Monday, December 29, 2014

Sealife Art Aquarium and a Family Pass Giveaway

In the October school holidays we took a day trip into Darling Harbour to visit the beautiful pair of Dugongs at Sealife Aquarium.

It was a gorgeous day out, any day in Darling Harbour always is. The kids had an amazing time at the aquarium, it was a first time visit for Lorelei and Sebastian, they'd never been before and they were fascinated by the bright fish and sea creatures.

We managed to catch a sneak peek at a new attraction being introduced these school holidays - the seriously amazing digital Art Aquarium that Sealife is using to bring kids creations to life.

My photo's of the experience are truly atrocious, the low lights and shimmering water does not make for great photo's unless you have an awesome camera and matching skills.

Photo Credit (because mine was lousy!)
Art Aquarium takes kids artwork to a whole new level. First Lorelei and Sebastian were able to sit and colour in a picture of a fish using some texta's - there were plenty to choose from but the attraction was super bust so we needed to wait a little for a space at the table. Well worth the wait though!

Hot Tip: Do make your child's artwork particularly unique. Write their name on it, or a special symbol, something to make it stand out.

The kids take their art work to a staff member for scanning into the aquarium. From here is it super quick for their beautifully coloured fish to appear in the Digital Aquarium, swimming amongst the other fish.

Incredible right? It definitely helped to have written Sebs name on his scribbled on fish, because we would never have spotted it amongst all the others as his colouring is very faint.

If you'd like to visit Sealife Aquarium and see the Digital Art Aquarium for yourself I have a pass for a family of 4 up for grabs!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Cubby House for the Win

The key point on our shopping list for our own home this year was a backyard. It didn't have to be big, just big enough. Big enough to eat outdoors sometimes, big enough for our swing set, but most importantly, big enough for a cubby house.

13 year old Madeleine was given her own cubby house at our first home when she was 3. Having it for so many years, so many birthday parties and play dates, it was the main thing we regretted leaving when we made our rush decision to move early last year. With Sebastian and Lorelei so little at the time, it was sad to think they would never enjoy the cubby house that Maddy had loved so much.

We were absolutely overjoyed to be able to get into our home this year with plenty of time for Christmas. Over and above anything else we could do for Christmas, we wanted to get the little ones a new Cubby. They're an expensive gift, but our logic has always been that the earlier we buy it, the more years it gets used for making it better value the longer we own it.

I shopped around for a while, looking for an open fort on stilts with a slide and a sandpit beneath. There were lots out there, we eventually I found the best price (including shipping) not too far from home. WA has HEAPS of cubbies at great prices, but once shopping to NSW was added it wasn't worth it. Before I made my purchase, I quickly checked eBay, and was surprised to see the same fort for sale - $150 cheaper Buy It Now! The same business had their stock on eBay at a lower price, which makes no sense to me since they have to pay ridiculous eBay fee's, but I bought it through the eBay channels anyway for $1695 including freight.

We had hoped that we could have it erected secretly by Christmas Eve, but even after 3 days of stealth work when the little ones were either napping, out of the house, or being occupied by me at the front of the house, we were electrified when little Lorelei suddenly asked out of the blue "Can I go outside to play with my cubby?"

I brushed it off casually hoping that she just meant her old little plastic cubby that she had seen in the garage, but the next day she busted us completely by randomly ripping up the blind in her room to look out at the cubby in all it's unfinished glory. We accepted the inevitable and let them out to it on Christmas Eve where they got to "help" husband finish building it.

The Fort was a huge win. It made Christmas Day and Boxing Day for us. Our kids and all the visiting kids were crazy about it, all ages playing on it for hours. It's been same each day since with my little ones wanting to get outside as soon as they wake up.

It's the best thing we could have bought for them - it meant that we went a little light under the Christmas tree with mainly gifts in the "Something they Need" category for the little ones (new preschool bags, PJ's, shoes etc) but there were some small toys for each of them to open anyway, along with a few items I won in various December Blog Giveaways, and they have absolutely loved having the cubby house so it was worth it!

Hoping everyone else had a wonderful Christmas as well, ours was a super relaxing couple of days, we don't do too much rushing around for Christmas anymore, we mostly just host a handful of people. Watch out for a couple of great giveaways over the coming days, I have some passes for Sealife Aquarium that I will be putting on the blog soon!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Getting Some "Helpling" Around the House

Make sure you read till the very end to get your Mummy Hearts Money exclusive coupon code for 1 hours free cleaning.

As if I wasn't already convinced that blogging is the most amazing hobby EVER, in the midst of end of year chaos, a little ray of sunshine landed in my blog inbox this month.

2014 saw me return to Full Time employment, and now for the first time in 4 year years we have 2 people in the workplace 5 days a week. It's been a constant challenge to keep up with the housework, dishes pile up, the laundry mountain NEVER goes down, and not much else happens at all.

Since our move in August, the house and I have reached a stalemate. I still have a garage of unpacked boxes, shelves full of random items that were shoved there till they find the home that has never been found, and a never ending stream of dirty dishes and laundry that I never quite get on top of. The chaos is hard to live with, but impossible to deal with. I tell myself it's only for a few years till the little ones are not such tornado's, but I know we will not get much time back to ourselves for a long time.

An email from Helpling was a little piece of awesomeness in a super chaotic month. I've been wanting to hire some help with the housework for some time now, but didn't know where to start. How I do know how much time to hire someone for, what am I allowed to ask them to do, do I need to be home, and lastly, but most importantly, will they think I am a complete grub?

Helpling's website took so much of the guesswork out of the equation. There is a clear hourly fee, a great estimation guide on how many hours will be needed taking into account bedroom and bathrooms, and a simple tool for locating a cleaner in your area. The website definitely takes the awkwardness out of engaging someone, although I don't know what I was worried about.

 When Sharon showed up (VERY promptly) she was friendly and talkative. I had previously done a tidy up of the house, ensuring all the random debris that a household of 5 accumulates had been put away, but I had resisted the urge to wipe down cupboards and clean the oven top, although every fibre of me was mortified at the idea of someone cleaning up my mess.

We did a quick tour of the house, and Sharon talked me through what she would be taking care of. Based on the size of my house, she assured me that it could be cleaned in much less than the 4-5 hour quote on the website, which I thought was terrific that she would be so frank about an assessment for ongoing work. I don't have a huge 4 bedroom house, and she was done in about 3 hours. The quote was more consistant for a larger 4 bedroom house with more living space and extra bathrooms. She also let me know that some customers engage her for cleaning for a time period they could afford, instead of for the suggested timeframes, and she would clean based on their priority lists, usually getting more done than was asked for.

While she was here, Sharon cleaned out my fridge (!!) dusted surfaces and windowsills, cleaned all the mirrors and mirror doors, scrubbed the oven and cupboard doors, as well as doing the floors. Bathrooms are clean, walls have had fingerprints wiped off, and the house has that fantastic disinfected smell. She made the beds as well, and washed our leftover breakfast dishes, which was definately not something I was expecting.

She brought all her own products and resources, asking me early if I was OK with her using bleach or if I would rather she didn't. She let me know she was always happy to use someone elses products, as many of her clients prefer chemical free cleaning products and would leave them out for her.

My house is spotless, the fridge is sparkling, and it all feels more orderly than it has done the whole time we have lived here. Knowing she was coming today meant that we all pitched in and did the house tidy that sometimes gets neglected because the job is so big. This is definately an ongoing option I need to explore. Husband and I have been talking about whether one of us needs to scale back a little to have at least 1 day each fortnight or week, but neither of our jobs can really cater to it. Getting someone in to help out once a fortnight with the house, and maybe someone else to help with the lawns is probably a good compromise. 

My house is lovely for Christmas day now, I just need to keep my little ones distracted long enough to keep it that way! It might be a little too late for Christmas Day for you, but if you'd like some help getting ready for the New Year, cleaning up after Christmas, or even just need some ongoing help like me, Helpling is there to help you out. You can set up a once off clean, or organise something more regular. And to get you started I have a voucher code for 1 hours FREE clean! (Minimum clean: 2 hours). Consider it my Christmas present to you, because spoilt as I am to have had a full house clean, I probably wouldn't have accepted this awesome little blog perk if it hadn't come with a perk for my readers as well. 

If you do go ahead and book, let me know! I'd love to hear your squeeky clean house experiance.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Abandoning the Santa Photo

I love getting a family Santa photo every year, but my timid and occasionally surly 3 year old does not. We are happy to hold her, and never force her to sit on his lap, but just being close to the man in red sends her into a panic of expectations. We have yet to get a smiling photo of her with Santa.

This was a free photo taken at a blogging event in November, but Madeleine was missing so we had no expectations of it ending up as our family shot this year and didn't really pretty ourselves up (the adults anyway!). There was armpit and not much else.

Then there was the fancy pants photo of 2013. We gussied up in our prettiest clothes, and wandered into Harvey Norman for their free photo. Once again, misery at being forced to be part of the process.

Looking back a little further to 2012, and Sebs first Christmas. She was OK, as long as we didn't try to give her to Santa. Safe in Mums arms there were no tears at least.

And back one more to 2011 and Lorelei's first Christmas. This was where the tradition of family Christmas photo's started, as before that Madeleine was always content to sit on Santa's lap by herself for her photo's. This one was always planned to be a family photo, as I liked the idea of sending it onwards to all the extended family to share with them our newest addition of the family outside of Facebook.

And that brings us to this year. I abandoned the Santa photo. Visiting Santa should be fun, amazing, an event of anticipation. Not something to dread and be terrified of. After seeing Lorelei at the free event at the Tower Eye, I realised that this was not our year for a happy family photo all together. So instead, I set them up at home in front of our own tree after the big decoration effort, and started snapping. And snapping. And snapping some more. I don't have an awesome camera, and I don't have kids who naturally pose in those adorable, catalogue worthy positions. It took a while to hit a semi winner, and I've run with it for this years Christmas card.

I think it captures pretty much exactly what 13 year old Madeleine's year has been with a 2 and 3 year old in the house.

What do you think? Do I have a winner?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Giving Tree Disaster

Butter wouldn't melt in her mouth.
We have a family tradition that we started when Madeleine was little. We like to take our kids shopping to choose a gift for another child their age to put under the Kmart or Target Giving tree's each Christmas. 

This is something we started many years ago when Maddy was 5 or 6, and we wanted her to understand how important it was to make other peoples Christmas wonderful. Buying for another child who isn't as lucky as yourself seemed like an easy connection for a little girl to make. Over the years this tradition has continued, but this is the first year we have involved 3 year old Lorelei. The last few years we have chosen for Lorelei and Sebastian ourselves because they seemed too little to understand the idea. But at 3.5, Lorelei was horrified at the idea that a little girl might not have a present, and promptly went hunting through the shops to choose something nice to give her.

All seemed like it was going well, we had to steer her away from a few expensive choices, but soon enough she was clutching a sweet little doll and a toy stroller that she loved. She couldn't wait to buy them, and dragged them around the store with determination.

Madeleine picked out a few decorative bedroom idea's, and a light up pillow pet was chosen as Sebastian's contribution.

We passed through checkout, and all was still well. Grabbed a few gift bags on the way out, and bagged our gifts up together.

Everything was still awesome.

It was all awesome until we headed back in store to pop a gift tag on the bags and put them under the tree. Lorelei loved her gift, completely blissful and refusing to let go to allow anyone to help with the bagging and tagging.

That should have been my first sign.

We TALKED about this. Lorelei was totally into the idea of gifting a nice present to a little girl that didn't have one.

The little girl she had in mind was herself. There were tears. There was more than tears, there was a damn tantrum, screaming and sobbing as we walked away from the tree. There was no right answer here. Snatch up the charity parcel from under the tree and pander to a demanding 3 year old? Walk away with a kicking and screaming child attracting attention to the mother forcing her child to give up a coveted toy that she personally chose and purchased? I could have died.

Maybe, just maybe, 3 was a little young to start this particular act of charity. Better luck next year at 4.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Seb Gets Grommets

Seb's been failing hearing tests in his right ear since he was born. We've been back to Westmead hospital countless times to have him retested, and time after time he fails the right ear and returns fuzzy results on his left ear.

While it hasn't seemed to affect him too much, his specialist describes it as like trying to listen to the world with fingers pressed into your ears. There's sound, but it's muffled.

This week Seb went in for day surgery to get grommets. For those that have never heard of them, or have heard but aren't sure what they are, a grommet is like a tiny tube, no bigger than the size of a match head, that gets inserted into the middle ear. The grommet will allow air into the middle ear, and will eventually be pushed out naturally when the eardrum has healed.

The specialist tells us that we can probably expect to see some changes in Seb once his hearing is improved. Less yelling from him, improved speech, less tantrums caused by communication problems, these are all possibilities. He's a pretty challenging 2 year old, but not so challenging that I will be disappointed if there are no changes. I'll just be happy for him if he's more comfortable in general.

What changes have we noticed so far?

Seb is still yelling when indignant or wanting attention, so hearing himself better isn't giving him a reason to not raise his voice. He is also arguing about some words. I'm guessing they sounded differently to him before, so he's gotten annoyed with us when we are apparently saying them wrong.

"Shoosh peeese Mummy"

"You want some juice Sebbie? Let's use the blue cup"


This can go on for a while and just stops when I produce the juice. 

I've also noticed he isn't snoring at the moment. It was never loud before, more just super deep and snuffly beathing, but it isn't happening at all the last few nights.

I'm not sure how much these changes can be attributed to the grommets, or how much I'm just seeing because I'm looking.

Scary as it is to have Seb go under a general anaesthetic, so far it seems like the procedure has been good for him. The costs involved weren't cheap - Approximately $587 out of pocket costs for the specialist - but we have no gap cover for kids at Westmead private so that part meant we didn't have to go on a waiting list to get the procedure done.

Sebs has no pain that I've noticed, and bounced back after the surgery almost straight away. The hospital had him booked for 7:30am surgery, so our little guy did not have to fast for too long - just from 9pm the night before. Brekky was a little late, but given he woke up to ice cream and jelly he wasn't complaining!

Fingers crossed the world is a little clearer for my boy now.

While you're here, make sure you enter the giveaway for an OMO/Jif Pack to give your uniforms a second chance for next year!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Preserving Uniforms with OMO {Giveaway}

One of the brands I met at the recent Bloggers Brunch was the Omo/Jif team. In the midst of exciting and unique products, they had created their own little stand of reality.

For me, it was the reality that jumped out at me. Because my reality is a never ending pile of laundry. Clothing to be washed, hung out, brought in, sorted, ironed and put away. Of course, a couple of those steps sometimes don't end up happening. It's my mortification that my teen doesn't even know that we have an iron.

I've never been a great laundress, my technique is to sort into blacks, colours, and whites, and wash loads of those shades without doing much more than check pockets for tissues (even that step I oftem skip). It frustrates me though that our clothes quickly look dingy. Maybe I'm growing up, maybe it's the frugalness in me that despises waste, but I've actually spent time lately trying improve my clearly dismal laundry technique.

Dismal because toddler clothing is always grungy around the neckline, my own work clothes fade so quickly, and white uniforms look disgusting before the term is over. Everything is clean, but so many of our clothes stop being attractive very quickly.

It feels very wasteful. Uniforms especially. Maddy hasn't grown out of her school blouses, but they no longer look crisp and white with splotches from careless food. Seb has only been wearing his soccer uniform for a term, but it is stained and grayish in many places already. What is it about sport uniform fabric?

I took my Omo Ultimate sample from the Bloggers Brunch, and considered the possibilities. "Actively lifts 48 hour dried in stains.". 48 hours. That's adorable. If 48 hours were the worst of my problems I'd be a happy lady. I gave it a whirl on 8 week old washed and rewashed stains.

Sebs jersey is so grotty looking. I dread to think about how many uniforms he will go through in life in an effort to keep him looking smart. I took my bottle of OMO Ultimate and smeared some on the various stains. The process was pretty simple, any remaining liquid in the cap went into the machine to finish off the load.

I'm not kidding. This was not intended to be a cheesy stain removal advertisement. But damn, when I saw the difference in Sebs jersey I had the email typed out requesting some product to giveaway about 2 minutes later. The stains are gone. Gray stains, gone. 8 week old stains, gone. I cancelled Madeleine's uniform order for a few new blouses, because I want to see what a difference OMO can make in rejuvenating the old ones. If it gives them the face lift I'm hoping for that's $120 I don't have to spend in a hurry!

Thanks to the OMO/Jif team I have a New Year cleaning pack to giveaway. As unChristmassy as that sounds, I can't think of anything better than saving a bundle on new uniforms this year.

If you'd like to see some OMO and Jif flying your way in Santa's sack, follow the easy Rafflecopter entry below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Jif and OMO cleaning products lighten the load for mums dealing with the toughest dirt. With its amazing stain removal first time, OMO helps to remove hassle by taking care of the laundry so that you can get back your precious quality time. Thanks to its advanced Lift-Action formula of the Jif EasyLift Spray range, it quickly softens and detaches dirt requiring less wiping, making it easier to get a streak free shine! Click here for more information

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Visit Santa at His Highest Point This Christmas

Today we took a field trip into Sydney to visit Santa. This is most definitely a change from our usual freebie at one of the local mega-chains, (which we still need to do since Maddy had to miss out on today), but when the invitation came to visit Santa at The Tower Eye, I couldn't resist.

Whether you call it Centrepoint Tower, AMP Tower, Westfield Tower, or The Tower Eye, it's definitely a excursion of legendary proportions for a Western Sydney girl like me.

These days, The Tower Eye has been undergoing some modernisation. It's now part of the Merlin group, who have been steadily bringing some great Australian attractions into their fold.

We started our visit in a waiting area, viewing all kinds of interesting trivia and displays. While The Tower Eye was the 4th biggest building in the world when it was first opened, there are many that eclipse it these days!

From there we headed in to watch a 4D movie about Sydney's attractions, from the birds eye view of a friendly Lorakeet. There was water, bubbles and vibrations, which worried a few kids in the room, although the Mummy Hearts kids thought it was a great adventure!

Once the movie was over, it was time to take the elevator to the sky. The littlest kids clamped their hands over their ears when the weird sensation of ears popping and blocking came upon them, but quickly enough we were in the sky!

The view was as amazing as I remembered from years ago. It's incredible to be so high up in such an iconic city. The water stretches in one direction, traffic is a million miles below, and all the landmarks are there before you.

Can you imagine meeting Santa in such a special setting?

From today till Christmas Eve, Santa will be spending time in the tallest grotto in Australia on the Observation Deck in The Tower Eye. Every child visitor will receive a free photo with Santa as a souvenir of their visit, taken by a professional photographer.

My kids were thrilled with the view, Seb in particular loved pointing out all the trucks and cars way down below, whereas Lolly was more interested in the boats she could see in the Harbour. I had my fingers crossed that with such an exciting build up, and after a couple of weeks of her telling me all about how Santa would be visiting our home for Christmas, that this would be the year that her shyness would break and she would have a chat and a nice photo with Santa.

Alas it was not to be. She was hopping from foot to foot in our little line, eager and enthusiastic, but when the moment came to step forward she panicked and clung to me. There was no way she was going near the big man, no promises or bribes could get her to so much as look at him, even though Seb was happy to give some high fives.

I sat with Santa for a few minutes to take a photo with Sebastian, and given Lorelei's interest we thought we might try a super quick snuggle on Mum's lap as far from Santa as possible. A world of no.

To his credit Santa was a trooper. He happily wandered away for another cherub to have a turn at sitting on his chair and taking a photo without him, and didn't flinch when Lorelei screamed and wrestled herself in the opposite direction. The photographer is pretty matter of fact about it as well, it's a memory worth capturing!

What does this free photo cost?

Even though the photo is free, entry is not. A single adult visit to the Observation Deck to see the view and meet Santa is $18.55 and kids over 4 are $11.20 (prices are the discounted online price). Family packages are available, but the people who really get some value here at those with Annual Merlin passes. The Annual Pass gives entry to 11 Sydney attractions (among others) so a regular tourist could head in for the day to see the view and meet Santa without paying anything at all.

Parking was available nearby on Sussex St for $10 all day (weekend rate) once we had our ticket validated at the Sky Deck reception. It's always worth checking the website of any attraction before heading in to see if there are parking options available.

If you're a Sydney local or a regular visitor, this was definitely a magical way to meet Santa. A little bit special, it makes a wonderful memory. Even if that memory includes a 3 year olds armpit.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Meet Husband

I'd like to introduce my readers formally to Husband. Readers, meet Husband. His real name is Ahmad. Ahmad is a Lebonese/Australia Muslim who lives in the Western Suburbs in our little home with a yellow door.

He was born in Beirut as the oldest of 7 kids, and migrated to Australia with his parents, Aunt and Uncle when he was just 11 months old. He's never been back to Lebanon, even for a visit although all his siblings have, and doesn't know any way of life other than Australia. It just hasn't worked out for him to visit, but one day we'd love to go as a couple and meet the multitudes of relatives over there. I can tell from Facebook that they all look just like him, which is no surprise as I often mistake his brothers and he in old photo's.

Ahmad mows the lawns on the weekend. He spent this weekend putting up Christmas lights to make me and the kids happy.

He works as a technician repairing drills for a major German distributor. He cooks dinner more often than I do and makes a mean lamb cutlet that makes me drool.

When his kids need their nappies changed, he changes them. He got up at night for all 3 of our kids, and actually took a year off work for our first daughter when I felt the need to return earlier than expected due to some severe PND.

He waves a flag for Australia day, and cooks snags on the BBQ. He enjoys some hummus and tabbouleh next to everything, takes his daughters to dancing, and jumps on stage to dance with them when the opportunity arises.

As a family, we celebrate both Christmas and Ramadan, we respect our different religions and we raise our children to be respectful of all religions.

You know what he isn't? He isn't a terrorist. He doesn't spend time making bombs or planning world domination.

Next time you feel a little suspicious or scared of a Muslim, please remember that they are a minority group in this country. They make up no more than 2% of our population, and the majority of them just want to live and be part of this wonderful country. They aren't terrorists, and they aren't raising terrorists. 

What prompted this post? A few too many stupid comments this week by people I know and people I don't. Use your brains before opening your mouth. And FYI - any sentence that starts with "No Offence" is almost certainly going to cause offense.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Saving For Those Milestone Purchases

In my kids early years, I find that milestones creep up often and quickly! As soon as all the nursery items have been purchased, they are needing a new big kid bed complete with doona, bed sheets and mattress, and then barely a year or two later you are purchasing their first uniform and school bag bundle! Blink and High School is letting you know they need an iPad, and your teen is hinting they would like help buying a car.
While none of these expenses are massive on their own, (um, except the car and iPad), they can exceed our disposable income for one or more pay cycles, making it a challenge when more than one come up at once!

So that we don't get caught out unawares for these major purchases, we transfer $5 every pay to a bank account for each child. This money is earmarked for the bigger items for our kids and means that as one of those milestones start to creep up, I can take advantage of a sale at a moments notice and not end up paying full price at the last minute, or worse, not being able to buy it for the kids when I need to.

Birthday, Christmas, and Ramadan gifts go into these accounts too, although I usually try to buy them something little with the cash before I bank the bulk of it. When I'm spending the money on them later, I feel justified in getting them something a little more expensive because it's partly gifted money. So I might buy the Mermaid quilt Lorelei wants instead of the pretty unlicensed version I would have gone for.

13 year old Madeleine is the exception. Just before she started High School, we opened a second bank account for her to have an ATM card attached to. This is the account that her pocket money goes into, that she can decide whether to spend or save in. She buys all her clothes from her pocket money, so has had to learn to budget to make sure she can buy new things as the season changes and she grows out of things. She is getting very good at letting her money accumulate for longer periods of time so that she can buy bigger ticket items now.

Her savings accumulate for longer periods now, but when she needs something it tends to cost more than when she was little! We know we have some household bed changes on the horizon, Lorelei is ready to upgrade from her toddler bed to a big girls single bed, Seb is showing signs that he should be moving to the toddler bed, and Madeleine has been complaining that her feet touch the bars at the end of her single bed. It looks pretty simple! Everyone will hand down their bed to the next sibling, and we will dip into Madeleine's savings account for either a double or a king single bed.

This system works well for us, but when opening account for children under 16, just remember they can only earn a maximum of $419 interest each year before you need to declare their tax file number to the bank.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Bloggers Brunch 2014

One of my favourite perks of being a blogger is being invited to events. The big red circle on the years calender is the Kids Business Bloggers brunch which is like a big expo just for Bloggers. It's awesome. The room always has a variety of brands targeted towards Bloggers with kids, and all those Brands are keen to make some relationships for outreach work. 

Not every Brand is a great fit for the blogger, and not every blogger meets the Brands criteria. Some Brands aren't looking for anything further than the social media saturation they will get by being in front of so many influencers all at once, some are keen to work with every blogger that shows interest, and others have a select amount of opportunities for a handful of Bloggers that can provide the reach and influence that fit the campaign.

Not every Brand will rate a mention or follow up email from me. At this event, Breville launched
'The Boss', their answer to the Thermomix. It was definitely an impressive machine, and having seen the Thermo in action recently I know the Boss is a bargain at just under $1,000. But even at half the price of a Thermo, it still isn't an appliance I could justify purchasing at this stage in our lives, so I probably follow that lead through!

Brumby's on the other hand provided the sweets for the day. I've never heard of the company before, and was a little disinterested when I found out they only had a few stores in NSW, and none near my home. But once I ate some of their insanely delicious Christmas treats, I was hooked. 

The Christmas balls? Amazeballs. Especially the White Chocolate ones. I was disappointed when my take home goodie bag felt light on baked treats, but jumped for joy when I realised that there was a $10 voucher tucked inside to make a purchase at my nearest store.

As luck would have it, I won a $200 voucher for Pottery Barn from the lovely girls at Omo that day, so we promptly scheduled a trip into the Bondi Junction store with a side trip via the Randwick Brumby's store on the way home. It's easily a 1.5-2 hour trip for us to go into the city like that, so killing 2 birds (and picking up some gorgeous Christmas presents at Pottery Barn kids at the same time) with 1 stone made the trip worthwhile. I almost cried when the girl in store at Brumby's told me that their Christmas balls won't be in store till next week, because I was determined to buy a double batch and freeze some for visitors. It was only the banana bread ($8.60) that saved the day. That is a surprisingly cheap price for a bakery quality banana bread, so I grabbed a few loaves to freeze. Because who knows when I will make it back into the city for those Amazeballs. If you live near a Brumby's, I 100% promise you will not be disappointed if you try them. Or anything else in their Christmas range. Or their banana bread. 

Over the coming weeks there is an excellent chance that I will be showcasing some of the products from the day. I will be pursuing some for a giveaway opportunity so that some readers get the chance for product sampling, and in other cases if the product is innovative or different I may do a review. Case in point, the "Intelligent Potty". I'm already intrigued.

Brands represented: Omo, Avicom, Arnotts, Infosecure

Fingers crossed that I can land some great giveaways!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Crohns Disease Can Suck Eggs

It's been two years since I landed in hospital, at the point of collapse. No only had I not recovered from Sebastian's birth, I'd had a series of puzzling health problems that my local Medical Centre did not address.

Sebastian was nearly 12 weeks old and I hadn't had a period yet. I was losing weight rapidly, not only had I lost huge amounts of kilo's during the pregnancy, I lost another 10 kilo's after he was born. I was 30 kilo's less than my starting weight. I was constantly dizzy, and experiencing agonising pains and discomfort to the right of my tummy. Sweats followed by chills at night meant that I was always waking up soaked for Seb's late nights feeds.

The doctors kept telling me it was normal. That I couldn't expect my body to behave the same way after my third child. That I was experiencing uterus pains, and it was normal for it to continue for weeks and then months, increasing the more children you have. I struggled on each day. I woke up, changed my children, fed my children and napped alot. I had trouble picking the kids up, it hurt my tummy so much, and my arms were getting weaker and weaker.

But I struggled on. I kept seeing the doctor, at least weekly, if not more often, because between my super premmie baby and my own health worries I was in their offices all the time. In hindsight, just seeing any doctor in the medical centre instead of one doctor was a big mistake.Maybe one doctor would have picked it up.

I was dying. My Crohn's Disease was eating away at my body, and had gone undiagnosed for years. With the benefit of hindsight all the symptoms were there but were overlooked as being hormone reactions to my pregnancy.

I've had two years to come to terms with having Crohns. Steroids, multiple operations. a stoma bag for 6 months and a cocktail of medicines. Today I am healthy. My weight is back to pre Crohns system - far too overweight. I'm in an education program for Crohns, which I guess is a blessing. Because I'm in the program I don't have to pay specialist fee's. It does mean I have a different student looking after me every visit, but as they are overseen by the same specialist I don't feel like my care is lacking, just that it is so frustrating to have to start my medical history and progress again at every visit.

The stoma bag is quite possibly the worst thing I have experienced in my whole life. I never want to wear one again. The Stoma care nurse told me that if I had it for life I would have adjusted mentally to it much faster, but as it was, that 6 months was a time of depression, hiding in my bedroom and never wanting to leave the house. We moved in with my in-laws for most of it, which was a good thing because for a little while I could barely function. Between my depression and my physical weakness while I recovered, the kids needed someone stronger than me to care for them.

I can't comprehend wearing a stoma bag for the rest of my life. Just writing this post is a challenge. It's typing the words that I could only skim the surface of back then, and am barely scratching at now. There are days when I think I would rather die than wear a stoma bag again. Is that terrible? I would rather die than stay with my family if it meant wearing a bag again. I'd rather die. Maybe I'm stronger than that, and I would find a way through it, but I hope I never have to find out. If I can't even write the suggestion without a mountain of tissues I doubt it.

I still don't think about my Crohns much. I avoid all the foods I have to avoid, even though it means I am packing on the weight in the absence of a new, Crohns friendly diet.

In that stressful window of time trying to settle our new house, I had a specialist appointment. I feel healthy. I look healthy. I take my medicine, avoid foods, and have mortifying bathroom behaviours, but mostly I can pretend I am normal. Sometimes I have tummy pains, but my terror of a stoma bag again means that I choke it down, I don't tell my doctors and I don't tell my husband. Eventually it goes away,

I feel like my specialists drip feed me the bad news. I must give out the impression I am on knife's edge. It's because I am. How can there be more bad news when I feel healthy? But there is. And as always my grasp on it is tenuous, I barely absorbed the detail. I'll have to write it down next time. They categorised me, in a series of medical mumbo jumbo I've been categorised as the most serious level, or bracket, or number, whatever. I'm pretty much guaranteed to deteriorate and need further surgery. They are also monitoring something in my blood tests each quarter. When it drops below a certain point, which it is gradually drifting towards, I will need to change medicines to some injection. An injection that costs over $2000 EACH FORTNIGHT because it is isn't covered by Medicare.

Oh wait. It's covered by Medicare for people who are serious and at life threatening risk. So that's me.

Mixed blessing much?

I hate my Crohn's. Join my pity party.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Small Kitchen Storage Solutions

After almost 3 weeks of living in our new home, I've finally made some progress in our kitchen. I was stuck for a little while with my Tupperware. It seemed like no matter where I put it, it didn't all fit in one cupboard, or it did fit but would all fall out every time I opened the doors.
Every night I would work on my Tupperware, moving it from one cupboard to another, with my family getting cross because they could never find anything! It was just my plastics cupboard that was affected, it was everything that I was constantly moving in my quest to find the right place for it all.

Finally it's all fallen into place with the purchase of a series of baskets, extra shelves. and clear plastic tubs. My kitchen is finally unpacked, and everything officially has a home. I even have some spare room left in the ridiculously deep and pointless corner pantry so that I can start to move in things like spare dinner sets, seasonal crockery, and party ware - all things I have previously stored in the garage or linen cupboard.

We were working with two problems. 1. Very few cupboards, and 2. The cupboards that exist have unusably deep and awkward to access shelves.

In the long term we are saving up for a new kitchen. That's years away though, so here are our short to medium term solutions to our kitchen woes. Some of these will work in a rental, others may only be suitable if you own the home and can do what you want to it.

Additional Temporary Pantries

Excuse the messy middle photo, it's from BEFORE I finished unpacking!
We ended up purchasing 3 of these from Masters for $149.95 each. After we made use of an online 15% off voucher, plus a further 5% off for using Woolworth's vouchers that I purchase through my work benefits program for the discount, these cost us around $122 each. By far the cheapest option I could find. If you don't have time and patience to hunt down the vouchers, we saw similar pantries at Fantastic Furniture and Bunnines as well for a slightly lower starting price.

These pantries gained us double (or more) kitchen storage, but you need to have the wall space to accommodate them, which fortunately we do.

Additional Wire Shelving

The new pantries only came with 4 shelves, which made for a lot of wasted space. We pushed the top shelf up higher and used the wire shelves from Kmart ($4 each) on the center shelf to create an additional space. It doesn't fit heaps underneath, but cans and small items are OK. We bought 7 of these, 2 each for the temporary pantries, and 1 for our super deep built in corner pantry. Less because there isn't enough space in there, and more because so much of that space isn't accessible.

Door Storage Baskets

In an effort to remove clutter from our cupboards and counter tops, we went for a series of baskets for our cupboard doors. In one of our temporary pantries, we have 2 tiered spice shelves screwed in. This means my spices no longer have to live in a counter based spice compendium, freeing up valuable counter real estate. All the fatter spice jar used to have to live in the cupboard as well as the compendium could only accommodate the slimmer jars. This centralises them and stops them being clutter. These were bought at Kmart as well for $3.

Under the sink we've used a similar basket to store the detergent, sponges, and brushes in use for washing dishes. I'm not 100% satisfied with this as the basket feels too open for much of it, so I'm looking one from Ikea that still has open grills on the bottom to release any liquid, but is closed elsewhere to stop smaller items falling out. We can continue to use this basket for the detergent and various sprays we use. Under the sink is crammed in so another door basket will come in handy! I picked this one up at Howard's Storage world for $10.95 but I feel like I probably could have found it for less if I had kept looking since it's pretty basic. Because it comes from Howard's it beautiful quality though.

This last one is a Tupperware lid storage container that I have owned for years. It's called The Place for Seals and is a limited item that I've not seen in the catalogue since I bought it. I used to have it sitting on a slant on the shelf storing lids, but we've screwed it into the door now which gets all the lids in one place out of the way! I'd love a second one, but it looks like I'll be paying top dollar on eBay if I do. At least $25 + postage.

Shelf Storage Baskets

We re purposed many of our current white plastic baskets to hold like minded objects together. It's not ideal, but it does stop the clutter of tumbled items that just won't stay standing up or in place when kids are rummaging through them. Now I just grab the basket of condiments, or kids plastic bottles, or crackers and rummage in that small space. We didn't have to buy any new, but I recall they were only a few dollars each to start with and were bought from the supermarket in my regular shop.

These final baskets were my big spend, the ones that I resisted as long as possible. These two huge baskets were $41 each from Howard's Storage World (they're part of the Elfa range). I didn't find anything comparable anywhere else so I eventually bit the bullet. After spending many nights stuffing around with my Tupperware, it occurred to me that 2 big baskets on the bottom shelf could hold all of our less used plastic goods. Less used doesn't mean never used, for me it means most of these items would only get used a few times a month. Because I want to be able to see everything, I definitely needed wire baskets and not boxes or crates. These baskets stop everything tumbling out every time I open the doors, which is something I hate. They might have been a little costly, but these baskets are solid, and come with a 10 year guarantee. My cheaper wire shelving or baskets definitely feel more flimsy,

Plastic drawers.

These plastic drawers were my final Tupperware solution. They sit on the top shelf and store the plastic goods we use daily - our sandwich or lunch containers, and our microwave containers for our leftovers. These have such a high rotation that they need to be easily accessible. I did see these in Howard's Storage World, but found them cheaper for $7 at Kmart. What I love most is that they have 2 wheels at the back so I can pull the deep drawer out to see everything without scraping it along the shelf.

I'm feeling so much more in control now that the kitchen seems to be in order. I finally feel like I can pay some attention to the rest of the house, so hopefully from here we will see some headway!

Do you have a small kitchen problem like me? Any storage solutions here catch your eye?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

4 Area's to Save Energy In Your Home

This post was brought to you by Energy Australia who have a terrific step by step guide to making an energy savings plan for your home. See how much money you can save by making a few simple changes in your home.

One of the first things we've done in our new home is do an assessment of where and how we can save money by making our house more sustainable. As we save money for our (long!) list of home improvements, our first priority is investing in cost saving initiatives for the house such as solar panels, window glazing, and even possibly solar water panels for that day when the current water heating system gives up the ghost.

None of these are small improvements, but we know the sooner we introduce them the sooner we start to enjoy the cost benefits. In the meantime, here are our 4 hot spots where we try to focus a conscious effort on simple and cheap energy saving idea's.


When we purchased our first fridge years ago we neglected the 6 star rating in favour of the most affordable fridge the size we wanted. Which was also a 2 star model. 13 years later we estimate that decision has cost us somewhere between $750-$1,000 in energy costs - the cost of a new fridge!

When purchasing a fridge look for size (too big and you are paying unnecessary running costs, too small and you may need to run more than one), star rating, and warranty.

With a new kitchen a few years and more than a few dollars away, and a fridge with a broken seal on our hands, we are definitely regretting our thoughtless purchase last time. We plan to reseal our fridge to sort out our immediate energy problem, and put some time into researching the right fridge for us when we finally get our pennies saved for our new kitchen.

Rechargeable Devices

Reader Tip: Charge devices in the car as much as possible to reduce charge time at home.

This is a hard one with a teenager in the house, but we also try to not leave devices on charge in general. We use them till they run out then let them charge again. This means they are not perpetually charging and when the chargers are not in use they are turned off at the point.

Heating and Cooling

Another hard one with a teen in the house, but in the extreme temperatures (hot or cold) we make sure we use the same living spaces. Headphones mean that not everyone needs to be doing the same thing at the same time, but using the same spaces also means that we are not heating or cooling so many rooms.

Use double glazing on windows to keep cooling costs down, and ensure your whole house has insulation. Local governments offer a variety of rebates and incentives in this space that may help with the costs.

Taps and Shower heads

We were happy to find that our new home had energy saving shower heads, but all our taps are quite old and use a lot of water.

A quick trip to our local hardware store produced a set of 4 water saving discs for only $5. These are a quick and easy way to reduce your water consumption (and water heating costs as a result!) by reducing how much water comes through the tap. The water pressure is still retained though, so washing is not affected!

Shower heads and taps are a quick win - check in with your local council before purchasing anything as often there are promotions or rebates that may apply. Our old council gave us free water saving packs to install in our home.

What energy saving idea's do you implement in your home? We are always looking out for new (and sometimes not so new but so logical they've slipped our mind!) idea's to save some money.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

A Cheap Kitchen Makeover

This is my favourite house makeover piece so far. I could not be more overjoyed with how well the kitchen turned out. The photo above is actually from when the original tenants lived here, Dad was painting so quick I didn't get a chance to get a photo of the kitchen in it's new pretty, pale blue colour before he also went on to do the kitchen cabinets. 

The cabinets were a spur of the moment decision. The space looked terrific once it was painted, but the cupboards were really frustrating me because they were scratched up in a lot of places. It's going to be years before we can afford to replace this kitchen, so in the short term we are looking for lots of cheap options to help it look fresh and us. Since we still had heaps of the white enamel leftover that we used to paint all the trim in the house, we decided to take a leap of faith and paint the cupboards as well. I don't think I would have been brave enough to paint newer cupboards, but because these aren't in the best condition and we know we want to replace them as soon as we can save the money, we thought we could afford to be adventurous. They've come up fantastically, but I expect we'll need to touch them up over the years as the enamel starts to wear away.

We used enamel for all our trim and these cupboards because I like how easy it is to clean and the slightly, shiny, new looking effect they have. I consider this one a free makeover since it was done using leftover paint, so I'm calling it a win!

You may notice the cupboard space is beyond pathetic. These wasn't even close to be enough cupboard space for our family with all our accumulated appliances, Tupperware and bulk food purchases, so just to keep things real, here's a photo of the other side of the kitchen - the side which is still in the process of being unpacked so has crap everywhere courtesy of the preschoolers that love "helping" me unpack.

This side houses the three emergency pantries that had to be purchased, one at a time, over the course of the last 2 weeks. I had hopes that I may get away with one full and a half pantry, or maybe two at the most, but I'm actually still struggling with three. It's taking all kinds of alternative solutions (that I will share another time when the kitchen is finally unpacked and finished) to find places to put everything - especially all my Tupperware. I love and use the stuff religiously, but I still have a cupboard full of Tupperware that is in between uses at any given time. Not that I'm a person who buys the newest stuff just because it has a new colour, but I do love how they preserve and store food so I have a fair bit.

These are some of the idea's we have for the kitchen space over the coming weeks. Since I can't afford a new kitchen for many years to come, I'm thinking some pretty and bright bar stools would be nice, along with some pretty teal features like a fruit bowl. In addition, to free up some valuable kitchen counter real estate, we are looking at putting some open (but with sides) shelving up for our microwave, modem, and random junk.  

Thoughts of what might be to come
Moving into my next post I'll be sharing what I've done to make the most of my limited cupboard space, and how I've dealt with the super deep spaces that make it very easy to lose anything that goes inside.

Have you tried painting cupboards before? How well did they wear over time?