Blood out of a stone

Posted June 30th, 2008 by Penny Wise

Sorry it's been a while! What a wild week it's been in our neck of the woods - day after day of thunderstorms and lightning like you wouldn't believe. According to our regional newspaper, there were 20,000 lightning strikes in our area in one day alone! Hence I haven't been able to get online much as every time I tried the storms would start up again and I had to shut everything down! The unpredictable weather also made our $21 Challenge week pretty unpredictable as we didn't know whether we were going to have power from one meal to the next. This week's Challenge was a first as despite my best intentions I didn't get round to doing a menu plan! I don't really recommend it; it makes things a whole lot harder and takes away that feeling of control I usually enjoy when I know what I'm doing in a Challenge week. I think I scraped through more by good luck than anything! Still, scrape through I did, buying only a tin of tomatoes, half a dozen mushrooms and a six pack of yoghurt for the week. Buying the yoghurt was pretty poor really, when I already had a sachet of Easiyo in the pantry but it was one of those weeks!

So we ended up having the following:

Monday - Roast wild pork, roast potatoes, carrots, broccoli and peas. The wild pork was of course courtesy of the hunter-gatherers in the family. I balked at having to cook it but they insisted they wanted to sample the fruits of their labours. I tried, really I did, but I couldn't bring myself to eat it!

Tuesday - Curried sausages, rice, broccoli and peas. If there was one thing I could grow myself at the moment, it would be rice. After almost a year as a wheat-free family I'm really finding this global rice shortage one heck of an inconvenience. I mean, we live on the stuff these days, what rotten timing! Even rice flour is as scarce as hen's teeth, I haven't been able to find any for miles. We experienced the first of goodness knows how many power cuts on this day, fortunately it occurred right as I was serving up dinner!

Wednesday - Noel and my 14th wedding anniversary was one to remember with the biggest storm I have ever seen! He brought me flowers, I brought him Sophie Gray's chicken risotto. Not the romantic meal I had envisaged but we had to come up with something quick in between power cuts! Was a good way to use up the single chicken breast left in the freezer and the can of evaporated milk in the pantry. Note - that's evaporated milk Alison Mau, NOT condensed!

Thursday - Corned beef, home made wedges and salad. Thank goodness for the crockpot on rugby training nights!

Friday - Annette Sym's Potato Lasagne with broccoli and salad. A somewhat spontaneous decision but was a huge hit with the whole family!

Saturday - On a roll with Annette Sym, so made her Indian Curry, except using beef instead of lamb and rice while we've still got some.

Sunday - Roast duck, roast potatoes, pumpkin, broccoli and green beans. From the hunter-gatherers again and no, I couldn't eat the duck either!

Which brings us to the end of another $21 Challenge! I'm going to try and carry it on as best I can however, as we are going to Australia NEXT WEEK! Not much point getting a load of food in for only nine days. I'm SO excited! The Vault has been brilliant in helping us save money for our trip - that's a whole blog in itself but for a while I was wondering if we were actually going to get there at all, thanks to our extremely unhelpful bank. How long have you got?

As you know, I have a mortal fear of overdrafts but what with all our necessary house renovations (and the fact that the painter finally showed up after two and a half years!) we made the decision at the start of the year to ask the bank for an overdraft, just to take the pressure off a little in case we uncovered any expensive surprises while doing the renovations. As it turned out, there weren't any expensive surprises, which is just as well because we were never given the overdraft. First, we received the paperwork from the bank and it was incorrect so we sent it back. Then the bank manager fell ill and our request somehow fell through the cracks and never made it to the person taking over from her. So we placed the request again and sent the paperwork back within 48 hours but we never heard anything back. We were finally granted our overdraft FIVE MONTHS after we applied for it - and now we don't need it any more! I'm pretty proud that we managed to get through this tight time without borrowing but that's not the point - the point is their service was absolutely crap!

Then there was the credit card debacle. I admit to having a credit card but it only has a $1000 limit on it and I only use it for online purchases where there is no alternative. With our Australian trip coming up, and accommodation, car hire and so on to book, we decided to ask for an increase on my card limit, so we could put all our expenses on the one card while we were away and then pay it off when we got back. I rang the bank and asked nicely and was told no problem, I'll receive a notification in the mail in the next few days. My notification duly arrived, but they had only given me half the amount I had asked for. 'That's not right, it's nowhere near enough!' I complained to Noel. So I rang the bank again the next day and was told the reason that the amount I had asked for had not been approved was because I had missed two payments at the beginning of the year. That was news to me - I've never missed a payment! I dug out my records and demanded the bank increase the limit to what I asked for but they wouldn't budge. Even when I asked them just to increase the limit for ONE MONTH ONLY, they still wouldn't give in. I couldn't believe it! There was I, Penny Wise of all people, grovelling for a tiny credit card increase and they wouldn't give it to me. How ironic. I was sorely tempted to throw a Naomi Campbell style tantrum and say 'Don't you know who I am?!' but I figured she obviously didn't, particularly as it sounded suspiciously as though I had phoned through to someone in India.

I was gutted. 'What are we going to do?' I pouted. We didn't have time to go shopping around for a different card, by the time everything was processed it would be too late for our trip. 'Hang on', said Noel. 'Your credit card is in your name only - I'll just apply for one in my name!' He insisted on sitting down on Saturday afternoon and emailing a request to the bank. 'If they still say no, we'll just tell them to get stuffed and take all our banking elsewhere', he said. I didn't like his chances after my experience, especially via email - I mean, the bank has always dealt with me, whether at the branch, online or over the phone. So imagine how gobsmacked I was to receive this email this morning:

'Congratulations Noel! We're delighted to let you know that we've approved your application for a Visa Classic, with a limit of $15,000. Your new card should reach you in 3 - 5 working days.'

WHAT?!? Fifteen thousand dollars?! They wouldn't even give me five! The cheek of it! We never even asked for that much in the first place! Noel thought it was hilarious, 'they must think I'm more trustworthy than you!' he laughed. I just didn't get their logic, we share the same bank account, the same mortgage and everything, yet they were happy to hand over $15,000 worth of credit to someone they didn't know from a bar of soap, when they weren't willing to lend $5,000 to me, who they had been dealing with for the last five years. Apart from being a bit miffed though, I think it's sad really. You can see how people end up in so much financial trouble if it's that easy for the average Joe to rack up $15,000 worth of debt thanks to a single email.

So things are finally moving! The Vault has helped us plan our trip and save money in so many ways already, but as I said, that's a whole other blog. I'm embarrassed to admit I had to postpone my meter reading experiment last week because the weather was so horrendous I was too much of a big girl's blouse to go outside and take the reading! Needless to say, it was a very good week for saving power because we were forced to light candles and use camping lanterns most days anyway!

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