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!

Minimalism: the space between the lines

You’ve cleared the clutter, dumped the junk, ditched the rubbish in your home.

Now what?

Minimalism isn’t just about stuff. When we take our first steps on the minimalist path, it seems all about consumerism, saying no to all the stuff we thought we needed but really don’t, and finding the space between the lines.


Minimalism: The space between the lines.

It’s a good place to start, but once the junk is gone, and the habit of unnecessarily buying replacements is dead, it becomes glaringly clear that often our actual lives need simplifying too.

Sometimes we’re doing too many activities. We’re spreading our talents too thin, trying to be experts in a number of fields, struggling to be interested in everything.

Other times we find we’re stretched too thin by others.

Our partners need us, our kids need us, our ageing parents need us, and we’re meant to fit it all in on top of a full time job and a part time job on the weekend. Oh, and there’s that volunteering we do as well!

Minimalism asks us to breathe. To ask ourselves: what serves us best? What makes us happiest? What gives us the most value in return for our most precious asset, Time?

Once you start to see that space between the lines, what is important becomes obvious.

What is essential is invisible to the eye. Only with the heart can we see clearly. Clearing the clutter away opens our eyes, minds and hearts to the truth of who we truly are.

If we don’t have such a big house we won’t need that second job.
If we don’t take those extra classes in a hobby we really don’t enjoy all that much, we’ll have more time to spend with our partner and kids.
And our ageing parents? They won’t be around much longer. Perhaps we should consider spending quality time with them, over volunteering our time with strangers.

Everyone has choices.
So choose wisely. Choose well.
And be happy.

happy beach

Is it even possible to be minimalist…with kids?

Here’s my answer: Yes!

Minimalism is a tool that helps to clarify what is most important. When you clear away the stuff that doesn’t matter, the stuff that does matter becomes obvious.

As a busy mum, embracing minimalism was about deciding that I was going to put my family’s well being and happiness…and my own…ahead of what anyone else might be telling me to do.

That meant figuring out what was important to me, and to us as a family.

Everyone is different, and every family has different priorities. Our family decided that we wanted to spend time together, we wanted to travel, and we wanted to be less stressed.

I was up in Wellington last week, renewing our passports. We're off overseas again soon. I can't wait!

I was up in Wellington last week, renewing our passports. We’re off overseas again soon. I can’t wait!

Our kids health and education is also really important to us, and right at the top of the list.

Your family’s priorities might be different to ours. You may value missionary work and faith, or you may want to build a property empire to pass on. Or you may want to be more financially secure to better care for elderly relatives or spend time caring for disabled child.

Whatever you priorities may be, figuring them out is the first step. And clearing the stuff that isn’t important comes next.

We didn’t really care about impressing other people with a fancy house, or a fancy car, or brand name clothes. There’s nothing wrong with any of those things, and they’re important to a lot of people, but we figured out that they weren’t the kinds of things that were going to make us happy.

Instead, we focus on outings on the weekends, educational weekends – and lots (!!) of movies, TV series (Horrible Histories is GREAT – check it out!) and books (from the library!) about history, geography, science and maths.

I also volunteer as a teacher of computing to kids aged 9-12 once a week with a local Code Club. I share my knowledge and love of learning with the wider community this way, and feel like I’m giving something back.

Owning less stuff gives us more time – and more money – for the things that matter to us. We love to travel, so we’re off to Europe for a big holiday in a few months time, touring historic sites and cruising the Med.

It’s going to be so much fun!

We wouldn’t be able to afford a great trip like that – from New Zealand, where we live, on the other side of the world from Europe! – if we weren’t careful with our spending in other areas.

Minimalism helps to spend less on everyday unnecessary purchases, so we can save for holidays and family time. That makes the whole family happy! 🙂

Me - on the Wellington Cable Car ;)

Me – on the Wellington Cable Car 😉

If I had a million dollars…

When I was a kid, I used to sit with my best friend Bernadette, and we’d play the game “If I had a million dollars”. We’d imagine all the amazing things we’d buy, all the stuff we’d own – palaces and slaves (that was me!) and yachts and jewellery. So much stuff.

We had no idea how much a million dollars actually was, only that it was a lot.

As we got older, we remained friends, and the game morphed into “When I win the lottery”. We’d imagine buying nice houses and fancy cars and going on holidays all around the world staying in plush hotels with hunky pool boys serving us cocktails (that was me again!) and all the chocolate we could ever eat (me too!).

We’re still friends after all these years. Neither of us is a millionaire, and we’ve neither of us ever won the lottery.

But I know quite a few millionaires. Including my parents, and several of my old school friends. I even know a billionaire or two. And my uncle won the lottery before he died as well – enough that he never needed to work again.

Funny thing is, winning the lottery never made him happy. And all those millionaires and billionaires, they’re not any happier than me either.

In fact, I’d say I’m probably among the happiest of all my friends.

I’m no millionaire. I own about 30 items of clothing. A five year old car. Half a house. An old box-style TV and a beat-up DVD player. Some books, not even a bookcase full. A few dollars in the bank, enough to keep me going a few months should the zombies come 😉

But I’m happy. I have a partner who adores me. I have awesome kids, and solid friends who are good people. I have everything I need. No albatrosses around my neck. Nothing to hold me down.

They say, Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. My treasure is here, with the people I love, and within me, in the memories I hold. It’s in the blue sky above me, in the earth below me, in the wind on my cheeks and the fire in my soul.

I could have a million dollars one day, but so what? It’s just paper.

I’d rather have my treasure.


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!

Death and clutter: clearing the home of a dead parent

    “When they die, our family members don’t want their belongings to be a burden to us.”

My friend’s father died a month ago. He was elderly, and lived a long, good life, but his death left behind a mountain of belongings for his children to sort through.

It was awful. My friend was still grieving, still mourning the loss of a good man who had meant everything to her, and yet she had to sort through a whole household of stuff, together with her sister.

Her father had kept everything. There was a full kitchen, three full bedrooms of furniture and belongings, and a twin garage that had been a general “catch all” for everything the house didn’t fit. The car had never been housed there – only more stuff.

At first my friend and her sisters tried to keep a few mementos. Then a few more. They shared out the photos, and the knick-knacks, and a few pieces of the better furniture. Then they started going through the old postcards, the old school certificates, the baby teeth. It soon got out of control.

“It got really emotionally draining,” she told me. “After a while, we decided to just sell everything that we thought we could sell, and bin the rest. We didn’t have the emotional strength to deal with it all, because we remembered so much of it, and were forced to deal with all this stuff on top of Dad’s death. Everything we threw out felt like a betrayal of him.”

Even after putting the better items up online for sale, and having several garage sales, there was very little money to be made from selling the belongings. My friend told me she might have made “a few hundred dollars, at most.”

This was a surprise to her. “Compared with the hundreds of thousands that the house sold for, it seemed it was hardly worth it,” she said. “The stuff itself was worth virtually nothing. In retrospect, I wish we’d just given everything to charity. And I think, maybe, that’s what Dad might have wanted anyway.”

The only thing of true value most people own is a house

The truth is, all of the belongings that we own, unless it’s genuine antiques or valuables, are worth very little once they leave the store. They cost a lot to replace, but on the secondhand market they won’t give you much.

The only thing of true value most people own is a house. This is the case, time after time after time.

This is something my Dad – a natural minimalist – knew when he cleared out my grandmother’s house over in England a few years ago.

Rather than go through it all, he simply selected a few items of remembrance and real value (a couple of old photo albums, two paintings she’d done, her jewellery), then gave the keys over to the Salvation Army charity guys.

The charity did the rest for him, clearing out the house and finding items of value to sell and gift to those in need. Grandma had been a Salvation Army member, so Dad knew she would have wanted that.

Then Dad sold the house. Everything was done, easily and quickly, with little stress and with real benefit to a valued charity that Grandma had worked with all her life.

Everything Dad kept for us fit in a small bag. And now, years on, the things we have that belonged to her are all the more meaningful because they are few, and were carefully selected.

Life is too short to spend on death

Life is short. And if I know one thing it is this: when they die, our family members don’t want their belongings to be a burden to us.

Eventually many of us do have to clear out the homes of elderly parents when they die. It’s a common thing a lot of people go through. Here are some suggestions on how to make the process easier:

  • Find trusted friends to help. Their perspective – and cups of tea! – can really help keep things level when it feels like your world is turning upside-down.
  • Deal with food first. Donate everything you will not use to a food bank as soon as possible.
  • Find the photo albums, jewellery and artworks. Almost everything else will likely be of little value. Keep these, if you want.
  • Contact a worthy local charity. Explain the situation, and ask that they help clear the house for you. Donate all furniture, whitegoods, kitchen items, toys, tools and clothing immediately. If necessary, ask a friend to accompany the charity staff while they clean the house out.
  • Ask a friend to deal with other paperwork. Ask a friend to deal with all paperwork other than photos. That includes old school books, certificates, birthday cards, and anything else the deceased may have kept. Don’t deal with these yourself, as it will be emotionally draining.
  • Estate auctions can be useful. If the deceased owned a lot of truly valuable items, estate auctions can help clear things out and earn some reasonable items. My parents own a lot of very valuable antique furniture and china, and I’ll probably go down this route when I have to deal with their passing.
  • Make a will. Make things easier for the next generation. If you haven’t made a will yet, do it as soon as possible. Keep it simple and clear, and don’t bequeath specialist items.
  • Never fight over stuff. People – and relationships – are worth more than that. If your brother, or sister, or cousin really wants something, let them have it. It’s just stuff, and probably worth a lot less than you think.


New Zealand is chasing a new flag…

We’re down to four “finalists”. They all pretty much suck, and three of the four look like they were designed by committee.

I like #hypnoflag, in the bottom left...but then, I'm a bit of a stirrer ;)

“One of these kids is not like the others…” 😉

Of course, we’ve seen them all before, and none are exactly new:


I’m favouring the black and white swirl, which has been dubbed #hynoflag by the wags on Twitter. It took a while, but it’s growing on me.

Maybe it just took a while before I learned to obey?

It’s been pointed out that three of the four also look like an amalgamation of the logos of the two major political parties of New Zealand, Labour and National.

Maybe that’s why the Flag Committee, primarily made up of members of the two, has selected three of the four designs…


Personally, I think there are better options available. Here are some of the flag designs that didn’t make the final cut:

I like the Kiwi with the laser eyes.

I like the Kiwi with the laser eyes.

Why ditch the original flag?

The current New Zealand flag is outdated and really doesn’t represent us well. For starters, we keep getting mistaken for Australia:

The Australian flag (left) and the New Zealand flag (right). Spot the difference.

The Australian flag (left) and the New Zealand flag (right). Spot the difference.

When Mother England was dealing out the flags, she didn’t really pay too much attention to such things as individuality and national identity. Besides, everyone knew that Australia and New Zealand were practically the same country anyway. So why not just give them the same flag? 😦

Of course, the whole thing is a distraction. As it’s been pointed out.


In the end, I think we should go with a flag that best represents the interests of our leaders: