Monday, 30 December 2013

The circus big top for 2013


As we sit on the cusp of a brand spanking shiny new year I'm going to use this as an opportunity to say THANKS. That's thanks to everyone who's ever read One Woman Circus over these past six months (or even it was just the once and by accident!); thanks to my husband for listening to me go on about it all the time; and thanks to my mate Jo at Down To Earth Mother for some great blogging advice.

I was actually very against writing my own blog for ages (every man and their dog blogs right?); but finally all the random thoughts, rants and article ideas overflowed out of my brain and made their way to this online channel. Aside from a few a-hole technology issues to start with, it's been so much fun. I still struggle with the word blog though, in my head 'online journal' seems more apt. Meh. Much a muchness right?

Anyway, it's been a hell of a ride so far so thanks for listening people. The circus will be continuing into 2014, but as my last post for this year I thought I'd give you a rundown of my most popular articles - the ones that were the most read, shared and talked about.

So here they are, the One Woman Circus top five posts of 2013 (as dictated by you awesome readers):

1. 8 things I've learned since becoming a mum
Looks like my teeny tiny old piklet boobs topped the list - who would have thought? Parenthood is crazy on so many levels and physical changes are just one part of it (for mums at least). You've either got to laugh or cry - so I'll take hilarity any day thanks.

2. Don't take that cup of tea for granted
I never dreamed that going on a diet would be so interesting to people. And that's not one for weight loss either, it was to uncover an intolerance and it made me crankier than a cat with a sock on its head. Rest assured, no diet happening now - happy New Years people, yew!

3. WARNING - kids and holidays don't mix
A holiday in Bali. With a toddler and a baby. Yes we were crazy and we didn't even know it. We did learn a bunch of stuff though so if you're thinking of doing the same you might want to check out my tips first.

4. I'd like to thank God and...
I got a Liebster Award - rock n' roll! Clearly the blogger 'pay it forward' initiative works. Nice one. Or, maybe you were all just seriously loving Haley Joel Osment's man-body. Yeah, that was it.

5. The secret weapon every parent should remember 
Music. It rocks my world and even as I write this it's helping tame the little lions. Are you using it? Do it. Now.

See you on the other side people...

What was your favourite circus moment this year?

photo credit: dongga BS via photopin cc

Monday, 23 December 2013

The Christmas gift I can never have...



Several weeks ago after not being able to think of any ideas for my Christmas wish list, I came up with a bunch of things I DIDN'T want instead (check it out here if you missed it).

I've since had a rethink and now the big day is almost here I finally know what I want. The only problem is I know no one can give it to me.

So what is it? Well it's quite simple really, I just want effing technology to work.

Lately almost everyone I know has had major issues with technology - phones wiping contacts, not being able to send or receive emails, computers acting crazy, Facebook pages having multiple glitches - you know, that sort of thing. For some unknown reason though I naturally repel technology and seem to have way more problems than anyone else.

I swear my body gives off some kind of anti-technology vibe and causes things to malfunction. I've even done experiments before to test out this theory, which proved that a computer acting nuts for me can often instantly go functional again, just by someone else being in front of it - even if they're doing exactly what I was doing, or doing nothing at all. I'm telling you, I must give off anti-tech energy and it sucks.

Yes technology is wonderful - and I'm not even talking about newfangled gizmos that I don't even use yet. The concept of a landline phone or how it's physically possible to take a photo still blows me away - pure magic. But technology is also a bastard. It lures you in with it's wizardry and then leaves you high, dry and on the phone to Telstra about to have a stroke.

Technology is of course extremely complicated and temperamental, so I know I won't get my desired Christmas present this year. Sigh. To make me feel a bit better though, I'm going to leave you with one of my favourite clips from the movie Office Space. If you've ever felt my technology pain, click play immediately to feel instant satisfaction.




Are you allergic to technology like me?

Photo credit: Google Images

Thursday, 19 December 2013

My children are food snobs


What the F is this?!

Move over Matt Preston - the next Masterchef judges and food critics are my 3 and 1 year-old sons. Here are just a few samples of their mealtime snobbery: 

The judging process starts with sight and smell
When lunch or dinner is produced their sceptical eyes scan warily over the dish and have a good sniff. Have I passed the test? Have I? Sadly often I do not. It is then extremely hard to convince the judges to even try my meal. Sigh. 

They're experts on food temperatures
I didn't realise that food served warm was displeasing and dangerous to the general public. Next time I will be more careful to ensure it is stone cold first as to not scald anyone with lukewarmness. 

They love a good pressure test
Nothing like two children screaming they're hungry and clutching your legs as you're trying to prepare dinner to put the pressure on. Didn't they have pre-dinner snacks only half an hour ago? Chances are they're not even going to eat it when it goes on the table. The only conclusion I can make is they just like to see me sweat. 

They like their food deconstructed
I've spoken about my hate of deconstructed food before, but my children obviously didn't get the memo because they're all over that sh#t. Homemade fried rice? Forget it, not a chance in hell they'll eat it. But if I pop three piles of peas, plain rice and bacon on a plate instead they'll go for it like a lion on a zebra. And if the food they're served isn't deconstructed (e.g. a Vegemite and cheese sandwich), they'll instantly pull it apart and deconstruct it themselves. Cos' that's how they roll. 

They like food displayed in other unique formats
Food served on a plate on the table is not nearly as interesting as food tipped on the floor, covered in cat hair and half trod on. Brings out the flavour and makes things more exciting I guess. 

They're not afraid to let the cook have it
Meals are regularly sent back and "Yuck" or "That's disgusting" are also common phrases bandied around the dinner table these days. Why don't they tell me how they really feel? Perhaps I should smear it on the floor and see if it tastes better then...

What antics do your tiny food critics get up to?

Photo credit: Sproot

Monday, 16 December 2013

Unconditional love? Future slave? No, the best thing about having kids is this

 

Having children of your own is awesome, no doubt about it. Challenging, exhausting, expensive and mind baffling - but yes, still awesome. There are lots of things you could list as the best parts about being a mum or dad (everything from sweet little hugs and kisses down to the assurance there will be someone around in years to come to wipe your bum when you check in to the geriatric nut factory), but I think the best part about having children is this:

You get to be a child again.

This year both of my boys have experienced many 'firsts,' but two stand-outs are when I took my eldest to the cinema for the first time, and when I let him stay up to watch his first fireworks. On both occasions his mind was blown and it makes you realise how much stuff we take for granted as adults. Just because I've been to the movies hundreds of times shouldn't mean I find it any less amazing.

Children allow you to see everything - even seemingly ordinary objects, places, people and experiences - through their fresh, innocent eyes. So it's almost like you're back to being a babe in the woods again, soaking up life like a sponge.

And it doesn't end there. There are lots of other parent perks that come with this cool second childhood, such as the licence to be ridiculous, and the toys. Oh yes, the toys.

I am so obsessed with my son's Kinder Surprise smurf figurine collection (they were toilet training rewards). Every time he opened an egg and out came a character we didn't have, I felt a rush of pure elation. I thought I lost Papa Smurf the other day and was devastated, but after searching high and low and finding him under the couch - again, pure ecstasy. There is only one character we still don't have yet - fishing rod smurf - but they're not selling them anymore. Crushed. I've seriously considered contacting the makers.

I also spent about 30 minutes the other day working out a super cool musical arrangement on a toy guitar which has ten different riffs programmed into it. My kids were not as impressed as myself (or my husband), but I was rocking the casbah. For that half an hour I was on cloud nine with not a care in the world. Bills? Chores? What are they?

Ok, so have I already checked into the nut farm? Quite possibly. But if you're a parent you'll know what I mean. And if you're not one, then maybe this is another good reason to think about having children. Because who wouldn't want to be a kid again?
 

What stuff do you love about parenthood (aka second childhood)?

Photo credit: visualphotos.com

Friday, 13 December 2013

Sorry, it's just that time of year


Just a quick note to say sorry the circus has been a bit quiet this week - well, at least on here anyway! At home the baby lions have still been roaring and I've been juggling even more crazy balls than usual.

If you want to see what I've been up to check out: www.stylem.com.au

It's a new fashion and lifestyle online magazine which launched this week and I'm the Deputy Editor. Exciting times!

On top of that there's all the usual mother duties, other work and general end of year craziness, but I'll be back on deck next week.

The countdown to Christmas is on - try and keep sane everyone!

Do you have a million things on the go this December?

photo credit: Larry Myhre via photopin cc 

Friday, 6 December 2013

Do you REALLY want to do this to yourself this weekend?


Kill me. Now.

Confession - I'm into self-harm these days. And now that it's the silly season I know it's only going to get worse. Yep, I'm talking about drinking when you have small children.

People who aren't parents have no concept of just how bad a hangover is when you have tiny people in your life. It's like being tortured over and over again with no reprieve. And the worst part is, there's no one to blame but yourself. You did this. Yes you. Shame on you.

Hangovers have been quite few and far between since I entered motherhood. When they first arose I was mortified beyond belief and quickly learned that wine doesn't pay. But lately hangovers have started rearing their ugly heads again, and boy are they hideous. I don't know even know how I've fallen into this self-harm trap again. I'm blaming end of year craziness.

They should put warning labels on alcohol like they do for minors and pregnant women - got kids under 10? No soup for you. When you have children, every drink you have has double the effect the next day. Dangerous territory that is not remotely fun.

It's true parents with hangovers suffer big time, but children also pay the price too. When Mum or Dad is hungover, what do you think appeals best: heading to the beach for a fun-filled day of action, or reaching for the remote to drown out the demons? Not cool at all. When I'm hungover my tolerance levels go down to practically zero and everything is just way too hard. Cooking turns into takeaway, baths turn into wipe downs. It's horrible and I hate myself for it.

Every time I've had a hangover in recent years I've felt nothing but guilt for the poor excuse of a mother my children have had to wake up to. Add that guilt to your thumping headache, rotten guts and mega sleep deprivation, and that's not a nice cocktail.

I've now come to the conclusion that the only time you should let go and get boozed is if you've arranged for your partner to do the morning shift with the kids (or better yet, organise a sleepover at their cousins' house so they're completely out of your hair and properly attended to). Otherwise, it's just not worth it. Not one bit.

Yet still here I am, not able to stop hitting the bottle. Some days music and other solutions just don't cut it and it feels like a drink is the only thing keeping you sane once the lovable maniacs are in bed. Yet it really isn't the answer. A measly moment of carefree drinking that you then pay for heavily. 

So parents, I urge you all this weekend (and over the Christmas period) to stop and think about what you're doing before you guzzle down that extra beer or glass of wine. Is it worth it? Is it? I think not.

Do you self-harm regularly? Any tips for surviving the silly season with kids?

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

What NOT to buy parents this Christmas

Don't you dare put socks in my sack again.

The Christmas countdown has arrived. Hooray hooray! Jingle all the way! Or maybe I could tell you where to shove those bells...? I normally love Christmas but now I'm three years into parenthood I'm finding it's a lot more stressful than it used to be.

The tree only went up yesterday and already almost every decoration has been either smashed, ripped or eaten. The advent calendar was jumped on before the first window could be opened and the Christmas lights have been licked within an inch of power failure and human electrocution.

I haven't even started on the Christmas cards or gifts. My husband asked me what I wanted the other day and I couldn't think of anything, because now I'm a mum Christmas is basically all about the kids - which I'm actually fine with. But me? What are you talking about? When asked about what presents I wanted, the only things that came to mind instead were things I knew I DIDN'T want.

So here it is - my anti-Christmas list (or what NOT to buy people with small children):

1. An alarm clock
Do you honestly think I need one? I don't even know what sleeping in or waking up naturally is anymore. If it's not one of the children forcing me out of bed at dawn's crack, it's the cat sitting on my chest purring in my face, or the kookaburras going crazy outside. Whether I want to be or not, I'm literally up with the birds.

2. Anything white
White dress. White trousers. White couch. White tablecloth. White rug. White couch...Are you insane? White lasts two seconds in our house - and I'm not just blaming the kids either. I'm walking around like a zombie half the time - combine that with natural clumsiness and a glass of wine and it's all over. And then I'm the mug that has to magically try and reclaim the whiteness. So trust me, I ain't dreaming of a white Christmas.

3. Anything breakable
I'm talking glass vases, precious ornaments, valuable electronics - anything that could easily be broken or smashed if it gets into the wrong hands. Yes I am clumsy, but this one's on the kids. Pretty much everything of value we own has either been destroyed, is tucked away in the garage or put way up on the highest shelves. I don't even know where anything is anymore. The easier solution would be to simply not own anything valuable until the children are old enough to resist the temptation not to break it. 

4. A dog
I already clean up enough poo that isn't mine. I do NOT need to add the task of picking up dog logs from the lawn to my list of chores. And as much as I love animals, I do NOT need the extra responsibility of daily walks and baths, not to mention potential noise complaints from neighbours and all the other general responsibilities that come with owning another animal.

5. A drum kit
No explanation necessary.   


What do you NOT want for Christmas this year?
 
Photo credit: Shark Chunks

Friday, 29 November 2013

You want a piece of me?!


It's nice to be needed, but these days it's getting a bit out of control. Before I've even opened my eyes it's go-time, and often it's still going long after I've put myself to bed. Seems like everyone and everything wants a piece of me, and sometimes there's just not enough to go around.

This is what I'm talking about...

MEOW
The cat wants his biscuits. It's 5am, go away. And again at 6am. Ok, I give in. Lunch? No, you don't eat lunch. Dinner at 4pm? Ok, I give in. Second dinner at 8pm? Dreaming. Let me in, let me out - all, day, long. Let me sit on your lap. Meow.

WAAAA AHHH!
It's 6am, Mr 1 wants his milk and out of his cot - stat.  He wants that toy. He wants the cat. His wants his drink. He wants my hand cream. He wants out of the bath. He wants to flick the light switch. He wants. He wants. He wants...a cuddle.

TARNI SULBRANA! WATER! iPAD! TELLY! SANDWICHES! HOLD MY HAND!
Mr 3 DEMANDS his Sultana Bran and everything else under the sun. Now. And I'm the only one that can give it or get it (unless my husband is accidentally in the firing line). 

BRRRING BRRRING!
Charities want my support. My family wants a chat. The insurance and telco companies want my business - I'm already with them!

PING!
Clients want some work done immediately or to lock in a bunch of meetings. Friends want to know about dinner plans. A beauty salon wants me to fill out a survey. Someone wants me to like their Facebook page (who would do that?).
 
BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEEEEEEEEEEEEP
The microwave wants me to get the milk and food out faster. The washing machine and dishwasher won't shut up about the great clean job they've just done. The car wants me to buckle up the non-existent passenger in the front seat, who is in fact my ginormous heavy handbag. The fridge wants me to shut the darn door.  

KNOCK KNOCK
The door knockers want me to buy something or donate. I don't care what you're peddling, even if it's for a good cause, because I'm 5 minutes away from a meltdown.

HELLLOOOO
My husband is looking for action.

The alternative to being needed, wanted, relied upon, cuddled and kissed is something I don't want to experience. But some days it would be nice to have a bit of a break. Just a little one.

Ever feel like you're being pulled in a million directions?
  

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Why I'm hiding my pink bits

"Excuse me, do these effectively hide my thunder?"

Yep that's right, today I'm talking about my vagina. And my boobs. And my bum. Basically they're my pink bits and I've decided to get a tad selective about who gets to see them.

It dawned on me recently that in addition to my kids (who have no bathroom boundaries), and my husband (who of course has front row tickets anytime he wants), there are a bunch of strangers who regularly get to see my privates. There's my GP, the chick who does my laser hair removal, massage therapists (bum only) and the spray tan lady to name a few - and that's nothing compared to when you're pregnant, giving birth or breastfeeding (that's a flesh free-for-all).

So when it's time to get changed after my son's swimming lessons, I'm the idiot hiding under a towel awkwardly dressing and trying not to flash anyone. Because I just don't fancy letting it all hang out yet again in front of some more strangers.

Hairy backs aren't the only thing down at the pool - tits and fannies are in abundance in the changerooms. Usually it's the European and South American mums standing next to me in the buff showing off their muff (which I try not to look at as they chat away with not a care in the world). I know these are mums with their children, and no one is deliberately eyeing up other women (I hope!), but count me out please. 

It's not like I'm a Never Nude - and I'm certainly no prude. I went to an all girls school and grew up in a house of frequent nudity (I'm one of three girls), so have never been shy with getting changed around other females. But now I'm getting older I've decided to limit the amount of front row viewings.

I'll be the first to admit my bits don't look as good as they used to, but I think it might have more to do with the fact that I'm a mother now and mums aren't supposed to get their bits out...right? What with medical and beauty appointments, it's more than one woman can handle. So yeah, keeping the towel on thanks!

Are you a Never Nude or do you let it all hang out?

Photo credit: Arrested Development Wiki




Friday, 22 November 2013

Nursery rhymes or nightmares?

We told you not to sit on the wall man!

Like many other present day parents, it wasn't until I had children that I realised how f#cked up nursery rhymes are. Sure, you get the odd Mary with her woolly pal, but for every cute lamb song there's five other horror stories you're stupidly singing away to your child's innocent face on a daily basis.

Don't believe me? Try these on for size:

Three vision impaired mice get their tails hacked off
An egg man falls off a wall and smashes to pieces
Two kids pretty much break their necks trying to get a drink of water
A bridge falls apart

...the list goes on.

The worst one for me though is the old man sleeping while it rains who hits his head and never wakes up again - so he's dead basically. Oh, and the baby in the cradle who falls out of the tree. Lovely. Now go to sleep little one..

It's a natural instinct as a parent to trot out the songs and rhymes you were exposed to as a child. They're deeply embedded in your subconscious and it feels normal to repeat them to your own children - that is, until you realise how scary the words are.

Some disturb me so much I've started to add extra lines after the song's finished. In our house the old man can't get up in the morning but he's fine by lunchtime. Everybody's happy. I know there's a time and place for children to understand death, but a cheery throwaway ditty is not the way to go about it. And do we really want our kids terrified to go to sleep when it rains?

Of course all of these old nursery rhymes have historic meanings which are usually nowhere near as frightening as they sound in this modern age - except perhaps Ring-a-ring o'Rosies which was about the Bubonic Plague (fact: original lyrics for 'a-tishoo a-tishoo' were 'ashes ashes' which symbolised the cremation of all the dead bodies, nice). Ironically this song is one that has actually improved over time and now sounds pretty innocent.

However Humpty Dumpty, for example, was apparently a cannon during the English Civil War in the 1600s, which couldn't be put back together when it fell because it was simply too heavy. So not an egg man after all (if you're looking for one try The Beatles).

The problem is though, it doesn't really matter what the origins are of some of these nursery rhymes, most of them just sound downright horrible, and with subject matter you would never consciously dream of singing to your child.

So what's a mum to do? Well, I could just try and not sing the bad tunes anymore, but it's so hard not to! The words fly out of your mouth before you even realise what's going on. So I guess the answer is I've got to keep adding my own lines. I also sing lots of my own made-up stuff too which is great for getting the kids involved (thankfully I've cut down on my Queen act), but sometimes it just doesn't captivate the audience as much as an egg man does.

And I'm not even going to go there with fairytales. 

Which nursery rhymes give you nightmares?


photo credit: elMuscho via photopin cc

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Maybe she's born with it, maybe it's bullsh#t!

Liza wished the photographer would hurry up so she could blink.
 BUSTED! Finally, some news I was most pleased to read about last week - mascara brands are now getting their arses kicked for false advertising. That's 1,000 lashes for you Maybelline and Cover Girl! Their ads which use eyelash inserts and photo trickery to sell the promise of lashes the size of giant huntsman spiders just aren't cutting it anymore with the ad watchdogs. About bloody time.

Sure we all know most advertising stretches the truth and often outright lies (thanks to the likes of photoshop), but I've personally been baffled by mascara ads for years now. Not only do they lie by showing you a picture of some hot chick with eyelashes that clearly aren't produced by using their product, but at the bottom of the ad in small print they actually tell you this as well saying things like "lash dramatisation" or "lash enhancements used" - so yes, they openly admit in plain sight they're blowing smoke up your behind.

I've been amazed they've gotten away with it for so long. It's downright ridiculous and completely unnecessary. How dumb do they think women and drag queens are?!

I'm not going to lie, I love mascara. It's my number one make-up tool in a very, very empty bag of slap tricks. I hate buying, putting on and taking off make-up so most days go natural - except for the old mascara. So yes I buy it fairly often, and usually the big brands, but definitely not because of their wacky ads promising insane miracle eyelashes. I know they be lyin' crazies, but I like what the product does for my peepers. So there's really no need for them to go nuts on the fake ads.

Why lie like a child and go overboard on the performance promise? Women know what mascara does and if they want to look like Liza Minnelli, then it's time to get out the falsies (something I've never been bothered to do myself, but hey some people dig them).

We all know that women in push-up bra ads for small busted ladies actually have large racks in real life (or photoshop has done it for them), but mascara ads have taken crazy to coco loco levels. Would you advertise a house with three extra bedrooms and a pool when it doesn't actually have them, or a new car with bonus features including the ability to fly? Nope - not even if you put a truth disclaimer down the bottom.

So time to cut the crazy mascara brands - off with those lashes!


Do any other fake ads annoy the hell out of you? Share in the comments

photo credit: johnmuk via photopin cc 



Friday, 15 November 2013

How do you like these taters?!




Yeah that's some roastie toastie spuds right there - and I grew them in my garden, yew!

I've always loved gardening, but living in a small apartment for more than a decade has meant the opportunity to get my green thumb out has been pretty limited over the years. So when my family and I moved into our first house 18 months ago I was super keen to get stuck into the backyard, with the major goal being to create an awesome edible garden (or at least grow even a few fruit and veg of my own).

Sadly the garden was neglected for about a year - I gave birth to our second son the day after we moved - but we got some landscapers in several months ago who gave it a nice facelift; planted a few citrus and avocado trees; and set up the area for my veggie patch.

I researched what to grow and how; went and bought seeds and seedlings; and planted away with high hopes, dreaming of all the delicious organic food I was going to manifest. My eldest son and I watched with excitement as the first shoots began to sprout and seedlings flourished. I tried to keep the weeds at bay and stop our cat from doing his business in the soil with sticks. I was pumped.

And then the possums came. Or rabbits. Or both - who really knows. One day I had an awesome crop of lettuce and a good looking lime tree, the next both are chewed to stubs and sticks. Damn furry bastards. I used some natural Poss-off spray for a bit but it didn't deter them. And then the weeds starting getting crazy, and I didn't know if things were getting too much or too little water, and the wind was knocking everything about like a demolition zone. I was also too busy to look after my beautiful garden (and the kids kept trying to dig everything up).

Sigh. It seemed as though the only thing growing was my deflation. I was devastated and wished I had more time to spend working in my garden. Was my green thumb broken?

So I gave up, more or less. And that's when some magic started happening.

The spuds were ready to be dug up - hellllo tasty taters. Delicious and they also brought one of my son's favourite books to life for him - The Potato People. Exciting times.

One potato, two potato, three potato, four...

And then the rocket and chives went wild - sexy salads all round. That was about it for a while though until I chucked in a few zucchini plants my mum gave me and they went nuts almost overnight. Enter stage left: homegrown green bad boys - delicious. When we got back from our holiday last week some had actually turned into mutant giant zucchinis - I almost headed off to the county fair to win me some prize. 

One of the many mutant zucchinis and a smaller one sliced up and lightly fried in butter, yum

The colossal zucchinis don't seem to have much flavour though so I blitzed them with a few potatoes and homegrown silverbeet to make a delicious soup. Yep that's right - some of my silverbeet which had struggled big time due to munchy mammals finally broke through into adulthood and is now thriving like no one's business. Awesome.
 
A few leaves from the die hard silverbeet forest and a bowl of tasty zucchini, silverbeet & potato soup
So there you have it - my edible garden babies. I'm so proud.

Sure the avocado and lime trees have no leaves and are about to cark it; the parsley and rosemary are still chewed to stalks; and the snowpeas and garlic died - but I managed to successfully grow a bunch of other stuff (some of the lettuces also made it!), and there's still hope for the lemon, mandarin and passionfruit.

Growing your own fruit and veggies is so awesome - they're free of chemicals, they taste amazing, it's fun and really satisfying, and the kids can get involved and learn. Sure I haven't yet achieved the incredible edible garden I fantasised about, but not a bad effort considering the bunch of pests and little time and attention I gave it. 

It's amazing what you can grow without trying - imagine if I really got my Burke on?

Do you grow your own stuff? Feel free to share any lazy gardener tips with me

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

There's no place like home


The family and I just returned from our 'Bali take 2' trip which was so much better than our first attempt. This time we rewired our attitudes and expectations, and brought my sister along for the ride. The result? A lovely holiday. I'm not going to say it was perfect though, because who can really have a perfect holiday with two toddlers? Plus I did get sick for one day (thanks to my youngest having the runs when he got in the pool every, single, time), and the plane rides were pure hell. But aside from this it was mostly relaxing, fun and very enjoyable.

As is the case with almost every trip or holiday I've ever had though (and I've travelled a lot), the best part was actually coming home. We were only away 10 days yet I returned feeling refreshed, inspired, motivated and excited.

I often complain about the mundane day-to-day goings-on in my household (especially things like wiping highchairs, grocery shopping and washing), but there's something about leaving it all (even for a brief time) to make you really appreciate your home and life when you get back.

For starters, I'll never take clean tap water you can brush your teeth with for granted ever again. Not having to cart around hand sanitiser everywhere and the general reduction in germs is also a massive plus - before I used to get stressed over my kids picking stuff up off the street or touching things like bins, but they can lick the floors and walls of all the cafes in Sydney for all I care now. 

The boys were even more excited than my husband and I to walk through our front door. They ran around like lunatics grabbing our cat, playing with their toys as if they'd never seen them before and laughing for no reason other than the wonderful familiarity of it all.

I'm sure they don't miss their daily Bali sweat moustaches which were so substantial they could have warranted Movember sponsorship, and my eldest definitely doesn't miss the mosquitoes which ravaged his face so badly and caused an allergic reaction of hives (plus an increase in blood pressure for my husband and I who were worried about the risk of dengue fever and malaria).

So-called boring meals like baked beans and toast, and even broccoli, have a renewed attraction for the children, because after all, there's only so many french fries and nuggets you can have before getting fed up.

And whilst we're not millionaires, seeing how little some families in Bali have to live on and what small luxuries they have, has made me feel extremely rich and blessed.

So all in all, a great holiday and a spectacular return home. 


What's your favourite part about going away?

photo credit: KatherineKenny via photopin cc

Friday, 8 November 2013

Bin night - get it right!




Next week, 11-17 November, is National Recycling Week, which means it’s a good time for everyone to pull up those green socks and help the planet just a teeny bit more. And what better place to start than with something we’re all already doing? I’m talking about good old ‘bin night’ (or should I say, ‘bin morning’, if you’re like me and run out into the street at the crack of dawn in your nightie minutes before the truck pulls up, clutching dirty nappies and flinging bottles into your neighbour’s recycling bin because yours is too full).

The blue and yellow kerbside recycling bins are a simple enough system to ensure a bunch of our household waste gets recycled, but surprisingly a lot of people are actually doing it wrong – either by accident or from intentional laziness – so a portion of what goes in those bins might not actually be getting recycled at all. I’ve always thought I was a pretty good recycler but recently discovered even I’ve been making a few mistakes along the way.

So to make sure you don’t do the same, I spoke with Janet Sparrow, Recycling Programs Manager at Planet Ark, to get right to the bottom of our bins. Here are a few things she had to say:

Stop putting in plastic bags!
According to Janet, this is the biggest mistake people make. Worryingly, recent research undertaken for National Recycling Week found that one in four Australians (28%) incorrectly believe plastic bags can be placed in kerbside recycling bins, when they’re actually the number one contaminant for recycling centres (they jam the machines). If you want to recycle plastic bags and packaging (such as biscuit trays, frozen food bags and clean glad wrap), head to your nearest participating Coles instead – they accept all kinds of soft plastics which they then turn into school playground equipment.

Keep other non-recyclable items out
Other items commonly found in recycling bins that shouldn’t be there (and subsequently make it harder to sort and recover desired materials, limit the uses for recovered items, and cause problems with the machinery), include: old or broken drinking glasses and ceramics, batteries, nappies and polystyrene foam. A broken ceramic mug or just five grams of ovenproof glass can stop a whole tonne of otherwise recyclable glass being used to make new bottles. Ceramics, mirrors, window, white and broken glass, nappies and polystyrene should all go in the garbage; and batteries can be taken to ALDI or Battery World for recycling.

Check what your council does and doesn’t accept
Whilst some recycling bin rules are across the board, materials accepted can often vary from council to council, depending on what contract is in place with the designated waste company. So for the exact lowdown for your area, either contact your council directly or head to Recycling Near You and check under ‘kerbside recycling collection’ for your suburb or council area.

Recycling is essential to the future of our planet – the energy and resources saved when producing goods from recycled materials alone is massive, on top of the fact you stop contributing to ever-growing landfill and carbon emissions. So here are a few other useful tips on how to use your recycling bins properly: 

DO

  • Take all the lids off your bottles (to ensure there’s no liquid left or trapped air)
  • Give all your containers and bottles a quick rinse so they’re not full of food or drink remains (they don’t have to be spotless, but it makes it much nicer and easier for the sorters and detracts vermin)
  • Take care not to deliberately smash bottles when placing them in your recycling bin
  • Crush cans and flatten paper boxes where you can
  • Let other residents know not to put wrong items in the recycling bins via signage (if you’re in an apartment building)

DON’T

  • Put recyclable items such as bottles or paper inside plastic bags – they will be completely discarded because of the contaminant outer plastic bag (same goes for items like beer bottles inside paper cartons – don’t mix the recyclable materials!)
  • Put loose bottle tops in your recycling (unless your council accepts them) – anything smaller than a business card is usually too small to be sorted and gets thrown into garbage. To recycle tops, place them inside a container of the same material instead (e.g. metal beer cap inside an empty can of baked beans, or aluminium wine bottle lid inside a coke can), and squeeze it shut so the same materials get blended together in the recycling process.
  • Bother taking out staples from paper or cardboard, or ripping out plastic windows from envelopes – they’re fine to leave as is (same goes for tape stuck to boxes, and paper labels on bottles and cans)
There are so many more ways to become a better recycler – using and buying less; re-purposing or reusing items; donating goods; setting up composts or worm farms for fruit and veggie scraps; buying recycled goods yourself; and utilising fabulous places such as Reverse Garbage who accept all kinds of junk for creative reuse – to name just a few. However, if your kerbside recycling bins are the only bit of recycling you can manage to do, at least make sure you’re doing it properly!

Are you doing bin night right? Feel free to share any of your recycling tips!

photo credit: mugley via photopin cc



Friday, 1 November 2013

Sometimes you've just gotta sit in a bucket


That's my son. Sitting in a bucket, just watching the world happen in front of his 3 year-old eyes.

I've written before about seeing things from the perspective of my children and how we should all tune in to living in the present a bit more, but recently I saw something amazing which also made me realise sometimes it's just about looking up and opening our eyes.

Last week a guy in a motorised wheelchair cruised past me on the street holding a mattress in one arm. Yep that's right - a flippin' mattress. And it wasn't a child mattress either, easily a king single. I couldn't even see his face it was so big. Seriously awesome.

I'm so glad I saw this. If I'd had my head buried in my phone checking Facebook instead of looking around at just the right moment, I would have easily missed it. For him, he was probably just getting his bed from A to B, but to me it was truly remarkable. And it made me think of two things - 1) there are so many brilliant things that happen around us ALL the time, and 2) most of these are passing me by and I don't even know it.

I read this article the other day about grasping simple joys which further cemented these thoughts of mine. Of course I know we can't witness everything that goes on, but tonnes of amazing stuff is right in front of our faces at every moment - if we just open our eyes and ears. 

I know the drill though - life is busy and you're so focused on your own problems (which usually aren't important at all), that you never take the time to look around and just observe. But we really need to. Imagine what we're missing out on!

Social media is fantastic for spreading the word about interesting stories, worthy causes and more; but which would you prefer: having your head stuck in a computer or mobile device reading about awesome stuff, or using your own eyes to experience life in all it's beautiful glory first-hand?

Sometimes I think we all just need to sit in a bucket.


Had any great bucket moments of your own lately?


Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Wiggle on outta here please!

They should have done a Thelma & Louise...

Is it just me, or is there something seriously wrong about The Wiggles: the next generation? I turn on the TV and there they are, smiling and singing away like maniacs - nothing has changed except there's now a girl, two new dudes, and the smug, cheshire cat grin on veteran blue wiggle's face is more disconcerting than ever. What I want to know is, why do we even need a brand new Wiggles outfit? Aren't they done already?

I must admit, I've never been a huge fan of The Wiggles - not back when they first started 22 years ago, and not even now that I've got children myself. I have always admired their genuis megabucks global brand, but the show itself? Irritating as hell. And now the cringe factor is completely maxing out.

I was intrigued when one of them (yellow wiggle) retired a few years back due to health reasons and thought that might be the end. But no, they just replaced him and got right back in that big red car. Then when the original guy gets better, they do the old switcheroo and the old band's back together again. Ok...fine. But soon the inevitable kicks in, these old fellas have got to ease up on the all-singing, all-dancing action or they'll be wiggling their way into wheelchairs. So everyone bows out...except good old blue wiggle (aka Anthony Field). No coincidence that he is actually the creator.

I can understand why he wouldn't want the cashcow to tip over, but was the answer really to assemble a new team around him? He's suffered from mental health issues himself, so what's to say he's not also going to need a timeout soon? He could have easily continued on as the mastermind cheque-collector behind the scenes of a new act, or better yet, canned the live shows and stuck to bombarding kids with other Wiggles merchandise instead, like CDs, DVDs, games and lunchboxes. Maybe revamp their cartoon?

The Wiggles are like U2 - they've been going forever, have so many fans and continue to make shitloads of money. So they don't quit - even though maybe they should. I guess the proof is in the kids though - my boys don't really dig The Wiggles (thank god), but I know a zillion other kids do. So if children still want it and it makes them happy, well, I'm sure they're gonna keep on chugging.


Back on the new members though, a girl Wiggle in the new team is of course a very smart move for their fanbase and creates endless brand opportunities. The young dude, meh whatever, but the other older guy? Say whaaaat? Looks so wrong and out of place (I don't care that he's been involved with the group for a while, get that old face out of my face).

I'm just glad my kids aren't that into them. For a really clever, wonderfully musical, educational and super cute show - forget about hot potatoes and get into small potatoes instead.



Are you as creeped out by the new Wiggles as I am?
 
photo credit: OneTigerFan via photopin cc 

Friday, 25 October 2013

Are godparents relevant anymore?

Godfather? Me? Now that's an offer I can't refuse.
Traditionally, the role of a godparent was a religious one. Faith abiding adults were assigned to children to be their religious guides in life and help them gain a greater understanding of God and his ways (hence the title). These days? It's simply about choosing friends or family members you want to be involved in your child's life. Something didn't sit right with either option for my husband and I, and as a result both of my boys still don't have godparents yet.

We did get them baptised (being Anglican myself I was very keen on this and luckily my non-religious husband didn't object), however unlike Catholic ceremonies, we didn't have to choose godparents straight away (or at all for that matter). So after much deliberation, we decided to take the option of putting the jobs on hold, because we just didn't feel comfortable with who to pick. Here are a few reasons why.

God ain't that cool no more
It's quite hard to find openly religious people nowadays (at least with Christianity anyway), and even though I have my faith I'm not a weekly churchgoer. So even if we had selected someone steeped in the ways of the church to be a godparent, the likelihood they would have been amongst our immediate network of friends or family would have been slim. It also would have felt a bit hypocritical (given my slackness on the church front), and the relevance for our children as they got older would have been questionable.

It's quite a big ask when you think about it
I'm a godmother twice over - to one of my nephews and also the daughter of some close friends (who both also have other godmothers and godfathers in addition to me). I was extremely honoured to be asked and I know I'll always have a presence in these children's lives. I do however have friends who  have admitted to me they find being a godparent a bit stressful trying to remember birthdays and other important occasions, and they feel guilty if they haven't checked in on their godchild for a while. Kind of makes you wonder, do some people actually see it more as a burden than a blessing, and is it really just about giving presents?

What if you choose the wrong person?
Life can go in all sorts of directions. People can move away or become estranged, like what happened to a friend of mine. Her godmother was an aunt by marriage, but after she split from her uncle she never heard from her again. There's also the chance that whomever you pick might not be that keen for the task; or for one reason or another, in time they cease to be acknowledged as the godparent (which is what sort of happened with my own godmother). In many cases then you get an absent godparent, which begs the question, should you have bothered appointing them in the first place?

Family is wonderful, but...  
I did seriously consider making my two sisters the godmothers of my boys - they're amazing aunties and family do tend to stick around! However, they're already such huge presences in my children's lives, and always will be, so at the time we didn't feel the need to give them an additional title just because of formalities.

In summary, the godparent conundrum is something my husband and I discussed endlessly ever since I was first pregnant. It was worse than picking our bridal party because a wedding is a one-off event - godparents are (generally) for life. So to try and shed some light on the matter at the time, I asked around at mother's groups and playgrounds and got quite a variety of answers.

Some people had chosen godparents as a necessity because they were baptising their children to ensure placement at a Catholic school; others had chosen friends who they wanted to make feel important or included (such as those without children themselves). A bit like Lady Gaga being the godmother of Elton John's son - are they really close pals or was that just some crazy PR? Who knows, but at least old Reggie wisely chose someone younger than himself...

In my delving I also came across people who chose godparents despite not having a baptism (which to me kind of makes the title a bit odd); and some parents who mistakenly believed their appointed godparents would be the guardians of their child if anything unfortunate should happen to them. This is of course incorrect (unless they've been officially written into a legal will), however I imagine would have made the task of picking the right person even more intense.

And here we are. Two baptised children and no godparents...yet. My husband and I decided before our first son's christening that we would like to select godparents for our children, but we didn't want to force the job on anyone. So we came up with a plan which was to wait a few years and see who naturally took an interest in our children's lives, or was a good role model and a regular presence. Now that some time has passed we do in fact already have a few ideas, and when the time is right, perhaps we'll appoint some godparents after all.

Godparents - important or trivial? Let me know your thoughts...

photo credit: BFLV via photopin cc

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Time travelling without moving...from the couch

Hoverboards - just do it.
My husband and I recently watched the movie Looper. You know, that slick time travel flick that came out last year, where Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a mob-hired hitman who whacks people sent back in time from the future, which is all fine and dandy until he has to 'close the loop' and kill his future self (Bruce Willis)?

I was so pumped about watching this film, such an exciting and interesting story premise. Great actors too and it looked visually fantastic from the trailers. As far as those things went, it didn't disappoint. Where it did suck massively however was the plot - it didn't make any bloody sense! Forget about 'closing the loop,' the writers just left a giant piece of untied rope dangling for viewers to bend into some kind of vague explanation for themselves on what actually went down.

Where was Doc Brown and his blackboard timelines when I needed him?! The time travel aspects of this film were purely bogus - which is fine if you're Bill & Ted, but not suitable for this action thriller. It was ANNOYING. And such a waste of what could have been a brilliant film.

Sure, I knew going in it was a time travel movie (which means I should have left common sense at the door and enjoyed the ride), but I felt like the writers were simply lazy and didn't bother trying to make the story even half believable. And for that reason, I just couldn't shake their dirty, loopy timeline from my mind.

Left feeling pissed off, it made me think about all the other time travel movies out there which ARE really good. And there are heaps.

Time travel is super tricky to get right I know, and even the best in the genre have lots of mistakes. But they can be easily forgiven if the plot generally seems plausible (unlike Looper), or it's a crazy comedy where mistakes doesn't matter (the rest of the film of course has to be great too).

In my opinion, time travel movies should only fall into two categories:

1. Feel-good comedies where it's all just a silly, fun romp and plot sense means jack; or

2. On-the-edge-of-your-seat dramas or thrillers, where some serious shit goes down (as it should - because time travel in reality would be complicated, full of sacrifices and not so excellent)

So get your flux capacitor out, because here are my picks of top time travel flicks:

Back to the Future trilogy
Ah, the motherload of time travel entertainment. Simply amazing film-making here in all aspects, and so enjoyable you never get tired of watching it, no matter how old you get. I'm not even going to bother summing up the plot because if you haven't seen it or at least know what it's about, well quite frankly I don't know how you're alive right now. Also has the best time travel method in any movie by far.

Twelve Monkeys
Bruce Willis doing time travel as it should be done - with class AND intelligence. Oh, and with Brad Pitt, acting all cray cray. In the future a disease has devastated the world so Bruce is sent back in time to collect information on who might have caused it so the big wigs can prevent it ever happening. Weirdly wonderful, exciting and even tugs the heart strings.

Primer
Two words - f#cked up! This is a low budget indie about some ordinary dudes who are pretty smart so they invent a time machine, and things go really, really wrong. With no-name actors and little effects, it makes the story insanely realistic.

The Butterfly Effect
Ashton Kutcher does serious - and it works! A guy works out that the memory blank spots from his childhood are actually windows in time he can revisit via his journal. He of course goes back to try and change the past for the better, but instead makes things worse - again, and again.

The Door
Not to be confused with a bunch of other movies with the same title, this is a German film in the same league as Primer - squeamish yet thrilling to watch. After the death of his daughter, a successful artist's life goes down the toilet, but after finding a mysterious time portal he gets a stab at a do-over. Soooo unique, deliciously eerie and twisted.

Hot Tub Time Machine
A bunch of dudes (why is it always men going back in time?) get in a hot tub, get drunk and wind up back in the 80s. Good times and hilarity ensues, with some feelgood, life improving stuff thrown in. Enjoyable popcorn viewing.


What's your favourite time travel movie?

photo credit: Phantom Leap via photopin cc
 

Friday, 18 October 2013

Dagnammit - mumma's gonna get s**t done!


But ARE these Darth's favourite? Damn it!

One of my biggest gripes with life is that there's never enough time to do all the things I want (and need) to do. On top of being a mum, running the household and working from home; I'm always juggling a bunch of different projects, so it frustrates the hell out of me that I don't have more time. I was thinking about that this week and trying to work out how I could sneak more time into my life when the answer hit me - be more decisive.

I recently worked out I spend at least 14 minutes each week deciding what to cook for dinner (that's only for my husband and I, not what the kids eat), and that's just the tip of the iceberg. For some reason I'm pretty good at making big, important decisions quickly - but when it comes to insignificant, minor stuff? I'm a class-A shocker.

I'm one of those annoying people in restaurants who always makes the waiter come to me last because I need more time in case I order the wrong thing and have food envy. I can also easily spend at least 10 minutes weighing up the pros and cons of one washing detergent over another; I always spend ages deciding what to wear every time I go out somewhere other than the shops or kindy, and sometimes I even spend a good 5 minutes deciding what to write on one measly Facebook comment.

Get a grip! Imagine if I just cut the crap and made faster decisions on these unimportant things? I'd have so much more time!

Excited by my new idea for stealing minutes and hours, I hit the google machine this week to find out the best ways I could put my new decisive plan into action.

There was, of course, an abundance of advice out there, with most of it geared around people who aren't naturally confident and never take action on life-changing decisions. This isn't me - as mentioned before I'm pretty good at putting my mind to things and making stuff happen, but annoyingly, I completely suck at all the tiny bullshang.

The good thing about small decisions is that they're usually not significant. Even so though, I don't want to be rash. I want to make quick decisions that are still relatively smart. The info I found often applies to both small and huge decisions, but the nuggets I took away with me are focused purely on how I can pick up the pace on all the small stuff, which I'll now be attempting to incorporate into my busy life.

So here are my compiled top tips and goals for making quick decisions:

Be organised and plan ahead
A know a guy who grew up with the same weekly dinner menu his entire childhood. Monday was spaghetti, Tuesday was steak and veg... you get the idea. Sounds mental, but man I bet his mum had some serious spare time up her sneaky sleeves. I did do a meal planner for a while but it dropped off for some reason, so it's time to bring it back. Don't think I can do a set weekly menu for life though, I'll stick to planning each week out on the Sunday night prior. Takes 5 minutes and saves so much time in deciding what to cook, cuts down on trips to the shops, saves money and reduces food waste. Booyah! I'm sure there are a heap of other things I can get more organised about too, like saving online grocery lists instead of doing new ones from scratch each time, and deciding what to wear to an important function in advance.

Don't sweat the small stuff
I tend to way overthink small decisions when there is absolutely no need to. Ridiculous. Apparently this is a syndrome of being afraid of making the wrong decision. Will my life be ruined if I choose Chinese over Indian takeaway and it ends up not being what I actually felt like? YES! Well, no actually. I don't even want to think about the amount of time I've deliberated over what to order in. Mental. Most decisions for small things are a fleeting moment and gone so quickly they're forgotten in no time at all. So why take so long to make that choice? No more!

Forget perfection and love my choice
No one can make the right decision every time. Well, at least quickly anyway. So I need to forget about striving for perfection (especially as these decisions are so minor), and just get on with it. And when the decision is made, I need to accept it and enjoy it. No regrets or lamenting - wastes too much time! 

Chop chop - put a deadline on small decisions
Don't allow myself to mull over or dwell on small decisions, just decide already and move on! If I need to, I should give myself a very short deadline. i.e. menu selection - max 5 minutes! Because small decisions should not be put off, they should be made NOW.

Limit my choices
Last year Barack Obama announced he was only going to wear blue and grey suits from then on so he could focus his "decision-making energy" on more important stuff. Smart move. What choices could I cut down for myself? De-cluttering my wardrobe and kitchen pantry would be a start; deciding on the brand of toilet paper we're always going to use, and reducing my pile of unused lipsticks and glosses to one or two would also be good. I'm sure there are a zillion more things if I put my mind to it.

Go with my gut
If I pulled out the black dress first, chances are I'm going to come back to it again after I've been through 20 other outfits, because I initially picked it for a reason. Instinct is almost always right so I shouldn't ignore it.

Trust experience
If I've faced a small decision before, I should recall what I did last time. Did it work? Was it right? If so, then no brainer. Stick with what I know and let history repeat. And if it's a decision for something I haven't experienced, like choosing a new hairdresser, I shouldn't go blind but instead ask a friend who might know a good place nearby. I actually did this recently - massive time saver.

Live in the present
Never lose sight of being present and living in the moment. If I'm sitting at a restaurant huddled over a menu for half an hour, I've missed out on some great conversation with friends. And for what? The prospect of the perfect meal choice? Time is money, and it's also life. I don't want to waste either.

My decision to be more decisive is purely driven by a desire for more time, however making fast, intelligent decisions is definitely a good habit to get into. For starters, in a work capacity decisive people are more respected and followed, leading to faster career progression and a more enjoyable working situation geared around the decision maker. Basically, being decisive can make sure you get what you want out of life and in my case, get more shit done. Amen to that.
 
Do you sweat the small stuff? What tips do you have for being more decisive?

photo credit: coleypauline via photopin cc

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