Giving gifts

Thank Pauline, again inspiring a post!  How much do you spend on gifts – and why?

This is obviously a little more of a review, than a ‘pre’ Christmas thing.  But it’s something I grappled with this Christmas, being in a new relationship (and it’s a long time, it seems, since I was last in one!)

**Sorry for the stray balloon about halfway down – and the less than readable font. I’m very new to this, so I’m having some teething issues – but this post I learnt how to have subtitles, so that’s all VERY exciting!**


I roughly budget about $150-200 per person for Christmas (Mum, Dad, and my two younger brother – big bro and little bro (one is tall… and older than the other).  Admittedly, some years I run away overseas, and they have to settle for about $20-$50 gifts.  I feel OK when I ‘scrimp’ (in my eyes) cause my mother at least thinks I’m very generous.  I don’t mind spending when I know it’s a gift they’ll like or use.  This year, mum and dad got tickets to Bruce Sprinsteen.  Little bro got a money transfer – whilst i could have got him something, he was leaving for a Europe trip, so I figure cash was simple!  Big bro heard about the cash… and so he got a pail filled with the same amount of money in $2, $1, 50c and 20c coins.  I was so proud – he’s someone who finds money burning a hole in his pocket, so this was my crafty way to be equal with his bro – but slow him down (he also has a sense of humour!).  The upside of the “change” gift was that it took to bulk of coinage that was littering the floor at the BF’s place – win win!


Oh, did I struggle with this one! Before he went home to his family, i got him two ‘joke’ presents – things that had some up in conversations.  So, clothes pegs (or pins), and a scrubbing brush that you can put the liquid in!  Oh and a card.  I did this the night before he went away.  He didn’t want to open them – and I wanted to make sure he did, lest he think I was uber serious… Needless to say, he still went home and returned with generosity! (and… then I knew where to pitch my non joke gift’s value – about the same as my family above!).  So today he should hopefully get his gift voucher in the mail – let’s hope he likes it, cause if he doesn’t, I’ll happily use it! It’s a helicopter flight over Sydney Harbour – given he loves sailing, and has only lived in the city a short while, i think it’ll be good (and I’ll happily buy myself a seat alongside him when he/we pick a date to do it!).

Pauline – I agree with you about guys paying for a few dates  – and my boy is incredibly generous with dates.  Thankfully there wasn’t any tech gagets he wanted, though there are a few things I know I could have sorted that he’d have liked (like sunglasses, or getting his car detailed) but they all seemed like they had a high chance of failure – wrong style or hard to sort out the car thing.

Extended Family

This is guided by established protocols – this year the deal was ‘no gifts except for Grandma’ – so I made her an album of our family’s photos.  It’s such a relaxing and fun hobby – even if I only took a few nights to get it done.  And there’s so many leftover pages, I might get charged with adding other families…  Otherwise, some years it’s $50 per person you are charged with giving to.  I handle all 5 people our family draws out – seems I love thinking and getting a great gift – and my mum loves letting me… mostly!


Generally, I implement a strict no gift policy.  Works better with some groups better than others.  So this year I had to reciprocate (in a MAD hurry) cause the past two years they’ve not given me anything (and I’m OK with that!).  Anyhow, I went for about $50 each – which got a cookbook, or a lantern as suited the couples.  I’m pretty sure I ‘over’ compensated, but I’d rather do that, than scrimp – cause I feel like all year I bring less alcohol to things, and all my friends so generously offer their’s to me…


This year, I did nothing.  In the past, I made mini cakes or the like.  This year, my neighbours got something similar – I was reaching out to people I’ve lived with for a year and still don’t know.  It was nice to slowly getting cards back from each of them – now to match faces to names! If only I’d had the courage to knock on doors to give them my Christmas brownies (and likewise…  all the cards were secretly squirreled to me, even when I was home!!)  Some very generous neighbours also gave me a book, and some others, some chocolates – really lovely!

I did however volunteer myself to help with the BF’s secret santa in the office – and I/we won hands down as the best gift! (helps that he had his fave staff member… maybe?).  I got a cheap glass saladier and filled it with jelly beans, and wrapped it amazingly (if I do say so myself) with cellophane and a big bow.  Certainly some wow factor for a $20 gift. (I’ll fess up, I’ve done this gift before for my cousins… )  Seems the office continues to eat the jelly beans now, and the recipient intends to top up the bowl – win win!

All in all, I think I got out of Christmas fairly easily.  I think in total I would have spent about $800, which certainly seems like a lot, but I do put more into Christmas than birthdays (easier to get a good lead time on Christmas – whereas birthdays sneak up on you!)


I would really like to have a zero waste home, as well as an uncluttered home.  Gifts scream potential for both of those!  So I’d rather say no to gifts than risk something I won’t use/enjoy/like!  That being said, my family are pretty happy to be ‘told’ what I’d like, and I can settle for that.  Some of the best gifts of all time were: a mini swiss army knife with USB (admittedly the USB is close to useless due to it’s small size in today’s terms, but the knife acts as a key ring, and I’d use the mini scissors close to daily) and a dress (I fought SO hard for them to not buy it for me – and they scoured the world, quite LITERALLY to get it for me, and of course, I couldn’t not wear it, and now I love it!?).

Annual Goals

Despite my efforts to make this ‘publish’ whilst I was enjoying life, I failed 🙁  But that’s given me time to reflect (and enjoy my time off) and so I’ll ensure everything listed still fits reality!


– Save a total of $20k by 22 Dec (for mortgage refinancing):  Current balance is $13,487.55.  Whilst this account doesn’t pay bills, it is dipped into occasionally for ’emergency’ spending (which sometimes means ‘a flight’s a really good deal, and I can save that money up again’!)

– Continue to meet all bills with weekly savings contribution of $200 per week

– Aim for $100+ ‘generosity’ per week – charity, church, random acts of gifting and kindness (this is setting the bar HIGH – but it’s in the ball park of 10% of salary, if others can do it, I should try it!)


– Cook at home at least twice a week – living alone, cooking semi-regularly means I have some healthy food, and limits my take out. It also means I don’t have to buy lunch (which I hate – not the buying as much as the decision making process… and then the money spending… I hate spending money and then finding it was ‘wasted’ because I didn’t like what I bought!)

– Limit wheat intake – try to make the ‘right’ choice more often

– Limit sugar intake – maybe ‘dessert’ once a week.  No sweet snacks…

(both the above aren’t measurable… so not very exact.  The rule I used between 12 Nov (my return from my last trip) and Christmas was to not eat any sugar.  Whilst that wasn’t strictly adhered to, I certainly lowered it significantly.  Whilst I was away, every day pasteries was the order of the day!! )

– TRAIN and play water polo – I’m good at attending every game (been known to reschedule holidays around games!), but not so good at training, so I need to commit to a weekly training, and stop making excuses!


– 2 films a month – a few years ago, I counted my ticket stubs on new years day, and had 40 for the year! That’s INSANE but an indication of how much I love immersing myself in the cinema (musty carpet smell and all!)  It’s truly a few hours where I can escape.  It’s not the same to steal it from the internet, and do your mending or cook dinner at the same time.  When I go to the movies, I don’t text. I don’t let ‘normal’ life interfere (though… I do chatter away to someone who has been silly enough to come along with me – sorry!)

– 2 books a month – So far I have had 52 loans at my local library, and given I’ve only been ‘in area’ for a year, that would be more like one a week (actually seems I started lending in March, so more than one a week!).  That being said, some of them aren’t ‘read’ – I did borrow some CDs.  I also borrow magazines, and they aren’t something I’m willing to count as ‘books’.


It does seem weird keeping targeted lists on social front.  But there are a lot of friends who I don’t keep in touch with as much as I’d like to.  I’ve certainly been better since I stopped being a student (Being a student just sucked life out of me – there was always something I ‘should’ have been doing, and it never seemed there was enough time just to live… to enjoy life…)  In the past I know I set a goal of calling a friend a week (obviously targeting ones I wasn’t seeing regularly, so largely those who live interstate) This was a big deal for me, as I realised I don’t call people ‘just for a chat’ and felt awkward about it.  One thing I have mastered in the post card sending whilst on holidays, as well as Christmas cards (though this year the latter list was severely truncated…)

– touch base with an out of town friend once a month

– make time for friends around regular commitments (work, church, water polo): I’m mindful that a close friend mentioned I was ‘always busy’, and therefore did lessen my load with water polo.  I want to make sure my friends don’t feel like they are neglected, but at the same time, not that I’m leeching off them to spend every hour together -it’s a balancing act between needy and hoity independence sometimes!


– Get my certification: Agh this is something I have to do, but have NO enthusiasm.  I shouldn’t take the next week off, I should stay at work at write career episodes – but the friends goal above is winning out!

– Start looking for my next role: career progression targets at work mean this is the year I need to look for a new role, so I can meet the certification + experience targets to continue progressing.  I’m loathed to leave where I am – I have a great boss, I’m still learning, I love my work, and I don’t want to risk any of those things by moving.  But if I don’t move, then I might be closing doors for my future (and I’m young, there’s a lot of ‘career’ ahead!)

Things I achieved in 2012

*Published in 2019, but back dated to be ‘year end’ summary*

In line with the 2013 summary I published, I thought I’d take the time to review each year since I was at school, as a record of my life.  Things get hazy as time goes on, and it’s not going to get any better as I age!  So here we go!

In 2012

  • My parents live in Toulon, France from Sept 2012 to Jan 2013
  • I visited my parents in Toulon, but we met in Marrakesh and visited Casablanca too, in Oct/Nov 2012
  • Visited Duabi alone, shopping up a storm and going hot air ballooning over the desert
  • I flew business class on Emirate from Paris to Dubai to Sydney at my cost on an A380 and a 777
  • I started dating “The BF” at the start of October 2012
  • Prior to “the BF”, this was my year of dating!  A good friend spent a lot of time awkwardly setting me up!
  • Memories of brunches with Mr DIY and his GF
  • My first year living the apartment I bought (the loft), having settled on 22 Dec 2011
  • I equipped a whole home with living furniture – sofas, kitchen stuff etc
  • Hosted a Thai birthday banquet for myself at the new house
  • Recarpeted the upstairs in the early days, meaning I lived in my living room when I moved in!
  • Had the loft painted (un)professionally
  • Updated the tapware (thanks Aldi!)
Toulon harbour
Toulon harbour


Selfie from a hot air balloon in United Arab Emirates
Selfie from a hot air balloon in United Arab Emirates


Dubai location shot
Dubai location shot


The view from my Paris hostel
The view from my Paris hostel


Royal Air Maroc
Royal Air Maroc

Living solo

This post is inspired by the following article:

When I ‘moved out’ for the first time, it was to a house for (Anglican) girls coming to uni in the ‘city’.  It was great, but I was naughty (which, then, I most certainly was not!), and so when I reapplied to live there in second year, I was told they were looking for a different mix of people.  I then moved onto uni housing – 8 bedroom purpose built apartments, with 3.5 bathrooms and a double kitchen.  And to single rooms in French ‘Cite U’s’.  But it wasn’t until I bought my own place did I really have the sense that I was ‘living alone’.

When I was looking to buy, I consider living somewhere more ‘affordable’ so I could buy something with two bedrooms, and have a flatmate.  Then it was a balance – would I pay more, knowing I’d have a flatmate?  Would I stretch my loan that much further, but then be obliged to live with someone?  And then I recalled mum’s horror that I re-categorised the pantry.  Or when I wanted less in some cupboards.  I started to think about having someone in ‘MY’ space!  And then it became simple.

If I was OK to live alone, I could live wherever, as I was fortunate to be able to afford (and accept living in) ‘small’.  And I didn’t want more than small – bigger than small needs more stuff.  And one thing I don’t want to get sucked into is more stuff.  Don’t get me wrong, I have stuff, but feeling the need to ‘fill’ a space with stuff… makes my stomach churn at the waste of money and resources…  For my little body can only sit in one chair at once… or be in one room at once!

I do feel proud that I can and have lived alone.  That I can balance the budget, feed myself, truly live without relying on someone else.  I luckily live so close to some wonderful friends, who have stuff… like power drills and spirit levels and hard disc drives full of TV shows to starve out the demons that intrude my home when I have a long weekend and no firm plans.  Because, living alone is 90% lovely, and 10% crazylonely.  It’s lonely when you imagine that everyone else is having a grand time – with someone, doing the banal things in life.  You never actually imagine houseshares or couples fighting… or the piles of dishes that no one washes…  even though that’s more like the reality.  It’s crazy ’cause it’s not truth that you imagine, but this fairytale fiction of what it would be like to live with someone.

It’s nice to come home to as clean (or dirty…!) a house as I left it.  But, man, it’s oh so lovely to get home when a friend’s been staying, and play ‘spot the difference’.  Love to my friend who emptied the seldom used dishwasher and put everything away.  Thank you housesitter for new toliet paper, washing powder and wool wash (and oh so sorry for not replenishing those, and for me thinking that you’d need more plain flour and sugar… cause surely she’ll bake?!)

Living alone is great, when you live so close to your community.  And connected enough to get out when you need to – to spend time with people.  I’m lucky to have a few nearby buses, and a train station that’s an oversized block or two from my place.  And I’m lucky that just one stop on an express train (15 minutes) I can be at the station closest to my parents and brothers’ place.

None of this is to say that living alone is something that’s so good I’d never consider anything otherwise, just that I am thankful for what I’ve got in the here and now!

To new beginnings!

With days until NYE, and more than a year of commenting and enjoying so many great blogs out there, I’ve decided to (re-)create my own!  My very first blog still exists and occasionally it generates a spam email.  It was of my life in France in 2006, when I studied there for an exchange.  I got sick of writing long emails, and figured I could put all my photos interspersed with text on a blog, and those that could be bothered would hopefully drop by and read it.  At the very least it was more appealing than rereading emails with lots of text and then a collection of photo attachments with no captions!

This blog… probably won’t share as many tales of my jaunts overseas, though that’s not a promise that there won’t be some juicy ‘what I saw when I went here’ posts.  I mainly plan to document my life, and write posts inspired by other bloggers.  A place to reflect on life, and then to plan and achieve all those things that are on my lists!!  Looking forward to taking you along for the ride.

Things I achieved in 2011

*Published in 2019, but back dated to be ‘year end’ summary*

Wow, only two or so years ago at time of writing, and I’m already thinking ‘what did I do that year?’

  • I went to the US, with a side trip to Israel
  • I met close friends from Sydney in NYC for a night or two
  • I saw Cirque de Soliel in Radio City Hall
  • I did a huge road trip all over Israel with a fantastic friend I met in Paris in 2010
  • I suffered major plane delays with Delta back to the US, so moved to El Al
  • Successfully met my NYC to Chicago connection to meet a friend from studying in France in 2006
  • Shopped my heart out in Chicago (hello Banana Republic and Victoria’s Secret)
  • Met my family in NYC, having all flew into the US at different dates/times (Mum: conference in Colarado, Brothers a few days before Dad)
  • Visiting the ‘YMCA’ in Harlem where my brothers were staying!
  • Freaking out about dogs after staying with a family in Connecticut I met on the plane from NYC to LAX in 2008
  • Visited Washington DC alone, meeting up with a friend form Paris in 2010, somehow, without a mobile phone!?
  • Continued to save my pennies for a house deposit
  • Had an offer accepted on a loft opposite Mr DIY’s rental terrace, for the building society to reject my application based on the property valuation 🙁
  • Visited endless open houses!
  • Successfully bought the loft pre auction, that settled on 22/12/2011
  • Lived at home until the day my property settled
  • Pre bought furniture, such as second hand dining chairs, the tenant’s kitchen table and buffet, and crockery
  • Tried a homeopath/natropath for psorasis

Things I achieved in 2010

*Published in 2019, but back dated to be ‘year end’ summary*

I’m not sure if it’s just me – but I TOTALLY forget what happened in what year.  So I created some posts about the recent olden days, to remind myself!  Thought it might spark a conversation.

  • Travelled to  France & Greece
  • Travelled around Greece with a friend from a conference in Paris in 2008

Greek island cruise boat and crew/cruisers
Greek island cruise boat and crew/cruisers

  • Spent a week on a yacht in the Greek Isles

Fancy university accomodation
Fancy university accomodation

  • Spent 3 week in Paris of a women in engineering conference (my second time attending)
  • Skipped the above conference for a few days to spend time near Mont St Michel with French family friends from 2006
  • Stayed in the Hilton Abu Dhabi on my layover back to Sydney
  • Graduate rotation in the Project Services section, doing countless overtime and overnight shifts
  • House sat over summer at family Friend’s home in Berowra
  • Spent most of the year recovering from a holiday romance
  • Graduate rotation at Zone Development
  • Walked to work more often than not at the above position
  • Continued with my floristry certificates through a Saturday course

Wedding bouquet Cake topper

  • Played paintball with Project Services colleagues (a Christmas gift from our boss)
  • Started acupuncture in Bondi Junction for my psorasis
  • Damaged my wrists through work and spent many hours in physio
  • Did flowers for Mum’s colleague’s daughter’s wedding
  • Visited Ayres Rock, Alice Spring and Perth in Sept/Oct

Rivers of water on the rock
Rivers of water on the rock

  • Started working at florist
  • Graduate rotation at Street Lighting & Live Line Policy and Development
  • Last minute, bought tickets to Germany for a white Christmas

Collecting decorations (it's wattle under my wing)
Collecting decorations (it’s wattle under my wing)

  • Had flights to Frankfurt redirected to Munich :s

That's a Christmas morning!
That’s a Christmas morning!

  • Visited Amsterdam over the Christmas/NY break

The postcard photo
The postcard photo

The elephant like machine was de-icing the plane. Something I'd NEVER seen.
The elephant like machine was de-icing the plane. Something I’d NEVER seen.

What a year, huh?