5 Lessons Learned from Buying a First Home

Recently we bought our first home.

The journey wasn't without its pitfalls and problems. Here's the collected, naïve wisdom from Olivia and I on buying a house after 1 week:

1. Everything Costs

Nearly every part of the process of buying a house costs money. As we're generally very budget-conscious, every new expense eventually had us thinking "when will it stop?" All up I reckon it cost us around $25,000 to buy the house - on top of the price of the house itself - although there was a rebate on stamp duty.

2. Get a Moving Truck for the Big Day

We've moved house before using trailers and cars - never again! Nothing compares to a 3-tonne truck to get the job done properly, regardless of wind, rain, or size of furniture. And, you don't need a special license to drive a truck this size.

3. Get Good Help

Unofficially, Olivia and I manage our seperate "teams" for moving day. I had a really good team this time around with the help of Geoff and James, my Dad, my brother Dave, and Olivia's Dad who was invaluable applying his expert skill to repairing things we broke while we were shuffling furniture :-)

4. "Painting is the cheapest improvement you can make"

SmurfI'll credit Olivia's Uncle Rob with this brilliant advice. We were initially turned off buying the house because of the interior color of "smurf blue". Once we accepted that when we owned it, we could change it, we changed our attitude and instead budgeted for paint (still an ongoing process...)

5. Prioritise Changes and Renovations

Apart from the color scheme, there's a couple of other changes we'd like to make. All changes, improvements, and renovations take time and more often than not, money. We tried prioritising our changes so that the big, important things happen first, and at the same time Olivia and I can acknowledge to each other that the smaller changes are coming "when we get to them".

We rented for a long time before buying. If you're in that situation, I hope these tips can be some use. If you have any others, please share in the comments.

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Movie Review: Fantastic Four - Rise of the Silver Surfer

I'm going to be brutal: the second Fantastic Four movie, Fantastic Four - Rise of the Silver Surfer (official site, IMDB, Amazon), lacks oomph.

The start is slow. The whole first 20-30 minutes, up until the wedding of Sue Storm and Reed Richards, could have been removed. Far too much of the "witty banter" between characters that made the first film funny and sharp consisted of subtle sexual innuendo - even though this is a PG-rated film - and as a result, the jokes started feeling forced by the end of the movie.

The PG rating does make sense however, as the story is very simplistic and the characters seem very one-dimensional. Maybe I've been spoilt by the multi-layered Spiderman or more adult X-Men movies.

Getting back to the task at hand...the final battle takes place in about 20 minutes at the end of the film, with what I felt was a fairly rushed lead up. Throughout the movie, the military is more decisive and starts trying to protect the planet from imminent doom faster than the Fantastic Four (who are forced to basically follow orders...aren't they meant to be superheros?). And the personal issues about leading a "normal life" facing the nearly-weds seem petty against a backdrop of a world-devouring creature who the Silver Surfer has lead to Earth.

This is a short (90 or so minutes) film that will barely satisfy fans of the first movie only (namely, me) - I would rate it 2 out of 12.

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The New House!

After renting for 10 and a half years, Olivia and I finally bought a house!

It's very blue, all the way through:

We feel very blessed to finally have a home of our own. It's big, close to school, great for the kids and in need of just a bit of TLC, starting with painting.

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Polluting the Internet for 4 Years

I'm about to hit my 4 year blog anniversary. My first post was on October 31st, 2003, and was pretty basic (just like me).

I've enjoyed writing down my thoughts, developing weird theories, laughing at & with others, proudly displaying pictures of my beautiful family, and generally keeping up with myself on this blog.

Thanks for reading!

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Funny "Spot The Mutant" Poster from X2

Olivia and I have been enjoying watching the X-Men movies. I found this gem in the extras of X2 that I had to share.

It's from a poster that I'm sure you'd only see on-screen for a split-second (if that), on how to spot a mutant (thanks to Nightscrawlers for the text):


Double jointed? Could be a mutant.
Read upside down? Could be a mutant.
Good at spelling? Could be a mutant.
Understand kids? Could be a mutant.
Play left-handed guitar? Could be a mutant.
Eat raw sea urchin? Could be a mutant.
Politician in Canada? Could be a mutant.
Likes soccer? Could be a mutant.
See through walls? Could be a mutant.
Have third eye? Could be a mutant.
Use feet to shave? Could be a mutant.
BO? Could be a mutant.
Program VCR? Could be a mutant.
Play accordion? Could be a mutant.
Likes broccoli? Could be a mutant.
Knows art history? Could be a mutant.
Hairy elbows? Could be a mutant.
Morning radio DJs P&C? Could be a mutant.
Six legs? Could be a mutant.

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5 Tips for Holidaying at Phillip Island

Cowes Pier in sepia October 2007 We had a great holiday at Phillip Island recently and I thought I'd share 5 things we learnt - our "Phillip Island Holiday Tips" (with thanks to my beautiful wife Olivia):

1. Buy the 3 Park Pass

If you plan on doing a couple of things at Phillip Island, a 3 Park Pass will save you a few dollars. It gets admission into Churchill Island Heritage Farm, the Penguin Parade, and the Koala Conservation Centre. Note that admission to the Penguin Parade is for the day you buy the ticket (there's a limit to how many people they can admit).

2. Come Really, Really, Ridiculously Prepared for Cold & Wet at the Penguin Parade

The seating at Phillip Island's Penguin Parade faces the open ocean, and gets very cold - trust me, I know :-)

We sat in pouring rain for 30 minutes to watch the Penguin Parade. While it was uncomfortable, it was worth it and has been the kid's most talked-about memory. Olivia was super-organised and packed two layers of clothes and towels for us to sit on, and did we need it! Some sort of rain protection (e.g. a poncho) is really handy, and something padded to sit on too because if you're at the front you'll be asked to sit by the attendants, and the seating is concrete.

Also, ring ahead to find out what time to arrive as the penguins come in at sundown. Getting there early will mean you can get the best seats - we reckon they're at the second section of seating, front right.

Last hint for the Penguin Parade: you can't take photos. Click here for more details.

3. Allow Time at Churchill Island Heritage Farm...

...and time your visit for when there's activities on. We spent 4 hours at the farm (including a 1 hour walk around the northern point of the island), and got to see some of the scheduled activities like free scones, milking the cows, and the working dogs. The activities seem to vary by day, so it might be worth phoning ahead or checking the web site before your visit.

The Churchill Island café was particularly good - the best soy latte of the holiday!

4. Visit The Nobbies

The attraction on Phillip Island that has to work the hardest is The Nobbies, a wind-swept point not far past the Penguins. The wildlife (seals) are almost too far out to see; however, there's a cliff-top walkway, penguin burrows, a view over Seal Rock, and a seagull colony. There's also a visitor centre which has a cool interactive display, a café, and an indoor playground. And it's all free.

5. Stop at San Remo for the Pelican Feeding

At 11:30 each morning, San Remo's pelicans come up to shore to be fed. It's not a super great experience, but is worth doing once. Our kids were excited about the whole thing, probably helped by playing at the park and eating fish & chips afterwards :-)

These are 5 things that I thought were worth sharing about a Phillip Island holiday. Anything I've missed?

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Phillip Island Holiday

Olivia and kids at Forest Caves beach October 2007Last week our little family had a well-needed break at Phillip Island.

The weather was typical Phillip Island in spring - cold and rainy, with occasional bouts of sunshine - so we came prepared and got out and about.

The happy snap at left shows Olivia and the kids "staying out of the water" at Forest Caves beach, about 15 minutes before a thunderstorm (the kids loved it).

Phillip Island is a magnificent place for getting up close to wildlife. We got to see penguins, koalas, pelicans, wild geese, cows, working dogs, a mother duck and 3 ducklings, and baby seagulls (which are actually cute), among other things.

Churchill Island Heritage Farm turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip (recommended); sitting out in the pouring rain in the best seats in the house to watch the Little Penguins was priceless; and being able to read the paper every day made for a relaxing couple of days off.

Thanks Wifey for organising the holiday!

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Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. Copyright Thomas & Olivia Williams 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009