Working on my family recipe book project

Worked on my recipe book yesterday. I’ve actually restarted from scratch. *Shock2* I know, I know, there is a big part of me bemoaning all those wasted hours. But I’ve thought a few times that I shouldn’t have gone down the digital scrapbooking route with it, and I finally gave in and restarted with a simple, clean template. I showed it to my husband and daughter, and they agreed it was much better. It was more useable as a cookbook and easier on the eyes. *ThumbsUp* So I’m rolling with it. It’ll be much faster to make progress on now that I’m not digitally scrapbooking every page.

I did a poll on Writing.com and Facebook last month because I wasn’t sure about how to proceed with the project. I have more than 400 recipes (and my daughter, my cousin and two of my cousins-once-removed have all said they have more recipes to contribute). Blurb only prints a maximum of 400 pages in a book, and I have to account for an introduction, contents pages, category headings, etc. I also really want to put a list of contributors in the back and note their relationship to myself and my husband, because a number of people won’t know where the contributors of the recipes fit into the family, as they’re from every branch of the family tree.

So I had a few options.
1. Split the book into volumes. This was my mother’s preferred option as it makes each book more affordable.
2. Separate the book into two – my family and my in-law’s. This was my mother-in-law’s preferred option, presumably because she only wants the recipes from her side of the family.

The first option won the polls.

Or… I could try and put more than one recipe on a page and see if I can fit them all in. This is MY preferred option as it means I don’t have to double up on the category headers (which all feature quotes from different family members) for each book, and I don’t have to try and figure out which book to put my kids’ recipes into if I split the project into two family groups (or do I double up on them in each book?), etc. It makes life easier for me. Plus, I love the idea of having all the recipes in one book.

But can I do it so that it looks good and doesn’t look all squished up? The font has to be readable, not teeny tiny. So that’s my challenge.

I was working on the category headers last night. I’ve had to add two more categories, following a phone call to my mother that ended up with me on speaker phone talking to her, my sister and their dinner guests! So now we have:
Breakfast (new category) with quotes from my mother and my brother-in-law
Starters and snacks with a quote from my maternal aunt
Soups with quotes from my maternal aunts, my mother, my cousin and myself
Main meals with quotes from my husband’s maternal grandfather
Side dishes with a quote from my paternal second cousin
Desserts and puddings (renamed category) with a quote from my sister
Baking with quotes from my maternal aunt and my dad’s maternal cousin
Sweets (new category) with a quote from my husband
Special occasions with a quote from my mother
Drinks with a quote from my husband’s maternal grandfather and my dad’s paternal cousin
Condiments and preserves with a quote from my maternal grandfather
Miscellaneous (renamed category) with quotes from my father-in-law and mother-in-law

I’m all pumped up and excited about the project again, which is awesome. I’ve been working on it lately because I know I needed to, but to feel enthused and excited again is perfect. Yay! I feel like I had a productive weekend, if only because I have a direction to go in with this project. *Bigsmile*

Talking to my kids about money

I think about money and financial planning a lot, because it’s talked about all the time in the offfice.  That’s one of the things about working for a financial advice firm.  It’s great though, I’ve learned so much.

Lately I’ve been thinking about my kids.  If they do their chores (my daughter has to make dinner on weeknights and my son has to do the dishes and clean the kitchen on weeknights), they earn $40 a month ($10 a week) to spend, and an equal contribution to their savings.  They both have other chores that aren’t paid, such as doing their own laundry, emptying the rubbish bin (trash), keeping their bedrooms in an acceptable condition, contributing to caring for the pets, and helping to keep the lounge and dining areas tidy.  My daughter is pretty diligent about earning her money, but my son is hit and miss.  If we end up doing the dishes, he misses out on that portion of his money.  Last month, he didn’t earn anything.  So far this month, I think he’s earned about $12.

Before our UK trip, it was pretty straight forward.  They knew they’d be allowed to withdraw their savings to spend in the UK.  Not a moment before.  What they chose to spend it on over there, that was up to them.  It eased some of the burden on us in terms of the money we spent over there, because they had their own spending money.  When we came back, I told them they could set another goal.  It had to be a goal I approved.  Therefore, not a waste of money.  An experience (like saving for a flight somewhere) or a new computer or whatever.  Once they reached their target, they could withdraw their savings and pay for whatever the goal was.  So far neither of them have set a goal.  Or talked about a goal.

I’m torn between the idea that saving just for saving’s sake is a good thing, and the idea that saving for a goal is a good thing too.  There’s probably no right or wrong answer there, huh?  Well, no wrong answer.  There’s a reason one of the goals on my bucket list is ‘Regularly contribute savings for a year and make no withdrawals’.  In my entire life, I’ve never managed to save without spending those savings.  Another goal on my bucket list is to have a contingency fund equal to one month’s salary.  Another thing I learned from working for a financial advice firm.  I’ve never had this either. We live from month to month, pay to pay.  It’s ludicrous.  And because I have such terrible financial habits, I am desperate to teach my children better habits.  There are two key things – financial literacy, which I am now learning as part of this job, and good financial habits, which I’ve never had and kind of despair of having.

I am doing much better since I set up my bill accounts.  Every pay I now transfer a set amount of money into an account for house bills, an account for online bills, an account for school bills, and so on.  What’s left is spending money.  This means that when my car needs registering once a year, or my rates need paying every three months, that I am not scrambling for funds.  It’s awesome.  I wish I’d been doing it for years, but at least I’m doing it now.

Today I was introduced to the Juno investing magazine through work, and I found some awesome articles.  I’m feeling all inspired again.

How to talk to your kids about money – without nagging.

How much pocket money should you give your kids?

Money smart: how financially capable is your child?

Do you talk to your kids about money?  How do you teach financial literacy and good financial habits to your kids?  How were you taught?

PENCIL.SHARPEN.HER

This poem is so clever, and speaks both to the writer in me and of the writers I know. Be sure to check out more of the work on that blog too, there’s some other gems in there for sure.

Blue Fences

She spoke in rhythms and beats.

Edit and revise before she speaks.

Biting her tongue- a skilled technique.

Bold words gathered in her cheeks.

Strips and pieces of unsaid words.

Sharp and jagged edges of the unheard.

Spinning around her point steadily.

Casually clarifying its complexity.

And when that point meets her blank sheet

With rhythms sharper than what she can speak

She is grateful for all that she didn’t say.

For the ragged chips of unspoken decay

Create points that slide through locks and even cut through rock.

Her dearest remedy for writers block.

So Hushhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhould you try to Listen to her….

You might hear her pencil sharpener.

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Mr Simms Olde Sweet Shoppe

2 July 2018

We went into the town of Southend today. Was a beautiful walk along the beach front. With the pier in the distance, it felt like we’d stepped in to a postcard.

We strolled, with no particular destination in mind, just seeing what was there. We walked past some bakeries that sold old-fashioned Cornish pasties, juxtaposed with a McDonalds and a Burger King. There were, what seemed like, a million traditional fish and chip shops.

We bought the kids a Cornish pasty each to try, one traditional steak and one chicken. Everyone liked the steak one best. Jayden didn’t seem too fussed on the whole concept, but Caitie enjoyed it.

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Jayden trying a Cornish pasty

As we were heading back toward the beach (and Adventure Island), we saw Mr Simms Old Fashioned Sweet Shoppe. Caitie took off at a run, and I wasn’t far behind her although at a more decorous pace. *Pthb*

The sweet shop was just gorgeous. I truly felt like I’d stepped back in time. There were jars of sweets along the back wall, and a mix of traditional and modern confectionery along the sides. The confectionery was both British and international. They even had rock. I remember having a stick of rock when I was a child. In my head, I only knew of Blackpool rock, but the shopkeeper told me that each seaside town has their own version, so this was Southend rock. I desperately wanted to buy some, but I didn’t want to eat it! *Laugh*  I tried to think of anyone at home that I could buy some for, but all the kids in my family were in the UK for the wedding.  Caitie ended up buying a stick of rock, which I thought was for her friend back home, but nope, it was just for her to eat!

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I hummed and haa’d and oohed and aah’d over the sweets in the jars.  I was determined to buy some that weren’t prepackaged, because I wanted the full experience of the traditional sweet shop.  I wasn’t sure what I wanted until I saw aniseed balls, then it was an easy decision.  They were yummy too.  *Smile*

Then we finally took the kids to Adventure Island, the theme park.  We’d promised them that they’d get to go on the roller coaster.  When my kids were small, I realised that I was always taking photos of them doing things, but I wasn’t actually in any of the photos.  So I made a conscious effort to put down my camera and join in on the activities they were doing.  So Jayden, Caitie and I went on the roller coaster.  Steve can’t do things like roller coasters anymore as he screwed his back.  The roller coaster goes straight up and then straight down again, and while the down part was scary, the going up was just as scary because you felt like you were going fall backwards.  Caitie find it quite adrenaline-inducing, but then she and Jayden went on it again.  *Smile*

After that, we decided to pop in to the Baskin Robbins store and have ice creams.  Caitie had some horrendous bubblegum flavour.  Jayden and I stuck to our classic mint chocolate.  I can’t remember what flavour Steve had.

It was a lovely day.  A perfect day to be in a seaside town, eating ice cream.  *BigSmile*

I completed a bucket list item today!

1 July 2018

Today I completed an item on my bucket list – I met my niece Evie!

Last time I was in England, in 2014, I met my nephew Harry. He was 6 months old. Almost a year after that visit, my niece Evie arrived in the world, and I had yet to meet her. Meeting her was definitely on my bucket list! And today, that happened.

Harry doesn’t remember us from our last visit of course, and my kids have never met either of their cousins. So we spent today getting acquainted.

Neither of the kids, Harry and Evie, are very cuddly with us, but of course we’re strangers, so that’s to be expected. Evie keeps calling us all Daisy, as she can’t remember our names. When we tell her Caitie’s name, she pronounces it as Casey. Very cute. She talks a mix of proper sentences and babble. She’s super polite. “No, thank you,” she says, when you offer her something she doesn’t want. She sings all the time. Her favourite song is the baby shark song. She makes me want to cuddle her all the time.

Harry is four and a half, and his speech is excellent. His favourite thing at the moment seems to be Transformers Rescue Bots. He’s super cute when he giggles. He reminds me of my son, Jayden. Like, he seems to be quite sensitive, emotionally. He does things that are naughty, and then is devastated to be told off. I remember Jayden going through that. Shit, Jayden still goes through that and he’s 17! *Laugh*It’s a learning thing, right? They have to push the boundaries to find out what the boundaries are, and if the consequences are something they can cope with. But it’s tough. He has a tendency to isolate himself, which is also something Jayden did/does, so I try to consciously reach out to him to see if he’s isolated because he needs a break from people or if he’s feeling left out and just wants someone to include him.

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Me with my nephew Harry
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My daughter Caitie, with her wee cousins Harry and Evie

The weather is gorgeous. Hot and dry. Perfect holiday weather. Maybe tomorrow we’ll go to the park and see if we can see some squirrels. We don’t have squirrels in New Zealand, so both Caitie and Jayden are keen to see them.

We made it!

30 June 2018

The flight from Manila to Heathrow was uneventful.  Boring, but I’d take that over some of the dramas we’d had up to that point.  We honestly didn’t expect to find our luggage waiting for us at Heathrow.  It seemed only fitting that something would go wrong there too, right?  Nevertheless, we found our luggage without issue, much to our relief, and hustled our way to customs.  We pretty much speed-walked there, and were grateful we had, as we only had to stand in the queue for a relatively short time.  There were a LOT of people queued up behind us by the time we got there.

It was a weird feeling, knowing that we were finally in England.  Two years of planning, and all the last-minute delays…  It didn’t really feel real.

We had a drink while we waited for the taxi to arrive, then headed to my sister’s house.  Jayden was struggling to keep his eyes open, but we tried to keep him awake until we got there.  We’d landed at about 8pm, and figured if we could just go to sleep once we got to her house, we’d be on roughly the right time schedule.

We had hugs when we got there (her kids were in bed already), found our bedrooms, and basically went to sleep.  Tomorrow, the real fun begins.  I mean, we’re not going to rush off sightseeing immediately, but with all the stress and drama, it hasn’t yet felt like a holiday (or vacation as Americans call it).  Tomorrow we could relax, and I think we were all looking forward to that.

Hot and dirty (that’s what she said)

30 June 2018

The flight was long and boring, but at least we had the in-flight entertainment system, for what it was worth. There was a random selection of movies, and a very strange selection of TV shows. For instance, they had The Big Bang Theory, but only six episodes from season 9. And not the first six episodes from that season. Um, what? *Confused* Caitie and I got a couple of hours of sleep, but Jayden and Steve didn’t sleep at all.

We arrived in Manila at about 10:30pm local time. Then we had to stand in queues while they tried to sort out everyone’s connecting flights and accommodation. They seemed just as inept as the Auckland-based staff. Finally we were given our boarding passes for the flight to Heathrow the next day, only to find out we didn’t get the seats we’d pre-booked and prepaid for…again. *Angry* They gave us a hotel voucher for the Heritage Hotel, and vouchers for a shuttle to/from the airport. We had to find our luggage and re-tag it, but were told we could leave it at the airport and it would be put on our flight to Heathrow. We wondered if we’d ever see it again. Then Caitie realised she didn’t have her phone or camera bag, and realised they’d been left in the overhead locker of the plane. *FacePalm* Obviously Steve had overlooked them when he’d taken everything down. We asked someone about it, and they said they’d have a look and try and tag it to join us in Heathrow, but otherwise we should go to the lost and found tomorrow. We tried to prepare Caitie for the idea that she might not see it again.

Walking outside in Manila was like being hit in the face with a hot, damp cloth. It was so humid and so hot. Caitie was overheating in seconds. We were all sweating in our jeans and t-shirts. I think it was about 30 degrees Celsius….in the middle of the night. We were shocked at how much traffic there was in the middle of the night. We got to the Heritage Hotel, which looked beautiful from the outside, and in the foyer.

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We were given two rooms on the same floor, one for Steve and I, and one for the kids. The whole floor smelled like cigarettes and was old and tired. The kids’ bathroom had cockroaches. But there were beds, which looked clean, and it was 2am local time (yes, it’d taken us that long to get everything sorted) and we were tired. We slept.

We were woken up at 5am by a phone call from the taxi company in England. We’d forgotten, in all the madness, to tell them that we weren’t on the flight as originally scheduled. *Headbang* They informed us that as we were a ‘no show’, the cost of the taxi was non refundable. Ugh. We still needed a taxi, so we rebooked it and gave them the new details.

We woke at 7am local time when our alarm went off, and we woke the kids for breakfast. Breakfast was a mix of Filipino food and western food. We all tried a variety of dishes. Jayden really enjoyed the stirfry he ate. I had a nice mince dish on toast. Caitie mostly filled up on pastries I think. We all enjoyed the omelette.

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The shuttle ride back to the airport was eye-opening. The drivers don’t stay in one lane. It seems more like the lanes are just suggestions. At one point we were straddling the line, half in two lanes! And the beeping! They just kept beeping at each other, and we couldn’t figure out the reason for the beeping, even after asking the driver. The streets seemed dirty, and I saw a river that was crammed with rubbish. In my head, I was thinking ‘It’s like something you see on TV, not something that actually exists in real life.’ But of course it does. We’re spoiled, living in New Zealand. I now see why people have this notion of New Zealand as ‘clean and green’. Pedestrians ran or walked through the traffic with no apparent fear for their own safety. The buildings looked tatty and run-down for the most part. My overall impression of Manila was hot and dirty. The advertisements on the plane suggest there are some gorgeous places to go though, so I mustn’t be too judgy. I’m sure Auckland doesn’t look amazing on the trip from hotel to airport either, hmm?


We didn’t have to check our luggage in, so we had a little bit of time and we went to see if we could find Caitie’s camera bag. It took us forever to find the lost and found office, ironically, despite asking for directions multiple times. The lifts kept closing on us. In NZ, the lift won’t close if there is a person between the doors. Not so in Manila. Jayden and I both got squashed by the lift doors several times. It became a game to try and rush in, then rush out of the lifts before the doors closed. The lady at the lost and found office took our details and our description of the bag, then went hunting. We were not hopeful, but she came back with the camera bag. Caitie was so happy, she squealed with delight and almost hugged the poor lady. Everything was still in it, her phone, the camera, the spare battery packs. Steve and I were astonished that we’d got it back. We’d truly thought it was gone forever.

We had to queue to have our boarding passes scanned, and the line was really long, but it moved reasonably fast. Then we sat and waited. Then we boarded. Thankfully no drama llamas today.

We took off on time at 1pm.