Mother’s Day: 10 non-spendy ideas to make Mother’s Day just perfect…

It’s Mother’s Day here in New Zealand this Sunday.

As usual, the shops are all suggesting we buy cards and gifts. For some reason, the junk mail is full of suggestions that people buy their mums kitchen items such as serving platters, new toasters, dinner sets and cutlery.

If someone bought me a toaster for Mother’s Day I would kill them!!!

I wanted CHOCOLATE!!!!! 😉

But seriously, Mother’s Day doesn’t have to be about the money. Or the stuff. So, in light of that, here are 10 fabulous non-spendy ideas to make your Mother’s Day just perfect. Five are things to make, and five are things to do.

Have fun! And Happy Mother’s Day!

Mother’s Day gifts – to make

1. A wheat bag to keep her warm on cold nights. Here’s how: How to make a wheat bag.

2. A foot scrub to make her tired feet soft and lovely. Here’s how: Recipe for peppermint foot scrub.

3. A “Ten things I love about you” book. Here’s how: Ten things I love about you.

4. Bath salts. Then let her soak for hours…. Here’s how: Homemade bath salts.

5. A ladybird rock paperweight for her desk. Every time she sees it, she’ll smile 🙂 Here’s how: Ladybug rocks.

Mother’s Day gifts – to do

1. Let her sleep in. The rest of the family members – partners, kids, assorted groupies – do everything for a day. Make breakfast. Tidy up. Do the washing. Clean the house. Fix that gizmo that has needed fixing for ever. Oh, and keep the noise down…

2. Bake something nice. And CLEAN the kitchen afterwards. Bake some cupcakes. Or a slice. Or some muffins. The house will smell lovely.

3. Collect wildflowers. Go for a drive. Or a walk. Collect wildflowers. Give them to her. With love. Oh – and if it’s too wet for collecting flowers, go splashing in puddles or build a snowman instead!

4. Go hiking. Together. As a family. You’ll know if your mum likes that kind of thing. Some of us do 😉

5. Let her be a tourist in her home town. Most cities have a council website with suggestions of free things to do in the city. Some ideas include:
going to the botanic gardens,
visiting a park,
going to the beach for a family picnic,
visiting an open garden or a historic home,
going for a drive along a scenic route,
going to a free talk or open-air concert,
playing in a playground like you’re a kid again,
visiting the art gallery,
visiting the museum,
visiting local heritage sites,
visiting cultural sites,
bird watching in a wild place,
going “instagramming” at a local beauty spot,
wildlife spotting,
visiting an old church and enjoying the silence,
visiting an old graveyard and reading the old tombstones (they can be really interesting!)

Use your imagination and give mum a truly special day!

Blended families, minimalism and compromise…

I’m a busy mum with two kids of my own – a son (12) and daughter (10).

And kind of like The Brady Bunch, I’ve inherited another two kids with my partner, who has primary custody of his son (16) and daughter (11).

Four kids. Yikes! I often wonder how on earth this happened to me. But it did!

Mixing families is never easy. Over the last few years, as we’ve introduced our kids to one another, we’ve all had our share of ups and downs, and we’re doing pretty well, I think.

But with mixing families, we also have to make some concessions. One of the concessions my partner and I decided we wouldn’t make was on giving the kids space of their own.

Our options, when we first moved in together, were as follows:

a) Put the boys in together (16 and 12) and the girls in together (11 and 10, but from different families in each case, and my daughter has special needs and doesn’t sleep well)

b) Put his kids in together (a 16 year old boy with an 11 year old girl) and my kids in together (a 12 year old boy and a 10 year old girl with special needs)

c) Give the oldest (his 16 year old boy) a room of his own and make the others share in some way

d) Give the youngest (a girl with special needs a room of her own) and make the others share in some way.

None of the sharing options worked well. So we settled on a different option altogether, and decided that all of the kids needed their own room. Their own space.

It was hard finding a home that was big enough on our particular budget, and in the end, the home we’ve found is beautiful and in an ideal position, but it does need some work. We’re going to have to roll up our sleeves and get busy! That was the compromise we were willing to make.

The compromise we made also meant that my dream of owning a smaller home went out the window. I’m now the minimalist with a five bedroom home!

I’m the minimalist with the five bedroom home!

What I’ve learned from this is that people are more important than ideals. The house is bigger than I wanted, and I feel like an old fraud, preaching minimalism while living in a big house. But it is what we need, for our particular circumstances, with four kids from two families and one of those kids with special needs.

The truth is, minimalism means own what you need, and nothing more. If you need a big home, then buy the big home and don’t feel guilty. I need a big home, every square foot of it will be used.

My version of minimalism might be different from yours, and yours might be different from the next person’s. Have what you need, and be content. We’re looking forward to moving into our new home, and everyone having space of their own.

Sometimes space is a good thing. Especially when you’re blending families 🙂

Two weeks to go!

It’s two weeks until we move into our new home!

We’re starting to clear out at the temporary rental we’ve been in, and today my partner and I visited the house, together with our real estate agent and a guy from the heating company, looking at the different options for heating the home. It’s an old house and there is no heating, except for three old fireplaces.

The main living room. You can see one of the fireplaces in the far wall.

It felt odd visiting what will be our new home, and good to have a look around. It’s a beautiful old home, but it needs a lot of work. It’ll keep us busy for quite a while, I suspect!

The house and garden from the rear. It’s in a lovely sunny spot, central to everything. The house needs work, and one of the first tasks will be a full external repaint in summer (around Christmas for New Zealand)!

We were there for well over an hour – I could tell the poor real estate agent was getting restless – but in the end we made some decisions, and we should have heating organised by the time we move in.

Currently the library, this room will probably be our master bedroom. I’m looking forward to painting and decorating it, and will be sharing the “before and after” pics here at the blog!

We’re all really looking forward to moving in now, especially my two kids, who are sharing a room, and my partner’s son, who is living downstairs in the storage room under the house in the rental. Not exactly ideal! We’ll be redecorating the kids rooms one by one, and I’m looking forward to sharing what we do as we get it all done.

As for the garden, I’m keen to create a meditation garden in the front, and to have my chooks again out the back, and my partner wants to build a fire pit. I’m not sure how I feel about the fire pit, but sometimes living with someone you love means compromise.

Not long now!

Don’t follow just because someone wants to lead you

The world is growing increasingly partisan.

The political middle ground seems to have fallen away, leaving people clinging to the edges of extreme political thought.

But I’m saying, don’t follow simply because someone wants to lead you.

When longstanding friendships come to an end over political disagreements, and people are “unfriending” their friends and family on Facebook over who they may or may not have voted for, it has all gotten out of control.

Partisanship serves nobody, except those who would divide us all on petty issues.

The truth is, our differences are minimal. We most of us want the same things:

We want our children to grow up safe and whole…
We want our communities to thrive and be healthy…
We want good healthy food, clean air, clean water…
We want access to good doctors and good quality education…
We want affordable, quality homes…
We want to be safe from war and terror…
We want secure jobs that give us dignity and don’t compromise our integrity.

If you’re like me, all of these things are important. All of them.

Divide and conquer

It seems that many of those in power – across all parties – would seek to focus on the little things that don’t affect us day to day.

“Divide and conquer” is working well.

They seek to turn us against our neighbours. To encourage us to label and view them as Not Like Us, and to divide our communities.

That way, we don’t look too closely at what those in power are doing, do we!

Work together

I’m saying, Stop.

Stop the partisanship.
Stop labelling people as Them and Us.
Stop giving some leaders a pass on bad behaviour while others get held to the wire.
Treat all people equally and fairly.
Uphold ideas, not ideology or parties or celebrities or leaders.

It’s time to look on the old world with fresh eyes. Reconsider our long-held beliefs to check if they still hold merit for us.

Don’t follow simply because someone – or something – wants to lead you.

Lead yourself, with your own mind, and you will find the best way to travel.


Experience, not things

Christmas has been and gone. The tree is down and the decorations are back in their boxes. It’s a new year already.

My partner had a few days off after New Years Eve, so we took the time to go down to one of my favourite beaches, Aramoana, for a walk.

The day reaffirmed for me that our lives should be spent enjoying experiences, not stuff. We’re here on this earth to love each other and spend time enjoying the natural world.

aramoana beach

Aramoana is a beautiful beach, a short drive away from Dunedin.

We’re not here to fight each other over the next after-Christmas door buster sale!

At Aramoana, we walked along the spit to the very end.

the spit, aramoana, dunedin

View along the spit, Aramoana, Dunedin, New Zealand

There was a family of wild sealions basking in afternoon warmth, barely ten feet from where we stood.

Sealions, Aramoana, Dunedin

Sealions on the spit, Aramoana, Dunedin

About a dozen of them, some resting, barely opening an eye to us.

sealions, aramoana

Relaxed sealions, enjoying the afternoon.

They were obviously really used to seeing humans. But it made me think about how relaxed they all were, compared with how stressed most people are at this time of year!

sealions, aramoana

Up close and personal with beautiful wild animals.

I also thought about how lucky we are to have such beautiful animals here in New Zealand. They’re national treasures. World treasures.


They’re also called “dogs of the sea”. I can see why!

I was there, on a practically empty beach, enjoying this amazing experience, while most people were probably at home watching the telly, unaware of what was right outside their door.

black swans

We also saw black swans and other wild birds.

Maybe it’s time we start treasuring our experiences more, and our stuff a little less, don’t you think?

Happy new year.

Be true to yourself… and fly

Too often we try to satisfy the whims of others to try to keep the peace. We join a stamp-collecting club because our best friend loves stamps – even though stamps bore us to bits!

Or we join a basketball team because our partner loves basketball. Except we hate basketball!

Whenever we pretend to be something we’re not, we’re lying to our friends, our partners, and most of all ourselves. We’re not being honest with anyone.

When we lie to those we care about in this way, we weaken who we are.

True strength comes from learning who and what we are inside – learning who our authentic self is – and building on it.

Leonard Cohen quote

Minimalism centers us

Minimalism helps us find our centre, and clear all the mental clutter that others would dump at us.

If you feel like others are trying to tell you who to be, what to like, what to wear, what hobbies to do, what interests to follow – minimalism can help you.

Simply eliminate everything that doesn’t bring you joy. I’d clarify that by suggesting that you discard anything that doesn’t resonate with your genuine self.

You’ll know what doesn’t resonate by the fact that it just won’t feel right. You’ll feel like you’re filling someone else’s shoes, or playing a role in a production. It might work for a little while, but you’ll know all the while that it’s just not really you.

So if it doesn’t feel right, let it go.
Have a break.
Take some time away to think and reflect.

Anyone who makes you feel stressed, sad, or uncertain – take a break from them.

Anything that makes you feel overwhelmed, anxious or tired – quit it a month then decide if it’s truly important after all.

Eliminate clothes that feel uncomfortable, hobbies that drain you. Give some time back to yourself this holiday season.
Spend time with loved ones.
Reconnect with family.
Find your own sacred space – not someone else’s.
Re-discover your sense of who you truly are.

Find your freedom.
Be true to yourself.

And fly.


Kids and social media

Kids are going to use social media, whether we like it or not. And sometimes I wish we could go back to a world before teen sexting and Snapchat and Tinder, but we can’t.

So as parents, it’s our responsibility to teach our kids to navigate social media safely. We can hide our heads in the sand, or we can teach them to use it responsibly, learning to be ethical and sensible online citizens.

I know a lot of parents, me included, are wary about letting our kids – of any age – loose on the internet. But we can’t ignore this huge part of modern life, and if we don’t teach our children how to interact safely and sensibly online, they’ll behave online in ways that could hurt them and their future careers, as well as potentially hurting others.

So I think we need to teach our kids, talk to our kids, and educate our kids 🙂 It’s our job, and we need to do it right.

Is there a right age for social media?

A lot of kids are on social media younger than the various companies’ own recommendations. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Pinterest all have an age requirement of 13. For Vine, Tinder, Kik and Yik Yak it’s 17. YouTube is 18, or 13 with parental consent. Twitter has no formal age requirement. I believe that asking kids to wait until they meet this age requirement is appropriate, because it teaches kids that rules matter.

Talk about why your child shouldn’t have accounts on these sites before the required age and, if you want, make a promise to open their accounts together when they meet the age requirement i.e. on their 13th birthday.

In the meantime, open accounts for younger children on other, child-friendly sites, and step them through safety online so they’re ready for larger, older social media when they meet the age requirement. School websites and games machines are a good place for kids to start with technology, and there are plenty of safe apps and games for kid-friendly devices.

I strongly recommend the site Commonsense media for reviews of apps and social media sites as well as movies and other media. It covers safety as well as age-appropriateness, and is worth a look.

Personal safety and privacy – some tips

The first thing kids of all ages need to learn is to protect their own personal safety and privacy.

  • Never post their real life name, address or date of birth online. Not ever. Not even for Facebook (even though it asks quite forcefully!) or Google. Not for any form of social media.
  • If advertising and cookies can be turned off, that’s a great idea. Explain to your child the very true fact of the internet: if there’s no cost to the service, then you are the product. Ask them to think about the ways in which social media might be making money from their membership. What do they think of this?
  • For Facebook and other similar accounts, I strongly recommend accounts use the child’s real first name (i.e. “Jacob” or “Rosa”) so their friends can find them, plus a fake family name that is generic and very common (“Smith”, “Jones”, “Peters”, “James”). Their friends will soon learn how to find them online, but a fake name helps prevent identity theft, as well as preventing potential employers from doing searches for them in the future.
  • Profile pics should always be group pictures, so that while friends can identify them, stalkers and online creeps cannot.
  • Use 1st of January as a generic birthdate on all social media that requires a birthdate (even if that is the child’s genuine birthdate).
  • Keep friends and “follow” lists on Facebook, Instagram and suchlike locked down where possible.
  • Ask children to “friend” trusted adults – aunts, uncles, friends, other parents and guardians, and other members of the family that you know and trust, and yourself on all social media they join.
  • Teach kids to keep all social media posts private and locked.
  • Teach kids not to friend anyone they don’t know in real life.
  • Write passwords down in a paper notebook and store in a home safe or locked drawer, so that in case of loss accounts can be retrieved. Keep a separate notebook for each child.
  • Ideally, open the accounts together, so that kids new to the various social media sites can learn with you. If you’re not familiar, you can learn together. If you don’t have an account on any site your child wishes to join, create an account of your own there and become familiar with what the site is and what it does, and what risks it may present.

Family safety and security

Talk about internet security online with your child. Topics never to be discussed include:

  • Family interactions such as disagreements, details about other people’s lives etc. You child needs to learn not to post about other people’s business. Don’t be a gossip – they may get hits and readership, but they’re never trusted or well-liked.
  • When the family is going on holiday or out to dinner, and when the home is vacant. Personal information like this can be used by burglars to plan theft.
  • Where the family lives, including outside photos of the home from the street (identifiers). As above.
  • Never share usernames or passwords with others, and never let others use their account. Make a habit of logging out of all accounts when done.

Being kind – and respectful – to others

  • Discuss trolling, bullying and cyber-bullying, and how being mean online is a nasty and low thing to do. Talk about who to talk to (yourself, other trusted others) should they ever feel unsafe or attacked in any way, no matter how ashamed or threatened they might be.
  • Make your child aware of what cyber-bullying is, and that in several countries, cyber-bullying is a chargeable offence (Article on cyber-bullying laws passed in New Zealand).
  • Talk about how people in other countries are still people, with feelings and thoughts as well. Explain the difference between constructive criticism and plain old nasty comments.
  • Discuss how people with very many different opinions are online. You might not agree with them, but that doesn’t mean you have to be rude to them. If you disagree, be polite and / or say nothing.

Sexting and photo sharing

  • Explain what sexting is, and how it can be against the law to share images without the consent of the originator of the image. Talk about how harmful sharing naked images can be, and how underage image sharing is child pornography, and a serious offence in almost all countries.
  • Explain the “no identifiable marks” rule. If they must share an image, never share an image with their face in it, or with anything that can be personally identified as them.
  • Talk about what to do if they receive a message or image not intended for them – talking to a parent is a great first step, and the parent (you) can then contact the school or local police station if necessary.
  • Talk about what to do if an embarrassing image or text of them gets shared. Tell them they can trust you, and that it is the person who has shared the image / text who is at fault, not them.


Above all, keep channels of communication open. Keep talking with your kids, and be aware of what’s out there and what is popular. Even if you don’t particularly use the sites yourself, if makes sense to keep in touch with what’s happening, so you can support your kids if need be.

Finally, it’s important for kids to be aware that social media sites have their own rules about what is appropriate behaviour and what isn’t. These rules can include the age of membership, what is appropriate to post, and so on. Some sites do not allow members to delete posts – your child should be aware of how to delete posts before they post anything, in case (for when!) they make mistakes!

Happy geeking! 🙂