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!

Simple fix: Treat day!

Every Friday is Treat Day for my kids.

I buy them a bar of their favourite chocolate each, and they look forward to it, counting down the days.

Prior to creating “Treat Day”, treats were out of control. Every time I went shopping, the kids wanted something, and treats were becoming more and more common. It wasn’t good for the budget, and it certainly wasn’t good for my kids’ health or their teeth!

If the kids are with me at the supermarket, they know there’s no point asking for goodies if it isn’t Friday, because only Friday is “Treat Day”. It saves a lot of nagging, and makes shopping so much nicer 🙂

I’ve recently added myself into the “Treat Day” routine too, as my own chocolate addiction was getting out of control again – just ask my partner!

Now I have to look forward to Fridays, right along with the kids! 😦

Sometimes, simple guidelines and a regular routine can make a huge difference – save a lot of money and make families healthier too.

Do you have any routines such as “Treat Day” for your family, or do you think having a “Treat Day” might help create routine for your kids and you?


My favourite chocolate!

100% sustainable – is it possible?

This is the first post in a series titled “100% sustainable – is it possible?”. I hope you enjoy my analysis of different lifestyles, their ecological impact, and the possibility of humanity achieving sustainability.

Germany is well on its way to achieving 100% renewable energy. It plans to be 100% renewable by 2050.

Several cities in Australia and New Zealand plan to follow suit, indicating we may not be far behind.

But – and this is a HUGE “but” – achieving 100% renewable energy doesn’t mean the same thing as 100% sustainable. A country can achieve 100% renewable energy and:

– still have huge numbers of gas-guzzling cars on the streets

– still have huge waste management problems

– still have an unsustainable food supply chain

– still be earning income from unsuatainable, earth-damaging industries.

Achieving 100% renewable energy is one thing. Solving the problems associated with oil are is another...

Achieving 100% renewable energy is one thing. Solving the problems associated with oil are is another…

Simple living so others may simply live

The answers aren’t easy. But if we’re serious about solving the problems of climate change and environmental damage – if we’re serious about leaving an inhabitable earth behind for generations to come – we need to find solutions to these, and other, problems.

We need to learn to live simply so others may simply live.

Where to begin

When I first bought my farm, I thought that leaving the city behind and starting a new life was the sustainable option.

I was wrong.

Over the course of the next few posts, I want to talk about the city versus country decision and all that goes with it, as well as decisions regarding where to live that generally affect sustainability as well as family budget.

I’ll also be talking about how, in light of the last few years of experience, I believe that small cities – NOT “megacities” are the way of the future, and discussing how and why we can move to this option. I’ll also talk about “relocalizing” your own economy if you live in a big city and don’t want to move, or can’t move.

And I’ll be talking about how the decisions we make every day can impact how sustainable we are, and how by changing small decisions we can have a huge impact on both our budgets and on the wellbeing of the planet.

I’m an optimist. I always have been. I believe we – humanity – can find a path forward through our problems. But we need to change, and we need to change fast.

I want to talk about how to do that, and how to create better, happier lives for ourselves on a healthy world that has enough for everyone.

Stop being so nasty!

I’m sick of politicians that do nothing but snipe at one another, attacking and criticizing the opposition.

Are you sick of them too?

I’m sick of the nastiness. Instead of offering constructive ideas to make a better community for us all, our leaders seem intent on hurting one another.

I’m sick of the greed. Instead of helping the people in our country who are most in need, all I see is handouts to the elite, and more tax cuts to huge corporations.

I’m sick of the lies. It used to be promises were something you kept. But now there’s “core election promises” that probably won’t be kept and “peripheral election promises” that certainly won’t be kept.

So here we are, coming up on another New Zealand election. There’s another US election next year, which I’ve been following. That’s already getting nasty, with Democrats and Republicans seemingly unable to cooperate or even debate in a respectful manner.

Since when did people hate each other so much, on so few differences? Because our differences really are that few. We all care about our kids, our elderly, our communities, our sick and dying. We all want people to live in freedom and to be happy. We all want lower crime rates and lower poverty. We none of us want war.

I think you could ask 100 people on the street about any of these things, and you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who wanted anything different. So we’re not as different as we’re led to believe. We need to find a way to talk, negotiate, respect each other and make dialogue.

Make the best choice for everyone, not just yourself

It’ll soon be election time and yes, I will vote. Because, no matter how nasty the candidates get, at least making a choice is better than having no choice.


So I’ll choose the least nasty. The least hateful. The least greedy. The least untruthful.

It won’t be much of a field, I know, but maybe with lobbying and writing to my MPs, things will start to change for the better.

And if they don’t, I’ll still keep on caring for the people in my community, no matter who they are, what they believe, who they vote for, or where they come from. Because that’s what I believe good citizens do.


Online shopping: 11 tips for snagging a great deal

I love shopping online!

Some of my favourite haunts are Ali Express, Tommy Hilfiger, Etsy and Headline Shirts.

Shopping online can be a huge money-saver. New Zealand (where I live) is insanely expensive for clothing, and by shopping online I save a LOT of money.

I also enjoy the much wider variety available on the net. When I shop online I can find exactly what I want, not so much when I shop locally.

But you have to be careful, and there are definitely some tricks and skills. You want to keep mistakes down, keep items that don’t fit or are not what you expected down, and keep non-returnables down.

The internet is a giant bazaar of bargains and great deals. But be wary!

The internet is a giant bazaar of bargains and great deals. But be wary!

Here are some tips that I’ve used to keep your online shopping experiences happy and successful.

Have fun, and save money! 🙂

1. Buyer beware! That Latin saying “Caveat Emptor” might have been designed for online shopping. But you do have recourse. If your item doesn’t appear, or your money is stolen, your credit card company or PayPal through which the transaction was made, may be able to help you out. It pays to check. Don’t assume everything is lost.

2. Check shipping on the website before you start. Some salespoints offer free shipping, others charge huge amounts. I’ve found places where I got to the “check out”, only to find that to send an item to me I was going to be charged $50 or more! I cancelled, but it was a waste of my time. Check the shipping first.

3. Know your measurements. Ask a friend to help you, and spend a day taking all your measurements: bust, waist, hip, inseam, sleeve, neck, shoulder. Write them down in both metric (world) and imperial (US and Burma only) measurements. Then whenever you buy, you’ll have a handy reference to help you find the correct size.

4. Use measurements in centimeters or inches, not random size numbers, as a guide. I have clothes at home that are everything from a size 6 to a size 20, and all fit me the same. I have size M and size XXXXL. Don’t trust a random size “name”; choose according to proper measurements on the sizing charts at the company website. If uncertain, ask if possible.

5. Double and triple-check measurements. I buy items at, which is China-based, and a lot of their sizes are very different to Western ones. In New Zealand, I’m a size 12-14 (a US size 8-10). On Aliexpress, I’m often an XXXL or an XXXXL. You have to be careful!

6. If in doubt, opt for a larger size. If you’re not sure which size, choose the larger option. If an item is too small you’ll look and feel squashed, or you won’t fit it at all. Too big can usually be negotiated or altered.

7. If it doesn’t fit, don’t buy it. Don’t think you might just squeeze into that pair of size five sandals when you KNOW you’re a size seven. It won’t happen. They’ll sit in your wardrobe and gather dust. Nothing is beautiful to wear if it doesn’t fit you properly.

8. Try new items on, the moment they arrive. This sounds like a no-brainer, but you wouldn’t believe the amount of people who don’t do this. Don’t delay. If you loved it online, you should still love it at home. If not, keep the packaging and receipt, and put it by the front door to send back right away.

9. Check the returns policy. Larger salespoints usually return, smaller ones often don’t. You may lose the cost of postage, but that’s better than losing all your money spent on the item, right?

10. No returns doesn’t mean “all bad.” Many smaller salespoints don’t do returns. This is especially true with one-off sellers and suchlike. That doesn’t mean they’re crooks, but you are taking a chance. That said, you can often find some great, original items from these types of sellers.

11. Don’t be embarrassed, or feel guilty about returns. Shops really do not mind. They’re used to people returning stuff. It’s a daily occurrence. Large online salespoints have whole departments to deal with nothing but returns. Trust me, they’d rather have a happy, repeat customer than one who buys something, is unhappy, and doesn’t buy again.

Will that expensive smartphone last longer?

That brand new, very expensive smart phone won’t last any longer than a cheap phone. But it will look great while you pay for it.

I think the days are long gone since people honestly believed that if they paid more for a smartphone they were buying a product that would last longer.

I used to think that too. When I bought my Samsung S2 (and paid a LOT of money for it!) a few years ago, I was convinced that, by buying a “quality” phone, it would last longer and I’d get better value for my money.

The phone barely outlasted the expensive 24 month contract I signed up for when I bought it…just barely. Apparently I had “done well” to get my phone to last longer than 24 months…most didn’t last that long.

So much for quality.

When I went back to Vodafone and complained, the salesperson didn’t bat an eyelid. He merely tried to “upgrade” me to yet another $1000 phone.

No way!

Paying more just means…you’re paying more.

I think most of us still like to believe that by paying more we’ll get a product that will last…but we’d be very wrong. Especially when it comes to electronics.

In the case of smartphones, these products are designed to have a short lifespan. Nobody dares to even whisper the words planned obsolescence when they’re shopping for a new phone, but that’s precisely what’s going on.

After all, if these products were robust and built to last, we wouldn’t be up to the iPhone 6 already…and the Samsung S6, would we!

Slick marketing...but how long will these devices last?

Slick marketing…but how long will these devices last?

Making sensible purchases in a crazy marketplace

When my S2 died, just two years into its very short life, I decided against getting suckered in to buying another $1000 phone.

I felt like I’d been ripped off with my old phone. I didn’t want to repeat the experience. Funny, that.

Instead, I bought a cheaper phone (less than $200 – I bought a Motorola Moto-e) that had a good quality camera and screen and that suited my needs.

I also refused to sign up for any contracts, opting for a $16-a-month no contract, pay-as-I-go plan with all the data I’d ever need.

There are, of course, much cheaper phones around than what I bought (I’ve seen them for as little as $10 here in New Zealand), but I wanted something that felt and looked good. I was surprised at how good a phone you could get for less than $200.

I’m still assuming that my new phone will last 2 years – or less. In other words, I’ve wised up. But I’ll be paying 1/5th the cost of buying a new Samsung or iPhone. That’s a win in my book.

Do all phones have a short lifespan? Maybe I was just unlucky?

I’m not saying that all smart phones have this ridiculously short lifespan. There may be one phone, somewhere, that lasts longer. But I don’t know anyone who has a mobile phone that has lasted significantly longer than 2 years and that is still very usable.

Do you?

If we assume that our new purchase won’t last long, then maybe we’ll be pleasantly surprised if it outlasts our expectations. But if we budget on expectations that, according to our experience, are rarely (if ever) met, we’re lining ourselves up for financial hardship and disappointment.

My old car aaaaand…my new car! :)

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know I debated for a long time over whether to replace my old (1997) little two door hatch.

My car. Should I update, or be content with what I have? What do you think?

My old car. A 1997 Toyota Starlet. It was too old and too small, and time to update. Sometimes things need replacing.


After lots of thought, I decided to upgrade.

My old car was getting too small for my very tall ten year old to even get into the back seat. The radio didn’t work. The demister took forever to demist the windows in the morning. The heater wasn’t great. I was paying a lot of money every time it went in for a service – just on little, niggling things, but it was a pain. And I couldn’t fit my elderly parents into my car comfortably every time they came to visit.

There were other reasons as well. I felt poor driving it. I’m not a poor person, but I felt that way, running the cheapest car on the street. I know that shouldn’t matter. I told myself that shouldn’t matter.

But it did.

I berated myself for even feeling that way, and began to feel guilty for, well, for wanting something better.

Does everyone who tries to live simply go through this stuff?

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago I upgraded. And I’m thrilled with my new car!

My new car. It's lovely, and I'm very happy with it.

My new car. It’s lovely, and I’m very happy with it.

I bought a 2010 Nissan Tiida. The luxury model, with leather trim interiors, and a great stereo and heater. It’s lovely to drive, it’s a four door, so the kids can get in the back without a squeeze. And it’s very economical.

Inside my new car. I'm loving the leather trim :)

Inside my new car. I’m loving the leather trim 🙂 And can you tell I live in the country by the fact that the floor is muddy already? LOL.

All I can say is, I wish I’d upgraded sooner. I wish I hadn’t waited.

There’s nothing wrong with upgrading our belongings when the time is come. The problem with consumer culture is upgrading when we don’t need to. Or wanting stuff simply because it’s there. Or upgrading because the companies have brought out a new model before the model we have has even lost the new model sheen (I’m looking at you here, Apple!)

I feel good about my decision. It was the right decision for me. The only decision left now is – what name should I give my new car? 🙂