Sunday, July 27, 2014

200 calorie challenge update

After a review of the mid year on the annual goals, I decided to make a start on trying to bring up the success rate on the fitness goals.  A small step forward with a 200 calorie burn session for 30 days.  I am pleased to report that I have now done seven days straight. 

But it has not been easy, and that has nothing to do with the exercise part!  200 calories on the spin bike took 20 minutes the first time, and it is now down to 15 minutes.  How hard is it to find 15 minutes in a day?  Well some days it is hard.  Try telling a nine year old that you need 15 minutes.  The benefit of setting a goal is that you have to commit to finding ways to achieve it.  As a parent I want to set the example that health and fitness is important.  So we managed to do our daily reading whilst Mummy was clocking up the km's.

With a family schedule that has two full time jobs, two part time jobs, one uni course, three kids, two houses and varying child are arrangements we absolutely run with an internet calendar.  Although in saying that, I had the calendar for running one parent, one job and one child!  It is the cornerstone of managing my time, reminders to do things and a method to allocate time for working on various goals.  For the balance of the year I have an hour in the diary to complete my 200 calorie challenge. As I look at my diary each day for what is on I can see the appointment there, it is an anchor to the goal.  That doesn't mean it doesn't move around in the day, but it does make me think about it when I have to schedule over it.  For example Saturday night we had AFL tickets, so in the afternoon the family headed out to walk the dog for 30 minutes.  Now without the challenge the family would not have made the time to squish in the dog walk before the football.

Of course my scheduling does drive my Arian partner absolutely nuts, as does my goals and planning approach.  We are like oil and water in our styles, so the challenge is how to find the happy medium.  How does a carefree and restraint phobic Arian cope with the Capricornian need to plan everything?  Not well, ignoring was working a treat until I added yet another entry to the calendar! Of course I could simply create another calendar and hide it all, but that is not how I want my relationship to be.

Just as I need to schedule everything, I also need to have patience and understanding that my approach doesn't work for everyone. It is entirely possible that others are successful following their own approach, and that approach may not include writing anything down on paper, or placing it on the calendar!  How you progress on the journey is not the important part, just that you keep moving forward is.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Mid Year Review
This year is just like any is fling by!  Almost at the end of July and 5 months to Christmas.  All the best intentions of the New Year's resolutions may be a distant memory!  The mid year mark is a great opportunity to pause and to take a look at where you have been, where you are and what to do before the Christmas shopping appears on your list of things to do.

So how is my year progressing against the 2014 goals? 
Business & Career Goals: - the main area of concern here was the significant amount of stress that my job was providing.  Despite my joy for the company, team and role it took 60+ hours per week just to survive.  Along came a redundancy and the business and career goals needed a quick revision for 2014.  Utilising the existing network, trawling through recruiters, writing applications and going through interviews.  I was fortunate to move quickly into the world of contracting with great hours and pay.  Now still looking at enhancing the challenge component, but picking up another client to consult too and finally selecting a university course to use of the training allowance has certainly assisted in filling up my day.
Personal Wealth & Finance Goals: - I am continuing to navigate the third phase of finance, but it often feels boring.  The superannuation spreadsheet shows I am ahead of schedule, the mortgage is also in the same boat, and I continue to build my share portfolio and undertake house projects with the surplus funds.  No change required here, all on track for the year.
Family Goals: - I am really pleased with the transition to the new school for the youngster.  Grades are up and the report card is good.  A few areas for us to continue to work on, but excellent progress.  We blitzed through the Naplan testing without any issues, struggled with the violin lessons, volunteered for speech and drama lessons, and chess lessons have started.  Full plate of academia and representing on the athletics team.  We have also finally learned that bike riding concept, and our kid sessions are slightly ahead of schedule on the progress front.  Our family meals are working out well and we are on budget for our $100 per week budget that kicked off several years ago.  Weekend trips away are on track and our December family holiday to NZ is starting to enter the planning phase.  Things are also well on track with the partner and we continue to navigate the future path ahead.  Bonding with the new children, well that is still a work in progress.
Health & Fitness Goals: - As with most past years, this area struggles the most.  Certainly the reduction is stress and the revision to the working hours has left me with an improvement in the health condition.  Despite having more good days than bad, I appear not to have taken advantage of this and my active sessions are still way behind for the year.
New change of plans, instead of trying to mentally prepare myself for a 30 minute session, instead I am working on a continuous month of burning 200 calories in a session.  At the moment that is a leisurely 20 minutes on the spin bike.  Day 4 down, and I did not feel like getting on the bike tonight.  But somehow 200 calories doesn't seem like much effort.  Of course in 30 days I hope to up the calorie count, or revert back to my normal 30 minute session.
I have passed my annual inspections with the specialists, so all good on that count thankfully.  I must be up to around year four now, so hopefully only one more year and then I can breathe a sigh of relief.  I continue to work with a Japanese acupuncturist to assist with managing my AS.  I sometimes wonder if I am really getting benefit from the process, but overall I certainly do take less medication, so I figure that is a good thing.  My monthly massage goal?  Well that bombed.  I did have one, and then worked out she wasn't going to work.  My backup plan was flatly rejected by the partner, and I haven't really gone off to try another new one.  My comfort levels around some random person touching me haven't been overcome....maybe I should make that a goal for next year.  Something like a random hug me sign that I wear around :-).
Lifestyle & Personal Enjoyment Goals: - I maintain a wish list, well really it is an spreadsheet, but you get the idea.  Each year I take five items and they make it into the purchasing program, guilt free.  As I age though I tend to want or need, less and less.  So each year it gets harder to fill this goal.  I did buy a flash road bike, has been on the road only a handful of times as I need to find room in my life to do it.  I have replaced the last two rooms of the house with new carpet, and the last piece of retaining and fencing is underway down the back of the property.  I did also hire a handyman to help around the property, even though he doesn't come often!
My social interactions are being ticked off, the annual visioning collage is laminated on the bathroom wall and I have watched a stack of new DVD series.  We have season tickets to the AFL and tickets for several international rugby games.  The cultural goals needs one more and I did manage to score tickets to the Lion King for later in the year.  I also managed to see Michael Buble in concert which was great, but the second concert for the year may not happen.  It has been a quiet year for visiting artists of interest.
Contributing to Others Goals: - My daily gratitude journal is way behind, although it hasn't dampened my feelings of thankfulness and appreciation for my wonderful life.  Also having a random instance of kindness goal I am often reminded how lucky and fortunate I am.  My constant quest for minimisation continues and the "Get Rid of 100 Things" project is bang on target.  Environmental goals include installation of a second water tank, once un-wedged from the side of the house (see earlier blog post for hilarity), a worm farm, chickens and fruit trees.  I do need to work on planting some more veggies, but our seeded avocado trees are ready for transplanting down in the yard. 
Personal Growth and Development Goals: - My reading program is way behind.  Perhaps this is a technological issue?  I do regularly read finance articles, blogs and websites of interest, but the actual hard copy book....blah need to do something with this one.  I am working on increasing my general knowledge, and I also maintain some limited practice with writing with my natural left hand, it is meant to open up both sides of your brain or encourage creativity or something!
Adventure and Holiday Goals: - 73 items are ticked off my bucket list of 100 things to do.  Of course with progression comes revision and there are now 125 things to do!  The cycling program will wait for the warmer weather, and hopefully the routine of the spin bike my hold me in some stead when it comes to my cycling partner.  It is hard to see her from the 2 km gap that I am lurking behind in!!  I am also waiting for the warmer weather to assist in catching the elusive barramundi.
All in all, not too bad for the mid year progress review.

Monday, July 14, 2014

National Emergency

The one perfect thing about contracting is the working hours, and absolutely no requirement for working at home after hours.  As we were driving home yesterday the car has a warning light of some description come on.  We have plenty of time to swing by the local mechanic.  It was lovely to see that he remembered my name, and he did an inspection and some work on the spot, and free of charge.  Unfortunately he thinks there is an issue, and they don't have time this week to investigate it further.  The bad thing about contracting is that you are super aware of the cost of your time when you charge by the hour!  

We made it home without further drama, and took advantage of the pre cooked spaghetti bolagnese from the freezer, with thanks from my lovely partner.  Taking advantage of the home delivery feature from the supermarket, we appear to be all out of cookies and have to survive another day!  Major disaster according to the child.  Quick scan of the cookbook and pantry and we can rustle up some rock cakes. This will also use up those cornflakes that have lost their appeal on the young taste buds.  Hang on, we are all out pf choc chips.  

The recipe actually called for raisins, so over dinner we were discussing the diets of children today, and the opportunities for improvements.  At nearly nine the smarty pants attitude often makes an appearance.  The box of Easter egg chocolates is still in the fridge, but the youngster has been caught eating bits and putting them back into the box, oh yes clearly that did not come from me, and the thought of just maybe eating a rock cake that has germed up chocolate is so not appetising.  The smarty pants indicated that she did like fruit, raspberries were a favourite.  Sitting there and having a momentary sigh about the concept of dried raspberries for cooking, I suddenly remembered that the back of the fridge has a block of chocolate with dried raspberries in it.  It's longevity in the fridge may just beat the Easter chocolates, but at leasto have not been eating from the block!

The house was soon filled with the smell of cookies, and the youngster was hovering with expectations.  After a quick trial the disaster of missing manufactured cookies for lunches tomorrow has been averted.

With plenty of time to finish chores and practice killing the cat on the violin, we were finished the evening routine by 7:30 pm.  No excuse not to spend some time exercising, so I jumped on the spin bike for a couple hundred calories, enjoying the fire that was going beside me.  At least I managed to burn off that chocolate bar that I ate out of boredom at work!  Thank goodness university starts next week, productivity will be going through the roof then!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Fear of Commitment

Catchy heading but this post is so not what you were thinking!  About 15 years ago and with severe decision fatigue, I looked at hundreds of 1/4 postage stamp sized shades of colours in an effort to select a colour for my house.

I remember the horror of walking out and seeing the two Greek painters rolling on the colour.  I shrieked 'OMG that better be the undercoat!' To which they replied 'It's Bewdiful'....not even in a cuppla days was that going to be beautiful!  

As the landscaping surrounded the house, the uniqueness of the colour has grown on me, or maybe I have grown to live with it.  With many of the projects completed, it seemed like a good time to re-paint the exterior.  It will bring the house up to a more modern colour scheme and be a solid foundation for when the time comes to sell.

After the shock of the first colour, it has taken some time to select a new colour.  Exhibit A;

After going through what looked great on the colour chart and being disappointed with the colour on the wall, we opted for a new strategy.  Random colours from what was left on the chart!  I also had the epiphany that the garage door is cream, so the exterior has to use the colour of the door as a contrasting colour.  It looks like the new colour is going to be iced tea.  I know that you are having a challenge in thinking what iced tea would look like painted on the wall.  Hang five on the desire to through your tea bag at the wall to get a simulation going as I will post some progress pictures....soonish!

I had intended in April to make a start after finishing work.  I was chatting to a friend and she laughed.  Supposedly she is pretty sure that she can finish a Masters quicker than I can paint my house.  I can't remember what we wagered, but I had better crack on with it.  Four months to select the colour, I am hoping that was the hardest piece!  In her defence, she was pretty sure that I would be kept busy with contracting and consulting offers, and she has been right about that.  With this contract nearing an end in 25 more days, I was already planning the progression.  Turns out that the company is intending on an extension, so unless there is a gap in the contracts, I may not be making tremendous progress just yet!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Random Tree

We have been working on cleaning up a few of the gardens over the past few weekends.  As I was weeding the old veggie garden I bumped into this plant.

As I was deciding what to do with it, I had a closer look at the top of it.  Hmmm, I think this may actually be a paw paw tree that has sprouted up.

I am not sure I like paw paw, but we will soon see.  Well not in the next few days, but certainly in time, unless it is not a paw paw tree!

Australia Zoo

With school holidays underway we took a quick trip up the coast with the family, stopping in for a visit to Australia Zoo.  It had been a few years since we had been there, actually Maddison was in a stroller, so around six years I guess.

For a zoo, I was super impressed by the cleanliness and the lush tropical gardens, it really was a lovely day out for the family.  We also got some super animal shots on the camera, and all the crew took turns with populating the album of happy snaps.  The iPad has been great with editing, and any action shots of creatures not quite in the centre of the frame have been edited to show almost photographic perfection!

We ended the visit at the African display, and for me it was the most impressive display of the day.  There was something magical about rounding the corner and having a goup of giraffe's munching away in front of you.  It was also fantastic to have an Army tent set up with hot coffee being sold.  Everyone's legs were getting weary from all the trekking so it was awesome to have the tourist train arrive and ferry us back to the exit gate.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Rear Fencing Project

With the addition of a new four legged family member, the schedule of projects required some re-prioritisation.  With the pool finalisation project, I did replace some 30 metres of boundary fencing with retaining walls and a new fence.  The end result was fabulous, but the construction costs mean that the remaining 50 metres was on hold for another year (or so)!

The next leg of the journey involves some fairly steep terrain, and loads of neglect.  The existing slope is too dangerous to be standing on with a brush cutter, and I don't fancy wading through it without it trimmed down.  Take a peek at the delightful area;

We are using the same company that constructed the last wall, as their pricing was the most competitive last time.  The quote this time was cheaper than a few years ago, so happy with that.  Also given our last interaction, we have a great relationship, so there is flexibility and trust on both sides of the transaction.

In order to assist in the process, I took the weekend to remove all of the pailings and two thirds of the rails.  I had to create two neat little piles at either end of the fence.  Remember that 50 metres in length?  I must have clocked up a few km's last weekend.  I also hired a chainsaw and took down as many of the trees that I felt comfortable in lopping myself.  Apologies to the lemon tree, I honestly planned for the tree to fall a different way!  I have cut the trees into bite size pieces and placed them into a pile for future relocation and drying for next winter.  This activity will save a few hundred dollars in wood costs alone for next year.

The remaining trees will be cut by the fencing company.  They were so surprised by my weekend activities that the three men stood around in awe.  Yes fellas, the family had their skates on over the weekend.  One of the guys asked what the heck I did for a living, and the owner replied with "Not sure really but I think she is a Doctor".  Our assistance has allowed for the additional trees to be cut down, and cut into pieces, along with a dead tree from the front of the property.  All outside of the original quote, but happily done by the crew.  The remnants of the existing materials will be placed behind the new retaining wall and under the fill.  This will save us the costs of taking the wood to the local tip.

The team had made good progress yesterday and the entire back yard was full of fallen trees.  Maddy and I did have a small moment of sadness when the family of kangaroos came up to eat and play in the yard.  Once the project is finished, they will not have a way into the backyard, and we will not have the pleasure of their company.

Retirement Planning

Retirement, it is an thought provoking concept.  I think a fair few of us contemplate working along until the government tells us we can access our superannuation, and then we hang up the suit and paddle off into the sunset.  But as our generation ages, the rules of life are starting to shift.  Perhaps it is the impact of living longer lives, or more ambitiously thinking it is that society has started to warm to the concept of financial independence, in whatever angle that means for each individual.  Generally, it is a life of less stuff, of more experiences, and one where having everything and working 70 hours per week to get it is not considered to be the best use of our finite existence.

My 65 year plan always included retiring by the water.  In the earlier stages, thinking surrounded a canal property down the Gold Coast.  As I travelled more and found alternatives to bull sharks swimming around with a increasingly seedy night life, I have fell in love with Caloundra and the Sunshine Coast as a location.  The past few years I have been fixed on a lovely apartment where I can hear and see the ocean.  Something like this was incorporated into the plan;

Of course with all good life plans, one needs to have some flexibility.  Turns out the partner's life plan always includes a family dog, which may not suit my images above!  So after some research my mental images have to take a slight revision, but we have easily come to a joint picture of what the retirement phase will look like, and the location.  So I have printed a couple of memory joggers and placed them on the fridges in each house as a reminder of what will come.

Like many others, I want to transition to those retirement years.  So we plan to purchase in the locality ahead of time.  The compromise is that I won't be able to have this option at first.  We have children that need to go through school, and that will take awhile, or more specifically another ten years.  But in ten years we are both in our 50's, so a house up the coast in the next five or six  will allow for us to start spending our weekends away.  The kids are older and are having lives of their own, and we will survive left at home for a couple of nights, or they can even join us up the coast, the life style is great with the beach just around the corner.

With the bigger piece of the puzzle sorted, we now just have to navigate the path through to the five or six year point!