Johanna is the editor of Aussie Mum Network and loves experimenting with new recipes, taking photo's and writing.
Bespoke subscription services for everything from wine to beauty products have become popular over the last few years. The attraction of having your tastes catered to, and products delivered straight to your home, has seen subscription services soar. Bookabuy has entered this market with a bespoke offering delivering literature personalised to your reading tastes.
All the books are individually chosen to suit the specific reading tastes of the recipient. Whether you love romantic fiction, cooking or sport, Bookabuy can deliver it to your door. On their website www.bookabuy.com.au there are some broad categories to get you started, including books for the kids, Science Fiction and the Classics, amongst others. Personally I'm obsessed with politics and funnily enough I couldn't see that category listed. Come on, surely there are millions of politics buffs in Australia...on second thoughts. So I asked if it's possible to get books that aren't listed in the categories on the Bookabuy website, and indeed it is. You can get as specific as you want about what you like, and the Bookabuy team will cater to even the most eclectic of tastes. You can find out more about their subscription offers, gift vouchers for the bookworm in your life, or give the whole thing a try with their Mystery Book offering. To find out more visit www.bookabuy.com.au
One of the vital things that often get forgotten, or worse, misplaced or stolen on holidays are copies of essential travel documents including passports.
I'm not sure what I did before the whole streaming TV revolution came along. It's the only thing I watch now when I've got time for TV, and with my device I get all the free to air channels streaming services too. I still watch Masterchef on TenPlay, Q&A on ABCiView, Prime Suspect on Plus7, & all the Nordic Noir SBS On Demand is dishing up, but now I've got a mind boggling additional trove of top quality content with Stan, Presto and Netflix. Here are two of my recent favourites from the streaming channels.
House of Cards - Netflix
If you haven’t seen this delicious piece of political fiction, you are missing out. Frank Underwood, played by Kevin Spacey, is a Democrat and the house whip in the United States Congress. Frank is married to Claire Underwood, played by Robin Wright, and together they start out looking like your standard ambitious political couple trying to get ahead in Washington. But there is getting ahead, and then there is doing whatever it takes, whatever the cost, to win. It becomes apparent very quickly, that these two are short more than a few scruples, and just when you think they won’t stoop any lower; they sprint towards the 6th circle of hell.
In full flight Frank is spectacular. He never stops plotting and scheming, and is quick to take full advantage of even the most diabolical situations, usually ones he engineers for himself, and occasionally due to the inevitable fallout of his machinations.
By the end of Season 1, I loved & loathed Frank in equal measure. I couldn’t help but admire his scheming. Sure my moral compass was appalled by the fact he is a violent psychopath, but his political instinct for survival is something else. Claire is important in season 1, but does not really come into her own until Season 2. This is a show that keeps paying off as the characters reveal more of themselves. Claire is slightly better at showing glimpses of humanity, but lets be honest they are few and far between. Just when you think she is the light to Frank’s shade, she goes and does something even shadier than even he has managed.
Claire and Frank appear to be on a kamikaze mission to be at the top, & stay on top, regardless how many people they have to expend to get there. What I’m waiting to see in Season 5, due out in 2017; how long it takes before Claire attempts to throw Frank under the bus, seize power and rule without him? She is after all, the popular one in this demented duo. I held out watching this for months, but now I’m not sure why I waited.
Binge Watch Factor: Pace yourself. There are 4 whole seasons to get through!
Unreal - Stan
This is better than all the reality-dating shows you've ever watched. Way, way better. Unreal is a fictional look at what it takes to make one of those ubiquitous romance shows with all their roses, angst and ruthless competition. But here we see things from the perspective of the crew and the producers, and the lengths they go to in order to make the show a ratings winner. You won't look at those reality dating shows the same way again after seeing this gem.
Shiri Appleby, plays Rachel, an emotionally repressed pragmatist who stops at nothing to get the story, occasionally punctuated by moments of conscience. Season 1 gives you the sense that Rachel is so married to her job, that her identity would be fractured, if she could no longer plot bigger and better ways to screw over contestants in order to have the best show on TV.
Season 2 is still unfolding at the moment, and is just as enthralling as season 1. This week’s episode included a shocking twist, and I'm am hating having to wait every week for the next episode to drop.
Binge Watch Factor: Hard to resist watching an entire season in one night.
Some research from Get Qualified Australia landed in my inbox this week that I can totally relate to. I took a voluntary redundancy from my old job early last year. After 15 years at the one organisation that was a scary moment, but I needed to concentrate on my toddler and baby. The first few years of having children means some tough choices about work for many of us and deciding to return to work is daunting. Apparently I am not alone in feeling this way.
Get Qualified Australia's research found only 32% of us feel confident returning to work after giving birth. It found 36% of mums are somewhat confident about returning to work and 32% are not confidebt. Our confidence steadily decreases as we age and and the biggest insecurities we have about returning to work relate to balancing work and family commitments and whether our skills and knowledge are up-to-date. 67% of us feel that our current qualifications and skills are out of date and this only increases the longer we wait to return to work.
The majority of stay-at-home mums have been out of the workplace for over five years and are highly motivated to kick-start their career again. With house prices & rents so high it's easy to understand why 66% of us are saying our financial contribution to our family is essential. 72% of mums also felt that they need to up-skill in order to re-enter the workforce.
Jasmina Dugalic from skills recognition and RPL specialist, Get Qualified Australia (www.gqaustralia.com.au), says
“It’s unsurprising that so many Australian women have concerns about returning to work after the birth of their child, given that such a high percentage feel that their skills and qualifications are no longer up-to-date. Most Australians aren’t aware that they could secure a qualification, often without the need for any study using their prior work experience. Through RPL and skills recognition, women are able to save time and money on completing study in order to upskill and secure a qualification. This would certainly increase confidence for women continuing their career once they have kids.”
This is something I have been contemplating as I browse job sites. Getting more skills doesn't just increase your employability, it also gives you a confidence boost, knowing you have relevant skills that are sought after by employers.
Children’s charity Jeans for Genes recently announced its new partnership with Sally Obermeder, one of Australia’s most popular media personalities. Sally will front the charity’s Jeans for Genes Day campaign which is now in its 23rd year.
The mum of one will be donning her denim and calling upon Australians of all ages to get involved in this year’s fundraising mission. Jeans for Genes Day is an event of Children’s Medical Research Institute (CMRI) and all money raised goes directly. We spoke with Sally about her work with Jeans for Gene's.
We also want to champion some of our amazing Genies who have raised significant amounts of money for CRMI over the last 23 years. It is important that we spread the word on some of the amazing work the CRMI is doing with the money donated through Jeans for Genes Day.
This year I’m daring everyone to don as much denim as possible on Jeans for Genes Day. Classic, acid washed, ripped, faded, stressed, double even triple denim - get creative!
There’s lots of ways to get involved with Jeans for Genes Day this year. You can sign up to be a Genie at Jeansforgenes.org.au from NOW. You can also make one-off donations through the website.
There is Jeans for Genes merchandise available at local schools and offices and donations can be made at major outlets including Big W, Jeanswest, and Lowes.
This year - for the first time ever - people can make donations using their mobile phone via text-to-donate. You just text jeans to 1997 6484 and $5 will automatically be added to your phone bill and the donation will go straight to Jeans for Genes!
Sally Obermeder will attend the Jeans for Genes Excellence Ball on the 24th of June. Formerly known as the Jeans for Genes Gala Dinner and Art Auction, this year's ball has a focus on excellence, including those who inspire and excel in their field. An inspiration herself, Sally will conduct an uplifting Q&A with Ellie Cole, four time Paralympic gold medallist. Jeans for Genes Day will take place on Friday 5 August. Participants can share their denim outfit using #JeansForGenesAU
For more information or to register your support visit jeansforgenes.org.au
We caught up with celebrity chef Marion Grasby to find out more about what she loves to eat, and how she designs her Marion's Kitchen range of meal kits.
How much goes into developing one of your meal kits?
I personally design, create and source producers for each of my products. I’m very proud of the fact that each product starts out in my own home kitchen and is made using real ingredients I would use at home. I basically start with my own home recipes and then build from there. The time it takes for a product to go from a little creative spark in my head to appearing on supermarkets shelves can be anywhere from 6 months to 2 years. It just depends on how long it takes me to get the flavour and ingredients right…because super tastiness and awesome ingredients are everything! Oh and it always takes a while to get my mum’s approval LOL. She’s my number one product taste tester…she’s brutally honest!
Do you find young children enjoy spicy and exotic flavours more than people expect they would?
I’m amazed at how some little ones are completely unfazed by spicy or exotic flavours. I once had the cutest little miss 3-year-old at one of my food shows who polished off a bowl of super spicy Thai green curry and then asked for more…much to her mum’s surprise! But just like adults, all kids are different and they all like or dislike different things. Wouldn’t it be a shame if we were all the same?!
Do you have a go to ingredient that always makes a meal amazing?
Lemon or lime juice. The acid perks up any dish and is actually a great way to reduce added salt. Just squeeze a few drops over a dish instead of adding a sprinkle of salt…you’ll be amazed at the difference!
Marion's new range of FRESH WRAPS includes Malaysian Satay, Korean Chilli & Sesame and Cantonese Hoisin & Garlic. RRP $5.79 and available in Woolworths in July.
A new range of all natural and gluten free WOK HITS stir-fry sauces are also being released including three options: Korean Chilli & Sesame, Thai Sweet & Sour, and Vietnamese Lemongrass & Garlic. RRP $4.29 and available in Woolworths in July.
In addition, new flavours are being added to the famous cooking kits, including: Thai Yellow Curry and Cashew Chicken Stir-fry. RRP $7.30 and available in Woolworths in July.
The Marion’s Kitchen full range includes: Thai Massaman Curry, Singapore Laksa, Malaysian Curry, Pad Thai, Thai Red Curry, Thai Green Curry, and San Choy Bow.
For more information, visit: www.marionskitchen.com.au
Today I spoke with Freeda Thong, founder of Ecopads Australia. Ecopads are cloth pads for women to use when they have their period, reducing waste going to landfill and saving money on disposable pads.
How did you get started in your business?
I started out sewing them after I had been buying them myself. Cloth pads can be shockingly expensive. They are predominantly made in US and UK. There have been more in Australia in the last couple of years. My friends got interested and so I started selling them.
Since then I’ve opened up an ETSY shop and selling at markets around Brisbane. The reception has been interesting. Cloth pads aren’t really a mainstream thing. Our mums and grandmothers would have used them back in the day. Disposable is what people are using these days. So it’s the shock factor for women who see it for the first time.
Are your customers only in Australia?
We have customers in international countries. In the first week we sold to Vanautu, and New Zealand and we have now cold to Sweden, Ireland, Singapore, and UK.
Is there a greater level of effort required for cloth pads?
It’s not that big of an effort. You would change as per a disposable. The only difference is managing them. You soak in a bucket of water and then pop in a mesh bag and wash as per other items.
What about when you are out and about?
You can fold them up and pop them in a wet bag which has two pockets, one for dirty and one for clean pads.
Does that cause any issues with not soaking them straight away?
No it doesn’t affect the staining. So store in bag and then soak when you get home and wash them. Some women use different processes, some wash each one as they go, and some would soak them before washing.
What about women with a heavier flow, will they work for them?
There are three different sizes, a liner, a regular pad and an overnight pad for heaview flows. We are crowdfunding over the next 29 days to try and reach a target of $15,000. People can pre-purcahse or donate so we can get into eco stores and be stocked in the Australian marketplace.
What are the environmental benefits?
Disposable pads and tampons are part of the disposal goods which are the 1/3 top contributor to landfill. Food is first, followed by plastic, and 3rd is disposable nappies, pads, tampons and other convenience one use products. Disposable tampons and pads take 500 years on average to breakdown. Some companies have introduced biodegradable products, which break down more quickly in recent years.
Are there convenience benefits?
You don't get the problem of the wings sticking together or getting twisted.
How much do they cost and how much can you save?
Cost from $8 - $13 depending on absorbency and sizes or if you want a special fabric. They Last anywhere from 3 to 20 years depending on how you look after them. In a year if you got a starter kit for 3 pads, you would save on average $70 - $80.
To find out more about Ecopads Australia and the crowdfunding campaign visit www.ecopadsaustralia.com
Even with Sydney house prices recently coming back a little, the median price is still out of reach of many. Inevitably many end up living further and further away from where the jobs are and end up commuting long hours, and missing out on time with family or personal time to enjoy themselves.
We all know that regional cities offer cheaper housing, and that the traffic congestion nightmare in Sydney is non existent, but it’s easy to assume that these towns won’t have the facilities or the sorts of innovation we expect in bigger centers. But is that true? We looked at some of the exciting things happening in our regional centers which turns show those assumptions don’t stack up.
In Bathurst a 100kw solar power system is being installed at the Regional Council’s Waste Water Treatment plant and is expected to reach completion by the end of 2016, reducing Bathurst Council’s annual emissions by around 140 tonnes of Carbon Dioxide. Over in Dubbo, they are the solar capital of Australia with 25% of the residents having solar panels. Australia’s biggest solar plant has also opened in nearby Nyngan. While in Wagga Wagga, there is a development approval pending for a solar farm which if it goes ahead will generate more than 100 jobs in the region.
Another factor that is of great concern to business owners is access to fast Internet connections. On this measure NSW regional towns really stack up. In Albury, fixed line rollout of the NBN is now under construction. While Armidale can boast of being the first mainland Australian city to have fibre to the premises and be connected to super-fast fibre optic broadband. Bathurst, Dubbo and Wagga Wagga are all in the process of construction or getting connected to the NBN, which is a big, plus for business people moving to the area.
There is also plenty to challenge the intellectuals and academics happening in our regional cities. At Charles Sturt University (CSU), with locations in Albury, Bathurst, Dubbo, Orange and Wagga are contributors in the fields of science, social justice and medicine. While the University of New England in Armidale and Tamworth are contributing to the peer studies on smart farming, the use of Alpacas in guarding against predatory animals and the long term impacts of pollution and contamination based on the study of bronze age smelting sites. CSU has scored the highest graduate employment rate and the second highest for median graduate salaries beating top Sydney universities: http://www.dailyliberal.com.au/story/3902374/csu-among-best-for-graduates/?cs=112
With the average price of homes in NSW regional centres often significantly lower than Sydney, and other Australian capital cities, easier commutes and opportunities for businesses people to reduce their overheads, particularly those that work in internet only based situations, making the move to a regional centre certainly stacks up financially and in terms of quality of life.
Yesterday I wrote an opinion piece expressing my frustration that Duncan Storrar assumed that those earning more than $80,000 wouldn’t have their lives changed by tax cuts. It clearly touched a nerve, with thousands of people reading it and some leveling a few home truths at me.
‘Out of touch’
‘You’re an entitled mummy blogger’,
‘She must be an out of touch Liberal voter’.
‘How dare you’
They have made an assumption that they know me, or what my life circumstances are, on the basis of the opinion I expressed. They imagine I’ve lived a life of entitlement and advantage because I dared to express an opinion contrary to popular opinion.
I grew up in a single parent family. My grandparents helped my mother and I out with a roof over our heads while my mum saved to buy a house of our own. So certainly I was lucky to have family that were willing to pitch in. When my mother finally was able to buy a home, within 12 months interest rates hit 17%. We ate lots of pasta; baked beans and what little there had been for extra’s was gone. Mum was a nurse and she worked nights, Christmas day and the other not so popular shifts, because penalty rates were the difference between surviving or ending up without a home and food on the table.
To my great shame, I was one of those vocal, ungrateful teenagers who harassed my mum asking why I couldn’t have the latest sneakers, nicer clothes, all those ‘things’ that you feel you need as a teenager to be accepted. Did I feel hard done by? Certainly as a kid you are very aware when you don’t have things that the other kids do. Do I feel hard done by now? No the opposite is true. It taught me the value of hard work, paying off debts like a mortgage as quickly as you could possibly manage and not taking your circumstances for granted.
These days my family and I are certainly comfortable. We even have nice things. But entitled and out of touch, hardly. My children mostly wear hand me downs from their cousins, I shop at second hand stores, and around once a year I will purchase a few new things for them like underwear, socks, and shoes. I haven’t bought new clothing for myself in two years, so I’m hardly a fashion plate.
Most of my furniture is from second hand stores, I have a love of nice old vintage stuff so I think it looks pretty good. Doesn’t cost much though so bonus for me. Do I have to live so frugally? No, I don’t. But having learned the harsh lessons of 17% interest rates as a teenager, I am averse to debt and trying to get as far ahead as possible. I don’t like to count on times always being so good. Is it good fortune that I can do this, or hard work and making sacrifices in order to have security? I’ll let you be the judge of that.
I don’t go and get facials or pedicures, unless someone in the family buys me a voucher for Christmas or my birthday. I do get my hair done once every 3 months, but the hairdresser is a close friend and does it cheaply.
Am I an entitled mummy blogger? Well blogging doesn’t really pay anything unless you have a huge following and hundreds of thousands of readers. There is an advantage to not making any money from blogging; your opinion is independent so I could hardly be accused of expressing views that have been paid for by vested interests.
My partner works for weeks straight with the odd day off here and there. No weekends for him. If he didn’t, we wouldn’t be able to pay the mortgage and all the bills. Is it hard? Yes it is. Are we hard done by? No of course not.
I don’t begrudge Duncan for being given access to affordable housing, benefits to help him pay the rent, food, bills and clothing. What I love most about our country is that we have public health, education and a safety net for those that are down on their luck. But when someone makes an assumption that earning more than $80,000 a year means I am rich & privileged, you bet I get annoyed. My family is a net taxpayer and paying out more than $25,000 a year in tax. Perhaps having a small business I now notice this more as I do Business Activity Statements each quarter. When I was a wage earner it was gone before I got my pay so it certainly didn’t stand out as much to me.
Like every other taxpayer, I know that our money goes to pay for hospitals, schools, and public safety nets for those that are doing it tough and whatever else the government of the day deems a good use of taxpayers money. Sometimes I agree with their choices, other times I shake my head and think, well that wasn’t such a good use of my hard earned dollars.
I do wonder if those that have leveled the accusations about how out of touch I am, and how entitled, read to the bottom of the article and saw the question I posed? Did you think it through? It is strange to be told how rich and privileged I must be by those who think I should just shut my mouth if I don’t agree with them. The reason I find it so strange is that while we get ourselves involved in class warfare down in the trenches, trying to work out who has more than whom, or who is most down on their luck, at the top end of town, the captains of industry, & the truly rich and privileged, send money offshore so that shareholders & the wealthy get the biggest bang for their buck.
Money that could lift every Australians standard of living. Money for our hospitals, our schools, and for people like Duncan that could use a safety net that actually provides enough, so that they aren’t going without food and other essentials. Even the Business Council thinks the basic safety net needs to be lifted, so people can actually survive and thrive.
Yes I have far more than Duncan, but that doesn’t mean I am rolling in cash, living the high life or beyond my means. It also doesn’t make me an out of touch, entitled mummy blogger. Perhaps all the confected outrage directed at me over the last 24 hours would be better directed elsewhere?
Something that has perplexed me about so many people jumping on the bandwagon of working class hero Duncan Storrar is the idea that families earning over $80,000 a year have it much easier. Duncan talked about a milkshake or a coffee meaning not much to people in these income tax brackets compared to him on the minimum wage. But in the rush to praise Duncan for highlighting the plight of the working poor, an assumption has been made that people who earn a higher income aren’t also the working poor.
Let’s look at an example of a family with two children (the same as Duncan) earning $120,000 per year where both partners earn $60,000 each working full time. The tax on a $60,000 annual income is $12,147. Both partners will need to pay this so from the $120,000 deduct $24,294 straight away. If you work in a job where you are not required to wear a uniform and have minimal work related expenses this would be the approximate amount of tax collected by the Tax Office.
Now our fictional family has an annual income of $95,706. If both children are in child-care you will get a 50% discount for the first $7500 of care per child. The average cost of child-care per child is $100 per day. Let’s say after holidays are taken of 4 weeks per year that you are left with 48 weeks a year where children are in care 5 days a week. That means $1,000 a week for both children, or an annual cost of $48,000 for child care. Deduct the Child Care rebate of $7,500 per child plus Child Care Benefit of $180 per week for both children leaving an annual bill of $24,360
Our example family has $71,346 left in the kitty. Now lets look at average mortgage or rental rates. The average monthly mortgage according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) in Australia is $1,800 or around $21,600 per year. When calculating the average rent I’ve popped our fictional family in Geelong where Duncan lives. They would be expecting to pay an average of $350 per week or $18,200. So if they own their home they have $49,746 left after mortgage payments and if they rent they are doing a bit better and have $53,146 left.
ABS figures put average grocery bills for couples with children at $224 per week or around $11,648 per annum and weekly transport costs at $220 per week or $11,440 per annum. Health expenses at $66 per week or $3,432 per annum, clothing and footwear at $53 per week or $2756 per annum and domestic power and fuel bill of around $43 per week or $2236 per annum.
By now the mortgaged family has $18,234 left and the renting family has $21,634. Without factoring in costs for rates, water bills, telephone bills, the odd family outing, Christmas and Birthday presents, our mortgaged family has $350 per week left to cover these things, and our renting family have $416 per week left over to cover other expenses.
It is worth pointing out again that our fictional family are living in Geelong in this scenario with the average rent of $350 per week, but lets pop them in Penrith, NSW and that same family would be paying average rent of $400 per week so end up in about the same position as a mortgaged family in the scenario above. If on the other hand they are renting in Sydney, god help them. They are paying an average of $530 per week in rent leaving just $9,360 per annum or $180 per week to pay for presents for the kids, telephone bills and perhaps a rare take away meal.
Is it any wonder people feel like they are going backwards? I have no doubt Duncan is doing it tough, and I want to see his children get the same chances at education, healthcare and a fair go as anyone else’s. There are a lot of people going backwards in Australia, including people in Small Business, which makes Duncan’s comments that rich people don’t notice tax breaks frustrating. Duncan made an excellent point, but in the process he made an assumption that those working full time, on higher wages, aren’t doing it just as tough as he is. With higher costs of living you have to wonder if a certain income really makes families middle class, or just the working poor and working class getting by.
For those who have levelled the accusation that my opinion makes me an out of touch, entitled mummy blogger, you can see my response here.
* The fictional family in this scenario have children who are not yet of schooling age and require daycare. Once children are in school it is presumed family financial situations improve, even with after school care costs,assuming children are not educated in the private school system.
#This article has been updated to include Child Care Benefits reducing the originally stated cost of child care and updating the total weekly amounts left over to pay for other bills, and entertainment.
Sources: Australian Bureau of Statistics Australian Social Trends April 2013. realestate.com.au, Australia Tax Office Comprehensive Tax Calculator. Human Services Family Assistance Child Care Estimator.