It's apparently a famous quote, but I had never heard it before. So...

On the wall of my class at school hangs a poster. It says, "It is not the employer who pays the wages. Employers only handle the money. It is the customer who pays the wages."

What a useful way of looking at it.

It's kind of like on Saturdays, I work at a local cafe. I'm a kitchen hand, which is basically to say that I wash dishes, and take out rubbish.

But I don't feel bad about it, and neither do my workmates. I know that every single person in that kitchen is crucial to the success of the cafe, and my!, it's a busy place. Yes, I wash dishes, but if I stepped away for an hour and no-one else took over, the kitchen would be a shambles within an hour. The same goes for our barista, for the grill cooks, for the baker, the chefs. Everyone in that kitchen is of crucial importance to the success of the place and the quote I wrote up above carries with it the same thought. It divides the responsibility throughout the entire system of purchases, where, yes, the employer is important - but so is the employee, and even moreso, the customer. The places which treat their employees with disrespect don't understand that.

I am at a point in my life where I have contentment throughout. I study at SIT under tutors who I see as capable educators and especially the guy who gives me the bulk of the course, an experienced and very recent quantity surveyor with loads of experience.

I own a house which is within walking distance of city centre, with a large, sheltered back yard and a mortgage payment which we think we can comfortably carry. (We bought the house for $177,000 with a $35,400 deposit, so we are now paying off a $141,600 mortgage at $184 a week. Minimum wage is $610 a week.)

The Kid will start school in May and I have talked to the various people involved extensively, and I trust them. The management of the school is long-serving and dedicated, and the atmosphere supporting. The Kid's class has a teacher aide. It's a 700-metre walk from home, with the medical centre right across the road, the toy library right across the road, and my school another 2-minute walk away. Yesterday I even realised that The Kid's friend from preschool starts at the exact same school on the same exact day! So overall, I feel contentment about The Kid starting school and it's a big deal for me.

The Kid has a great orthopedic surgeon at the hospital and the leg casts are done for this year, so we now have a year of unencumbered swimming pool visits ahead of us (with a pool a 400-metre walk away.)

Within about two years I see myself working close to full time in construction, and The Man starting to tune back his work so he can take care of our kids instead. The house will, by then, be much more functional, so...

...I'm not even sure why I feel the need to write about it at such length, given that I've actually wasted the time I had set aside on another project, but the main thing is, things are looking well and I am very, very content with where we are at the moment.

PS. An evening trip to the playground.

On insulation and warmth and health

I haven't got time to blog at the moment - though I would have things to say, if I did - but I will take a couple of minutes to share two interesting interviews from Radio New Zealand.

Should heating your house be on prescription?

Health benefits of insulation massive - study'massive'

Both interviews have to do with houses' heating and insulation. 

First is a study in UK which compiled four decades worth of data and discovered that from a purely financial perspective, it would make sense to "prescribe" people heating - because if people live in cold, damp homes then over long run it actually costs more to deal with their health problems that arise from cold homes, than it does to heat homes to begin with.

Another is a study from New Zealand which looks at the benefits an insulating programme has had. It's shown that from an energy consumption perspective, the benefits are negligible - people still use about the same amount of power to heat their homes. However! They become so much more healthy that, like the UK study, the cost benefits are about 1 to 6 - for every $1 spent on insulation there is about a $6 saving in healthcare costs and loss of productivity.

Which is something I am thinking about at the moment, because I am dealing with quotes from various service providers on deciding what sort of insulation we are going to put into this house, and what heat pump.

The priorities at the moment: get the house dry and warm (without going bankrupt), fix leaking gutters, fix leaking taps.

Alright, off I go. I need to go find where the water cutoff pipes are buried somewhere under our front lawn :)

PS. Thank you everyone for your well-wishes! It really is an exciting time for us!

The first big post from this house

It is a surreal feeling to be sitting at the table and writing The First Big Post since having moved in.

Our own house - something we've been waiting and working towards for several years.

In some ways it is very much like I pictured it: the log burner's going, The Dog's snoring, there's a fresh cup of tea on the table. But in other ways it's also very different.

For one, some of the excitement has already worn off. I did not expect for it to take two weeks to connect this house up to internet...

(To go off on a tangent: part of the reason there has been such a delay is because Chorus, the New Zealand communication lines company, is behind schedule laying fibre-optic cable in Wellington. Apparently, and this is going by information from one of their technicians who was laying fibre next to our previous rental house, the team in Invercargill are ahead of schedule, whereas the team in Wellington are three months behind schedule, so Chorus have sent a whole bunch of people from Invercargill to Wellington to help them catch up - and, therefore, the work they do in Invercargill is now on the slow side, hence a 2-week wait to get internet to a house that already has all the necessary cables in place and all that was needed was for someone to "flick a switch" on the street, but I digress.)

I expected there to be internet available almost instantly, and therefore did not plan for any moving-in-emotions to be written up offline, to be posted later - which is basically my way of saying that as I am sitting behind the kitchen table now, drinking my tea in a house that is mostly (and I am using a loose term here, guys) set up and only three or four boxes still to be unpacked, I don't actually know what to say to you.

I am relieved, and very, very grateful. I am also very tired, in a mostly physical way.

The move was arduous. Of the six days we had the two houses "overlapped", the first three were spent doing the most basic of things - cleaning carpets, fixing fencing, changing locks - and then the next three felt like a freight train of logistics, muscle power and toddler tantrums.

No, the kids did not take to moving very well. I mean, they loved running around half-empty rooms and shouting to hear their own voices echoed off walls, but they also started braking down impatiently over the most littlest of things and when they then spent several long days at preschool whilst me and The Man moved things, trailerload by trailerload, they also got clingy and... well, I don't really need to explain much further, do I. You understand, don't you.

Then over the weekend three of The Man's workmates came to help us lift the heavy stuff and, man!, I don't know where we'd be if they hadn't come. They were around for only three short hours until they all had to leave to their respective Sunday appointments, but in those short three hours they basically moved the bulk of the house, after which me, The Man and the kids ate burgers and chips at a local burger joint celebrating the momentous time of having almost got there (there were still rooms to clean etc, so it wasn't entirely done yet - but it was almost there) and also the fact that I had called The Man saying that I just couldn't stay holed up in a house with kids any longer, and therefore - we were going out eating someplace. Period.

And so we did.

The awkward lunch of burgers and chips, thinking... oh my God, we've done it. I think we've actually done it.

The house is... interesting.

I mean, it's solid. Totally livable in a sense that no part of it needs immediate work in order to move in, so there aren't gaping holes or missing doors or broken windows or anything like that.

But it sure does need work.

Of the rooms that remain to have carpet some of it is, I'm guessing, mid-80's beauty of flowery prints...

...and some a cat pee infested woolen flooring of smells galore.

Other rooms had carpets so threadbare we ripped them up straight up and one day these hardwood floors will be refinished and insulated - but not yet. At the moment it's just 1) pull up nails and staples so people don't injure their feet and 2) vacuum up that white powder which, I assume, is some sort of deodoriser?

The backyard grass - or let's call it hay - was cut down immediately prior to handover, so the land was a lumpy mess of decaying cutoffs on top of hard, yellow lumps.

We didn't even dare to take a lawnmower over it until we'd raked the entire thing, fearing we'd brake blades on hidden rocks or bits of trash.

And there was that - rocks and rubbish, I mean - but there were even gardening tools (!) we found over the most overgrown patches, and many, many plastic balls.

On the weekend, firewood started arriving. Heading into winter the prices are about to jump, so we were getting many trailerloads whilst the going was still good, even it for the moment in means there's a whole mountain in the middle of the yard, where trailers are unable to take the corner between the house and the garage.

In the background you can spy large yellow... I don't even know what it is. Foam? Insulation? Some sort of underlay? That we pulled from behind the house where we needed to get access to roof gutters - which had cabbage tree plants growing in them and were sagging from the weight.
The rooms started gradually going from this - to this.

Even the back yard is a bit tidier, though it is far, far from done. The land is so bumpy the kids are struggling to even wheel their three-wheel plastic trucks over it.

We are piling up greenwaste to be taken away at a later date (still loads to come!) and have unearthed a greenhouse previously overgrown with weeds. Now to fix the plastic so we can bring our little lemon plants in there over winter.

Overall I think it will be very much like which is a blog I have followed with interest over the last couple of years (they have Instagram, too), knowing full well that ours will probably be very similar: a slow renovation with hard-earned DIY skills, a modest budget and work done with intention and grace, whilst fitting in time for family and studying.

And at least in the beginning, with functionality well above aesthetics. Well above aesthetics!

Like a piece of galvanised steel bought from a scrapyard, cut to fit and installed in our bedroom so there would be somewhere to hang the clothes.

One day there will be built-in shelving and a wardrobe in that space, but for the moment - this is awesome.

I think it will be a while before walls start getting painted, or general "prettifying" taking place. Of course there's some already - there has to be, for comfort's sake - but for the moment making the rooms look pretty or "finished-looking" is well below things such as installing insulation, ventilation and a heat pump, repairing gutters (oh, did I tell you about the porch leak? During heavy rain it is spectacular!), building a deck, installing fencing and a gate, replacing the tap that is tapping our lives with a rhythm of tink, tink, tink all day long. Heck, even building a play fort for our kids is probably higher on our list, so that our kids can also finally accept that this is a place to feel comfortable, safe and excited in.

Firewood delivery

Choosing timber for temporary shelving

Stacking firewood

Scrubbing kitchen shelving 

Replacing locks
Talking of the kids: the whole family promptly came down with a heavy cold (most of the preschool has, by the looks of it) and The Kid, in particular, with a full-blown ear infection which has meant that nights have been short and restless, and crying plentiful.

Watching cartoons, trying to keep out of The Kid's way

We have joined a toy library - functions like a normal library, except for books you get to loan toys instead - and it is adding excitement to their days.

Pink. Pink. Where does she get her obsession with everything pink!?

Of course he chose the biggest, ride-on John Deere tractor digger, of course.

The Girlie seems to be taking it in her stride, as with most things (have you ever met another child so determined, independent, loud and high-pitched?), but The Kid is processing and trying to figure out why we're here, and what "the next house" is going to be like. We do tell him that this, now, is a house we're going to stay in for a long, long time, but he looks at us with a suspicious frown as if trying to figure out what the catch is.

Playing pretend bedtime

This window seat in our bedroom will be a wonderful place to hang out one day

Would you believe, it was one of the tools we found in the back yard, overgrown with weeds

And so all in all, this blog is not going to be like Young House Love at all! and instead, over the coming months, we are slowly going to tinker with things and hopefully blog about it, too, but even with that I will need to figure out what the new routine is going to be like as my school assignments are starting to come in so I will be spending more and more time on the computer writing about construction methods and material choices instead, and calculating budget estimates which is turning out to be an interesting, interesting choice of work.

I don't know what the other programs at SIT are like, but I do feel that architectural technology and quantity surveying have been well worth the effort of having moved down here where I can 1) study well, 2) buy a house and 3) still have a life at the same time, an option I feel is rapidly decreasing in other parts of New Zealand. I am still meeting people, again and again, who have moved down here in search of balance to their lives and I feel I am gaining mine. I like this house, I like studying, I like the support network we are building around our kids and in a few years time this place will be a beauty to visit, even if today the house's first visitor will have the elegant experience of sleeping on a spare bed in our spare room amidst bikes, garden tools, carpentry equipment and cardboard boxes.

But, hey!, we're getting there :)

We're here

The house is yet to be connected up to internet, so this is me on the school's wifi for 5 minutes before a lecture, but in brief, this is what we're up to.

We are entirely moved in, and the old house is empty and the keys returned to the rental agent - but that's not to say that the new house is unpacked and ready. There are still things in boxes, me and The Man are underslept and overtired, and both kids are ill with a heavy cold and look like about to come down with full-blown chicken pox.

The porch roof leaks, the kitchen is still sticky on every surface I am yet to scrub down with detergent and muscle power, and the living room smells of cat pee. The cat, by the way, is still hanging out around the house and insisting we let him in through the window, and I think, oh no you don't, mister!

There is mount Vesuvius of firewood in the middle of our back yard, waiting to be stacked into a shed, and we have pulled out *actual plants of cabbage trees* from our roof gutters which are sagging from the weight they've been bearing.

The kids are grizzly, we're all tired, the list of things that *actually need doing* - as opposed to just things that would be nice - is still long enough that we don't even need to write it down because it's kind of obvious what needs doing.

But we're here, and we're working on it, and my lecturer is here so I better put down my iPad and start working on contract administration :)

Photos to come.

Halfway there

Ever wondered where old crackers go to die?

In the creases of the back seat of my car.

PS. I'd write more, but I'm tired, tired, tired.

7 MARCH 2017

It's done.


What's tendering like

As part of my studies, I need to create a fictional construction company - let's call it Grace ;) - and I am going to spend the whole semester "being" that construction company and doing various projects under its name.

For example, I am going to go through a tendering process to build a library for a local high school. This company, Grace, is going to make applications and submit construction documents, and my tutor is going to "pretend" that he's the local council, and various other organisations, so I will basically have to come up with paperwork that would actually pass in the real world if this company, Grace, was an actual construction company, so I am going to not only have to produce work that is of high technical level but also present it in an official manner. Everything will have to have official letterheads, logos, contact details, printed to high quality and bound...

Immediately I came up with a mischievous plan. A friend of mine, Holly, is a talented artist in the US and she makes these gorgeous flowery illustrations that she uploads to Instagram that's recently gone private, so I can't show you those, but she does have an Etsy shop, also.

I asked Holly, would it be okay if I used one of her artworks for that "pretend company" logo? I got a real kick of imagining my tutor, as I hand him in those technical documents with architectural plans, neatly bound, with loads of numbers throughout... under a flowery girly letterhead :).

And Holly said yes, so I went to find the most girly, flowery print available.


I got stuck under another print which I really, really, really like. And do bear in mind that this is 20 minutes worth of work on MS Paint to add the name Grace, but seriously, how gorgeous is that leaf?!

Even The Man said that it looks like an attempt at an actual logo.

And it'll be cool, going through this process. I am really excited!

Never mind that the library we are "building" was finished several years ago already (I've actually approached the school asking if I could come check it out - it'd be cool to see a large building for which I have such detailed drawings available) - it's cool. It's really, really cool!

I do have one comment for my school's computer class though: for all the highly technical software that's available to me and the computers are powerful enough to run (Photoshop, Archicad, Autocad, CostX etc), do I really need to use Internet Explorer to browse the internet!?!


PS. Left my daughter colouring in the kitchen whilst I went to pack their preschool bags, came back to this.

PPS. Went to the fire station Family Day on the weekend to have fun with the kids. Ever seen a minion try to ride a scooter before? Me neither.


Walking through a quiet, empty house and checking.




Checking cupboards, checking locks, checking walls. Then heading outside and checking the shed, the fenceline, even climbing behind bushes overgrown with bindweed.

The experience is exciting, but also unnerving. In my head runs a silent list of things that need fixing and in what order - the gaps in the fence will have to be done first, so that dogs (or children!) don't end up in other people's backyards, but then there's also...

Oh, I don't even know where to start. I don't want to.

There's a lot of work, but tomorrow our lawyer will transfer the money to the seller's bank account, and we will receive the keys in return. We will rip up carpets that smell of urine (a cat, I presume), deep-clean the remaining half-decent ones, move in furniture, wipe down kitchen surfaces.

My god, there's a lot of work, but she's ours. Will be, tomorrow.

Over time, the beauty will appear. Me and The Man have enough balls (well, him, mostly - but you know what I mean) to take up the project (or shall I call it a mission?) and I do trust that over time the beauty and the comfort will follow.


Theatric flair with pink tutus

I don't know if your children are also prone to this disposition, but my two-year-old, when she feels a terrible injustice done to her - for example, when I ask that she put pants on but she would rather go outside in her Anna & Elsa undies so she can show them to passersby (true story! She drags down her pants and goes, "Look, look! My undies!") - she throws herself on the floor with theatric flair and proceeds to scream, "I can't. I caaaaan't!!! Waaaaaaaaah! I can't!"

Well, a couple of days ago I asked myself if I am a terrible parent for doing it, but she was sitting on her chair in the kitchen and I said to her that she needed to finish her porridge before we put a cartoon on. Disagreeing with me, she did the same throw-herself-down-with-theatric-flair move - except, she was still sitting on the chair behind the kitchen table as she did so.

...which basically means that she threw herself off the chair, head first, onto the kitchen floor and then proceeded to scream with genuine pain and hurt. And as much as there was genuine comfort in me as I cuddled her on that kitchen floor, I also kept smirking because, man!, this kid is funny.

Am I a terrible parent for smirking? Maybe. But, man!, this kid is funny.

PS. Ever needed to go outside on time but your two-year-old is insisting on choosing the exact right pair of undies? (She has a whole box of them.) And then arguing on which t-shirt to wear? (She always wants the bright pink short sleeve with flowers, but I insist that when it's cold outside we wear long sleeves.) And then I'm sitting there, repeating to myself, "I am a patient person, I am a patient person, I am a patient person..."