Sunday, 30 January 2011

Menu Planner

So I have a confession...I usually always pick our meals for the week but I don't always cook them. Thankfully Michael likes to cook and is good at it so from time to time he helps out. This week he planned  our menu and right now he is preparing our burgers. Here goes....

Sunday - Rachel Ray's Welsh Rarebit Burgers & Ranch French Fries (Been craving a good burger so hope this one is good)
Monday - Pork Chops with Gouda & Bacon, Sauteed Spinach and Roasted Tomato Half with Parmesan & Breadcrumbs
Tuesday - Kickin Chicken with Crunch, Sauteed Zucchini with Corn
Wednesday - Italian Sausage Soup with Grilled  Cheese
Thursday - Chicken Rollatini
Friday - Flank Steak with Mashed Red Potatoes

Oh FFS


One of my favourite weekend pass times is a visit to the website of the Gold Coast Bulletin. It's cheap (in every sense of the word), you don't have to cram into a Jetstar plane and unlike a visit to the Gold Coast, you don't have to wash the sleaze off as you depart. Post website requires only a brief wipe with refresher towel.  

And it's the virtual Matterhorn of newspaper led real estate spruiking. It's why I was so pleased to see The Bulletin was covering Ray White Surfers Paradise's "The Event" auction weekend. To me "The Event" is an extravagant term, especially for something that's so far been as memorable as a wet fart.

The GC Bulletin pushed on regardless...
THERE has been a strong start to the residential section of Ray White Surfers Paradise's The Event auction weekend. Almost 150 people gathered in Tedder Avenue, Main Beach, this morning for the chance to pick up one of seven apartments for sale. Three sold under the hammer and agents are negotiating with potential buyers to get three more over the line.
As one dude in the comments section was only too happy to point out, it was a clearance rate of 43%. Seven properties were up for auction, it begs the question why did the Bulletin need to send a reporter AND photographer - to put together an online gallery - for this non event? I guess the local farmers' market wasn't on that morning.

A commercial auction yielded a clearance of 40% a boat auction tanked and the prestige auction managed a clearance of 36%. Now, there is an auction with over 100 properties today and I may have completely misread the market, but going on current trends it won't be a 80% clearance hit.

The most exciting part of the whole extravaganza though was the address by Ray White Surfers Paradise, dude in charge, Andrew Bell. Bell was given carte blanche in a report over 850 words and what he said boiled down to "buy now or miss out."
Mr Bell said now was the time to move before stock levels continued to dwindle.

"My advice would be that if you want to buy new apartments on the Gold Coast then you would want to make your move very soon," he said.
Amongst his crystal ball work, Bell also acknowledged the state of the Gold Coast market over the past few years...
Describing 2010 as a "baton change year", Mr Bell said the Gold Coast property market in general could only improve in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis, which had wreaked havoc on the Coast in the past three years.
Which is important, because given the Gold Coast real estate carnage, we can then ask, why should anyone be listening to this guy?

2010
Ray White Surfers Paradise CEO Andrew Bell yesterday told a packed auction crowd the Gold Coast's current construction approvals were failing to keep pace with the booming population, which would in turn drive up property prices.

"The indications are that Gold Coast real estate is rebounding strongly from the effects of the Global Financial Crisis and that 2010 will be seen as a watershed year in the history of the region's property market, marking the beginning of the next upswing," said Mr Bell. 
 2009
 Mr Bell said there were positive signs in all five key drivers of the market -- the economy, interest rates, population growth, employment and housing affordability.

"The fundamentals are there and the property market 'planets' are in alignment," he said.

Mr Bell warned rising market confidence and population were expected to clash with a housing shortfall towards the middle of the year to force prices up.
Every year it's buy now before prices go up, but more recently...
THE median price of homes and units on the Gold Coast dropped more in the September quarter than those in any of the nation's capital cities, new figures show. On the Coast, the median house price dropped 4.8 per cent to $470,000 while the median unit price dived 9.1 per cent to $350,000.

LANDLORDS across the Gold Coast are being forced to drop rents and offer quirky incentives to secure tenants for their investment properties.
And about that unit shortage, as Queensland housing finance commitments have hovered under 10000 throughout most of 2010 - a figure not so consistently low since 2000 - for the first two quarters of 2010  Gold Coast apartment sales were 230 and 232. So just doing a - I'll admit, dubious calculation - checking Domain there's currently 2961 apartments for sale, meaning on current figures there's 3.2 years of stock to clear. In the sub $600k market there's 2033 apartments for sale, so 2.2 years of stock to clear.

I'm fully convinced I have to move fast to get a Gold Coast apartment, now if only the Gold Coast Bulletin would lift its standards - I'm thinking Page 3 Girls - and I might just make the move north.

Update
At the end of 'The Event', The Bulletin reports 'Things Looking up for Coast Property' but in the article they can't hide the facts...
The Ray White Event -- the largest weekend of property sales on the Coast -- sold 52 properties out of the 128 listed for sale between Friday and yesterday.
 A clearance rate of 40.6%. Oh dear...

Friday, 28 January 2011

Trapped


Smithton is the type of place where formal attire is considered to be shirt with a prominent Ford or HSV logo, so yeah, it's kind of rural and kind of working class and if you're not from there it's likely you've referred to it more than once by the pejorative name of 'miffton.

I'm not here to empty my bladder on Smithton and the wider Circular Head Municipal region, just giving some background and stating some facts. The region has been hit hard over the past year; 200 employees were scalped when McCain's pulled the pin on a processing plant, a forestry agreement has skewered local contractors and this was topped off by the local sawmill, owned by Tasmanian arch super villain, forestry giant Gunns, apparently processing its last shipment of logs in December.

This is hugely significant within a town of around 3500 and a wider Municipality over 7500. The trashing of those jobs and the flow on effect probably still hasn't taken full effect - they're probably still in the window of living on severance payments. Oh yeah and in a farming community, farmers have been doing it tough too. Right now the area is a regular economic paradise - if an economic paradise is Haiti.

As you might imagine, in amongst the spike in Tasmanian real estate listings, Smithton and its surrounds are in scintillating form. Taken from the baseline I established October 1, when identifying empty houses and rentals for sale, by mid November, Smithton and surrounds, had found itself with a 39.3% increase in listings - today that's become a 77.5% increase in listings. A frightening three and a half months.

If you've been following me from that time, you'll recall North-West newspaper, The Advocate, must have picked up the relentless stench of this blog. Within a week, local real estate agents were showing some leg in The Advocate, suggesting it was business as usual. Leading to local agent Deanne Lamprey's slightly infamous 'more severe shortage on the way' comment, to which I've never seen a more contrary response - listings continued to soar.

ABS housing finance statistics hit the street soon after, and as I pointed out, the game was truly up. Some local local agents capitulated and few days later The Advocate gave readers a double page souvenir lift out - to commemorate the first time real estate agents had ever admitted in print their market wasn't shooting out the lights.

Now this highlights package does have a point, because in that last link we were first introduced to Smithton agent, Betty Kay, who was yammering about how to get sales cranking - people should be able to access superannuation to buy houses, which she topped off with one of those clangers that agents can't help but drop when speaking to the media:

"People wouldn't be losing like they did when the share market crash came."

It's worth considering that statement in the context of the Smithton and Circular Head region. A small area that's been sucked into the vortex of easy credit and housing mania which blew its house prices up to heights they shouldn't have seen. Right now there's no escaping the economic doldrums and people in the area may face disaster - listings have exploded, jobs have evaporated and housing is sitting near all time highs.

A house with a few hundred thousand in debt chained to your ankle, no employment to pay it off and huge competition from other vendors - sure that's a recipe for not losing like when the share market tanked. How does anyone extract themselves from this glue pot?

Consider another one of my terribly naff charts...


Firstly, this compares the median dwelling price of Smithton against the median income of the Circular Head municipality. If it were strictly CH v CH, the ratio would be higher, as several towns in CH have higher medians than Smithton, particularly Stanley, but Smithton is the main population centre.

Now imagine you got the neck in the first five years of that chart and have to leave to find employment. At just under three times income, if you take a hit selling, it could be argued you'd wear it ok. Fast forward into 2005, easy credit and a few mainland property investors push this market into bubble territory. Late last year the wheels fall off and now trying to sell after losing employment becomes more onerous - possibly like this...


It's on the market for $465,000 - it last sold for $465,000 back in November 2009 and before I go on, why sell a house so fast? This one's in that denial territory, where if you get what you paid - you tell yourself you didn't lose - ignoring all those closing costs and agent fees. It's fairytale stuff if it pulls down 465k - the Circular Head median wage is currently around $36k and over 35% of the current listings in Smithton and its nearby towns are over 7x income. There's no Houdini chance either, sooner or later the people at the top end have to start the discounting and it won't happen in a vacuum - it pushes everyone else's price down too.

Economic doldrums prove illiquid assets, with their prices pumped by debt, are a curse. Heck, take the 'economic doldrums' away and they're still a curse, having to always cross your fingers that some dipstick will be approved for more than you were, is game of chicken for your financial life.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Office Update!

Things are getting busy on the real estate front and my desk was a mess! I was starting to feel very unorganized. Check out these befores....yikes!




And here are the afters....much better!


I purchased some in/out trays for file folders & paper, and an small organizer for pens, paper clips etc.


Added some pictures that were leftover from my grandmother's move

I have always loved this frame. I used a print from the flower book I purchased last summer and removed the stand on the frame, added a hook on the back. It was super easy!

This cabinet is a weird size and  doesn't fit a normal size file box. I used  magazine holders and turned them sideways to line my files up.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Meeja


As David Bartlett facebooked himself out of the premiership yesterday, I suspect there must have been a hint of frustration in real estate circles. Their latest spruik attempt had been overshadowed by the emergence of our new Premier, La La Giggles and her deputy, Bryan 'two hung juries' Green.

It's a comforting thought the state is now being led by an arts/law graduate, with a history of being an ex Labor staffer, portfolio bungler and blame shifter - Tanya Plibersek eat your heart out. And the deputy? Well he returned two hung juries in a criminal conspiracy case; accused of giving a building accreditation company, run by a former Labor minister, a state-wide monopoly worth a million dollars a year.

What this fiasco overshadowed was the revelation the east coast of Tasmania is heading for boom times.
YOU ain't seen nothing yet - that's the message from a Tasmanian real estate expert who says the East Coast is buzzing and on the cusp of a property boom.
The Mercury, more specifically Hannah Martin was behind this. Hannah, if you're reading, your soul is decaying with every piece of rubbish like this you churn out. It's not too late, go investigate something, write a book. Go watch that new Julia Roberts movie - you might get some ideas. And no, 'Eat Pray Spruik' shouldn't be the title of any book.

If you've been paying any attention to this blog you'll realise one of my major oversights was ignoring the East Coast; nice place, good holiday spot, but it's not exactly ground zero unless you're a pot farmer, fisherman or retired. Exaggeration, sure, but I always thought it was too far to commute to the major centres - Apparently not, because according to REIT President, Adrian Kelly:
Orford in the South and St Helens in the North were now considered commuter towns for the major cities.
By whom? Orford is around an hour from Hobart (not including any rush hour) and St. Helens? Two hours fifteen minutes from Launceston under the same circumstance. Now you mainland peeps may scoff, but no one wants to drive that far to work down here and secondly we're consistently told people come to Tasmania for the lifestyle, to relax - to get away from the long commutes, they now want to come here and sit in a car for up to four hours a day? But if you're spruiking, you're spruiking.
He said mainland seachangers were driving development in the area and pushing up property values.
Get in before it's too late because like The Black Eyed Peas, Adrian Kelly and LJ Hooker Senorita Nereda Ball have a feeling.
I think Tasmania's East Coast has still got a long way to go... We expect things will really pick up by the end of 2011.
Not that they need any interpretation, but I put those phrases into Google Translate, turning them from Real Estate Speak into English and I got, "we're currently in the crapper, we don't think, we don't expect, hell we don't even know - we just hope like hell things will pick up!"

As Jim from Sandy Bay said in the comment section:
This story is like a sandwich board that some spotty teenager, standing on a kerb, waves at the passing traffic. Only it's advertising quick, greasy real estate deals than cheesy pizza.
Readers are hip to this sleazy game by now and while they might not have irrefutable proof, their suspicions are well founded. It's taken me a while to drag this one out into the light, through sheer forgetfulness and not having a story to tie it into, but thanks to some people at the simple and sustainable forum, I have some clear meshing of news and advertising from The West Australian.
Port Kennedy pair Matt Beezley and Chloe Everington claim the constant discussion about housing affordability had scared them into early action.
The story stunk of placement and as always, the immediate reaction to such a story is, "hmm, I wonder if they're on Facebook." Before I could do anything about it, S&S forum member, Charles Bukowski (I suspect not the real one) beat me to my second thought - he contacted young Matt and asked how he came to be a media star with his noggin featured in the paper.
Charles Bukowski January 7 at 5:27pm: Hi Matt, I saw you in an article and googled your name. I am interested to know how you came about being in the article, who approached you? Was in (sic) Homebuyers?
Matt Beezley January 8 at 12:43pm: Yeah home buyers spoke to me and said they needed a young couple for an article to show that young people are still buying houses.
And there it is. Now while some S&S members wondered about their ability to pay the joint off, I wondered if the Beez and his lady were even buying a house at all? I'm not reaching to say it; the article is a placement and if we take the state of the Perth market, as described five days later...
The number of properties for sale has dropped 12 per cent in the past month but Perth's property market is still starting the year with a 27 per cent oversupply and 47 per cent more listings than this time last year.
A combination of lagging sales, interest rate rises and political uncertainty resulted in Perth's market being flooded with properties last year, with a 70 per cent rise in listings from 10,372 in January to 17,326 at the end of November.
 ...Homebuyers Centre would be damn keen to show someone - anyone - was signing up for their "no savings" and "guarantor" loan schemes. They look around one of their building sites and see the Beez pushing a wheelbarrow and maybe they found their man. Just the perfect poster boy for the gun shy Perth buyer - "he's busting his arse for the dream, why aren't you?"

Or so the script read.

So back to the East Coast, how did that story get in The Mercury? Here's some 4x2's currently available in St. Helens:

On the market over 10 months. Initial listing price - $470,000. Now discounted to $398,000.

On the market 7-1/2 months. Initial listing price - $450,000. Now discounted to $399,995.

How much buzz did the REIT say was actually in this market and which way was it supposedly heading?

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Menu Planner

Sunday - Savory Chicken Taco (We didn't end up trying these a few weeks ago)
Monday - Cashew-Pesto Pasta from Everyday with Rachel Ray
Tuesday - Zatarain's Jambalaya with Smoked  Sausage and Chicken
Wednesday - Grilled  Chicken-and-Bacon Mac 'n' Cheese from Everyday with Rachel Ray
Thursday - Wine  Club

I couldn't find the recipes for the Pesto Pasta and Mac 'n' Cheese on-line but scanned them in below.


Hopefully you can click on the files and they will be large enough to read (I was able to zoom in using the view then zoom feature).

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Shoe Deals!

I bought 3 pairs of shoes yesterday  for Camille and spent right under $25. Here is what I found....

Cute shoes from the Gap for $5.03!

Two pair of Tennis Shoes from Saxon Shoes for $19.61!
This is a similar picture. The Vans I got had a pink trim instead of blue.
Morgan & Milo

Richmonders...check out Saxons...shoes are 50% off with an additional 10% off.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Southside Child Development Center Service Project

Last weekend, I coordinated a service project at the Southside Child Development Center. In conjunction with Target Stores and HandsOn Greater Richmond, we organized, sanitized and redesigned the center. We created 90 cold weather kits that included hats, gloves, hot chocolate mix, crayons and winter themed color pages. There was lots of hard work by 60 Target volunteers. The center shined when we left. Here are some before and after pics!

Before Teacher's Closet

After Teacher's Closet

Before Large Teacher's Closet

After Large Teacher's Closet
Before Large Teacher's Closet

After Large Teacher's Closet

Before Large Teacher's Closet

After Large Teacher's Closet

Laundry Organization Cart from Target.com

Breakroom Shelf Organized

Cute Bench & Shelf from Target.com

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Sale Pending!

It is a great time to buy or sell a house. This one is gone but I can help you find something great. Call me if you are interested in buying or selling a home. Rates are still low!

Swing


While I was attempting to decipher James Montier's, "In Defence of Old Ways", (not a knock on Montier, just a comment on my stupidity) it struck me - there's usually two ways brick pushers respond to figures showing Oprah's favourite country is in a real estate bubble.

Either they acknowledge them, then fiddle them, to suit their own ends - hello Commonwealth Bank. Or they dismiss them entirely, as being outdated methods of measurement, to suit their own ends - hello ANZ.

So, it's either dubious fudging, or we're in a new paradigm. And if we're in a new paradigm, are we really in a new paradigm? As Montier points out:
It is also worth noting that in order for mean-reversion-based strategies to work, it is not required that the mean be realized for long periods of time, but that markets continue to behave as they always have, swinging pendulum like between the depths of despair and irrational exuberance, or, from risk-on to risk-off.
 Kind of like this swinging pendulum in Burnie.


Sure you can't see much from the front, but when this 4x1 first listed back in September 2010 for $325,000, someone thought the pendulum had got stuck waaaaaaay out there. By November a wrecking ball was bearing down fast and those dreams of "early to mid 300's" had been paid a visit by Freddy Krueger - the price was slashed to $285,000, and if you pushed, they might even toss in that Lancer.

Eventually the joint sold for $277,000 - almost exactly three years to the day after selling for $255,000 in 2007. Yeah that's still a gain and the most ardent spruiker will tell you so, but what of that big discount - "oh they were just seeing if they could snag a sucker with that first price."

Well they could have snagged him - eleven months earlier. Same street, a few doors up, some space monkey paid $289,000 for a 2x1. See what I mean about that pendulum swinging back? Had the chimp in the NASA suit taken a de-contamination shower, chilled out and smoked a few banana skins, he would have had an extra two bedrooms to invite his monkey friends over on the weekend - and saved $12,000.

That would have bought a lot of bananas.

Eleven months was the difference between paying over the odds for one buyer and not getting the expected price for one seller. Think we've see the last of it?

Nope - because there's more lessons to be learnt on the benefits of time and how you'll never be "priced out forever." With the Burnie unit median pushing into the mid $200's over the past few years, it must have seemed like a perfect time to drop a unit onto the market and take advantage of those juicy capital gains.


This unit was all yours for $235,000 back in February last year, but what would have happened if you waited? Give or take 3-4 discounts across 2010, it was down to $179,990 by December. And if that wasn't enough, the hopefully final (for the vendor) act of discounting frustration happened this week. Another hefty slash signalling, "if you don't buy it, I may have to burn it", this unit hit $160,000.

Last sale price? $150,000 in 2004. And the bad times haven't even begun.

While some have endured a real world experience in the swinging pendulum of real estate, others are blissfully unaware of the wet beach towel about to flick them in the gonads.

This is a one in a million shot if it ever existed. A 3x1 currently asking $325,000, now if you're not yet convinced to purchase, wait until you see this one shake its money maker. Back in July 2010 this one was snapped up for $290,000. There's no mistake here, it was in the owner's possession for a whole five months before going back on the market.

If it's not obvious, this house is appreciating at $5,000 a month and it's almost unforgivable, being on the market 27 days, that the agent hasn't updated the price to $330,000. 

Some people know it, others are experiencing it, and the rest?

"Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!"

Monday, 17 January 2011

Menu Planner

Happy Monday! I will list last night's meal just as another idea....

Sunday - Chicken Fajita's (always good and simple to make)
Monday - Loaded Baked Potato Soup (saved from an earlier week and frozen) and Mozzarella & Prosciutto Panini
Tuesday - Homemade White Pizza
Wednesday - Store bought refrigerated Tortellini, Salad and French Bread
Thursday - Cinebistro! My sister gave us a gift certificate for Christmas and said she would babysit! Yea!
Friday - Flank steak, risotto, asparagus

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Busto?


You have to hand it to CommSec, while they might have deals in place to keep their logo, heads and voices, on TV and radio throughout the day, they never stop thinking of shameless ways to find free publicity and talk up the economy.

I spent a few minutes pursuing CommSec's "State of the States" report this morning, authored by, yes, Craig James. I'll save you hunting this rubbish down, thus lessening the need to pour acid into your eyeballs, but a quick summation would be this: it's one of those reports designed to make everything look amazing and works exceedingly well if you're at, or just coming off, the peaks of a boom decade.

Basically CommSec takes the decade average for economic indicators and compares them against where those indicators currently are. Whatever floats your boat, but it makes for the situation where even if your wheels are currently falling off, if you manage to have some economic indicators currently parked higher than the past decade average, then CommSec can basically say you're kicking arse.

A simple explanation would be this graph:


The laughable situation happened last year where Tasmania hit 1% population growth, as opposed the decade average of 0.6% which led CommSec to say Tasmania was leading the country in population growth and good times were ahead. This leads to predictable result of the local media getting itself in a lather about an awesome economic indicator.

Which is the real game, CommSec knows bozo reporters, or moron wire services, like AAP, who 'pride themselves on the quality of their hard news', are too lazy to cast an eye over any of this. So they end up grabbing some quotes that are related to the local market, getting CommSec's name in the news again and serving absolute garbage up to the public, like... Report rules out recession danger It's an indictment the ABC even feels the need to cover something which is no better than an advertorial, because the economic data inside is useless crap.

And to balance this, you're not going to get reliability when the The Mercury comes up with convoluted reasoning to suggest that Tasmania is at risk of becoming the bankrupt state. Normally I'd be seizing on this type of thing, but taking at look at the statistics, yes Tasmania has the highest ratio of bankruptcies in Australia, however there was a 3.5% rise in the December quarter vs. a year earlier, which was a figure still lower than the Sept quarter - 180 vs. 178.

And the measure between the 2009 and 2010 quarters?

Down 20.7% between the 2009 and 2010 September quarters. And coming off that 20.7% decline, up 3.5% between the 2009 and 2010 December quarters. Yep, on the verge of being the bankrupt state.

I know who really deserves the arse out of their pants, and it's not the average Tasmanian.

Ebates


I signed up for Ebates right before Christmas since I would be purchasing a bunch of items on-line. If you haven't heard of it, it is a great way to get cash back on your online purchases. It is pretty easy, if you can remember to go to the Ebates website and login before making an online purchase. Then search for your store and Ebates will link you to that website and you will get a percentage of your sale at that website in cash back. Easy money! They send you a check or deposit in your paypal account. Click here to sign up.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Class


In the midst of an ungodly amount of media fuelled disaster porn, it's tough to find any urge to post. Despite some of the ham-fisted, cliché-ridden, one eye on an award, reporting seen this week, I still managed to get a sense of the devastation, mainly through turning the TV's sound down. And what I took in really didn't put me in the mood to have any concern for the property market, nor its ups and downs.

Yet doing a quick whip around of property investment forums, and other classless hives of legislated looters this morning, I noticed more than a couple of people had one eye on the TV and the other on their wallet. Wondering if they will be winners or losers out of this. The possibility of jacking rents being the question ever so subtly eased out following a variant of the lead in disclaimer, "first let me send my thoughts out to those affected..." As if in-between wiping mud off their walls, people in Brisbane would be checking in and might be miffed at the discussion.

Not that you could be surprised at any cloven hoofed behaviour coming from the cabal of property investing; Australian Property Investor Magazine managed to cook up an article on the potential price direction for some Brisbane properties even before the Brisbane river had peaked. Scotty McGeever found himself as the main talent and while he didn't drop anything too rotten, you find yourself wondering why he didn't hang up on the unnamed douche who called looking to wrangle some quotes.

While I wish I could say this was limited to property, it's clearly not. Swine flu hasn't gone away and as it picks up so does the share price of local biotec company Biota. Not that there's anything surprising here, even I have benefited from riding one of the expected Biota spikes in the past. What's more than a little suspect is setting up a google alert for swine flu deaths, then manically stroking one out across multiple investment forums as the confirmed deaths continue to mount.

Of course there may be a hint of irony in all of this; I'm regularly pointing out potential property market carnage, sometimes making light of unfortunate situations, and now I'm admonishing others for behaviour that's on the nose. I can't deny that, but I'd hope this blog serves as some balance, despite the tone sometimes taken, to the rubbish most of us have long choked on from the pushovers at major media outlets.

All the best to those affected by floods, though I suspect you'll be fine, as Karl Stefanovic reminded me at least 400 times this week, "they breed 'em tough in Queensland."

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Deal found! Crocs!

Even though it is so cold we can't go outside and play for more than 5 minutes at a time and we may or may not be going stir crazy!  I am starting to think about spring. I found this post about 70% off at Crocs.com from athriftymom.com.



After browsing, I decided to get these cute Crocs for Camille. They were on sale for $12.49. I searched here for coupon codes and ended up getting them for $9.99 after using a free shipping and 20% off coupon. What a steal!

Monday, 10 January 2011

Menu Planner

Here's goes....

Monday - Dinner out for my niece's birthday
Tuesday - Whole Crockpot Chicken, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans
Wednesday - Easy Chicken and Tortellini Soup ( I got this out of a BJ's Magazine. If it is tasty, I will post the recipe).
Thursday - Stuffed Pork Chops with Stovetop (my husband likes this so I have to add it to the rotation).
Friday - Savory Chicken Tacos

Happy Monday!

Back


I looked down at the snowstorm of crumbs stuck to my tray-table, then up at the two gossiping slobs adorned in Alaska Airlines uniforms. Mid plane, they were slouched over opposite seats, ignoring the passengers who were jamming check-in sized luggage into the overhead compartments. Heck, they even ignored my handsome smiling arse as I walked by.

It was going to be a rough trip home.

About 30 hours later I rolled back into Tas, with a rotten case of tonsillitis ravaging my throat. Apportioning blame was going to be tough; the cabbage fart smelling air of the most gangsta city in Canada; the filthy state of the Alaska Airlines plane; or overloading on episodes of Two & a Half Men on the way home.

Whatever the culprit, I've been wallowing in self pity and penicillin for the past week and suspected if I didn't get back bloggerizing the real estate industry with self indulgent vitriol, I may never get back to it at all.

While away, I marvelled at the invention Josef Fritzl gave a bad name - the basement. Noting that in the northern BC city of Prince George (Launceston size), having a finished one (non dungeon style) could give you two extra bedrooms and potentially two extra bathrooms.


A little gaudy, but that's a 5x3 for $289k with the AUD and CAD close to parity. Sure, as I mentioned, the Prince George air can be a little wild, but given the winter stink that can hover over Launceston, causing the BOM to suggest asthma sufferers and the elderly should barricade themselves inside, or warn anyone out for a jog maybe they shouldn't breathe too deep - we might be looking at comparable cities here. Both with the scourge of fine particles looking to rape your lungs.

Oh yeah, there's the crime issue but given small business and retail continues to falter - 80 Tasmanian businesses hit the wall last year - unless you're part of the ever ballooning team of government advisors (the only area of growth in Tasmania), silver tonguing the bovine populous you have complete contempt for, you may end up cooking meth, running a crack shack or growing weed to get by.

Crime will be the Tasmanian growth industry of 2011 and as the wheels fall off, the Liberals will scream but offer no solutions, Labor will scream at the Liberals for screaming and the Greens will continue their silence in the assumption they're portraying a responsible part of democracy because Labor offered them a seat at the big table. Chalk a win for those government advisors - bring the only real opposition into the fold and sideline them from debate.

Despite the Canadian bubble, good luck finding anything even resembling that Starbucks coloured mansion under $350k in Tasmania. 

We have a long way to fall and all the factors leading to that fall are beginning to line up.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Would like to have....

Next time I get a little spending money, I have a small wishlist for my dining room...

1. New and fun fabric for my chair bottoms
2. More wall decor for the wall shown below


I love the Bellesol Mirror from Ballard Designs and I am considering getting four and stacking them on either side of the picture.


Source: BallardDesigns.com

Oh and a third item is a new rug...maybe if I win the $355 Million Dollars tonight. Who am I kidding? If I win...I will be getting lots of new things like a new house!

Monday, 3 January 2011

Cheesecake Bites

I was tasked with dessert for New Year's Eve. I considered making a cheesecake but all the recipes called for a springform pan which I don't have and wasn't going to purchase. Instead I made Cheesecake Bites and they were a hit! See recipe below....

BLACK AND WHITE CHEESECAKE BITES

1 pkg. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 c. butter
2 c. graham cracker crumbs
1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract

TO PREPARE CRUST:

In medium saucepan over low heat melt chocolate chips and butter. Stirring until smooth. Stir in graham cracker crumbs. Remove 1/4 cup of this mixture for later use. Press remaining mixture evenly in a 9 x 13 inch baking dish.

TO PREPARE FILLING:

In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat cream cheese until smooth. Gradually beat in condensed milk, then egg and vanilla. Pour over the prepared crust. Sprinkle with the reserved crust. Bake until set, about 25 - 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Cool in refrigerator until cold, about 2 hours or longer. Makes 24 squares.

Source: Cooks.com

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Menu Planner

Back into a routine...here is this week's menu planner.

Monday - Loaded Baked Potato Soup & Grilled Cheese
Tuesday - Nacho Bread Pizza
Wednesday - Cajun Snapper with Red Beans & Rice, Corn
Thursday - Double Delicious Chicken & Biscuits, Green Beans
Friday - Taco's with Hard Shells

Rise in signed contracts....

Good news on the home buying and selling front.

NEW YORK --

People are starting to buy homes again, lifting a battered industry that is bracing for its worst sales year in more than a decade.

Signed contracts to purchase homes rose in November, the fourth increase in five months. That should give the housing market a boost in the first few months of the new year because there's usually a one- to two-month lag between a sales contract and a completed deal.

Economists cautioned that a major reason for the jump is that people are buying foreclosed homes, which sell at steep discounts and weigh on the broader market. Another obstacle is the sudden spike in the 30-year fixed mortgage rate, which only weeks ago had fallen to a 40-year low

Still, many economists expect sales to gradually rise next year as the economy adds more jobs and home prices stabilize.

"Sales appear to be picking up and we expect better sales in the next several months," said Patrick Newport, a housing economist at IHS Global Insight. "A lot of that is because the job market is improving."

The National Association of Realtors said Thursday that its index of sales agreements for previously occupied homes increased 3.5 percent last month from a downwardly revised reading in October. Contract signings were up in the West and Northeast, but down in the South and Midwest.

Pending sales in central Virginia were up as well in November, and prices here seem to have stabilized over the last couple of months, said Laura Lafayette, chief executive officer of the Richmond Association of Realtors.

Click here to read more. Source: TimesDispatch.com

Saturday, 1 January 2011

New Year! New Look! New Web Address!

Happy New Year! It has almost been a year since I first created this blog. Click here to read the post. I decided to do a little updating and expanding. Now you will find a seperate page with current listings as well as a page with home staging tips that I will be adding in the next few weeks. For Christmas, Michael gave me http://www.alysonstoakley.com/....yes, you can call us nerds!  So now just refer to that web address when checking in. Oh and if you liking reading my blog, I hope you will become a follower. It is simple to do, scroll down on the right hand side of this page and click Follow.

I had a great New Year's Eve. My sweet mom had Camille and Clyde for a sleepover. Michael and  I went to my sister & brother-in-law's house. It was tons of fun and she pulled together a seated dinner for 14 of shrimp & grits and caesar salad. It was delicious and her house looked great. Check out the pictures below. I forgot to menition this is even more amazing because she has a 3 month old baby!

Anne Hunter & Alice

Cute Dollar Tree Glasses


Our host & hostess


Here's to a great 2011! Contact me if you need to buy or sell a house!