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It's just a life, but its all mine and I love it!






Saturday, 17 August 2013

Don't Go Anywhere Empty Handed!

A Few Good Changes

This is a post about me rediscovering how to make my home life easier day to day. Nothing earth shattering, but things that have been on my mind lately as I’ve adjusted to my new circumstances.

Why I hear you ask? (ok, I know I can’t but humour me)

Well since my last post back in February there have been a few changes in my life. New car, new house, new job and biggest and best of all, newly single!

With the exception that I wish I’d followed my heart and bought a mini cooper instead of the more practical Holden Captiva (big family beast of a car for those not in Oz) I can honestly say I’m really happy with all these changes!

Not that it hasn’t had its moments of heartbreak, especially with my two mini men, but honestly I’m loving my life and finally feeling settled enough to start writing again.

Mission Possible – Being A Single Mum

So yes I am now officially a single mum! The family home as was, is gone, and funnily enough was always going to be as the landlord is getting married and moving in. Fate?

I know the phrase single mum usually generates an image of a haggard, worn down, scraped back pony tail wearing teenager with three kids in tow, at least in Eastenders anyway. I think they’ve stopped including a fag dangling from their mouths now. But I’m genuinely enjoying the experience, it’s so much more straightforward doing it on my own.

In real terms, I was always the main breadwinner, so things are a little tighter but I’m not in a bad position. Luckily I don’t actually need any support from the ex. The kids are with me, but still see their dad regularly which is great. It also gives me a couple of nights a week free which I never had during my marriage. Luxury indeed!

I have to do most of the pick-ups and drop offs at nursery, and come in make tea, do the washing, baths, cleaning etc etc but again I can cope with that, and it’s not that different.

It can be a little lonely but only if you let it be. But I work full time with a great crew, I’m actually pretty happy with time to myself and my but actually I’ve discovered just how good my friends are! Thanks guys, love you all!

And unexpected bonus has been a new awareness of the men around me, the discovery of flirting (I went into my last relationship age 19, mumble mumble teen years ago! and flirting was not allowed), and general enjoyment of some of the sites around me ;-).

The biggest constraint really has been the not being able to nip anywhere. It takes a full family expedition to get fresh milk when we run out. ANSWER – plan better and don’t run out of milk, even if that means keeping some UHT in (bleurgh!).

Top Tip

So when I started writing this post, what was on my mind was the most useful piece of advice I read when I was pregnant 6 years ago with my first baby.

It was simple but for me infinitely useful piece of advice……..

DON’T GO ANYWHERE EMPTY HANDED

Obvious isn’t it. If you’re going to the kitchen to grab some biscuits, take those empty cups with you and put them by the sink.

If you’re walking upstairs to fetch a nappy, take the washing you just folded with you and put it in the airing cupboard.

As you come back downstairs with the nappy, bring the dirty clothes you saw and put them in the wash basket as you go past.

Going outside to fetch the post? Take the rubbish out to the bin on your way.

So simple. So easy. Save you so much time through the day, and yet I’d forgotten it through time. Instead I’d get to the end of the day, or worse still the weekend, with a list of jobs so long and not even started that my motivation to do any of them was at an all-time low. So much to do I just couldn’t decide where to start.

It’s a mindset to get into, but once you get into the habit it really doesn’t take much effort. And by doing things as I go, even though in most cases it only gets the job started, everything is so much less daunting.

Without Lists

I mentioned list of jobs, and actually that’s something else I’ve started to do. Keeping lists for things I need from the shops, because I can’t just nip back to get what I forgot. Making a list at the start of the weekend for what I was to achieve over the weekend. I find if I do it while the kids are eating their porridge on Saturday morning, I can use writing the list as an excuse to be sitting down with a cup of tea (coffee/ whisky/ whatever it takes J) for ten minutes.

I admit I rarely complete everything on the list, but just writing one usually jogs my memory, in an “oh shh ugar, the kids have a birthday party and I haven’t bought a present yet” kind of way. And by writing it down I find it really easy then to figure out what’s really important to get done, and whether there is any kind of timeline to follow.

So this is definitely not a post to say being a single mum is a piece of confectionary of any kind, just a few thoughts on how to make the work side of being a mum, single or not, a little easier.

Final tip – do it all to music (dance when no one is looking)

Really final tip – sometimes its ok to not get things done and not stress about it J

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Get People To Make Their Own Present

One of my favourite Christmas prezzies this year might have seemed a little strange to some people. Fortunately my friend knew me we'll enough to know I'd get it.

She bought me a bag. Disappointed? OK so it wasn't actually a bag. But it was the materials to make a bag! Far more interesting.

What the package actually contained was:

  • A ball of wool
  • An 8 mm crochet hook
  • Handles for the bag
  • A pattern.

Perfect!

The wool was unusual and was actually more like t-shirt material ripped into strips. Or to put it another way, a 500 g ball of Moda Vera, 100% polyester. The colour was an almost beige brown colour called Gypsy. The remains of the ball are shown below.

The work up on the bag is incredibly quick, the main body is single crochet giving a tight neat finish. The decoration comes at the top and is I suspect the reason my friend chose this pattern. It's a complete contrast to the body and is formed of broomstick lace which I enjoyed learning to do a year or so ago. It's a great technique that gives a very distinctive pattern.

The bit that I thought might be difficult was attaching the handles but that turned out to be really quick and easy and not scary at all. I will be far more likely to work something like this in again in the future.


The whole bag was complete in a couple of days, putting only a couple or so hours work in each day. Best of all when we went to the cinema for a showing of Les Miserables (wonderful film) a couple of days later, I had the perfect accessory ready to go.


Finally, seriously consider giving a crafty friend something they can make as a gift. It doesn't have to cost much, its very personal and they'll love it.

ClairLou.

 

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

A Day Out in Melbourne

When my company announced that we were closing for an extra week at Christmas this year I was privately a little miffed. That was back in August. Here and now in January I am over the moon to be still off and enjoying time with my kids in the sunshine.
Hubby has had to go in part of the time which means I was plus energetic kids and minus car. I wanted to do something different with them and largely unplanned our day ended up looking like this.
Walk up hill to bus stop, bus to local station, train to city, chocolate crepes, buy late Christmas prezzie for hubby, tram down to South Bank, steam boat on the Yarra, pizza, ice cream, National Art Gallery, tram back to Flinders, train back to local station, bus back to top of hill, walk back down hill.
It was fab. The kids love using public transport (because they don't often have to) and it extends the trip making it into a real adventure for them. All for the price of a day ticket for Melbourne public transport.

The crepes weren't planned but Melbourne is great like that, we saw a little shop in an alley way and ducked in on impulse. We took them to Queen Victoria Village where the centre is unexpectedly an open air square of grass with oversize tables around it, and a Christmas tree.

Christmas Tree in Queen Victoria Village
Next was Miniman Js first every trip on a tram! We went down to Flinders Street. I love being in this area, always so bustling and busy. Makes you feel full of energy. The kids will sit and watch the view from the bridge for as long as I let them.



The plan was to go up the Eureka Tower, the kids had been given the choice of that or a ride on the steam boat. We had to go past the steam boat to get there. A few minutes later I'd spent $20 on tickets for the three of us to go on the steam boat. The lure was just too much for the kids.

We had a couple of minutes to wait so we sat on the dockside watching the river. I also had a few little toy cars handy in my bag which I find an incredibly handy stand by in many situations. In fact they're probably the reason I'm still mostly sane.

Playing With Cars on the Dockside
The Grower is a lovingly restored steam boat that we take half hour trips on quite often. Its $10 for me and $5 for the kids which I think it pretty reasonable. The commentary is easy to listen to and usually quite funny. Its a fun and relaxing way to see Melbourne, not to mention a good way to take a sneaky break for half an hour! They also drop you back off at your starting point if that's your preference. There are some other boats but this one has always charmed me.

The Grower - Restored Steam Boat on the Yarra
We grabbed pizza at a local food hall for lunch. There are lots of good restaurants here (Southbank) but they'd be wasted on my mini men, and on my wallet so $12 bought as much pizza as we could eat and we sat on a public bench to eat it. The kids enjoyed watching the bike riders and skateboarders whizz by.

Finally I decided to push my luck and head for the National Art Gallery which is only a stone's throw away. To my great surprise and pleasure we spent a happy hour in there before I heard 'my legs are bored'. I was very proud of my two mini men. They actually liked some of it!

After that we only needed to reverse our journey and chatter about what we had seen and done.

It was a very simple day out. We could have cut the cost simply by taking a packed lunch so next time I will, but even so we made a lot of memories by making a special day out of some everyday events. :-)

Enjoying the Train Journey Home
 

Happy New Year! - Blue Skies and Silver Linings

Does the sky seem blue this morning?


The birds more tuneful?

Usually I'm a bit of a humbug about the whole new year thing but I woke up on the 1st of January 2013 with a extra feeling of lightness.

This could definitely be due to the gorgeous sunny morning here in Melbourne. It is almost certainly something to do with the lie in till 9 am!!! afforded to me by my two minimen (courtesy of taking them to watch the family fireworks here in Melbourne). It's also helped along by the good feelings left over from the casual and happy BBQ we enjoyed at a friend's house beforehand. Oh and don't forget the whole week my work is closed for this year. Lots to be happy about and all that has helped. But honestly, I really feel this is going to be a good year!

Still, I can't bring myself to destroy a New Year's Resolution I made when I was 8. I was hunting for one I could keep and decided 'never to make a New Year's Resolution' would be an easy life long one. Not the most useful maybe but habits are hard to break and I'm kinda superstitious about it now.

So instead I have chosen a couple of words that I would like 2013 to reflect.

Frugal and Light.

Frugal as in not throwing away money, no extremes, just a healthier way to live and more awareness of making, remaking and simple fun.

Light as in light-hearted. Greet problems with a smile and an open mind. Find that silver lining!

So whatever your words are, wishing everyone a happy 2013!

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Yarn Bombing

I'd heard about yarn bombing. I am after all sad dedicated enough to have a google news roundup on the topic of crochet sent to me every day.

There are some truly gorgeous works out there but I came across my first actual real life piece of crochet graffiti just outside a tourist information booth near to Frankston Beach (Melbourne).

Of course I had to take pictures of it although this garnered me some suspicious looks and people giving me wide berths. I can't blame them.

 
Yarn Bomb at Frankston
 

It wasn't huge, or even particularly dramatic but someone had felt the need to soften that steel handrail.

Of course my first thought was CROCHET!!!!. But my next more rational was of a cat suited hooker slinking in at night to silently crochet this into place.

Ok so it wasn't rational, but I did and am still wondering if they come and measure first, how they attach it, what a policeman would say if he caught the red handed? The mind boggles!

I'm now actively searching for yarn bombing but until I find some more then I will leave you with pictures of some of the most awe inspiring examples I've found on the web.

ClairLou

From Leslie Molen's blog, From these hands
For more pics and the source of this picture ....

 

These great sun dresses were from http://www.flickr.com/photos/tofz4u/3570110069/ .
 

And finally these last two that came from here.

A very cosy tree.
 

Somehow makes me think of Dr Who
 

Saturday, 13 October 2012

From Sunday Roast to Sunday Soup

All through my childhood Sunday meant hours of work, mainly by my mum and nana, sacrificed at the shrine of the Sunday Roast.

It started in the morning with the question " dinner for dinner, or dinner for tea?". We lived in the midlands of England so for us dinner meant the midday meal. Decision reached on this question was followed by a debate on which veg and then by calculations as to what time the meat would need to go in and whether Yorkshires or roasters were required.

Myself or my sisters would get called in to peel some veg or stir the made from scratch gravy but on the whole it seemed like a Herculean task far beyond my comprehension. Despite making many such meals myself somehow it still does. And maybe that's why I've made the semi-conscious decision to stop.

In fairness my husband is at heart a meat and two veg man. He'll make polite noises about fancier dishes but his satisfaction is never so great as when presented with an extremely plain meal which he then leaves to go cold before he eats it. (Mental shrug). In order to facilitate this further and to remove a few bad habits we have fallen into (why do kids love McDonald's so much?) he suggested a month of "nothing out of a jar".

I was more than happy to go along with this but I found that by the time I got to Sunday my mouth was not salivating at the thought of yet more chicken breast, broccoli and potatoes in its many personas. A quick exploration of the cupboard quickly unearthed some leeks and spring onions, there are always potatoes in. So on the Sunday morning before hubby was up the leeks and spring onions got lightly fried in butter, the potatoes were boiled up, a stock was organised and the whole lot came together most definitely not from a jar.

RAAF Museum - ready for display
We had a lovely day out at the RAAF museum and saw a mini air display and then came home to steaming bowls of leek and potato soup with a nice loaf of crusty bread. I could splash out on a nice loaf because I wasn't paying for meat.

Since then I've followed it on consecutive Sundays with a carrot and coriander soup, and then with a red lentil and carrot soup. I do usually run it all through a food processor to make a lovely thick winter soup, partly because I think a lot of soups are good this way, and partly because one of my little aspie's quirks is that he prefers his food to be separate. This way he sees only soup, not veggies all mixed together in a liquid. If there is a soup I'd rather leave alone then I can just zzzzz his.

Dubious at first, the kids actually cleaned their plates and followed it down with bowls of homemade chocolate ice cream. More of that later! Actually the kids enjoyed the change and the lower formality and fun of tearing up the bread to dip into the soup.

Bacon and Potato Soup - ready to eat
Bacon and Potato Soup - ready to eat
The benefits, it's no problem to whip the soup in the morning while my mini men eat their porridge and watch a few cartoons. It's cheap! Seriously usually it's mainly veggies (although this weeks was bacon and potato) but even so I would say I must have saved at least $40 this month compared to the meals I would normally have made. It's nutritious and you know exactly what has gone into it. And last but not least its helping to develop the kids taste buds and texture palette. Oh and even more last there are far fewer dirty dishes and no roasting pans to clean!

So while I'm not saying I'll never make a Sunday Roast again, right now I'm enjoying the change for a few weeks.

 

ClairLou

 

Friday, 12 October 2012

Flux

Things seem to be in flux at the moment. It seems like almost everyone's life is going through a period of change or even upheaval. Some minor, some life changing. A spiritual friend of mine sees a guiding hand in it to challenge people to grow.

Me, I think maybe I see some parts of society discontented with the meaningless existence and trying to find a way to add some meaning to their days.

Whatever the reason it seems like less glamour and more substance is the order of the day.

So what does that mean in real terms?

More Making!

More making, baking, cooking, crocheting, knitting, sewing. More playing in the garden, getting together with friends and their families at their houses. More fun, contentment, joy. More making do and more making the best of what you have.

All in all I think this can only be for the good.