costcoSo, you are ready to take the plunge, pay your $60 membership and change the way you shop forever.  Well, you’d at least like to give it a go. Shopping at Costco is fun and has the potential to save you a lot of time and money whilst ensuring that you and your family eat smarter and better.  Before you sign up I have a few steps to ensure that this is a worthwhile experience and not one which ends up costing you a whole bundle of cash that you don’t have.

Step One: Look Before You Take the Plunge

Your first Costco shop has the potential to be a little overwhelming.  I recommend that you leave your purse at home (especially if you are likely to lack control with these things), and visit the store first.

Although you need a membership card to purchase anything at Costco, there are a couple of ways to have a look at the store before you take the leap.  Firstly, you are welcome to accompany a friend or relative who is a member already (they can bring up to 2 guests per visit).  Although you can’t buy anything, unless you sort it out with your friend cash-wise after, you can have a look around.  Alternatively, you can ask the store greeter if you might have a look.  Explain that you are hoping to get a membership, but before you do, you want to have a look around so you can better plan your first shop on another day.  They are usually happy to accommodate such a request.

Bring your smartphone with you and compare prices using the shopping app for some of the major supermarket retailers.  Be prepare to convert prices so as to take into account the larger sizes of the products at Costco.  You may like to take photographs of products, with the ticket alongside, so you can make closer comparisons at home.

Step Two: Sort Out and Write a List

Before your first shop you want to give your cupboards and pantry a good clean out.  Take time to consider where you will store some of the larger boxes.  You might be able to set aside a storage space in the shed or garage (for items that won’t perish or suffer with heat).  Don’t wait until you get home with all your plunder before you do this as it will become a nightmare.  Clean out your fridge and freezer.  We purchased a chest freezer prior to our first shop which was well worthwhile and Costco also sell these (in every size to suit every family).

Step Three:  Write a List

Once you have sorted out your storage, write out a list of everything that you normally buy.  You can do this on a Word or Excel document (which is great because you can add or delete things on whim).  I organise items in a logical order (the order I put them in the trolley), starting with personal care items, cleaning products, non-perishable food items, baked goods, followed by dairy, meat, fruit veg and frozen goods.  I also include a section for me to write any ‘out of the ordinary’ sundry items like cards, gift wrap or household goods.

Once you have your master list you can highlight anything on your list which you have ‘run-out’ of or will in the next week.   I also use a different colour highlighter to identify anything which I am not in critical need of but which I would purchase if a special price was on offer.

Costco publish coupons on their website every fortnight.   The term ‘coupons’ can be a little misleading.  It may help to think of them as simply special items on sale. You don’t need to have the coupons with you (they are automatically deducted at the checkout) but it is helpful to know ahead of time what is available at a special price on the day you visit.  When these coupons appear it is a great time to stockpile some of the everyday essentials that won’t perish.

Step Four: Gather Your Tools

Take your shopping list, pen, smartphone (to check prices or make calculations) along with a couple of bags.  You won’t need many bags when shopping at Costco.  Most things are in large boxes but it is helpful to have a bag to put smaller (or delicate) items in.  I also like to have a couple of cooler bags to put my cold items into.  You may need 3 to separate meat, dairy and frozen items from the fruit and vegetables, although it does depend on your preference for such things.

At home make sure you have cling film and snap lock bags ready (or on your shopping list).  You will need these when you get home.

Wear comfortable clothing and footwear.

Step Five:  Timing and Composing Yourself

Ideally plan your shop on a weekday.  Monday and Tuesday are quiet days and your first shop is bound to take longer.  I like to shop in the early morning as it allows me ample time to get items home and not need to rush to unpack before the kids come home from school.

When you arrive at the store, head straight for the Customer Service Desk (via the exit).  Here you can organise your membership card (you can do this online but you still need to come here to get your card so I don’t see the point really).  You might even like to compose yourself with a coffee or a cheap hotdog (I like to bribe errant children with these).

I like to work my way through the store in the order I have on my list.  Although I allow for a few impulse buys, it is important to be aware that the larger sizes of products mean that every ‘extra’ item you add from your list might be adding an addition $10-20 more on your total.  Be prepared that your first shop will be huge.  Some people like to put aside extra funds in anticipation of this.  I found that my first shop was 25% more than the total of my regular shop.  It might be more.  The good news is that your shopping total will slowly start to decline as the quantity of items you buy decreases (although my sceptical side suggests that some of this is replaced with items you wouldn’t have previously purchased).

Pay special attention to use by dates, especially for fresh items.  Although they can be quite long occasionally you can get tripped up.  A few weeks ago I nearly got caught out buying 2 kilograms of yoghurt that I didn’t have a hope of consuming in one week.  With this in mind consider what fresh items can be broken up and frozen for later use.  There are tonnes of blogs about with suggestions for what freezes well.  I often like to pick up a cheap BBQ chook on my way out of the store for the evening dinner.

After your shop most people find that there are still a few items they need to buy from the local supermarket or greengrocer. I like to buy most of my fruit locally.  For example, I can’t seem to get the little apples my kids like at Costco.  Some items (although not many), are simply not available so I get them at the supermarket, along with anything I only ever buy in small amounts.

When you get your bounty home, unpack as you normally would.  This is where you will appreciate all your earlier efforts getting organised.  I use this time to break up larger items into smaller lots to be frozen or stored at the back of my refrigerator for later.

What are your personal suggestions for making the most of your first Costco shop?  I’d love to hear from you.

Advertisements

costcoWith the launch of US super-retailer Costco in Australia, thousands of people are joining the revolution, forking out $60 in annual membership to have the privilege to shop super-sized in the no-frills warehouse.  But is it all worth it?  Are there real savings to be had and how does one make best use of one’s membership?

For most people a membership at Costco has the potential to save you money.  Note please the emphasis on the word potential.  This is not guaranteed.  In fact, the amount which you will save, largely depends on a number of factors.

The size of your family and existing spending habits: Larger households, of course, have the potential to maximise ‘savings potential to the greatest extent.  However, even smaller families and couples can make a Costco membership pay for itself, especially if they are organised and/or are prepared to work with another family to share the benefits.

Your commitment to changing the way you currently shop: Most Australians shop weekly for the items they need in small amounts.  We are accustomed to purchasing the things we use daily on a weekly (or fortnightly basis).  Switching to Costco will fundamentally change the way you shop forever.  As a bulk buying warehouse, you purchase items in large sizes or in multipacks.  This means the amount of items you buy weekly will decrease but the size of those individual items will be greater.  Obviously, as you transition across to buying things in bulk you may find you are spending more than your normal average shop, however over time, as you add to your storehouse, this should settle down.

The risk here of course is that you spend the money that you save on other items you wouldn’t normally buy.  On the flip side you’ll be living and eating better as a family.

It is important to be aware that Costco specialises in good brands.  If you are a committed buyer of generic goods, you may find that a Costco membership is not worthwhile.

Your organisation as a householder and a consumer: To really get the most out of your membership it pays to be organised.  Know your prices.  Be prepared to be able to convert prices from the smaller price per unit to account for bulk buying or multipacks.  Don’t even think about going shopping without a list.  It is just too easy to be distracted and come home with a bundle of stuff you don’t need.  Organisation will also give focus to your shop.  You need to be able to evaluate clearly if you really can store 40 rolls of toilet paper.  Furthermore, you need to check expiry dates carefully.  It is no use getting a great buy on 2kg of yoghurt only having to dispose of half of it in 2 weeks!

Organisation is also crucial when it comes to storage.  When you get things home you may need to be prepared to spend an hour breaking products up into smaller amounts for freezing.  Make sure you have lots of freezer or snap-lock bags on hand for this.  You also need to make sure that you have organised you cupboards before you shop to enable you to store all your goodies safely when you get home.

Although I’d love to buy everything I need from Costco this is simply unrealistic.  There are always going to be a few items that I need to get from my local supermarket.  Dried dog food is a great example.  I could buy this in a massive bag from Costco.  Although my tiny Maltese terrier would take over a year to consume this amount and it would probably be stale by the time he did.  To maximise freshness, I also like to purchase smaller amounts of fruit and vegetables locally on an as-needed basis.

Your geographical proximity to a store: To really make the most of your membership, it helps to live reasonably close to the store.  Otherwise your visits will be sporadic and you probably won’t be able to make weekly use of the great offers on fuel.  However, even if you do live a distance away, organised shoppers can still reap the benefits, especially if they are prepared to do a monster shop monthly.  Sometimes it is a matter of thinking outside the box.  I live at least 25 minutes from my local Costco.  It is too far to pop in and make use of the petrol discounts.  However, I make a habit of filling up each time I visit.  Furthermore, my husband works 5 minutes away, so if I am running short of fuel we can swap cars in the morning.

 

**For more on making the most of your Costco membership, subscribe to this page and stay tuned for my follow-up article “How to prepare for my first Costco shop”.

What tips do you have for getting the most out of your Costco membership?

books_australia

When I started this blog in 2013 I was a SAHM with 2 primary aged kids and a baby.  When I wasn’t cleaning up vomit and playing house, in those moments when my little one slept, I would write.  The product of this was a complete manuscript for my first YA novel Magpie Game.  I intended this blog as a place to write about my journey as a beginning writer aspiring for publication.  It also became a place to share some of my other creative endeavours (cake decorating and crafting) in addition to my general musings about motherhood.  At some point I started to review books and very quickly what was a blog about writing became a blog comprised mostly of book reviews.

I realised that I rather enjoyed writing reviews for other people’s stories.  I discovered that although there are plenty of people reviewing books online, many of these reviews are quite poor and too frequently they are not really reviews (rather they are plot summaries and re-tellings).  It became apparent that there was a distinct lack of reviews which were geared towards the needs of teachers and their students (Educational Reviews).  By this I mean reviews which identify:

  1. The appropriate age and grade for a title.
  2. Identification of the best use for the title in an educational setting (Shared class text, individual reading, reading circles)
  3. Cross curricular links for a title.
  4. Comparative titles (for pairing of texts or for linking students to new titles)
  5. Identification of theme and content
  6. Evaluation of literary merit of the title
  7. Other issues about the text which may be pertinent from a teacher’s perspective (ie comment on sensitive issues raised in a text).

I returned to teaching at the beginning of 2014.  I didn’t have much time (or indeed creative energy) for  my own creative writing, but I did find my list of reviews grow rapidly as I sought to keep abreast of the new texts being released each month.  It helped that the good people of Allen & Unwin and University of Queensland Press kept sending me things to review!  It rapidly became apparent that in order to do this properly I needed to create a new blog entirely devoted to this.  Of course, like most teachers, I was too tied up in the actual business of teaching to actually do this.  After a great deal of soul searching I made the decision to take some parenting leave for 2015 (at least).  I want to spend more quality time at home with my husband and three children and more time writing new stories, investigating publication options for these, blogging and writing reviews.

Now that the children have returned to school I find myself faced with the task of ‘getting on with it’.  I’ve spent the last few weeks creating my new blog and migrating all the reviews on here to there.  For the moment I’ve left reviews on here although they will slowly disappear over the next few weeks.  If you enjoyed my reviews I encourage you to head on over to the new blog www.ozbooks4teachers.wordpress.com.  Here you will find old and new reviews neatly categorised by genre and grade band. Where possible I have included links to book trailers and appropriate author interviews that can be launched straight from the blog (for ease of use in the classroom).   I also have a friend (and awesome Early Years Educator), Kellie Moore who will be joining me to review picture books and titles for younger children.

This blog will remain, although it will again be focused upon my own writing journey.  In terms of this 2015 promises to be a busy year with me investigating publication options for Magpie Game, whilst starting work on a new and exciting project…..but more about that another time.

Wishing you a  happy and prosperous 2015!  May it be filled with delectable books with all the time you need to devour them.

Tanya Grech Welden

read a book_nWinter is the best time to catch up on some reading with a nice hot cuppa, especially if it is frosty outside and I am warm inside wearing a nice pair of fluffy socks.  Thankfully, we’ve had a few wet days in Adelaide, and with the children getting bigger, I managed to spend a good part of my term break catching up on my reading and not acting as referee.Wintergirls

I usually focus my reading (and reviews) on Aussie books but since I had some extra time I thought that I would look a little further afield.  I started my reading with a 2009 release that our lovely librarian at Gleeson College recommended.  Laurie Halse Anderson’s book Wintergirls shares the story of Lia in what is a deeply moving and highly confronting story about anorexia.  This beautifully written novel explores with an aching honesty, Lia’s descent into mental illness as she struggles to cope with the recent death of her friend Cassie to bulimia.  Not knowing much about the disease myself I can’t speak for the accuracy of the story but Anderson has certainly succeeded in making it seem authentic.

I followed Wintergirls with another American YA novel; this time the 2012 release Breaking Beautiful by Jennifer Shaw Wolf.  Breaking Beautiful is a mystery/romance.  I don’t usually go for mysteries but this one had enough teenage angst to keep me relatively interested.  It tells the story of Allie, who survives a car accident on a dangerous cliff road that succeeds in taking her boyfriend Trip’s life.  What follows is a piecing together of the night in which Allie (conveniently) is unable to remember.  Generally this is a fast paced novel that had me turning the pages quickly but is never quite got me as excited as I would have liked.

I continued the American theme in my reading with a foray into Veronica Roth’s now famous 2011 dystopian book Divergent.  I don’t often allow myself the opportunity to read blockbusters (I find them a distraction from all the wonderful Aussie books that I am so passionate about).  However, I consistently keep hearing good things about this one, and, what with the film’s recent release, I thought I might as well give it a go.  Without giving too much of a review (heavens I hardly think Roth needs my review), I was actually pleasantly surprised by this one.  Whilst not beautifully written by any stretch of the imagination, Roth has succeeded in doing what the Americans often seem to do so well; write brilliant stories that make you want more.  I do want more but I will probably whet my anticipation a while longer, watch the film, before delving into the second book in the series.breaking beautiful

Having gorged myself silly on American fiction I felt compelled to turn my attentions to an Aussie offering.  Fiona Wood’s 2013 YA Contemporary Wildlife is the second book in a series (the first book was called Six Impossible Things).  I haven’t read the first book, which didn’t really matter because (God bless Wood) the novels work well as stand-alone.  Wildlife is essentially the story of Sibylla who is a pretty mixed up sixteen year old who is just beginning her rite of passage adventure as a boarder in her exclusive private school outdoor education program.  This is a highly readable story that many teenagers will relate to.  I didn’t mind it, although I did find Wood’s style of narration disjointed and frankly irritating at times.  Furthermore, and I am still not sure if this even is a criticism,  the story focuses on the escapades of the middle class privileged kids from a snotty private school.  Personally I found this annoying, however I do appreciate that this is certainly the experience of many young people in Australia.Divergent

I followed this theme of Aussie Fiction with a new release offering from Suzy Zail,  Alexander Altmann A10567 (2014).  In this serious piece of historical fiction Zail explores an experience of the Holocaust through the eyes of a fourteen year old Jewish boy Alexander.  We follow Alex as he survives Auschwitz and suffers the dehumanising experience of the Nazi death camps.  I’ve read many Holocaust books over the years, and while this is a good one, it is certainly not the best I’ve read.  That said, it is a beautifully crafted story, using accessible language that will ensure that it is deeply appreciated by a new generation of young people.

I finished my holiday reading with a lovely little story by English author David Gilman.  Monkey and Me (2014), sat on my bedside table for a whole week before my ten year old daughter picked it up and read it.  When I was finally able to prise it out of her hands she raved about it so profusely that I promised to read it directly.  She was right, this is an amazing little book.  Monkey and Me tells the story of Beanie, a nine year old boy living with leukaemia whose friendship with juvenile chimpanzee Malcolm, has surprising and comedic results.  Beanie’s innocence and optimism, in spite of his illness, shines brightly, and captivated me from the outset.  This is one of those stories that once started I couldn’t put it down.  It will have broad appeal with children and adults alike.Monkey-and-MeAlex Altmann

Well that’s it for now.  It is back to school for me next week and back to my regular schedule of planning, teaching and marking student work.  Stay tuned though because I promise to have some new and exciting books to share with you very soon.

Image

There is nothing quite like toilet training to dissolve a normally organised household into chaos.  Somehow, in the midst of an Adelaide heat-wave, with temperatures in excess of 40 degrees centigrade, I thought that the time had come to ditch the nappies from my life forever.

In truth, the journey towards nappy freedom started about a month ago.  “Here you go.” I told my twenty-six month old daughter.  “It’s a potty.  You do your wees and poos in it, like a big girl.”  She screwed up her little face and laughed at me with loud abandon.  Perhaps it was just that the potty was clearly secondhand, green, covered in badly applied stickers with a very strong masculine theme; trucks and cars.  Perhaps she really was mocking me. At any rate I gave her a moment,   watching as she turned it over in her hands, tried it on for size (on her head mind), before casting it aside in preference for her yellow duck.  “No sweetheart,” I coaxed whilst proceeding to remove her nappy before sitting her down.  At this point big sister bustled into the room and demanded that she toilet train her little sister.  “Sure, go for it!”  If the kid wants a challenge give her one. I’ve heard a few stories about older siblings doing the training while Mum relaxes with a cup of tea ( although I suspect it was actually a gin and tonic).

To my surprise it worked.  Ten year olds really can work magic; and before I knew it she had our little one wee in the potty each night before her bath.  With Christmas and New Year sorted and the end of summer holidays looming (and my return to work in sight), I decided that it was time to take things to the next level.  Cold turkey.  It’s the only way to go.  No pull ups, no charts, jelly beans or stickers, just a pair of cotton knickers, a broom and a massive bottle of Pine O Clean.  I was ready.

I primed her the night before.  It went something like this.  “Tomorrow we will go to the shops and get you some big girl knickers okay.”

“Yep.”

“And you can pick out the ones you like.”

“Peppa Pig! Peppa Pig!”

“Okay. . .” I offered a little doubtfully, “maybe Mickey Mouse or something?”

“Yep.”

The next day at the shops she seemed so enthusiastic.  She proceeded to remind me at least ten times about the purpose for our visit.  We left the store forty minutes later both smiling and with enough undies to make Walt Disney grin quietly in his grave.   This was going to be fun.

You can stop laughing at me now because I just realised that I left out an important part of the story.  I started toilet training on Monday, AFTER I had shampooed the carpets Saturday AND laundered every sofa cover and cushion in the house.  I am clearly either stupid or delusional.

In fairness it has been a while since I have toilet trained a child (my middle child is now 8).  I suppose that I should have anticipated what was to come.  In true form she refused to use the potty and I spent a whole day chasing behind her with a bucket.  At one point my son noted, “Its kinda funny Mum how she keeps weeing in the same spot.  I think I have a puppy for a sister.”

“Yeah,” giggled Miss Ten, “It’s like she’s marking her territory.”  The pair of them stopped laughing about the time she smeared the clean sofa with poo.

Later that night, as I divulged the escapades of my day to my attentive husband, he asked with concern.  “Well how did you do it with the other two?”

“I dunno,” came my terse response.  “Perhaps they did it themselves?”

Hubby snorted.

“Nah.” I conceded.  “To be honest, I think my Mum did it.”

“Might be a good idea to leave it a bit then.”

“Yeah.” I agreed.  “Perhaps just until I go back to work.”

***Incidentally, the next day I resorted to the use of stickers and low and behold, she used the potty!

guilty

I was in the final stages of labor.  I’d been laboring for close to 36 hours and I’d got to that wonderful stage where I was told to push.  I say wonderful in an ironic way since there is nothing wonderful or indeed elegant about being on your back with your feet in stirrups, while a cast of thousands watch from the sidelines as your eyeballs pop out of your head and you intermittently turn it, voiding the contents of your guts into a plastic bag.  “I’m not really sure you’re pushing right love,” suggested my husband.  He’d have received a violent slap to the back of the head and more than a few terse words if I had the energy and my mind was not so focused on other matters.  At any rate, I heard the words, ingrained as they were upon my soul forever, nagging at me and winding thorns of guilt around my heart.  Welcome to motherhood, a land where you can expect to be perpetually dropped into a constant state of guilt.

Without going into too much detail, my first delivery ended badly.  If you have seen the Stephen King movie Carrie then you are on the right track.  Suffice to say that when everything turned pear shape my husband’s words were far more pertinent than I might ever have imagined.  Clearly I sucked at Motherhood, I couldn’t even deliver a baby without it turning into the kind of event where 3rd year medical students would pay good money for the honour of having a front row seat.  Quite a few years later the wounds were still raw.  As I sat alongside an old friend from my university days, she shared with me a golden nugget of wisdom; that success in childbirth was due to preparation, planning and mental focus.  I nearly asked for the papers to relinquish my parental rights on the spot.  I was none of these in childbirth, I sucked big time

Not only did I botch up childbirth but when it came down to it I sucked at a whole lot of things motherhood related.  Breastfeeding.  It seems to have been turned into something of a sport for which those who succeed are rewarded with accolades in the form of virtual medals.  Breastfeed for 3 months, you win a bronze, do it for 6 months a silver and for breastfeeding to the 12th month you will be serenaded with gold.  Heaven forbid if you feed beyond this, you’ll be viewed as some kind of hippie/exhibitionist who clearly gets off from whipping her bosoms out in public.  In all this though, my heart really bleeds for the poor dears who decide not to breastfeed for whatever reason, or those who give up in the first few weeks.  For them, Mother Guilt is rampant as they contend with the silent barbs that are tsks and tuts while suffering through the mournfully insincere looks of sympathy from other women in their Mother’s Group.

I won’t go into the deeply rooted problem that I have with Mother’s Groups.  That is another whole blog post in itself.  Instead, I will state here publicly that as far as Mother Guilt is concerned I have enough of it to cover many small sheets of paper and then wallpaper a small room.  A few standouts include:

  •  The day I sent my eight year old anaphylactic son to school with a muesli bar containing peanuts.
  •  All those nights (more than I care to admit) I couldn’t be arsed cooking so I made my husband pick up KFC on the way home.  My children will probably grow up to be obese and diabetic from their lack of having a nutritionally balanced meal every night.
  • A serious lack creativity when it comes to lunchboxes.  I fill them with crisps and small packets of treats no doubt filled with sugar and fat and sugar and fat.
  • I send my kids to bed “religiously” at 7 pm every night, not because they need the sleep but because by this time of night I really can’t bear another moment with them in my presence.
  • Sometimes when I’m in the car I turn the stereo up really loud so I don’t need to “pretend” to listen to their inane story about what they did in Science that day.

I’ll stop here because you are probably getting the idea.  Fortunately though, for every act that has burdened me with a layer of guilt, there are many more that make me feel quietly proud.  I will spare you the list (I’m no Saint).  Suffice to say, at the end of the day I do love my kids in a way that is immeasurable and totally irrational.   Rather than feel down about my foibles I prefer to embrace my Mother Guilt as merely a symptom of a love that proclaims, “You feel bad because you care”.

Where do you stand on this?  Are you willing to embrace your imperfections as a Mother?  I’d love to hear some of your greatest Mother Guilt moments.  Not because I want to berate you (I’ve probably done it too), but because I want to help you to celebrate your imperfections as a symptom of a human who cares absolutely, thereby absolving you from your guilt.

I blinked somewhere around late October and found myself at the beginning of December.  I’m not sure what happened but I suppose this is what is inclined to occur when you are busy.  Before I blink again and find myself in 2014 I thought it best to update you on what I’ve been doing since my last blog.

starwarscake

My son turns 8 on the 21st December.  It turned out to be a really crappy time to have a baby, what with the world being smothered in tinsel and Christmas trees around this time every year.  What can I say, it isn’t my fault, the little fellow wasn’t due until February (I thought I had it planned so well).  As a result we celebrated his special day last Saturday before everyone got too drenched in Christmas spirit.    It was Michael’s turn to have a cake.  This year he wanted a Star Wars theme.  Goodness me, I thought, I’m not so sure I can do cakes for little boys (let alone an older and infinitely more particular boy).  You see I am surrounded by little girls . . . literally.  Michael is the only boy on both sides of the family (last count I had 8 nieces, 2 daughters and Michael).  So, you see, I can’t say I’ve had much practise.  My only previous efforts included a Tardis which was a dismal failure.  It fell down in such a spectacular fashion that my kids still joke about it.  Needless to say I lost some sleep over this one.   Thankfully it didn’t fall down and my little man was as pleased as punch with it.

For those who may be interested I modelled Yoda out of gumpaste and the lettering is done with a very basic run-out of royal icing.  I used a pre-coloured RTR fondant to cover the chocolate mudcake and finished it off with some simple royal icing piping and a dual layered ribbon.   The top ribbon is printed with some great characters from the Star Wars movies and was a great little ebay find.  It is a simple little cake.  I am moderately happy with Yoda, who turned out to be tricky (oh so many wrinkles).  My husband thought he was a little on the tubby side and perhaps looked more like a troll!!!!

mincepies

I’ve also managed to fit in a little Christmas baking.  Here is my first batch of mince pies.  I made the mince a week ago, and with more than a half a bottle of brandy in the mix, I’m hoping they are something special.   To be honest I forgot to taste them yesterday when I made this batch, but my Mum tells me they are “fantastic”.

I did manage to drag myself from the kitchen and spend a considerable time at my computer over the past few weeks.  I started a  major revision of my manuscript which I only completed late last week.  I found the process somewhat arduous. I have made some huge changes, killed a lot of my darlings and invented a few more.  It needed to be done.  I’d like to start sending it out to publishers early next year but I might sit on my hands a little longer with it, show it around a bit more before I do.  For now though it is time to get serious about starting a new writing project.   I am heading back to the classroom in February and although I am only part-time I need to be realistic about what can be achieved in these circumstances.  Past experiences have taught me that teaching is both mentally and creatively draining.  I hope I get the balance right and can produce a new novel next year whilst managing to plan my lessons, grade work and still run around after three kids and a husband.

I’d love to hear your experiences of juggling your work with family and other commitments.  What keeps you sane?  How do you make time for the things you enjoy whilst still managing to keep your house clean and your kids fed?

Image  —  Posted: December 4, 2013 in Cooking & Cake Decorating, Motherhood Musings, Uncategorized, Writing
Tags: , , , ,

Image

I’m a reasonably self assured woman.  In my 37 years on earth I have gathered a range of credits to my name; including 3 degrees, a successful career as a teacher and an emerging one as a writer.  Friends and family speak about me as being a fantastic juggler.  Somehow, I manage to do all this and feed and raise 3 young children, keep a reasonably clean and organised home and create the occasional cake.

Don’t be deceived.  I am also mistress in the art of illusion.   Despite having a good dose of self confidence I have many moments of self doubt.

I had a long time to get used to the fact that my 20 year school reunion was coming up.  I’m not sure exactly when, but more than a year ago I received a teeny message in my inbox announcing the good news.  “School reunion . . . eek,” a close friend had commented when I told her about it, “I didn’t even go to mine.  I try really hard to forget that school ever happened.”   I didn’t need to try to forget it.  I had.  Until I received that message.

For me high school was a disaster.  I was socially awkward the moment I walked through the gate.  In fact, on the first day, I developed a slight stutter that lasted for most of the first semester.  When the stutter disappeared I replaced it with a loud and obnoxious teenager who talked too much.  The picture was complicated further by highly developed feelings of inadequacy that found me constantly waging a losing battle to fit in.  It didn’t matter what I did, I was always going to be too fat, not rich enough, not having the right connections, never mind the fact that I always seemed to have the wrong hair and clothes.  I wanted to be one of the “cool crowd”  at my all girls Catholic college, but never seemed able to pull it all together.

Up until a week ago I was undecided about whether or not I would make an appearance at the reunion.  Exclusion; the favorite tool of the alpha female, had left its scars on my psyche.  Surely going to this event, no matter how well intended, would serve to open up old wounds?  In a weak moment, lured by the promise of a reunion with an old buddy not seen in more than 18 years, I paid my cash and made the commitment.

Crap.  That really was a weak moment.  A moment potentially only alleviated through the consumption of a whole bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon!

To cut a long story short the reunion was not a disaster requiring alcohol consumption of grandiose proportions.   It was a revelation of sorts.  Sitting in the car with an old friend just prior to entering, I confided my fears.  She was back, the stuttering and insecure teenager; although this time she had less pimples, better dress sense and bigger tits.

As it turned out, many of us held insecurities about the reunion.  For one woman it was about her unfounded belief that others had perceived her to be “promiscuous”.   For another it was related to the fact that she was heading towards 40 and still had not found Mr Right.  Yet another woman confided in me that she was tizzed about being in the same room as a frenemie.  I’m fairly certain that some others were weighing up their own achievements alongside others and feeling as though somewhere they may have fallen short of the mark. reunionchanges

In all honesty, I don’t think anyone missed the mark.  I shared a few drinks with a room of accomplished women each glowing with a beauty that only arrives with the wisdom of age.  Some were great mothers, others had captivating careers or interests, yet all were inspirational.  In the end I’m glad I went.  I’m glad that I had the chance to finally put to rest some of the painful experiences buried deep in my memory.   Besides, the chocolate and jelly bean bonboniere was brilliant.

ImageI

I have a two year old!  I can’t believe where the time has flown to.  I guess it just means I’ve been having fun.

I made this little cake for Rosie to celebrate.  It is strawberry cake with vanilla buttercream and fondant.  I modelled the little bear free hand.  I am pretty pleased with how she turned out.  The butterflies were Rosie’s idea.  She is butterfly obsessed at the moment.

I hope she likes it.

Image

I thought I might share with you all what has kept me busy this week (and has certainly taken me away from my writing).  I agreed to create a cake for my sister to celebrate the baptism of my gorgeous niece ‘Harper Louise’.  You know when you start something and mid-way you wonder, “hmmm…perhaps I have bitten off a little more than I can chew with this one.”  This is where I’ve been this week and my family will confirm the fact that I have been a little grumpier than is usual for me.

It all turned out in the end and my sister was very happy with the overall result.  Of course I’m a little harder to please.  It didn’t help that my husband told me that the clouds looked more like pebbles on the beach.  Clouds aside I am really thrilled with how the sleeping baby turned out.  I really enjoy making these little gum-paste figures.  I’d much rather create these than actually make the cake.  I’ll be honest I am a far better cake decorator than I am baker…..although this one is chocolate mud and some people may suggest you can’t go wrong with chocolate.

Looking to my week ahead and I don’t see anymore baking for at least a fortnight now.  This is just as well because I don’t think I could cope having to cut out another flower let alone roll out fondant! The next cake I have will be something more low key for my daughter’s 2nd birthday.  I’m thinking a teddy bear on a picnic rug perhaps???  Whatever I do it will definitely include some little butterflies.  Miss Rosie was particularly taken with the “flyflys” on Harper’s cake.  My plans for this week include some more editing and revision of my manuscript, perhaps a little more tweaking of my pitch and if I get really motivated I might even prepare a couple of submission letters.

In the meantime, if you didn’t manage to last week, it is not too late to vote in my poll. I would really love to hear your thoughts and I promise that the whole process will take less than two minutes (one click voting).  You can find the pitch samples in my last post titled “Pitch Headaches (Again)” and the poll at the bottom of this blog.

Have a wonderful week.  I do hope that wherever you are in the world the sun is shining for you.