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Thematic?

Every so often, I start to think that the Internet is a normal place, filled with normal people who do really sensible things.

And parts of it probably are.

But then I stray somewhere and cannot get the weird things I find out of my head.

No, not THOSE weird things.

Things like “What is the theme of your bedroom?” which was posed as a serious question (I guess I deserved it, looking at Home Decor as a category on Pinterest). Unfortunately, there were no Cliff’s Notes to go with it or to suggest what might be considered an appropriate answer.

I know that, when decorating for children, some people go with a theme. That’s really rather sweet. Had I been more organised, I might even have had a crack at it. But for adults, it feels like it’s maybe a bit weird. GAMES have themes. Not bedrooms.

Don’t get me wrong. The Indiana Jones Lego bedroom we stayed in at Legoland was awesome. I just can’t see myself deciding to replicate it chez moi.

Tomb Room

Quite apart from anything else, I can’t face the thought of having to dust the monkey every day.

Lego monkey

So what would be a “normal” bedroom theme? Because my mind goes to Bordello and, well, it stays there, weeping.

Anyway, I’ve resolved it for now. The theme of my bedroom is “Tired. In every sense of the word.” The Bigster’s is “There is no such thing as too many books” and Otto’s is “Wow, mummy REALLY likes pink.”

That solved, I think I’ll go find a normal corner of the Internet now. Where they talk about action points vs set collecting as a mechanic, and whether linen finish cards are REALLY better than the other kinds. And whether Renaissance Italy and Ancient Egypt are overdone as themes.

 

My new obsession

I have a new obsession.

It’s Nony’s blog at A Slob Comes Clean.

It’s like reading my own posts by an alternate-universe-Melissa. Nony and I just might be soulmates. But mostly I love her because she posts before pictures that are at least as bad as my own. I find her motivating as much because she fails as because she succeeds.

Like her, I struggle with clutter. If “struggle” means “constantly lose the battle”. Like her, I have tried lots of different methods, but they never work because there is a weak link: me. There are many things that are more fun than cleaning the toilet. And I am (just a tad) easily distractable.

I have always believed, quite genuinely and sincerely, that my house would be less of a tip if I wasn’t always working so hard and such crazy hours. Not perfect, mind you, but “less of a tip”. It gets noticeably worse when I work more, so it stands to reason that it should get better when I work less. And so, the house is one of the things I was going to work on after I quit my job in June (the 18th, if you were wondering). But then I kept working pretty much full time until September, and then there were STILL projects to finish and I was still studying until the Middle of November and the builders were here and they and their cement dust pretty much became the Best Excuse Ever for not tidying.

Except that they have finished now. I don’t have any excuses left. It’s January, the kids are on holidays, we don’t have many places to be, and I don’t officially start my PhD until March. And the house is still a tip. And my cleaner is overseas until the end of the month and I don’t think we can afford for her to come weekly any more.

And the problem with Every Single Thing I have *EVER* read about getting your clutter sorted out is that it’s all one person’s responsibility and sharing the load never seems to even figure. Which means I need to toughen up a bit and Just Do It.

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2014 in decluttering

 

Overwhelmed

I have been feeling so unbelievably overwhelmed lately that it is like the rest of my life before this was underwhelming and dull and filled with long absences-of-anything and moments-of-supreme-boredom, which I do not really believe for a moment. There have even been a couple of moments of weeping in the car, and one monumentally embarrassing moment last week of running out of a tile shop because I was about to start not merely weeping but actually sobbing. With snot and everything. Because bathroom tiles are really, REALLY stressful.

And then I sat down to write a family Christmas letter which I know is terribly bourgeois and all that but frankly, I am middle-aged and married with kids which probably makes me terribly bourgeois. And I have no time and have not caught up with many of my friends all year which means I kind of owe them a roundup.

And I was ok with writing about what other family members are doing and all that generally fun stuff, and then I got to me and I tried to write it and I went HOLY CRAP I HAVE DONE A LOT THIS YEAR. And then I freaked out a little bit (= quite a lot) and then I realised that actually it was all good because it means that I am ALLOWED to be overwhelmed.

Which is probably the first stage in a 12-step program, right? Except not the AA kind of 12-step program because I don’t think you’re meant to give yourself permission to be an addict. And I am seriously contemplating wallowing in it. And maybe bribing the Bigster, who is on holidays now, to take her sister to school on Friday while I sleep and sleep and sleep. (unless the builder is there … or the cats … or the postman delivers something …)

Anyway, what I am overwhelmed about at the moment is the bathroom, because things are still going wronger and wronger. And my mother, who has breast cancer and is going a bit nutty from chemotherapy and ringing me three times a day. Or maybe I am going nutty from her doing that. And my brother, who she doesn’t really ring at all, which is probably good for his mental health but less good for mine. And my dad, who is in a nursing home close to me and needs visiting and love and affection. And maybe furniture. And the Bigster, who is still sick. And Otto, who is adorable and sometimes nuts, and always wants attention right when I am having a “my brain is full please let me process something” moment. And the cats, who wizzed on all the clean washing so I had to re-wash it. And there was a LOT of it. And Fraser, who is lovely but wonders why I never have any time. And my experiment going back to a couple of small work projects, which has been a dismal failure and has seen me actually working 4-5 days a week the last 2 weeks (and until 3:30am today). And the house, which is even more of a disaster area than ever, not helped by the Absence of Bathroom. And (ex-) work perhaps not actually realising that I am really not working there any more and asking me to do a small project NEXT WEEK as in the week before Christmas. And not earning any money except for these projects, so Fraser doesn’t know whether to be cross with me for working or for not earning anything, and neither do I. (We are over this now. We are both cross with me for working so I am stopping.). And the garden, which is completely overrun with weeds that are, quite literally, stronger than me.

There are some funny stories buried in the stress, like my mother and the online banking app. I’m sure that will be funny in oooh about fifty years or so. And the builder telling me the tiles we spent three hours tracking down were the wrong size. (They are NOT.). And Snowflake’s big escape through the wall of the bathroom. And the toilet story which I have told before (emptying and cleaning it, however, was NOT a funny story). And dad and the set-top box. And the water tank that was going to cost more than a Miele oven! And the Miele oven that I didn’t buy. And the vegetables fruits and herbs that Otto and I planted (Fraser is worried because I bought “vegetable and herb” potting mix and he thinks that might be enough v-word to trigger something). And the crazy nutritionist with the squillion dietary supplements. I think perhaps I should invent a sort of half-life for these moments – a way to calculate how long it will be before they stop inspiring either murderous rage or cold sweats, and instead become funny. But in reality it’s probably about two weeks. Or two days, depending on who I am talking to and whether I am drawing a flowchart about it.

I haven’t even got my head around Christmas shopping yet. I did, however, buy shoes. They are Spanish, and wearing them is like having my feet caressed by the downy wings of baby angels. Even the Bigster approves: “Mum, you are allowed to buy me these shoes if you like.” They don’t quite make up for the tiling issues, but they sometimes come close.

And our toilet still flushes. I am grateful every time.

 
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Posted by on December 12, 2013 in house, rant

 

Urgent! I need a toilet! (Just not in the way you might think)

Those who follow me on Twitter will know that toilets have been on my mind lately. You see, the next stage of the Curse’s after-effects has been the demolition of much of our bathroom floor. It’s rotten under the shower … AGAIN.

Unfortunately, the rot had spread to under the toilet as well. Our lovely builder Alberto warned us last week that the toilet was going to have to go, maybe for as much as a week.

Cue panic.

Then it was all OK and we were only going to be without a toilet on Monday night.

Which sounds reasonable until you think about the words. Without. A. Toilet. Family of Four. Ugh.

And so every day since about last Thursday, I have wondered whether I would have a toilet that night. And I have been oh so very thankful when I did.

And then the Bigster realised that her exams were at the start of this week. No proper shower (only hand-held over bath). No toilet. Actually, half a bathroom missing. And Exams. Yikes.

So we hatched a little plan that involved me and Bigster going to a hotel for Monday night, leaving Fraser and Otto to wizz in a bucket manage on their own. And then we considered getting a family room or something so that we could all go. And then our builder said today, “Oh by the way, you won’t have a toilet tomorrow either.”

Which he clearly meant to be reassuring. Or, at the least, informative.

But you see, “no toilet” and “reassuring” do not really go together. And I started to add numbers in my head, because we were already way over “budget” on, well, everything, but especially on the unbudgeted “hotel” item. And I flung myself in my car and drove to Aldi, because some of my friends thought that MAYBEJUSTMAYBE they might have seen camping toilets at Aldi.

And of all the things that were bad about having OMG NO TOILET, that one was the least bad. Because it would mean that the inspection camera was no longer the strangest thing that I had bought at Aldi. I was able to go to a happy place inside my head. A toilet-free happy place, admittedly, but an only slightly less happy place for it.

Until the woman at my local Aldi smashed my dreams. “Yeah, we had those. About three months ago. But they didn’t sell so we sent all our stock to the rural stores.”

Grrr. I drove home again, thoroughly subdued. Then: Brainwave! Camping Stores!

I rang the “local” camping store, which is about 15 minutes’ drive away. It was 5:13. They had camping toilets in stock, but closed at 5:30. It was a challenge I was determined to make; I was out the door before we were even off the phone.  (I rang my family while I was on the way, to tell them I had gone out).

I made good time to the camping store, until … disaster. A train. Ding, ding, ding, boomgates down, no chance to cross.

Thoroughly desperate for my toilet, I rang them. “I’m on my way to pick up a camping toilet but I am at the boomgates and now I will be late. Could I possibly pay by credit card or something, just to speed it up?” I was ready to offer any staff member willing to WAIT OUTSIDE THE STORE WITH MY TOILET $20 cash. Things were down to the wire.

Fortunately, the assistant manager was lovely and helpful and reassuring. After establishing that I really WAS just up the road, she promised to keep the till open for me, even past 5:30 if need be.

And so it was that I got there, and ran through the doors, and was greeted with one sweet sweet word: “Toilet?”

And it was 5:33 and all was good.

Epilogue:

I bought the special toilet paper which “hindert Verstopfungen” (stops blockages) which made me giggle because I will swear that Verstopfung is German for constipation. Trust me, by that time I would have giggled at anything. And then I bought the special tank chemicals, only it turns out that you aren’t supposed to use them in the regular sewers, so I didn’t. And then I over-filled the tank (the clean water for flushing, people, minds out of the gutter) and it started leaking and there may or may not have been some al-fresco wizzing and some argufying with Fraser about how much water should be going into the waste tank anyway because there is a PROPER WAY to use a camping toilet and I might have missed it. And then we demonstrated how to flush the toilet to the girls and there was much hilarity except from them and Fraser, who all think it is a little revolting. So from me, really.

And the best part of all, is that I got to buy something completely weird, and actually genuinely put it on the “saving money” side of the ledger.

And also, I have just topped my Best Toilet Ever story.

 

My veggie garden is Cursed … even when I just think about it!

Oddly, it seems that I have never blogged about my very own personal Curse.

Veggie gardens.

No, it’s not the kind of “sucks all my time, darn weeds, get off my lawn” kind of curse. It’s the honest-to-goodness, do-it-and-badness-comes, cost-us-over-quarter-of-a-million-bucks-so-far, make-sure-you-capitalised-it kind of Curse.

Veggie Abundance

It all started in 1996. Freshly engaged, planning a wedding, I had a brief moment of domestic excitement and planted a veggie garden in the garden beds at our old home. A couple of months later, flushed with the money that was going to buy our honeymoon, we were driving down the next street and there was a house open for inspection, and suddenly we were moving into our own TOGETHER home a month later and if the veggies grew we weren’t around to see them.

But that was OK. A couple of years later, having settled into our new home, we insulated the roof and settled in for some domestic bliss … with a veggie garden, of course. That’s what people do when they buy a home. But then the roof started leaking on the new insulation, which meant that the ceiling was at risk, so we replaced the roof … and the contractors threw all the old tin down on top of my just-about-ready-to-harvest veggie garden, and we had to start from scratch. Except we didn’t, because Fraser was rumbling about “how much your veggie gardens have cost us”.

Fast forward a year or two, and the Bigster was toddling around our lives. It’s sort of a parent’s duty to teach their children where food comes from, so we went and had a lovely day planting some tomatoes and basil and parsley. It wasn’t quite a veggie garden, so I thought it should be OK.

That was Melbourne Cup Day, 2001. My mum tells me you should always plant your tomatoes on Cup Day. Sadly, though, the ghost of Phar Lap did not protect me, because look what happened just a couple of weeks later.

Holy crap. By now, the Curse had cost us around quarter of a MILLION Aussie dollars. OK, we got a house out of it, and a nice bathroom, and a new roof, but no more.

It’s been 12 years. TWELVE. Surely, I figured, the Curse had worn itself out.

We’re having some fixer-up work done on the house. After 17 years, there were some weatherboards that had split or started to rot, and there were some other things that needed fixing. We’re even having the outside painted (pretty). We figure, we’re here for the long haul. And I figured, maybe, I might even start a – I can hardly say it – a v-e-g-g-i-e-g-a-r-d-e-n once the work was finished. I nearly bought some potatoes last week but held off, waiting for the work to be finished.

And now, the Curse has struck again. Instead of burning out in those 12 years, it’s clearly been biding its time and has only got stronger – because I HAVEN’T ACTUALLY DONE ANYTHING YET. Just had a little think and touched a plant pot. Bzzzz! (I was going to put HERBS in it! They’re not veggies!)

My builder came to me last week to point some stuff out. Long story short, there is the makings of a termite infestation at one end of the house. And the studs on that side are rotten, and a little termite damaged. It doesn’t sound like much … until you realise that THE STUDS ARE THE THINGS THAT STOP THE ROOF FROM BEING THE FLOOR.

omg.

We’re waiting to hear back from the structural engineer. I felt a little ill when I heard he’d asked whether we were planning on selling. Worst case, we will have to jack up the roof and replace all the walls, plaster and all. Best case, we might be able to put in parallel studs or something. Worst case? It doesn’t bear thinking about. If it’s much more than $100k, we might have to knock the house down and rebuild. Termite baits will cost us a couple of thousand – we’re going for the long term protection ones, rather than the heavy-chemicals-every-three-years ones. Mostly because report suggest that the chemicals don’t work.

Does anyone know a secular exorcist? I think it might take more than crystals and burnt sage to clear this … or maybe I just need to open an account with the Greengrocer.

 
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Posted by on July 11, 2013 in grand plans, house, not your earth logic

 

Packing time again

With school holidays looming, we’re headed off once more. The cat-sitter (and house-sitter) is booked, the rooms have been paid for. All that is left is to finish work, clean the car and pack. Oh, and write a 1500 word essay.

I have blogged before about trying to pack for game conventions. It’s fair to say, though, that that is the easiest of these tasks. Because when it comes down to it, we throw lots of clothes into a bag and then put games into the car until no more fit. And then trade them out until we have a decent set.

But to do that requires us to pack the car. And the car is still full of stuff I bought at IKEA a couple of months back, when I was going to clean out the Bigster’s bedroom. I got 60% of the work done, then stopped, and now it is around 20% more messy than it was, with 100% more floorspace covered. And I don’t want to move the new stuff in while the floor is still kinda incognito. So that’s a challenge, especially as the Bigster’s response to anyone going into her room while she is there is to go kind of Chuck Norris on them … and she’s there pretty close to 24/7 at the moment.

No-one cleans Chuck Norris's room

Courtesy memegenerator.com

And before that can be done, there are several days’ worth of work to do (because going away just brings all of that week’s deadlines forward by a week) as well as a 1500 word essay on internet censorship to be written.

And I don’t think the meme generator can do either of those things for me, more’s the pity.

 
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Posted by on September 19, 2012 in decluttering, games, study, to-do, travel

 

The story of Me, My Beloved and an Architect. A Flowchart in Three Columns.

I thought that a picture would be best.

Image

So it’s back to me, the iPad and Home Designer. And the occasional tape measure.

The really annoying thing is that it has given us ideas above our station – nothing will live up to the Awesomeness that was that initial concept design.

The good thing is that we both realised that $X was WAY more than we were comfortable with. So we have revised our budget to 50% of X and I think we can do it. But with a builder, not an architect. And we won’t have to move out, although there might be a night or two in a local hotel/on a friend’s couch.

 
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Posted by on September 3, 2012 in extension, flowcharts, grand plans