Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Ghost of Christmas Past

All the Christmases of my childhood were spent at my paternal grandparents' house, next door to my own, at our family farm. We always opened our presents on Christmas Eve, a tradition I didn't realise was from our German roots until I was much older.

We would BBQ trays and trays of meat, the adults would drink, we children would play. Some years we put on a Christmas concert, consisting of lame "skits", dances and anything else we could think of that would be entertaining. We would perform this in the courtyard, frequently heckled, delighting in every laugh we got at our very bad jokes. Later we would open our gifts to each other, with so many people a process that could take hours. We could barely fit in the lounge, and the floor would soon be crammed with splayed kids' legs and discarded wrapping paper.

1996 was a year I was obsessed with Lois & Clark

In the morning, it was church at 8am. We would take our Santa sacks (not stockings, for some reason, just plastic Christmas-decorated bags) full of chocolates and eat it after the service while the adults all caught up with the other once-a-year churchgoing neighbours. Very often, we jumped the fence to our friends' house and our dad had a cheeky pre-Christmas lunch beer with his mate.

Lunch would be tables pushed together in the biggest room, often with a small table set up for the littlest kids. Whoever was hosting would have an army of helpers, and it appeared to our young eyes as if food was magicked out of nowhere into being. Platters of cold meats - ham on the bone, cold chicken. Bowls of salads - potato, lettuce & tomato, coleslaw. Hot roasts - beef or pork. Boats of gravy. Endless sides of corn, peas, beetroot, carrots, beans.

Crackers would be pulled and everyone, without exception, would wear their silly paper hat for the whole meal. I loved seeing my normally serious Grandpa wearing his.

More drink, lots of eating and talking. Until everyone was full and we would disperse throughout the house. Some would clean up, some would go watch the telly. Within an hour, the house would be quiet, with everyone napping contentedly on chairs, couches and the carpeted floor with the tv droning on quietly in the background.

Now that my generation of kids is grown, and most have children of their own, we don't do this Christmas any more. My grandparents' farmhouse is empty. We all go to different places for the big day - our spouses' family, or away to the coast for an "away" Christmas.

I must say I miss the huge family gathering, the hot summer evening, the bugs and endless burnt sausages, Nanna's potato bake and the thrill of getting your name read out by whoever was playing Santa that year.

But now we can start new traditions of our own. This year we are going to my brothers' house in Bundaberg. Lots of family will be there. I'm sure it will be jolly and fun and there will be plenty of food.

Much love to all my lovely readers at this special time of year. Tell me about your Christmas, if you like?

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?

Friday, November 21, 2014

A Day on Maggie

Townsville is a place I now know well. We spend quite a bit of time there since my husband's parents moved there a few years ago.

We are always looking for new things to do in the area and this visit I decided I wanted to go to Magnetic Island for the day. Known as "Maggie" to the locals, I'd been before when I was young but remembered absolutely nothing!

We took the passenger ferry across (a reasonable fare of $32 return, I thought) and before we knew it we were being turned down to hire a Mini Moke. Mokes are a little bit of an icon on the island but turns out you need to get there early to hire one!

In the end this was a good thing, as it was a blisteringly hot day and in the end I was very happy with the Ford Focus we ended up with (and the ice-cold air con!). I certainly would recommend hiring a car, because though the island is quite small and you can take the bus between townships, it gives you some independance and you don't need to wait around in the hot sun. We saw people walking but the distances between places eg. Arcadia and Horseshoe Bay are quite great.

We took a few snaps at Horseshoe Bay before heading up to The Forts bushwalk. More on this in another post - let's just say for now it was a personal challenge for me, being quite steep and long! Afterwards I was promised a lovely lunch so we drove down to Picnic Bay and ended up at the pub there. One steak sandwich and a glass of prosecco later and I felt revived.

The water is so impressive and every view delights on the island. You can't swim in the summer - one of North Qld's biggest disappointments really - because of the stingers. We saw a few kids in stinger suits splashing about but most people confined themselves to the stinger net, which a local told us they rotate between the beaches throughout the summer.

We headed home in the afternoon a little disappointed that there wasn't much more to do. While waiting for the ferry, we strolled around the marina admiring the boats and yachts and dreaming of a nomadic life. Maggie is a quiet place - people who live there obviously value this and holiday-makers must appreciate the slower pace. But I don't think it's for me unless I ever decide I want the kind of holiday where you do nothing but sleep, eat, read and go for walks.

Come to think of it, that actually sounds quite nice...

Have you ever been to Maggie?

PS - this is also my 301st post on this blog - nice milestone!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Ignorance is Bliss

The sound the engines were making changed. Was it my imagination, or were they were slowing down? I glanced out my window to see only clouds. Were we descending?

I'm not a nervous flyer by any means. I actually love take-off, that wonderful adrenaline-inducing moment when the engines fire and the plane leaps forward, gaining speed before delicately lifting from the ground and soaring into the blue sky. It's the stuff of wonderment to me. The sheer physics of it are astounding.

Unfortunately, it was those physics of flight that were on my mind when flying back from Townsville on Sunday. Suddently, I was gripped by the fear that for some reason, the engines would fail and we would fall out of the air like a 300 tonne brick.

There's a strange misconception amoungst the populace, some sort of false story sold to us by tv and movies, that planes can glide. It's true, most big planes can suffer the loss of one or more engines, but when all of them fail, there's no steady descent in which the pilot has the luxury of picking out a handy field to make a crash landing in. Nope. Commercial planes are not in any way, shape or form aerodynamic. They do not glide. The only thing that propels them through the air is the fuckton of thrust being generated by those huge jet engines. No thrust, no forward momentum. No forward movement, no lift. No lift, DOWN WE GO.

I always scoff silently at the air hosties' safety demonstration. Because honestly, the chances of anyone surviving a crash landing over the ocean are practically none. You won't need the lifejacket, the whistle or the little light because the plane will disintegrate upon hitting the water. At the speed it'll be coming down, the physical forces involved will make the water like concrete.

What? I'm sorry, but this is the kind of stuff I think about. I was growing panicked, and suddenly my heart was hammering so hard I could feel the thud of the carotid artery in my neck. After a few minutes contemplating a sudden and horrible plunge to my death, my brain finally decided to throw me a figurative lifeline and pointed out I should look at the hosties. If they weren't worried, why should I be?

They were acting perfectly normal. I therefore concluded we weren't going to crash and calmed down. Statistically, I was more likely to die in a car crash driving to work than in a plane crash. Chill, Sarah, geez. Maybe ignorance is bliss.

Do you love or hate flying? Got any good stories?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Why I'm Investing in my Skin

I recently dropped a fair amount of dough on some fancy skincare products. Why? Spoiler alert: I got vain.

Ever since my early twenties, I've felt the need to take care of my skin, particularly my face. I wanted to age like Cate Blanchett or Nigella; and would do anything not to end up with old, tired, lined skin. Living in Australia, there was also sun damage to think of. I met women who'd spent their life in the sun, and it showed. Soon, ending up looking like a dried up piece of beef jerky was my worst nightmare.

Being somewhat financially challenged, I made do with a skincare regime that consisted of moisturising and putting on sunscreen in the morning and cleansing plus night cream in the evening. I found cheap products that did an average job and silently congratulated myself on being proactive in the FIGHT AGAINST AGING that we all seem to be waging.

I'd always been incredibly skeptical of cosmetic ads selling magical creams. I scoffed a little inside when I saw women spending $100 or more on a little pot of "creme" because I thought they'd been sold an idea, not a product that actually did anything. Well, was I wrong. Turns out that like shoes, when you spend a little more, you actually do get a better product.

Recently, two lucky things collided in my life - an improved income, and a friend becoming a consultant for a posh party plan skincare and makeup line, Arbonne (not sponsored!). I went to a party, she gave me a tester kit and after two weeks my skin was glowing, blemish free and feeling about ten years younger from the "regime".

SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY, I told her (well, I actually said I'd have a party of my own to earn some hostess rewards and bring down the cost). I told my hubby I was spending more than usual on something for myself, he was fine with it! Actually happy about it. After so many years of making do with supermarket products, it felt very adult to spend a little more.

So now I wait for my investment to pay off. A few compliments wouldn't go astray...

So, I want to know - are you a skeptic or a believer? Do you spend lots on your skin or think that the average priced stuff does the same job?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Show Some Respect

Yesterday was Remembrance Day. In my office, someone with access to the building intercom reminds us of this on the 11th Hour of the 11th Day of the 11th Month and we listen dutifully to the Last Post then observe a minute or two of silence.

It's a nice tradition, and not one you'd expect to find in today's corporate offices but I'm sure the scene was repeated in almost every tower across the city.

Except in my office, not everyone observed the Silence. Nobody stood up. I heard keyboards tapping throughout, which was easy because otherwise it was quite quiet. I also observed a manager continuing their conversation with someone, not bothering to stop and remember our dead.

I must admit, it irked me. Would it kill them to stop what they were doing for one minute? To take 60 seconds out of your otherwise busy year to think about the thousands upon thousands that we lost in the Great War, and all the wars since?

Then again, I guess I'm old fashioned. I dislike children swearing. I don't like you nicknaming me before we're familiar. I let older people go first. I wait to be introduced to a new acquaintance.

I still think there's a place for respect in this crazy, laidback world. What do you think?

Monday, November 10, 2014

A Weekend in Black and White

Weekends are my favourite time for Instagram - both following what people are doing and sharing my own pics.

During the week I saw a beautiful black and white photo in my feed and decided I'd capture some moments in this classic medium. It was an interesting experiment - it only took a few pics for me to realise that the things that I would normally take a photo of because the colours were pretty were not going to work.

So I looked more closely at shades and texture - and shared some different subjects from my usual.

This was a fun experiment - I really liked the way these turned out.

Do you ever "shoot" in black and white? What's your fave Instagram filter?

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Romance of Digging In the Dirt

It recently came to my attention that there is a small archaeological dig going on at the Royal Bull's Head Inn in Toowoomba. I thought this was cool because 1. I'm from there and anything to do with archaeology is rare in those parts 2. I remembered visiting there on a school excursion when I was a kid and 3. It is being run by two of my old Uni lecturers.

I haven't had a chance to visit yet, and knowing my luck by the time I manage to get up there the dig will be over, but still I'd be interested in the findings, because it's one of the oldest (if not the oldest) building in the city. So old it would have been standing when my German ancestors emigrated to the Darling Downs.

Anyway, of course then I got reminiscing about my uni days. I was a student of Anthropology at USQ for 4 whole years and never did any practical archaeology. I always admired the work of those who did, but one visit to the lithics lab was enough to put me off for life. I thought that stone technology, both the digging up of and study of, was intensely boring. Of course there is other stuff to dig up - more interesting things like gold and bones - but these are rare. Even my lecturer's dig at the time, in a cliff cave on an island in the Whitsundays, didn't yield anything much more interesting than shells and bone fish hooks.

I'm sure most archaeologists would beg to differ with me on that last point - as it's often not the items themselves that are exciting, but the interpretation of them and how they can contribute to our knowledge of human culture.

But me, I don't even garden. I now know I'd rather read about digs and their findings than actually participate. You've got to be passionate to do that stuff out in the hot sun, or wind and rain. If you've ever watched Time Team, you probably realise how frustrating and fruitless archaeology can be.

But as long as amazing things turn up occasionally, I guess we'll keep digging in the dirt. Who knows, maybe I will give it a go one day.

Archaeology, do you dig it?

 Dr Lara Lamb is blogging about the Royal Bull's Head Inn dig here. Or visit their Facebook here.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Brisbane Good Food & Wine Show goodness

I was fortunate enough to win a pass to the Good Food and Wine Show from Vanessa at 26 Years and Counting.

Now, not being a foodie but a big appreciator of food (and the occasional wine) in general, I was excited to rock up to the Convention Centre and have a poke about.

What I found was a crowd eager to sample some quality wares and a lot of stallholders, with businessness small and large ready to please them.

The big draws, are of course the cheese (yummo) and the wine (a little early in the day for me) but there was a grand array of other goods - chocolate, fudges, preserves, dukkah... you name it!

I met up with Vanessa who was watching a chef demonstration and we wandered around together. After a while I learnt to be shameless about asking to try samples!

It was a great way to spend a few hours, and I enjoyed looking at local producer's stalls as well as the bigger brands.

Do you go to food and wine shows? What's your favorite bit - the free samples or the chance to talk to the brands?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

I Can't Be Trusted

When I was little, my uncle and aunty had a pool. As they lived next door, this was extremely convenient and many's the summer afternoon we would hear "Kids! Out!" as the twilight deepened. I never once gave a thought to the time and money it takes to maintain such a magnificent plaything.

When I became a pool owner a few years ago, I was extremely naive. I had no idea just how much time, effort and dollars go into making sure that lovely water stays crystal clear and swimmable!

Most of the time I casually leave the pool stuff up to hubby, but with him being away I have had to assume a few duties. Turns out I can't even manage to keep the damn thing full.

No rain for a while and few hot days has resulted in some evaporation. I glanced out the window one afternoon one week and noted the water level was down but still above where it should be. Then on Sunday morning when the pump came on I happened to be out at the washing line and suddenly a loud, strange sucking noise started eminating from the skimmer box...

It was sucking air, because the water was well below the required line! Frantically I chucked the hose in the pool and then had to figure out how to turn off the new pump!

I left it going an hour then turned it off when I had to go out. When I got home in the afternoon, I decided to put it back on again for a while to bump up the water to where it should have been.

And promptly forgot to set myself a timer.  It wasn't until I was preparing for bed later in the evening that I realised I could hear something... the hose!

I bolted out the back, heart in my mouth... and it was about an inch below the edge. Thank god I hadn't overflowed it!

However, it was now TOO full, and one good rainstorm could result in disaster. So this morning I had to LET OUT water.

And you can bet your boots I remembered to set a timer for that.

Do you have a pool? Does it stress you out as much as mine does?

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Too Much Screen Time

So I hear "Screen Time" is bad for you. That's the amount of time your eyes spend looking at a screen. Apart from the more obvious negatives (sedentary sitting is terrible ergonomic practice!) it seems Screen Time is very good at eroding your sleep quality too.

Which is unfortunate, because I just realized I spend virtually my entire waking life in front of a screen. If I'm eating breakfast, on the train or at home on the couch, I'm looking at my smartphone. If I'm at work, I'm staring at my computer. In the evening, I'll sometimes have THREE screens going - tv, laptop and phone. Holy Moley!

Even worse, when I do go to bed I have gotten into the habit of watching YouTube. So now I'm thinking lying in the dark looking at videos on my phone probably isn't helping my brain relax into sleep mode. 

Something has to be done - I'm going to try to look up more. Live in the present moment, instead of diverting all my attention to what's happening on a nearby screen. 

Do you have too much Screen Time? How's it affecting your life?

Friday, September 26, 2014

A Growing Sense of Dread

It's been gradual, but I have this growing sense of dread lately. It's to do with feeling safe in my own city.

There's a lot of hoo-haa about the G20 summit in Brisbane at present. Although the actual event itself is still weeks away, changes are already being felt. Measures are being taken. Processes are being put in place.

I see police standing around at strategic places, in pairs or trios. They're watching.

I hear train announcements that have changed from the familiar "mind-your-step" to instructions on what to do in an emergency situation. And please don't leave your belongings unattended.

Bins at various places have been boarded up - no bombs please.

I feel uneasy travelling on the train, and walking to work.

Nationally, there have been multiple arrests connected to alleged terrorist activity. Every day there are "incidents". The National Threat Level has been raised to "High".

I do genuinely want to believe that all these security measures are warranted, that they aren't part of some giant PR exercise to a) distract the public from other important issues on the politial landscape at present, both at state and federal level; or b) an exercise in making it look like something is being done to protect the public from a perceived threat, when there actually is little likelihood of anything happening.

I'm not overly cynical, and I do genuinely believe that bodies like ASIO do not muck around when it comes to these types of security issues.

But it is interesting that the result of various bodies taking steps to make me feel more protected are acutally making me more fearful. And then a part of me wonders if they want us to feel that way...

Do you feel afraid lately?

Friday, September 12, 2014

Op Shops of Brisbane: Save the Children Kallangur

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!

This week we're looking at Save the Children Op Shop in Kallangur. It is a relatively new store to me, having only noticed it a few months ago. Either it has always been there and recently gotten a facelift, or it's new in the premises. Either way, it's great!

Parking tip - if there's no space out the front on the main road, turn into the shopping centre and park in front of the Salvos store next to the Red Rooster. Then you can hit both op shops at once!

What struck me when I first entered the shop was the extraordinary level of neatness and organisation. Although since this visit I have seen it in a few places, this was the first op shop I'd seen where clothing was organised by colour. It's very striking and so wonderfully convenient if you're looking for a particular shade!

There is a plus size clothing rack too (always an extra brownie point in my book) and a wide range of clothing for the whole family. I have found upon subsequent visits the clothes are mostly of the modern chain store variety, with a wide range of low- and high-end labels represented.

There is a wall of books and mags, and a few shelves with a small collection of bric-a-brac. I've seen Johnson of Australia there, along with some other nice crockery but not many other collectables. The majority of the shop is clothing.

I love visiting this shop because it is invariably clean, tidy and bright. Although small, I can often find something to buy. It's also one of the only two op shops within a half hour drive of my house that are open Sundays!

Save the Children Op Shop is at Shop 1, 1469 Anzac Ave, Kallangur QLD and is open Mon-Sat: 9am-4pm and Sun: 10am-4pm.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Living a Bloggable Life

Pinterest is a great place to find out stuff about blogging, and last night I stumbled across a little list of tips for beginning bloggers.

Most I had read before, some were just common sense, but the one that really struck me was "LIVE A LIFE WORTH BLOGGING ABOUT".

Wow, pressure.

Ok, ok I get what the author is saying. It's probable that people don't want to read about your mundane daily life - but then again look at bloggers like Mrs Woog of Woogsworld. The mundane, if I may be so bold, is her bread and butter - it's where she finds inspiration and really connects with their blog community. It's even in the blog tagline.

You only have to look at my instagram feed to know that I don't lead an exciting life of travel and intrigue. Nor do most people, actually! I thought about my life a bit and realised that I don't only blog about "things that I do", I also write about "things that I like". Subjects I'm passionate about or find interesting. I don't need to travel to garment sweatshops to blog about supply chain slavery. Similarly, you don't have to be a sufferer of a given disease to write about a charity that focuses on it. If experiencing something was a criteria for writing about it, there would be far fewer writers!

I'm going to this blogging mantra and expand it a bit. To something like "LIVE A LIFE THAT'S CURIOUS AND INTERESTING." Not as catchy, but possibly something that's a bit more do-able.

 Be passionate about things. Go forth and do things that excite you. But also research and read. Explore the world from the comfort of your own home and in your imagination if you like. You don't have to spend a lot of money or be a professional photographer to capture these moments of inspiration - just write.

And share - if you want.

What do you think? What is a "bloggable" life like?

Friday, September 5, 2014

Op Shops of Brisbane: Footprints in Bracken Ridge


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!

"Footprints" is my little charity shop secret. I overhead some women in another op shop talking about it once so I drove over to Bracken Ridge and managed to locate it behind the strip of shops on Gawain Rd. I think it is run by the Uniting Church, as part of their Uniting Care program.

And it is pretty gold. Chockers from floor to ceiling with stuff, actually. I used to just look at the bric-a-brac (mostly standard throwaway stuff but you can find the occasional Pyrex gem) but after I evolved into op shopping for clothes I started buying quite a bit of stuff here. The brands are of the middle-aged lady kind - ie. lots of Millers, but there are plenty of other labels to be found and the odd vintage piece too.

They have a large kids and menswear clothing, toys and a small range of tupperware (at the usual exorbitant prices) too.

I like this shop because the lady volunteers that man it are always lovely and chatty, and it feels like a little Aladdin's cave tucked away in the suburbs.

I hope you appreciate me sharing my secret shop with you all! Do you have one? Do tell!

Footprints Bracken Ridge Thrift Shop is at 57 Gawain Rd, Bracken Ridge QLD. I could not find the opening hours but it is definitely open Saturday mornings.


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