Monday, 31 January 2011

Onions: Friend or foe?

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I have a love/hate relationship with onions.

I love the flavour but can't stand 'onion breath'.

I love the taste but can't manage to peel them without crying my eyes out.

I love their health benefits but find they bloat my tummy when I eat them.

I love the texture (especially when fried until 'soft' in a bit of butter) but find them irritating to cut up finely.

Love them.

Hate them.

After eliminating onion from my diet for years while breast feeding children who couldn't tolerate them (in any form), I recently reintroduced them into my diet (the kids still won't eat them) and fell in love again.

But then, after a particularly 'oniony' but scrumptious dish, the same old issues reared their head. And the dislike began again. So I have decided that I need someone to 'breed' an onion that eliminates all the bad stuff so I am left with only the good.

Then I could partake with no regrets.

How do you find the onion? Any good recipes to share?

Saturday, 29 January 2011

52in52: Donate blood

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I am taking a leaf out of Kelly's book and setting myself something new to do each week in 2011. I am going to post about it each week on Saturday. I won't be doing this in any particular order, and will add the link to the post when it is complete. If I don't manage to acheive everything on the list, (highly likely) I will donate $5 for everything I missed to Oxfam for all the amazing work they do. So here goes...


I received a letter in the mail last week from the Blood Bank.

The week before Christmas, I tried to donate blood. I figured as it was the season for giving, it was something I could do for someone else.

It was a really hot day and, honestly, I wasn't feeling the best. I don't think I had drunk enough water in the morning.

I waded my way through the forms full of extremely personal questions and then I sat amongst the other Donors reading my book. It took forever, but I was determined to hand over a pint of the red stuff, so I waited (and waited and waited as it turned out) for my turn to be the Good Samaritan.

The nurse that finally called my name was friendly. We chatted our way through all the important questions and had a giggle whenever we could. No need to make these things unpleasant. She then took a sample of my blood (a finger-prick test) and said 'It looks pale'. I retorted with  'What are you? A vampire?'.  Then she visibly paled as she read the result from her little machine. She laughed and muttered 'That can't be right' and 87 and then stated that she needed to do it again.

So we repeated the finger prick test which looked 'better' according to the vampire nurse. But sadly, not good enough. "Aren't you tired?" the nurse asked me? Uh. Yes. Der. Didn't you listen to the bit where I told you I had nearly two year old twins? Of course I am tired! (Those Vampires obviously don't need SLEEP!)

I was escorted out of the sweltering van. My blood was no good. I was diagnosed with anaemia and they told me I would get a letter in the mail explaining everything.

Well, I got my letter and my dreams of giving blood are over for at least the next 6 months. I have low-normal iron stores but insufficient haemoglobin in my blood. I have to see my GP to seek treatment for my anaemia and be given the 'all clear' in writing before masquerading as a Good Samaritan again.

So of course I have googled 'anaemia' and the causes and of course I now have think I have numerous forms of cancer and other systemic illnesses. As you do. When you self-diagnose from an internet search. I mean seriously! You'll be pleased to know that I have made an appointment with my doctor for next week. Hopefully it will be nothing and I will be back in the game in no time.

In the meantime, me and my anaemia will take ourselves off to bed a little earlier at night. I think we need more sleep.

Friday, 28 January 2011

If only...

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I've just been over visiting Random Ramblings of a Stay at Home Mum.

I had planned to do a frivolous post today about twins and party etiquette* but I can't find my frivolity after reading Lori's latest post.

For those of you who don't know Lori, she lost her husband earlier this year to suicide. I won't tell her story, she does an amazing job of that herself, but I will tell you how I am feeling about it.

To me, suicide represents a total lack of hope and even though I am a pessimist, I can't imagine how anyone could ever feel that way. That being said, people do it and that is the end. For them.

For those they leave behind it is just the beginning. The survivors have to pick up the pieces of their lives, without their special person. They have to get on with the day-to-day realities while they mourn the loss of someone so dear. They have to try to work out what happened. Why? Why?

They painstakingly rewind their way through the weeks and months leading up to the suicide, looking for clues.

They reflect on their interactions with the person and often feel regret, sadness, and/or anger. I wish I didn't say that. I wish I had said I loved you more often. I wish I realised he wasn't making idle threats.

They have to find a way to justify to themselves how they could have 'not known' that this was the person's intention. I knew him so well, how could I have not known this? How?

They have to build their memory of the person; put them in the past tense. And somehow they need to account for this revelation in their summation of the person's personality. Somehow marry together the person they thought they knew with this new person. This person who took his own life.

They have to put the puzzle of worries and problems and issues together to try to understand why the person felt this was the only solution available to them.

But it never makes sense. No matter how much blame, guilt, regret, sadness, anger and fear that the survivors endure. It never makes sense.

Survivors spend the rest of their lives with an "if only" relationship with their special person. If only he'd talked to me. If only I had known. If only he could've found another solution.

If only he was still here.

My heart breaks for Lori and other survivors like her. I hope I never have to experience what they go through.

No matter what the question, suicide is not the answer.

* If you are clicking over to Lori's, please be aware that her emotions are raw, her stories are not censored and it is heart-wrenchingly difficult to read.
**I am sure the frivolity will return soon and I will put this post together

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Complete 180

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Last week I confessed that I returned to Weight Watchers and faced the scales for the first time in a couple of months.

It was such a struggle to get there. A plethora of excuses:

It is too hard.

I don't have time.

I'll just lose some weight before I go because I am in terrible shape.

I'm going to embarass myself.

The class time is so inconvenient.

It is too expensive.

What I have realised this week is that being brave is worth it. You have to face yourself head on. You have to own your behaviour and be accountable. You can't lose weight unless you actually try.

I am so glad that I got back on the wagon because I have had a complete turn around this week. I have eaten well and after 3 days my sugar cravings vanished (thank the stars because I have been mainlining the stuff). I have been exercising. I have been tracking my food (very anal but necessary it seems). I have been drinking water.

I have been feeling more in control of myself again. And, the best bit, I have ditched the guilt.

I a due to weigh in again tonight. Even if I haven't lost a gram I reckon I will be happy. I found something this week. I found some positive energy and momentum. This is my year.

How was your week?

If you are looking for some inspiration, pop over to Life in a Pink Fibro. Sister A has an awesome giveaway happening to celebrate her Blogoversary! You can pitch to win a 5 week, online writing course from the Sydney Writer's Centre. Now, what writer wouldn't want that?

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

You know you are Australian when...

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I read this on Facebook tonight, written by a mate I went to school with and it made me laugh*:
"You know you're Australian when... you can decipher "yeah nah". Your mates are Shazza and Dazza. You're goin' down to see Acca Dacca and get Maccas in ya trackies. You once lived in Woop Woop, your mate's XF Falcon died in the arse and you understand no wuckin' furries is a good thing!"

I hope you had a very happy Australia Day everyone. We did!

* If you are not from around here, please feel free to let me know if you need a translation!

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Do you dummy?

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All of our kids had dummies when they were wee.

They all had them before we even left the hospital if I remember correctly!

Before I had children I thought that dummies were a terrible thing. Bad for speech development. Bad for teeth development. Americans call them 'pacifiers'. Why do we want to 'pacify' our babies? I thought. Why indeed...

But in those first few days, when my unsettled newborns did what babies do, cried, loudly and persistently, I called upon the Happy Baby to get me through.

Nugget took to his well enough. It became part of his complicated settling ritual. We got rid of it at 9 months when his repeated night-waking for a 'dummy plug' added more fuel to his already poor sleep habit fire. He was too needy. The dummy had to go. He went down fighting.

Dew Drop wasn't much of a fan of his dummy. Some days he would, some days he wouldn't. We persisted until he was about 6 months and then we stopped. He couldn't have cared less.

The Minx never really took to hers. She came out screaming and I tried, oh how I tried to get her to take a dummy. It was as big as her face and she spat it out as quickly as it went in. There was no bonding. She found her thumb at about 6 weeks and hasn't looked back.

Doo Dah was a whole other story. The dummy was Doo Dah's first real love. He learnt to self-cater early, never argued about only having it for sleep times and was never any trouble. His eyes lit up when he spotted them. You just had to mention 'dummers' and he was as happy as Larry to pop into bed for a sleep. He always had more than one; usually one in his mouth, and one in each hand.

We held off from removing them for fear that he would develop sleep problems without it! Bucky teeth? Whatevs.

Months became years and before we knew it, Doo Dah was approaching four and still had his dummies! How did that happen?

He promised he would give them up after this Ben 10 Birthday party for his 4th birthday. Nope.

He promised he would leave them at home when we went to Fiji. Nope.

He promised he would leave them in Fiji for the Fijian kids. And he did.

I dreaded the first night sans dummy. But I needn't have. Not a peep.

And for the past 24 nights, Doo Dah has slotted into his bed, had a chat about his day, listened to a bedtime story, and then fallen asleep. No dummies. No worries.

Another source of parental guilt removed.

What are your thoughts on dummies?

Community service announcement: Tomorrow night, after about 10.30pm Sydney time, you might want to pop over to Sister A's Life in a Pink Fibro for a peek. Something fun and fabulous awaits you. Just sayin'.

Monday, 24 January 2011

The 4:1 ratio

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If you had a one in four chance at winning something, you would enter it wouldn't you? You'd think they were pretty good odds? How would it be if you had a one in four chance of capturing your Mum's attention? What then?

One of the hardest things about having four children is the amount of waiting they have to do to get your attention. You're attending to Child A and Child B wants something, so you say 'just a sec' while you complete the task for Child A. Meanwhile, Children C and D decide they need you too, so you quickly wrap things up with Child A, attend briefly to Child B, turn your attention to the most urgent request from Child C or D and finally sort out the last child's issue, meanwhile, Child A needs something new.

It is never ending. I certainly don't have all the answers (I wish that I did!) but, having just survived spent the better part of 6 weeks on my own with the kids over the school holidays, I realised that I have developed some strategies that seem to work (some of the time).

Having a rough family routine helps tone down with some of the urgency. As does having, and communicating, a plan for each day so that each child is aware of what is happening now and what will be happening next.

Feeding and 'watering' all the kids at the same time (rather than a each one's whim) also cuts down on some of the repetitive 'nagging'.

Getting the children to take turns (e.g. to sit on Mum's lap) helps to certain point, as does having a designated child who is 'in charge' for the day so that they become the fall-back guy for decision-making when disagreements ensue.

Encouraging them to work together, rather than against each other can be helpful (especially to reduce some of the accidents that occur when two boys go head to head in battle).

Sometimes the older kids are able to help the younger ones, so I encourage that when I can (eg. Nugget can open doors for the Minx and Dew Drop). And I have desperately been trying to teach them all a bit of independence. You know of the try-to-do-it-for-yourself-before-you-ask-for-help variety. It is amazing how well that works on a good day!

We implemented the family charter a few weeks back and I refer to that from time to time when children are whining and being disrespectful to each other. I've even heard them reinforcing the 'rules' with each other (we won't discuss the tone of voices they used because that would be embarassing really...)

When we need to go somewhere that the kids aren't thrilled about e.g. supermarket, I find being prepared and being proactive helps me (like not taking toys into the supermarket so I don't have to spend 10 minutes on my hands and knees searching for them with a crying child mourning the loss of their favourite super hero). So called contingency planning.

I try to be a consistent, patient and positive mother. Some days it is truly harder than others. Some days you just wake up with your cranky pants on. But I find that if I behave, so too will my kids. They feed off my energy and if I yell and scream and carry on like a two year old, so will they (which is acceptable for the twins who are in fact two year olds, but not so for the other two!).

When all else fails, I drink lots of wine and write the day off I go to bed with the hope that tomorrow will be better.

What are some of your parenting strategies for dealing with the whinging and attention seeking behaviour in your household?

Saturday, 22 January 2011

52in52: Getting rid of the possum

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I am taking a leaf out of Kelly's book and setting myself something new to do each week in 2011. I am going to post about it each week on Saturday. I won't be doing this in any particular order, and will add the link to the post when it is complete. If I don't manage to acheive everything on the list, (highly likely) I will donate $5 for everything I missed to Oxfam for all the amazing work they do. So here goes...

I wrote a post about our little possum friend towards the end of last year. She moved in, had a baby and got cozy in our roof. One of the worst house guests ever: Woke us at night with her comings and goings and slept all day (a constant reminder of my own sleeplessness).

But when she started having suitors come past to 'woo' her. And when there were two potentials who fought with a narky squeal at 10pm every night. Let's just say, the Mum and her bub had to go.

The night before we went to Fiji, the Geege and I had a chat about our little house guests. It went something like this.

Me: They have got to go. Can you please plug the entry point once they have left for the night?
Him: It is too slippery with all the rain. I can't do it. I might slip and fall.
Me: Well, can I call in the possum guy and get him to do it?
Him: They cost an arm and a leg and really, I could do it.
Me: But you said you can't.
Him: Oh all right. Get the guy.
Me: Yippee.

A green light. End of conversation.

Two days after we got back from Fiji, I heard our little friend and it reminded me to call the Guy. I had an hilariously funny conversation with the Guy about the habits of our squatters (he sure loved his job!)

He had to get his local mate to call me the next day to book it. I asked the cost. '$250' he said. Gulp.

I informed the Geege that I had called the Guy.

Me: He is calling tomorrow to book the job.
Him: Oh good.
Me: It is going to cost $250.
Him: What? That is crazy. We're not getting him. * leaves room and goes straight up the ladder onto the rood for preparation work for operation 'get rid of the possums'*.

Six hours later, the possum hole was blocked.

That is one way to get him moving!

Does your Mr-fix-it need some extra nudging from time to time?

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Back in the fat camp *sigh*

I faced them tonight.

The Weight Watchers scales.

It was a scary prospect but the rolls of blub around my tum and upper thigh regions have been getting bigger (and more uncomfortable) and I couldn't hide away anymore.

I took a deep breath and stepped on.

It wasn't pretty, but it is done.

And so it begins again.

I am playing Fat to Fit at Lucy's. I am back in the fat camp, but fitness is only a few more runs and a few less kegs away.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Reclaiming the dining table

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A new year. Another attempt to re-organise the home.

Back in May, 2010, I went mad about the place and cleared and decluttered and re-jigged in the vain attempt to be organised for going back to work. You can read about my attempts here.

Over the past 7-8 months, I have noted the creep, creep, creep of accumulated junk around the place. Piles of paper on the desk that need 'filing'. Cupboards that are straining to close. Bits of broken toys waiting to be fixed. Piles of books that haven't made their way back to the bookshelf (funny that they don't do it on their own). Piles of clean washing waiting to be folded. Recipes that have been printed and left on the recipe stand. And still nowhere specific to put things like keys, wallets, and mobile phones.

My 'household organiser' that I painstakingly made with sections for family, home, school, money etc has barely been touched (although it does make me feel organised!).

All in all an epic fail.

So I started again this year. Did a couple of days after Fiji and before camping. Did a few hours here and there each day. I've tackled the linen press, the toy cupboard, the pantry, the desk, and the filing cabinet. I have cleared 8 garbage bags of donations to the charity shop and the equivalent into the garbage bin (not great for landfill I know).

There isn't a broken toy in this house.

There isn't a double bed sheet (which I have held on to for oh, about 15 years).

There isn't a single size 1 or under piece of clothing.

Every recipe is filed away.

There are significantly fewer stuffed toys, picture books, and children's shoes.

There are additional shelves in my pantry and I can actually see things at the back.

There is only one pile of papers awaiting 'filing' (and about a tree-worth in the recycling bin).

The sentimental 'baby' stuff has been culled and the children's 'baby' books are mostly complete.

My household binder is now a thing of beauty that I am actually using.

The address book I bougtht 2 years ago to replace the one that has been falling apart has actually been written in.

You can see the bottom of my dining room table and there is hope that I can relocate the computer paraphenalia and reclaim the dining room.

The boys' bedroom has been rearranged and is at its functional best.

Declutter fest 2011 has been far more productive than 2010 was.

If only I can keep the momentum and finish the job this time!

What household organisation have you been tackling?

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

The 'No shit sherlock' Golden Globes wrap*

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I learnt a few things watching the Golden Globes last night. I have admitted how completely out of the loop I am with the Hollywood goss, but seriously... how out of the loop am I?

1. Michael Douglas has throat cancer. When he stepped out on the stage to a massive standing ovation to present an Award, I said to the Geege, "God he looks awful. He looks kind of grey like a Cancer patient". The standing ovation went for a while and I said "Man. What has he done to deserve that?" (I am not a fan, can you tell?). Next thing, I google him and oops, Stage 4 Base of Tongue cancer. Inoperable. Treated with a combination of raditation therapy and chemotherapy. Ouch! He is not long for this world, which is terrible.

2. Natalie Portman is pregnant! She stood up to accept her Award and I said to the Geege "Either she is pregnant or... oh yes, she is definitely pregnant. Who is she even dating?". All was revealed in her speech. She looks fab and will make a lovely Scrummy Mummy.

3. Nicole and Keith have had another baby. Born on December 28, 2010 via a surrogate, Faith Margaret is their biological child (Thank God they didn't call her Tuesday or something equally naff). They sure kept that secret (well from me anyway!)

4. Ricky Gervais is a very funny man (who may be out of a job after last night's controversial comments including inferences that all Scientologists are gay). The best quote of the night for me though: "I'd like to thank God for making me an atheist". Classic.

5. There were some absolute doozies out there in the fashion stakes. Michelle Williams looked dowdy in her beige flower arrangement (which is a real shame because I love her). Hayden Panetierre was flashing her nipple-covering band-aids, which, let's face it, is not a good look. But it was January Jones who was the absolute worst for me. Fabulous hair and make-up but the frock? She looked like a complete tart. Oh Betty. What were you thinking? Her co-star, the delectable Christina Hendricks (see photo above) totally nailed it. But I would only expect that of her.

*Or this is nothing new to the average bear but I learnt a lot.

The SmartPhone era

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I'm due a mobile phone update. My contract is up in a couple of days so I am in the 'search around for a new phone and a new deal' stage of getting a phone.

It is doing my head in a bit.

Last time I got a phone (two years ago), I could not have cared less about the model or the features. If it made calls and could text, I was happy.

Since then, I have discovered the world of blogging and social networking. Now I want a phone that can do stuff.

I am more than a little enamoured with the iPhone4.

Only thing is that I currently pay a fraction of the cost per month for my telephoning privilege that an iPhone contract would cost, so it would be a big commitment to upgrade to that.

So I have been checking out the other SmartPhones on the market. None are as cool as the iPhone, but the poor-man's iPhone (the Samsung Galaxy) comes close, and HTC do a couple that get pretty good ratings. They all cost an arm and a leg, but less than the iPhone.

I know it is time to enter the SmartPhone era, but when it comes to the crunch, I think I may be too much of a scrooge to be a SmartPhone owner.

But I can't bring myself to buy just any-old-thing anymore either.

Torn.

Do you have a SmartPhone? What do you use and why did you choose the model you did?

Oh, and if you haven't already and  you want to help me out, please pop over to Melissa from Suger Coat it's blog and vote for me in her Make-over poll. Topleft hand side bar. Cheers

Monday, 17 January 2011

What to name the prince and princess?

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I've written before about the dilemma that naming twins is. I was all ready to send my mate Princess Mary an email of my post to help her out when, to my surprise, I came across a list of Denmark's preferred contenders for the new prince and princess of Denmark. The official names won't be released until the Christening in 3 months time, but that hasn't stopped the speculation.

I feel I am equipped to assist Mary with this task. I mean, I've had things to say about her twins before. And you know that she and I lead parallel lives?

Exhibit A: I met the Geege at a Sydney pub, and Mary met Fred at one too.

Exhibit B: I married my 'prince' in 2004, and Mary did too.

Exhibit C: I have had four children in rapid succession, and so has Mary.

Exhibit D: We each have boy/girl twins, with the boys born first.

Exhibit E: I live in the heart of suburbia battling the day-to-day plights of big-city living on a small-time budget and, well, so does... oh, that's right, it is all in my head.

The fact that Mary has just left hospital with her newborn twins to return to her PALACE maybe makes us a little different from each other.

The media seems to think she is an 'ordinary' woman though. Some of the stuff they print about the happy new parents is ludicrous. You know, like how will she cope with four children under five and 25 nannies and helpers?

And even Prince Frederick who asked himself 'Can we afford it?' when he realised Mary was expecting twins. I mean, if he can't, what are the rest of us doing?

Anyway, I digress.

Back to picking names for the prince and princess.

The shortlisted names are*:
BOY: Harald, Gorm, Sven, Axel, Valdemar or Knud
GIRL: Caroline, Sophie, Louise, Astrid, Ingrid or Charlotte

To me there are two "natural" twin-name pairs in there, both with a common first letter. Sven and Sophie or Astrid and Axel. Personally I quite like either pair but Astrid and Axel sound perfect together. Axel is a strong masculine German name (that means 'Source of all life'), while Astrid is a soft, feminine Danish name (that means 'Divine Strength'). Prince Axel and Princess Astrid. I can see it now...

So there you have it Mary. MultipleMum's suggestion for what to name the prince and princess. Mary? Mary?

What do you think they should call the babies? Let's do our own poll!

PS: If you haven't already, please pop over to Suger Coat it and vote for me in the Blog Makeover poll.

*From an internet poll of more than 13700 Danes as well as other random suggestions I read about

Saturday, 15 January 2011

52in52: Blog Makeover. Help me make it happen!

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I am taking a leaf out of Kelly's book and setting myself something new to do each week in 2011. I am going to post about it each week on Saturday. I won't be doing this in any particular order, and will add the link to the post when it is complete. If I don't manage to acheive everything on the list, (highly likely) I will donate $5 for everything I missed to Oxfam for all the amazing work they do. For a look at the full list, click on the 52 in 52 page on the left hand sidebar.



This week I have started many but not actually managed to tick anything off my list. It is not a good sign really is it? Only the second week in and already a blip in proceedings. The leg work this week will pay off though, so I feel like I am still on track.

One of the things on my 52in52 list is a serious blog makeover.

One of the things I did this week was enter a competition for a Blog Makeover!

Melissa from Suger Coat it has a wonderful prize of a blog makeover by the talented Stockport Hotel or hers truly.

I would LOVE to win one of the prizes, and you can help.

Please click over and vote for my blog.

Pretty please?

Pretty please with a bird on top?

I think we have all had enough of the bird. Haven't we?

Friday, 14 January 2011

Camping Farmstay style

(This is actually an old camping shot at Newnes - I haven't downloaded the pics from this trip yet).
Another fantastic camping adventure under our belts*. Five glorious days under the canvas. No crowds. No generators. No crazy 40 degree days. Bliss.

Yes there was rain (isn't there always when the word 'camping' is mentioned?).

Yes there were mozzies (and ants too!).

Yes there were only basic toileting and showering facilities.

But there was also good company (thanks C&K for sharing the time with us and to M&S for letting us plonk in your 'hill paddock'), many laughs, many beers, birthdays, a couple of trail-runs, the stampeding horses to give us a fright thrill on Wednesday evening and day-trips exploring the countryside around Taree area.

We even found the most gorgeous farm on which to build the eco-houses we dream about acquiring.

Our children are becoming the best campers and it is such a relief. Kids do what kids should do when you go camping. They run. They play outside. They use their imaginations. They make up games and explore. They look at the world through wide eyes with big smiles on their faces. They experience the real simplicity of living. And they love it.

Are you a camper? Have you braved it with the kids yet?

* Disclaimer: We were unaware of the devastation of the flooding in Queensland while we were away. My thoughts are with those of you who have been impacted by this rare outrage of Mother Nature.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Five handmade gifts from me to you


Image copied from here

For those of you who have been reading And then there were four for awhile, you will realise how completely out of my comfort zone this is.

Cate from Keep Cate Busy put out a call on her blog. She is a gorgeous blogger and pretty new to all of this and well, she only had a few takers so I offered to be the recipient and thus have got to make five gifts of my own...

To rewind a little and tell you what this is all about, I quote from the original source, MilkyMamma (I think) via LJ and Felicity and Cate:

I promise something handmade to the FIRST 5 people who leave a comment here. However, to be eligible, you must repost this message, offering something handmade to 5 other people. The rules are that it must be handmade by you, and it must be sent to your 5 giftees sometime in 2011. Ready, set, GO!

I can't promise pretty or amazing, but I can promise that I will make you something from me with love in my heart and a smile on my face.

To enter, you just need to comment and then put the link to your own Pay It Forward post.

I now sit here hoping like mad that least five people will want a MultipleMum original. Don't be shy people. It will be a collector's item (Um Al. I promise no photo collaging!)

xx

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Seek advice...

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I wonder how you are spending your day today?

I am still camping with my family and some friends. Four adults and seven kids (we are always outnumbered these days). We are up the Coast, camping at a property owned by another couple of friends. We haven't been to their place before so it is all about exploration of the unknown; a definite adventure.

Hopefully it is not raining, but as it always rains when we camp, I am suspecting we have seen some droplets.

Today I will be thinking about my final randomly selected message from Patrick Lyndsay's book, Now is the Time.

Now is the time to...

seek advice

It must be from a respected source, and balanced against your own knowledge and instincts.
But seeking advice brings may rewards:
it honours the giver;
it enhances the receiver;
it creates perspective

'Wise men don't need advice. Fools won't take it.' - Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)

I am going to see if my friend K can help me sort out my exorbitant spending at the grocery store. What are you going to seek advice about?

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Now is the time to...

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It is the Geege's birthday today. The love of my life is turning 39. I can't quite fathom where the years have gone (didn't we just celebrate his 30th?) but he is every bit as gorgeous and charming as the day I met him at the Commodore Hotel at the ripe old age of 25. Hippo beeday Geege!

In keeping with the flavour of yesterday's message, I am all set to cook him a great big steak tonight (I can't eat red meat and never cook it, so this is a real treat for him). I plan to throw it on the camping stove and serve it with a flavoursome tossed salad.

I have also arranged a cheese platter of all his favourite cheeses and dips and have two bottles of scrumptious wines to wash it all down with. It will be a wonderful night under the stars (here's hoping the children go to sleep!).

So for today's message, from Patrick Lyndsay's lovely book*.

Now is the time to...

listen for the birdsong

Whether you're in the wilderness, or in the Big Smoke, listen for the songs of birds.
Somehow, somewhere, they will be near you.
They offer a sign of optimism, of the rhythms of nature, of the triumph of the individual.
They sing of hope.

'How the quiet gravity of nature and her silence by contrast startles one when one faces her collected' - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)

Can you hear the birds at your place? How many different types of bird calls can you hear?

* I know you won't believe me that I turned to that message completely randomly, but I did. And didn't I get spooked!

Monday, 10 January 2011

Carpe Diem

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I am actually off camping with the family for a few days this week (you know how much we love to camp!). Instead of closing down for the week, I thought I would leave you with something to think about each day.

My mother-in-law gave us this book called Now is the Time: 170 ways to seize the moment by Patrick Lindsay. It is neat. Sister B reminded me that we gave the same book to Sister A when she turned 40 (guess who made that purchase!)

So I randomly opened the book three times for today's post, tomorrow's post and Wednesday's.

Now is the time to...

add spice to your relationship

Make a conscious effort  to honour your loved one.
Start with the little things: a hug, a kiss, flowers, a card a note, a small gift.
Then remember the bigger things: their feelings, their hopes, their dreams, their goals.
Set aside time for each other.
Keep alert to each other's feelings and moods.
Keep the relationship young and fresh.

'How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.' Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861)

So tell me, how do you add spice to your relationship?

Saturday, 8 January 2011

52in52: Family charter


I am taking a leaf out of Kelly's book and setting myself something new to do each week in 2011. I am going to post about it each week on Saturday. I won't be doing this in any particular order, and will add the link to the post when it is complete. If I don't manage to acheive everything on the list, (highly likely) I will donate $5 for everything I missed to Oxfam for all the amazing work they do. For a look at the full list, click on the 52 in 52 page on the left hand sidebar.

The kids and I had lots of fun making our family charter which we called 2011 Family Goals chart. I really wanted to keep things positive (not a list of 'no's and 'don't's in line with my commitment to mindful parenting) and it was pretty hard helping the children get the hang of that.

In the end we created these five goals:

1. We keep our hands and feet to ourselves
2. We sit at the table when we eat
3. We speak kindly to each other
4. We look after our toys and each other
5. We have 'inside' toys, games and voices and outside ones

Not a no in sight.

They cover most of our needs at the moment (although I am thinking of adding and un-democratic 'We help Mum whenever we can').

Have you had any joy with your own 52in52 challenge that you want to share?

* If our home-made version doesn't suffice, I reckon I might get me one of these pretties from Harper Grace because it is simply awesomeness.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Buying nothing new for a year

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Could you do it? Go 365 days without spending money on new things? Buying second hand clothes and shoes. Bartering. Recycling. Freecycling. Borrowing. Swapping. And *gasp* making things by hand.

Kebeni did. She's about to start again.

Angela did. She is still doing it.

Could it be the perfect way to marry my desire to spend less and save more with my wish to live more simply?

Could it be the motivation I need to finally start my veggie patch?

The rules are pretty simple (directly from Compact the group that seems to be the originator of the idea):

1. Don't buy new products of any kind (from stores, web sites, etc.)

2. Borrow or buy used.

There are a few exceptions (thankfully because it is sounding pretty hard so far!)- using the "fair and reasonable person" standard -- i.e., you'll know in your heart when you're rationalizing a violation:

  • Food, drink, and necessary medicine (no elective treatments such as Viagra or Botox)
  • Necessary cleaning products, but not equipment (don't go out and buy the Dyson Animal, for example).
  • Socks and underwear (utilitarian--non-couture or ornamental) - My big undies shouldn't be an issue then?
  • Pajamas for the children
  • Utilitarian services (plumbers, electricians, auto mechanics, veterinarians, dog/house-sitters, fire/paramedics, dry cleaners, house cleaners, etc.) but you should support local and encourage used parts (rebuilt transmission, salvaged headlight unit, etc.)
  • Recreational services (massage, etc.) & local artisanal items - Good sources for gifts, but should not be over-indulged in for personal gratification (what a shame! I reckon you would need a few massages after a year of this.)
  • Charitable contributions - a great source for gifts
  • Plants and cut flowers - Whenever possible, cultivate from free cuttings or seeds. But if you have to, purchase from local businesses (i.e., not Bunnings)--and again, within reason
  • Art supplies - First line of attack: SCRAP. When absolutely necessary (for the professionals and talented amateurs in the group), from local businesses (shouldn't be an issue in this craft-less household!)
  • Magazines, newspapers, Netflix - renewals only, no new subscriptions. Even better to consume online.
  • DVD rentals and downloadable music files (non-material) -- freely shared and legal, please
It is certainly an interesting concept. I am considering it. We sort of did it out of necessity when I was on extended maternity leave after the twins. I have noticed that since going back to work we spend everything we earn and all our plans for saving half of the 'extra' money has not eventuated.

Maybe a year of no new-spending is the way to go?

Do you think you could tread the path to non-consumerism?

PS: Thinking of you Lori, over at the purple house. xx
PPS: Playing along with FYBF, gratiously hosted by Kirsten this week x

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Weight loss roller coaster ride

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You may have noticed I have been pretty quiet on the weight-loss blog posts of late. It was deliberate, initially. I was plodding along weight loss street feeling pretty good about myself. I rejoined Weight Watchers at the end of November, lost another 4+ kilos and was within 200g of my 'healthy weight range'. Sweet. And then Christmas struck.

I wish I could say that I was not deterred from my efforts, but I can't.

I wish I could say that I maintained my exercise even if my intake was out of control, but I can't.

I wish I could say that I am not scared to get back on the scales, but I can't.

I really don't know why I keep getting to this point. So close and yet so far. So disciplined and restrained but then not. At the heart of it, I still crave chocolate and chips and all things bad, and once I start 'allowing' myself to have it, I just can't seem to stop.

I don't think I have got to the bottom of my problem with food and I suppose that until I do I will always yo-yo back and forward.

For now I am returning to the safety net of Weight Watchers. Re-committing to my regular running. Tracking my food-related thoughts and feelings. And hoping. Hoping that I can find the answer to this weight conundrum. Hoping that I can find it within to let myself succeed.

Do you have any answers or are you on the weight loss roller coaster too?

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

The good, the WTF and the ugly - our Fiji experience...

The Good:

It really is hard to have a bad time in Fiji.

It was a water-lovers paradise (and most appreciated given the 30+ degree heat we experienced each day). Each day we enjoyed swimming at the beautiful beach AND the swimming pool (one with a mini water slide). Our first bure was literally positioned on the sand of the beach and we could watch the children swim in the shallow low tide from the comfort of our verandah.

There was snorkeling to be done (not by me because I forgot to bring my contact lenses and can see NOTHING without my glasses) and the Geege managed a short session.

There was lots of jumping off the pontoon- the quickest way to make you feel like a kid again I discovered.

We ate two catered meals every day, breakfast and dinner, and a lazy lunch in between.

We relaxed and/or read in a hammock under the shade of a coconut tree in the heat of the day, enjoying a daily siesta along side the toddlers.

We spent quality time with the family (and whooped some Newton butt in a game of New Zealand Trivial Pursuit).

We walked along the water's edge or sat in the outdoor restaurants watching the sun go down each night, enjoying the colours and the tranquility and waving bye to another glorious day.

We drank cocktails - too many really - and found that parenting 'under the influence' is quite fun when you don't have to cook or clean (Note to self: Mai Thai is not your friend).

We celebrated the end of one year and the beginning of the next with the bang of fireworks (just like home!).

The WTF:
Fijian's love music. They play it constantly and it is really uplifting with a real 'holiday feel'. Mostly I totally dug their vibe, but not so much on Christmas morning. At exactly 4am on 25.12.10 we were woken by the sound of a knock at the door. Now remember that we had the looooongest day in the world on 24.12.10 so we were perhaps a little less friendly interested than we might have been. The early morning visitor turned out to be 'Fijian Santa' who popped by to give us a Christmas cake and sing us a little tune with his mates playing guitars. It was joyous and cute but it was 4am and I was in my nighty and Dew Drop was woken by the racket and wanted to start the day...

Later that day, the resort forgot the twin's birthday cake that we thought we had arranged before we arrived. We did some celebrating of their 2nd birthday during the day, but had planned to have cake at dinner. We stretched them and stretched them on Christmas night (hoping for a miracle?), trying to get them through the 100 course Christmas meal so we could get all birthday happy, but in the end, their tired little eyes could cope no more and the Geege and I took everybody home to bed. We sang them a little rendition of Happy Birthday while they were falling asleep. Another dud birthday (we are not good at the Christmas birthday clash).

The next night (after 9pm) we got a call from the reception to say that Sue (our waitress) was bringing down the cake. Um. Thanks. Along the beach walked a procession of at least 10 Fijian's in matching Hawaiian shirts, strumming guitars and singing Happy Birthday. The Minx woke for the occasion, but Dew Drop slept through his serenade. Another very cute but WTF music moment!

The Ugly:
I am not going to dwell on this for long but 'Bula-belly' was not a fun aspect of the trip. Changing 6 pooey nappies a day is not a highlight for me.

And while we are at it, poor old Uncle Noods really could have left that Crown of Thorns he stepped on in the water. That was an experience I think he will never forget and one that we all wish had not been part of our holiday! We joked about him having to 'declare' his foot going through customs on the way home. A sneaky way to bring in a bit of the sea-life of Fiji.

A lovely trip was had by all. I would totally do it again, but probably not for another 2 years. Two four year olds would be a hell of a lot easier to wrangle than two year olds.

What did you do over Christmas and New Years? Ever had a WTF moment in Fiji?

* I wanted to post some other photos but Blogger isn't letting me!

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Car. Plane. Bus. Boat.

A lot of people said we were brave taking our four kids to Fiji for Christmas and New Years. We were going with the Geege's Mum and Dad and his sister and her family so the ratio was 6:7 adults to children. We thought it would be okay. We weren't expecting a 'holiday', we are far too practical for that, but a break and a change of scenery. It was loads of fun actually.

Packing was pretty hard work. The Plan A stuff was easy - swimmers, rash vests, board shorts, it was the contingency planning that was trickier. What if it was unseasonably cold? Throw a jumper and a pair of trackies in. What if there is no washing machine? Throw in some extra shorts and T-shirts. What if you need to 'dress' for dinner? Throw in a collared shirt and some enclosed shoes.

Then there was the issue of Christmas and Birthday presents. The questions had been asked by the kids: "Will Santa find us in Fiji?" and the "Of course" that we responded with was not well thought out. If only we had thought to get Santa to come early or late this year so that we didn't have to lug all the presents across the Pacific Ocean. Santa kindly brought small, thoughtful gifts this year. It worked okay.

Four giant bags later, we were packed and ready to rumble.

We arrived at the airport at 6am. It took more than 1.5 hours to 'check in'. I couldn't believe it! There was a massive kerfuffle about the twins being 'infants' (their birthday is Christmas day and we were travelling on Christmas eve) but had their own seats booked. Note to self: Never travel on the eve of a child's 2nd birthday again.

They weren't allowed to have their allocated seats (although we had paid for them) so had to sit on our laps (side by side) which meant we had 5 people in three seats. Lots of fun for the four hour journey!

We rushed to board the plane after grabbing a bite to eat for some exorbitant cost. Next note to self: Never buy food at the airport again.

As we walked through the plane looking for our seats, you could see the people in the rows we passed doing air punches. Celebrating that we weren't sitting next to them. We were quite a spectacle I suspect.
The aeroplane entertainment got quite a lot of consideration in the packing stage. Things that are light and can entertain children for four hours had me stumped for some time....hmmm...the 1001 Things to Spot books were a winner, as was 50 Things to do on a Plane. The toddler naps were a saving grace as was, dare I say it, the DVD player we hired from Virgin and Cousin A's DS. The trip went surprisingly smoothly. That is until we hit crazy turbulence and the storm that was over Fiji as we were arriving. Nugget thought it was cool, like a 'roller coaster'. Doo Dah freaked. The twins just held on a little tighter.

We were picked up at the airport and taken by bus (in the rain) through the Christmas Eve traffic in Nadi to a boat at the marina. I wished that we could have stopped at the local markets - the pineapples looked amazing from the bus window - but there was no time for tourism.



The boat was quite scary. A little tinny that didn't look equipped to tackle the unsettled waters and allowed the rain in. We were soaked before we even took off. The driver was however gifted and managed to get us all to the Island with only a few audible inhalations and squeals from me. I couldn't help but think we would all be doomed if we capsized because all four of my children are non-swimmers. The travel sickness tablets I had taken didn't help me fight this feeling of doom. I felt like I was tripping on mercury and had to concentrate to keep my eyes open. I doubt I could have swum for my life let alone saved anyone elses. Note to self: Just the one tablet on the way home.

But we arrived safely. Car. Plane. Bus. Boat. It had been a long day and it was only 4pm.

Have you travelled overseas with your children? How did you find the experience? Any tips for young players?

Tune in tomorrow for more on the Fiji adventure...

Monday, 3 January 2011

Tabula Rasa

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Don't you just love the Tabula Rasa-like feel of a new year?

You feel like you can make things new and just start over. I mean, technically you can do it anytime, but you have more commitment at the beginning of the new year. It is like starting a diet on a Monday.

I have been brimming with ideas and writing lists all over the place.

A new menu system for the family.

A new organisation system for the toys.

A big clean out of the 'baby' toys now that the twins are two (and donation to the local charity shops).

A new family rule chart.

A new approach to managing 'screen time'.

Achievable craft activities for the kids.

New marketing strategies for the Geege's business.

A commitment to mindful parenting.

A return to regular running.

All plans and strategies. All offering something to make life easier and better. All contributing the happiness and congeniality of the household. I promise to share as the year goes on.

Happy 2011!

How are you feeling on Day 3 of 2011?
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