Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Year of the Screwdriver

The Husband and I have been married for 15 years this year. When we first started our family, we filled the house as quickly as we could with inexpensive furniture, home wares, and appliances. Some things have changed over the years, usually replaced second hand or cheaply again, but not much of what we have is of long lasting quality.

This year we are finding that everything we own is breaking down, falling apart, reaching the end of its life. But with a very recent house purchase behind us, and lots of home improvements ahead of us, now is not the time for me to be trying to find money to replace so many things.

I'm caught between a rock and a hard place. When we moved into this house last October, the Husband and I agreed that we would take our time with our improvements and changes, choosing top quality that would either add value to the house or be intended to last a long time. Unfortunately it's not really working out that way with our disposable income not able to keep up with our wants and needs for the house.

Instead of buying new on credit we can't afford, or making do with second hand, we are repairing, patching, stretching, or stitching!

The dryer broke down in April, but the Husband is reasonably handy with a soldering iron and screwdriver, so he organised a replacement part and fixed it for $16. It won't last forever, but it buys us more time. We don't use it often, but we often can't get everything dry in winter so it's been hard work making do without it!

When everything started falling through the seams of my handbag and shuffling around in the lining, instead of throwing it out, I've stitched the lining back up to reinforce it. It's looking tired, and worn out, but it will do for a few more months.

My old work shoes had all the black scraped off the toes but also the sides, but instead of buying new, cheap shoes that will again get damaged too quickly, I've dug out a pair or old, good quality leather shoes that had a damaged heel from years ago and had them repaired for $28. They look like new again, and are better quality and more comfortable than anything I could buy right now.

We've repaired work clothing, small appliances, and I'm dragging out the life on an iPhone with a cracked screen. Anything to avoid spending money right now. I don't know how long we can keep up this cycle of repair instead of replace but it's doing the trick for now.

Whatever it takes.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Our Germany Visit

It might be a distant memory already, but before it becomes yesterdays news I wanted to share some pictures of our trip to Germany. Those of you following along on Facebook will have seen some of the photo's that I shared from my 24 hour visit to Paris, but here I'm going to tell you a secret that has most people flabbergasted.

I liked Munich better than Paris.

That seems to be blasphemy though. Anyone who has ever aspired to visiting Paris looks at me gobsmacked at my total underwhelmedness in describing Paris, whereas I rave on endlessly about Munich. Don't get me wrong, Paris was beautiful, and still absolutely worth a visit, and I definitely want to go back to do it more justice. But Germany was more than some pretty iconic photo's. Germany was history. In Germany I wandered in and out of palaces, castles and churches, down cobbled lanes and into museums. There was so much substance to Germany, and in Munich at least, English speaking tourists are well catered to.

One of my Germany highlights is Schloss Nyphenburg. This beautiful palace is easily accessible in Munich by catching a train to Laim, then a bus to the stop called Schloss Nyphenburg. We had no trouble with public transport in Munich, the buses, trains and trams all well display the upcoming stop so it wasn't difficult to know when to exit.

We paid 11.50 each for our entry tickets, but this included entry to the main Palace, Amalienburg (a smaller pleasure palace and hunting lodge), Badenburg (a bathing pavilion), and a couple of other buildings of interest in the Palace grounds. 

The architecture is truly something special, like nothing we have experienced in Australia. Luxurious, opulent, grand, I don't know how many words I can use to describe it, but it's everything the movies lead to believe is the norm for royalty. The Palace also offers complimentary wifi, and an app that provides a limited amount of information about each room.

I won't drown you in too many more pictures, but another favourite stop for me was Harburg Castle. We jumped on a bus tour one day to Harburg and Rothenburg and Harburg Castle is like being on the set of Game of Thrones. It's a medieval castle, mentioned in documents dating back to the 1100's, but possibly older. We were able to see many rooms (but not take photo's), walk along the passageways, peek through the battlements, and even take a look at a medieval toilet and prison pit. It was a fascinating glimpse into history.

I have a million more photo's I could share, but I'll stop with my favourites and just say that Germany has so much to offer travelers, especially those that are history buffs.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Lest We Forget....My Pop

Nan and Pop
I have photo's and posts half written to share about our Germany trip and homecoming, but while I don't normally get too into seasonal blog writing, this morning nags at me that I have something to share.

Today marks 100 years since Australia landed at Gallipoli. Like all Australian school children, I learnt about Australia's contribution to the wars, and I was taught to show respect on Anzac day. Celebrating in school ceremonies, coming together with family to watch the parade on TV, even watching it in person once or twice and getting caught up in the excitement of waving to the marching veterans, or waving my little Australian flag.

I'm an Aussie. Oi Oi Oi.

I remember having a fascination with my Pops contribution to WWII. He was one of those romantic people the songs were sung about, just like those stately gentleman that marched past each year with their heads held high, occasionally with a little grandchild capering at their feet. I couldn't imagine anything more exciting, a moment to be so proud of, to watch my Pop march past on Anzac Day.

My Pop never marched. Not once that I know of anyway, although who knows what happened before I was born. 

With my mind inflamed with stories of heroism and sacrifice, the next time we visited Nan and Pop in school holidays I promptey asked to see his medals and hear stories from him. With a suddenness that came as a shock, I was hustled away quickly to a different room, and told I couldn't ask Pop about the war. There were to be no questions. It was explained that Pop didn't like to talk about the war, it wasn't something exciting for him as it was for me. It was a life changing experience that never left him, and was a big part of who he was. 

Donkey Races in leisure time

Pop never marched in the parades. We didn't watch the march with him on TV either. I was told he watched the march by himself each year, and locked himself away in privacy to relive his memories with no one but himself. But every year at Anzac day I would think of my Pop, the stories of heroism and sacrifice no longer seemed exciting. Instead they seemed dark and intimidating. I'm sure the older generation of my family that grew up with Pop have their own memories. Maybe there was a time when he could talk about it. Maybe he was OK to talk about it with his wife and children. But certainly for me it became the elephant in the room, a period of Australian history I was fascinated in but could never ask about.

"Someday no-one will march there at all".

My pop died back in 2002. He made it long enough to come to my wedding, and cuddle my little baby. It means so much to me that he was at my wedding, the only one of my Grandparents that was. 

I didn't expect anything from my Pops (and Nan's residual) will. They had 5 kids, so many grand kids, and modest assets. It would never occur to me that there would be something for me. But my Pop left me a set of his miniatures. I've gotten them out and told my stories of Pop many times over the years. I've let Miss 14 take them to school (under strict security instructions) at this time of year for show and tell when she was younger. 

Somehow it's so very special to me that my Pop remembered my fascination, and while he couldn't indulge it in his lifetime, he wanted to indulge it in his death.

Lest We Forget Pop.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Our Whirlwind Stopover in Dubai

Bhurj Kalifa - Tallest Building in the world

 Last night was our first night on our whirlwind adventure. It's 4am here in Dubai as I write, but I woke up at 2am after falling into bed almost delirious at 8pm and couldn't get back to sleep again. (Edit finished putting pictures on this post a day and a half later, so there's a bit of a time lag!)

We flew with Emirates, and although my experience for comparison is slim, I thought they were fantastic. The food was good, the in flight entertainment free with plenty of movies,games and TV shows, and my seat width and leg room not too bad for Economy! We did have a bit of a problem with my lunch when the flight hostess promised to return with a beef main then promptly deleted me from her memory. Eventually when they returned with drinks I was able to query my meal and she more than made up for it by offering a business class salmon (which I don't eat but the husband was devastated he didn't have the foresight to trade meals with me).

Dubai has been long on my wish list of places to visit, I've heard so many wonderful things and as an Australian/Lebonese household Dubai seems like a good place to be given there are so many Aussie expats here. Curiously, I found myself being ignored by the airport workers in favour of other men. Other than the hosts, the workers were all men, and even though Husband thinks I am being paranoid I found myself being ignored completely until the steady trickle of male travelers with enquiries ran out, although there was initially only one person ahead of me five others turned up and were assisted ahead of me.

Here in Dubai women wearing Burqas and Niqabs are far more common than in Australia, as was a more traditional style of male Arab dress. I asked the Husband why it was that most traditionally dressed women wore black and the traditionally dressed men wore white but he couldn't answer that - definitely a question for my mother in law when I get back. 

We would have loved to have taken some tours and seen the desert here in Dubai but with only one jet lagged night to enjoy here we just weren't able to do justice to what Dubai has to offer. Instead we stayed at the Sofitel Dubai Downtown, as it is so close to the Dubai Mall we were able to walk there in a loooooong covered glass walkway with moving travellators. Thursday-Sunday the Dubai Mall shuts at Midnight, and I was shocked to see how PACKED it was. Think the weekend before Christmas in Australia. That kind of packed.

The Dubai Mall is all kinds of amazing. There was an ice skating rink, an aquarium, movie theatre, and hundreds of high end stores. From that perspective the Dubai Mall was definitely out of our league. I wouldn't spend that kind of money on shoes, handbags or clothes for myself at home so I won't spend it on holidays. But we didn't find the food particularly expensive. We loved a kids toystore we came across, there were staff and kids everywhere, playing with ball games, remote control toys, flying hovercraft through the air, it was incredible.It would take forever to drag the kids out of there, I think mine would be happy to spend a few hours just playing and exploring.

The Aquarium IN the Dubai Mall
 There was also a great Kidzania area, filled with children's boutiques, a theme park (Sega World), and an area where kids could dress up in the uniform of the career of their choice and role play. We didn't spend heaps of money in Dubai (breakdown below) mostly because for us there wasn't much to spend it on. We would have loved to see the desert and do a few tours but there just wasn't time.

Terminal 3 Metro Station in Dubai
 Instead of catching a taxi or organising transfers between the airport and the hotel (which we were quoted 70 AED for a taxi, or $28au), we ended up catching the Metro (train system). Our tickets cost 8AED each way per person. (or $3.20au) The signage was very similar to Sydney,and we had no problem reading anything. We had our first awkward moment fairly quickly, as we moved through the busy carriages looking for seats. At the end of the train we lots  of seats available and we st to relax for the 30 minute train journey. As I looked around, wondering why none of the men standing only a metre away wanted to sit down, I noticed there were only women sitting. This was curious as in previous carriages (and the train is actually just made up of several long open carriages, you don't have to open doors like in Australia) the seats were packed and the rare women I noticed was standing. I realised then from all the pink signage that in all our fluster of using a strange train system that we'd sat in the women's carriage, and that the Husband would be fined 100AED if he was seen! He quickly moved half a metre away to stand next to me just over the line in the unisex section, but it was a surprise to both of us. I couldn't decide if I thought it was sexist/discriminatory or respectful that women had their own carriage, but since they had plenty of seats and the unisex section was packed I'm going to run with respectful. 

The only thing that took us a while to figure out with the Metro system in Dubai was how to work out which platform we needed to be on. As it turns out, instead of numbering their platforms as we do in Australia, they actually name them according to the last station on the train line for that line. So you just need to look at the map, work out which direction you are travelling, and go to the platform with the name of the last station.

Our so tall Hotel - Sofitel Downtown Dubai
Our next awkward moment was at the hotel, when we tried to tip the young man that took our bag to our room. We aren't seasoned tippers, but our 2010 holiday in America taught us to tip the bag boy,so it was a little embarrassing to be offering the note and having him ignoring it.

In general we found Dubai to be super clean, and ultra modern, all white and silver. It was beautiful, and some of the buildings, the airport,the mall, the Metro stations, we thought were a little space stationy.

Bhurj Kalifa/Dubai Mall Metro Station

All up in Dubai, we spent just under $100au which converted to 250AED. I didn't find it as expensive as I'd thought, but admittedly we didn't buy much by way of souvenirs.

In Dubai money, here is our breakdown:

32 Metro Tickets to and from the airport
20 for the worlds most expensive lip gloss,but I was desperate. I was super annoyed to see one for 8 at the airport later
5 for a postcard and stamp to send to the kidlets
15 for a spoon to add to my mothers collection
161 for dinner for 2 with soft drinks
13.5 for snacks at the airport to take on the plane

 So our whirlwind stay in Dubai is over, except for a small stopover on the way home (3 hours), and today we find ourselves in Munich, day tripping off to Rothenberg,  the town known for being the most German of German towns. 

Hoping the Sydney Autumn is not quite as crisp as the Munich Spring!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Auf Weidersehn!

Time flies but we are finally packing our bags for our trip to Germany! The Husband is lucky enough to work for a German company, and every year members from all over the world congregate in an industrial type area called Schwabisch Gmund for their annual sales conference. Husband is not in sales, but he is a technician and on the merits of this he has been invited to attend and to take the opportunity to learn from the German onsite techs while he is there. It's his second trip, but as I was pregnant with Sebastian, and had tiny 7 month old Lorelei that I couldn't bear to abandon, he went solo for his last visit. 
When the news came he was invited again, I jumped on that Soul Train and invited myself along. He has the 3 day conference, but we have stretched out to 10 days and will be whirlwinding our way through Dubai, Munich, Stuttgart, and just as a little treat for me while he is at work, Paris.


I'm not sure which part I'm most excited about, but I think Paris might be it. I'm terrified about navigating my way around a strange country with a foreign language on my own, I can't even navigate in Sydney, but I can't let this opportuinity pass me by. We probably couldn't have afforded to trip if we tried to do it as a family or even as a couple, but since the Husbands airfares are paid by work and I've picked up some extra paid work (hello Easter Show!) to help pay for mine, we've been able to make it happen.

Wish me luck, and if I manage to find free wifi I'll be sharing lots of jealousy inducing photos as we travel.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Raise the Roof: The End Result

This post has been too long in the writing, I can't seem to rustle up the right enthusiasm for writing at the moment, even though I know future Elise will thank past Elise for making the effort.

The process for repairing and restoring our roof took three days. The first was occupied by the roof cleaner, the second was the painting and repairs. The final day the key tradesman involved returned at our invitation to clean up the property and give us the paperwork required for our long term warranty. The house isn't as clean as I would have liked, it's also not as dirty as I was afraid I was stuck with. We've had to put some effort into scrubbing the window frames to get the last of the black residue off them and we think we might be stuck with the coating on the timber cubby house. 

The roof however, looks amazing. I am so happy we had it done. Besides wanting repairs and the comfort of knowing that another strong rainy season wouldn't be doing serious damage to the house, I had cosmetic reasons for getting the roof done. I wasn't a fan of the original maroon trim on the roof, and we've now had the whole roof painted charcoal.

 We started this change back when we painted the house, as originally we had blue and maroon wooden trim along with maroon tiling and gutters. Even though most people commented on how lovely the original door and trim colour was, I just wasn't taking a liking to it. All of the blue trim is gone, removed completely instead of painted as it was rotting in places. Most houses in my street have a simpler look, and I decided I didn't want to keep it.

This most recent step of engaging Modern to complete the roof repairs and paint brings our roof work to a finish. We're really happy with how it turned out, it looks really fresh and new again, and we're hopeful it will have a positive affect on our energy bills.

Once again we are now back to saving for our next piece of work on updating the house. We probably need to get a plumber in next to overhaul our pipes and taps in a number of places, but then we can get to work on something more fun, like maybe an outdoor eating area or a fancy pants new Laundry. It feels really good to have scratched a big item off the list, everyone in the house starts to get demotivated when we scrimp and save for a long time. It's easy to lose sight of why we are behaving frugally and feel depressed that we can't "afford" to do or buy things that we want. Getting something big like the roof done reminds us (well, the Husband and I at least, not so much the kids) of why we make those sacrifices.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Raise the Roof: Step Two The Preparation

See that? That was a full clothes line when I left for work that morning. Anybody else might assume that their very capable teenager decided to bring in a basket of laundry when she raided the line for school clothes but I know there is more chance of my neighbour thoughtfully deciding to bring the washing in than my teen.

I had a few moments of panic when Madeleine rang me after school to stress out that all her clothes that she had seen on the line that morning were now missing. She knew they were there this morning because she collected a school shirt, but now the dance uniform she was seeking was missing...along with everything else.

We found the answer soon enough. Our roof cleaner had been out to the house to start work that day, something I knew, but given the short notice had not put much thought into how I should prepare. Thankfully, he very kindly took all our washing off the line and into a basket we had left outside as a hint for Madeleine. He'd put it aside where it wouldn't be affected, which was a very thoughtful touch.

At the point of sale, we had been promised that the cleaning process would consist of two people, one on the roof, and one on the ground cleaning up as they went along. We were asked to let our neighbours know that the workman might be on their side of the fence to clean up any mess to ensure the neighbouring properties wouldn't be affected. Not being home to supervise the process, we can't honestly say whether this happened, however it didn't seem so. From both the mess left behind and later conversations with the tradie that restored the roof, it would seem that there were was not two people doing the roof clean, and nor do they clean the mess left behind unless the owner specifically requests them to. They also do not enter the neighbours property without the neighbours express permission. 

Our roof might have been clean, but our property was filthy. There was a black film on everything that had apparently come from the roof. When I say everything, I mean everything. The cubby, outdoor table setting, swing set, clothes line, walkways, gutters, window frames, everything. And because I didn't get home with the little ones till the light had started to fade, we followed our usual routine of playing on some outdoor equipment while I sat on the grass watching. By the time I realised how dirty it all was, the kids and I were covered in it. Fortunately, thanks to the roof cleaner, my laundry is about the only thing that wasn't covered in it.

At the conclusion of our roof restoration (more on that in my next post), we gave the tradesman a call and gently asked when he would be taking care of the cleaning. He seemed surprised, as he indicated he didn't notice anything dirty, but promised to come the very next day and take care of anything I wanted at the same time as giving us our warranty. So as it turned out I need to work from home that day in order to ensure everything was cleaned.

My Tips for Preparing for a Roof Restoration (do as I say, not as I do)

1. Remove all laundry from the clothes line!
2. Move all outdoor furniture to a sheltered location, either in the house or garage
3. Cover any delicate plants or flowers if at all possible
4. Clear the yard of any toys
5. Cover any permanent outdoor structures with a tarp

Be prepared for anything you leave exposed to be covered in the nasty black film that comes from the roof. Even after cleaning we can still see traces of it everywhere.

More to follow on the results of our roof restoration. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Raise the Roof Step One: The Negotiations

It all moved quite suddenly and unexpectedly this. 2 weeks ago we started organising quotes to repair and restore our roof. We got some quotes from locals, people recommended as great tradies, as well as some majors. Out of the blue, the company we booked with had a cancellation that left them free this week, so we are proceeding 6 weeks earlier than expected.

Before we picked who to go with, we did get a series of quotes. Every offer was a little different to the next, it was hard to compare them as no one quote was to the exact same specifications. We had some extremely low quotes, which were very simply to replace broken tiles and repaint the roof. 1 of these had no warranty, another offered a 1 year labour, 10 year materials warranty. The catch with this kind of warranty is that you need to claim on the materials warranty through the manufacturer - in this case Dulux. While Dulux is a brand I know and trust, I'm not keen on 3rd party warranties, they are never straight forward to claim on.

We ended up going with Modern, in part because their 7 year warranty is with them, but mostly because we like the process they will follow in cleaning, repair/replacing tiles, priming, coated, and double painting with some assurance that we will see a reduction in our cooling and heating costs as a result.

The proof will be in the pudding. No matter what, we had to do some roof repairs as our building inspection identified a series of problems that won't withstand another couple of rainy seasons. But we are taking this opportunity to change the colours and include the elements barrier that should reduce our bills.

I'm not allowed to share the end price (which sucks) as we agreed to keep it private once we negotiated the crap out of it, but I can share the starting price, and the first negotiated price. For those of you wondering what it will cost to do a full scale overhaul of your roof our starting price with Modern was in the higher $7,000's. (We didn't remember to write it down so I can't be more specific). Agreeing to keep a sign out the front advertising their services for 6 weeks brought the price down to around $5,900. 

Given that we are living in a gorgeous suburb, but on one of the older streets with homes around 16-17 years old, many of them home owners, our neighbours are a ripe market. No-ones roof's (rooves?) have been redone yet that we can see, but will probably start to need it over the next few years. We counter offered signage for six months and the price came down even further. What I am trying to convey by sharing (or not sharing) my end price and situation is that it is always worth doing the research on your street and counter offering, even once the usual sales pitch and price has been finished.

Our end price is higher than any other quote - but not significantly so. The inclusions however definitely feel worth the extra.

Mostly I'm happy to know that I've gotten the last of my important structural home improvements out of the way and I can start to focus on fun stuff with my next lot of savings/bonus/tax return - like an outdoor eating area.

B T Dubbs: This post is 100% NOT sponsored. Any brands mentioned have not paid or asked me to do so, nor am I remotely on their radar as a blogger.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Flare Ups and Thermomixes

Coming on the back of a renewed determination this year to manage stress and my Crohns disease is a weekend long flare up. When I wasn't paying attention work worries translated themselves into work stresses, and those combined with worrying about Madeleine's health not to mention the perpetual money planning that is forever at the back of my mind have mixed together to become my latest flareup.

For those of you not in the secret Crohn's mystery club, flare up seems to be the euphemism we use to describe any range of painful, uncomfortable, or mortifying circumstances that fall outside the range of day to day management. I tend to use it to explain away a far too intimate relationship with the toilet bowl. It's the most graceful and tactful way to explain to a semi-sympathetic employer why you suddenly need to work from home for the day anyway. As a general rule when I'm 'having a flare up' I tend to not be sleeping well as a result so working from home buys me a little more sleep too.

I fall asleep each night planning, worrying, thinking. I wake up in the morning having executed all those plans, having worked and parented and lived all night long, exhausted from the lack of sleep. Besides work being a little more high pressure than normal right now, Madeleine has been showing some worrying signs.

Over the last couple of months, we've come to realise that she was vomiting and having her own intimate bathroom issues when she ate certain foods. It took us a while to notice a trend, but eventually we realised it was whenever she ate Spaghetti Bolognaise or Lasagna. This was puzzling, because these are regular staples in our home, we would eat it at least once a fortnight, if not more often. But Christmas and holidays meant that life was busy, so I tucked away this trend to deal with on a future day and made a point of cooking something different for Madeleine if those dishes were on the menu.

When will I learn to stop postponing health issues? I've regretted it before, and sure as shit I've regretted it again. She's gone from being sick when she eats Spaghetti and Lasagna, to being sick pretty much every day. Chicken and rice, nuggets and chips, meat and salad sandwiches, pizza, you name it, she's been sick after she eats it. Dr Google and I have diagnosed Maddy with Coelic Disease because of course. Of COURSE. Thanks to me and my Crohns my kids are pretty much guaranteed to get any number of immune conditions. Right?

I'll rationalise this shit later once I've had a chance to get Maddy to a doctor. It will take a few days to get an appointment for her, because our doctor can be hard to get into, but I don't want to see just anyone at a medical centre either.

Crazy, CRAZY dreams have eventuated from all of this. Dreams that start with serious conversations in the workplace, conversations I would never have in a million years, that morph into arguing with the husband about using my annual bonus money to repair the roof instead of buying a Thermomix. Because a Thermomix is the cure for our daughters terminal disease. (Don't get all commonsense on me, I realise that even in the likely hood that she actually has Coelic Disease that it isn't a death sentence). But Husband still, obscenely, insists on repairing the roof. Bastard.

I'm grumpy. And tired. And hungry. But I can't eat, and I can't take a day off work right now. So I will work. And I will flare. And I will get my kid to the doctor as quick as possible so he can tell me whats wrong with her.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Grommets 8 Weeks In

Little Sebastian had grommets put in his ears back in early December. I wasn't expecting to see big changes in him, although I've heard from so many people that their children practically changed over night once they had the procedure.

I wrote a post within a few days of the procedure and I can't say that I noticed anything in particular at the time. But 8 weeks on and there are HUGE changes.

My son is speaking in small sentences now, instead of two words tops. His words are clearer, and his vocabulary is so much broader. We can understand much more of what he is saying, his baby slurs have given way to crystal clear phrases that leave no room for doubt.

Now he's also taken an interest in various TV programs. He's never been a child to be attracted by the different ABC3 shows, it was only a rare music show that could hold his attention for a few seconds. He sings constantly, tunes we can recognise, and breaks into various medleys all day. Thomas the Tank Engine, Disney's Cars, Frozen, these are all favourites now. He actually has favourites which is incredible for a kid who had zero interest not that long ago.

I think back to us looking blankly at the specialist when she asked us if Seb had hearing problems. We hadn't noticed any hearing problems. He answered when I called him, and just how talkative did I really expect a 2 year old to be? Even though he is my third child, I still didn't notice that big a difference to the milestones he was marking compared to his sisters. Maybe if he wasn't the youngest, I would have noticed a younger sibling getting there earlier.

He's happier. More forceful in his requests, because he knows what he wants and how to ask for it. He sings and dances his way around the house, and stands up for himself verbally with his 3 year old sister, instead of resorting to biting straight away. That's the weirdest one - I've noticed a massive reduction in his biting over the last few weeks, and I can only pin it on the fact that he has another conflict resolution tool now.

Grommets for the win.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Secret to Having the Best Lawn...

2 years ago we moved from a suburb where mowing the lawn was a special occasion activity. If the neighbours were out mowing, then sure enough there would be a party to come in the following days. Either that or Christmas.

I'd like to say we were better, but the truth is that Husband avoids the lawn mower like it's carrying an infectious disease. He has all kinds of wimpy allergies, and uses them as the basis for venturing outside as little as possible. Typically I had to have lost a child in the jungle out there to kick him out to mow.

We've since moved to an area where every lawn is mowed regularly. Just about every Sunday morning sees half the street with someone outside mowing and tending to the garden, and the other half are looking after theirs during the week. I'm determined to have a home that I can be proud to pull in the driveway of, so I get out there myself now every fortnight to mow. I can't start the damn mower without help, but I can push that thing around in a neat grid and that's usually enough to guilt the husband into doing the edges more often than not.

I'm definitely holding my own in this street, but no matter how often I mow, my lawn never looks as neat and trim as my neighbour to the left. A lovely retired couple, the gentleman is outside no less than twice a week, mowing his lawn. I've counted three times before as well, which suspiciously seems to coincide with me mowing our lawn.

My neighbours lawn is flat, perfect, and never, EVER, looks like it needs mowing. Even when my lawn is mowed it doesn't look as perfect. And he makes a point of edging a perfect straight line where his lawn meets ours, all the better to emphasise our scruffy yard and his perfection.

Look at that line. It perfectly defines the point at which his perfection stops and my scruffiness starts.

On the flip side, my neighbour to the right is just ever so slightly worse than we are. He never gets too long, but he seems to mow just that little bit less often than we do, and with the same casual approach to just getting it over with. And as a result we tend to look not too bad if I face his direction and ignore the perfection behind me.

And therein lies the secret to having the best lawn in the street. The trick is in looking better than your neighbour. As long as you put in just slightly more effect than the neighbours, you can come out ahead.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Financial Irritants

It's been a weekend of financial irritations. Just little things, but they are all adding up. Husband and I are grumpy with each other because of the various financial constraints I have us under, and so we bicker constantly over all these little irritants and everything else.

As I type, he is in the bedroom, sourly sewing a button on his work pants, determined to not watch whatever I might have on TV. And in response, I have a Gilmore Girls episode on, knowing that 20 times later, he likes the show no more than the first time I made him watch it marathon style.

Money is thin. Knowing we have school and dancing fee's coming up along with some insurance premiums I have cracked down on the budget. But we still need to make progress on some house improvements, and bedroom fans are super high on our list. So I've been a busy bee, selling random crap that I should have offloaded years ago, books, DVDs, old kids clothes, you name it, it's gone up for sale, mostly on local Facebook sale sites and Gumtree. Every time someone picks something up, that ten or twenty dollar note gets thrown in a jar with the intention that as soon as we get enough we will buy another fan for the house. We need four, we have one. We want to pay an electrician to do all of them at once, but that means buying them all first. At $160 for each fan, it's not a quick process.

As you can imagine, I was pretty happy when I had collected $220 by Saturday night. That's a fan and a bit. But no, it's not meant to be. A routine rotation of my car tires has produced 2 almost completely bald tires. I'm thankful I haven't had an accident, but spewing that my fan money is now going on 2 new tires.

Adding to it all, I sent hubby to the shops with a $30 gift voucher, to top us up with a few things we just can't make it to payday without. Some fruit, sandwich meat, milk, bread, you get the gist. He knows money is tight right now, but he still came back with various unnecessary items that weren't on the list, and slightly indignant that the gift voucher had bounced.

Instead of putting a few things back, he instructed the cashier to put the voucher through for $20, and put the last $10.74 on our ATM card. Which went through. But barely, because we only had $11 left. Except now we have $0.24 cents left, and I'm stuck with $10 credit on the gift voucher that can't be used for anything else in an emergency except groceries. We've had a fight about the stupidity of not putting back items if you think you only have $20, and not looking at the card to realise he was only $0.74 cents over the limit, and so now we aren't talking.

We aren't speaking over $10 worth of groceries. Isn't that ludicrous? I forgot how much strain money problems can put on a marriage. I know it doesn't help that I can be quite rigid about money, but it's just the way I am. We'll get over this, we always do but it doesn't make it all less annoying in the short term.

Money problems pissing you off right now? Do share,

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

New Year, A New Budget

Every year at this time I pull out all our bills and do an annualised budget/financial calendar for our family. I plot out how much money needs to be put aside each pay in order to meet the big bills as they arrive throughout the year.

I factor savings into this budget, and consider all of the bills and expenses that can be expected throughout the year. I also allow for day to day living expenses, and usually the amount left over gives me an idea how much I should be saving each pay.

I have a negative number this year. Each fortnight, after I put money aside for all my expenses, I have -$36. I am so shocked, it's the first time in years I haven't had a surplus, even if it's small.

We don't have heaps of area's that we can cut back, our grocery budget is slim, our entertainment budget is non-existent as we have been lucky to have lots of tickets and opportunities through the blog lately that have become our "fun", so that leaves the kids extra curriculars. Much as I hate to do it, this is one of the main luxuries that we spend our disposable income on, so we are having to scale back.

This frustrates me enormously, because by cutting back in this area we are impacting a couple of small business owners as well as the kids. Our budget stresses flow through to the wonderful people who make their living nurturing our children's talents. Having become close to some of these people over the years, I know how much small business owners can struggle to make ends meet themselves. But the flip side is that I've seen families who have not made the decision to scale back when they should, and have ended up with, and walking away from, a debt from their kids activities. This is horrible for everyone, so I am pulling us back to a level we can honestly afford.

This is not a boo hoo post. We are not in hardship - we can afford to feed our kids, we can afford to cloth them, and each kid still gets to do a class of something they love. We are super fortunate still and we know it.

Many bills have crept up, our insurances seem to have skyrocketed in the last year or two, and Maddy's braces are a big chunk of cash each pay. If you haven't reviewed your finances this year, make it part of your New Years Resolutions. It's always better to know what you are dealing with, than keep paying everything blindly and hope it all adds up.

Have you been stung by rising costs this year? Do you review your budget on a regular basis?

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Commitment To Her Art

As if she wasn't already so much like her teenage sister, 3 year old Lorelei seems to have inherited her flair for dramatics as well.

This afternoon, out of nowhere, Lorelei let out a shriek at the back of the house. We ran to her, sure that she was pinned beneath her brother being tortured, but instead found her clutching at her leg and moaning.

There was no apparent injury, but my little one was cringing and flinching as we flexed and straightened her leg, trying to get to the bottom of it. With no accident or trauma to pin it on, we are assuming that she has pulled a muscle, and settled her on the couch with a heat pack to look after it and Frozen to keep her happy and still for a few minutes.

A few minutes later though......"MUUUUUUUUUMMMMMY!" Batting her little eyelids, she sweetly informed me she needed to be moved to the beanbag - and then that she needed something to prop up her leg.

Every ten minutes for the rest of the afternoon, she called me for one thing or the other, always sweet, and always grateful, but constantly assuring me that her leg was sore.

After an hour or this treatment I became sceptical and stood her up and encouraged her to walk to me - stretching out the muscle is the best thing for her right? She limped and winced and dragged it slightly behind her, stopping after only a few steps to put her arms up and beg to be carried. 

My poor little love, I spent the rest of the day massaging her, stretching and flexing, and holding a heat pack in place. She refused point blank to walk again, and I felt so guilty at making her. 

Tonight we went for dinner to her grandmothers though, and as expected I carried my little invalid into the house. After I settled her on the couch I teasingly suggested she ask her Teta to heat up her pack again to help fix her sore leg. Excited by the idea of showing off her sore leg, she leapt up and ran into the kitchen with her heat pack. 

No sign of a limp. Am I surprised?

She's definitely inherited Madeleine's dramatics. 

I'll be watching this sore leg, because I'm sure there was something in it, but it's hilarious to see Miss Lorelei will milk it for all it's worth.