Friday, May 9, 2008

I'm moving

Yes, I've decided to take the plunge into a Wordpress site.  Hopefully everything will go smoothly and I won't leave any of my lovely subscribers and readers behind.

You can continue reading Journeyer's Chronicles at  The new site has a different look, but the posts will continue along the same themes.  Let me know what you think of my new image :-)

If for some reason you are having problems getting there, leave a comment here with details of the problem you are experiencing.  I'll be checking back very regularly to see if everyone's OK.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The advantages of reducing TV time

I mentioned recently that I finally convinced myself to reduce our Foxtel package, which means we no longer have children's shows available 24/7. Not that our kids used to watch TV endlessly, but it was beginning to be a little too much for my liking. It was a habit I'd gotten into when I was initially diagnosed with CML and the medication was making me quite tired. The advantages of reducing TV time for the kids are beginning to show themselves already.

Despite my (totally unfounded) fears, our household hasn't collapsed and the kids have found plenty to do. Cinderella and Little Mermaid, who spend most of their time at home with me, have been playing lots of games of pretend. They are families going on trips, doctors tending to patients, swimming teachers and princesses. They love to put on a show and dance to their music. The playdough has been making more regular appearances on the kitchen table. They ride their bikes and take our long suffering dog for walks around the back yard. It is so lovely to see their imaginations at work.

I've noticed the greatest changes in The Engineer. Although he was the one that watched the least amount of TV, he seems to be wired in such a way that he is totally absorbed by what is on the screen to the detriment of everything else that is going on around him. He totally zones out. Since he has been watching less television he is much more settled in his play with his sisters and alone. He has become more affectionate. He is sleeping better. When I ask him what happened at school, instead of the usual “I can't remember” response he will now often give me little snippets of his day (I love to hear what he's been doing).

There have been many studies on the effects of too much TV on kids. Cases argued include increased obesity, increased violence, decreased attention and poor academic performance. Of course, the academics are yet to agree whether TV is a major cause of these problems. They may never agree.

In the meantime, as parents, we can observe our own kids and make decisions based on what we see and feel is the right thing for them. My personal experience has been that decreasing TV time has at the very least increased imaginative play, activities using fine and gross motor skills, exercise, attention span and social interactions. This can only benefit the children.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Setting goals

Last week in Keeping track of goals I listed some goals that I have been inspired to set since I started blogging. Making a list of goals is an important first step, but how do we go about achieving them? Before going any further, there are a number of characteristics that a goal should have in order to make success more likely. Goals written in this manner are often referred to as SMART goals.


I'll use one of my goals from last week as an example of how to make a goal SMART.

Initial goal: Eliminate credit card debt


Unless a goal is specific, it will be very difficult to know exactly what you are aiming for. The outcome needs to be stated precisely. For each goal ask yourself who, what, where, why.

Refined goal: In order to have more disposable income, we will eliminate our credit card debt.


Unless there is some sort of measure attached to a goal, how do we know when it's been achieved? How do we know what we're aiming for? Ensure that you are able to measure your progress towards your goal.

Refined goal: In order to have more disposable income, we will eliminate our credit card debt by paying off $500 per month.


This is where you find the ways and means to attain your goal. Ask what you are going to do to achieve your goal.

Refined goal: In order to have more disposable income, we will eliminate our credit card debt by paying off $500 per month. We will do this by preparing a budget and sticking to it.


There is nothing more disheartening than trying to achieve an unrealistic goal. On the other hand, a goal that can be achieved too easily does not give the same sense of satisfaction at it's completion. Ensure that your goal is challenging, but realistic.

Using the credit card goal as an example, we would be setting ourselves up for failure if we tried to pay off $1000 per month, as we just wouldn't have that much room in our budget no matter how “creative” we were.


Setting a deadline to reach your goal gives you a target to work towards. With no timeframe, it is easy to let things slide.

Final goal:

In order to have more disposable income, we will eliminate our credit card debt by November 7, 2008 by paying off $500 per month. We will do this by preparing a budget and sticking to it.

As you can see the final goal is somewhat more detailed than the original. It is clear what we want to achieve, how we want to do it and when we want to have it done by.

There is one last step that isn't part of the SMART system, but I think it's absolutely essential. 

Write your goals down (or print them out if you like) and put them somewhere you will see them every day. 

This will provide you with some daily motivation and ensure your goals don't slip into obscurity.

I'd love to hear how your goal setting and progress is going.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Reducing the grocery bill - week 3

I'm almost there.  This week I've managed buy all of our groceries for just over $156.  That is a reduction in our weekly grocery bill of approximately $90 - not to mention the money we used to spend at the bakery on the weekends.  If I continue to do this for a year, I will have saved at least $4,680! That could grow to over $25,000 if I invested the $90 saved each week into an online saver account for 5 years!

We are still eating a healthy and tasty variety of meals and yummy snacks.  This kids are (mostly) cleaning their plates each night.  The Thinker (and sometimes The Engineer) often have nutritious leftovers for lunch the next day. We haven't noticeably cut back on the quality of any food or non-food products.

Tips for saving money on groceries

Here are some of the things that have helped me along:
  • The Simple Savings website was where I started. After reading some of the forum members tips and successes, I began to think that it might, in fact, be possible to feed our family of five for $150 each week. There is a small membership fee to gain access to the Savings Vault (tips) and forums, but as I mentioned in Reducing the grocery bill, I saved the membership fee on my first week's shopping. They also have a free newsletter which is worthwhile if you'd like to check it out a bit before buying a membership.

  • I have started baking again. The kids snacks now often consist of fresh fruit and homebaked goodies. I no longer buy biscuits, muesli bars and pre-packaged snacks.

  • On a similar note, I make a lot of our food from scratch. This is something that I had been doing since the kids were born - I didn't like the idea of not knowing what additives, preservatives and who know what else, were going into their little tummies. Recently though, I had begun to slip into the habit of buying jars of pasta sauce or Chicken Tonight type things, purely for the convenience of them. Convenience costs.

  • I have started planning out our week's menus before I go shopping. This means I have a structured list when I hit the shops. It also means that I can get all our groceries in one hit and not make any extra trips to the supermarket where I would be tempted to buy more than I need. An added benefit is I find it easier to keep track of leftovers. For example, if I have planned roast chicken on the weekend, I know I can use the leftover for enchilladas later in the week.

  • I plan at least one vegetarian meal each week, sometimes two.

  • We recently had an Aldi store open nearby, so I get whatever groceries I can there before hitting the other larger supermarket. I still like to get our meat from the local butcher and fruit and veg from the local greengrocer. Even before I began really trying to reduce our grocery bill I estimate that I saved at least $40 for each trolley of groceries I bought at Aldi.

  • Last week I reviewed my grocery receipts to see where the money was really going. The results were a little surprising and I found I was able to save quite a bit more without much effort.
Now that I've almost reached the magical $150, I'm encouraged to try and save even more. I hope you are encouraged as well.

Next week I'll post some links to some great blog resources about saving money on groceries.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Productivity for mums - Part Three

Previously in the “Productivity for mums” series I've looked at the importance of a routine and how to use a calendar and diary. Today's post shares how I'm slowly overcoming my perfectionist, control freak tendencies and actually getting things done.

I am a huge procrastinator. Or I should say I was a huge procrastinator. Don't get me wrong, I still procrastinate but I've found some tools and methods that have helped me get a start on things, and just as importantly, get them finished.

In my life before being a mum, the managers at the company I worked for undertook one of those psychological assessment surveys to find out and improve on our management styles. When my survey came back it said I was a perfectionist. Surely this can't be right, I thought to myself. I never do things perfectly - there's always something wrong. That, the trainer informed me, is a typical perfectionist attitude. It turns out that it is this perfectionist attitude that stops me from starting or completing things. Do any of these scenarios resonate with you?

  • We have been talking about getting a water tank installed for our garden for approximately 18 months. Why haven't we got it yet? I have to research types of tanks, requirements of the council, suppliers, installers, where would we put it, how would we use it, and so on. My self talk go something along the lines of “What if there is another option that I don't know about” and “What if that's not the right choice”. This leads me to do more research rather than actually just doing something about it.

  • I have wanted to have a vegetable garden for ages. Where should we put it, what direction should it face, what would we plant, should the tall plants go at the front or the back of the plot, what if they get bugs?

  • I started a birth scrapbook for my youngest child, with the aim of doing one for each of the kids. About 18 months later, the photos, wrist bands and embellishments are in a folder in the study. How should I put the pages together, what if they don't look how I imagined them, what should I journal, where should I put the journaling, do I have enough of the right paper?

As I write this down, I can see how mad it all is.

The first tool that I've used to break the procrastination cycle is a To Do list. It was all very well to procrastinate when I could remember what I was procrastinating. I could do the old last minute frenzy and get things done. Since my memory has become slightly frazzled, however, things just go on being procrastinated because I've forgotten about them.

The first thing I do when preparing a to do list is a summary. Get the major “projects” down on paper. If I left it at that though, I would get nowhere. I would look at the item, have the image of how it should turn out in the end in my mind and go through the endless self questions and research cycle. Instead, I break each major item down into small steps. The smaller the step the better. The more specific the step the better.

With small steps, I can visualise what the end should look like for that step rather than the whole project. This is much less daunting. It also has the added benefit of making progress more visible. As I've previously mentioned, I'm an on again, off again Flybaby. A couple of Flylady's mantras often pop into my head when I'm trying to get something done. They are “Baby steps” and “Progress, not perfection”.

For example, rather than have “Clean the house” on my to do list, (which to be honest is enough to park me in front of the computer in avoidance for the day), I might have “Mop kitchen” and “Wash dining room windows” for today and a couple of other jobs each day for the remainder of the week.

What do you think of when you see “Clean the house”? It's not specific. It could be anything and for me, it would be huge - call the carpet cleaner, sugar soap the walls, etc. However, “Mop kitchen” is a discreet action. Once you've done it you've done it. You can tick it off and give yourself a pat on the back.

Another tool I use is my diary and calendar combo. I can see where I can fit things in at a glance.

It's a long road to change habits of a lifetime. However, by not being too defeatist when things don't turn out exactly as I had imagined and acknowledging successes, I'm making baby steps.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Keeping track of goals

Since I started blogging only a few short weeks ago, I've been inspired by a number of other bloggers to make some commitments to myself. Mostly they are to do with our family living more simply. Some of the things we had already started. Some others are ones I had thought about but never put into action. Yet others are completely new ideas to me.

While it's great to have all these plans and ideas, I need to be able to keep track of them and to be accountable for achieving them, otherwise they'll disappear into the “Oh yeah, I was going to do that” pile. So I'm pinching an idea I saw on Being Frugal and will post a monthly progress report. Here are the goals I've set so far that I'll be tracking.

Feel free to give me a nudge if I begin to slide (which is quite likely - I'm very good at starting, not so good at finishing).

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Smiley Saturday

This is my first Smiley Saturday post. It's a lovely idea from Lightening. Pay her a visit for more smiley posts.

Some of the things that made me smile this week were:

  • Planting my first vegie garden. I feel proud of myself for stopping dithering about and actually planting it. I can't wait to harvest something. Fortunately, I have some spring onions that don't take too long to grow (do they?). I smiled even more watching the kids get excited about it.

  • Little Mermaid turned three. She's my baby, so I'm not sure that I'm that thrilled about her growing up, but she was so happy herself I couldn't help but smile. She got some cards in the mail which she more excited about than her presents!

  • We cut back our pay TV subscription. I love watching the kids using their imaginations when they're playing instead of zoning out in front of the TV. We now have a few dollars extra to put towards paying down our credit card debt. imploded/exploded or had anything else nasty happen to them because the telly was off.

  • My dad has almost finalised the sale of his business and can now retire - he deserves it!

  • It rained! As it turned out it was only for the morning, but it was a nice steady soak and we need everything we can get.