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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