Saturday, December 31, 2011

Goodbye 2011, Helloooo 2012!

We had a great 2011. A wrap up of the pregnancy from hell with the most adorable squishy baby ever, no less than FOUR new nieces/nephews, and a fantastic year playing stay at home mum for the first time ever to my 10 year old as well as my bubba.
Husband found pride in recognition, appreciation, and value in his new job, and we both remembered that my husband IS someone to be valued in the workplace, an opinion that his old boss carefully chipped away at over 8 years of anger, verbal abuse and contradictions. I'm ashamed of myself, my husband is the hardest worker I know and never took 1 sick day in 8 years of work. I should never have let a 20 something immature kid taking over Daddy's business deteriorate his confidence that much.
We rediscovered the art of marital conversation over the early months of the year as we carpooled to our nearby jobs.
Miss M has needed me more than ever as she navigates the minefield that is the tween years. We have had more serious mother/daughter conversations this year than ever before. Lolly grows before my very eyes, and I am astounded every day by her rapid development.
I wrapped up a fun little challenge at work on my way out, leaving with no loose ends and on a high.
It was a great year. 2012 looks like it might be great too, but I am nervous about whats to come.
I am nervous about settling my sweet baby into childcare. I won't be there when she cries for me and that is already upsetting me 4 weeks before she is due to start!
I am nervous about returning to the workplace. My skip level boss was made redundant and is gone, my immediate boss and I never quite clicked, and I don't know if I will have a job for long to go back to with the restructures impacting my level around about March.
I'm nervous that returning to work means being given a new team (I'm a team leader). A new team means all new staff to get to know, and possible a whole new product line. I am a banker in the depths of my soul, but the restructure has me set more firmly than ever in the call centre division, somewhere I was hoping to escape when I returned.
Returning to work means back to the massive juggle that was my life before. Except now I have a wee baby at home relying on me. Miss M had gotten so independent and so wrapped up in her huge dancing commitment during the week that late nights went unnoticed, as I scooped her up from dancing on the way home. I don't want to miss Lolly's early months so I WILL be putting in the right hours at work but I am scared of the conflicts and challenges in maintaining my work expectations by scaling back my hours.
I worry that sibling resentment which has been completely absent in my home so far will emerge when I no longer have unlimited time to give to my kids. Miss M adores her sister and has not shown any issue with the enormous time investment that a baby needs but she has had so much more of me than ever before with me home this year. And Lolly has had me 100% to herself, how will she feel about sharing the little time she has with me with her sister?
Our finances are scary this year. Tight, BEYOND tight, although I am keeping my fingers crossed for at LEAST 4% payrises for us both (pleasepleaseplease) to try and help combat the money situation. There is a certain amount of blind faith happening that I will find a way to pay all the bills.
Most of these concerns I will just have to wait and see. I can mentally plan and obsess all I like but only time will tell so I keep telling myself I need to not waste the 4 weeks I have left at home by stressing. There is plenty of  time for that later.
I hope your 2011 has been as happy as mine and that your 2012 is less uncertain! Happy new year everyone xx

Friday, December 30, 2011

Costco Membership - Is it worth the $60. Check out my findings


For months I have been itching to get inside a Costco store to see how the savings stack up. But much as I love a good bargain, I am very wary about paying $60 for an annual membership for the privilege of shopping. $60 is a lot of money just to find out whether or not the place is good value for money, and that's the only reason I would want to shop there.

I've tried finding friends or family who would want to subsidise (or be subsidised) a membership in exchange for being the "guest" that a member can take along, but for the most part everyone I know wants to be my guest, at my cost. And since I don't throw $60 away lightly, I benched this idea for a while. (FYI, each membership comes with 2 cards for people at the same address, and each cardholder can take 2 adult guests, kids don't count).

But yay, because she could use the membership for her scouts crew, my sister had bought a membership and very nicely agreed to take me along for a visit.

And since I am sure I am not the only person who has been wondering if the place stacks up to its promises of great value through bulk buys I took my camera along for the trip. The majority of my price comparisons have been done using Lasoo or from the catalogues I would normally shop from to be as fair as possible in a reasonable shopping comparison. It’s not always like for like for quantity, so I am using unit pricing to find the value.

Firstly, the place is massive. Think Bunnings but filled with everything under the sun, electrical, clothes, meat, alcohol, baby goods, even its own hearing aid section and optometrist. I'll detail some of the less easily compared items, but here is a quick overview of some common household purchases.


MASSIVE Pizzas
Quick run through on the fresh food, 12 croissants for $8.99 (normally $1.20 each at my bakery), $21.99 for a luscious round mudcake that is easily 2 hands long, $26.99 for a large slab cake with Happy birthday written on it, $10.99 for a kilo of cooked OR uncooked buffalo wings, (not as yummy as they looked though), $14.99 for a giant frozen 1.5kg pizza of lots of kinds smothered in ingredients, $60 per kilo Wagyu beef, and more. The fresh food section was massive, you could genuinely do your full fresh food shop there  for your large family, not so much a small family. The best thing about the place was the workers EVERYWHERE dishing out samples of beef, lamb, chocolate pringles, ranch dressing, biscuits, there was so much to try and of course we tried everything. Smart too, because now I can also say that the lamb and beef were yummy and tender.

Having a quick peek in electrical found a broad range of electrical items, (fridges to hair straighteners) but only 1 type of each thing. An example, Samsung 691 litre side by side fridge, was originally $1999, marked down to $1,499 for the floor model. A quick comparison with the Good Guys online shows that they offer the same model for $2057, but the cynic in me wonders how much more they would shave off the price in person a/for cash, and b/ for the floor model

Another drawcard for Costco is all the items that you do not see in the mainstream shops here in Australia. There was a 2 pack of a massive bottle of Hershey's chocolate sauce that we bought in America and have been rationing ever since for only $8.29 for 2. We paid more than that for 1 in America. Also sacks of uncooked cookie dough $16.89 for 2.72kgs, massive bottle of ranch dressing for $9.99, Reeces peanut butter cups (drool!) $15.99 for 1.58kgs and lots of other treats and foods we have come to associate with our favourite holiday destination.

The items I've detailed is just the tip of the iceberg. Like I said, think Bunnings. Massive big warehouse with dozens of aisles, toys, clothes and so much food. My main goal was to see how a Costco membership would affect the weekly budget, and I think I've seen enough savings to back up a membership. For me, the big issues remain that Costco is 1 hour away, so a shopping trip there is a big outing, but also that I am very susceptible to alot of the other products they are selling. By the time I finished in there this time I spent easily $60 I should not have on items that are pure luxury - money I don't have. Lets face it, I did not NEED those Reeces peanut butter cups. Nor did I NEED (but it was a total bargain!) the castle doll house that I bought Miss Lolly for $30 marked down from $100 because it was the last one left after Christmas. Its still on Amazon at $89.99 so BARGAIN! Its huge and complete with furniture. I foresee many a princess letting down her tresses from these turrets.


Hopefully this post will help anyone else trying to work out if a Costco membership is worth it. If you live close enough to factor the trip into a routine fortnightly/monthly shop, its absolutely worth it. Especially if you buy some of the key brands I have mentioned - if you are a Huggies buyer then these savings will stack up over your nappy changing lifetime.
Has anyone else been to Costco? I'd love to hear your experiences too.


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

How can anyone be allergic to non-allergenic cats?

Despite having no allergy to cats in general it would appear that i am allergic to my sisters non-allergenic babies. Go figure.
Not-so-wordless-Wednesday

Say hello to the banes of my existence this week.

Cordelia
Willow
Linking up with
My Little Drummer Boys

Monday, December 26, 2011

Worst prepared road trip EVER

This post is written from the Hume Hwy, about halfway between Sydney and Melbourne. After a miraculous recovery yesterday, my sister was very excited to tell me that the family was feeling better and they were up to us arriving Boxing Day after all. And I was very excited to receive that news! But that was about 7:30 last night. And since weren't leaving for another day, we didn't pack Christmas Eve like we planned. So Christmas night was spent frantically packing and planning once I had farewelled our dinner guests. Problem is, I was bleary eyed and a little incoherent and could barely think at midnight last night thanks to too many late nights so we are halfway to Melbourne now with no snacks, not a real lot of car activities, and we didn't get around to moving Lolly's carseat over to the side from the middle seat. So Miss M, who has done this trip a dozen times and is a great traveller has done nothing but whine and moan the whole trip. Lolly is also less than impressed that there is very little crawling and explore time along the road. Husband and I keep bickering about the stupidest things (which admittedly makes us laugh) and we are making the worst time ever. I think we will need to start breaking the journey until Lolly is a little older but for now I am stuck in the car trip from hell.

How's your holiday panning out so far?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Wishes from me to you xx

Presents are all wrapped, my girls are clean and shiny, tomorrows food is ready to go with minimal effort and I can actually see the clothesline outside because Husband has mowed (a bi-annual event).
My two beautiful girls
This evening we will take Lolly for her first ever Christmas Eve light drive. We've done this every Christmas since Miss M was a bubba and the lights get better and better. I can't wait to see her face light (literally!) up at our favourite street where we get out and walk.
I was all excited and packed to head on down to Melbourne on boxing day to see my sister and family, but they've all come down with some fiery chest infection. We've decided to postpone the trip by 24-48 hours to give them all time to get through the antibiotics since the first person was feeling better by day 4 but my BIL has just gone down with it today too. A little disappointing because I only see my sister once or twice a year, and she hasn't seen Lolly since she was 8 weeks old. I'm dying to show off all her new baby tricks.
Decembers Photo of the Month
Instead we will go to the movies on Boxing Day, something I have been doing with my father since I was a little girl doing the split Christmas thing with my divorced parents. We've been taking Miss M most years since she was 3. Its not a hard and fast tradition, I was willing to give it a miss in order to get to Melbourne a day faster but since we can't go to Melbourne, I think Husband or I will take Miss M to the movies. Usually we all go but Lolly is not well behaved enough for a movie yet. Maybe in another year (or 2!).
I suspect blog reading will be the last of most peoples priorities today, but just in case you do drop by, Merry Christmas from me to you. I hope your day is magical, filled with good food and family, with all the little memories that create a trail across time for you to look back upon in years to come. xx

Friday, December 23, 2011

Breaking news! She's PREGNANT!

Hold that purse tight Kate - gotta mean theres a
bubba in there!
Kate didn't drink champagne at a recent function. Might have nothing to do with needing a clear head to stay royally correct, or even abstaining because she is trying to get get pregnant, she must be pregnant!
She followed her PA into a different room at an event. She MUST be pregnant, because pregnant women do that kind of thing.
She held her handbag tightly recently. Busted! She must be pregnant!
And lastly, she was photographed with her hand in front of her stomach. No wait, that photo was from the day before her wedding. Oh hang on! There's a more recent one.
This ones from 24 hours BEFORE the big day.
Sometimes thats just a convenient place to put
your hand bump watchers
Sources close to the duchess, and palace insiders say.....puh-lease. They're about as close as the tourists with their noses pressed up against the palace gates.
I can't begin to imagine the pressure on this poor woman. 10 years into the making of my first beautiful daughter people had long since stopped asking me if we were trying for a second. But now that gorgeous little Lolly has joined our family the big question has started again, although now there is a big emphasis not just to try for a third, but to try for a boy.
I remember how much stress and pressure I placed on myself each month to get those double lines on my pee test. And no one even knew we were trying! How much more stressful for Kate who has the world watching and magazines dissecting her every movement and how it could relate to a pregnancy.
Even worse, they announce her pregnancy to the world on their covers long before she has anything to show and is quite possibly - wait for it - not even pregnant!
Let her pee on her stick in private journo's, we'll find out when the palace is good and ready.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Monday, December 19, 2011

Why am I so thick? It can't be THAT hard!

When I work full time I study statistics and numbers looking for patterns, problems, and information. I can sniff out a shift in customer behaviour and identify the root cause in minutes of reviewing results.
I fiddle with complex spreadsheets and databases, and have a bullshit radar for a false sick day like you would not believe.
When I'm home, my bullshit radar is just as accurate when it comes to teeth brushing, and I spend my days chasing my energetic 7 month old from one room to another, trying to keep her mind active and my household goods safe. Her mind is an incredibly powerful little tool and I feel privileged to be an audience to her growth each day.
So why. WHY. WHY can I not figure out how to place a Nuffnang ad code? Every other blogger in the universe seems to have been able to figure this out. Clearly, it is possible. I am not a stupid woman but these damn HTML codes have me stumped.
I like HTML. HTML is my best friend when it comes to scamming a few extra photo's at no cost on my eBay ads!
So wwwwwwhhhyyy can I not figure this out! *Sniff*

AND YOUR STUPID TUTORIALS FOR BLOGGER ARE NOT EVEN UP TO DATE NUFFNANG! I don't have a layout tab, its a design tab now. So ner.

Sorry, grouchy pants moment over, I am sure I will figure it out eventually but it feels good to vent in a location where someone will possibly know what I am talking about since my husband gives me crazy person eyes each time I come to whine to him.

***Edit*** I may *possibly* have figured out one of the codes. Im not sure - see up the little right corner? I think that means I got it right although the absense of an ad.....might just mean its early days and my blog is not interesting enough yet for an ad. Or it might mean I still got it wrong. Anyways, giving up for tonight.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Keeping your sanity between now and Christmas

Without fail, there will be a few last minute runs to the stores, although hopefully you will have the worst of it completed already.
Christmas is my absolute favourite time of year, and since shopping is one of my favourite pastimes, it all goes together quite nicely. That said, shopping centres full of feral mothers and obnoxious teenagers do not appeal to me right now. I had a good shopping experience the other day, and I'd like to keep remembering Christmas that way thank you very much.
To make the most of this last week before Christmas and to keep the stress levels down, here are my tips:
#1 Grab a couple of blank Westfield giftcards from the stands in various places around the centre - usually near the concierge. They don't cost anything, and if you remember someone at the last minute you need a present for, this can be loaded with an amount between $10 and $995 of your choosing on the Internet. Too easy right? And much better than a random printout voucher off the computer. RedBalloonDay vouchers are all well and good when you chose them specifically for a person, not so good when its what you do because its too late to do anything else.
Buh-rilliant idea

#2 Do you have a 24 hour Kmart nearby? Wait till the significant other comes home, get the kids settled into bed, and go up to Kmart for the hell of it. I go even when I have nothing left to buy. I wander the store for hours, browsing and blissfully absorbing the retail goodness that washes over me when I shop without kids.
The best part about hanging out at Kmart at obscene times? My Kmart does random spot specials, some completely unheard of items for stupid prices out the blue. "Ladies and Gentlemen, for the next 10 minutes we have this outdoor table setting marked down from $89.99 to $10 until stocks last". Seriously. I bought dad an outdoor table setting 3 years ago. And a jumping castle for my daughter 4 years ago.
#3 If your idea of a good present does not come from Kmart, some Westfields do a 72 hour straight shopping experience - I know Parramatta usually does. Go do all your shopping there at 2 in the morning. No parking, no lines.
#4 Invest in x2 boxes of Cadbury favourites in the next grocery shop. There is always someone in the leadup to Christmas who drops by, or whose home we visit even though it wasn't in the original plan. The hostess in me cringes if I can't give them a gift and Cadbury favourites always works. And if you don't give them away, damn it, I guess you'll just have to eat them.

And if you are completely stuck for a Christmas present for someone, buy a beanbag and beans. Everyone wants a beanbag but never gets around to buying one. Or a Sodastream. No-one has one yet, so its still a novelty.

Friday, December 16, 2011

So whats the giveaway protocol?

I heart me some giveaways. I really really do. I'll even admit that's the reason I first started reading some blogs, although its not the reason I now read every blog update obsessively on my iPhone while feeding Lolly. Giveaways were just my entry into the seriously awesome community of bloggers.
But since October, I have been lucky enough to win 18 (18!) prizes. Some bloody brilliant ones too that I am very excited about. My personal rule is that I only enter a giveaway if its a prize I will use in my household or have a specific person in mind to gift it to. I won't enter for the hell of it, if its a book I won't read, I don't enter - etc. Someone who will use it should win so that the promoters get what they are paying for. Proper exposure.
But here's my big question. I have won TWO prizes from one blog, twice. So repeat wins on two blogs. Do I stop entering now? Is it greedy or mean to keep entering? Because I love giveaways. I love the goodies that the post man brings every week and I enjoy the reviews. I am a promoters dream, because I buy so many things as a result of these giveaways. An extra Santa letter to go with the one I won so that both girls can have one. Fisher Price Apptivity case because I didn't win one but I was convinced as a result of the review that I wanted one. And so on.
And I notice the same people entering all the time, so much so that I actually feel like I know a few people in a facebook knowing kind of way. So maybe the repeat win thing is normal.
Giveaway bloggers, whats your feeling on it? If someone wins on your site, would you rather they not enter for a while? How long? Other giveaway enterers, do you keep entering or do you stand back for a while?

Feel free to hate me

This time last year I was a screaming dribbling mess, barely restraining myself from slapping the face of the woman who took the last Zhu Zhu pet starter kit off the shelf at Big W. I was almost sobbing by the time I found parking, after 30 minutes of looping the parking lot levels, frustrated as the time ticked by and exceeded the length of free parking (3 hours) waiting in long queue's, and ready to sell my first born to the highest bidder if she did not stop disappearing from my side to look at various fascinating things. Add swollen ankles and a constant need to throw up the scarce contents of my stomache thanks to the worlds best weight loss pregnancy and it was a seriously hideous trip.
The last trip the Westfields is usually like that for me frankly. I'm pretty good at organising Christmas, but about a week out there is always a list of things to buy from the shops to tie up the loose ends.
This year was no different, and when I woke up this morning I was dreading the trip. I was organised enough, I had my list made up of everything I had to buy, and even more organised into what order to buy them to minimise useless walking through the centre. Im on a tight budget both with money and time today, so paying for excess parking fee's and being late for our Gymbaroo class was out of the question. But in order to time it all perfectly to link in with Gymbaroo and lunch times I got to the Westfields at 10am, probably the worst time ever. Every other feral in the west has had time to get there before me, and very few have been in there long enough to be leaving yet.
Miss M was sulky thanks to a ticking off first thing in the morning to get her moving. Lolly was also grouchy because we've just welcomed tooth #3, but tooth #4 looks like it should arrive any day. I was expecting this to be a nightmare trip of feral kids, and an even more feral mother.
...
The lights were all green the entire 25 minute trip to the Westfields. Scratch that, it was a 20 minute trip today.
Thanks to the sulks, Miss M sat silently in the back, and didn't give me the usual harassment to play punchbuggy or spotto with her.
I pulled into the Westfields and immediately found a spot right next to the store entry and the parking lot exit without doing so much as one lap or any stalking. Unheard of.
I was able to buy everything on my list bar one (thanks BIG W, now I have to brave another complex to try and get that Junior Masterchef book for Miss M's best friend). With 14 things on my list with items from one end of our ginormous Westfield to the other I fully expected to have to come back a second day.
After being fed her morning solids Lolly promptly fell asleep without any help (frantic rocking of the pram covered by a blanket).
The two more expensive items on my list were on sale - this time of year I am no longer bothering looking for sales, I just buy the leftover items full price. But I got Husbands new rash shirt that he asked for at 40% off, and our dance teacher turned school teachers new Parker pen 25% off. Sweet.
Lines flowed quickly, with little delay. All hands were on deck in every store making the checkout lines long but very quick to move.
Miss M sensed that today was not the day. She very quietly followed me from store to store and carried the bags without being asked. Good girl.
I toddled out of there with everything on the list bar the masterchef book with 15 minutes to spare on the free parking.
...
Do you hate me? This time last year, if someone had described this kind of trip to me I probably would have crossed them off my Christmas card list forever. But it was the best and most productive shopping trip ever.
Fingers crossed I do not think of anything else I need now. From here on I should only need to do the grocery shop which can be done at a Coles in a newish suburb instead of a major centre.
Whew, Christmas sorted. I can go to bed happy. After I have tossed back a glass of chocolate tequila and a donut. Because that's how I roll.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

What the? Clearly no parent was involved in the planning

Wordless Wednesday

Change table at Penrith Centro shopping centre. Really? Do they think mothers automatically become Gumby when we reproduce and start being able to contort ourselves into ridiculous positions when we change our offspring? Who changes their child sideways?

Its awkward enough changing my little ball of mobile energy

This angle just does not work for me
Linking up with
My Little Drummer Boys

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Inexpensive Photo Christmas Cards.

I don't usually send Christmas cards, I'm one of those exceptionally lazy people who just can't get my butt into gear early enough to make a list, write the cards and mail. This year I really wanted to send photo cards to everyone, because much as I love and enjoy my Aunty's, Uncles and cousins, since adulthood, these days I only see them at weddings, funerals and special occasions. Thank god for facebook.
I was horrified to see the cost of a Santa photo + 40 cards was going to cost easily $100 at my local Westfields. Even more if I got more than a basic photo package.
Poverty stricken as we are this year while I am on maternity leave I broke out the alternatives.
First, a free photo from Harvey Norman. Not quite as swishy or expensive looking as the Santa's at Westfields or Myers, and you have to wait a few days for the photo so no instant gratification but FREE.
Next, a little bit of photoshop magic and voila! A 4x6 Christmas card that I can have printed at Big W (or anywhere really) for 15 cents or less. So total for 40 cards will be $6 and I have something that I can also email out to people instead of mailing if I want. I will be mailing to the family that might like to have it on their fridges, emailing to anyone else that I think would love to get it but doesn't necessarily plan to put our photo on display in their home.
If you are less lazy than me, you could also take the time to personalise each card and save as separate JPEGs, but I will just be handing out these generalised ones. I might write on the back of the photo. Maybe.

I don't fully understand how the whole online credits thing works, but I am no photoshop genius, all my idea's and concepts tend to be inspired by other people, or even blatantly copied so if you do decide to do something similar or even the same you don't need my permission or to give me credit. The people who actually created the elements and fonts need their credit though. Feel free to email me a copy of what you did or a link though since I'd love to see it!

Credits: Elements by Designs by Sarah. Fonts: Budmo Jiggler, Euphemia, & SBC Love Mom. Idea: Haphazardhappenstances. All credit items were free.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Versatile Bloggers Award

I have read a fair few of these posts this month, and really enjoyed the insights from women whose lives I feel like I am a part of these days.
It never occurred to me that someone would tag me as I'm a relatively new blogger so I had to look twice when I was reading The Truth Behind the Supermum today- Yay me! I'm tagged. Thanks Wyl!
In being tagged I thought I should do a little research before I wrote my post, and holy crap on cracker there are so many Versatile blogger posts out there. But no-one seems to know where it started. It seems to be a bit of a blog chain letter, get a little love from another blog, share about myself, and then share the love. Tag, you're it kind of thing.
So in joining the ranks of the thousands of blogs that have had a versatile blogger award I will share 7 things about myself - and to keep it seasonal its all about Christmas.
 
 
1. Wrapping presents is just about one of my favourite things to do in the world. I can glaze out everything while I'm wrapping gifts doing perfect hospital bed corners. Its a rare, extremely odd shaped item that makes it into a gift bag in my home. And every year I have a theme for my paper. Yes, I am one of those women.
2. We are a mixed religion household - Husband is a Muslim and I am a Christian. Our household celebrates both Ramadan and Christmas (don't ask, we make it work!), but it means that I pretty much get the whip hand when it comes to Christmas, none of the multi family juggling that many of my friends go through.
3. I said none of the multi family juggling but I lied. With a sister in Melbourne, and Mother and Father divorced I still end up doing the Christmas dash from place to place every year. Usually its wake up about 7am, do Santa presents, have breakfast, open one or two family presents then rush to throw our good Christmas clothes on and get out the door for lunch with Nanna. 3 hours with Nanna then rush home to prepare dinner for Poppy and my brother. This year we'll also be packing up shop and heading to Melbourne on Boxing Day for a third Christmas with my sister. See? Where could I fit in-laws in all that? The big man knows what he's doing when he picks our soul mates. He specifically took my Christmas needs into account.
4. I love Carols by Candlelight. LOVE. I go to as many as I can. I don't even need to be associated with the group hosting them. If you put a sign up, I will come. My husband very tolerantly trails along with me on the Carols trail but just can't get into the singing enthusiastically in public thing.
5. With that in mind, my favourite Christmas Carol is We Three Kings, especially when sung by the 3 Tenors.
6. Right behind my Carols and gift wrapping fetish is my love of Christmas lights. We have a not so secret street not far from us that we found 8 years ago. Back then it was practically deserted and we could either drive slowly up and down or park and walk (depending on how tired a wee toddler Miss M was.) The occupants would usually be on their verandas and would have a chat with us while we admired. These days its been discovered and usually gets a write up. Now we park 2 streets away and walk down 2 alleys to get there. We have to do the street on foot, which is fine, but getting close enough to say howdy and thanks to the occupants is almost impossible. I think I will make little thank you cards this year. Its a massive production with fundraising BBQ's going, face painting, karaoke on a balcony and a fire brigade with Santa on the back.
7. I hate egg nog. And Christmas pudding. Bet you didn't see that one coming right? With all the Hallmarky goodness above you would think I would love them, but blech. No thanks. Give me a little chocolate tequila and some mudcake and I'm happy.
 
So now you know so much more about me and my Christmas fetishes its time for me to pass along and tag a few others.
1. Salwa from Salz Food Adventures - because I know she can pull out some fun facts
2. Kylie from Kylie Ofiu - the first Aussie blogger I started to read &
3. Lisa at Lonely Parent - because I always enjoy her blog posts and she's a new blogger too


If anyone out there can tell me the origins on the versatile blogger award I would love to know more.I was surprised by how far back it stretches, and across blogs from many countries.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A little blog neglect for a good reason

This has been a massive weekend for me, which will hopefully excuse my blog neglect. Between school finishing for Miss M, my company Christmas party, Santa photo's, birthday parties, 10 year wedding anniversary, going to the "How to Train your Dragon"event at Fox Studio's and sleepover preparations I've been a busy little Vegemite.
It shouldn't have been as busy as it was but since we have never actually celebrated a single anniversary before, I was determined that for once we would be going out. And staying out. And over achiever that I am, I wanted to fit everything else in too.
Of course, I haven't touched my eyebrows since Lolly was born 7 months ago. My last waxer (waxist? Eyebrow lady?) closed 8 years ago and I haven't found a new one yet. So I had to dig out a pair of tweezers and dust them off in preparation for Fridays Christmas party and Saturday night naughties with the Husband.
And then there was the dilemma of what to wear to both events. I lost 25 kilo's while I was pregnant (yes, I LOST weight while I was pregnant), which was a good thing because hey! I had more than 25 to lose. And while I haven't lost any more since Lolly was born, I also haven't gained any again. But the big problem is that I have nothing to wear. Really. I haven't bought many new clothes, and although I have dug out many things that I put away when I started gaining weight 8 years ago, there wasn't really anything for a big night out. And right now, there is no money for new clothes. I will try to get a few basic essentials for work in the January sales but until then I make do.
So I picked out the smallest of my pretty dresses and made a few adjustments to make them a bit more fitted - I mostly succeeded but I couldn't keep my jacket on my shoulders last night, it kept drooping.
*Sigh* I know, tough problem to have right? Boo hoo me, I lost 25 kilos and now I have nothing to wear.
Miss M had a sleepover at her besties house Saturday night, which took care of the Sunday birthday party dilemma since Bestie and Mum took Miss M along with them. Lolly slept at MIL's which gave me plenty of pangs but I knew she'd be fine - I'm in no rush to leave her again now till I go back to work though.
10 years married. Wow
And Dear Husband and I enjoyed a late dinner at Darling Harbour and enjoyed the 9:30 fireworks. I was amazed to see how many kids were in the city at that time of night - we have gotten so used to having a 6-7 o clock dinner with Miss M over the years that I even forgot what it was like to eat so late.
I have a message for all the young ladies in Sydney. If I can see your bum cleavage, its been too short for the last couple of inches. No-one wants to know what you had for breakfast.
And just lastly, we had a lively stay at the Wyndham Resort Sydney courtesy of my MIL and FIL. At least, I meant to say lovely, but when I text my friend it came out lively. And it was my 10 year anniversary and we didn't have the kids.....so maybe it was also lively.

Was anyone else at the "How to Train your Dragon"event at Fox yesterday? The cinema was pretty empty (I felt so sorry for the organisers, and it was a great movie + sequel) but there was probably another 8 or 9 groups of 4 people and I wanted to introduce myself since I pretty sure most would be mummy bloggers but was too bashful. Howdy if you were there

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Christmas Tree Edition

O Christmas Tree O Christmas Tree
There was a time when I dreamt of a big, luscious, Christmas tree covered in coordinating decorations from David Jones. A picture perfect tree that would look like it was straight out of an American Christmas movie.
Lolly is fascinated with baubles
And since we were pretty povo we settled for a $29 tree from Kmart with a bunch of red and gold decorations from the $2 shop which looked....OK. I'm pretty fussy, so I can make cheap look nice still and have been reasonably happy with it ever since.
But somewhere along the 11 year journey we have been on as a family, I got the perfect tree and didn't even realise it. Right when my daughter and I were laughing over a shared memory linked to a decoration I had my epiphany.
My tree is already straight out of a Hallmark advertisement. My daughter and I share memories, and have started entwining her sister in those memories too.
Every year I buy one special decoration for each of my girls that symbolises something special for the year. I usually buy myself something too, just one or two that is unique and meaningful to me.
Every year the generic baubles on my tree get a little less, and the meaningful special decorations get a little more. And this year I realised that none of my decorations match, none were really bought to complement one another, and yet I have the perfect tree. Its smothered in memories. As we unwrapped them and hung them on the tree Miss M and I kept up a steady stream of conversation about the event that each decoration punctuates.
1. Mickey ears from America, 2. Handmade by Miss M age 2, 3. Nutcracker from Miss M's first Ballet,
4. Train from our visit to the Polar Express Ballet, 5. Lolly's first Christmas 2011, & 6. Miss M's first Christmas 2001
I've had to adjust some decorations since to put the less breakable ones up the top and the more jingly or plastic ones down the bottom where Lolly can play to her hearts content but all in all this tree is perfect.
And as always Dear Husband played out our usual Christmas tradition of growling that he should have put the lights on BEFORE Miss M and I decorated. While we snickered because we had already whispered and guessed that he would say that before he was halfway done.
I heart my tree. And I am so going back for that Peacock decoration in a weeks time when Nospendver is up.
Is your tree covered in memories, or do you have the dream decorators tree? I promise to ooh appropriately over your photo's if you paste a link ;)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Dreaming of a perfect wardrobe

Wordless Wednesday

One of my 12 for 2012 - Getting my Superwardrobe. One word.

Now

Goodbye manhole and ladder needed to reach.
Goodbye drawers, box of random crap and
shelf of lonely hats and scarves.

2012. Or something a little more to scale.

Heeelllooo spacious and pristine goodness.

Linking up with
My Little Drummer Boys
for Wordless Wednesday

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Top Gift Idea's for under $20

I've been prowling the Internet alot lately looking for inexpensive but fun gifts that I can give my nearest and dearest. I've come across a few gems that Í thought I'd share - I will mention straight away that none of these people have sponsored this post.
A personalised Uno Cards set for $19.95 - OMG are these not the best idea ever. I've ordered a set to give to a friend for her engagement covered in photo's of her and her fiance that I lifted from facebook.
Bazinga Tshirt for $11.90 USD - Perfect for the Big Bang Theory geek in your life. These guys are in Hong Kong, and the site has a million fun little bibs and bobs all cheapies. We've bought from them many many times, be prepared for a few weeks shipping time, but it always arrives. Good for stocking stuffers as a general rule, but it may be too late for Christmas delivery now.
Babushka Doll Measuring Cups $20 - Very cool. Something I would actually line up on the window sill in between uses.

Cake Pops 10 for $20 - Sorry NSW Western Sydney residents only, since you have to pick these puppies up. A unique gift for the hostess at any event, beats showing up with the predictable Cadbury Favourites (mind you, also a winner)

Desktop Ping Pong, only $16.95 - I can actually see this one getting some use. I'd love a ping pong table, but have nowhere to put one and no real desire to fork out the $$. This would be a bit of fun when people are over to be stashed away again in the shed when they are gone.
So if you were stuck for idea's I would be tickled to get any of these, and hopefully the people I bought them for will be equally tickled. And if anyone feels inclined to buy me one of the above I'm leaning most towards the babushka dolls *wink wink*
Feel free to toss some more idea's my way - I like new products that don't cost an arm and a leg.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Credit Card Update: Its GONE!

*Insert happy dance here*. I was determined to clear it by that date or dip into the holiday fund but thankfully by spending practically nothing for 3 weeks I have been able to get it paid. That leaves me 23 days till Christmas to finish the shopping - gaaah. Fortunately I have most presents, although one or two to go.
Husband and I have been frantically focusing our online survey efforts on 2 survey companies in particular that provide OO.com.au vouchers as rewards so that we can get Nanna's present from them. The last 2 vouchers hit my inbox this morning so she's set.

I'm not a great photographer but she was a beautiful
model so I'm hoping they will look good framed
 I took advantage of having my brothers 9 month old daughter over the other day to dress her up and take some photo's of her, so I will be toddling up to Spotlight this weekend to make use of a voucher I have and buy some frames. They haven't had any portraits taken of her so I'm thinking this should be a good present.
Miss M and Lolly are mostly done - I just don't have the "Something to Read" for both girls yet, so I will have to get up to QBD to suss out some book titles.
Other than that its just Husband and I who don't have presents. We don't always do presents for ourselves, but its important for the girls to be able to pick something to give to us so that Christmas morning is as much about them giving us a gift and waiting for the reaction as it is to open gifts. So we will take the girls shopping for little things this year for each other I think, and encourage a certain amount of handmade.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Don't talk to me about excercise

Exercise and I are not friends. We had a big dramatic breakup sometime around when I was 21 and started earning my office butt.
But my SIL Sal has been putting me to shame with her 30 day walking challenge - I think I'm hard done by keeping up Nospendver month. Well, to ease the boredom caused by locking myself in the home to avoid spending money (and not having visitors because quite frankly I don't have so much as a coke to offer) I decided to head out to our local lake to join Sal on her daily powerwalk.
See that lake? Its a huge lake.
Pffffft. 3440 steps in (or 4 laps of the lake) I called it a day and happily waved to Sal as she continued on another 2 laps. I was surprised by how many people were out and about doing their own happy laps. Dogs, old people, young people, lots of people lapping this lake over and over. By the end of one lap I would have been happy to sit in the shade and talk to the ducks - I even would have gone home with a happy feeling that I did some exercise today, but no, Sal dragged my butt 3 more times around that lake. It didn't help that I didn't take a water bottle. It also didn't help that I am trying to retrain Lolly's sleep times at the moment (she's only sleeping 7 hours at night where before she was up to 11 hours) so I was trying to keep her awake and she was less than impressed about it. There was no enjoying the scenery for her - she protested loudly and often that she wanted her dummy and security blanket.
Maybe. Just maybe. I MIGHT join Sal again before she finishes her 30 day challenge. Or maybe I'll incorporate a more gentle stroll around a smaller lake closer to home so I can pretend I am doing exercise without actually breaking up a drip down my back sweat like the one I had this morning.
Have you broken up with exercise too or are you another make me sick person who enjoys it?

**Edit, upon spell checking this post it turns out I spelled exercise wrong every time. I seem to be repressing.**

Monday, November 28, 2011

12 for 2012

Update 30/03/2014. I have been contacted by Life Insurance Finder who appear to regret asking sites to link to them for this competition. Their email was along the lines of "Thanks, but no Thanks, " and does not really acknowledge that they specifically requested that I paste the above paragraph and links in order to enter their competition. Apparently when Google slaps a penalty for link scamming practices, manners go out the window. All links have been removed as requested.

This is a post that I was not planning on writing until closer to the New Year. But me being me, my 2012 budget and goals are already in place, and this fantastical little competition over at Givemebackmyfivebucks has definitely encouraged me to get it written early.
I like to set myself short and long term financial goals. It helps me keep my focus, and it quantifies for me why we are a 2 working parent household. I've shared before a little about our priorities, so I won't revisit that. Instead, I will share my Financial Bucket list goals.

12 for 2012

Get a blockout shutter for Lolly's bedroom window. Besides her room getting all of the afternoon summer sun making it unbearably hot, it is also bright, and I am plain old paranoid about my kids windows being exposed. All other bedrooms have shutters on them but her room was the library before she was born. Until we get a shutter, she is sleeping in our room.
Save $3,000 towards next major holiday. We loved our big fat America Dream Holiday, and now we are looking at Europe when Lolly is old enough to remember it too. Maybe something a little closer to home in the meantime like Fiji or Thailand.
Pay $5,000 extra off the home loan. A little equity can only help with the bigger plan to get an investment property in a few years time.
Contribute $50 extra per fortnight to Husbands superannuation. Although Super is not my only plan for a retirement income, theres no mistaking the fact that I have nearly 3 times as much in my account.
Reassess Superannuation providers for Husband. I know I can get some kind of family deal through my own super which is with my work. I need to finally get my head down and do some comparisons on performance and fee's.
Replace carpet in all living area's with floorboards. It was never good quality to begin with, and 8 years on its looking pretty nasty. And Lolly has turned out to be hugely refluxy, which is not helping.
Create SuperWardrobe. Yes, that's one word, because that's how I hear it in my head.
Makeover Miss M's bedroom. She is more than a little jealous of her sisters bedroom, and I guess she is starting to grow out of her colours and themes that I set up 8 years ago now.
Take 3 away from home holidays with the kids.
Get health insurance finally. Yes. I am 30, Husband is 36 and we do not have insurance. Smack me around and call me stupid but I will rectify this situation as soon as I get back to work in February since I can salary sacrifice it.
Get a new bedroom suite. We bought a spanky new mattress late last year because my pregnancy back could not handle our 10 year old $99 queen mattress anymore. While I still have sleeping problems, I had no idea how much of it was from the mattress as I am getting at least 2 more hours sleep at night than I used to.
It seems like only yesterday I sent
her off to school in an oversized
dress. Now I will soon be sending
her again again in an  oversized
 dress lol.
Save $1000 towards Miss M's 2013 High School costs. *Sniff* My sweet baby will start high school in 2013, and along with that will come all new complete uniform costs, stationary and book packs, bags, we like to buy her a small laptop for next Christmas to help with Homework in the library after school etc etc.

All of this is a little ambitious so far for my 2012 budget. But since I haven't factored in payrises, bonus's or tax returns, I feel good about these goals. I will be posting a link to them on my top menu bar so that I can update them regularly and keep myself in check.
I find that if I do not set clear goals each year, it is easy for the year to slip by and to not feel like I have accomplished what I would like to with my family. I really encourage everyone to set their goals and keep your eye on the prize. And with the "$500 Give Me Back My Five Bucks competition, sponsored by Life Insurance Finder, the life insurance experts" running, now is a good time for YOU to be thinking about these things too.

Whats your big goal for 2012? Travel? Time with the kids? Major debt surgery? Do share, I'd love to know.

Update 30/03/2014. I have been contacted by Life Insurance Finder who appear to regret asking sites to link to them for this competition. Their email was along the lines of "Thanks, but no Thanks, " and does not really acknowledge that they specifically requested that I paste the above paragraph and links in order to enter their competition. Apparently when Google slaps a penalty for link scamming practices, manners go out the window. All links have been removed as requested.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Dealing with debt collectors

I mentioned in my last post that at one time I had a few nasty debt collection issues due to uninsured car accidents. 3 to be exact. 2 for husband, and 1 for me, and thanks to us not having insurance and being unable to pay the insurance companies chasing us to pay for the accident, the debts were sold onto external collectors. I have some hints for working with these bad boys. I don't mean financial institution collections departments either. Those ones you definitely want to prioritise or risk getting a default on your credit file which will show up for 7 years. And believe me when I say that the banks with the best or even ordinary rates will not be interested that you paid off that debt 6 years ago. If you have a nasty loan default, you will not be getting finance from anyone reasonable until its dropped off your file again.
I'm talking about the external kind. The ones that buy debts for a fraction of the original debt. Many business's use them, insurance companies, etc and they usually present themselves as working with the company that you originally owed the money too. Fair enough, they own the debt now.
Of course the best policy is to pay your bills in the first place. Definitely. But I, and many people like me have fallen into a trap where a debt collector is chasing you for money.
My steps for handling this situation:
1. Set up a payment arrangement AND STICK TO IT. Make it minimal though. Realistically, you are probably trying to juggle numerous bills right now, and most of the others have a bigger impact. Electricity will be turned off with a penalty, interest and fee's will be charged on finance, not paying rent will lose the roof over your head. A debt collector is really only chasing the original debt making them the lowest priority. Demonstrate to them that you are on a thin budget and negotiate a $5 or $10 per fortnight payment. Even if this means it will take 5 years to pay off.
2. When you get spare cash, put it aside and accumulate it for the purpose of paying off this debt, BUT DON'T ACTUALLY PAY IT.
3. Once you have accumulated 40% of the remaining debt amount, contact the debt collector to negotiate an early payment arrangement. Often, they will initiate it themselves periodically especially if you are committed to a tediously slow payment arrangement because they can't take any court action against you as long as you keep paying. Because they bought the debt at a fraction of the amount, they will often accept these negotiations as it is still a profit and they will save in admin costs maintaining your debt. If they ask for more than you have, turn it down and keep saving. You will find the middle ground eventually and they will be more likely to play ball next time you ring.
4. If they do not accept it, continue to pay them the base amount unless you have repaid all other interest or penalty bearing debts. Then do everything you can to eliminate this debt from your life as well by paying extra when you can. Do not commit to a higher regular payment though. If the collector contacts you, indicate that you have spare cash as an isolated circumstance and cannot commit to a high repayment. This way you avoid a commitment that is not sustainable long term. If you were to miss a payment, the collector would be able to resume legal activity against you.

Lets be clear. I am not encouraging you to avoid your financial responsibilities. Paying your bills in the first place is the best way to go. This is for when you are in that really bad situation and you are looking for tactics to make it right again. Most people do not end up in these situations because they are bad people. Sometimes they are stupid people (me), or have had bad luck, but usually they didn't set out to not meet their financial responsibilities. This information will help you to minimise the impact of a bad debt in your life and potentially fix up your situation faster.
If you are struggling with bad debt right now, I hope this helps. I'm not happy about some of my life experiences, but I'm happy to share the lessons I learnt. 1st lesson, get insurance. 2nd lesson, stop having accidents. 3rd lesson, as above.