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?


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...