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From homeless to home owner in 8 hours

Anne-Marie and I have been married for 13 years, and we have been tenants all that time. We’ve always wanted to buy our own house, but could never get enough income, or put together enough deposit for a loan application. And our experiences with renting have been mostly positive all that time, so the incentives to buy haven’t been great.

However, the chain of events I’m about to relate has changed everything, and in a very short period of time.

During Joshua’s first 4 years (he turns 4 in December), he has already lived in 4 different homes. This is very stressful for him, and plays an important part in our decision to start looking for something more permanent. But as of July this year (2013), it still felt like a far-off goal. We had recently been told that our rental in Bray Street, Bunbury, was being sold, and we had a strong feeling that our lease would not be renewed in January 2014. The distance to Perth was also a factor, with my work requiring more frequent meetings, and the difficulty in attending the Temple and visiting with extended family.

So after much deliberation and consideration of options (including moving to Melbourne, France and Canada!!), we decided to return to Mandurah. This begun the most frustrating house hunting episode we’ve ever had. I will spare you the details, but the half-dozen property managers we dealt with displayed such incompetence, disrespect and dishonesty that we started to feel very much fed up with the whole renting idea.

Finally we found a suitable rental in Mandurah. Its landlord had just put it for the first time on the rental market, and it met our budget and all other requirements. We applied and got accepted as tenants, but the property manager kept postponing the signature of the lease agreement, because the owner wanted to do a few repairs and remove some items from the property.

Having had our application accepted, and since our current lease wasn’t expiring until December, we had to find new tenants to take over our lease, and organize the lease break with our property manager.

However, after two weeks we still hadn’t been able to sign the lease, and time was running out. We had found some new tenants that were due to move in on the 8th of October, they had signed the lease for our current property, and we had organised a truck for that weekend. Finally, plans were going smoothly.

Then we got a call from the new property manager. The owner had decided to withdraw his property from the rental market. Suddenly we were contemplating being homeless within 5 days, and spent several days gathering as much information and options as we could, to see which one would be the least traumatic for our family.

I posted about our dilemma on Facebook, and got an overwhelming number of responses and offers of assistance from concerned friends and family. We decided to take up the Standley’s offer to temporarily rent their parent’s old home in Bunbury, while we regrouped and planned our next move.

But our final destination was completely unexpected, and was not amongst the many options we had considered. It came up the morning following a dinner we had with some good friends of ours, Ryan and Carmen Cox, and Cyril and Margaret Sherriff. After mulling over our dilemnma during that night, Cyril felt strongly that he should do his best to get us to move to Harvey, a rural town 30 minutes northeast of Bunbury to which we have felt strongly attracted over the past year. He woke up early that morning, and called us around 9am to tell us about a property that seemed suitable for renting in Harvey. It was for sale, but had been vacant for months, and he thought the owner would be keen to get anyone in there.

Suddenly we thought, if it’s for sale, why not see if we can buy it? It had been our plan to rent for another couple of years while we save up for a deposit, using my new full-time job I started early 2013, and then buy something in Mandurah or Harvey. We did the maths, and realised that this house was well within our budget, even if I decided to return to academia some time in the future. The opportunity seemed too good to be true.

Furthermore, the house belonged to a member of our church whose late wife Anne-Marie used to visit, and that same was being sold by Joel Standley, the very property manager through whom we were temporarily renting the Standley’s old house! Like planets aligning themselves for some event of cosmic significance, everything seemed to be set in perfect order for us to buy our first home. Even the entire series of frustrating experiences with property managers during the last few months seemed to play a crucial part in our decision to consider the option of buying a home. In fact, if the owner of the Mandurah rental had not withdrawn his property, we would have moved there by now, and would have never considered that house in Harvey!

So, after this phone call from Cyril! we called Joel and organised to pick up the keys to the Harvey house, so we could take a look at it. By lunch time we were inspecting it, and Cyril and Margaret met us there. By 3pm we were back in Bunbury and completed the offer of purchase documents, and by 6pm our offer was accepted! It took us a long time to get used to the idea of what we had just done, but it felt so right, neither of us ever had a second’s doubt that this was the right choice.

And after nearly three weeks since this happened, we still haven’t had any doubt. We feel at peace, we feel happy with this decision. We love the Harvey community and environment, we feel that it will be a wonderful place for our children to grow up, and will enable us to do more of the things we are passionate about, without being distracted by the hustle and bustle of big towns like Mandurah, Bunbury or Perth.
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Posted by on October 31, 2013 in Life

 

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Our home-based vacation

My wife Anne-Marie and I have been married for nearly 12 years, and we have only ever been on vacation once! After a long and difficult year, we’ve decided to take some time off and do some fun things as a family, things we haven’t had time to do.

So where should we go? What should we do?

Well, I had a crazy idea, and Anne-Marie was crazy enough to think it was a good one! Why not have a holiday at home? Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2012 in Life

 

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Baking croissants, take 2!

Today I took some time to do something I have wanted to do for a very long time, and that I have only done once before: baking croissants! The last time I tried was basically for the same reasons: I wanted to give myself a challenge, and see if I could beat it. My first batch of croissants was very tasty and smelled delicious, but they were rather ugly, all of different sizes, and they didn’t rise very much. That was nearly 5 years ago, where has time gone!?

First batch of croissants

First batch of croissants, 5 years ago

OK, back then I had made a real mess of my pastry, the butter had started to melt while I rolled it, and it was coming through the layers of dough. I really struggled with that part of it, and I wasn’t too good at rolling either. Since then, I have baked dozens and dozens of loafs of bread and other bakery good, and I’ve learned a lot about yeast, gluten and the process of making yeast-based foods. So, since this week is the last of our University semester, I thought I would make a batch of croissants for my fellow students. This time, however, I am doing a full batch, since there are about 25 students in our class.

This idea actually came to me thanks to Anne-Marie, who bought me a fantastic baking book called Bourke Street Bakery by Paul Allam and David McGuinness. Thanks to this book, I have finally broken the secret of sourdough starters, with which I’ve been battling on and off for over a year. I even have two shaped sourdough loaves in the fridge getting ready for baking tomorrow, and not a grain of yeast, sugar or salt was used to prepare them! The book also has great viennoiserie recipes, including croissants, so I thought I’d roll up my sleeves and give this very difficult recipe another try. After all, since my first attempt I have even managed to make my own puff pastry, so this couldn’t be much more difficult!

Now that my 36 little croissants are nicely waiting in the fridge for tomorrow morning’s proofing and baking, I wish I had taken photos of the various steps of this process, because I doubt I will again attempt this feat any time soon. It took me far less time than my first attempt, of course, but it was still time-consuming, and included some prep work over the previous 2 days. After tasting some of the four “samplers” I baked earlier today, I must say I am looking forward to seeing the final result tomorrow, and I WILL take some photos this time 🙂

I find it a real shame that so many people today are unwilling to try their hand at traditional cookingand baking methods. Of course, you can buy pretty good croissants at your nearest bakery (if you’re lucky), and many foods that we buy ready-to-eat today are nigh impossible to make by hand. For example, have you ever tried to make your own poppodums (sorry, I had to pick one of the 49 different spellings for that word)? However, I think it’s important to know how food is made, what goes into it, how you can make it yourself in case, one day, they’re no longer available from supermarkets or in highly processed forms. It’s incredible that not only men, but many women (thankfully not most) today do not know how to cook even the most basic things, because you can survive quite well today without ever having to break an egg, boil water or get flour on your hands.

I’m really grateful that my mother taught me some basic techniques of cooking and baking, giving me a love for these things since I was little. I love the chemistry of cooking, I love the predictability with which carefully repeated steps yield the same results, time after time. I don’t believe that anyone is “bad at cooking”, they just don’t have the passion for it, and consequently they don’t have the patience to learn from their mistakes. I’ve had my share of catastrophes, and sometimes it certainly feels easier to just open a can of condensed soup or have a bowl of cereal. However, I find the pleasure of eating home-baked bread far superior to the convenience of grabbing something off the shelf and re-heating it in the microwave in 2 minutes.

Time for bed now, I’ll be up around 4:30am to get my croissants out of the fridge into room temperature so they can rise for a couple of hours, then I will bake them for 15 minutes and take them to school where they will delight all 5 senses of those who will be lucky enough to get their hands on them 🙂

That’s if I don’t burn them…

Burnt croissant

I'm sure it's delicious once you scrape the shell...

That’s it, I’ve made the croissants, and they’ve all been eaten before they had time to get stale 🙂 I made about 40 small ones and took most of them to University for our last day of the semester. I think they were a hit!

Home-made croissants

Don't they look yummy? Only slightly digitally retouched...

Home-made croissants

Were they worth procrastinating on my last Uni assignment? Absolutely!

 
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Posted by on May 26, 2011 in 750words, Life

 

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