Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Too Hard Basket

I'm giving up my daily blogging and tweeting.

It's waaay too hard.

To be honest I'd rather devote that extra time to writing my book.  Maybe it won't be as successful because I don't have a prior fan base but I really don't care.

B xx

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Twitter for Twits - an explanation for the Twitterly-Impaired

I thought I'd write a blog explaining Twitter.

It has only taken me since the 19th July, 2009 to finally figure it all out.  Now that I'm an expert, I feel  compelled to share my expertise with EVERYONE!!  (mainly so they can sign up for a twitter account and follow me).

Firstly, since I've been making a concerted effort to tweet, follow trends and comment on famous peoples tweets, I have managed to increase my own followers by 4%.  Yes.  I have risen from 25 followers to 26 followers in the last 3 days.

It may not seem like much but if every 3 day's my followers increases by 4% then I calculate that by......  actually I don't feel like calculating.... but I reckon that I will quickly begin to approach Ashton Kutcher in the popularity stakes.

So let me explain twitter.

A tweet is kind of like a FB status but if you want to tag someone you need to put an @ before their name and can only use 140 characters, so long profound thoughts are disallowed.  This tweet will come up in your followers news feeds.  If you put a hashtag '#' before a phrase or a word then people who search that phrase or word will be able to see your tweet.  If heaps of people start tweeting the same word or phrase with a hashtag next to it, then that word or phrase will be said to be 'trending'.

For example.  Yesterday I saw that #explainafilmplotbadly was trending.  So I decided to jump on the band wagon and compose my own tweet with that hashtag.  I tweeted:

Superficial girl uses big words in order to sleep with stepbrother.  #explainafilmplotbadly

If you were on twitter and you had clicked on that particular trending phrase, it would have brought up all the other tweets that have that hash tagged phrase attached to it, including mine.  (Incase you are wondering I was talking about the movie Clueless).

I also decided to put up a picture of my beloved Moo (pet pig) with the hashtag #antmselfie.  For the reality-tv impaired peeps out there #antmselfie is the tag you attach to a self taken picture, which is then uploaded to twitter or instagram, so that you can be in the running to be a contestant on Australia's Next Top Model.

Why am I bothering to do all these blogs and tweets?

As I've mentioned before, in my last two blog posts, I've been advised to build up a fan base before I get to the stage of publishing my book.  But it's a lot harder than it sounds.

I can't be funny on cue and am not overly witty.  Half the time people find things funny, that weren't intended to be funny. (e.g. My husband still laughs about the Costco post but when I re- read it, it just makes me mad).  So I am constantly lacking funny and insightful things to tweet about.

I do have some twips for first time twitter users though:

1.  I followed Donald Trump yesterday (mostly so I could mock him) and had to mute him within 5 minutes.  He over tweets and tweets the most ridiculous things.  It's not even funny.  Don't follow him.
2.  Miley Cyrus is ok to follow, if you like looking at selfies of Miley Cyrus.  If not, then don't bother.
3.  The most interesting people to follow aren't famous actors or musicians, they are writers (like me - obviously), comedian's and journalists.
4.  Don't follow anyone who has ever appeared on any of the top model series - it lowers your credibility.
5.  Actually, all reality tv stars are out - especially THE KARDASHIANS!!  They never have anything relevant or important to say.
6.  Kanye West is out too.
7.  Most importantly make sure you follow me!!

Anyway.  I'd better keep plugging along with my book.  Am struggling a bit at the moment.  I need some inspiration.

B xx

Monday, September 8, 2014


Ok.  Day 1 of writing daily (to increase my audience so when I finally finish my book - which will be delayed because I have to blog everyday - I have a million followers on my blog chomping at the bit to buy my book) and I am stuck for ideas.  

I really don't know how blogging regularly is supposed to increase my followers.  I've written over 100 posts since I first created my blog and have religiously and shamelessly promoted them on my own Facebook, my husbands Facebook & my sisters Facebook, and I still have the 14 followers I had to begin with (2 of them are my husband and sister so I'm not sure that counts).

So what am I going to write about?  Nothing. 

Yep.  Nothing happened today out of the ordinary.  I have nothing to say.  

I do have a really huge whinge about Coles I would like to get off my chest but I think I'll refrain as the last few posts have made me sound really whinny and negative (even though the posts where I whinge are my most popular ones - I think I am gifted in the art of whinging).

Alright, this is stupid.  I'm wasting time trying to think of things to write on this blog when what I really want to be writing is, my novel.  I think I'll leave you all.  The advice I received on blogging everyday offered no insight into how much you had to write everyday to attract followers so I'm assuming that something is better than nothing.  Let's see how many daily posts it takes to attract a new follower.  

Someone has to feel sorry for me eventually!!!!

B xx

P.S.  Just a little tid bit of information about my new book - I've invented new words :-)
I'm sure they will take off because I am such a #trendsetter

P.P.S.  I've been tweeting constantly to attract more twits and I haven't had a single person follow me.  Being popular is hard work!! :-/  

Sunday, September 7, 2014

My First Novel

I am 33 941 words into my first novel.  It's really hard.  Really, really hard.

After resigning from my permanent position with Ed Qld earlier this year I felt a little bit uneasy and lost.

I could no longer say I was a teacher and was forced to answer nosey questions such as 'what do you do?' with "I'm a housewife".  I am not saying there is anything wrong with being a housewife, I am just ashamed to say it because I am a terrible housewife.  Terrible beyond words.  There is always 6 loads of washing to put away and my floors always need cleaning, even when I've just cleaned them.

Earlier this year I decided it would be easier to buy new blinds and trick someone (Kristy) into installing them (whilst deceitfully leading people to believe that I helped her somehow) than it would be to dust the current blinds.  I'm a terrible, terrible housewife.  

So I needed a new profession.  Being the lazy, multitasker that I am, I decide to kill two birds with one stone and write a novel (which is on the on the list of things to do before I die).  That way I would be able to proudly proclaim to nosey check out people that I'm a Novelist whilst also ticking something off my list.   I'm writing a science fiction novel, which is a VERY surprising choice for someone who does not like science fiction. I have never watched a single one of the Star Wars movies or read a single science fiction book.  So it's brand new territory for me.

After gleefully editing my Facebook work information from reading 'Teacher' to 'Science Fiction Writer' I set about my working out the setting and characters for my new book.

I'm about 6 weeks into the book and have written 12 chapters.  I write everyday and spend anywhere between 30 minutes to 5 hours, depending on the amount of research I need to do in order to write the chapter I am working on.

I constantly switch from between LOVING my novel and imagining myself being interviewed on Ellen after the book has been made into a highly successful movie trilogy to absolutely hating my book and wondering 'what on Earth am I thinking?'.

Last night I had one of those nights where I was really swamped and felt like it was a crap idea and was going nowhere.  Hoping to find some motivation I decided to google novelists to find out what they get paid and how to be a successful one.   Novelists, especially first time novelists, rarely make much money at all from their book.  It's lucky that my motivation for writing this book is to tick a box on a list and have a more interesting career than 'housewife'.  I also realised that I would have to stop promising the kids that when my book gets published I will buy them a horse they can ride and pay for riding lessons a couple of times a week etc.

One authors website, that I stumbled across, advocated building up your social media following.  My blog has 14 followers and I have 22 twits following me on twitter, which is much less than what he recommended (he himself has millions and HAD millions before he even published his first book).

So now on top of writing my novel I am going to be tweeting my head off and hashtagging everything (apparently other people who hashtag similar things may start following you) and blogging as often as possible so I can build up my followers.  How this system works I have no idea.

Writing this blog is really difficult.  I think I can only write so many words a day before my words become finger dribble, spewing across my keyboard.

So, after posting this I'm hoping to have a few more blog followers and I will try hard to think of things I can tweet to make myself a more popular twit.

Sorry this is such sucky writing.  I've been writing all morning and am now devoid of any inspiration or creativity.

B xx

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Costco Update

Wow!!  Usually no one reads my blog or my crappy little reviews of places I like/don’t like.  Ok, so maybe Ben reads it (mostly because I logged into his email and changed his settings so that my blogs get emailed to him) and usually my sister or mum will read them. 

But gee whiz!!  My thoughts and experiences with Costco went positively viral!!  By viral I mean a few people that I DON’T KNOW read it!!!!  It got shared around a bit because some people found it funny… but I assure you it definitely wasn’t a ‘funny’ experience for me!!

I would just like to clarify that this is only MY experience with Costco and only MY thoughts on the whole paying someone to ALLOW me to shop. 

I have received a lot of comments lately calling me all sorts of nasty names and telling me that I should have done my research before going to the Costco opening.  These trouble me for a few reasons. 

Firstly, they are either coming from Costco employees (who I’m sure could track down all my details as my membership is registered with them) or they are from diehard Costco fans – who do nothing to dispel my suspicion that it is a giant cult.

Perhaps if you lived near a Costco it would be totally worth it for you to become a member because of fuel etc.  Or maybe you have 8 kids who would eat an entire box of Mars Bars every week so in that case it would totally be for you!!  

And perhaps I SHOULD have done my research before I went.  I’m not sure what I could have typed into Google to find out how rudely we would be treated but I’m sure if I spent a bit of time reading I could have clarified those membership rules.  I’m terribly sorry that I did not read the membership rules.  I already admitted in my last blog that I’m an idiot so I don’t know what more they are expecting?!? 

I’m just not used to being subjected to a whole heap of rules when I walk into a store.  Usually I feel like they WANT me to spend money.  I was quite happy to pay for my membership before I went and not opposed to the idea of paying to shop.  I didn’t realise however, that I would feel the way I did when I was there.  It was like some kind of epiphany hit me somewhere between the toilet rolls and my inability to find the 5kg Nutella jar.  I felt like I had been tricked by really clever marketing.  I like being rewarded to be loyal to a company.  For me personally, I don’t like paying to be loyal.  It just does not make sense to me or sit right with me.  Maybe it was because I was made to feel so unwelcome?  Who knows how I work!!

I do have the option of cancelling my membership and getting a full refund, as has also been pointed out.  But you know what?  The thought of going through all the rigmarole to do that makes me want to vomit.  Frankly I would rather pay another $60 than have anything more to do with them.  If they yell at eager, excited customers I dread to think what they say to unhappy ones!  Do I want to subject myself to that? No.  I’m still a little upset by all my haters and the names that I have been called (although secretly a little bit excited to have haters in the first place).    

While there were some employees that were extremely rude to me, I’m not saying that every Costco employee is rude.  In fact, some were lovely!!  The only one who was rude to me, who wasn’t a part of the elite management team, was a checkout boy.  I’m quite partial to the idea of forgiving him because it must have been an extremely stressful day and I would hate to be working under management that has no issues yelling at potential customers.  Imagine how they speak to their staff!!

Perhaps it was just me.  My older sister has always seemed to find that I can be extremely irritating (Love you Nicky!!) as I’m quite sure I can be.  But it is strange that Paul had the exact same issues with management speaking to him rudely (and I was nowhere near by to evoke irritation in them).  I have also been contacted by a lot of people who said they found the same thing. 

I was really let down by the whole Costco experience as I was SO EXCITED in the lead up to the opening.  My friends will confirm that I spent the entire time on our girls night talking about how excited I was and trying to pry information out of my friend who has spent time in America.

I do regret that I may have wrongly assumed that all the management were ‘imported’ because every single one that I had any dealings with had an accent.  It does make sense that Costco would bring management from pre-existing stores in America or Europe to manage their new stores in Australia.   So I apologise for saying that but at the time of writing the previous blog I was sleep deprived and fired up about a crappy experience and a huge disappointment.  I also realise that many Australians have accents so there is a chance that they were newly employed by Costco. 

In conclusion I whole heartedly support the ideas put forward by my ‘haters’ that you do your research before you go to Costco.  You can use my experience as part of your research, maybe you will stumble across a blog someone has written who has had an excellent experience, or maybe you will just read the terms and conditions and compare prices yourself. 

I am so over Costco.  This is my last blog about it.  In future I will stick to boring topics such as campsite reviews and crappy ramblings about cakes I’ve made or the daily chaos that is my life.   

B xx

P.S.  Just a disclaimer… I have promised in the past to not blog about something anymore and then gone back on my promise and kept blogging about it. 

P.P.S.  Unfortunately I have had to disable comments unless you follow my blog. This is due to all the charming individuals who identify themselves as ‘Anon’ and have been writing nasty things (which have since been deleted).   

Thursday, May 29, 2014

My Costco Review – The Only One You NEED to Read

Why is my Costco the only review you need to read? Because I can be an idiot. A crazy, crazy idiot. And I’m not ashamed to admit it. I happily fess up to my own stupidity all the time – as I’m sure you’ve all read about on my share-too-much Facebook posts. Most people don’t. It’s a well proven fact (I promise it’s well proven though I have neither the time nor inclination to reference it – just believe me) that the more you spend on something the more you are going to convince yourself, and others, of it’s value. For instance, if you were to spend a stupid amount seeing some kind of shonky psychic, rather than admit to yourself, and others, that you were an idiot and that they were shonky, you will try your utmost to find meaning in whatever bullshit spewed from their mouth just so that you can justify to yourself (and others) having spent a weeks wages on total utter crap. It’s a huge part of the placebo effect. You need to have an investment and a belief in something in order to trick your mind into believing its validity or worth.

What does this have to do with Costco? Well, Costco employs a cunningly evil but utterly brilliant marketing technique!! They must have psychologists working 24/7 coming up with ways to trick the consumer. Rather than rewarding loyalty with….. rewards, they would like YOU to pay THEM for the honour of being loyal to them. Yes, I happily collect my Flybuys points at Coles and occasionally get to deduct $50 off my grocery bill – gives me a nice warm fuzzy. But Costco? Costco want you to PAY them $60 for the privilege of shopping in their store (this is a yearly cost!!!). Prior to going to Costco I had convinced myself that it was ‘totally worth it’ and that I would ‘definitely get my moneys worth’ but now I’m thinking – I’M AN IDIOT!!!! How on Earth did I think that it was ok to PAY a massive corporation so they would ‘let’ me shop there. It’s like they want you to think that they are part of some secret elite club only for the rich. I mean C’mon….. a $450 000 ring?!? Now, granted, I don’t know anyone rich enough to splash out 450k on a ring and I’m going out on a limb here when I guess that – maybe, just maybe, people who can afford a ring like that wouldn’t buy one at Costco?!?!

It’s like the Costco psychologists think we are all dumb enough to believe that because they have a diamond ring for sale, that costs approximately the same as the average house, then they MUST be a quality shop full of quality products at *special* prices. They are right. We are dumb and idiotic. More than 15000 people in Brisbane spent $60 to become a member BEFORE the doors had even opened (me included). Which brings me to the part of my review that really pains me to write about.

I am sad to admit that I woke up at 3:30 am this morning and dragged my eldest daughter, my sister and my niece 1 hour North of their comfortable beds in a quest to secure a spot in the line to be one of the first people in the new Costco store. How did it end up like this? I’m usually a rational person. I don’t queue up for things, never go to the boxing day sales and generally stay away from large crowds of people for fear of being contaminated with all their germs.

It all started a few weeks ago. My friend Paul and I were discussing the upcoming opening of the Costco store. I had heard a lot of good things about it from friends in Sydney (none of these friends have ever been dumb enough to pay for membership though – they use someone elses membership). Paul and I, both being avid cookers and shoppers, decided that it would be loads of fun to attend the opening day of Costco. Paul enlisted his wife to accompany him and I enlisted Kristy. No matter how much I begged and pleaded with Ben he flat out refused to request a day off work to attend the opening of Costco – I really can’t understand him sometimes. It’s probably just as well, Ben is always a Killjoy when shopping. He would have followed me around saying ‘we don’t need that’, ‘we don’t need that’ and ‘we definitely DON’T need that’. (for the record Ben we DO need 48 rolls of toilet paper because your offspring seem to go through 1 roll a day each!! And we DO need the 2kg tub of Nutella because if that is not available for me to have a spoon of every now and then I might accidentally on purpose lose one of those offspring in a fit of madness).

So Paul, myself and our shopping partners decided that we would all drive to Costco on the opening day fairly early, to avoid traffic, but a sensible hour nonetheless. Being organised people (I mean Paul & Co – not me I’m not organised in the slightest half the time) we decided to go and collect our membership cards at the store a few days before the opening. When we arrived we were told about how busy the opening day was going to be and how many people were going to camp out. We were even told that Costco was going to be feeding the campers at 2am and 4am. Somehow we got all swept up in the excitement and decided that it would be a good idea to bring my caravan to the Costco carpark the night before and sleep in the caravan overnight.

We saw this being beneficial for a few reasons. 1 – we wouldn’t have to get up early and battle traffic, 2 – we would be able to fill the caravan up with all our great purchases and 3 – we would ensure that we had an excellent parking spot. The staff there told us this was a great idea and even took us out to show us an excellent drive through spot to park the van.

Thankfully, the next day, Paul rang to check the information we had been given and that it was ok to bring a caravan. He was told that it was no problem to bring the caravan into the carpark – once they were open – but that the carpark would be closed all night and patrolled by security. Paul rang me and relayed the information. Thinking it strange that their staff had such different ideas about what was going on I rang Costco and asked to speak to a manager so I could find out what was actually going on. When I rang the girl who answered said the managers were busy and took down my number, but I had little hope of them ringing back. Wanting to sort out what we were doing I rang the Costco Head Office in Sydney. Head office assured me that it was fine to take the caravan and that the car park would not be closed overnight as they had no means of sealing it off. So plans went ahead.

Later that afternoon I received a phone call from a woman who said she was the store manager at Northlakes. I explained to her what info I was after and she told me that the car park would be open but that under no circumstances were we to bring a caravan. When I questioned her she went off like a rocket. I said something along the lines of ‘I’m just so confused, everyone we have spoken to is telling us different information’. She replied with (you need to imagine this being said with a very thick accent) ‘WELL I’M THE STORE MANAGER AND IM TELLING YOU NO. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES ARE YOU TO BRING A CARAVAN ON TO OUR PREMISES.’

‘So’ I enquired. ‘If I was a grey nomad passing through Northlakes on Thursday with my caravan I wouldn’t be able to park in your car park as I would be able to at Bunnings…. or anywhere else for that matter?’ “NO!!” she raged “I will have security here and you will NOT be permitted to enter!!”.

This should have been a warning to me but even though I got off the phone with a strong urge to ring head office and complain not once did the thought cross my mind that we shouldn’t go. Funnily enough the same lady rang me back 30 minutes later and said that she had pulled some strings and we would now be permitted to bring the van. She was ever so polite and warm when she rang me back which made me wonder if she either had some kind of personality disorder OR an ulterior motive in mind.

My sister Kristy went with the ulterior motive theory. ‘I can just see it’ she said. ‘We will be stumbling out of our van with bed hair and there will be news crews everywhere filming us’. Good point. I reckon it would make great news headlines – diehard Costco fans camping in caravan the night before opening.

After conferencing Kristy, Paul and I decided to just get up early on opening day to ensure we got a car park. As we were driving to Costco, at 4 a.m. I had this horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach that it would not go to plan. I was imagining traffic backed up everywhere and us having to park a km away from Costco because we hadn’t camped overnight. Little did I know that there was a far worse reality in store. When we arrived there, 3 hours before opening, we found that there were only EIGHT other people there!!!! The carpark was empty!!! Only one woman slept in her car overnight – not thousands – as we had been led to believe.

It all went down hill from there. Firstly, a manager came out to move the line and to ask us to make new lines. By this stage there were more than 8 people there. When Paul enquired about the new line the manager snapped at him (in a very rude way) ‘would you like me to take my shoes off so you can count my toes – I said FIVE!!!!’. I’m sure I saw some smoke start to come out of Paul’s ears.

THEN the breakfast that we had been promised turned out to be ‘cookies’ which were passed out with….. HANDS!! Yes!! I watched in horror as the same manager that yelled at me on the phone, wiped her nose with her fingers and then used those same unwashed fingers to transfer cookies from one carton to the next. They then passed the cartons around and everyone could take one. I assure you I watched intently and it was impossible to grab one cookie without manhandling 3 others. I dread to think of the spread of infectious diseases!!! Someone needs to give that Costco manager food preparation and handling information STAT!! I was absolutely appalled but nonetheless too invested to opt out now when I was *so* close.

The managers at Costco all seemed to have accents. Either American or Brittish/Scottish. I’m assuming that they thought regular Aussies would not have the required skills to convince masses of people to spend money to be able to shop, so they had to import ones already trained in the brainwashing business. These managers stood around all day and seemed so consumed with their own power that they didn’t need to bother with anything petty like…. customer service. After all they were doing us a favour by allowing us to shop there!! I didn’t see one of them say anything nice, or do anything nice to anyone. I felt like shouting out to them ‘I have a university degree – don’t you dare treat me like I’m some dumb shit’ (although in their defence I did wake up at 3:30am to attend a Costco opening so that really doesn’t speak too highly of my intelligence).

Anyway I could rave on all day about their rude and self important behaviour but I won’t. I will cut to the chase… are the savings worth it?

There were a few things that I thought were a good buy. In a similar way that Aldi also has good specials and cheap prices on certain things. I took in a list of price per kilo of my most used foods and found that in approximately half of them, Costco was somewhat cheaper. There were things there were exceptionally cheaper. Toilet paper being one of them. I do not think I saw a single trolley exiting the store without a giant pack of dunny rolls. There were also things like coconut oil, agavae syrup, maple syrup and baking flour that were significantly cheaper. Their meat, fruit & vege plus bakery were not all that cheap and their non food items were a novelty, but not really lower in price than other places. Kristy was going to buy a Samsung Galaxy S5 but their *special* price was only $8 lower than Office Works regular price. The giant block of Cadbury that everyone had to take a selfie with was 50% more expensive than the normal price per kilo of regular Cadbury blocks at Woolies. If you are thinking ‘but they do have to make a special mold to make that 10kg block of Chocolate’ – STOP. I’m almost quite certain that if you opened up that 10kg block you would find it filled with smaller blocks.

What I really liked was that they had different products there. We don’t have a great deal of variety in Australia so it’s always exciting to see some new stock come into the country. I marvelled at the shower caddy (although I didn’t purchase it as it was $55 and not even rust proof!!) and eyed off the bamboo draw inserts but did not purchase a single non consumable item. And certainly not through lack of trying. I just couldn’t find anything that I thought was good enough or worth the money.

Which brings me to the next unpleasant experience that Kristy and I faced. As we went through registers side by side I was informed that Kristy could not use my membership card. Kristy had not had a chance to get one herself and I was told that with my membership card I was allowed to invite 2 guests to the opening. The cashier sighed exasperatedly and said ‘if you look in the fine print it says that no one else can use your card – you will have to pay for her items and she can give you cash later’. As Kristy had an $800 phone in her trolley plus hundreds of dollars in groceries I whispered to her ‘Give me your card and I’ll pay on that and transfer you the funds’. The cashier, having heard what I said told me ‘We’ve been doing this for ages we WILL be checking that the name on the credit card matches the name on the membership card – NO EXCEPTIONS.’ (I’m not sure what he meant by ‘doing this for ages as the shop had only been open for hours).

Suffering from fatigue, buyers remorse and surrounded by crowds of people Kristy and I chose not to argue. Kristy begrudgingly handed back the $800 phone and went in search of an ATM to get cash out for the rest. HOW BLOODY RUDE!!!! They tell you to invite a friend but leave out the tiny detail that this friend would not be allowed to purchase anything – unless they too paid $60 for membership.

I walked out feeling utterly deflated. What a waste of a morning and now I have a huge conundrum. Every urge in my body is telling me that I need to keep going back to Costco this year to ‘get my money’s worth’ of the membership. But deep down in the pit of my stomach it’s all just a ploy to get me hooked. What will I do?!?

I am completely disgusted with them on so many levels that I think it would be stupid to go back there. Unless of course I am in the area…. and only buy things that are significantly cheaper…. and death stare all the management there for being rude obnoxious pigs.

So here are Bianca’s top Costco tips:

  1. Don’t pay for membership
  2. If you have paid for membership don’t go there to ‘win’ your money back
  3. If you have a baby take a 2nd person with a pram. No trolleys with the baby capsules.
  4. Yes, the giant marshmallows look cool but they are not worth $6 a bag.
  5. I was told they sold everything but tobacco, alcohol and coffins. I beg to differ. They hardly had any toys, had only token camping and tool items (you couldn’t even call it a range) and sold bits and bobs of other things but nothing really special.
  6. Do not be lured in there under the false pretences that you will find a 5kg tub of Nutella (as advertised on the front page of their brochure). This item no longer exists. You can only buy smaller ones.
  7. Prices may be cheap but do you really need that many? There is no option to select a small amount of anything. I bought 3kg of tomatoes for $3.33 a kilo (what a bargain!!) but didn’t really need 3kg and ended up having to spend $10 on tomatoes!

I’m quite sure I have more tips but will have to add them in later. I’m tired and over talking about Costco. I am erasing them from my mind for the next few months and heading back to a place where I feel welcome, a place that is owned by Australian shareholders, a place that employs Australian managers and a place that doesn’t treat you like they are doing you a favour just by letting you shop there.

Costco – Just say NO!!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Camp Lake Fire - Camping Review

I feel I need to write this campsite review quickly before my brain instinctively wipes out parts of the camp trip that need to be forgotten.... to preserve the memory of a fantastic few days with some great friends.

I have just posted pictures of Maroon Dam on Facebook and they are stunning (even if I do say so myself!!).  We had a fabulous few days camping.  However, I do not want my stunning photos and cheery Facebook status updates to reflect the actual situation at Camp Lake Fire.

It is abysmal.  Horrendously overpriced and shamelessly run down.  What could be a spectacular location for a thriving business is a disgusting rip off. 

There is no doubt about it.  Maroon Dam is beautiful.  You can catch fresh water bass fish there, Kayak, boat, canoe - whatever water sport you desire!!  The kids LOVED getting out on the water and playing.  But the facilities at the camp grounds are pretty much the 2nd worst I've seen in all my travels around Australia (the only place worse I've stayed is behind the dirty pub in Winton - you may recall the horror from my blog post in Big Trip Blogs).  They are so dirty and smelly I couldn't bare to even walk near them - let alone go in them!!

The outdoor "fully equipped kitchen and dining hall/conference area is also available for cabin users. A sheltered area with a wood-fired pizza oven, fridge/freezer, BBQ’s and hot & cold water washing up sinks" that is promised on the website is nothing more than a couple of dirty broken tables, 2 fridges that do not work and I didn't even stay there long enough to investigate whether or not there was actually a wood fired pizza oven.  I was so scared that I was going to catch salmonella or camplyobacter just from breathing in the air surrounding the outdoor kitchen that I made a mad dash back to the safety of my car. 

The tracks around the campsite are so badly run down you need to engage 4wd just to navigate around what could be quite an easily fixed up track. 

I know I'm being very harsh on this camp but there is a reason.  You may remember that the spot behind the pub at Winton, which was the scene of one of the most horrific sights of my life, was free.  Camp Lake Fire, like to charge $15 PER PERSON PER NIGHT!!!!!  Yes!!  For my family of 6 that equates to $90 a night!!!!!  Luckily we stayed when it was very quiet because during the busy periods, Camp Lake Fire like to squeeze 650 people into the area!!!  The damage to the environment must be horrendous!!  The place is basically a dust bowl and the few port-a-loo's, which are grotesque beyond words, scare campers into pee-ing in the water.  Thank god we have a camp toilet and were not driven to such measures!!!

There is great fishing in the lake but unfortunately you have to pay $17 for 20 live bait.  Is that expensive?  I don't buy bait very often but to me, $17 for 20 tiny shrimp seems to be a massive rip off.  I could buy 20 Fresh Australian prawns cooked for less than $17!!  Ben and his trusty fishing partner spent $85 on bait for the 2 days they were there.  They did manage to catch 4 reasonably sized bass.  I'm sure it would have been more had it not been for the 650 guests the previous weekend wreaking havoc on the lake draining it of it's Bass population.

Had this camp charged a little less my review would be much kinder.  At the very least it would be nice if they charged $7.50 a night for children, instead of $15.  For the $250 Ben and I spent on our two nights there I expected a LOT more.  The caretakers seemed very lovely and very helpful, even though the wait period for receiving bait you have paid for often exceeded 2 hours. 

I truly felt like Camp Lake Fire liked to squeeze every last dollar out of their guests, without investing any of that money back into maintaining and improving the park and surrounding environment.

Mt Barney Lodge is not too far away and for less than half the price they manage to maintain an immaculate environment and have strict rules to prevent overcrowding.  They are not intent on squeezing all the $$ out of you and go above and beyond to make sure you have a pleasant and comfortable stay in their stunning natural environment.  

There is another camp grounds near Camp Lake Fire.  I went to investigate them during my stay and found the owner rude beyond belief.  I turned up merely wanting to make an inquiry about the place but was met with instant hostility once he found out where I was staying.  He even refused to serve me citing that 'he only serves his guests'. 

Overall I had a brilliant 2 nights.  But this was because of the amazing company we were with and the beautiful lake.  It really was sooo stunning.  It is such a shame that the owner of the place has let it get to that state.     

Would we go back???  Such a tough one!!  I loved it!!  I really did.  But I don't love being ripped off and I feel for the money that they charge, there should be higher standards.  The very fact that 650 people happily camped in a dust bowl with a few mangy port-a-loo's over the Easter weekend is a testament to the beauty of the place.  If they changed their pricing so that kids weren't the same as adults I would be back there in a heart beat.  Or, if they spent some of the $250 Ben and I spent on improving the tracks, laying grass, upgrading the loo's, etc - I would also be back.  But at this stage no.



Friday, March 28, 2014

What Bianca Wants Bianca Gets

A few months ago a friend quipped to me ‘what Bianca wants Bianca gets’ in a joking sort of manner.  I really hope she meant it in a jesting way, not in a - you’re-an-over-indulged-spoiled-ungrateful-so&so kind of way.  Ever since then I have been doing a lot of soul searching about whether or not the statement is true. 

My first reaction was HELL NO!!!  I have always wanted the body of a supermodel but no-matter how many cabbage soup/ no carb/ low carb/ low fat/ sugar free / fasting diets I go on it doesn’t happen.  I don’t even come close to looking like a supermodel…. or even someone who could be distantly related to a supermodel.  I would not even make a convincing hand model!!

But apart from the supermodel thing… everything else I have REALLY wanted, eventually I have been able to achieve. 

My friend at the time was referring to my birthday present which was MEET & GREET TICKETS WITH BILL BRYSON!!!!  I am sure you are all aware of my relentless pursuit to win the meet and greet tickets on FB.   I had everyone I have ever had any contact with enter the competition for me.  I didn’t win.  You may have read the whole blog post I wrote about my devastation I felt at not winning.  Little did I know that my sister, hubby, mum, grandma and friends all chipped in and bought me the tickets for my birthday!!!!  (they were very expensive tickets!!)  So yes, in that circumstance I did end up getting exactly what I wanted.  The presentation of the tickets to me was the best night of my life.  It was so funny.  I laughed and cried all night long!!  It’s a bit of a long story but I’ll tell it.

My sister, friends and I had all gone out for dinner and trivia night to celebrate my birthday.  During the trivia the host announced that she had some Meet and Greet Bill Bryson tickets to give away.  I squealed with excitement.  The tickets were to be won in a  ‘who am I?’ round.  You could only have 1 guess per table and first to guess the correct answer won.  My heart was pounding, my palms were sweaty, I kept saying to everyone at my table ‘we got this, we got this’.  First clue in the ‘who am I’ challenge was: I was born in NSW in a place referred to as ‘the Shire’.  Second clue:  I have 4 children.  At this point I excitedly tell everyone that being a Shire girl myself, I happen to know that Andrew Ettingshausen has 4 children.  Third clue:  I own a miniature horse and miniature pig.  I ask everyone if they know whether or not good old ET has mini animals.  From this point on I’m not sure what the rest of the clues were.  All I know is that one minute I was puzzling over whether or not ET would be likely to own a mini pig and the next minute I am raising my hand and guessing MYSELF as the answer.  I may have been spurred on by some people at my table but all I remember is the tears flowing from my face as I realised I had WON!!!  Not really won though, because the whole thing was a huge set up and my family and friends had actually bought me the tickets.  #luckiestgirlintheworld

I wanted to meet Bill Bryson soooo badly and I got to!!  The night I met him was magical.  I just can’t believe that one single human being can be so insightful, intelligent, witty, hilarious, generous and kind.  He is totally amazing!!!  I felt an instant bond, not just with him but with the 19 other people who had each paid just shy of $400 to spend an hour with him.  We were all as entranced as each other (with the exception of my sister Kristy, who had come along with me to make sure I didn’t embarrass myself). 

This particular ‘getting what I want’ incident is not an isolated event.  So many things over the course of my life have just happened to fall into place. 

The story I am about to tell you is 100% true.  The year was 2000 and I had just finished my teaching degree and was waiting to see if Education Queensland would offer me a job.  After extensive research, I had decided that I wanted to teach in the Torres Straits.  I wanted to do my country service, but didn’t like how outback Qld had no ‘edge’.  For someone who doesn’t like swimming and hates being hot it is very surprising that I placed so much emphasis on wanting to be near the water in such a tropical location.  But you can’t really choose where you teach – especially not as a uni graduate, so I just had to cross my fingers and hope. 

To pass time, while waiting for my offer, I was working at Franklins Supermarket.  One Wednesday, Franklins rang me and asked if I would pick up and extra shift that afternoon.  I happily agreed and went off to work.  While working on the registers a girl came through my register wearing a t-shirt with the Torres Strait emblem on it.  I began to talk to the girl about the Torres Straits and told her about my desire to teach there.  She was really lovely and told me that she had lived there all her life and it was such a beautiful place.  After I finished scanning her items she went off on her merry way and I thought no more of our brief encounter. 

The next night, while working my usual Thursday night shift, a very important looking man came into the store and asked to speak to me.  He introduced himself as the father of the girl I had met the previous day and told me he worked for Education Qld in the Torres Straits!!!!!  Can you believe it?!?  He happened to be in my home town, thousands of km’s away from the Torres Straits visiting family with his daughter.  He asked me to drop my details and resume off to him and he would make sure I had a position. 

I shudder to think what would have happened if I hadn’t been asked to do that extra shift at Franklins that day, or if the girl had of gone through another register – or not worn a shirt with a TS emblem on it!!  Apparently, Palm Island had flagged my application and I was going to be sent there.  It was only that I had that chance encounter that led to my application being intercepted and sent up to TS instead.  If I hadn’t gone to the Torres Straits I never would have met Ben and had our 4 beautiful children. 

The girl who came through my register is one of my FB friends and I am so grateful to have met her.  We stayed in touch when I moved up to Horn Island and she invited me to a lot of traditional events with her family. 

You may be completely astounded by that story but there are sooo many more. 

I just seem to have this special gift to make people want to do things for me.  Back when I was 21 I managed to convince a bloke in a mobile phone store to give me 10 tickets to see Killing Heidi even though I did not purchase a phone (the shop had a promotion on that you received 2 tickets to see Killing Heidi with every phone purchase).  THEN I managed to convince security at the concert to let me and my friends go back stage and meet the band. 

Ben only ever wanted 2 children. My magical powers of persuasion convinced him that we should have 3…. then 4.  I employed similar persuasive techniques to convince him on a whim to let me spend more on a German Shepherd puppy, than I had on my first car.  I saw the puppy one day and bought her the next.  *These persuasive techniques were not employed for the Killing Heidi tickets or any other event outside our marriage. 

When we bought our new lounge I noticed that it had a lovely $400 poof to go with it.  Ben said that if I bought the $400 poof he would divorce me.  Under no circumstances did we need to spend that amount of money for something to put our feet on.  Needless to say we have the poof.  And we aren’t divorced.  And I love putting my feet on it.

I realise that this blog post is making me sound like some kind of master manipulator.   I’m thinking that maybe I shouldn’t post it!!  But I promise my intentions really aren’t to manipulate people into doing exactly as I want.  I guess that when I want something, whether it be to meet Bill Bryson or a $400 poof, I go gung ho until I get it. 

When I was 19, back before it was trendy and the norm to live waaaay beyond your means, I somehow secured a loan for a brand new Rav4.  I had to work 3 jobs while being full time at uni to pay for it – but I didn’t care!!  In my day it was customary for your car to be roughly the same age as you.  So you can imagine the huge deal it was to get a BRAND spanking new car!! 

Luckily I’ve had the experience of owning a new car because I don’t think it will ever happen again.  Nowadays I’m happy with function and comfort in a car over how new/fast/shiny it is.  My only pre-requisite is that my car have air-con and cup holders (for my diet coke).  My current 4wd, has those ancient manual window turner thingy’s!!!  You have no idea how many bewildered children have sat in my car and enquired about the location of the buttons to make the windows go up and down. 

So the moral of this post is – Yes.  I do get what I want, most of the time.  But I will work my arse off to get it.  (Except for the poof.  I did not work my arse off to get the poof, I just bought it).

At the moment I am working on expanding our *mini* farm.  I’ve made some enquiries about mini cows and I’m also on the lookout for another mini pig and horse to be friends with Moo and Kelvin.  So I’m just putting it out there – if this ‘Bianca gets what Bianca wants’ trend continues you can all expect that Nobel Acres will be home to more mini animals in the near future (even if I have to do a weeks worth of relief teaching to pay for them!!!).

B xx

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

I Didn't Win - My Bill Bryson Devastation :-(

I have BB depression. No, it’s nothing to do with Big Brother – which I decided after 10 seasons is totally crap and a waste of time. It’s the Bill Bryson depression bought on because I failed at winning a competition to meet and greet him. I can’t believe I convinced myself I would win. Such a huge let down!!!!

I normally don’t gamble and I think that this is a good example of why I should never be allowed to gamble – or enter a competition – AGAIN!!

I reckon I would be one of those people who spend $20 every week for 50 years trying to win the lotto only to end up sobbing over a lotto ticket every Saturday night. Or become completely deflated when I didn’t win the trip to Disneyland after sending in 6 barcodes from tinned baked beans.

I honestly don’t understand why I wasn’t chosen to win. The terms and conditions of the ‘Meet and Greet Bill Bryson’ competition clearly stated that it would not be a random draw and that the winner would be judged on originality and creativity.

My first thought was to declare myself (in 25 words or less) to be Bill Bryson’s biggest fan. Not too much of a stretch considering I HAVE written him fan mail, give his books as gifts to everyone, own every single book he has ever written and even have 3 copies of my favourite one of his books ‘A Short History of Nearly Everything’!! Then, just to reaffirm myself as his biggest fan I had at least 20 family and friends also enter the competition and declare (in 25 words or less) that they would take me as their date to the Bill Bryson Meet and Greet. I got them to use my full name – Bianca Davis. I thought that this may help ease the judges minds that I wasn’t a crazy psychopath. I had 20 people vouching that they would love to spend an evening with me!!

My second thought was that maybe that approach was a bit of an overkill. Never one to back down I enlisted more friends, and even some inlaws, to enter and composed for them witty, original and creative entries – which was not easy to do given you could only use 25 words. I concocted a sentence about why my friend should win and ONLY used words and phrases from the titles of Bill Bryson’s books. My very clever friend entered a limerick saying why she should win. In my mind I thought it was absolutely impossible, given the calibre of entries, for one of them NOT TO BE CHOSEN.

So you can understand my depression.

I want to cry (actually I have). But then I’m also sad for being so distraught over such a trivial matter.

HE WAS ON MY LIST!!!! Before your mind goes to the gutter he isn’t on THAT list. Just my list of people I want to meet before I die. The others include Eminem, The Dalai Lama, Angelina Jolie-Pitt, and the Queen. Recently I’ve been considering adding Ian Somerhalder to that list but am still undecided.

Nothing else on my list of things to do before I die has been achieved.
  • I did not go to the Olympics as a figure skater
  • I have never sung onstage with a band
  • I have not written a book (although I have started to write about 6 and have one almost completed in my head)
  • I am not even close to meeting any of the above mentioned people
  • I have not been to the pyramids
  • I chickened out of getting a tattoo
  • Never dyed my hair blonde
  • And I haven’t had the pleasure of spending a week in a Buddhist retreat.

Meeting Bill Bryson was going to be the first thing crossed off. I was so close to winning (in my mind) I could almost hear his distant chuckles as he read my witty entries (not that he was the judge – because of COURSE he would have picked me – but in my mind the event management people showed him my entries just because of their fantastic and creative originality).

Why do I want to meet him so bad?!? Besides the fact that everything else on my list has been chucked in the ‘too hard basket’, I really think we would get along like a house on fire!! I can imagine our hilarious, intelligent conversation and I envision myself doing something completely dumb, but wildly funny, which he then writes about in his next book – which he decides should be all about housewives – and uses me as a source of inspiration.

I think I have the opposite of transference. Transference (if I remember correctly) is what my friend explained to me I had when I told her all about how I wanted to make friends with Rohan’s psychologist and my GP. I thought they were so lovely and friendly and was considering taking the relationship to the next level (play date) but didn’t realise that there was no relationship. I loved them because I could talk to them about myself for ages and they would ask all sorts of interesting questions. I in turn, knew nothing about them EXCEPT for the fact that they liked to get me to talk about myself – and lets face it, who doesn’t like to talk about themselves?!?! *this blog is evidence of my love of talking about myself.

It all turned out ok without me crossing any boundaries. My GP made me have a pap smear, which made me not want to be her friend anymore and Rohan’s psychologist told me that we could be friends because I wasn’t her patient. (This came about after a very awkward and embarrassing conversation after I accidentally told her we couldn’t be friends because of transference)

Anyway, back on topic. I think I have the reverse of transference. I know everything about Bill Bryson from all the hours I have spent pouring over his books. He has enlightened me, entertained me, kept me company on the loo, provided Ben with an endless stream of ‘easy’ presents to buy me that don’t require much thought and given me a tiny bit of escapism in an otherwise completely chaotic life. Since I know all about him I think it’s only fair that he know a little about me. Which is why I wrote him a fan letter some years ago inviting him to dinner next time he is in Australia. He wrote back!!! And while he didn’t accept my invitation he didn’t decline it either. As my mother will exasperatedly tell everyone, I take anything other than a ‘NO’ to be a yes. If you say to me ‘maybe’ or ‘we’ll see’ I will start jumping for joy.

So here I am, sitting at the computer hoping that letting my depression flow from my fingers into this blog will give me some sense of closure, or acceptance that it just wasn’t meant to be. I was going to buy a premium ticket to his talk… but now I think I’ll just buy a pleb ticket and sit up the back. I don’t want to disturb all of the other fans, who paid $180 for a premium seat, with my constant blubbering during his talk. Not even Bill Bryson’s hilarious sense of humour will be able to make up for the fact that I was *so close* to crossing off something on my list and meeting my idol.

I bloody well should have focused my efforts on bumping into Angelina Jolie when she lived at Upper Coomera, or brushed up on my non-existent ice-skating skills.

This hasn’t worked. I am still #totallybummed
I might have to go work on plan B to cheer myself up which involves ice-cream, nutella and episodes of Maury Pocovich.

B xx

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Back on the Blog

I’m back!!!!  I know I was awol for most of 2013 but I do have some sensational excuses.  


Firstly, since Ben capped me at 4 children, I have had to fill my aching uterus with farm animals and baby seedlings.  Unfortunately, caring for all the animals and plants left me with no time whatsoever.  I just don’t understand how I used to manage- pre acreage that is.  I would go out all the time, educated my children, cooked meals, socialised, drove the kids to 65 squillion activities a week and still managed to squeeze in at least 2 hours of telly a night.  I just don’t understand where I found the time to do all that!!


Now I have no spare time.  From the moment I wake up someone or something wants something from me.  A typical day will see me rising at 6am.  It takes me a full hour and a half to stumble around the house (usually searching for a diet coke) to feed the kids breaky.  Diddy and Rohan usually have 3 courses each.  This morning tiny, little Diddybell had 2 weetbix, 1 piece of raisin toast, a banana and then sausage stew on toast (which is a lot tastier than it sounds!!).  Wait – that’s FOUR courses!!  I then had to cook Kylah eggs.  She likes hers boiled.  Jazzy requested sausage stew on toast with fried eggs.  This is all while I was half asleep!!  


I then spend the day either teaching the kids, cooking, tending to animals, washing or gardening.  


I try to get the kids to look after the animals as much as I can.  Kylah is great with them.  She feeds the horse, pig and tends to the dogs.  Jazzy’s job is to care for the Chicken’s and baby chicks.  Although I am the one who constantly has to hose the chicken poo off our outside area.  5 acres of grass to crap on and they prefer to do their business right on our doorstep.  Rohan is supposed to care for the pig but for some strange reason Moo, our pig, has a liking for me (I think he can sense that we share an innate love of food).  I’m the only one that he will walk nicely on a lead for.  We need to spend at least two hours a day walking him around while he eats grass.  He is such a little bugger.  If we leave him to free range he gets into so much mischief!!  


Diddy’s only job, so far as I can tell, involves torturing the poor animals with love and ‘kindness’.  2 chickens have sadly perished while being a part of Diddy’s elaborate games.  They really were killed with kindness…..  She loves them to pieces.  Maybe just a little too much though.  When they decide that they no longer want to play her games and try to run away she will put one of them in an animal feed bin, so they can’t get away.  Poor little things died of fright!!


The dog’s fare much better with Diddybell’s games.  They patiently ‘sit’ when she tells them to and ‘fetch’ when she tells them to.  They even put up with her trying to dress them and do their hair.  It’s quite funny to watch Diddy bossing a big German Shepherd around.  The horse is none too fond of Diddy’s games.  Poor little thing copped a kick from Kelvin, our horse, when she tried to force feed him playdough.  


All that, on top of hand watering a humongous vege garden left me with no time.


Last year I also became a bit of a recluse.  My friends jokingly called me a ‘hermit’.  I really don’t cope well with change and making such a huge move and completely changing my lifestyle really took it’s toll on me.  There were many changes last year.  


I particularly found friendships the most challenging.  I’ve never had a problem with friends before so I don’t manage issues very well.  I’m a ‘keep the peace’ type person.  But I had to make a few very difficult decisions last year and some friendships ended because of them.  I knew that I would be sacrificing a friendship if I made these particular decisions but at the time I felt like I had no choice.  I don’t regret anything I’ve done.  The only regret I have is taking so long to move on and spending so many hours analysing things.  


Someone once told me that you have friends for a reason or a season or a lifetime.  I’ve always thought I was more of a ‘lifetime’ type person but maybe I’m not.  


I hope this blog isn’t making me sound better than I actually am.  For all of you marvelling at how much I squeeze into a day:  STOPRIGHT NOW.  My house looks like a bomb has exploded in it…. most of the time.  It is usually clean for the 3 minutes prior to visitors coming over.  The other night, as a surprise for Ben, I thought I would have the house all clean and tidy for when he came home.  I cooked dinner and then shouted orders at the kids to clean up while I vacuumed and mopped.  The kids helped happily and it wasn’t until it was all finished that Diddy asked ‘Is Nanny coming over?’.  ‘No’ I replied.  ‘Well who is coming over?’ asked Rohan.  ‘No one!!  Mummy does sometimes clean of my own accord you know!!!!’ I yelled at my puzzled children.  


Actually I clean a lot.  It’s just keeping things clean that is my problem.  I am such a scatter brain… it never crosses my mind to pick something up.  I am in awe of people who put something straight away after they have finished with it.  Firstly, I never know if I’ve finished with something so it would be impossible for me to put it away.  The fine line between using and not using is constantly blurred for me.  Quite often I am mid task when I remember a more interesting task and jump ship or simply decide I’m bored with the current task and that I will get back to it in a sec as soon as I have half done about 6 other things.  


One things for sure is life is certainly not boring here on Nobel Acres (yes I’m still trying to get that name to stick).  


Anyway one of my goals for 2014 was to keep up the blog.  Not because I think you’ve all been missing me terribly… but because I like the idea that this is a permanent record for my future descendents to read.  I think I only have about 10 followers on this blog, which is a lot more than I have on twitter.  I only have SIX twitter followers.  I am #verysad.  I tweet all the time and no one reads them.  


Anyway I should go to bed.


B xx