Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The everyday life of a cat sitter

So I haven't blogged here since July. Shame on me. But time flies when you're having fun.

And having fun I have had. I've taken on a lot more cat sitting work, and boy, let me tell you, it's the most stress-free role I've ever had.

Okay, so there's a lot of driving around, which, depending on the time of day, isn't exactly stress-free, especially when you encounter drivers who seem to have picked their driver's licence out of a cereal packet. But my feline clients for the most part are a joy.

In the last few months I've only come close to being attacked once. By a cat I'll call Sybil.  In fact I'll call her Syko Sybil. (Which looks better on paper than Psycho Sybil.) Here's a cat with personality plus. One personality is nice and normal. The other, the evil twin side, can take the lead in a second. Snarls, growls, hisses and threats. For no particular reason. She's healthy, before you ask. She gets regularly checked by the vet, but she's a rescue cat and who knows what went on in her life before her owner took her home and gave her unconditional love (and probably got scratched and bitten a lot since then).

Some cats are ambivalent. "Oh, you've come to feed me. Good. Feed me and I'll bugger off and sleep somewhere. Cheers." They eat, ignore you patting them and encouraging them to come for a cuddle, and stalk off. Cats will be cats.

Some are love bunnies, and it's these I enjoy the most. They miss their humans and want contact. Pats, strokes, cuddles, brushing. I have heard purrs in every key, and been climbed on and head butted by dozens of joyful furbabies who enjoy my company as much as I enjoy theirs.

The most rewarding in the last few months has been a pair of Sphynx brothers. I'll call them Da Boyz. I've never really been excited by the idea of a basically hairless cat. Photos show them wrinkled and often, it seems, with a frown on their face. I thought touching them would be weird. It is, in a nice kind of way. They are covered in peach fuzz. Their feet, bony and prehensile, are strangely enchanting. They are agile and very smart; think of a cat who thinks it's a monkey. Their tails are like whips; thin and tapered, and they curl them up elegantly against their flanks when they sit. Waiting for their food, standing up and yelling at me, their tails quiver expectantly.

I've minded Da Boyz twice. The first time was only for a few days and they were keen to tell me they wanted food, and didn't mind the odd pat. But no cuddles thanks. Feed us, clean up after us and we'll watch you and get a bit closer each day.

This month I've had them again, for two and a half weeks on and off. And things have changed between us. Firstly Smaller Boy decided he'd hop up on my knee for a cuddle after food, and he did, nestling his very warm body against mine and purring furiously. His bigger brother watched from on top of a cupboard for a couple of days and then decided it was his turn.

Well. Big Brother has been the most affectionate cat I've ever minded. After feeding (and settling himself for a pee on the toilet - they are both trained to pee over a human loo) he would run to the sofa and jump up, yelling at me to get my butt over there too. Then he'd settle on my knee, firstly kneading me, then marking me by rubbing his head all over the front of my clothing. I'll never wear a white t-shirt to his place again! He would gently touch my cheeks with a soft paw, and lie in my arms like a baby, purring furiously and gazing lovingly into my eyes.

I found I was really looking forward to visiting Da Boyz each day as they were so engaging and loving. After a bit you don't miss the fur; you just cuddle the warm feline body and get smooched and adored in return.

Their owner is a lovely person too; I contact all owners with updates and pics daily, and some respond at length and others don't. Da Boyz's owner is as outgoing and delightful as the cats.

Then there's Chubby Girl The Food Obsessed, who has to have her food measured out in timer bowls which go off at intervals so she doesn't binge eat. She's a butterball and on a strict diet but somehow doesn't seem to lose weight. She's quite affectionate and playful. Her friend Timid Tom on the other hand hides in a cupboard and has his food in a special bowl than will only open to the chip embedded in his collar so Chubby Girl can't steal it. My role with him is to leave the food out and just check he's okay; Chubby likes a brushing and for me to throw balls for her, or some kibble, so she gets exercise by chasing it, preferably up the stairs.

I have, for my sins, agreed to work for four hours on Christmas Day doing cat sitting. The owner of the cat sitting biz has mobility issues and can't handle places with stairs, whereas I look on stairs as fitness aids. My husband G is ok with this, as we're having seafood for lunch rather than the whole baked turkey thing, but it's going to feel weird heading out to work on the country's Big Day Off. But if I don't feed these little sweeties, who will? It's not as if cats celebrate Christmas.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Dog days

It's winter in Sydney, and what a winter! Bright, sparkling sunny days, warm and delicious in the sun, cold at night so you can snuggle under a duvet without getting too hot.

Because it's still getting dark early, I have moved into my winter routine. I stop work around 3.30, gather our two dogs and take them to an off-leash area five minutes' drive from home. I can work then when it's dark until it's time to cook dinner.

I could walk there, but our older dog Rose the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is twelve now, arthritic and easily tired. She's delighted to go in the car to her favourite spot, but doesn't run around with other dogs any more; she simply stays at my side or toddles at my heels and has the odd trot around.

Ellie our toy poodle is eleven months old and is delirious with excitement when I let her out of the car.

Because the parking lot is usually pretty empty on weekdays I park at the same spot, near the entrance and she's down the path and onto the grass before I've even shut the car door.

My, my, she's fast. Our little racehorse, chasing anything that moves. Pestering pigeons in the park, I paraphrase, after the song Poisoning Pigeons In The Park.

A happy soul, she easily makes friends with dogs of all sizes and ages. She has rumbled with a Briard sheepdog four times her size, and has endless fun with Cavoodles, who are apparently the dog du jour around here.  I know at least five different regular Cavoodles who frequent the park.

It lifts my heart to see her have such fun, to watch her lithe body transform from a black ball of fluff into a lean, mean, galloping machine, tail used as a rudder, ears flying back behind her head.

After the first minute or two she'll gallop back to me, do a circle and around me, and be off again. She's always clocking where I am, and always comes back to me for reassurance, pats, the odd treat.

I love doing this in winter as the days are cool and she can run like fury without getting too hot. There are fewer people there in winter and most of them have dogs; the serious dog people. Unlike summer, when you get picnickers, fisher folk, teenage lovers, sailors and heaps of kids.

Summer is a different story; muggy and hot unless the breeze is blowing from the right direction. The dogs pant and I get sweaty when we go for our walk around the point. I love the winter dog days. The coolth. The warm coat, and perhaps a scarf. And most of all the energy of Ellie.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The forgotten women - over 60, single and broke

I was thinking earlier today about three women friends who are all in the same boat: over sixty, single/divorced, childless, and with not much money or income to their name despite running their own businesses. One in particular, who doesn't own her own place, is looking down the barrel of a pretty dismal retirement, assuming she can ever afford to.

There's a theory by The Barefoot Investor that one can retire quite happily with $250K in superannuation, get the aged pension (part or full depending on your savings) and work maybe one or two days a week (both for a bit of extra cash and to keep your mind active).

That's fine but my three friends don't have $250K in super. Luckily one owns her own apartment. She also has more in super than the others, so I think she'll be better off. Let's call her Sherry. Sherry started her biz eight years ago after taking redundancy from her employer. Sherry now has a disability so will be getting financial assistance from the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Her quality of life is going to get worse as time goes on, however, so Sherry needs to assess where she is going to live as she is likely to be in a wheelchair sometime in the next couple of years.

Friend number two, who we'll call Shona, hasn't paid off her house. Her partner left her two years ago after 20 years and Shona apparently doesn't have access to her partner's super. She doesn't have enough super of her own to survive on, so she's keeping on with her struggling biz and hoping that when she reaches pension age in about two years' time she'll own her house. She's renting the house out at the moment to pay it off, and living in the granny flat.

Friend number three, we'll call her Sue, is the worst off of the lot. She had to dig into her super early to pay for major surgery. Divorced many years ago, she got a rough deal out of the marriage and has never owned her own house. Her beautician business is struggling but at 65 she's applied for the pension to make ends meet. I worry how she's going to survive in Sydney with rental prices skyrocketing. At the moment Sue is doing a long term house sit and not paying any rent. She is considering house sitting as a way of life or becoming a companion to an elderly woman. She doesn't want to move from Sydney.

If I have three friends in my relatively small group of friends who are in this position, I wonder and worry how many more women are in the same boat? How many have been ditched by their partners for someone younger (poor Shona!)?  How many are worrying that when they retire they won't be able to pay the rent? How many will have to consider moving out of a major city such as Sydney and Melbourne, leaving their friends and maybe family, and moving to a country town where rents are cheaper but where they may miss the city life and culture?

Women's wages have always been less than that of males so women have a rough deal to begin with when it comes to saving for their retirement, on the whole.

Well, you may say, why do these women continue persisting with struggling businesses? Can't they get a job? Huh!!! Despite the government urging employers to take on the over-50s, it's VERY hard for women over sixty to get a job unless they are highly qualified. These days qualifications are everything; a single degree hardly counts any more. To be in the running for a white collar management job you need a double degree at least. Shona has part time work in addition to running her business but can't find a full-time job in the region where she lives.

This is a generation of single women who are going to find their retirement years extremely tough - particularly if they haven't paid their home off. When these women started in the workforce, superannuation contributions from employers weren't compulsory. It's likely many women will have started a super contribution late in their working life. For those entrepreneurs who have their own small and struggling business, you can bet the contributions will be lower than that paid by an employer.

I think we are going to hear a lot more about the plight of 'forgotten women' in the next ten years as they hit pension age and rents continue to rise. It breaks my heart.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Buying into Buy Nothing - confessions of a shopping addict

So Buy Nothing is a thing. I get it. We live in a very consumerist society. Advertising is everywhere; on the tv, radio, print media, social media and websites and of course emails. It's overwhelming.

Use Facebook and ads will pop up for anything and everything, usually targetted to your age and gender. Visit any number of websites and you'll find an ad for something you searched for on Google recently (I'm sure there's a way to stop my search data being used like that but I can't be arsed finding it out). Click me, they urge, go on - click!

As I have a bulging wardrobe and every kitchen utensil known to man, I committed to stop shopping on 1 July 2017 for a minimum of three months with the aim of stretching it to twelve months.

I confess to being somewhat of a shopping addict. In addition to food and toiletries, I buy clothes, shoes, makeup, books, music and sometimes household goods on a regular basis. The woman at my local dress shop calls me her best customer, although I've been 'good' lately and haven't bought anything from her for six weeks, and that was only the second thing I'd bought from her all year.

But I digress. If I can make it to three months, I can increase my Buy Nothing week by week, month by month. Little steps, regular milestones, will make it easier. Rather like someone in AA taking it one day at a time.

I can see why Buy Nothing is taking off, however. Firstly minimalism is back in vogue, so to achieve it, you need less. Then there's the problem of rubbish and landfill we in the west create.

As well as being a consumerist society, we are a throwaway society. Globalisation has seen fashion become an entity which churns out new designs on an apparently weekly basis. (In fact there is a shop at Kingsford Smith Airport in Sydney which promises new stock EVERY WEEK. Ye Gods.) With low labour costs in third world countries it's easy to spend $30-$50 for a new jumper or dress, or $10 on a t-shirt. I'm guilty. When H and M came to Australia I snapped up a handful of $7 t-shirts with absolute glee. After all, white t-shirts usually only last a year or two before they go grey or attract stains even Napisan can't remove. Then into the rubbish they go, too awful to even give to a charity shop.

My goodness, the amount of clothing that goes into landfill is terrifying. How wasteful we are as a society. How greedy. How eager to flash the plastic and buy more, more, more. I feel sorry for the fashionistas who are compelled to buy the latest look, racking up their credit cards to indecent levels, wearing items only a few times before chucking or donating. Because clothing IS so cheap these days, it is very much seen as throwaway after one season.

Granted, little of my clothing gets actually chucked out. Anything still decent goes to charity, damaged clothing gets used by me as cleaning rags before finally hitting the bin.  I get many years out of my clothes as most of what I buy is either fairly classic or interesting enough not to date. I have overcoats I've had for 20+ years and they're still fine.

The human cost behind producing cheap clothes for the western world is heartbreaking. Sweatshops, dangerous conditions, working hours which would cause strikes in Australia. Look at your clothing. Where is it made? Bangladesh? India? Turkey? China? Would you be prepared to pay, say, four times more for each item if it was made in your own country under decent working conditions?

And as for 'the middle aisle' in ALDI - oh, oh, oh! What a joy! The bits and pieces I have bought cheaply, such as weights and gym clothes, or a warm throw for the living room for a tiny $15, fill me with acquisitive delight. For I AM acquisitive, and it's something I'll have to overcome. I don't need more stuff. The majority of us don't need more stuff.


It's not as if I'm in my 20s and have just moved out of home and have to buy or acquire household goods on which to sit, or kitchen utensils and pots. I have it all. Mum left a house full of 'stuff' when she died and I'm still selling or giving away things in an effort to make the place less cluttered.

I'm going to find this Buy Nothing lark hard work I think. I have unsubscribed from various shoe and clothing email lists so I don't get tempted.

So if I'm buying nothing, what are the exceptions for me? Which non-nothings will sneak into the house aside from food etc for us and the animals?
  • Toiletries and cosmetics. I don't buy many cosmetics but I'm not going to go without an eyebrow pencil when my current one dies (local supermarket, $14, and seriously good).  And I don't go mad on toiletries like I used to 20 years ago. I estimate in the next 3 months I will have to buy toothpaste, soap, 1 bottle each of shampoo, conditioner, Nuxe Huile Prodiguese and Nutrimetics Nutri-Rich Oil as these are my staples and I'm running low on them. 
  • Nails. I like having nice nails. It's a pick me up luxury that costs me about $40/month.
  • Hair. Yes, my foils cost money but damned if I'm going to go grey.
  • Books. But only e-books as they are cheaper and don't take up physical space, or I'll rejoin the local library and borrow.
  • I may have to get supplies for my business such as paper and ink for the printer, but then I've always been frugal with my business.
  • Gifts for others' birthdays. Unless I have something I can make or something new I can regift. There are 3 birthdays I have to cater for so I'll have to be canny.

And that's it. For the next two and a half months at least. Wish me luck. Hope I can conquer this shopping addiction and be a Buy Nothing person.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

When good cats turn bad

I mentioned in a recent post my cat friend Fred. Fred has been an angel to look after in my fill-in-for-a-friend cat sitting business. He has a reputation for turning aggressive at the click of a finger, but I haven't seen it.

Until today.

Poor Fred. His owner is away for another 9 days, and he's feeling lonely and starved of his owner's affection.  I walk inside and he immediately head butts my legs. I talk to him, stroke him, pick him up and cuddle him.

Marion the cat sitter told me not to trust him. I haven't ignored her; I've simply come to my own conclusions and watched him carefully. I thought I had his measure. Thought I had the balance of affection just right.

Today I sat on the sofa as soon as I got there (my third day doing this as I've become more confident with this tricky boy) and Fred happily jumped on my knees, purring ecstatically. He purred so hard saliva dripped from his mouth onto my jeans, and I held him and stroked him and talked to him, and importantly, gave him the 'cat kiss'; that slow blink that tells him I'm not a threat. I thought we understood each other perfectly as he slow-blinked back at me and we stayed happily together for five minutes, until he turned and bit my hand.

Not hard, you understand. It was a gentle bite, the sort cats give you when they can't decide whether they want to sit on your knee or not.

So I took my hands off him and still kept talking to him in a quiet voice, soothing and calming, mentioning his name every five seconds and putting in "good boy" all the time, too.

Fred got off my legs and I could finally get around to fixing his food for the day.  He followed me into the kitchen, head-butting and happy.

I decided to do a visual check of the flat for furballs and vomits - you know what cats can be like. Fred followed me, chatting happily and meowing me details of his life. Clearly he slept in the main bedroom with his owner, as the duvet was cat-rucked and he jumped onto it demonstratively.

I checked the room and turned to walk out. And Fred pounced.

Gawd, my left leg has copped it from cats this week!

He grabbed it with both front legs and tried to sink his teeth in. Bless demin. Good old jeans. I felt his claws and teeth but he didn't break any skin.

I turned and shook my finger at him and snapped, "No!" and he immediately backed off. I suspect I was heading into "his" territory, his sleeping room, and made a note not to do that again.

He was still a bit swishy-tail while I cleaned his litter tray, but was back to smooching against me before grabbing my leg again in the living room. This time no claws or teeth, just a firm grip from his strong little legs, and I had the "No!" going at him before his legs were all the way around mine.

His owner has since told me he gets over-stimulated with too much affection; he does it with her too!

So it's a hard call. I want to give Fred the affection he needs while his owner is away, but not to the point that he attacks me.  He looks for me now every day and cries when he hears my step, as I go to his elegant flat at much the same time each day.  He engages with me, makes lots of eye contact, and is desperate for a cuddle and snuggle.

There are pills marked 'for emergency only' if Fred has a real conniption and goes truly violent with me, but I have left them on the bench for today. I'll see how he is tomorrow.

In a way he reminds me of a Siamese who shared my life for 13 years; another boy who loved a cuddle but would use his teeth.  Maybe so much ecstasy is too much?

Does your cat turn aggro after a cuddle?

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Today I got smacked by a cat

I'm helping a friend out at the moment. She has a cat sitting business; she goes into people's houses and feeds their cat/s while they're away, cleans litter trays, plays with said felines etc. My friend - let's call her Marion - is finally having a holiday after seven years of running her business and building it up from scratch.

Today I had two visits to make. One was for a cat I'll call Fred. Marion warned me he can turn aggro for no reason. "Never turn your back on him," she warned, but Fred so far has been a snuggly, purry angel of a cat. I've got him for the whole two weeks and hope I don't need to resort to the emergency pills on the kitchen counter. Fred lives in a posh suburb in a flat right on the water. He has views to die for (not that he appreciates them I suspect but I'm sure his owner does). He greets me at the door and flops at my feet, rolling back and forth in delight. I have long conversations with him as I clean his bowls and other paraphernalia, and there's never a hint of aggro. I do watch his eyes. If a cat's pupils suddenly turn big and round - watch out and take cover!

My second visit was one closer to home for two Ragdoll cats, Sunny and Shadow. Marion had a warning about Sunny. "He may rush at the door when you arrive and he can be territorial." Another Fred! Anyhow, Sunny was very pleasant to me and I was happily patting him and talking to him. Shadow was hiding as he apparently does. So I put food down while Sunny purred at my feet. I cleaned the litter tray. I went to find Shadow upstairs and Sunny trotted at my heels.

Unfortunately he was TOO close to my heels. I checked the upstairs rooms (no sign of the little bugger but apparently he can hide only too well) and turned around.

Only to stand on Sunny's foot.

He screamed.

I screamed.

He pounced on my ankle and gave it his best shot with teeth and claws. Luckily I was wearing boots, it being winter here after all, and I only have a small scratch to show for it.

I apologised, in the softest, warmest voice I could. I sat on the steps in front of him and held out a hand, offering a gentle pat.
Angry cat Sunny

Sunny narrowed his big baby blues and hit my hand with a front paw. No claws, but his body language said it all: Fuck off, lady. You hurt me.

Tail swishing furiously, he followed me down the stairs. Not a limp in sight, thankfully. But no, just slapping my hand wasn't enough.

With every step I took with my left foot (the one that landed on his paw), he grabbed my ankle and bit my boot. His tail was swishing like a metronome. This was one seriously pissed off cat. I don't blame the poor little thing; I felt dreadful for stepping on him.

As I was inching my way across the living room Shadow flew down the stairs, through the kitchen and into the hall, disappearing into a front room.

Well, at least I could SMS the owner that I had visual sighting of the elusive Shadow!

Sunny wasn't letting up. I shuffled, cat attached, to the scratching post trees with toys attached to them. Thankfully one had elastic and I pinged it and pinged it and bounced it until his attention went from my foot to the toy.

With one bound, I was free!

With two bounds I was out the door with a huge sigh, still feeling awful for poor Sunny.

I have two more days feeding the pair of them. I hope Sunny has forgiven and forgotten by tomorrow. But I'll wear different shoes just in case.

Friday, June 30, 2017

French Women Don't Wear Active Wear

I went to my open air resistance class this morning, rugged up against a rather chilly early winter's morning here in Oz. I had my full length black leggings on, topped with a short sleeved hot pink top, a pale blue sweatshirt and a lilac zip up fleece. It was so chilly that even in the most hectic part of the workout I only ditched the fleece. In short, I looked rather a dag, as we say over here. (Think 'slob'.)

After the class I was faced with a dilemma. I had to go to the bank and supermarket. Should I go home and change first?

Huh, you're thinking. What a snob. Just go as you are, girl, who will notice or care?

Well, I notice and I care. There is active wear and active wear. Do the full Lorna Jane or Sweaty Betty, all nicely coordinated, and you can probably get away with it. Thin, fit middle-class women do. They strut around the shopping centre with great hair, sweetly scented (you can tell they haven't been to the gym first and probably won't go ... they just dress like that) and nary a roll of fat is visible on their leggings. In winter they wear sleeveless puffa tops over their technical merino long sleeves. They have several pairs of trainers which coordinate with the accent colours in their outfits.

Active wear favours the slim. I've seen some pretty horrifying sights in leggings and skimpy gym wear and fear I'm more like them than the sleek women I see around shops in our area (which is middle-class and quite decent on the socio-economic scale).  I do wear leggings, quite often in fact, but plain, non-gym ones teamed with tunic tops that cover my backside and let the best of my legs be on show. And I pair them with ballet flats or boots, not trainers. I don't own a sleeveless puffa jacket as it would make me look like an elephant.

So I felt rather ashamed of myself when I decided to hit the shops on my way home after all, bum looking big with the fleece barely covering half of it. No makeup, not even lip gloss. Hair that looked a fright after an hour's workout in a breeze.

There's a bit of me that's French. Not just in attitude, but genetically too.

You see, French women don't wear active wear outside of the gym. If they go to a gym, that is - more likely they'll go to a yoga class. I have been fortunate enough to visit France three times in the last six years and the only Parisienne I saw in a full active wear outfit was carrying a yoga mat. She had reason to be dressed as she was. Even in rural France and French towns, nobody wore active wear on the street. I felt at home. It was easy to spot the tourists - they spoke English and wore active wear.

It's a tongue in cheek observation from several authors that a French woman will put on her lipstick to check her letterbox - a) because she has standards, b) she never knows who she may meet there and importantly, c) she doesn't want to cause offence to anyone who sets eyes on her; the French do not like to be perceived as badly turned out.

Even working from home, as I do, I aim to dress nicely. That nicely may only be jeans and a top, but I'll have decent shoes on (no ugg boots in winter or rubber flip flops in summer). When I go to the shops I will put on lipstick at least, maybe a little bit of eye makeup if I feel I look washed out. My jacket will coordinate with what I'm wearing and I may even put a scarf on. Because why not. I like to feel nice and not slobby.

I can't rock the active wear look - I'm overweight but not obese, but I have curves that become bulges in active wear clothing and it ain't a pretty sight - so I choose the French option instead.

C'est la vie pour moi. Et vous?

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

When Super isn't super

Superannuation. The joy of my existence. Not.

Eight years ago my husband and I formed a Self-Managed Super Fund (SMSF) on the advice of a financial planner. Let's call this financial planner Knobhead. That means you have an idea of how wrong it all went from this sentence onwards.

I had about $70K and my husband had about $35 in our respective industry super funds. Both of us had taken a hammering with the GFC - three years before my fund had in excess of $100K in it. We both wanted our super to perform better.

We really didn't have enough in our existing super to form a SMSF but Knobhead said, "You've just got enough. Form the fund, buy a investment property within the fund. Property is booming, you can't lose." And Knobhead duly produced a colleague - Arsebuckets - who specialised in finding properties for mugs like us to buy.

Because setting up the fund cost a bomb including using Knobhead's lawyer who specialised in setting up super funds - let's call him Rich Bastard because why not - we only had enough money for a 10% deposit on a house and land package in Tarneit, a commuter-belt suburb an hour out of Melbourne. We could afford the smallest property in the development. Just.

Knobhead found us insurance, too. Can you believe that? Life insurance and Trauma Insurance we would pay premiums on from within the fund, so it would be a tax deduction. We thought it was a bit pricey but he assured us the insurance company was one of the best around. And hey, it was a tax deduction. What's not to love?

While Knobhead and Arsebuckets got commissions and kickbacks, we gamely wrote cheques for the builders and watched, from 1000km away, our house go up.

Finally it was finished and it rented very quickly.

Here's what happened over the years. The rent didn't really cover the mortgage and outgoings such as the strata fees (as the house was in a managed estate), and as insurance premiums rose each year it certainly didn't cover them.

We had a specialist SMSF accountant that we found ourselves (didn't want Knobhead recommending one) who worried that the fund was losing money.

Meanwhile the house wasn't gaining in capital value. More development estates had grown around it, and most of the houses were bigger - four or more bedrooms compared to our little three. The bloody thing was worth less than what we'd paid for it after a couple of years. Given the buoyant Australian property market, that was insane.

We told our accountant we'd wait until the property gained in value before we sold it or else we'd lose too much money.

Finally it boomed last year as a railway station had been built in Tarneit the year before. We sold the house for a $30K profit after having made a loss on the fund every single year. We settled up in February and put the money into our SMSF bank account. Our accountant told us a month ago to try and wind the fund up this financial year.

So it was time to wind up the fund and - sigh - put our money back in industry super funds. The SMSF was going to die. It was costing us a couple of grand each year in accountant and auditor fees.

So we had a bit more in the fund that what we started with. I was looking forward to getting my $70K back.

But here's the shitty, shitty bit. The bit Knobhead didn't tell us about eight years ago. The bit our SMSF accountant SHOULD have told us earlier. When both husband and wife - or whomever - start a SMSF, and each puts in a different amount, the government deems that profit or loss is appointed percentage wise for the life of the SMSF.

So my percentage of the fund was much bigger than my husband's when the fund started. I copped a higher percentage of the loss EVERY SINGLE YEAR.

Reader, my $71K is now $28K. Ironically, as my husband suffered less of the loss and has held a paid job with a generous employer for the last six years, he has nearly $100K to put into an industry super fund.

And now this week with the financial year drawing to an end I'm frantically organising the demise of the SMSF, starting up industry super fund accounts for us both, cancelling the expensive insurance and taking cheaper policies out within the industry funds, and having a cow as the Tax Office gave me a rebate into the SMSF AFTER I'd drawn cheques and got it at zero balance. I'm now panicking to move that out of the account into the industry fund by 30 June or else, by law, I will have to keep the SMSF open for another year and pay $1000 auditor fees on a sum that's around $27.

I've been feeling sick and stressed all day trying to get everything done, and furious at Knobhead - and myself - about the SMSF and how it's sucked my money. At this rate I can never afford to stop work unless we sell our house - which I love as I grew up here - and move somewhere else.

This week has not been super at all.

Friday, June 23, 2017

A goddess called ... Elizabeth?

A couple of nights ago I had a very vivid dream.

I was standing on a hilltop, but it wasn't the sort of romantic wilderness hilltop you'd expect in a dream, it was somewhere in suburban Australia. On either side of my hilltop, and up and down the hill, Colorbond fences hemmed in a development of brick veneer houses, and people walked up and down the hill, which must have been a park or reserve in the heart of suburbia.

Clouds hung overhead; not menacing, just grey and some lighter, almost white; not quite covering all the sky but about 5/8 of it. The sort of clouds that you don't want on a winter's day as they don't bring rain, they just hide the sun and make it colder.

In my right hand I held a clear quartz crystal; it was about 15 cm long, with a knobbly top and the shaft bright and sharp with a pointed end.

In my left I held a milky white crystal, more rounded on each end and not as long.

I held my arms up over my head and a flow of power streamed to me from the clouds into the crystal in my right hand. It wasn't like lightning, or golden flakes, just ... power. Visible, but rather like rain, almost transparent.

I felt the power run through me from my right hand to my left, and it seemed to stop at the left and go back to the crystal in my right hand.

I discovered that I could bounce rainbows at people and objects from my clear quartz crystal. I bounced them onto passers by, onto the fences. I simply held my hand out and a rainbow jumped out.

A voice in my head said, "This power is from the Goddess Elizabeth."

And soon after that, I woke up. For once I remembered my dream in utter detail; the fences, the winter jackets on the people, and the rainbows, which were quite small when they landed; only a few centimetres across but very colourful. And the Goddess Elizabeth.

Well, of course I went onto Google and discovered the only Goddess Elizabeth to be found is a manga character, and as I don't read manga that made no sense. I had, that night, been reading Death Comes to Pemberley (a follow on to Pride and Prejudice by P D James, and of course we have the lovely Elizabeth Darcy playing a leading role), so that may have explained the Elizabeth.

But I really think I had been visited by something or someone. A goddess? It's not often I get dreams so vivid I can FEEL them, and I FELT the power, I was there, really there, with a crystal in each hand.

So I jumped onto eBay and sourced a crystal  - a Tibetan Quartz - which is as similar as I can find to the one in my dream. I suspect the dream crystal was a luxury item costing several hundred dollars as it was quite large, and I paid $60 for one that's about 9cm long. Tibetan Quartz crystals are apparently used for conversing with angels and spirit guides. They are powerful healing crystals.

As I now live in a house I consider to be haunted, having a crystal which chats with spirits could be a good or bad thing. But the dream was so positive I was certain I had to buy one and it will be a good thing. When I looked into clear quartz crystals the powers and characteristics of Tibetan Quartz made total sense. Not all clear crystals are created equal it seems.

I'm debating whether to try and find a milky crystal too, even though the clear one in my dream was the one with the power.

Maybe there is truly a Goddess Elizabeth. Who knows? Maybe me. Maybe I can tell you more in a future post.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Crunch time with the pappadums

So is it really bad of me to finish off a half-empty packet of Patak's Mini Pappadums (Ready To Eat!) this afternoon so I don't have to share them with my husband when he gets home?

These are lovely, crunchy treats. Relatively low in the old kilojoules etc. I only meant to have a handful for morning tea, and I did.

Then at around 5 I got peckish (I'd only had plain steamed fish and broccolini for lunch as I'd been away for a long weekend and mysteriously managed to put on 3 kilos in 5 days. Bloody carbohydrates. But I digress.) and finished off the remainder of the pack.

My housesitter had left the pack for me; she's nice like that. We are neighbours and she kindly moved across the road from her place for five days to look after our animals. She also left home made chocolate mousse - which included avocado rather than cream; interesting and not too sweet - and I confess to scarfing that down last night after a bowl of chicken and veggie soup. Huh - and I wonder why my weight hasn't started to drop back!

I look at it this way: if I hadn't eaten the pappadums it would have been a handful or two of nuts, anyway. Probably just as many kilojoules. In retrospect the nuts would have been better as they are protein, rather than carbs. But oh, oh, oh! I haven't had pappadums in AGES! I'd forgotten how crunchy and addictive they are.  Mmm, that flavour!

I had to head up to the shops earlier in the day to get kale, cat litter and dog food, and I put mini pappadums on the list. Having managed to leave the list at home I realised I'd forgotten to get them when I returned and unpacked my bag (but I did get 30% off on frozen fillets of Hake ... not crumbed, just plain. Great for steaming or frying in a non-stick pan. Or currying. With pappadums on the side.).

So do I tell G the pappadums actually existed or not? I've hidden the packet in the bin under other stuff, so he won't see it and be jealous, for he loves his pappadums as much as I do. On the other hand, he DOES get into the chocolate digestives at the interstate office when he goes away for work, as he did earlier this week.

He might never know about the pappadums but I'm sure he'll sigh when I dish kale up for breakfast.   Seriously, we breakfast on kale and it's taken him - an old-fashioned unreconstructed male - a while to get used to the idea. I slice it and chuck it in a non-stick pan with eggs, turkey breast, spinach and sometimes a slice of haloumi. On the odd occasion we have bacon rather than turkey breast, but I'm trying to cut processed meat down for both of us, and turkey meat is very good for you. Kale, stir fried and still crunchy, is delicious with a spray of olive oil and a sprinkle of Himalayan pink salt. I think he likes it, deep down. He'll never admit it though.  As you can imagine we didn't have kale for breakfast while we were away; I missed it but I'm sure he didn't.

I think I'll shut up about the pappadums and rave about the Hake and broccolini for lunch, and the salmon and broccolini I'm about to cook for dinner. Broccolini's up there with kale for my bloke. What he doesn't know won't hurt him, and I bet he won't mention the biscuits he had on the flight home.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Just when I was having a peaceful day - the hell of broken websites

It's raining hard here today. A perfect day to be inside. Wednesdays are a bit of a day off for me as my colleague at my main client's workplaces has the day off, so doesn't chase me with emails and phone calls.

I decided I would devote this afternoon to self-improvement and relaxation.

I attempted a twenty minute yoga session. I say attempted because every time I did the Downward Dog our puppy raced up and licked my nose. I should, on reflection, have shut her in the kitchen but her whimpering would have been too distracting.

After that I lit a candle and did a twenty minute guided meditation, and felt peace flowing through me. I was relaxed, so beautifully relaxed.

Then I made the mistake of checking my email. Another client had written saying she wanted a change on her website, which is one where people can buy tickets for a charity sleepout. She wanted an extra, cheaper, ticket for school students. I checked the back end of the website. Looked easy.

My second mistake was updating the core software and all the plugins including the event plugin. Suddenly there were no tickets any more - none on the front end and none on the back!

All my peacefulness vanished. I had a headache almost instantly.

Of all the clients, it had to be her site. I swear, this woman is a jinx. She has two websites and every time I touch them they misbehave. Something goes wrong. Now these are simple WordPress sites. There shouldn't be the issues I have with them; when I've fixed one thing another pops up. I don't have any other clients with the problems she has.

So I've given up and posted a question on a support forum for the event software. I've decided if it's all too hard I'm going to pay a contractor to fix it and bill my client for their time. I am OVER fixing websites, I find it all too stressful these days.

I'm now going to find a quiet corner and try and meditate again. I feel sick to my stomach with this website issue. If only I could afford to retire and give this website bullsh*t up!

Friday, May 19, 2017

I sacked my hairdresser

I've been going to Hairy Mary for about three years now. Despite the fact that having a conversation with her does my head in (she's scatty, very scatty, but lovable), her work on my hair was usually pretty good.


Over the last year I've come to have a few reservations about her, however.  When she put foils in, she didn't really do them close enough to the scalp. Of course I wouldn't expect her to get too close - nobody wants to be burned by bleach - but some of them looked a little grown out when she'd put them in.

Then let's talk style. 18 months ago I went from a bob to a funky shorter bedhead cut, done with a razor. All was good for about a year, although it did look a bit too wispy on the ends from time to time. My hair is fine and I don't have a great deal of it, so I loathe the wispy look.

For the last two visits I asked her specifically not to thin out the ends too much, to make them chunkier and less wispy.

Sadly, she ignored me. Too busy talking about sixteen things at once to remember what I'd asked. When the sun is behind me you can see through the ends, and I hate that.

So a month ago I took my head to a hairdresser a short walk from where I live. More expensive, which is a shame, but the foils look sharp and she's helping me thicken the ends up and grow the layers out somewhat. I quite like a few freehand-cut layers for movement, but at the moment my hair has been so heavily layered by Hairy Mary I feel as if I should be wearing hats 24/7 until it grows out.

I don't know how to tell Hairy Mary she's been dumped. I suppose I simply don't. She'll figure out I'm just not going to her place any more. I can't rave about my new hairdresser on Facebook as Hairy Mary is a Facebook friend of mine. I don't want to hurt her feelings.

How many of you have told your hairdresser you're quitting them? Or have you simply jumped ship and gone somewhere else?

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Stuff It

This morning while I was making the bed I noticed the drawer on my husband's bedside table was open slightly. I hate that. Drawers which are capable of shutting (which is most but not all the drawers in our house) should be shut or they look untidy. But I digress. This post is not about my OCD-ness regarding drawers.

No, it's about the remembrance day fake poppy that was in the drawer. And other Stuff.

I pondered why he'd kept the poppy. I know he's a Scot but he usually does put his hand in his pocket and buy a new one each year. It's not as if I bought the poppy for him and it has sentimental value (hmm, a $2 poppy).  I think this is what's happened (but I haven't asked him):

He's worn the poppy at the appropriate time, taken it off his suit and put in the drawer. Then he's forgotten about it. Now he doesn't even notice it's there, despite it being bright red.

I used to keep remembrance day poppies too. But not any more. I'd stick them in a potplant with something else such as a violet, just for effect. After several months of them gathering dust there (literally) I'd chuck them out. I mean, they ARE pretty. Too good to simply go in the bin after wearing. I should put them in a box to use for decorating gifts but frankly I'm a lousy gift decorator and I'd forget I had them anyway. So now, into the bin they go. I do it with gritted teeth as it makes me feel guilty.

And there's my problem. I was brought up by a Mum who didn't throw such things out. In fact she threw out very little in case it came in handy or in case there was another Great Depression or because it cost something to buy in the first place or because it was a gift from a friend or family member or ...

You get the picture. I was brought up to be a hoarder, to feel sentimental about things given to me, to not move things on if they were still 'good'.

But now I'm toughening up. I have to. I have a house full of Stuff, some of which I've sold or given away, and still more which I'm selling and which I intend to sell. I do a run to the charity shops with Stuff every couple of months.  I bin Stuff. I give Stuff to friends.

I have had to become unsentimental to a degree. And I'm a horribly sentimental person. It pulls me in two.

But I look around me and see clutter. I need to become more minimalist in order to feel less dragged down by all this Stuff.

As I've mentioned in previous posts Mum left me everything she had. And she had cupboards bulging with Stuff most of which she never used and as I haven't either, a lot of it has been moved on in some way, shape or form. But there's still too much Stuff.

Apparently we only use 20% of everything we own on a regular basis. 20%. That's not much. But when I think about it, that figure seems correct. For example when I'm cooking I usually use the same pots and pans each time. The tagine cooker gets one outing a year and I suspect that sooner or later I'll move it on too, even though I love its bright red colour. I probably don't need all the ramekins I have (two sets) but if I have a dinner party with more than 4 people I'll put them into use for individual puddings.

I plan to go through cupboards again over Easter and see what else I can move on either on eBay, Gumtree, Facebook buy swap and sell or simply give to charity. Although the charity shops are getting fussy now. I tried giving some oldish books to them this week and they refused them as they were foxed, and stated that no charity shop would take foxed or old books any more in case they had dust mites or similar. So bugger, I had to bin the books. Bin them! I nearly cried. I love books but wasn't going to read these again and it made me grit my teeth when I put them in the recycle bin. They weren't interesting enough to try and sell on eBay, either. :-(

My new hardline attitude towards Stuff is saving me money though. No more impulse buys at homewares shops or online. Department stores no longer hold any thrill for me. If I buy something it's to replace something useful which has broken. My rule now is that if I buy something new, something old has to go. (This doesn't apply to animals. Despite bringing a new puppy into our lives last year we have kept our elderly spaniel LOL!)

How I'd love to have a neat house without crap everywhere; like walking into one of IKEA's fake rooms. I'm working on it. The living room is looking more '50s minimalist these days which is a start.

But I can only achieve this if I stop feeling guilty and become unsentimental about getting rid of Stuff I don't use.  For me, it's very hard to do but I do feel a mix of exultation, lightness and some guilt when I achieve a purge of Stuff.

Do you get the guilts when you move Stuff on out of your place?

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Throw me a throw

Just because I haven't been on here for a bit doesn't mean I haven't thought about it. I still can't use this particular Google account on Safari for a myriad of reasons, even though I'm running the most current software on my Mac and there shouldn't be a security issue. So can I be bothered to open another browser - Chrome - to update my blog? Not often.

One of the things I'd considered posting about earlier this year was last Christmas. We received a rather hilarious present from The Whingies. It was a fleece throw, which is a good thought as our house gets quite chilly in winter. But it wasn't a throw that in any way matched our decor. It was a throw from Guide Dogs of Australia, and featured a chocolate labrador, much larger than life, as the main element. Our living room is not neutral-coloured where the throw, which is chocolate dog on pale blue background, would look good. It's bright late 1950s pale greens and teals with orange/tangerine accents. Sounds loud but it works. But not with blue and chocolate.

OK, so we have dogs. Two, now, as it turns out, as we brought a beautiful toy Poodle girl into our lives last October. So The Whingies clearly know we love dogs as well as cats.

We pondered about why they would buy us that particular throw. If they donate to a charity it's usually a cancer one, not Guide Dogs.

Then it hit us. They didn't buy it at all. They won it as a prize in a cat show, where a non-dog person must have donated it, presumably as an unwanted gift.

We sat on the floor in the living room on Christmas morning, sipping Champagne and contemplating this thought while peering into the giant-sized eyes of the chocolate lab, and both of us burst out laughing.

Now I'm pretty good at rehoming gifts too, and if I don't have a suitable recipient for something I've been given but don't want, I give it to charity or sell it online. I take into account the person's taste and decor before deciding what to give them. I can't keep things people give me that I don't like or don't work in my house, not any more. I have too much STUFF. Too much clutter. I need to move things on if they're not suitable, rather than, as Mum encouraged me to do, keep This gift or That gift because That person gave it to you, even if you hate it.

We have a tacit agreement with the Whingies that while we give gifts to each other, they will be under $30. It's the thought that counts, it's a token thing, and I usually rack my brains to find something they'll appreciate as they consider themselves persons of high taste. Often it's a plant cutting I've been cultivating (this is acceptable as I receive plant cuttings in return) and this year I gave them a beautiful candle from the stock I sell and a bottle of wine.

So what to do with the throw? We opened it, as we didn't know what the design was, and having opened it and damaged the packaging in the process, can't rehome it as a brand new gift to a dog person. We may be able to use it on our bed as the dogs are - now the Poodle puppy is 7 months old and can hang on all night - sleeping on our bed, to the delight of our Spaniel, who I think has missed it. We certainly didn't miss the heat of them in summer!

It must have been the Christmas for throws. Another couple gave us a throw (clearly these friends all visit in winter where their teeth chatter if they move more then three metres away from the log fire) and the colours are pretty wrong in that one too. White background with orange (nice) and sky blue (doesn't work). That one is still in its packaging. It has gift potential. Not for the Whingies though as it wouldn't match their decor.

In the meantime I found a very cool orange and sage green 60s-inspired throw at ALDI for $16, which I've put on the sofa for the dogs to sleep on should they wish.