On Saturday I dragged my friend 007 out for some serious clothes shopping. My clothes had sadly all fallen into a state of not being good enough even for bag ladies, so it was time to get rid of them and start again. Those who know me IRL know that I think going shopping for clothes is even less fun than sticking hot pokers into my eyes, so I needed a friend along for moral support. If I was a savvy shopper, I probably would have waited for Boxing Day.... but then I'd have to fight the crowds, the madness, the noise, the other people also looking for bargains. Given that I hate the experience to begin with, I'm not masochistic enough to try it when there are so many other crazy people out and about.
So off we went into the Melbourne CBD. Sidenote: I'm thoroughly urban, and I love love love large cities, and I love love love it when they are all gussied up for Christmas. It just feels like you can feel the heart of the city beating underneath all that concrete, as all the carollers and shoppers and kids wearing foam reindeer antlers cavort above ground. Melbourne's CBD is a shopping Mecca and there is nothing which you cannot find there - actually twice during the day we ended up calling directory assistance to find some stores and we realised we were only steps away from them!
I make no secret of the fact that I am large and lovely - which means my options for stores are fairly limited. That being said, I managed to put a sizeable dent in the old pocketbook (which also needs replacing. DH: That was an obvious birthday gift hint.). An interesting thing struck me about our shopping expedition - the amount of times the shop "assistants" did not want to actually assist us.
In every store which was NOT a large size store (because, you know, accessories clearly only come in 'small') we had a really hard time getting people to serve us. At David Jones (shmancy department store) several people actually walked RIGHT PAST us rather than offer to ring us up. Sidenote again - the directory lady at DJ's told me the large size section is "very popular" and yet it took 007 and I something like 10 minutes to FIND the place. It's way off in the back, in the corner, with NO shop assistants. Literally there was an echo as we spoke to one another.
Anyway in all the stores - DJ's, Hairhouse Warehouse, Catherine Manuell designs (cool bags, bitchy shop ladies), Myer, little Asian accessory stores, the Museum of Modern Art store and so on - NOBODY wanted to help us. I'm not sure why this is, other than perhaps shop chicks think that money from fat women is somehow not as good as money from thin women. It got to be quite annoying when, at one point, we literally had to chase someone down in order to take our money from us. There were several times when we would see 2-3 shop assistants chatting to each other, then look over and see us with arm loads of clothes looking for a register, and pointedly ignore us and keep chatting. In the large size stores, we not only had helpful and friendly staff, but we had people bending over backwards to help us - running to get different sizes and styles, suggesting other things we might try, having fun and ridiculous conversation, and so on.
Why is this? I mean I know there is the whole myth that fat people are somehow more jolly than others, and so fat shop assistants might therefore be nicer - but, seriously? Can the others really afford to ignore me? Now it might just be that this is coincidental ... that people who work in boutique stores are by nature friendly because they have to work harder for the sale, whereas chain and department store people will get the sale anyway. I don't know... but I do know that it was really rather frustrating for the both of us.
We had a fabulous day shopping, and laughing, and walking our feet off across miles and miles of hip city sidewalks, and that's really a lot more important than anything else. Still, I wonder if anyone else (fat OR thin) has had this experience in their Xmas shopping this year. Are people behaving differently because of the economy, or was it just bad luck on our part? Enquiring minds want to know.
Monday, December 21, 2009
On Saturday I dragged my friend 007 out for some serious clothes shopping. My clothes had sadly all fallen into a state of not being good enough even for bag ladies, so it was time to get rid of them and start again. Those who know me IRL know that I think going shopping for clothes is even less fun than sticking hot pokers into my eyes, so I needed a friend along for moral support. If I was a savvy shopper, I probably would have waited for Boxing Day.... but then I'd have to fight the crowds, the madness, the noise, the other people also looking for bargains. Given that I hate the experience to begin with, I'm not masochistic enough to try it when there are so many other crazy people out and about.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
In my previous post I talked about how I've been going with my kids to various professionals to see if we can get to the bottom of some recent behavioural concerns. One of those professionals asked me what, if anything, was happening at home which might be unsettling for the kids.
"Hmmm," says I, "Well, nothing I can really think of. Life is just the same as usual, same routines, same everything." In fact I felt quite proud that my kids' life was going about as per normal.. that they were still fed and clothed and loved.
Life with triplets is totally bound by routines - a concept I've previously blogged about. Every single person you talk to will tell you that without a routine, your life is a total goner. DH and I subscribed to this theory very early on (before the kids even came home from hospital) and we've kept it going even today. I suspect some triplet parents abandon the routines once their kids get to school age, but in our household we've seen no need to mess with a good thing. The routine has of course changed with time - naptimes have disappeared, playtime has gotten longer, homework time has been added in - but still, we very much function via a routine of events.
So - my kids know exactly what to do when they come home from school. They know which days are bath days (although extras often get added in), they know their chores for the day, they know what is expected of them in the evenings. This way, their life (and consequently my life) are ordered. Not always organised, but ordered - it just tends to make things flow better. So in my answer earlier, I wasn't wrong. Things basically ARE the same for us... except...suddenly I realised that in the past few months, nothing has been the same.
I wasn't home for a month, and so my kids routine was disrupted for four very long weeks. I came home, and I'll be honest in saying I've been a bit of an emotional minefield since then. Then DS moved into his own room (for the first time in 8 years, my kids were not in the same room) and that disrupted his routine. Their school is under construction, so their school days became rearranged, and rearranged again, to accommodate the changes in the buildings. Then came a whole bunch of evening school events, which meant that for several weeks my kids were over tired, had late nights, and again fell out of their routine. Then we decided to sort out the mess of our house, which meant that the house itself was (and remains) in a state of disarray. Now we're heading into school holidays, which means that yet again their carefully crafted routine will fall by the wayside.
So I revised my answer.
"Actually," I said, "It's been MONTHS since anything was normal in my house."
And suddenly, I got it. I understood why none of us (except maybe DH, who could stand in the eye of a storm and be perfectly calm) aren't feeling ourselves. I understood why my kids have asked (for 3 days in a row now) to have an afternoon nap, when they've not napped since they were 4. It just all sort of made sense. We've managed to keep a veneer of a routine, but the heart and soul of it just all fell apart. We think we're in a routine because all the surface activities have remained the same, but in reality it's been anything but routine these past few months.
Hindsight is a beautiful thing.
Monday, December 14, 2009
(RTFM = Read The Fucking Manual) A common suggestion given to people who cannot figure out how to get things to work.
Lately my kiddos have been getting into all kinds of scrapes. In some cases, it's just their usual kid-ness which rears it's ugly head. In other cases, it speaks of something more serious going on. Problem is, I have no idea - a) what the problem is (or more accurately, the cause) and b) I'm not entirely sure what to do about it. This is where parenting basically smacks me upside the head and reminds me that basically, I'm clueless.
My friends with teenagers assure me that it's only going to get worse from here - that I will more and more doubt my own parenting abilities, and that I will wonder what planet these alien children came from. This isn't heartening news. In recent weeks I've really become filled with self-doubt about my parenting ... mostly because I feel DH and I love, adore and care for these kids as much as we possibly can ... and yet still at least one of them just isn't the person I would hope they would be. I won't go into detail here, but suffice it to say there have been rather more phone calls from school, rather more tears, and rather more of the kinds of things parents don't want to hear about.
The sad thing is, I'm worried for my child... and yet I find myself focussing on ME rather than on THEM. I spend hours wondering what ELSE I could have done for them, what MORE I might have done, what promises did I fail to keep, what promises did I fail to make, what of ANYTHING might I have done to head this situation off at the pass. The reality of it is, I don't think there is actually anything... but that doesn't stop me from wondering, doubting, and being consumed with guilt. Being a proactive sort of person, I've taken a lot of steps to help this child of mine - from visiting with the right professionals, to giving them more one-on-one time, to talking with them and so on. And what then? What if none of these measures work? Suppose my child returns to school in Autumn and the same things happen again? Will I have utterly failed my child completely?
As parents, how do we keep from feeling totally helpless? I look around at the people I know and I see the ones who ignore their kids speech issues, physical issues, social issues, whatever issues...and previously I wondered how they can choose to not DO something about those situations. These days, I wonder if those same parents have not tried and then failed to resolve some of those issues. It's so easy to sit in judgement on someone else's child or parenting .. and so hard to know that you yourself are now a target for judgement.
Children don't come with manuals, but several times throughout their lives I've found myself wishing they did - because then, when I'm at my lower moments of wondering where the hell I went wrong - I could just RTFM and fix it up. Children not coming with said manuals is a serious design flaw.
Friday, December 11, 2009
One of the great injustices of my life is that I had the poor fortune of being born on Christmas Day. No two ways about it, December birthdays completely suck - but Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day suck even harder than the other 28 days. They're just totally crappy times to be celebrating a birthday. Aside from the potential birthday cake debacle, December birthdays are just terrible. All your friends are too busy to party, some of them are busy working out their religious choices, everyone just is stressed and not in the mood for yet another party and gift buying exercise. So I never get as much excitement out of my birthday as I possibly could or should... except that I always get the day off of work, and that's got to count for something, right?!
Now as I've mentioned before, I love and adore the holiday of Channukah. This year, to go with some of our brand-spankin'-new stuff, I've gone and bought some new decorations for the house. I went and cleared out the Aldi stock of chocolate coins, and I even managed to get my kids presents on time (Dear Borders, I'm glad I was able to help pay your rent this month. Happy Holidays, Love, Michelle). Tonight is the first night and for the next 8 nights I can light candles, eat chocolate, watch my kids open their pressies, and in general revel in this holiday. Plus it's an excuse to eat fried food!
So let's see.... kids, food, chocolate, candles, cheesy decorations. Yup! That's me sorted for the week! Birthday, Shmirthday. Who needs it?
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Last night was my kids' "celebration evening" which is a fancy way of saying it was their speech night. Speech night, for those not in Australia, is this curious thing which happens at the end of every school year. Basically it's awards, achievements, and a bunch of general 'stuff' about the school year all packed into one evening. Most of the time you have to also suffer a performance from the school orchestra (why someone doesn't put them out of their misery, I'll never know.) Anyway it's a fun-slash-boring night and this year was the first time the school did it coupled with the 6th grade graduation.
A couple of weeks ago DH got a phone call telling him that 2 of our kids would be receiving awards. (BRAG: DD1 for Achievement in English Literature and DS for Academic Achievement). Anyway while we knew about it ahead of time, the kids find out about it on the night itself. It didn't occur to me that this would be an issue - my kids have known for a long time that achievement is earned, that is requires personal effort, and that it's an HONOUR and not a right to be recognised by your peers and teachers. It didn't occur to me to actually need to console DD2 (who didn't win an award) beyond a cuddle afterwards.
As is happens, Helicopter Mom was sitting a couple of seats away. Her elder daughter won two very prestigious awards, and I went to congratulate her. "Oh, thanks," she says. "What are you going to do about DD2 not winning anything? How are you going to deal with that?"
Wait a sec. DEAL with that? I need to deal with this? I temporarily thought I'd forgotten a major rule in the Mothering 101 Handbook, and scanned my brain for an answer for her. Then I realised this was Helicopter Mom, so to her, OF COURSE I would need some sort of 'solution' for the non-problem which was my kid not getting an award. I bit my tongue - aren't you all proud of me? - and I just said that DD2 had herself received a number of awards earlier this year, and that ALL my kids understand that achievement is individual, etc etc.
To which she brightened up and said, "Oh yeah! My other DD won an award this year, too, I'll remind her of that when she gets upset at not winning anything." She then proceeded to tell me how she's just not sure how she's going to deal with it (eg the mother having to deal with her child who did not win) and so on. At this point I wisely decided to exit stage left. I went over to my kids and doled out plenty of hugs and cuddles and "yay you's" and we all felt happy and proud and sparkly.
...and then I approached my DD2, and I gave her a hug, picked up my pretend microphone, and in a loud announcer's voice said, "And the award for best performance in a Ro-Sham-Bo championship goes to..... DD2!!!" and then she and I had a play-off, right there in the middle of the 8 jilion kids and pushy parents. She smiled (even though I won), I smiled, and we left.
End of story. No needing to "deal" with anything. No... nothing. If nothing else DD2 has yet again learned two lessons tonight. The first lesson, which is the MOST important - is that life is inherently unfair. No amount of helicopter moms trying to even up the score will help, no amount of begging, no amount of wishing. Life, sometimes, just sucks ass and that's all there is to it.
The second lesson she learned? That no matter what happens, there will always be a hug at the end of it.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
We moved into our house 7 years ago, when the kids were not yet a year old and therefore it was like living with a whole pack of drunken whirling dervishes. DH and I made the decision to keep all our breakable stuff (what I like to call "dustables") in storage until the kids were old enough to not break stuff. Well, old enough to come up with a creative excuse for breaking stuff rather than just a cute face and an "oops!" Part of the house clean up project was to find some way of bringing all those treasures out of hiding. This house has almost NO storage or display space, so it entailed buying a piece of furniture on which we could display all our stuff.
So - some money, several phone calls, a few choice curse words, and endless nailing and hammering and drilling later, we've now got the mother of all entertainment units. Said unit has TONS of display space - vast expanses of shelves which are begging for decoration. Out came the boxes (I thought we had one box, turns out it was FOUR boxes.) DH and I spent a hilarious evening surrounded by forests of packing paper and gleefully unwrapping stuff together. "OOHH! Me! Me! I wanna do the next one!" followed by "OMG! I totally forgot we even OWNED this thing!! It's SOOOOOO cool! Remember when we got this?" and so on and so forth.
Among our treasures were all the mezzuzot we got for our weddings (which we thought were long lost), out little plastic Leaning Tower of Pisa (purchased at Pisa of course), various Swarovski things, beautiful carved buddahs, shells collected on our honeymoon, the tiny wooden tree purchased in Germany, some lovely brass pieces from India, and so on and so forth.
Two items in particular were of great amusement to me. The first was a gold award (literally a cup on a wooden base on a marble plinth thing-a-do-dee) which apparently I won for achievement at...wait for it... Joe's Sports Camp. ME? Sports camp?? Seriously?? Best thing is I have NO RECOLLECTION of even going to said sport camp, let alone winning an achievement award. And since my sporting prowess is about as good as a blind uncoordinated elephant trying to dance the mambo... I have to wonder about the authenticity of this award. It amuses me no end to think that I of all people won a sport award.
The second item was a pocket-sized Etch-A-Sketch. Again, something I forgot I even owned, and something which I'd forgotten that I was frighteningly GOOD at doing. The kids have now become obsessed with this toy - they love playing with it and DS now hides it under his covers at night so he can just mess about with it until all hours. They've also become amazed at how good their dear old Mum is at the Etch-A-Sketch... I am nothing short of the current reigning Family Etching Champion. Nice to be back on top again (after my crushing loss to DD2 in the Ro-Sham-Bo Championships).
To me the most surprising thing of all is my emotional reaction to all this unpacking. We sat there amidst all the paper and the laughing and the hoards of stuff, and I just felt this feeling of overwhelming sadness. In part it was because my Dad had given me many of those things, but also because it made me realise that when I PACKED those boxes, I was in my 20's, mothering babies, and living a very different life. The people who acquired those things...the people we were before we had kids, a mortgage, a job, responsibilities... who WERE those people? Do I even remember who I was before I became who I am now?
It was really weird, that feeling of looking back at who I was versus who I am now. I think in some ways I've lost parts of me I'd like to get back - the person who is a little bit reckless, a whole lot silly, and quite a lot ridiculous. Sure, loads of parts of me have improved with age... but I think unpacking all the stuff is a timely reminder that I've been taking life a little too serious lately. It's time to let the silly back into my life.
I'm not entirely sure how I'm going to achieve this (as per usual, feel free to weigh in with your two cents)....we'll just have to see what inspiration I derive from the treasures recently unwrapped.
Monday, December 7, 2009
Many changes are afoot in my life - along with the house clean up, I'm also changing the way I do things at work. Spending more time on the things which need my attention and less on the everyday work - in the hopes that this empire can finally grow just that wee bit more. To that end I placed a job ad out there to find some new employees.
Well, the result thus far (and it's only been 3 days) has been very entertaining. Happily for me there have been a number of really strong applicants. On the entertainment front, there have been a lot (greater than 30) applications which just make me scratch my head. I should say that I would love to hire someone who is new to Australia, someone who just needs a chance at a job. So I can cope if they don't have a lot of local experience. Heck, I myself was in that position when I first came here. What I'm struggling with, though, is the applications which are totally irrelevant to my position.
So, for example:
- The guy currently studying to be a pilot
- The girl with no experience and no interest in the industry (as stated in her cover letter)
- The guy who is an accountant
- The guy whose application has a heading which says "non relevant work experience" right under his contact information
- The several people who submitted an application with no cover letter or resume attached
- The ones who live in Queensland (several states away)
- The girl who said she doesn't have a car but assures me she can carry cakes to the bus stop
- The girl who told me she "has experienced in backed cakes and maffins"
...and so on and so forth. I'm reading through every application and replying because I think it's polite to do so, but I'm annoyed at how the applicant is not being polite enough to READ through the original job ad! *sigh*
Anyway this gentleman's resume was most entertaining, so I thought I would share some of it with you. These are a selection of the items listed in "Areas of Expertise."
- Experience working in a team environment, Excellent time management skills, Honest and reliable, OHS knowledge, Ability to work under pressure, Knife skills, Manu creation, HACCP
- Professional work ethic and able to meet dietary requirements for diet.
- Work in busy environment at Commercial and No commercial Places including School and Air Port
- Work nonstop to achieve task, never said No to Extra work to comes from guest
- Costing of Standard Menu Item Individually with almost no west of inputs. Clear vision on Minimum per Level of Kitchen supplies. I have selected supplier for best Fresh Ingredients at low cost.
- Bangladeshi, European, French, Chinese, Japanese, Middle Eastern, African, Moroccan, Mexican, Malaysian, Italian and Asian, Indian stile cooking and menu knowledge on preservation of cooked and un cook food, Making Jam and Jelly, Chocolate, Commercial foods, Take away, Juice, Shakes, Smoothly, mix Alcohol, Beer, Wine with fruits and soft drinks, Ice cream making and have Signature dishes from all of them
- STAE_OF_THE_ART to choose from.
- Breakfast, lunch and dinner, Buffet, Cocktail party, Pastry, bakery items, Sweets and Desserts, Cakes, yeast goods, A LA crate, Asian fest feed food to open public, Wedding, Birth Day Party, Marriage Day Function, Sports even, Herbs and Vegetables, Cheese, Match Accompany with Food,
- Small, medium and large restaurant, able to cook in bush like special force buy using own equipment to do function in real out door in Nature Like in a camp 1000 years ago, Native Australian Cooking, cooking for children’s and 5 Star Kitchen Work experience in all sections such as Cold Ladder, Banquet, Grill, Fish and In House Kitchen with groups of co workers from around the World.
- Pizza making from beginning with verities
- Stock taking, Receive, store and use stock
- Meet standard recipe food quality and quantity from own made recipe
- Able to carry 4 plates at a time
- Able to explain menu item to guests
- Take electronic payments on card
- Prepare and cook menu item on set time
- Select prepare and cook menu items on time
- High standard hygiene and quality control
- Use of charcoal and wood fire oven
- Work Safe
- Communicate over the phone, Train and work with colleges, Communication skills, Set up tables for food service and clean up as we go to minimize production cost and less west.
- Use foodstuffs and side dish, Entrée, Developing customer satisfaction
- Knowledge and experience in use of machines’ like dish washer, grill, oven, slicer, vacuum packing machine, micro wave and others commercial equipments’
... and let's just say that should I ever need to decorate a cake "in the bush like 1000 years ago," this guy is TOTALLY getting the gig!
NB: This is my 500th post! What, if anything, should I do to celebrate?!
Saturday, December 5, 2009
One of the skills I am VERY bad at is telling bad clients (who suck the life force out of you) to get lost. At the moment I have one client who is driving me crazy, and I don't really want her as a client any more... but I don't know how to get rid of her.
I would not be exaggerating when I say I've spent probably more than 12 hours in talking to her - in person, on the phone, via email, etc. In other words, whatever money I might have made on this job is now into the negatives. It's costing my money just to talk to her. She hasn't yet paid a deposit, hasn't settled on a final design, continually asks for different samples, and is basically behaving like a Bridezilla of the highest order. She would actually be the worst I've ever had. Fact is, even if I make her cupcakes edged in real gold leaf, she's not going to be happy.
As we all know, I really pride myself on customer service and going the extra mile(s) for clients. It's what I do, it's why people pay what I charge, and it's how I retain customers. Plus I get an immense feeling of satisfaction when someone's expectations are exceeded.
But this lady? She's not going to be satisfied, no matter how hard I try (and believe me, I'm doing my best.) The other day she came to drop off some cupcake papers (for yet more colour trials) and stayed almost 15 minutes. IN THE DOORWAY. Even though I told her I could not chat, I had an appointment in the other room (which I did.) I even had to go to my other client and apologise for the delay. So I WALKED AWAY from this bride and she still did not seem to get the hint as she stood there for another 5 minutes or so, talking endlessly.
So tell me. How do you get rid of someone like this?
I can't do it on price since I quoted her at the beginning of this process.
Ideas all welcome.
Friday, December 4, 2009
Yesterday GGME finished the job ... and when I say finished I mean he finished gardening and he also took the time to YELL at me over the phone, and then ask me for more work.
Bwahahahaha. Is he serious? Anyway the yelling was because I commented that I was glad he did not need to hire extra equipment (to get rid of a concrete block... in the end his helper bashed it with a sledgehammer and carted it away.) I meant it as a sincere comment, that I was glad he didn't need to go to a lot of trouble for that extra item. He lost the plot at me - shouting that I still had to pay the extra because it was "his equipment and time" that got used to do the job, and that I shouldn't "be trying to get a deal" and so on.
I interrupted to tell him I had NO intention of asking for a deal, that I was happy to pay for a job which was well done, and that I didn't understand why he was so angry at me. At which time he just repeated the argument about "but it's MY equipment that got used" etc etc. Eventually he calmed down enough to ask for more work building our fallen-over fence (not in a month of Sundays, sunshine!). So since he was feeling more amicable, I casually mentioned that I'm sorry (NOT) that he did not seem to enjoy working on our home. (Comment in my head: YOU'RE A GRUMPY BASTARD!)
To which he replied,
"Yeah, well, it's hard yakka." (Translation for the Americans: yakka = work)
Um, excuse me? You're a freaking GARDEN GUY and a BUILDER and your excuse for being a rude shmuck is to tell me it's HARD WORK? Surely this time you're kidding, right?
...and today I get a quote from Garden Guy #1, who was my initial preference. However when I called him to see where my quote was (2 weeks after our initial meeting), he told me he was too busy and didn't think he'd get around to the quote, and didn't care what I did with the tools he left behind when he did the initial site visit. He literally said he had no idea when he would be able to get me a quote.
I got it - 2 MONTHS later, and guess what? It was only a bit higher than GGME's quote, AND it included all the plants and an irrigation system. *sigh* So as a result of this debacle, great garden guy will miss out on a big job, and GGME will never darken my door (or my friends) again. BOTH of them will lose out.
And this, dear readers, brings me to golden rule of small business numero uno: It's all about the customer service. ALWAYS. Even when it's hard work.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
As is well documented on this blog, I am a HUGE fan of coke-flavoured Slurpees. This is partially because I don't normally drink 'plain' Coke (prefer Diet) and also because in my head I am still sixteen years old. So each summer the 7-11 company comes out with new 'summery' flavours and I'm always looking for an excuse to go and check out what is on offer. Nothing can ever beat last summer's sour apple, but you never know what hidden gems might lurk in your local convenience store. Plus I like to try the new flavour, tear it to shreds, and then go back to dear old Coke. It's all part of the ritual which is the start of summer in Australia.
So this past December 1st (the official first day of summer here) dawned and the weather wasn't cooperative for Slurpee runs. Yesterday, however, it was hot and I was grumpy, ergo, time to head to the corner store.
I had a choice of TWO summer flavours - either passionfruit (which looked, according to DD1, like "poison") and kiwi strawberry (which was red but tasted vaguely like Sucrets). Coke was all slurped out (eg liquid) so I ended up with the poison flavour.
Eh. Not so great. BUT it did signal that summer is here and I ADORE summer in Australia (except when it gets too hot, in which case I bitch and moan at a loud volume that "It's hhooooottttt!" as if everyone else did not notice the melting blacktop either.)
So - welcome to summer and therefore Slurpee blogging, everyone. What's the flavour at your corner store?
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
So I think by now we've established that GGME (Grumpiest Garden Man on Earth) does not read my blog. If he did, he totally would have learned the concept of customer service and the importance of just being plain old nice. I've found that sometimes the smallest amount of effort on my part can translate into a lot of repeat business - not to mention I'm racking up some karma points along the way.
One of the issues I have with bad service, or rude people in general - is that I often cannot resist the urge to call them on it. "Oh, are you having a bad day? Because you seem a little annoyed..." can be a GREAT way to remind someone that YOU are the reason they have a job. I've actually blogged about this before - that the easiest way to annoy someone who is being an ass is to be sickeningly sweet in return.
So back to GGME. GGME is so named because in the 5 days he's been here, he has not said hello when he arrives, goodbye when he leaves, or thank you (for the drinks and food I put out every day.) He never lets me know what is happening on the job and basically just pointedly ignores us all day. I have no idea why this is, since we've gone out of our way to be friendly and nice. He also accidentally disconnected the telephone wire from the house (hence earlier blogging issues) and failed to mention it to us at all. We only realised it when I went to make a phone call and found it wasn't working. DH later found the phone wire coiled up and neatly duct-taped to the pole across the road.
On Friday he finished work for the day and left (in silent indignation). There was still a bunch of turf to be laid, so we assumed he would be back on Monday. He didn't show up. I left a message and called and he did not reply. How does he know if I didn't organise time off work to be here? How can you just not turn up and not say anything?
Today (Tuesday) the turf arrived and so did he. I commented in passing to his off-sider that I was surprised they did not come yesterday... to which the offsider replied he was told on SATURDAY that the turf would not be ready until today so he doesn't know why we weren't called, either. *sigh* I got home this afternoon to find that most of the work is done - but there are big patches of turf which are not complete. I'm guessing this is because they ran out of turf and need more... but still, it's guessing because I have no note, no message, no phone call. For all intents and purposes he could have buggered off entirely, because all his stuff is gone.
At this stage, I hold all the cards (all $5,250 of them, to be exact.) I'm not paying this guy until the job is completely finished, to my standard. At the same time, I really feel the urge to say something to this guy about his customer service (note, he didn't reply to my email asking for his preferred method of payment, either.) It really irks me that he's been so unpleasant to deal with - and on that basis I'm unlikely to recommend him, even if his work is good. But I have this really horrible .. itch .. to basically wait until he finishes the job and then let him have it.
So - say something? Don't say something? What? I WANT to but I'm not sure it would achieve anything other than a feeling of self-satisfaction on my part. What say you?
Monday, November 30, 2009
Today I interviewed someone for a job - to come and work for me in a part-time capacity. On the phone we seemed to get along very well (we just 'clicked' well) and I was really looking forward to meeting her. I really need some new blood around, she seemed to have good skills, was willing to work and so on. In theory the ideal candidate.
She came along for the interview a half hour late. She DID call to say she would be late, but also mentioned she was late because her naturopath appointment ran over time. This I didn't mind, since she DID call.
Anyway so she comes and we sit and chat...and within a few minutes she criticises the work we've done thus far. "So do your clients want that 'messy look' on their cakes?" I didn't know how to reply to this, but I chalked it up to her being comfortable enough with me to comment. I let it slide.
Then she started to tell me how she wants to be paid cash (very common in this industry), and also revealed a whole lot about herself. I commented that cash was a normal thing because it meant a tax break for both parties, and she said, "Yes, and if I get paid on the books I can't get Centrelink benefits" (Centrelink= Australian welfare.) Then she started to tell me how her household is chemical free and organic, how they drink only rice milk (at $60 a box), and so on and so forth. A whole bunch of interesting stuff.
I'm ashamed to admit this, but I sat in judgement through that entire interview. I tried not to, I didn't really want to, but I just couldn't help thinking all sorts of judgemental thoughts about this woman. She wants to work at least 4 days a week, but also take benefits? She can afford naturopath visits and expensive organic food and whatnot, but wants the government to pay for her kids' childcare?
In reality what she does with the money I give her is HER business. It should not matter to me at all what she does with her salary - it's hers and not mine. She then started to tell me about her cultural heritage, and about how they prefer 'perfect' cakes and I must not have any clients of her culture. Then she started to sneer at the icing we use - because it's not the one she prefers, but she'll "do whatever the person paying the wages" tells her to.
So there I was, in a quandry. On the one hand she's got skills I could use, she's available when I need her to be, she's interested in the industry. On the other I just don't know how I feel about all that I heard in that interview - the benefits, her feelings on the work we do now, and all the rest of it. I KNOW it was wrong of me to be so judgemental of her... but... I couldn't help it. Maybe I got a little off-side since one of her opening comments was about the cakes we make and the icing we use... so I was already a bit prickly. I'm not sure. The whole thing just, well, really bugged me.
It's now a while later and I still can't pin-point exactly why I feel irritated about this... I just...DO. Reading about The Baker's Wife's experiences in hiring staff isn't making me feel much better, either. Maybe I cannot afford to be so judgemental. Maybe I need to shove my opinions in my pocket and let her get on with the job. I just... have a bad taste in my mouth. Thoughts?
Sunday, November 29, 2009
It's official. My house, both inside and out, appear to be the epicenter of the recently fallen atomic bomb. Literally, there is stuff everywhere. The outside is looking vaguely better, with the recent addition of the garden edging and the mulch strewn about ... but there is still a pile of clippings, various cutters and choppers and sharp stuff, a wheelbarrow, a dusty old hat and other sundry left here by Grumpiest Garden Man on Earth (GGME)*. The inside has 'new carpet smell' (mmmm...) and everything looks fab in the carpeted rooms. The other rooms (housing all the crap from the carpeted rooms) look like hell.
I'm typing this on the computer at the end of our kitchen table. Within eyesight of me are the following: a box of leather furniture cleaner, 2 leather belts, a 6 tier cupcake stand, 3 dirty dusting rags, a plastic bowl with a peach pit in it, a non-functional laptop computer, a few carpet scraps, and some picture frames precariously piled up. And that's the stuff which is about 2 inches from my right elbow. If I told you the rest of what's here you would shudder in horror.
Here's the problem. I LIKE all those carpeted rooms being barren. I love the vast expanse of soft cream carpet. I like being able to see all the way under my bed, and all the way to the back of my closet. I LOVE that there are no coffee tables for kids to pile stuff up on. I love that the dog can lay wherever he likes without knocking into something or being on top of something. I love the fact that there is just a whole lot of not much around.
However. I hate that the rest of the house looks dirty and messy and disastrous. I hate that I will help DH put stuff back into it's rightful place and I will need to BEG him to throw out stuff like his 10-tape set of "Japanese for Businessmen." I hate that I will have to put stuff back at all - because if I had my way it would be a giant rubbish tip and me squealing with glee as we fill it with crap. I have come to hate having STUFF a good 30 years before hating stuff is a normal part of growing old.
*sigh* I'm going to spent the next couple of days restoring order to this crazy place. So don't expect anything witty. However, I've nearly reached the end of NaBloPoMo ... and until this week I like to think none of my posts were just 'filler' posts. I've also still got a couple of things I'd like to post about in the 'coping mechanism' theme. So I'm going to do my best to stick around for a while, and I'd like it if you did, too.
In the meantime I'm going to throw out that tape set before DH comes back.
GGME - so named because, in the four days he's been here, he's done nothing but look irritated and annoyed and basically only grunted at me. Current theory is he's annoyed at having severely under-quoted for the job and is pissed off at himself for doing it... sadly for him, this is not my problem. Except for the fact that he's kinda unpleasant to have around, he's doing a good job.
Editor's Note: DH threw the tape set out, of his own accord! Sadly the book "Japanese for Busy People" is still here...
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Friday, November 27, 2009
So as DH mentioned, I was remiss from blogging yesterday because we had no phone line. As it happens his infamous laptop wireless broadband also went to hell in a hand basket - but it wasn't related to the storm at all. So that was a lovely option but it wasn't working. Someday I'll rant about DH's IT skills (many and varied unless you need something to actually function, in which case you're totally buggered.)
I would love to say that today I've got some serious witty, intelligent, amusing and altogether charming blog writing to do but I don't. Fact is, it's 5:30 in the afternoon on Friday. I've been cake decorating since 630 this morning, had to deal with an annoying bra strap all day (don't you hate that??) and I've still got a bit more work to do before heading home.
But since I didn't want to miss any of Na-blo-too-tired-to-po, here is your totally useless filler post for the day. Hopefully by the time I get home the phone company will have fixed the line and your charming and eloquent (read: bullshitting) host will be back action.
Before parting, I do have one PSA for the day. This PSA is prompted by the several people who asked me this question this week.
Reason for you smart people: Thanksgiving is all about Pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock. No Pilgrims, no Plymouth Rock here in Australia. Ergo, no turkey, no eating until wanting to spew, no Macy's Parade and certainly no little hats with buckles on them (which is good, because I don't think I look good in buckled headwear.)
Thursday, November 26, 2009
This is DH writing to let you know that due to a major storm this afternoon, the phone service at home is out of action. This means that Michelle is unable to login and delight you all with her witty banter and sophisticated repartee, and I have been asked to login from work and let you know that she will return as soon as the phone company repairs the line (or she finds out my laptop has a wireless broadband modem).
Thank you. We will shortly return you to your regularly scheduled program.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
A couple of days ago I got a phone call from another cupcake company here in Melbourne. I won't say which company, I'll just say that the woman was really nice and her phone call actually did me a favour. So by virtue of her good deed I started out already liking her. Anyway we had a bit of a bitch and moan session about being cupcake makers, and all that involves - the clients who want "something simple" which requires a 10 minute explanation, the whole delivery dilemma (dilemma being that it's IMPOSSIBLE to find decent delivery dudes here), edible imaging, perspex stands and so on. We just really 'clicked' on the phone and so had a good ol' chat for about 20 minutes.
In that time she told me she's shortly going to be opening a retail store, because she's finding the bake-to-order business really difficult in terms of cash flow and profit-making. She also then proceeded to tell me that...
1) She hates most customers and 'doing all that people pleasing,'
2) She doesn't want to open 5 days a week but her husband is 'making' her do it,
3) She hates having to deal with the general public and
4) She will be very annoyed if someone comes in and buys "just one cupcake" and
5) She needs to start making money "from the minute we open" otherwise it won't be worth her investment in the shop.
Now that you guys know my feelings about food businesses and the mistakes people make, can you just IMAGINE the look on my face during this conversation? Yeah, now that take visual and make it to the power of ten.
Okay, let's take a poll. People who think she'll fail within 12 months, raise your hand.
Great, so that's all of you. Excellent. Good to know my blogging is teaching you something.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
A friend of mine recently asked me why I blog. "Is it just to vent? Is it because you like having an audience? Is it to hang shit on other parents, especially helicopter parents? Is it just for fun? Why bother with blogging? Doesn't it take up a bunch of time? What's the point?"
When I started this blog, I intended it to be an uber-cool food blog like the cast of thousands which make up the rest of the Melbourne food blogging community. I was going to have cool recipes and restaurant reviews and extreme close up pictures of orgasmically good chocolate. I think I might have written a post or two like that and then came some crushing realisations: blogging about food is really, really boring, AND I'm not any good at it, AND I spend all day with food already. So without my really realising it my food blog became a mommy blog and then a talk-about-coping with life-blog and then a "whatever occurs to me to blog about" blog and there it's stayed. (Even with attempts at giving it a theme and all.)
So it begs the question, if my initial purpose for blogging was to be like all the uber cool kids (and let me tell you, in this I have failed spectacularly), why do I still do it?
The truth is, I'm not entirely sure, other than I just kinda like it. I always fancied myself as a bit of a writer and this is my way of releasing my inner frustrated journalist. Plus it is cheaper than therapy and a lot more socially acceptable than, say, mud wrestling in Nutella. If that's not enough, the occasional kind (or funny as hell) comment I get reminds me that I'm not alone in this whole parenting-is-only-for-crazies business. So that's why I blog.
And now you know. And I am wanting to know - why do YOU blog?
Monday, November 23, 2009
The previously mentioned clean-our-shit-up experience at Casa Verde continues apace and so I thought it was time I gave you all an update! (Not that you care, but then I don't see you volunteering loads of good blog post ideas, now do I? So suffer in your proverbials.)
- The new shower doors are in and working - hooray! What freedom, to shower without anyone else home. The really weird thing is that both DH and I have noticed that the showers have suddenly become bigger. I'm assuming this has something to do with the thickness of the old doors versus the new ones - but in my mind I'm chalking it up to shower door magic. New door, suddenly 1 foot of space in which to run around. Okay, maybe not a foot. More like 3 inches. But it FEELS like loads more space and therefore I am an all around much happier showering person.
- The decking/porch renovation was going great guns, until DH decided he had enough of it and stopped. All that's left is to clean and paint the balustrade. Even the motivation of his shiny spankin' new BBQ does not seem to motivate him to finish the job. Any ideas for encouraging DH's most welcome.
- The new carpet is coming on Friday - which means most of my house is all over the rest of the most of the house (including that sentence.) I'm actually typing this from our kitchen table, where the computer has been temporarily relocated to. Major bonus of moving all your crap around - you find crap you don't need which you had forgotten you lost and then you get to chuck it out.
- The garden guy is supposed to be coming tomorrow to begin the great Garden Destruction of 2010. Basically I've told him to raze the damn thing to the ground. I'll be surprised if a) he actually shows up to do it and b) I don't regret it later as I stare at a wasteland of garden.
- The major spanner in my works was the discovery that the fence which time forgot has now fallen down... and is being held up by the very same trees which are getting axed down tomorrow. So it's another $1300 which has now been diverted from the "cool crap I want" fund to the "boring shit I don't want to pay for" fund. This is leaving me very grumpy.
- I've still got to find some funds to get a couch and two chairs recovered, a cane chair fixed, 10 dining chairs repaired and recovered, a new entertainment unit, a coffee table, some artwork for the walls of our lounge room and various other sundry items. The official budget has about $4.78 left in it. I am now seriously considering stealing milk crates from Safeway to use as furniture. I'm going to call it "urban seating."
- Aforementioned fence is being serviced by "fence guy" who a) showed up when I wasn't expecting him to, and b) told me I could ask for him to come and repair said fence at a certain time but really it's a case of "don't call me, I'll call you." I am now left debating my career as a fence guy. Or make that fence gal.
...and for those who follow this blog (all 2 of you), fixing the upstairs bathroom door is now officially off the budget (...and my Mom is arriving in Australia in almost exactly one month from today.)
Sunday, November 22, 2009
It seems like I've not devoted too much of my blogging time this month to my official topic - that of coping when one has a very full life. So I thought it best if I bring that topic back to the fore for a minute or two. Today's topic is all about going back to basics as a coping mechanism.
My world is overwhelmed with noise. Noise in the literal sense, and noise in the mechanical sense. Everyone always seems to be talking, computers are beeping, I've got too many mobile and facebook and whatever else distractions, and stuff is just constantly happening in my life. I've already told you how the best way I know to deal with this is the micro mini vay-kay. On a more minute-to-minute basis, I resort to the basics. Today's basic lesson: Don't underestimate the power of a paper and pen.
I always have paper and pen handy - ALWAYS. Which means that when I get reminders to do something from someone else, or I need to write down a phone number, or I do a 'mental note' - I make it a REAL note. In my handbag I've got a little spiral notebook and a selection of pens and pencils. Nothing fancy. Not only does it serve as my constant reminder list, my shopping list, and my "wait, what was I supposed to do this week?" paper, it's also entertainment. Stuck in a long line with the kids? Ask them to draw a picture, play hangman, tic-tac-toe, or play the scribble game. You would be surprised how easily kids can get distracted with paper and pen.
In my notebook I'll write - ideas of blog posts. Phone numbers I've seen on trucks for tradesmen I think I might need. Reminders of what I wanted to buy at the shops, who I meant to call, whatever. I might even write down something funny I heard on the radio, or a good quote I see on a blog somewhere.
The key to this working for you is also knowing how to edit and reference. So if you're writing down miles and miles of just 'stuff' and never taking the time to read it... all you're doing is cluttering your life up. So every other day or so, I'll pull out my spiral book and read what I've written. I might move the phone number I jotted down to my mobile, or send myself an email with a web address I wanted to check out. Mostly, I either use the information I've got written down, or I decide I no longer need it. AND THEN - brace yourselves - I THROW OUT (okay, recycle) the piece of paper. The beauty of spiral notebooks is the noise they make when you rrriiippp out a page. Very satisfying. That way, too, I don't have to sift past loads of useless pages to find the most relevant information to me.
You would be amazed at the things which I've completely forgotten ten seconds after I wrote a mental note, but so too amazed at what I've remembered just because I jotted down a word or two to act as a reminder to my brain.
So sometimes - telling the computer, the laptop, the PDA and the mobile phone to take a hike - is the best way to actually manage your life. Return to basics. Make your life EASIER. If it takes 5 minutes to work out how to get to the right app in your iPhone, that's five minutes too long. It would take less than 5 seconds to use the pen-and-paper app. Try it. Go write yourself a note to buy a spiral notebook. (And in it, remind yourself to comment on this post about how much easier it is to remember stuff.)
Saturday, November 21, 2009
In my earlier discussion about failed businesses, one of the things I did not mention was the importance of continuing education. Let's face it, nobody is the ultimate authority on anything (or at least, they only THINK they are.) I firmly believe that we can always be learning something new - either a refresher of our existing skills, learning some totally new ones, or taking the time to learn about how things could be done differently.
I often hear business owners claim that "all of a sudden" things went downhill. Orders stopped coming, people suddenly did not want to pay as much as they once did, or business has just slowed down. It's a scary time when that happens - the cash flow dries up, you start to panic about paying the bills, you do a whole lot of negative talk - "I can't do this" "I'll never succeed" and so on. I know this, of course, because I've DONE all of it. I'm particularly skilled at self-doubt. The very second something goes pear shaped, in my head I am suddenly a complete failure.
Every once in a while, when I'm feeling worried about the biz, or feeling overwhelmed by mountains of paperwork, I 'treat' myself to some adult education. More often than not it IS business related - a cake decorating class, a small business management class, going to listen to a speaker on a topic I'm interested in, going to check out some new machinery or ingredients, whatever. Without fail, I worry about the money I'm going to spend on that experience. The time I will be "wasting." The inconvenience to my family. The supposedly wasteful nature of time spent in just researching.
...and without fail, I walk out of those experiences thinking, "I CAN do this." "I WON'T fail." "Now I remember WHY I did this in the first place." and the future just seems that little bit brighter. As business owners, I think we get so close to the action - the 'action' being the bottom line - that we sometimes forget why we started in the first place. We also forget the old adage that says, "If you always do what you always did, you'll always get what you always got." In other words if you never make the effort to change and grow, while the world (your customers) are changing and growing... well, it's no wonder you'll find yourself discounting and letting people go and cutting your advertising spend.
So - here's my two cents. Go out there. See what there is to learn. I promise you'll find it's very much worth it.
Friday, November 20, 2009
Today I had a woman from a dairy company come and interview me about how the businesses uses dairy products - how much, how often, what suppliers, etc. I'm actually one of those geeks who is happy to do that kind of survey because I believe that ultimately, we are all better served by "big business" knowing what it is that little business wants. I actually believe this across the board - so when those survey guys call at home I don't hang up on them. I've been in focus groups, done 'vox pop' interviews on the street and so on.
I'd like to believe I do this because I am a concerned, involved citizen. In reality I do it because I have an inflated sense of self and think everyone should hear my opinion.
That, and usually I get free stuff for doing it. Today was a $60 gift card to a local department store. I *should* go and buy myself some clothes. Instead, I'm going to buy my daughters some undies. Because I can't handle seeing their little butt cracks anymore.
Yes, my life is really that exciting.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Stuff I hate about other people's blogs, in no particular order:
- Endless blog rolls or link lists which never get updated or are so long as to be annoying. My own blog list (over there on the right) verges on being too long, but at least it gets updated once in a while.
- Too much visual crap cluttering up the page so you have to hunt for the actual post content. Counters, etc are fun but you do not need to count down to your next bathroom stop as well as days to Xmas and also have fifteen flashing widgets.
- Music. Your blog is not so fabulous that it needs a musical introduction every time I open the page.
- Award lists: I like getting blog awards, I just don't feel I need to clutter my page up with them. Acknowledge them in a post, pass them on, and that's it. In 5 minutes from now we won't care if you got the "E is for Excellent" award.
- Blogs who do not let you read the entire post in a reader. Why is this so?
- Blogs that used to be about parenthood and funny stuff but are now all about the cool people they met at BlogHer and all the secret cool people's business that went on there
- Blogs that used to be great to read until the author got a book deal. Jealous much? Yes. But also annoyed much ... because it used to be all fun and games until someone got a book deal, and then it got all boring and forced and not interesting to read at all.
- I'm more of a lurker than a commenter, but if someone takes the time to visit me and comment, you can bet I'll be doing the same in return (where possible, some of you choose to be Anon E. Mouse.)
- Food blogs which have now become food porn blogs to an extreme degree, as it's now suddenly all become about the EIGHTEEN close up photos of chocolate chip cookies. Why do you need to many pics when one or two will do?
... and that's all I can think of for now. Who wants to join in on my complaints about blogs free for all?
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
It's been a while since I've posted any cake photos, so I thought I'd amuse you all with some sweet treats. All of these were done in the last couple of weeks:
A really simple design which looks lovely (IMHO anyway!). This is the one we delivered to Mt Dandenong.
This is the INSIDE of the luau cake below - the customer wanted something with WOW factor so we gave her a rainbow cake. I thought it was just stunning - and tasted good, too. I'm debating if I should add this to our list of regular flavours.
Luau cake - for a 13 year old, so we wanted something fun and yet a little bit grown up.
Mountain climber cake - supposedly where this guy hikes it's green all year round and yet snows... when we finished it, the top had a giant Hawthorn Hawks flag on top (which you can't see in this pic.)
Farmyard scene - for a grandfather and granddaughter sharing a party. The haystacks are cupcakes and the animals are all marzipan. My favourite are the little royal icing ducks in the pond and the pigs playing in the mud. :)
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
This morning I had the immense thrill of being on the radio! The Breakfast Show on VEGA 91.5FM here in Melbourne wrote some hilariously funny radio ads for us. You can hear all the fun here:
Enjoy! :) (and how horrible do our voices sound when we hear ourselves? Eek!)
You know that your family has been playing Farmville too much when:
1) You're driving through bushland Victoria and your kids look out the window and say, "Hey, Mum, this looks just like Farmville!"
2) This is the series of texts you swap with your husband (who often plays the game at night):
Me: Not to be kinky or anything, but did you harvest my farm last night?
Him: Um, no. Should I have? I did plough your furrow a couple of times though. Does that count?
I think we need to find a new hobby.
Monday, November 16, 2009
Today, there is a window cleaner working on our house - cleaning windows which have not been done in at least 8 years (since we moved in) but possibly never cleaned at all. It's a nice(ish) Melbourne day so I commented how lucky he is to be working outside today. He replied that he loved it and it "beat the heck" out of his old job.
His old job? (Because you know nosy ol' me had to ask.) He was an architect with a major city architecture firm.
Yes. An architect of 20+ years experience is cleaning my filthy windows. What's more, he seems pretty darn happy to be doing it. Ecstatic, even. He said he just could not take one more day sitting in front of a computer in a big office.
Today, I re-read an email from my little brother which questioned the "take anything" job versus the "career move" job. When I came to Australia, I took the "take anything" job, and eventually one of those morphed (without my really noticing it) into the "career" job. I had an entire career going in university administration without even realising that what I was doing was carving out a career. And then one day, I realised that the career I'd fallen into wasn't one I particularly liked, and so I jumped ship and went to culinary school. A story most readers of this blog would be familiar with, so I won't re-hash it again. Suffice it to say I don't think I could have achieved that leap without several 'take anything' jobs - all of which were useful in their own way.
When I was working at the cafe from hell a few months ago, I mentioned to someone in passing that I took the job because of what it might teach me. Not because of the pay, the location, the job itself (although all of those were contributing factors). I took it mostly because of what I thought I could learn from it. It wasn't the career job, not really - it was more like the take anything job - but it was also a job at which I thought I could learn something. So in a way while I knew it was temporary, and would not advance my career at all - I saw it as a chance to ADD to my career knowledge.
I can understand the dilemma, though - when you're not sure what you want to do, how do you know which career job to look for? Would you potentially be "wasting" your time in a take anything job? My answer to my brother was basically that he should do the 'take anything' job because frankly, having money in the bank gives you the freedom of TIME to think more about the career job you might want.
And then I realised that maybe there are people who would disagree with this opinion, namely my Dad who would say the take anything job is a waste of time and effort.
So - suppose you're nearing 30. You have no wife (but you do have a serious partner), no kids, no mortgage. You do have some living expenses, but you have no defined career either. The career you started has basically tanked (hey, thanks economy!) but you do have a whole load of skills and abilities. Armed with only that information - which do you choose? The take anything or the career?
Enquiring minds want to know.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
We had a pretty busy weekend here at Case Verde... on Friday DS went off to his first cub scout camp (or "scub camp"... in DS-speak, scouts+cubs=scubs). It's also the first time he's been separated from his sisters for any reasonable length of time - other than the odd sleepover at Nana's or something. I was none too happy about this, but I was interested to notice that I was MORE upset at the idea of them not sleeping in the same house than I was about him being away from home. Hmmm. I've never really bought into the whole "triplets as a unit" thing so I found that feeling rather curious. I would even say I've gone to great lengths to ensure that my kiddos are separate entities, so why the heck would I care if they had the chance to do something fabulous and yet separate? In the end I decided it's more about my being sad that they are growing up (and therefore a bit apart in activities) than it is about anything else.
The girls did not share my sentiment in the slightest. In fact one of them wished his bus would get stuck in traffic so he could never come home. I did laugh when we asked DD2 if she missed her brother at all, and she laughed and said, "NO WAY! A whole WEEKEND without boy cooties in the house is awesome! Well, except for yours, Dad. But your cooties are old so it's okay."
So this begs the question - the older the cooties, the less potent?
So while my little scub was doing things like finding dragons down a mine, and sliding down a water and deterget slippery slip into a pile of tan bark, the girls and DH and I had a weekend of adventures. On Saturday we went up Mount Dandenong to deliver a wedding cake. The venue was in the middle of an Edna Walling garden so we pottered around there, browsed through Olinda, and in general enjoyed that part of Melbourne (which is a favourite of mine.) On the way there I sent out a, "Who is up for a barbie?" text to some friends which meant we also had dinner at home with friends and cheese and sausages and noise (all favourites of mine.) Sunday we slept in, thanks to no basketball date with DS to get to (yay).
Today was spent in a paddock in a town called Seymour, home to the Victorian Greyhound Adoption Program - where we got Teddy from. It was their Xmas party and it was really amazing to see how many greys there were, what a nice feeling to think that many dogs have been saved! I, of course, wandered around wanting all the cute little small ones... while saying to DH, "NO, we cannot have another dog. NO, we cannot have another dog. NO, we cannot have another dog!" all while pining for some of the little cuties who needed a home.
We picked DS up from the bus and it's fair to say he was triumphant - managed to get home in one piece, totally filthy, and brimming over with excitement about his weekend in the woods. Really, what more can a parent ask for than happy, excited kids? (Except maybe kids who clean their rooms and do their chores without complaint.)
I love these kinds of weekends - filled with all sorts of stuff I love doing, with people I adore, and in a place I love. What did you get up to this weekend?
Saturday, November 14, 2009
I recently read somewhere that most food businesses fail within 2 years, and then something like 75% of the remaining ones fail in the third year. Scary, scary stuff when you consider the amount of time, emotional energy, and general blood/sweat/tears which goes into food businesses. There's just a huge amount of financial and administrative start-up when it comes to food - staggering, really when you consider too the emotional nature of food. Makes you wonder why anyone would start a food business in the first place.
I've recently met someone who has been trying to get a food business off the ground for about a year. For blogging's sake we'll call this guy Hercules. Hercules has paid an enormous sum for a food technologist to help him develop the recipes for his product. In a way I understand that - he didn't have the food skills so he outsourced. Once he got the recipe, he's spent months and months and months "in development." So creating labels, trying to secure a commercial kitchen, trying to secure some large equipment for mass-production and so on and so forth. In all this time he hasn't found a way to standardise his method and so for now, it's all pretty labour-intensive.
In chatting with Hercules a few weeks ago, I asked him a simple question. "So," says I, "have you got any existing customers? How are you getting this product out there?"
Hercules had no answer for me. He'd managed to sell a couple of boxes worth of product, but that's it. He was so hung up on HOW he was going to produce thousands of these things, he'd forgotten that someone needed to actually BUY thousands of these things. The feedback he had gotten thus far is that a) the product had too much sugar (it's a 'health food' product) and b) it was priced far too high to be viable for most shops to stock. In the months since he'd gotten that feedback, he'd made no effort to alter the recipe or re-cost to see if he could lower the price. What he DID do was stress out a lot, research equipment a lot, make a lot of phone calls, and work himself into a lather.
Here's the kicker. The product has a 9 MONTH shelf life. So theoretically he could hire a friend or two, bust out thousands of his products, and then go out and sell, sell, sell - in the hopes that selling would lead to more orders and so on and so forth. That idea did not occur to him.
I then met another couple embarking on their own food business adventure. They both quit their (lucrative) jobs in IT at the same time - after the female half of the partnership had spent ONE YEAR researching this scheme. They then had a) no income for either of them and b) no places to sell their product. The very first time I met them (and this is after a YEAR of research, remember) the male partner said to me, "What is this about a registered kitchen? Everywhere we go the people tell us we need a registered kitchen!"
I then met a third couple, who also had spent a YEAR researching and developing their business. By the time I met them they were 6 months, spent over $100k and basically desperate to find clients and customers. They had done no formal advertising (that I knew of) to get their business going. Instead the 100K was spent on very beautiful packaging, a super-whizz-bang website, and god knows what else. They never made it past the 9 month mark, and as far as I know (over a year and a few months later) have yet to even sell the remaining assets of the business.
Now I'm not going to sit here and say I've got it all right - because believe me, I haven't. I've made some pretty MAJOR mistakes along the way - including not allowing for the provision of a salary for me right from the beginning, not having a realistic advertising budget, and so on. But, I also DID NOT spend a year "researching," I also didn't spend any money on ultra-glam packaging, and while I DID spend money on a website, it doesn't also have the functionality of making my dinner and doing my kids' homework.
Here, then, are a couple of common mistakes I have noticed that novice food business owners make:
1. They believe their friends when they say, "OMG! This tastes awesome! You could totally sell these and make money!" Your friends are lovely people. They want to please you. They probably DO think your product tastes great, but they are NOT the people you will be selling to in the long term.
2. They start spending a boat load of money they do not have on stuff they do not need, at least initially. Hint: Your business cards do not need to have a voice-activated microchip in them for you to seem legit.
3. They forget about the importance of having customers. Actually getting people INTO their business - to buy the stuff they're making.
4. They make no financial, emotional, or time allowance for the lag time between when you set up the business and when it might actually start to make you some money you can keep.
5. They forget what business they are actually in. I actually learned this lesson in culinary school - that a business owner should wake up every morning and say, "What business am I in?" and if the answer is convoluted - "I run a cafe slash cooking school slash wholesale business slash apron company" then they have no REAL idea of what their core business is. If their reply is simple - "I make and sell artisan bread," then chances are they have a much clearer idea of their business and their strengths.
6. They don't 'research' what is involved in a food business beyond just making something tasty - the permits, the infrastructure, the customers, the demands on your money and time. The 'romance' of owning a food business makes them forget stuff like needing to pay for overheads. Simply being able to MAKE a yummy item does not make you able to sell that product to the general public.
7. They have delusions of grandeur and this clouds the real issues. In the case of Hercules, he believes in his product SO much, he's not listening to the real feedback he's getting from potential customers. He's so convinced his product is the best ever (and healthy faith IS a good thing, to a point) that he cannot actually see his real problem in getting it off the ground: customers.
8. They either a) give over every living breathing moment to the business, to the detriment of all else, or b) they decide they NEED to have XYZ amount of time off every week and so they don't devote enough time to it. Also known as working too much IN your business versus ON your business, or not working either IN or ON enough.
9. They get desperate and start to discount, offer free stuff, and basically whore either themselves or their product around in a desperate bid to make some short-term cash flow. All this does it make your customers aware that a) you're cheap and b) you're negotiable.
10. Food businesses are NOT about flavour, colour, feeding people, promoting a certain region, 'helping' people with food issues, happiness, education or pushing a certain philosophy (eg Slow Food). Food businesses are about one thing and one thing only: money. Everyone goes INTO food businesses for the love. The ones that come OUT of it do so because of money. Basically it doesn't matter if your cupcakes bring on instant orgasm or your bread makes people fall in love. If it's not earning you any money (or at least paying it's own bills after a reasonable amount of time), you need to get out and save yourself.
I realise all of this sounds kinda negative. Of course there are some wildly successful food businesses that started right on someone's kitchen table. Businesses that made NO money for several months or years. Businesses that were the owner's ideal dream and that dream now employs 300 people across 6 states. But those businesses are rare. Very rare.
So if I had one bit of advice to give any potential food business owner, it's this: Do it with the love, but for the money. Because without the money, your love will only last so long.
And, for anyone reading this and wondering about my own food business - I did it for the love, and hoped the money would follow. It hasn't quite followed as much or as quickly as I'd like, but in the space of 2 years the business is doing pretty darn well, thanks very much. :) Hey, it's still around - and not in the red - so this in itself is an achievement.
Friday, November 13, 2009
On Monday night DH and I went to a live performance of the American comedian Jeff Dunham. It's been a while since he and I have had a night out (which did not involve movies or children or both) so it was a real treat. I felt like a proper grown up since we had to shlep all the way into the city, walk to the Arts Centre and in general behave like normal people. (Shock horror, I had to wear something kinda decent, too.) Anyway Jeff was freakin' HILARIOUS and both of us laughed so much that my jaw literally hurt afterward. Great fun.
So here's the part I find pretty interesting (well, other than the guy at the end of the row, who has a ZZ Top style beard which went below his belly button...). At this show there were quite a few KIDS. Jeff's shows are great fun, yes, and they involve fun characters which kids would probably enjoy (if you've never heard of him, he's a ventriloquist). However, there is a lot of cursing, a fair amount of mention of sex and drugs, a splash of racism, and basically it's just that little bit off-colour. To be fair my kids have seen some of his videos... and they understand that it's humour and one should not run around screaming, "I KEEEL YOU!" in a vaguely Middle Eastern accent.
Now that said, it wasn't just the content which isn't kid-friendly. These kids were there on a MONDAY night. At 8pm. At a show which cost $80 PER TICKET.
Call me old fashioned, but I don't see the point of this. Just like I don't see the point of taking kids to really expensive shows late at night (although mind you, it was ME who fell asleep at the Lion King Broadway production.) Am I being a total stick in the mud here? I just don't think these kinds of places need kids at them - and it wouldn't occur to me to take my kids in the first place (although when they heard we were going, they were most annoyed at not being invited along.)
I'm not saying kids should not attend musical, comedy or cultural events. Next May is the trio's 9th birthday. As a family we decided not to do the party thing and instead to treat all of them to a showing of Mamma Mia! which is returning to Melbourne around that time.
It's going to cost me a small fortune. But it isn't late at night (matinee) on a school night (weekend) and it's not all about sex and drugs and rock and roll (okay, but maybe only the tiniest bit.) As DH said, it's kinda a whole different thing. Last night, though - was really just a seedy comedy club but on a grander scale. Not a kid place at all.
Opinions? Am I really just being unreasonable? Or maybe I'm just pissed off at having spent a fortune to escape my kids for the night... only to have to be around other people's kids...
Thursday, November 12, 2009
I recently read this post by The Neighbour's Wife where she laments the loss of a friend to the wonderful world of pyramid selling. Okay maybe nothing as dramatic as that, but basically her friend is now spending a whole lot of time pushing product, and a whole lot less time just being a friend.
Involving my friends in my business is something I sometimes struggle with - because while I know and love them, I don't want to abuse the relationship. So once in a while I'll ask for an opinion on a product, or on an idea I have. I might even get them to pack some cookies for me (notably Poppet's Mum, who was bagging cookies the day before she went into labour with 2nd Poppet.) Mostly I keep these requests very few and far between, and I'm fortunate that most of my friends are very willing and able to lend their opinion or professional advice.
I have NEVER asked a friend to buy something from me. NEVER. Sure, I might occasionally suggest that sending cupcakes is WAY COOLER than sending flowers - but I would never in a million years outright ask a friend to buy something of mine, no matter how good I know it is. Some friends choose to buy stuff regularly, and I'm grateful for the support. Others might buy only occasionally as budget or timing permits. Let's face it, I sell a luxury, expensive item and it's just not always in the budget. I don't take this personally AT ALL. If you want to support me and can afford to, great! If not, not. I still love you.
This whole friends-as-salespeople has come to the fore recently when DH told me he went to lunch with a former work colleague. Not to catch up on industry gossip, but to basically recruit DH and I to an Amway style of buying supermarket products. What amazed me is how DH was able to come home spewing all the facts. "We could be potentially earning thousands a year!" "Our groceries could be free!" and so on and so forth. Apparently he told this guy that we are skeptics (because we are) but then DH spent a good 10 minutes telling me how this scheme seems really good and we should at least listen to what they have to say (Um, NO.)
Anyone else ever had this whole friend-as-salesman thing? On the one hand I think it's great that companies like Avon and Tupperware and the like are empowering people to earn a living, work part-time, and basically carve out a career in between other commitments. On the other hand, they really rely on people 'farming' their friends and loved ones, and in some cases the salesperson chooses to continually farm the same people.
What say you? Tupperware lady - friend or foe?
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
For those who know me in real life, you know that I don't generally "do" grooming. I don't spray tan, I wax only when I can be bothered, I don't do manicures or pedicures or facials or chemical peels or make-up. In fact I think it's fair to say that the amount of money I spend each year on personal grooming is about equal to the amount of money I spend on clothing purchases. Which is about as close to zero as I can get away with.
My only real indulgence is getting my hair done. I ADORE getting my hair done. Why this is so is pretty easy to work out. There are no children there, someone else does the work, it involves mindless flipping through trashy magazines and it's all about me, me, me. The only real thing missing is a Coke Slurpee, but otherwise it's a completely hedonistic experience.
I used to get my hair done every 6 weeks without fail - mostly to keep the greys at bay (thanks Mom, for the early greying. Love those genetics!) About a year ago, my normal hairdresser (of more than 8 years) totally lost her freakin' marbles. So I endured about 3-4 crappy haircuts, colour I didn't like, and general mis-treatment of me as a client. The last time I went in there, the price increased by about 50%... because apparently all this time I'd been getting a "deal" but on that day the boss was there so I was charged normal prices. Who knew I was even getting a deal in the first place?
So I did what was necessary, and I divorced my hairdresser. In a fabulously passive-aggressive way, but there you go. Since that time, I've been whoring myself around to a whole bunch of hairdressers and salons. Most of them were recommended by friends. I've tried small salons, big ones, trendy ones, dorky ones, expensive ones, cheap ones...and everything in between and I've HATED THEM ALL.
This one, the chairs were uncomfortable (important to a big person like myself.) That one, they didn't have credit card facilities (what the hell? seriously?). The other one, the woman talked incessantly and took about 4 hours too long to do my hair. The last one, they endlessly pushed product on me. I just can't find a new hairdresser to marry. As a result, I've been full of grey hair and with no decent shape to my hair (and FYI, my Mom will read this, and call me and tell me to cut out the crap and go get a decent hair cut. So by blogging and admitting this sorry state of affairs, I'm clearly desperate.)
What the heck am I supposed to do about this? I desperately want to return to my hairdresser, but I've divorced her (even though we're friends on facebook, we're divorced, okay?). But I can't really afford that salon any more (esp on 'normal' rates)... and I've run through all my friends' hairdressers and hated them all.
People, it's desperation time. My hair looks like shit, and I, as a result, feel like shit about said hair. It's time for drastic action. How does one find a new hairdresser to marry?
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Another triplet parenting coping mechanism I employ is to not sweat the small stuff... or really, don't make a big deal out of stuff which will have no actual effect on the quality of your life. Recent case in point, DD2 has been agitating to get her ears pierced. I have absolutely no moral objection to this - in fact I think it's a pretty minor request. I see nothing wrong with it (other than when people get babies' ears done...I think that's kinda creepy.) I told her she could get it done when she felt she wanted to, and when she felt able to take proper care of them. After several months of false starts ("Can we go today, Mum?" "Sure." "Okay well maybe we will go next week...") she eventually decided she wanted to go last weekend and get them done.
So we did. FYI, she didnt' even flinch (except that some minutes later she told me, "In my tummy I am dying a thousand deaths." She's nothing if not dramatic.)
...and I'm amazed at the amount of disapproving looks, negative commentary, and general unease this seems to have caused among people we know. Seriously, in this day and age, getting a pre-teen's ears pierced is a big deal?!
Just wait until they see the tattoo we've planned!
Monday, November 9, 2009
While not everything in life can be solved with a little bit of chocolate, the ensuing sugar haze can certainly make thing seem a lot brighter in the short term. Given my recent emotional experiences, I highly recommend these cookies as a mood-enhancer. Easy and fun to make, get the kids involved and try not to eat all the raw batter (or at least put some aside so the kids don't eat all of it.)
Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies
(originally from allrecipes.com)
Yield: About 30
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
- 6 tablespoons butter, softened
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
- Combine flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
- Melt 1 cup of chocolate chips over low heat. Cream butter and sugar. Add melted chocolate chips and vanilla; beat in eggs; add flour mixture and remaining chocolate chips.
- Wrap in plastic and freeze until firm (about 20 minutes).
- Make small balls (1 inch); roll in confectioners' sugar. Place on ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Cool on wire rack.
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Today would have been my parent's 42nd wedding anniversary. In previous years, I used to call my parents, and when Mom answered I'd jokingly say, "Mom, mazel tov on surviving yet another year of Dad's mishegaas (craziness) ! You did it!" and we would both laugh. My Dad would then usually get on the phone and say, "Hey! What about me! I had to survive another year of your mother's mishegaas as well!" We would all laugh about how ridiculous it all was - primarily because that while my parents loved each other very much, they had a tendency to drive one another up a wall.
You have no idea how much I wish they could have had several more years of putting up with one another. It has been 3 months and 2 days since I lost my Dad. It doesn't hurt any less, and today it hurts just a little bit more.
Saturday, November 7, 2009
In previous posts I've talked about how I think most parent's worst enemy is... other parents. We all spend wwaaayyy too much time talking smack about one another and not being supportive. I often say that every family needs to make decisions which work for their family, and their family alone. Recently, though, there has been an incident at school which requires me to blog about this one mother. She drives me mental - and seeing as how she doesn't read this blog I feel I can vent.
Actually, to be fair, I think my vent isn't so much about her as it is about parents who let their kids call all the shots. There are times when I let my kids have a say, when I let them get their way, when I defer to them on stuff. However those times are the times *I* choose. I PICK when I think it's okay to let 8 year olds rule the roost. What I don't do is let them have free rein, make decisions about important stuff, and involve them in high-level decisions which they have no need to be involved in.
When it comes down to it, DH AND I are the adults here... for a very good reason. We've earned the right to be in charge. Part of being a kid, surely, is NOT having to make too many important decisions - getting taken care of is one of the great pleasures of childhood. This parent doesn't operate that way. And, to be fair, if she let her kids rule the roost and was HAPPY with that choice, I don't think I'd be whining about her. It's more that she puts her kids in charge, and then complains endlessly that they either make the wrong choices, or complains that they are in charge in the first place. HELLO LADY, you are the one that put them there.
So since you're all dying to know, the situation is this. Our kids all go to a small school. There are 14 kids in their class, of which 5 are girls. For next year, one girl is leaving (because her mother is whacko too, but that's another story.) One girl returned to the country she is from, leaving my two DD's and child of the Mother I'm complaining about.
Annoying mother is worried about the ratio of males to females. I understand that, but in a school as small as theirs - the kids of all ages hang out together anyway. So her worry about the ratio has sent her scurrying to find a new school for her daughters. My main beef with this is that both girls are very happy, this family has a historical/emotional/social connection with the history of this school, and the children themselves could care less about ratios.
Now supposedly there is also an element of financial hardship. THIS, I totally and completely understand. However, the school also offers financial aid, has been very generous with other families, and basically will bend over backwards to keep people in the school. So, theoretically anyway, they could get some help there if that was the main concern.
Today I heard that the mother has approached the school for financial help - and has said that if she gets it, she'll keep her kids there. Lovely. Wonderful. Except she has already taken her girls to look at 2 other schools, has told them they might, maybe, possibly are moving schools.. and basically caused a whole bunch of uncertainty not only for her kids but other kids at the school as well. It's a small place. People talk. This mother seems unable to work out a) what her issue with the school is, or even if there is one, and b) who is going to make the decision to move schools or not.
In the interim I've had a couple of phone calls from people wondering how I feel about this, because the loss of this family means my daughters will be the only two girls left in the class. Truth be told, I DID wonder how my kids felt about it. But, I had no intention of changing my decision to keep them there. I picked the school for it's atmosphere, it's academics, it's values, it's ability to nurture and teach and guide my kids. I didn't pick it because there were X number of boys and Y number of girls.
So I asked the DD's how they felt about being the only girls in their Third Grade class. Both of them (separately) said THEY COULD CARE LESS. Sure, as two of a trio they have the advantage of always having one another. But, as children of mine, they have the advantage of knowing there are a lot more important things in life than how many girls are in your class. And, as children of mine, they know that ultimately the decision is mine to make - not theirs. Sure, if they were totally miserable I'd consider moving them. But they're not, so I won't. To me it seems simple, but I'm willing to accept that there are parts of this story I may not know. This family may have a whole bunch of other issues which they choose not to share - and so thus far I'm sticking to my mantra that parents need to make decisions which they feel are best suited to their families.
So here's my question. How much, if any, say do your kids have? I know for some of you, your kids are too young to have much say... but, even so, how much do the kids control the daily life of the household? Enquiring minds want to know.
UPDATE: Apparently now the woman's children are staying at the school. She can't for the life of her figure out why one of them is now acting up... hmmm...