Monday, December 22, 2014

Give More/Self Less with Kiva

Traditionally, Christmas is a time not only for gathering and spending time with friends and family, but also for helping others. A lot people donate time or money to charity, but one of my preferred methods of helping my fellow humans is through microfinance.

I've blogged before about my lending through Kiva, and recently my last loan was paid off. This means I had another $25 to a person who cannot otherwise access finance from big financial instituations.

Kiva's holiday campaign "Give More/Self Less" is definitely a message I can get on board with. These loans change lives, empowering the recipients to earn an income for themselves and their families.

If you're looking for a last-minute gift, they even do gift cards.

This time, I have lent to Aiperi from Kyrgyzstan, who needs funds to buy livestock. I used one of my Kiva teams, Nerdfighters, to find the loan and got on board. As you may know, I like to support women entrepreneurs whenever I lend.

It's kind of an amazing feeling knowing your money is working for another person far across the world.

Have you ever lent via Kiva? What charities do you like to support at Christmas?

Friday, December 19, 2014

Don't Be Cheap... Sometimes

"God, look at this! Machine-made lace... I hate cheap clothes. They're twice the work and never look as good." - Elsie, Gosford Park

A confirmed cheapskate and thrify person for most of my life, as I've grown I've found there are several things that ARE worth spending a little more on, for reasons of comfort and economy. There's only so much budget-buying that one person can take, after all. Making savings is all well and good, but economy has to be balanced sensibly with SOME nice things which are essential for one's mental resilience (in my humble opinion). Even our grandmothers got around war-time austerity sometimes!

Ever since ruining my feet with years cheap of cardboard-soled ballet flats (there's a lesson there ladies!) I have been grumpy about paying lots more for orthopedic-friendly shoes. But honestly, I have never been more comfortable in the foot department. The higher price tag also delivers better quality, so I'm wearing my pared-down shoe wardrobe for much longer. Excellent price-per-wear return. SO STOP BUYING CHEAP SHOES. Wish I could tell my younger self that.

Toilet Paper
I've always been jealous of my mother's quilted Cottonnelle dunny paper and recently my own financial circumstances have allowed a modest increase in the grocery budget. Thus, the move from the cheapest 2-ply to the loveliest of loo paper has been made. Trust me, you're worth it, in your own ensuite at the very least.

Champagne and wine
If there's one thing I detest, it's cheap and nasty booze. Selecting a wine or champers based on lowest price occasionally pays off, but not often enough to make it worthwhile in my opinion. Unfortunately, you have to spend money to know what labels you like best... but once you've figured that out, the stress goes out of the whole choice drama and you'll probably be happy to pay a little more if you have end up having posh preferences. The happy thing is you most likely will enjoy a mid-range bottle as much as an expensive one.

Christmas Crackers
I don't care what anyone says - there are amazing expensive crackers; cute, kitsch crackers and there are cheap and nasty ones. I remember one year the little gifts inside some $2 shop crackers were so strange and disappointing we were all left deflated. There wasn't even any lame jokes! Spend a bit more and make sure you get some novelty plastic bits along with a paper hat that will last more than 2 minutes to have fun with around the dinner table. Make sure you tweet the jokes too, there's usually a hashtag on Xmas day that is groan-worthily hilarious.

Tea and coffee
I don't want to sound like a Goddamn Hipster, but caffeine is an area you just don't want to muck around with budget options in. One of my old workplaces was such a Scrooge it used to buy us all Andronicus teabags because they were the cheapest thing offered by the office supply company. I inititated a petition to spend a little more and an upgrade to Lipton was granted. I swear productivity increased. And although I don't drink coffee, we all know that International Roast is the Devil's Work.

So, now I have shared my wisdom, tell me - what items do you always spend more on, and why? What's worth the extra dough if you can afford it?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Tipping Point

This post has a lot of questions. Not all are rhetorical.

On the weekend, I had a bit of a disagreement with the staff at a certain "gourmet" burger chain. It left me bewildered, embarrassed and then angry. But in the end I waved it off. But my friend got up and went and yelled at the staff, because she felt strongly about the horrid customer service we'd been given.

I was so grateful. I felt strongly about the whole issue too, but not enough to actually take action, to DO SOMETHING.

I've been thinking about Taking Action a lot lately. Particularly with regards to growing up and being a responsible citizen and conscientious voter. When we see something we disagree with, we should speak up, yes? Then why don't we?

Why will a train carriage full of people steadfastedly ignore that one person who is blatantly breaking the rules? Why will one person film an altercation with their phone but not attempt to stop the wrongdoing they are capturing?

There are a number of complex issues here, but I think it boils down to two things - fear and caring. In order to get past the fear of speaking out or taking action, you need to care enough about what is happening.

Last week, I signed a petition that someone had got up regarding cuts to the ABC. This is something I feel strongly about, but if the petition had not been placed directly in front of me (ie. via an easily clickable link), I probably would not have done anything about it. I would not have written about it, or tweeted my feelings, or even - my goodness - written to my MP about it. Isn't that what people do, write to their MP about stuff?

So, I have been thinking some more about my tipping point - what has to happen for me to actually take action? There are abundant wrongs that need righting in the world - at what point do I take up the banner and start making noise?

I do not tend to voice my political opinions online, but I have political opinions. I am not someone who will pick up the phone and call radio talkback, or write stern letters. I will not write opinion pieces or lobby for change. I do not turn up for protests. But I feel like I should consider these options, as valid ways to make my voice heard.

Because if the people who can solve problems cannot hear the voice of those asking for change, how can they take action themselves?

I'm interested - what's your tipping point? What does it take for you to write that letter?

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Got 99 Problems, but Working With Brands Ain't One

This is a post that's been rattling about in my head for a while.

We all know bloggers like to blog about blogging. Especially about "the business of". I read a lot of posts complaining about PRs, marketing and brands, usually along the lines of:

- they send me stupid pitches for dumb stuff
- they send generic emails, not even bothering to find out my name
- they expect free publicity and don't want to pay for my hard work helping their exposure 

... And so on. 

I just wanted to say that I don't have any of these problems. Would it be boasting to say I don't get emails from PRs or brands AT ALL? Not surprising, considering my blog is small and not monetised, but the vocal outpourings of some bloggers about their PR problems would lead you to believe we were all drowning in pitches and press releases!

I don't know how many years I've been blogging - a few anyway - but in that time I've only received three PR emails. Two were asking for free plugs and one was a press release. Both were for products that suited my blog's themes, but I had no idea what to do with them!

Am I the only one? I'm sure if I said I felt a bit left out some would roll their eyes!

Do you get lots of PR emails? Pain in the neck or welcome opportunities?

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Op Shops of Brisbane: Vinnies Eagle Junction

Op Shops of Brisbane is a series where I talk about charity shops I go to. Feel free to suggest a good one to me - I live on the north side but have been known to drive great distances for a good browse!

There's a bit of an urban legend about opshopping - that the nicer the suburb, the better quality the items you can find. I was over the posher side of town recently so my cousin and I decided to check out the closest op shop to Ascot we could find - Vinnies at Eagle Junction. 

Situated on the main road, parking is off street or across the road at the shops near the train station. Though a small shop, I found it to be packed with goodies!

Straight away I gravitated to the plus-size rack (yes, they have one) and found the urban legend to be real - Gucci, Ralph Lauren and the like were readily available! Of course, I can't tell the difference between a real and a fake when it comes to these things, so use your discretion.

They have a small bric-a-brac section, books and toys in the back rooms too. I didn't see much to attract the eye in the home/kitchenware department when we were there unfortunately. 

The volunteers were extremely lovely and helpful and everything was nearly organised. The front clothing section is more like a small boutique than a thrift shop, frankly! 

I highly recommend a look at this op shop if you're in the area - you never know what treasures you may unearth!

Find Vinnies Eagle Junction
281 Junction Road, Eagle Junction QLD 4011

Open Mon - Fri 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Sat 9:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Sun Closed

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Mailing of Junk

Every year it's the same. The incremental increase in junk mail that goes almost unnoticed until your mailbox is groaning with Christmas catalogues in a daily basis. 

This afternoon as I pulled into my drive I noticed a gentleman strolling along with a bagful of catalogues I recognized him as a letterbox dropper who I'd seen in my street before. I put the car away and scurried to the mailbox to see what surprises he had left me. 

You know the tube where a newspaper is supposed to go? Ours has a pretty generous circumference but I must say it was struggling with the roll of shiny paper that had been crammed unceremoniously into it. 

Now, when I first moved to the city from the farm, I LOVED junk mail. It was a novelty. It was so colorful AND full of beautiful products I might like to purchase! 

A few years later, I'm on the couldn't-care-less bus. I usually just keep the Aldi brochure (I love me a weekly special) and bin the rest. 

But today I felt bad for the man that delivered them, he obviously walked so far to deliver the fat roll of marketing material to all the ingrates in my street. I spared a thought for the pittance he was probably paid for doing such an awful job. 

But after a few moments consideration, I put it all in the recycling anyway. 

What do you do with junk mail? Do those stickers actually work? Why do you think companies spend so much money on print marketing in this digital age?

In and Out

I go through phases with things. Here's what my TV watching schedule is like lately.


The 100 - started watching this because I heard it was based on a YA novel/series and was intrigued by the premise. Though it's not making me fall in love with the characters I'm persevering.

Penny Dreadful - I suspect I don't know nearly enough about Victorian horror to fully appreciate the nuances of this show but at least I have seen Bram Stoker's Dracula so I kind of know what's going on. Eva Green is ace and Timothy Dalton is aging well.

The Newsroom - I know it's a bit wanky but I do love the fast pace of this show. I have knots in my stomach the entire episode every time I watch it. Jeff Daniels is magnificent in this. I find it hard to reconcile that he is the same person as Larry in Dumb and Dumber.

The Leftovers - I love a good world-is-ending story and this one had a hook I hadn't heard of before -2% of the world's population just disappear into thin air one day. Then the rest of those left behind have to deal with it. I'm liking it so far, even Liv Tyler isn't getting on my nerves too much.

Criminal Minds - I boycotted this show for a while when Reid's One True Love was murdered and I got very upset by it (too emotionally involved in the characters) but I'm back on board now. I enjoy the keen minds, the problem solving and Garcia.

NCIS - though I miss Ziva the new girl is pretty cool. Even though this show has had countless seasons I continue to watch because I love the characters and I care about them. Abby (along with the aforementioned Garcia) is one of my fave female characters of all time. 

The Walking Dead - Yes, another end-of-the-world show, but I do love a good Zombie or two. I didn't think that the creators of this show could do much more with the rag-tag bunch of survivors we've all come to know and love but I continue to be surprised, intrigued and invested. I always want to know what happens next.

Long Lost Family - Who'd have thought that I'd fall in love with a show that reunites children, siblings and parents? But every episode is a real and touching story. And it usually makes me cry.

Marvel's Agents of SHIELD - Coulson is the man. I adore this show so much. 'Nuff said.

Scorpion - I know it's ridiculous and cliched and I am really worried they are going to make Walter fall in "love" even though the whole time they take pains to underscore that he probably not emotionally capable of that, but I enjoy this show every Sunday night. The supporting characters are quite lovable and I do love me a bit of Robert Patrick.


NCIS: New Orleans - I tried. But I just couldn't. The original is a hard act to follow but it just didn't work for me. Scott Bakula is kind of a running joke in my house too.

Gotham - watched 1.5 eps and gave up. Didn't interest me in the slightest. There was nothing to draw me in.

Fashion Bloggers - this was not the show I thought it would be. I hoped for so much more but instead it turned out to be a half hour of thin women taking pictures of themselves in clothes so expensive the only people that wear it are gifted or lent it.

Save With Jamie- I'm sorry to say it but I'm almost all Jamie'd out. I don't believe his recipes are cost-effective or time-saving any more and the ingredients are sometimes just ludicrous.


Castle - The last season finale was the most ridiculous thing I've ever seen - drama for the sake of drama. I know that when the UST between a show's couple is resolved, writers always struggles to create watchable storylines. But going down the path of throwing challenges in the face of the relationship is SO predictable. I have a long-standing love of Nathan Fillion though so I will probably keep watching even if it does go very bad.

Covert Affairs - another show where they recently resolved the UST. I have waited a LONG time for Aussie tv to show the new season and frankly it's gone to crap since the two hot leads got together. The plotlines, though always complicated, are now so convoluted they are impossible to follow. I'm frankly just watching for shirtless Auggie now.

Have you been watching anything good lately? What's coming from overseas I should know about?


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