Tuesday, 31 December 2013


Ahhh. The sweet sound of the last day of the year has arrived. I love this day. I day to reflect and plan the next year. 2013 has been a mixed year for me. Highs and lows.

In January, I focused on health and I did a month of posts to get me in the mood. I was meant to be having a year about health without embarking on any diets. I can't say I achieved this (see below).

In February, I shared some frugal tips including my shortcuts. I always focus on my finances in February. It seems that if I get myself sorted in Feb, the rest of the year runs more smoothly. In 2014, I am trying out the Simple Savings daily money diary. I want to squirrel away 5K for a family trip to celebrate our ten year wedding anniversary. I'll let you know how I go.

It was all about parenting in March. Well, actually I got pretty bored with blogging in March. Somewhere between Nugget's broken arm which somehow seemed a punishment to me for complaining about trying to get him to practice his trombone, I lost my blogging mojo.

I didn't blog in April, but we celebrated Nugget's 8th birthday with a camping party. The Geege and I had ten children for an overnight camp at the Reserve down the road from our place. It was a crazy night and fortunately, a glitchless adventure. We also camped for the long weekend just outside of Milton. We managed to get nine children aged 3-9 to hike Pigeonhouse Mountain. It is still astonishing to me.

In May I had my 40th birthday. Apart from the fact that I am officially middle aged, turning 40 turned out to be a whole lot easier than turning 30 was for me. My sister hosted a party for me. The theme was "used to be cool". Just like me. I had the best night, danced until 3am surrounded by my peeps. I rekindled with the blog in May, but it turned out to be a cameo.

We had a fantastic ski trip with the family and some of our friends in June-July. We did a little roadie, visiting some friends in Canberra on the way down. We stayed in some fabulous little huts just off the mountains, and had an easy commute to the slopes each morning. The kids took to skiing surprisingly easily (a couple of lessons and they were away) and had a wonderful time out on the slopes.

Personally I find skiing quite tedious. It just hurts in places I don't even notice the rest of my life. I like the IDEA of skiing but the reality is less than fun. Cold. Wet. Ouchy. Now that I have four additional converts in the family, I doubt I will be able to get away from going back. Although it could make for a lovely Daddy and kids holiday?

I tackled the Michelle Bridges program from July - September. I lost some weight, found it again, and have finished the year a few kegs down but in my usual state about myself. I doubt I will ever accept my body fate. I am back to thinking what I was thinking this time last year - whole foods. Food for life. No more diets! So I am going to try to slowly introduce whole foods in 2014 and I signed up to do a 50km walk in May, so between the two, I should be feeling better about things again.

After a quiet winter on the extra-curricular front, the kids commenced activities in Spring with a vengence. Nugget started cubs, Nugget and Doo Dah started Taekidokai, The Minx started ballet, and Dew Drop started OT and Physio! Busy. Everything was selected by its proximity to our house (all walking distance), and cost. The kids are happily ensconced in the activities and all children added swimming and Doo Dah added cricket once the Summer came along. I was so grateful when school holidays arrived so we can have a break from our activities!

In October, we bought nothing new again. It was great to reunite with our unbuying ways. I also cracked out the sewing machine that I bought for my 40th birthday. It was a frustrating experience; one that is yet to be repeated!

In November, we started getting the twins organised for school. They start in February. My last babies to fly the coup. It has been a very exciting time for them and a bittersweet one for me. Watch this space for an update once they get settled in.

And finally December. Always a ridiculous month for us with three children's birthdays and Christmas. We have had some wonderful celebrations with friends and family and have been thoroughly immersed in the festivities of the festive season.

I am looking forward to 2014. I hope to spend more time here again. Thanks to all of you who are still around after my less than friendly approach to blogging in 2013.

Happy new year!

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Christmas crafternoon version 2.013

I failed to sort the Advent calendar this year. I just bought one of the chocolate ones from the store*, but I have been keeping to the activities (on most days).

On Saturday we went to the local Carols in the Park. I just love a carol. My husband says I turn into my sisters when I sing carols. I belt them out like no one is listening. Sadly, I lack my sisters' singing talents, but it is the one night of the year that I simply don't care.

On Sunday the kids and I made their little trinkets for their classmates. As it is the twins last ever year at day care, they convinced me to help them make pressies for their friends too. We had about 60 to make in all. Last year we did made these reindeer noses, so I didn't want to do that again, even though they were easy and very popular with the recipients!

We were going to make these Christmas trees but a trial run for the children at the Thanksgiving weekend revealed that Aldi probably doesn't have enough white marshmellows for 60 of those!

Then I found these Christmas ornaments but I imagined the kids would get sick of threading beads and I would end up having to do them all. And I figured their families have enough home-made by children ornaments on their trees that they may not appreciate another from us.

So we did this instead: Christmas pencils with home-made gift tags. So simple.

All you need is some cardboard, some Christmas ribbon and some novelty Christmas pencils like the ones Dew Drop is holding up here. We got ours for 50c each from the $2 shop.

Grab a big piece of cardboard and measure up your gift tags. Cut them out. Distribute the correct number to each child and have them decorate them. We used Christmas sticks, textas, little squares of daycare paintings, and old Christmas cards to decorate ours. Punch a hole in each one.
Next you need to cut up the ribbons like Nugget is doing in this picture
And then you tie the gift tags onto the pencils with a little ribbon bow. So simple that the kids can do them on their own once you have done some preparation for them.
On Monday the kids handed out their Christmas trinkets, well, Nugget, Dew Drop and the Minx handed theirs out on Monday. Doo Dah still has his in his bag!
We'll pick up the Advent activities again on Thursday when we go to see the Christmas lights.
How do you manage the lead up to Christmas?
* I have regretted it ever since. The kids leap out of bed, take their dose of sugar and bounce off the walls all morning.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

My little prince

I was relayed a little story at the weekend that made me smile. I hope it does you too.

We were away for our annual Thanksgiving weekend with friends. I know you may think this a touch odd, being Australian and all, but it is a tradition with our group of friends. One that our American friend started.

This weekend we were down at Berry, in a beautiful house, having a delightful time in the perfect weather, gorging on a mountain of rich and tasty food. There were 14 children, fewer adults and the echo of laughter, happiness and good times everywhere. As far as weekends of this magnitude go, pretty bloody perfect.

So, I was talking to the cousin of our hosts, a young woman of 18 who looked a little startled most if the weekend. She managed the chaos pretty well for a first timer.

She said to me that she had witnessed a little romance in the air. Let me backtrack a bit to say that the 14 children are all aged under nine and the adults have all been married a decade, give or take. Suitably intrigued and imagining scandal of gigantic proportions, I said "oh yes."

Fortunately she continued. " I was brushing (let's call her Pretty Girl)'s hair this morning and she said to me: Cousin, do you know Dew Drop?. I responded by saying 'I think so'. I could only vaguely remember which of your sons is which to be honest. So, Pretty Girl went on. "He's so handsome. He looks like a prince. I am a little princess. We go together. I think we should get married"

And that is how true romance is born. Nothing too scandalous, much to my bitter disappointment. Just a little girl arranging her own marriage at the age of five!

I repeated the story to her Mum later that night. We giggled and giggled.

Are your children busily arranging their own marriages too?

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Left off the list

Image from here
My friend told me she got into another spot of trouble with a couple of Mum's from school over her daughter's birthday party. It seems her daughter left a girl from her current class, and one from her previous 'gang' off the invitation list.

Her daughter did this on purpose. She didn't want to include the two girls. Nobody wants to raise a mean daughter but isn't it her prerogative to invite who she wants? I'm not saying that what she did was right, but it is what it is.

So, both Mums emailed my friend. They were polite about it but they emailed my friend! It seems they wanted her to tweak the invite list to include their children. Two Mums did this. I can barely believe that one mother would.

When one of my children did not get invited to a child from school's party he really wanted to go to earlier this year, he begged me to call the Mum and get him an invite. He threatened to gate crash the party. I told him that people can choose to invite who they want to their party and if you aren't invited you have to respect their wishes. I know he was disappointed and hurt. But he learnt a lesson. You can't always get what you want.

When you have a birthday party for your child, do you invite the whole class?

When you do Christmas trinkets for your children's friends, do you make one for everyone?

We usually only invite the children's friends to a party but include everyone in the trinkets circle.

So what did my friend do in response to the emails I hear you ask? She invited the two girls of course. And apologised. And said it was an oversight. And she had a word to her daughter about being a 'mean girl'.

She is much nicer than I would have been.

What do you reckon? What would you have done?

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Generation X Parents - At it again

Image from here
I was speaking to a friend yesterday about the joys of being a Gen X parent.

Recently she moved house and her children have changed schools. She is currently on her 'best behaviour', trying to fit in with the new school crowd. You know how it is.

Anyway, she received a group email from another Grade 1 school Mum which went something along the lines of:

I don't want to name names or anything but there is a child in class who is telling all the other kids that Santa is not real. I really want this to stop because it is distressing my child.

WTF!?! Can you believe this meddling Mum?

Kids have been finding out about Santa and pretending not to know for ever haven't they? And parents have been pretending not to know that their kids are pretending so that everyone can continue to enjoy the Christmas gift giving experience.

I've said it before but I will say it again. Gen X are turning out to be crappy parents. Kids need disappointment, failure and other negative experiences so they can grow and develop resilience. Why do we feel the need to wrap our children in cotton wool?

My friend was worried that it was her child who was doing the myth busting. She asked me how I would respond to the email.

'Honestly', I said. 'I'd delete it. Let Princess Control Freak deal with her own issues'.
How would you respond to an email like this?

Friday, 8 November 2013

Twins in school Part 2

A long time ago now, I wrote this post about twins and school. It seemed only vaguely possible that my twins would ever reach school age at that time. The days were looooong. The parenting relentless. I had my views about how it should be done (of course I did) and I was determined to be ready to roll when the time came around. Plenty of time.

Blink and you'll miss it, people used to say to me, when my first son was born. The first five years will go by in a flash. I listened with my inner voice saying "That would be the day!". Every day stretched on in those early years. Each one a mirror of the last. I felt caught in a time warp.

The twins are attending their Early Birds program at the school. Preparing for Kindergarten in 2014. My twins are going to school! All of a sudden it seems like only yesterday that we were a family with four under four. All of a sudden the images of their cloth nappy clad bottoms disappearing together up the hallway seem so vivid. All of a sudden the races they had with their baby zimmer-frames feels like a recent past time.

I haven't taken the time to notice that we packed "the big rig" in the car for the last time nearly 2 years ago. That I breast fed for the last time nearly 3 years ago. That we no longer have cots, high-chairs, prams, bibs, or pureed food in our house. I haven't taken the time to notice every little thing. I haven't cherished every moment of those innocent, loving pre-school years. And now I've blinked and missed it. Boo.

Next year I will have four school-aged children. A whole new chapter. Note to self: remain wide-eyed.

Have you got a school starter in 2014? What preparations are you doing?

Thursday, 3 October 2013

The sewing machine

I turned 40 in May. I had this thing that when I turned 40 I would learn to sew*. I would buy a sewing machine and learn to sew.

May came and went.

No sewing machine.

June came and went.

No sewing machine.

July came and went.

No sewing machine.

August came. The boys started karate and they needed their pants taken up. I bartered fresh eggs in exchange for hems with my neighbour. I felt guilty. I bought a sewing machine.

September came and went. The sewing machine sat in its box.

October came. On the first day, I took the machine out of its box. On the second day, I gathered some tools. And on the third day, I sewed. Just cub badges onto Nug's cub shirt. It took me nearly 5 hours because I had to learn how to thread the machine, put thread on bobbins, change the length and width of stitches, pin. I watched a few YouTubes, read the manual, and made a LOT of mistakes.

It was the most frustrating thing I think I have ever done.

But it is done and I now feel great.

I sewed today. All by myself.

If you are a sewer, I would appreciate a link to any resources you might know of to learn the absolute basics (I have a couple of hems to do for example, and a couple of holes to 'darn'). Any ideas?

* Might I add that learning to sew when your long sightedness is kicking in is probably not the best idea in hindsight.

Monday, 30 September 2013

Supercub is born

Nugget has been going to cubs for all of seven weeks. He is a total fan. I think he is suffering withdrawal this week because of the school holidays.

Since signing up he has been rock climbing, had a disco and sleepover, learnt how to tie four different knots, commenced a course in codes and signals and got his swimming badge. Even he sees the irony of achieving his swimming badge first! He giggled a little as he exclaimed "and I'm not even a very good swimmer but they gave it to me anyway".

I may in fact be an even bigger fan than he is. My applause goes to the wonderful adults who sacrifice so much of their time to entertain and teach our children. They may be the biggest dags that ever were, but my God do they know how to give kids a good time and grow their confidence and encourage their independence and sense of responsibility. Love with a capital L.

And don't get me started on the little yellow book! Badges are the bomb! Nugget and I have been planning his assault on badge acquisition. He has his eyes firmly set on the ultimate prize 'the grey wolf'. I just wish I could earn badges too! It would totally suit my 30 Day Challenge mentality, and might just get me to plug in my new sewing machine...

The Cub program is so organised to. They have a timetable of events (per term), weekly email reminders and information nights for newbie parents who are getting their cubs prepared for Cuboree in January. As a seasoned camper, I didn't think they'd be able to show me much about packing for a week long camping trip but I was wrong! A big wheelie bag, daily plastic ziplock bags, and only packing stuff that I am happy to never see again will be the key to a successful Cuboree! That, and teaching Nug how to turn a shower on and off without burning himself.

Today I dropped Nug at vacation care wearing a purple cape. He's had it on since last Friday. He's trying to wear it long enough to get in the Guinness book of World Records. I blame Kanga his cub leader. I overheard her telling Nug that he should be himself all the time. He shouldn't be afraid to be different. Being him is the best thing he can be. Supercub anyone?

Are you a part of the scouting movement? What has your experience been?

Monday, 9 September 2013

Karate kids

The boys have been wanting to do martial arts for ages. We decided to give swimming lessons the flick for a Term to preserve the sanity of all involved, so it was time to select a martial arts class to attend.

There are a LOT of different styles to choose from. I don't know if you have investigated martial arts yourself but I got quite lost between the taekwondos, Brazilian jujitsus and akikidos. In the end we chose the one that operates at our school, across the road from our house. Keep it simple, stupid, right?

So Nug and Doo Dah finally got started last month. It has been a fun addition to our extra-curricular activities. The boys love having a place to punch, kick and shout legitimately. I haven't noticed a reduction in illegitimate punching, kicking or shouting but they sure look forward to Thursday night classes.

Their instructor is an ocker-accented guy from Japanese descent. He's a cranky old man well before his time but I wouldn't tell him that to his face. His punches are so quick you need slow motion to work out what he has done. The boys have a mixture of awe and fear. They do what Hanshi says.

They did their first grading on Sunday. It was their first opportunity to meet their Sensei. The boys chatted amongst themselves as we drove to the Dojo. "I reckon Sensei's going to be scary", Doo Dah said. "Of course he will be", says Nug, the voice of reason, "even Hanshi is scared of him".

Sensei turned out to be wonderful with the kids and an inspiring man. He preached words of wisdom and encouraged hard work and doing your best. He was no 'Mr Miagi' but both boys happily moved  up to the next belt and each commented that Sensei is "actually really nice".

They both slept with their brown belts last night. Their white belt cast offs were readily received by the twins who are now practising their moves for their entry into martial arts next year, when they start school. You have been warned.

Do your children do martial arts? Do they love it?

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Writing for work

Nugget and Dew Drop on ferris wheel at the Hawksbury Show
I realised as I was writing a report for work this week how much I miss writing.

I have taken an informal break from the blog and I have no idea if this means I am back or not, but I miss it. I miss it, and I don't. It is a bit mixed up.

But I have realised that this space records our family's history. And if I don't write, then what happens to that? I can't rely on my memory. I can't even remember what I had for breakfast most days.

There has been a lot happening in our lives since I last posted. We were about to start renovating, and then were decided we were going to move. And then were decided we weren't. And then we were again. (you get the picture?) The last two weeks has been a Mexican stand-off and neither the Geege nor I have mentioned the elephant in the room. We have had these stand-offs before and it didn't end well.

Nugget (8) and Doo Dah (6) have been rocking it in the classroom. A prouder Mum I could not have been when I attended their parent-teacher nights. They got their glasses and have been going to the chiropractor twice a week. I don't really understand what chiropractors do, nor why they need to be involved with helping my boys' eyes, but we are following instructions and the boys are without complaint. Who knows how sensory integration will sort things out?

We didn't sign up for soccer this year. Partly because we thought we would be renovating (see above) and partly because we didn't want every Saturday taken up with sport. As it turns out we can't fit it in anyway, with swimming, house hunting (on and off. See above) and all the bloody appointments, but the boys hope to commence Karate soon. Management is still processing this request.

Nugget turned eight in April and we celebrated with a camping party. The Geege and I had 10 children overnight in our tent. Chaos does not begin to describe it! We all survived and it was tons of fun but I'm not sure I would be putting my hand up anytime soon to re-enact it!

Nugget had his first trombone concert last week. He had six weeks out with whole broken arm debacle but managed to blend in pretty well with the rest of the band. Unlike one little clarinet player who was notably squeaky. He did a rendition to the family when we got home. I think he surprised himself that he could play something tunefully. Almost made up for the ongoing battle zone that is "trombone practise".

The Minx (4) and Dew Drop (4) are parping along, growing and getting themselves ready start school next year. The Minx is further along the road than Dewie at this point, but both are definitely getting there. They managed to climb Pigeon House Mountain with the whole family at the Easter long weekend, which was no mean feat. Five kilometres up and down a pretty big hill, with some ladders to challenge them.

So there you have it. A little update until the next time. It is amazing what whipping up a report at work can do for a person.

Where do you find your inspiration for writing?

Friday, 22 March 2013

Adoption: A month of parenting

Image from here
Adoption has been in the news this week. The Prime Minister apologised to all the women who were forced to give up their babies for adoption in the 1950s - 1970s in Australia. Tony Abbott just showed his tactlessness by calling them 'birth mothers'.

The practice of 'forced adoption' is another bleak moment in Australian history. Mothers were forced to give up their children because they were considered too young and the child was conceived out of wedlock. Imagine! Obviously this is a product of the time and the social norms of the day. We can be lucky that time has moved on.

My own family was enriched by a cousin who was adopted by my Uncle and Aunt.

The people I know who were adopted have handled their situations differently. Some have had to cope with a sense of abandonment from their parents, while others seem as happy in their skin and lot in life as anyone else. Three have said to me that the lack of insight into their family gene pool only influenced them when they were expecting children of their own. It was more of a lottery for them than it is for most of us.

We are lucky that the situation has changed and adoption is rare these days. Welfare policy changed in the 1970s making it possible for single parents to raise children. A women have choice now in the  form of contraception and termination. Their bodies belong to them.

From a parenting perspective, adoption highlights a number of things for me.

Loving a child comes with the responsibility of rearing them. As soon as a child comes into your care, you start to love them. You care for them and you invest in them. You don't need to birth a child to love him/her to the moon and back.

Birthing a child and having him/her taken from you doesn't make you love the child any less. I don't think you would ever overcome the sense of loss that the separation would bring.

There are winners and losers in adoption. Forced adoption was meant to be a win, win, win social policy. There is no way that it was. Clearly the parents who were forced to give up their precious bundles lost, but it is my hope that most of the children remained firmly in the winners corner, finding love in their new families.

How do you feel about the public apology? 

Sunday, 17 March 2013

The left handed child: A month of parenting

Image from here
Our first born is left-handed.  Since the very first time I handed him something, he put out his left hand. And when we tried to get him to feed himself at about six months, he would swap his rusk from his right hand, where I inevitably would place it, into his left. He knew well before we cottoned onto it. He will probably complain in later years that we tried to 'convert' him. We didn't.

They still don't know why some people are left-handed but most are right-handed. It is just a little anomaly found throughout human history. It seems to run in some families, but like us, plenty of right-handed people find themselves parenting a left-handed child.

All cultures have a strong right-handed dominance (90% of the population is reportedly right-handed). Lefties are odd wherever you go, even if you are hanging with chimps. But left-handed people are reported to be more creative than right-handed people, and they are meant to have a bigger corpus callosum making the two halves of their brain communicate with each other better.

I know from my work with people who have had strokes that some lefties whole brains are flipped around. The language centres you usually find in the left hemisphere are found in their right hemisphere. Their brains are just wired differently and they confuse the healthcare workers who are trying to understand the mismatched symptoms of their stroke given the location of it!

Left-handed people seem to be able to do more with their right hands than righties can do with their left. Growing up in a world where implements and instruments are made for righties means lefties give their non-dominant side more of a work-out than most righties do. This comes in handy when they break their dominant wrist.

On a practical level, the most difficult things for a right handed person to teach a left handed person from my experience are:

1. Hand writing: Our text runs from left to right. Lefties have trouble with this. Although hand writing has been a difficult skill for Nugget to grasp, I suspect this is not entirely a left-handed issue (have you seen my (right-handed) writing?).
2. Cutting: Scissors are usually made for right hand usage. Nug does everything with his left hand, except use scissors.  His daycare never had any left-handed scissors in their toddler room, and by the time he moved into the pre-school room, he had established his preference for right-handed cutting. I would suggest using left-handed scissors!
3. Tying shoe laces: I swear this was a nightmare for us to teach Nugget. We relied on YouTube videos and some tuition from his left-handed uncle, because our attempts were useless.
4. Using a cricket bat: I swear I am hopeless when it comes to using any bat with my left hand. When I have to try to show Nug how to do it, it never works out for us. Lefties are meant to be pretty good a sports though. Obviously this is limited by their right-handed coach's inadequacies!

There is nothing more fun than having a little quirk. Having a left-handed child has woken me up to the plight of other left-handed people. 10% of the population have to struggle to fit into the right handed norms of our society. I reckon we all need to find ways to make it easier for them. Like sitting them on the left side of your dinner table and plugging your computer mouse into the left side of the computer for them. It is the least we can do.

Are you left-handed? Do you have a left-handed child? Tell us about your experiences fitting a square peg into a round hole!

Friday, 15 March 2013

Broken bones: A month of parenting

Image from here
Nugget broke his wrist yesterday. Both bones.

We have a bit of experience with broken bones at our place. The Minx broke her leg when she was about 13 months old. Doo Dah fractured his right arm on the monkey bars while at vacation care last year. And now Nugget. Left wrist fracture from a trampoline accident.

I know what you are thinking. Trampolines are known to cause broken bones, especially when more than one child is on them at a time. We break all the rules around here.

Nugget has a back slab on his arm, from hand to above the elbow, and a sling. He is out of action for a week, until his proper plaster cast can be applied. I spent the day getting his life sorted out for him. Note to self: Get an EA.

He can't write with his right hand*, so I had to speak with his teacher and organise some strategies for dealing with his school work.

I had to cancel his swimming lessons for a little while. The teacher assures me that he should be right to return to the pool once he is suitably fibreglassed. I reminded her that he weighs about 1kg and has enough trouble lifting his arms out of the water without the additional weight. Fair point, she retorted.

I had to ring his rather stern trombone teacher. He also expects him back buzzing a tune after the first week. As we were wrapping up our conversation, he reminded me that he 'only needs one hand to practise with the mouthpiece'. Apparently this is a good opportunity to really focus on the development of his embouchure. Nug won't be pleased!

As for AFL training and the last Little Athletics meet for the season? A big pass for both. Nugget grinned from ear to ear today after school when he claimed he 'can't play sport with a broken arm so he got to play on the computer'. It is a nerd's paradise!

Looks like we will be facing Easter camping with a broken arm, school photos with a broken arm, Nug's 8th birthday with a broken arm and the first lot of school holidays with a broken arm. I can't wait to get the cast off and he hasn't even got it on yet.

Have you or your child broken a limb? Was it a disruptive time?
* I just realised I have never written a post about parenting left-handed children when you are rightie yourself. I will do that next time!

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Music lessons: A month of parenting

My nephew who is also learning the trombone. Image from Maxabella loves
The opportunity to learn an instrument was high on my list of opportunities* I wanted to provide for our children. I have read that seven years old is the optimal time to start music lessons, and lucky for us, our children's school has a fantastic band program. Nugget signed up to band this year and has been allocated the trombone.

After an initial burst of enthusiasm, which lasted approximately one week, the drudge of trombone practice has already created several moments of conflict in the household. While Nugget is super keen to be a band member, he is not showing commitment to actually learning the instrument he needs to play in the band! Not optimal!

In order to learn his instrument, Nugget is expected to practise for short periods regularly. It has become clear to us, very quickly, that he cannot be left to his own devices! We need to help him establish a routine. So here's what we are trying to do:

1. We are trying to establish regular practice times.
2. We are setting specific goals for each session e.g. You need to practise {insert notes} for four counts each.
3. We are using multi-media (e.g. CD, youtube) to support his teacher's notes.
4. We are using a LOT of praise (and believe me, there isn't always stuff to praise but the old speechie trick "you are sitting up so well" has been used!)
5. We are focusing on the long notes before getting him to master the shorter ones.
6. Each session consists of a warm-up, specific goals, and a bit of fun.

It isn't proving a lot of fun thus far, but I am sure that once he has learnt the notes, has developed some consistency in the sounds that come out of the instrument and can start buzzing some tunes, Nugget will be hooked.

Only three children to go...

Do you have experience with children's music lessons? Any tips for newbies?

* Other things on the list include: learn another language and learn to touch type. I haven't had any joy with either yet unless you count me teaching them to count to ten in German?

Monday, 11 March 2013

Facing genetic glitches: A month of parenting

Image from here
Imperfections are one of life's challenges. Coming to terms with flaws gives one the opportunity to 'accept what you cannot change'. It isn't easy, but it has to be done if you want to live a confident life with your self esteem in tact.

While the Geege and I awaited the birth of our first child, we used to make up our 'worse case scenario' baby. You know, it would have my teeth, your hair line, my skin and so on. I always offered my eyes (I am severely myopic), my thighs (they need their own post code), and my heart (there is a strong family history of heart disease). Mostly everything else was fair play.

Our kids turned out to be beautiful*.

Last Friday, I had to face the first real genetic glitch in our spectacular programming. Both Nugget (nearly 8) and Doo Dah (6) need spectacles. They have both perceptual and focusing issues. Not the same issues, but both requiring glasses.

Nugget took it in his stride. He said there are others in his class who have glasses and people "still recognise them". Doo Dah said that it will be good not to have headaches at school but wasn't keen on the idea of looking like "Harry Potter".

I of course, picture a life time of dealing with rain drops on your glasses and scratches on your lenses and swapping between sunglasses and glasses and fogging up when you take a steaming dish out of the oven. A life time of being 'four eyes'. Of having 'nerd' stamped on your face.

Parenting becomes especially hard when your kids become like you. You can see their future facing the same hurdles that you faced. You want to save them the pain, humiliation, embarrassment and frustration that lies ahead. But you can't. The same lessons that you learnt through the school of hard knocks will be learnt by them in their own way. In their own time.

As we work our way through the maze of visual therapy and prescription glasses for young children, we will continue the process of supporting our children to develop self-acceptance. Once again we feel inadequately briefed for thisstage of parenting. Inadequately prepared to help our children embrace their inner 'glitch'.

Have you uncovered a glitch in your children? How have you managed it?

* Of course, I am biased.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Generation Z: A month of parenting

Image from here
While each generation has its own set of challenges with parenting, it seems that as a Generation X parent, the trials of parenting Generation Z fall into three main categories*.

1. Technology addicted

Generation Z has never experienced life without 24/7 communication. They have been able to navigate an iPhone since before they could talk. Life is about instant gratification. Need to solve a problem? Google it. Need to know where someone is? Text them. Take a photo, see it instantly.

This is the world we have created. The world that they know. It obviously has its upsides, but it means that Gen Zs have had a relatively indoor childhood compared with their parents. They have spent more time in front of a screen, dedicating their innocent years to the virtual world, rather than exploring the real world.

2. Protected

Gen Zs have been pampered by their helicopter parents. They have smaller families on average than their parent's did and they haven't had to share much. The over-parenting that is common in this situation has resulted in children who are adverse to throwing caution to the wind. Everybody just wants their children to be happy, so they are shielded from sadness, disappointment and danger. Everybody gets an award at school. Everyone gets a present in the pass the parcel. 

All this protection means that children are happy and safe, but without failure of any kind, children lack opportunity to build resilience. Without resilience, children's self esteems are at the mercy of others. By nature, self esteem needs to come from within, so no matter how many external rewards these children are given, their self esteem will not be built from praise alone. Without self esteem children are at risk of developing mental health issues, suffering in friendships and relationships and potentially impairing academic and job performance. 

It is a heavy consequence of not letting our children fail from time to time.

3. Risk averse

Fear is a driving force in our society today. Fear of terrorists, fear of failure, fear of the unknown, fear of being sued. Add this the the infiltration of Work Health and Safety into all facets of life and risk has become a thing of the past.  

There is a whole parenting movement - the free-range parent - which has acknowledged the need to add safe risks back into our children's lives. Children today don't want to raise their hands in class should they get the wrong answer. They don't want to try something new, in case they can't do it immediately. They avoid risks, just as the broader society does. 

How this will impact on innovation and entrepreneurial spirit for this generation is anyone's guess.

How are your Gen Z's shaping up?

* Based on my interpretation of a talk that I went to by Michael Macqueen a couple of week's ago.

Thursday, 28 February 2013

A month of frugality: Blog bookmarks

Image from here

I started this blog as a record of life, my thoughts and life's little lessons. Since entering the blogosphere, I have now accumulated more words of wisdom, interesting snippets and 'must-reads' to keep track of. It is a mind-field! Blog Bookmarks is a place to highlight some of my favourite finds for the week.

There are many blogs and websites out there that dedicate themselves to frugal living. While I may have my own slant on things, if you are interested in this topic, might I suggest you take a peak at these for starters?

Frugal and thriving is an Australian blog dedicated to well, thriving in a frugal life. The writer, Melissa, writes good blog. Today's post Get what you need and more from the alternate economy is a great summary of the non-commercial market opportunities available. Next time you need something new, why not think outside the square and try the alternate economy?

Back in 2011 when I was regularly hosting the Weekend Rewind (whatever happened to that?), I did a frugal living edition. 27 bloggers, including myself, linked up a frugal living post they had written for their blog. Topics ranged from selling 100 things as a means of raising money to tips to stop spending to free styling tips. Grab a coffee and flick through the linky list. You are bound to learn something new.

Down to Earth is an Australian Blog-to-book success story. I actually discovered the book before the blog, and both are a source of much information. Written by Rhonda, it focuses on spending less to enjoy life more. 

Simple Savings is an online community dedicated to saving money. The website is packed with ideas for making your pennies stretch further. Creators of the $21 Challenge, curators of Ye Old Shoppe and originators of the Wealthy Habits calendar, there is much to read and do when you visit the site.

Why not share a link to your favourite frugal living site/post?

This is the final post in the month of frugality series.

Posts from the month of frugality are:

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

A month of frugality: Short cuts in the frugal life

Image from here
There is nothing simple about frugal living. Frugal living is time consuming. Cooking from scratch, taking your lunch to work, ensuring you have no food wastage, tracking your spending; it all takes time and dedication. I lapse from time to time. I take short cuts.

Let me share some of the ways I keep things frugal but simple.

1. We have chickens. Chickens are great because they are pets for the kids and grateful recipients of scraps and slightly flaccid over-ripe vegetables. Instead of sending food to the bin, the chickens take care of it for me. And they produce lovely fresh eggs in exchange. They are the best 'short cut' we've ever had.

2. I regularly make a big batch of soup. Soup basically cooks itself. It is a great way to use vegetables and it is such an easy lunch time meal to take to work.

3. Try to cook meals that can be turned into something new with minimal effort. For example, mince is the basis for many easy meals like pasta bake, tacos, nachos, san choy bow etc. Why not cook a big batch of mince one night and freeze some portions for later use. That way the subsequent meals will be quick and easy.

4. Plant seedlings instead of seeds. Seeds are definitely cheaper, but I have had a better success rate with growing our own vegetables from seedlings. Make sure you choose vegetables that don't need a lot of TLC if you don't have a lot of time to spend in the garden.

5. Catch the train. Instead of sitting in traffic adding kilometres to your car mileage, you can enjoy a book and get some incidental exercise. Public transport is an eco-friendly, wallet friendly choice and it might just mean you can ditch your second car, which really is a frugal option.

6. Keep extra-curricular activities to a minimum. Not only do they put a big dent in your budget, you will spend your life ferrying children from one activity to another, zapping you of precious time. Set a household rule and stick to it. They have their whole lives to explore hobbies and sports.

7. Exercise in the great outdoors. It costs nothing and is so important for mental health. If you can incorporate your exercise into your general routine e.g. commute you have achieved the ultimate frugal short-cut.

Have you got any frugal short-cuts you can share?

Monday, 25 February 2013

A month of frugality: Ditch the disposables

Image from here
I wonder how much money we spend each year on disposable products? In most households there are myriad products that are used once and thrown out. It is kind of like throwing money in the bin when there are good re-usable alternatives.

Paper towel
Paper towel is very convenient, but it is unnecessary. Try using a tea towel, face washer, or dish cloth instead.

Start with recycled paper and remember to use both sides of each page you use. If you print something out single-sided, the children can always use the other side for drawing, and then use the pages for cutting, folding and gluing practise.

Remember the humble handkerchief? Try one when you have your next cold.

I use old cloth nappy wipes that I had with the children. They are awesome and soft and wash well. You can also make those awesome knitted cloths that are re-usable, if you are so inclined, or a product like ENJO that is made to wash and re-use.

Reusable batteries save you a fortune, and you don't have to worry about the issues associated with disposing of old batteries. Try to buy products that have a rechargeable battery e.g. night lights.

Plastic wrap
I use plastic wrap very rarely. I have little bags that I can put snacks in that are washable, or I use plastic or stainless steel tubs. When you buy storage tubs, make sure they have lids so you can put leftovers in the fridge or freezer without the need for plastic wrap.

Go the cloth nappy option. It can be inconvenient at times, but is definitely a money saver. I admit that I use disposable ones at night, but my last three children all used cloth nappies when they were in nappies full time. Lots of washing but little expense after the initial lay out.

Menstrual products
I have never used a menstrual cup, but plenty of women swear by them. 

Plastic bags
Obviously reusable bags are a better environmental option for shopping, but don't forget all the other plastic bags used around the house. Plastic garbage bags? Line your bin with newspaper. Plastic freezer bags? Use reuasble containers. Plastic snack/sandwich bags? Use reusable containers.

If you do find yourself inundated with plastic bags, remember to re-use them eg. as bin liners before getting rid of them. I once did a challenge and it was very successful.

Plastic water bottles
Bring your own water in reusable containers like stainless steel or plastic. You shouldn't need to pay for water. Your tap water, filtered or otherwise, is perfectly healthy if you live in Australia. Don't believe the hype!

What else do you re-use in your home?

Thursday, 21 February 2013

A month of frugality: Cleaning and pampering the home-made way

I like making my own washing powder, shampoo/conditioner and cleansers. Apart from the health benefits and environmentally friendliness of using natural substances, it can be a frugal alternative too.

There are many recipes out there for making your own products, so I will share mine and link you to some others.

Washing powder:

I currently use - 1 cup of washing soda, 2 cups of grated sunlight soap and a tablespoon (or so) of vinegar in the rinse cycle. It goes okay.

I used to use this recipe, until I read this article. Borax is not a friend to your garden, and you don't need it, so ditch it!

In frugal circles, people swear by liquid laundry detergent like this one. I'll be honest and say that I have never made or used it, but it is definitely a cheaper alternative to the one I make.

Shampoo and Conditioner

When I was Buying Nothing New for a Year, I started using bicarb and apple vinegar to wash my hair. I did it for more than a year, having stopped only a few months ago when we had a nit invasion and I needed to buy conditioner in bulk! It is a simple and cheap way to maintain your hair and will reduce the amount of hair washing you need to do (once a week only). Check this out if you want to know more.

There are many other alternatives to traditional shampoos and conditioners. Take a look at this for a nice summary of your options, but bare in mind that these have an green priority and may not be as frugal as you'd like.

Facial cleanser

Wash your face with honey. Nothing else. Give it a try and let me know how your skin feels after a week. I like it because it is natural, simple and it works.

Maria from EcoNest has some great ideas for natural face cleansers, toners and moisturisers with varying degrees of difficulty. Mostly they are made from foods that you can find in your garden or crisper, so they are frugal and a good way to use up strays from your shopping list.

Do you make your own household or beauty products? Share with us.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

A month of frugality: Leisure, pleasure and holidays

Image taken by TNL with thanks
Life is so busy sometimes, that finding time-out for leisure, pleasure and holidays is not always easy for me. When my Dad visited me last week, helping out while the Geege hiked in Tasmania with some fellow adventurers, he made the statement "You don't have much time for relaxation, do you?" The man speaks the truth.

Finding ways to celebrate life without spending up a storm is a constant pre-occupation of mine, being a frugalista and all. Is it wrong that three weeks into school term I am already looking forward to the next holiday?

Lucky for me, our family loves to camp. We do this regularly and once you have acquired your gear, it is a very cheap and cheerful holiday for families.

There are many places to camp for free (like friends farms and state forests) or for a minimal expense (like National Parks). The trick is to camp outside the very busy periods (to avoid feeling like you are sleeping with another family) and to go with another family with age-matched children so your kids are happily occupied so you can relax. That is the plan anyway.

We will spend Easter camping with a group of happy campers. The thought of it gets me through the snore of school term. While Easter is probably the busiest camping weekend in the calendar, the remoteness of our destination will ensure there will be no-one else there but us chickens. And, of course, the flies. And rain.

If you aren't up for camping, and I know some of you are horrified at the thought of a night under canvas, all is not lost for a frugal holiday. I suggest the road trip. Fondly known as a 'roadie' in these parts. Spend as little as possible on accommodation. Try out house swapping if you are game. We find renting a house is cheaper than the two hotel/motel rooms we would otherwise have to get. Investigate the impact of staying a night or two versus a week at one spot. If there are plenty of day trips, sometimes staying put is a cheaper experience.

Try not to do more than one paid-for activity per day. A trip to the museum in the morning, followed by a picnic lunch and a scoot at the park in the afternoon, is a much less expensive day out than museum, bought lunch and another outing to, say, an aquarium in the afternoon. There are so many free ways to spend time and explore a new destination:
  • Park time - scooting, riding, playing ball sports, playing cricket
  • Bush walking
  • Swim at the beach or a local river
  • Map out a 'tour' on your free tourist map and walk from place to place
  • Learn about the history of a town by learning about the architecture
  • Go wine tasting
  • Visit the library
  • Visit friends/family
  • Forage for food
  • Go twitching
  • Go geocaching
  • Star gaze
  • People watch at a busy location
Obviously these free activities can be enjoyed at home as easily as when holidaying. The key is to find activities that your family loves so that everyone enjoys themselves.

Do you holiday the frugal way?

Thursday, 14 February 2013

A month of frugality: Menu planning

Image from here
With six mouths to feed, we go through a fair amount of food in our household. The cost can be overwhelming sometimes. The good news is that you can control how much you spend on groceries.

It is all about shopping to a menu, eating seasonally, and learning to 'shop your pantry' so nothing is wasted. Easier said than done? A lot of the time. I am always best with sticking to my menu plans when the budget is tight. You need to spend some time putting together a repertoire of cheap and cheerful recipes so that you can feed your brood on the proverbial smell of an oily rag when you need to.

On a good week, I do an inventory of what's in stock at our place, plan some menus around that and add the extra bits and pieces I need to finalise seven dinners, seven lunches, some breakfast for all and a couple of home-baked treats.

Breakfast is pretty standard Weetbix with sultanas for most of us. I switch up the cereals sometimes (usually when the store has a special at which time I stock up) but mostly I find a big box of Weetbix is a reasonably affordable start to the day.

Lunch supplies include cheese, deli meats, tinned salmon, salad, crackers and nuts. I don't have any brand loyalty with any of these products. I just get what I can afford at the time I need to buy it. This means we get variety, even in the basics.

For dinners, I have a good repertoire of easy meals that I make from scratch off the top of my head. Nachos, spaghetti bolognaise, fettucine bosciaola, pasta bakes, bangers and mash, lasagne, dahl, apricot chicken, stir-fries, quiche, fried rice, homemade pizza, san choy bow etc. When I have time, I add a new recipe from one of my many recipe books or from online.

I just buy what I need to make the meals; trying to have enough to stretch for another meal or snack. I take left overs for lunch or, sometimes, we have a night of leftovers with bits and pieces from the previous couple of nights.

I never allocate meals for each night of the week; that would be way too organised for me. I just have a list of possible contenders each night and tick them off throughout the week. It works for me, but I am not one for routine.

Here's my latest Spaghetti Bolognaise recipe (Feeds 2 Adults; 4 children for two nights):
500g pork and veal mince
1 cup red lentils
1 tbsp onion flakes*
1 tsp garlic powder*
1 vegetable stock cube
2 cups water
1 tin tomatoes with basil and oregano**
1 tin condensed tomato soup
I packet dried spaghetti

1. Cook the mince with the lentils, onion, garlic, stock cube and water until the lentils are soft and the water has boiled off. It will look brown and mirky.
2. Add the tomatoes and soup
3. Cook spaghetti as per packet instructions.
4. Combine the bolognaise sauce and cooked spaghetti.
5. Serve with a sprinkle of grated cheese, a salad and some garlic bread.

* Use fresh if your children will tolerate it. Mine refuse to each fresh garlic or onion and won't eat the rest of their dinner if it is in there.
** Use fresh when they are in season or if you have the herbs in the garden. You may need to add a bit more water though

What are your menu planning tips? Feel free to share your frugal recipes in the comments.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

A month of frugality: Lock up your passwords

I have been hacked! By my own son. He stole my iTunes password and got himself a new App. He told me the App was free. That was Wednesday.

I woke up this morning to discover I had 19 new iTunes bills. They added up to a large debt. I was shocked and thought it must be some crazy mistake. Upon further investigation, I discovered that the 'free' App my son had downloaded had 'in App' purchases and he had wracked up this huge bill. In two days.

He says he didn't know it was real money. He has no concept of just how many times he bought himself some 'essential' tool for the game. He doesn't get it at all really. He doesn't get that a sheepish "sorry" doesn't really cut it in this case.

Horrified, on so many levels, I began what will be a very long process of getting a refund. I started at the local Apple store, got fobbed off to a website, posted a complaint, got a call back from a computer that managed to tell me that the call centre was closed until Monday. I will be pursuing the issue with the energy of a dog at a bone. It is disgusting that this is even possible. There is absolutely nothing 'free' about this App.

I bet there are many people in the exact same position as me.

This situation has highlighted some major flaws in my online security. I have deleted the game, changed my password, and confiscated his iPod, so in the short term, I have solved the problem. I also need to change the settings on his iPod to disallow 'in app' purchases and get him off my iTunes log in.

I simply do not know what to do to adequately punish my son; to help him to understand the value of money. To teach him that a virtual 'gem' in a virtual world is NOT a good way to spend real life money.

This is the madness of the world we are now living in. You can go broke buying stuff that doesn't actually exist. What chance does a young boy have of understanding that?

Has this happened to you? How do you think you would solve this dilemma?

Thursday, 7 February 2013

A month of frugality: Sort your cash flow

Image from here
Running a household is expensive. While our income usually stays pretty fixed, the outgoings ebb and flow throughout the year. Right now we are up to our eyeballs in start-of-school year expenses, but later on it will be all about the car for us.

It is important that you have an understanding of how your money is spent throughout the year and when the 'big bills' are coming in so you can sort your cash flow.

I am not a lover of budgets. I once spent a lot of time going through all of our bills for a year, tallied our daily spend for a month and worked out a budget. I have never tracked our incomings or outgoings again, but this did help me to work out how much money we essentially could spend on groceries, presents and other variable expenses, and how much we can save. I have stuck to the grocery budget and savings plan. I wing everything else.

Things I do to improve cash flow:

  1. Review insurance premiums when they are due -shop around, speak to your current insurer about a better deal. It is possibly the most boring thing you will ever do, but it is worth it.
  2. Review mobile phone, phone and internet contracts when they are due - it is the most time-consuming thing but, again, worth it because it can save you a lot. If you are happy with your current provider, pretend that you aren't and ask for a discount! It works.
  3. Review savings accounts/term deposit interest rates - it is sometimes hard to work out when to make the switch, but as a basic guide, look for the highest interest that pays you the most frequently ie. monthly is better than three-monthly; calculated daily is best.
  4. Pay off credit cards in full (better still, don't use them!) - once you start paying interest or other charges, things get out of hand.
  5. Pay bills (including your savings) on the first day of the pay-cycle - at least you know how much you have 'left' to play with.
  6. Shop online - no impulse buying, and no embarrassment if you blow the budget and have to put something back! If you prefer to shop at the store, take cash with you.
  7. Magazine subscriptions - buy yourself a present at Christmas rather than each month at the newsagent. Better still? Read online.

And when things get desperate (and they sometimes do), try one of the money challenges:
40 Day no-shopping spree
Declutter and sell your stuff
$21 challenge
52 Week Money Challenge
Grocery Saving Challenge
No spend week

How do you manage your household finances? Do you save each week? Ever done a money challenge? Link us to it in the comments.

PS: I recently changed my comment options on Blogger due to high Spam. If you'd like to comment but can't do it here, please email me on MultipleMum@gmail (dot)com or drop over to my Facebook page 

Monday, 4 February 2013

A month of frugality: Kids and school

I heard the other day that it costs over $65,000 to send a child to school in the public system from K-12 (more like $260,000 for private schooling). I find that quite daunting, having clocked up only four of the 52 years of combined schooling for my four kids which only equates to about 8% of my total spend.

With the kids settling in for another year at school and the school fees, band fees, text book levies and dance fees notes trailing behind them, you can quickly see how the costs add up.

There are a number of areas where you need to watch your spending in relation to school. Some expenses are fixed, like school fees, but mostly the costs are variable so you have some control over how you manage them.

School Uniforms
I only buy what we need, and wash fairly often. Three T-shirts, two shorts, three pairs of socks and a hat. Brand new stuff only looks brand new for a short while. Doo Dah got one new T-shirt and the rest were Nugget's hand-me-downs when he started school. I topped up the ratty t-shirts with some second hand ones ($5) half way through the year.

We got some hand-me-downs from a couple of families who left the school at the end of last year, so this term I didn't need to get anything (except a sport's shirt for Nugget). A lot of people I know get the plain polo shirts, rather than the ones with the school emblem on them, especially for sport and for under jumpers in winter. Same goes with plain grey socks  for winter, rather than the ones with the stripes on them. No one really sees them under the long trousers anyway.

I buy one pair of good school shoes (I tried the cheaper ones and Doo Dah went through three pairs last year which cost me more than one good pair would have).

We use the school issue bags which are expensive to start with but seem to have longevity (Nugget's has lasted three years and is going strong) and they have a library bag with their names embroided (used to be their daycare cot-sheet bag).

School Supplies
Using the school-supplied list, I go through the craft stuff we have at home and just get what we don't already have. So what if the black pencil is slightly shorter than the orange one? In a week, a new set would look the same. I buy things like glue-sticks, contact and plastic sleeves in bulk and divvy them up at the start of each year. I make my own book tags. I label everything and hope for the best.

School fees
My tactic is I hold off until it works best for me, so instead of paying everything in the first couple of weeks, I spread it out over the year. I never miss a deadline where the kids would miss out on something, but I don't rush either. You have the entire year to pay school fees and there is no interest charged, so what is the hurry?

School lunches
We try to have waste free lunchboxes most days, so I buy things in big packets and serve individual portions. I find this is cheaper than individual packets (however it is more time consuming).

I have a template for the lunchbox
 - a seasonal fruit item (strawberries, apples, banana, blueberries),
 - a vegetable (usually carrots, tomatoes or cucumber),
 - a home-made treat (muffin, banana bread, cupcake),
 - a sandwich or wrap (usually with meat or cheese), and
 - some crisps, rice crackers or savoury biscuits.

We mix it up a bit but with the fussy fusspot aka Nugget it is easier to do the same thing each day. Doo Dah likes variation so we give him leftovers sometimes, instead of the sandwich. The one big extravagance is they usually have a popper in their lunchbox. We are trying to wean them off, but it guarantees that they drink something during the day (Doo Dah is not a good drinker) so it gives me peace of mind, even though it costs a bomb.

We only do lunch orders twice a term.

How do you manage the costs of schooling your children?

Sunday, 3 February 2013

A month of frugality - The fancy dress party

We went to a friend's 40th last night. It was a dress-up party. You know how I feel about dressing up! The theme was 80s and, while I did think from time to time about what I might wear, it came to Friday and I hadn't made a start on my costume. The Geege was still humfing at me every time I mentioned the dress up factor; clearly as keen as I was.

I don't like spending a lot of money on fancy dress costumes. You can hire some great stuff, but it seems such a waste. And then there are the cheap costumes you can buy online. I did that once and it was a once-only deal. My 'sexy sailor' suit was barely intact by the end of the night, which was a little embarrassing.

So here's what I did for our 80s theme:

1. I set a budget of $40 for each complete outfit.

2. I searched the internet for ideas of a) what to wear and/or b) 'who' to go as. From this I decided to go for the general blue-light disco attendee. Geege decided on Marty McFly from Back to the Future.

3. I 'shopped my wardrobe' for possible options. From this, I came up short on all fronts (no fluoro in my current wardrobe. Who'd have thought?), except for some shoes and a skinny white belt. Oh and a crimper! For the Geege, we found a puffer vest, shirt, red t-shirt, and blue jeans.

4. I headed to the op-shop. For my 80s vibe, I found an awesome purple taffeta number, but it was sadly not my size. I think the fact that 80s is also 2013 made for slim pickings. We also found nothing for the Geege.

5. I went to the cheap and cheerful retail store to see what I could find. I hit the jackpot at one store which has a wide variety of fashion straight from the 1980s. At this stage, I tried to think about re-wear factor, but the cute little shop assistant kept telling me I was being 'too safe'. I guess I will be donning the hot-pink tights for my early morning walks. The Geege found some high top white sneakers for $9, some headphones for $3 and some black braces.

6. When I had the bulk of the outfit sorted, I borrowed what I could from friends (and neighbours) to finalise the look. I got some great jewellery from a friend from school. The Geege got Marty's denim jacket from our neighbour.

If I'd had more time, I would have reversed 5. and 6., but I was limited by my procrastination.

All in all I spent $50 (including the leg warmers I went back the next day for*) and the Geege spent $23.

We had such a fun night. I danced all night, including a group rendition of the Bus Stop (with local variations). It was like being at the Leagies again.

Funny thing was, it was the only party I can recall in a long time where I knew every word to every song. All those teenage years spent listening to the Top 40 seem to have left the lyrics permanently implanted in my brain.

What are your tips for dressing up on the cheap without looking cheap?

* I can't believe you can still buy them. You should have seen my face when the lovely ballet dancer-type asked me what colour I was after. I actually had choices!

Thursday, 31 January 2013

A month of health: Wrap

Image credit
I want to focus on my health this year, I am turning 40 this year after all, but I don't want to "diet". I am done with diets. I reckon I have tried them all, well all the vaguely sane ones any way. I can't say I have ever had the will power for the lettuce leaf a day kind of diets. I digress...

I want this year to be different. I do have weight to lose but I don't want to spend three months getting it off and nine months putting it back on. That would be last year. And the year before, come to think of it.

I want to be healthy in the broader sense. Healthy body and mind.

I am embracing moderation with my food and drinking. Getting my headspace sorted and managing my stress (you should see how often I catch myself standing in front of the pantry after a bout of frustration). I walk regularly and I will start pilates classes with the physio next week. I am aiming for real food. Slow food. Embracing the food rules. Learning to break the binge and bust cycle.

I do not want to be a human accordion any more.

It is going to be a slow and steady approach to fit and fabulous. I have my good and bad days. I fight the urge to drink protein shakes and eat celery for a week to 'drop a few quick kilos'. But I am better than that. Stick to my little rules*, I tell myself, and it will go. Eventually. It is about my health, not the size of my thighs. And that is just the way I want it.

Do you have any health goals in 2013? Share them in the comments.

A month of health posts:
February will be:

 A month of frugality. 

I hope you will enjoy it.

* No lollies, no chocolate (except fair-trade dark chocolate occasionally), no carbs after 6pm, no night time snacking.

Monday, 28 January 2013

A month of health: Skin

Image from here
It is a truth universally known that almost 40 year old skin is not the same as 21 year old skin. Neither are 40 year old knees like 21 year old knees, mind you, but no-one can see that creaky feeling you get as you climb stairs, but they can see the lines on your face.
I met a woman when I was in my 20s. She was approaching 60 and had the most sensational skin. She swore it was a combination of good genetics and a daily moisturising routine ('always apply in an upwards direction' she said, 'and don't forget your neck'). I don't know if she had actually undergone cosmetic surgery or not (I can be quite gullible), but I have always heeded her advice. You just never know.
Coming from a fair-skinned family, I have learnt to be careful with sun exposure. Skin cancer is the leading cancer in Australia. Most skin cancers are preventable. In addition to having regular skin checks, you can prevent most skin cancers by diligently:

  • avoiding the sun in the middle of the day
  • wearing sunscreen every day (mine is in the moisturiser I apply daily. In an upwards direction, not overlooking the neck area); and 
  • wearing a hat
Smoker's are renowned for having poor skin. Saggy. Prematurely wrinkled. The anti-smoking campaigns warn us that "Every cigarette is doing you damage". When it comes to your skin, I think that is true.
You need to eat a healthy diet and drink plenty of water if you want beautiful skin. Lots of fruit and vegetables, whole grains and lean protein. Real food. I always know when I have drunk too much and eaten too much sugar and/or oil. My skin breaks out, gets shiny and loses 'bounce'. You are what you eat.
Sleep is your skin's best friend. You need at least seven hour's a night. Sleep improves complexion, removes dark circles under the eyes and makes the skin glow. Sleep can provide your skin everything it needs and it is more important than any cosmetic treatment and more necessary than any cream.
A friend of mine has regular Botox. Unbeknownst to me, she has been doing it for years. My only experience with Botox is for use in vocal folds that don't work properly (spasmodic dysphonia). I can't imagine injecting bacteria into my face. On purpose. But I guess it is a solution to the natural changes of ageing, for some people.
I read in a magazine about cosmetic acupuncture. Rejuvenating the face (and body) by having tiny needles stuck into your face. Apparently it works a treat. And the effects spread beyond your face to rejuvenate your whole body.

What do you think your skin tells you about your health?

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