Friday, June 28, 2013

FFS Friday: It's Really Been 3 Months?

We got a letter from the real estate we rent through today. We have a house inspection coming up next week. FFS.

Really? Has it really been 3 months since we moved in?

The house is still in that, everything is just shoved anywhere, phase, with a bunch of boxes still unpacked in the garage, and the occassional box in bedrooms. FFS

 I've been using the "we just moved in" excuse when someone comes over. I think that excuse might be a little worn out now FFS

We've been home owners for so long I forgot what it is like to have someone come and judge my housekeeping abilities, which are almost nonexistant. FFS

Now on top of a frantically busy fortnight (where did all those commitments come from FFS) I have to find time to get the house a smidgen (read: alot) more organised, and clean, properly clean, not toys pushed to the side of the room clean. FFS

Parent/Teacher interviews were last night. Feedback such as "Uses orange pen", "had no idea she was a "A" student based on her bookwork, until she did the test" "can't read her writing" was heavily featured. She got an "A" peeps. I get the bookwork thing, but does the orange pen REALLY matter?

Eck. No more time for FFS. I have to go do housework. FFS

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Giveaways Gone Wrong

I love hosting giveaways, especially when I get to support a product that I believe in, or even just snag something cool that doesn't seem to be on other blogs.

I also really, really, love winning giveaways - I'm sure for any other bloggers reading this I am a regular name in their giveaway comments. Besides winning cool things, I tend to find new blogs to read this way, that I may never have stumbled across otherwise.

But there are a surprising amount of giveaways going wrong, both as a winner, and as a hoster.

I win alot. Approximately 15 prizes so far this year, which is way down for me since I started restricting myself to prizes I know I will love and use, instead of entering everything for the sake of entering.

And of those 15 prizes, 3 have not arrived. 1 in 5 prizes, never turned up. That's huge. It was a similar proportion last year too. And of the 12 that arrived, 1 was incomplete.

I know, a prize is a bonus. Not an entitlement. And because I have met, hope to meet, or at least maintain a comfy online relationship with the bloggers running giveaways, I don't really push the issue. Nothing like doggedly pursuing something that's outside the bloggers control to make things a little awkward next time I bump into them at a bloggers event.

I don't want people I like and admire to experience the stress of chasing a PR or Brand for something that is not forthcoming. I don't want them to feel themselves under any pressure to supply the prize themselves. I like these people, and the prize is not worth that to me. I do tend to enquire once, after about a month has gone past, and sometimes the prize will be issued then, but if not, I don't say anything further. I'm guessing the bloggers assume that the prize has turned up.

It makes me very nervous every time I set up a new giveaway myself. It occurs to me, that I am putting my personal brand on the line, relying on a Brand or PR company to deliver a prize. I've had one recently that was a near miss, and I was only 48 hours away from buying the prize myself and mailing it, at significant personal loss. As it is, I had to offer to forgo the compensation that was offered (not asked for) in an effort to entice the PR company to produce the goods. It makes me pissy that I put so much work into a post, promotion and the admin of a giveaway to not be compensated in order to maintain the integrity of my brand. The poor winner had to wait 3 months for their prize, and as it was time sensitive, they must have been worried.

This is not going to stop me giving things away. From the increasing blog following, and giveaway entries, I know my readers like these posts. But I am going to be extremely careful about who I do business with, and ensure that I follow every prize, even though it creates so much extra work. I am not always compensated for every giveaway, either with product or cash. Often I do the giveaway just because I want to support small business, and because I like to give things to my readers.

This is not a name and shame exercises. The bloggers whose prizes never arrived are not responsible, and it is not a reflection on them. But I think I will privately share the PR company that gave me such a hard time about producing a prize on a secure bloggers chat board. Not as any kind of revenge, but so that others know to enter into business with them with caution.

Have you had a bad experience with a giveaway?

Linking up with Essentially Jess

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Barbie Dream House: The New Generation


When Maddy was a little girl, the Barbie Dream House was very much like a harem. 1 Ken doll, and approximately 30 Barbies and her variants. Ken served as husband, brother, boyfriend, delivery man, to all these lovely ladies.

These days the Barbie collection has been handed down to Lorelei, and I took some effort to cull the hordes, at least for a few years, leaving her with 2 Barbies, 1 Ken, and an assortment of children, along with their furniture and dollhouse.

The harem was packed away in a crate along with all the clothes, shoes, and miscellaneous small items that Barbie often comes with for as long as Sebastian (and sometimes 2 year old Lolly too!) is still at that stage of putting things in his mouth.

Maddy noticed that Ken was getting lots of special attention from Lolly, so she bought her a 2nd one for Christmas, to even out the family dynamic in the Dream House a little.

Of late, I've noticed that there is a similar theme to Lolly's daily play. Barbie has been relegated to the attic of the Dream House to gather dust while Ken and Ken get to go out partying regularly. They serenade one another, dance the hokey pokey, and are her companions of choice when having a bath.

It would appear that the new generation in the Barbie Dream House are a little less of a harem, and a little more the Bachelorette. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Rain of Terror

How can one so sweet wield such power?
Some days, if the house is warm enough, I leave Sebastian's legs out of his Bonds onesie after I've changed him. Just to give him a chance to use his feet to play, get a bit more traction in trying to crawl, and maybe have a suck on his toes while they're free (him, not me!).

Yesterday was no exception, and Seb was having a great old time playing on the floor. Lorelei was being good as gold (for once) and was singing little songs as she puttered around him, sometimes including him in her play, sometimes ignoring him and taking toys off him.

I could hear her usual mummy/baby play happening. "Poo, stinky baby. Change your bum stinky baby". Seriously adorable when it comes out of a 2 year old mouth. I wasn't paying too much attention since there were dishes to be done and both kids were happy.

Until the shrieks of outrage began and Lolly appeared in the kitchen, dripping wet from the top down, seriously indignant. I laughed at her, and headed to the playroom to clean up whatever bottle or cup she had managed to empty, but couldn't find any sign of it anywhere. Lolly was still wiping the liquid from her hair, and complaining loudly of being wet.

You can see where this is going, right?

Sure enough, I finally located the source of the disaster. Sebastian was lying free willy style on the floor, with his nappy next to him. Lolly was changing his nappy for him, such a helpful big sister, when Sebastian decided to introduce her to the key difference between little boys and baby dolls.

This particular accident required an extra bath yesterday. For both kids. But it was funny, so I was OK with that.

Linking with Essentially Jess

Saturday, June 15, 2013

For The Night Is Dark And Full Of Terrors

The house we are renting is a bit of an amateur DIY job. Everything about it has been slightly cobbled together. Including the plumbing, which thumps and rattles and bangs every time we turn the hot water on. It didn't really bother us, until one night Madeleine had a shower when Lorelei was in bed trying to fall asleep.

I wandered down the hall when I heard the shrieks from Lolly's room. She was sitting at the far end of her bed, about as far from the wall as she could get, hugging her knee's and rocking back and forth. 

"Bang" she whimpered, pointing at the wall, where the pipes were making themselves known. Lots of cuddles and kisses later, I thought I had her settled. Not so.

This is the scene every night since. 



And it's been about 2 weeks now. The poor kid is absolutely terrified of sleeping in her bed, and will stay awake for hours curled up on the floor. We're staying with her for a while, tried letting her sleep in our bed (she wants to play), tried making her up a bed on the floor of her room. She always ends up curled in a ball, still awake at midnight.

I don't like thinking that my littlest daughter is scared to go to sleep. She can't even tell me whats wrong. I make sure the water isn't run after bedtime these days, so she doesn't know how to say what is scaring her, since the noises are gone.

She is eventually falling asleep, midnight, 1am, but this new sleeping pattern is not doing good things for our day. I'm hoping it will run it's course if we are patient and don't force her fears but so far the end is not in sight.

What are the terrors in your household? For me, it was a man under the bed who was going to grab my feet when I went to the bathroom. Mostly I've grown out of it. Mostly.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

5 Toys That Are Keepers

With all the toys and gadgets our children have at their disposal these days, it can be hard to work out which items to keep for younger siblings, or even grandchildren. Space is always an issue, and sometimes its just not worth storing the multitudes of toys they collect over the years. Especially since trends change, technology evolves, and not all toys transfer well over longer periods of time.

But there are a few key items that keep their appeal from one generation to the next. These toys are worth spending the money on to get good quality, and if looked after, are the right ones to put away for the grandkids one day. After all,why spend money buying your youngest kids or grandkids the same toys you or your oldest kids played with.

Dollhouse



The contents of the dollhouse might change over the years depending on the child and the fashion but a good solid wooden Dollhouse is a memory waiting to happen. My tip is to buy one that isn't branded, and has rooms tall enough to fit Barbie so that whatever style doll or action figure your child favours can live in it. A lick of paint and the dollhouse is ready to be used again, and again, and again.

Tupperware Shape-O


We all had one. And if your parents were far sighted enough to hang onto yours I bet your children will be as fascinated with posting those shapes through the holes as you were. If not, those gems are still available in the modern day catalogue. Lifetime guarantee really has meaning here, since we were able to take my own ball back and exchange it for a new one for my now 12 year old when we found it had a crack.

Rocking horse


Like something you would see in a period movie, a good solid rocking horse is another item that will go the distance. Not many homes have a rocking horse, but my kids have my own old cane one that still looks fearsome, and was generously made so that an extra child can squeeze on behind the first. Whenever kids come to visit my house the rocking horse is one of the first things they jump onto.

Cubby house


These are definitely the priciest item on this list, but a great cubby house gets the kids outside playing house, doctors, (keep an eye on that one!) shops, the list is endless. Choose the right cubby and it can improve either the sale price or appeal of your home. When your kids have grown too old, it can become a teenager retreat with a few modifications, or a backyard storage shed. When the little grandkids arrive it converts straight back to a cubby with a good clean and maybe a repaint or stain.

Lego


No list of timeless toys is complete without Lego. Boys and girls both love to make and create with Lego. New Lego comes and goes, it's always compatible with old Lego, and its possible to just get new building designs to make the most of an old kit rather than purchasing new. It's another toy that lasts the distance and is difficult to break. Just don't leave those teeny bit lying around to be trodden on in the dark! My kids still play with my old sets whenever they visit Nanna.

iPods, iPads, Wii's, these toys might be the flavour of the month at the time, but no matter how valuable they seem to our kids today, they are just yesterdays Sega Megadrives.

Do you have a timeless toy to add to my list? Wish you'd kept something from your childhood to share with your kids?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Fairytale Treasures {A Magical Giveaway}

**Sponsored Content**

Once upon a time, there was a little princess with big brown eyes, chestnut curls, and a cheeky nature. This little princess hated being cooped up inside, so she was very sad when a dark rainy day stopped her from playing outside.

The clever and beautiful queen had something special saved for a rainy day exactly like this one and the little princess was so excited to find a pretty new dress waiting for her on the royal bed.



As soon as she had her pretty new dress on, the little princess ran through the house to find her jewels. After all, a pretty dress needs pretty jewels to complete the outfit.



The little princess with big brown eyes was not sad about the dark, rainy day anymore.


When I won tickets to see Disney on Ice: Princesses and Heroes I knew from past experience that I needed to find Lorelei something extra special to wear. I've been to many Disney on Ices before with Madeleine, and I remember how sad she was the first time we went when she saw all the other little girls dressed up as princesses and she only had nice going out clothes on. Never made that mistake again!

Having bookmarked Fairytale Treasures a long time ago, (how can you not LOVE that dragons cape) I returned to find inspiration and found it in abundance. With plenty of gorgeous princess costumes to choose from, it wasn't long before I fell in love with the beautiful Snow White inspired costume. With her deep brown eyes and curls, I knew my Lorelei would look exactly as though she had stepped out of a fairytale story book. And the costume did not disappoint. It's beautiful quality fabrics, and puffy tutu skirt has had her twirling for hours.

I love supporting new Australian businesses, especially when they have such beautiful products. Fairytale Treasures has been live now for just on 13 weeks, and has already built up a huge community. For anyone wanting to see these stunning treasures in person, they also have a stall set up at Bondi Westfields for 2 weeks starting this coming Monday (17/06). A little inside birdie also tells me that there will be a sale on selected princess dresses, starting this Friday, so for anyone wanting something a little special for your princess to wear to the Disney on Ice performances, this website is definitely worth checking out!

Besides the cutest little costumes you can imagine for your kids, they also carry a line of pet costumes, party supplies and room decorations. Everything you need to bring some fairytale magic into the lives of your royal littlies!


For your chance to win a Snow White inspired tutu dress for your little princess (sizes on the website), enter via the rafflecopter below and answer the mandatory question after visiting Fairytale Treasures to look over their costumes. As always, bonus entries for overachievers!


Sunday, June 9, 2013

Sydney Pregnancy, Babies, and Childrens Expo: A Veterans Rundown

It's pretty common knowledge that I loves me a good expo. And my visit in May to the Pregnancy, Babies, and Children's Expo was no exception.

Like the veteran that I am, I turned up on the last day. That's when all the savings are see? Stall holders want to take home as little stock as possible, and the more that they can move, the more likely it is that the stall will pay for itself and make a profit. So it's their last chance to grab you.

For some reason, the last day always tends to have the least crowds too, go figure. And only rookies leave the kids at home for Expo days. There is so much for them to do, for FREE, it can be notched down as a day out for the kids, instead of a day out for Mum, leaving you free to negotiate for another Mum geared activity.

Some of my favourite family friendly features from this years visit:

  • Free water coolers scattered throughout, that were kept consistently topped up
  • Change facilities that came equipped with a midwife doing weigh in's for bub, and free nappy and wipes to use along with fabulous Valco gliders to rock in while feeding
  • Constant stream of stage entertainment for kids, including an Elmo and Cookie Monster show, with a meet and greet afterwards
  • Free facepainting for me kids at the Life Plan stand

My bargain picks for the day:

  • All Mothercare display stock half price. That's a damn good price for a brand new quality cot
  • Handbag/Baby bag organiser insert for $1.95, except hello! On closer inspection it's free if you sign up to the  TMC Newsletter (more on them below)
  • Toosh Coosh seats down from $49.95 to $30. Come to me my sweet, I have to cheer when an item on my shop list for the day ends up being one of the biggest bargains.

Most interesting items of the day go to:

  • Unimom Mini Urinal, selling for $20  (half the RRP). We stopped and admired it for a quite a while, but having at LEAST 18 months before I need to start worrying about toilet training Sebastian I let this one go.
  • The Cutesy baby spoon/bottle combo thing. A squeezy bottle with a spoon at the end, I was intrigued by the demonstration of this product too
  • Simply stunning Grotime cot. I'll sleep in this baby myself. Seriously. With sparkly big studs decorating the end, this cot converts from a bassinet level cot, to a toddler level cot, day bed, toddler bed, or FULL SIZE SINGLE BED! The matching change table can convert to a set of drawers too. I didn't catch the expo price unfortunately, I assumed it would show up in the photo - fail.

The Ticked Mummy Club get an extra special mention from me - I stopped because of the bargain handbag inserts and ended up chatting. Registering with them got me a "Savvy Pink Card", essentially a loyalty card that will net me discounts and savings from various businesses, both online and in real life. Closer inspection shows me that I have bought from some of these businesses in the past, so I'm sure this free loyalty card will earn its place in my wallet. A visit to their website has opened up a new new mummy community to me, with new and second hand goods for sale, an interesting blog with lots of cheap and free activities for kids, as well as a "sage and frugal tips" section - my kind of site. These ladies were keen and excited to have a chat with me, and I don't hesitate to give their site a big thumbs up.

Next special mention goes to an old work colleague Jo Turner. I went to the Expo this year with only 3 things on my list: A Toosh Coosh seat, a sleeping bag for Sebastian, and special fancy shmancy sandwich cutters so I can make some of the cool lunches I see over at Little Bento blog. Imagine my surprise when I saw an old friend manning the Toosh Coosh stand. Jo and I go way back, she is one of the women I most admired at the big financial company I still work for. When I first became a manager I worked a fair bit with her, and she is one of the women that I looked up to. I knew she had moved on a few years ago, but I never made the connection that the women behind the scenes at Toosh Coosh and Mealtimes without Mayhem book was Jo! Even though I had liked her Facebook page and entered many competitions for her products. Listening to her talk about the progress her business has made since leaving the finance industry makes me admire her all the more.


And finally, the real reason I turn up faithfully at these Expo's. The freebies. It's not a real Expo if you don't go home laden with freebies. And this Expo was no disappointment. Yay for freebies.



What's your favourite kind of Expo? Baby? Home and garden? Or maybe you are a foodie and love a good Food Expo.

**Not Sponsored** PBCE is also on in many other states. 




Friday, June 7, 2013

Bloggers Wanting Connections


When I was just starting out as a blogger, I would see all these fabulous posts on other blogs about events they had attended, products they were reviewing, and advertisements they were supporting.

And I wondered, how do I get on that gravy train? The fact is, I love playing with new toys, trying new things, socialising with other blogger and mums, and it's all even better if it comes with financial remuneration or incentives.

Slowly, slowly, I have picked up on some of the connections to be made. So I thought to myself, self, why don't you write a post for other bloggers looking for connections?

So here it is, my list of companies to enlist with, follow on twitter or Facebook, or just generally stalk. This is by no means an exhaustive list, I am still new to this game, so I will be interested to see more suggestions.

-Nuffnang. One of the sources of advertising you see on various blogs around the traps, they also do blogger events at times. Brands approach them, they control the ad that appears on your site, and you are paid according to the stat returns you provide.
-Passionfruit Ads. A more direct source of advertising. You set the price and terms, the brands can either buy an ad slot directly from your blog, or can source you via the Passionfruit Marketplace page
Digital Parents Collective - An offshoot of the Digital Parents community, home of the DP Con, this can be a great way to connect with brands
Blogs and PR - With a $40 sign up fee, it's source for making connections with brands
Kidsbusiness - A fabulous source of blogger events, as well as a toe in for reader/blogger events.
Social Callout - A little different, this acts almost as a job board. You checkout the available callouts, and submit applications for those that you are interested in
Brand Meets Blog - Another great connection for brands to find bloggers. Source of events, products, and plenty of help in working with brands the right way.
Blog Chicks - Not a PR agency, but a listing of blogs run by women. Funnily enough one of the key ways that PR companies track me down to approach me directly.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, there are also so many PR companies out there that don't seem to have a way to enrol or register, but source and approach bloggers directly. And the truth is, once I got brave enough to approach brands myself directly I started getting more opportunities that way too. Pick the ones you love that you have a vision for working with, and send them your pitch. If it's good fit for you both, there could be a win/win in it for you.

Know of  more companies working with Australian bloggers? Share them in the comments below.

Linking today over at With Some Grace

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Donuts and Seagulls

I had a girly day yesterday with my sister in laws. We took a couple of our little ones to the clinic for weigh ins and checks, then spent a little time at the park before heading back to Salz for coffee and chocolate donuts cupcakes ahem something healthy.

Ever tried to sit down for more than 30 seconds without a toddler demanding attention? It's impossible. Except when there is food to be had. Then it's even more impossible.

Sebastian was rolling happily on the floor, and we cheerfully tossed donuts and cupcakes at the seagulls toddlers every time they came near us. It turned out to be a great morning of coffee, chat, and catchup.

Something we will have to do more often. Yes, there was occassional biting, hair pulling and taking of toys. And that was just my sister in laws (just kidding.) Most of it was kind of funny, I'm ashamed to admit. I was surprised by how often the kids returned for more donuts though. Bottomless pits I tells you.

Until it was time to go, and I went to collect Sebastian, only to discover him sucking on a half eaten discarded apple, covered in donuts and cupcake crumbs. The kids had all kindly been sharing their spoils with him, since I was hard hearted enough not to offer him any.

Little bugger thoroughly enjoyed it all too. I didn't think to take a photo so you will have to settle for this one of him attacking my bear making kit.



Monday, June 3, 2013

Overwhelmed, Overjoyed, and Oversharenting

I attended a Fisher Price breakfast session recently with mixed feelings. I'm always a little worried about a blatant product flog even though Fisher Price is a brand already well represented in my household.

The morning involved some serious kid juggling in order to be in the city for a 9am start, which definitely contributed to my mixed feelings! But boy, was I glad I made the effort.

Eggs and soldier fingers, only at a Fisher Price breakfast!
 I found myself in the company of magazine editors, online mothers community representatives, and a smattering of other bloggers. And instead of a product flog, what I experienced instead was an insightful, thought provoking session on the pressures and experiences of mothers today and the responsibility and influence that online contributors have.

A key theme threaded throughout the morning was overwhelmed and overjoyed. That while motherhood is definitely the warm fuzzy moments of wet kisses, snuggles, and first steps, its also far more often eyeballing dripping sleepness nights, patience thinning struggles, and a confusing mess of contradictions.

We discussed oversharenting, the habit of many bloggers to expose our children's toilet training habits, sex lives, medical concerns and private health details, not to mention the intricacies of our children's worst habits. It's the nature and instinct of blogging, to share and share and share. The more I tell you, the more I want to tell you!

I never put much thought into it, but it is true that online contributors have a huge responsibility over our peers. A mother in the past wanting to know if her child's behaviour was normal consulted her mother and best friend. Maybe also her mothers group. A mother today will turn to Dr Google, and will very quickly have hundreds of matches to her query, often forum based with even more responses. But are those responses accurate? Do they allow for questioning and free discussion? Are they consistent? And lets not forget the potential for the whole web to judge us now instead of just our "real life" community.

It's also easy to look at the limited snapshot of their life that a blogger offers and feel insecure that our lives/children/income/home/skills are clearly not what they should be. After all, if that blogger I admire can have it that way, isn't that the way I'm supposed to have it? It's keeping up with the Joneses but on a global scale.

I probably contribute to that skewed version of life. I don't post about the absolute worst. Partly because I would always try to present myself on my best behaviour, but also because my thoughts are always on the future. I try to restrict writing about the challenges I face with a preteen, or the thin relationship I have with my mother, or the bowel movements of my babies! I'm mindful that one day my preteen will go for a job, or enter a serious relationship, and my comments from the here and now will be considered in the then and after without all the context that being part of it entailed.

Fisher Price Toys, now and then represented
While I won't be putting anything on here that could be used against me or my children one day, I will still try to bring a balance of my life to my blog, lest anyone make the mistake of thinking that I am a stepford wife, perfect in every way. Not that anyone could think that about me or my family! Did I mention I caught Lorelei painting her brother walls with toothpaste today? Definately no stepford family here.