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Planner, diaries, lists

I’m really loving my 2020 planner. I bought it in America.

I’m not getting much use out of the German Bullet Diary, the one I bought in Germany – but I kind of knew that’d be the case. Those formulaic pages that make you record things you wouldn’t normally record and write down what’s important in your life in little bubbles never work for me. Actually when I say I’m not getting much use, I’m really not using it at all.

But the week to a page diary/planner works.

I like lists. I like ticking and crossing items off lists.

I hate mind maps. They are so messy. How can you ever work out what to do?

I’ve never been a neat, artistic, decorate-the-page kind of diary person. Quick scribbled lists are me. All over the page.

Problem with a day-to-a-page diary is my time is often so busy and consumed by work that I have more things to do than time to do them. Conversely, on other days I am so lazy and a master at procrastination that tasks don’t get done on the day I write them down. So I am either forgetting items as I turn the page or rewriting lists.

Having a week to a page gives me time to get tasks ticked off before I have to write them again – if they still matter. And I can plan the week out with things that need doing earlier or things that can be pushed back to the end of the week.

But it isn’t a matter of just having a week to a page.

This diary has space to write notes. You know when you have to write something down, like the details from the car mechanic, or the type of makeup someone recommends, or the menu for a BBQ or travel details. Or mortgage and bank balances. Anything that strikes your fancy.

And it has a specific To Do list with a circle to tick off. (Although I like the double check to be sure – a tick and a strike through.)

I use Microsoft Office for appointments. I have to manage my many work commitments and use Microsoft at work, allowing my assistant to see when I am not available. It syncs with my phone so entering personal dates and appointments means I can manage work and personal appointments. Also I look at my phone frequently and, at work, Office is open on my desktop the whole day so it is the most user-friendly option for managing appointments for me during term.

On holidays, I don’t use the Microsoft calendar, except for maybe entering hair dresser appointments on my phone. Holidays are when I use a personal paper diary. With this diary I get a week overview so can plan the days I am not travelling!

And while staying home in lock-down isolation, we still have tasks or chores. The planner is better than having pieces of paper everywhere with lists of jobs; paper that goes missing and turns up months later; paper that adds to clutter everywhere.

And the planner is the perfect size for home use. Not so small I have to use teeny tiny writing. Thin enough that it sits flat open and doesn’t weigh a tonne.

See why I’m loving it? It’s perfect. Mr S is jealous. He wants one with the same double spread.

Have you found the perfect planner?

I don’t think Germans can read and other Lucinda musings on television

Dubbing vs subtitles

There’s a lot of American, and some British, TV shows on German TV.

And it is ALL dubbed.

I watched an episode of Miss Marple with Joanna Lumley! Dubbed! Joanna Lumley, dubbed!!!! Both her and Miss Marple’s voices are so distinctive. It loses something without their own voices.

Many lifestyle shows are annoyingly dubbed. They start with a few words of the English speaker, then have the English soft in the background while the German is dubbed over the top and sometimes end with the English again.

What is the point?

Is it to show the show isn’t originally in German? Which is stupid ’cause it is obviously not German.

Why can’t they just use subtitles? What do the Germans have against subtitles?

In Italy, I’ve found a host of shows not dubbed and without subtitles. Law and Order SVU. Bay Watch. Father Brown. (Shows I wouldn’t watch at home – more on that in a minute.)

Strangely, some of the titles and end titles were in Italian, like the disclaimer of Law and Order not being a true story, but then all the dialogue was all in English.

Where do you stand on this? Dubbing or subtitles? Which do you prefer?

Crap TV

While thinking about dubbing, I realised I watched several hours of a crap TV show – RBT and several episodes of Law and Order (the latter not all crap) – over several nights while travelling. I watched for no reason. Just put it on and left it on.

Then again, sometimes I feel like watching something light on TV. Something mindless, but not annoyingly so, on the idiot box so I can switch my thoughts off and relax.

One night in Rome I had one of those moments. I needed to watch something light. (I know. Watching TV while in Rome!!! But we’d walked over 20,000 steps that day and we were not going out after dinner.)

My choice of English speaking programs was extremely limited. There was one program.

So I watched it. The Worst TV forensic crime drama EVER! CSI Miami, I think. The script, costumes, lack of reality, delivery of lines, characterisation, how the people died. It was shit with a capital S. I watched the whole episode just to be sure. Yep. Pretty atrocious.

While I’d never watch this at home, I realised I watch too much shit on TV at home. Out of habit, I put the TV on and sit in front of it after dinner and fall asleep or am just too tired to get up, turn the TV off and go to bed.

Watching TV every night, whether it be crap or something more worthy – is a habit I need to break!

I didn’t need it every night while travelling.

So while travelling I decided to break the mindless watching TV thing when I get home.

Two weeks in, it hasn’t been going too badly. It has been helped by the fact that a son pulled out the cord for the cable TV so I only get free to air. But I just haven’t felt the need to find out how to fix it. So I leave the TV off.

Do you watch TV out of habit? Do you just automatically turn it on?

Did I drop anything?

A few weeks ago, I was in a dilemma.

Taking up exercise because it is good for me, left no time for rest and chores. I was thinking of dropping French. Not because I don’t enjoy it. I do. I love it. But because it was the only thing I could possibly drop.

I’ve made a decision. I am not dropping French.

I can let housework drop. Not that I do much anyway.

There’s only three more French lessons this term. They will be on a hiatus for most of next term as our teacher will be travelling. Then I leave for my European trip.

So I will have most of next term with Saturday mornings free of French lessons. I will see how I spend my Saturday mornings. Probably slothing around.

I am going to have to spend a large part of this weekend doing household chores I didn’t do last weekend while I was galavanting around. Actually I haven’t had time or energy to do all the household chores that need doing in the last few weeks. But those chores are always and repeatedly there and they don’t “spark joy”.

French lessons do spark joy. So they are staying.

Lately I’ve been reading

One of the things I love doing, one of things that a make a margin for on my life, is reading. Novels. 

Making time for myself involves making time to read, going to my bookclub, going to the theatre about six times a year and going to weekly French lessons. I wish I had more time to other things I’d like to do, and have to do: to garden and to exercise. But we can’t have everything. I would have to make such big margins around my work that I wouldn’t do even half what I am required to do. It’s why I don’t understand people who say they have to find things to do, to fill their time for when they retire. Or when they tell me I will be bored if I retired. 

No way! I’d be going to more language classes, exercise, garden, travel, explore my city, bake, hang out with friends more. But for now, I make time for reading. 

Here’s some of my Goodbooks ratings with some brief reviews and reflections. 

Commonwealth by Anne Pratchet. 4 stars. If I could give half stars, this would be a three and a half. But I’ve just finished it so feel generous. In a week, its nothingness will probably have me revise this to a three star. I like how the children’s view/memories of their lives change as they hear more parts, or parts are filled in my adults. This is a very visual book. Surely the film rights have been sold? A film within a book within a book within a film!?!


The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arandhati Roy. 4 stars. But this should be higher than Commonwealth. Bugger Goodreads not allowing half stars. This is a difficult read on many levels. The narrative structure is challenging. More challenging is the content on torture. A deeply moving tale. There are paaaates of lyrical beauty, which reminded me of Roy’s first, and only, novel. Her book was the first where icread descriptive passages without skimming. 


The Group by Mary McCarthy. 4 stars. I read this as it was recommended by the ABC TV show, The Bookclub. It is an amazing read. The challenges faced by the women are universal, if many details are specific for middle and upper middle class. Still they are not limited to 20s nor the period in which is was written, decades later. 

My Lovely Wife: a memoir of madness and hope by Mark Lukach. Three stars. This is an eye opener on psychosis. And how selfish mental illness makes one. 

A Winter Away by Elizabeth Fair. Four stars.   I read this because it was recommended by my favourite book blogger, Book Snob. A lovely gentle escapist read. So soothing on the mind that I bought others by this author for when my mind cannot cope with a demanding novel.

The Dust that Falls from Dreams by Louis de Bernières. Three stars. This is a mini-series in a novel. With an overriding story arc of the love life of one of the characters, the lives of different characters are explored. The result is similar to how one sister is described by another sister in the central family – we never really know them, despite being within the same house. The novel also begins by using different perspectives – switching between letters, various first person voices and third person narration. But seems to give this up in the second half, almost as if the story got away from the author and became a roaming soap opera that struggled to be contained, possibly jumping the shark two thirds of the way through. Or waiting for the final series to draw everything together, but the network already pulled the plug so the story had to be finished before the writer was ready to finish it. Those caveats aside, I enjoyed this read. 

The Sroey of a new Name by Eleanor Ferrante. Four stars. While Vol 1 was fresh and original, and this volume became a little soapy, it is still a fantastic read – you feel the gritty, claustrophobic, limiting life of ignorance bred from poverty. Or is it poverty bred from ignorance?

Looking after me.

Hands up busy women who don’t have time to look after themselves!

We’ve all sat through the flight safety message that reminds us if the oxygen masks drop down we need to look after ourselves first, then those dependent on us.

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And we all know that when out health fails, we are not able to look after our family at all. But busyness and obligations, both work and family, mean we often put ourselves last, putting off medical appointments, not making the time to exercise, thinking about those needed grooming appointments when we look at our shaggy eyebrows in the mirror.

In term time I am too busy for many things. One of my friends laughs when she asks what I am doing for the term breaks – she already knows the answer: catching up with my medical appointments.

So yesterday I had a treatment for my ongoing bad back. Naughty me: I need to exercise and stretch more. Remember these exercises? I was told off by my therapist: do your homework, your body needs it.

And then I dashed across town. Dashed I tell you! For a dentist appointment. I have a chipped tooth. (Oh, the joy of old age.)

Dash, my dashing. I had arrived for the wrong time. An hour early! But look what that extra hour allowed me: I got to visit a discount pharmacy that I normally don’t have time for and stock up on different toiletries. I haven’t yet got on the band wagon with BB cream, and they’ve already moved onto CC cream! So I got both. I will report back on these later.

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I really need to follow the flight attendant’s advice: look after yourself first. So today I will go for a walk and do my stretches. Oh and restart the exercises from my exercise physiologist. Think I will start from the beginning for two weeks: here are the exercises.

Grocery shopping for the busy family

Do you grocery shop every week?

For years I would tromp on down to the supermarket every weekend. It was a habit. One I thought you had to do. We all need to eat, don’t we? So every week we buy the food. And other assorted household stuff.

Grabbing staples, throwing a random selection of ingredients into the trolley. Buying veggies we “usually” use. Stopping at the butchers and buying different meat – beef, lamb, pork, chicken – to work out later what to cook.

In the morning: Chicken tonight? Yep. Take it out of the freezer.

After work: what shall we do with it? Stir fry? OK.

Even worse, the after-work-what-shall-we-cook conversation when nothing has been taken out of the freezer!

Come the weekend, back to the supermarket. Throw out the food going off. Restock the fridge.

After years of this, I hated the waste. Wasted food = wasted money. And the wasted time. So I changed to menu planning, working out what we would actually cook for dinner and buying for that. It cut out food waste significantly. And cut the stress of working out what to cook when we came home tired from work.

A few years into menu-plan shopping, I thought I would take a radical step: not go to the supermarket every week. I was bored with food shopping. I hated grocery shopping taking up a couple of hours of my weekend. Obviously not doing the weekly shopping could be done. Think of those who live in the country! Yet we do things out of habit, mindlessly, because we’ve always done it that way.

Now I spend half an hour working out with Mr Sans what we will cook for the fortnight. We are not strict; we just work out 12 or 13 meals – there’s always left-overs or a “catch-and-kill-yourself” night. (With two growing/grown-up sons at home, we always cook for left-overs so the boys can have food for lunch or snacks.)

Then I roughly plan each week’s menu – don’t want all chicken one week and all pasta the next! Normally the menu for the week is flexible. We swap the dinners around depending on the weather, our moods or if one of us is tired.

If we have evening functions we make sure we have a double meal (cook a double quantity so there is a meal ready to reheat). We also plan for the evenings when one of us isn’t available to cook. As we share the cooking equally but have different dinners we like and different cooking styles, we need to let the other know what night they definitely have to cook. “I’m out on Tuesday and won’t need dinner, so you have to cook.” “I’ll make the green curry then.” “Good, don’t like that one.”

After menu planning, I draw up the shopping list. Supermarket and butchers are visited once a fortnight. The green grocer I go to every weekend. That is why I divide the dinners into each week, so I buy the veggies for that week.

The benefits have been enormous: less stress, less waste, money saved. I have cut our grocery bill by hundreds. Fewer visits means throwing fewer “treats” into the trolley!

Now, my family would probably tell you I go even less than once a fortnight. Sometimes I go “on strike”. There’s food in our kitchen, so why shop? Eat the fruit in the bowl! Just because you don’t feel like an apple but want a banana doesn’t mean I have to go buy you one!

And teenage boys, well mine anyway, think if they have to do more than open a container and put it in the microwave, then there’s nothing in the house to eat. Tough, I say.

So what’s on the menu for the next fortnight?

Week 1
Sat – Mum and Dad are going out with friends for dinner, so readymade stir fry from the butcher’s with Hokkien noodles for sons to cook.
Sun – roast chook, gives some leftover meat for lunches. And I will roast extra veggies for vegetarian lasagne later in the week.
Mon – BBQ lamb kebabs and salad.
Tues – BBQ steaks, chips and salad. (We’re making the most of the end of summer. BBQs on the back verandah.)
Wed – two lasagnes – one beef and one vegetable. Lots of leftovers for lunches and snacks.
Thurs – Hokkien noodle pork stir-fry – double lot cooked for Friday.
Fri – left-over Hokkien noodles

Week 2
Sat – BBQ sausages (real meat ones) with salad.
Sun – Belgium chicken pasta.
Mon – Steak sandwiches. (We’re Aussies so these HAVE to come with tinned beetroot and fried onions!)
Tues – stirfry. Cook extra rice for fried rice later in week.
Wed – fried rice. Cook two lots.
Thur – fried rice.
Fri – leftovers / catch and kill your own.
Sat – roast macadamia and honey chicken roll.

So there you go. We love food and we eat well. A little menu planning and once a fortnight shopping saves time, money, stress and food waste.

The working mum’s balance

Hello! Anybody still dropping by? I’ve been a bit quiet. Things and stuff and whatnot going on. Lots of work stuff taking hours and turning my mind to mush.

I came up with this analogy about balancing things in life.

Some people don’t like the term “work life balance” as it implies that there is a disconnect between working and living. But lets face it, if you have a full-time job you spend more time at work than you do on anything else, so it is never really balanced. And there are so many things in the “life” bit.

So here’s my metaphor.

Imagine you have a five ring gas stove top to represent aspects of your life.

20140215-125358.jpg One ring is work, one family, one home or your physical environment, one friends and one ring all about you and self-care. Each ring has four settings – very low, low, medium and high. You have enough gas pressure to run any of the rings but the total can only be 12. So you you have to switch some off to run others at high, or run all at low. You don’t have the energy to run all at medium, let alone at high.

When my kids were little, I ran work and family at high. A total of 8, leaving 4 for home, friends and my fitness. I didn’t do much for me and was a bad friend, probably burning each at very low. My house was never as clean or organised as I would like and my efforts in the garden was spasmodic; running this at low. If I wasn’t in such a stressful profession or after promotions, I could have consumed less energy for the work burner and diverted more to run other burners. There is no way I would have run my family at lower than high.

Now my children are older and need me less, I can turn the family burner down to medium. Work is still running at high. That leaves me 5 for the others. Is it selfish that I am upping the burner that is about me? I am spending more time and energy on my health, fitness and personal interests. Running it at medium.

What to do with the other 2 energy points?

It pains me, because it is not the sort of person I want to be, or want to admit to being, but I put little energy in friendships. It’s not that I think work is more important than friends, but clearly I must do, as I give more time and energy to it! I can rationalise it (need the money to live; do a job, do it well; get fulfilment from work etc) but it really is rationalisation. Those who put their time into other aspects of life away from work can just as easily rationalise not working on their career. Sometimes it seems energy has been allocated to aspects of life without a conscious choice.

You might rename some of your burners, eg a community burner. For me that came under family as I did community things for my kids’ interests, such as volunteering for sporting clubs and school activities. Now it comes under home, as I work with neighbours to protect and support our area.

Anyway, the point is we cannot have everything and be brilliant at everything. We just don’t have the energy.

So what burners are you diverting energy to? How do you feel about it? Did you suddenly find yourself with one burner blazing away that you never thought you’d want to turn up? Or is the reverse true: one burner is barely flickering and you wish you could turn it up?

No iPad! No alcohol! What to do?

You know you have an addiction when it feels scary when you say you can’t have something.

Deprivation seems to exacerbate the need.

Arriving home at dinner time and the usual routine would be to pour a glass of something to quaff while cooking and then grab the iPad for a read. The night at first seemed like it would extend with a big fat emptiness. What would I do to fill the time? How empty without my iPad on my lap, half listening to the tele, sort of giving my family half an ear!

But so much else was possible. Dinner, conversation, a TV show, play with some nail polish, reading a book. Giving every task my full attention. Really being mindful and in the moment.

As the habit forms, I will have time! Precious time!

Today’s decluttered item = plastic containers. Mr Sans and I do frequent battle. Not with each other. No, with the plastic containers. Open the cupboard door and they attack. Finding the one you want and then the matching lid takes much longer than should be given to such a domestic, mundane task. Some must go. And why keep ones that come with takeaway and supermarket soup? We put empty tins in the recycling without a thought. Why keep plastic? And one is damaged! These say they are recyclable so into the recycling they go.

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Break the iPad habit!

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I luff, luff, luff my iPad. I use it first thing in the morning – checking my emails and favourite blogs and sites. I use it as soon as I am home, straight onto it. I blog only from my iPad. It’s so convenient and easy to use.

But its ease is also my downfall. I use it while watching tele, I am tapping away while talking to Mr Sans, I use it in bed. For goodness sake, as soon as I get up!

So I will force myself to control my habit.

Why not just limit the time each night? I know this won’t work for me. Who hasn’t gone on “just for a few minutes” and realised it was four hours later when you surface and you either haven’t achieved anything or it is way past your bedtime? When I have some silly game on the iPad, I can play for hours. On some meaningless game! That I don’t really care about!

So I have removed all games from my iPad.

And I will join my alcohol-free days with iPad-free days. Two days a week, Tuesdays and Thursdays.

No being sidetracked by work emails which pop up when you’re connected. I will put the iPad on airplane mode the night before and not touch it. So I will be able to truly disconnect from work for two days. Has to be better for my health! Cut the brain clutter and stress.

What won’t I be able to achieve!!!

Exercise, books, decluttering, organising. Giving my full attention to Mr Sans!

Exciting but also scary.

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Today’s decluttered item = sports shoes insert. I was talked into buying them when I bought my last pair of joggers. They cost quite a bit. $50! I found them really uncomfortable. Persevere, I was told. But the discomfort was too much. They raised my heel so the shoes rubbed where my heels had not rubbed before. Because of the cost I was loath to throw them away. I put them in the back of my poor linen press for possible future use. I tried again recently as my joggers have worn down and I thought this might give some cushioning. Still uncomfortable. But the unwillingness to dispose of them persisted: concern over the wasted cost; a need to keep them like a sack cloth and ashes reminder of my stupidity in being talked into something I knew I would not use and did not want; angst about disposing of new, unused items and the environmental impact of production and disposal of an unused thing. But what’s the alternative? They are cluttering my linen press and we dispose of much more and more frequently and more readily. So… Be off with you.

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Alcohol free days

I love a glass or two or three of bubbles when it is warm.

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And a fruity cocktail.

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A beer goes down well too.

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When its cooler I turn to a glass of red.

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But as part of my healthy, gorgeous life, I am going to limit the days I drink. Look, I can go days without a drink. Too busy, don’t feel like it, too tired. But in the last few years my alcohol consumption has gone up. Mmmm! When the kidlets were little I rarely drank. Who knew when you might have to get up at night? Or drive somewhere? You need your full wits with little kids around.

Now they are all grown up and my work is more stressful, I am drinking more, and more often, and more regularly.

If you’ve read my blog, you know I am all about making things habitual. Not relying on motivation but routine.

So my new habit will be no alcohol on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Easy to remember. Doesn’t mean I will drink on all the other days, but that I definitely won’t drink on those days. And it will make it easy to ensure I have 2 alcohol free days a week, which is what some health professionals recommend. Instead of saying I think I had two days free, I will know I did. And I will have the energy and alertness to do other things, managing my time better.

Roll on journey to gorgeousness and healthy living!

Today’s decluttered item= old magazines. These are over a year old and were given to me by a friend. I don’t need them sitting by the lounge.

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