Talking to my kids about money

I think about money and financial planning a lot, because it’s talked about all the time in the offfice.  That’s one of the things about working for a financial advice firm.  It’s great though, I’ve learned so much.

Lately I’ve been thinking about my kids.  If they do their chores (my daughter has to make dinner on weeknights and my son has to do the dishes and clean the kitchen on weeknights), they earn $40 a month ($10 a week) to spend, and an equal contribution to their savings.  They both have other chores that aren’t paid, such as doing their own laundry, emptying the rubbish bin (trash), keeping their bedrooms in an acceptable condition, contributing to caring for the pets, and helping to keep the lounge and dining areas tidy.  My daughter is pretty diligent about earning her money, but my son is hit and miss.  If we end up doing the dishes, he misses out on that portion of his money.  Last month, he didn’t earn anything.  So far this month, I think he’s earned about $12.

Before our UK trip, it was pretty straight forward.  They knew they’d be allowed to withdraw their savings to spend in the UK.  Not a moment before.  What they chose to spend it on over there, that was up to them.  It eased some of the burden on us in terms of the money we spent over there, because they had their own spending money.  When we came back, I told them they could set another goal.  It had to be a goal I approved.  Therefore, not a waste of money.  An experience (like saving for a flight somewhere) or a new computer or whatever.  Once they reached their target, they could withdraw their savings and pay for whatever the goal was.  So far neither of them have set a goal.  Or talked about a goal.

I’m torn between the idea that saving just for saving’s sake is a good thing, and the idea that saving for a goal is a good thing too.  There’s probably no right or wrong answer there, huh?  Well, no wrong answer.  There’s a reason one of the goals on my bucket list is ‘Regularly contribute savings for a year and make no withdrawals’.  In my entire life, I’ve never managed to save without spending those savings.  Another goal on my bucket list is to have a contingency fund equal to one month’s salary.  Another thing I learned from working for a financial advice firm.  I’ve never had this either. We live from month to month, pay to pay.  It’s ludicrous.  And because I have such terrible financial habits, I am desperate to teach my children better habits.  There are two key things – financial literacy, which I am now learning as part of this job, and good financial habits, which I’ve never had and kind of despair of having.

I am doing much better since I set up my bill accounts.  Every pay I now transfer a set amount of money into an account for house bills, an account for online bills, an account for school bills, and so on.  What’s left is spending money.  This means that when my car needs registering once a year, or my rates need paying every three months, that I am not scrambling for funds.  It’s awesome.  I wish I’d been doing it for years, but at least I’m doing it now.

Today I was introduced to the Juno investing magazine through work, and I found some awesome articles.  I’m feeling all inspired again.

How to talk to your kids about money – without nagging.

How much pocket money should you give your kids?

Money smart: how financially capable is your child?

Do you talk to your kids about money?  How do you teach financial literacy and good financial habits to your kids?  How were you taught?

PENCIL.SHARPEN.HER

This poem is so clever, and speaks both to the writer in me and of the writers I know. Be sure to check out more of the work on that blog too, there’s some other gems in there for sure.

Blue Fences

She spoke in rhythms and beats.

Edit and revise before she speaks.

Biting her tongue- a skilled technique.

Bold words gathered in her cheeks.

Strips and pieces of unsaid words.

Sharp and jagged edges of the unheard.

Spinning around her point steadily.

Casually clarifying its complexity.

And when that point meets her blank sheet

With rhythms sharper than what she can speak

She is grateful for all that she didn’t say.

For the ragged chips of unspoken decay

Create points that slide through locks and even cut through rock.

Her dearest remedy for writers block.

So Hushhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhould you try to Listen to her….

You might hear her pencil sharpener.

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#T5W – Favourites I’d like to revisit

Just five?  Seriously?  I don’t know how to narrow it down to just five!  Argh!

Idle Bloom

Vivian is gorgeous, sexy and confident, but hides emotional and physical scars.
Oliver was a successful lawyer until his whole world disintegrated. Now he’s a broken man, intrigued by the sexy chick on his morning train commute. Man, the things she can do to a doughnut! But can she save him?
The characters are strong, funny and endearing. The plot is well written so that we cry with the characters, but also enjoy the funny, happy moments and the book isn’t too dark. The characters stay ‘in character’, reacting as we come to expect them to, and the twists and turns of the plots are believable.
I haven’t read other reviews, but I can imagine that some might feel that Oliver was ‘healed’ too swiftly, but if you look back over the story, it is a slow healing that reveals itself in lots of little small advances and moments – I can’t be too specific or I’d spoil it for others. I did find it to be believable though.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and it kept me hooked from start to finish. The supporting characters were well written and added support, laughter and drama. Overall, a fantastic read.  Five stars.

Let It Go

Every time Eli and Creed come near each other, they end up in a brawl. Finally a judge sentences them both to house arrest…in the same house. He figures they’ll either kill each other or they’ll learn to get along, Either way, they’ll stop wreaking havoc in bars.
Eli is hiding secrets, and Creed is the last person he would share his secrets with.
Creed is hiding secrets, and Eli is the last person he would share his secrets with.
What happens when they find out each other’s secrets…and realise they were both hiding the same secrets all along?
The characterisation was well done. Creed has endured so much that he has learned to lock away his pain and feelings and be emotionless, but now he struggles to break out of that and open his heart to anyone. Eli has also endured a lot, but he has coped by becoming angry and violent. There was enough humour to break up the darker parts, and the quiet times helped the reader to fall in love with the characters and want them to find their happily ever after. There was just enough sexual tension for the overall romance to be believable, although the focus was more on emotion than sex.
I struggled to accept the sheer amount of abuse that Creed in particular had endured. I don’t think it was unrealistic necessarily – the world can be a terrible place – but perhaps there was more than the reader needed..or that Creed needed in order to become who he was in the story.
A few aspects of the plot were predictable near the end of the story, but I didn’t feel that the two main characters were, and on the whole I couldn’t predict what how things were going to turn out. I found it hard to put the book down. Five stars.
Note for those with triggers: Both of the main characters suffered from abusive childhoods, and there are flashbacks to these. There is also violence and abuse in the current storyline.

A Taste for Scandal (Sealed With a Kiss, #2)
I loved this book.  The novel is set in the late eighteenth century in London, England and stars a young English lord and a common girl who runs her own bakery.  The author uses food very creatively and a lot of the action happens in the kitchen.  One of my favourite moments is when the spoiled English lord is given a baking lesson and discovers it is not as easy as it looks.

Getting into the spirit of the challenge, his sister snapped up her bowl, and together they began to whisk.  The uneven scrape of metal on metal gave testament to the fact that he had no idea what he was doing, but, by Jove, he would do it with gusto.
The egg went from clear to frothy fairly quickly, but seemed to linger in that state no matter how fast he moved. In less than two minutes, his arm began to ache from the unfamiliar motion, and Bea had already switched hands twice. Finally, she gave up, plunking the bowl down on the table with a thud.
“I can’t possibly go on,” she panted, dropping onto one of the kitchen stools.  The sunny curls framing her face were looking decidedly droopy.  “Miss Bunting, I do believe you are my hero.  I honestly don’t know how you do it.”
“Nothing more than practice, my lady.”  Kindness warmed Jane’s tone as she reached across the table for the abandoned bowl.  “Only half my work takes any amount of skill.  The rest is nothing more than endurance.”
Richard paused to brush his forearm over his brow.  Truer words, and all that.  His shoulder burned like the fires of Hades. He boxed regularly – he should at least be able to outlast his baby sister.
“Giving up as well, Lord Raleigh?”
Did she know how husky her voice could get when she teased him? He did his best to look as though his arm were not about to fall off. “Of course not.”
She grinned, effortlessly swishing the whisk all the while.

Yeah, an excellent portrayal of a young nobleman falling in love with a tradeswoman. Very well done. It not only made me want to read more of the author’s work, it made me want to write, and it made me want to bake! *Laugh*

Morganna (The Brocade, #4)

The screams faded away by midday, leaving the groans of the dying.

Now does that sound like the beginning of a romance novel to you?  Not so much.  But this is an historical novel that really captured my attention.  I first read it a long time ago.  I read science fiction in my teens, particularly the works of Anne McCaffrey.  Then I moved on to Mills & Boon books, which I read for a few years.  Finally I started reading longer romance novels, and this was one of them.  So I probably first read it in my late teens.
When I was reading actual physical books, I used to run out of room and periodically I’d have to ‘downsize’ my book collection.  We just didn’t have the room for a library or even a large bookcase.  But further back then that, back when I was single, I was ‘flatting’ with some friends.  Flatting means we lived in the same house, paying a portion of the rent each for use of a bedroom and the communal areas.  Like housemates.  I don’t know what they call it overseas.  Anyway, I had a tiny little bedroom, the smallest in the house.  And I simply didn’t have room for a large book collection.  So I downsized, getting rid of a lot of the books I’d read.
Afterwards, one of the books played on my mind.  ‘Lady of the Knight’ by Jackie Ivie.  I wished I hadn’t given it away.  *Sad*  After that, I started writing on the covers of the books I particularly liked – ‘Return to Elle’, so that a) people I lent the books to would return them to me and b) so I wouldn’t accidentally give them away or sell them.  I’ve never been particularly precious about books – I fold corners to mark my page, I place the book down open which cracks the spine…  But I don’t usually write in them or on them, but this book played on my mind a lot.  I don’t do it anymore though, the writing on the covers thing.
Some years later, I was taking my kids to a book sale.  A local charity runs a book sale once a month where they sell books from the local library that are either in a condition that means they can’t be lent out anymore, or they aren’t popular enough to warrant shelf space.  All books are $1 each, which makes it easy for people of lower means to stock up on books for themselves and their kids.  I used to give the kids $10 or $20 and let them choose a bunch of books to take home.  One day I was browsing through the books and I found a tired copy of ‘Lady of the Knight’.  I was ecstatic.  My husband didn’t understand.  *Laugh*
Now it’s been released as an ebook under the title Morganna.  So I’ll never lose it again.
It’s the classic ‘girl dresses as a boy’ trope, but in this case, the hero starts falling for her while he thinks she’s still a guy.  He even kisses her, thinking she’s a guy.  He’s so adorably confused. There was only one part of the book that I really didn’t like, and that’s the trigger for Morganna to reveal her true identity to him.  It didn’t ring true.  But it’s a fantastic book.  I’ve read it so many times, and I think I must be due to read it again.

Whispers in the Dark (KGI, #4)

Nathan was captured in Afghanistan and at the start of the book, he is suffering – from captivity, from torture and from the loss of his comrades. Suddenly, he hears a voice in his mind. He thinks he is going mad, but even so, the voice and her ability to take his pain away, helps. He thinks maybe it’s a coping mechanism his tortured mind has created.
She talks to him, and asks him how she can let his family know where to find him. He gives her the information (in his mind) and after escaping, finds out that his family really did receive an anonymous tip. She must have been real. But how is that possible?
Time passes and Nathan struggles to recover from his ordeal. One day, the voice returns, begging for his help. He throws disbelief (and possibly sanity) to the wind and goes to help her. His family aren’t far behind him. Can he save her? Does she really exist? And if she is, can they have a happily ever after?
A lot of this story (and the whole series) is told from the male point of view. Generally mainstream novels are told from an entirely female point or view, or 50/50. I loved the masculine tone of this book (even though I’m a woman) and I simply couldn’t put it down. I read this book in one sitting. Then I went and found the rest of the series!  This isn’t the first in the series, but each can be read as a stand-alone book. There’s no real disadvantage to reading them out of order except that you might see a character living their happily ever after before reading their story, but that wasn’t an issue for me.  When I finished, I really wanted to know what happened to Grace and waited VERY impatiently for Grace’s story to come out (lucky you, it’s out now!). There were other characters whose stories I wanted too.
It’s emotional, it’s dramatic, it’s satisfying, it’s action-packed, it’s strong and you won’t be able to put it down.  Don’t pick this up until you have time to read the whole book, cover to cover. Get comfortable.
Having said that, if you can’t suspend your disbelief that there are paranormal abilities in this world (our world), then this isn’t the book for you. Some of the other books in the series have no paranormal aspect to this, but this one does, as does the next in the series.

What are your favourite books to re-read?

Book review of Auctioned by Cara Dee

Auctioned (8392, #1)

This book features Gray who is an ordinary college student.  Except Gray is abducted by human traffickers and that changes everything.  Literally everything.  His life becomes about survival, and the bonds he forms with the other boys he comes into contact with affect him on a level he could never have expected.  And then there’s Darius, who has been sent to save Gray, but has to do it by becoming Gray’s new owner.

This is a seriously powerful book.  If you’re triggered by any kind of violence, sexual or otherwise, or by psychological cruelty, don’t read it.  But wow, it’s good.  It finishes on a sort of ‘happy for now’ ending, but there’s a sequel coming.  I thought the author did an amazing job of showing how unstable Gray became, how easily his emotions were manipulated and how difficult he found it to trust even while he was desperate for hope.  There’s no way that Gray was ready for a relationship at the end of this book, which is why I’m kind of glad that there’s a sequel and the author didn’t just brush off all the trauma Gray has had to deal with.  No one comes through that kind of thing intact.  And some of the scenes were seriously heartbreaking.  It’s incredible well written though.  Seriously, go read it.

#foodography

Prompt: August 21 is National Senior Citizen Day. The traditional definition of a senior citizen is any one over the age of 60. Write a tribute to or something inspiring you learned from a senior citizen.

Mum and I had great fun on Saturday night.  I’d bought us tickets for #foodography which was an event run by the NZ School of Food and Wine.  The idea was to teach us how to photograph food and share those photos on Instagram.

So on Saturday morning, my 69 year old mother got a crash course in Instagram, and set up a new account.  My sisters and I all followed her, and she followed us.  She shared a photo of her pets.  The whole time, messages were being exchanged back and forth on Viber.  “I’ve followed you, make sure you follow me!”  “I am following you!” “Yes, I saw that, thank you.”  *Laugh*

We weren’t really sure what to expect of the evening.  We’d done something similar as part of one of Auckland’s food festivals a couple of years ago.  That one was sponsored by Canon, and we were able to use their lenses, etc., and they had food set up for us to practice photographing.  It was great fun and we got some awesome photos of out of it.

This one was run slightly differently.  First, we had a talk about Instagram.  Things to do (use hash tags!), things not to do (don’t feed the trolls!).  For me, I found the difference between stories and feeds to be quite interesting.  Most of the rest of it I knew, but I think Mum learned a lot.  They gave us a handout with quite a lot of information on it, which was good.  And I wrote down a bunch of useful food-related hashtags that were specific to Auckland and NZ.

Then we were split into groups, and sent to different stations.  There were three savoury stations which we did first, then two dessert stations.  The savoury stations were lamb, chicken and a winter salad.  Dessert was chocolate brownie and a panna cotta.

With each station, all the ingredients and garnishes were laid out in separate dishes, and we could choose our own serving plates/bowls, and arrange the food as we wished.  This was the part where I really felt like I could have used some more guidance.  Food styling is a whole other thing, and I’ve not had any experience with it nor instruction on it.  I was definitely winging it.  We were supposed to work as pairs and do a ‘practice’ plate, then a final plate.  It didn’t end up working like that though.  Mum and I tried to do that but were running out of time, and everyone else was just doing a plate each, so we ended up doing that too.  I found Mum’s style of plating was more blended, and mine was more focussed on height.  *Laugh*

Then we took our creations to tables that had been set up with black tablecloths and overhead lights, and took photos of our creations with our phones.  We were given a little guidance with this – use ‘square’ mode for Instagram pics, angles to try, etc.  Then we were supposed to post one photo per pair onto Instagram with the hashtag #foodographynz and linking the NZ School of Food and Wine as our location.  So that’s what we did.  No one else did that.  They each took photos of their own creations and shared them.  So after the first couple of rounds, that’s what Mum and I ended up doing too.

It was fun to see the other creations appear on Instagram, and also to see the difference between the ones that looked delicious in person and the ones that photographed well.  There is a difference!

Mum didn’t post many pictures.  I think partly that was because we had to eat our creations in between (this was our dinner!) and so we were all rushing, and the whole process was new to her.  She said she really enjoyed the evening though.

The food was really yum, although I wasn’t a fan of the panna cotta dish.  The brownie though… Ohmygodsogood.

After we’d done all the courses, they collated a shortlist of ‘finalists’ from the evening.  All four of my photos were in there, which was a nice little ego boost.  It was interesting looking at the others.  Some I felt were just ‘meh’ and some I was totally wowed by and thought were amazing.  They gave out a voucher for a free course at the NZ School of Food & Wine to the winning photo.

Overall, a fantastic night.  Great meal, lots of fun, and some learning.  I felt like the biggest takeaway for me was a serious dose of inspiration/motivation.  It fired me up, and I love it when things do that.  But I also learned some tips and tricks for Instagram, which is cool.  I’m not very active on there, so will have to edit my UK photos and have a play with releasing some of them on there.

I’m not sure if Mum will continue with Instagram or not.  She was really interested in what the guest speaker had to say, as she was a ‘hobbyist’ like me and Mum, not a professional (a number of participants were there as part of a food-related business).  Also, a gardener, which appealed to Mum as she enjoys gardening too.  She was talking about people she’d met and events she’d been able to go to as a result of her participation in Instagram, and I think Mum thought that could be good for her now that she’s retired.  We’ll see.  Maybe Mum will be the NZ Instagram sensation!  *Rolling*  But I think she too was inspired and motivated, and definitely keen to practice her food photography skills some more.  So stay posted, we may be doing some food styling at our next creative day!

#T5W – Redemption arcs

Angels' Blood (Guild Hunter, #1)

When Elena first meets Raphael, she’s not impressed.  Okay, she is, because he’s an archangel, and she’s a mere human.  He rules New York and all the angels, vampires and humans in it.  He’s lived so long and seen so much, seen so many come and go, that the life of a mortal seems woefully insignificant.  But all that makes him an arrogant, demanding asshole.  Elena’s not stupid enough to say no to the archangel of New York but he’s sending her on a suicide mission and she doesn’t have to like it.  Or him.

Five stars, and the beginning of an epic series.

 

Keep Me Safe (Slow Burn #1)

Ramie has a gift that helps her find missing people.  But the gift takes a heavy toll on her, and she can’t take anymore.  She goes into hiding, but Caleb Devereaux will do anything to find his younger sister, and that means hunting Ramie down and forcing her to help him, regardless of what it costs her.  But when he witness the price she has to pay, he realises how much he owes her.  Ramie isn’t interested in repayment though.  She just wants to be left alone.

Five stars, and a powerful read.

 

A Promise of Fire (Kingmaker Chronicles, #1)

He literally kidnaps her.  Griffin is a warlord without magic, in a world where magic is power.  Cat has magic. So he kidnaps her, intending to use her to help him maintain power.  But it’s not really that simple.  He’s not really that kind of man, and well, she’s not really the ‘sit down, shut up, you’ve just been kidnapped’ kind of girl.  And she’s damn well gonna make Griffin work for his redemption.

Five stars, and the whole trilogy is a fantastic five stars.  Read it.  If you like fantasy and/or paranormal, then read it.

 

Hold Your Breath (Search and Rescue, #1)

Callum isn’t interested in making friends.  Or being nice.  Or smiling.  He barks orders, and people do what they’re told.  And that’s how he wants it.  But Lou is like nobody he’s ever encountered before, and suddenly she’s turning his orderly world into chaos.

Five stars.  Read it because it’ll make you smile.  And everyone needs to smile.  Even Callum.

 

A Mended Man (The Men of Halfway House, #4)

This is the fourth book in the Men of Halfway House series, and by the end of the third book, the reader is well aware that Aidan Calloway is an asshole.  Even his friends, few that they are, know he’s an asshole.  If you’ve read A Restored Man (the book before this one in the series) and I recommend you do, then you can’t forget the scene where Aidan punches Cole.  I was NOT expecting to enjoy this book.  But Jaime Reese, the author, weaved some serious magic.  Honestly, if you’re going to read any book with a redemption arc, let it be this one.  It’s raw, it’s gritty, it’s gut-wrenching…  Big tough Aidan and sweet Jesse will take you on a serious emotional roller coaster, and you’ll be surprised by which parts hit you the hardest.

Five stars, no questions.  But seriously, read A Restored Man first.  Cole is worth it, but it’ll also set you up to truly appreciate Aidan’s redemption.

Book review: Mackerel Sky by S. Jade Castleton

Mackerel Sky

I’ve been looking forward to reading this book ever since I interviewed S. Jade Castleton in July 2017.  I’ve also read her amazing short story Fire Red Leaf before and know that her writing is phenomenal, so my expectations were pretty high.

The story centers around Owen, who is 16 when the story starts.  Following the death of his mother and the departure of his father, Owen is the head of his family and must provide for his younger brothers and sisters.  This means leaving school and getting a job to pay the bills and put food on the table.  But life isn’t that easy, especially when you’re 16 and have no qualifications.  The authorities haven’t been any help either.  When Owen is at his lowest, and genuinely doesn’t know how he’s going to put another meal on the table, someone offers him a job.  Owen is grateful and relieved, only to come crashing down hard when he realises that the job is to sleep with Andrew Gordon for money.  Andrew might be happy to pay for sex, but he’s not happy about taking advantage of a 16 year old boy who is in desperate straits.  And thus starts Andrew and Owen’s relationship.

There are a number of things I loved about this story.  Firstly, the characters.  They were all so brilliantly portrayed that they felt real.  I felt like I knew them. Owen was a favourite, but so was his brother Jamie.  They weren’t perfect, they were real.  At the end of the book, the author notes that her mother said ‘I wanted to know what happened to them after that, then I remembered they were all fictional’ and I wanted to shout ‘YES!  That’s exactly how I felt!’  I felt like I knew them all and was invested in their lives, their happiness.  I cared about them.

Secondly, just as I expect from this author, the writing was excellent.  So easy to read.  You just dive in and don’t want to come back out.  I don’t recommend starting this late at night, because you won’t want to put it down.  Not necessarily because it’s got action that keeps you turning the page, but rather because you’ll feel like you’re there, like if you put the book down while Owen is upset or Jamie is angry, then they’ll have to stay like that until you pick the book up again, and that’s not fair to them.

There were a couple of things that niggled me about the book and prevented me from giving it a full five stars.  I’ll try not to give away any spoilers here.

I didn’t like that (at least once) Andrew slept with Owen even when Owen was clearly not in a good frame of mind.  Don’t get me wrong, it was consensual.  But I felt like Andrew should have said no.  Been the bigger man.  It was clear that Owen wasn’t in the right head space for sex, and yet they did it anyway.  It bugged me.

The relationship between Andrew and Owen develops over time, and at the end of the book, their feelings towards each other are fairly clear and the reader can be satisfied that they are going to be a couple going forward.  But the sexual relationship between the two hasn’t moved forward at the same pace.  Dammit, I don’t know how to say this without giving a spoiler!  I needed Owen’s level of participation in the sexual side of their relationship to be further advanced then it was at the end of the book.  I’ve been more explicit in my Goodreads review if you want to check that out (because I can hide spoilers there).

This isn’t a happily ever after book, but I didn’t feel like it ended on a cliffhanger either.  It was more of a ‘happy for now’ and there is definitely a sequel coming.  And I’m definitely buying the sequel and reading it.  I need to know what happens next!  I hope Jamie gets his own story too, even though he is in a stable romantic relationship right throughout Mackerel Sky.  He’s just such a strong character that I want to read his story.