Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Stuff I like: the May 2015 version.

Yep, it's good to share the stuff you like, not just whinge about the things you don't like. Here are three things floating my boat right now.

My reading this year has been pretty basic, I have struggled to get a book that I really enjoyed or to even get into reading much at all, which is very unlike me.

Over at my favourite (and world's best) online book club, I am a couple of months behind, but I was really keen to read "All the Light We Can Not See" by Anthony Doerr.

It grabbed me from the start, mixing in my love of historical stories and my fascination with how people coped during the second world war in Europe, because I just can NOT imagine, how they did. In this book, stories are woven around two teenage characters, a blind french girl and an orphan German boy. For all the books you may have read about the war or documentaries you may have seen, you won't know the story of these two and the people that surround them over the years. It's not always pretty, but it's addictive and hard to put down. The ending is a mix of sadness because the book is over and also because it might not finish as you would like, but I really don't know how I would have liked this book to end.

I recommend it, and give a rating of 9/10.

Do you have a case for your smart phone or iDevice? I had one, dropped my phone and smashed the cover and knew I needed a new one super quickly. Some of us just can not be trusted not to drop these things. As I carry my phone with me quite a bit too much,  I wanted something that included a pocket for other things - like credit cards, train cards, work security cards etc, but I didn't want the front of my phone covered. Then TA DAAAAA. I found the jimmycase. It was perfect and I had a little tweet about it with @Katrinas_Tweets who also had one.

The fine folk at jimmycase were also listening in and were super kind and sent me my very own. It's sturdy and handy, but is a little thicker then I am used to, mainly because it provides proper protection all the way around my phone. But, take a look, he's a super useful cover and cooler than any other you have ever seen. I just love using the pocket for all my little sticky note reminders.

Rating for this one would be an 8.5/10

Have you ever had a ridiculously expensive food that you wanted to try? I have been following the Pana Chocolate instagram feed for a long time and it always looks so good that I want to lick my phone to taste it.

When I see those little packets of luxury sitting in the hipster stores I sometimes stumble into, I can just never get myself to fork out the $7 for 45grams of chocolate.  You can buy 600 grams (or three packets) of Tim Tams for the same price. This week I decided to throw some Pana Mint Chocolate in with the fruit and veg, then I waited quietly all day until everyone was finally in bed. I made a cup of tea and broke off just one block of chocolate. I sat down with my slippers on, the remote beside me and slowly sipped my tea and nibbled on that little square of chocolate.

Was it good. YES IT WAS.

And it pretty much has nothing in it, no dairy, not gluten, no sugar, no whatever else that bodies don't like. So I guess that means it has no calories either.

If you were to compare this chocolate to wine, this is not a quaffer chocolate. If Tim Tams are your cask wine, Pana is your Grange, your top shelf French Champagne. A little is all you are going to get.

I think you would like it, for flavour I give this a 10/10, but for value for money, well you need to decide if you want the top shelf or not. It won't be a regular purchase for me, but if cash were flowing from me, I probably wouldn't eat anything else.

That's it from Moira this week. What about you, got any good stuff arriving in your house lately?

Monday, May 11, 2015

Where have you been?

Where have you all been this week?

I got invited to a blogging shindig last week, it included an invite for a plus one. For a change, because I had my Mum staying for the week which means I have a live in baby sitter, I asked Mr H if he wanted to come along. He decided he would so we took off into the city, landed in the penthouse of a swanky apartment and quickly realised that he was the only male at the event.

Mr H is a good egg and didn't let it bother him too much, but he whispered to me, 'so what happens now?' Because at these kind of gigs it isn't always obvious. You don't know if you are expected to do something, eat something, watch something, sit somewhere. At first, you kind of feel like an impostor, expecting someone to say, 'hey, you shouldn't be here'. 

Reality is, the organisers just want you to relax, to hang out, to chat, to check out some products, to socialise. There are no real expectations unless you want there to be. 

It was put on by Dairy Australia, so, we ate cheese, LOTS of it. and if you have been reading for awhile you would know that me and cheese, well, we really are the best of friends. I don't think I have ever met a cheese I couldn't be friends with. I was happily reminded that cheese is a pretty good thing to be friends with, it loves me back too.

The next few nights of the week I worked, kind of. I went to work and listened in to some intense focus group research meetings. They are kind of torture for marketing people.

You have to sit and listen to people spin stories (made up stuff, inaccurate stuff, stupid stuff) about your product and service and you don't get a chance to yell through the glass to say you're wrong, YOU ARE WRONG. Instead you have to accept that these are the thoughts of real people. People who are choosing not to buy your widget because of all the things that they don't know. Do you know what people do when they don't know something? Well, some, about 2%, will seek an answer by doing a bit of ground work, but 98% of people, well, they just make it up and tell themselves they are right. 

It made me think of all the things I think I know about things that maybe I don't know about things so do I know any of the things?

Which is why it was really great to head off on Friday to a factory in Footscray, that's a suburb in Melbourne that most of you won't actually ever go to.

I went there to help out with The Highlands Foundation. I went because I really like to do some work sometimes that is real helping. Not massive fundraisers or giant projects, just little ones, run by passionate people who just do stuff, they don't let logistics and rules and regulations get in the way.

The Highlands Foundation just want to get a pack of stuff to ladies having babies in Papua New Guinea. They make up these great packs filled with donations from all over the place, warm blankets, knitted rugs, a clean towel, a piece of soap, a pair of undies - these are the 'medical' needs that many mums and bubs need. They just need to be clean and warm, that simple basic requirement keeps them alive. They do MUCH more too, but I could actually help with the packing bit and chat with the midwives who travel over there to help train local women to help. It was good exercise for my heart and my brain and my wobbly bits.

But enough about me, where have you been this week? 

Friday, May 1, 2015

I grew an egg.

It's true,

On Easter Sunday morning, I woke up and the Easter Bunny had left a lump on me the size of Cadbury Creme Egg.

Or perhaps you could call it a third boob.

Medically, it started as a 'lump on right chest wall' before it progressed to a 'possible soft tissue tumour'.

From that moment, my brain went wild. It floated to the darkest of darkest places you can imagine.

I was instantly propelled from my doctors rooms to ultrasounds, CT scans, MRI scans, thallium scans, injected with radiation and contrast dye and underwent a biopsy, all in a few days.

As I sat in one particularly unpleasant MRI scan with the contrast dye floating around me and with the straps pulled tight over the barrier holding me still I tried to get myself to write a blog post in my mind. They needed me to remain still, stiller then still and my breathing was causing too much movement. As I mentally wrote the blog post I wondered what other people think of when undergoing MRI scans. I doubt many write blog posts in their minds to try and remain calm. I thought I 'd to write a post that would suggest people take in an eye mask. It's squashy in there, but if you can't open your eyes, you can pretend you are on a plane, floating above the earth flying anywhere you wanted. You can't even take the eye mask off if you want to because your arms are strapped down under the shield across your body.

Thallium Scanner contraption, this one is not scary at all.

Without the eye mask you can not trust yourself to not open your eyes. Even if you don't feel claustrophobic, once you open your eyes you are back in a medical procedure and your mind is at risk of floating to all those places that you don't want to visit. A mind in a dark place can be hard to get back to the light.

At one stage when the narrow bed was brought out of the tunnel, the nurse asked, 'Are you ok?" I replied with the only answer possible. "No, but I have to be, shove me back in the tunnel and let's get this over with."

Because you have no choice when your body grows eggs and lumps and third boobs.

After about 20 minutes I couldn't think of anything else to write in the blog post in my mind, so I decided to sing myself a little song, only I couldn't think of anything to sing, so I ended up with a chant, "Better then dead, better then dead..." Mr H suggested that next time I try something more upbeat, like "Stayin' Alive!"

After 30 minutes, it was over, not really all that bad after all, I just needed to get my mind focussed on the task and keep reminding myself that this is not going to last for long. If you need a chant for your head, I suggest using...'It's nearly over, it's nearly over.' because it really will be.

You get to wear special jarmies in your MRI. 

Behind the scenes, outside of the medical rooms was my cheer squad, sending me text messages and funny images and links to make me laugh. At home there were cards and flowers and food and picking up my kids and keeping me company. There were people who did little things that made big differences.

Today I went to see my specialist who gave me buckets of good news. He confirmed that the egg is benign. Lumpy is not Cancer. But, the third boob has got to go.

I need to head back to the hospital and have some surgery across my chest. My bikini days might be officially over for good (just in case I didn't think they already were) and I am going to be going through a couple of weeks of discomfort, but really, that's ok, it's gonna be ok.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

What do you do for a big birthday celebration when you are a grown up?

Remember once upon a time when you imagined being really really old. Like when you might turn 40. You might have thought about how enormous your party might be if you got THAT old.  You would of course have heaps of money by then, especially compared to when you were 21, at uni and had to rely on your parents for the entire party that you wanted.

This year I am turning 40.

I have had so many ideas of what I might like to do to celebrate such a big event. The idea of not celebrating is not possible. I know some people decide to secretly let the big birthday events slide by, but I just can't. Life is too short not to sing badly and ask your friends to join you for food every few years.

But now the event is nearly here, I just can not decide on what to do.

Should I host a big party at home and invite every friend and family I have? Or a fancy restaurant perhaps with a few really close friends? Then there is the option to take a trip away, I could grab the husband and kids and go somewhere we would all have a nice break away, maybe even a weekend with some close girlfriends?

Perhaps I just make it a big festival and do all these things? But even if I did, which restaurant, where do we holiday and who wants to come away for a weekend with me?

Being a grown up means you have to be serious much much more. There are more bills to pay, kids with teeth that need to be straightened and cheap beer is no longer my preferred bevvie of choice. But then again, you only get one life, you only turn 40 once and you can't party when your gone.

What did you do for your last big bash? Do you celebrate your own birthday? Wanna come to my party?

Sunday, April 19, 2015


So I went camping.


I don't know who I am anymore. I don't even like camping, and when I say camping, I don't mean in a nice park with shower facilities and power. No, no, no. I went real camping, I am the next Bear Grylls at this rate.

Why do I do this to myself? Same reason I do pretty much everything else these days.

For my kids.

They just love it. Every single minute of it. They don't even complain all that much about the smell of the drop toilet.

I asked them what they love about camping so much and they couldn't even tell me. They weren't sure if it was just doing what they wanted, riding bikes, Easter egg hunts, playing in the bush, sitting up late around the fire, sleeping altogether in the tent, sleeping in sleeping bags or catching yabbies.

They also loved making iMovies.

We had no wifi or phone coverage but they still had their ipads and I am so glad they did. We didn't ration screen time at all and just let them do what they wanted and the iDevices really came in very handy.

Making an iMovie with your cousins requires a lot of work. You all need to negotiate about the story, the characters, who is playing which part and who gets to do the filming. You need to learn about how the sun impacts upon the picture and change scenes when required. It takes hours of playing together to get a few minutes of the story and it provides a beautiful recollection for everyone afterwards.

As we sat around the fire each night, Arabella was asking where certain constellations were. We tried to point them out until someone brought out their phone and showed us the SkyView app. It's fantastic and if you are out in a beautiful starry night (we had a full red moon too), you will love the way that this app 'draws' the images for you of the stars right above you.

The kids spent time each night riding bikes by torch light, they put their head torches on and ride in the bush, add a few glow sticks to your wheels and it's a fun sight. But when the torch batteries go flat, heading to the drop toilet in darkness isn't just grab a phone and use the torch. If you don't already use it, the torch on your smart phone is just as handy as the clock/alarm.

You can also use an iDevice to take lots of photos of all the things you are doing, like all the ones in this post.

Bush camping can be fun (and filthy and lots of work for parents) it's not something I plan on doing every holidays, and I do struggle with it a bit. But if you go camping with your kids don't think you can't take technology with you, new stuff is exciting and wonderful and can provide you with extra special memories of your time away.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Inspiring stuff: Plumpy'Nut

“I am hungry.”

How many times does a Mum hear that in a week? How many times are our kids really hungry? None. It’s usually just a few hours since they last ate, at the most. Still, we race about preparing a variety of offerings to ensure they get the food to keep them strong, growing and healthy. It’s our most basic yet essential job. I can’t really even imagine not being able to find food for my kids.

But, when I was being introduced to CARE and hearing of some of the stories from the team who are out working around the world we also started talking about Plumpy’Nut.

I had never heard of it and it’s not available in Australia, the CARE team had gone to some effort to arrange a few packets for us to check out.

“Would you like to try it?” they asked.

“Not really” I replied, “but I will.”

It has a smooth consistency, a peanut butter with extra sugar taste. They are certainly not jumping on the IQS bandwagon.

I seemed to be more interested in Plumpy’Nut then everyone else.

I just find the story of how things come to be really interesting.  I wanted to know who invented it, why did they invent it, how did such a product come to be?

Plumpy’Nut is a squishy peanut butter paste in a packet. But it’s really a development that is changing famines and emergency situations like never before.

Be it from drought, natural disaster or war situations there are times in our world that children in the MILLIONS are just dying due to lack of food, and as much as we want to send them some fruit and vegetables, the reality is that we can’t. Fresh foods, milks, and powders all have other problems. They perish, there is no water to add to them, the packaging spoils or they need some form of preparation. In an emergency you don’t have a sippy cup or a bowl and spoon to serve up something, there are no bottles for babies and even if there were nothing gets sterilised.  There are no fridges and the heat can destroy many foods. Sacks of rice or wheat can’t fix the hunger.

People keep starving. Children keep dying.

Then Plumpy’Nut gets invented in 1996 by a French Paediatrician and a food processing engineer, they even base the idea on Nutella…but they omit the chocolate and throw in some important vitamins and minerals instead. The business of Nutriset begins.

Nutriset package Plumpy’Nut in such a way that you simply rip the top corner off and kids just sit and suck on the packet throughout the day. No preparation required.

It doesn’t need to be in the fridge and it has a shelf life of two years.

Even more useful is that health workers can give it to parents to feed their kids without needing to put the kids in to hospital situations.

Being able to feed your kids makes Mums happy.

Plumpy’Nut is cheap, it’s tasty to kids, it’s transportable and convenient. It stops babies from dying, and they can start eating it from 6 months old.

The whole thing is just brilliant.

I get inspired by people who invent things when no one else was even working on it. Or perhaps they were, but they still didn’t come up with this answer. The rest of the world was throwing research, development and marketing into the latest chocolate bar or kids cereal for the developed world. They wouldn’t have considered the RUTF market was worth their time. That’s the Ready to Use Therapeutic Food business, for those not in the biz!

The World Health Organisation started using Plumpy’Nut in Niger in 2006 and the results were amazing. They now say that over 2,000,000 children have been saved from dying of malnutrition. Far out! Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t help to think how amazing this basic food product is.

It doesn’t need swanky marketing campaigns and jingles to sell it, there is no fancy coloured design to make it attractive to kids to encourage them to choose it. The packet just uses three little pictures to show you how to eat it. Just knead the paste, tear off the top corner, and suck. Done. Your meal is served.

These days Nutriset have lots of other big business issues to deal with, they have competitors wanting in on the action and legal cases about patents. They try and make the products in countries where it is most needed and have a number of factories in Africa, but still others are fighting them to have the recipe and the rights to make similar stuff.  This is what happens when you invent something remarkable, everyone else wants to ride your coat tails.

But that’s just a side story. The real story, is babies on the verge of death slowly getting the nutrients they need to ensure they grow. Not much more inspiring then that. Is there?

P.S If you want to throw some support to CARE Australia who provide Plumpy'Nut in emergency situations, head this way.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Annoying Marketing Tactic

As a sucker for learning about what other people are doing to market their wares I will often stop for marketing surveys, answer the door to sales people and read the brochures that everyone else throws away. 

Last week I was shopping in my local massive consumerist mecca centre and a sales chick asked me if I would like a showbag. 

Sure I said. 

It was a great quality thick cardboard bag with fancy rope like handles. 

But it felt particularly light. 

I took a squiz in the bag to see how small the brochure could be that I expected was the only thing in the bag, but instead I saw something I have never seen in a marketing goodie bag before. 

This bag was TOTALLY EMPTY. 

As I look in the bag and show my disgust at being handed an empty bag the sales person then tries to drag me in to her booth to ask me questions about perfume. 

I was really annoyed. I said no, I don't want to hear about your perfume and she replied with "What? You don't like perfume? Really, are you saying you don't like perfume?" and at the same time she refused to take the bag back. I was left standing there holding out the empty bag with a 20 something year old with excessive make up on wanting me to talk to her and buy a product, but I was just getting really annoyed. 

I wanted to get away from there and when I finally did I just couldn't help thinking of why this tactic was being used to sell a product, any product. It's annoying from the first moment. It makes the potential customer feel like they have been 'had' from the beginning. You kind of feel like a bit of a dick saying thank you to someone handing you an empty worthless bag. 

But then the next day I was at another mecca of shopping madness and the exact same thing was happening. This time I spotted them, arms outstretched with empty bags being handed to unsuspecting shoppers and I guess it must get them a sale from time to time. Usually, people don't repeat bad marketing tactics day after day if the sales don't come through, so maybe this idea of just belittling your customer from the outset works for some products. 

Have you been a victim of the empty bag hander? Did you stop and buy anything?

Sunday, March 22, 2015

There is a change going on at parks around Australia

Last week we spent some time playing a game of off ground tiggy.

All you have to do is keep off the ground when you are playing. It was pretty fun because we were in a paddock with some really big rocks so we had to jump to keep from getting tagged.

The view was pretty good too and we sat for a bit to just soak it all in and be thankful that we are not restricted to the plastic slides of small suburban stamps of grass that are the standard parks of modern Australia.

Then I keep seeing people at the new Royal Park play area at the Royal Children's Hospital. Today the weather was a perfect autumn day. Bright and sunny, the very day that you can not waste indoors.

The new play area is built where the old Children's Hospital once stood. When the hospital was demolished, the area was reclaimed to be used for open space and an area for kids to really play.

And play they do.

There is not a scrap of plastic at this park. There are ropes and wood and trees and grassy hills and water and sand and metal.

It's the kind of park that doesn't have a safety fence and encourages kids (and their parents) to take greater risks. Not everyone will like it.

In the water play area if your kid is the type to run when they were told to walk, well, they might find out pretty quickly what it feels like to fall on wet concrete. The rope climb is at such a height that you won't be holding your child's hand if they make it up there. The slide is metal, old style, so it's possible little bums might feel the heat, but it didn't bother any of those whirling down it today.

These things didn't bother any of the kids I saw today and the only issue my girls had was when we told them it was time to go. We spent two hours there and they would have happily stayed another two.

This nature play park is the way I notice more and more parks are going. We are slowly moving away from the highly regulated slides and climbing frames that are a regulation number of centimetres off the ground. We are accepting that kids have enough crap in bright red, yellow and blue at home and not enough trees, grass and bugs. If your kids are beyond the preschool years, this is even better.

If your bigger kids have been getting bored at the local parks, it's time to take a trip to Royal Park.

Have you noticed a change to the parks in your neighbourhood?

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