1. Tall glass jars are the best thing to melt butter in the microwave with. No nasty splatter, and no nasty plastic! Also, it diswashered clean so well!
2. I can write a report. OK not that I doubted my ability to write, but I tend to loath writing for work, as it usually serves ME no purpose (Gen Y, will you put your hand up!) Alas, today I was lucky to have the opportunity to write a report which is basically going to put forward what I want/need to get the results in the section I’m overseeing. I am proud of punch of my graphs, data and thoughts, so here’s hoping it goes down well!
3. Planned graffiti art can be pretty awesome. I bet Dar likes this photo:
4. The bible isn’t all ‘fight, kill, die’. So I’ve even enjoyed my last few days of reading on the train. The last two days I’ve read lots of Psalms, Proverbs and Daniel – it’s been pretty relatable in a way Ezekial makes me want to poke my eyes out (he’s now finished too though). I’ve got behind in May, but I got through 4 weeks worth of Psalms and Proverbs in short time, so that’s promising. Proverbs has been like reading a ‘quotes’ book – some great things to live life by I think!
5. I didn’t learn this, but I taught someone. A customer complaining about a street light outage got a call back from me. He asked ‘why are some yellow and some white in light colour?’ The answer is, some are mecury lights (being phased out) and some are sodium lights. Also, there’s a preference in suburban streets for the ‘warm’ yellow light, but main roads tend to preference white, as it’s better light quality and less fatigue inducing. Anyhow, we have a smattering of both types more or less everywhere, as there isn’t the capital to bulk change the fittings to all one lamp type – they only get adjusted as they die a horrible death (the fitting, not just the globe). So there you have it – not all gospel truth, but as best as I recall it!`
That is all for now – what have you learnt this week?
There’s no great overarching theme of this blog – or this post.
This weekend, we went to an engagement party at the surf club at Maroubra Beach. It was (likely) a ‘friends’ celebration of their January nuptials, and we thought it was a good cost saving measure. A nice relaxed afternoon do with drinks and Mexican food (and delicious cupcakes). And the upside of some gifts 😉 Speaking of gifts, I was stumped. First I thought a tray, but the BF found out they already had three. Then I thought a cake slice… but they are all silver plated now, and while the costs vary, it hardly seems ‘worth it’. Maybe I should look harder for old fashioned silver ones? In the end, we I bought something that I thought would last, and stands to my values:
I’d have wrapped it in cello if I’d had some ‘leftover’ from something else, but I didn’t. So I took it naked…
We also bickered about cooking. Since ending the 12 week body transformation program (I lost 8kg overall), we’ve lapsed into lazy DINKs. It doesn’t help that my new role, which started a month ago and runs until the end of financial year (perhaps, likely longer) and some big pitches for the BF, and there was a lot of pizza and McDonald’s. It’s weird that McDonald’s is SO successful and so polarising. Anyhow, on Sunday morning I escorted school children for the Salvation Army Red Shield Appeal. As a reward, the certificates come with a card for a free Big Mac or Wrap. Alas, we’ve agreed to one cheat meal a week, so they’ll have to wait. Although… seems home cooked baking is still slipping through. Last week it was pear and pecan muffins, this week I made date loaf, and a caramel cheesecake for the bf. He did get a Cheesecake Shop one for his actual birthday (time crunch again), but I promised a ‘real’ one. I do much prefer the aftertaste of a homemade one… and there’s no pesky coconut in the base.
My new role is part of the interim structure until this last layer of management is finalised. I’m in a role that doesn’t really exist yet, but will, in a slightly unknown but different form. In any case, it’s an opportunity to learn more about another part of the company, and make some in roads in ways I’m becoming known for. Basically, my first ‘new job’ in the last calendar year saw me reduce outstanding works from ~700 “urgents” to ~150. Now my new portfolio has suffered a simple spike, thanks to a better website, but needs to move from 800 to a more reasonable number. Naturally, that’s not my only focus, I’m also getting involved in investigations, which often lead to disciplinary interviews. Taxing, to say the least. The role also requires more hours, and has less earnt days off. I suppose it’s all a concession for more money in the bank (which I didn’t need, nor really want… time is far more precious).
My half marathon preparation isn’t incredible – but I’m still trying to get in 2-3 runs a week. This weekend, I ran around the beautiful botanic gardens and the harbour with a school friend. The powers of social media – we both went to school in another city, and she lives in a third city now! She’s a gun runner too – so she pushed me hard. Glad it was only a short run though!!
So there you have it – just a chatty update about life… Seeing I’m diligently reading and commenting on your blogs, I thought I should come out of the silence…
How do you handle meals and planning when things get busy? Any wisdom?
It won’t come as a shock to those who know me, or regular readers, that I love France.
I don’t love the kitsch French decor items – the Eiffel towers (she says, with two photographs of them displayed in her home) the shabby chic, the ‘sayings’ in French on stretched canvases. But I do love the French language, way of thinking, lifestyle, and just generally being IN France.
To be poetic, I feel my soul is refilled in France. Much the way a hug can restore your heart after a tough and emotional time. I feel I absorb so much from BEING in France. Not from seeing anything in particular, or traipsing through museums or art galleries. Just from being. Walking the streets. Speaking the language. Embracing the food (and my curves :o)
But why? Firstly, my parents have always been enchanted with France. When I was 9, my parents both cashed in their long service leave, and we moved to the South of France for 15 weeks. Yep, three children (one just shy of two years of age) packed up their 4 bedroom Queenslander for rent, and moved to a tiny stone place in tiny village in the south of France (Treilles). Did I love it then? Nope! The first night – a long jetlagged sleepless night with Fete de la Musique blarring in the windows of our one star hotel in Paris was not the start of a dream, but a nightmare!! And my parents insisted on sending me and my brother to school every day whilst they went to the beach with the youngest. The indignity! I didn’t even use the bathroom at school (and I’ve since found out my brother also held out all day), they were that gross!
So, if not for the love of French salle de bains et toliettes, then what was it that captured me? I didn’t even love French classes at school in Australia (and much less the strict French teacher). I didn’t study it in the serious senior years of high school. Though I always kept the thought of French as part of my university studies. In actual fact, both my parents learnt French in the years of free tertiary education when I was a baby. Still, it’s not clear why I would hate my French classes at school and still aim to study it at university, right?
Perhaps it was (at least) the 3 visits prior to my adolescence. (In actual fact, I’ve lost track of my ‘visits’ to France, I must dredge up my childhood passports to check!). My parents, bless their hearts, forfeited other luxuries for the eye opening joys of travel. And there’s no going back from what the wunderlust it’s struck in their three children.
I think at the heart of it, I wanted to be part of a secret club. That club is those that are bilingual. In Brisbane, where I grew up, that’s not particularly common. In Sydney, it’s laughably common! But in my childhood and adolescence, I dreamt of the ability to speak another language. To learn a ‘code’ that others didn’t know. To infiltrate another culture and not be known as a foreigner.
And that might be why I love France. I finally have got the stage where I feel like I’m a foreigner who’s in on the private joke. I (mostly) understand what’s going on, what’s being said. Having spent a year studying in France, I feel I understand the French psyche. I feel I empathise with their desire for a short working week, good food and a socialist health and education system. The biggest marker of my fluency was when I could bicker or ‘fight’ with public servants! There’s nothing more French (imo!)
Aside from the language comprehension, I do love all the cliches. I like the ‘proper’ winter that we don’t have in Australia – the need for woolen coats, scarves and gloves. I love the chic style that is so effortless (and I like to believe I’ve got it too ;)). I love the perfection in pasteries – the glossy mirror finish, the delectable flavours. There’s not just ‘it looks nice’ – it’ll taste nice too, certainly better than some things I ‘enjoy; in Australia! I love the intensity of flavour – of coffees, hot chocolates, everything really! I love the history, the huge windows, the ornate stone work. I love that they scrapped a stack of streets to create orderly boulevards. I love that they have a public transport system that started as Australia got a constitution (1901). I love the rigours of their education system, that’s tentacles reach as far as former colonies as unique as Vanuatu! At the heart of it, I could say I love the unequivocal confidence of the French.
I’ve never thought to hate France. I have struggled with the language, certainly as an eight year old in a foreign schooling system. We were actually ‘asked to leave’ the village school as teaching us was too hard in the mixed age group class. Thankfully the neighbouring village teacher was far warmer to us, and to this day, she’s a friend of the family’s.
I’m not sure if I’ve adequately even began to describe the pull that France has on me. It is somewhere that has me entirely in love, and at ease. Even a week doing nothing in France is still better than most things I can think of! One day, I dream of living there. When, I’m not entirely sure, but my life is long.
Does one destination or location enchant you entirely?
Well, in five days, we saw as much as we could – and we paid the price :p Quite literally – travelling in Australia is most certainly not cheap. However, Cairns clearly lives on the tourist dollar as it’s main export crop, sugar, has seen prices dip of late.
Our Vietnam holiday was incredibly leisurely, involving lots of lying around and ‘now what?’. We didn’t go on one tour, and apart from the relaxing parts, we walked around places and ate. This is largely how my family travels, absorbing the country and the culture, rather than learning through day long tours and trips to even known monument and museum.
With Cairns, I decided we’d try the alternate side of the travel spectrum – try to do everything that appealed! Being near the Great Barrier Reef, a cruise with snorkeling was a given. Then there are amazing rainforests in all directions, so decided I wanted to walk amongst the rainforest canopy – until I saw I could zip line through it! I also thought it would be nice to swim in the pristine waterways, which converted into tubing down the river (instead of the more expensive white water rafting) and a tour that included swimming holes. The result of this list was many number of calls to tour companies, and our wallets a WHOLE heap lighter!
Our first full day in Cairns I marked as ‘planning’ day – where we booked in all our tours, starting from ‘hardest to get into’ (the reef boats) to the easier ones, or at least so we thought. As a result, we ended up with a half day tubing on day 2, a day in on a bus tour to the south on Day 3, a reef tour on Day 4, and THEN… a frantic scramble ‘up north’ in a hire car to Cape Tribulation to stay overnight, before leaving in the afternoon of Day 5.
Sadly, some activities, I managed to get no photos of. Our tubing adventure saw us hike up river, and then proceed down three sets of rapids. If only I had my waterproof phone still in action – or even a waterproof camera. I heard they were (only?) $150! Likewise, the best parts of the Great Barrier Reef trip were again underwater.
Here’s some observations of Cairns
tattoos are incredibly popular – and there’s always a parlor open no matter the public holiday!
children are incredibly well catered for. There are great parks for playing in, and almost every ‘tour’ offered a kids price, and were equipped to handle children
not all rainforests is the same – between what we saw north and south of Cairns there was incredible difference.
the best advertising is word of mouth (every tour we went on, we were told this at the end!!)
housing is incredibly affordable, whilst consumer goods such and things like clothes remain at the national prices
there is no lack of places to drink in Cairns, and it appears there never was! There are SO many old hotels. I suppose sugar cane also makes rum…
Sadly we didn’t see any butterflies like this, but we were able to see a cassowary in the wild. I did attempt to take photos, perhaps they are on the BF’s phone? We only slowed to see it because the car in front of us had stopped.
I’ve not seen a parking meter like this in Sydney, ever! So perhaps they are a Queensland thing only? In any case, I thought they were quaint.
How generous, there was a bottle of vinegar at every beach we passed. There’s a season when you can’t swim without a stinger suit. Thankfully, we avoided that, but I did see the (sexy) Lycra one pieces around! They do nothing for you – I’d even go as far as say a wetsuit makes you look good in comparision!
For Breaking Bad fans ‘Who washes a hire car’? Well, Skyler, we did, cause we didn’t want to be charged more for the mud splashes!! We found this when we were finished.
This was one of those things I was really hoping to do, it was great to see beyond the ‘ground’ level and walk among the trees, and then up and over them!
Today was my first day back at work. My first day at work without a car to my sole use, to shuttle me in 20 minutes for the calm streets of the inner city, to a small satellite city 20mins drive away.
I awoke at the same time as usual (5.45am) and figured I’d get to work when I did – rather than adjusting my wake up time any earlier to accommodate the new misfortune of no (wholly and solely free) car. I left home at 6.15am, rather than 6.40am, but I was OK. I didn’t feel rushed or put out.
I arrived at the train platform close to work at 6.57am. There goes my previous start time of 7am, as it’s a 10-15 minute up hill walk. Seeing the bright side, I walked to the cafe (where I’m well known for stopping in the driving days), and took the hill with pride. Look at me – all this incidental fitness, before mere mortals (like the BF) have even stirred from their sleep.
Arriving at work, I had blisters on my heels. Thinking nothing of it, I swore to change to my ‘comfy’ boots under my desk. Then I embarked on trying to enter the fortress known as my work. Despite having the security clearance, there was no way to access the property on the three closest sides (one being a train line, the other two, both locked with keys safely stored in my desk, since relinquishing my car). Still – more exercise, and arrived at my desk before the logical new start time of 7.30am.
Alas, the homeward bound journey was almost as fruitful (escape as difficult as entry again!) I left work at about 4.15pm, a touch more than was required of me (and duly noted, as I have to accrue one day off a month in the new role, by documenting what I did beyond standard hours). I walked to the train station, caught a train, arrived at my home platform at 5.03pm and was home by 5.20pm.
All in all, I worked (and travelled to/from) for 11 hours. I used to manage 9.5 hours. Losing another 1.5 hours makes me think about a lot of things:
+ I’m getting about 45-50 minutes more incidental exercise
+ I’m using public transport which I support from an environmental standpoint
+ I’m saving money – buying a car would be far more than my $1200 annual train ticket. Even adding a daily coffee, I think I’m till ahead.
+ I get to see more of the ‘magic’ hours of the day – sunrise and sunset
– I have less time for running and fitness like before
– I’m getting hot and sweaty in my work uniform – more washing than before 🙁 (But I was thinking of Dar in the snow and freezing conditions)
– I get blisters
– I have less hours to myself each day, which might result in less sleep
My promotion is temporary until the new structure is formalised, and there’s strong encouragement for me to apply for the management team. With that, there’s every chance of a novated lease arrangement with a car, as part and parcel of the role. So there’s no point rushing to buy a car until at least June 30 2014.
The negatives can be optimised.
I can travel in ‘free’ clothes rather than my uniform. I could even travel in work out clothes and runners, which don’t cause blisters, and tack a park session onto my homebound journey. Have I mentioned my ‘home’ station is spitting distance from the BF’s work? Probably not – this would mean we could meet and walk home together after my work out. All I need to facilitate is getting washed and ironed clothes to work, and change there each morning. I could even make a ‘clothing run’ once a week or fortnight by car, which is still better than a daily or more regular journey.
Well from what could have been a whinging post, I think I’ve found some valid solutions from normal days…
Sorry, I seem to have lost my momentum of regular posts. I think it packed up and left with motivation a few weeks ago. Hopefully both with return with renewed vigour, but until then, I’ll stick to publishing a weekend’s to do list:
Vacuum both bedrooms
Fold and put away light load
Stain treat linen shirt (again)
Wash dark load
Buy two ferns for the living room (:D)
Get cuttings of herbs from friends <- our napping got in the way
Visit open house for awesome 3 bed warehouse conversion (and dream of my future). Yeah we like to look at places of our dreams. It sold before we got there 🙁
Go rock climbing
Do an interval run, aiming for a 4 mins on, 2 mins off for a distance of at least 5kms 5km attempting 4.30/1.30 splits (but not succeeding!)
Write the little bro an email (he’s in South America) He’s already written back too 🙂
Take back plastic packaging & bags to Coles pre run too!
Buy some paints for my growing collection of tubes for a Advent calendar (talk about prepared, right?)
(Maybe) buy some quilting and coloured thread to make this
Read a few more chapters of my book on Gen. Honoré’s experience in New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina (ideally finish it to return it to my mentor on Monday)
One thing I’ve been meaning to try is stand up paddle boarding. After a few false starts due to bad weather, I finally dragged the BF to the latest ‘it’ activity! Even I’m surprised that this didn’t end up on my (recently updated) Summer Bucket List.
I have NOT been meaning to show myself in a swimsuit… But this is me 6-7kg lighter than at Christmas, so that’s something to celebrate. Alas I never got jet skiing/swimsuit photos to share with the world wide web. Also, I think it’s important to focus on healthy activities, rather than just eating out (which I used to do a lot of). We’ve also been indoor rock climbing this summer too!
Seeing I’m as white as driven snow, I opted for less sunscreen and more clothing… At least, until it got too hot, and I went for a swim.
I didn’t actually fall in – I was blown away that I took to it so easily. Naturally, the BF did fall in, so then he pulled my ankle cord that was floating in the water, and tugged it sufficiently hard to throw me off *hands on hips*
I was wondering if my stand up and kneeling balance was a fluke, so I tried something a little more complex 😉
And now I’m just getting silly!
It was $20 per person for an hour. The second hour was $10. It was cash only, and we didn’t have enough, so had to drive off and return. It’s not the easiest location to get too – a little bit of a bush or water side walk. There is two places you can stand up paddle board in Rose Bay (eastern suburbs of Sydney), and we went to the place I knew from kayaking there in the past (you know… back when stand up paddle boarding wasn’t a ‘thing’). The other location is closer to Rose Bay shops, and very accessible, but I have no idea of their prices.
Would you try stand up paddle boarding? It’s pretty relaxing on the spectrum of activities, and affordable too!
My apologies, devoted and committed readers (hahaha), it’s been more than a week since my last confession post. But to break the silence, I have some VERY exciting news (which I alluded to in comment on declutter)!
All the wonderful photographs are directly from Louise Hawson, and brilliantly talented photographer from Sydney who took her daughter Coco around the world last year, visiting two cities that I will. I was a diligently follower of her weekly posts, and have enjoyed her books thoroughly (52 Suburbs and 52 Suburbs Around the World). Seeing you probably don’t know her, please take the time to enjoy her site: 52 Suburb Around the World
An opportunity came up through the State Emergency Service (SES) which I volunteer for to join another area’s group heading to Japan for two weeks in July. The other unit has a sister city in Japan. Plus, there are some pretty interesting and unique challenges that Japan faces regarding emergency management. The tour will only touch on ’emergency’ stuff on three occasions, and the rest of the time, we will enjoy being tourists complete with a tour guide.
I know I’ve said previously and repeatedly, that I’m not a fan of tours. However, in livetolist format, here’s why I am joining a tour
My high school Japanese is limited to ‘hi, my name is Sarah, I eat cake’
I don’t have a burning list of things I *must* see and do in Japan
However, I’m generally intrigued by Japan and it’s unique culture
I have a passion for disaster recovery, and hope to move my career in that direction
Opportunities like this don’t come up every day (and when you’re without children/ill parents/huge debt)
So here’s a brief summary of locations and activities planned
5 nights in Osaka and/or host city
Kyoto Gion Festival
4 nights in Kyoto
Bullet train to Hiroshima
See a Sumo match
Stay in a Ryokan (the traditional Japanese matted room with a futon)
Meet a Geisha and chat after watching her dance
Visit tsunami region
Bullet train to Tokyo
3 nights in Tokyo
Visit Disaster Prevention Park
There’s naturally more than this, but these stand out as the ‘cool’ notable items!
I’m so pleased I continue to regularly save money, so that I can say ‘yes’ to things like this without great concern.
Do you want to visit Japan? Even if you don’t really want to, what’s one things you’d like to see or do whilst you’re there?
I read a very interesting post this morning by Emily at Emerging Personal Finance called ‘I’m not going to rob you‘ (you can read my comment too). It spoke to me as last night, I reflected on my voluntary commitments whilst at the State Emergency Service (SES – like FEMA). On Sunday night I’d felt overwhelmed with what I wanted to achieve after work this week. That overwhelmed feeling is something I’ve written about here, where I listed all my commitments outside of work.
I have always been reluctant to part with my money, linking to a tight budget when I was student. Now days, my budget isn’t at all tight, and long term readers will remember that in early 2013 I did set myself the target of spending $100 per week in ‘generosity’ – donating to church, gifts, and general fundraising etc. I stopped tracking it, but in 2014, set up automated withdrawals to a savings account, so that I create lump sum to draw from at any time. I use this money to ‘give’ to fundraisers, and my idea is that it will grow and one day sponsor a hospital wing (ok, maybe something a little smaller. The thought is regular contributions + compound interest = BIG lump sum).
This post is more or less for me to work through my current motivations and actions.
I prefer to give time over money, but realise that money is valuable too, so I’m ‘stockpiling’ it to use as needed. I give my time as much as I can. At the moment, it’s a regular 2+ hours at SES, a variable commitment at church across the rosters and Parish council meeting once a month and the co-op, which I have ignored for the past few months, but now have a project that suits my interest, so need to plough in the hours to get it done. I feel a little overwhelmed at finding the hours for the co-op, as I also have personal things like the podiatrist, a hair cut and a dental specialist’s appointment all this week. But it’s ok, I can do it.
I CAN get enough sleep;
I CAN cook healthy meals and maintain my calorie limit;
I CAN work out six times a week and continue to lose weight (weighed in at 72KG! This was a milestone goal, so I’m rapt, as I also ran 14 mins, which is ‘around the park’ which was also a goal, see more on my weight loss plans here) and
I CAN contribute to my community above and beyond my work.
I’ve just got to remember it’s all possible. One day at a time. One step at a time. These things are important to me. TV is not. Relatively, reading and writing on blogs is not. Priorities!
Is it all possible? Does something have to give? Do you prefer to give money or time, or both?
When I first started this management gig, I was drowning, and if it wasn’t for the comments in this post I’m not sure I would have come to enjoy it! Then I came back a week later all jazzed up about acting as a manger. Well, today is the last day in the corner office, with windows on two sides, a door to close and a team to ‘survey’ from my perch. I’m a pleb’ from next week!
Overall, it’s been a great experience if not frustrating!
I feel great when I achieve results – sign off work my staff have completed, go in to bat for them with other managers. When I resolve the tangle of timing between minimising a bill for a customer against the company’s costs to work overtime, and the safety issues of that overtime being in the dark whilst working on overhead assets. In the end, in can feel like win/win/win!
I set a target of getting 75 jobs that were more than 3 months since they were completed, financially ‘closed out’ – complete with close out paperwork. Of the 75, we had a total of 47 close outs submitted, and another handful had the status changed from ‘completed’ to ‘incomplete, in effect bringing the target down from 75. Whilst we didn’t get it all done, we still shouted the team 17 pizzas. It really helped develop some peer pressure (in a good way!) to achieve results, and rewarded the hard work. In the current climate, the carrot was the talk of the town!
It is annoying in some regards to pass the baton on. I know that the next guy will have to pick up things from halfway, just as I did, and neither of us are enjoying the disjointedness. Say nothing of all the outside world who has to keep up with the constant shifts in management!
What have I learnt?
A lot of ‘my’ staff try to seem busy, but struggle to complete time sensitive tasks, and then ask for overtime (answer: no)
Whilst a lot of staff’s actions might make them appear ‘dumb’, one on one, every single one of them has the skills. I know why they were recruited
Make decisions! (so many people ask so many opinions, which just ends up delaying and confusing things). Know why you made the decision, and be willing to defend it to a point, and concede when better logic/ideas come around.
Write things down. I’m pretty good at forgetting. Most days I had a sheet of paper, with phone call notes and a ‘list’ of some sort, either from the day before, or the email inbox I’m trying to resolve. I date it, and when it’s no longer serving me well enough, it gets added to the stack. Meetings’ handouts were also dated and put in the pile. It ended up working well.
File emails in the inbox that don’t require my action. Create files that make sense (some ended up with 4-8 emails, others many more… not all were worth it, but hey?)
Sort email files by sender or subject (as needed) or date. Really, before being a manager, I wasn’t getting enough emails for this advice to be relevant or obvious. I had enough files, and they works, and everything was default sorted by date.
Use the office – shut the door for privacy. Those who really need you will interrupt (ie above you) or urgent enough to bother you. Get your head down and power through whatever. Or make those 10 phone calls and not annoy those who sit nearby. Ignore what you think they might think!
Offer to help, to do something that will make the roadblock easier/gone. Amazing the goodwill it can build (and the skepticism and confusion!)
Verbalise each team members goals, but don’t expect them to align with their own motivations. There’s no harm in sharing the targets, but don’t get worked up when they aren’t met. Just keep following up (pester power will work eventually)
And when there’s nothing else: there’s chocolate. With a special thanks to one (female) staff member who whipped it out for me at just the right time.