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Thursday, December 18, 2014

9 Time-Saving Apps for Stay at Home Parents (and Busy People)

Nap time is priceless when you are a stay at home parent because nap time= free time.

My energetic little cherub only takes one nap per day.  It’s been this way for months and months.  Be it ten minutes or two hours- one nap, that’s all I get. Most days I think ahead about how to supersize nap time...which gave me the idea for this post.

These apps stretch time. I love them for that.

*One hundred percent my opinions, this list is not sponsored in any way*

17 Minute work-out: A whole body work out in 7 minutes.  



You can do it at naptime or while dinner is cooking.  Seriously- it actually gets you puffing in just seven minutes.

And hey- if you really feel like gettin crazy- you can do the work out twice in a row.  Fourteen minutes of fitness!  It may not seem like much, but it’s so much better than nothing.  And it takes some of the guilt out of that emergency glass(es) of wine.

If you do several days in a row you collect little hearts.   A little positive reinforcement.  Just like Pavlov’s dogs and my parenting strategy.

The only equipment required is a wall and a step.  I have done this workout on the fly without a bra and with bare feet (not recommended).

2Food Gawker Lite: Pretty pictures of delicious looking food. 


Sick of the same old dinners?  Lost your passion and inspiration for cooking? Tired of wasting time thinking about what to make? When you click on these gorgeous photos of meals, they take you to food blogger sites with the recipe.  It’s more niche than Pinterest and without all the repetition and occasional rubbish. 

You can search for recipes based on ingredients!  You know, like when the only vegetables you have on hand are a bunch of carrots and a couple beets.



My attempt at roasted carrot & beet risotto was surprisingly delicious!



Completely at a loss for what to make?  Check out their categories:



My taste-buds thank you, Foodgawker.

3. Calendars: You need this to schedule your life!

As much as I both adore and fear Google, what’s with their Calendar App?  I’m sorry but I’d like to see more than just a dot on my day to day to let me know if I have several events,  in what order, how important they are, or if it’s just a reminder to pay a bill.  Dot, dot, dot.

This is difficult for social people/parents like myself who NEED to plan ahead.  These days I have to schedule 'drinks with the girls' about three months in advance if it's on a weekend day.


A bit like Microsoft Outlook (in a good way), This App allows you to see a little glimpse of what activity you have on, and if there are multiples, it shows you what order!  *Sigh*

You can look at list view, day, week or Month view.  It will synch perfectly to your Google and other calendars.   The app is free but you have to pay to add features like ‘repeating’ events.  The way around this is putting the repeating event into your Google calendar (if you synch the two) this app will pick up on it.

4. Headspace: Meditation App.


A friend invited me to this one.  Don’t ask me why we were talking about meditation while drinking beers in a German restaurant.  That's how we roll.

I’ve half-heatedly attempted to meditate a few times in the past without much success.
Lately with my troubled sleep, I thought more about giving it a try.

This app is perfect for beginners, people curious about mediation or even those who are already experienced.


It’s ten free guided meditation sessions with a couple cute little animations thrown in.   The animations help you visualize simple and helpful metaphors in times of stress.

I can honestly say that on the nights I’ve listened to the meditations, even if I feel particularly squirmy, I am more relaxed and sleep better after.

I’ve completed 8 sessions so far.  I’m sure once I complete session 10 they will try to sell me a membership.  Maybe I’m stalling on the last two sessions because I don’t want it to end!

Saves time by giving you a healthier head.

5. A Beautiful Mess: Photo editing App



One of my newest and most favorite apps right now. Lets you add filters, text, doodles, boarders.  As if your baby pics could get any cuter!



Upload directly to other social media apps.  Okay...maybe this one is more of a time-waster but I still dig it.

Some of the more obvious life-changing apps:
6. Whatsapp: Free text messaging anywhere in the world.


Clearly this one is a staple with family and friends back in America but it’s also a fun/ distracting way to stay connected to mates during the work day.  And you can create little group messages where you can share funny images, links and texts even while you’re at home and they are at work.

7. Spotify: All the streaming Music.

I have the paid version.  Worth every cent.  The TV stays off on my house a lot more than it would (I like noise for company) had it not been for this app.  Lavinia is quite the music connoisseur- she rocks out to everything from Pharell to Weezer.


Today I discovered she has a hidden love for country music.  To each their own.

Saves time by letting baby bop around the kitchen while I clean up her mess.

8. Pinterest: Inspiration boards.


Bored at home?  Ideas about anything from first birthday parties, to activities for children to home improvement projects...I guarantee if you are ever ‘bored’ (I don’t even know what this word means), open up this app and you’ll have a brand new, fully-stocked to-do list.  Not that you will have much time to complete it.

Wanna fill some time?  Here you go.

9. Etsy: An online shopping haven for the homemade and vintage




Seriously.  This is the online version of shop local.  Especially for my Aussie friends, the prices on here are so much more reasonable than the shops (no overhead!)  More and more Australian sellers are joining but many of the American crafters are willing to ship here (and it will still be cheaper).

In the last year I’ve purchased so much baby stuff!  Lavinia’s first birthday outfit, Halloween costume, template for invitations, my blog template and lots more. 

Bonus: if you are clever and crafty you can sell stuff there too!

Saves time by avoiding malls!

May you go forth and become addicted to one or more of these applications.  You’re welcome.

What are the apps you can't live without?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Parents Can Be Responsible Rebels


Artist, Rebel, Hippie, Hipster?

I spent Wednesday in the city of Melbourne with two friends.  The clear sky and sun lit up cobblestone alleyways and Christmas tinsel alike.

Even though we had an agenda- it felt more like wandering.  Lavinia was home with her Grandmother so I was free, touristy and vibrant.

Somewhere along the last few months I lost that apologetic feeling you have about being out in public without the baby aka 'the excuse.'  Pushing the stroller in front of you explains why you look disheveled, dumpy or lacking confidence. The only way I was able to become more secure within myself is by recognizing who I am now and remembering who I used to be. Pre-Mom and Post-Mom don’t have to be so radically different, who knew?

Thinking back to last year when my anxiety took over- the guilt would not allow me to put any energy into myself. I would stress about Lavinia wearing pajamas if I managed to get dressed that day.  If I looked like I put more effort into my appearance than hers, people would think I’m a bad Mom.  This is unhealthy thinking.  These days as long as she’s happy- I’m sweet. I wear what I want, I rock my tattoos, sometimes I even apply eyeliner.


When my friends and I visited the stunning State Library ofVictoria yesterday- we saw a free exhibit called ‘Bohemian Melbourne,’ a celebration of free spirits.   It details the lives and work of several of Melbourne’s own counter-cultural artists, writers, musicians and dancers from the 1880’s to today. It spoke to me.












These people pushed back against convention and led extraordinary lives.  They dressed, expressed, spoke about, wrote down and painted their passions.  They chose to live outside the status quo.  They were troubled, talented and thirsty. A pertinent reminder that even though my life has seemed completely traditional these last few years, work, marriage, house, baby...I’m doing this all in a foreign country.  My life is 'technically' unusual however I don’t like being too comfortable.  Might be time to shake things up.

I’m looking to next year with anticipation. Hopefully that’s a sign of me dwelling less on the past because the future deserves as much appreciation and pondering.

I'm bringing the boundary-nudging rebel back in 2015. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Hello Anxiety, My Old Friend

I slept like a jet-lagged lunatic last night. 

It was quite the departure from my usual early morning insomnia.  If any of you out there battle with sleep you know that the harder you try to find it, the more elusive the beast becomes.

Lucky today was Day Care Day with added bonus counselling because I needed to talk about some sleep strategies.

I spoke to my counselor not only about my sleeplessness, but also something else that had been lurking in my mind.  Negativity.   Lately I feel so negative.  So much of my news is illness, sickness, tiredness, restlessness...  She told me something I found very enlightening- apparently this is a common feeling for people coming out of a depression.

Firstly, it’s wonderful to acknowledge that I am coming out of a depression(!) and secondly, that I’m not alone in my thinking.

Apparently this is how it goes down:  The great all-encompassing depression cloud, if you had to rate it on a scale would be the most intense emotion you experience when it is hovering over you.  Other emotions like anger and negativity are present too but naturally take a backseat.

Once that oppressing, depressing fog recedes, we start to feel these other emotions again.  They are the same as they ever were yet we experience them more strongly now without the depression-goggles. It makes total sense (in my mind anyway.) So people who are no longer seriously depressed tend to worry they are too angry or negative. Which strangely made me feel better.

I am a true believer that you need to experience the negative to appreciate the positive. It’s unrealistic to be happy all the time (though my husband does a frustratingly good job at it). It is only fitting that in order to work on our ‘light’ we also need to delve into our ‘shadows,’ otherwise we are simply deluding ourselves.*

So to my family and friends-please bare with me as I slip in and out of the dark.

The Two of You Light My Way

*concept based on a quote I saw on a friend’s Facebook page from SiriMati, yoga teacher.


Monday, December 8, 2014

Our Weekend in Photos

Mother’s Group got canned this week so I had one Mum friend over for a quick cup of tea this morning.

She knocked on the door just as I was elbow deep in a poo explosion (one that was 24 hours in the making)... the day only got worse from there.

Lavinia is sick, again, and has another molar coming in.  She refuses to eat and it’s making her hangry.

It’s 1:59PM and I’m still in my PJ’s.  Our retired neighbor loves to bang on stuff in his backyard at naptime. Today it looks like it's not even a hammer, more like a metal rod. My senses tell me the day outside is gorgeous.  I wouldn't know.

Throwing some sesame chicken in the slow cooker- win.  Splashing soy sauce onto my white robe- fail. Rescuing a baby's shoe in the laundry before it went into the washing machine- win.

All I want to do is write (whine). Just this really simple post.  It's another special assignment from blog class.  A photo safari from my weekend.  It was meant to be five photos but I went overboard as usual.

They sat long enough for this photo to happen
Friday Lavinia and I went to join my friend Abbey and her friends for a playgroup.  There were heaps of Mummies and babies of all ages.  

It still amazes me each day how mothers have the ability to bond instantly with one another. I never ran out of things to talk about and didn't feel awkward for one second.


And the best part, my newly clingy little darling was able to run around and blow off some steam.


There is something cool happening in my neighborhood- finally!


The Kooinda Brewery is located in Heidelberg West, a ten minute walk from our house.  They are open as a bar on Thursday and Friday evenings.  You can taste the beer on offer or chow on some gourmet street food- they even have take out menus behind the bar if you're still hungry.



If judging purely on beard + tattoo count, you would think you were in Collingwood or Fitzroy rather than Heidi Heights.  It's a promising sign of the changing landscape in our area. All hip neighborhoods need lumbersexuals.




They have giant Jenga, Ping Pong, Pool and comfy couches.  All activities I can get into, especially while drinking beer.

I am not a cat person, my husband less so, I tried to warn him

This brave and nosy fella was completely unfazed as I attempted to shoo him from our window sill while I did a little writing Saturday morning.

Pizza and a Chardy at Fire Chief

We had a lovely lunch with Auntie Amanda- a quick little catch up before she trades us for a white Christmas in Canada (can't say I blame her.)

Because of our North American bond, Amanda understands that as a New York (State)'r I'm a tough critic when it comes to pizza.  She suggested Firechief and the pizza was actually delicious! The place is kid-friendly too so I will definitely be back.  The owner is a super smiley half-Irish guy who grew up in Australia.  I'm always interested in meeting people with two passports- just like my daughter!



Quick little bit of laundry/ downtime before heading to a sneaky little crafternoon on Sunday. Lavinia looks as worn out as I feel!

Inspired by hitchhiker signs
This is the only photo safe to show.  Auntie Celeste's big 30th birthday bash is this Saturday.  She asked me to make a couple signs for her boho-hippy themed festivities.

When I arrived home I found that our Friday night Jenga sesh had inspired Matt to create a little date night for us.  I mean, we met over that very game in an Irish tiki bar in Malaysia so I understand why.



Looking back it’s hard to believe that I was able to enjoy such an action-packed weekend.  A few months ago when I was feeling down I dreaded back to back business.  Even though today has been mentally challenging, I can see and feel progress...I'll take it.

*note this is not a sponsored post, nor have I been compensated in any way- all opinions are my own

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Simplicity is in Season

It will always seem strange to me that in Australia, the seasons go by calendar months, not by the equinoxes. When the change of seasons are not overtly distinguishable I guess that turns the year into a neatly quartered pie. This makes things more simple.

When I first moved to Melbourne, I remember being so confused about what time of year it was.  In my former life I could tell by the weather.

December 1st is the first day of Summer in these parts.  Lavinia and I have been exploring the backyard and playing with hose water to keep cool.

Her little cheeks turn pink when she’s warm.  As a child, I remember wishing mine would do that very thing so I would pinch them in the bathroom mirror.


Lately I’ve been writing more. My childhood is something that keeps rising to the surface.  This makes sense because now I’m part of someone else’s childhood.  Only this time I’m gifted with a lens more than three decades old with which to view it. Like the seasonal calendar in Australia- children make life appear so much simpler.  We adults are the ones who make it complicated.

The memories I’m exploring are something I will share in the future.  For now, I'll be honest about myself and try not to worry that someday my little girl will read it all and be able to see my flaws...though it’s a troubling thought- I do want her to know I’m human.  I make mistakes.  So far, I’ve tried to learn from them.

For now, I’m just unloading my brain (when I have a spare moment) to put the thoughts in black and white.  You know, to make things more simple.  



Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Fakesgiving


Churkey
I decided to skip Thanksgiving this year, not quite sure why.  Perhaps I thought I would have the willpower to watch it unfold on Facebook without getting physically involved.

Last year, with an 8 week old newborn I had the same mindset (and a solid excuse.)  As I stalked photos of my friends and skyped with my family I felt twitchy (more likely from lack of sleep and sore boobs.) Undeniably though, something was missing.  By Saturday I had obtained a couple turkey steaks, potatoes, instant stuffing and this gravy that comes in a microwaveable bag.  First year in the new house with our new baby.  I was going to start the tradition even if it killed me (and even if I had to nurse at the dinner table.)

I didn't realize it would be a tradition of me trying to ignore one of the last great holidays.  There are lots more excuses this year: We don’t have enough room in our house, Christmas is coming and I’m completely unorganized, it will be lots of work and I’m just flippin worn out.

Honestly now that I think about it- maybe it’s just plain ole homesickness.  Que head in sand.

My American genes must be stronger than I realized.

When I went food shopping Wednesday (see just like I would have if I were back home!) after days of scraping by on ‘cupboard surprises’ due to Lavinia being sick- we were filling up our shopping cart.  I spotted cranberry sauce on display- yay American products! Though I’m meant to be on a budget- I grabbed a jar without looking at its price tag. Nostalgia- gets me every time, a marketers dream.

And since I’m on a supermarket-chain, meat-boycott I purchased a little free-range chicken at the Butcher with no real plans for it. See what my subliminal mind was doing there?

I also happened to have a large, organic pumpkin left over from our Aussie Farmer’s Direct veggie box.  I could not possibly let another one go to waste just because my freezer is already full of pumpkin puree (Christmas prep, maybe I’m not as disorganized as I thought.)  See how all the elements of the perfect Faux Thanksgiving are coming together?

I even had stuffing mix in the cupboard (from last year) and contemplated using it because the expiration date is still one more year from now (that can’t be healthy, stuffing mix which has a shelf life of two years.)  Give yourself permission to take a shortcut I told myself....use the boxed stuffing or skip it altogether. But it’s been open for A WHOLE YEAR.  So no.  My toasted one inch cubed breadcrumbs had just come out of the oven.  You can't have Fakesgiving without homemade stuffing!!!

Could I help myself? No.  I could not.

Tired as hell, my 14-month-old, teething baby finally went down for a nap. The house was a mess, laundry needed to be done and I my hair had not seen shampoo since the weekend. Yet... let me make the most delicious gosh darn pumpkin pie you have ever seen.

No whipped cream or ice cream.  What ever shall I do?  How bout just whip up some coconut cream with vanilla extract and honey.  I’m as gangsta as Martha Stewart. 

By the time Matt arrived home from work I was spent. And a tad crabby.  But you know what?  Those smells coming out of the oven and the anticipation of that gorgeous pie....perked me right up.  The wine helped too. 




It’s a little sad that I cooked the meal all by myself but at the end of the day it was worth it.  I’m thankful for giving Thanksgiving its proper place in our family.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Taking Stock: A Bloggy Assignment

I was challenged to answer these questions as part of my blogging course. Even on a boring old day, there were some obvious big themes playing on my mind.
Sick Baby Snuggles

Making : A new and improved blog!
Cooking : Roasted beet and carrot risotto (getting creative with the remnants of last weeks veggie delivery)
Drinking : Lemongrass, Lime & Ginger Tisane tea (daydreaming about coffee)
Reading: 'Not that kind of Girl' by Lena Dunham.  She's a bit elitist for someone trying to glorify being a social outcast.
Wanting: A new watch to replace the one that Lavinia  'hid' on me over two months ago
Looking: Looking into natural remedies for teething
Playing: Thao & The Get Down Stay Down by We the Common
Deciding: What should I prioritize during this particular nap-time?
Wishing: I was in #Buffalo, shoveling and drinking hot toddies #Snovember
Enjoying: The online blogging course I'm currently taking
Waiting: To purchase a flight home....depends on a few things
Liking: Social Media
Wondering: When I will have more time to myself?
Loving: My daughter's voice and all her new words
Pondering: How to fill my time most productively
The Rare Quiet Cup of Tea

Considering: What direction to take with my writing
Watching: My video baby monitor.  Because technology
Hoping: That my little bug takes a looooong nap
Marvelling: That it's almost 2015
Needing: More time, better sleep
Smelling: Roasted Carrots, Beets, Garlic and Onion fresh out of the oven
Wearing: Sweats the color of cement...okay since it's a sick day
Following: So many cool new bloggy friends on social media
Noticing: That I'm not old but I'm not young anymore
Knowing: I'm okay with it
Thinking: All the things
Feeling: A bit cooped up since my daughter and I are both under the weather
Admiring: Published Writers
Sorting: Old blog posts-is this a thing even worth sorting?
Buying: (Should be buying) Christmas gifts.  Stress!!!
Getting: More tattoos please...My birthday is coming
Bookmarking: Techie things to assist my bloggy things (SEO, and analytics- Holla!)
Disliking: Springtime illnesses
Opening: A package of homeopathic remedies that arrived today from the UK
Giggling: When Lavinia does something naughty and yells "No!"
Feeling: Based on these answers, apparently homesickness but also gratitude
Snacking: Shapes Sensations Balsamic vinegar and sea salt crackers. Need to go food shopping....
Coveting: My gold plated necklace with the longitude and latitude of my hometown #Buffalo


Wishing: That my husband could come home from work early to hang out
Helping: With some surprises for a dear friend
Hearing: Music, silence and peace...for now.  Nap-time is nearly over....

Check out the author who came up with this list.  In her blog she shares a blank list of questions in case you want to Stock Take too!