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Springtime

Spring officially started on the 1st of September. The weather’s still alternating between being warm and cold. But still, I can tell it’s definitely spring!

One of the trees on a pot out front was bare from the moment we moved in. I thought it was dead. I wanted to plant something else in it (like a calamansi tree, hehe). But now it’s sprouting leaves! S reckons it’s a Japanese maple.

New South Wales has reached 80+% partially vaccinated and 50+% fully vaccinated residents over 16 years old. Last week, our state leaders removed the curfew from our area and allowed picnics for the fully vaxxed.

Both of things converged so S and I had a picnic in a nearby reserve yesterday. Thankfully it was less than 2.5km from where we live, so well within the 5km limit. It was a beautiful, warm, sunny day. The reserve was full of other picnic-ers and people going for walks, runs and bike rides.

And, from today, we’re allowed to have picnics with up to three other fully vaxxed people. I’m excited to finally meet up with friends who live nearby! I also found out about two other reserves also within 5km of where we live, which we didn’t even know about. They’ve both got swimming baths too!

Springtime, indeed.

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A week of doing things

I’m currently on a break before I start a new job next week. At the beginning of my break, I wrote down a list of things I wanted to do1. It was mostly about getting back into my hobbies, which I stopped doing what with all the moves the past few months.

So this week, for the first time in a long time, I have finally:

  • Finished a dress! I actually had most of the pieces cut up months ago. I finally got around to putting it all together. And just in time, too, with the weather getting warmer.
  • Made shorts. Alas, I don’t think I’ll be able to sew my own shorts from scratch like I envisaged at the start of the year. Instead, I realised that I’m better off upcycling old pairs of jeans. I have a number of misshappen, formerly-skinny jeans that would make very serviceable pairs of shorts (and less misshapen that the shorts I’ve currently got which need to be retired!)
  • Juggled. Since we now have a backyard, I don’t have to worry about hitting the ceiling with my clubs. Yay!
  • Upped my financial literacy. A month ago, I wrote about how I wanted to learn more about saving for retirement. Although I’d begun reading books, this past week I’ve been devouring online courses, articles, spreadsheets and podcasts about the topic. I’ll probably write more about this in the future, but in summary, I now feel a lot more confident about S and I preparing for the future.
  • Given S a haircut. And he gave me one, too! Our one rule was: no blaming each other no matter what the outcome! Haha! I’m lucky I’ve got wavy hair so can get away with it if my hair’s not super even. And as for S — next time I think I can be a bit more aggressive with the clippers. 😛
  • Baked something. Believe it or not, I didn’t touch the oven for an entire month after moving in. Whilst S has always done the cooking, I used to at least bake, but there’s always that hesitation when dealing with a new appliance… Well, I finally mustered the courage to use the oven to make raisin bread. I had to put it back in the oven twice, but I know that’s part of getting used to a new oven.

Another thing on my list is to make dinner one of these days… another thing I need to work up to!

1 This is a shout-out to Nir Eyal’s “Indistractable” where he writes that the opposite of distraction is not focus, but rather it’s traction. Being clear on the things I want to do in place of being distracted is better than just thinking “I’m not going to waste time on the Internet today.

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An appreciation post

There are only a few times in my life where I’ve felt that things were “falling into place” (cheesy as that sounds). Our house hunting adventure is definitely one of them.

Although we were happy to stay in my apartment when we first moved in together, S and I planned to eventually get a bigger place that was ours. Things were paused last year because of COVID… not least because everyone was saying that property prices were going to take a nosedive and we kept waiting! That obviously didn’t happen… So when 2021 rolled around, and we realised that house prices were rising faster than we could save, we decided to take the plunge.

Now we’ve been in our new home for a few weeks, and it’s all thanks to our A Team.

Our first step was to understand our borrowing power. My friend B recommended Kaleido Loans. I’ve dealt with a few mortgage brokers, and these guys are undeniably the best. They ran through several scenarios (Should I keep my apartment? Sell it?) and explained to us all our options.

We decided to sell my apartment so that was the next step. As I wrote previously, it happened lightning fast. It took me a little over two weeks from contacting the real estate agent to getting a signed contract of sale! That included a few days over the Easter holidays! So I highly recommend the blokes at Award Group Real Estate.

While all that was kicking off, we started house hunting. We found out that if we wanted a freestanding home, we couldn’t afford the area we were in. So we cast a wider net and went to countless open homes all over Sydney to get a feel of different suburbs, discover what kinds of houses we liked and understand how they were priced.

I remember when we went to (what is now) our house. It was one of the few places that S and I agreed on. It was also the first in the suburb we’d seen. I remember telling S as we drove away: “We won’t be able to bid on this one, but I really like this area. We should start looking at more houses here.”

Things fell into place soon after that. Our apartment sold quickly. Our conveyancer, Vittoria at VDM Conveyancing, completed a contract review on short notice. Kaleido Loans expedited our mortgage pre-approval and it was granted the day before auction. S’s dad, who used to inspect buildings for council, was able to come along, inspect the house, and go through our building and pest inspection.

After all the horror stories of people getting outbid for months, S and I decided to go hard on auction day. We did a lot of research. In addition to the open home visits, there were spreadsheets and online forums and so much online research. S did the bidding – I’d be a nervous wreck if it were me.

And we did it!

I remember my coworker telling me, “That’s not fair, nobody wins their first auction”. But there you go. 😛

It was nearly smooth sailing from then on, which made us realise about how awesome our A Team was. David from Kaleido Loans was able to negotiate a lower interest rate than initially provided by the bank. And when there were delays in settlement due to COVID, Vittoria was a champ at handling the uncertainty and communicating with our vendor. She is also one of the loveliest people ever. I feel like every time we had a call I would end up belly laughing. I’ve dealt with other conveyancers in the past and her friendliness, professionalism and attention to detail are unparalleled. (I remember I had one a few years ago where I was pointing out errors they’d made with documentation.)

A shoutout to S’s parents generously housed us for two months whilst we were waiting for our house to settle. And for Belle and Ron for showering us with doggy love during that time.

So there you go, our A Team. So many people helped us get to where are now. For that, I am supremely grateful. 🙂

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Finally home

We did it!

It took us over three months, but we are finally, finally home. I didn’t write about it directly in my previous posts because I didn’t want to jinx anything. 😛 But now we’ve been here for two weeks and settling in nicely.

I wrote a few months ago about lifestyle. That was around the time we started looking. Reading the list of things I wanted, I have to say we got most of them. We’re now in a red brick home with a white picket fence and a large backyard. I still feel incredulous thinking about this. Growing up in a different country, I never would’ve fathomed I’d have the kind of house I’d only read about in books. (I mean, a white picket fence!!)

We live a <25 minute train ride away from the city. It’s a quiet suburb with large trees and birds. The neighbours seem friendly and children ride their bikes on our street in the afternoons. We are a quick walk away from cafes and shops and a short drive if we wanted to do more substantial shopping.

The only thing the new place doesn’t have (with regards to my list) is proximity to water. There is a river around a 25 minute walk away… However, we’re now only ~30 minutes away from a few beaches by public transport! Despite living in Australia for over a decade, I’ve always lived further inland. Going to the beach was always an expedition, so this is exciting for me.

Sydney has been in lockdown for the past few months, so our move was muted. In the weeks we’ve been here though, we’ve been doing plenty of walks around the neighbourhood, exploring parks and getting takeaway from cafes and restaurants. We can’t wait when things open up again and we can explore the area and get acquainted with the local businesses properly.

For now, we hang tight… and keep on unpacking boxes and trying to tame our jungle of a backyard.