On being made redundant

Wow – how quickly things can change.

I’m left feeling a little bit silly at the moment because not 24 hours after I had been publicly singing the praises of my employer in my last post, I received a call from my manager to inform me that my position has been made redundant and they were letting me go…

Heavy.

I kind of expected to get this call at some stage while I was on leave – they laid off nearly all members of my team the week before I went on leave – so really, it came at no great surprise.  In my mind I had even been entertaining the idea of being served a redundancy package with a bit of enthusiasm, but when it actually happened I have to admit feeling a bit funny about it all and spent a few days in the dumps as a result.

With that said, having had a bit of time to get used to the idea and apply some logic to the situation I’m happy with how things have turned out.   I really wasn’t looking forward to returning there after my 12 months at home – I’d been quite unhappy in my job for a while now and felt as though I was wasting my life just trudging along for the sake of it.  I wasn’t in a good place.

To my (ex) employer’s credit, they agreed to pay me the remaining unused balance of the parental leave in addition to my accrued long service leave as part of the base severance package.   All-in-all, I’ll end up with substantially more than if I had have simply taken the leave and resigned of my own accord at the end of the 12 months.

So where to from here?   I’m not exactly sure.  In the short term, nothing really changes – I’m still needed here in the home to help look after our new daughter.   If I take a longer term view, then you could say that I’ve been given a fresh start.  A chance to explore other options, whether that be in the same field or something different entirely.  It’s all up to me.

Exciting times ahead!

Tracking the cost of living

Part of the deal in taking a year off work to take care of our newborn daughter, is accepting a reduced level of income.   I’m fortunate in that my employer will pay me parental leave, as I’m the nominated primary carer, and combined with long service leave, a bit of annual leave and some government benefits, I’m actually able to receive some sort of regular income (albeit reduced) for nearly the entire 12 months.

I’m very thankful to be in such a position, but I’m not taking it for granted.  Actually, I feel a heightened responsibility towards reducing costs, waste and becoming more efficient.

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I thought we was doing pretty well for ourselves, but then a reader – Toby – put me onto a guy called Mr Money Mustache a few months ago.  His claim is that if you live a middle class existence your current lifestyle is “an exploding volcano of wastefulness”, and by changing your attitudes to a few things you can easily save 50%, or more of your income.    I’ve really enjoyed his no-nonsense perspective on finances and he’s inspired me to save even more.

Rhonda over at the Down to Earth blog recently wrote a series on reducing debt and gaining control of your finances.  I’ve followed through on her suggestion to track all spending via the “Track My Spend” app provided by the Australian Government.  I’ve always been pretty good at preparing a budget, but the next step of tracking actual expenses and performing a “true up” against the plan has never really happened.   It will be a month tomorrow since I started plugging in all our spending, so I’m looking forward to going over the numbers – I think the data will yield a few surprises.

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Lake Walks

If someone told me they had a day in Canberra and asked me what I’d suggest for an activity, I’d highly recommend strapping on some walking shoes and heading out on the 4.7km (3 mile) bridge-to-bridge circuit of Lake Burley Griffin.
IMG_1040IMG_0583Mel and I would walk the circuit regularly, typically once a week on a Sunday, sometimes stopping for a coffee/tea along the way, but since the bub has arrived, putting some time aside to indulge in a few enjoyable pastimes has been just a bit difficult to achieve.

Since it was such a great day outside, and one of my sisters had popped over to visit, it was just the excuse we needed to all jump in the car and go for a walk.

IMG_0651IMG_0644Aside from the national institutions dotted around the foreshore, including the National Library, High Court, National Gallery and various memorials, the lake also offers the chance to spot a range of wildlife that also think it’s a nice place to call home, like this Australian Black Swan that put on a good show for the camera.

IMG_0790IMG_1009IMG_0906IMG_0732Being such a focal point in Canberra for both tourists and locals alike, you never know what you’ll come across down by the lake.  This time we were witness to a flyover by a few RAAF F/A-18 Hornets, marking the 60th anniversary to the end of fighting in the Korean War.

IMG_0976We had such a good time chatting and enjoying the sunshine.  It was just a fantastic day and I really am looking forward to the next time.  We may not have a surf beach in this inland city, but there’s plenty here for those who want to get out and experience it.

Please feel free to share one of your favorite activities offered by the town or city where you live, I’d love to hear about it!

Lemon Gelato

I know it’s completely the wrong weather for it, but I think we’re so desperate for a little taste of summer that I couldn’t hold myself back from making up some lemon gelato from the abundant supply of lemons and eggs from the backyard. I’ve never made up a custard based ice-cream before, but it actually turned out to be very simple.IMG_8957IMG_8944IMG_9273 (2)

Check out one of our six beautiful chooks – they’ve all recently gone through a moulting session and have now grown back a stunning plumage. We suffered an egg drought for a little while as a result, and I was almost forced to buy eggs for the first time in years, but thankfully they’re all back to business now.
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A custard was made by gently heating egg yolks, sugar, low fat milk, and a bit of lemon rind. Once thick enough, it was strained through a fine mesh sieve, the juice of 5 lemon added, and finally into the ice-cream maker for churning.IMG_9455-2Despite it being on the brink of snow outside, we enjoyed it immensely, It really has a lovely taste about it – a bit like a frozen lemon tart. It also helped us to recall fond memories of our daily gelato ritual during our European honeymoon.

Are you getting desperate for some warmer weather too?

Green manure!

Yep seriously, that’s what its called!  It’s the name given to a crop which you grow, and then deliberately turn into the soil before you harvest anything, to add nutrients back into the earth.   Some crops, especially types like alfalfa, clover, peas, beans, and lentils are particularly clever at pulling nitrogen out of the air and depositing it into the soil, and its one of the best ways to take advantage of the cooler dormant growing season to get things prepared for spring.

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I picked up this green manure seed mix from a Canberra Organic Growers Society session I attended a while back.   It’s got all sorts of goodies in it.  I also sprinkled a good couple of handfuls of wood ash from the fireplace to boost the potassium levels – a tip I caught on the last episode of Gardening Australia. IMG_4113 IMG_4182

After turning in gently and covering with a rake, it just needed a good watering in and that’s all for now.  Will keep you updated with how they grow…  Here’s to a productive season ahead!IMG_4228

Cream of broccoli soup

I’ve been looking for a recipe that would really showcase the broccoli I’ve been growing in the backyard.  Something a little more impressive than a few steamed florets next to carrots and potato on the side of a plate.

It being winter, I am very partial to any kind of warming soup with a bit of buttered bread on the side.  So after a quick search on the Internet, armed with a knife in one hand, and a recipe card for Martha Stewart’s cream of broccoli soup in the other, I charged into my suburban backyard larder to take what I needed.

It was truly amazing.   I think I’ve found my new favourite soup.   This is a story, told in pictures, about cream of broccoli soup.

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