Monday, 27 December 2010

Sarah Whitmore Photography

My family had a photo shoot this December. Sarah Whitmore of Sarah Whitmore Photography did the pictures. They turned out great. We couldn't have been more pleased.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

A Couple Great Recipes...

Image Courtesy of

I didn't do a menu planner this much going on with Christmas on the way. But we did eat and we had this Southwestern Casserole from For the Love of Cooking. It was delicious and I recommend it.

I am hosting Christmas dinner at my house and we are having Paula Deen's Chicken Florentine Pasta Bake. Another good one and a nice switch from the traditional ham and turkey.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Monday, 20 December 2010


I've moved from one bubble to another - currently sitting at Vancouver airport, wondering how much debt each of these Vancouverites walking by me has. Probably rude to start canvassing this time of year, so I'll get to my info.

Spoke to a senior banking executive before I left and was given some interesting things to chew on throughout my flights - considering my lack of sleep I'll try and put it together in a coherent manner before I totally wig out and people mistake me for a crack-head, or being it's Vancouver - a guy who's just bought a crack-shack with mansion money.

The most interesting point, Commonwealth Bank and Westpac are looking to buy money 'hand over fist' at the moment to fund their existing loan books and both have slammed the brakes on lending - basically it's any excuse to turn down loans.

This ties in with another source who told me the banks 'have to roll over a large amount of debt next year.'

There's been a some Mexican stand-offs with large deposit customers. Some extracting their deposit rates at levels where banks aren't making anything on them, but the banks don't want the money to walk out the door.

Next was pointing out that CBA and WBC have outgrown NAB and ANZ to the point that the 'four pillars' term is no longer applicable. The new reality is 'two pillars, two stumps.'

Queensland is totally in the crapper (obviously).

He had no issue pointing out debt levels are way above where they were twenty years ago and a shift in interest rates causes bigger pain, so people in banks are well aware of this. As was mentioned, no one really wants to point out, it's the debt and not the interest rates.

Jeremy Grantham was mentioned and within banking circles is regarded as an alarmist - the official line. No surprise really, when a guy like that starts getting play the sheep herders start getting a little concerned the sheep will start making decisions of their own volition.

This will probably be my last post until the new year, unless I lose my mind and I'm back to proudly announce I'm the new owner of a crack shack. Gulp...

Merry Xmas!

Look what you can do with a grocery bag....

My local, Martin's, uses a holiday grocery bag that can be turned into wrapping paper.

The grocery bags went from this....

to this....

Friday, 17 December 2010

The Future?

A satirical look into the future for entertainment purposes only...



Monday, 5 December 2012

Committee met at 11.21 am

JAMES, Mr Craig, Former Chief Economist, CommSec 

CHAIR - I welcome the Former Chief Economist for Commsec to give evidence. I now remind witnesses that, although the committee does not require you to give evidence under oath, this hearing is a legal proceeding of parliament and warrants the same respect as proceedings of the House or Senate. The giving of false or misleading evidence is a serious matter and may be regarded as contempt of parliament. The evidence given today will be recorded by Hansard and will attract parliamentary privilege. Are there any corrections or amendments you would like to make to your submission?

Mr James - No.

CHAIR - Do you wish to make a statement in relation to the submission, or would you care to make some introductory remarks?

Mr James - A bit of both.


Mr James - Australian home prices lifted sharply in 2007 and 2008 because population growth was outpacing supply of new homes. Interest rates rose to choke off some of the demand and dwelling starts rose. Again in late 2009/early 2010, there were double-digit gains in home prices. Super-low interest rates and government grants fed the lift in prices but they began to correct in response to higher interest rates.

As you'll be aware, around this same time, a group of determined and ultimately unaccountable individuals sought to undermine the housing market. Seizing on every piece of negative information regarding the cool down, they combined this information with their own misinformation and began to flood feedback channels to the media, capturing the attention of journalists who were looking for a headline. Many of us reasoned and respected figures did our best to stem the tide, pointing out the fallacies and the positives when I talked to Kochie.

Senator - Kochie from Sunrise?

Mr James - Yeah every morning on Sunrise I'd assure the mums and bubs it was all ok. I also used the platform Peter Switzer gave all property bulls to... uh well I used my Switzer column to give reasoned arguments why there wasn't a housing bubble.

Senator - But the market popped didn't it. Doesn't that mean there was a bubble?

Mr James - No because everywhere you looked there was a negative housing story or a doom blog appearing. If there was a positive housing story, a loud minority of bubble believers would flood online comments to sway opinion their way. This process began to frighten home buyers and investors, who chose to remain out of the market. Then Jeremy Grantham arrived...

Senator - Jeremy Grantham?

Mr James - Of investment firm, GMO. He arrived on his bubble tour, conducting shows all over the country, the press pack followed him with fawning attention. It was all bigger than Oprah; he sailed with Russell Crowe, danced with Hugh Jackman and even stood in as the lead singer of INXS. He changed the lyrics of 'Devil Inside' to 'Bubble Inside'. The bubble believing public loved him, but frankly I think the government was negligent in granting Grantham access to the country.

Senator - On what basis?

Mr James - The attention he had in the media cannot be underestimated, the ability to prey on confidence in this manner was fuel on the fire to crash the Australian housing market.

Senator - I'm finding this committee a loathsome task, but that's slightly farcical. I'm sure your side of the debate had equal access to the media, I mean you mentioned you had a daily spot on TV, in fact CommSec was ubiquitous

Mr James - Yes, until the government nationalised the CBA, but no one was listening to us any more and we didn't know why. It got so extreme that Chris Joye tried to rush the stage at Grantham's Opera House event, but had a heart attack running up the steps. That was not a good moment, thousands of TV cameras fixated on his 'No Bubble, Baby!' T-shirt, as it was torn off and he was resuscitated.

Senator - You don't believe that housing in Australia was overpriced, or that Australians were carrying too much debt?

Mr James - No. Look, there was so much misinformation on home prices. Some commentators and journalists made inaccurate and damaging comments about housing ‘bubbles’ and affordability without facing any consequences. While it may make an emotive story, inaccuracies uncorrected served to undermine confidence. They only told one side of the story and they lacked objectivity in every comment they made.

Senator - What consequences do you believe those commentators and journalists should face?

Mr James - It's a little late for consequences now.

[11:49 am]

TRET, blogger, Tasmanian Real Estate Trouble 

CHAIR - I call the blogger, TRET, to give evidence. I now remind witnesses that, although the committee does not require you to give evidence under oath, this hearing is a legal proceeding of parliament and warrants the same respect as proceedings of the House or Senate. The giving of false or misleading evidence is a serious matter and may be regarded as contempt of parliament. The evidence given today will be recorded by Hansard and will attract parliamentary privilege. Are there any corrections or amendments you would like to make to your submission?

TRET - No.

CHAIR - Do you wish to make a statement in relation to the submission, or would you care to make some introductory remarks?

TRET - Yes. I've been listening with great interest to Mr James' submission and he seems to be following the chorus line of every other rent-a-quote economist - that a bunch of journalists and bloggers brought down the housing market. It would be laughable, if I weren't now sitting before a joint standing committee on Un-Australian activities. Clearly someone has taken the line and run with it. Apparently pointing out facts was damaging to the housing market, now I, and others, should now be held accountable, or in Mr James' words, 'face consequences'.

Objectivity? Anyone who came to my blog was presented with facts. I don't dispute there was a colourful turn of phrase and I attempted, probably poorly, to piece together an entertaining narrative, but at the core I presented everything I had available through my meagre resources. Imagine if you were a multi billion dollar company with access to endless researchers and corporate communications staff. Imagine you produced a report which cherry picked figures to present a warped view of the Australian property market in comparison with the rest of the world.

Senator - Who are you talking about?

TRET - The Commonwealth Bank.

Senator - When?

TRET - September 2010.

Senator - I didn't hear of this, what was the response?

TRET - It was first pointed out on an investment blog by Kris Sayce, I believe he has a submission to this committee, the response from the mainstream media was a shoulder shrug. This is why the calls from Mr James for accountability are so galling. The CBA noted that chart was compiled from two sources of data. So it's clear they were fudging figures by presenting the lower UBS Australian figures against the higher Demographia  International figures. I've presented the following slide as evidence. The actual Demographia figures for Australia are now included for comparison against the rest of the world.

As you can see, it was kind of like trying to get laid on the internet; you've got a decent looking face, but you haven't worked out in years and you're kind of bloated, in this case with mortgages. So you photoshop your head onto Hugh Jackman's torso and hope that gets you in the door, then hope when you meet the girl your winning smile and personality will help her see past that massive set of guts you're carrying and make her ignore how dangerous it could be if you have a heart attack while riding her. That's basically what CBA did, went overseas with this bull shit and tried to get themselves some love, but international investors were a little more circumspect and wouldn't spread their legs for anyone.

Senator - Can we get back to the issue?

TRET - My defence will always be, I'm reporting the facts, if they're contrary to some CBA or housing spruiker fantasy, that doesn't mean they aren't objective.

[2:49 pm]

SYMOND, Mr John, Founder Aussie Home Loans

CHAIR - I call the Mr John Symond, to give evidence. I now remind witnesses that, although the committee does not require you to give evidence under oath, this hearing is a legal proceeding of parliament and warrants the same respect as proceedings of the House or Senate. The giving of false or misleading evidence is a serious matter and may be regarded as contempt of parliament. The evidence given today will be recorded by Hansard and will attract parliamentary privilege. Are there any corrections or amendments you would like to make to your submission?

Mr Symond - No.

CHAIR - Do you wish to make a statement in relation to the submission, or would you care to make some introductory remarks?

Mr Symond - These people should be strung up. They've destroyed the country. They destroyed the confidence in the market. I mean at one stage I was on Today Tonight every night of the week, trying to restore confidence. Cause I'm a friend to the mums and dads, I was there to help. And if Wayne Swan hadn't already hung himself he should be strung up too, in fact I say dig him up and string him up again. Along with these mongrel journalists and bloggers and their questions, he's partly responsible for this mess. He should have made $100 billion a year available for lenders, not doing so was Un-Australian. Right now we should be making $500 billion available to all lenders, the housing market would be back in no time, it would probably double again on top of that. Dad could take out the equity and buy a new Maloo ute and mum could buy a 10 metre plasma for the backyard and we could really get this country going again.

Senator - The country is bankrupt, Mr Symond.

Mr Symond - Well borrow the money then.

Make your own gift tags

This was really easy and inexpensive because I already had the cardstock.

What you will need...
Black Cardstock (I used some leftover from another project)
White marker from Michaels (You could also use gold or silver)
Stickers also from Michaels

I cut a tag freehand and then used it as a guide to make all the others.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Christmas Cards in Review

I love sending and receiving photo Christmas Cards. Look how things have changed since Michael and I got married...

2005 (Not sure what we did in 2004, 2006)





Monday, 13 December 2010

Flipping Out

The more I stick my nose into the real estate industry, the more I wonder how people can operate within it completely oblivious economic indicators. And I'm not talking about real estate agents here, their job is to ignore economic indicators, or even better - don't understand them to begin with. You can't be accused of lying if you don't even know what you're talking about

I'm talking about the people who've seen real estate as a honey pot, no matter the time, stuck their nose in and now resemble Winnie the Pooh - unable to get out until they slim down their price.

Here's some good times ahead for a flipper in Launceston.

Purchased back in March (of this year) for $175,000, this 3x2 has been touched up throughout. It came back onto the market 20 days ago for $329,000. Four days ago, the flipper, showing the impatience of a horny teenager with the new copy of Playboy stashed underneath his mattress (I just missed the boat on internet p@rn), dropped the asking price to $300,000.

Some magic renovation dust still can't justify a $125k increase in this market. Forgetting the fact this house backs onto an industrial estate (sharing a back fence with an engineering firm must be crazy fun), Launceston listings have jumped 11% in six weeks. To make matters worse, there are some mid-five figure discounts beginning to appear in the better suburbs - just quietly - this ain't one of the better suburbs.

Adding insult to injury, some of those houses sitting in more desirable suburbs are now hitting the low $300's. So what are you going to buy? The character home on the edge of the industrial estate, with sweeping views of cyclone fences and colourbond sheds or a home built within the last twenty years, offering glimpses of the river?

Yeah, I'd choose the one next to the weekend pit-bull enclosure too.

While we're on dumb, let's get down to Burnie and the beginnings of more flipping hell.

Purchased back in February (this year) for $274,000, ten months later and this 3x1 is back on the market at, wait for it... $365,000. Those are delusions of grandeur because you don't even want to know what isn't selling around that same price point. Well you might want to know, but whoever is trying to flip this thing certainly hasn't even looked and for their mental health it would be best if they didn't - for the same price I could shark a 4x2 with a bigger yard, sea views and more garage space.

While they were on their quest to renovation riches, the predictable happened - listings blew up and sales went pop. Since October, Burnie listings are up 20%. Year on year, Burnie sales are off 40%. There's no way this can end well.

It's no secret - this is Christmas time. What is a secret this time of year and it usually stays hidden, are how bad peoples' finances are. The indebted grit their teeth and attempt to put on their best Christmas for their kids and to keep up appearances for their family. After all, who wants to rock up to the family Christmas as Scrooge, or even let it out that they're on the edge of the abyss? People batten down the hatches, play cool and hope the Powerball numbers will be theirs next week.

The carnage really comes in mid January, when the debt hangover strikes. The bills start rolling in and the phones of the financial counsellors don't stop ringing. Coincidently, I've heard the real estate industry predicting this will be the time buyers return. Combine record listings, with sales continually falling and now the Christmas debt hangover approaching, does anyone think buyers will outnumber the sellers any time soon?

Even Winnie the Pooh wouldn't step into that avalanche for looking for honey.

Note: The people floating into this blog come through all manner of channels; the interesting thing lately are the google search terms referring them here. 'Bubble' is becoming more prevalent, my favourite today? "past housing bubbles time to recover." Seems like someone is weighing up their options and if they should ride it out, or not. At least people are now beginning to ask questions.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Menu Planner

I think most of us feel a little overspent this time of year with Christmas presents, Christmas parties, babysitters. I found this website with some inexpensive meals to try this week.

Sunday - Easy Chicken Pot Pie
Monday - Chipolte Pork Soft Tacos Note...this uses such a small amount of Chipolte Peppers. I froze the leftovers peppers last time and will pull them out for this week's meal.
Tuesday - Homemade Chicken Pizza
Wednesday - Tortellini with Edamame & Smoked Sausage, French Bread
Thursday - Turkey Sliders or Burgers, French Fries

Saturday, 11 December 2010


A Christmas Party last night provides brevity and clarity today.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Bird Feeder

Camille and I made these bird feeders using pine cones, yarn, peanut butter and bird seed. It was fun and very easy! Now to bird watching.

Look closely to see them hanging from the trees.

Thursday, 9 December 2010


The latest ABS housing finance statistics caused some consternation amongst some of us. I say some of us because there was no confusing uptick in the grab for debt in Tasmania - ok, I concede - in the unfiddled figures one more person got themselves a loan in October than did in September.

Unfortunately for the bears, the Tasmanian figures have remained static for the past three months. Unfortunately for the bulls, that current flat spot is still reminiscent of a time when the Backstreet Boys weren't middle aged, Bill Clinton was denying 'sexual relations' with a tubby intern, and Frank Sinatra crooned his last number.

For the first time since 1998, Tasmania is facing a calendar year where every month coughed out less than 1000 housing finance commitments. To put that further in perspective, there were 17 sub 1000 months from the start of 2001 to the end of 2009 and in 2010 we already have 10 sub 1000 months.

The first home buyers have dropped by over 50% from their pumped up average of 2009. While it's to be expected, it's not without precedent. There was a similar FHB low spot earlier in the decade, the difference being? The non first home buyers were still there, as another of my terrible graphs shows.

Back in July 03 the FHB market cooled off its previous heights. Everyone who wanted to get in since July 2000 had probably done so; the figures then stayed below 200 per month for over two years till July 2005 - with an average of 137 per month. For 2010 the average number of finance commitments for FHB's is 131 per month, clearly both are within a similar range and seem to show demand pulled forward.

The difference comes in the the non FHB's. For that two year period starting in July 03, the monthly average was 981. For 2010, the monthly average for non FHB's is 744. So it's worth asking, is it really the first home buyers who have disappeared - and are they the reason sales continue to fall and listings continue to grow? Because first home buyers have slackened off in the past, just this time it seems someone else is missing from the party too...

Back when I discussed the August figures as being rotten I also mentioned Oprah was on her way and she might somehow save us. Well she's here so let's see if she's helped the two vendors mentioned in that post.

Burnie 3x2, going for $555,000, previously sold for $480,000 in August 2009.

Still for sale, same deluded price.

Then there was this 4x2 love shack from Hobart. Which I did a little more research on, previously I said it was first on the market in March at $460,000. It was actually first on the market at $495,000 in December 09. A year later, no sale an it's still sitting at the most recent discount down to $400,000. Again, it last sold for $450,000 in April 2007.

Nope, no Oprah influence here. Now it's only a hunch, but in these price ranges I'm guessing it's non FHB territory. So with the non FHB's pulling an Amelia Earhart, there's no one around to pick up the slack and listings will continue to explode, until.... the second home owner's grant becomes reality.

Sheesh, I'm thinking about that too close to bed time - I'm guaranteed nightmares now.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Christmas Decorating Part 4

Don't worry...there is only one more in this series. ;)

We spend most of our time in our kitchen and great room so I wanted to add some festiveness (is that a word?) to this room as well.


Hobart generally escapes the wrath of this blog, not for any positive reasons, but because in such a small state the presence of a lurching bureaucracy helps to insulate the Hobart economy. Sales falling by 16% doesn't look scary, when others around the state have been base jumping without a chute. When you're pissing everyone else's money up the wall it stands to reason you'll eventually become a spendthrift yourself; even luckier - you're rarely subject to market forces - while all those other poor saps around the state lose their jobs, your hardest task will be thinking up silver lining communication strategies.

As the state moves from balls up to balls up, not one advisor, or communications douche, will get their marching orders in an effort to tighten the purse strings. In times of crisis, the skills of the bull dust artist are needed more than ever - someone has to pull the wool.

It's why you'd suspect the sale of this house has come about because its owners live in the real world...

...well kinda... only a short drive from Hobart it was purchased for $365,000 in April 2008, by November 2010 they wanted $460,000 for it. Fifteen days later they realised that was dumb, or they couldn't indulge their greater fool delusions for too long. Now it's down to $400,000, hoping a director of communications might fall in love.

Now when you're a reasonable distance to Hobart - with a tree - asking $400k, maybe you can snag a sucker. Unfortunately, if you're way back out in the 'burbs - with a heap of bark - asking the same for less, you're going no where fast.

That's a spec and it's empty; another one of those empty houses eroding the shortage myth. The builder should be reassured though, because the HIA keeps telling us Tasmania is building 200 fewer houses than it needs and if you keep saying it, someone will eventually get scared and buy this house - unfortunately it might be at a mortgagee sale. Listed back in May with a price of $475,000, it's now down to $400,000 after a luckless two month spell at $440,000 in between. 

How long can someone afford to hang onto this thing? How much can they afford to lose? And given that picture is seven months old, are the weeds in control of that bark garden yet?

Being passed over for seven months, even with a nearly 20% discount, what will it take to remove the wheel clamp on this house?

The right buyer or the right price?

Monday, 6 December 2010

Menu Planner

Some new recipes this week...

Monday - Southwestern Goulash
Tuesday - Frozen Spring Rolls, Asian Turkey Lettuce Wraps, Spiced Edamame
Wednesday - Chicken Rollatini over Pasta
Thursday - Easy Night...Barber Chicken Cordon Bleu, Risotto & Green Beans

Friday, 3 December 2010

Christmas Decorating Part 3

The Dining Room....

I had this wreath as a hand-me-down from my grandmother. I removed the old bow and found this ribbon for around $3.50 at Joann's. Don't forget your coupon.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Christmas Decorating Part 2

The Living Room....

We have an artificial skinny tree from Martha Stewart and Kmart. Our space is not huge so this works nicely and no watering and needles everywhere. We got the tree last year and it appears that Martha isn't working with Kmart anymore.

Don't look too close...the tree is leaning a bit.

Do you see the sword in this picture? We picked up this sword at the Dollar Tree today and I have never seen such excitement in Clyde. He was squealing with delight! Uh-oh! Let's hope the tree makes it until Christmas.

For Christmas Cards