Book Review: Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah

After abandoning a slow moving book, I was pleased to quickly get hooked on my latest book Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah.  Set both in the modern day and a fairy tale time, which slowly becomes real (namely the second world war).

Ah I didn't notice the butterfly til I uploaded this image! source: http://www.bookdepository.com/Winter-Garden-Kristin-Hannah/9780312663155
Ah I didn’t notice the butterfly til I uploaded this image!
source: http://www.bookdepository.com/Winter-Garden-Kristin-Hannah/9780312663155

I love a great World War 2 story, but only European stories. The book I gave up on was about the second world war, but based in the US, and I just couldn’t get into it. I think I prefer the depths of despair and suffering the war inflicted on Europe (and it’s fictional storytellers like Kristin Hannah).

The book is set in an apple orchard in the US. (I’m sure it probably mentioned the state, but the information seems irrelevant to my memory.) It gets cold enough to snow, which draws parallels to the fairy tale world of the matriarch, Anya. Anya has two daughters, Nina and Meredith. Nina’s the photo journalist who’s forever in some remote corner capturing wars and poverty. Meredith has followed in her father’s footsteps, managing the apple business and bringing up her daughter Jillian and Maddy with her husband Jeff. The story starts with the patriarch’s death, where he urges his daughter Nina to connect with his cold and distant wife Anya, and asks Meredith to care for her mother.

Meredith takes the request to heart and works tirelessly to look after her mother, Anya, who seems to be losing her mind after a few interesting incidents the most common of which is sitting the Winter Garden in the cold snowy nights. Meredith works herself into the ground between maintaining her father’s orchard and caring for her mother. Suddenly, Nina returns from the far flung assignment in Africa and finds Meredith’s put their mother in a nursing home. Nina, being the impulsive child, discharges her mother and takes her back home to the orchard. Nina’s conviction lies in her promise to her dying father to make sure she hears the entirety of her mother’s fairy tale.

The childhood fairy tale enchanted Nina and Meredith as children, though they never heard the end of it.  One year, in an effort to attract the love and warmth they missed from their mother, the children acted a play of the fairy tale.  Their mother became further isolated, and Meredith vowed never to seek the love or affection of her mother.  Nina, being younger, felt the same, but committed to her father’s request, continues to ask for her mother to return to the fairy tale in adulthood.

Slowly the fairy tale shows signs of truth.  Of real places.  Of grandmothers who smoke – and who smokes in a fairy tale?  The sister slowly unravel the story from their mother, and in the process, discover the depth of suffering and pain their mother endured in a life long before them, and even their father.  This book captivated me – I read it in the short minutes whilst I waited between activities.  I was a little slack on reading and commenting on my favourite blogs, even though they are a little more time sensitive than a novel!  But it was well worth it – I now have a stronger desire to see Russia and I’m even thawing to the idea of going in winter.  Call me insane, right?  An aussie in a Russian winter? I don’t know what I’m in for!

Student debts – pay now or pay later?

In Australia, we have (what I think is) a pretty good payment model for tertiary education system.  It’s not anywhere near as cripplingly expensive as the US, but it’s not (effectively) free like in France.  The balance is struck by students paying 1/4 of their education costs, and the government covering the remaining 3/4.  When I started studying over a decade ago it was called HECS (Higher education contribution scheme).  Now it’s called HELP or HECS-HELP, where HELP stands for Higher education loan program).  This post looks at how I paid my debts, and whether I’d recommend the strategy to others. It’s also a little bit of a lesson on how Australia’s university fees are structured, for those who might not know!

source: www.thenationalstudent.com
source: www.thenationalstudent.com

How much is a year studying in Australia (for an Australian, of course!)?  A student will pay, for an annual full time load

$9,792 for law, dentistry, medicine, veterinary science, accounting, administration, economics and commerce (Band 1)

$8,363 for mathematics, statistics, science, computing, built environment, health, engineering, surveying and agriculture (Band 2)

$5,868 for humanities, behavioral science, social studies, foreign languages, visual and performing arts, education and nursing (Band 3)

That’s the student’s 25%.  They can pay it as they study, or once they start earning over $49,096 per annum (pa).  Once they are earning this amount, they start paying, they will start repaying their debt at 4% pa.  This rate increases to a maximum of 8% when you earn more than $91,178 pa.

The first thing I notice when I write that is that those earning figures are probably much higher than US earning figures.

However, if you want to pay your fees up front, you may.  When I was studying, there was a discount in any lump sum payment, either at the time of study or afterwards.  So if you got a nice lump sum of money, you could throw it at your student debt, and you’d be given a 10-20% discount (it’s been sliding down :().  BONUS! Of course, this has just been announced that it’s no longer going to be an option.

Lastly, there’s no interest.  Sure, the money is indexed to the Consumer Price Index, but otherwise, it’s the ‘best’ debt you could have.  No one offers interest THAT cheap.

So now that I’ve given a crash course in Australia’s higher education sector, let’s get down to business.  What’s better? Pay now or defer?

Well, I’ll tell you what I did, cause I’m not sure I’m worthy to advise anyone, but I can justify my thoughts and perhaps persuade anyone who might be unsure, that my model might work :p

source: www.webe.com.au
source: www.webe.com.au

The costs above to adjust annually, so when I started studying a little over 10 years ago, the costs were in the vicinity of $2,500 a semester, so $5,000 a year (I did mainly engineering, with some foreign language.  But I didn’t always do a ‘full’ load of 8 subjects, due to pre requisites and timetabling).  It took me six years, cause I went to France for a year, and then dragged out the harder part of my degree when I returned.  It should have taken five years – which means my total cost would have been $25,000.

I decided a ‘pay as I can’ model:

2003: My first year, I paid everything up front, so won a discount! Woot!  As I no longer can find the paperwork, let’s guesstimate $1,137 discount, as I studied 8 subjects

2004: In second year, I was still living off the $10,000 first year scholarship and started a casual job, so I paid both semesters.  Let’s assumed at $995.4 saving/discount for the 7 subjects

2005: In third year, I paid first semester saving $538.60 but not second semester (Debt +$1966).

2006: Fourth year, I was in France, so I had MUCH better uses for that coin :p  (Debt +$3920)

2007: In fifth year, I paid both semesters, saving $853.20 on the 6 subjects I studied

2008: But in sixth year, I had a full time job as a boarding mistress and I paid some upfront (and through payroll!).  So semester 1, I just had $700 to <, meaning I left (Debt + $574) outstanding, and I saved as well as in semester 2.

Paid Saving Debt
2003  $    4,494.60  $  1,137.60  $               –
2004  $    3,761.60  $     995.40  $               –
2005  $    2,154.40  $     538.00  $  1,966.00
2006  $                 –  $               –  $  3,920.00
2007  $    3,412.80  $     853.20  $               –
2008  $    2,440.80  $     607.50  $     574.00
 SUB TOTALS  $  16,264.20  $  4,131.70  $  6,460.00
3.4% indexation  $     133.00
2.8% indexation  $     168.00
 TOTAL  $  6,761.00

So overall, for those playing at home, I graduated with a $6,761 debt (with two indexations at at 3.4% and 2.8% adding $133 and $168 to my debt).  With an upfront payment, I could have been home free for $6,146.  Instead, I left it to be paid through payroll deductions, and by my second year working in my profession I had it paid off.

See, back then, I had the advantage of the upfront savings.  And I’m no mug, I like simple savings like that.  I knew when I graduated, I’d want to do other things with my money.  Like travel to the US (again), Canada, Cuba and the Bahamas, which I did five months after starting as an engineer.  After I returned from that trip, I thought I better get saving to buy a house (eventually) and travel some more.

In summary, it’s a great system.  It makes it possible for someone to study, without any upfront outlay of money or debt (there are books to buy, and campus fees to pay, but these are negligible in comparison  and both can be ‘avoided’ :p)  The savings for an upfront payment was a great incentive to limit my debt, but the structure was flexible to allow me to study abroad whilst at university.  I think that even without the savings, it’s a prudent approach to chip away at your debt at any time.  Others might argue that a no interest loan should be the lowest priority.  But, education should be a higher priority to spend your money on than many other things (like cars, in my opinion, holidays, eating out etc).  Sure, I didn’t live like a pauper, but every semester I ‘saved’ to pay the next semester’s debt if at all possible.

What do you think?  Should paying student debts be a priority?

Goals Update – April

Financial

My backpay came through this week, which now means I’m on a higher salary.  It also means all my savings targets got a generous boost! 😀

$20k target by 22 DecOn target to achieve

Mar 13: $13,003.17 (adjusted from March goals post to include interest of $53.11)

Apr 13: $14,522.79

12 in 2 Adventures: Ahead of target

Start of month $229.76

End of month: $797.56 + $89 paid for knife skills course

Generosity target of at least $100 per week not quite there

(weeks Mon thu Sun – and based on when things were withdrawn from my accounts):
week 1 – $45 + $70 (dad) + 12hrs volunteering (babysitting, flowers, Sunday school)
week 2 – $20 + $80 to the cause spoken about here
week 3 – $20 + 2 hrs volunteering (babysitting/cleaning)
week 4 – $35 + $50 for a swim-a-thon of a colleague

I don’t want to share too much of my 12 in 2 goal to read the bible, but let’s just say I’ve started, and in a year, I should have the whole thing licked.  Why am I bringing it up here?  Well I read about giving, but silently, so only God knows.  Made me question publishing it on the blog.  But then I realised, the blog is helping me do it – in the sense that it reminds me to give to those less fortunate.  What are your thoughts?  Should I just retire this segment from my goals update?  It does feel a little… show-off-ish

Health

Cook at home twice a week: achieved

Bold means I made it myself!  March was a roaring success – and April on average wasn’t too bad.  I had one week where I didn’t hit my target, but given I’d been sick in the stomach and then super busy, I’m not 100% worried.  I’ve seen an increase in eating at home of late, so that’s a bonus.  Most of my meals out seem to be homecooked too – either at a friend’s or my parents.  I still buy lunch 2 days a week – Mondays and on the weekend at least once usually.

Chicken and Leek terrine, thanks to coles.com.au
Chicken and Leek terrine, thanks to coles.com.au

Udon noodles (Thu)
Leek & Chicken Terrain and focaccia (Fri)
Leek & Potato bake (Sat)
Vietnamese noodles with prawns (Sun)

*can you imagine me coming home with EIGHT leeks – it was comical*
week 1 –

Chicken & Leek terrain with leek and potato bake leftovers (Mon)
Rocket salad with beef (Tue)
Apple sauce (sick!) (Wed)
Chicken soup – leftovers (Thu)
Ginger and Lemongrass stir fry (Fri)
Snack food at water polo presentation night (Sat)
Nothing 🙁 still sick from WED! (Sun)

week 2 – let’s not talk about some of the nutritional decisions I made this week, shall we?
?? (Mon)
Chocolate cake (Tue)
Pizzas (Wed)
Garlic pizza – inhaled pre concert (Thu)
Sushi – nearly made me sick (Fri)
Wedding (Sat)
Roast chicken at friend’s place (Sun)

week 3 –

Dosa with curried root veges – I used mustard when I couldn’t buy mustard seeds, it works (Mon)
Vegie pasta bake at a friend’s (Tue)
GF pizza(Wed)
Lasange at my parent’s (Thu)
Italian out (Fri)
Coconut buns and chicken dim sum (Sat)
Leftover GF pizza (Sun)

week 4 –

Chickpea Salad (Mon)
Pizza (Tue)
Nachos at BF’s (Wed)
Curry at parents (Thu)
Sushi (Fri)
Roast lamb and potatos at BF’s (Sat)
Chicken Ceaser Salad at BF’s(Sun)

Sugar – out the window!

Train for polo – off season

Cultural

– 2 films a month: achieved

Sunday night in week 1, my darling took me to Identity Thief I felt pretty rotten, which can be evidenced by the fact that the only Maltesers I consumed were those brought to my mouth! That’s unheard of! Funny funny film – even though BF is convinced I don’t like comedy.  I  also Die Hard – Die Another Day.  Gosh I’m good to my bf! Next up, Warm Bodies I think.

–  2 books a monthachieved

Grotesque sort of straddled the months, but definitely in this month was A Tree Grows in Brooklyn which I thoroughly enjoyed – you can read my review.  I tried to get into Blown with limited success (had it on the go for two weeks).  I think picked up The Winter Garden by Laura Hillenbrand, and I’m really enjoying it!

Social

Call/connect with an out of town friend – not achieved

Not going great with this – I did send some messages but really not enough.

Career

– Certificationon target

Seems I missed two of the sixteen competencies when I was writing out the framework, so whilst i said LAST month I only had three to go, I really had five! So now I’ve done two more, I have three to go.  Only four are at the proper length though, so more work is needed

– Looking for next role: making progress

After some scheduling difficulties, I’m had an information interview with a company this week.  I’m not sure I’ll make the change, given it’d mean longer hours and a lower salary, and the only real carrot for me is that I could move to France (or somewhere else, but France is where I’d like to go, and their ‘home’).  Nonetheless, I’ll make sure to look at their job ads monthly just in case.

I also now have a professional mentor, outside my company, thanks to the professional body that I’m doing my certification through.  We meet in early May at an event, so it shall be interesting to see what I learn and how I grow.

Brightening up a bathroom cabinet

Whilst trawling the internet in the last week, I was inspired by a project where someone backed their bathroom cabinet with a decorative paper.  It struck me as such an easy, cheap and renter friendly update.  All you need is a sheet of nice wrapping paper – mine was about $7 for a sheet.

Bathroom Cabinet before
Bathroom Cabinet before

Then I remover all my products, and the glass shelves.  I put the sheet of paper up to the cabinet to know how much I needed to trim off.  (I might have overtrimmed… oh well… what do they say about measure twice cut once?).  Then I placed a few strategic pieces of double sided tapes on the cabinet, pressed the paper in. It looked great, and took next to no time at all.

Bathroom Cabinet after
Bathroom Cabinet after

Shame I didn’t take a photo from a greater distance, the paper I chose nicely matches the colour of the mosaic tile border and floor tiles in the bathroom. Happy coincidence there.

Linen closet audit

I’m not sure what it is about Bea at Zero Waste Home that sometime rubs me up the wrong way. I’m sure she doesn’t mean to make me feel inferior (actually, only you have the power to change how you feel).  But I see some things in her life, and flat out reject that it could ever be me!  So her recent Facebook photo has riled me up, and when my comment got eaten by an e monster, I figured I’d rather type out a whole blog post instead!  Here I look at her (very white) zero waste linen closet, and look at my (not so white) line closet.

Bea, at Zero Waste Home's linen closetsource: www.zerowastehome.blogspot.com
Bea, at Zero Waste Home’s linen closetsource: www.zerowastehome.blogspot.com

 -VS-

Linen closet. Top shelf (r to l): Doona covers and matching pillows case, pillow cases & cushion covers, surplus fabric Bottom shelf (r to l): Bath towel, bathmat, box containing hand towel and face washers
Linen closet.
Top shelf (r to l): Aqua doona covers and matching pillow cases, guest sheets and pillow cases, pillow cases & cushion covers, surplus fabric
Bottom shelf (r to l): Bath towel, bathmat, box containing hand towel and face washers

My sheets:

1 set on the bed (with two pillowcases), 1 set in the cupboard (with two pillow cases).

Justification: I air dry everything, so I need sheets the night of washing day.  I won’t compromise on owning a dryer.  And I don’t have central or other heating to ‘speed’ things along.

Linen cupboard off site storage. Sheets lives in the top of my wardrobe cause sheets dry upstairs AND get used upstairs, so why store them downstairs?
Linen cupboard off site storage. Sheets lives in the top of my wardrobe cause sheets dry upstairs AND get used upstairs, so why store them downstairs?

My ‘other’ sheets:

1 single pink flat and fitted sheet – there’s a small stain on the flat top sheet, so I avoid using it.  With two pillow cases.

1 double pale blue flat and fitted sheet – there’s no need for the fitted, but I use the flat with the pink sheet above. With two white pillows cases

Justification: I have a single foam mattress for guests.  Need to return the blue set to my parents I think – no need for it in my house! <- drafting posts works wonders, I’ve done this already!

My bath towels:

2 white towel: 1 in use, 1 in the cupboard

Justification: I don’t wash daily, more like weekly.  As soon as the towel noticably smells, it goes in the washing basket til I generate enough washing to run a white load

My ‘other’ towels (guests included)

3 small blue towels – one for guests (ie BF, therefore in regular use), one for water polo, one excess (currently for my use at the BF’s place)

1 small navy towel (damaged) – gym towel (or spills etc at a pinch) <– this is headed to an animal shelter, I never like it when I use it, cause of the hole

1 large navy towel – additional guests, spills, mishaps, protect furniture as needed

Justification: I don’t wash the polo or gym towel after each use, therefore they are single purpose. I could perhaps have 1-2 less towel though.

Exif_JPEG_PICTURE
Towels in action at my house recently!

Why was my towel in the kitchen? Well I usually hang it upstairs but I didn’t want to wake the sleeping guests.

Bathmats, hand towel and face washers

2 blue bathmats

3 blue hand towels

3 blue face washers

My doona covers:

1 on the bed – Navy and white + 2 pillow cases *usually on my bed*

1 for whilst the other dries – Aqua stripe + 2 pillow cases

1 that’s become a drop sheet – Black and white check (bless your hearts, professional painters, I’m not sure what I was paying for!) + 4 pillow cases!

My blankets:

1 cotton queen sized aqua blanket *lives on the bed whilst the weather warrants it – 9 months of so*

1 thick knitted grey wool throw *this lives on the sofa in winter, and on the foot of the bed in summer*

1 knitted teal throw *this lives on the sofa in summer (and likely winter too, it’s new and I love it)*

1 single sized quilt cover (signature quilt from school) *this lives on the bed in winter and the sofa in summer*

Overall, I have some excesses – duplicate doona covers and sheets.  And a lot of pillow cases!  Writing this list has promoted me to donate some excess bathmats, and return a sheet set to my parents.  I could have one less face washer and hand towel, but they aren’t ‘nice enough’ for the local op shop, so I’ll just ‘use them up’.

How about you? How’s your linen closest supplies?

No book review this week :(

source: http://www.bookdepository.com/book/9781400064168?redirected=true&gclid=CMPMnZul37YCFUpgpQodxg4AUQ
source: http://www.bookdepository.com/book/9781400064168?redirected=true&gclid=CMPMnZul37YCFUpgpQodxg4AUQ

Sadly, I just never got ‘into’ Broken by Laura Hillenbrand.  It’s a pretty good sign I’m not that into a book when it doesn’t migrate to my handbag to be toted around ‘just in case’ I have time to read.

Ah I didn't notice the butterfly til I uploaded this image! source: http://www.bookdepository.com/Winter-Garden-Kristin-Hannah/9780312663155
Ah I didn’t notice the butterfly til I uploaded this image!
source: http://www.bookdepository.com/Winter-Garden-Kristin-Hannah/9780312663155

So on Sunday I decided to call it a forfeit, and start on the other library book I had on hand Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah.  I’m not quite halfway through it (and I’ve been reading it, in conjunction with catching up on my daily bible reading, which can be a little heavy and slow going).  I think it speaks for itself that I’m so far along already, but I’m not at the review stage (yet).  It’s certainly a cold, heavy tale of loss at the moment, and whilst I might hazard a guess of where it’s going, I can’t be sure.  I hate to ‘ruin’ a story by guessing it for myself, I’m happier just to go along for the ride.

Hopefully, next week I’ll be back with a proper review.    Here’s what’s on my reading list, should you be interested:

Non fiction

1. The power of habit : why we do what we do, and how to change / Charles Duhigg

2. The paradox of choice : why more is less / Barry Schwartz.

3. Make the bread, buy the butter : what you should and shouldn’t cook from scratch : over 120 recipes for the best homemade foods / Jennifer Reese.

4. I quit sugar : your complete 8-week detox program and cookbook / Sarah Wilson.

5. The Happiness Project : or, why i spent a year trying to sing in the morning, clean my closets, fight right, read aristotle, and generally have more fun / Gretchen Rubin.

6. Eugenia : a true story of adversity, tragedy, crime and courage / Mark Tedeschi.

7. Young House Love / Sherry and John Petersik *not currently at my library :(*

8. Zero Waste Home / Bea Johnson *awaiting it to get to the library*

Bestsellers/blockbusters (or novels!)

1. An instance of the fingerpost / Pears, Iain.

2. Perfume : the story of a murderer / Patrick Süskind ; translated by John E. Woods.

3. A game of thrones. / George R. R. Martin

Taking recommendations for novels, as all the books on my list at the library seem to be super popular – namely the non fiction ones.

 

My household contents vs 21st century US houses

If you don’t read An Exacting Life, you’re missing out! She’s inspired so many of my posts.  Today, I was a little stuck on what to write.  Nothing I’d drafted felt right or finished, and I just lacked the drive to know what to write (so, if there’s something you’d like to know, feel free to send me an email with what you’d like to know livetolist(AT)gmail.com).  And then whoosh,  An Eaxcting Life’s post comes and I think ‘oh, I could write a whole post on that, rather than just commenting!’.  So here goes:

Inspiration behind An Exacting Life's post. Source:www.goodreads.com
Inspiration behind An Exacting Life’s post.
Source:www.goodreads.com

An Exacting Life’s post is about a book she recently read, Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century: 32 Families Open Their Doors (Jeanne E. Arnold et al., Cotsen Institute of Archaeology Press, UCLA, 2012).  She used images and the texts to compare to her life.

Firstly, I live alone, so my ‘stuff’ ratio is at least 1/3 of what a couple with one child would have.  However, I likely earn as much as these couples, based on my rudimentary knowledge of US salaries and my salary.  So I have the means to have as much as these families, if not the time in life to have bought it all (I’m 28, I’m not sure how old the respondents were).

Interestingly, if I was to participate in a program like this, I wouldn’t react with ‘Oh no, I don’t want someone poking through my house’ (probably explains why I blog!), or even ‘I need to clean first’.  Sure there’s dust on the skirting boards at the moment, but overall I’m content to show strangers a few bowls in the sink.

I also have nothing on my fridge – I think the advent of stainless steel fridges has made that more and more common.  No one has ever said anything about it being ‘empty’.  I do have a magnetic noticeboard nearby, and that’s where invites and cards go, as well as some nice subway map magnets.

Noticeboard takes clutter off the fridge
Noticeboard takes clutter off the fridge

To some extent, my house is a cultural museum, almost all my ‘art’ is from my travels (I plan to catalogue all my art in a blog post in the future).  Actually,  I buy almost all my clothing overseas too.  I plan and save for trips and have the time to shop thoughtfully.  If homewares weren’t so heavy, I might also partake in buying those too (I didn’t even know there was Zara Home til I got to Dubai.  I was in HEAVEN! )  I don’t display anything related to my religion. Religious art sort of creeps me out.  And if it creeps me, imagine all my non religious friends’ reactions!.  I don’t have any trophies at all, and I don’t display my certificates.  As to photos of family: I have none! I have a photo strip of my best friends and myself from the day of my first date – but none of the said date, now bf!  I LOVE making photo albums for my brother’s 21st and my grandmother’s Christmas present last year, but I don’t display photos.  They age quickly.  And… I don’t know. Perhaps it’s all those years at boarding school, it was too painful (at the height of homesickness) to see a reminder?

With technology, I have two phones (work and personal).  The work phone tends to live in my handbag at the front of the house.  My personal phone follows me around, and it charges at the foot of my bed.  I watch a bit of TV, particularly when I’m home alone.  But I try to pick programs rather than just watch for the sake of it.  Cause I have book reviews to get too as well!  And I actually quite like the radio on, and often feel conflicted when I have to turn it off!

I do not stockpile food – I don’t have the space! I have a 10L water canteen just in case, and lots of grains, so I can eat from my pantry should I have to.  But I buy all my meat and fruit/vege fresh as it’s just outside my door.  I can’t imagine having an additional fridge or freezer, as I grew up in a family of five without one.  I always cook in my own kitchen, and about 50% of the time I cook with the bf’s help at his place.  He can cook by himself, and I’ll leave him to it, but happy to help as requested. (So blessed to have a man that cooks… something I need to teach one of my brothers!)

I don’t have a backyard.  I have a comically small balcony. I have one fold up chair. It’s sad – the size, but I knew I wouldn’t utilise a balcony, or bother keeping it clean and nice, so it’s probably good I didn’t waste money on a place with a bigger outdoor space.  I’m lucky to have a communal rooftop, that’s super sunny with an awesome view, and soon a pool and BBQs – all of which I don’t have to maintain!

More colourful than a hotel room.
More colourful than a hotel room.

In my bedroom, I think it’s spartan, similar to a hotel. But there’s more colour than a hotel – at least in the bedding.  White bedspreads are a little scary to me.  In my house inventory, I spend roughly 4% on my bedroom in the past 16 months, but I don’t include soft furnishings in that (that’d add 10% or so in actual costs).  When I look at replacement cost of the furniture (I owned by bed when I moved in), it’s closer to 11% of the total costs on the place.  The electrical items (ie ANYTHING with a power cord: fridge, phone charger etc) and the living room are the highest ‘stuff’ costs.

My car space is almost totally for my car, and my unridden motor scooter.  I have a metal tool box, with all the scooter accoutrements, and some paperwork that I seldom need, but keep.

I think I have a minimal home, mainly because I was mindful when I ‘filled’ it when I moved in at the start of 2012.  It helps that it’s small, so I don’t have space to ‘hide’ stuff.  I also sit around thinking ‘where do I have too much stuff’ and look to thin things out regularly.  And I’m happy to defend my choices when I compare my stuff to others, such as extreme minimalists like Zero Waste Home.

How about you? (Don’t worry, if you already comment over at An Exacting Life, I’ll be reading eagerly!)

Friday finance and house project list review

Fridays I try to make ‘goal review day’, so this will be a mix match of a number of things! First, for the finances!

Work was due to back pay me since 7th Feb, and on Thursday last week I received the letter saying it’d been approved. Sadly, it wasn’t added to this week’s pay. Sadly, cause I used my rostered day off last Friday to start spending it :p Rest assured, between my ’emergency fund’ (which none of these expenses are!), my bills savings account AND my 12 in 2 savings account, I muddled things together so I could pay my credit card this week, like every week,  for the following out of the ordinary expenses:

1. $300: New Camper shoes. My old campers have holes – that let in water. New shoes were critical. I have no end of trouble with shoes and comfort. Campers have worked before, so I thought I’d go for quality and hoepfully this pair will wear in as well as the last pair. I’ve been wearing the (dead) campers since May 2011, so that’s almost two years – far longer than my usual everyday casual shoe. Though when I say ‘everyday’ I should explain I wear steel capped boots to work, so this is weekend and holiday wear (along with a few other pairs). I do, however, walk 2-3kms in these sorts of shoes, so that’s a bit of wear.

My latest campers, called Sinuosa (only CAD$190 vs AUD$310!)
My latest campers, called Sinuosa (only CAD$190 vs AUD$310!)
source: http://www.camper.com/en_AU/women/shoes/sinuosa/camper-sinuosa-21670-003
The (now dead) campers
The old (now dead) campers
Source: http://www.camper.com/en_CA/women/shoes/right/camper-right-21595-007

2. $205 Flights to Brisbane. Whilst at a wedding over the weekend, I received an invitation for an engagement picnic in my former home town of Brisbane. I don’t need much of a reason to head back to Brisbane and catch up with friends, so on Tuesday I bought my flights for the first weekend in May.

The venue for the engagement picnic, the beautiful New Farm Park Source: homecookedtheory.com
The venue for the engagement picnic, the beautiful New Farm Park
Source: homecookedtheory.com

3. $89 Knife Skills Course. This is part of my 12 in 2 goals, and I’ll be doing it on 11 May!

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Now, for the house updates on house project (see the original, somewhat dated list here – compiling three lists from my move in in Jan 2011, again in May 2011 and then in Jan 2012)

Entry:

– Empty out box – on going, always donating, but always adding things.  Currently have excess birdcage hanging chains & yellow ribbon, a shower head…

– Install small ledges for displaying things  – bought the shelves with a returns voucher last Friday – yet to be installed or definitely yay or nah’ed

Bathroom

– Regrout cornersoh yes I did – see this post

– Get bath resurfacing fixed – quick buff smoothed things out.  The colour is still off.  And I even tried a ‘cool’ white globe instead of the usual ‘warm’ I prefer.

Kitchen/Dining

– Open shelf lightingno, but I did install that great LED lighting track, which I show pictures in my Easter long weekend round up, which flow into the shelving area

– Pantry lighting?

– Wall art – have been looking actively.  The space isn’t the right proportions for my Stamp Map of the World though.

Wine racklook what I found abandoned on the roadside of Maudy Thursday!  I wanted something with a ‘counter top’ and then underneath I wanted some place to store wine.  Once I removed the second shelf, I could slot in my existing wine rack.  Great compromise for $0, cause the wine rack came form Freecycle!

Something to fill the space - a wine rack of sorts!
Something to fill the space – a wine rack of sorts!
Before a 'wine rack'
Before a ‘wine rack’
(one day I’ll tidy up so weird thing like the mop aren’t in shot)!

Living room

– Frosting on the windows – certainly not ‘cheap’ like I thought in my previous matrix of ‘easy/hard/cheap/pricey’ but so pleased it’s done.  No more flashing the footy players, and no more ‘effort’ of blind shutting.  I wrote about it here

– Replace blinds – removed from the list.  Seems of negligible value given I keep them all rolled up now that I have frosting, and curtains in the bedroom.

– Sliding Screen door – need to find a supplier as the one I tried off the shelf was the wrong height.  I loved that it was retractable though!

– Bird cage displayAt long last, I got those beauties hanging in an unsed space!  See more on my post here

Niche/Bedroom storage area

– recarpet – AGH I keep calling them and they never call me back.  If I had someone else to call, I would!

– complete ‘hide the niche’ project – delivered the shutters to a handy woodworking friend.  I’m not holding my breath that they’ll ever be made to size :s

Updated House to do list

  • Decide on entryway ledges, hang or return (completed June 2013)
  • Dining room wall art (+ above the sofa art too)
  • Pantry lighting?
  • Sliding screen door
  • Recarpet niche (completed June 13)
  • Hide niche

Of course, I’m sure little creative things will flit on and off this list with my whims.  I never mentioned in these posts of yesteryear new cushion covers, or stamp wall art or putting a decorative backing my bathroom cupboard, but I did them all!

Decorating with birdcages

When I was a teenager, I had a fascination with ornamental birdcages.  At the time, I was working in a florist, and I swooned at the lovely rustic birdcage my boss had in stock.  When Christmas came around, she wisely wrapped it up with a big bow and presented it to me.  I still have it, 13 years later (it’s to the far right in the photo below)!  Over the years, I started to seek out more birdcages.  Interestingly, they became more and more of a decor item.  Suddenly, they seemed to be everywhere!  At the height of my collection I had seven ornamental birdcages!

Birdcages in a floristry display
Birdcages in a floristry display

In 2011, I started to consider moving out of my parents home to buy my own place.  I also became a regular reader of the forums at Unclutterer.com and reading Colleen’s blog 365 Less Things  I started to question the wisdom of “collections”.  When I asked the common clutter questions, I came up short.  They weren’t functional.  And I didn’t love every bird cage.  I didn’t actively try to declutter them, but when someone asked on freecycle for ornamental birdcages, i was ready to share my ‘less favourites’.  I bundled up three birdcages that I didn’t love, and made this woman’s day.

That left me with three birdcages at my house, and one at my parents house.  My home doesn’t have a lot of flat surfaces for ‘displaying’ things, so for 16 months, I’ve moved birdcages around, trying to put them somewhere where they’ll be enjoyed, but not getting in the road with functionality of things around them (the TV, lamps, other things on shelves).  It just wasn’t working.  So I decided I’d go ‘up’!  I had a corner of my living room that was a little ‘dead’.  It had never really worked, and I decided it needed something to ‘jazz’ it up.

An empty corner, waiting to be filled
An empty corner, waiting to be filled

As you can see above, there’s definately not much happening in this neck of the woods, err living room.  After extensive consultation with Mr DIY (a close friend… who has a drill,  I don’t), we decided we’d use a wooden bar between the two walls, and then attach cuphooks to the underside.  Then with some chains leftover from the floristry display, I could hang my beloved three birdcages.

Not so empty corner - birdcage delight
Not so empty corner – birdcage delight

As you can see, it’s certainly changed up that corner! It seems less barren and empty. Interestingly, I’ve had this idea for about a year or more, but it might seem like I’ve been inspired by my all time favourite DIY bloggers at Young House Love – see this post for what I mean. This is one item I am ever so pleased to get off my ‘house to do list’!

Waste Wednesday update

Another week, another waste audit.  I have started weighing my trash (my last post was the first in what I hope will be a series).  I don’t weigh my organic waste, which I use a Bokashi bin for, nor do I weight everything I recycle.

First things first, I was just reading ‘Love Food Hate Waste‘ and was surprised that they say the packaging your single cucumber in, preserves it better.  Nonetheless, I know that Simply Being Mum and others have tried to avoid the wrapped cucumbers – seems pretty prevalent in the UK, but it’s not uncommon to find them in Australia.  All sorts of packaging is ‘good’ for the food.  And that we waste more food than we do packaging (‘we’ being the UK or England… but the point stands)

Source: http://england.lovefoodhatewaste.com/content/naked-truth-about-how-packaging-can-help-you-waste-less-food
Source: http://england.lovefoodhatewaste.com/content/naked-truth-about-how-packaging-can-help-you-waste-less-food

As I mentioned above, I won’t be weighing my ‘wet’ organic waste – it’s just a step more than I’m willing to get involved with! But it was ‘food for thought’ (oh, a dad joke, I’m sorry!)

So in this week’s total trash weighed in at 172g (last weigh in was 232g on 4 April).  I was away on the weekend for a wedding, so there’s been less cooking at home than usual.

Non plastics

  • Tissues – I might try soaking them in water, and burying them. Would be lovely to have my OWN garden to simplify this!
  • Matches – like skewers last week, what’s the eco way to trash these?
  • Food soiled paper – grease-proof paper and a cardboard crepe holder.  These might be able to be composted/buried at a stretch?
  • Ribbon off cuts – only the bits I cut to stop the ends from fraying.  I’m sure this organza ribbon is essentially a plastic, but who knows now days?
  • String – from a gift bag that was otherwise recyclable
  • Alfoil – this, I now believe, is able to be put in the recycling bin.  I usually use alfoil more than once before trashing, for a little extra eco credit

Plastics

  • Plastic cup – a restorative juice from the green grocer – no apparent recycling symbols
  • Straw – from the juice above
  • Plastic bags from food – this week there was ones from almond meal & the spice sachets (snipping the tops off to make the resealable bit work).  Plastic bag and tray from savory biscuits
  • Cling wrap – from half a pumpkin – they didn’t have whole ones on display and as it was, half was too much!
  • Sponge – my Bokashi draining overflowed, and it’s a horrible smell, so I disposed of the relatively new sponge after mopping it up.
Wednesday Waste - 17 April 2013
Wednesday Waste – 17 April 2013

What are your thoughts on food waste vs food wrapping waste? I know some of my commenters are committed to a wasteless process with fresh produce, kudos to you. I suppose I could implement my food waste audit into this post (without weighing – that just seems too hard!)?  As always, suggestions on limiting the waste listed will be gratefully appreciated.