Thursday, July 25, 2013

Mummy McScrooge

There are some people who are good at saving money and there are some who are not.

I definitely come into the latter category, which may be surprising considering I’m the daughter of a Scot - purportedly one of the most frugal of nationalities in the world, even though my own experience of their generosity suggests otherwise.

My Dad, for example, clearly missed out on the McScrooge gene; he was generous to a fault and never focussed much on how well his funds were (or weren’t) travelling. He just worked hard, paid his bills and did his best to provide for us, God bless him!

So you might think that, having skipped my Dad’s generation, the frugal gene may have imbedded itself quietly into the next one. Not so. Well, certainly not into the DNA of this little black duck!

Yes, I’m doing okay. I’ve helped raise a family and we all know that costs money. And yes, we eat out sometimes, we travel sometimes, we live in a decent home (occasional dishevelment and dog odour notwithstanding) and we generally don’t have to resort to a ‘baked beans on toast’ existence. But we definitely haven’t quite moved to that next level of fiscal comfort. No mansion or magnate existence for us!

And so, it’s with some surprise and more than a little (possibly misplaced) pride that I’ve discovered where in my family the McScrooge gene has settled itself. It’s clearly landed in my Number Two Son, who has taken to giving me withering looks when discussing my saving prowess (or lack thereof) and rolling his eyes when I own up to my Visa Card debt.

His new bible is ‘The Barefoot Investor’. He’s devised household budgets that would have Wayne Swan envious; splitting up his bank accounts so every mortgage payment and bill is taken care of and his savings are slowly but surely building up. He’s got a shares portfolio. He’s clued up. He’s committed and disciplined. He’s frugal and focused. He’s everything his mother is not when it comes to money!

I look at him and wonder if there was a Murdoch or Packer baby mix up in my maternity ward way back in 1982? Should his middle name be Rupert or James?

“Can I have my real child back?” I grizzle as he steers me resolutely away from a boutique or book shop, or berates me for buying lunch when I could have made it.

But his insistence is working on me. I now have several ‘online bank’ accounts for savings and bills. This means I can’t get at the money easily as there’s more of a process to transfer funds, and they take a couple of days to clear. I like to think of it as a ‘cooling off’ period, for my desired purchase always seems like such a good idea at the time. (Of course I need that new orange scarf! I’ve only got ten others!)

With my new banking methods, however, I have to go home, log on, plead with some tight-wad digital bank manager to let me have my money and then wait a couple of days before he deigns to give it to me. By that time I’ve changed my mind anyway so, for an impulse spender like me, this time-delay caper is a real boon.

So anyway, if you’ll please excuse me, I’m just going to log on and have another look at the growing 000s in my bank account.

And after that I’m going straight onto Google to see if I can figure out which mega-rich family might be missing their son and heir – and how much they’ll pay me to get him back!



Sunday, May 19, 2013

Lil Miss Organised

Anyone who knows me well will be quite surprised by my New Years Resolution to become an ‘organised person’ in 2013. I doubt I can truly convey to you what a change in my life the application of such a resolution will both take and cause.

Suffice to say, it’s BIG! But there you have it. The deed is done, the dye is cast and I am into Week 6 of my new, improved lifestyle.

My bed, which has probably not been ‘made’ on a workday since 1995, now daily looks like something out of Vogue Living, complete with cute cushions, a ‘thrau’ and matching slips. (Well, okay, the smidge of doggy hair on the doona might hark back to my days of slobbiness, but it’s early days, so let’s not be too picky).

In the kitchen, my new rule is that dishes on the sink must be washed, dried and put away every day. This is proving to be not as hard as I thought because instead of needing to put away three or four days worth (big job), I now only have to put away a meal or day’s worth (small job). Yes, I realise most people figured that astounding calculation out by the time they were 12, but this is me we’re talking about. I may be a Kitchen Philosopher, but that doesn’t mean I have any actual kitchen skills.

But I’m getting there. I’ve even made a little game to help me move more economically around the kitchen. Instead of walking several times from one end of the bench to the other to put away various cutlery and crockery items, I now scan the draining board to see what else I can take with me on the first trip. I know you’re impressed here, but keep reading, it doesn’t stop there!

My wardrobe normally looks like a scene out of Hoarders – clothes, shoes, junk strewn in every direction. But now? I can actually open the door without stuff falling out AND (here’s the good bit! Drum Roll!) I even have colour coded piles of tops!

Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined me being a ‘colour-coding’ kind of gal. But it’s great! True, my coding is limited to black, white and ‘other’, but it’s a start and certainly makes getting dressed in the morning so much easier. No more rummaging for a black top in the dingy blackness of the cupboard – now I can put my hand straight on my trusty Black Top pile and Presto! Black Top! Who would’ve thought?

I’ve also had a stern talking with the dogs, Scruffy and Moses. They were convinced my bed was actually THEIR bed and could be found any night at 8.30 pm luxuriating on my King Size Softness and feigning sleep (so as not to be sent out to the shed).

Anyway, they took the ‘Get Off My Bed’ news with reasonably good grace and are now sleeping peacefully (possum on roof notwithstanding) on their own doggie beds on the floor. (You will note that these beds are carefully rolled up each morning and stored under a cupboard, to ensure my Vogue look is not compromised).

And last, but not least, I have been keeping up with the washing. I’m not sure how I ever coped with three kids in the house when it came to laundry, but whatever Domestic Goddess enzyme was circulating around in me back in the day, seems to have dissipated over the past few years.

You would think with only two of us in the house, there wouldn’t be too much washing, but you’d be wrong. The spouse likes to shower about twenty times a day in the summer, which is part of the problem. I guess I shouldn’t whinge about a spotless spouse, but I still reckon he could lighten up on the tubbing up.

Either that or he could wear his clothes in the shower and kill two birds with one stone.

Anyway, suffice to say I’ve been sticking to my new regime and feeling pretty chuffed.

How long it will last is anyone’s guess, but I’m hoping it will hang on until at last next New Years Eve. Then maybe I can make a new resolution to be a slob again.

Well who said New Years Resolutions have to only be one way? Hmm?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Mad Scrabble

According to my spouse I have recently been displaying some rather disturbing obsessive-compulsive behaviours. This coincided with the arrival of my new iPhone and the subsequent discovery of the ‘Scrabble’ app.

Having long been a fan of this word game (apart from the bit were you have to wait for someone else to get on with it and have their turn!) I was rather chuffed to avail myself of this infectious little piece of software.

And yes, maybe I have become a tad obsessive about it, whipping out the iPhone at every available opportunity to start or resume a game. But at least I’m not quite as keen as an acquaintance of mine who’s even been taking Scrabble to the loo with him. In his defence, he claims it to be a wonderful distraction (if you take my meaning) and he’s surprised proctologists the world over aren’t recommending this to their patients as a means of more happily enduring their ablutions. After all, he says, there’s nothing like a quick game of Scrabble first thing in the morning to get one’s brain (and a few other things) moving.

I’m not sure about all that, but I do concur that it’s quite an addictive little game. I also admit to having a somewhat weird relationship with the ‘little guy’. Yes, I know it’s not a real person but merely a program designed to digitally arrange letters with the best possible score. Still, I can’t stop my self from thinking it’s another human being I’m playing.

I find myself swearing at him or throwing up my hands in disbelief when he creates some word like ‘kiuqwazaxajii’ and gets away with it.

“What? Are you kidding?” I shout crankily when he places such unlikely concoctions on a Triple Letter and earns himself a squillion points. It’s very frustrating, and I’m not above telling him so. Nothing weird there, I say.

And quite often, as I am pondering my next word, I even start hurrying myself up.

“He’ll be annoyed that you’re taking so long,” I think, before reminding myself that there is no ‘he’ out there in cyberspace impatiently rapping his fingers on the board and grumbling things like, “Hurry it up will you, woman. I don’t have all day!”

But, after years of Scrabble playing with the spouse, it’s hard to let go of the notion that someone’s not rolling his eyes and constantly saying “A quick game’s a good game.” He (the spouse) once even tried to impose a ‘time limit’ on my ponderings – a rule that was, of course, abandoned whenever it was his turn!

Yes, at least my new cyber buddy has remarkable patience. I sometimes have hours between ‘goes’ and he says nothing. Not even a huffy, “Sheesh, about time!” He really is a perfect and patient gentleman, my lovely Mr Scrabble.

He doesn’t even play dirty (usually). In fact, he often gives me wonderful opportunities to outscore him by ‘leaving open’ a Triple Word and he never gets grumpy with me when I give him the occasional flogging. He just keeps on coming back for more.

That’s not to say I trust him completely. For example, whenever I ‘recall’ a high scoring letter (like Z) after finding my word is unacceptable or not worth a big enough score, I can’t help but thinks he ‘knows’ what I have and silently berate myself for letting my guard down. This is probably a hangover from my days of real-life Scrabble, when I would try very hard to not let the other player know what letters I had in my possession. (Yes, I am a tad competitive).

Well anyway, suffice to say I’m loving my Scrabble app. And now, if you’ll excuse me I’ll get back to my game. Silly Mr Scrabble has just left a nice little space for “Quartz” on a Triple Letter score.

Ha, come on in, sucker! He he.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Disaster Chef

I’m thinking about starting up my own new reality TV show. It will be called ‘Disaster Chef’.

Rather than having would-be chef contestants and a bunch of ‘expert’ judges, my show will feature me as the main contestant and some of the people I have attempted to poison over the years with my cooking as the judges/jurors.

So where did this idea come from? Well, there I was in the kitchen the other day, trying to make something yummy - yet sugarfree - (yes, I know that sounds like something of an oxymoron, but bear with me) for my houseguests.

You see, I was dumping sugar as part of my latest sugar-free diet campaign, to which everyone else in the household (or who will listen) is being forced to subscribe – whether they want to or not. When I get on a bandwagon, I become almost evangelical in my devoutness - meaning I am currently the Jimmy Swaggart of Anti-Sugarism. (Although minus his millions and his orange-skinned wife, of course).

But before the culinary ‘creation’ could start, I had to scour the town in search of some ‘dextrose’ powder, a form of glucose which, according to my Bible…. I mean the sugar-free diet book, is ‘allowed’ as a replacement for the dreaded white stuff.

This proved to be quite a challenge but, eventually, in the home brew section of my supermarket, I found a Dextrose/Maltodextrose compound which I decided would suffice and rushed hastily home to my laboratory…I mean kitchen…to get cracking on my sugar-free cheesecake.

All was going well.

I’d managed to make the ‘base’ and started on the filling. Along with mixing cream cheese, lemon, dextrose and lemon rind, this part of the recipe required that I ‘heat two tablespoons of water’ and then add three teaspoons of gelatine, stir til dissolved then remove to cool.

A little voice suggested that, once cooled, this little concoction would be the consistency of rubber, but I dismissed it. Surely the recipe knew more about these things than I, so I just did what I was told. Perhaps it will dissolve when mixed with the filling? I thought hopefully.

The filling looked yummy and I was feeling very confident that I had a success on my hands (a rare feeling for me, I admit). Of course, my confidence was grossly misplaced for, as you will have guessed by now, once I plonked my little lump of rubber in the mixmaster bowl I realised (to my horror!) that the rubber was now being chopped into a million rubbery little pieces which were now permeating the entire bowl of filling!

But never one to give up easily, I grabbed the bowl and starting diving in with my fingers to retrieve as many lumps as I could get. I then mixed some more gelatine and water, plonked it in the mix, noticed it was now too sloppy, added another block of cream cheese and some more of my new friend, dextrose, and hoped for the best.

To overcome the fact that there were still a million small lumps of gelatine in the mix, I cunningly chopped up a few strawberries and threw them in so no one would notice the other lumps.

It was a master stroke, and I’m happy to report that the cheesecake was eaten with gusto (apart from the fact that the base was the consistency of week old cement and I think a few fillings and/or teeth were lost).

Anyway, hence my idea to start my own television series. After all, I am more than qualified as a Disaster Chef extraodinnaire. And my kids have even offered to be the Judges.

(I just hope they ain’t ‘hanging judges’ or I’m a gonner for sure!)

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Perfect Crime

Once again I am going to tell you a story about my friend Jemima and her husband, Big Ted (they of the jumping dance in the African Serengeti story I told you some time ago).

Well this time, our intrepid travellers were traversing the Victorian Great Ocean Road in a campervan.

After a wonderful evening of wining and dining with friends, Jemima and Big Ted headed for bed. Some time later, after Jemima was fast asleep, Big Ted, feeling a little the worse for wear, decided to head for the communal toilets.

Once there, he began conducting his ablutions when suddenly he felt woosy and lightheaded and fell swiftly to the concrete floor in a faint – whacking his head on the hard floor as he went.

He was out for the count (for who knows how long?) but when he finally came around he felt decidedly better, apart from quite a nasty cut to the back of his head.

After inspecting his head in the mirror and washing off the blood, he decided he was okay to head back to the campervan. But then he noticed there was blood on the floor from his cut and so, being a thoughtful chap, he setting about mopping it up with some cleaning gear he found in a nearby cupboard.

A few minutes later, satisfied that he’d cleaned the floor to a good standard, he carefully rinsed off the mop, replaced it in the cupboard and headed back to the van. There he quietly climbed back into bed beside the still sleeping Jemima and went straight back to sleep.

In the morning, he gave Jemima a full account of the night’s unusual events which, in hindsight, he thought was rather funny.

Jemima, conversely, was horrified!

Not only that Big Ted had fainted and injured himself, but also because he hadn’t woken her to tell her what had happened. He could have died in his bed, she said, and she wouldn’t have known anything about it!

Worse still, she suddenly realised, once they did an autopsy on him they would have found he died from a blow to the head but, of course, there would be no evidence anywhere to explain what had happened (because he’d cleaned it up carefully himself, hadn’t he?)

Jemima would, no doubt, have ended up as the prime suspect in a murder trial and all because Big Ted was such a thoughtful, tidy chap!

Forensics would have been scouring every square centimetre of the van in search of the claw hammer or iron with which the heartless shrew had clomped her unsuspecting man (presumably for his money, because she had that evil look about her, didn’t she?)

Meanwhile Jemima would be sitting in some stinking police cell with tear-stained face and bulging sleepless eyes, pleading her innocence (albeit on deaf ears).

Well anyway, fortunately it all worked out well and no such police investigation was required. No thanks to Big Ted and his tidy, thoughtful ways!

(I’ve always thought tidiness was over-rated and now I know why!)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Spinal Tap Tap

Now, if you’re a chiropractor (or someone else who has a special interest in the care of spines) you might want to look away now.

For I’m about to own up to something that is likely to be very much frowned upon by people who have no doubt studied for years in their specialist field and didn’t just stumble across their skills by pure accident (like moi).

You see, the spouse, having quite seriously injured his spine in his teenage years, has suffered terribly over the years with back pain and headaches. He’s tried all kinds of treatments to reduce the pain; from physio, to acupuncture, to ‘cupping and spooning’ (don’t ask), to drugs (legal ones!) to deep tissue and Thai massages and even once had a needle inserted into his neck to supposedly ‘kill’ the nerve that was causing the pain. This resulted in numbness in his neck for about six months, but the niggling pain persisted so, clearly, they’d killed the wrong guy!

Well anyway, all this pain and suffering has meant I’ve become quite the masseuse over the years. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve rubbed and prodded that man’s back, I’d be living on the French Riviera.

Initially my feeble efforts didn’t yield too much relief for him and usually resulted in stiff, sore hands and fingers for me. But after both of us were treated by a wonderful ‘deep tissue’ masseuse for some time, I gained a bit of know-how in reducing tension in his tight muscles (using my elbows) and can now actually help.

Our trip to Thailand also benefited his sore back. Every day he would pop down to the Thai ladies in their beach massage shack and come back a new man. I think the girls actually enjoyed the challenge of working on this person with such a high pain threshold, and they twisted and elbowed him and walked (literally!) all over him. I picked up some new techniques from them which I’ve been using on him since our return. (Not walking on him, obviously. Tough he might be, but Hercules? Nah).

Additionally, after being a long term chiropractic patient myself, I’ve also noted with interest some of my chiro’s special techniques and terminologies.

But maybe I’ve now gone a bit far with my ‘home schooling’ on all things spinal. Yes, a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing; especially when your ‘patient’ is lying on the lounge room floor; ready to sell his first born for a Panadeine Forte.

There I was, jamming my elbows mercilessly into his back when he said:
“How about giving my spine a bit of a push down – like the chiropractor does? If you could just get it to move a bit, I reckon it would help.”

I nervously agreed (yes, this is the scary bit, folks) and placed my hands one on top of the other on his spine in the designated spot and gave a quick ‘jab’.

Crack! Went his spine - much to my surprise - and I jumped back in shock.

“Omigod!” I cried, worried I’d done some permanent damage.

“Nice!” he cried triumphantly. “It feels better already!”

“Aren’t I clever?” I thought and began mentally writing out my chiro bill.

Well, anyway that was a few months ago and I’ve ‘treated’ him a couple more times since -- to quite good effect too, if I do say so myself.

But I realised I had stepped over the mark when this morning I again managed to move his spine a little and found myself making a wannabe-chiropractish little comment; “I think it was that damn ‘T-12’ vertebra again!”

We both realised what I’d said and burst out laughing.

Something tells me I’m getting waaaay too big for my chiropractic boots, so you’ll be pleased to hear I’m now hanging them up!

(Did I hear you say “Phew!”?)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

So Long and Thanks for All the Tummy Rubs

Back in 1984, author Douglas Adams wrote the fourth book of his ‘Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy trilogy’ (yes, I did say fourth book, so if you’re not familiar with Adams’ work, you will deduce that he’s something of a joker).

Anyway, this book was titled ‘So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish’ in reference to a message supposedly left by the dolphins as they departed Planet Earth before it was demolished to make way for a hyperspace bypass. (FYI: We are apparently now living on an alternate earth to which we were transported without our knowledge before our other planet earth was destroyed).

Well, anyway, the implication is that the dolphins saw the writing on the wall. Well, they are pretty smart creatures. After all, don’t they always look happy? And why wouldn’t they be, when they get to swim and play all day and people admire them, scratch their bellies and throw fish to them? Certainly doesn’t sound like much of a tough gig to me!

Well, anyway, the dolphin thing came to mind the other night as I was sitting watching TV with a great lump of Scruffy Dog positioned awkwardly on my lap while I stroked his head and scratched behind his ears. I thought to myself, “This dog has the life!” If I dared to stop stroking or scratching, he would gently take my hand in his mouth and ‘insist’ that I get back to my job.

Thus, it occurred to me that perhaps I am not his ‘Mistress’ after all. In fact, I started to wonder if, quite to the contrary, I am actually his PET? And a rather well trained pet at that!

I pondered the way dogs greet each other and wondered if perhaps, like the dolphins, their communication is way more sophisticated than we know.

As they sniff each other’s posteriors, might they really be having an inaudible discussion on the vagaries of ‘pet’ training?

“How’s your human doing?” Jake the Staffy might be saying to his buddy, Deefer the Beagle as they both cock their legs on a tree. “Got him trained up yet?”

“I’m working on it, Jake -- but he’s a tough one. Mind of his own! Got him opening the door for me on command, though. And, he’s getting the hang of ‘throw the stick’. But there’s a lot more work to be done. Might take him along to one of those pet obedience classes, actually.”

“Great idea. I once took my girl there and she caught on really quickly to the ‘give me treats if you want me to do something’ lesson. The look on her face is priceless when I ‘sit’ on command. Haven’t the heart to tell her I was planning to sit anyway but, hey, she gets a kick out of thinking she’s in charge, so why spoil her fun?”

“Ha ha! That’s hilarious, Jake. Well, must go! Gotta have his ‘walkies’, you know. Yes, I know you and I prefer to think of it as our ‘cardio vascular workout’ but, let’s face it, we need to keep the language simple for this lot. That’s why I usually stick to ‘woof’. It’s about the only thing they seem to understand.”

“Yeah, I know what you mean. Not the smartest breed on the planet, but at least they feed us twice a day, scratch our bellies, give us the odd bath and vaccination and get us out of the house every morning. So we can’t complain. Too bad they have to go to work every day to support us. But hey, I guess that’s what pets are for! ……….

Nice collar, by the way. Are those diamonds real?”