31 December 2018

2018 in Review

I can hardly believe that the end of the year is here. It feels like just a liitle while ago I was making plans for the year, and saying goodbye to 2017.

There have been ups and downs, more ups than downs, triumphs and failures, trips, laughter and tears.

I've made new friends and had fun with old friends.

I've spent more time in hospital than I want to remember, but I'm so grateful we have the health care system we do.

Wayne and I spent 5-1/2 weeks on Cape York in June and July and had a ball. We explored new places, revisited some old favourites and came home with money left over (and trust me, I tried to spend it all, I really did).

We learned that scammers are so convincing and believable that even the most level-headed of people can be conned; that they aren't always online and that the methods they use are so very sophisticated. We also learned a lot about how the AFP are workng to find them and stop them, no matter where they are in the world. And for the first time we learned what it was like to be fearful for our parents personal safety.

We waved goodbye to two of our kids, and welcomed one home. Yes, I was the crazy lady at the airport jumping up and down and shouting "Tom, Tom, over here, Tom, TOM OVER HERE" one day in April.

We moved a couple of steps closer to our retirement dream.

The third Saturday of the month I spent the day in the company of wonderful like-minded women, laughing, talking, sharing and learning as we made greeting cards together. I was able to personally donate 1,047 cards to charity this year, and had a ball making them with what I had on hand.

We were reminded that life is precious, and shouldn't be taken for granted, it can be taken at any time, without warning as we mourned the loss and celebrated the lives of two friends.

Most of all we remembered that family comes first, and when we work together we can face any challenges and get through them intact.

2018 flew by. Perhaps because days were filled to overflowing and I didn't ever have nothing to do. Or perhaps it's just I'm getting older and I've learned that time is precious and not to be wasted. Or perhaps it's that every day is a new adventure to be faced, exciting in its newness.

And now I'm just a few hours away from a brand new year, with new challenges and new adventures and it will all start again.

Happy New Year everyone, may it be a year of blessings and joy for us all.

28 December 2018

Goals for 2019

The end of the year is looming, and as I've looked back over my diary, there are lots of things I had planned that didn't get done, and plenty of things that weren't planned that did.

I guess that's life.

But with a new year, there is a new beginning, and for me, a new list of things I'd like to accomplish in 2019.

Some of them are simple, others will take more planning and effort. I'd love to get to the end of 2019 and have everything on my list crossed off - you'd hear me cheering on the other side of the world.

So here's my list. No particular order, just things that will make our lives easier and happier, that I should be able to accomplish without too much effort. I'll make a separate list of work goals for 2019  soon.

1. Master hot process soap. Cold process has been my go-to for years, but I've never tried hot process. 2019 is the year!

2. Learn to make sour dough starter and master sour dough bread and buns. Another thing I've always intended doing, with yeast becoming expensive (has anyone else noticed the price, or is it just me?), being able to make a sour dough starter and then bake bread will save us a little money. I've been reading up on Annabel's sour dough adventures, and researching starters and tips, so this may be the first challenge for 2019.

3. Grow more veggies through winter. This past winter we didn't have a veggie garden at all and boy did I miss it. 2019 will see us back to our regular veggie patch all year round - here'shoping the weather co-operates.

4. Get the sewing machine out and use up the fabric I have in the linen cupboard. I have fabric to make Wayne a new winter coat, and t-shirt fabric to make new tops for myself.

5. Spend at least 4 hours a week crafting.

6. Read at least 52 books. That's just one a week, and I should be able to easily get through. Most will probably be on my Kindle, although the library card will get a workout, as will my bookshelves.

7. Try two new recipes a month. It doesn't hurt to mix up the food we eat, and having something new too cook stops me from getting bored.

8. Learn to make hard cheeses. I've never tried to make hard cheeses, so 2019 is the year hard cheese making is mastered. I can't wait, this may be moved to near the top of the list too.

9. Finish off my next two books. Both are 95% done, and I'm aiming for April release for Book 1, and June for Book 2. I'm excited about these projects, they have both been long-term projects that have been held up due to my health problems, and I can't wait to get them finished so I can show them off to you all.

10. Add more of my handmade items to our blog shop. I'm aiming for two new things a week, be it cards, or sewing, or needlework or knitting or crochet or scrapbooks. Hannah is joining me in this venture and it's been fun working with her to choose what we'd stock and then make the plans to get everything made, photographed and in the shop.

If that list is completed this time next year, I'll be so happy.

But it's not set in cement, and I'm sure it'll change during the year. We have some trips coming up, and a couple of big family celebrations in 2019, so it will be busy, busy, busy.

And to finish off, I'm taking some time off. Some of you are aware of the health problems I've had the last 5 years, and they've finally caught up and I need a short break to do nothing but, well nothing; just a couple of weeks to recouperate and get some strength back, and I'll be back and ready to tackle this list in early January.

What are your goals for 2019?

18 December 2018

Tidying Up the Medicine Chest

We don't have an actual medicine chest, but I'd love one. An old fashioned one, white metal, with hinges and a clip lock like my Grandad had would be wonderful.

Instead I have a huge old Tupperware box, bright yellow so it stands out, and a couple of toolboxes that we've converted into first aid kits, one for home and one in the Patrol. My sister-in-law says she could do brain surgery with the one in the Patrol, it's so well stocked!

As a part of my usual end-of-year tidy up and restocking, the medicine chest/box/shelf/cupboards get a tidy up, and a wipe out and then I do a quick inventory and check on use-by and best before dates, make a list of what needs to be replaced or replenished and add them to the shopping list.

Apart from the occasional pain relief for a headache and hayfever relief we don't go through a lot of over-the-counter medications.

Simple pain relief such as paracetamol, can be expemsive if you buy the brand names. I usually buy 100 paracetamol tablets for $2.99 from the chemist and that's more than enough to last us the year. Check the use-by date to make sure you have enough time to use them up. At that price, if there are any left at the end of the year, it's not a lot of money going in the bin.

Bandaids are another thing we don't use a lot of, but Ifind the "sticky" can go off over time. During the tidy-up I usually open one and just see if the sticky is sticking. If it's not, then it's time to re-stock with fresh bandaids. I shop around to find the cheapest brandname - we've tried generic and they're slightly smaller all over, with a smaller pad, and aren't quite as sticky. When you're plastering men who all do physical work, rather than desk work, bigger and stickier works best.

It doesn't take long, and thankfully we are pretty much a healthy family and not really accident prone (well I am but that's another story) so keeping the medicine chest under control is easy and simple, and a good thing to do on an annual basis.

04 December 2018

Teaching Children the Meaning of Christmas

I'll preface this with a warning: you may not agree with what I'm writing, and that's OK. This was how Wayne and I raised our children, I'm not suggesting for one second that anyone else should copy us.

We are a practising Christian family, and money was tight when our children were small. I was brought up in a conservative faith, and we have raised our children in that faith.

As a result, Christmas in our house was, and is, a little different to Christmas in other homes in Australia.

We have always celebrated Christmas. I love this time of year. I love the decorating and the baking and the gift making, shopping, wrapping, hiding and giving. I love the meals with family and friends. I love the wreath on the door and the trees throughout the house. I get joy from the lights strung around the verandah.

But in our home they are embellishments. They are not the purpose or the meaning of Christmas.

Don't get me wrong. We give gifts to each other and to our family and friends, and take great joy in doing so. And we receive gifts from family and friends and take great joy in doing so.

It's nice to receive a gift, however small, from those we love and care for. It brings us closer together and shows that we're not forgotten and keeps us close.

We recognise December 25th as the anniversary of Jesus' birth. No one knows for certain just when he was born in that manger to Mary and Joseph, and so we celebrate the occasion on December 25.

As a family we recognise that Jesus lived a life of serving and giving and helping others. And so, through the year but especially at Christmas (we are celebrating Christ after all), we try to focus on serving and giving and sharing and helping, rather than on trees and decorations and and the presents we might receive.

Part of this was helping our children to choose gifts to make or buy to put under the Kmart wishing tree. When they were small we'd do this as a family. As they grew older, and were able to decide for themselves, we'd guide and advise and make suggestions for ways they could serve and share during the Advent season.

We've always encouraged them to give 10%, save 10% and use the remaining 80% of whatever money they have to live on. This meant that even as youngsters they had their own money to use for presents; they didn't hold out their hands for us to pay.

The other thing we did was actively discourage the belief in Santa Claus bringing any and all toys and books and games that they asked for. We also made sure that our children never told other children the truth about Santa Clause. We explained that some families had different beliefs to ours wehn it came to Santa Clause, and that was OK, but it wasn't our place to change that belief.

This came about mainly because we couldn't afford the latest and greatests toys or games, no matter how often the TV said Santa Clause would leave them under the Christmas tree.

Our children knew the money in my purse was limited and for milk or petrol or Playgroup fees. They understood that I didn't have money in my purse to pay for a new toy or book or ice-cream and accepted that and were OK with it.

So, when AJ asked for a toy - it was a Thunderbirds toy spaceship - and I showed him my purse and what the money was for, his trusting little 3 year old self told me that Santa Clause would bring it for him.

I'll be honest and say it broke my heart. We had already bought the Christmas presents and there was no more money, not even the $7 for that Thunderbirds toy. I knew he'd remember and be disappointed on Christmas morning when he didn't get it.

I prayed for wisdom to answer him without destroying his childhood.

Right there in the Kmart toy aisle I knelt down next to my little boy and explained that Santa Claus wouldn't be bringing that toy, because mummy and daddy didn't have the money to pay for it. I explained that after Christmas, mummys and daddys would get a bill for the presents under the Christmas tree, and that they had to pay it.

I told him that there would be presents under the tree, that we were able to pay for.

I was terrified that he wouldn't understand, that I'd shatter his childlike faith and illusions and ruin Christmas for him forever.

Instead he was OK with what I told him. No questions. No tantrums. No tears. No ruined Christmas.

He already understood that we had to have money to pay for what we wanted, and that if we didn't have the money then we had to save up for it. He also understood the concept of paying bills for what we had, and that if we couldn't pay the bill, we couldn't have whatever.

Come Christmas morning, the smiles and laughter were plentiful, and joyous. The presents were unwrapped and oohhed and ahhed over, and played with and shared and thoroughly enjoyed. Our little boys were thrilled with their ride-on tractor and trailer, and there wasn't a hint of disapointment.

That was 25 years ago (doesn't seem that long!) and Christmas is still joyful and fun, but the focus is more on the people and the reason, rather than the worldly trappings, now everyone is grown up.

This year we'll be celebrating at home, as usual. We'll have our tree, with presents under it. We'll have family and friends to share meals with. And all the while, we'll be remembering the reason we celebrate the way we do.

01 December 2018

24 Movies for Christmas

We've made it a family tradition to watch a Christmas movie every day (or evening) during December since we had littlies in the house.

This is the list for this year, in no order. The choice is random, the movie that comes out of the box on the night is the movie we watch. Sometimes we all sit down to watch, sometimes it's just Wayne and me.

Over the years the theme of the movies has changed to reflect how the kids have grown up. Now we're all adults, most of the movies are more suited to adults, but some of our favourites will always be suitable for even young children. I guess Christmas brings out the child in all of us, even if it's just for a movie.

Here's a list of the movies in the box for this year (if we don't have the DVD, I've made a card with the movie name on it and where to find it on Netflix). They're not all necessarily actual  Christmas movies, but they are favourites that we enjoy watching at this time of year.

1. Miracle on 34th Street - remake
2. Christmas with the Kranks
3. The Santa Clause
4. The Santa Clause 2
5. The Santa Clause 3
6. Dear Santa
7. Holiday Inn - watched
8. How Sarah got Her Wings
9. Love Actually - watched
10. The Holiday
11. Angels in the Snow - watched
12. Miracle on 34th Street - 1947 version, and a favourite of mine
13. Home Alone
14. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
15. Elf
16. Christmas in Connecticut -1945 version with Barbara Stanwyk, another Christmas favourite of mine
17. A Christmas Prince (the Royal Wedding) - this is a new addition for 2018
18. One Magic Christmas
19. High Society - not srictly a Christmas movie, just a favourite
20. Bridget Jones Diary - watched
21. Little Women - it's not Christmas if we don't watch Little Women
22. 7 Brides for 7 Brothers - this is one of my mother's favourite movies, it's a sentimental inclusion
23. A Holiday Engagement
24. It's a Wonderful Life - this is always reserved for Christmas Eve, before we watch the Carols by Candlelight