Oops … almost missed out

I’m going to cheat a little. I got my camera out and with the last light of day, and a minimal amount of battery I managed to take a few shots. I’m just about to upload a couple to show I did manage to get some taken but I don’t think they’ll be up before midnight :)


Muddling through

I kinda started this NaBloPoMo on a whim, and by Day 3 it’s fairly obvious to me that I’m rather out of touch with how I used to organise and prepare my posts. Blogging in generally isn’t like journalling, where for me I just leap onto my computer and knock out my thoughts.

Blogging in my mind requires drafting, a bit of preparation and planning. And despite the past quality of posts, there was more planning and preparation than I’m currently putting in. Heck – last night I leapt out of bed to get a blogpost out the door before midnight because I forgot!

Also, it’s fairly apparent to me that the blog itself needs some time spent on it. Some of the plugins aren’t working as expected any more, for instance.

So bear with me while I try to organise my thoughts, plan and draft out a few posts and generally get back into the swing of things.

Three Links

Today I’m going to quickly share three sites I find useful or like:

The first is Rainy Cafe. It’s a great option when you need some ambient noise to listen to while getting some work done and I can testify that it blocks out the noise of an idling wide bore exhaust!

The second is Copy Youtube Playlists which does exactly what the title suggests. You paste the link to a youtube playlist you like and it’ll save it to a playlist in your own account. Great for using when you’d otherwise be trawling through youtube to get to the playlist or if you’re using youtube on a device or, the how I mainly utilise it, an app on my tv.

And finally, a guilty pleasure, and one which I’ll admit I’m not particularly skilled at, Entanglement. This is a game that I’m really struggling to describe but the aim is to place tiles to make the longest path you can whilst also being able to place as many tiles as you can before that path leads off the edge off the board or into the centre tile.

I’m Ba-ack!

It’s been a long time and there’s a reason for that. A lot has happened – the main happenings being that I’ve moved to suburbia in the “city” and I’m now the sole adult in the house. Things are going great and it’s been an interesting and rewarding adventure.

I’ve been wanting to get back into blogging for some time and I finally realised that there was never going to be a great time to get back into it – and even when I was “into it” I was a fairly spotty blogger.

One of the things I’ve missed by not blogging is that photography became something I do on my phone and mainly to capture either information or daughter-related moments. I’m not particularly happy with the quality I’m producing using the phone – which I know is more about my technique than the tools I’m using – and I’d like to become more comfortable working with my actual camera again.

Also, I haven’t found a tool that I’m loving for capturing interesting articles, videos and images. I know many people use Pinterest for this and while I use it, it’s not the right tool for me for this. I also use Evernote for both notes (and I’m currently doing my daily, weekly, and monthly reviews in it too) and for capturing information for mainly work. So I’d like to see whether blogging is what will work for me.

So at the beginning of the year, I challenged myself to do 750words.com for a month, which is about journalling more than 750 words daily. I achieved this and made an attempt at achieving it again in February but found that it was more stressful than I was comfortable with. So I switched to using Evernote and concentrated on recapping and planning each day using a Daily Review format which is still evolving.
So I now know I can commit to something for 30 days if I want to, and seeing as it’s the 1st August I am committing to having a go at blogging. I’m signing up for the August NaBloPoMo which is now run by Blogher.com. The aim of NaBloPoMo is simply to blog daily for a month. There’s a theme set each month and prompts provided to assist with sticking to it, though there is no requirement to follow the theme.

Hopefully, this will be a rewarding experience and something that I will want to continue doing.

Snow in Marton

View down the driveway

Picture 1 of 9

Random Stuff for the last few days

The title pretty much explains this blogpost; a selection of random links I’ve viewed in the past few days.

This is a really beautiful animation of Auckland’s Public Transport Network operating over a day, created by Chris McDowall (I’ve linked to his Vimeo profile because he’s done other great data visualisations!). If you’re interested in all the details as to how the video was created (from a data perspective) then it’s well worth your while clicking through to the Vimeo video page but I’ve embedded it anyway in case you’re just after a taster.

Inflatable Wind Turbines – Looks like a really interesting idea, though I question how durable they’d be under New Zealand’s wind conditions. They’ve got two consumer options and are working on a commercial version which is pretty impressive. Anyway, here’s a graphic simulation of the commercial version in operation. (via Treehugger.com)

Hochstetters Frog taken by G Shirley

Hochstetters Frog taken by G Shirley

This article about a trip to check on the condition of the habitat of the vulnerable Hochsetters Frog, had a sad finding and what I felt was a rather sinister sidestory. Definitely worth a quick read though. And to read more about these unique native frogs here but if you can’t wait a few cool things about them:

  • They have no visible ear – unlike most species of frogs in the world.
  • They have round eyes (and look so much cuter for it in my opinion!).
  • They have no vocal sac and so don’t call or croak, although they’ll squeak when upset.
  • They’re really small with adults being about 5cm long.
  • And most amazingly, they hatch from the eggs as froglets with tails and some parents carry them around on their backs.

  • Welcome to the Members of the Homeschooling Bloggers Haven

    Hi all!

    Thanks for dropping by!

    As you can see there’s precious little about our homeschooling endeavours at the moment and I haven’t even put up an update blogpost updating our recent forays into budgeting and meal-planning!

    Please do leave a comment and say Hi! I love to converse with people and especially love answering questions and queries and of course I also make the effort to visit your website and return the favour.

    Have fun having a poke around and hopefully you will find something of interest :)

    Menu Plan Monday

    Well this is our first week working from a Menu Plan. We actually started on Saturday due to it coinciding with a planned visit to an out of town supermarket.
    My aim for the week was to use up some of the food from our inside freezer and the fresh produce left over from previous purchases, and to supplement these with a smallish grocery shop.
    An additional requirement I set was that the meals aren’t particularly exciting, as it’s been a while since I’ve been responsible making dinner most nights, let alone a whole week stretch *gasp*.

    So far we’ve had …
    Saturday: Spaghetti Bolognaise
    This involved last minute substitutions as I was unaware we were out of my bolognaise go-to, pasta sauce! Instead I added cans of chopped tomatoes, mushrooms in sauce and half a can of kidney beans to the onion, garlic and mince, and later green beans for a bit more flavour. Served with cooked leftover fresh fettuchini and topped with olives and a sprinkling of grated cheese.
    Sunday: Chicken Rice Porridge
    My favourite one-pot-wonder. I tend to like plain dominant flavours with interesting hints. Cook rice in a rice cooker and adding additional liquid when it starts looking cooked in the form of chicken stock. When it’s back to bubbling away add diced chicken, spring onions, and when all the liquid has made the rice porridge-y turn it off and stir in chopped fresh coriander.

    And the next five days in no particular order:

  • Mince & Cheese pie, served with peas and mashed potato
  • Fish fingers/burgers with corn kernals and oven chips
  • Frozen Pizzas with additional olives, cheese and mushrooms (the pizzas need the extra topping since they couldn’t be called premium! :)
  • Omelets with additional fillings from the fridge (and frozen premade fish pie for the male).
  • Beef Crockpot Casserole served with broccoli and mashed potato

  • Our own mini-financial crisis

    We’re going through a change in circumstances and so we’ve been busy brainstorming ways to reduce our expenses. So I thought I’d share a run down of most of them with you.

    Investigate and make a decision on what to do with my credit card and store card

  • The store card is a no-brainer really, there’s no real benefit to my having one especially with the outrageous interest rate and really I need to get the balance transferred or paid off and closed.
  • The credit card is a slightly different story in that, having the ability to purchase online is important to me and our lifestyle. On the other hand, the interest rate isn’t the best and a debit card might be a doable alternative (my concern is the card being invalid with some online businesses though I don’t know how realistic this concern is). I have a spreadsheet in the works comparing my current card and all the alternatives and what the total cost of paying off the debt is.
  • Create a budget based on our past expenses trimming where we can

  • Luckily we’ve been keeping track of our expenses in GnuCash however I haven’t been a bit slack at times and it doesn’t show the complete picture at the moment and in creating the budget weI realised the way we were breaking expenses down wasn’t the most effective. So I have revamped the chart of accounts and now I need to get the accounts up to date so we have a clear past picture and keep it up to date so we can have an accurate comparison between the budget and our actuals.
  • Drastically reduce our food expenses
    One of the areas we identified that could be majorly improved upon was our food purchases which are mainly groceries.

  • Working from a meal plan and getting me back in the kitchen. My husband enjoys cooking, however there are a number of downsides to this. For a start, he hates mealplans and meal sizes/portion sizes have been on the large side meaning food wastage or leftovers that go on for days, or conversely lots of large snacks by my husband. Working from a meal plan means we can eat from our freezer/fridge/pantry more and hopefully reduce both the amount of money we’re spending and the amount of food wastage and the “oh I forgot I bought that” factor. It would also be nice to have appropriately sized servings and smaller amounts of leftovers.
  • Related to this, I need to do a full inventory of our fridge, freezer, deep freeze, laundry and bathroom in order to identify what we have on hand and what we need to purchase or come up with alternatives for. On the upside, we have done this in the past and so we won’t be starting from scratch, especially for the deep freeze (hopefully).
  • For some our luxury items we need to come up with alternatives to save money. FOr instance, My ideal breakfast is a bowl of Vogel’s Luxury Cafe-style Muesli and while I’ve said I will compromise and eat porridge as a cheap alternative , it would be nice to start the day in my usual way. Also I have all the gear to make our own cleaning products and bathroom supplies and I could get back into this and save money in this way.
  • We’ve also identified that we drink a lot of milk and go through a lot of eggs (especially when baking) and bread.

  • We can bake bread and part of my job for today is price up and test out refridgerated bagged milk.
  • For eggs, we’d been contemplating getting chickens or rather hens for some time and quite a few houses on our block have coops so we wouldn’t be bothering the neighbours with this addition. I did create a coop/chicken tractor a while back but that was using pvc piping and we’ve decided to go with a standard timber frame instead which offers an opportunity to create a better design. The initial pricing up of the total cost of the eggs is looking fairly good but I still need to design the coop and price up the construction costs and factor that into the total operating costs. It would be great if in the long run we’re able to offset these costs by selling extra eggs.
  • Some other ways to save money on the grocery bills is to check out alternative options to purchasing from our local grocery stores, like doing a shop at a cheaper supermarket out of town when already needing to be there, purchasing from bulk alternative stores, and buying produce from market gardens and what meat we don’t source from homekill at butchers.
  • Also, I’d like to be doing more baking, food processing (such as preserves and dehydrating) and maybe even stretching ourselves and attempting a $21 Challenge every now and again.
  • Another area in which we can save some money is in the garden, with more sustained effort we can get more produce from our garden throughout the year and on the upside we’ve been improving our skills albeit slowly with each growing season we’ve participated in. I’d also like to get into more vegetable swapping with locals when we do have an overabundance of produce. We’ve also made a start of purchasing fruiting trees and vines but now we need to get them in the ground so we can in the long term get some fruit from them!
    Ideally to make the most from the garden we need to get the garden shed tidied (it’s currently an absolute shambles) and get the rest of the garden tidy (we have piles of wood and junk lying around). I’ve read that winter is the time to rejuvenate and repair your garden tools and ours could definitely do with this also.
  • One of the other things I’d like to do is have the inventories computerised along with the meal planning and entering the itemised grocery bills. I can’t help thinking that this would lead to an optimised system in the long run but that fact that there’s no obvious application leads me to suspcet this is a pipe dream. In the meantime I’ve started entering in the recipes I use into Gourmet which has a shopping list ability which is at least one step in the right direction.
  • Other Stuff

  • We’re also going to run a mileage log for the vehicle to work out how our fuel is being used and apportioned. We also need to sell our other vehicle and put that money against our debts. It will also mean we’ll be saving on insurance and warrant/registration costs which definitely add up.
  • One other way to increase our income, is to finally get all the stuff we have cluttering up the house that has been earmarked for putting on trademe or sella actually up on trademe or sella! The benefit of this would be a bit of extra cash to pay off debt and a less cluttered home.
  • In a way, when we decided to look at our expenses in some areas there is nothing we can do to save money as we already practise good habits. For instance with our utilities (power, phones and internet) we already keep our fingers on the pulse and periodically check to see that we’re on the right plan or provider for our needs. The only extra thing we could do in this area is to drastically change the way we run our lives and that doesn’t make sense as these changes would impact on our ability to bring in income. False economy is not the way to tackle the problem.
  • All in all this looks like a lot of work and I’d like to summarise the tasks I’ve outlined:

    1. Kill store card by transferring balance or paying in full.
    2. Investigate alternatives to current credit card including, debit card or balance transfer.
    3. Get the accounts up to date in Gnucash.
    4. Keep accounts up to date in Gnucash.
    5. Create mealplans and shop and work from them.
    6. Me making the meals and planning/doing the shopping.
    7. Do a full inventory of our fridge, freezer, deep freeze, laundry and bathroom.
    8. Come up with alternatives to luxury items.
    9. Investigate feasibility of making our own cleaning products and bathroom supplies.
    10. Bake bread.
    11. Price up and test out refridgerated bagged milk and look into other options.
    12. Design coop/chicken tractor plan and price up the construction costs and factor that into the total operating costs.
    13. Compare prices from our local grocery stores to out of town cheaper supermarkets, bulk alternative stores, market gardens and butchers.
    14. Do more baking.
    15. Investigate and do some food processing (such as preserves and dehydrating).
    16. Attempt a $21 Challenge.
    17. Get vegetable garden productive.
    18. Plant fruiting trees and vines and prune grape vine.
    19. Get the garden shed tidied.
    20. Get the rest of the garden tidy (we have piles of wood and junk lying around).
    21. Rejuvenate and repair our garden tools.
    22. Look for software for entering itemised grocery bills, inventories and shopping lists.
    23. Enter in the recipes I use into Gourmet.
    24. Purchase a mileage log and start using.
    25. We also need to sell other vehicle, put that money against our debts and cancel insurance.
    26. Sell stuff already earmarked on trademe or sella.

    Image from http://www.sxc.hu/photo/826187

    Raffle Tickets

    These took an age to make but I am so very impressed with myself over the result. And luckily, if I ever want to setup raffle tickets in the future it won’t as time consuming.

    Because I use Ubuntu, I wanted to use the tools I had on hand. I used Inkscape to do the design minus the serial numbers, duplicating the one ticket onto an A4 page to make 4 tickets on one page. Then I used the Export Bitmap menu item to save it as a png file.
    Then I moved to OpenOffice, using the Word Processor. I added the png to the background of the page and put a 5×5 table over the top. Then I resized the table to fit the shape of the ticket number boxes and inserted into those cells fields (you want the Set Variable field that’s found in the Other menu-option) that calculated the ticket number (one variable name for the stub, and one for the ticket itself). The formula is easy stub=stub+1 and ticket=ticket+1. Then once one A4 page/4 tickets was complete, I copied and pasted this so I ended up with a document of 100 tickets number sequentially from 0001 to 0100. Then I added 2 hidden fields (one for the stub and the other for the ticket) which had the number to start from (so 0 for the first document, 100 for the next, and so forth), using the same kind of field but this time simply stub=0 and ticket=0. With the variable fields, I chose Other Format for the format so I could add leading zeros to get that serial number look.

    The problem I found with OpenOffice was that the background keep trying to jump above the fields on the page and that took some time to a) figure out and b) double check all the ticket numbers would print. I kept pushing the png image behind the other objects and eventually I won!

    Then came the tedious part, scoring 1000 tickets. Luckily, I remembered my guillotine had a perforation blade and by perforating 3-4 A4 sheets at a time it wasn’t long til this part was done.
    After that was cutting the A4 sheets into individual tickets. This took about the same time and before long I had 4 piles of tickets laid face down on my desk ready to flip over and compile into booklets of 10 tickets. This definitely took a bit of time but it was quite satisfying realising we were on the home stretch. To protect the ticket stubs and thinking about the possibilty of people wanting to make notes on their ticket book I added at the last minute an A5 sheet folded almost in half longways. This meant when I stapled the booklet and back-half of the coverpage together, the front of the coverpage laid flat and completely covered the front of the tickets.

    And voila, two evenings later I had 1000 tickets compiled into 100 books sitting on my desk!
    This process has been simplified because I did take a lot of detours while trying to work out the optimum approach :) I skipped all the teeth knashing and the “But WHY will this not do what I want?!”

    By the way, if you’re thinking of running a Raffle in New Zealand, the Internal Affairs website has all the information you need to run one legally – and that’s not as scary as it sounds :)