Thursday, September 30, 2010

The best shopping value around! Shhhh, it's a secret....

I'm going to share a huge secret with you - where the best deals are!  Always.  OK, you might have to work hard, sort through a few big piles, wrestle with some other people who are always in the way, but in the end, you have an unequalled bargain.

Shop at Home
No, I don't mean shop from your computer, or have trucks visit you at home.  I mean, shop from the piles of unused things in your own house.  Those things that you already spent money on and haven't used up.

Sound way too boring?  Try thinking of it this way instead.
  1. It's free.  You, know, that word that gets the most attention for advertisements around the world and triggers more spam-catchers too.  No more hard-earned, tax-paid money is going to leave you for these finds.
  2. When you find something you won't use - it can live somewhere else.  Whether you can make some money from it or just take it to a better place, there's a net gain.
  3. The time you spend shopping at home improves your own home instead of somebody else's bottom line.
And so waste turns into profit - for you! 

Home shopping stories
Tea, for me
In a cluttered shelf, I found a box of Raspberry Leaf teabags with one survivor.  One pleasant cup of tea later, my shelf looks better.  Score = 1 for me.

Break out the barbecue, it's looking like summer!
I found a packet of metal skewers in my lesser utensil drawer (not the greater, but the lesser).  These keep getting bounced back in because I think veggie shish kebabs are cool!  This time, I put them up with the barbecue tools and the very next day, made extremely cool and delicious veggie shish kebabs for myself and a visiting vegetarian guest.

Score 1 for me for placing these in the right home and score 2 for DH for manning the barbecue.  Mwah!

Greater and greater heights
Behind a box, I discovered a hanging height chart I've been meaning to use for literally years.  I got this when Alex was born, and he's now 5 and a half.  I measured from the floor, tacked it up, and got Alex to stand by it.

He had grown about 10 cm from his measurements at the chiropractor's office!  Wow!

Then I had a closer look at this chart...

Really close...
Let's all count together, class.  90, 95, 100, 120, 125...?!?!?!?!

I am not making this up.   As DH said, growth spurts just aren't what they used to be!

Score = 1 for me for finally using it to discover that it wasn't worth keeping even behind a box on a shelf.

 I score points on a win-win basis - and so will you!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?

Our family went to a wonderful extended gathering of our Auckland Explorers club.  This winter camp was themed Telecommunication & Information Technology - right up our collective family alley, so to speak!  DH is super Microsoft computer network guru, before kids I was an technical communicator employed by Intel and others, and Alex and Nadia are already proficient mousers.

I've discussed the state of our historic technology museum - DH was able to provide for working display a Commodore 64 (or was it a Trash-80?) and an Apple IIe.  The car didn't have room for my old Atari 1040-ST.  Atari is best known for games computers, but I bet you didn't know (why on earth would you) that they produced the first personal computer with 1MB of memory and beautiful graphical interface, etc.  Shame they didn't build on their successes.

DH had a blast with his old friends (the computers) up and alive!  And he enjoyed showing his old favourite games to the new generation.  Of course, at home these computers live in a closet.  He once set one up connected to the TV in the lounge, to Alex's great delight and...not to my great delight.  Seeing DH with the computers made me wonder if he couldn't donate them as a named exhibit to MOTAT, where he could at least visit them every once in a while.

Internet Safety
In the main hall, Netsafe talked about Internet Safety.  The speaker was not a techie but perhaps PR, and she regularly gives such presentations at schools.  While we are all pretty familiar with the benefits of computers and the Internet, the dangers include:
  • bullying
  • inappropriate content (sex and violence)
  • fraud
  • viruses
We were asked whether the benefits outweighed the dangers.  While the group agreed that they were, I pointed out that it is a moot question, because almost nobody chooses for and against.  It's here and we're using it.  More accurately, we will not give up the benefits despite the dangers, because most of us assume we will never be a victim.

Netsafe is an organisation backed by various business, government, and educational groups to educate about such safety.  Technical dangers and criminal activities were highlighted.  The topic turned to the damage done to people of any age (but in particular children with maturing brains) of spending increasing amounts of time on their bottoms and online instead of in the real world and face to face - and the Netsafe spokesperson presented more and more dodges around this issue.

She discussed how parents used to be worried if their kids spent all their time reading books (?!), the implication being that this was a parallel.  She even said, "We discourage using the term 'the real world" as opposed to 'online' - to them this is the real world too."
Hello!  Can anyone say The Matrix?  
With Netsafe's backers, they are not interested in encouraging less time at the computer.  They basically want to provide reassurance that we all, including our darling little loved ones, can continue to use the computer that we do continue, despite the very real dangers. 

 And make no mistake, Internet addiction is a real danger.  Reduced attention spans and rising obesity is real.  The internet is not the real world, and it is not the same as a physical library.  When anything and everything is just a click away, the rules are totally different.  All concerned parents do need to watch our children's development and relationship with these very powerful technological tools.
Hey everybody, this is the real world - seen in a way impossible before computers!
Most importantly of all, as in every other parenting dilemma, the example you set is key.  Your child is watching you even more closely than their favourite game.

Losing our minds provides more valuable insights into the ups and downs of being connected.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Staying healthy for your family - Clinton goes veg*n!

Woo hoo!  Former President Clinton is following a low-cholesterol, plant-based diet and talking about it!  He looks so much more healthy now...

The main reason I follow a vegan lowfat wholefoods (mostly :-) diet, is our real Big Mac, Dr John McDougall.  He has followed Clinton's heart disease progress with concern and recommendations throughout:
  1. Letter before surgery
  2. Discussion of Clinton's personality changes
  3. Further discussion of the behavioural issues
  4. Invitation to attend Dr McDougall's proven clinic
Maybe something finally sank in?  In any case, I am thrilled that such an important and intelligent person is giving himself the best chance to be around to support his children and grandchildren (and maybe even great-grandchildren)!  Long may he continue to be an ambassador for miraculously improved health.

Monday, September 13, 2010

When life doesn't even give you lemons...

Yes, those are lemons.  Not grapefruit!
Ask and you shall receive...

In Auckland, it seems like every other house has a lemon tree or some other citrus tree. My neighbour has a lemon tree.  I wish I had a lemon tree.  More accurately, I wish I had a lemons tree - the tree growing in our backyard has produced one (1) lemon in several years.  I don't blame it.  If I saw as little sun as it does, I wouldn't feel fruitful either.

So every once in a while I reluctantly buy a bottle of lemon juice from the store and am always on the lemon hunt so I can make hummus and guacamole and winter chill potions.

Sometimes I visit houses with lemon trees and try to remember to beg politely.  The neighbours of our Plunket clinic have a good tree which overhangs the fence - and a few of us mums have gleaned what we can.  I once did this before noticing the resident working at a computer in clear view.  He waved me to continue, thank goodness!  But I'm not going regularly there anymore.  What to do, what to do...?
I just can't stoop to buying the pale lemon imitations they sell in the stores.  I don't know why that bothers me more than buying the juice, but it does.
But while exercising on our big neighbouring hill each morning, I finally clicked - there is a very nice-looking lemon tree in a yard halfway down, an older couple also walks at a similar time as I do, and I've spotted them going into that house!  The next time I met them on the hill I...begged politely.  

Well!  Not only did I meet some nice people and immediately end up with 3 of the largest lemons I ever did see, I also received an invitation to visit their even more fruitous lemon tree further into their property and their lime tree in the back yard - "just knock on the door!"

So I have fresh lemons when I want them, and a couple of happy tasks:  a thank you note, and perhaps a lemon seed planted in a sunny spot sometime this spring.
Lemon tree, very pretty, and the lemon flower is sweet
But the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat. - Peter Paul and Mary

War and Peace
 We have moved into a house in the eastern suburbs of Auckland, an area where the cockroach life is prolific.  I was born in the United States and have an ingrained horror of cockroaches, as they represent filth.  If you have cockroaches, you might as well vacate, you dirty thing you, and they are almost impossible to get rid of.  Cockroach jokes are endemic, from New York to south of the border.  I grew up in the Pacific Northwest - we had huge slugs instead.  I don't recommend them either. 

So in our new house, when I encountered a cockroach, my "all life is beautiful" attitude disappeared entirely.  Stomp.  Or sometimes, call DH to handle.  I would get very grumpy with him when he would toss them outside, as I knew they would probably wander in again.   In my own defense, I once found one on me in bed

However, as I have learned, although all cockroaches are rather ugly, they are not all the same. These are  "Gisborne cockroaches."  They live in woodpiles and eat wood or paper, rather than infesting the pantry or swarming the walls of your house or carpeting your floor at night.  They wander inside mostly by accident, although they do find an old toilet paper tube to be a tasty treat so watch out.

They are actually no more offensive or ugly than spiders or the native New Zealand weta - an insect I first met soon after my arrival in New Zealand.  I turned on the hot laundry tap and it crawled out, feelers waving!  Yes, it was horribly freaky...

So I have declared peace with these insects.  I have actually retrained my instant disgust kill reflex back to my normal wary mild distaste I have for large, swift, but harmless creepies and unless they are in my way, they can go on their way.  If they are in my way, I dump them outside as I would a spider.  I'm proud to say that I hardly quiver when I find them on the gate latch.

The only thing that has changed is my attitude - and a good thing too.  Unless you constantly poison around your house and yard, you can't get rid of these cockroaches either.

The answers to your challenges are in yourself and all around you.  
Look there first, and you will save time, effort, or money!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Did the earth move for you?

So forget about what happens when an itty bitty burglar takes a few itty bitty things from your haven.  Let's face the big one, as so many of our compatriots in Christchurch did a few days ago.

What happens to your sense of priorities and security when your house does this?

(C) Ian Chan

And what happens to your stuff?  Feel your perspective shifting already?  I rate mine about a 5.2.

Christchurch has so far been incredibly fortunate in having almost no loss of life (while tragic, it's hard to tell if a heart attack is a casualty or a coincidence) and not very many serious injuries, considering the bricks and walls and glass that went tumbling down.

Our niece attends Canterbury University in Christchurch.  Since her house cracked up a bit and the chimney is no longer where it should be, she's living... well, somewhere else, I guess.  Her landlord is not answering messages.  "I am SO not paying rent this week!"

They are still experiencing significant aftershocks and large ones are very possible.  Many have no power or water, and this is the tail end of winter in a place where it has been known to snow.

For me, the scariest thing (since Auckland is about 600km away from epicentre) is that this was totally unexpected.  Not only did our fancy schmancy seismological equipment fail to detect any warnings about this major shakeup, we didn't even know about this faultline!  It could be brand new. 
This road looks familiar - I think we belted down it at some sociably irresponsible speed during our South Island road trip some years ago.  New trap for speeding drivers...

Not a happy thought for someone living on a city with something like 50 dormant volcanoes.

So it's probably time to look around you and appreciate what you have right now.  Like this guy:

Lots more amazing pics...

Source NZ Herald:

* 500+ Buildings damaged
* 90+ CBD buildings damaged
* Estimated cost of damage: $2 billion
* Magnitude of Saturday's quake: 7.1
* 58 Aftershocks
* 245 Residents housed in welfare centres
* 15 per cent of Christchurch homes still without water
* 3500 homes still without power
* 300,000 litres of water transported to Christchurch by rail yesterday
* Distance of epicentre from Christchurch central: 40km