Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Thank you

To you who subscribed to or followed my blog this year, thank you.

To you who have stumbled across it while looking for something else, thank you.

To you who have commented here, emailed me, and been kind to me this year, a BIG thank you. I still read your blogs sometimes, but I'm back to being a lurker for the time being.

I've struggled with updating this blog since being pregnant with my fourth child (this gorgeous, surprise, and miracle of a child) and not just because of lack of time and competing priorities.

I've also had a crisis of sorts which has stopped me writing for pleasure, not only on this blog, but the other stuff I've always hoped to write as well. I've been struggling with the questions of:

What am I choosing to do with my time and why?

Why do I not do many of the things (good things, noble things, loving things) I would really like to do?

How am I to best express myself, my aspirations, my struggles, in line with my truest and deepest desires? Is it through writing, or simply living the best possible life I can, or both? If both, how do I manage that?

What's holding me back in life? What is drawing me forward?

I actually am grateful for this crisis. I reached mid-life this year so maybe that's what sparked it. Or maybe it's just that I'm in a very demanding season of life and I have to learn to roll with it.

But I'd like to think it means something fresh and new and wonderful is on the way. A new realisation, new appreciation, or new way of being in this amazing world of ours.

I wish you a blessed, forever fresh and new way of looking at things too, as we begin to travel a brand new year.

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Monday, September 27, 2010

My kids want to be on Junior MasterChef

I've been busy, but still have some time to write a little. I had a Heckler column published in the Sydney Morning Herald recently, about MasterChef, reality TV and celebrity culture. Check it out here.

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Friday, September 17, 2010

Lavender oil spray giveaway

                                                                         Image by Aussiegal

"Beauty is truth; truth beauty. That is all you know and all you need to know." Keats' Ode to Beauty

I don't know if that quote tells the whole truth, but I do believe that part of my job as a parent is to facilitate experiences of beauty for my children, and part of that is making our home a beautiful place.

We don't have an easy house to work with - it's small, dark and draughty - but I find there is still a lot I can do to make sure each room has a calm and beautiful feel to it; keeping the blinds open for maximum sunlight, keeping the place reasonably clean and clutter free, nurturing a garden, using fresh flowers for their beauty and scent.

I remember reading in one of those Spotless/cleaning/home beautiful type books that you could use essential oils in beautifying your home by dabbing some on cotton balls and leaving them behind books on the bookshelves and in other nooks and crannies for a gorgeous subtle scent, replacing them every week.

I liked the idea, but I couldn't be bothered doing it myself.

Instead I have a little ritual of my own. After cleaning the house, when it is all neat and sparkly and dust-free I burn a stick of lavender incense for its lovely fragrance and sense of calm it gives me. Then I enjoy my lovely house for a few hours until everyone comes home again.

Recently I was sent some of Bosisto's Lavender Spray to try, and it basically does the same job as the incense. It uses pure essential oil, so it leaves a lovely lingering fragrance. Bosisto says the spray has other uses as well, including:
  • As an antiseptic
  • For insect bites
  • Deodouriser in the bathroom
  • For rubbish bins, nappy bins
  • For soothing and relaxing - spray in bedroom before sleep

It's meant to be good for helping babies to sleep, but this fourth baby of mine so far seems to be a really sleepy one, so I can't really vouch for that!

You can find Bosisto's Lavender Spray in the medicinal aisle in Coles, and in pharmacies. It retails for $12.95.

To give you an idea of how long it lasts I've had mine for a couple of weeks and find I only need a very short burst of spray per room, so it's long-lasting for me.

If you'd like to try it and you live in Australia I have five cans to give away.

Just drop me a line in the comments section to tell me your favourite way to add beauty to your day. I'll post a can to the first five Aussie commenters (who let me know they're from Aus) but I'd love to know any tips from OS readers too.

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Giving birth boosts your creativity

At least that's been my experience.

While I was pregnant I wrote about giving up my lifelong dream of being a published book author. I didn't have the time, the energy, or the ability to work towards it.

This time of my life was for building a family. Other things would have to wait indefinitely. I was resigned to the fact, and although God knows I love this family raising business I did feel a sense of loss.

"I'm not going to write a book this year," I wrote. "I may never write one."

Then I had my baby, my fourth one, and realised I was wrong.

After those tricky final months of pregnancy it felt exhilarating to suddenly have my body back to myself, and my mind freed of anxiety about the birth.

I was full of energy - physical and creative. I used the middle of the night feeding times to come up with story ideas and research publishers' websites on my Blackberry. Within a couple of weeks I had made up a dummy of my first children's book!

And I started baking again - orange semolina syrup cake, chocolate chip biscuits, pancakes.

Basically I felt like myself again and my mind was brimming with ideas, plans and projects.

Of course now that our little one is almost five weeks old I'm now slowing down a little as chronic sleep deprivation sets in. I now find myself dozing off during night time feeds, not inventing grandiose plans!

Still, it's given me great hope to realise that I've still got that old creative and ambitious 'spark', it was only being rested for a while.

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Look who's here!

I don't have time to blog right now, but I wanted to post this picture of our sweet boy, born a couple of weeks ago.

He seems to like us well enough. He's not complaining anyway. And we're very happy to have him with us!

I hope to return to more regular posting soon. At the moment I'm enjoying taking it easy, napping whenever I can, spending time with the bigger kids and basically sucking every bit of enjoyment from this sweet and brief time of newborn babydom.

See you soon!

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Sunday, July 4, 2010

One day I will blog - and twitter

Yep, one day I will manage to blog consistently. And twitter. I really hate it when I find a blog I like and then the person stops posting. Now I've been that person! Twice!

But my recent commenters - lovely, lovely commenters, you know who you are - have pulled me back in to at least add this note that I'm still around.

I still want to contribute to the amazing Australian women's blogging community, and I still want to share what I'm learning along the way as a freelance writer and editor with (nearly) four young kids and a very patient husband!

But not right now. Not even time to find a picture to go with this post.

Eight weeks to go in this pregnancy. All's well with the baby, although I've been sick and feeling crappy with one thing or another for the past two months (I guess you can't have everything!).

I'm trying to get my head and habits around keeping on top of things around the house, with the kids' schooling/activities, my work, finances etc. It's an exciting time actually, but it leaves no time at all for blogging, especially when I'm heading for bed by around 9pm each night.

How on earth do these other blogging mothers (whose blogs I only lurk around occasionally these days, instead of reading religiously) do it??

But one day I will blog. Maybe I will blog about these joyful, crazy, stressful, EXHAUSTING days. Life is really full-on and the baby isn't even here yet, so who knows exactly when that will be?

In the meantime a BIG thank you to everyone who continues to drop by. Mmwah! (that's a kiss!)

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Monday, May 24, 2010

A hot family car

With our fourth baby due at the end of August, we're in the market for a seven-seater car and found this one online, Toyota calls it the Swagger Wagon.

I don't think it's available in Australia, but the ad is worth watching - catchy tune and absolutely hilarious!

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Friday, May 21, 2010

Bella Magazine - a glossy mag to inspire young women

I recently heard about this new Australian magazine for teenage girls which aims to provide an alternative to "the sexed-up modern magazines like Cosmo and Dolly".

Bella - beautiful girl - is the latest girls’ magazine for 13 to 19 year olds and was launched earlier this year.

I haven't seen a copy yet, but I hear that it's good. A high-quality glossy mag similar to its mainstream counterparts. But since it's not-for-profit the content isn't driven by advertisers, which means it can maintain its editorial integrity.

The magazine, independently published in Queensland, covers music, fashion, relationships and other issues interesting to young women.

It wants to be a catalyst to help "reverse the tide of self-damaging attitudes and trends imposed upon our young women". And it wants to inspire young women to make a difference in their communities and in the world.

That means you won't find headlines like this in Bella Magazine:

From Dolly

Like hot guys more than hot dinners?
10 steps to getting a boyfriend

From Cosmo

Taking the morning after pill
The bikini bootcamp

From Girlfriend

Take our sealed section survey

The emphasis on sex, image, and celebrities in these mainstream magazines aimed at teens and young women is really full-on. I challenge anyone who tries to kid themselves that 12 year old girls, or younger, are reading and absorbing this stuff.

I'm not against the Cosmos and Girlfriends per se. I'm just so sick of there not being alternatives, especially for girls and young women who are well past the Barbie magazine stage.

I'll be subscribing to Bella and testing it out on a few teenager girls to see if it actually engages their interest, because I think to be effective it can't be boring.

Then if it's as good as it seems I'll be helping it out as much as I can.

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Pregnancy complication

Image by Zoutedrop

Male readers: If you're squeamish about mention of my reproductive parts, pregnancy woes, sex stuff etc., then click away now. The upshot is that the baby and I are okay anyway.

My obstetrician told me this week at my regular appointment that the baby's head is butting against my cervix, and that the cervix is a bit short at 3cms (according to Google - yeah I know - the normal length is 3-5cms).When she asked if I had any pain or pressure in the pelvis or lower back my initial response was "no".

But then I realised that of course I do, often by the evening when I've been on my feet for hours or even just sitting at the computer.

I've just been ignoring it, thinking it was on account of being pregnant and entering the third trimester. And often I suppose I'm too occupied to notice, until the very end of the day when I finally collapse on the sofa feeling like an 80-year-old.

I was dismayed at what she said next.

"You need to take pressure off the cervix. Sleep for 10 hours at night. Rest for two hours every afternoon, lying down with your legs elevated, and lie down any time you feel pressure or lower back pain. Avoid intercourse. And no lifting at all."

She may as well have told me to go straight to hospital and stay there for the next three months! In fact, that might be easier than what she's asked me to do.

My first thoughts were that it's going to be very hard to even manage the early bedtime and lying down during the day part when I have three young children to look after.

My husband does a lot at home, but he also works full time and I can't expect him to take up all my slack.

Our parents are willing, but not really able, to help very much. Although I'm sure they'll do what they can to make things a bit easier.

And "avoid intercourse"? I was too shy to ask for details. (Later, a friend who's a mother of five told me, "It means it should be ok sometimes so long as you're not swinging from the chandeliers".)

After asking the doctor a few questions, I then got scared about going into pre-term labour. How much is the baby at risk?

There is a risk, but no need to be scared, just cautious, she said.

But they seem drastic precautionary measures to me, if there's nothing to be too worried about. I'm taking them anyway, because I would hate to have ignored the warning and then have something go wrong.

I'm also grateful to have an early warning sign, a little alert that I can't just go around doing my thing as if I wasn't pregnant at all.. A lot of women have far worse to deal with during their pregnancies. I'm just being told to take it easy.

This turn of events could also be a God-given opportunity for me to reflect on and re-order my priorities and the way I spend my time. I simply can't do everything I would normally do in a day if I'm to spend so much time lying down.

I have to change my mindset to a much simpler one. Do the absolute essentials for our physical needs - food, clean clothing, not too filthy house - don't get distracted (that means a lot less blog reading) and attempt ONE other thing I'd like to achieve that day.

Only one. This is huge for me.

So this morning I went to the shops with my two littlies to replace my broken mobile phone and get my glasses fixed, and now we're at home, resting.

Normally I would have tried to take the kids to the park for a little while, done a load of laundry and maybe run the vacuum over the place before leaving for the afternoon school run.

But not now, now I'm going slow.

I've got 12 weeks to go. Twelve hours in the day. And counting...

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Monday, May 17, 2010

Bump to Baby guide

Image from

I was recently sent the Bump to Baby Guide to review for Connect2Mums. The in-depth review should be up on the website soon, but in the meantime I just wanted to say what a great resource it is for expectant mothers.

It's a practical resource using a series of note cards, one for each week from around the middle of your pregnancy.

The first week has this great reflection and a mind-training exercise:

Many studies have shown that a mother's mood has a corresponding effect on the activity levels of her baby. Your emotional state is triggered by your thoughts.

Try to feed your baby only positive emotions and chemicals by focusing on thoughts that increase happiness and wellbeing. Catch yourself when negativity of stress creeps in. Direct your thoughts away from all negative behavious including complaining, worrying or judging.

I tried to do this for a week.

The first time I got to put it into practice was when I got up extra early in an effort to have a nice, quiet, leisurely breakfast before the kids awoke. I heard my youngest call for me as soon as I tiptoed past his bedroom on creaky floorboards, and started to think, "I need a bigger or newer house".

That thought is not new to me, and often leads to a whole lot of other, increasingly negative thoughts!

But I caught myself. I thought instead, "At least I made the effort to get up early, and it wasn't so hard."

Old habits die hard though, and I couldn't keep up all that constant positive thinking for more than a week!

But I think that more practice on that first step alone would make me a more positive, contended mum - and that can only be good for all my kids as well.

Check it out (I'm not getting sponsored for this by the way).

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Friday, May 14, 2010

Me - in my toddler's eyes

first thing in the morning. When he's woken me from across the other side of the house with his cheeky, sing-song, "Muuuummmmy! Mummmmmy!"

I took my camera in recently to get a photo of his usual dawntime bright-eyed exuberance, (I think he's at his most gorgeous when he's just woken) but he wanted to take one of me instead, in all my dawntime puffy-eyed weariness!

He was so pleased with his photo. I'm sure he thinks it's beautiful. That's why I'm keeping it for him.

Yeah, I've got unplucked eyebrows, major puffiness around the eyes, flat hair etc, but I think you can see something in my eyes as I look at my little boy trying to act 'big' with my camera. Pride maybe, amusement, and definitely love.

I'm posting this as part of Bloggers Without Makeup. It's a fun idea of Jodie's. But the more serious aspect behind it is to show our daughters, nieces, all our young friends who are girls, that there is nothing wrong with natural, unmade, female faces. They are often even really beautiful.

Better than an image with the humanity airbrushed, botoxed or literally cut out of it.

How strange that it's even necessary to make that point. But it is necessary these days.


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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Is it ever ok to give up on a dream?

Yesterday I looked at my work goals for this month and I finally had to face up to something hard.

I'm not going to write a book this year. It's possible I may never write one.

It's the one enduring dream I've had since I was a child and I've always assumed that I would do it. It's all I remember really wanting. To write a book that people would read, that would maybe contribute something good to the world, or at least a corner of it.

Now, the thinking everywhere seems to be that we should strive for our goals and never give up on our dreams, right? 

As a mother with young children I have felt especially obliged to keep my dreams alive, to keep nurturing my own personal fulfilment so as to not lose sight of myself as a person distinct from my family.

But what I'm asking myself now is: Is it sometimes ok, even necessary, to give up on a lifelong dream? Is it even possible to grow out of a cherished dream? Can it be a good thing?

It hit me yesterday that maybe I've outgrown this particular dream - to have my name on the cover of a book. To see it in the bookshops. To do the publicity round and sign copies for readers (not hordes necessarily, any number of fans would do!).

Maybe this dream is actually misguided, based on some faulty assumptions, or is at the very least an unrealistic possibility for the time being.

At the end of last year I began telling people close to me that I intended to make a start on 'my book', thinking that would spur me to action. Then, emboldened, I put it out there on this blog.  I broke the task down into doable chunks - market research, write a business plan, start canvassing for contributors, draft a proposal - and included these in my monthly goals.

But it's five months already and I haven't got very far. One problem is that I still have fuzzy ideas of the book I want to write and the audience I want to write it for. And they keep changing. When Zoey at Good Goog asked me about it, I intended to tell her, but then realised I wasn't too sure myself.

So I'm not exactly burning with passion over a story I have to tell. And I don't want to write on a topic I'm not passionate about. I think that would make for a pretty crap book. So why do I still want to do this?

If I'm honest, deep down my belief is that if I write a book then I would have 'arrived'. But this is a ridiculous belief when I examine it.

Does it mean that my life's work of raising a family will amount to nothing if I get to my death having never written a book? What a stupid way to measure my worth. But deep down, I know it's how I see myself. Not really amounting to much yet because I've seen myself as a 'writer' ever since I was six years old and I don't have much to show for it. Even though I now have all this wonderful life's experience I could write about!

Also, I'm aware that people simply do not buy books, or read them, these days as much as they used to 30 years ago when I first wanted to be an author.

Social media is where people are now, so maybe I should put the effort I would have put into a book, into a blog (this or another one) instead?

Compounding the issue, my baby's due date is fast approaching. I need to consider how much time, realistically, am I going to be able to put into writing, publishing and marketing a book with four children under seven and a small business to run? A small business which is actually bringing in much-needed income (while the book may not).

So what I'm interested in hearing from my lovely and loyal band of readers, is this:

Have you ever reconciled yourself that a long-held dream may never come to fruition?

Have you ever realised that you were measuring your self-worth with wild inaccuracy?

How do I know if I'm making the right decision in cutting my losses and moving on from this book thing?

Is this a goal which is actually holding me back from seeing other opportunites before me?

Any ideas or advice would be greatly appreciated!

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Monday, May 10, 2010

The secret to having the best of everything

It's true, I can tell you the secret to having the best of everything. Actually, there are two parts to this secret:

Lower your expectations. Be happy with what you have.

Easy huh? Bet you already knew this.

Me too. But actually it's taken me a while to really get the knack of it, and I'm not sure I'm there yet.

But I can tell you I've had the best Mother's Day this year and a big reason is because I did just this.

In the lead-up I was already mentally preparing myself to see the day as an opportunity to hang out with my own mum, and mother-in-law, and make them happy by taking the kids over. The kids would have fun too, as they love visiting their grandparents.

In the past I've seen it as a pain having to drag the kids from place to place in order to make our mothers happy and all I would get at the end of it were three overtired, screaming, bratty children. Happy Mothers' Day, yeah.

Well, I was going to see the positive side this time. Because as Brenda at MummyTime quipped recently, being negative "is just too damn depressing".

I had no expectations for anything for myself, apart from a small gift coming from my eldest daughter's school Mothers' Day stall (which I had paid for), and a painting from my 4-year-old that she had done at preschool.

I just reminded my husband that the girls would be wanting to make breakfast for me as that's what the teachers at school had been telling them to do. I wouldn't be getting a lie-in, as my two-year-old always wants me up at the crack of dawn. I imagined he'd let them butter my toast and make my tea.

So I thought Mothers' Day would be pretty much like most of our Sundays, and I love those so I was going to be happy either way.

Well, in the end I got quite pampered with lovely lie-in, breakfast in bed, flowers, drawings, cards, and a number of gifts (including make-up, jewellery and a nice tablecloth).

I still don't know how my husband kept three excited children under seven quiet while they helped him heat my croissant, mix berries into yoghurt and museli, make my coffee, pour my juice, write a card and arrange flowers on my plate. While I was waiting, I fell back to sleep. Unexpected bliss.

I didn't have to prepare any meals for anyone, bath the kids, or do any of my regular daily tasks. I drank half a glass of wine in the autumn sunshine while watching the girls learn to play cricket from their uncle, and they were so tired by days' end that they all fell asleep early.

It was a total day off, and much more than I was expecting. It was the best!

This is a much better way of being, for me at least. I didn't even want to read about what other mums were doing on Sunday (sorry bloggy mother friends).

I have to be careful of falling back into the temptation of comparing myself to others, comparing what I've got generally to what the people in my suburb, or among my friends have, etc.

Because even if I could count my blessings comparatively one day, on the very next I'd see that someone else has it much easier, better, or more exciting, than me. And then I'd be dissatisfied with my lot. And then guilty because I felt ungrateful for what I have, and mean for not being happy for others.

And that angsty, guilty, jealousy, disappointy feeling - well, I've just had enough of it thank you. No more for me. While I have the option of choosing happiness you bet that's what I'm going to take.

Image: Flowers from my lovely ones, picked from the garden. And an extra treat I claimed for myself!

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Thursday, May 6, 2010

Maternity clothes shopping in a hurry

This is me a month ago, five months pregnant, wearing a dress my mother-in-law gave me around Christmas time. Yeah, pregnancy has a way of creeping up on me from behind. Anyway, I've been getting away with wearing my regular clothes until this week.

On Monday, getting ready for the school run on a chilly autumn morning I realised I literally had nothing suitable to wear that fit me and was warm. I'd popped out so suddenly!

This is me this week, in my trying-to-make-do clothes. Please excuse the less-than-glamourous hair etc. this is for baby-illustrating purposes only! I'm happy that the baby's showing in the front now :)

For my other pregnancies I wore my usual clothes well into six months of pregancy. By then it was spring or summer and I could get away with a few sleeveless or short-sleeved maternity tops and a couple of elasticised skirts. I wore my jeans with the belly belts and that was it.

So on Monday I did something I can't remember doing before - I drove straight from school to the shops and bought almost a season's worth of clothes without a second thought. I've never bought so much clothing for myself at once before.

I think I might do it again, post-baby. It's a great way to get a co-ordinated lot of clothes, rather than my usual hit-and-miss, buy something on sale and hope it will go with what I have at home style.

So here's what I got. I went to Pumpkin Patch (they had a sale on) and Target, and it's all mix 'n match 'cause I didn't want to splurge on maternity clothes.

Two long-sleeved tops
A hoodie
A pair of cargo pants
A dress and matching cardigan
A skirt
Two scarves in different colours to help mix it up a bit

Total spent, $200. (Would love some new boots as well, but hey, can't have everything!)

I already had a black maternity skirt, my trusty belly belts for my jeans, a couple of pairs of trackies for around the house, and one long-sleeved top. I have a big jacket that I think I can still wear up to nine months, so I think I'm set now. Probably only need some leggings or tights to go with the skirts and dress when it's colder.

It felt so good to get a job like that out of the way in one hit. I'm not a big clothes shopping fan. Especially hate the fluorescent lighting in those change rooms. I'll have to post a picture of me in the new clothes soon.

So what do you think? Will it be enough? Have I forgotten something?

And what was the most you ever splurged on clothes for yourself in one trip or online?

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Monday, May 3, 2010

Freelance goals for May (and slacking off at the beach)

Well, April wasn't as productive for me work-wise, compared with March.

But we did manage a few days' family getaway to the beach, ended up spending a bit more than we expected to (as you do), and I didn't feel guilty at all. We enjoyed what was probably among the last of a run of gloriously warm and sunny autumn days before winter's chill sets in.

But today it was back to work and my unfinished list of jobs. I probably had unrealistic expectations about what I could achieve last month, working part time and with school holidays and a public holiday in the mix.

So, here's how April looked:

  • One article deadline before Easter. Done
  • List article ideas for newspaper series. Write the first two. Not Done
  • Join two online networking forums for freelancers. Done
  • Complete book proposal. Not Done
  • Create flyers for proofreading and editing and a list for distribution. Not Done
I can also add a couple of book reviews I wrote, which wasn't on my list, so all up my month wasn't a total disaster. Also, I had second thoughts about the flyers. I'd be better off getting my website up first.
So for May I plan to:

  • Write the first column for the new series
  • Write a book review
  • Write a pregnancy resource review
  • Get the website finalised
  • Draft book proposal
This is all in addition to my regular weekly newspaper column and any proofreading or editing work that arises.

My freelance business is ticking along nicely. Over the next three to four months I'll be putting in a few more hours a week than usual, so that I can take it a lot easier once the baby is here.

I want to fully appreciate those first precious weeks and months with my newborn. This flexibility is what I love about freelancing!

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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Why weekends away are better than a dream holiday

What a week! My gorgeous boy turned two, I got back to writing work after the school holiday break, and this blog got another award (this time from the lovely and talented Michelle at Warsaw Mommy).

I said to my husband the other night that I feel as though I've been pushing myself to get through the last few weeks. Since Easter we've all had the flu, we've had two of the kids' birthdays (both involving parties) and we've worked a weekend. Add the pregnancy and it makes an exhausting combination.

So we're going away this weekend. Taking a short scenic drive down the coast to a simple beachside house for two nights. It should be enough to recharge our batteries for the next few months.

I prefer a short getaway to a longer holiday. Two or three nights is perfect for me.

I think most of  would be better off with a weekend away here and there, rather than waiting for a bells-and-whistles holiday every year or so.

In my humble opinion.

Here's why:

It's so much simpler to plan a weekend away, so it's more likely to happen, more often. All it took this time was a phone call to a friend who has access to this holiday house, another to a car rental company, and a quick scribble on the calendar.

Man, planning a dream holiday can be stressful, even deciding what great things I would want to do with the time, what to wear etc. and I need LESS stress!

For parents, it's kid-friendly travel. Even the two-year old can cope with little over an hour's drive. And that makes me happy.

Or you can leave the kids at home. A night or two is a reasonable ask for the grandparents to take on childminding duties, if you have that option.

It's far cheaper. Our biggest expense this time is the hire of a small second car so we can take all our gear, and my mum and her things.

It's kinder to the environment. The carbon footprint of a few weekends away each year is a lot smaller than one longer interstate or overseas holiday. In petrol for example, we'll be spending not much more than it would have taken us to get to and from the airport.

It can be good for business. As a freelance writer, I can actually make some earnings from time away. After a previous short trip I wrote a travel article for one of my local newspapers, making back some of the cost of going. And I always come back to work refreshed and with new ideas for my business.

It's answering a need. Of course I would love a full-on romantic European holiday with my husband, or to take a few months to drive the family around Australia in a campervan.

It would be exciting planning and taking such a trip. But it's a want, a 'nice to have' - not a need.

On the other hand I see the odd weekend away as a legitimate need, in order to avoid burnout for both of us and create some lovely memories for the children.

It doesn't have to be ideal. It just has to be good enough.

I have two ideal weekends, city and country. Both include the husband (have to say that!).

The city one would involve dinner at Quay in Sydney followed by a luxury hotel stay. And a makeover, a cruise on Sydney harbour, and a some serious free spending money. A few close friends may, or may not, be included as part of that. But probably not the children.

The country one would involve lots of time to hike through bush and explore little lanes, picnics, cups of tea and scones with handmade jam and triple cream, a visit to a winery, and reading a good book in a hot bath in front of a fire in our luxury retreat. I might let the kids into that one!

But I'm happy to have less than ideal getaways. Mainly I really just need a short change of scene now and then. And my husband, who has an embarrassing amount of untaken leave from his work, needs one to.

So we're going to stay at the seaside in the cool of autumn. A chance to play with the kids at the beach until dark and not have to worry about getting back home late. Try to find a nice picnic spot. Potter around the shops and cafes. Watch a sunrise.
I'm looking forward to being lulled to sleep by the sound of the waves, rather than the traffic. Maybe I'll have calmer dreams.

So what's your ideal weekend away? And is 'good enough' enough for you?

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Crazy-weird dreams

Every day I have a new, fantastical, often complex story in my head.

Last week I had this terrific notion of a Zen-like superhero who was an ordinary Catholic monk in everyday life, but in a crisis could lift a car off a person with one finger and the power of his super-concentrated mind.

Another time it was a murder mystery involving a still-living person in a shallow grave and another in an Otto bin. The heroine found both just in time before discovering the would-be killer who poisoned them.

I don't make up these stories and ideas because I'm an uber-creative writer. They just appear overnight, in my dreams.

Because I'm pregnant. That's the only reason I can think of.

I often remember my dreams. But when I am pregnant my subconscious goes absolutely berserk while I'm asleep. It's happened three times before, when I was pregnant with my other kids.

I'm sometimes woken up by a particularly exciting, or terrifying, or too-sad dream with my heart racing in the quiet of the night.

These dreams are so vivid I really think I am living them. I can feel textures, smell and taste things, hear voices, and even have memories in them.

I have to tell myself a few times that it was just a dream. That this darkened room, with light from the streetlight seeping in the edges around the blinds, and my husband sleeping beside me, is the real reality.

Then in the morning I can feel tired, as though I have been living in these parallel universes during the night and not actually got much rest.

Sometimes I have an emotional hangover - because of the intensity of the emotions and sensations in the dream, or the mental conundrums that the dream story presented.

Sometimes I'm hugely entertained by a dream and I can't believe it came from me, and I'm grateful for being given a funny story to tell my husband and friends.

I don't dream about the baby much. I guess most of this dreaming is baby-related though, as this article on pregnancy proposes.

Maybe I'm getting less deep sleep because the baby's movements are quite strong now and they're disturbing my sleep patterns. Who knows. I'm just waiting for my next deep, dreamless sleep.

I'm only five months pregnant and I'm already obsessing about not getting enough sleep. Hah!

Image by tibchris

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Working from home the easy way

On Monday, the first day back from two week's holidays, when I was going to hit the ground running to complete my April freelance goals, I spent the day in bed.

Didn't count on getting sick, did I?

But it was a good lesson. While it's important to plan ahead and set goals, you have to leave a little room for the uncertain and the unpredictable and good old bad luck, and not get too cut up about it when things don't go your way.

On Tuesday I was feeling better but although I had a dirty house, which could wait another day, I had a backlog of laundry that couldn't. Plus I was already behind on one of my self-imposed work deadlines.

My husband decided to work from home for the day, and it's amazing how much work both of us got done. Working from home is a breeze when you have a like-minded partner.

He was able to work hard, uninterrupted by work collegues passing by his desk, unnecessary phone calls, and the lure of a downstairs cafe.

I worked hard, partly because I felt bad not to when he was right behind me at the kitchen table, industriously tapping away in the quiet of the house and taking the odd important phone call.

We even managed to have a lunch date (just takeaway Pho from the local Vietnamese restaurant at our kitchen table but we rarely eat alone together so it felt like a date!) and get three loads of laundry washed and dried.

I don't know exactly what he got done, but I wrote the article I wanted to have done, did some planning for the rest of the month, wrote a book review and began a second book review before I was ordered to have a nap!

We even got all the laundry put away, kitchen cleaned and lunches for the next day made before the kids' bedtime, so I chilled out on the sofa and watched Survivor guilt-free.

That was pretty much my perfect work-from-home day, but mainly because my husband was around, doing the same thing, which is rare.

So I think a trick for working successfully from home is to take the good days with the bad.

There's no point getting too stressed when an unproductive day, or even a whole week, comes up which is beyond your control.

All you can do is to make the most of the good days when they come, which they inevitably will.

Image by John Pavelka

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Friday, April 16, 2010

A cure for sibling rivalry


We're at the end of two weeks of school holidays and on the days my two youngest have been in day care I've enjoyed spending some rare one-on-one time with my big girl. She's just turned six and I'm starting to think that this might turn out to be my new favourite age.

The two of us have been going to the cafe for smoothies, scootering around the city's Botannical Gardens, sharing fish and chips at the beach, getting our hair cut and visiting friends. She's such great company.

The other day she sat on my lap, put her arms around me and gazing at me with her shining dark eyes said, "Who is your best person in the whole world mummy?"

Oh, how I would have loved to be able to look in her eyes and say it was her. But I couldn't. What about her sister and brother? My husband? My God?

"In the WHOLE world? Can you narrow it down a little?" I stalled.

"Well you're my best person in the whole world," she said, and we hugged and of course I told her that I loved her very much. She was happy, so that was cool. Phew!

I notice that since we've been spending this time together she's been playing a LOT more nicely with her younger sister. She must feel more assured of my love and her value to the family, so there's less need for the petty jealousy stuff.

Needless to say mummy-daughter dates will definitely be a more regular thing even after school goes back next week.

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Friday, April 9, 2010

How to meet a deadline when it looks like a lost cause

I spent last Saturday night, the Saturday before Easter, baking, decorating and wrapping these Easter biscuits (or cookies). Things got a bit stressful at 8pm when I pulled the dough out of the refrigerater and found it too crumbly to roll. I had never used this recipe before, did I follow it right? I didn't know so I just added water and crossed my fingers for luck.

All I knew was that it had to work, because I had no back-up plan for gifts for my family and friends the next day. It would take too long to start from scratch with a new batch of dough. And anyway I needed some sleep before the marathon of church and family visits began the next day.  The shops were already closed. My deadline was starting to look hopelessly out of reach, but I didn't panic.

I've know a great little trick to getting things done when you're running out of time.

You just go for it.

Obvious huh? But I needed reminding, and two things - watching cooking competitions on TV like Masterchef, the Iron Chef, and My Kitchen Rules, and reading this guest blog post at Problogger - did it.

On those cooking shows it always looks like they will run out of time to get anything decent on the plate. There're always 15 seconds left on the clock with the chicken still roasting, the verjuice unfinished, and the white chocolate and raspberry tarts unfilled. But they usually still manage to pull off a fantastic-looking meal. How? They just go for it, hell for leather.

According to Annabel Candy's blog post, she had given herself a deadline of 12 months to get 1000 subscribers to her new blog. After six months of blogging she only had 43 subscribers which she said was a bit depressing. But she didn't give up, and as the 12 months was drawing to a close she had 950 subscribers and was confident of reaching her goal. She didn't use any tricks like lots of giveaways either, she just put her head down, wrote more articles and kept submitting them to bigger blogs until they got accepted as guest posts giving her own blog lots of exposure.

As for me, my own writing and marketing goals for April are already starting to look a little out of reach. With a week of school holidays left to go, I won't be able to work on anything much until the middle of the month when my daughter goes back to school. But I'll hit the ground running, and hopefully I'll still have a small stash of Easter cookies to help me get by (I find working more fun when there are good snacks around!).

What tips do you have for meeting (almost) impossible deadlines?

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Thursday, April 1, 2010

Beautiful Blogger and One Lovely Blog awards

I was so surprised and thrilled this morning to find that Kristy at Pampers and Pinot had given me two lovely awards, for Beautiful Blogger and One Lovely Blog. Thank you Kristy! How did you know I needed cheering up today? I'm enjoying reading your blog too.
Here they are:

To claim these awards, I have to share seven things about myself and pass on the awards to 15 other bloggers. Here goes:

I never watched Lost before, but I am absolutely glued to this final season

Love spring, hate winter. Hot chocolate is winter's only redeeming feature

I write a weekly newspaper column

My husband and I are presenters for the Engaged Encounter pre-marriage education course

While at uni I worked at Sydney Tower, it's a beautiful place to spend the day

My favourite poems are Tintern Abbey and Intimations of Immortality by Wordsworth, and Wreck of the Deutschland by Gerard Manly Hopkins

I learnt that if you really want something you just have to stop wishing and do what it takes to get it. (It's taken me 34 years to figure this out!)

Now, I award these lovely women and their blogs. I'm a lurker on some, a commenter on others.
Some are old favourites who I am continually inspired by or who or made me feel welcome in the blogging world, others I found more recently and I appreciate their perspective on things:

Jennifer at Conversion Diary
Kate at PickleBums
Rhonda at Down To Earth
Zoey at Good Goog
Christie at Childhood 101
Brenda at Mummy Time

Finally I wish you all a very happy Easter, Passover, festival of friends, family and chocolate, or whatever you celebrate this time of year!

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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The nest

I found this precious thing the day after a storm about a week ago. It'd been knocked out of a tree near my daughter's school.

It looked unused, there weren't any feathers stuck it, or any eggs or feathers on the ground around, so I figured it was a gift and I could keep it.

"She made it out of all these little twigs Mummy," my eldest daughter marvelled when I showed it to her. "Did she use her spit to make them stick together?" She's as amazed as I am at its ingenious construction, and the way it's both so strong and so very fragile.

We imagined the little mother bird industriously selecting small, flexible twigs, patiently teasing bits of shimmery gold ribbon and blue cloth to help make the nest comfy. Perhaps she was already working on a new nest to replace the one she lost in the storm, so she could lay her eggs.

This nest (so petite, maybe a sparrow's?) sits on the bookcase in my bedroom, along with a handful of my favourite photos and mementos. It gives me a little lift every time I see it. There's something about it that speaks to my mind and soul at the moment.

Maybe that's because I have a little something like this:

living inside me. Thriving and growing stronger, and yet far too fragile to meet the world for another five months or so, when Spring arrives.

Twenty week foetus image:

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Freelance goals for April

Last month I posted my freelance writing goals for March and I'm doing it again for April.

If you're also doing the solo-working-from-home thing you might like to put your own goals in the comments and we can support each other. Or post them up and let me know so I can have a look!

Posting my goals gave me a sense of accountability (even if only my husband read them) which is pretty vital in starting and growing a freelance business.

So this was March:
  • Meet three article deadlines (on top of my weekly newspaper column). Done.
  • Attend a networking event for freelancers, and follow up with any interesting potential contacts. Done. (In fact, I went to two events if you count the Sydney bloggers' meet)
  • Write a book proposal. That goal was a bit unrealistic. I've taken the first steps in researching what is already out there in my intended niche and thinking about where to find my readers - online and offline. This is info I need to have clear in my head and put in my proposal.
A lovely bonus was visiting one of my editors and over the course of our chat he invited me to think of ideas for a new series of articles he wants to run.

I'm pleased with how March went.  Now to April, which is a bit trickier since I have Easter, two weeks of school holidays and one weekend away to factor in. But I am confident of getting these done at least (again, this is on top of my weekly column):
  • One article deadline before Easter
  • List article ideas for newspaper series. Write the first two
  • Join two online networking forums for freelancers
  • Complete book proposal
  • Make up flyers for proofreading and editing and a list for distribution
Wow, that looks like more work than last month, and I've less time to do it in. Better get to it!


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Friday, March 26, 2010

Love at work at home

I wanted to write a fabulous post for anyone dropping by today, especially for FlogYoBlog Friday.

Had a few plans for today. Some work calls to make, some emails to reply to.

Also hoped to catch up with a friend at our local park for a picnic while the kids played on the new equipment.

Then I found out that my daughter tested positive for dust mite allergy, so I'm spending the day washing bedding and cleaning like a fiend instead.

(In between cooking eggs, making toast, heating soup, looking for chocolate, washing small hands of said chocolate, getting cold drinks etc. etc.)

Ah love, the things it makes you do.

Lucky the weather's in my favour today. Weekend's around the corner, have a good one.

To join FlogYoBlog Friday and check out some great, mostly women, mostly mothers' blogs, scroll down a little to the links on the right.

Image: nationaal archief

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

If you got da feeling, jump across the ceiling!

The first two things my 23 month old son says in the morning are, "fas" (breakfast), and "jump" (his favourite song). The 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th things he says are "more jump!". Can you guess what it is?

Someone put House of Pain's Jump Around to a Bollywood movie clip which is pretty cool. (What's that called? Mashing?)

After hearing it 15 times a day for the last few days I'm still happy to jump around to it with my little boy.

Turn it up and enjoy. By the way, I can't believe this song is nearly 10 years old.

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Monday, March 22, 2010

Sydney Bloggers Meet

I met up with four lovely women in a Newtown cafe on Saturday, who are also mothers with blogs. Thanks Fe, for the photos.

Brenda organised the meet up with sponsorship from Nuffnang (thanks Bren).
She is just like her Mummy Time blog! Very bright, funny and down-to-earth.

Sarah aka Mrs Superwhite.

Zoey (Good Goog), who like me has applied for the Smart Home Family project.
Right, it's on! (nah, good luck Zoey and if your family wins I'll help promote you)

We don't have a photo of our gorgeous blonde photographer, Fe, but her blog about her life is here.
So instead, here's a photo of some nibblies that went with the mojitos and the caipirinhas:

Oops, then there's me in need of a slight dress readjustment. I did smile - whenever the camera was not pointing at me!

We chatted about our lives, families, work, blogging, photography, our hopes and dreams.

With two photographers present - I've since found out it's three after seeing Zoey's beautiful blog - it's rekindled my interest in taking up photography.Thanks again Fe for all your advice.

I still feel like a complete beginner at this blogging thing, and I am still intrigued at how easily and naturally friendships can blossom through social media alone.

But then, why not? That's the power of the written word.

How many times when I was younger and I fell in love with a book that I wished I could be friends with the author? Now we can connect with our favourite authors, including bloggers, if we like. 

Another reason why it's a great time to be alive.

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Friday, March 19, 2010

Freelancing for Australians for Dummies

"If you look six months down the track and there's nothing there, and that makes you feel extreme dread, then freelancing is probably not for you.

"If you look six months down the track and there's nothing there and you feel a bit of dread, followed by extreme excitement, than you are definitely cut out for freelancing."

Luckily I fit the second scenerio, but that's no surprise. I know that this is what I'm meant to be doing.

No, my 'aha' moment during the author talk with Monica Davidson (pictured), the co-author of the Aussie version of Freelancing for Dummies, came when she spoke of freelancers retaining an employee mentality.

"Even if you are working off your kitchen bench and they are a multinational, you are both in business, you're on an even footing and you can say, let's work something out that is equitable and fair for both of us," she reassured a group of small business owners and freelancers at a small business book club sponsored by Canada Bay Council in Sydney last week.

She also said she could guarantee that most people in the room charged too little for their services. "You don't want to be the cheapest carton of plonk in the bottle shop," she said. "People will think you're crap."

The Sydney-based writer, filmmaker and mother of three who says she has "never had a proper job" shared lots of pithy and useful bits of advice, including, "Don't listen to the Reality Police who tell you it's not a proper job and you won't make any money that way", and, "Don't be so busy working that you stop marketing".

"If you only start marketing when you've already run out of work it's like a dating when you're desperate. Everyone can tell that you're desperate, they can smell it on you and they will exploit you."

Monica placed looking after your money, understanding your tax situation, and getting contracts, among her top ten tips for successful freelancing.

Also important was finding like-minded people who support you. "Also, you need to educate your family and friends about how they can support you," she said. "You have chosen an unconventional path and you can't necessarily expect them to understand your life."

In this respect, Monica said she found her children easy to train to respect her work space and time.

"I hear that husbands are often a lot harder."

The book is an updating of the original Freelancing for Dummies by Susan M. Drake, for the Australian context.

Image from

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010


This is something I've been struggling with lately.

Although I have pretty much everything I could wish for.

I have great health, live in a beautiful country, am happily married. I'm mother to three lovely small children and have good family and friends. I have interesting work as well.

Sure, not everything is the way I would like it to be, but hey, that's life. I have it pretty good.

So when I'm feeling as discombobulated (for want of a better word) as I have the past few weeks, my Catholic guilt kicks in and tells me I should be grateful for all that I have and all the promise that I know the future holds. I should be 'counting my blessings'.

Count your blessings.

I really don't like that phrase, the way it sounds like an imperative in my head. It makes me feel small and petulant, because I know I should do it, but what if I don't feel like it?

But now I think there's something shifting in me. Maybe it's this glorious autumn weather.

Maybe it's reading about tragic situations other people are going through.

Maybe it's the phone call from my friend, inviting herself to dinner tomorrow night.

Maybe it's the way my little boy laughed until he was breathless when I blew raspberries on his stomach.

I don't know why, because today is no different to any other day, and tomorrow I might be back to a little bit grumpy. But right now, I am grateful.

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Monday, March 15, 2010

In which I whine and pick fluff out of my navel

I spent the other night moseying around some other blogs and it was a mixed experience I must say.

I love discovering new blogs, even if they are just new to me. And it was great to catch up on some old favourites.

But boy, did I get a major case of blog envy, verging on total life envy!

"These women are cool," I whined to my husband when he got home. "I'm not funny or entertaining like they are. I don't have any special knowledge to impart. Look, this one started her blog around the same time as I did and she's got more than 600 subscribers! And she's got useful information on hers."

"Well I think you're funny. Here I bought chips for you."

So ended that conversation.

But I still have a dilemma. Do I try to have a more interesting life to give me more to blog about?

Do I spend more time on posts, so they are properly thought-out and written?

Can I afford to spend more time (more than approximately zero, at the moment) socialising online with these women who are interesting and talented, not to mention accomplished, and hope that some of it rubs off onto me?

I don't know.

It crossed my mind that I could divulge more of my private life, swear, and occasionally discuss my female reproductive parts in my posts.

I like some blogs which happen to have elements like these, but it's not me. If I tried it I think it would look obviously contrived. (I'll never say never though!)

I am uncontroversial, I'm not titillating. I am very suburban. I'm quite vanilla really. And there's no point me railing against it. I am who I am.

Some people will like my blog, others won't rate it at all. I like having it. So I should just get over it, huh?

In the meantime, among others, I'm enjoying three very different blogs: Mummy Time, Michelle Dennis Evans, and Elegant Sufficiency.

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Thursday, March 11, 2010

My Modern Home

For some years I've been freelance writing for a terrific magazine called My Modern Home.

I love this gig, mainly because I get to see inside lots of fabulous Australian homes and, especially, get to speak with the people who live in them.

Some are celebrities, most aren't. Some hire interior designers, others have done months or years of searching and researching to find the things they want.

It always reminds me of the importance we place on the physical space we create for ourselves. Home is where we 'plant our body and soul' somebody said to me recently, which is really quite profound.

My family doesn't have the kinds of resources to spend on a house that the people featured in My Modern Home do. But my husband and I have made quite a nice little home for ourselves nevertheless.
It has our favourite things - lots of good books, comfy (well-worn) sofas, music, beautiful bed linen, and everything I need for my freelance writing business. And at mealtimes there is always good food and good company. Even when it is just the five of us here.

I'm always pleased by how a bit of decluttering and cleaning can make even our old, rented, house look and feel more beautiful. And thanks to the magazine, I have heaps of tips and ideas for when we buy our own house one day!

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Friday, March 5, 2010

Silky Eggplant Parmigiana

Last week I had four eggplants in the fridge from my mum's garden and decided to make a parmigiana.

It's probably one of the most run-of-the-mill Italian dishes there are. But not to me. Making it was as exotic and exciting for me as seeing Brad Pitt in the flesh would be. (If I were a fan, which I'm not, in case my husband's wondering ; )

In the end it was too 'saucy' to stand as a meal on its own, so I boiled some pasta and threw it over. I might have sliced the eggplants too finely or used too much passata (tomato puree). But the flavour was fantastic! And the texture - silky and smooth. Such comfort food. I can't wait to make it again.

I took a photo of the sauce I made, before laying it with the sliced eggplant and parmesan cheese. And I meant to photograph the end result, too, but it smelt so good coming out of the oven, and it was so yummy, that I only remembered in time to photograph the end result - just as I was cleaning my bowl.

I used a Stephanie Alexander recipe, which is ok. But for next time I'll use this one from

Every Friday dinner is 'children's choice' at our place. Tonight I'm making nachos at the request of my eldest daughter. I think it's made her happy all day.

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Monday, March 1, 2010

Freelance writing goals for March (or For the Love of Cheese)

I've just completed my first month back at work as a freelance writer, proofreader and copy editor. I would like to say I'm doing it just for the love of it, but, well, no. I need to pay for swimming lessons and nice cheeses.

At the start of February I set a goal, the average sum of money I wanted to be earning each week within six months.

Four weeks later, I think I've done a pretty good job to be already well over half of my average weekly goal.

I enjoy my work, but I still find it challenging sometimes to work alone at home, with no one to bounce ideas off. When I'm busy, I've not no problem. I slip right into that happy zone where I am completely focussed on the task and oblivious to the world around me.

But a couple of times it's been quiet, and I noticed the clock ticking the day away. Then the self-doubt and general worry seeped in and eventually guilt about sending the kids to daycare while I indulge in hand-wringing and clicking around on the internet.

For inspiration I've started reading the blog, Zen Habits. I also still like Karen Cheng, I've been reading her blog for years. Chrisblogging, which deals specificially with freelance writing, is useful too.

I think planning is key to avoiding those quiet times. I'm taking things slowly, I have time to build the business and don't have to do try to accomplish everything all at once. So I have a pretty good plan for March all mapped out - a few deadlines, a networking event, and a book proposal to make.

Plus, my website should be up very soon!

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Can we buy a house?

Maybe I should start a blog about how a couple with a few kids might be able to afford to buy a house in Sydney which is not a shoebox, is not falling down and is a reasonable distance from work.

Or maybe not, considering it would necessarily be a one-post blog, with a depressing post at that. Such as this recent article in the SMH about housing affordability.

On a more optimistic note, we managed to get our entry in on time for the 'search for a Smart House family'.
We are genuinely interested in trialling an energy and water efficient house, not simply getting a year rent-free (it would basically mean taking on a job promoting the technology anyway). But oh, it would certainly help.

In the meantime, I am very happy making pots of fried rice and drinking lemon cordial made with soda water and lots of lime slices; clearing out and organising the laundry; and going on 'mummy and daughter dates' separately with my girls.

I hope you've had a similarly lovely week.
(Sorry about the lopsided house, it's really hard to find a flat part of ground in the backyard!)

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