Wednesday, April 29, 2009

House Hunting

I have mentioned previously (I think) that we are renting whilst saving a deposit for a house in the suburbs of Sydney. Our aim is to have a very manageable mortgage on a single wage so that I can remain a full-time Mum. Not an easy task considering Sydney prices.

Well, we have reached the very tip of our goal and I have found a house. It is up for auction soon and I am trying to get everything organised with the bank in time for the auction.

Let me say that I am unbelievably stressed and am beginning to think we should just rent forever.

It seems with the financial crisis, the banks are not only tightening up their lending criteria (as they should) but they are also taking an insane amount of time to even look at applications. It has been almost three weeks since we put in the application for pre-approval and they still haven't looked at it. Why? Because they give precedence to people that have actually got a house to buy.

But we are going to auction I tell James (no last name of course) from the bank. There will be no backing out if we win the auction so we need pre-approval before auction day. His solution was to sign the contract subject to finance approval. But it's an auction I tell him. There is no backing out or conditions when buying at an auction. His reply - oh, well don't buy at an auction.

Aaagh. Does this man even live in Sydney. 95% of properties in our area go to auction (not sure why that is either). The sellers for the house we are looking at won't even consider selling before auction unless we waive the cooling off period which puts us in the same situation.

On top of all that any pre-approval will be subject to a bank valuation of the property which I was told is usually about 20% less than market value. And the banks will only lend up to that amount.

Now this bit stumps me. Firstly, market value seems to be very subjective so I assume bank value will be the same. We have our limit on this particular house and we think it is a fair value, but what if the bank disagrees? Secondly, if they value the property so much lower than the market value, why will they consider lending us 90% of the purchase price, which is of course more than the so called bank value of 80% of the market price?

So, we have 3 options:
  1. Not even consider signing a contract until our pre-approval is water tight.
  2. Go ahead on a very shaking and somewhat vague conditional pre-approval.
  3. Decide we are invincible and sign a contract without any pre-approval (possibly also using our own blood for the signatures).

So, you can see where the stress comes from.

On top of all of this, it is possible that everything will fall into place the day before the auction anyway and this worry is all for nothing and what I should be worrying about is whether someone will out bid us. In this case I will also have the added worry that I have been worrying about the wrong thing.

As I said, I think we should rent forever.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Why is She Always on About Food

Here's the thing - I always seem to be talking about food and cooking.

Reading back through my posts, I often seem to bring most topics back to the kitchen. Why? Probably because it is one area in our life that we have a lot of really bad habits but also because it has such a big potential to make a difference to the environment and also to simple living. And, we spend a lot time eating. Most people eat at least three times a day - more if they are snacking between meals. That can take up a fair amount of time, especially if you are preparing all the meals for a family.

I am also on a quest at the moment to making sure we are as healthy as possible. I am currently reading Nourishing Traditions and am keeping an eye out for other books about the food we now eat. I am yet to come to a conclusion about Nourishing Traditions - it is so different from what we are told to eat - but what I have read so far does make some sense.
Our diet is full of refined products (especially sugar) and I think you have to wonder about the affect this is having on our bodies. (other than making us fat right?) Some people say the reason we (as a western population) have such high incidents of heart disease, obesity and cancer is because we are eating foods that we aren't genetically designed to, and that 100 years ago (or even 1000 years) people were not suffering from these illnesses.

Really? The skeptic in me has to ask this. Were people from long ago not suffering from heart disease or did they just not know about it and therefore could not diagnose it. I mean come on, they once thought the black death was caused by miasma from 'bad air'. If they thought that, how could they possible identify cancer or heart disease for what it was.

But I digress.

Although I haven't made up my mind on some things, I do know that we are what we eat and that eating foods that are unrefined and are free of additives must be better for you. The more I read and learn about what is in our supermarket foods, they more passionate I become about removing all additive and refined foods and junk food from our diet.

Which is what we are trying to do. As I said before, we have so many bad habits (and I mean 'we' as in the Berry Family) and we really want to break them. Not just for Mr Berry's and my own health but also because we want Miss Berry to learn healthy eating habits. Breaking these bad habits and adjusting our food is a really big job, which is why I seem to always write about it.

So, sorry if I seem to drone on and I can pretty much guarantee I am going to keep droning on about the kitchen. I love receiving comments about all my posts and a lot of the tips and ideas you have are very helpful so please keep them up and I will keep you informed of our progress to change our eating habits.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Oh How Far We've Come

This morning we went to our first Wiggles concert.

If someone had told me ten years ago that the highlight of my week (or more like my month) would be to attend a Wiggles concert I would have thought them seriously deranged.

But there I was, lining up with the rest of the groupies children waiting excitingly with my ticket in hand. Not only me of course, Miss Berry was there and Mr Berry also took a personal day. We had a wonderful morning although I think Miss Berry was in shock for half the concert. She just stared at the stage and didn't move for ages and then would point and say 'Dorothy', 'Jeff' or 'Murray' like she couldn't believe they were actually there.

I also got completely sucked in to the Wiggles merchandise (and also wanted to silence a rapidly building public tantrum - Miss Berry's not mine). On the way out they were selling Wiggles balloons. Dorothy is Miss Berry's favourite so I went over to get her one and was shocked that the lady took my $20 and then turned to the next person in line. Yes that's right - $20 for a balloon. Do you think I can save it for the next Birthday party? Can we say 'Dorothy theme'?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Talk About Inspiring

Sew Mama Sew has posted a Ruffle Skirt pattern by Emu. Her flickr photos are here and they are fantastic. Check out the clothes I made group.

I love the fabrics she has used - recycled vintage fabrics too.

What great inspiration for thrifty-ness and eco-ness. If only we could all sew like this. My efforts at clothes making tend to end up looking like a Year 7 project. Perhaps I should sign up to a class and learn how to sew clothes properly.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Thriftyness Here We Come

We are reasonably new to the art of thrifty-ness but I think we reached a milestone yesterday. We were driving home and I spied some polystyrene boxes on the side of the road.


We are renting at the moment and our lease is coming up for renewal soon. I didn't want to plant my garlic and leeks in the garden just in case we move before harvest time - they are too valuable to leave behind. I already had two polystyrene boxes which I filled with white garlic but I needed more boxes and I was planning on making a trip to the local grocer to see what they do with their polystyrene boxes.

Polystyrene boxes I planted white garlic in - if all goes well I will have about 25 bulbs comes spring.

The point being, I made asked Mr Berry to pull over and put the hazard lights on as I jumped out and put the boxes in the boot. We got home and I gave them a bit of a clean and they are now ready for my leeks and probably a few onions.

There is something really satisfying about reusing items - especially when you have saved it from being rubbish (or even better when you have cleaned up the roadside). I could have just gone and bought some plastic pots at the nursery or even at the local discount store. That would have been easier and quicker - I have been on the lookout for some boxes for about three weeks - but the satisfaction I get from sourcing the boxes in a frugal and environmentally responsible way is huge.

Although we have been moving towards living consciously, frugally and sustainably, it wasn't until I was able to pick something off the side of the road that I really felt like we will get there.

As long as we don't get run over first.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Erratic Gardening

Over the past 2 months I seem to be having bad luck in the garden, or perhaps just not a lot of good luck is a better description. My seeds seems to have a very low germination rate and yet I know the seeds themselves are good because when I resow them in punnets they all germinate (and I mean all) but they are now taking their time to get any further.

Except for the radishes. They are just going nuts - like they are on plant steroids.

I have spent this week trying to really look after my seedlings. Making sure they don't dry out, stroking them whilst singing gently lullabies - you get the picture.

I have also taken a trip to the library and I think I have found my life saver.

The Permaculture Home Garden by Linda Woodrow.

Not only is this book about organic gardening but she also gives you a great garden design as well as ways to manage your garden. Her techniques re-use a lot of materials so it is very cost effective and has a very low impact on the environment.

The first technique I am going to adopt is keeping a garden diary. I have a notepad that I occasionally scribble things into but it really isn't very useful. Instead I am going to start a new blog over the long weekend so I can track what I plant when and what I harvest when, any problems I encounter and also any major successes I have.

Linda also suggests using lunar planting as a management tool as well as increasing the germination rate and success of the plants. I will head to the library to see if there are any books on the subject, but I am sure I can also find a wealth of information on the net too. She points out that by having set days when you sow certain seeds and do certain jobs, you can prevent that overwhelming feeling you sometimes get when think about all the things that need to be done in the garden.

The entire book is full of great ideas and I was inspired from start to finish. I am determined to get organised in the garden and improve our productive-ness. I am sure it won't happen in one season, the nature of gardening being slow and steady, but I think that is also part of the joy I get from gardening.

I will check in once my garden diary is up and running. If anyone has any suggestions though, I would really appreciate the help.

Lamb Cutlets with Potatoes

  • 4 potatoes, peeled
  • 1 tbs breadcrumbs
  • 2 tbs grated parmesan
  • 1/4 cup sweet chilli sauce
  • 1 tbs soft brown sugar
  • 1 tsp grated lemon rind
  • 1 tbs lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 8 lamb cutlets, french-trimmed

Preheat oven to 180 deg C. Spray a baking tray with oil (or grease as you would). Cut potatoes in half lengthways and place cut side down on a chopping board. Cut thin slices in top of the potatoes making sure you don't cut all the way through. Place the potatoes on the tray and spray (or drizzle) with oil. Roast for 45 minutes. Sprinkle potatoes with the combined breadcrumbs and parmesan and roast for a further 15 minutes or until golden.

Meanwhile, combine the chilli sauce, sugar, rind, juice, garlic and paprika in a shallow dish. Add lamb and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Heat a non-stick fry pan over a high heat and spray with oil. Remove lamb from marinade and reserve the marinade. Cook lamb for 3-4 minutes each side or until cooked. Remove lamb from pan and set aside to rest (I cover it with another bowl). Add remaining marinade to pan, reduce heat and simmer until thickened (about a minute).

Serve lamb topped with cooked marinade, potatoes and a side salad.

Serves 4

This is a weight watchers recipe hence the low fat version of spraying everything with oil. You can just use olive oil from the bottle and go easy on it.

Friday, April 3, 2009

A Recipe to Remember

Pasta with Pumpkin and Chickpeas

  • 500g pumpkin, cut into 2cm cubes
  • 1 red onion, sliced into thin wedges
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • pasta, enough to serve 4 (about 400g)
  • 400g can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 tbsp of basil pesto (or to taste)

Preheat oven to 200 oC.

Toss pumpkin, onion and garlic with olive oil and roast in oven for 30 minutes. When cooked, squeeze out inside of garlic to toss with pasta.

Meanwhile, cook pasta and add chickpeas to the pot for the last couple of minutes to warm them through.

Drain pasta and chickpeas and toss with garlic, pesto and olive oil if needed. Fold though the pumpkin and onions. Season and top with freshly shaved Parmesan.

Serves 4


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A Wonderful Day

Well, it started raining yesterday around lunch and it hasn't stopped since. And it's great rain. It's not the light-not-really-get-anything-wet rain, nor is it the torrential-flash-flooding-wash-everything-away rain. It's the constant-middle-of-the-range rain and I love it.

The sky is dark and even with all the blinds open, the house is still dark and most rooms need a light on (not all at once obviously). It isn't too cold though, so we can open the front door and sit and watch the rain.

All the pot plants are out and the veggies are getting a good water. Every time it rains like this I wish for the day when we have our own home and can get a water tank.

So what do we do on a day like this? Other than cuddle up under a quilt or sit and watch the rain? We have a big pile of books to read, tea parties to play and beautiful pictures to draw. Unfortunately some of the chores need to be done, but I think some can be put off for another day so we can enjoy the weather.
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