Yes, in the land of parenting it’s that time of the year when all of the back to school stuff is being procured. Blogs are aplenty on where to keep the school bags & which lunchbox to buy. So if you’re one of my tech followers, this post might not be for you .. unless you have kids or you have drinks bottles for sports etc.
Drink bottles have a great knack of falling over like bowling pins in my cupboard. They also breed, which is the only explanation for why a household of four people has so many. So, drink bottle wrangling is a common thing. Or was.
My fav storage trick now is to lay them down flat! Yes, flat and they can’t fall over!
Here they are nicely nestled in a large, square, old Tupperware container, minus their lids.
At the end of the day, the used drink bottle gets washed in soapy water or hot clean water, dried, then left on the bench the right way up to finish air drying. Lids & straws are also washed and left the same way. For storage, the lids & straws have their own container. This ensures that the bottles don’t go mouldy inside.
And inside the cupboard, they are in the back right corner, but still really easy to grab .. without knocking the others over!
Your drink bottle choice really comes down to personal preference. I love the Aldi bottles with the freezer stick for day trips with the family because of how cold they stay. But I’ve discovered a new favourite for the gym – the Camelbak Podium Chill Insulated.
Monday in Queensland is a public holiday to observe labour day, which is quite apt because yes, I’m working. Now before you pity me that I don’t get three whole days off (in a row!), I’m not that concerned actually.
Long weekends are the perfect structure for me. I’ve had time to spend with friends and family, time to catch up on housework and time to work while clients are away and I can control their computers whenever suits, without interrupting them. It’s also the last weekend before school recommences for the kids so add in polishing shoes & gathering all required school items prior to the first morning back.
This weekend I’m deploying service packs & updates for a client. Most of the work is centralised, so I don’t have to touch each PC & it’s all done remotely.
Learning a new Cloud migration tool is fun too (hello, SkyKick) , but a little daunting at the same time. Fortunately the support team have been more than helpful so far.
So that’s my long Labour weekend, with a little more labour than most. But I’m not complaining!
WARNING: Do not continue if you have no interest in Disney’s Frozen whatsoever.
Having two daughters under 10, our house & car has been filled with Frozen songs, so naturally that was the chosen theme for Miss 4’s 5th birthday. I wasn’t interested in it being the best decorated Frozen party ever. I just wanted it to be achievable & for her to have a good time. So, here is a tutorial on how to have a Frozen party when you’re on a budget & leave things until the last minute.
Having a late August birthday, the major toy sales were over and Frozen had almost done it’s dash in the shops.
Lesson 1) When something like this is all the rage, buy stuff when you see it and hide it until the party.
Lesson 2) That stuff you said you’d buy online? Do it today. Before you know it, it will be 4 days before the party and you won’t have enough shipping time.
OK, so let’s start with Invitations. After searching & finding some gorgeous templates, I gave up and tried Etsy. Wow. My first Etsy purchase and I was impressed. Yes I paid $9 for a lady in America to add some text which would have taken her 30 seconds. And yes, I paid her a little more to redo the file because I stuffed up the day. But she was soo nice & efficient & then I had a stunning, quality file. I rushed down to Officeworks with my USB stick and printed it as a photo print for 10c each. https://www.etsy.com/au/shop/LetsPartyShoppe?section_id=14008426&ref=shopsection_leftnav_1
Lesson 3) Etsy really is awesome.
Lesson 4) With a little bit of creativity, party bags don’t need to be just full of lollies & won’t cost you the earth.
Stickers are always a hit with 5yr old girls, so I bought a bit book & cut up strips.
Tiny Teddies from Aldi.
Marshmallows from Aldi split into individual blue/clear bags from Spotlight.
I have no food photos. I was going to snap the table but got caught up in final prep, then guests arrived & when I got to it, a snow flurry had decimated it. But I did get some great ideas here: http://delicateconstruction.com/2014/05/free-frozen-birthday-printables.html You could go crazy with frozen food prep, but as well as the requested chips & sausage rolls, we managed with Hershey’s kisses, popcorn, white marshmallows, strawberries half dipped in white choc & a Melted Snow sign on the fridge’s water dispenser. Easy.
Lesson 8) It is easier to get someone else to make the cake.
But I must admit, as stressed as this project tried to make me, I actually enjoyed the challenge. My mum found the cake design in one of the women’s magazines and I’d already fallen in love with it on the internet. It’s a large diameter butter cake with a smaller one on the top. The ice shards are white chocolate tinted with blue food colour gel. They were tricky to make – spread out on baking paper and fiddly to get the right thickness. Too thin and they would get holes in when putting on the cake at room temperature. But icing hides a thousand sins, especially when dusted with icing sugar. The cake topper figures were purchased on eBay from a lovely local lady who could get them to me on time. And after the excitement of a Sunday morning party, there was the required batch of cupcakes to whip up for kindy (when my icing bag broke). Yay for blue edible sprinkles.
Lesson 9) It’s ok to cut down on grand plans. The kids won’t notice anyway.
Here’s the Pinterest board where I was saving the ideas that caught my eye: http://www.pinterest.com/leandac/ambers-birthday/ Pinterest is full of this stuff. But not every idea made it to production. The crowns were a great idea but the printer really completely ran out of ink after printing three of them.
Apparently next year she wants a ‘How to train your dragon’ party. I better get to the shops now while it’s still popular!
At short notice, I’ve taken a leap of faith and purchased a conference ticket. It was left until the last minute because I’ve been umming and ahhing about whether or not I can justify spending the money to be a delegate for 2.5 days, plus accommodation. Everyone who has attended this industry conference raves about it and I’ve made some great connections with people over the last 12 months who will be there. Never underestimate the power of meeting the face behind the emails, I would advise other people, as I was so wisely taught when I stepped into the broader industry. You’ll be amazed what happens at ‘the meeting after the meeting’ or months in the future because you took the time to start building a relationship. Yes, all the justification in the world for taking a large sum of money out of my bank account.
With one sleep to go, I’m feeling under prepared. It sounds simple, right? As a delegate, but a ticket, turn up and sit there. Easy. As a small business owner, wife, mother & volunteer, here’s actually how my to do list looked to get conference-ready (in no particular order):
Decide on & order new work shirts
Design & order new business cards (to reflect current role & add twitter handle)
Order new case for new phone (yes I’m scared of dropping it)
Write new article for business website blog so it doesn’t look abandoned
Ditto re personal blog (this)
Plan conference schedule, choosing which speaker sessions to attend.
Reach out to some people via email that I know, that will be attending.
Figure out clothes for conference evening events & shoes. Given my work-at home wardrobe, this was a mission.
Organise meal options for meals not provided at conference (on the cheap here – no $39 hotel breakfasts!) Mercifully the conference will have unlimited free barista service.
Plan dinners for the family while I’m away and ok with husband. Plan means ‘this is what you’re eating & I’ve purchased it for you to cook’ not ‘it’s prepared & frozen for you to eat.” I’m not that organised.
Grocery shopping so family has enough food in the house inc school lunches.
Wash & iron relevant work & casual clothes for the adults for the week & school uniform for the kids.
Notify volunteer group of absence. Cancel one commitment and request assistance for another in my absence so everything is good to go on my return.
Update bookwork & pay relevant bills (business & personal) to cover my ‘week away’.
Print conference & accommodation paperwork.
Fix my OneDrive syncing issue.
Figure out which technology to take (quick decision), charge everything & pack all relevant power cables and a multi-box power strip (don’t leave home without one)!
Meet as many work deadlines as possible before I go away.
Drive new (for us) car on the motorway by myself for the first time & pre-plan the correct exit & route to my destination.
This list does not include leaving the house tidy & clean, tackling any new work requests or dance lessons (mum’s taxi service) the day before I go.
And it certainly didn’t include Miss 9 breaking her arm on Saturday, 2.5 days before I’m scheduled to leave. Write off one day at the hospital and stress about how husband will cope with one injured kid (the eldest, helpful one) and his workload, by himself.
Add to list – introduce injured kid back to school the morning I leave.
So right now, ‘one sleep until the conference’ is irrelevant. My conference countdown consists of how many tasks I have to do before I go. It’s amazing how when you have a short deadline, your priorities shift to only the really essential stuff.
To give credit where it’s due, my other half is an amazing, capable man who I’m sure will cope just fine without me. But I’m allowed to feel a little indispensable, I’m a mum and a major part of our business.
‘Conference’ evokes a mental movie reel of a hotel room to yourself, the bliss of sitting in sessions just listening & mingling with others over drinks. Maybe even poolside during a break? In reality, my conference movie reel consists of long days, keeping on top of work during breaks & plucking up the courage to introduce myself to people, without the comfort of a group posse. If you see me wandering aimlessly or eating by myself, please come and say Hi. I won’t think you are trying to make a move and I’ll be grateful for the company.
Now it’s down to completing a few more tasks tonight, trying to get a good night’s sleep & printing tickets & packing in the last 3hrs before I get in the car. As long as I turn up at the right place with clothes, I’m counting it a success.
I started doing the school holidays thing of letting the girls have some unstructured play time (aka amusing themselves while I work). My aim is to wrangle my unread emails & attend to anything time critical, then spend some time with them. They love to bake. Well, they love to start baking then leave me to it and return in time to eat the results.
So in a moment of Aldi clearance madness, I bought a cake pop kit. I have no room in my kitchen for single-use appliances so I was never going to buy a cake pop machine (the ones that look like toasted sandwich makers). But Aldi had this cute little box with the silicone moulds and a recipe book & sticks. A bargain, guaranteed to give us some quality time together.
Did you know there are actually two ways of making cake pops? I’d done the old fashioned ‘crumble a cooked cake, mix with icing then roll into balls’ method before it was fashionable to impale them on a stick. But the recipe book insisted that not only would I need to cook the cake from scratch and let it cool completely, I’d then be in for more chilling once the balls had been rolled, before the decorating could begin. Ain’t nobody got time for that. Besides, that defeated the purpose of my fancy moulds.
Method two consists of whipping up some cake batter and baking it directly in the moulds. This also takes a bit of time as they have to sit in the moulds for 30 mins after cooking before you remove them, and I had enough mixture for two lots of baking time. But Miss 8 did most of the measuring & had a lesson on my new mixture (until the raw egg part), and we ended up with very promising looking naked cake pops!
The next thing they don’t tell you is that freshly baked uncrumbled cake pops have a tendency to twist around on their little plastic sticks when you try to coat them in chocolate. They also don’t tell you that the suggestion to rest them in a cup is doomed by physics to fail (well, with my 20 different styles of cups & glasses anyway). Thanks goodness for a recently arrived packaging box & a husband who is handy with a pencil. Sorry, you won’t find my cake pop holder at Aldi.
I have no idea what I was doing with the melted chocolate either, but I learnt pretty quickly that some toppings will be too heavy and will slide off the sides. This may have been because by now I was sick of the whole thing and was in a bit of a rush. The silicone moulds give the pops a ‘Saturn’s rings’ ridge, which no amount of chocolate was ever going to cover. But there was no way I was going to attempt fondant. I cannot figure out how people get a fondant sheet moulded so seamlessly around a perfectly spherical object (ignoring the ridge).
In saying all this, we did end up with some fun looking chocolate cake covered balls on sticks and the girls had, well, a ball. The best part was eating them on a picnic rug in the back garden with hubby joining us, and Miss 4 pouring lemonade from a plastic tea set.
And then there were the dishes to do.
With the kitchen already in a mess (I’m not a tidy cook), I whipped up a batch of chocolate muffins & a gorgeous apricot brownie at the same time (first attempt at that recipe and it’s a keeper).
Just don’t ask what was for dinner as I flew out the door to go volunteering for the night, not glancing back at the state of the kitchen. Needless to say I now have a lifetime ban from baking on a Tuesday.
When I first took the plunge with WordPress, it was to create a blog that aligned with our website. The website has now moved to a WordPress platform and has it’s own blog component. I also found myself rambling about other stuff and tech stuff that was very techy.
So, I’ve finally made the split. Off the Scuff becomes my new personal blog for all the things that aren’t small business related, so I can rant on without it being under the company name. It’s not going to be the prettiest blog you’ve ever seen (I’m a writer, not a graphic designer), but it will feel more like ‘me’.