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!