Monday, December 29, 2014

Top 3: Shoddy Stuff of 2014

Every year I make some dud purchases.
 Some years there are a few that stand out more then others.
Here are my top three for 2014.

1. Mister Moss

I have a passion for real Christmas trees. Love everything about them and no matter how good you think your fake tree is, it's a fake tree.

When I saw the delightful Mister Moss Christmas trees on sale at a local shop, I grabbed them. I was excited about having Christmas trees all year round.

I bought three at once and Mr H hung them outside in our outdoor eating area.

According to the instructions they just need a good dunk in water once a week to keep them going.

But they seemed to be drying up so we watered them some more on days when it was 45 degrees.

When you water them you have to soak them in a bucket of water, imagine when you get the plants out of the water - they drip like crazy. This was ok for us as they were outside, but I don't know how you would cope if they were inside.

Then one of our trees started to die. I sent Mister Moss an email asking for advice and got no reply. The tree slowly turned a bit browner.

Then I asked a question on their instagram account to try and get some help. They ignored me again.

As our tree curled up its toes I went to Facebook and left a message there, but still, they didn't respond.

I gave that plant more attention then any other and still it died.

The string that gives it so much of its character, well that rots too. With all the watering it eventually breaks off, leaving your three perfectly aligned trees not so perfect anymore as the string levels adjust.

These plants are $75 a pop. They look modern and interesting and are a great centrepiece for a table or an event. Just don't go buying them if you want any follow up advice or service.

My remaining trees started to look like they were heading to heaven too so I have recently planted them in the ground, they seem to be the happiest they have ever been.

2. GEOX School Shoes

 My kids have funny shaped feet and they are expensive shaped feet.

I have tried to get them into some cheaper options but it just isn't worth it. The blisters, the innersoles, the falling over.

We have a local shoe shop that fits them in shoes that are comfortable and perfect for their feet. This year Immy started school in a great pair of GEOX school shoes.

For a decent pair of school shoes I forked out $120 and knew we would get most of the year out of them.

Until we didn't.

I was happy to pay for all leather shoes, I like that I can clean them up through the year and make them last as much of the year as possible.

Vinyl ain't leather.

If kids feet grow and you have to get new shoes, it's a bit of bad luck. But when the leather is not actually all leather, but trimmed with fake leather, and the toes of the shoes are gone through in just a few weeks...ANNOYING.

I had to go and buy more school shoes in the same size Immy was already wearing because these fell apart so quickly.

If I wanted half vinyl/half leather shoes, I would have bought them in the first place.

If you are buying GEOX shoes you might get a great fit, but be aware you might be forking out for vinyl rather then leather.

3. The ANZ Bank

I know, we all hate banks, they take our money, make us pay too much interest and the fees. THE FEES.

However, I quite like a decent bank. I like the apps that make knowing where my money is (and isn't) and I like the security of having a little place that my wage goes to each week. I like direct payments of my bills and I am happy for our banks to be making a gazillion dollars a week, it makes me comfortable.

Banks are now very well equipped to know just what is going on in the lives of their customers. Some people think the banks even have a little too much knowledge of our everyday actions.

So there is no excuse for poor marketing and lazy direct mail marketing campaigns.

The ANZ bank, the very same bank that closed my Mums account within days of my Dad dying (let's not even get started on that one) is able to know that a person is dead within a few days.

Yet, they can not seem to work out how to tell the people over the partition in the work station looking after insurance marketing. Instead, they keep sending my Dad letters, mainly asking if he would like to take out a life insurance policy.

The answer is YES. Yes, he would really like to take out a life insurance policy, but as you well know ANZ, he is six foot under and can't seem to sign the paperwork. However, should you find a way to bring him back, we promise to take up every insurance policy you suggest.

What has been the most shoddy purchase at your place this year?

Monday, December 22, 2014

Theme Free Birthday Party

Remember back in the day when you just had a party, your Mum sent out the invites and then on your birthday all your friends came over for a play. You all played in the backyard and then the grown ups served a cake, usually from the Women’s Weekly cookbook.

Such great memories and I don’t remember my Mum being particularly stressed about these events. Perhaps she was and I was ignorant of it.

Immy wanted to turn 6 with a party at home this year. After the ease of having her party totally outsourced last year I was a bit reluctant. I started by asking her what kind of party she wanted, but Immy kept not providing me with anything. It took me some weeks to figure out that she didn’t want any theme. NONE.

Gourmet Food for 6 year olds.

There were requests though. There was to be pass the parcel, pin the tail on the donkey and musical statues. There was also a requirement for a giant bowl of lollies and cupcakes. She wanted all the dress ups out so people could wear any thing they wanted.

She requested a cake in the shape of a dog.

Pinterest was not much help with any of the party planning for a theme free birthday. Instead I just had to sit back and accept that the party was going to be pretty basic. When it came to food Immy requested fairy bread, party pies and sausage rolls – it couldn’t get any easier.

It ended up being such a delightful party. Our house and backyard was filled with little girls just running around playing.

Miss 8 and her friend Mr 8 asked for a job to do so I set them up at the Nail Bar and Tattoo Station using some nail polish and make up that had arrived in the mail from Shop Naturally. I had a large packet of fairy tattoos which they all applied with gusto.

Once they had their fingers painted and learnt how to apply the tattoos, each of the kids really became quite creative with both the paints and the tattoos. The Dads joined in too, leaving with freshly painted toes. 

I took up the offer from a friend to help me out with the cake and she whipped up a dog that even had an I for Immy on it’s collar.

The most stressful part of the entire party was having to decide if I should put a gift in every wrapper of pass the parcel. I ended up asking what to do on my facebook page and the answer was clear, 95% of Mums are sick of  kids expecting a prize. They are happy for their kids to realise that there is only one winner. So with that support I boldly went for the one prize only option and the kids had no problem with it at all. Most had never even played pass the parcel.

Dress ups were a big hit with some kids wearing an outfit for the entire party. I also dragged out a CD player with a microphone which was used (loudly).

While some kids sang others sat and played Barbie and some went to play with the dog. A few others swang upside down on the swing set.

I left the chalk out and asked people to leave a message on our chalkboard wall.

I provided minimal direction for the entire party other than pointing out where the food and drinks were. The rest of the time I left it to the 18 kids to work out what they were doing.

Ten minutes before the end of the party I served the cake, it was delicious, and then most of our guests went home.

We continued celebrating all afternoon and then for dinner with more family and friends until eventually the birthday girl fell asleep on the floor beside the new Barbie Glamper Van.

The theme less party was nearly as stress free as the out sourced party. It might not ever get a pin on Pinterest, but I highly recommend it.

Your kid will certainly Tanck you.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Letter to the world - fifth edition

Hello world. It’s my yearly blog post time, which means just one single thing. I am a year older.

The year of five was flat out. I started school and left Mum home on her own all week. This was the first time in eight years that she had time to herself. The question to ask is, exactly what did she do with that time? I don’t know the answer, but by the end of the year Mum got herself a personal trainer, that wasn’t so much fun because she complained a lot about having sore legs, then arms and then she ended up crawling on the floor unable to walk when she hurt her back. Anyway, that was the end of personal training.

Earlier in the year I got whooping cough. Mum didn’t talk about it here because she couldn’t be bothered with the conversations about vaccinations. I was lucky, I had been vaccinated so my cough wasn’t as bad as some of the babies who haven’t had their needles. I also got to sleep with Mum and Dad for two months because the whoops are really bad at night time. Mum and Dad said it was like having a new baby in the house again, but it didn’t seem like that to me, I would love to have a baby sister. I ask for one every week, but still there is no baby here.

One day I split my chin open when I fell up the step at school and I needed a trip to be stuck back together and then I split the back of my skull open on my bedhead. That was an interesting Saturday night at the emergency doctor, they used my hair to tie my skin in place and lots and lots of glue. Everyone wanted to look at it.

Other than injury I have also been very busy dancing my way through the year. I have done disco dancing at school and I can sing Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes in Japanese. I was probably the bestest ballerina on stage at my dance concert, that’s what Nana told me.

When I grow up I am still going to be a vet to baby animals. I am not so sure about fish anymore though. When we went to Singapore, Mum and I went in the giantist reef you have seen, it was good for a bit, but those fish came a bit close to me and I had to go on Mums back for the next 50 metres around the reef. Mum’s snorkel kept filling up with water when I was pushing on her head. I don’t think Mum liked it very much, she seemed happy to reach the end.

It took awhile but I have mastered the art of scooter riding and now I’ve got it, I really like scootering very very fast. So fast, that my leg sometimes aches the next day from too much scootering.

Being five has been pretty good for me, I went on an overseas trip for the first time and got a passport. Then I went to all the worlds in Queensland. Plus I climbed some really big mountains when Dad took us bushwalking. I learnt to read so fast that I surprised everyone when I just started reading big girl books with no pictures.  I even have days now when I don’t insist on wearing a dress. I still LOVE playing with my baby dolls and my toys, I love making cakes, but only if I get to lick the spoon AND the bowl. Actually I don’t even really want the cake., just the mixture. Actually, isn’t this just what ‘raw food’ is…cake mixture?

I don’t know everything yet, but if being six is as good as being five, the year ahead is going to be awesome. I am going to have swimming lessons again, I might start karate, I will have a think about riding my bike without training wheels.  I will be climbing trees and swinging off monkey bars, wearing out all of my shoes faster than I can grow out of them.

I have been five for a really really long time so come on down six, I am ready and waiting to explore every second you got.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

5 Things: Shopping for me.

We have had a few extra travels this year and filled the house with a few new bits of furniture so Mr H and I have agreed that we are not really doing Christmas presents for each other.

Instead we have a $50 limit to buy each other something, anything. Nothing amazing, just a token something. Or something for a laugh. Whatever.

It is proving very difficult for him.

Firstly, because when he goes shopping the first place he goes is to the bike shop, followed closely by the golf shop. He just can not find anything to buy for me. Just lots and lots for himself.

He has walked around the shops for hours and is still empty handed - well actually, it is me who will be empty handed come Christmas morning.

There have also been whispers that I might be one of those people that is difficult to buy for, no way. I don't want to be one of those people.

If you need to buy a little something this Christmas (for me) here you go Mr H.

A book. Everyone needs something more to read. You can't be re-reading old books, life is too short and you don't have the time, there are too many books to read.

Right now, I need this book because it is my next book club read.

What do I break, lose, scratch and never have enough of every summer?

I have given up having pricey specs, but I always need some new ones. I don't even care what they look like, as long as they are in the car when I need them (three pairs would be useful).

Can never have enough of....ELK.

Anything at all, I will wear it.

A groovy hairbrush (that I don't have to share with the girls and never goes missing from the bathroom).

An extra charger for my phone so that I never miss all your important calls again.

See! It is super easy to buy me a little gift.

Otherwise you could always make me something - like dinner for a whole month?

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Review: Officeworks Kodak Picture Kiosk.

This is a sponsored post

With Christmas fast approaching I’m challenged once again to find the perfect Christmas gift for Mr H. I wanted to find something that’s thoughtful and personalised and that’s when it struck me - a family photobook which captures all of our favourite memories from the year that’s past!

I’ve been making the effort to get more photos of us as a family. I even gave myself the formal challenge of trying to take a photo of me with at least one member of the family every single week in 2014.

With only three weeks to go, I have so far succeeded!

I called this little challenge #MyFamilyandMe and I started it after I noticed that our 2013 photobook was pretty much just all the kids and no one else. In 50 years time it would seem like we were never present.

With all these photos from the year on the computer I downloaded them onto a USB and headed off to the Kodak Picture Kiosk at Officeworks.  

It was really simple to plug in the USB and go straight to collating the photobook. I actually had so many photos of us all that I needed to add in an extra 10 pages to the standard photo book.

There were some pages that I only wanted the one image on, but most I allowed four to a page.

Photobook on screen

The end result was a photo album that we can easily flick through to see the year of 2014 for our family, with 30 pages and a hard cover, my photobook was $35.50.

While I was there I also printed up a few special Christmas postcards for Immy. She has two very good friends, they have been together for a few years in crèche and at school, but one of them is leaving as her parents head off to be expats in a new country. I had a lovely photo of the three of them when they were all dressed up for school. I wanted to get it printed for them, as they are such lovely friends, and it was just under $5 for the three of them.

Lastly, I couldn’t resist getting a few other images from the year printed up as photos. I want to get them framed and placed on the girls’ bedroom walls.

Once I printed out the receipt for my products and paid for them, I had an hour to wait.  There was only one thing left to do.

I went and tried out all the calligraphy textas, the special pencils, the new style pens. I used up heaps of the scribble paper they have out just practicing my writing. I haven’t done that in a really long time. Did you know that using a calligraphy texta still doesn’t work if you don’t move your hand in the correct way?

As I must confess to a stationery addiction I also purchased some more notebooks that I did not need (but loved too much to leave behind), some washi tape (can you ever have enough?) and more pens.

It was actually good that I bought them, because then I watched this on the Officeworks ‘How To’ page. I don’t care how fancy the cards are that you bought this year, nothing ever beats handwritten AND handmade.

There are more ideas in the clip below too. Even a husband could make these ones with the kids.

As we found ourselves embracing the digital age over the last decade, Mr H and I have been guilty of not printing many of our favourite images. Making the time to print a book at the end of each year is a great way to ensure we have the best mix of digital and print images. Because surrounding yourself with your most favourite of things is an important way to make everyday life wonderful.

Have you got a photo of you and your family together this year? Have you had it printed?

For inspiration on creative and personalised gift-giving, check out Officeworks ‘How To’ videos or join in the conversation on social media via #creativechristmas

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Being fabulous is not good for blogging

Fabulous Poppy. 

My blog posts are getting fewer and fewer. There is no denying it. Not because I am not happy here, quite the opposite. I love this blog.

Writing has never been my strength in the marketing world, but the answer to improve your writing is to just keep writing, try to write every single day. Just like reading or maths or cartwheels. If you do them every single day, you just get better and better.  Writing is something that I know I need to keep working on, and I am really happy to use this space to do that.

At the same time, I want to be fabulous as a mum and a wife and a friend and an employee and attempting fabulous can cut into my time quite a lot.

Being a fabulous Mum means different things for different families, it doesn’t mean being the only person available at every second of the day for your children, that would be crazy, but it does mean realising when you need to sacrifice time on something you want to do because your kids need you that bit extra for now. Some weeks it seems that I need to do this more than others. A blog post can wait, but childhood waits for no Mumma.

There are many benefits in building real life friendships in the community around you, but this takes lots of in real life effort too. It’s not hard, in fact once you start to get a group of people around you who make you laugh, share their stories, entertain you and are good fun, you just want to go be your own type of fabulous with them more and more. It could provide great blog fodder, but instead you are off having lunch again with no time to write the blog post.

I am on school council and committees and have duties as a taxi driver for the girls’ activities. I am also working more and more. I am lucky to have family who visit from near and very very far and when we are all together we eat lots and talk lots and have good times. Even the kids now take off with the ipads and make iMovies of their days together. Fabulous stuff.  Fabulous little clips that I love.

When you have a job you enjoy and an employer who is flexible enough to embrace your crazy working mind and the ideas that just flow from it, you can sometimes get really busy and have to change the whole week around. Being busy is fabulous. Doing stuff is fabulous. Writing about work things is not allowed, but I do write a blog at work, so somedays I get home and I might have written up three blog posts already. 

My back has recently gone bezerko and had me gulping great quantities of medication just to be able to stand up. This is not so fabulous. This is actually very much another f word altogether. But it has given me a few days to sit and stare at my blog and think about what is going on with it. It’s changing, but it’s not going anywhere, well, not anywhere that isn’t fabulous that’s for sure.

May your week be good and remember to always protect your back.