A Letter to Gen Y Aussies

Dear Gen Y Aussies,

I’m sure you’ve discovered that these days it’s not easy to break into the housing market, even the rental market is getting more and more challenging! As much as it sounds so lovely and easy to stay living at home with Mum and Dad, getting your meals cooked and clothes washed for you, eventually we all have to grow up properly and move into our own home.

Mainly due to the high price of houses, it’s getting hard for you to save for the deposit isn’t it? Sacrifices to lifestyle have to be made in order to attain the amount required for a down payment on your own little abode. Starting with your favourite coffee shop meal.

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Fancy pants smashed avo, Cafe style

So many Gen Y’s are hooked on ordering their smashed avocado on toast for brekky or lunch at their local trendy cafe. Don’t get me wrong, that bumpy green fruit with its soft, creamy centre is magnificent on some lovely fresh sourdough toast, topped with more soft creaminess in the form of Persian Feta, a squeeze of lemon and some freshly ground pepper, but that simple and delicious breakfast option is the trend of the moment and doesn’t come cheap. I’ve seen 2 slices of smashed avo toast going for $18 and over around the place. Add your fancy double shot, almond milk latte and you’re getting close to $30! If you have this every day, you’ve munched away over $10,000 that you could’ve used towards your house deposit! Crazy!!

A couple of weeks ago I ordered smashed avocado toast from the superfood bar next door to my office (they had just released their brand new winter menu and I was curious to try it), it was delicious and if not for the price I would’ve loved to eat it every day for lunch. It was $9 for ONE slice of toast! I tried to fool myself that it was worth paying that due to the divine cashew aioli and dukkah on top, but I knew it would send me broke in no time. As sweet and lovely (and good looking!!) as the guys are in the superfood bar, I come to work to make myself rich, not them.

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Superfood bar smashed avo

So instead I asked my boss to buy a toaster to keep in the tea room for us all to use. I bought a loaf of Soy Linseed gluten free bread, an avocado and a tub of Persian feta and kept it all in the office fridge. That load cost me less than $20, and has given me 5 lunches so far. And those lunches were two slices of toast at a time. I’ll just add right now that as you can see my smashed avo is nowhere near as pretty as the ones from the cafe or the superfood bar, but it’s no less tasty!

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Ugly but tasty. Tastes like I saved money!

My point is, if I’d bought those 5 lunches from next door, and had two slices instead of one, I would’ve been out of pocket $90. We also have a Nespresso machine in the office so we don’t need to spend $5 each time we need a caffeine hit.

So my lovely youngsters, take it from this wise old Gen X’er. You don’t need to give up your smashed avo, just make it yourself. Just watch your savings build up. You’ll thank me later.

love Meredith

xx

 

 

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Rose Madder

About 20 years ago I was a mad Stephen King fan. Not that I don’t love his work now – I do! – but I discovered other genres that I began to enjoy as well.

Rose Madder

One Stephen King book that has stuck in my mind for all these years was Rose Madder, which I thoroughly enjoyed when it was first released around 1994. Being the kind and generous person I am, I lent the book to my cousin who I believe promptly lost it, although she denies ever having seen it…

In multiple house moves I’ve searched through my bookcases to no avail, just in case it had found its way home.

Imagine my pleasure when I found a copy in a Lifeline bookstore for only $8! I couldn’t wait to get stuck into it again. I was halfway through another novel at the time, so Rose Madder sat tantalisingly close on my bedside table until I was finished.

The story was just as weird and wonderful as I remembered! I felt fury at crooked cop Norman for abusing his poor wife Rose Daniels, rooted Rose on when she finally found the courage to leave him, and was on the absolute edge of my seat as he used his scarily accurate instincts to track her down, drawing ever closer. And the incredible picture Rose found in Bill Steiner’s shop? Typical Stephen King brilliance. I could not put this book down (again)!

Do you like Stephen King novels? Which is your favourite? Have you read Rose Madder?

The Tracey’s Great European Odyssey

Many moons ago – in 2013, actually – Adam, Alex and I booked, planned and got very excited about going exploring in Europe. It was to be Adam’s first time to France, Alex’s first time to Italy and the first time for any of us to go to Prague.

As soon as the flights were booked I started a countdown calendar, of which I would take screenshots and send them to Adam  to cheer him up whenever he was having a rough day at work. Nothing brings a smile to your dial like knowing your big holiday was only 175 days, 4 hours and 53 minutes away!!

In early 2014, a couple of weeks before our departure date I started a travel blog on (now defunct) TravelPod. Before TravelPod closed down I was able to save a copy of my blog, which I will share with you here. I have put the travel blog in as you scroll down the page so it can be continuously read to the end.

It was lovely taking a trip down memory lane as I posted my stories and pictures. I hope you enjoy reading about our crazy fun adventures as much as we did experiencing them!

The Final Countdown!

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Sunday, March 2, 2014

Only 40 days to go! France, Italy, Prague, here we come!

Bookings have been arranged, ideas hatched and plans made.

The berets and scarves have been found in the deep recesses of the cupboards, comfy walking shoes have been purchased and the cameras are ready to get snapping. I can’t wait to capture some beautiful sights and magic memories on film.

We’ve been practicing our French (some of us are better at this than others, but Adam deserves an A for effort anyway! It’s been so entertaining listening to him try to roll his R’s and make the nasal tones typical of the French language.) Luckily we still have a few more weeks to practice. We will also attempt to learn a little Italian, though I’m finding the Czech language quite difficult to get my head (and tongue!) around. Once we are there I’m sure we’ll become more adept and comfortable in speaking in another language. We just need to get in there and have a go. Alex enjoyed saying bonjour, au revoir and merci when we were in France a few years ago, and now she’s keen to expand her vocabulary. Go girl! 🙂

The suitcases have been dragged out of hibernation, and in the coming weeks plan to pack them with everything on the packing list and then trimming the fat so to speak – taking out what we don’t really need. Pack light is the motto. Also we need to keep plenty of room for all our holiday purchases of course!

For now though, we just wait and watch the holiday countdown clock tick closer and closer to 9pm Friday April 11 2014.

Up, up and away!

Brisbane Airport, Queensland, Australia

Friday, April 11, 2014

The last 40 days have absolutely flown by, I can’t believe we will be winging our way halfway around the globe in less than 3 short hours!

We passed through customs without a problem, of course, but it’s funny how even though you know you haven’t done anything wrong you get nervous until you’re waved through the checkpoint. Well, I do anyway…

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We’re chilling out with a coffee while we wait to board the plane, the wine can wait until we’re on board. Adam tried to get into the Emirates lounge but was knocked back because we aren’t in the Gold Club or something. Bugger. Would have liked a massage and a cocktail while we wait…

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Looking out the window just now, I think I saw our plane pull up at our gate. We are lucky enough to be travelling on an Emirates A380. Alex and I went on one last time we went to France. It feels so much more spacious and comfortable than the older jumbo jets. And they serve the kind of airline food you look forward to eating!

Hopefully we’ll be able to get some sleep on the Brisbane -Dubai leg of the trip.

Can’t wait to tell you about our first day in Paris!

A bientot!

The longest day of our lives

Paris, Île-de-France, France

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Our flight left Brisbane Airport about half an hour late last night. That was no biggie for us, we were just keen to get the adventure started!

The first 8 hours or so of our 15-hour first plane flight between Brisbane and Dubai were pretty uneventful, spent eating yummy plane food, drinking vodka and orange, and catching up on movies we hadn’t yet seen. (‘All is Lost’ was good, rather like Castaway but at sea). Might have squeezed in an hours sleep.

Then Alex started getting travel sick. The poor kid vomited and cried for about 5 hours. We were trying to get her to sip plenty of water so she didn’t get dehydrated, but she couldn’t even keep that down. Eventually we managed to get her to try a little ginger ale for the calming effect it has on upset tummies and also a bit of sugar. That worked a treat, she now loves ginger ale and drank two little cans of it on the second (7 hour) flight between Dubai and Paris., and ate almost every piece of food placed in front of her. She wasn’t sick at all this time! Also I think distracting her with awful mind numbing “tweenage”sitcoms helped too.

While waiting at Dubai airport I fitted a global SIM card to my iPhone, but it couldn’t find a network. Never mind, I thought, it’ll work in Paris.

Once we we arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport, Adam went to find our driver while Alex and I retrieved the luggage. Adam tried to call Natasza, who was bringing us the key to our apartment, but the phone still couldn’t find a network. Hmmm. Thankfully our driver, who spoke barely a word of English) lent Adam his phone to call Natasza to say we were on our way. She said to call back when we were 15 minutes away and she’d meet us in the apartment. So we did. But we didn’t know that just about every street we needed to drive down to get to our Arrondissement was barricaded by police. We drove around for over an hour trying to get into the Marais district, eventually leaving the city and going in from the other side of town. By this time Adam was getting shirty, and said that we should get out and walk, to which i said no way (of course) seeing I had no idea where we were and were totally knackered from the flights.
Once we fiiiiinallllly got to the apartment, we climbed the three flights of spiral stairs and knocked on the door. No answer. I left Adam and Alex with the luggage outside the apartment door while I went in search of a pay phone. The only one I could find didn’t take coins but had a swiper so I tried so use my Visa card. Didn’t work. So back up the stairs I went to get my iPad because I saw that Starbucks had free wifi. Down I went again and into Starbucks. The iPad could not detect any wifi whatsoever! I went to the nearest Presse (newspaper shop) to ask how to use the public phone, but of course the man behind the counter didn’t speak any English.

Then my luck changed for the better. A girl at the Presse stand spoke English and fluent French. She asked what I needed help with and translated between the Presse man and I. Apparently I needed to buy a phone card from the Tabac (tobacconist) across the road. I headed over to buy one, and while I was standing in the queue, the girl tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I was needing to call a local or overseas number. It was just a local call, so she offered for me to use her phone. This tiny kind gesture was my undoing. I burst into tears in the tabac and hugged her. I called Natasza, who said she’d left the apartment because we didn’t turn up, and she was worried we’d been in a crash. She was already back at the apartment by the time I got there. And I bawled again. She showed us all around the apartment and told us about our neighbourhood. Both of which are lovely. More about them later.

Once she left we headed down to the G20 supermarket to get some essentials like badly needed wine! (And shampoo etc). We dropped our groceries home and went out again to get some dinner.
Keeping in mind we’ve just flown halfway around the world to France, what does Alex want for dinner??
Pizza.
Tasted good though.

Well, its off to sleep now for me, Adam and Alex are already out like lights.

May the rest of the holiday be smooth sailing!!

Meredith, Adam & Alex
xxx

PS. I published this on Sunday morning Paris time because I was too tired to proofread it last night.

To market, to market

Paris, Île-de-France, France

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Yesterday (Sunday) we all woke up bright and early, about 5.30. Once we were alert enough to get dressed,we headed off to the Bastille Market, a treasure trove of fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, seafood, charcuterie (salami etc) and cheeses.

Having decided to buy some beautiful fresh produce with which to cook dinner that night, we browsed through all the stalls and selected some lovely veges, salami and cheese. We were planning on making chicken breasts with sautéed mushrooms, fresh asparagus and other veg.

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Once we had finished at the market, we headed back to the apartment to put everything away and to head out again for a hop-on, hop-off bus trip around the city. We ended up not hopping off until we’d done a full circuit. It was a real treat to see Adams face when he saw the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe for the first time. And we all agree that the Champs Élysées is indeed a busy street! We had wonderful views from the open top bus. We saw the two padlock bridges, Pont des Arts , and the Pont de l’Archevêché. Before we got on the bus, we saw about a thousand people waiting to start a colour run, where participants run 5km, then at the end pelt each other with coloured paint powder. We saw the end result while on the bus.

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At the end of the bus trip we were going to go into Notre Dame, but the queue was about 100 metres out the door so we’ve postponed it for another day. We stopped at a cafe for a Croquet Monsieur and coffee before heading home for a wine. We were all pretty tired from the big day before and the early morning.

 

Eventually, I decided I should cook dinner, so started preparing the veges. When I went into the fridge to get the chicken breasts out I couldn’t find them anywhere. I asked Adam where he’d put them, and at the same moment we both realised we had forgotten to buy them. We were planning on buying them last. Never mind, let’s just get one of the roast chickens from the butcher down the road, Adam suggested, and he set off to buy one, and more wine.

About 15 minutes later he came back empty handed. The butcher shop, the supermarkets and the wine shop were all shut. I thought we’d been teleported to Launceston, where the footpath gets rolled up at 5pm on a Sunday!

So our lovely chicken dinner ended up being just veges and fresh pancetta wrapped asparagus. It still tasted lovely and was filling enough.

After that I went to bed, asleep by 8.30pm.

Priceless art and priceless views

Paris, Île-de-France, France

Monday, April 14, 2014

This morning after fresh ham and cheese croissants for breakfast, we wandered down to the Musee du Louvre. It was a chilly morning, 4 degrees, but closer to zero when factoring in the wind chill. We arrived outside the famous glass pyramids at about 8.30, for a 9.00 opening time. The queue was already 100 metres long. Luckily, when the doors opened at 9.00 the line moved quickly and we were inside within 5 minutes. We hired audio guides, which made the day all the more interesting.

First stop was La Joconde, better known as Mona Lisa. She is a small painting in a huge room, and at the opposite end of the room is the largest painting in the Louvre. The Wedding Feast at Cana. We were lucky enough to be able to walk straight up to the barricade for the best possible view of the Mona Lisa, without having to look around or over other peoples heads.

The same couldn’t be said for when we saw the Venus de Milo. I think there were about 3 bus loss of Japanese tourists in there at once, all screeching at the top of their lungs and trying to take photos from every possible angle. Eventually we managed to squirm our way through this heaving mass to get a look at Venus for ourselves.

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Then on to Napoleons III’s apartments. Very ostentatious, opulent and over the top.
We saw so many famous and priceless paintings, sculptures, artefacts and objets d’art that it is really mind boggling.

This evening we are taking a boat ride down the Seine River, and afterwards a bus trip to see the city’s famous monuments all lit up. I’m sure it will be breathtakingly beautiful, looking forward to sharing some photos tomorrow.

A (not so) relaxing day…

Paris, Île-de-France, France
Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Last night we went on the Seine cruise, and afterwards a bus trip around the city to see the monuments lit up at night. We met the bus at the pick up point with fellow passengers, and headed down to the boat. The boat is wide and flat with glass windows all around, and seating on the roof.

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Once we got to the boat it was semi-organised chaos. People everywhere, buses everywhere and a queue to get on the boat which looked to be 100 miles long. Eventually we got on the boat, but seeing our bus was one of the last to arrive, we were some of the last to board the boat. So the only seats left available were in the middle of the boat, which was a little disappointing. We couldn’t see much at all. After a while I braved the cold and headed outside to stand on the side of the boat to take photos. It was freezing at sunset and rather windy on the river. Towards the end of the cruise I went and stood at the top of the stairs to see the views from the top of the boat. This is the place to sit – if you’re prepared with gloves, scarf, beanie and an extra warm jacket. You could see everything, and the view of the Eiffel Tower with the sun setting behind it was beautiful. Just after we went back downstairs to prepare to disembark, the tower lit up in twinkling lights to the wild cheering from the rooftop people. We missed it by THAT MUCH… I was hoping it would still be twinkling when we got off but as it only happens for 5 minutes on the hour each hour until about 10pm, it was over.

We boarded the bus and set off around the monuments of Paris. Alex and I sat on the right side of the bus, Adam on the left. As we went around the city, the guide told us a brief history about the monuments we could see. Unfortunately for me, almost all of them were on the left side of the bus. Adam got a great view, and as he had my iPhone, he captured some images which I can share with you here. From my side of the bus, I saw a lot of lovely expensive shops which I can’t afford to shop in, and some reasonable ones I can.


Alex fell asleep almost as soon as she took her seat on the bus, so missed everything.
Exhausted, we fell straight into bed (after showers of course).Today, seeing yesterday was so long, we decided to have a cruise lazy day and just ride around on the metro to different places.
First stop was Pere Lachaise Cemetery, where we saw the graves of Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, Abelard and Heloise, and Jim Morrison – arguably the most famous grave in the cemetery. It is a beautiful place, so peaceful, and has fabulous views over the city from the top. It runs down a fairly steep hill, so we caught the metro to the top end of the cemetery and worked our way down.1.1397625321.jim-morrison-s-grave

Next we headed to the Grand Boulevards and to Galeries Lafayette, a high end shopping centre with a beautiful stained glass domed roof. We were going to have lunch in the restaurant under the dome but couldn’t find it. We gave up and stopped off at a Mexican restaurant for some tapas, and Alex had fajitas.

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From here we got back on the metro and headed to Pigalle, to see the Moulin Rouge and it’s surrounding red light district. As unsavoury as it sounds, it was very tame, no dodgy people hanging around propositioning you as you go past, just A LOT of sex shops and strip clubs. Then up to Montmartre, and the Sacre Coeur church.

 

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Just a tip if you come here: when you arrive at Metro station Abesses, do not, I repeat, DO NOT climb the stairs if you aren’t fit, or have already walked a million miles. There are about 200 steps in the beautifully decorated spiral staircase. The walls are painted with poppies and street images of the Montmartre area. Once at the top we found the funicular to take us to the top of the hill to Sacre Coeur. The views of Paris from here are spectacular. You can see for about 60km. We walked back down the long but famous Montmartre stairs to the metro station and headed for the Champs Elysées. We started at the top end at the Arc de Triomphe. We went under the General Charles De Gaulle roundabout and back up in the centre under the Arc. After this we walked down the Champs Elysses and caught the metro home again. By this time I was walking like the tin man from the wizard of oz. My calves were so sore. After a wine and a rest we headed out to dinner at a lovely restaurant a few doors down from our apartment called Le Bucheron. At last, a French meal! But it turned out to be an Italian restaurant. Go figure. But it was delicious. After dinner we went home, had showers and hopped into Alex’s bed to watch the Da Vinci Code. Within 10 minutes we were dozing off.
So much for a relaxing day, it turned out to be super busy but we saw so much! 🙂

 

Tomorrow we head to the Palace of Versailles. I hope we can walk by then…