Sunday, September 28, 2014

A Tale of Two Mermaids

My family was gifted entry to Sea Life Aquarium Sydney for the purposes of this review. No other payment or compensation was provided or requested. All opinions and experiances are my own.

Imagine being on a huge boat, sailing fair out at sea with no sign of land. It has been days or even months since you last saw anyone other than the limited group of people sailing with you. The days have been a series of sameness, water, wind, and more water. Suddenly, skimming beneath the water is a long graceful shape, slender and curvy, with perfect control. It's not a shark, it has far too much rhythym to it's movements, and maybe if you listen closely, whistles or other strange sounds can be heard.

Is it any wonder that there was a time when even the most pragmatic of sailors would have insisted that mermaids were real, and that they had encountered them on many a journey?

The beautiful, dark, shapes in the oceans are thought to have been Dugongs, which translates to "Lady of the Sea". Dugongs are a sea cow who eat predominantly seagrass, but those in captivity can eat lettuce where neccessary which have the same nutritional value.

We took our youngest two into Sydney today for a visit to Sea Life Aquarium to see the newly returned Dugongs. Sydney is lucky enough to house two of only five Dugongs on display anywhere in the world - AND we have the only pair on display together. Pig and Waru were both orphaned in the wild at a young age, and could not be released back due to survival concerns. They are both lovely, playful mammals, and we were so excited to be able to see them both from the underwater tunnels, but also from above at Dugong Island.

Pig and Waru's home has had a makeover recently, and is a fully hands on, FUN and educational experiance for the kids. Lorelei was a little scared by the huge Dugong that made noises (some suspiciously like farting) but Seb couldn't get enough of it! With lots of touch and learn points, both kids had an awesome time.

We chose to drive in to Lidcombe and leave our car in one of the free roadside spots (these spots are only unlimited times on Sundays) and catch the train into Central using a $2.50 Family Funday ticket. Kids 4 and under are free, and if you have a large family, once you have paid for the first child the remainder travel free as well. We find the Funday tickets to be the best value method of taking a day out with the kids in Sydney as it includes unlimited travel on Trains, Buses, Lightrail, and Ferries. Definately a cheaper option than paying for parking and most likely tolls. These tickets only seem to be available at Train stations, but can be used for all of the transport types. You have to ask for it though - we've seen so many people buy regular tickets that cost more and don't give unlimited travel and the ticket sellers never seem to guide them towards the value tickets. They can be purchased at the automatic terminal as well.

Some highlights from the Aquarium trip for us today:

-The Discovery Rock pool is always a favourite with my kids. The staff are lovely and don't freak out nearly as much as I do when my kids lift the poor little starfish from the water, and when Sebastian gave the worker long and cheerful "Goodbyes" he was gifted a little clip on koala bear which I thought was adorable. I bet Australia tourists get a kick out of them.
-The Nemo tank. 3 year old Lorelei has seen the movie and loved spotted the orange Clown fish hiding in the anemone. I was just disappointed that I couldn't find a Dory, because I love that nutty little fish (Just keep swimming!). Dory did make a cameo in a later Dugong photo though.
-The Digital Fish activity. The kids were able to sit down and colour in a personalised fish, which the staff then scanned so that it would appear on the animated wall swimming around. Hint: Put your name on that fish or I can pretty much guarantee your toddlers scribbles are not going to be jumping out at you on the big screen too quickly. Seeing SEBASTIAN float by was a nudge.

Tickets to the Aquarium can be a little on the pricey side at $136 for a family of four for a one off visit, but if you book online beforehand the price is discounted to $89. Another thought is to buy an annual Merlin pass which is currently discounted to $224. The annual passes get you 12 months of unlimited entry to six different NSW attractions not to mention another handful in Victoria and New Zealand. At that price you would only need to take the kids 3 times and you've gotten some great value. Take the kids once a month all year round and you are laughing! 

We like to pack an assortment of snacks and lunch foods for days out like this. There are heaps of food options in the city, but if we want to keep the day affordable food is the easiest thing to eliminate. By making sure there is something yummy in the slow cooker for dinner before we leave, we aren't tempted to buy takeaway at the end of a long day either!

If you do drive, make sure you review your parking options early. Sea Life offers parking validation and discounts starting at $8 per day. Otherwise, DON'T do what we did, which was to cleverly jump on a ferry back to Olympic Park thinking to take a 1 stop train from there to Lidcombe. Turns out the Ferry wharf at Olympic Park is a 45 minute walk away from the train station! Next time we think we might leave the car at Parramatta and take the Ferry from there. The kids definitely enjoyed the Ferry more than the train.

Will you be heading into the city for anything fun these school holidays?

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Marking Their Territory

We went out to visit our almost new home today. It settles Monday, but the agent was kind enough to let us in with my in-laws so we could take some measurements for wardrobes. The intention was to show off a little, and share the excitement of owning our own home again while also getting a head start on Madeleine's new built in. 10 minutes tops.

It ended up being a 40 minute visit. The agent must have been ready to kill us, but she hid it well. Using up so much valuable time on a beautiful Saturday morning which is prime time for open houses. 

First the kids took off to hide in wardrobes and play in bathrooms. Since the place is almost but not quite ours, I turned a blind eye to the rudeness that was them slamming doors and running around. The tenants have vacated so I didn't think it would hurt. Until my mother in law came giggling out of the ensuite, closing the door carefully behind her. 

"Oh dear, she's done something". A quick glance in the room told me that she, Miss Lorelei, certainly had done "something". A something that required a visit to the car for wipes, plastic bags, and a change of knickers. 

Before we could get out to the car though, we had to figure out how to get out of the house. I had flicked the screen door lock behind me, a habit to stop the preschoolers escaping since 3 year old Lorelei can open doors now. 

It was a brand new screen door, and unfortunately none of the keys fit the locks properly, and there was something wrong with the lock barrel. By flicking the lock I had trapped us inside, unable to unlock it and get back out. 

We had a poop in the ensuite, everyone was locked inside, and the agent was glancing at her wrist, no doubt to let us know she had plenty she could be doing.

Eventually we made it out, but not before 2 year old Seb decided to do "something" too. We had to change both of them and clean the damn bathroom (that we don't own yet) before we could leave.

I figure they were marking their territory. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A Time To Hold Our Values

I don't know which is scarier right now. To be a Muslim, or to not be a Muslim. Who is a bigger target from outside Australia, and who is a bigger target from within Australia?

Everyday we read articles of the atrocities being committed overseas, and now we start to see more and more of home grown violence. The violence is directed against people of all races and religious backgrounds. We are a country starting to turn on ourselves. 

I'm afraid for my children. If as a country there are people who are scared of, or hate Muslims, where do my children stand? If there are people who hate Australians or Non-Muslims, where do my children stand? I can't see that there will be any quick or painless resolution to the escalating problems world wide. I can only hope that as a country and as a people we hold firm to our values.

Now is the time to watch every word we say in front our of children. To measure how we comment on the media and explain the worlds situation. We are responsible for shaping the thoughts, opininions and judgements they take into adulthood. Careless conversation now could make all the difference to the decisions they make tomorrow. The decision to accept, or hate. 

There are most definitely people with hate crimes brewing in their hearts right now. We don't have to become one of them, and we can make sure we do everything to speak out at every opportunity. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Trash to Treasure

My preschoolers have developed some insane extra sensory perception. A toy or possession might sit, invisible to them, weeks and months on end in plain sight, but within minutes of my ear marking it for sale or donation to the salvo's it has become their favourite belonging.

They retrieve it from the donation box, and squirrel it back to their rooms to engage in surreptitious play. I've found Sebastian hiding in cupboards with his contraband, and Lorelei under blankets with hers. They don't touch these toys, or even just parts of toys in such a long time, and they know instinctively that it's leaving the house but for some reason these are the toys they are suddenly obsessed with.

It almost makes me feel guilty for getting rid of these toys. They are obviously attached to them, what kind of mother get rid of such prized possessions?

Me. That's who. My kids are completely messing with me, I sneak the damn things into the box, and 2 minutes later it is back in their rooms. 

It's a vicious cycle.

Where before I was having to do a nightly trip to the charity bins in order to stop myself from being tempted to save items, this weekend we have had to go up to 3 trips a day just to stop the perpetual search and rescue mission the little ones are on.

So now I'm battling my own hoarding tendencies AND the preschoolers. I'm never going to purge this house of clutter at this rate.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The All Improved, Seriously Awesome, Dyson Cool

This post should considered as containing gifted content. Dyson invited me out to check out their newest innovations, and without knowing that I would be gifted something truly awesome, I still went 3 hours drive out of my way to check them out. So I'm declaring it as #gifted because awesome is awesome.

Have you ever walked past the cooling section in an electrical department or store and noticed the bladeless Dyson fans? You've not just noticed them, you've stopped, put your hand through and waved it around a little, just out of curiosity that it actually works. Maybe you've even been tempted to put your head through, and then had to restrain your children from putting their heads through. Oh wait, maybe that's just me.

The Dyson brand has always seemed to me to be just that little bit ahead on the innovation stakes. 14 years ago when we were getting our first vacuum cleaner, we followed suit on my sisters purchase and bought a Dyson. Because they were indisputably the best. And also the most expensive. Lets not pretend. This is not a cheap brand, and while it may seem out of character for me to be buying a premium brand, my 14 year old Dyson is still going and has given us long term value. It's never given up, it still has powerful suction, and is still better than many of my friends newer, cheaper units. It's lost a few parts along the way thanks to some enthusiastic "helpers", and recently we upgraded to the new Dyson Animal. The old one has been garaged for now to hand down to 13 year old Madeleine when she gets her own place in 20 10 7(?) years.

I digressed. From bladeless fan to vacuum without blinking. It was only a paragraph away before I started sharing my love for the Dyson Airblade hand dryers.

I wandered into Sydney late on a Thursday night after work, not 100% sure what I was going to. Dyson HQ? A blogger event? A personalised tour? All of the above? As it turns out, the good people at Dyson had set up an amazing showroom for their newest reveal, and brought one of their engineers out from overseas to share his new toy.

Meet Thomas. 

Thomas is one of the engineers responsible for taking Dysons already terrific bladeless fan and making it more terrific than ever, as if that was possible. And yet it was. Some time ago, it was suggested that the sound of the bladeless fan was less than attractive. That surely a company as clever as Dyson could be doing better. And this is true, while the hum of the Dyson fan is not as choppy or even as loud as a standard fan that uses blades, there is still a noticeable sound. To some.

Being all enthusiastic and eager to praise, I noticed a bladeless fan in the corner and complimented Thomas on how quiet it was. I could barely hear it so I was impressed. Turns out it wasn't the newest model. It was the noisy old one put out for conversation. 

I was then shown the new and old models side by side for comparison. The new model was turned on for me at it's highest speed, and it was lovely and quiet. I still couldn't really see the difference though from the one I had complimented a few minutes ago. It just wasn't that obvious because I was pretty impressed with the old model. Until they were turned on together side by side. Suddenly the old model sounded like an aircraft about to take off, and I couldn't imagine how on earth you would watch TV or enjoy conversation over that sound. It's insane the difference between them.

New on the left, older model on the right.
What intrigued me the most was the energy measurements attached to each model as well - the new model generates a significantly lower amount.

What followed was a little science demonstration, not unlike something you would expect to see at the Powerhouse Museum.

The goal that the Dyson engineers were working towards was to not just reduce the sound of their bladeless fan, but also to make the sound more pleasant. Lets face it, a fly isn't necessarily noisy, but the sound is still annoying! And so they designed a Helmholtz Cavity for each fan, which I'd love to explain, but I'm seriously not as clever as Thomas, so I'm going to sum it up by sound they basically divert sound into a little chamber.

Dyson sent me home with a little gift - one of their new Dyson Cool fans for me to try out for myself. It took a week or two, but Mother Nature has sent us a delightful Spring, and we have had a lovely hot weekend. The kids wore short sleeves and bottoms for the first time in months, and we pulled out our new Dyson for a test run.

Instant hit. Last summer, the one and only time we tried to use a regular fan we couldn't keep Lorelei from sticking her fingers through the cage and in a panic I put the fan away in the garage lest my curious toddler lose a finger. No such problems with this baby! Both little ones were fascinated with it, but their curiosity couldn't hurt them. Between feeling the breeze, and poking their heads and arms through to figure out where it came from the new fan was a hit.

Husband and I love it, it's safe, quiet, and chews up only a small amount of energy. The clever new models come with a remote control that sits comfortably on top of the unit, with lightly clinging magnets. The air flow can be increased or reduced, and can be felt across the room. I'm also liking the way I can tilt the fan forward or back to redirect the flow. While this one is great for our enclosed front lounge room, we think the taller pedestal model would be a better fit for our larger open plan family room.

It's the next best thing to owning one of the Dyson Airblade hand dryers. Which I'll happily review if they ever send one my way.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Battling My Clutter

There's boxes everywhere. Moving date is looming, and each night finds me sorting, selling, packing, and revisiting our belongings.

If we haven't used it in 2 years, it's going unless there is a good reason. Admittedly some of my good reasons are a little flimsy (oooh, I haven't read this in years, well I did now so that totally counts) (Collectors Edition DVD box sets were TOTALLY an investment that are going to go up in value any day) but mostly it's working.

Suddenly I'm seeing the really negative side of my thrifty ways. I keep everything. I mean everything. Craft projects that I started and never finished, just about all of Madeleine's cast off dance gear and costumes, books, books, and more books, love letters, diaries, and slam books for my teenage years. And more, so very much more.

I regularly sell things, but it's usually quite selective. Either it has no much resale value I can't resist moving it on, or I just need the space so I manage to part with it. There is so much stuff that never gets sold or thrown, because it has no value at all, or I place too much value on it. I refuse to throw it out if I think it's worth something but no one on eBay or Gumtree seems to agree. Or, if there is any vague possibility, that one day, myself or someone else will make use of something, it gets kept. No matter how remote the possibility. Teddy Bear making kit anyone?

I also can't bear to throw it out if there is any memory attached to it at all. I have boxes of love letters, notes passed from friends, diaries, photo's, magazine articles, ticket stubs, you name it, I have clung to the relics of my life with determination. Husband has very few memento's of his life before me but I have so many.

I'm putting a name on it. Hoarder. I'm a freaking hoarder, and I'm probably only a few years away from being the star of my own reality TV show. 

It's a big part of why I find it impossible to keep my home clean these days. (Although admittedly 2 preschoolers also has something to do with that). Everything has a place, and it's piled on top of something else. In order to get at anything, I have to pull out a dozen unrelated items first. 

So it's time to go. I plan to scan love letters, childish finger paintings, and part with DVD's that lets face it, are a dying technology that are most certainly not an investment. To make sure it happens, Husband does a nightly run to the local charity bins to remove as much as possible from temptation, and the bin gets emptied each night in an effort to stop me salvaging memories.

Mostly I'm winning the battle.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Ssshh...Don't Tell Dad

"Don't tell Dad about his present, it's a secret" I cautioned Miss 3 year old Lorelei on Thursday night.

She solemnly assured me she wouldn't, this was clearly big stuff.

She has since spent every opportunity with her father, whispering loudly about his secret undies with purple pineapples, much to Husbands amusement.

Besides his super exciting iFly experience last fortnight, Husband was showered in preschool and homemade gifts, a couple of pairs of the most lurid underwear Lorelei could possibly choose (including scratch n sniff pineapple ones), and a super cool, colour changing Dalek mug from Madeleine who shares the Dr Who nerd gene with her Father.

This can't be a long post, we have Wii to play and kids to wrestle, Fathers Day is the one day I can't justify sitting too long on the computer because Husband deserves to enjoy all the fun his kids can dish out, without any of the nappies, vomit, or fights.

Happy Fathers Day to the dads, the single mama's, and the dads to be. You are all amazing. xx

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Introducing: Comobile - and a Giveaway!

I've written before about my reluctance to give Madeleine a phone with any real juice. I have a set budget in mind that I think is an OK level for a teenagers phone bill, and anything more than this she would need to cover out of her own income. When she has one.

With that in mind, I've recently been introduced to Comobile, a new Mobile Service Provider launching in Australia. Comobile specialises in plans for Students and Youth which is what initially caught my attention. Far too many of the plans on the market exploit the careless way kids sometimes use technology as they learn financial responsibility. For me, it is very clear that prepaid is the way to go through those learning years.

Comobile is the latest offering from the Co-op, Australia's largest member owner retailer of educational, professional, and learning resources. Interestingly, they are a not-for-profit company (the only not-for-profit Mobile Service Provider in Australia!) and return all their profits to students in the form of scholarships and sponsorships.

13 year old Madeleine has been given one of their best value plans to to test drive, and we've fitted her with one of our old iPhones for the trial. She's EXTREMELY keen to start using the 3G data allowance of 3GB that comes with the plan, (plus a bonus 1gb!) so we've sat down and had a talk about exactly what that means. 

Some of our key conversation points are:

-Responsible use away from home or school. Till now, Madeleine's Internet use has been restricted to supervised environments. Now she will be able to access the Internet - and social media - when she's on the go, and she will need to make sure she moderates her use. This also means not using it when she is walking to school to ensure she is aware of traffic.
-YouTube and music streaming sites will use up more of her data allowance than she can imagine. She knows, but this might be a lesson that will take some experience to really embed
-First and foremost this is a device for her to communicate with us. Having no charge or allowance to contact us is not OK - especially if it was used up recreationally.
-As with all her devices, I will be monitoring the usage, especially for the data use. I need to know the password at all times, and may ask for the phone for a review at any time.

She's been given a 6 month plan. This essentially means she has all her data and phone allowance up front, so it will be interesting to see how well she manages to make it last the period. The plan costs $189 for the 6 months, and is more than generous with unlimited texts, a significant call time allowance (approximately 550 2 minute calls each month, plus free calls in off peak times), and a data allowance that rivals all the competitors I reviewed for similar pricing packages. At just over $30 per month, this is a more than reasonable plan for a teenager. 

The primary goal is to not get a $300 phone bill one month, which is a trap more than a few of my friends have fallen into. And with the safety net of the prepaid plan, this is one problem I don't have to worry about.

The seriously fantastic news is that Comobile have given me not one, but TWO of the $189 6 month value bundles to giveaway. That means you could be enjoying the next 6 months phone bill on Mummy Hearts Money and Comobile! Two lucky winners will each receive one of these fantastic prizes.

There are two ways to enter. One prize will be given away to a blog commenter, and the other will be given away to a Facebook entrant. You are more than welcome to enter more than once, and karma points to those of you that share with your friends! Little blogs like mine need all the love they can get, and I value each and every one of your comments, likes, and shares.

Enter now, and then head over to Facebook and enter again via the pinned post at the top of the page.

Monday, September 1, 2014


It's an exciting time for us right now. We've passed all our cooling off hurdles and now we are in the countdown till moving day. There is a tenant in the property currently who has to be given notice to vacate first, and I understand that the laws around this mean that they will be given 30 days notice under the contract of sale.

We're currently under a lease ourselves until the end of October, so we've offered an additional 2 weeks to the current owner if the tenant needs it. It will bring us closer to our own lease expiry if the tenant takes it up which will give us a smaller window of time that we need to pay both rent and the mortgage.

Ideally we will end up with a 2 week window ourselves to do some small upgrades to the new home, each of the built in wardrobes is extremely plain and poorly fitted, and one of the bedrooms doesn't have a built in at all. Rather than buy a moveable wardrobe we'd rather just install a built in straight away.

Our minds are buzzing with ideas on what we can do to our new home but since it all takes money it all takes time as well. We will need to tackle each project one at a time and cost them out first.

I have two dilemmas in moving to this new home, the first is that we are downgrading from 5 bedrooms to 4. While we technically don't need the 5th bedroom, we have of course filled it up over time. I'm going to have to break some of my hoarding habits and say goodbye to trinkets, memories, and clutter. I struggle to say goodbye to things I have had since before the kids. I don't know why but the simplest lanyard, movie ticket, or scribbled in notebook is steeped in value for me. I'm going to have to make a few clean breaks but it will probably take me a few runs at it!

My second dilemma is that the new house has about one third of the kitchen cupboards of our current house. I'm not sure there is even enough cupboards just for my Tupperware much less anything else so I'm going to have to both cull and find some creative kitchen solutions for a few years. 

So for now, my evenings are spent Pinteresting kitchen solutions although soon enough I'll be packing.