21 October 2007


I've been thinking about favourites. There's a little box somewhere on the blog where you can make a list of your favourite things. I think that's what started me thinking about it. I have so many favourites, I don't think a single list would suffice. So, today I'm going to start with a list of my favourite email newsletters.

Over time I have managed to get myself signed up to dozens of email newsletter. Many of them I don't even open, they go straight to delete. Some however are firm favourites, and I read them whenever they turn up. So, in no obvious order, here they are:

  • Simple Savings, http://www.simplesavings.com.au/, weekly, Australian. There are two newsletters come out. One is a top tip savings for the week, the other is a compilation of bits and pieces. I actually have a membership to the "vault" for this site. The vault is a collection of savings tips from readers and has heaps of interesting ideas. The reality of my life that when hubby and I get our budgetting act together we will do much better at saving.
  • Cheapskates, http://www.cheapskatemonthly.com/, daily, Amercian. Mary Hunt sends a variety of tips each day, including both time and money savers. Some of them are interesting; some of them not very relevant to Australia.
  • World Wide Words, http://www.worldwidewords.org/, weekly, British. Michael's newsletter is has a combination of a modern phrase or word and some older terms that may have fallen into disuse. He also has a wonderful section "Sic!" where readers contribute grammar mistakes they've seen, often in quite illustrious publications.
  • Word a Day, wordsmith.org/awad/, daily, Amercian(?). I believe Anu is Indian, but lives in Amercia. He often picks a topic for the week and sends out an obscure word each day. Sometimes just for fun he picks on more common words - or maybe it's just they're words I'm familiar with. At the end of each newsletter is a quotation, totally unrelated to the word. I love quotes.
  • My Daily Insights, www.mydailyinsights.com/, daily!, Amercian. This is a quote a day service (told you I love quotes). They cover a whole range of issues, but are positive, motivating quotes. Friday's newsletter is a longer story, often very pointed.

My favourite newsletter of all is Philip Humbert's "TIPS for Extraordinary Living" http://www.philiphumbert.com/. Philip is an Amercian life coach. I often find "success" newsletter have a strong focus on making lots of money, gaining lots of tangible assets and generally being wealthy. Philip has a wonderful balance. Whatever your definition of success - HD student, sports star, business genius, great mum - his weekly tips are applicable. If you're a business person he has a separate section in the newsletter that is just business tips; but the main section is general lifestyle tips.

For example, just recently he looked at perfection, excellence and good enough. Only very rarely should we (can we) aim for perfection. And often the reality is that good enough is enough. We need to weigh up our priorities and decide how much effort something is worth to us. The example he used was mowing the lawn. If our garden is not our supreme priority, than maybe good enough is enough when it comes to spending time mowing the lawn.

And talking of priorities, I've promised my study accountability buddy that I would achieve a certain amount of study today. Guess I better get to it.

17 October 2007

Cheap Fun

I found my blue food colouring, so I've had some cheap fun this afternoon. I've done my assignment, so I'm technically not really procrastinating. Except for all that other study I have waiting for my attention.

You take nine containers all roughly the same size and food colouring in the three primary colours (red, yellow, blue). Mine are all motel shampoo type bottles. Set up your bottles in a triangle:

In "R" put three drops of red, in the "2"s next to "R" put two drops of red, and in the "1"s put 1 drop.

In "B" put three drops of blue, two drops in the "1"s, 1 drop in the "2"s.

And finally, repeat for yellow - three drops of yellow in "Y", two in bottles closest, and one in the next lot out.

Shake well and you end up with a spectrum of colours. Some of my bottles show the colour better than others. And I suspect my blue is slightly more 'powerful' than the red and yellow. But still, it's a cheap fun way to make a colourful bathroom display.

I picked this technique up off a DVD by Michele Steele, a well known Australian quilter. She was demonstating how to dye fabric. I really can't justify the time or effort to play with fabric at the moment, so I'm content to play with my little bottles. I have fabric dying on my list of Christmas holidays things to do.

The things normal people do to fill in a half hour!

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Here it is Wednesday, again, already. Big plans for this week. ASSIGNMENT! Due Friday and I haven't even worked out the question yet. Too much time wasted on the computer playing stupid games. When I close my eyes and see the game pieces - I know I've played too much!

Had some advice that I had too many tomato plants in one pot. I transplanted them on Sunday afternoon. I was a bit worried I'd lose at least two of them as they were rather droopy on Monday. But they seem to have come good. I already have two baby fruit :-) Fresh tomatoes. Toast, with real butter, fresh tomatoes, little bit salt and bit of fresh cracked pepper. Yum. Nothing better.

Had lots of thoughts churning around. The election. I'm sick of it already. I know as a middle-aged, "responsible" citizen I'm not supposed to feel that way. But really! If I could say one thing to politicians "GROW UP. Get over yourselves already."

Cancer. Seems everyone I know knows someone going through it at the moment. I haven't heard anyone official come out and say cancer rates are rising; but it sure seems that way to me. I had a toxicology lecturer who was down on plastics. Says plastics cause all sorts of issues. I still use plastic heaps, but I think about it every time I reach into the cupboard.

I'm sure there's lots of other thoughts floating around in there; but they're being crowded out by the undone assignment. I guess I should just go do it, so I can think clearly again!

13 October 2007

Friends and Food

I have achieved just about zip this week, except for a high score on my new time wasting computer game (http://www.addictinggames.com/cubis2.html). And I swept the floors. It's hot enough to go without shoes at the moment, but that means you can feel if the floor is dirty. I guess that's the disadvantage of having wooden floor boards (can't think of any others).

But, I've had a rather satisfactory week. Wednesday afternoon we zoomed out to the international airport to spend an hour with Nem who was enroute from sunny Queensland to NZ. She hasn't changed since I first met her nearly 20 years ago. Nem would be one of the truly beautiful people I've met in life. If Dove wanted nominations for their 'real beauty' ad campaign, I'd put Nem forward in a flash.

After the airport we choofed down to the Gold Coast. With the traffic it took about 1.5 hours. But it was worth it. Had dinner with Pete, a friend up from Melbourne for a conference. Seafood buffet. I love my seafood. I think I got my money's worth (or Pete's money worth, since he paid). I had at least 2 dozen oysters, and I lost count of the prawns. I'm guessing it was around 2 dozen. I had a little salad - just to keep it balanced. And desert, but it wasn't really worth the effort. I should have had more oysters.

Tonight we're going over to Narelle's 'cause she's got bubbles to celebrate a new job. I love bubbles. My favourite intoxicants are bubbles and rum.

As a kid my favourite meal out involved oysters, bubbles and cheesecake. I really didn't care what came in between. Now days I'm pretty fussy about what sort of cheesecake I like, but I'm thinking to top off the perfect week, food wise, I need to pop over to the Cheesecake shop and get something sickly delicious. If not cheesecake, then a lemon merengue or a scrummy carrot cake.

At the wedding last weekend I had a wonderful lemon/lime merengue. It was so tart you needed the merengue. I hate it when the lemon is as sweet as or even sweeter than the merengue. I think people miss the whole point of putting lemon and merengue together.

In the meantime this ordinary life requires that I go put away the fruit and veg I bought this morning. The work of a mother is never done!

10 October 2007


I just can't help myself. There is something about gardens and home grown veggies that I just can't resist. Here I am, just a couple of weeks from exams, several assignments still to complete (and to be truthful, very little study done all semester), and what do I spent my morning doing - gardening.

For some people "gardening" means dirty, broken finger nails, sore backs and knees, and a satisfying pile of rubbish to go the tip at the end of the day. For me, it's more of a potter. The problem is - regardless of which way you go about it - gardening is time consuming. I haven't really done all that much, certainly not enough (it would seem) to occupy an entire morning. Pinched out some new growth, added some fertiliser, watered.

All I have done this morning is tend to my tomatoes and herbs. In fact, that IS my garden. We have plenty of trees about, but there's no pretty flower beds or bountiful veggie patches. Firstly, because we have plenty of trees we don't have plenty of sun. Secondly, we live on the side of a hill, so we have little usable soil. The best soil is in the chook yard, but it's not in the sun (and chooks have a habit of decimating plants). And thirdly, I'm supposedly to use my time to grow my knowledge, not plants.

But I can't resist. I simply can not put up with another summer of store bought tomatoes. Nearly everything else I'm happy to eat commercially grown, but tomatoes ... store bought tommies just don't taste the same. In fact, many of them simply don't taste at all. A couple of weeks ago on impulse I grabbed a punnet of seedlings. They're now about a foot high, and already flowering. My mouth waters at the thought of real, ripe, red tomatoes.

My herbs are even less effort. They grow in pots on the kitchen window sill. We have a major problem with little black ants. Some days you'd swear the kitchen bench tops were living. The ants are so thick you can't see the colour of the laminate under them. If you spray them it takes weeks to get rid of their little dead bodies.

Aiming to be the environmental conscious person I'm studying to be, I got online to see what organic solutions there might be. Seems herbs keep them at bay, except no-one could quite agree on which herbs. I decided to play it safe and grow the lot. At the moment I have mint, basil, oregano, parsley. I did have a mini rosemary, but it's 'gone' (I missed it dieing, and it's already composted). I've tried growing coriander, but I'm not doing too well with it. The mint was getting very leggy, and I've got a lamb roast planned for later this week, so I decided it was a good time to prune it and the others. The leaves are now soaking in a cup of boiling water. By Friday they should make a very nice mint sauce.

This time next year I should have finished studying, and will have time to devote to a veggie patch. We only have one small area suitable for veggies, so the best option is containers. I'm considering digging out the chook yard and using that for potting mix. I'm told that if we put sawdust in the yard the chooks will turn it into a great growing medium.

09 October 2007


Goodness me! Two weeks later and it takes me 1/2 hour to remember my flipping password and account name so I can log in and post! This blog business could become time consuming.

We've just returned from two weeks in Melbourne. It's amazing how different two places in the same country can be. Under ordinary circumstances it takes less than 2 hours to fly between Brisbane and Melbourne, but they are worlds apart. Yesterday was jumper and trackies and the heater on most of the day. Today is shorts and t-shirts and 'where did we store those electric fans'?

I said under "ordinary circumstances" because our trip wasn't. We were delayed in Melbourne (have no idea why) and then arrived in Brisbane the same time as a tropical storm. Poor girl across the aisle from us was sick, and I wasn't feeling overtly briliant myself. The pilot got about 5 or 6 metres (or it felt) from the ground, and then decided to abort the landing and went 'round again. The Man (hubby, student pilot in a previous life) said he'd prefer to fly with a pilot prepared to abort a landing than one who took the risk. I guess, all things considered, so would I, but at that stage I just wanted to be on solid ground again.

But about our holiday. It's always interesting staying with other people, however close they are, and however much you love them. The best bit about it, often, is coming home :-) We stayed with my SIL (The Man's twin sister) and her family. Very different. Even more different than chalk and cheese.

SIL has raised five kids (four boys) and recently taken in another teenager. All on a single income. The noise level in their house could easily compete with the busy road outside our place. Three conversations, two videos and miscellaneous music all happening at once. When the phone rings, everyone ramps up a notch so they can hear over the phone conversation. In our house, everything gets turned down or off for the duration. Not to mention that two of the boys are drummers and are constantly (CONSTANTLY) tap, tap, tapping away on something. The worst bit about tapping is that it is contagious and you find yourself doing it.

They eat differently too. Being a small family on a relatively good wage-and-a-half we eat well. Steak, chops, chicken, heaps of fruit and veg (I avoid pre-made wherever possible and practical). SIL's family, being large, eats lots of mince/sausage dishes (both meats nowhere near my top 100 favourites), and (surprisingly) very little fruit and veg. I always find it surprising when people eat less fruit and veg than me - 'cause I don't really see how that's possible. The Man is always telling me I should eat more, and he's right (not that I'd ever tell him that).

Of course, there's all the standard things - different bed, different pillow, different shower, different TV likes/dislikes (ie no MASH for a fornight ). I think the main purpose of a holiday, any holiday, is to make you really appreciate what you have at home. Even really great holidays make you realise exactly what you have (or don't have ;-)

The wedding we went down for was lovely. The bride wanted a fairy-tale wedding, and she had that. Actually she did it very well. Too often "fairy tale girls" end up with horrid amounts of lace and ghastlies, totally ruining the effect. The bride's dress, in this case, was very simple, but very elegant and very fairy-tale. The bride's maids all wore black. Strange colour maybe, but three of the four were Maori girls, so it looked lovely.

The groom, hubby's nephew, was stressed all week. He's a bit of a practical joker, so the family was paying him out for years of harassment. Every time anyone mentioned doing anything even slightly out of the formal he snapped. The groom's men (all his brothers) were talking of doing a finger snapping, hip swaying routine while the bride came down the aisle - he was not amused. He wanted everything just perfect for his bride. Naturally, though, when it actually came to the ceremony - he was the one cracking jokes.

My BIL was probably just as nervous as the groom. It was his first wedding as a pastor, and his first child to get married. But he did a lovely job.

I haven't been to too many weddings, but I thought it was strange in some ways. There was an item presented by some relatives during the signing of the papers, but otherwise no singing at all. And the only prayer during the whole event was the grace before dinner. Guess different people think different things are important to include.

That's another snippet of my ordinary life. This week its back to cooking, cleaning and studying. And I guess I should show up to work at some stage as well.