think first before plunging into your degree.

One of our friend is studying his third degree, from accounting to phsysiotherapy to medicine. And he's young so that does raise questions about whether he'll have any more career changes in the next 35 years before he reaches retirement age.

We all change as we get older and what may interest us in our youths doesn't necessarily mean it will interest us as adults. I read the interview of a certain DJ who flew all over the world to DJ at various events however as he got older, he no longer desired the late night hours and he longed for more normality in his life. Music and being a DJ was still his passion but the joy that it gave him no longer outweighed the negatives that came with the hours.

Anyway, when trying to decide what line of work you want to do, consider a few of the following points:
 * Ability to progress and advance, creativeness, job security, team work and how important that is to you, autonomy and ability to work without supervision, financial rewards/remuneration, the contribution to society from the line of work, professional status, challenges on the job, the complexity of the work and whether the work is dynamic or static and never changing, co-workers and their attitudes

That said, our interests are always changing and evolving and it's not uncommon for most of us to have a few career changes in our lifetime.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Another Wedding: Opera House Marquee

Opera House Marquee Wedding Reception Venue

I've been to plenty of weddings but it was my first time at the Opera House Marquee. It was absolutely stunning and beautiful. From the decor to the views and the sumptuous fare. The venue was located right on the harbour front, right on the Opera House forecourt. I think it goes down as the best wedding reception location so far in terms of position and views. It's like having a wedding reception on top of the Empire State Building.

I feel sorry for the poor harried staff whose job was to refold the napkins. Everytime we left the table(which was frequently) to go chat with friends or use the photobooth for candid photos, the poor staff had to roll up our napkins. Not just one napkin but around 200 napkins, again and again and again. They probably have napkin folding nightmares when they dream at night.

I've got weddings lined up left right and center. My feet aren't thanking me. They've reacted indignantly to being squished into stilettos by turning red and looking banged up. Why do we torture ourselves like that? I can see the huge relief on other women's faces when the night is over and they can unshackle their feet from their shoes and walk around barefoot or change into ballet flats.

I was seated next to a friend's cousin. Let's call him MA. MA works in the insolvency and bankruptcy business. He specialises in personal insolvency. If you're unsure what personal insolvency work relates to - it involves working with individuals who are indebted up to their eyeballs and can't pay their bills. Eventually they become bankrupt unless some hotshot can get their finances sorted out for them and that's the rare exception.

Usually an insolvent individual only starts reaching out for help when it's far too late. When they've got piles of late payment reminders and bills streaked with red ink. MA tells me that it's pretty much game over when he reviews their list of assets and liabilities and the individual has paid their debts by creating more debts. It was pretty heavy conversation for a wedding bash but it was interesting.

Some happy snaps of The Opera House Marquee:
The flowers are now gracing our dining table. Three tiered pink wedding cake with flowers and the bridal table lined with a resplendant display of roses:

Saturday, October 15, 2011

HECS/HELP Student debt is now paid off

My tax return is due to be lodged very shortly so I bit the bullet and made my final lump sum payment on my HECS/HELP  student debt. Four years at uni and my total HECS debt was almost at $30k inclusive of inflation indexation. I finally got sick of my student debt and paid it off.

Oh yeah, maths wise it could of been considered foolish since my loan was indexed to inflation of 3% last year(only 1.7% the prior year) and if I get a new mortgage, then my mortgage rate will be around 7% to 8% depending on the amount that I end up borrowing. I just paid off my super cheap student loan but I don't regret it one single bit. I don't want to be one of those older folks with a student debt dangling over my head from my younger days.

Here's to a debt free existence for the time being. I am currently debt free woo hoo! (Gotta ignore my credit card balance because that gets paid in full every single month). Next year I could be looking at a mortgage of up to a few hundred thousands of dollars so I may as well enjoy my debt free status as much as possible.

It's been a mixed year so far. Lots of sad events mixed with with happy events. 2011 is now going down as the year of four weddings and four funerals. Lots of sadness against lots of happiness. Lots of grief yet lots of joy. I particularly grieve for the aunties that we have lost and have been contemplating the subject of death a lot recently. When I find myself wiping away tears again and again, my heart feeling heavy- I can't help but think of death.

The fear of death when we first know that we're going to die, the acceptance of death as the time comes near, the welcome of death when the pain becomes unbearable and then what happens? Do we die and thats it? Or do we die and our spirits roam the Earth or our favourite hang outs? Or do spirit worlds really exist and our spirit goes somewhere in the afterlife? For me, I like to think of death as finality. That there isn't any afterlife and there isn't any reincarnation. That's what I'd like for myself whenever I die. The thought of death as the end and nothing more is much more soothing than to imagine that the spirit could be out there, hungry and lost and stuck on some inescapable spiritual plane.

I don't want to end this post on a sad note so let me say that each and every event has taught me to appreciate family and friends every single day. I'm being thankful and appreciative of my wonderful family and friends and try to live each day as it comes in gratitude. I don't want to ever become a selfish, lazy nor nasty person. I want to live my life generously and kindly towards others. Lastly, on the main subject of this post, I'm so glad to have finally paid off my HECS debt - it's like a shadow in the background that I've finally banished. Well, it's getting late now so good night folks and hope you remember to tell your loved ones how much you love them every day. Our lifetimes are much too fleeting.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

House hunting

Seeing as I can't sleep, I may as well do something useful and write a few posts that should have been written ages ago. Here's a few happy snaps of the eight open houses that I attended a few weeks back. When you go property hunting, it's best to take photos and jot down notes about the pros and cons of each property, what the price should be given comparable sales and ultimately what the property actually sold for.

You may think your mind is great and that you won't forget, but if you've done your research properly then that would mean you've attended heaps of open houses to gauge property prices- then you will start forgetting the finer details of the properties you've viewed. It may become a blurry mess in your mind and that means that your open house visits have become useless for future referencing and making well informed offers.

Without further ado:

Notes on this Denistone house: Single garage was way too narrow, kitchen could have been a one bedroom sized kitchen and not in proportion to a 3 bedroom house, fridge space is too narrow, backyard recently landscaped no doubt to maximise resale price, laundry has a 1920s style looking trough for the sink and I didn't include the bathroom but man, the shower was TINY.

Notes on the Eastwood house above: Beautifully landscaped, long driveway (perfect for entertaining so friends can park), skylights in bathroom, heated tiles, chandeliers overpowering the main bedroom, large open airy rooms that are well lit excluding the main bedroom, on a semi-main road so noise may be an issue, kitchen is beautiful except bench space is reduced due to the cupboard being built onto the bench (better design would have been building the cupboards higher to the ceiling and leaving the bench free) and the sink is only a single sink with no drying rack space.

Notes on Epping house above: This house sold for an unbelievable price of around $980k ish!!!! Everything must be renovated. It's so dingy that it's possibly a knock down and rebuild. The position isn't even that fantastic with a good 30 minute walk uphill to the station. From the mould on the far wall, cockroach baits on the kitchen benchtop, curtained windows to the 70s carpeting, 1920s trough in the laundry, cracked windows and fleuro pink vanity sinks to the old retro curtained shower and old tiling throughout the place. It was certainly memorable for the wrong reasons.
Notes on Beecroft house above: It was pretty much a dream house. Discounted from over $1.1 million or so to around $980k. It was huge, renovated, airy, plenty of good natural light, huge master bedroom with huge walk in robe, huge laundry with extra toilet, two sitting areas, large balcony/deck. The drawbacks were the lack of neighbouring fences and the bush that backs onto the property which could lead to snakes being in the backyard... overall, it was one of my favourites but was really on the higher end of the price range. After you add in transaction costs of approximately 5% it would cost $1,029,000.00 and all those zeroes are shocking @_@

And after that...sorry camera battery ran out! I should also make a note to charge my camera prior to attending a long day of open houses...

Anyhoo, with all the recent events lately, house hunting is truly on the back burner while I work through all the other issues first. Sunrise now... the sky has such a beautiful tinge!

Sleepless nights and insomnia

It's 4am and I've given up on *trying* to fall asleep. What triggers the long nights of simply tossing and turning are the mental stress and tiredness. Physical tiredness is always a relief because the outcome is always a good solid sleep but mental tiredness and the millions of thoughts parading through the mind just before bedtime is always the trigger for sleeplessness. I keep telling myself just before bedtime to just not think about anything and keep the mind empty. If one single thought flashes across the mind, the floodgates open and it's too late.

I've read that when you can't fall asleep, just give up and do something whether that be reading(or blogging). There have been so many momentous happenings in my life and I'm also under pressure at work. We are going through huge, structural changes at work in terms of management and ownership and the uncertainty is causing not just myself but a few colleagues, successions of sleepless nights. And if not entirely sleepless, then waking up in the middle of the night and neither options are preferable.

One of my friend works at the head office of a retail company and over twenty of her colleagues were made redundant about three months ago. Recently, one of our friend in the I.T industry was also made redundant along with a few of his colleagues. Our economy is trending towards very uncertain times and although my work is secure, in terms of the future - I can't help being pragmatic and thinking that nothing is guaranteed in this lifetime. I need to be on top of revenue figures to ensure that our company doesn't suffer from any financial strife - staff are dependent on salaries to feed family and kids and we need to be profitable as we head into a tumultous economic and trading environment.

Particularly when we've been going house hunting and the budget may be seven figures. It's gonna be one heck of a mortgage! I lay awake and think about whether to delay buying until we've saved up more versus waiting too long and house prices keep inflating $100k to $200k each year and we get priced out of the market. If we buy too early and the property market is subdued and stable, then it means paying thousands of dollars in monthly interest for nothing. But the adage of buying when you can afford to is always a great adage and that's the way I'm going to jump.

There's just way too much on my mind. The recent trio of deaths and the trio of funerals all within 10 weeks of each other. It feels like someone has repeatedly wrenched my heart like a wet rag. I attended a funeral yesterday and it was such a sad, sad, occasion. I'm dreading attending a dear Aunty's funeral this Friday. Two funerals for this week. I already told my colleague that if he dies from his high blood pressure, I'm not attending his funeral because I've simply had enough of deaths and funerals for a lifetime so he had better not cark it and he then tells me about the sleeping pills that the doctor just prescribed him early this week. We're a bunch of insomniacs these day and I write that wryly.

There's so much to worry about and I'm not usually such a worrywart but these last few days feels like someone has been holding my head underwater and telling me to breath deeply. There's the recent health scare/issue for someone who I dearly love, then the four deaths this year with two funerals this week :( There's the management/ownership/structural transitioning at work and the outcome will mean a few of us shouldering a lot more responsibility and a heavier workload whichever way the penny falls, there's the future impending purchase of a house with a huge, monster mortgage.

I'm also the treasurer of a strata building of which management has recently changed their accounting system and their new reports have been useless in terms of information- I've yet to follow up on the problem and it's one of my responsibilities. There's also another strata that I'm suppose to help my friend analyse their financial report and query the excessive $200k plus ongoing deficit. I've run through the numbers and there's a million questions that I've got running through my mind in terms of poor management. Last thing my friend needs is a huge $10k plus special levy to get them into the black.

And then there's the flurry of weddings that I've attended and will be attending this weekend and the next few weekends. Maybe it's not exactly wise to be posting this all up on the net but can anyone (even future prospective employers or whoever) really criticise me for having human foibles? If writing about everything is going to help me sleep better then I'll take that anyday at this rate.

It's 4.50am now. I may as well do a flurry of writing and then do some research for work before heading into the office. It's too late to go back to bed and roll around again. Anyone who has suffered from sleepless nights know what I'm talking about - firstly you lay on your back then close your eyes, when you don't fall asleep, you roll to one side, when that doesn't work after a few minutes, you try the other side, when that doesn't work after a few minutes, you try sleeping on your belly, face down ...a few minutes or possibly hours later, you give up and try on your back again...repeat rolling routine - when that fails again, you give up and just lie there or you get up and do something useful or something not so useful such as blogging.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

8 days of devastation

Sorry for not posting as frequently as most bloggers. It's hard to think that life can change so fast. One moment I'm on top of the world and the next moment, crashing back to Earth. Everything is turned upside down. Do we jinx ourselves by emphatically believing or stating something? Is the universe that cruel and perverse?!
These last 8 days have been a procession of bad news. Someone that I love and care VERY deeply for has been diagnosed with a possible leaking heart. I can't even bear the thought. My world will be empty. My heart is breaking into millions of pieces already and the future is suddenly terrifying in all its unpredictability.

In that same 8 days, someone I've worked with for several years passed away with his funeral scheduled for next week. If that didn't cap off the horrible week of news, my friend's Aunt who I have also grown to know and care deeply for is currently on a morphine drip drifting in and out of consciousness.

In all these years of not coming anywhere near the realm of deaths and funerals, suddenly I find myself confronted with three funerals and the idea of four funerals is heartbreaking. It's just all so overwhelmingly and unbearably sad. I long for the days when I used to happily state that I'd never been to a funeral and I had never known anyone that died. The days when death was merely something that happened to other people and their relatives and friends, just not mine.

When we're young, in school or university - all our friends and relatives are young. As we get older, our friends and family are older and we start meet people of all age range in the working environment. Suddenly we're not all innocent, young nor invincible any longer when death comes knocking at friends or families' door. People tell me that we will all die one day, it's only a matter of time. It doesn't make it easier to accept but it does reinforce the concept that we are all living that circle of life. We get born, grow old and will one day die.

When 2011 is done for, it won't be missed. It's singularly the worst year ever. With the deaths, my own close collision with death due to the driver who was daydreaming, it's going down as the year that won't be missed. The year that I could have lived without. May God bless their spirits wherever they may be. May AWHWMRH all rest in peace and may their spirits find happiness if there is a spirit life after death.