I've been on a huge learning curve this week! I have discovered so many things. The first thing I learned was that my friends are now paranoid about me seeing what's in their pantries. I arrived at one friend's house to pick up Ali the other day and she immediately went into a panic - 'Ooh, don't look! I've been shopping and I haven't put everything away yet - oh dear, are there any packets in my pantry? I'm sure there must be!' while turning a deep shade of red and doing her best to hide herself in the pantry and shut the doors behind her. I assured her I wasn't about to start passing judgement and to be honest, I was really impressed. After all, it wasn't as though she had just gone out and had a huge splurge on convenience food - on the contrary, she had been to the Bin Inn bulk store and her kitchen bench was covered in bags full of baking supplies, herbs and spices, which her little daughter was carefully refilling jars with. Now that's a Simple Saver, I don't know what she was worried about!
In fact I might end up having to go back there to get some advice myself - I'm pretty sure she makes her own bread and my efforts to make something wheat-free, corn-free and yet still palatable for Liam this week have been nothing short of diabolical so far. Now I seem to spend twice as long in the kitchen making sure there is enough baking that everyone can eat, I was immensely grateful for the offer of my mum's breadmaker; which like so many breadmakers had ended up gathering dust in a shed. Unfortunately in my haste to make my first loaf, I neglected to realise that one of the screw-in mixers was not on properly and only one side of my bread actually got mixed. Hence it didn't rise and I was most upset to return home and find a pasty white knobbly lump of concrete keeping warm in the machine. My second effort I'm pleased to say was better and it did actually taste a little bit like bread but I could see Liam wasn't exactly rapturous upon sampling it and told me he would rather stick to Ryvita crackers. I even bought some ready made 'Rice and Rye' bread from Mr Patel's and they agreed to order some in specially for me but they warned me at the time nobody liked it and when I went in to cancel my order after trying the first loaf, Mrs Patel wagged her finger at me, 'You see? I told you - it tastes bloody horrible eh!' Still, I refuse to give up and I have found some great recipes in a couple of books. One is called the New Zealand Food Allergy Cookbook, which contains recipes for all kinds of food intolerances and was recommended to me by a dairy intolerant bookseller as a lifesaver. The other is a recipe book from the 'Eat Right For Your Type' diet (as in your blood type) and this contains heaps of recipes using spelt flour, so I can see I'm set for another weekend experimenting in the kitchen. I hope I come up with something edible soon - Liam has to run a cross country race today and I'm keeping my fingers firmly crossed that he doesn't collapse from starvation half way round! Just kidding really, he's doing really well, is making all kinds of smart food choices and has become an expert label reader. Best of all, he has so much more colour in his face - we can even see his freckles again, I'd forgotten he even had them!
I am proud to announce that Noel has reached ELEVEN days of no smoking so far! He is a bit grumpy, especially in the mornings but on the whole he's not too horrendous to live with. His favourite new accessory is a thermal travel mug, a trendy 'Wild Bean' one which he picked up from a BP station. His job involves a lot of driving and he was always buying takeaway coffee when out and about but now he leaves the house in the morning with his steaming mug full of coffee and it keeps hot for ages. It's saving him a bundle too! I must suggest it to the guys at Campbell Live - when they came to our house to film they were appalled to discover that the reporter spends $60 a month on work coffee and the cameraman spends a massive $90 a month on bottled water! Even though his wife did suggest to him to keep refilling the same bottle from the tap at home every day. Oh how those little bits add up! So Noel is doing really well, I'm very proud of him and I hope he can kick the habit for good this time. Unfortunately I only managed to give up wine for three days - all those baking disasters drove me to it. Well, that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!
However, I am VERY proud of myself for making one brilliant saving this week! Somehow over the last three years I have managed to land myself with the task of taking all the local rugby and netball team photos, mounting them on posh backgrounds with everyone's name on and laminating them. It saves the clubs a fortune on getting another company to do them and normally it's not a problem for me - except when my printer wouldn't print anything less than 24 hours before I needed them for the netball prize giving. I spent half the day on the phone ringing the retailer and manufacturer and traipsing around to various other gurus but they all gave me the same reply 'Hmm, you'll have to get it sent away, don't know how long that will take', or 'Hmm, it's probably uneconomical to fix, you're better off buying a new one'. Well I didn't want to do that unless absolutely necessary so I came home in a huff. 'Why don't you check that website you told me about this morning?' asked Noel. He was referring to a hint called 'Become a fix-it expert for free' so I had a look at the site, called How To Mend It and while I couldn't find the exact solution to my problem, it did give me an idea. I typed my problem into Google (in my case it was 'Canon i560 won't print') and I found all kinds of answers but I was a little wary of doing more damage so I decided to give the easiest one a go at a site called Computer Hardware Forum. All I had to do was take out my ink cartridges, remove the printer head (they told me exactly how to do this) and heat about an inch and a half of water in a pan until hot but not boiling. Then, just swish the bottom of the printer head around in the water for a couple of minutes, remove and blow on to air dry as you mustn't touch the contact points. I popped it back, along with the cartridges and what do you know, it works perfectly! Can you believe, I almost PAID somebody to do that?!
I also learned this week that you don't automatically get the best available tickets online. I was excited to read that Deb Webber was touring NZ and doing a show in Hamilton at the end of next month. Last time I missed out on tickets but I hoped by getting in earlier this time I would be lucky. I wanted to get nice and close in the hope of getting picked on so I hopped online and found the nearest seats were ten rows back. That wasn't too bad but I remembered I had been caught out before by booking tickets online and taking what I was given, only to find that once I arrived at the venue, there were plenty of empty seats in front of me. So I decided to cover all bases and rang one of the booking agencies to see if I could get any closer. 'Oh yes dear, the front rows are all still available!' said the voice at the other end of the phone. So I nabbed two tickets in the middle of the very front row for Mum and I. It didn't matter where in the theatre I sat, the price was the same. I'm so glad I checked! It's a bit of a treat but jings, it's not like I go anywhere very often! I have made a couple of other 'treat' purchases lately - just small ones but more in an effort to further my learning, for want of a better expression. I think I was the only person on the planet not to see 'An Inconvenient Truth' when it came out and I have been on the hunt for the DVD for ages so when I spotted a lonely copy on special for $18 I snapped it up. The only problem is, that was two weeks ago and I haven't had a chance to watch it yet! I also picked up a copy of a book called 'Wasted' at a great discount price available to members of Consumer (the NZ version of Choice in Australia). This book derived from a TV series earlier in the year which was popular in NZ but screened too early for me to watch. Basically it's about what all good Simple Savers know - that saving your money and being kind to the planet go hand in hand. The book doesn't really contain anything that the Vault doesn't already but the statistics are interesting for Kiwis and there are some interesting websites to check out. Basically, don't do what I did and buy it, but if you can get your hands on a copy from the library, it's still well worth a look.
Talking of things worth looking at, have you caught up with the recent hints in the Vault lately? There are some great ones! Too many to list really but some of the ones I am keen to try are 'Scented toilet rolls save on fresheners', 'Spray toner directly on face for no waste' (even though I don't really have to use toner any more thanks to my wonderful microfibre face cloth), 'Origami rubbish bags from recycled newspaper' and one which I thought was nothing short of ingenious 'Take the plunge when fixing dented vehicles' - I can't wait to try that one out on my mum's car - if she'll let me! My favourite one this week however is a gift idea and has arrived in the Vault with perfect timing as this Sunday is not only Father's Day but also Noel's birthday and I haven't the slightest idea what to get him but I know one thing he will be getting for sure will be 'Humorous gifts for a few cents!'
Speaking of humour, before I go I must just share a couple of Ali's recent clangers. He came home from a walk down to the lake with his dad a few nights ago and was very excited. I asked if he had had a nice walk and he told me importantly that he and Noel had been having a very interesting chat with a man from the Department of Constipation! The following day, I walked into his classroom and couldn't understand why Ali's classmates were all giggling and whispering whenever they saw me. It turned out that that very afternoon, the children had all had to read out their character stories - a piece they had painstakingly written on a person of their choice. It turned out Ali had chosen me and opened his speech with 'my mum has long brown hair and don't tell her but I think she has a very big bottom'. The other kids all fell about and Ali made them promise not to tell me because he was worried he was going to get into terrible trouble! I told him having a big bottom didn't bother me in the slightest as I can't see it from where I am anyway but if he had said I had three chins like he usually does - now that would have been a different story!