29 June 2013

Following Blogs

Hi guys. Do you know what day it is?

Besides being Hubby and my 7th anniversary of home ownership (or should I say mortgage ownership), it's also very nearly the end of June.

What does this signify? A lot of things to a lot of people. It means the end of financial year to money people. It means the eve of significant regulatory change in the superannuation industry (breathe, Francesca...). It means the start of school holidays to others.

It also means the end of Google Reader as a means to follow blogs.

So how can you follow my blog now? I thought you'd never ask. Let me count the ways...

1. Bloglovin
You can register with www.bloglovin.com and follow as many blogs as you like through that. You don't have to be a blogger to register, but if you are a blogger, you can "claim" your blog as your own. Importantly, you can also import the list of blogs you follow directly from Google Reader quite easily. The link to Francesca Writes Here is http://www.bloglovin.com/en/blog/4950623 (I hope that works...) You can also just search "Francesca Writes Here" to find me.

2. Follow by Email
On the right hand sidebar of my blog, there's a heading "Follow by Email". All you have to do is type your email address in, click on "submit" and my blog posts will be sent directly to your email inbox.

3. Facebook
Francesca Writes Here has a Facebook page. When I publish blog posts, I share them on this page as well as other bits and pieces. Facebook tends to do funny things showing (or not showing) posts to page fans sometimes, so this might not be the most reliable way of keeping up with things...

4. Twitter
I'm also on Twitter @FrancescaBlogs. When I publish blog posts, I also share them on Twitter. But Twitter being Twitter, if you're not watching the nanosecond I tweet, you might not see it :-)

I'm sure there are plenty of other ways of following blogs and if you've already found something that suits you, then go with it. These are just my suggestions if you're getting lost in blogland. Happy reading!

27 June 2013

Thankful Thursday: Sunrise from my Window

Hey hey Thankful Thursdayers!
 
Today's post is short (but still very sweet ☺ )
 
 
 
I'm thankful for the gorgeous morning view I recently managed to capture on my camera. Sights like this take my breath away. They make me stop rushing around and really look at what is around me. (Truly, the only rushing I did during the couple of minutes this view had my attention was rushing to grab the camera.) I actually physically breathe a little more deeply and slowly, taking it in and savouring the beauty of nature.
 
What are you thankful for?


Francesca Writes Here
 

(Housekeeping: to link up your posts, just add the name of your post, your email address and post URL below. Your post URL can't be more than 100 characters for this linky thing to work. Your email address won't be published, but it will help me get in touch with you if the link isn't working.)




26 June 2013

Spilling Secrets: How I Cram It All In

I read a post written by Mumabulous the other night, which has prompted this blog post from me. In her post, she posed the following question:

 
"All you people who do manage to work, study, look after kids, do housework and maintain a successful blog please spill your secrets. How do you manage? Do you sleep?"
I wanted to reply to her post then and there but, as I was reading it on my phone, commenting seemed to belong in the “too hard basket”.  So I “liked” it on Bloglovin’, which is Francesca code for “comment later when I’m at the computer.”
I was thinking over what my comment would be, until it dawned on me that the comment would be the length of a blog post. And so this post was born (in my mind). Thanks Mumabs for the inspiration!
Now looking at the above question, I confess that I don’t study.  And I’d hardly call my blog “successful” in the scheme of things. But here’s what I do do. (Hehe, I just wrote do-do). I have three kids aged 6, 4 and 1. I have a husband who I enjoy spending time with. I work three days per week. On one of my “home” days I am a co-ordinator at my playgroup. It’s only two hours, but factor in preparing and the ridiculous shortness of the school day and that’s pretty much my day. My other “home day” I do half an hour of helping out at my big girl’s school with her little sisters checking out the scenery and then I hang at home with them or do housework. I blog. I read. I play netball once per week. I wrote a book (I haven’t published it yet, but I’m sitting on my laurels for a while. Why not?).
So yeah, I guess what I’m saying is, I’m busy.

And yes, Mumabs, I do sleep. Not always in my bed – sometimes the floor next to MissyMoo3’s (21 months) cot is as good as it gets if she’s sick and sooky. I’ve also slept on couch cushions on the floor when Felicity and Leopold were visiting my MissyMoos.
But you wanted to me to spill my secrets and I’m rambling.

So, here are my secrets:

Be organised
I’ll admit that I haven’t been as on top of this lately as I have been in the past … and the effects are noticeable. I’ve blogged about time management before (here and here) and while it isn’t the whole answer, I truly believe it is an important component of staying afloat in a busy life. I keep a diary and write everything in it - work and home appointments as well as home tasks - so it's all in the one place and I know what I will be facing each day. I schedule some blog posts knowing that I can't write first thing in the morning during the craziness of getting three little people ready for their day, not to mention getting myself ready for mine.

Routine, routine, routine
Routine isn’t just good for kids; it’s also super useful for the busy parent. We’re all creatures of habit, and keeping a routine can condition you to do things on auto-pilot – in a good way! It means that those mundane but essential tasks aren’t a chore – they’re just what you do without thinking. Just like making school lunches each morning or putting the washing machine on the night before on a delayed cycle to start first thing in the morning. I also have specific tasks for specific days to suit my routine: ironing Sunday nights, blogging Wednesday nights. I can be flexible –for example, in the interests of maintaining the health of my social life, I might blog or iron on a different night ☺

Don’t sit down (except to blog)
You think I’m joking, don’t you? No, seriously, don’t sit down. I mean it. Sitting down just invites trouble. Sitting on the couch invokes a sixth sense in your children through which they detect your idleness and begin making demands of you. You're better off doing something like wiping down the kitchen benchtops - at least that's productive. Sitting up at the table for breakfast is a big no-no too - you'll be climbed on and the little ones will suddenly want to eat your food even though five seconds earlier they had no interest in their own. You're better off standing at the kitchen benchtop and eating there - it's quicker and more nutritious for you. And now you see why it was useful to wipe them down last time you decided not to sit on the couch. Winning!

Be efficient

Whether it be in conversation, confiscation or a household task, try to get the "most" in the way of results with the "least" in the likes of time and effort. This includes housework. I do what needs doing but I don't go overboard. I also give the MissyMoos jobs of their own to do - jobs that actually lighten the load on my back, for example, tidying their rooms each night.

Multi-task

Closely related to efficiency, this is a good one. For example, I read blogs and tweet on my phone while MissyMoo3 is in her cot putting herself to sleep. She wants me near her but doesn't actually want me to do anything for her, so I do stuff for myself. I test MissyMoo1 (6) on her spelling words while I'm washing up her lunch box in the afternoon. I do my ironing in my bedroom, which is also where Hubby watches TV, so we can hang out together at the same time, catch up with each other about our days or anything we want to talk about, and have some down time watching our shows.

Use technology to your advantage

I use Bloglovin' to read blog posts on my phone and "like" the ones I want to comment on or add to Francesca's Festa of Favourites later when I have a block of time at the computer (at night after the MissyMoos are in bed). Phone apps can be amazing time-wasters if you let them, but they can also make life easier.

Find snippets of time for yourself

It's not impossible to have hobbies when you're busy, you just have to be a bit cluey about it. If skydiving is your hobby, you might be in a bit of trouble, but luckily for me, that doesn't float my boat and I can steal precious minutes for my hobbies. I often carry a novel in my mummy-sized handbag which means I can read a couple of pages in the school carpark at afternoon pick-up time while MissyMoo2 (4) is singing along to the radio, or in my lunch break at work. I also have a notebook with me most of the time so I can jot down ideas for blog posts (or a sequel to my novel...?).

Accept defeat, relinquish control

Do you like all the tips you've read so far? Yeah? Well sometimes, it's a load of rubbish. Some days, nothing works. Some days the kids are screaming, clingy, vomiting, soiling clothes, it's raining so the washing won't dry, you forgot to buy an essential ingredient for that night's dinner, you just don't have the energy. Sometimes you order in take-away, use ABC2 as your babysitter, skip the evening bath and put the kids to bed early just to get some peace. And that's okay. You can try to be superwoman. But you're not, you know. Nothing against you personally, but we're human, not superheroes. Accept that, go easy on yourself, and you'll be fine ☺

23 June 2013

I Have a Four-Year-Old (Again)!

Yes, you read it right, MissyMoo2 recently turned FOUR!

I still can't quite believe it. Maybe it's because she's not my eldest child, maybe it's because in my mind I'm forever young, but MissyMoo2 still seems to be too little to have turned four.

And yet, the weight of evidence before me forces me to admit that my feelings are merely denial and that she truly is growing. The fact that she goes to pre-school and has made her own friends there should have enlightened me. The fact that she can write her own name should have given her thick Mamma a clue. The chit-chats I eavesdrop on hear between MissyMoo2 and her big sister in the back of the white bus ought to have made it clear that my middle girl is growing up.

I don't know why, but MissyMoo2's milestones sometimes take me by surprise. I seem to embrace milestones with MissyMoo1 (6) and MissyMoo3 (20 months).  With MissyMoo1, it's exciting because it's brand new; with MissyMoo3, it's exciting because it signifies a "moving on" moment for our family. While I feel just as proud of MissyMoo2 when she does something new, she flies under the radar a bit. Perhaps it's because of her sweet, quiet nature. Perhaps (dare I say it?) it's because she's the middle child. It's not that I don't notice, it's just that she's so happy and easy-going most of the time that sometimes, I take a look at her - really look - and realise that her baby face has thinned out, her features are more defined, and she is growing into the girl I always imagined and dreamed of.

Happy birthday to my beautiful girl.

20 June 2013

Thankful Thursday: Reaction

As I sit down to write this post, it's Wednesday night and I'm tired. I've been at work all day. The MissyMoos have been unwell. It's cold. I don't have a brilliant idea for a blog post. My most recent photos are not available for bloggy inspiration as they are still on my camera, where they will stay, as I can't be bothered to upload them to the computer.

Sounds like a bit of a downer, right? Is this really a Thankful Thursday link up?

Here's the thing:



So instead of trying to focus on one major topic, today my depleted attention span calls for a little list of thankful.

  • I've been at work all day → I'm thankful that I have a good job.
  • The Missy Moos have been unwell → I'm thankful that they're on the mend and that we were able to access medical care when they needed it.
  • It's cold → I'm thankful we have heating.
  • I don't have a brilliant idea for a blog post → I'm thankful for the lovely people who stop by and read my blog and for the opportunity I was given to host Thankful Thursday, opening my eyes up to more positive posts each week.

What are you thankful for?

Francesca Writes Here

(Housekeeping: to link up your posts, just add the name of your post, your email address and post URL below. Your post URL can't be more than 100 characters for this linky thing to work. Your email address won't be published, but it will help me get in touch with you if the link isn't working.)


18 June 2013

Diary of a SAHM - Jess Newman

Last week, I arrived home from a long day at the office, feeling drained. There was a parcel waiting for me as I entered the house. Upon opening it, I saw this:

Image source
Excitement revealed the energy which I thought had been sapped under corporate fluorescent lights. The first opportunity I got, I discarded this month's Old Ducks Book Club book from my bedside table and got to reading this instead. This is the first book I have read by someone I "know" (yes, I'm using the term rather loosely, but interacting in blogland is a type of knowing!) :-)

I loved it.

I'll tell you why I loved it. It is meaningful (on both parenting and Christian faith levels) without being overly preachy (although I'm probably more religious than some, I'm not really into being "preached at"). It tackles important matters of the heart - topics in diary form. It is clever. It is honest. It is fun. Jess stays true to her quirky writing style throughout.

I'll be honest and say that this is not everyone's cup of tea. Jess has said this herself. But I found it enjoyable to read. I also found it affirming. Obviously everyone differs in their parenting styles and beliefs - I also differ with Jess on some aspects - but I found it heartening that my reasons for doing what I do in my life, my attempts to be the best person I can be, are shared.

Great work, Jess :-)

Book: Paperback. Purchased from www.essentiallyjess.com
Rating: 4 stars
One-liner: First book I've read where I "know" the author. Awesome!

16 June 2013

Mysterious Messages in the Garden

When it was my birthday the other week, my lovely friend Gina stopped by my house and left me a gift. Unfortunately I wasn't home at the time, so being the quirky lady that she is, Gina left a "Hello" on our front path using some of our garden stones.

Enter The Fat Cat.

She looks innocent enough, but what is she thinking?

The next morning, her handy-work was apparent.


And I thought she liked it here...

13 June 2013

Slow Cooker Deliciousness

You might know that Thursdays are a little busy here in "casa di Francesca". I prepare my Thankful Thursday post on a Wednesday night and schedule it to publish Thursday mornings. And dinner? Well, up until recently dinner was thrown together in my lunch break and cooked up quickly after the marathon after school pick-up and homework duties were sorted.

I say "up until recently" because a little while ago, Nonna put this into my hot little hands:

It didn't have food in it when she gave it to me - I added that later.


I'd never used a slow cooker before. I'd heard about how wonderful they are - before everyone got obsessed with Thermomixes (another thing I'm behind the eight-ball on), slow cookers were all the rage. Apparently you could put a bunch of stuff in one in the morning and leave it cooking all day to find dinner ready at the appropriate time - imagine!

I'll admit that I was nervous with my newly acquired contraption. I approached it cautiously - so cautiously, in fact, that it was sitting in my kitchen cupboard for a few weeks before I dared get it out and another week before I attempted to use it.

When I did use it, one Thursday, it was so easy. Why did it take me so long to try it out?!

I was able to put everything in it in the morning before my scheduled work time began and throughout the course of the day, my domestic goddessness was rewarded with the delicious aroma filling the house.




This Thursday, I am thankful that I can produce an almost effortless home-cooked, nutritious meal while I'm working from home.

What are you thankful for?


Francesca Writes Here


(Housekeeping: to link up your posts, just add the name of your post, your email address and post URL below. Your post URL can't be more than 100 characters for this linky thing to work. Your email address won't be published, but it will help me get in touch with you if the link isn't working


12 June 2013

The Fat Cat



 
Linking up for Wordless Wednesday at

Twinkle In The Eye

11 June 2013

Beautiful You

A friend at work recently pointed me to this You Tube clip.
 
Disclosure: This video was made by Dove. My blog post has not been sponsored by Dove in any way - I am just writing my personal response to viewing it.
 
 
 

In the clip, an artist draws two pictures of each woman: the first picture is based on the way the woman describes herself; the second is based on a description given by another person.

When the women described themselves, they seemed to place more emphasis on their faults, with the result that their features were portrayed as more severe in the artist's impression. When the women were being described by another person, somebody they had chatted with prior to the exercise, the result was a softer sketch with gentler features.

This goes to the heart of the mismatch between how you see yourself versus how others see you.

In the clip, this tension is demonstrated through physical descriptions, manifested through the artist's interpretation of what is said to him.

But this idea is not limited to physical appearance.

The same concept can apply more broadly, to how we view ourselves as people. I know for myself that I can be my own worst enemy. On a bad day, my impression of myself and of things around me can be quite far removed from reality. Sometimes we concentrate so hard on fixing our perceived faults - be it in ourselves or in our surroundings - that we can lose sight of context and perspective.

Something like this clip is a refreshing reminder that if we switch our focus, we might be pleasantly surprised. I have been making a conscious effort to do this recently - looking more for the positive in things and giving less attention to the negative. And I can safely say that it is contributing to my happiness.

 :-))

 (Big smiley face, see, EXTRA happy)

  

09 June 2013

A Symbolic Photo - Una Foto Simbolica



The largest shoes in the house with the smallest.
Le scarpe più grande della famiglia colle scarpe più piccole.
 
A hug.
Un abbraccio.

08 June 2013

50,000 PAGEVIEWS!!!


I'm just a little excited - my little blog's all-time pageviews have ticked past



Only a couple of months ago, my blog reached 40,000 pageviews. Back then to mark the milestone, I revamped the blog and did my every-10k-view statistic party. I now honestly can't believe that only a couple of months later I'd be writing a 50k post. I had thought that for 50,000 pageviews I would come up with something awesome, fantastic, exciting. But it has kind of snuck up on me. So you just get the usual, guys :-)

Soooo, here's a list of the top 10 all-time page-viewing countries, with a little message in their native tongue.

  1. Australia: G'day Aussies. Thanks for readin' me yarns. I reckon it's bloody beautiful.
  2. Russia: Здравствуйте. Спасибо за чтение моих рассказов.
  3. United States: Hi ya'll. Thanks for reading my stories. It's been legen ... wait for it ... dary.
  4. Germany: Hallo. Vielen Dank dafür, meine Geschichten zu lesen.
  5. United Kingdom: Hello chaps. I'm much obliged for your kind attention to my tales.
  6. France: Bonjour. Merci de lire mes histoires.
  7. Philippines: Hello.Salamat sa iyo para sa pagbabasa ng aking mga kuwento.
  8. AustriaHallo. Vielen Dank dafür, meine Geschichten zu lesen.
  9. Czech Republic: Dobrý den. Děkuji za přečtení mé povídky.
  10. India: नमस्कार. मेरी कहानियों को पढ़ने के लिए धन्यवाद.

Here are my observations in comparison to the last statistics summary:
  • Russia and the US have swapped places - it must be all my posts about vodka parties ;-);
  • India bumped Sweden out of the top 10 (maybe I didn't write enough posts about Eurovision).
  • Thanks again to Google translate  :-)
Thanks so much blog readers. I'm not clicking on all these web pages myself, so there must be some of you out there reading my ramblings. I'm seriously blown away by the momentum this blog has carried in the way of pageviews over the past few months.

Thanks and here's to 50,000 more!!!! (I'll really have to up my game if I get to 100,000 and do something spectacular!)

 

06 June 2013

Birthday Week!

Hello and welcome to another Thankful Thursday.

Francesca Writes Here

You may (or may not) know that in this house, we are fans of the birthday week. Right now, we are in the midst of mine!

Today, I am thankful for my employer, and in particular, the fact that work gives us one day's leave on our birthdays (or the closest work day to it). As it's my birthday week, today is my birthday leave day.

If you've read about my usual Thursday routine, you might be jumping for joy on my behalf right now in the belief that I get an entire day to myself, as the MissyMoos are all out of the house on Thursdays.

When I first discovered that my birthday leave day would be a Thursday, I was. I had many exciting ideas for my solo day, involving all manner of pampering.

Less than a week after my exciting discovery, a newsletter came home from MissyMoo1's (6) school nominating that day as a pupil free day. Today. What are the chances? At the time, I could have cried. Am I never going to have a block of free time without the kids?

But now, I am thankful. I am thankful that today I will be able to spend some one-on-one time with my big girl. We're going to drop the little MissyMoos off to play at pre-school and day care, then we're going to hit the shops together. I am so  excited about having uninterrupted conversations and just hanging out with my big girl. I am excited about this window to the future I will experience today - an outing without nappy bags, strollers or tantrums.

What a great birthday week it will be!

**********

Thanks to last week's Thankful Thursday linkers for brightening the interwebs with your positivity - farewelling the toddler stage, bloggy catch-ups, not feeling guilty, winter and bootcamp-style humiliation! You bloggers rock!


What are you thankful for?

(Housekeeping: to link up your posts, just add the name of your post, your email address and post url below. Your post URL can't be more than 100 characters for this linky thing to work. Your email address won't be published, but it will help me get in touch with you if the link isn't working)


04 June 2013

Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen


Source

This book has withstood the test of time for good reason. It is a literary great, made better only with visions of Colin Firth as Mr Darcy ;-)

Source


As is the case for many, my introduction to Pride and Prejudice (and to Jane Austen - it was the first of her books I read) came through high school English study. I have read it a few times since, but before this most recent re-read, I'd left it a good five years between reads. Somewhere along the way (I think through Nonna), I picked up the 1961 Signet Classic edition pictured above.

It's a happy coincidence that I recently finished reading this book and in the midst of drafting this post, I have come across This Charming Mum's review of Mr Darcy the Dancing Duck by Alex Field. There will probably be a plethora of posts (you know I like alliteration) on this book from bloggers this year, being its 200th anniversary, but I'll happily add my two cents' worth today.

Being already familiar with the storyline and traits of the characters, this reading gave me the opportunity to more fully appreciate the language and literary artistry employed by Jane Austen. The themes which were shoved down my throat in Year 11 and the quotes memorised and regurgitated in essays and exams were now devoured and savoured. Whilst the lifestyle and social niceties appear so far removed from our own, the ideas of growing as a person, family upheaval and the changing nature of relationships are timeless. The few extra years of life experience I've had since I first read the book have aided in my appreciation of the themes.

Here are a few bits I liked.

Being embarrassed by family members
"To Elizabeth it appeared that had her family made an agreement to expose themselves as much as they cold during the evening, it would have been impossible for them to play their parts with more spirit or finer success..." (p89)

Mrs Bennet
Although irritating and mortifying to her sensible daughters, she's good value. I'm sure most of us have met someone a bit like her at some point.

"Not that I have much pleasure indeed in talking to anybody. People who suffer as I do from nervous complaints can have no great inclination for talking. Nobody can tell what I suffer! - But it is always so. Those who do not complain are never pitied." (p99)

Mr Bennet
For all his faults, I love his wit.

"An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth. From this day you must be a stranger to one of your parents. - Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you do." (p98)

Colin Firth Mr Darcy
"In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you." (p161)

"...it is many months since I have considered her as one of the handsomest women of my acquaintance." (p227)

Elizabeth's fire
"You are mistaken, Mr. Darcy, if you suppose that the mode of your declaration affected me in any other way than as it spared me the concern which I might have felt in refusing you, had you behaved in a more gentlemanlike manner."(164)

"How far your nephew might approve of your interference in his affairs, I cannot tell; but you have certainly no right to concern yourself in mine." (p300)

I am so glad I own this book and can just pick it up off my bookshelf if I feel like reading it. I am sure that the next time I do, I will enjoy it just as much, if not more.

Book: Paperback. I own it - it was given to me.
Rating: I've given this 5 stars on Goodreads.
One-liner: It's as popular as it is for a reason. Fantastic book

03 June 2013

Francesca's Festa of Favourites - June 2013

Is it June already?!

Yeah, actually, it does feel like June. The first day of winter looked and felt like winter. So here's something to brighten the grey and thaw the spirits: June's...

 
 
For anyone who's new to the link-up, here's some background: "Festa" in Italian means a celebration, a party.  
 
 



This link-up is a place where you can place links to your favourite posts in a given month, but here's the difference: they don't have to be posts you've written (although they can be). You can link to any post for the month that, for you, has been a must-read, that you're proud of, or that you think is entertaining.

I love being able to use this space to bookmark my favourite blog posts for the month, but more importantly, I love seeing what everyone else likes reading. So feel free to link up as many of your favourite posts as you like during the course of the month.

(Let me know in the comments if you have trouble with the link and I'll try to fix it at my end. As long as you remember to have ".html" at the end of the URL and the URL is no more than 100 characters, it should work.)

Also, as commenced last month, I'm choosing one post from the previous month's linked posts to showcase here.

Francesca's May Festa Favourite is:
 
 Diary of a SAHM from Essentially Jess.


 
This lady is something special - she has just written and self-published a book! I've put my money where my mouth is and pre-ordered a copy. I can't wait to read it when it arrives! Check out her blog post and, if you're interested, the book too. Congratulations Jess. I'm incredibly happy and excited for you, and so pleased you've made your dreams come true :-)


Now, let's see what literary delights Francesca's Festa of Favourites can bring us this month :-)


02 June 2013

Sparkle and Wit: The Entertainer

Over the past few weeks, I've been looking through my old blog posts.

Some of them remind me of things I would otherwise have forgotten (I love that about blogging). Some of them make me smile and giggle. Some of them are so me. Some of them aren't so much.

In some posts, I've seen the silly, funny me. The me I am when I'm trying not to be somebody else. The me I often lose sight of when the weight of responsibility bears down on me. The me I love to be. It's entertaining. I like it.

I do get a little serious sometimes too - and that's fine. But I think some of my recent writing has lost some of its oomph, its twinkle, its shine, its "me".

So, today I am reintroducing me!

 
 
I'm not a journalist. I don't write "articles". I just write whatever - that's the beauty of a personal blog. But rather than going through the motions in writing blog posts, you're hopefully going to see a bit more joy in Francesca's writing on Francesca Writes Here (hmm, referring to myself in the third person, interesting...).
 
Enjoy!
 
PS MissyMoo1 (6) was just reading over my shoulder. There's a cool milestone: the realisation that my child can read my blog!
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