Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Escaping the cold winter

I don't like winter, in fact I hate it. I have always found the Aussie winter isn't worth it, no snow just a damp coldness. We have had sickness running through the house for the past four weeks, there hasn't been a day where one of us isn't sick, I am blaming winter. The darkness gets me the most especially now that I am working, I hate leaving work when the sun has already set and it is dark and cold.  I warm up in the car, but get home to a cold house. It is damn depressing. I totally understand why people get the SAD's and if I am honest I probably suffer a little from it myself.

Surrounding myself with warming elements at home saves me through the winter. We have used the heater a lot more this winter, I just want to be warm. Here are some of the changes I am making to our home during our renovations to make it warmer and more inviting.

1. Create warm spaces

Love the idea of carpet in kids rooms
I will be honest, my house isn't warm, it is quite cold with tiles and wooden floors throughout. Slowly we are this calculator on the Stainmaster Australia website to work out how much carpet I needed and to work out the cost to plan the renovation budget. Rugs and curtains are also a cheaper way to add the warmth.
changing tiles to wood and some of the wooden floors to carpet. At the moment our master bedroom is the only one that has carpet, but I want more of the bedrooms to have a soft flooring to make the house warmer. Jumping out of bed and touching a cold floor is the worst.  I am looking at the Stainmaster carpet for my daughter who is a bit of a grot, love the chalkboard wall in the kids bedrooms.

2. Close off Rooms
I know that modern homes are all open plan with fresh uncluttered spaces, but we are actually working on creating distinct spaces. We are closing in a hallway to make rooms smaller, with more functionality and warmer. It is easier to warm a small room than an entire house.

3. Electric Blankets
I am a HUGE lover of my electric blanket, if fact we have put them on every bed in the house including the guest room. There is nothing better than jumping into a warm bed  it helps sleep come easily. Don't forget to put extra blankets and warmer doonas on to keep the warmth in all night.
This is our new kitchen flooring.

4. Cooking
We naturally crave hearty foods over winter, there is nothing better than coming home to a slow cooked meal.  Although I find meals in the slow cooker a little hot and miss a couple of my favourites are below;
  • Pea and Ham Soup
  • Beef Strogonoff (use large chunks of beef and it won't overcook)
  • Thai Massaman Beef from Marions Kitchens, seriously delicious and only takes 5 minutes to prepare.
I also love to bake cakes and pastries over the weekend to warm up the kitchen. In two weeks my new kitchen is going to be installed, we

5. Candles
The flicker of a candle is such a beautiful light and feels warm, it is my solution for not having a fire. I love the glasshouse candles especially the vanilla caramel and the honey and milk. If you are looking for budget buys the Ikea scented candles are awesome value!

6. Fresh Air
Sounds crazy? But by opening the windows every day and putting fresh air in, you can reduce bugs, let the light in and it feels warmer when you close it all up. Also check windows and if your windows don't seal properly think about getting a window repairer in to fix them and keep drafts out.

7. Paint with Warm Colours
A stark white house won't feel warm, bring some warmer neutral colours into a cold home, like your mocha colours, even a cream white will create more warmth.

Do you have any tips

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Managing Anxiety

I haven't blogged for a little while, last week I sat an advanced tax exam and that was hard!! In fact the last
13 weeks since I started back at study have been an absolute crazy whirlwind. Commencing study co-coincided with some changes at work at, it has been a non stop crazy three months. Add in some family sickness, new babies, deaths and a car accident, keeping sane has been an absolute challenge! After my period of anxiety 8 years ago I am really wary of those signs of when I am just not coping. Waking up at 3am and spending the next 4 hours stressing about the day, the ready to snap moods and the impaired memory, all signs things are not great. All these signs and more have been a part of my life for the last few months.

Living with anxiety is a lifelong challenge, you know what happens when you don't look after yourself, it is about finding a constant balance that changes. The hardest thing about my word for the year being simple is that my external life just doesn't seem to be playing the same game. So I have been coping by combining my word from last year balance with this years word simple.

One of the biggest things to simplify our lives lately has been to spend more time at home, slowly over the past year we have been sinking money into our house to make it more of a home. I am in the final stages of our new kitchen and although it is seriously over budget, I am also so excited! I just love my new bathroom with our deep spa and double shower with the rain water head, it makes the evenings so much more chilled. But I also know the best thing for mood is sunshine and fresh air so we have been spending time and money on the garden. But it is a balance because being at home means people fall into habits, Miss 6 watches TV, hubby jumps on the computer and Miss 16 locks herself into her room and I flick between housework, organising and being on my phone.

This weekend I felt so free without the burden of studying on my shoulders, I chilled out and spent quality time with the family. We went to Netball on Saturday morning and bought our new kitchen appliances in the afternoon. Today we had breaky together as a family at a gorgeous little cafe and as a last minute decision Miss 6 and I headed to the circus. It was a really nice weekend, our family feels close again.

Anxiety is part of life, things tend to go wrong all at once, but if we don't re-frame our thinking we can let our thoughts get away from us and create more negatives. I am glad that I have the insight these days to listen to my body and know when to slow down.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Anxiety busting outdoors

Managing anxiety is a way of life for so many woman and especially mums who feels constantly overwhelmed and rarely get time out. I have found one of the best ways to take time out as a mum is to head to the backyard and get fresh air sunshine and be surrounded by green. Did you know that the colour green is for balance, harmony and growth? That is why we feel good when we are surrounded by nature.

One of the first renovations we did was to build a new deck on our home, to this day it is still my favourite renovation, enjoying my backyard is worth all the work of maintaining it. Each spring I fix up one of our garden beds and I just love watching the seedlings turning into plants, trees and hedges. Being outside is so important for my well being and having a nice garden is really important to me. It is like surrounding yourself with good vibrations just outside the back door.

I remember when I stayed with my cousin in England I used to adore his perfect lawn, seriously it was incredible, so soft and mowed every week in summer with this cute  little electric lawn mower. He even fertilized it and put air holes in it, I still remember lying on that soft grass and watching the star come in at night fall. We spent every summer night in the garden of course with a glass of wine. According to this website for expert turf advice Hancey's Turf says I could do with some weed free turf so that I start with a perfect lawn and only need to gently maintain it. I still yearn for that perfect English grass and I love my bindi free and mostly weed free lawn, maybe in a couple of years I will upgrade the lawn.

I have a garden bed which changes each year, sometimes it is a vegetable garden, over winter it is home to the compost bin, sometimes it houses the guinea pigs and other times it has flowers. It is the only garden I play with and let grow a little wild, it is an evolving experiment, totally organic.

Even though my husband detests gardening, I love being outside pulling up weeds, trimming back the hedge or putting in new life. The perfect garden evolves, great lawns, growing trees and functional beautiful furniture, having a great backyard lets us relax and be ourselves at home. It should be a pleasure to be in, not a burden so easy to maintain and highly functional. I feel our garden is really moving towards these ideal combinations and in a few springs time it will be perfect.

So these days when I feel that stress and anxiety coming on I head outside, lay on the grass or on the deck in the sunshine, breath in the fresh air and light and think grateful thoughts. Plus I read recently that you can add 10% value to your home by some clever landscaping so I can garden away guilt free. Plus what better place to enjoy Shiraz Sundays through winter?!

What do you do when you feel anxious? Head outdoors? Eat valium? Exercise?

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Bumpy Path to Blended Family Holidays

Two years ago this week (I know the exact date thanks to timehop), we were on a family holiday to Bali. Whilst it was a lovely holidays it was also a bit exhausting for hubby and I. It was our step sons first trip overseas and he was very green and needed a lot of guidance, our middle teen just got along with it, but the baby at 4.5 at the time was seriously hard work.

After a long trip to the airport, delayed flight and then transferred we finally arrived at our hotel in Bali, exhausted but excited. Everyone was hot and ready to hit the pool but the older kids mum had made them promise to send her a message as soon as they arrived. We had already had to jump through hoops to get the kids to come on the holidays with providing her with exact itineraries and flight time ect, I mean talk about being controlled on your own holiday. Unfortunately we couldn't get the Wi-fi to work and everyone was starting to get frazzled so we decided to hit the pool, cool down and deal with the wi-fi later.

So we hit the pool, ordered some cool drinks and soaked up some sunshine around the pool. Feeling chilled and happy we sorted the WiFi issue with reception and headed back to the room to send the promised message. What we found on facebook was disgusting, their mum had publicly posted on facebook a post that insinuated that we had taken  the kids and she had no idea where they were, and she was so stressed and crying because she couldn't get in contact. Everyone got so stressed, the kids were sad, hubby was cranky and I felt like no matter what we did or where we went we couldn't just be a family and enjoy it without interference. The messages bombarded the kids throughout the trips and I started to hate heading back to the hotel knowing the kids would have more messages to have to respond to. With each message the kids moods changes and the closeness stalled for a little while.

It was such a difficult holiday to organise, demands on dates, we couldn't go a couple of days over, issue around passports, demands for our exact itinerary or threats that they couldn't come. As a newish step mum I felt like it was a form of domestic violence through control. Don't even get me started on the time she added tracking on Miss 16's phone during our first ever holiday and tracked our whole trip until we realised half way through. Honestly after the holiday part of me felt like giving up.

Last year I started back at work, it was a tough transition. Over Christmas we were lucky enough to be given a weeks accommodation down the coast and we had a super relaxed cheap holidays with the girls. But this year I really wanted to do an overseas holiday again, make it feel worthwhile putting the hard slog at work.  After the stress of the Bali trip I wasn't keen on playing the games to have a nice holiday with the kids. As both hubby and I also have pretty strict holidays dates this Christmas, we decided to plan some dates and ask Miss 16 if she wanted to come. As she finishes school this year the old shared care arrangement dates don't need to be so strict.  So we asked Miss 16 if she was happy to swap holiday access dates to join us on a holiday, she was over the moon and of course said yes, so we had fun planning a holiday as a family on our own terms.

The family decided on a cruise holiday. This year will be challenging, I have taken on quite a big load at work plus studies, hubby has had to pick up a lot more at home, Miss 16 is sitting her HSC and Miss 6 will be exhausted after a long year at school. The idea of a cruise suits us all perfectly, totally chilled, no cooking, no washing and best of all no phone or internet. A time for everyone to just kick back and chill out. The planning of this holiday has been so different, everything has just fallen into place. I have already been busy online shopping for new swimmers and a back back bags for the shore days from

We still have 10 months before our next cruise, I am so excited that we will be all together and chilled for two whole weeks without interference. Although I am hoping for a stress free lead up and holiday I am also aware that things in blended families rarely go exactly to plan.

Have you ever been on a cruise?

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Helping your kids with their career choices

I feel old, I have just finished helping Miss 16 fix up her resume and write a cover letter for a job application. Even though she is in year 12 and is applying for university, she has found a job that will fit in with school hours and develop her skills whilst she is at school and later at university. It is on the job training for the career she wants long term. She has always had a strong direction in her career and thirst to do well academically. She has her head screwed on the right way.

Mr 19 on the other hand had no idea what he wanted to do and when a mate applied in year 11 to join the Navy he thought that would be a good idea, so off he went to the Navy. He has thrived in the Navy and loves the mix of discipline, training and physical nature of the position.

But not all kids have their path laid out, I know it took my until I was 25 to realise what I wanted to do, it was a rocky path before then.

I have recently been on the employing end of young tradesmen and administration staff. Reading resumes and covers letters has been a huge eye opener. I am surprised that some people ever get jobs through their lack of direction and poor resumes. I had one resume come through for a trade position, they had all the right experience but then there cover letter said they didn't want to be in the trade anymore they wanted to move into retail. Then there were the countless application from high school students who had not addressed any of the job criteria and putting irrelevant skills forward, such as applying for a trades position and a skill listed was being able to play with kids.

The fact is sometimes kids don't want to learn from their parents, or they are not quite ready to join the workforce straight out of school. This is where organisations such as Careers Australia can help school leavers to not only gain a great position but also thrive in it. Their job ready program actually helps students develop resumes, plan their careers, interview technique and most importantly workplace behavior. I work closely with a business who employees apprentices and let me tell you, sometimes the owners wants to pull his hair out. If your kids is like this, I can't recommend enough getting some outside help and guidance through either a mentor or a educational organisation. After so many bad resume and such competition, they really need help with this stuff.

I just love this video on what recruiters look at when looking at resumes quickly, and let me tell you with 120 applications for one job and only a couple of hours to get through them, each resume only gets about 6 seconds.  After reading about 200 job applications in the last couple of months, there are some easy ways to screw up or get an interview. Don't write your kids resumes or cover letters but do proof read and offer guidance and support for their job hunting.

Do you have teenagers? Do you have any tips for parents trying to help their kids with career guidance.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Two steps to simplify my life

Sometimes things just need to get simple. My life is far from simple, hence it be my word for the year. The whole blended family stuff is complicated and there is very little we can do to make it simple but there are things in our life that are complicated when they don't need to be.

A few weeks ago I got a cleaner. I really struggled with this decision because it is such an easy job, it everyone helps it is done in a hour and we can get on with the weekend. But the problem was I was starting to get anxious trying to get everyone to help every freaking Saturday. I started waking up early on weekend mornings, dreading when I had to start motivating my family to do the cores. From hubby hiding in the toilet for half the day, Miss 6 making more mess than she cleans up and Miss 16 pulling faces and slumping over the lounge like I had asked her to clean a bedroom that had shit painted across the room rather than start the vacuum cleaner. The constant attempts at motivating my family to help was soul destroying, it felt I was  the only one who could take control of starting the freaking chores. Hubby has really stepped up to the plate in regards to helping out around the house but no one wants to do the weekly clean up so it gets left for me to ask everyone to please just do it. So for my own sanity I got a cleaner, just once a fortnight but it means every other weekend I don't need to be the organiser and motivator for the chores, I can just enjoy my family.

Something else I have really struggled with since going back to work is that my day starts at 6.30am and just keeps going non stop until about 8pm when the youngest is in bed. Everything is a rush, no matter how early I get up, Miss 6 has a time plan of her own and it is not quick. Last week I was late to work because she decided to unpack her lunch from her checked school bag and leave it at home, I didn't realise until we got to the school gates so had to drive home and repack her bag. Everything is a routine and even then it doesn't work when kids will be....

Every night as I walk in the door from work, I am attacked with conversations, questions, demand and of course dinner needs to be cooked. It is exhausting and unsustainable.

One of my biggest pleasures in life is cooking and sharing food with family and friends, but now I meal plan every Sunday and it is getting pretty bland. I used to shop, then design my menu based on the fresh things I found and what inspirations I got from the butcher and grocer. Now I meal plan at home then write a shopping list and go to the shops, all meals have to be on the table in under 30mins so choices are limited. I have even tried a few slow cooked meals, some of them were disgusting! My food had started to miss the secret ingredient..... love because I resented having to cook every freaking night after being at work all day. Being so freaking structured and organised doesn't really go too well with my free spirit, I need something to look forward, something new.

So as part of my simple regime I looked at ways to make my daily routine easier, prepacked lunches, simple breakies, meal planning and of course the cleaner but I was really missing my food. I was at a baby expo (working not shopping) last month and I saw the solution! Hello Fresh, 5 meals a week for hubby and I are meal planned, shopped and delivered to my home, all I need to do is put it together. (This is not sponsored I am actually just totally in love.) It has brought excitement back into the kitchen and I am enjoying food again because it is based on fresh food with  something different. We do it the fortnight that we don't have Miss 16 so we can feed Miss 6 a simple dinner and get her into bed if we choose, then hubby and I can eat in peace. We still shop and cook a family meal the other 9 nights a fortnight but these deliveries have become a life saver for me.

I feel like these two simple changes have made such a difference in my mental health, like a load of responsibility has been lifted from my shoulders and I am starting to enjoy the nights again with interesting new dinners and a cleaner house.

My mental health is worth more than the just the time saved from these couple of outsourced jobs. Life is for living not feeling like it is just an obligation. So I am one step closer to simple.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Is extended maternity leave worth it?

Nine months ago I went back to working for someone else, it was a shock.

A total shock at;
  •  How inflexible it is to work for someone
  •  A shock at how much I used to do around the home and no one noticed including me.
  • A shock at how hard it was to convince someone to give me a job, from being a desirable candidate to an undesirable one because I had kids and took a long maternity leave.
  • A shock at the ridiculously low pay to get a flexible job, there is always lots of other mums looking for flexible work hours.
  • Shock at how much happens between 9am and 5pm that you miss out on
But when I did find a job in my field, I put my head down and tried to learn as much as I could and do the best job I could. I didn't work long hours because that isn't what I wanted, I wanted to earn a wage an go home with my family. Dropping my daughter at school is more important than  making an extra dollar, tucking my daughter in bed every night is priceless. I took my lunch hour everyday, I wasn't getting paid for the hour so I would eat lunch and do errands or simply take a walk to clear my head. The way I work is so different to before I had kids, I take breaks, leave on time and don't enter into workplace antics. But even doing all these things I remained productive and usually got my work done.

There have been lots of changes in my workplace and plenty of uncertainty so I decided that I wanted to speak to my boss about my job.  I wanted to talk about where my job was going, I was taking on more responsibility without more direction. I also wanted a pay rise, I knew that I was worth more than what I was originally put on, but I also knew that wage increases were rare. I wanted to know what training I was able to do and how I could develop my career again and most importantly was I on the right track with my work? So many questions were going through my head, I had such a sleepless week thinking about it.

Last Friday I sucked out all my nerves and got hubby to take the girls to school and headed in for an early chat with my boss. The first thing I asked was "do you mind if I had a chat with you about my job", quickly followed by "I'm not leaving". We had a great chat and I discussed my concerns and asked about direction for my job. I walked out pretty happy with greater focus. On Monday she came back with a small payrise, a defined role in the organisation and I just enrolled in some more post graduate studies which they are assisting me with.

I was pretty excited all weekend because it was such a bad time when I was job searching and trying to get a job post maternity leave. The job I ended up taking would not have been my first choice but in retrospect it has been a really great choice. I am back to the level where I left before I had my daughter and I hope that pay catches up soon. My knowledge base is coming back and I finally feel like I am getting on top of this mummy work thing. After so many low points last year, when I regretted having off from my career for my family, I now know that it was all worth it and it just takes time to get back into the groove.

Some days still suck, like when I go to work exhausted because I am unwell or have been looking after my sick family and all I want to do is stay in bed, it is hard on these days to be productive. Some days I don't stop for 14hours, actually that is most days, adding work with parenting is exhausting. I am so glad that I have some flexibility in work hours so I can take my daughter to appointments and I have two early days each week. Everything has to be prioritised now and even down time needs to be scheduled in, how boring.  There is nothing glamorous about having both parents working in a family. It takes commitment from everyone, hubby has really had to step up and we now share domestic duties equally, the kids have also had to help out.

So I guess the question I keep asking myself, if I had the time over would I have abandoned my career for six years to focus on family and myself, the answer I think is yes. I have timehop app to remind me of the wonderful things we did together as a family when we had no money but more time, now the situation is reversed and we need to learn to make the best of more money less time.


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