29 November, 2009

The Great Deodorant Debacle

So there comes a time in a girl's life where she forgets the wisdom of old: Never skimp on hygiene products. Specifically, my usual deodorants are strictly limited to two brands, both of which are on the more expensive end of the deodorant price scale. I learned this piece of wisdom the hard way.

Yes, dear readers, I've tried many of those in the Australian list, and found most of them rather ineffective.
But in my new city I have discovered the local discount supermarkets. To be fair to the shop concerned, their body wash products are fantastic. They smell delicious, and, well, as long as soap does the whole "washing" thing, the smell is really my only other consideration.

Nor have their cookies disappointed, for I can gleefully tuck away copious amounts of gingerbread snaps while my husband looks on in horror (not for my expanding waistband, but for the awful concept of actually eating gingerbread).


And so we come to the conundrum of this week. My old faithful deodorant, imported with me, finally ran out, and I was forced to buy more. And in a moment of sheer frivolity I decided to try the house brand.

Of course, no deodorant purchase is complete without the smell contest. Several varieties were rejected based on the unattractive scent contained within. Finally I discovered one which passed the test: the price was right, the description was encouraging, and it smelled suitably non-specific "lady".

The next morning happened to see me in Finnish class, wearing my new deodorant. Sadly, minutes into the lesson, I dared move my arms. I was assaulted by a stench so powerful I was rendered mute with horror (and this was fortunate... after all, who would want to announce the fact that they stink?). For a moment I wondered if I had forgotten to apply deodorant... but no, I had not.

Alas, my new purchase, which had smelled so benign in the shop, had a secret. In practice it replicated perfectly the stink of obnoxious locker-room sweat. If there was an international prize for "Best Approximation Of Body Odour", we'd have a clear-cut winner.
There's only one problem. As far as I'm aware, deodorants are supposed to suppress such a smell, not create it.

21 November, 2009

In Which I Assume The Correct Position

To cope with Christmas preparations, of course. Because it's imperative that one does so correctly. (Just for a second there, I was channeling Hyacinth Bucket.)

I confess to being a little bit lost here. I kinda know how to do Christmas Aussie-style, ya know? Copious amounts of lazy food and gaudy decorations, and gifting being a "generous" thing. I get the feeling people just aren't so present-centred here. And that's fine, but I really don't quite know how not or how much and it's a bit befuddling. The issue is, really, that my kids are quite used to the Down Under version and I don't want their Christmas too horridly scarred by it being (compared to usual) a too low-key an event. So really, I'm probably overcompensating, and then maybe it will be remembered as the year Christmas was all screwed up by the freaky Australian woman who overdid everything. Since when do I worry about stuffz like this anyway?

Christmas Pic

18 November, 2009

FIGJAM

For those of you not conversant with super-special-awesome-abbrev., it stands for F%@k I'm Good, Just Ask Me. You know, that state of mind where you're so full of your own brilliance that you almost break your wrist trying to pat yourself on the back and grope your own arse. I get that way sometimes reading my previous blog entries. But today, there was a second sensation interwoven: mainly something like, "Damn, how the hell did I write stuffz that good?"

Sometimes I forget that I'm a published writer. Sometimes I wonder if I'm intermittently possessed by an alien space being who knows how to write - and that in the interim moments I'm replaced with a dull Australian girl from the streets of ghetto Sydney whose Task Of The Week is to learn to tie her own shoelaces.

My Finnish lessons are going well. I've almost exhausted my supply of "things I already know and am merely revising", and in some ways it's akin to being in the front of the speeding train while the brick wall looms ahead at the end of the tunnel. When I reach that point, my friends and neighbours, I'll fall rapidly from the top of the class, hurtling downwards to take my proper place in the gutter amongst the dregs of society beginner students.

At that point I suppose I shall see whether I have regained any of my childhood ability to learn stuff. I'll keep you posted.

15 October, 2009

School x2 (Warning! Rant Enclosed)

My turn for school. I have enrolled in basically the only course vacancy I could find - emphasis on "basically", because it's a basic course. This is the third time I've started from the beginning. So far I'm enjoying it. Not really learning anything new, but it is still good to shake out the rusty brain and practice the things that were trying to disappear from my neurons. I'm almost to the end now and have enrolled for the continuing course. And almost at the point where the material is new. :)

The children, on the other hand, are annoying hubby and I. Or more precisely, their schooling is much cause for concern. After a month at school they came home with their first exam papers, and to my horror, it was nothing but "write the name of the item under the picture". ARGH. An entire month and all they've been taught is the words for mouth, nose, run, jump? For Pete's sake.

I wrote a rather terse email to the teacher to advise him that the darlings know how to conjugate verbs and that perhaps they could come home with the so-called "daily homework" he had promised and which I'd yet to see even once.
Fast forward one week and Aria presents her new school textbook; she's almost in tears, because she was expected to complete a certain page. On looking at the book, the work is way beyond what she understands. It was chockablock full of complex grammar and tenses, using vocabulary she couldn't even attempt to guess. Hell, it was way beyond me, and I'm supposedly way beyond her. Hubby was aghast.

I think I must have asked poor hubby four or five times: Is it too much to ask, that her TEACHER should know her level? Have a vague idea of what she can and can't do? Know, regardless of his level of English, how she is at FINNISH? You know, by doing an ASSESSMENT?

I know school is different here, but I thought that was a gimme! Teachers assess pupils, right? How can you know whether a child is moving toward a goal if you don't know where they started and whether they're progressing from one level to the next?

Today the maths exams came home. Aria scored abysmally on one of them, chiefly because the questions were all written out in words - in Finnish. I know they have to learn to do their exams in Finnish, but when nobody tells you what the words say, it's grossly unfair to merrily score them 7/24 on MATHS. There's a space on the page where I'm expected to sign my name, and return the page to the teacher. If I have to send that paper back to the school, there will be more than my signature in that space, let me tell you.

25 August, 2009

School

The kids have started it, and it's a bit of a mixed thing really. As predicted, the opinions on its merits swing wildly between "awesome" and "suX0r", if you care to ask the children. They're particularly displeased about some mornings beginning at 8am.

Overall they seem fairly ok about it all though. I can only imagine how tough it must be when you don't really know anyone and the teacher resists translating to English.

Jay complained about this loudly during the week, and then commented, "How can we ever learn Finnish if we don't understand what he says?!" Then not five seconds later he said, "Half the kids in my class all know heaps of Finnish, they 'blah-blah-blah' so fast!"
I waited a moment to see if he understood how those two sentences were related, but no penny dropped. I had to explain that perhaps the teachers' idea about using exclusively Finnish might have had something to do with the fact that the other kids had learned a fair amount of Finnish in his class. Jay wasn't impressed. We shall see how much soaks into their brains over the next nine months.

23 August, 2009

Electricity

Power points in Finland never have switches!

This just feels so absolutely wrong. Even once I can cope with the ridiculously UGLY plugs in this place, it's just ingrained in us as children to switch off the wall before we unplug everything, and then these supposedly smart Finns just go and delete the switch altogether! A rip in the space-time continuum, my internets, a rip in the space-time continuum.


Related: Light switches are reversed. Down is off. Up is on. THIS TOPSY-TERVINESS CANNOT BE ALLOWED TO CONTINUE! I quite fear for my sanity. This issue is causing me to continually second-guess myself. It doesn't matter how long I look at a switch, I can't tell if it's on or off. Flick. Oh, it was already on. Well, now it's too dark in here. Flick. And before you suggest it, NO. Looking up at the light fitting would be
cheating. We have a few double switches in this house that have two of them side-by-side, and if one is in each direction, my head almost explodes. WHICH SWITCH IS ON? WHICH ONE IS OFF? HOW TO TELL? And here, I can't cheat, because even if I know the kitchen light is on and the bench is off, I DON'T KNOW WHICH SWITCH MATCHES WHICH LIGHT. Ai ai ai, my brain.

21 August, 2009

I Heart Sauna

As the title might have hinted to you, we heated up the sauna tonight. Rachel and I went in together. She wasn't brave enough to be naked but once we had done ordinary conversation in there she says she will strip off next time... I think it is an Australian conditional thing to expect that if you're naked, people will stare. Sauna is a whole new ball game because it just isn't the way things go.

In the sauna it is acceptable to be naked among people you have never met, even if you wouldn't EVER speak to them fully clothed outside.
Josh wouldn't even come into the sauna. We think it had more to do with the fact that City of Heroes had just been installed. Kahvi and I went afterwards by ourselves. I feel so refreshed and invigorated. Sauna win.

19 August, 2009

Roads

Finns drive on the wrong side of the road. My dear husband shakes his head and says, "No! We drive on the Right." Well, yes. And the right side is the wrong side. If you're confused by that, well, so am I. I can stand at a roadside and the thought process is as follows:

Me: Normally, I'd look to the right before I cross. So, it's back-to-front here, so I should look to the left instead.

Me: But what if I am getting used to Finnish roads? Then "normal" would be to the left! So I should totally look to the right instead!


Me: But what if I'm just confused and I look the wrong way and then I step out and get flattened by a bus!?
And so I end up just looking both ways, even on dead-quiet streets. My paranoia can feel all the other pedestrians staring and privately thinking, "Guffaw. Tourist! Guffaw."

17 August, 2009

Weather 'n' stuffz

It's been perfectly reasonable, survivable and mild so far. In fact, so far it feels like... well, like Autumn does in Oz. I know, I know, just wait until the snow falls and then I'll be clicking my ruby slippers together non-stop.

Things to notice: All doors are wrong. That is to say: All doors open towards the outside, including front doors. I fear it will take a long, long time before I can stop myself from automatically leaning on every door that I try to enter (and in the process, look like a completely retarded fool).

Apparently there's a very good reason. And of course there has to be, since this is Finland, and everything is logical. It's for safety reasons. If there's a fire, you can run out a door by pushing it much faster than you could stop and pull it open. So I guess the Finns are saying: We do it the smart way. The rest of the world is too stupid to do things the smart way. And now I am torn between (1) applauding Australia for conforming to convention and making their doors the same as the rest of the world... and (2) thinking how dumb it is to just blindly follow convention even when it isn't nearly as smart.

Peer pressure is a powerful thing.

15 August, 2009

Guess What

Hey, guess what I've been doing? Shopping.

I still haven't hit Fida, but I have explored the bargainy goodness that is the Malmi flea market. My first visit netted a coffee machine, three light jackets, a t-shirt and Winnie the Pooh wallpaper. I am still trying to work out what I should do with the wallpaper. It was just one of those things I had to buy merely because it was cheap. Mum has a lot to answer for with these genes she passed on to me.

Also, I got myself a basket for the bike, which is very cool. And a handful of schoolish things for the kids, since they're starting on Wednesday. We have an appointment with the teacher on Tuesday. So far, child #2 is convinced it will all be impossible and unhappy, and child #1 seems to think it will all just cruise along fine. I have a feeling it will be somewhere in the middle. We'll see.

13 August, 2009

BIKE!!!!!!!!!!!

Kahvi's sister has given me her bike. Have I mentioned how cool Kahvi's family is? Anna, you're cool. I fully intend to trek all over Finland* now.

There is also Ilkka's bike but just now it is locked, and unless we can find the key it will be quite a challenge to attempt to use it.

Also, tonight I made a bean salad that was edible. It was, in fact, pretty damned good. chick peas+kidney beans+brown beans/navy beans+handful frozen peas+whole diced capsicum+small diced onion+half a diced sweet apple+punnet halved cherry tomatoes+dressing: dash oil+3 squirts lemon juice+herbal salt+pepper. Win.


* I may ride to the shops. Actually I jest, I will definitely use it. I totally want to hit Fida and shop my life away, and Fida is well outside walking distance.

11 August, 2009

Witnessing Injury

What is wrong with human beings? Wait, don't answer that; we'd be here all day.

There is something just fascinating about watching other people hurt themselves. Even more interesting is watching them do so in bizarre or spectacular ways.

Banzuke is on the tv every weekday here in Finland. I think that translates as "Japanese game show involving weird and wonderful variations of a school athletics carnival for five-year-olds, except that the contestants are grown adults". So far this evening we have watched the Unicycle Obstacle Course, complete with swinging weights to knock the rider off his cycle. Next up is Neko de Drive - another raised obstacle course where the lucky guys push their women around on top of a flat-topped cat-painted wheelbarrow. Fortunately, there is a donut roundabout, giant soccer ball, watermelon ramp, broken piano and plenty of speed bumps. (You know... in case you go too fast on your Neko wooden wheelbarrow. Hey, I'm serious here, the rider and driver both fall up to 2 metres down to the ground, depending on how spectacularly they f*ck it all up.)

Ahhh. Good Finnish tv programming. Heaven.

07 August, 2009

Fresh Raspberries

I always hated raspberries as a kid. Anything red, keep it AWAY from me. But apparently, I just hated raspberry "flavour", which definitely doesn't taste anything like fresh raspberries, which rock.

They grow outside my bedroom window. I've been picking them this morning... I need enough to go in the vodka.

Also, I'll be needing the vodka.

(Photograph posed by models.)

05 August, 2009

Oh the food I could feed...

...and eat... and eat. Cheeses, salamis, berries, rye bread, OMFG I have been stuffing my face. It is all sooooo yummy. I will need to get some exercise happening soon before I am too fat to leave this apartment! So far I have been able to "cook" alright. I don't have the spices and herbs I am used to owning but I'll make do. Finns are far more used to plain foods, or else buying the seasonings one ingredient at a time. They are slowly learning that there are more exciting combinations than "Italian herbs" when it comes to blends. And I, for my part, will not be assembling celery seed, cumin, coriander and 30 other items just to attempt (and fail) to replicate McCormick Steak Spice. It would seriously threaten my reputation for laziness. There is gravy here. It's called brown sauce. But you have to cook it. Kim says she will send me some instant Gravox. It will feel like Christmas!

03 August, 2009

Finland

I'm not actually here right now... this entry uses the wonderous feature known as "changing the date of the post" since I expect serious jetlag. All things going well, there will be some serious sleeping going on in the land of the midnight sun. Looking forward to exploring!

30 May, 2009

Great Inventions: The Garlic Press

Such an awkward-looking object, but has there ever been such a handy kitchen tool, I ask of you?



And does the humble potato stomper even come close? Yes, (and I hear you protest), that is, in fact, its technical name. Stomper. I mean, c'mon. "Masher" is such a lame term. It's just so much more satisfying to stomp on something than to merely mash it.

Think about that, the next time you "mash" some fallen leaves with your feet.

26 May, 2009

Lighthouse Beautiful Picture

I didn't have to hunt far for this one - it's in the sample pictures included with Windows 7.

24 May, 2009

Bread.

For some reason known only to my inner brain workings, the title needed to have that piece of punctuation. But anyway, I digress. Of late I've been baking my own bread. It's definitely an art that needs more practice, because no matter how I tweak the recipe and follow instructions, mine comes out sadly heavy and dense. The annoying (or good, I suppose) part is that the bread tastes fantastic. There's no problem with the flavour. The crust is awesome. The damned bread just needs to be eaten while still warm, because come the morning, it is hard enough to use as a brick.

It reminds me of the time that we went over to Rich's place and his mother had attempted a cake, and her (failed) cake was sitting abandoned on the kitchen bench. This, too, was hard as a rock. It ended up being kicked around the front yard and stayed disturbingly intact. In fact, when it finally experienced its structural failure, it only broke in half. And each half was still capable of inflicting a bruise through the toe of my Doc Martens.

20 May, 2009

Game For Today (this post is cheating!)

As the title indicates, today I'm not featuring an individual game per se. Nor am I bringing this post to you as a message from our sponsor etc. (Of course, if you'd like to be my sponsor, I'll accept whatever currency suits you... ;))

For years now I've been a subscriber to GameHouse, and later RealArcade. The latter has owned the former for quite a while and they've now merged, so it's back to GameHouse I merrily skip. Lo and behold, they now have a daily freebie game that you can grab the full version of, which allows you to play your head off at any time. Yes, it's ad-supported, but hey the price is right huh? And if you download it on any other day, you only get to play the games for one hour before it's locked.

I would love to show you some screenshots just now and give an unbiased opinion on the game's merits, but since I don't know when you're reading this, I don't know what the game is! Today it just happens to be a card game, but yesterday was a "find the hidden object" one and the last week there was some fashion concoction, which my daughter has been playing for days on end.

Click for Today's Free Game

18 May, 2009

An Epiphany Of Sorts

So I've spent considerable amounts of time over the last few months, lamenting my current lack of creative motivation. I simply haven't felt "in the mood" for writing. I know from experience the kind of work I produce in that sort of emotional quagmire: boring, drawn-out work, far too big on quantity and sadly lacking in quality. (You're reviewing an example right now, I guess.)

But a moment ago I looked at my regularly-neglected list of draft posts, and forced myself to start a draft of anything, just to do something. And while I won't identify which (future) post it is that I wrote just a moment ago, I think it was good. It wasn't just good... it was On Fiyah. Then a long-forgotten maxim reared its head in my almost-dormant psyche. The number one rule for a improving as a writer is: Keep Writing.

How could I seriously have been so thick? At what point did the number one rule just up and poof into the thin air evidently abundant in my hibernating intellect?

(While the last two sentences were intended to be rhetorical, feel free to post whatever comes to mind.)

16 May, 2009

Beautiful Flowers Picture

Nice flowers scene


This image came from the MySpace profile of a guy named Tim. I've no idea who the actual pic belongs to, but I really like it. BONUS: It's big enough to have centred on my Desktop. Win!

14 May, 2009

IT IS NOT

...the 14th of May. This poor blog has been sadly neglected, and for far too long indeed. I've also realised I have a bunch of drafts that are yet unpublished; perhaps I should spend some time sorting through them? And perhaps release one or two into the wild wide yonder?

Decisions, decisions.

In other news, I've been thinking about my spending habits of late, and while nobody would call me Spendy Spenderella, I think there are some ways I could cull the cash exodus here and there. I'm going to try that there thing called the Library more often. I LOOOOVE owning books, but really, there are only so many books I can realistically read again one day (and that would be IF I even picked them up again once I've read them the first time). The reality is that most of my books end up doing naught but decorating bookshelves. And besides, libraries let you read them again later on too!

It's time to try to tone down this addiction. For the first installment I have Jodi Picoult's Nineteen Minutes (because she is a good author) and Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange (because like I said, libraries let you read stuff again).

Wish me luck.

12 May, 2009

Rant: Facebook & Causes

I've just been invited to the umpteenth good cause on Facebook.

Ordinarily, these things either send me to sleep or make me see red. In this case however, I was too busy giggling. Apparently there's now a wizard of some sort to make these things. It includes a place to automagically show how much has been raised so far. Dynamic and stuff for the win.

This cause (while actually being a worthwhile cause, I might add) had gathered more than 10,000 members. 10,000 Facebook 'players' who all thought that this... this... topic... was important, and righteous, and worth getting indignantly angry over, or passionate about, or worth going forth with pitchforks and holy fire over. 10,000 people who thought they were making change by banding together with fellow-couch-potatoes who had an interest in the same issue. I won't mention the cause by name, just to protect its poor, sad little existence from suffering further embarrassment. But...

This worthwhile cause had generated $0 so far.

I believe this is a worthwhile illustration and would teach Facebook 'players' quite a lot, if only they were willing to use their brains before using their index fingers on the JOIN NOW button.

Parents, tell your children! etc. Hammering a button on a website does nothing to cure cancer. Visiting a forum won't reduce the amount of pesticides in your food. Playing the free Red Ribbon game will not earn a cent in HIV research money. Clicking on "Like!" won't make more kidneys available for transplant. Joining another Facebook cause won't stop the next kid being abused.

INTERACTION makes things happen. Start a discussion with a friend. Donate. Wear the ribbon. Buy the fridge magnet. Sponsor a kid. Send a goat.

10 May, 2009

Mortgage Meltdown Game

There's nobody to blame for this one but me.

I am regularly failing at this because I get greedy and take risks. But I keep playing. I must be a glutton for punishment!

Mortgage Meltdown Game

08 May, 2009

Tunes on 'Tube

In honour of all the good songs that time (almost) forgot, I have been putting together some YouTube playlists for different moods.

Today's offering is a bunch of mostly 80s - 90s rap... the way it should be. Yeah, these days the styles have about 238,472,093 other names instead of rap, but screw that, back then it was just rap and people just did it. There was also a whole lot less of b!tches, homies, yo yo sup word as well.

From the beginning... House of Pain. Make sure you check out the whole playlist here. Word.

06 May, 2009

Good Coffee

...it's one of the essentials of life, in my opinion. And since this is my blog, mine is the only opinion that matters! Muahaha.

DID YOU KNOW? ...it is possible to have your coffee plunger more than half full of coffee grounds and still produce coffee by adding more scoops and more hot water? I didn't know either, but it's something that you learn when you do not enjoy washing out your french press. Consider yourself enlightened.

I did actually empty it once I realised there was no longer any room to physically depress the plunger. My garden will be thrilled with such yummy compost. Hey, plants love coffee too, they have great taste.

04 May, 2009

More Boiling Urine

...because everyone needs more of it in their lives.

Strange things are afoot at the Circle K.

A reader sent me a message this week in regards to the boiling urine incident. Turns out that I'm not the only one to have experienced the amazing smell sensation of pee cooking in a powerboard. Turbo's Human had it happen as well, thanks to Siberian Huskies. (You should go visit.)

And in a disturbing case of déjà vu, the surge-protector powerboard, again, did not trip while it was shorting out and perfuming the room.

Admittedly, I'm still not sure whether these things are supposed to protect against something like this. I was fortunate not to have destroyed my PC; I count the loss of the powerboard and one kettle cable as a fair price.

Anyone out there know more about these devices?

30 April, 2009

I'VE GOT A NEW TOILET!

AND I'M EXCITED!

Look, if yours was as old, crappy, leaky and wasted water like mine did, then you'd be excited too.

The plumber came a day early to install it. He's coming back tomorrow to do the bath, shower and vanity unit. Right now, the three of us are having to "kangaroo squat" over the toilet to use it, since the cement isn't dry and we can't put weight on the bowl.

Because everyone likes a good quadricep workout. That should be an exercise program. Stronger muscles without exercise! Tone your legs without a workout! Act NOW and we'll send you the amazing Ultra Quad Kit for only $49.95 plus delivery!

And when the package arrives and you open it, it's a toilet bowl.

28 April, 2009

Give Food for Free

So a lot of people know about The Hunger Site but there's also another one with a twist. The seriously awesome Cora reminded me about this pearler. Free Rice lets you learn new words as you give. And it's addicting. Also, it's an ego test of sorts, because just when I start getting a bit full of myself and start shaking my own hand, patting myself on the back etc, I get one totally and utterly wrong.

26 April, 2009

GemCraft Game

The Finn strikes again. What? Oh, my fiancé sent me the link to this game. He's an Evil Finn. This game is like the ultimate version of Tower Defense.

I've been playing this for WEEKS. That has to be some kind of record for me, since generally I approach games with complete Attention Defecit Dis-HEY! LET'S GO RIDE BIKES!

GemCraft

24 April, 2009

Supermarkets: A Study

What possessed me with that title? I've no idea. I hadn't set out to study anything, I can assure you.

Lately I have begrudgingly switched supermarkets, from Woolworths to Coles. I should preface this by admitting I can't stand Coles. It stems from when I was a teenager and the local supermarket (Coles) was full of uncaring staff that would barely give you the time of day. The supermarket was also VERY old, complete with those chrome poles at each checkout with the tiny white diamond-shaped lanterns which lit up a number to show it was open. And one end of the shop was the "variety" section, ancient metal baskets filled to overflowing with unfashionable home-brand clothes that nobody wanted. It was all just a feeling of old, abandoned, grocery-relic.

But I digress. I've switched supermarkets because until the end of July their FlyBuys card earns 0.05% on purchases. Plus they have these random $1 bonus deals on some items. I earned about $15 just in the first trip.

Now I haven't really done my shopping at Coles since the new Woolworths opened. Picture it: for years, Wellingtonians were stuck with an old and shabby supermarket enjoying its smug monopoly and pricing its items accordingly. Oh, the pleasure of high prices with a scowl.

Apparently, competition has had a positive effect on the prices in there. (Who would have thought?!) Bread and milk are pretty much the same price as Woolies now. And, quite a contrast to Woolies, they actually mark down items that are near expiry. That happens so rarely in Woolies that it was a nice surprise. I ventured home after my first new experience in Coles, quite content with my purchases.

A recent news article described Coles as "rebranding" itself. In particular the author said that they're increasing their "own brand" presence drastically with a lot of new lines, and accordingly scaling down on the branded competition. Interesting, I thought, "Don't we already have an ALDI supermarket model? I don't think Coles can ever compete!" But wait, there's more.

As is known to happen, yesterday was one of the occasions where I'd run out of several random, not-often-bought items. Off I toddled to Coles. And quickly got very annoyed. Closer perusal of the shelves told an interesting story.

For those not aware, Coles have two own-brand lines. Their budget line is called Smart Buy. These are the items packed in plain white without pictures. They are almost always the cheapest brand available. For a long time these were prolific throughout the store on almost every common item.

Then they have a "premium" own-brand label called You'll Love Coles. And sorry Coles - but no I won't, and I don't. These were originally only present in a select line of items in the store and sat alongside Smart Buy for the most part. So you might have three choices, say, of coffee: Smart Buy is $3.00, "premium" You'll Love $4.50, and then your Branded for $5.00.

You'll Love is, for the most part (in my opinion) significantly lower in quality than the brands, but only slightly cheaper than the brands. Thus I consider it poor value. If I'm going to spend that much I might as well buy the brand and enjoy some quality.

Now, their own-branding expansion appears to be in full swing. But rather than just expanding the product lines available, an insidious replacement is in the works. Smart Buy items are disappearing all over the store, replaced with decorated packaging brandishing You'll Love, and costing a lot more. Time after time the product I needed lacked the Smart Buy version. At the bottom of many shelves were the remnants of the Smart Buy items, all heavily discounted to get them out of the store. I watched a lady agonise over light bulbs while I cursed a COMPLETE lack of own-branded batteries. Hey, for a bathroom scale I am NOT buying Duracell Ultra. And I would still have preferred not to shell out for Eveready, but there was no choice. (As an aside, there was also a discontinued pack of Power Pix batteries there reduced to $4.00. Score!!!)

Milk powder. Its ingredients are... milk powder. Can someone tell me how a You'll Love will be better than a Smart Buy? Why did you take the Smart Buy away? (Growls, and puts the You'll Love into the trolley.)

I actually went without several items rather than pay for the "premium" offering. I got to the checkout rather irritated. There is no saving going on by shopping at Coles to use your FlyBuys card... if you're paying more for items of dubious quality.

As I was driving home I pondered this marketing strategy. I can only conclude that up against Franklins and ALDI own-brand items, that Coles have completely given up and accepted defeat. (Some people will remember that Coles supermarkets almost went under a few years ago... and are still battling to make a profit.)

And then I realised what they're doing. They are aiming their guns squarely at wealthy customers. People who only buy either branded, or premium discounted items. And begrudgingly I had to hand it to them. These are Woolworths' traditional customers. But until now I don't think anyone had thought to offer them crap disguised as discounted luxury.

So I tip my hat.

22 April, 2009

Tea

I'm drinking it. I don't much enjoy it.

But I've felt overheated the last couple of days despite drinking so much water that I should buy shares in a toilet paper company.

I'm even being a very good girl. It's green tea. De-lish...

So I went to put some honey in my oh-so-healthy green tea this afternoon, but when I went for the jar it was empty. No worries! I buy it in bulk, so I picked up the 3 kilo container to refill the small jar. But the container was covered in ants. Not only that, Jay had left the lid half undone, and they were ALL THROUGH the honey. At least 1 kilo of the honey is now ants.

*shakes her fist*

20 April, 2009

What a Slacker!

(Me, of course.)

I've hit one of "those spots", ie, where I lose motivation in something I've started. It's a rare occurence, and I estimate it's happened in my life only about 3, 4, maybe 5... HUNDRED times. Ahem.

I've been a Twitterholic though. It's oddly addicting. I'm also going to parade my EIGHT CENTS! of advertising revenue that I've earned so far. EAT THAT, Adsense! Bet you wish you had MY eight cents don'tcha?!

I'm still looking into some other revenue ideas. Have one that looks awesome, but unfortunately requires people to be interested in the ads. And so far, looks like they aren't.


The kitchen is half-painted. Aria said it looks like a banana. I was most annoyed and pointed out that the colour is Gladsome, not Banana. Jay tried telling me it was more like a pineapple. That didn't really help!

16 April, 2009

Cookies

I believe this gem was from my friend Sam, but the sender will have to forgive me if it wasn't him at all!

14 April, 2009

The Great Bingo Debacle

My family and I live 5 hours' drive apart. I have to say, this has its merits. Much as they know I love them, there's a certain independence which can only gained with either emotional or phyisical distance, and I prefer the latter.

This is a long and drawn out one. Get your cuppa and packed lunch, you've been warned.

For Easter, the family and I each drove a few hours and met halfway, at a club, for lunch.

We approached Reception, and were informed of the areas where my children were permitted to be. In addition, they had to be under adult supervision at all times. No problem. So we settled in, had drinks, and chatted. We ordered and ate lunch. It was very nice food, and we'll be going back there again based on the meals offered.

Now, our preferred "hangout" area was one table outside the designated "eatery" area, in an area that today would be used for Bingo. The only defining difference was the shape of the tables. The bingo ticket seller arrived an hour before the game. The whole bingo area was virtually empty - me and my two children were in clear view of the seller.

I chatted amiably with the bingo seller, telling her that my daughter had claimed the blue marker. I bought the bingo books - several full cards for the adults, plus 2 single cards for the kids. My usual venues all allow children to play, and I hadn't thought to ask if they could play here. In any case, she said nothing about it. Total bingo investment so far: $60, plus markers, plus an hour waiting for it to begin.

We all settled in and the games began. Not long in, a table of diners right behind us commenced a conversation at high volume. Since we couldn't hear bingo, we waited for the break, got up and moved swiftly to the other side of the room. This table was a "dining" table, but just a metre behind the last bingo tables. It was our only option, as all the bingo tables were full.

The next game started, and halfway through, a bingo staffer walked up to us and said, "You can't sit here. And the children can't play. You have to move." Heads all around us swivelled to look. She was talking during a game - this is a massive no-no, in fact I think it's the eleventh commandment of bingo. We apologised about the kids and took their cards away. Hey, we didn't know, that was our mistake. Then we quietly explained that we hadn't been able to hear. She didn't care. She just kept insisting it was "club rules" and we were not allowed to sit in the "dining" tables while playing bingo.

We waited for the break again, to avoid disturbing people, and then quickly moved back to the old table, hoping that the people behind us would be quiet. The same staffer waited till the middle of the next game, then walked over to interrupt, and said, "The children can't sit here."

Another half dozen tables had been disturbed by this woman, and we couldn't believe our ears. Even as we explained the kids weren't playing, she didn't care. It was club rules, blah blah.

"Ok, kids, sorry. You two will need to sit over there (next table, in the dining area)." No, they can't, she said. They aren't allowed. They have to be under supervision. I tried to insist that I would be supervising them. My sister then asked, Ok, can they pull up a dining chair and sit right behind me? No, they can't.

"So you're telling us that we can't play." She insisted she never said that. But her stupid demands meant we didn't have any option. The kids can't be left alone, and she's saying they also can't sit right beside us, because that's not under supervision. Mind you, they're 13 and 12 years old and had behaved perfectly all day!

We adults all looked at each other in annoyance. My sister said she had a bad taste and didn't want to play anymore. Mum was too stressed to concentrate. I stood up and said I was going to get a refund.

WELL. No dice. The bingo seller said it was against policy and she couldn't help us. Even when I explained that I and the kids had sat in her full view for an entire hour and nobody had said a word. She denied having seen us. WTF?

Then she said, Well, you can still play. You can put your children into the child care. And I was thinking... well, wouldn't 12 and 13yos just love that. Not. And did I really want to pay for child care, since by the time I had, I'd have missed half the bingo games? No. And even then, I wouldn't be able to hear. But did they care... No. I pointed out that we might as well sit on the floor at the front to hear. She just stared at me.

Reception was also no help. At least the receptionist was sympathetic. She'd already had one complaint about bingo that hour. But the bingo was run by a non-profit group outside the club, so they couldn't refund. We pointed out that we'd been told the kids were allowed in that area. But since we'd never specifically asked if the kids could play bingo... sigh. Eventually the club supervisor came out and heard what we had to say. We commented we'd already spent some $250 before bingo even came into the occasion. She asked if we'd bought lunch... yes, we had. In that case, she said, you've every right to sit at the dining tables and play bingo. And she considered my children under supervision even if they'd been one table away, since they were behaving just fine.

We didn't once yell or raise voices, but we were very annoyed and upset by this point, and she did agree we should have been given the money back, but again, didn't have authority to demand it since it wasn't the club running it.

My sister, a rather assertive person, had had enough, and said she was marching into the middle of the bingo area and was going to stand there till we got a refund. Mum watched the kids at reception and I went to see the "show".

The bingo staff insisted that the club's rule was, "If you're playing bingo you may not use the dining tables". I pointed out that the supervisor disagreed, and the rule was, "Bingo-only visitors are required to sit in the bingo area", or more simply, "The dining tables are reserved for people who buy lunch". They did not seem to understand the difference. Since we were both, we were permitted to use the dining tables. Not only that, the supervisor considered my children supervised when seated one table away. One bingo staffer said that when our eyes are down playing, we aren't watching our children.

I stood there wondering if my kids had been unsupervised as I looked down at my lunch plate. Or perhaps I should never blink, since I wouldn't be supervising my children when I did.

Eventually the supervisor paid it from petty cash and said she'd argue with the non-profit's office later.

But seriously, we were all stressed out for hours afterwards. It wasn't really even about the amount of money. My sister, who'd gone into bat, hadn't lost a cent. It was the fact we'd paid for something in good faith and hadn't got what we paid for. It just sets off Holy Fire.

We will go back. It's the principle of the thing - the supervisor did the right thing, you see.

I'm not sure that we'll play bingo, though!

12 April, 2009

Filler Game

My good friend JRMinga is to blame for this one. It's seriously addicting. One of those games you can play aimlessly for hours while you should be doing other things.

Ahem. Anyway, I love it.

10 April, 2009

In Which I Pre-empt The Inevitable Advice

Every now and then, I have this fleeting moment where I wish for another baby.

Then I grab hold of myself sternly and remind myself that while there might be a handful of nice things about said offspring, there are ten bajillion things I didn't and don't like about pregnancy, childbirth, rearing toddlers and being a parent in general. Besides, as my fiancé (who doesn't want children) remarked, who would be the father?

So it is nice to have a comfy, insulated dream instead, where there aren't negative issues with having a kid. I had one of those dreams recently.

In it, there was this party going on, and present was a woman expecting a baby. She was short, tiny-statured, gorgeous, Meditteranean-looking, and I've no idea who she was. Her husband was there too. Don't ask me what he looked like because I haven't a clue.

So the couple went on stage (don't know why) and said some stuff to everyone (don't know what they said). A few minutes later, they were standing right near me, and she said something (?) to indicate the baby was on its way. The husband and I raced her into a room nearby, which conveniently had a bed. She then demanded the cushion (?) which was a bizarre, soccerball sized item. She sat on that, then completely lay on her back, and the kid started arriving. Not only that, it was all over in five minutes flat. Did I mention that during the birth I just stroked her forehead without really doing anything to help? Did I mention this kid was of the size that would make a Polynesian mother-of-ten water at the eyes?* Let alone a tiny woman?

There was no mess anywhere. (Gotta love dreams for skipping certain details.) There also didn't appear to be genitalia. The kid just arrived from "somewhere". Never mind that when it was halfway out, its eyes were just passively closed as if it were sleeping through the whole thing. In fact, the woman might have slept through it all too, since there was no pain, or even discomfort, apparent. I just sat there wondering how the HELL this size kid had actually come from a lady so small.

Once it was born and the father grabbed it, he stood the baby up on the floor - yes stood the baby up. The kid STOOD THERE and stared. Yes, folks, newborns can stand unassisted, in complete safety. I sorta freaked out and told the father it was dangerous, the baby's head was way too fragile! Just like a delicate light globe, dude. And when I grabbed the kid, its head was actually a thin light globe.

Then we noticed it had a willy. Oooh, it's a boy! Cool, etc. Had they chosen a name, I asked?

They looked at each other and said yes, they had. Then said nothing. After a moment the father was like, well, we wanted to announce it to everyone at once. Like we did with . Then I was all, damn, maybe they didn't want me in here for the birth. But hey, I couldn't really undo my presence for the birth.

So I left. I located my best friend (no idea who she was) and announced I wanted to leave - walking to the train station alone if necessary. She agreed to come with me. Before we could actually go anywhere, they came onto the stage and announced its name . By this stage, both the kid and its sister had vapourised into thin air. Babies do that, you know, anytime you're at an adult party and children aren't convenient. The mother (perfect body) then danced in a very very amazing and energetic and Meditteranean way as if she hadn't given birth minutes earlier.

On the whole I think the realisation of just how unrealistic the scenario was just serves to remind me of all the reasons I don't want another kid. Like the whole panic, effort, expense, annoyance, exhaustion, frustration, pain, mess etc.

Also, I remember that my best friend was blonde and wearing white jeans. There should be a law against white jeans.



* This isn't a racism thing: Physiologically, Polynesian women have the biggest babies and most useful childbirthing body-parts.

08 April, 2009

AWOL? And Here's A Picture.

Guilty as charged.

I have a terrible habit of losing motivation on things. And of making excuses (see previous sentence). I'm also inherently lazy. Coupled with not feeling the brightest of late, etc.

But I'll try to do some catchup in the next few days.

Anyway, I forget where I found this (sorry, mystery blogger) but I found it amusing.

Clicky.

http://www.angelfire.com/art2/antwerplettuce/hamlet.html

06 April, 2009

A Degree In.... WHAT?

This entry started out as a news article for Crazy Odd, but as I wrote I found myself creating an editorial rather than an article. So you, dear reader, will now be subjected to blessed with my thoughts on the issue.

A university in London has announced the world's first Master of Arts degree in "The Beatles, Popular Music and Society". Yes, you read that right, a bunch of weird and wacky people are going to spend an entire year studying everything there is to know about Liverpool's most famous four. And they will receive a Master's for it.

Honestly, I thought Arts degrees already suffered enough with the stigma of not being considered "serious". There's a popular graffito that gets scrawled above toilet paper dispensers in universities around the world: An arrow pointing down with the caption, "Arts Degrees: Please Take One". It pretty accurately describes the disdain that other degree students feel towards Arts students. I should know, I was an Arts student, in the worst discipline of them all - Sociology! Also known as The Study Of Why People Do Stuff, I have become convinced that the entire "Science" was created by Sociologists themselves, in a bizarre vicious circle that serves only to validate their own existence as Sociologists. What? Yeah, sometimes it felt like the only reason for the Sociology field was so that they had a job. Or so that we students had something to "study".

And as fascinating as Sociology was for me, there's a reason that the word is so close to "Scientology". You know, the whole "questionable sanity" thing.

02 April, 2009

Gratuitous Plug

Since I'm now a contributor on www.sleepinginairports.com I thought I'd be really subtle and point vaguely in the direction of a post about Sydney Airport.

There's also a second post of mine about paying to jump the queue at London Luton.

31 March, 2009

When Memes Go Wrong

I recently did one of those emails where you list 3 interesting facts about yourself for each category. The idea was to tell your friends something about yourself that they might not already know. For example, one item asked me for three jobs I've had - so I entered Radio Voiceover girl, PR Consultant, and Toy Shop Salesperson. Then we had "Three foods you love" and I wrote Croissants, Green Grapes, and OMG Trident Hot and Spicy Noodles. They are awesome enough to elicit Oh My God, you see. And then I wrote Hamburgers, Bacon, Camembert, Tzatziki, Marinated Asparagus, Pizza, French Fries, Chocolate... ahem.

Anyway, I sent the email to a handful of people, including my aunt G, who's in her 60s and new at this whole "intarweb" thing. So far she has mastered Booting Computer, Connecting to Internet, and Typing on Skype. (We're still in the novice stages of Email, because every 30 days Gmail asks her to sign in again, and she calls me in a panic because "Gmail is gone" aka "I can't see my emails, and what's all this about a username and password?")

Apparently she paid real attention to this email. When she and my mother arrived for their visit last weekend, she had contributed to the Great Grocery Giveaway (see, "my mother always brings me food"). Among the goodies were croissants, because I like them. Then we had green grapes, because I like them. But missing, she explained, were the noodles, because she searched and searched but she just couldn't find the right brand.

I grabbed a packet out of my cupboard (see, "I bought groceries to feed my guests but we didn't eat any of it"). I showed her the package. "I SAW THOSE!" she said. "I saw Trident brand. But you wrote 'OMG' so I was looking for OMG Noodles."

I could see my sister cover her mouth at the other end of the room, trying not to laugh. Do you know how hard it is not to laugh when someone else does that?

I curse you, Sister Of Mine. I love you, Aunty G.

30 March, 2009

Dice Wars Game

I CAN'T BELIEVE I haven't already blogged about this game. This is seriously addictive. It looks so ordinary, but it's a really great game. If you've ever played Risk, it's vaguely related, but simpler (and faster). This is the sort of game that can keep me procrastinating from stuff for HOURS.

28 March, 2009

I Value

46. Storms
47. Being inside during storms
48. Cashews
49. Sunglasses
50. Having a good mechanic

27 March, 2009

Well!

I believe I owe you an apology. I've been remiss, in that I didn't advise the internet accordingly that I'd be AWOL a few days spending time with family and friends. Accordingly, this entry is being released several days late, which will cause a rip in the space-time continuum. Mea culpa.

My mum, sister and aunt came to visit for a few days, bringing a friend's kid with them. It was an interesting time filled with laughter, card games and conversation. My mother, as usual, arrived with bags of groceries (thanks, Mum!) There's some idea she has that if she doesn't do this, I will starve. Now I am not rich by any means, but food comes first and we always have enough to eat. I even have enough to make extravagant purchases like the occasional Coca-Cola and chocolates. I can only conclude that since she knows I have money for eating, that perhaps she doubts my intellectual ability to locate a supermarket.

So my cupboards are now full to overflowing with coffee, chips, crackers, several varieties of noodles and huge towers of canned soup. At every meal, some guest whipped out their wallet and bought us all fast food. AND the dumb part is that I had already stocked up on meal-type things so that I could feed the four guests (none of which was even touched).


The good part is however, that my house is clean. My lawn is mowed. My bathtub is spotless, all the washing up is done, and the clean clothes outnumber the dirty ones.

I can even see carpet.

25 March, 2009

The Best Cat Video You'll Ever See

Yes, some parts of this video you may have seen before, but it's still awesome. Huge thanks to Elessa for this gem!

24 March, 2009

Adventures In Cake Decorating

As some of you will be aware, I'm engaged to be married. (Please hold your applause until the end.) My fiancé and I aren't at all interested in an expensive song and dance for the nuptials; as Dooce once related, there are far better things for us to waste invest our money in. Like having floors sanded and relacquered, buying a lounge suite and making sure my children don't freeze in the Finnish winter.

I think he had designs on wearing jeans to the ceremony itself. Since I'm a spoil-sport, I poured cold water on that idea and insisted on him at least dressing up. I will be wearing a wedding dress for the occasion - but it will be made in a sweat shop on a shoestring budget. In fact, I'm recruiting five-year-old sewing experts this week.

In all seriousness, I intend to have A Cake. But there ain't no way I could spend hundreds of dollars on a lump of flour and sugar. You'll have to forgive me if you're someone whose own connubial dessert involved seven layers of confection held up with pseudo-marble plastic pillars topped with a solid gold peace dove. I liked this image that I found somewhere in Internet Land:



I particularly liked it because the "artist" was not a professional cake decorator and had told the bride her cake would not look professional - she calls it a "rustic" look. The series of cakes was her gift to the couple and the bride was apparently thrilled.

The other reason I liked the look of these cakes is that she said they were easy. Awesome! I can SO do this. And so yesterday I embarked on what I expected to be a simple recreation of the cakes in the picture.

In an astounding fluke, mixing an entire large block of cooking chocolate into a Home Brand vanilla cake mix actually tastes awesome. I wasn't aiming for gourmet cake, I just wanted something heavy enough to put icing on, and I was pleasantly surprised. And so the icing. I crumb coated it but was too impatient for it to set properly (of course, it then lifted off the cake and bits of it ended in the final coat - but hey it's a learning experience).

The icing then didn't really look all that smooth. It was rough-looking. Next time, I'll put more milk in it.

Then I decided to have a play around with the piping bag, since I've never used one. Well, that baby is hard to master. I mean, it looks so easy! It's not :(

I now have a chocolate mud cake with chocolate icing, covered with a piping "design" on the top.

The whole concoction looks like a five-year-old slapped the icing on with a spade, and then her three-year-old brother got hold of Mummy's piping bag and added the decoration. The cake strongly resembles runny dog turd.

23 March, 2009

Mastermind Game

This classic hasn't got any sound, so can be played anywhere that people might get otherwise annoyed :)

22 March, 2009

21 March, 2009

And Also

39. Frogs
40. Beautiful pictures
41. Sunsets
42. Ozone
43. Genetics
44. Simple room design
45. Sans serif fonts

20 March, 2009

Observant Kid

After some reflection a while ago, I decided it was way too impersonal to refer to my kids by their first initials. I realise they're entitled to their privacy, but in the end, it looks more like a robotic rendition of item specifications than musings about my family. Although various incarnations of my full name are quite readily available on the intarweb if you're Sherlock Holmes-inspired (along with some of my past lives as a game coder, LAN-aholic and writer), I'll endeavour not to disclose my childrens' surnames. Suffice to say, if you were insane enough to play detective and discover the three labels my parents chose for my birth certificate, you're still unlikely to find the three I hoisted onto each of my offspring. (Admittedly, I would wonder at your train of thought if you went fishing for my alter-egos. It's not that interesting a kaleidoscope of an existence.)

This brings me to my reason for the reasoning. A snippet about my 12-year-old son Jay, which occurred some time ago during the school holidays. Being way too hot for anything remotely human during the day, I'd shifted my sleeping pattern somewhat, which allowed me to paint while it was dark and cool. He has always been a real morning person, rising at 6am regardless of how late he has stayed up the night before, and this particular morning he sauntered into the living room at about 5.30am, immediately booting the laptop for some dawn City of Heroes goodness. (Yes, I'm raising them as geeks. Yes, I'm proud.)

He noticed that the living room air conditioner was already churning, and that the door to my bedroom was wide open, which is generally an Offense Punishable By Death™. It had been this way because I was painting the ceiling - something I hate, but was necessary. The entire house reeked of paint, and I was waiting for it to dry so I could finish the task.

He asked why it was open? "Because I need to keep the room cool so I can work in there." And then Jay points out a white mark on my foot. "Oh yeah, it's paint."

..."Have you been painting?"

I probably pulled a really dumb face at that. I'm sure I responded with pure maternal love, aka, "Can't you smell the paint, idiot? What the hell is wrong with you? How could you not notice that?!"

Jay's a funny kid.

19 March, 2009

Detroit Tunnel of Light

Taken at Detroit Metro Airport. Thanks to flickr user samirdiwan who calls it Bag To The Future

18 March, 2009

Ha Ha Conversation With SO

My dearest quoted a newspaper article about alien life forms. I'll risk boring you all to tears. Hey, nobody's forcing you to read!

(Don't you dare leave. Read it now.)
Him: "The current research estimates that there are at least 361 intelligent civilisations in our Galaxy and possibly as many as 38,000." Now that's a nice precise guesstimate, lol

Elisa: very. scientific even.

Him: And I had thought they had yet to find any exoplanet that actually could support life...

Elisa: They should have just said they'd narrowed it down exactly to "sum numberz of peoplez".

Him: "While researchers often come up with overall estimates... 'It's a process of quantifying our ignorance.' "

Him: Ömg, I need to be paid for making ignorant guesses too! *

Elisa: I need to be paid for finding scientific-y-sounding explanations for not having a clue.

Him: "It's a process of quantifying our ignorance." Now that's a good quote. Hey, I have an idea! Let's pool all our ignorance together and make some wild guesses! Anyone up for that?

Elisa: Hey, we're all scientists, let's release an official-sounding statement about not having any idea!

So yeah... anyone wanting to offer me such a job, please feel free to contact me.


~ Elisa

* Umläuts äre funny. They're cäused by wäcky Euröpeän keyböärds.

PS. It pained me to do that. I feel an uncontrollable urge to apply Finnish pronunciation to the above sentence.