Friday, January 30, 2015

The Five Star Frugal linkup is on!

Fridays Five Star Frugal Linkup Winner for last week is.....

Congratulations to Fiona at Saw It Did It!
 
Her DIY lip balm clocked 94 votes at the last Five Star Frugal Linkup!
 
 
 

The Pandoras box of Life....


Do you know the Greek myth of Pandoras Box?

Zeus gifted Pandora a beautiful box, with the instruction to never open it. Curiosity got the better of her, as it does all of us, and she opened the box. Out flew all the terrible things that Zeus could think of...death, disease, pestilence, hatred,  evil, sadness, poverty, envy. Pandora quickly slammed the box shut, but it was too late, and humanity forever has to suffer for her actions. But there was one thing left in the box, and it cried to be released. It was Hope, and therein lay the saviour of Humankind.

Be at peace. Hold hope in your heart.

I think we all find this so hard sometimes.

There are events in everyones life from time to time, that are very much NOT conducive to being at peace and being hopeful. We all have times when we're called upon to support a loved one in some way that extends us beyond our usual routine.

Being emotional support to someone outside of the confines of your immediate adult family is draining. It's hard not to allow those emotions to leak into your daily life, and infect your own loved ones.

How can you support someone who is facing a significant life event, and still preserve your own life and commitments to your loved ones?

You might find it effective to mentally picture a little divided box, a little like Pandoras. In this box, there are compartments for relationships with different family members, friends, and significant others in your life. The box also contains the very evils that Pandora discovered...illness, envy, fear, and fatigue. How to contain the evils, whilst accessing the very necessary daily compartments of our lives, is a skill to be nurtured and practiced.
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My own imaginary box is tarnished gold and embellished with flourishes. It's in fact the very box pictured above, and in that respect, it's a real box, resting on my bookshelf. I raise the lid. It's heavy so that my life can be contained therein. Each little divided compartment has it's own little flat lid, that clicks firmly into place when pressed.

Each day, I consciously choose which compartments I will open. I ensure that there is a balance between home, family, friends, extended family, online family, spiritual needs, creative needs, self improvement (study, exercise, pampering), and work commitments. I only open one compartment at a time. I reach in, and immerse myself in the contents of that compartment for a specified time. Perhaps ten minutes for some, an hour for others. Always remembering that balance is the key.

For me, once time is up for that little compartment, I put the contents back in, mentally imagine pressing that little lid firmly so that it clicks into place with a soft but audible snick, and move on. This ensures that one part of my life doesn't spill over into another, muddying the waters of my day.

If I let my commitment to my extended family, interfere with my immediate family commitments, or my exercise or spiritual commitments, the someone is going to be unhappy. Likewise if my creative pastimes, started to impact on my role as Guardian of my home and budget, chaos would reign.

The ability to switch off from one task, leave it behind and move on to another, is something we all do unconsciously to some degree. It's mainly when an unexpected situation, such as an illness, a relationship breakdown, an accident, a relocation, a job loss, or other event, is thrown into the mix, that the balance is upset. That is when you have to be entirely conscious about your choices. It's then that you might have to really think about which little compartments you open each day.

Being able to compartmentalise your life, helps you to be at peace with whatever life throws your way. Accept that life has it's ripples, and that you and you alone, choose whether to allow those ripples to become waves or tsunami's with the potential to engulf you. By calming the ripples early, putting strategies in place, like timetables, diary notes, timers, appointments with a start and end time for being the support person, you can ensure that each of your life compartments are contained. You can be at peace in your own heart, that you are doing what you can, to do the good and right thing for a loved one that needs you for a moment in time, whilst still fulfilling your obligations to the other areas of your life.

And remember that even in the myth of Pandoras Box, Hope was able to rise and bring peace to the hearts of Men. Even in our darkest moments, Hope can be like a soothing balm to a wound.

What sort of 'box' do you have, and how do your compartmentalise your life? How do you ensure that peace reigns in your heart? Drop me a line and let me know...
 
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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Mimi's Savings Secrets...Run your kitchen like a restaurant and save!

 
I decided long ago, having spent some of my study years in commercial kitchens, that in order to save money, I have to run my kitchen and pantry the way the restaurants do; by minimising waste, controlling portions, being creative with leftovers and being financially accountable for any waste. In the restaurant and catering industry, portions are carefully measured and controlled and all waste must be accounted for to work within the confines of a budget - just like home!

Here are my strategies:

1. Take advantage of seasonal produce. It's cheaper, better for you and you can take advantage of bargains. Menu plan accordingly.

2. Access resources to utilise leftovers. Even better, LOOK at what the family is leaving on their plate or what excess you are cooking and adjust serving sizes to suit. Unless of course you are deliberately cooking a double batch for future use.

3. Optimise shelf life of food with correct storage principles immediately upon getting produce and pantry goods home. Allow sufficient time to do this properly. It takes me about an hour and a half to unpack my groceries, but everything is stored in airtight containers or other appropriate plastic or glassware. This also means I can buy generic brands, and nobody notices and complains as they're none the wiser!

4. Rotate food appropriately. This means doing a mini stocktake of refrigerator contents daily and pantry contents monthly, in order to use food before it spoils and has to be thrown away. This takes about 30 seconds to do in the case of the fridge and about 15-30 minutes for the pantry, so less than an hour a month. This has the added bonus of not ending up with five packets of thyme, and three tins of curry powder because you are constantly aware of what you have, and what needs replacing.

5. Before throwing any food away, I line everything up on the bench and do a mini cost calculation of what I'm actually throwing away financially. This is a great awareness tool in itself.

I calculate that I can save between $100 and $400 a month employing these strategies. You can too!
                
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Linking up at....
 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Todays Savings Secret....bake!

 
Best ever Chocolate Cake!
 
This one recipe has literally saved me hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in bought café treats, canteen cakes for my daughter, birthday and other celebration cakes, and cakes to gift. It really is the best ever.
 
Just one batch of these would retail for up to $70 at a cutesy cupcake or muffin outlet, and the ingredients cost less than $6! Better the change in my pocket than theirs, I think.
 
I make this cake in some form or another, at least once a month. It gets turned into choc caramel muffins as above, which I make simply by half filling the muffin pans, adding a teaspoonful of Nestle` Caramel Top 'n Fill, and topping with more cake batter. It becomes birthday cake. In a heart shaped tin, it's a Valentines Day dessert without equal. As a loaf cake, iced with pastel green peppermint icing, and garnished with fresh mint, it's a gorgeous addition to an afternoon tea. Frosted with piped butter icing, it becomes pretty cupcakes for my granddaughters.
 
By leaving the cocoa out and adding vanilla extract, it becomes the most sublime white cake ever. It's perfect with or without icing, and most times I just dust it with a little icing sugar (powdered sugar for my U.S. friends) and sprinkle with edible rose petals as seen here.
 
In short, you need no other cake recipe and you'll never buy another boxed cake mix....well except to make my cake mix cookies found here!
 
This is quite a runny mixture so don't be put off when it seems less thick than your usual cake batter. Also be aware that the temperature of the oven is deliberately lower than usual.
 
2 Cups Flour
2 Cups Sugar
3/4 Cup Cocoa
2 Teaspoons Baking Soda
2 Eggs
 1 Teaspoon Salt
1/2 cup milk combined with 1/2 cup yoghurt
 1 Cup Vegetable Oil
1½ Teaspoons Vanilla Extract or Essence
1 Cup Boiling Water

Preheat Oven to 150C.
 Lightly grease and flour a 22cm x 35cm (or thereabouts) baking dish or grease, flour and line a similar sized cake tin. You can also use this to make cupcakes or muffins or loaves.
Place all the ingredients above into a mixing bowl.
Mix at medium or medium high speed until all ingredients are blended and smooth.
Pour into greased and floured pans.
Bake for 1 hr.
Test by sticking with knife. If it comes out clean, it's done!
Allow to cool.
 
Perfection!
 
Why would you buy café` treats at up to $8 each, or pack your childrens lunch boxes with inferior mass produced treats in icky wrapping, when you could bake this cake, in whichever form you prefer, and save you hip pocket and your taste buds, a whole lotta trouble....

 
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This post is linked up at...
 
 
 
 
 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Todays Savings Secret....always have one luxurious food in your pantry...

 
My friends Annabel and Helen, recently blogged about stocking your pantry well, and how keeping just a few comfort foods can sustain you when times are tough. I couldn't agree more.
 
I like to take that one step further though, and keep one or two things that cost little, but that I consider essential for living luxuriously for less.
 
Pictured above is the T2 Spi Chai tea...the ingredients include cardamom pods, cinnamon quills, jasmine and rose petals...what's not to like? I brew mine in a Swedish press, and enjoy it in a fine china cup, with just the teeniest drizzle of honey. I adore the earthy flavours and enticing scent, and it just makes me feel special.
 
Buy it, or your own preferred blend, here.

 
Fresh birds eye chilli, from my sons bush, grown in his tiny courtyard. A few thin slivers of one of these elevates your Thai Chicken Salad or Pasta aglio olio to a new authenticity. Anyone can grow a chilli bush in a pot. Just keep them out of reach of children. My brothers were tempted by the pretty red, to eat several when they were young. Whilst it didn't kill them, they certainly weren't tempted again!

 
Edible rose petals. Available in specialty tea stores, or here. Just 50gms of these has given me gorgeous edible sprinkles for cakes, cookies, tea and desserts for nearly two years. Very special.
 
Other ideas might include fresh herbs, a single block of really good chocolate, a block of parmesan cheese, waffle cones and ice cream, a special flavoured oil for salads, or even sugar cubes which I thought were the height of sophistication when I was younger. We all have our little quirks ;-)
 
I find that having my luxury foods in my pantry or garden, makes me feel rich, and prevents me looking elsewhere for my rich fix.
 
 
 
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Monday, January 26, 2015

Todays Savings Secret....5 ways to keep your eye on the prize...


 
This idea applies to so many things in life.
 
You may have heard the term 'visualisation'. Visualisation is a great tool for goal setting, and staying true to your dreams.
 
It can also help you to avoid budget leakage when saving for something that is important to you.
 
If you can keep your eye on the prize, you'll find you're less likely to fall prey to little temptations. That latte` every morning on your way to work? Let's say 220 times a year? That's $880-$1100 over a 12 month period. That's enough for an overseas holiday, or a good lump sum towards any other significant purchase including a deposit on your own home, or a really good Christmas for your kids. That's even a good start to an emergency fund so that those unexpected bills don't cause you headaches.
 
Here are five ideas to help you keep your goals in your sights....
 
1. Keep pictures of your 'prize' be it a holiday, a home of your own, a new car, or a great Christmas, in places where you'll see them every day. On your bathroom mirror, in your wallet, on your Desktop screen, on your mobile lock and home screen.
 
2. Change your passwords to reflect something relating to your goal. Something like 'disneyland442016'...that is Disneyland for four people in 2016, or 'mazda6november16', or 'parisinspring2017'...you get the idea. Every time you type those letters and numbers, you're reinforcing your resolve. Maybe even 'nolattes2015' would do.
 
3. Don't let others mess with your head. So no keeping up with the Joneses just for now. Who are the Joneses anyway, and where do they live....I want to have a word with them! If you're tempted more when you shop with friends or you have friends who encourage you in habits that are incompatible with your long term goals, then minimise the impact they have on your wallet. Socialise somewhere away from temptation, only take enough money for lunch but not a shopping spree, or have a reason to leave before the spend-a-thon begins. Seek out free entertainment. Learn a new skill. Propose a weekend cookup so that all of you can eat inexpensively and healthily for the coming week. That will save everyone a packet!
 
4. Learn a new skill every year and gift your time and your newly discovered skills, instead of lashing out on expensive gifts. An online tutorial on cake decorating could see you baking up a storm and delivering personalised cakes to those your care about. Learning to knit and investing in some oversized knitting needles and gorgeous yarn could mean that you're producing throw rugs that easily retail for up to $400, in just a few weeks. Working on making your own soap and bath bombs (either from scratch or by using the French  Milled method which is easier and just as much fun) might give you the ability to conjure up gorgeous toiletries to rival those found at The Body Shop and Lush, for next to nothing. Now, just a note on this. Choose something within your capabilities and time constraints, and start off simple, working your way up to more complex interpretations of your newly found skill. For example, a simple iced cake, decorated with fresh (unsprayed!) flowers dipped into eggwhite, then into caster sugar is stunning and so easy to do, over attempting a full on fondant covered affair. Splurging on a ball of wool in a stunning colour or texture, and knitting a simple scarf that's finished in a day or two, or a week or two at most, will give you more satisfaction and confidence, than starting on a throw rug that may take months. Making French Milled soap, which involves grating existing soap bars, adding colour and fragrance and setting them in moulds, is a heck of a lot easier than making soap from scratch and still yields a gorgeous result. Start small and simple and work your way up to more spectacular ideas from there. Accept too, that there will still be an investment of time, effort, and some money involved in learning any new skill. So choose a skill that is compatible with your budget, and seek out tools in thrift shops, garage sales, and eBay before lashing out in a designer haberdashery or cake decorating supplies store, or you're defeating the purpose.
 
5. Finally, learn new financial confidence boosting words and phrases. Don't say "I can't afford it", say "Sorry, I have other financial priorities that don't include xyz at the moment". Don't say "I'm broke this week", say "I've contributed all my 'fun' money to my holiday/Christmas/new car account this week so I'm having a quiet one". And don't let anyone make you feel bad about it!
 
Be clever, creative and inspired and see what a difference you can make to your life.
 
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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Perspective....

 
It's good to have perspective.
 
This quote really resonated with me.
 
I re-read Sarah's book these holidays and it's such an insight into life in India. We just have no idea.
 
Those that think they do it tough here in Australia, perhaps need some perspective.
 
 
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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Todays' Savings Secret.....Self Discipline...

 
This is something I tried to instill in my children from a young age, and I think I succeeded although it didn't appear so at the time.
 
Self discipline extends to so many areas of life.
 
The discipline to apply yourself to a task, be it study, work or housework, the discipline to say 'no', to do what you say you're going to do, to give back to the community, to exercise judgement on how and when to spend to improve your life and when to restrain yourself...it's all the same skill.
 
The ability to tackle a distasteful task, to uphold a promise, to do what's 'right' not what's 'comfortable', to manage your life and your money in a manner that recognises that delaying gratification actually means that you can enjoy the REALLY good things in life, rather than just the ordinary ones...it all comes down to self discipline.
 
I think all of us have a little child and a parent in our heads. The child goes 'ooo...I really want that new iPhone/new car/kitchen appliance...it's so cool and everyone else has one so I deserve one too'....and the parent goes 'no, you have an iPhone/car/kitchen appliance and it works perfectly well, and this is a want, not a need'. This internal conversation might go on for some time, be it seconds, minutes or months.
 
Eventually though, one will win out over the other. Sometimes our inner child wins, and that's okay occasionally. But it's when our inner Parent starts to win out more often, that we really see our lives leap ahead in ways we may not have expected.
 
Suddenly that overseas holiday (not paid for by credit card!) is a reality, that investment property is in our reach, and having money available for emergencies is something we don't even have to think about.
 
Exercising self-discipline is like exercising our body. It's hard at first and takes a great deal of conscious effort. But in time, the more often we say no to our Inner Child and listen to our Internal Parent, the easier it becomes.
 
Who will win your internal debate today...Child or Parent?
 
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Monday, January 19, 2015

Downton Abbey Murder Mystery Party...

 
Detail on a cocktail dress, thrifted for $25, and worn beautifully by my gorgeous girl. Black lace over ecru, with the most divine art deco sequinned detail....a steal.
 
More photos of her fifteenth birthday party with a Downton Abbey Murder Mystery Theme.
 
Guests were invited to dress 1920s style, and join in solving the mystery of  the recently, and suspiciously deceased, Mary Baker. An interrogation room was set up, and each guest assumed their identity as detailed in their invitation.
 
Much fun was had interrogating them all, with few guessing who the real murderer was!
 
Here's the cake. You can see more photos of it here.
 
 
Sparklers were used in preference to candles, just for fun. Did you know that the quickest way to light sparklers is with another lit sparkler? Just touch the heated bit where it's 'sparkling' to the tip of the next sparkler. It works beautifully!

 
The girls went all out with stunning flapper era inspired hairstyles...


 
...and bejewelled headbands.


Party favours included a pair of handmirrors, painted with pearlised paint and embellished with a single crystal, tied together with lashings of black tulle ribbon...

 
....and glittering masks.

 
The girls were utterly gorgeous, singing Happy Birthday in harmony, and embracing the theme of the party with relish!
 
My daughter laid her pretty head in my lap that night, and said 'Mum that was the best party, and the best cake ever.'
 
What more could a Mum want?
 
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Saturday, January 17, 2015

Downton Abbey inspired cake....


 Here's the cake I've just completed for my daughters 15th birthday party.
 
It's a Murder-Mystery-Downton-Abbey Style party. I currently have a house full of 15 year old girls, dressed 1920s style. Fun, and how gorgeous they all are!
 
The cake is a long way from perfect, but as my friend Annabel says, it doesn't have to be perfect to be memorable.
 
One of my goals this year, and something I'll be sharing more on soon, is not outsourcing our lives. Outsourcing has become 'the done thing', and we're missing out on so much by not connecting with the very tasks that create the most precious memories.
 
Every celebration cake in my entire life was made by my Mother or Grandmother. They were both artists in this area and many a fondant rose or piped lace covered cake graced our celebration tables. I am a rank amateur by comparison! Mum made wedding cakes for most of our childhood friends too, and they all carry sweet memories of her for those efforts.
 
Why would you give away the privilege of generating those precious memories to another person. And leave your wallet lighter by many hundreds of dollars at the same time?
 
Make 2015 your year of Insourcing, keep your precious, hard earned money for yourself, and guard your family's memories jealously.
 
So I'm not much good at tutorials, although, that's another blogging goal for this year, but here's a basic outline of how I made our pretty cake.....
 
I started with a cake baked in a Swiss roll tin, using it as the base. I covered that in white fondant and dusted it with edible pearl dust.
 
At the same time, I baked two small round cakes. I used two Gluten Free butter cake mixes for all the cakes as the two round ones didn't have to be thick.
 
I cut the round cakes into rough oval shapes, one from the first cake for the brush (left hand side), and two smaller from the second cake for the jewel box (on the right). I sandwiched the two smaller ones together with a smidge of jam.
 
I covered the oval shapes with white fondant and transferred them to the top of the cake. They too were brushed with edible pearl dust. I then made a cameo shape in black fondant and topped it with a faux pearl embellishment for each (more pearl dust if you please!).
 
 
I formed a handle with fondant, simply shaping it into an elongated squared off shape and put it in place under the hair brush shape. I used the point of a knife to drag ridges into the handle.
 
I then rolled two long strips to decorate the edges of the mirror and jewel box, which I fixed into place with a little water. Using the same little sharp knife, I pressed diagonal indents into it to represent rope or braid. This gave a twisted effect with a lot less fuss and bother.
 
I then mixed some food grade glycerine with a little edible gold dust and painted it lightly over the spots I wanted to accent. I was looking for a worn look, so I went very carefully, using a scant amount of the gold paint and a tiny brush.
 
A diamante` necklace adds a bit of sparkle, and a white ostrich plume, drapes one side softly.
Finally, I wrapped two layers of black tulle ribbon around the base, securing it with pins (don't eat them!), and adding a scrapbooking buckle to the middle front.
 
I actually had no idea how to tackle this cake and I'm not a trained cake decorator. So I'm very pleased with the result overall.
 
More importantly, my daughter adores it and that's what matters.
 
Happy memories in the making....
 

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Friday, January 16, 2015

The Five Star Frugal Link-up Premiere!

Well this is another blogging goal for 2015!
 
Some of you who have been with me for a while will have noticed a new look and a new focus for A Tray of Bliss for 2015.
 
And now, my first linky party.
 
I hope you'll all join me and recommend my little get-together to others.
 
Thankyou!
 
All the usual rules apply.
 
1. Please link back to A Tray of Bliss in your post or on your Home page.
 
2. Spread the love. Comment on other peoples posts. That's why we're all here...to nurture and support one another.
 
3. Please become a follower of A Tray of Bliss here or on Facebook.
 
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    http://new.inlinkz.com/luwpview.php?id=486335" title="click to view in an external page.">An InLinkz Link-up

   

Bacon and Egg Rounds...carb free, gluten free, yummy, easy...

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This post is linked at...
 
http://thethriftyissue.com.au/?p=4680

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Mimi's Savings Secrets...how lists and setting priorities saves you money...


Prioritising is something I struggle with constantly, and I decided recently that it was another area, where I really had to consciously treat my role in the home like a business, or like it's my job.
 
I love lists. A good comprehensive list of daily, weekly and monthly tasks, really helps to keep me on track. Without lists, I'd struggle to accomplish half of what I do.
 
But what I've learned is that prioritising those tasks, is just as important. You can have a list and go at it like a bull at a gate, and still find yourself in a spot of bother if you haven't prioritised those things that need immediate attention, as opposed to the ones that aren't quite as urgent.
 
For me, the idea of a deadline is the key.
 
I set myself deadlines all the time. Hourly ones sometimes, but mostly weekly and monthly ones. I see many friends doing this unconsciously with various challenges in their lives.
 
But you have to accept that different tasks will have different deadlines according to their level of importance or the date or time by which they must be completed.
 
Here are some ideas to help you clarify this idea.
  1. List of all your tasks. 
  2. Identify urgent vs. important. 
  3. Assess what the value of this task is in your life today.
  4. Order tasks by effort, starting with those requiring most effort to maximise your energy.
  5. Be flexible and adaptable.
  6. Know when to cut this task loose and leave it for another day.
  For me this means that if I'm unsure, I'll ask myself 'what's the worst thing that could happen if I don't complete this task', and that will often sort the priority of that particular thing.
 
For example, washing might be able to wait until tomorrow, but it means I'll have twice as much washing and nowhere to hang it as I only have limited clothesline space. Even worse if it rains tomorrow, and today is sunny and warm...perfect drying weather. So maybe it really does need doing today even though it seems unimportant.
 
Buying new undies and bras and a flesh coloured leotard for my teen daughter, on the other hand, whilst she would have me thinking is the end of the world if it doesn't happen today, can certainly wait until I shop for other items later in the week. This saves me time, fuel, and money.
 
The worst thing that can happen if I don't drop in on my son today is that he won't have his 15 minutes of Mum conversation, but if I don't get some birthday things happening for my daughters party on Saturday, I'll be letting her and myself down, and we'll be overspending on a bought birthday cake, so that wins, for today anyway.
 
Baking on the other hand, can wait as I've baked already this week, and whilst we're getting low, I have time to bake tomorrow afternoon and already have two easy recipes in mind...a quick orange cake with marmalade glaze, and my 15 minute microwave luxury brownies....so all good and won't need more than 20 minutes of prep and 30 minutes of cooking tomorrow afternoon.
 
I could go on, but you get the idea. It's not just having a list, it's the prioritising that makes all the difference to saving money, time, effort and fuel, and maintaining that idea of having things under control that adds so much to our life.
 
It's actually also a really good habit to develop 'buyers eyes' when looking at your own home as this can help you prioritise purchase of decorator items that might otherwise prove a huge temptation. I have friends who cannot go shopping without returning home with new home decorating items in tow. Hellloooo....budget priorities....! I try to view my home decorating or home improvement/maintenance efforts with 'buyers eyes', a couple of times a year, as again, it's a thing that really clarifies what the priorities are in terms of decluttering, rearranging and cleaning or new purchases or projects. In fact a change of season is usually when I'll walk around the house with my 'buyers eyes' as it's when some things are stored and others brought out and aired for use.
 
Another task that I prioritise is exercise. Whilst I'm not a fanatical exerciser, I do like my 40 minute walk each day. It's good for heart health and quiet time for me, as often the rest of my day does not hold a lot of 'me' time, unless I've finished my 'work'.
 
Now on the subject of lists....from time to time, I've left the house without my precious lists.
So I have a decision to make.
 
Do I suffer the inconvenience of having to go back home and get the lists, slowing me down, or do I go to my various shopping destinations, without my lists and have to make several trips to get it right?
Well, you know which one usually wins. I return home for my lists and make sure I have a cuppa to keep me going while I'm there. I've wasted some time and fuel, but I'd rather go shopping feeling prepared and I'd waste far more time AND money, if I didn't have the lists. A good decision which despite having me loop back on a trip, actually ends up saving far more in time and money than not.
 
Lists and prioritising....not just important in the corporate world.
 
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Recipes in four sentences or less....Cake Mix Cookies...

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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Mimi's Savings Secrets....


This is part of our lavish tropical garden. All planted by hand with tiny baby plants, twelve years ago.
 
Today I just want to share with you how that garden came about.
 
 I learned early in life, to face my fears.
 
Fear of ridicule, fear of being left out, fear of failure, fear of what others may think, fear of not fitting in, fear of being different, fear of being thought less than what we are, fear of being laughed at, fear of having our way of life diminished in the eyes of others, fear of not being included, fear of poverty (because we overspend), fear of wealth (because we feel guilty at having so much when others have little), fear of doing or saying or living somewhere that is unacceptable in the eyes of others. All those things put the brakes on us living the life WE want.
 
My daughter recently completed a Dance assignment for school and the topic was Martha Graham the dancer who pioneered what we now call Contemporary Dance. The Bangarra Dance Theatre Company perform this style impeccably. She is famously quoted as saying...

"What people think of you, is none of your business..."
 
Well, being that the majority of our fears are based upon what others might think, perhaps Martha is worth listening to.
 
Since I stopped worrying about what others think about 2 decades ago, my life has leaped ahead in ways I could not have imagined.
 
When my husband and I bought our current house on an acre, it was a shambles. It had been used by bikies as a drug manufacturing location, and was in a terrible state. There was no garden, and no fence whatsoever. Our daughter was 2 and our youngest son, (who has Cerebral Palsy) was 11. The house itself was 3 tiny bedrooms, a lime and chocolate laminated kitchen and a horrible bathroom (where the drugs were manufactured!) and was not in any way, wheelchair accessible. It had been up for sale several times and was going for a song. We bought it. Everyone thought we were mad. But we could see what it could be.
 
That was 12 1/2 years ago.
 
Husband and friends he knew through his business, did all the renovations. We added a garage, so that our wheelchair bound son, had access from the garage and a suitable disabled toilet and shower. We renovated the existing part of the house to make it liveable, and Husband built me a kitchen, making the doors out of tongue and groove pine and limewashing them. We polished the wooden floors ourselves one wet weekend, and it's pretty rough to this day. But we kind of like it like that.
 
We planted things, me starting holes off with a crowbar in the packed earth, and Husband coming along behind me digging by hand. We would spend entire long weekends and every weekend in between, planting baby trees and shrubs and bromeliads bought at the local markets for a dollar or two each, or given to us by my Mum who was still alive then. We built fences, digging post holes ourselves. We built boulder retaining walls, carting the boulders in one at a time in a wheelbarrow, from the footpath where they'd been delivered. We did the same with concrete to pour paths.
We laid tiles, we painted, we argued with tradesman who couldn't see our vision, about how we wanted things to be. The guy that built our bed thought I was mad. He couldn't imagine why we just didn't buy a bed. Our bed is just a king sized particle board platform, with two steps leading up to it. The carpet that covers the room just continues up and over the steps and the platform and our mattress sits on top. I still feel like a queen when I get into bed, 12 years later. Clearly, I won that argument.
 
It was six years before we could sit back and declare an end to renovating and upgrading. It was worth it.
 
Our house is not a showpiece in the way that others homes are. But it is 'us' in every possible way. For less than the price of a 3 bedroom low set brick house on a normal block, we have the house of our dreams. Note I say 'of OUR dreams'. Not the 'dream home' marketed to us by the builders.
If we had listened to anyone at the beginning, we wouldn't be where we are today.
Ditto with our disabled son living independently, and our daughter changing dance schools from her high profile one, to one that teaches from a church hall, buying a dog that wasn't trendy, and keeping our cars for what many think is an indecent amount of time.
 
Be true to yourself. Decide what sort of life YOU want, and as Martha says 'What the world thinks of you (for doing so), is none of your business'.
 
Be clever, creative and inspired today. Your dreams may just be little seedlings now, but look what a beautiful garden of dreams you could have in just a few short years.
 

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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Mimi's Savings Secrets....

 
The lake at The Gardens at Versailles. Another memento of our last big trip.
 
 I'd like to start this series by discussing how to remain focused. I believe this is important because we all start a new idea with the very best of intentions, be it a diet, a savings plan, or a shopping list. Before you know it though, we're distracted, and then we throw caution to the wind. Staying focused is actually the most important thing.
 
I watched an old Jim Rohn presentation a few months ago, and whilst it is very much aimed at the corporate sector, there's much to be drawn from it that is helpful to us, I think. I particularly liked Jim Rohns' style when I was younger and climbing the corporate ladder, and clearly, judging by the number of videos on YouTube, others have continued to enjoy his message more recently. He has now passed away which is sad, but he certainly left a lasting impression on many people.
 
So the first thing is to review your performance. In my language, this means that you can't keep doing the same old thing, and expect a different result. Some of the methods I now employ that make my life easier, have literally been a lifetime in the learning, and I've fallen down, come to a full stop, deviated horrendously, and had to get back on track many, many times. So if you're popping in here, and retreating quickly because you feel you can't keep up, well, we've all been there too. You just have to remain dedicated to your goals, whatever they may be, and remember that every day is one small step closer to the life you want.
 
Next, and this might seem an odd one, but it's one I really took to heart when I was young and which has served me well, and that is to always do more than you get paid for to make an investment in your future. Now you may well ask, what has this got to do with our roles in the home? Well, there's more to being a successful Guardian of the Home and Budget, than flicking the duster around, putting your feel up to watch Ellen at midday, and throwing some pasta and sauce in the oven at 6pm, whatever people might think. We all tend to think in terms of 'reward for effort' no matter how altruistic we imagine ourselves to be. And let's face it, some days, being the Home Manager, just doesn't cut it in terms of reward. So maybe the secret is to redefine what we see as rewarding. Where once my pay packet defined how successful I was, my day to day savings on insourcing my home duties are now my successes. Where once I rewarded myself and my loved ones with expensive gifts, I now gain pleasure in creating those gifts myself. I get a kick out of spending under $100 on a grocery shop, seeing my 10 year old car shining and gleaming and scented inside and knowing I've done it myself, and stepping just outside my back door and snipping a few home grown garlic chives to toss in an omelette makes me feel ridiculously happy. All of these savings, and they are significant overall, ARE my investment in the future.
 
And thirdly (there are more, but I'll share them over the next few days or it's too overwhelming), is to exercise your willpower. Now I am brilliant at this with my household routines, but frankly pretty awful with my eating and walking routines *blush*. So this is a great reminder for ME that looking after myself is just as important as looking after everyone else. Willpower extends to so many parts of our life. The willpower to eat appropriately, exercise regularly, shop with discretion, treat our fellow human beings with compassion, speak well to our partners and children, walk the dog, practice random acts of kindness, take pride in our appearance, be organised, and so on and so on. It ALL requires willpower and sometimes willpower is the thing we lack most. Like anything though, the more you 'exercise' your willpower, the stronger and more effective it is.
 
I love the Chinese proverb that says 'The journey of a thousand miles, begins with a single step'. What single step will you take today, towards securing your future and that of your family?
Be clever, creative and inspired today, take that first little step, and see what you can achieve.
 
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Monday, January 12, 2015

Mimi's Savings Secrets....

 
The bridge in Monet's garden at Giverny. My own photo, taken in 2008, when I fulfilled a lifelong dream of visiting the picturesque little village where he lived.
 
We try to have a big overseas trip every two or three years. We prefer to travel comfortably and stay in nice hotels or houses. Not for us the cheap airfares, economy hotels, and bus tours with 50 other people.
 
Suffice to say, that we don't go cheap.
 
We don't consider ourselves part of the 'moneyed set', though, and these trips mean sacrifices in other areas.
 
We are off on such a trip this year, so I thought I'd use this year on my blog, to document how we can afford to fly comfy class, stay in a five star hotel in London, cruise the Mediterranean in luxury, have a relaxing stopover in Singapore on the way home, and arrive back refreshed and with not a whit of guilt, and without battering the credit card.
 
I find it highly amusing that friends and family in much less stable financial situations than our own, find it embarrassing to talk about saving money. Gosh kids. If we hadn't saved, we wouldn't be where we are today. Where's the shame in trimming a little here, to allow greater expenditure there, where you really want it?
 
They insist on upgrading their car every second year, buying their kids designer clothes (seriously? What baby of two or even ten year old cares whether their rompers are Ralph Lauren or Target??), eating out regularly and entertaining lavishly.
 
And NOBODY is game to be the one that says 'but what if we just entertain at home or make our own sushi or buy the kids clothes from the clearance rack at Target for next year' (when everything is marked down to three bucks and is the same stuff that was $30 a couple of days ago). Nobody needs to know but you, so where's the shame in it? When did the idea of home made, marked down, heavily discounted for today, or even *gasp* thrifted (the celebs call it vintage dahhlings...) or handed down from a friend, become icky, and why?
 
And really, no matter how much we earn, it's still a FINITE amount kiddos. Everyone's income is limited. Even if you're earning gazillions, it comes to an end sometime. If you keep spending, all you'll have in five years is a lot of stuff, and an empty bank account. Why do you think all these ageing rock stars suddenly pop up doing a revival tour when they're all old enough to be my grandfather? It's cause they too have a bank manager breathing down their turkey like, scrawny necks. It's just undignified, I tell you. Some interesting reading on this topic here.
 
My husband and I decided long ago that we'd rather drive our cars for ten years before upgrading, that we'd prefer to DIY our garden and home even if it took longer and meant living amongst sawdust indoors while we sawed and painted our way to perfection, and dust outdoors while our garden, lovingly landscaped over six long years, took hold. It was a sacrifice we were prepared to make to then be able to afford those trips and have a few other little luxuries. And when I say 'luxuries', I mean a plan for our future, for our kids future and even a bit for the grandkids for their future.
 
I've had my own children tell me that our ideas are old fashioned. Well that may be so. But all I see is that things don't change that much. You can't live like a rock star or royalty at 30 and expect to be able to continue doing so when you're 60. I know because we're nearly there, and even we have made our mistakes. We could have invested differently, hung on a bit longer there, declared defeat there, and been better off, sure. But overall, we're okay. And not through upgrading our cars, technology, shoes and bags every five minutes. Rather through sacrifice and prioritising.
 
Now I can't tell you how to trim your budget to be able to afford your luxuries, but I can tell you how we did it, and how we continue to do it even now as we edge very close to retirement.
 
Lesson no. 1 coming tomorrow...
 
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