Wednesday, 28 August 2013

The Switch

If you're one of the four hardy souls who visit this abandoned dump on a regular basis, I can only assume you're suffering from Alzheimer's. Only someone without a memory could keep returning to read the same post day after day without update. If that's you, you've already read this yesterday.

Now I can't even remember why I started this obnoxious site. I recall getting a little annoyed with BS real estate media reports. Something that may have been noticeable at one time or another. Initially, I had nothing more than mild contempt for the media. It has grown.

It was fun for a while. People talked on forums. Came to visit. Occasionally left a comment. Even babes writing for respectable publications referenced me in their work. The impact had some Tasmanian media peeps actually being more measured in their spruiking. And fewer real estate goons were prepared to take ice-cold stats and pimp them in the media as scorching hot. Someone was watching.

But why did it all dry up? The crash I predicted never came and I gave up? Journalists and real estate agents were hunting me and I had to seek asylum in a foreign embassy? Tasmania's mould ridden housing stock finally destroyed my respiratory system? I bought a house? As I was accused of doing.

Less exciting. It was dead set boredom. How many times can you say the same thing over and over again? I never predicted any crash (well I don't think I did). I said things would get bad. I highlighted the risks and the lies that tried to minimise them. I highlighted those already trashed and the potential to get trashed. There's been no respite in Tasmania's housing market. Sales creeping back to already depressed 2010 levels may tighten the front side of some vendors' pants, but there's still a big hole in the back side of those pants. 

Take the house featured in my clumsy first post. I couldn't script a more perfect way to tie the current identity of this site up. Three years to the day and the joint is finally under offer. Over 1000 days on and off the market. Placed with various agents who stumbled in their attempts to move it. It sold for $450k in 2008...

Yep. Five years and a $121k face value loss later.

While the size of the loss is slightly uncommon, the listed/pulled/relisted game continues in earnest. Houses disappear for six months, only to relist with another agent, before being pulled again. Sure, there are horndogs out there who'll snap a house up they'll like, but there's not enough horndogs to make a healthy market. The agent who first listed this place is now offering great deals on a new Holden Cruze.

There's all manner of theories as to why this happened. All dumb as rocks. The most conveinent, lazy and stupid? The Greens made you overpay for your house, buy that new SUV and got you laid off from your job at a multi-national mining equipment manufacturer. If you believe it was someone else's fault, like the commercial told you, "you deserve it!"

And this brings me to the end. Sometime next month this site will have a new name and a new paint job (and it won't be green). I'll be talking about saving money, saving your mind and how to keep your arse out of trouble, no matter what.

Why? Us cheapskate money saving degenerates who ruin economies because we don't spend need somewhere to go and feel loved.

Seeya next month.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Our week away....

We have just spent 10 days away from home! It was the best but I am tired today. Back to reality tomorrow...our final week of summer before school starts. I have mixed emotions because we have a big milestone coming up...Camille starts kindergarten. I can't believe it and I am a little anxious about the transition. And I am not sure I am ready for summer to end. We have had such a great one...Camille and Clyde have been so much fun this summer and we done so many wonderful things. Here are some highlights from our week away.

Two Fridays ago, we dropped Camille and Clyde with Michael's parents (Neena and Moe) and then went with friends to Wintergreen for two nights. It was unseasonably cool which was great and we had probably a little too much fun as evidenced by the picture below.

Meanwhile, Neena and Moe took Camille and Clyde to a sleepover at the Aquarium which they loved! How is that for fun grandparents!

Sunday, Michael and I drove from Wintergreen to Sandbridge and we stayed for the week. The first two days we had rainy weather so we saw an IMAX movie and visited the Norfolk Zoo.

We rode bikes daily, took boat rides to dinner, played in the pool and actually only went to the beach once. Neena and Moe live on the bay at Sandbridge and have a pool right by the water so we really don't need the beach. It is a gorgeous setting.

Follow me on instagram at alysonstoakley to see more pictures from our trip! I will be back in the swing of things with a menu planner next week.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

My favorite kitchen gadgets

I cook a lot! I feels like I am always in the kitchen preparing something for someone. Here is a round up of my favorite, can't live without, kitchen gadgets!

My mother in law gave me this for Christmas and I love it. I use it to puree veggies for my muffins, make smoothies and sauces.  Cuisinart Mini Prep Chopper

I use this pan probably every single day! Calphalon Nonstick 12 Inch Omelette Pan

My friend Erica gave me the Williams Sonoma Spoonula as a wedding shower gift. It is the best and I use it to brown ground turkey and saute veggies in my nonstick skillet. I have a pink one! 
As a wedding gift, a good friend of my moms gave me some of her favorite kitchen gadgets. This was one of them and I use it often for juicing lemons. OXO Good Grips Wooden Reamer

This was another one of her favorite gadgets and I use it for lemon zest or grating ginger. Microplane 40020 Classic Zester/Grater

So many recipes I come across call for minced garlic. I use this all the time! Garlic Press

We use this to make pizza with homemade dough. Pizza Stone

And if you have a pizza stone, you must have a Pizza Peel

What are your favorite, can't live without, kitchen gadgets? 

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Camille is 6!

Last year, I started created picture pages for each one of Camille & Clyde's birthday! Here is Camille's for this year.

See other posts here, here and here

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Hidden Goodness Muffins

My kids are picky eaters! Camille is better than Clyde who will not touch a fruit or vegetable. But he does like muffins...cold out of the freezer. Whatever floats your boat, right?

Over the years, I have made quite a few muffin recipes sneaking in veggies here and there. There were carrot cake and zucchini bread and banana muffin recipes. I decided to combine and make a recipe with all three! Here goes with what I call Hidden Goodness Muffins.

Hidden Goodness Muffins
1/2 Cup Carrot Puree (2 medium carrots)
1/2 Cup Zucchini Puree (1 medium zucchini)
1 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
3/4 Cup All Purpose Flour
1 Tsp Baking Soda
1 Tsp Salt
1/2 Cup (1 Stick) Unsalted Butter, Room Tempature
1/3 Cup Granulated Sugar
1/3 Cup Light Brown Sugar
2 Large Eggs
2 Ripe Bananas
1 Tsp Vanilla

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line muffin pan with paper liners. Steam carrots for 8-10 minutes or until soft.  Reserve water from steamed carrots. Puree carrots in a food    processor adding 2-3 Tbsp of reserved carrot liquid. Cut ends off of the zucchini, chop into large chunks and puree adding 1 tbsp of water to the puree to make smoother. In a    medium size bowl, combine flours, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, combine butter and sugars. Add eggs to butter mixture one at a time mixing well after each addition. In a third bowl, mash bananas and then add both purees and vanilla. Alternately add flour and banana puree mixture to the butter mixture beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Divide  batter among muffin pan and bake for 20 minutes. Allow to cool for 5 minutes in muffin pan. Yield 16 muffins. 

Click here for a printer friendly version. 

I freeze them immediately and then pull out and microwave for about 25 seconds. Camille doesn't like sandwiches but loves these muffins so I thought they would be a good option for her lunch box. 

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Back to School: Camille's Edition

Camille and I have been out shopping on numerous occasions for Back to School clothes. Last Friday, my mom took my sisters, nieces and Camille and me out shopping and generously bought her a few items. My mother-in-law got Camille the adorable raincoat for her birthday!  Here is a round up of some of my favorite items we picked up. 

Click here for Back to School: Clyde's Edition. 

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Weekend Recap & Menu Planner

 We had a big back to school shopping excursion and lunch on Friday with my mom, sisters and nieces! It was a fun girl's day! 


 After shopping, we surprised Camille & Clyde with the Disney Junior Live Princess and Pirates show. They loved it! 

Here goes with this week's menu planner....

Sunday - Sea Bass in Shredded Potato Skin served with Squash, Zucchini, Red Onion Saute

Monday - Best Stir Fry Chicken, Fried Rice with Kale & Scallions

Tuesday - Ground Chicken Enchiladas (similar to this)

Wednesday - Stuffed Pork Chops with Stove Top

Thursday - Take out or dinner out!

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Shame Part Deux

This weekend had been about rebranding this almost derelict blog. It was to rebirth as one of those delightful cheapskate efforts. You know the ones - where I'd offer handy hints, like dropping a brick in your crapper to save money on every flush. The real estate element wasn't being abandoned, just complemented, with neat ideas like how to get the most out of your underwear elastic.

It won't be this weekend. The unsettled masses and Google detectives have seen to that.

Our story begins as most of these narratives do, talent was needed to fill one of those tired and lazy morning after stories - home owner welcomes interest rate cut. Insipid space filler, but much loved by the real estate cabal. What better marketing tool than an earnest home owner letting slip how hefty their mortgage is and how they're better to be contributing to it, than renting or actually putting the numbers into a Casio. Normalise the behaviour and you'll get people thinking, "well if that bozo can do it..."

Fleta Page of The Canberra Times was aching for a post RBA decision hookup with someone desperate for an interest rate cut and the Canberra Times played eHarmony with a retweet.   

The call was answered. The next day the front page of The Canberra Times featured the cutesy face of new home ownership benefiting from the RBA's handiwork, Jacqui Day.

The story followed a strangely familiar theme, renting blows and there's never been a better time to buy...

"I lived out of home for my final year of uni and I just remember paying rent each month - I just hated transferring the money - I just felt like it was paying off someone else's mortgage instead of contributing to what could be my own home," she said. "I remember my mum telling me when she bought our family home nearly 25 years ago, interest rates were at 17, 18 per cent, so … it's just a great time to buy.''

Strangely familiar because as anyone knows there's often an unusual smell when it comes to media appearances for real estate stories. Only a certain type of person could tell the public it was a great time to buy when the circumstances surrounding their own purchase weren't that great. Parents required to front cash and still shouldering a 300k plus mortgage, which to pay, will require her to fill her spare rooms with potential serial killers, or worse, political staffers.

Little wonder that face belongs to the Marketing Coordinator for Colliers International in Canberra. Was any of this revealed in the story? No. That is until someone who could copy and paste the name "Jacqui Day" into Google went and did just that and started getting huffy in the comment section. Online the story was quickly amended to reflect the truth, but anyone reading the hard copy was none the wiser. And while I don't have the Times' front page for posterity, I do have ProQuest Newsstand, which journalists looking to retain some shred of credibility, can't have edited.

Now online you'll read, "Ms Day, who works as a marketing coordinator at Colliers, fixed part of her mortgage at just under 5 per cent, but won't be spending the savings the Commonwealth Bank will pass on for her variable portion."

When Fleta Page's original story read as follows...

Here's where I'd say something like, it's little wonder readers disappear and refuse to pay for content. When you insult readers' intelligence with ethically questionable omissions you drop a steaming pile on your own credibility and that of your newspaper. But does this pair get it? Nope. Fleta Page and Jacqui Day, in an act of defiant cluelessness, bemoaned the response as they took to twitter.

Charming. Expect honesty, integrity and transparency from your media? Well screw you, troll. Pray you never hear this pair sing. Tone deafness, baby. Put out the call for talent to colour a story relating to a particular industry and you're contacted by a marketing professional from that industry willing to brush their teeth and smile for the camera - decision? You'd think it would be obvious what not to do.

Then we have the marketing gal. Fantastic PR credentials, quality education. Yet can't understand why the public takes a dim view. Expect BP to be on the phone the next time a rig blows. 

Finally, the background to the Canberra market in this great time to buy.

Listings in the Canberra market looking elevated.

And rental vacancies continuing to grow.

Then there's the prospect of Big Ears being elected and unleashing a plague of locusts upon the Canberra public service. Never been a better time to lay down 600 large on a house and brag about it in the newspaper?

Maybe not.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

An Elephant Pool Party

My sweet Camille turned 6 on Wednesday. I haven't mentioned it too much on my blog but those who know Camille also know Mimi. Mimi is a 10 inch tall stuffed elephant who Camille has mothered since she was a year old. Mimi has more clothes than I do and has been given more attention that any parent has ever given their child. And Mimi has created an elephant obsession. And as much as Camille loves Mimi, she also loves to swim which leads us to the theme of this year's birthday elephant pool party!

As usual, I got fairly wrapped up in the details. Here goes with tons of pictures and notes on the party.

Let's start with the invitation. I contacted Elizabeth with Sunshine Ink Studio to design the invitation. She also helped me with Clyde's birthday invitation and did a fabulous job on both.

Pool parties are nice because you don't have to come up with games and other activities. The kids were mainly in the pool or on the playground.

For drinks, I found Koolaid Bursts in blue to look like "pool water". I created labels using the elephant from the invitation in Publisher and attached them with contact paper. I didn't want the ink to bleed on the label so I covered completely with contact paper and then froze water balloons to serve as ice. They also sell waterproof labels here that you can buy by the sheet but I discovered late and didn't want to pay extra for rush shipping. My method worked fine!

We also had water that I served in these cups found on Oriental Trading. The straws are from TJMaxx.

We served trail mix in french fry cups also found at Oriental Trading.

We also served Laffy Taffy to look like kickboards, gummy Lifesavers, colored Twizzlers to look like pool noodles and also candy peanuts and Nutter Butter cookies to continue with our elephant theme.

 I had the vision to make a elephant out of pool noodles. I needed my engineer and AWESOME husband to help my vision come to life. Isn't it so cute!? I was mainly moral support on this project.

I decided to make paper fans for every place. I just used Publisher again to create. I printed on cardstock and then attached to colored cardstock and added craft sticks.

 The cake came from Pearl's Cupcake Shoppe. I sent them a picture of the invitation and they did an fabulous job of recreating for the cake! And as always the cake was SOOO delicious. We had two guest who needed gluten free and they were happy to provide two cupcakes for us in coordinating colors.

The goodie bags were found on major clearance from Michaels. Some of them didn't have the appliques so I found some felt ones also on clearance and added them to the plain bags.

 My favorite find from the entire party were these fans. Camille spotted them by the register at the Dollar Tree and they couldn't be left in the store. What a perfect way to cool yourself down on a hot day by the pool!

Other contents in the goodie bags were bubbles, sunglasses and lifesavers.

Since we had a few boys at the party, we decided pink and purple floral bags were not the right option for them. So I picked up these orange bags from the trusty Dollar Tree. (side note...Michael says we may have spent $20,000 last year the Dollar Tree and just because it is only a dollar doesn't mean we need it. Ha!I beg to differ). We added a water gun to their bags.

And a good time was had by all! Camille said she had SOOO much fun so this may have been our best birthday party yet!

Oh and last but not least Elizabeth from Sunshine Ink Studio also created this cute thank you card for us to match the invitation. I had them printed at Office Max.

Source List:
Invitation & Thank You Card: Sunshine Ink Studio
Invitation & Thank You Card Printing: Office Max
Pink Drink Tub & Lime Green Bowls & Tall Plastic Cups: Christmas Tree Shop
Elephant Cups, Polka Dot Napkins, Polka Dot Cups, Striped Cups, Sunglasses: Oriental Trading
Candy: Walmart & Dollar Tree
Pool Noodles: Dollar Tree & Christmas Tree Shop
Green Polka Dot Table Clothes: Dollar Tree
Solid Green & Pink Polka Dot Table Clothes: CVS
Cardstock, Craft Sticks,Goodie Bags,Bubbles,Elephant Headbands, Baskets for Candy: Michaels
Cake: Pearl's Cupcake Shoppe
Elephant Fans: Dollar Tree
Balloons: Martins