Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Costumes, Make-up and Candy

What says Halloween more than costumes, bad make-up and ridiculous amounts of candy? Being back in Canada, I am well aware of Halloween being just around the corner. In Australia it isn't really celebrated or, for that matter, understood. I'm not sure many of us here in Canada actually understand Halloween either, but each year we buy candy in preparation for the laughing children who will present themselves at our front doors. Some decorate their lawns with haunting tales and more RIP tombstones than one can count or shake a stick at. Others simply turn their lights off and pretend they aren't home.

I have always enjoyed costumes and love a good costume party. As a mother, I find myself very involved in the planning of my children's costumes; we spend time thinking, laughing and then pulling all the ideas back to what we think, or hope, we can achieve. We usually try to make our costumes, however there are times (like this year) when the $12 pumpkin suit can't be passed over.

This year, I find myself somewhat troubled by the costumes I see on sale. For my daughter's age (she is 10) many of the costumes have a hint, and at times a full blown message, of sexuality. Let me name a few of the costumes I have discovered this year: the naughty nurse, lovely Lolita and maid purr-fect and luckily (not) they all go from size 5-14. To me, and I hope I'm not alone here, this is wrong. Why do we need to encourage young girls to look and act older than their years? Whatever happened to dressing up like a cowgirl or even a hippy?

Call me old-fashioned and out-of-date if you want, but for my house we will be sporting costumes that are age appropriate. My youngest is going as the pumpkin, my son who is 7 is Batman and my daughter is yet to be decided but it's looking like the mad scientist may win. I know we will run into many pop stars, wrestlers, ghouls and goblins and, if what I've seen in the shops is any indication, sadly there will be a number of inappropriately dressed 10-year-olds and younger ones out there.

Today, I encourage you to not follow the crowd, use common sense and let your kids be kids for as long as they possibly can.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

What Scares You?

Over the years, I have read a statement that is usually bundled with the kind of encouraging and challenging words often stumbled upon in a Hallmark card or the like. The phrase I'm referring to is Do Something Each Day That Scares You.

Upon first discovering this collection of words, I wasn't sure what it meant. I'm not a big believer in allowing fear to take up residence in my life. I eventually read through the words, between the lines, and I realised this was not referring to a scary movie or standing alone in a forest after dark, instead it was a challenge directed at the core of our being. I have since come to love this statement. It has truly stirred something deep within and has caused me to challenge myself to push my personal limits and boundaries.

Why have I embraced this statement and chosen to do something each day that scares me? I do so simply because I want my life to continue growing and strengthening and I understand that confidence is built through going beyond what is comfortable. I don't want to become complacent and 'ok' with the status quo, rather I want to be pushed, shoved at times (if necessary) and moved to increase, whether that be in my mental capacity, physical ability or spiritual strength. Growth and determination, I believe, are two essential ingredients that we all need to live strong, confident lives.

So today, my challenge to you, and as always to myself, is to do something that scares each one of us. What scares you will look very different from what scares me and that's okay. I suggest you begin small and allow your confidence to build. Starting small may look like taking a course you've thought about, tackling your finances, speaking to someone who may intimidate you, voicing your opinion and involving yourself in decision-making or even applying for a new job. Only you will know what truly scares you and what it is that will challenge you to step beyond your usual limits. Subsequently, only you will know when you have achieved something and seen confidence build. Understand that this could be a total retraining of your current thinking, so give yourself some time and space to see true change and confidence emerge.

What am I doing today that scares me? I'm making phone calls in search of a publisher for a children's book I've written. I'm scared and I'm excited about the possibility and the ‘what-ifs’ in life. Today is a great day.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Budgeting – the kitchen sink method

There's a wonderful phrase my dad liked to use to describe a task approached in a down-to-earth, back-to-basics kind of way. He would call it the kitchen sink method.

It meant rolling up your sleeves and getting the job completed in an unpretentious manner, laying a solid, no-frills foundation.

I'd like to borrow his phrase today to describe my top ten tips for basic budgeting. There's no high finance here, just no-nonsense advice for getting money matters under control. Most have been learned the hard way, through belt-tightening tough times.

You might have heard them all before, but if there's anyone reading who's wondering just how to begin untangling frightening finances in these uncertain times, then this one is for you!

Hope it helps

1. Create a detailed budget which includes all your daily expenses, bills and regular payments. It should be a living document
which you constantly review and update. Be determined to stick to it, but if you do overspend in one area, revise the budget and cut
back somewhere else.

2. Once your budget is in place, work out what you can save each
week or month then move that into a separate savings account as soon as possible. Don't wait to save what's left over at the end of the
month, plan to save from the beginning.

3. Only buy what you can afford. Credit cards get very scary very
quickly and the debts they run up carry a crazy rate of interest.
If yours are heading out of control - cut them up! If you do choose to
use, be sure to pay off the balance at the end of every month,
before the interest kicks in. Be old-fashioned and save up for a big
purchase, only buy it when you have the cash.

4. Avoid temptation and don't go shopping. I often fail to realise just how much I need a particular item until I go into the store and see it. Then I wonder how I ever lived without it! When you shop, take a list and stick to it.

5. Negotiate with your bank. It's surprising how willing they are to
waive or reduce fees and charges when asked. I've even heard of people successfully asking for an interest rate drop on their mortgage.

6. If you spend less than you budgeted and have cash left over - save
it. Don't celebrate with a splurge and don't leave what you've saved
sitting in your purse. Move it to your savings account or stick it in The Pickle Jar (see our Father's Day Family Room article). Spare cash in your handbag has a funny habit of disappearing.

7. Take your lunch to work. I loathe those statistics that state if you
save $8 on lunch every day, you save billions every month and squillions every year, but I grudgingly admit they have a point. However, put what you save in The Pickle Jar or it will just slip through your fingers.

8. Shop around for bargains to make your money go further. Think supermarket specials, home brand for generic goods and discounts for cash or bulk buys. I wouldn't suggest bartering with the Woollies check-out chick, but many retail stores are willing to negotiate.

9. Wait for the sales. Save those big ticket items for the twice-yearly clear-outs then apply all of the above bargaining techniques to drive the price down even further.

10. Consider buying second-hand or even selling your pre-loved goods on eBay. You'd be surprised how much someone out there wants to buy that full-length nylon nightie Auntie Flo bought for you last Christmas.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Where Do Great Stories Come From?

Have you ever found yourself totally captivated by a good story? Do you have people in your life who just seem to ooze great story after great story? Their lives seem to be so full of excitement, hilarity and the unexpected. At times you find yourself quietly living vicariously through their journeys, near misses and outrageous encounters, when even the somewhat ordinary becomes the extraordinary.

If you have answered yes to any portion of the above, I have a secret I want to share with you. This secret will take you from being the listener and the one who is possibly living through the stories of others, to becoming the one exploding with excitement – others hanging off your every word.

Before I share this secret, you must first understand something very important. Once this secret has been revealed to you, it is your responsibility to allow your stories to ignite something within others. Simply put, you need to pay it forward and share the excitement and wonder of your stories with those in your world. You need to help others step beyond their comfort zones.

What is this secret I’m talking about?

Here it is … every great story has been lived by the storyteller. Meaning the storyteller has stepped beyond his or her comfort zone and has lived something that is worth telling about. The clincher is, most times living through the story isn't easy but at the end, after time has passed, these life experiences become the great stories that we all hang on to, that we share and pass on through the generations. These stories become the ones that we never tire of hearing. These stories are usually filled with excitement, anticipation, disappointment, joy, at times pain, the hilarious moments and the lessons that were learned along the way.

So friends, if you are, in fact, one who feels like your life stories are limited then I encourage you to step beyond what feels safe, and truly engage life and what it throws your way. Dare to be different and dare to go where you’ve only dreamed of going. Become one who shares the story, because a great life story always gives another the courage to live a louder, stronger, more explosive life.

So, where do great stories come from? They come from lives well spent. In these turbulent times can I (again) suggest that we spend our lives well and allow our existence to make a difference in this world? Let the stories of your life unfold and know that the generations will thank you for stepping beyond your comfort zone.

I can’t wait to hear the stories that will be shared in the days, weeks, months and years to come.


Thursday, October 02, 2008

Tightening Our Belts

This morning, as with most mornings, I woke before everyone in my house. After going for my early walk I sat enjoying my morning coffee in the quiet ~ a favourite part of my day.

Today my thoughts were consumed with the current economic situation in the US. Not only is this crisis affecting the US but also other world markets causing stress and pressure for families and individuals on all sides. Just yesterday I spoke with a girlfriend in Australia and she shared a story with me about a family (we know) who have recently lost their home due to a $600 default on their payments. Thankfully this couple have the determination and strength to rebuild and are already moving in that direction. The effects of this crisis are hitting far too close to home.

Experts are using words like recession, crisis and depression to explain this situation. Some of you reading this understand the meaning of depression. You felt it as your parents lived and negotiated their way through it during the 30’s and 40’s. From what I can understand through conversations and the reading I’ve done most would say that those who lived through the Great Depression never truly recovered. Fear crept in and held lives hostage even when better times arrived.

If we truly are experiencing crisis, recession or the possibility of a depression then my suggestion is that we must all ‘Tighten our Belts’. The uncertainty in the world has reminded us as a family to be mindful of budgeting and as the old adage goes, ‘It’s what you make, not what you save’. Just as companies are watching their bottom lines we too are watching our spending. For us this means watching our dining out, the incidental buying and those ‘everyday treats’ plus making more efficient use of household luxuries. It all makes a difference and our generation is so used to everything being disposable including our incomes. It’s important at times like this, not become overcome by fear but to operate in wisdom.

This brings me to one of thefamilyroom core values, which is coming back to the dining table. As we all ride out this economic confusion let’s not do it alone. Tightening our belts doesn’t mean cutting us off from community rather I believe these are times when community shows it’s wonder. Ride this out together, have people over, eat together (for great recipe ideas visit our blogspot), bring back the games of our childhood like charades, twister, card games and all those fun things we seem to have let go of. Tightening our belts has a way of bringing things and people together so let’s enjoy this season, see it as a time to sow into relationships, to spend time rather than money and enjoy the simpler things in life.

Thanks for checking us out, make sure you come back again and when time permits leave us a quick message (it's super easy!)

Susan xo

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Lentil soup

This is one of the easiest, quickest, yummiest recipes I have come across!

1 onion
4 garlic cloves
1tbs mild curry powder
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1½ cups red lentils
1 tomato
Sour cream and parsley to serve

Chop up and sauté the onion and garlic cloves on medium heat, then add a tablespoon of mild curry powder.

Add four cups of chicken or veggie stock to the pan and 1½ cups of red lentils. I think brown would work too, but the recipe calls for red.

Mix it all around then add another cup of warm water and the chopped tomato.

After about 20 mins it will be smooshy, yummy soup. Add some sour cream, cracked pepper and chopped flat leaf parsley and voila!

Loaded with fibre and B vitamins, perfect for any weather.


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