28 Dec 2012

Quick post

Just a quick hello. Really enjoying our time here at Biggera Waters. Our apartment has an amazing view and walking distance from family friendly beaches

Christmas was merry and as usual lots and lots of eating. This has been one of the most relaxing holidays I've had and its great to be spending it with my whole family.

I've been taking Eli to the beach to get him familiar with sand and water. He doesn't seem to like the beach that much. He stands like a statue when his feet touches the sand and he climbs you as high as he can when you put him in the water, its quiet funny actually.

Hope you had a merry christmas too

23 Dec 2012

Road Trip

I'm writing this from our vehicle as we're driving through the north coast of NSW.

My whole family is spending Christmas in Queensland as we have extended family up here. Actually we lived in Queensland when we first migrated to Australia. We lived there for twelve months before moving to Sydney. All the jobs were in Sydney so my family decided to leave their network of support people and take a punt at life in Sydney.

We're driving up, yep the whole 12-15 hour drive (depending on how fast you're going) however we're breaking up the transit by staying over night at Coffs Harbour. We're about 30mins away from Coffs now.

So if it's even more quieter than usual on this blog you know why.

Have a safe and Merry Christmas to you and your family.

21 Dec 2012

Eiffel Tower Dinner and Moulin Rouge Show

I missed publishing this post ... oppsie ....

Another tour Ian and I did while we were in Paris was the Eiffel Tower dinner, River Seine cruise and Moulin Rouge show. This tour was highly recommended by friends who attended the same tour a few months earlier. They advised to book early to avoid disappointment especially if you want to have dinner on the Eiffel Tower itself.

We booked this tour viator and paid roughly $246 per person for the experience. The cost varies between the exchange rate and season. 

The tour begins from their offices however at the end of the tour buses drop you back to your hotel or accommodation. Their office is located very close to the Louvre literally across the road from it.

The tour was well organised. Their staff which spoke very well english reiterated information to group regularly to ensure we stick to their schedule. They were also very approachable and knowledge of Paris.

Our first stop was dinner on the Eiffel Tower. A few weeks prior I received an email stating that dinner would not be on the tower as not all lifts were working due to current renovations and we were able to choose from two alternative restaurants or alternatively cancel the booking and get a refund. When we arrived and check in our attendance we were pleased to learn dinner was now available on the tower that night. Upon arrival at the base of the tower the tour group was able to jump the lift queue and was taken straight to the second deck.

Once in the restaurant we were told where to seat, unable to choose where you want to sit. There were not tables for two so everyone did get seated with other people too. The dinner was a 3 course meal, well cooked but nothing extraordinary.

After dinner we had about 30mins free time to check out the tower, take photos. I didn't think this was enough time however we did climb the tower previously. I don't recommend this tour as the only time you climb the tower as you will be disappointed in the limited time you have to enjoy it.

After dinner we walked over to the river and caught a boat to cruise the Seine. The boat was packed with tourist, nothing like the cruise we did earlier when we did the bike tour. There was an audio guide on board which played a recording of facts and information about the sites the boat was passing through. 


After the cruise we were taken via coach bus to Moulin Rouge. We were scheduled to watch the 9:30pm show, every night they do two shows a night. The show itself was in my opinion ... alright. I don't know maybe I had high expectations, like dancers to dance on point? But it's definitely a must see in Paris, hello its the famous burlesques show.

18 Dec 2012

Out of office effective immediately!

Yesterday I received some unexpected news that has changed my current situation. 

At 10am my boss' fill in (as she is currently on leave) another manager, sent me a meeting invite for 2pm. No meeting subject or info just request to attend an important meeting. He was on communicator so I ping-ed him asking him what it was about. He replied with "all will be reviled at 2pm." At first I thought it was a continuation of last week's incident he got involved in to mediate. Long story short I brushed the feathers of the Business Program Manager and the last straw was a rude email to me which she included other colleagues so I raised it with my bosses fill in. I thought maybe this was a new tactic of the Business Program Manager, to including him or bring him on all issues. 

2pm arrived. As I walked in the meeting room I saw about half a dozen IT staff members, all IT managers, HR and the Head of Operations and Technology was in the room .... straight away I knew what this was about. He went straight to the point, the reason we were all there was to tell us as of 31st December 2012 our roles are being made redundant.

I was (and still am) in shock and just speechless really. Did not see this coming at all. The news is still sinking in. I'm not upset .... (yet?) I'm just surprised.

I'm surprised as to why me. I did ask that question. Unfortunately the manager who sat in on the meeting between HR and I could only speak on her reasons or process of elimination on how she was able to determine who from her staff was to be made redundant. Their reason is budget and cutting down on projects. They identified which projects they will be working on next year, which staff are being allocated to those projects and who isn't allocated. Fair formula but I'm part of the second biggest project globally for Marsh. How did I not make the cut? Actually two of us who are both reporting to the same manager and on the project didn't make the cut. They just lost their knowledge source and key business contact for one of the main systems implemented in October and who spec-ed out the upcoming commercial version of the same tool. Prior to the meeting I was in the middle of QA testing and so far have raised 18 defects. I'm surprised of their decision but it's their decision and when my boss comes back I want to hear her reasons as to why me. I deserve that at least.      

Because of all the issues and politics related to the project I'm glad its all done with now. I would dread Monday's, complain and take out my work frustrations on Ian - it's all over now and I got to leave it cold turkey i.e no hand over and with a severance pay too.   

So what now? The timing was fortunate with Ian currently on leave so we can enjoy his time off together as a family. Christmas and New Year are only a few days away so will relax and enjoy the festive season. I think I might actually take a few months off and stay home with Eli .... maybe start baby number 2 hahahaaa. Ian's response was if only we stuck to his plan which was to have baby number 2 around about Eli's birthday this news would have been perfect, ha!

Things happen for a reason. I see this as an opportunity. There are events in life that push us to take that leap and I'm ready to jump. 

17 Dec 2012

One of the things they say you can't avoid in life ... taxes

 (image sourced from ptglobal.net)

It's 10:35pm and instead of being in bed asleep I'm up rummaging through our boxes and files preparing for our appointment with our accountant.

So here I am, at that time of the year again ... scheduled to see my accountant to hopefully get back some of the cut (tax) the government made on my hard earned money. Ironically they will also take a cut of the amount too. It's odd the world of taxes but as the saying goes there are two things you can't avoid in life ... death and taxes and its a pretty true statement.

I use to get so annoyed at how much the tax man took out of my pay or why they would bother squeezing every cent they could off me, a white collar business (wo)man when there are people out there who blatantly cheat the system. Or how, when I really the needed financial assistance during a period of time I was not working (not because I wasn't trying to find job either) I was ineligible to any government assistance.

I got over my frustration by learning ways to minimise how much the tax man took from my pay cheque. The most sensible or logical way this would occur is if you kept your income or earns relatively low. Obviously the less you earn, the less you get taxed. However most people would rather earn more money then less, so the alternative is to identify ways you can claim expenses against your income. By claiming expenses against your income you are showing cause as to why the government shouldn't tax you as much.

It's not about cheating the system its about claiming what you're entitled to. 

Here are a few items you are eligible to claim a deduction against your tax:
  • You can claim the cost of items purchased for work purposes or associated to your employment such as books (or ebooks), stationery, hardware devices. 
  • Claim expenses related to your job such as courses you've paid for or subscriptions - anything that is associated to maintain or increase your knowledge, skills or ability.  
  • If you perform some of your work at your home office you can claim a portion of the cost associated with running your home office such as electricity, gas, internet etc. Speak to your accountant to get them to explain the boundaries of this deduction in full.
  • You can claim bank charges if the account earns interest. For example some managed funds that may charge fees you can claim the fees associated to that account.  
  • You can claim the tax rebate of 20% for medical expenses (including dental and optical) you incur in excess of $1,500. 
  • You can claim costs and fees associate with your investments such as bank fees, real estate agent fees, repairs, maintenance etc.
You can find more info on what you can and can't claim on the ato's web site here. Many people pay for professional tax advice as they are lazy, or it simply baffles them. But forking out for it can save you far more than it actually costs, when you take into account the whole array of tips they could explain to you, plus the fees are tax deductible. 

10 Dec 2012

Proud Mummy Rant

During my lunch time run today I was thinking about my son. I think I was thinking about him cause I'm so jealous my husband is spending the next 5 weeks paid to hang out with him. I thought about how much he’s changed in the past few months between now and his first birthday. He’ll be 17 months of age by the end of the year and I wanted to take the time to write down those changes now so the “future Cam” can reread this post, smile and reflect on this season of his life.

You are becoming more coherent and picking up things so quickly. Like when you sit on the couch and find the remote controller, raise and point it toward the tv because you see us do that. Or how you pick up our iphone, put it against your ear and say “ahh-nee!!” (that must mean hello in your language) then put the phone against our ear and say “ahh-nee” again.

You’re persistent especially when you’ve set your mind on something. If you want to grab that item you can see on top of a table you’ll stand on your cute tiny tippy toes and reach out for the object with your tiny arms. If that fails you will find whatever resources you can, like pushing a chair towards the table or pretend you want to be picked up, only to use us so you can get closer to what you want. May you continue to have this attitude in life, never giving up on something you’ve put your mind to even when you face road blocks.

You love music. You love to sing, your favorite songs right now is the alphabet song, bah bah black sheep and twinkle twinkle little star. I love how I'll sing a-z and you chime in at “Now I know my abc …” and sing the rest of the song on your own. Then clap your hands and say “yeeeaahhhaa!!” cheering for yourself afterwards.

You know where your head, shoulders, ears, mouth, eyes and nose are and where those parts are located on me.

You don’t know how to just walk at a normal pace. As soon as your feet touches the ground you’re off in a sprint walking like motion. You’re getting better at not falling over yourself but really you need to slow down. You gravity to any open space. If there is light coming from the smallest crack you will dash over to that light as if you’re making a jail break escape. It’s so cute but annoying as I don’t trust you to stay still in public areas.

You love cuddles and kisses and I love giving them to you. You want to be physically close to people. You love to position yourself snugly under my arms or on top of my chest when we sleep.

When you do something cheeky or naughty you say “oooh no!” like you weren't the culprit yet avoid eye contact when you know I’m telling you off.

You’re such a boy where play time involves wrestling, flipping upside down and climbing. You smell like one too when you sweat. You smell like a sweeter version of daddy ... I'm not looking forward to your smelly teen years.

You are strong and have no fear, always climbing up or down the highest part of the couch, chair or table.

You love to read and be read books. I love how you would grab a book from your shelf and bring it to me saying “boo k!”. You love to control who turns the pages so you will always position yourself between the reader and the book.

I think you understand things or repetitive processes you’re exposes to, like how you know to squat and make room for my hand when you’re standing and I’m putting your onesie together. Giving me space and an oppoutunity to fix you up.

You love balloons and balls. You find them and gravitate to them in every situation, like when we're at the shops and you saw a balloon sticking out from a pram located at the other side of the center. You ran and tried to grab that balloon, unfortunately it wasn’t mine to give to you.

You’re coordinated (like mum ha!). You know how to kick a ball and when you’re concentrating can catch one too. You know how to stack your blocks in order to make a tower and then collapse them in the opposite order to store each block within the bigger block.

You smile all the time and bring a smile to everyone. You’re so adorable and very cute, if I do say so myself.

As much as I want to keep you a baby forever I want you to keep growing and developing I’m excited to see more of who you will become. You make us very proud already.   

9 Dec 2012

Beautiful Florence

Florence was one of my favorite cities. It was a favorite because the place was beautiful, the food everywhere is delicious (and not overly priced like it was in Rome) and the city had a more relaxed feel to it. This place is definitely one for the art lovers but those who aren't familiar with art (like me) would still appreciate how beautiful this little city is.

We stayed in another apartment in Florence. We booked through Oh Florence web site. The positive points from the apartment include:
  • The location was ... amazing. When I booked this place on the map I knew it was close to a lot of the key sites I wanted to see but I didn't realised our door step was the Piazza della Signora. This piazza was not only beautiful, lined with so many restaurants, markets, retail stores but within walking distance was the Uffizi Gallery, Duomo and the Trattoria Ponte Vecchio.   
  • The apartment was self contained therefore there was a dishwasher, mini fridge, electric stove, mini oven, microwave, fully stocked kitchen and a Nespresso coffee machine ... of course you are in Italy.
  • The apartment was very modern with modern fixtures and appliances, such as the massive flat screen tv.
  • Room had air conditioning which was a great relief from the humidity.     
  • Room also blocked out all street noise. We could not hear a peep from outside which was great, as it was a relief from our previous accommodation experience in Paris
  • The host, Luca was lovely and explained all aspects of the apartment and building upon arrival. He was also very accommodating as we were running 2 hours late from agreed check in time.
  • The whole apartment was very small. We had to stack our luggages on top of each other as there was hardly any space to walk around the room.
  • Room was really dark.
  • Our apartment window opened to a tiny communal court yard so we hardly opened the window as we did not want people to see us inside. What this meant is we could not let fresh air and sun light into the room.  
  • The air conditioner was really loud when on.
  • Although there was cable television there were no english channels.

Our own little Nespression Machine 

 Signing the apartment guest book

7 Dec 2012

How to stick to a Christmas shopping budget

Can you believe it, its almost Christmas! It's around the corner, as in a few days away. So if you haven’t already you should really start your Christmas gift shopping.

Christmas can be a time were people can be very generous but then end up blowing their budget and being in financial stress in the new year.

I’ve put together my tips for sticking to a Christmas shopping budget.

Plan Ahead
Thorough out the year you should be planning or budgeting for the increase in spend in December. Maybe put away $20-50 a month so it doesn’t hit the pocket in one go. I suggest putting this money away from your regular savings, so either physically withdraw the money and have it locked away or transfer into another account you won’t touch (an interest bearing account would be an even better option – more on that on a future post).

Write a List
Write down the names of the family and friends you want/need to buy presents for. Then write down a gift budget against each name totaling the amount you have saved through out the year. If you haven’t started a Christmas gift budget during the year, determine how much you can afford to spend on gifts this year and then divide amount between names.

Think of Gift Ideas
Before you hit the shops or the internet review each name and think about what that person would like or need. The people on your list are most likely special people in your life. You would know a thing or two about their interests, hobbies, what they are into. Put some thought into what gift they would appreciate that is within your budget. Put a few suggestions down next to their name.

Research Where Gifts Can be Purchased
Once you’ve identified what gifts you plan to get your family and friends its time to start researching where you can get these items at the best price. Most items can be searched online with several hits where item can be purchased from. If you’re planning to hit the retail stores think about which shopping center complex will stock most of the items you have on your list to minimize running around various centers.

Gift Tips and Ideas:
  • For larger families and extended families suggest doing a secret santa arrangement and set a maximum budget on gifts.
  • Don’t leave shopping for gifts until the last minute. It’s so tempting especially since most retailers extending their trading hours during the season but the longer you leave it the more pressed you will feel to purchase something which may push your budget. There’s no point in putting away money for a Christmas budget throughout the year and not stick to it. Also researching early may allow you to find the item at the best possible price.
  • If you’re crafty and can make things don’t dismiss your talent for sewing or knitted iphone covers or growing plans as awesome unique Christmas presents. However, again start early to avoid being overwhelmed by the effort to make everyone’s presents. 
  • Do you have unused items sitting around at home somewhere? My mother in law hoards so much … stuff. If it’s on special she’s buying a box worth. But every Christmas she gives away these awesome Christmas hampers as gifts. There’s usually a theme: kitchen hamper, cooking hamper, beauty hamper, pre-teen girl hamper. She stocks the box or basket with items belonging to the theme. So for the kitchen theme hamper there would be detergent, scented candle, sponges, paper wipes, salt and pepper .. items you would need for the kitchen. Who doesn’t need more of those everyday stuff?
  • Stick to your budget. If you’ve allocated $30 on a present for brother Billy, stick to it. Sure go over if it’s a few dollars but if gift is are averaging $45 look into an alternative gift, hence why writing a list of gift ideas will come in handy.
  • Pitch in with one or more other family or friends to increase budget pot. If the little nephew has been hinting he wants the new Nentendo DS ask other family members if they want to purchase the gift together and split the cost between everyone.
Have you stuck to your Christmas shopping budget this year?

Macaron Cooking Class

Australia (and I’m sure other countries too) is seriously obsessed with French macarons at the moment. It’s a sweet meringue based confectionery that has been around since the early 20th century but recently made popular again by tv cooking shows like Master Chef. Since it exploded on our tv sets restaurants, cafes, bakeries have been offering the delicious desert on their menu and charging a fortune for these little bite size goodness.

So while in Paris, the home of the French macaron, I knew we had to attend a cooking class!!

I found La Cuisine Cooking Class online and I chose them because other cooking schools/classes were booked out for the period of time we would be in Paris. The plus side however was their office was a close walk from Notre Dame Church so we were able to walk from our apartment straight to their offices.

Duration: 2 hours
Cost: 85E per person

Feedback of the overall experience:
·      There were serious cooks who attend these classes to learn valuable information and techniques. I should have been prepared for this as there were students who dominated the teacher’s time and attention without caring about everyone else.
·      The allocated time frame, 2hrs was not enough time to really absorb and learn the whole process. I learning complicated processes as part of my job and usually process is verbally explained to me yet I felt this practical class didn’t provide me with the confidence I needed to go away and make my own macarons. I suggest they either allocate longer cooking class time or make classes even smaller maximum of 5 people, we had 9 people in our class.
·      Teacher / chef was lovely and very polite. She provided lots of information, was very helpful, engaging and provided lots of interesting facts about the history and process of making macarons. Teacher encouraged everyone to get involved int the cooking process by allocating tasks to specific people.
·      Staff were also very polite and welcoming
·      At the end of the class macarons are distributed evenly so everyone got to take home an equal amount of macarons in colours and flavours from everyone’s tray. So it doesn’t matter if your one looks the worst you’re off loading some of them to other people and getting some prettier ones in return.

Would I do a class again? Yes. Would I do it with this company? Probably not. I would actually recommend being taught one on one or one on three with a pastry chef. You’d get more valuable lessons learnt from a more intimate class. 

The final product

5 Dec 2012

More Paris Tips

Going through my travel journal I kept whist I was on holidays and I found more tips / observations when travelling to Paris. This post is in addition to some Paris tips I gave earlier.

Are the French really rude? ... Not generally. If you want to ask a question best to ask someone working in a retail store or restaurant. They're already in that "customer service" mind frame and are more accommodating to take the time to answer questions. Also if you had just eaten or purchased something from the store they're more inclined to assist as you had just paid for their services. Public servant workers such as train station attendants, post office workers we noticed were less helpful. I guess they're use to tourist asking questions and they know who are tourists so can be selective when they want to be helpful. 

One things that annoyed me, cause Aussie's don't do this and admittedly its not just the French. Some locals will walk up to the front of the queue and just start asking their question to the person serving customers. No excuse me, just flat out start a conversation with the person at the front and they  would entertain this person. .

At smaller establishments owners may dictate the level of service they want to provide. You could be standing in front of them, they have looked at you so they know you're there but they may want to finish their conversation with each other before they attend to you.

When asking "parlez vous anglais" (do you speak english?) they always say "only little". They don't want to give you the impression they will understand everything you will say especially with the various accents they come across.

Use the public bikes (Velib) available all over town. They're parked all over the city and very easy to use. How it work is you go online and register an account which issues you with an account number and password that you will need to unlock a bike from one of the various bike stations in the city. The bikes cost 1E a day to use however you can only use a bike for 1 hour intervals. So you can borrow a bike but must return it to any station within an hour and potentially borrow another bike straight away too. If you go past the 1 hour your credit card (which you entered at time of registration) will get deducted a lee fee amount.

In Paris dress nicely cause the locals do. What I mean is make an effort to put something nice together, you are in Paris and you want your photos of yourself to look as pretty as the city. Parisians must be born with a great fashion instincts cause the people in Paris dress so well, effortless, stylish and fashion forward.  

Do you have any Paris tips?

3 Dec 2012

Why Am I Here

I’ve started to share this blog with some people. I originally started this blog with the intention of keeping it a secret but recently I changed my mind. Main reasons I decided to share my blog was so I could share my recent holiday experience with people. So many times people have asked me ‘tell me about your holiday’ or ‘what do you recommend to do at ...’ that I decided its time I write it all down somewhere and I can just refer people to that once place. No more thinking back to what I did, no more trying to remember that restaurant’s name or web site, no more trying to find that email – it’s all in one place there for people to read, forward to other friends or come back to.

I’ve come to realise recently the main reason why I think I started this blog was to share and educate. I’m not a teacher, I don’t claim to be an expert in anything but I am an example. For years I’ve been an example to many but my shyness (yes I’m shy!) and inability to accept accomplishments have stopped me from accepting that role and wearing it loud so everyone can know.

But that’s changed. What brought me out of my shell was reading a blog post by Paul Angone. (I won’t ramble on how insightful his blog and upcoming book is just check it out yourself). My fear of being embarrassed was probably holding me back from doing a lot of things like sharing my experience and knowledge of being an example.

So what am I an example of? What knowledge do I hold that I feel I can educate others with? The knowledge of being better with money.

I don’t claim to have a lot of it or know everything there is to know but I am an example. An example of how you can purchase your first home at the age of 24, an example of how you can pay off $35,000 of debt in 18 months, example of how someone with no experience can renovate a whole home on a budget, example of an everyday person be able to understand the differences between products financial institutions offer. Basically I want to share my story on how I was able to achieve these things so others can be an example too.

Some disclaimer and background stuff so I won’t get in trouble:
  • I am not financial planner or advisor, I’m not trying to sell you anything. My posts are purely from what I’ve experienced, know and or research on a particular topic. So you’re probably thinking ‘why should I take any advice from you, you’re not even qualified’ Well that’s one of the main purposes of this blog, what differentiates it from finance blogs – I’m a living testimony that you don’t need to know everything about every topic that relates to finance but learn a few areas to help you make some good long term decisions.
  • I’m not a millionaire nor do I claim following my tips and knowledge will make you one either. I work a 9am-5pm job Monday to Thursday (I have Friday’s off cause I’m a mum and I get to enjoy a weekday with my son). I’m not (good) debt free but I live a comfortable life, have savings and didn’t have to be completely frugal to achieve it.
  • I share because I’ve been there. I've been blessed to have been guided and educated in the right money path quiet early, (knowledge I plan to share with you) but I’ve made bad calls and felt financial burden. As they say you don't appreciate the joy of success without knowing the pain of failure. 
  • Presently, I’m not being paid for my posts. I’m not gaining any financial benefits for sharing or mentioning any particular company or product. However if that does change, I'll let you know.
My commitment:
  • Break it down in lay man’s terms. The number one issue with money (and I think the big corporations do it on purpose) is the information is not easily understood by everyday people. If you walk away reading one of my post feeling equipped with new skills to improve how you manage your money now then I’ve achieved what I wanted to achieve.
  • For each topic I post I will do my research and ensure information is relevant and correct. I will provide reference to where I sourced my material and where you can get more information.
  • To get you better at money!
So watch this space, send me questions or topics relating to money that you want someone to explain to you and I will endeavour to dedicate a post on your topic.

Don’t worry, I am still planning to finish posts about my recent/last holiday and of course I still want to capture my experiences and emotions of a mum so there will still be a lot of that.

So that's why I'm here. I'm excited and have sooo much stuff coming out of my head I don't know where to start ... I can't wait to share my experiences and knowledge with you. I hope you're ready to get real with yourself and get ready to be better with money.
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