The Happy Family Plan

As you may know, I recently hosted Christmas Dinner for the Owls Well family at my house as a response to the baking challenge that A Becky C set me in the beginning of the year.

dsc02435_fotor

Challenge completed!

The most difficult thing about hosting the Christmas ‘Everything Baked’ Dinner at the my place, was not actually the cooking, but that I had to get myself to a place where I felt like I could invite people (specifically family) round to my house without feeling too upset and stressed about it.

I actually started planning for the Christmas Dinner at my place WAY back in October. I called this my “Happy Family Plan“. The goal of my plan was to be able to have the Outlaws stay at my house and invite the Aged Ps round for dinner at the same time. This was a 4 stage plan, as follows:

 Stage 1:  Reorganise/declutter children’s toys and schedules. 

This was so that we could spend more time at home and that we would also enjoy spending more time at home as the living room area would be more presentable. I felt quite stressed about being at home sometimes as I found myself getting upset with the kids and very unhappy when their toys seemed to be everywhere, even after putting the toys away.

Result: I donated many bags of toys to families who would appreciate them more than we would. Spending more time at home was relaxing too.

Stage 2: Reorganise the cupboards 

Our dining table and counter tops were overflowing with things, as was my desk area. The cupboards had been stuffed willy-nilly to keep everything away from prying eyes but it was reaching the stage where I felt bad about how ugly the cupboards were on the inside and couldn’t even bear to open them to put more things away.

Result: I reorganised the children’s clothing cupboards, our craft cupboard and two of our miscellaneous cupboards, and gave away some of the clothes that I knew I would never wear again (i.e. all my maternity and nursing gear, and my pre-pregnancy work wear). I wasn’t able to go through all the cupboards as I didn’t have enough time, this being an emergency plan, but I did manage to find space to make sure the dining table was clear and that the countertops were not overly cluttered.

Stage 3: Reclaim my bedroom space and the spare room space.

The spare room was being used as a temporary holding area (i.e. storage room) and that needed to change if I was going to put the Outlaws up in there. My bedroom space was only being used as a place to sleep and not a place to relax and that needed to change.

Result: This involved getting rid of large furniture items in my bedroom which were being used as glorified clothes horses. I also moved Thumper out of our bedroom and into the children’s room. This led to both myself and the Barn Owl experiencing better sleep and less guilt for not using furniture as intended. I also felt less upset about the state of the spare bedroom (although still a little embarrassed about the cupboards in there!)

Stage 4: Host guests in the house

Obviously, I wanted to feel proud about where we lived, proud enough to show it off to other people. I didn’t want to worry about whether the Aged Ps would leave my house feeling sad at the state of it.

If you look to the top right of the picture above, you can see that I still had laundry hanging up in my dining room – it was raining so it couldn’t go outside – and whilst I was quite embarrassed that I didn’t have anywhere else to put it, at least I felt okay enough to have people come and visit the house.

And look how happy everyone is!

Happy Family Plan Completed!

Notes on the Happy Family Plan:

I set aside Thumper’s 2 hour morning nap time to devote to the decluttering and tidying portion Happy Family Plan, which was the most time-consuming part of this whole event. I would spend only one hour diligently working, then decompress for half an hour with crisps, a cold drink and Youtube. If I felt good enough, I’d do a little bit more during the afternoon, but not more than half an hour as I didn’t want to burn myself out.

I toyed with the idea of selling all my preloved things, even to the point of opening a Carousell account, but in the end I realised that it was more important for me to get the clutter out of sight quickly. Additionally, I decided that my family is fortunate enough to be in a position where we can afford to be charitable. So, I listed everything on various Freecycle sites as I decluttered, so that these things would go to people who wanted or needed them enough to come and collect them from me. Reducing World Suck whilst accomplishing the Happy Family Plan was a huge bonus, and some days I felt a little bit like Santa Claus!

For Stage 3 of the Happy Family Plan, I had to take into account the fact that there might possibly be a difficult transition period whilst J, Little E and Thumper adjust to the new sleeping arrangements, and I didn’t want this to affect J as he was preparing for his year end exams. So I waited until J had completed his last paper before moving Thumper out of our bedroom.

It was surprisingly easy – the 3 kids did take longer to get to sleep at first as they would play with Thumper after lights out, but there was a lot less fuss from Thumper than I’d envisioned. This was because Little E instantly took over the job of comforting Thumper if he woke her up at night and she managed it a lot better than I normally do! Her secret? “I just tell him to lie down and go to sleep”, says she. I must say I was very proud of all of them, especially Little E, who really had a chance to flex her big sister muscles!

Concluding thoughts:

I’m pleased to say that I am really proud of myself for managing to complete the Happy Family Plan within a short time frame and despite the fact that I only had an hour a day to spend on it! Yay for me!

Whilst completing the Happy Family Plan, I went on my personal social media site and asked for advice for how to declutter and organise my cupboards.

This eventually led to one of my family giving me a set of Marie Kondo‘s books for Christmas! I’ll let you know how I feel about it once I finish reading them.

Oh Joy, EOFY

It’s the End of Financial Year, which means that it’s tax time!

Now, I’ve always liked filing my tax return, not because I’m an accountant[1], but mostly because it means that I get some money from the government and it’s nice to have some bonus money.

giphy.gif

MAKE IT RAAAAAAAIIIN!

However, this is my first year filing a joint tax return with the ATO, so my experience has not been great.  Normally, my taxes take maybe about 20 minutes to complete, give or take 10 minutes or so.  This is because I have a very organised tax system and I file all my payment slips neatly in a little box, which I only open to do taxes.  However, this year, I have had to sort through The Boobook’s tax receipts, and his filing system is like this:

For example, after I had submitted his tax return, he then gave me his health insurance information, so I had to amend his tax return.  Then, when I had submitted the amendment, he came back two days later with a few deductibles.  So, I had to file yet another amendment to the amendment in order to get his tax return.

Also, consider the following conversation that I had with the bank…

ABC:  So, how do I look up my taxable interest?

Bank Lady: Just log in and it should have a page that shows this year’s interest earned.

ABC:  Okay, but it doesn’t list how much tax was withheld on the interest.

Bank Lady: Oh, to do that, you just advise us of your tax file number.  Which you can do by doing <complicated instructions>.

ABC:  I just did that, and it says that I have already given you my tax file number.

Bank Lady: Oh, yes, if you gave us your tax file number, then we didn’t withhold any tax on your interest.

ABC:  WHAT?!  WHY?  Why don’t you do that?!  I mean tax withholding is what I gave you my tax file number for!

Bank Lady:  Oh, sometimes we don’t withhold tax from joint accounts.

ABC: HOW DOES THIS MAKE ANY SENSE?!

Bank Lady:  Well, since I’ve answered your question, I’m sure you are satisfied byebye now!

So, it’s taken me 2 weeks to file the taxes this year, and I’m feeling quite a lot like this:

Sometimes, doing the taxes really sucks.


[1] Okay, so a little because I’m an accounting graduate, but not in a weird way, okay?!

A Conversation About Work

Debs G:  Hey, update the blog once in a while, will ya?

A Becky Lee:  Sorry, it’s suddenly gotten super-busy at work and I don’t have time to sit down and write!

Debs G:  LIES.

A Becky Lee: What?

Debs G:  It is always “suddenly” super-busy at work.  When are you ever not busy at work?

A Becky Lee: Well, sometimes in the middle of each month, I may be not busy on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Debs G:  Monday and Tuesday in the middle of the month>

A Becky Lee: Yeah.

Debs G: Well, then it’s never suddenly super-busy is it?

A Becky Lee: Well, it suddenly gets super-busy after the mid-month Tuesday!

No, you’re right Debs, I’m like busy all the time.  In my defence, the end of the financial year is coming up!

A Conversation about Bread

Debs G: A Becky Lee!  I need your blueberry cobbler recipe for the challenge!

A Becky Lee: I don’t know if I have it at the moment because I use Mrs Beeton’s Cookbook and it’s stashed away in a box somewhere… but from memory, it’s flour, milk, sugar, blueberries… and I’m not sure if we need eggs, but it does need a binding agent… let me check… Yes, yes it needs eggs.

Debs G: What else would I use other than eggs?!

A Becky Lee: Well, Iunno, blood?

Debs G:  WHAT?!

A Becky Lee: It’s a good binding agent!  It’s got albuluminimumuninm in it like eggs do!

Debs G:  You mean Albumin?

A Becky Lee: Yeah!  Apparently egg albumin and blood albumin is pretty much the same, and you can use blood for when people have egg allergies.  My friend Tatya, you know, the one who is super into Medieval cooking is all excited about this because some archaeologists unearthed an ancient bread that was made out of blood in some battlefield somewhere.  It was super high in protein and stuff.

Debs G: You mean, the soldier bled into the bread and it got preserved?

A Becky Lee: No, it was made with blood.

12798939_10153765247062839_6156992671299268404_n

BLOOD!

Debs G:  You mean, the soldier died and the bread was on the battlefield and soaked up all the blood like some kind of wheaty vampire.  Anyway, where is Tatya getting this blood from?

A Becky Lee: … a butcher…?

Debs G:  Oh, yeah.  She was probably using cow blood.  I guess you could that from a butcher.

A Becky Lee:  What else kind of blood did you think she was using?

Debs G:  Iunno.  Human?

A Becky Lee:  WHY WOULD SHE USE HUMAN BLOOD?!  That’s disgusting!  We don’t want to get Kuru!

Debs G:  You can’t get Kuru from eating blood!  You can only get it from eating raw human brains!

A Becky Lee:  Well, you can also get it from cornea transplants…

A Becky Lee: … from people who eat raw brains…

Debs G: Exactly.

Our family has some strange conversations sometimes.  Incidentally, for those of you interested in making the Viking Blood Bread, Tatya recommends the recipe from An Early Meal – A Viking Age Cookbook & Culinary Odyssey by Daniel Serra and Hanna Tunberg.


 

Tatya’s Addendum:  I couldn’t find a butcher to get me clean blood, so I got the blood from a friend when they had a sheep slaughtered.  The kitchen looked like vikings had marauded through it with one hapless Christian monk.  (Only one monk because there wasn’t that much blood)

A Conversation About Challenges

A Becky Lee:  Debs G, I have put a post.  Can you look at it and see if it is ok for challenge?

Debs G:  I’m scared of the challenge.

A Becky Lee:  Well, for the “Entertain a Guest” challenge, you don’t have to bake the drinks to serve your guests.

Debs G:  Why would I bake drinks?!  That would taste awful.  Not to mention, it would be stupid.  I just scared of the challenge.

A Becky Lee: Then why are you scared of the challenge?!  Is there any challenge you can’t do?

Debs G: I think I can do the things. As long as it doesn’t require a rolling pin, it’s do-able.

A Becky Lee:  Pie can be pot pie, so that does not need a rolling pin. You can just stick pastry sheet on a ramekin.

Debs G: Ok.  Ok.  I will do it.  I will be brave.

A Becky Lee:   I will be on hand to help you with recipes if you really stuck. But I’d rather you figured them on your own.

Debs G:  I WILL BE BRAVE OF OVEN BAKING!

A Becky Lee: BE BRAVE OF OVEN BAKING! GO FORTH AND BE AWESOME!

Debs G:  *Cries*

(Pause)

Debs G:  NO!  I WILL NOT CRY!  I WILL BE AWESOME INSTEAD!!!

Sometimes, a little encouragement can go a long way.  😄

Broken Arms and Monkey Bites (A New Years in the A&E)

Hey Debs, I figured I’d update you on the whole hand situation from New Year’s Day.

I know that before we went to the hospital, you warned me about going to the Accident and Emergency department on New Year’s.

“People are stupid on New Year’s Day,” you said, “The emergency room will be packed.  You won’t get a good quality of care.”

But I had to break my hand on New Years Eve, so there we are.  The emergency department wasn’t too busy, but I still ended up with a jury-rigged hand brace to prevent my thumb from moving too much.

FullSizeRender

She’ll be right, mate!

It was about lunchtime when we returned home from the hospital.

As I couldn’t use my hand, I asked The Boobook to help me prepare lunch.  Lo and behold, if he didn’t end up slicing a good 2mm off his fingertip with the mandolin slicer.

*sigh*

So we ended up in the hospital again, this time for 4 hours.  The waiting room was still pretty empty, so we were ushered right through.

The Boobook had his hand seen to pretty quickly, but the hospital took a while longer readjusting my brace, so we were stuck there for some time.  While we were in the hospital, however, I got to see some really interesting stuff as people are indeed quite stupid on New Years!

So, here are my observations from within the A&E.

Item 1:  Man with Monkey Bite being treated with a mixture of adrenalin and antibiotics.

But A Becky Lee, I hear you ask, how on earth did this man find a monkey to bite him?  Monkeys are not indigenous to Australia and there certainly aren’t many wild monkeys about.  To which I say, the determined fool can get anything done.

From what I could understand of the man’s story (and he wasn’t being particularly candid about this), a circus was in town and he had gone to visit.  The monkey was not paying any attention to him, so he offered it a banana to entice it to come closer.  Being mindful of the common rule “don’t feed the animals”, he withdrew the banana from the confines of the monkey cage once the animal had come closer.  The monkey, taking offense at the sudden withdrawal of the banana, then bit him.

He had to get a rabies shot, which I (thankfully) did not see.

Item 2:  Man with large cut on arm

This man broke a large mirror and threw away the shards.  He then put more garbage into his garbage bin and used his hands to further compact the trash when he couldn’t close the garbage bin lid.

I believe he was treated to a tetanus shot and a large bandage.

Item 3:  Very stupid Boobook with missing fingertip

FullSizeRender (1)

If blood is spurting out, cover with a clean kitchen towel, elevate the arm and apply steady pressure to encourage clotting.

The Boobook decided that the guard on the mandolin slicer was too fancy for the likes of him and decided to slice cucumbers without it.  I expect that he has since learned his lesson.

The doctors cleaned it up with saline then bandaged it nice and tight.

Item 4:  Child with broken arm

From what I’ve been given to understand, this is a fairly common sight in the A&E.  What made this particularly unique was her family’s first aid attempt, which actually wasn’t a bad idea.  They put her arm into one of those cardboard poster tubes and tied it to her waist so that she didn’t wave it around.

She got a Despicable Me Minions plaster cast.  She was really proud of it and showed it off to everyone (myself included).

Item 5:  Unknown Wailing Child

This child did NOT want to be at the doctors.  From the moment I stepped into the Emergency Ward, I could hear the s/he screaming.  And s/he didn’t let up.

At all.

For an hour.

I have no idea what was ailing this child, but I suspect that s/he will grow up to be an opera singer.

And that, my friends, sums up my second hospital adventure!  I sincerely hope that I’ve used up all my hospital visits for the year.

On the Folly of Bad New Year Resolutions

HAPPY NEW YEAR from Owls Well!  We hope you had a great 2015.  Please, enjoy an official recording of the Sydney New Year’s Eve fireworks courtesy of the City of Sydney.

Normally, we would post a wrap up of last year at Owls Well, but instead, I wanted to write to you very seriously about folly of bad New Year Resolutions!

So, every year, we are encouraged to make a New Year Resolution.  Usually, this is something like “lose weight” or “study harder”.  This year, I decided to go easy on myself and my resolution was to “Try something new.”

Well, I am pleased to report that, as of 10.20 AM, 22 hours and 20 minutes after the start of the New Year, I have officially resolved this resolution!  I have… fallen on my hand while out gardening, necessitating a visit to the A&E at the local hospital.  While I didn’t break my wrist, I have badly twisted a ligament in it.  Since I have not, in fact, ever torn or twisted a ligament before OR visited an A&E, I have officially resolved (resoluted?) my New Year.

arm

Let the tiny bones in my wrist serve as a lesson to you all about foolish New Year Resolutions!

I am currently wearing a brace on my right hand, so this post comes to you courtesy of my left hand, which is currently unhurt.

Owls Well Blogs wishes you an accident-free New Year.  Drive safely and don’t do anything I wouldn’t do (except fall on your hand.  Definitely don’t do that.)

Happy 2016!