A Conversation between Siblings (or, Big Brother is Watching You)

We’re sitting around the table, enjoying an ice-cream treat. J is 9 years old, Little E is 6 years old and Thumper is nearly 2 years old.

J: I wish I lived in a Bungalow. Then I could have extra rooms for all my ornaments. Every time I get a new ornament, I’ll put it in a triple locked cupboard. Every week I’ll take out the ornaments and polish them. I’ll have to buy lots of polish. And the front door will be quadruple locked for extra security!

Debs G: Okay.

J: SECURITY!!!

Debs G: I feel sorry for your wife.

J: Why?

Debs G: Because she’ll have to spend all her time polishing your ornaments.

J: No no no no no. She’s not allowed to touch the ornaments, because they are MY ornaments. She’s only allowed to look at them while I polish them.

Little E: I don’t want to live in a bungalow. I’m going to live in a farmhouse. I’m going to have a cat and a dog to keep me company. And I’m going to marry my friend Ben.

J: WHAT?! Who is this “Ben”? You’ve never talked about him before. Who is he?

Little E: He’s the one who gave me a kiss on the cheek last week.

Thumper: (waving his spoon) NO NO!

J: (enraged) He did WHAT?! Why didn’t you kick him?!

Little E: He asked me nicely if he could give me a kiss and I said ok.

Thumper: (pointing his spoon at Little E) NO NO!

J: You can’t just go around letting weirdos give you a kiss! If he tries to pull this stunt again, you should give him a kick! A BIG KICK!

Little E: He’s not a weirdo! He’s my friend!

Thumper: (frowning) NO NO! NO NO!

J: Well, we haven’t met him, so he’s must be a weirdo or you would have introduced him to us first before letting him give you a kiss! This is nonsense! He’s not worthy of marrying my sister! If I see him, I’m going to kick him!

Little E: That’s why I didn’t want to tell you because I didn’t want you to freak out!

J: WHY WOULD I FREAK OUT?! I’m not freaking out at all. I am totally normal!

Debs G: Little E, the next time somebody in your class asks to give you a kiss or asks you for a kiss, you should tell them that you need to ask your mummy and daddy first, okay?

Little E: Okay, Mummy.

J: And then I will find him and give him a kick.

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Enjoying ice-cream at Udders Cafe

Queen of Konmari Challenge: Stage 2 – Books

Well, I thought that sorting out the books would be a piece of cake, but it turns out I was so, so wrong. Putting my books through the Konmari wringer was very difficult for me, basically because it was just so labour-intensive!

I started off by walking around the house, just picking up every single stray book and putting them on the spare room bed. This took me about half an hour, and as you can see from the picture below, I hadn’t even emptied my book shelves before the bed was completely covered in books.

Once I started emptying my bookshelves, that’s when I started feeling nauseous and lightheaded. My thoughts were all over the place. How could I possible get rid of any of these precious books?! It was unthinkable! What am I doing? WHY am I doing this? THESE ARE BOOKS!! Also, why have I put random bits of paper and all sorts of rubbish around my books?

I was almost going to stop, but I decided to press on. I broke out into a cold sweat and started retching whilst trying to get all the books out of the cupboard and into stacks as quickly as possible. I also managed to gather together a bag of garbage, mostly half written notes, receipts or grocery lists, even junk mail that had somehow found their way into the pages of my books.

It took me a whole hour to get all my books together.

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On left: All the books from around the house. On Right: All the books.

After I emptied my bookshelves, I had so many books stacked on the floor and on the bed, that I had essentially blocked off my exit from the spare bedroom! Additionally, the books on the bed weren’t staying in neat stacks but had started to slide all over the place, and I risked knocking the whole lot onto the floor.

This is probably why Konmari advises one to lay everything out on the floor. It’s much easier to step around piles on the floor to get things that are out of arms’ reach, and if anything starts to tip over, at least it won’t fall too far! I shall keep this in mind once I reach the part where I have to handle breakables.

Fortunately, the spare room is connected to the children’s room by a balcony, so I had the kids let me in through their balcony (you can see how this could have gone VERY wrong, huh?).

I shut the spare room door and told the kids not to enter, then I went to get a drink of water and sit down for a few minutes to calm down. Then, I threw away the bag of rubbish that I accumulated. That was where I decided to stop for the day, because I knew I didn’t have the emotional strength in me to start sorting through the books as well.

The next morning, I was feeling slightly better, so I started out by going through the children’s books first. I slowly took out books that I never really liked, completed books that the kids would be unlikely to read again, or books that were repeats (surprisingly we had many of these). I kept all the books that I loved and that I loved to read to the kids, or books that I loved to see the children reading on their own.

Then, I went back and looked through the stack of children’s books that I didn’t like, and removed all of the ones that I knew that the children loved.

Then I sorted the ‘keepers’ into piles using my Volcano Method. This is when I pile stuff of the same category together until they form a chain of volcanos. Eventually, things start to flow down the sides to form new islands of interrelated topics. You can see in the picture below, the neat stacks of book volcanoes on the far left.

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Sorting the books using the Volcano Method

At the end of the second hour-long tidying session, I had a tall stack of children’s books that I (and the children – I let them eyeball the books first) had decided not to keep but could be donated or given away (you can see them in the pictures above), some random textbooks that could probably be given away, and a bunch of books that needed to be returned to my friends! I also kept finding random brochures and magazines which totalled TWELVE plastic bags! I threw all of those into the recycling bin.

I spent the third session just putting all the children’s books back into the cupboards. By this time, the cupboards had been well aired out, and I’d also replaced the dehumidifiers to keep the books from getting musty.

I organised the books by reading level, and I’d also tried to arrange them vaguely by height, putting the taller books to the right of the cupboard. I put books that I wanted the kids to read at their eye level – that is, picture books right at the bottom for 1 year old Thumper, early readers and easy chapter books for 5 year old Little E on the bottom and middle shelves, advanced books on the top shelf for 8 year old J.

The next two sessions were spent sorting through and organising our collection of novels and reference books. I took all the books that I wasn’t terribly interested in and showed them to the Barn Owl, and he decided which ones he still wanted to keep. I got rid of all our outdated textbooks and manuals. I listed all the novels that we didn’t want (and weren’t worth keeping for the kids) to be given away on a freecycling website – and someone picked them up at the end of the week.

I put all our books back into the cupboards, making sure that our favourite books were at eye-level, and putting darker coloured books or book series towards the left, lighter coloured books towards the right.

Here’s what our shelves looks like now:

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Tidy and organised!

I have to find some props to hold the books up so that they don’t fall over, but the best thing about all this is that I’ve now got some space for more lovely books! YAY!

I’m really glad that I kept the books that were the kid’s favourites, even if they weren’t my favourites. They were so happy to see their beloved books displayed neatly on the shelves, it was totally worth it.

P.S. Why am I doing this? Here’s why.

P.P.S. Check out the rest of the Queen of Konmari series here.

If you haven’t read the books already, you can get them here:

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organising

Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.  😄