Cooking without an oven

So, I suppose you're all waiting with bated breath to hear something about our house. And you will, soon. But for now, I wanted to talk about something else we've been dealing with lately.

If you've been following along since September, you'll know that we were told our gas line has too many leaks to be safely left on. So it's off, which means our oven can't be used, nor can our lounge room heater (although it's getting warmer so we don't need it as much anyway), and we have to use a temporary electric water heater which is half the size of our normal one and half the pressure (or less).

So one of the most significant ways this has impacted us is how we cook. We can't cook anything on the stove top, and we can't cook anything in the oven either. So I've had to get creative with the meal planning.


The Thermomix is a fancy shmancy blender that also cooks and steams. Brand new, they run about $2300 AUD. I bought mine when Chuckie was a baby. So I'm pretty used to cooking in this already. I make taco meat in here, rice, soups, and my homemade chocolate. I steam veggies in it. I've also had to start using it to boil water for my cup of tea in the morning, since my stove top whistling kettle is now unusable.

Electronic pressure cooker

This one's great. I use it as a slow cooker, pressure cooker, and big saucepan. I can cook a roast in there. I can make cheeseburger mac in there (a family favourite). I can make spaghetti bolognaise, butter chicken, boil eggs, and a plethora of other foods.

Air fryer

After I got an air fryer for Christmas a couple years ago, I decided I liked it enough to get an even bigger one. So that's what I did. My air fryer has 5 functions: air fry, bake, convection, pizza, and...I forget the last one because I never use it.

Grill! That's it. I should try that sometime.

So the air fryer, we do anything that we normally do in the oven, because that's basically what it is - a mini oven. Pies, sausage rolls, pizza, chicken nuggets, roast potatoes. Air fryers do the BEST steak. I baked brownies in there for mum's night last week. We heat taco shells in there on Taco Tuesday. It's much smaller, but it's still quite usable. I've also used it to reheat food on occasion.

Big electric frying pan

Generally, this is Darrin & Caleb's domain. They use it to cook sausages, chops, burgers, schnitzels. But I've used it in the past to make pancakes and fry bacon.


Thawing & reheating food. Just like always. Ours is a small, low wattage one, so if I want to cook veggies in there, it does take a long time. Probably easier & quicker to steam them in the Thermomix.


sigh I still haven't been able to convince anyone to clean it so it can be used. Sad, really, because it's twice the size of the electric frying pan, so burgers could all be done in one hit. And we bought it for EXACTLY THIS PURPOSE! We were talking about emergency preparedness back when Covid first started, and decided we needed a barbecue, so that if the gas & electricity were both off, we could still cook. And nobody's used it in over a year.

Sandwich press

I never saw these in the States. Think George Foreman grill, but without the lines. We've made toasted sandwiches a few times in this. I've also done sausages once, but it was such a pain in the neck to clean it after, I haven't bothered since.

Overall, I've realised we need to stick with simple meals - frozen stuff we can cook in the air fryer, or one pot meals we can make in the Thermomix/pressure cooker, or stuff we can fry up in the frying pan. Things that need multiple steps - not really an option for us right now. Your basic 'meat & 3 veg' meal works well - I cook the meat in the air fryer, and the veggies in the Thermomix.

It's working. It's not ideal, but we're eating decent food. Mostly.
Categories: How to... Life, the universe, and everything
Warning: Undefined array key "freetag" in /usr/local/www/ on line 173

The grocery bill with 4 boys

It sounds scary, and sometimes it is. And we don't have coupons in Australia like they have in the States. But I have a few tricks I use to feed everyone without going over budget (most of the time).

First, I set a weekly budget based on what Jordan Page recommends. Her rule is to budget $100 per person per month, starting at $300, and then break it down by week. So a family of 1-3 people would still get $300 to spend each month, and about $75 each week.

Now Jordan Page lives in Utah, and there's quite a difference between the cost of living there and here, not to mention our currency isn't worth as much. So I plugged $600 into and use that as my monthly grocery budget. When I first did it, it came to $900 a month. Which was about $300 less than I was used to spending, but I thought I'd give it a go. Ever since starting to listen to Dave Ramsey, I'm always on the lookout for more ways to cut spending and save money. 900/4=225. So $225 is what I give myself to work with every week.

Here's another tip I learned from Jordan. She says before you go shopping, make a meal plan from the food you already have in your kitchen, and write the shopping list based on what you're missing in the meals you've planned. This has been a game changer.

Example: I find ground beef and cheese, and half a tub of sour cream. This screams tacos to me, but I don't have taco shells or tortillas. So I put those on my list, along with any other taco fixings we like.

Another example: there's most of a roast chicken in the fridge that needs to get used up. I dig around in the freezer and find a bag of broccoli. There's a yummy chicken and broccoli casserole that I make, so that goes on the meal plan. But I can't find any bacon to garnish on top, so bacon goes on the list.

See how that works? It's made a huge difference to the grocery budget, and in turn, our overall budget.

Another thing I do is look for marked down meat. If I have space left in the budget after I've got everything on my list, I'll stock up on sale meat or marked down meat, and keep it in the freezer for later. We bought a chest freezer when Caleb was born, so we have a ton of space for that kind of thing.

And I shop at Aldi as much as possible. Their prices are usually about 10-20% lower than Coles and Woolworths. When I do shop at the big supermarkets, I scan my loyalty card to earn points and money off my shopping. I try not to get sucked into the bonus offers, unless it's for something I need anyway.

I also use an app called Receipt Jar, which lets you scan your receipts and get points. When you get enough points, you can redeem them for gift cards or a bank deposit. I've already redeemed $30 this way (the first time I used $15 to put toward a new car battery when we needed one, and the next time I got Coles gift cards).

I'd like to say I only go shopping once a week, but I often go a few times for emergency chocolate runs. Which is totally a thing, by the way. Don't judge me.
Categories: How to... Life, the universe, and everything
Warning: Undefined array key "freetag" in /usr/local/www/ on line 173

How we got out of debt and stopped living paycheck to paycheck

I've been thinking about writing this one for a long time. And I just listened to a Dave Ramsey video where he was talking about advice, and whether people are going to listen to you based on how you give that advice, and he said that hardly anyone is bothered by you just telling your story. So here we go: the story about how we stopped being 'normal' and paid off our debt, and built up our emergency fund.

Once upon a time, we spent all the money that came in to us. Whether it was Darrin's pay, or the family tax benefit, or the tax at the end of the year, gifts, whatever - we spent it as soon as we had it, and it was gone. I could go shopping on payday or the day after payday, and spend everything without thinking, get home, put it all into my finance app on my computer, and go, 'oh crap, how am I going to buy petrol this week?'

So what would I do? I'd shuffle bills around, so that the transfers I'd set up wouldn't go through. I learned a long time ago that it's better for me to make fortnightly installments on quarterly bills like gas, electricity, and water, so missing one of those payments wouldn't be a big deal - I'd just make up for it when the bill came in.

If I couldn't shuffle the bills around, I'd login to Centrelink and get an advance on my family tax benefit. Or if an advance wasn't available, I'd transfer some money from my business account (back when I had it) and use that for the petrol or whatever I'd forgotten to account for when I spent all that money on too many groceries.

Elijah was born in November 2018, and so we got an increased Centrelink payment for about 13 weeks. And we needed a new fridge, as ours was on its last legs, so I started saving up some of that money to buy a new fridge. Boxing day 2018 (that's the day after Christmas for you Americans who don't observe it), it was stinking hot, and I knew the crowds would be insane, so I ordered our new fridge online. With saved money. I thought I was the coolest because I'd prepared for this. Our new fridge was AWESOME.

The very next day after it was delivered - I kid you not - our washing machine stopped mid-cycle. It was a front loader, so if I opened the door, water everywhere. I eventually worked out how to drain it so that it didn't flood the laundry room, but I still had that half-washed load of nappies to deal with.

I started looking at washing machines online. A brand new one of the size we needed was around $1000. I desperately searched for an appliance store that would accept Afterpay. I had zero luck. So my next port of call was Radio Rentals. I don't think they exist anymore (or if they do, in a different capacity), but they would let you 'rent' a product and pay it off over time. Their prices weren't great, but we didn't have another option - or so we thought.

Radio Rentals turned us down for a rental. So we said rude things about them and I started thinking, ok, NOW what can we do? We had learned years ago that credit cards were a bad idea for us, so we didn't even have those anymore. We didn't have any savings. We had a new baby and needed nappies, but I didn't want to spend $27 a week on a box of nappies for him. And a toddler as well, who was still in nappies, at a pricetag of about $27 every two weeks. I needed to use my cloth nappy stash. But if it was going to cost me as much at the laundromat as it would for disposables, where did that leave us? We NEEDED a new washing machine.

So at some point, I looked at Gumtree. Prior to Facebook Marketplace, this was THE place to go if you wanted to buy or sell anything secondhand in Australia. I found the size washing machine we needed. It was in Craigmore, which is only about 20 minutes away (maybe 15 in good traffic). And it was a price we could afford. And he would deliver. So I arranged all that, and we still have that washing machine to this day.

March 2019. My car's brakes were grinding BADLY so I booked it for a service. As expected, it needed a lot more than just a service and brakes. I was getting anxiety over not being able to sign up myself for the credit that the mechanic offered. So Darrin had to sign up for it with his income details. My mom arrived for a visit about a week later, and we didn't have any money to do anything for the first few days. (And then we all got sick anyway, so the only thing we did during her visit was go to the last ever Brickalaide/Kidz Gigantic Day Out, which was actually pretty pathetic compared to the year before. But that's another story.)

Somewhere in all this, I signed up for Audible. Because when you're in debt and living paycheck to paycheck, of course you need to pay $16 a month for an audiobook! I had a list of books I wanted to listen to, because it was easier to listen to an audiobook than sit down and actually read one with four kids in the house. Dave Ramsey's The Total Money Makeover was on my list since the beginning. It was just on there as 'oh yeah, I should read that one sometime.'

July 2019. I'd done our tax, and we were expecting a refund, as usual. One night I was looking through my Audible list, because I had another credit to use, and saw Dave's book there, and decided to get that one. So I started listening. And everything he said made sense. I didn't want to live like this anymore. I wanted to be FREE from money stress.

Darrin & I sat down one night after the kids went to bed, and we came up with our new plan (or rather, I showed him the spreadsheet of the plan I'd made and he said 'yeah, whatever you think is best'). And so we went to work.

(Yes, writing it that way sounds like Darrin doesn't care about the financial situation, but that's not true. He's just not interested in managing the budget and where all the money goes. But he's happy to discuss something when it's relevant and come up with a solution we can live with. He's good at coming up with alternate solutions that I may not have thought of.)

We were planning to sell our house and move to a bigger one after our tax came in and we paid off a few things. Sadly, but actually not sadly, because of this, I realised that if we tried to move house at that point, we would have been shooting ourselves in the foot. Because when you buy a new house, and the water heater dies the next week, and you don't have any money because you just spent all your money on buying the new house, moving expenses, lots of takeaway while you get the kitchen in order - you can't afford a new water heater! So painfully, we decided to wait. And I'm glad we did, even though this house SUCKS BEYOND BELIEF! (actually no - the other day when the rain was bucketing down, I realised that although this house sucks in a lot of ways, we've never had a problem with the roof leaking. So praise God for that!)

So...I cancelled my Audible subscription. And Prime. I started using cash in envelopes - yes, actual envelopes! - and when the money in an envelope was gone, that was it till the next pay. And that actually wasn't as hard to handle as I thought it would be - because it was only ever 14 days till the next time I put money in the envelope.

I started delivering catalogues - you know, the store ads you get delivered to your house. The money wasn't great, but it was money. And I could take the baby with me if Darrin wasn't up yet in the morning. I'd listen to the Dave Ramsey Show while I walked. Still miss that part of it - I don't miss the putting catalogues together every week and having them take over my house, but I did enjoy the walking.

I sold some stuff around the house that we didn't need anymore. I realised at some point that those FTB advances were actually debt, so I added those to the debt snowball. I printed out a debt payoff chart from Debt Free Charts (all their debt payoff charts are free to download - if you have other goals such as savings, decluttering, even Bible reading, those cost).

We all enjoyed looking at the Debtris chart on the fridge. And whenever I'd colour in some blocks, I'd play the Tetris theme song on YouTube. We heard it so much, the kids were singing it to calm Elijah when he was crying in the car. I kid you not. 'Bub bubbub bub bubbub bub bubbub bub bubbub bub bubbubbub bub bub bub.' And it worked.

Before long, the only debt we had left was a loan from a friend who helped us buy flights to get overseas for my dad's funeral in 2015. And one day when I was talking to the friend about it, they said not to worry about it anymore. So we were officially debt free.

So what did we actually DO? We followed Dave's advice. We followed the Baby Steps. We built up $1000 in an emergency fund first, and didn't touch it except for ACTUAL emergencies (like getting the kitchen light fixed after it tried to burn down the house one Sunday morning).

After we had our $1000 starter emergency fund, we threw ALL extra money at the debt. The smallest one first, then the next smallest, and the next, and so on until everything was gone.

The budget was key. Making a plan for our money BEFORE we spent it made a huge difference. I'd already been keeping pretty good records, but that's only half of the equation. So when I was working out our budget for different categories, I looked at how much we had actually spent in the last year on each, and broke it down by month/pay cycle. I noticed some categories were INSANE, so we either cut those out, or cut them down significantly. If there wasn't money in the budget for something we wanted to do, we either waited till we did have money in the budget, or came up with something different to do.

Once we had the debt paid off, every extra dollar went in our emergency fund. It slowly built up, not quickly enough for my liking, but it was growing. Our goal was three months worth of expenses. (Dave recommends three to six months. Three was fine in our case - he recommends six months if you're self employed and in some other situations).

In the middle of this, Covid happened, and although Darrin still had work as a public transport driver, his work became uncertain. A new company was taking over the bus depot where he worked, and he'd heard unflattering things about them. So he wasn't optimistic about being able to stay in the conditions that he'd heard about. But we were preparing for just this kind of situation.

In September 2020, he gave his notice and left. He got his payout from work with all his unused annual leave and long service leave, which more than finished our emergency fund. But we had to live off of that money till he got a new job, so it went down again.

In January 2021, we applied for (and had approved) payments from Centrelink while he job hunted. So I based our budget off of JUST what was coming in, and tried to leave the emergency fund alone unless something came up that we needed. It would still go down slowly, but much less than before.

July 2021, our tax came in, and it was TWICE what we'd been expecting (due to Darrin's huge payout from his last job taking more tax than was actually relevant based on his end of year income). We spent some of the money on stuff we'd been waiting for, but the rest went to the emergency fund. And finished it a second time!

We just had to have our drains cleared, which used emergency funds, and now Darrin's off work due to Covid, so it may go down again. BUT it's there. It's for us to use in exactly these circumstances. We're ok. A few years ago, this would have ruined us. I shudder to think where we'd be if we'd actually moved house two years ago, and then all this happened. If we'd never changed our habits. It certainly wouldn't be pretty.

If you're in debt and struggling to get ahead, don't panic. Just go find yourself a copy of The Total Money Makeover. Library, op shop, borrow from a friend, or even buy new if you can't find it cheap. It's totally worth it.

Edited to add: Sometimes I feel like our story isn't that dramatic, because we only had a few thousand dollars of debt. No credit cards, no student loans, no car payments (we'd paid that off just before we started the Ramsey plan). But the big difference is the mindset. We won't borrow money again. We'll save up for big purchases. Debt is not an option anymore. And the peace I have just knowing that I won't have bill collectors coming after me, late payment notices, debt that never seems to go away, that's something you can't put a price tag on. We still have a house payment (which is the only debt Dave doesn't yell at you for), and whenever we have extra money to throw at that, we will.

Can you do this if you have more debt? Yep, it just might take you longer. But once you get going, and you see the progress, you'll start wanting to push yourself harder to get it gone quicker. I've heard the same story from many other people who have done this.

How I'm weaning myself from Big Tech

Big Tech is getting to be a problem for many people. No doubt you've heard rumblings of censorship in the last few months. Big tech companies are getting into every part of our lives, and many of us want to get away from that.

But how, when they're so pervasive? Facebook and Google track you everywhere you go. When you come across a recommended product online, it's usually an Amazon link. Microsoft struck deals years ago with PC and laptop manufacturers which requires Windows to be installed on new computers. If you dare to remove it to use another operating system, you void the warranty.

The five biggest tech companies in the world right now are Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Google, and Facebook. Let's go through each of them one at a time.

Big Tech and the alternatives I'm using

AppleApple logo

I haven't used an Apple device in years. I got an iPhone when I was pregnant and stressed 9 years ago (that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!) and regretted it within 6 months. About two years later, I switched to an Android device. I gave away the iPhone to someone who was looking for one and have never looked back.

Apple severely limits what you're able to do with your own device that YOU purchased and own. You can jailbreak it and gain a little more control, but not much.


Apart from an Android keyboard on my phone (which I'm trying to find a replacement for), I also haven't used Microsoft in years. We haven't had Windows installed on even a laptop since 2016. The only thing I ever used Windows for was to file my taxes, and in 2016, the ATO released their online tax filing. Which meant I never had to use Windows again to file my taxes. Yay!

Microsoft logo

So what do I use on my home computer if not Apple or Microsoft products? Open source software. Until 2016, it was FreeBSD (a version of Unix). Since 2016, it's been Linux. Free alternatives for everything you can imagine exist on Linux. In fact, I can't think of a single instance that I can't find a suitable replacement for an Apple or Microsoft product.

My husband and kids still use one Microsoft-owned product, but I don't think they'll be getting off Minecraft anytime soon. ;-)

AmazonAmazon Kindle

Ooh, this one hurts. I loved having Prime, especially living in Australia where shipping costs an arm and a leg. But I can't support a company anymore that actively discourages free speech. So today, I closed my Amazon account for good. I'm still sorting out where I'm going to buy books and things from. I'd prefer to buy from within Australia to support our own economy and to save on shipping costs. If you have a good recommendation, let me know in the comments!

And before you say Book Depository because they have free shipping worldwide, guess what...Amazon owns them too. :-(


This one's going to be hard. But we've been slowly working toward getting off Google for years.

My husband has always been about free, open software, so he's been looking for (and using) big tech alternatives since before we met. We've always had our own email servers, and apart from using a hosting service for my business websites for a few years, we've managed our own web server as well. For a while this was at home, but the downfall of that is if the power goes out (which it often can over summer), we can't access our own email or websites. So a few years ago, he found what's called a VPS (Virtual private server) provider called Vultr to host our services on.

All of our websites (including the one you're reading this on!) are hosted on our Vultr servers.

He set up our own Nextcloud server a few years ago. Nextcloud is an open source alternative to many services - calendar, file storage, chat, email, bookmarks, and more. It offers so many options I can't even list them all! Nextcloud is completely free, and you manage it yourself so you know exactly who's looking at your data.

Nextcloud even offers an app for your phone, so you can automatically upload photos you take and save them to your own personal cloud! You can install a gallery plugin to share photos with others as well.

More Google alternatives

As far as using Google sites themselves, for a start, I've switched my default search engine to DuckDuckGo everywhere that I can. Yes, even Chrome will let you do this. You can also install the DuckDuckGo browser on your phone, which also blocks big tech third party trackers like Google, Facebook, and Amazon by default.

But of course, there are some Google sites that we can't replicate at home. YouTube, for one. It's full of all kinds of content, useful for personal growth, education, entertainment, and news. A couple of people I follow have cloned their channels on a site called LBRY so I'm keeping an eye on that one now.

And I have an Android phone. Which is Google. I can't get away from Google entirely, but I can choose what device I use, based on whether or not it can be rooted (this means being able to gain control of the full device and install your own operating system on it). My current phone can be, and at some point in the near future (once I get the nerve to actually do it!) I'll back everything up and install Lineage OS. Lineage OS allows you to choose how much Google you want on your Android phone. Yes, that means you can actually uninstall Google apps and not just disable them!


Of all the big tech companies out there, this one might be the hardest to get rid of. Almost everyone I know is on Facebook. I'm in dozens of groups for homeschoolers, co-ops, budgeting, friends, and the list goes on. Almost my entire family is on Facebook. It's just one of those things people have come to expect.

But isn't it creepy when you mention something to a friend, and a few minutes later an ad shows up on Facebook for exactly what you were talking about? They're always listening.

Alternatives to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

But there are alternatives popping up. Parler is a popular one similar to Twitter. They made the news recently due to a mass-exodus from Twitter. Then, the Parler app was removed from Apple and Google stores, and Amazon revoked their hosting account. They're back online as of yesterday, but the platform will take a while to rebuild.

Gab is an option similar to Facebook. Gab was banned from app stores several years ago, when they refused to enact censorship on their platform. So they built their own servers and run everything themselves. Andrew Torba, the founder of Gab, calls it a free speech platform. That means that all speech which is protected by the US constitution is also allowed on Gab. They are funded 100% by user donations.

But my favourite Facebook alternative so far is MeWe. It's free with a paid option, they don't advertise to you, and they don't ban you for daring to question what you see and hear in mainstream media.

MeWe offers groups, pages (for a monthly fee), chat, and events. There isn't a separate app for chat, so it's only one app to install on your phone.

It IS possible to wean yourself off big tech.

It'll take a while, and you have to be persistent, but you can do it. Slowly but surely.
Categories: How to... We hold these truths
Warning: Undefined array key "freetag" in /usr/local/www/ on line 173

Meal planning that doesn't suck your life away

"Mum, what's for dinner?"

Those are the words every mum dreads, every night. What IS for dinner?

For a very long time, my meal planning was sporadic at best. Sometimes it was nonexistent. Many nights, I'd stand in front of the fridge or freezer, wondering what the heck I was going to pull out of thin air to make a meal with. Many of those nights, I'd end up spending $20 across the road on chicken and chips.

It was not good for our budget, or our health.

So the middle of last year, after listening to Dave Ramsey's The Total Money Makeover (affiliate link), I decided our food budget needed an overhaul. And I was determined to find a way to make meal planning finally WORK for our family.

This is what I've come up with from scouring the interwebs to make my meal planning way easier.

Step 1: Write out any appointments, classes, or other events you're doing this week.

I don't remember if I heard this tip from somewhere else, or came up with it myself. But when I started my meal planning journey in earnest, I created a printable that let me write down not only the meals for each day, but also our activities for each day. This was a game changer.

It meant no longer planning too ambitious a meal for a day when we were busy close to a meal time. If you do want to include take away meals in your budget, these are the nights perfect for them. If your budget can't handle that right now, leftovers or premade meals are your friend here.

Step 2: Make a list of everything in your fridge, freezer, and pantry - especially the things that are getting close to the use-by date.

Taking inventory of your kitchen is a must. It'll help you use up those leftovers and the last of the sour cream tub before it goes mouldy. This, in turn, saves you money. Winning all over the place!

While you're writing your inventory, go ahead and throw out those week-old leftovers that are starting to grow fur. Eww.

Step 3: Create a meal plan from what you have on hand, and create a shopping list as you go.

Jordan Page calls this "shelf cooking" - where you make a meal plan based on what you already have in your kitchen, and supplement with things you buy. It's backwards from what I was doing all along, and it works so much better!

For instance, while doing your inventory, you wrote down pizza bases, passata, and mozzarella cheese. If you also have some leftover roast chicken or other meat you can quickly cook, you've got pizzas just from things you already have at home.

Put a tick or a star by these items (or cross them out) showing that you've come up with a use for them.

Let's say you found some mince in the freezer, and you have a bit of sour cream and salsa in the fridge, and a box of taco shells in the pantry. Obviously you're having tacos one day this week.

But you're out of cheese. You can't have tacos without cheese! So you put cheese on your shopping list.

Do the same with every meal - tick off the ingredients you're using, and write down any you need.

Bonus meal planning tip: Note the forecast for each day of the week.

I live in stinking hot South Australia, so every week during the summer, I jot down the predicted temperature for each day BEFORE I plan my meals. I don't want to be cooking a roast or a lasagna on a day when it's going to be 40 degrees outside. My house is already hot enough, thank you very much!
Categories: How to... Life, the universe, and everything
Warning: Undefined array key "freetag" in /usr/local/www/ on line 173

Brain Dump: The best way to get things out of your head

Counting down to the official launch of Piece of Cake: 42 Simple Systems For Your Business in 3 weeks! Today I'm sharing an excerpt from the first chapter, on how to do a brain dump for better productivity. Enjoy, and I hope you take away something useful!

So the first thing I want you to do when you're thinking about new systems for your biz is a brain dump.

"But what the heck is a brain dump?" you ask.

Well, the term is often used in computing circles to mean a complete transfer of information from one place to another. But the other type of brain dump & popularised by David Allen in his book Getting Things Done - is simply writing out everything that's in your head, on paper.

Yes, I said on paper. Or whiteboard, blackboard, chalk on the driveway & whatever floats your boat. But write it out by hand.

Why write by hand? Because there's something about the act of writing down your thoughts that helps to clarify things. I know this from my own experience. I can have a hundred things bouncing around in my head and feel totally overwhelmed, but as soon as I write it all down, it feels manageable. Even though I haven't actually accomplished anything, I feel like now I CAN accomplish something.

And I reckon it'll be the same with you. So go ahead. Grab your writing implement of choice and something to use it on, and do a brain dump.

After the Brain Dump

How are you feeling now? A little less stressed? Or are you more stressed, looking at that huge list of things you have to do?

Don't worry. You don't have to do it all at once, and to be totally honest, you don't even have to do all of it yourself. I guarantee it.

The next step is to look at that list and organise it a little. Which tasks have a deadline? Which ones can you combine, or do in quick succession (such as errands)? Which ones can you delegate to someone else?

You can go crazy with different coloured highlighters (my favourite), put different bullets next to different categories of tasks, or create separate lists of tasks.

(Side note: I just did a mini-brain dump whilst writing this chapter. I wrote down four things that I was thinking about so I can remember to do them later, rather than stopping writing the book to do them now and losing my momentum!)

Once you've sorted your items into different categories or lists, it's time to get to work on them. Go with the most urgent things first & like finding paperwork for a meeting you're having tomorrow morning & and leave non- urgent things for later.

Which things did you decide to delegate? If you haven't delegated anything, go back to the list and find something that someone else can do. Don't argue with me! Just do it. You'll thank me later.

Look, I know how tempting it is to try to do everything yourself. I'm kind of a DIY-er too. So I totally get the percieved extra hassle and cost to delegating or outsourcing tasks. Just ask me how long it took to finally get a house cleaner!

We'll talk more about this in chapter 7, but trust me & you need to delegate some part of your list to someone else. You just can't do it all on your own. Nobody can.

Before long, you'll be crossing things off that list like there's no tomorrow. And doesn't it feel SO GOOD when you cross something off? It kinda makes you want to write down more things just so you can cross them off, too!

Full disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.
Categories: Home business How to...
Warning: Undefined array key "freetag" in /usr/local/www/ on line 173

How I'm writing my ebook

Yes, one of my goals for this year is writing my ebook! I plan to finish the first draft this month. See the end of the post for more on this.

But for now, here's what's working for me.

I started off really overwhelmed with how exactly to start writing my ebook! I mean, I used to write research papers in school, and creative writing assignments, and there was a process the teacher had us follow. But I didn't have a process for writing an ebook.

And I'm an ISTJ, so I need to follow a process, a recipe, or some kind of instructions.

I came across Mandi Ehman's course From Idea to Ebook which I think was exactly what I needed! It's only $37 USD so if you're similarly confused and overwhelmed, I highly recommend it. After going through the modules, writing my ebook seemed a lot more achievable.

Writing my ebook

The first thing I did was write out a list in a Word document of all the topics I want to cover in the book. I wanted to end up with a certain number, so I wrote plenty more than that number on my list. Some topics will get merged, and some I'll ditch altogether, before the final draft is ready.

I created a list on my ebook board of all my topics. Then I decided to split up all the different topics into groups with their own lists:

writing my ebook chapters

These lists will be the main information chapters of the book.

writing my ebook chapter

Then I started writing.

After I finished some of the subtopics, I decided I'd like a way to keep track of which ones I've finished and which ones I haven't. So I gave each finished topic a red label. I've done the same thing with the list of chapters as well, so I know how far through I am.

writing my ebook finished chapters

As I get further through the book, all those red labels keep me going. As an ISTJ, I'm very keen to finish things that I start, so being able to easily see how much is left is a huge motivator.

Now, I'm not done writing my ebook yet, so I'm sure I'll learn more along the way. One day I'll write another blog post about the rest of the process. :-)
Categories: Home business How to...
Warning: Undefined array key "freetag" in /usr/local/www/ on line 173

Homeschooling and Home Business 101

I'm a part of several Facebook groups for small biz owners. I'm noticing more and more are homeschooling! This is great, because I'm homeschooling my kids too. It's good to be in contact with others who are doing homeschooling and home business.

It's a lot to have on your plate, for sure - homeschooling and home business. So some planning and forethought is definitely required!

If you're on the fence about whether to send your kids to school or homeschool them, here are three words to bear in mind.

Simplicity. My husband and I have decided that for the most part, we'll focus on the three R's, and let everyday life and the kids' interests take care of the rest. Because when a child can read, they can learn about whatever they want through reading about it. If they can read and do basic arithmetic, they can get by quite well in society.

The workbooks we've decided on for our boys are things that they can do on their own. Sometimes they'll ask for help, and that's okay! We don't expect them to know everything, because they're learning. But when you have multiple children, a home business to run, and the regular home upkeep, it's good that they can work on their own for the most part.

Flexibility. This is important, because no two days are the same. Some days you'll have a sick kid, or an excursion (field trip). Sometimes you'll decide to go on holiday (vacation) during the normal school term - because you can! And those days when you have meet-ups with other homeschooling families, and take care of that thing that non-homeschoolers always worry about - socialisation!

And then some days, you just need a mental health day, and tell the kids to watch TV.

Rhythm. Sort of like a schedule, but not as strict! Our rhythm most days means schoolwork & chores in the morning, then lunch, then kids on their computers while I work in my office. My husband's work start times are different each day, so sometimes we'll have lunch at 12, and other days not till 1:30 or 2. But regardless of the actual time that everything happens, it happens in a certain order most days. This way, we all know what to expect, and everything gets done.

Often, I'll do some work in my office after the kids are in bed. Or if I'm still getting the baby to sleep, I'm on the couch watching Buffy. ;-)

And we try to keep to this rhythm during the school holidays, too - although without so much book work!

So this is how we do homeschooling and home business.

Are you homeschooling? How do you do it?
Categories: Home business Homeschooling How to...
Warning: Undefined array key "freetag" in /usr/local/www/ on line 173

Surviving the newborn period as a homeschooling WAHM

So I had a baby a month ago. Almost exactly, in fact - Micah will be one month old tomorrow. We are well and truly in the middle of the newborn period.

I have two older boys as well, age 5 and 9 1/2. We homeschool. And I run my own business from home.

That sounds like a lot, doesn't it? It certainly feels like it some days! And I knew it was going to be a huge adjustment having another baby, so I made some plans ahead of time for how to get through the newborn period without completely losing my mind.

How I'm surviving the newborn period as a homeschooling WAHM

  • Babywearing. When the baby only wants Mum, but Mum needs to do something other than just hold the baby before she tears her hair out, babywearing is awesome. While babywearing my three boys, I've been able to play computer games, work on my website, wash dishes, put on a load of laundry (and hang it after), walk around the shops with a shopping trolley, use my sewing machine, cook dinner - and that's just the beginning. I've heard that some anthropologists believe the baby sling was the first human invention, and it's easy to see why. It's useful not only during the newborn period, but for the months to come - as long as your back is strong enough to carry your child!

  • My kids are, by and large, on school holidays. I told Caleb, my 9 year old, that when the baby came he'd get a break from his schoolwork. The newborn period is a time when pretty much everything else falls by the wayside, so I expected that we wouldn't be up for checking his work and reminding him to do it every day. Instead, I've told Caleb that he can do his workbooks one day a week, and he can choose which day that is.

    Chuckie, our five-year-old, is learning how to read and doing his first mathematics workbook. He's still excited about these things, so he grabs his maths book whenever he feels like doing some work (about 2-3 times a week). A friend of mine, who has homeschooled her eight children, said that right from the start, she chose workbooks that her kids could do mostly on their own. This has proved to be a useful strategy for me too, even though I don't have as many kids as she does!

  • I let my clients know that I was going on maternity leave, and to expect I'd be out of action for at least a few weeks. I'm also not taking on any new clients at the moment, because it's too much at this time. Right now, I need to focus on getting to know my baby and recovering from the pregnancy & birth. Everything else can wait.

  • Online grocery shopping. Actually, I've been using this one since I was about 35 weeks pregnant. It's so much easier to have a Coles delivery driver carry your heavy groceries into the house than having to do it yourself. Sure, it costs a bit more, but the extra I pay for the delivery is less money that I'm paying for chiropractic adjustments from overdoing it.

  • Accept help from whoever offers it. I know - a lot of us have trouble accepting help, myself included. I hate being dependent on anyone. But you simply can't do it all on your own, so whoever offers to babysit your older kids, bring you meals so you don't have to cook, clean your house - let them.

  • Disposable everything. I'm a bit embarrassed to admit this one, but as I'm writing this, we're using disposable nappies and disposable plates in our house. It's just easier at the moment. When things settle down a bit more, Micah will be back in the cloth nappies (love my Seedling, Baby Beehinds, and Cushie Tushies nappies!), and we'll use our standard dishes again.

  • Packaged food and take-away. Yeah, this one too. Today we had chicken nuggets for lunch. About half our meals at the moment are frozen packaged things that are easy to prepare - because inevitably, the baby is always hungry when Mum is ready to cook.

  • Giving the older kids more responsibility. The 9 year old is getting really good at doing laundry, preparing food, and washing dishes. The 5 year old checks the letterbox every day, puts dishes away, and helps Dad empty the bins every week. Older kids can do a lot more around the house than most people give them credit for.

  • Whenever I feel up to cooking, I make a double batch and freeze half. This gives us an extra meal we can warm up quickly if we're having a crap day. Or, depending on the meal, it gives us leftovers that the big kids can grab for their own meals over the next few days.

  • I only do one big thing a day. If I go out shopping, I ONLY go out shopping. If I do housework, I ONLY do housework. I don't try to go to several different shopping centres on the same day and then do three loads of washing and wash dishes when I get home - that would result in certain disaster.

  • Whenever I'm able to put the baby down, I have a list of priorities. The first thing on this list is go to the toilet. After this is eating, drinking, showering - and further down the list is any kind of housework. This ensures that I look after myself before I do anything else. Putting on my own oxygen mask first, so to speak.

  • Well. That was a bit longer list than I was anticipating writing, but I think you get the idea!

    What other things would you add to this list, or do differently in the newborn period?
Categories: Home business Homeschooling How to...
Warning: Undefined array key "freetag" in /usr/local/www/ on line 173

How to get started on your to-do list

The best way to get started on your to-do list is just to start.

It sounds so simple, but it's true!

But you're still asking 'HOW? Because my to-do list is a mile long and I have no idea where to start!'

Okay. I hear you. I've been there, and I've got some tips for you.

Step one - write down everything.

Yes - everything. Everything you need to do - biz related, housework related, everything you can think of that you need or want to do, write it down in a list. You can use pen and paper, whiteboard, an online tool - whatever works for you.

This is always my first step when I'm feeling overwhelmed. I write down absolutely everything I can think of that needs to get done.

Why do I start by writing everything down, when I could just start one of the things on the list already? Because usually, I have a million things running around in my head bumping into each other and causing me stress. Once I've written them all down, my mind is a lot clearer, and I can look at things objectively to come up with a game plan.

Try it. Even if you're not usually a List Person like I am, give it a go and see how it feels.

Once you've written out your to-do list, then you can decide how to approach it. Do you want to tackle the quick, easy tasks first, so you feel like you're achieving a lot? Can you delegate some of these tasks to other members of your family or your team?

I don't know about you, but I LOVE crossing things off my to-do list. It makes me feel like I'm accomplishing something, even if I'm only crossing off a couple of easy things! Then I have momentum to get the rest of it done.

If you're still feeling overwhelmed after you have a written to-do list, I'd love for you to download my free e-book, Overcoming Overwhelm. You can sign up for it right at the bottom of this post, and I guarantee the five steps I talk about will bring clarity and peace.
Categories: Home business How to...
Warning: Undefined array key "freetag" in /usr/local/www/ on line 173

Page 2 of 2, totaling 19 entries