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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

We help a young man in Lebanon start a business

Because our coffee man from Honduras repaid his loan a couple of months ahead of time we had $25 sitting in our account ready to be lent out to another person living in difficult conditions.

When I read how Mohamad from Lebanon was 19 and had been working for 5 years (meaning he started when he was 14) I didn't have to look any further: we're helping him to get ahead in life. When my oldest two were 14 they were flat out doing the dishes and making their beds. I really hope this bloke makes a go of it.

Here's the blurb from his posting on KIVA:

"Mohamad is a 19-year-old single man. Five years ago Mohamad started his own business, dealing with manufacturing aluminum doors, closets & windows. He was too young to start a business, but he had his family to take care of and to help in making their living.

Mohamad is a hard worker, he insists on improving himself as much as he can. That's why he has applied for a Youth Loan from Kiva partner, Al Majmoua, in order to buy necessary raw materials with special prices. 

Mohamad misses his childhood and hopes to expand his business in a way that when he thinks of making a family in the future, he has to be sure that his children will have a safe and healthy childhood with all their needs to be met. Mohamad insists on expanding his business in the future."

KIVA gives people a hand, not a hand out. A person can borrow money to buy pigs or seed or in some way improve their business, and then they pay it back. This means you're able to re-loan the same money over and over. We've put just under $200 into our KIVA account, and we've loaned $700 to these good people over the course of the last two years. And if ever we want to stop lending through KIVA we can pull our money out once it's repaid.

If you've ever wondered where your money is going when you donate to organisations overseas, this could well be the kind of transparency you're after. Or maybe you just like helping people :)

CLICK HERE to pop over to KIVA and see what it's all about






Terror in the toilet

Killer attack frog.
My mother in law is scared of frogs and until today I thought she was balmy. Not anymore.

Today at work I tottled off to the loo to take care of some paperwork. I was well prepared, having freed up a good wedge of time and taken in my book. Unfortunately, things didn't quite go to plan.

Starting a fresh chapter of Guns, Germs & Steel, sudden movement to my right caught my attention. Fearing it was one of those loathsome beasts, the dreaded mouse, I managed a maneuver which saw my ankles up about chest level - not easy for a man who even on a good day can't touch his shins.

Fortunately, it wasn't a mouse. It was a frog. And an odd frog at that - a brownie grey number with a triangular head.

I used my foot to move it along towards the door and prepared to settle back into my book.

No such luck. 

The little blighter turned around and looked at me. I used my foot again. Gently, I assure you.

It turned around and confronted me again. This time, as I stretched out to nudge it away, it attacked me! It jumped and landed on my shoe.

I flicked it off in much the same way the Crocodile Hunter wouldn't.

It turned to face me again. 

This time I could see what it was trying to do - it was trying to get into my pants.

At this point in the story, when I was explaining it to Tracey, she assured me that no one, neither man, woman or frog, would ever in their right minds be trying to get into my pants. She's reassuring like that.

So the toilet stop ended with me sitting on the loo with my pants pulled up to my knees, fending off the attack frog with my shoes while I tried to complete my transaction and retreat to the relative safety of the office. In one lot of evasive maneuvers I even pulled a muscle in my shoulder.

Next time my mother in law comes over I'm going to apologize for ever doubting her: frogs are terrifying.



Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Get Wet

It started out as a bucketful of water and ended up with our balcony getting a decent wash.

Is there anything funner than pouring a jug of water on your sibling's head? Not in this house.

To keep the kids occupied while she cooked dinner tonight, Tracey set up the water play activity centre we bought for one of the kids a few Christmases back. It's for two or three year olds. Pouring some water in the top funnel makes wheels turn and it's all a bit of fun.  She didn't really think it would hold their attention for too long but it certainly out performed her expectations today.

When I arrived home the kids were already wet and there were lots of laughs and shouts. By the time I sat down with a coffee they were chasing each other around the balcony with cups and jugs of water.

Fortunately, they were so wrapped up in drenching each other none of them thought to throw water on us.

It all ended in giggles and a show of camaraderie with arms round each other as we marched them off to the bathroom for a rinse and towel down.

They couldn't have had more fun if we'd hired a clown and let them chase him around with pinata sticks.





Sunday, February 26, 2012

Awash With Water

We're having a weekend of water play here in G-town. There's been an ocean of water dumped upstream over the last couple of days.

River came up very quickly (for us). Usually there's talk all over town and people predicting heights and times - I didn't have a single person mention the rising river to me on Friday, but I woke up on Saturday and one of the bridges was already cut.

Looks like the worst of it is over and the river is on it's way down. Though it really depends on how much rain the region is subject to over the next week. As it is, this is kind of a mediocre flood: A bit half hearted. On the bright side we have had lots of tea and coffee with friends.

A few businesses needed to quickly move out and I was again pleased with the community spirit G-town rolls out when these things happen. Even with such short notice it looked like everyone was out and ready.

Here's a few photos we took around town, as well as some our excellent friends, Karen & Luke, have taken plus an aerial shot I flogged off Channel 7. More interesting photos include a couple of a stealth helicopter (well, it's black) and someone's quickly devaluing car which might have trouble starting because they've flooded the engine.

Courtesy of Channel 7.

I think I saw this sort of vehicle on a James Bond movie. It must be worth a packet.





Containers & water. Too much of one, not enough of the other.



Just what you need in a flood - a stealth helicopter.




Lucky I didn't fall in the water - no one would have
spotted me in my dirty water coloured clothes.












Part of the fun of the flood is walking on roads usually reserved for cars.










Saturday, February 25, 2012

Cuckoo Coconut Cake

Miss4 mixing. Miss2 pinching.
The young daughter of a friend of ours made this cake the other day and brought it over for morning tea. It is so simple, it's crazy.

With only four ingredients and each of them with the same measurements, it's as near as you'll get to a one step cake. To show how one step like it is I'll even give the instructions in one sentence :)

You will need:

1 cup self raising flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup desiccated coconut
1 cup milk

Mix all ingredients vigorously in a bowl before pouring into well greased cake tin and cooking at 160 degrees for half an hour, or until cooked through.

If you want a recipe to start the kids on, this would be the one. It's sweet and moist and a little sticky on the fingers and my kids love it.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Colourful Streets of Holiday Horray


The way to get things done around the house, as all good parents know, is to distract the little buggers.

As an afternoon activity, Tracey pulled out some paper (picked up the roller and paper from Ikea a year or two ago) and encouraged the kids to draw their own town. She is the queen of distractions, my wife. For example, she'll tell me to take the bin out and by the time I'm back in the bedroom, she's fast asleep.

Holiday Horray (they named it) was thus born of crayon and paper: it's streets and rivers lined with tree houses, a school, forests, shopping centres and a public pool. 

The kidlettes were so taken with their task that a halt was called for dinner, another for showers and finally another for bed.

We've told the kids they can continue to draw and colour in the morning until we get up and they have to get ready for school - that's two distractions for the price of one! :D

What I especially loved about this activity was listening to the kids discussing what they were drawing and why. Also noteworthy - there were no arguments.

Methinks we'll have to try this one again.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Can 4 year olds have boyfriends?

Miss4 has been coming home gushing about a little boy from prep. Apparently little Casanova is trying to give her flowers (which he picks out of his mother's garden) and sit next to her in class and chase her and all sorts of shenanigans, which are told to us amidst giggles and coy smiles.

At school today, Romeo's mother approached Tracey to tell her how her son had announced he has a girlfriend. No prizes for second guesses - our little miss.

Tracey swapped a few stories and it was all fun and chuckles. It's all very cute when they're four, isn't it?

This same scenario with Miss8 might have played out differently. Well maybe for Tracey. For me, when news of Miss4's boyfriend came my way, naturally I went, as always, straight to the big question.

"What's his earning potential?"

"Bruce! He's a minor," Tracey admonished.

That sounded good to me. "That's okay then. Miners earn decent money."

One down, four girls to go. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Karaage Bowl

It seems the older I get the more I love all things Japanese - sushi, karaoke, Iron Chef. And now karaage bowls.

Tracey and I have been treating ourselves to karaage bowls this week, a yummo treat from the local sushi bar. But they're $8.50 a bowl.

Having spent nearly $50 on them in a very short span of time, and since the little kids are starting to demand a share of our dinner instead of hooking into their Hungry Jacks burgers, I decided I better learn how to put them together myself.

In a nutshell, they're easy - a bed of rice with sushi seasoning, on top of that a dash of soy sauce, some chicken, some mayo, some pickled ginger, a bit of lettuce and tomato. The soy we splash into the rice, the mayo is squeezed directly on top of the chicken.

Then, depending on the quality of the result you want, you upgrade the individual ingredients.

We wanted it as close to the bought ones as we could, so the first stop was the local Asian supermarket for the trickier ingredients - Japanese mayo (it makes a HUGE difference - this is not the ingredient to skimp on) and good pickled ginger. Our usual supermarket provided the sushi rice and rice seasoning.

The first bowls I made we used crumbed chicken (bought from the deli, shallow fried), but after that I've just been putting in chopped up cooked chicken breast, which has been lovely. What I'm going to try this week is preparing the chicken in cornstarch and frying it. Considering KARA means 'empty' and AGE means 'fried' I guess I have to do it like this to make it more authentic. And because Tracey says I have to.

This has been such a huge hit with the kids we've made it three times in twice as many days. And the thing is it takes hardly any time at all to prepare. Easy to make, and tastes great. Win. Win.










Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Coffee Snob Strikes Gold

I'm a bit of a coffee snob. There are only four places in town I'll buy coffee from because I know they make it properly. And yet, at home I use the cheapest brand in the supermarket.

On a recommendation from a friend I started buying the cheapest bricks of coffee on offer a few months ago. Initially I was purchasing the better stuff ($5-6 for 200gms) but I'd waste a heap because it would clog my machine and have to be thrown out. There again, I initially thought there was a problem with the machine: only because my friend had the same coffee maker was I able to nut out it was the coffee.

So to cut a short story long, I now buy the cheapest coffee and it tastes fantastic.

And this week it's even cheaper!!

Usually $2.50 for a 200gm brick they're being moved for $1.70 until Thursday. We bought 8, but only because that was all they had left on the shelf.

We're going to give them a chance to restock and try again later in the week.



Friday, February 17, 2012

Ten things I never want to do again


1. Date. I hate dating. Mainly because I'm really bad at it. It's genetic though. My father took my mother on a date to watch him play football. Running onto the field for the second half he was waving at her when he tripped over the bloke in front of her and had to be stretchered off the field. That's generally how us Devereaux men win our women over - sympathy. 

2. Ride an Elephant. In Thailand for our honeymoon, I was coerced into riding one because at that stage there was simply nothing I wouldn't do for sex which in hindsight made it kind of counterproductive. I thought I was going to die. We were traversing a river bank and this elephant we were on didn't want to walk down the clay embankment, probably because it was slippery, but the guy in front of us kept prodding it with a stick until it slowly went down. It's alright for the elephant handler, he wasn't tied on so he could jump. I thought we were going to be crushed to death. If Tracey ever insists I ride an elephant for sex again I'm taking my own sharp stick to prod the elephant handler.

3. Chicken feet. I don't want to eat the feet of any critter, be it cows, pigs or Mary's little lamb. But especially those of chickens. It's the little knuckles which put me off. I feel like a survivor from a Himalayan plane crash chewing on the fingers of less fortunate passengers while I wait for rescue.

4. Show rides. I've seen the showies manning the rides. Many of them can't even remember to brush their teeth, let alone remember to put and tighten all the bolts in a ferris wheel or cyclone. And I've seen them roll into town with the rides on the back of trucks - there would be loose and missing nuts. I like the thrill to be 'will I throw up' not 'will I survive'.

5. Learn to drive. It was terrifying. More now that I've been doing it a while and I know how close I came to ending up in hospital. And how often. I remember driving my brother and his mates around town one day when the street in front of me suddenly ended in a wooden barrier. I slammed on the brakes and skidded 180 degrees and then took off back up the street. They all cheered and thought I was really cool but I knew I hadn't planned anything except not dying, and that was only a last minute thing really.

6. Puberty. I went to a boarding school without shower curtains so I've seen  a cockatoo (thank you Austen Tayshus) and if there's one thing I can tell you about puberty it's that it's kinder to some blokes than others and it's hairy. Very, very hairy. Plus it messes with your head. For years I thought I had all the answers - this despite several exams conclusively proving otherwise. I'm at the opposite end of puberty now, where all the hair starts leaving your body. 

7. University. It took me three years to sober up and I still can't drink rum. Needless to say I didn't do especially well, although it says something for my cramming skills that I passed anything at all. To this day I still don't know what subjects I was enrolled in. I recall one subject was music of some sort, which makes perfect sense when you consider I was supposed to be studying economics.

8. Ignore a Sick Child. Miss17 taught me this lesson when she was three. She came into my room saying she felt sick. I dragged her into bed with me and went back to sleep. Five minutes later I woke up choking on her vomit because she'd thrown up directly into my mouth. If your child says they're sick, my advice is to give them the benefit of the doubt, especially if you sleep with your mouth open.

9. Conceive. Is this really too much to ask? Seriously, I think I've done my bit. 

10. Divorce. It's messy and gut-wrenching. And expensive. Why do divorces cost so much? Because they're worth it. Baa-haa. That reminds me, I need to go make Tracey a cup of tea and remind her I think she's beautiful, a goddess and I'm lucky to know her, let alone love her. Yep, that should do it - safe for another day ;)




We help some blokes in Zimbabwe improve their businesses



For our 23rd loan we decided we should help some guys, because our stats show we've been primarily lending to women lately. Well we don't want to appear sexist.


This loan will be paid back over 8 months. Because it's a group loan the risk of non payment is lowered, or so I'm told on various lender's forums. Not sure if it's true, because we've never experienced a non payment.


Here's the low down on one of the gentlemen we're lending to:


"This is 34 year old Mutizwa from Mutare, the capital of Minicaland province in Zimbabwe. He is married and has five children, four attending school. Mutizwa runs a retail business of selling clothes. The business has been in operation for 13 years. He says the main challenges faced are high customs duty on clothes. Mutizwa has requested a loan of $150 to buy more clothes for resale. He says the extra income generated as a result of this loan will allow him to improve the family's welfare. In the future, Mutizwa plans to open a clothing shop in the central business district."


Thursday, February 16, 2012

Targeting clothes

YIPPEE!!

It's that time of the year again - the Target sale. Time to add to our store of clothes for the kids.

We could buy our kids new clothes as they grow and pay full price, but we've worked out a better way. We keep boxes of clothes, separated into boy or girl and then sizes, so that as the kids grow we can pack up their existing wardrobes and bring out the next one. This means we can buy clothes in any size, at any time of the year, at a huge savings to our budget. 

To give you an idea of how much money we save doing this, let's look at what we bought today. I always do this sort of exercise to work out how much money we've saved because it keeps me motivated to seek the sales out.

Today we bought 19 items of clothing for a total of $48.18 which would have cost us $167.00 at the original recommended retail prices.  So they cost us only 29% of the original ticketed price and saved us $118.72.

Since we've lots of girls there's always a heap of quality hand-me-downs, but it's also super nice for each of our kids to have new clothes as well. And at these prices we can afford for them to have them.

Tracey will probably go back over the next week to pick up an item or twenty she liked but wasn't sure about - she always goes for the basics to start with and then, once she has some shopping momentum, starts on the fancier dresses. Which suits us fine, cause sometimes Target even further discount the items towards the end of the sale.

Happy shopping :)


We help a woman from South Sudan educate her seven kids

It's that time of the month again. LOVE IT!

This is our 22nd loan through KIVA.

The money from our previous loans has started rolling back in. This month we're giving a hand (not a hand out) to Anna from South Sudan. Anna was after $375 to help her to purchase sugar to on-sell at a stall to make money to educate her kids. We can take so much for advantage in Australia because we really are the lucky country - our kids are guaranteed an education. We're excited about helping Anna give her kids an education.

"Anna is a 42-year-old married woman with seven children, six of whom are in school. She has had a business selling food from a stall in Kator, South Sudan for five years.

Anna is requesting this loan through BRAC South Sudan to purchase sugar. She will use her extra income from this loan to pay school fees."


Click HERE to have a look at KIVA and think about helping someone. You might like it.



Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Mummy's Boyfriend

Uh-oh. Starting to wonder if maybe the awesome power of bacon is on the slide after Miss4 announced, in front of a gaggle of mothers waiting for their kids in the tuck shop area at the end of the school day, that mummy has a boyfriend.

"Yes, she does," I told Miss4, as eyes began to converge on us. "Me!"

We live in a small town and while I love how people know your name in a place this size, how people say hi and people genuinely care, the flip side is people know you and talk about you if they get even a whiff of gossip. So it's best to nip these things in the bud fairly early on.

If you can.

"No, it's not you," Miss4 corrected me loudly, and one lady who was leaning in to hear what was being said actually had to catch herself from falling off the bench. At least I think that's why she had to catch herself. Bit of a coincidence otherwise.

"Who is it then?" I asked.

"Mummy's boyfriend is her boss from the video shop."

I wonder how he'd feel about that. I should have asked as he was sitting, oblivious, barely ten meters away waiting for his own kids.

I work with eight women. If working with someone of the opposite sex means they're your boyfriend then I can't wait until Miss4 tells Tracey about my harem. Plus I better be careful next time I go into my boss's office for a raise.




Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Bacon saves my bacon

Mike Geno
Yesterday it suddenly became apparent that I was in deep, deep doo.

Okay, for the record, I'm on holidays. You don't look at dates when you're on holidays. Come on people, give me this one.

Fortunately, there was bacon in the fridge. SAVED! Add some toast, an omelette, tomato and mushroom and my marriage was set to remain on solid rock. Is there anything bacon can't do?

Not that I had a present to give Tracey today. Not that we ever do exchange gifts on Valentine's Day. Don't feel we need to. We exchange I Love You's and kisses and talk about how lucky we are instead.

Unlike my mum. She likes to give dad a carton of beer at lunch. She's never said so, but I have the impression she's hoping he's drunk half of it by bedtime. For some reason. I don't want to know.

Hope you've all had a wonderful Valentine's Day, and were spoiled rotten by your better halves.

And with luck you'll all be makin' bacon tonight ;)












How your monster can design their own monster


Step One - get your kid to draw a picture. Step Two - send the picture to Canada. Simple.

This is one of the best present ideas I've ever seen. This clever lady takes a drawing by little Miss/Mr Artist and converts it into a 3D soft toy likeness.

Mind, this only works so well because she is so damn good at it.

Tracey says she could do them: this from a woman who's sewed about six things her whole life. Suffice to say I was (mildly) doubtful until she explained she would do things a little differently - she'd make an odd looking, slightly bent toy and then get the kids to draw it. Now that'll work.

Click on this link to check out more of her jaw dropping work - Child's Own Studio  You will be amazed!

About Me

My photo

Bruce Devereaux is one of the nicest people he knows. When not at work he enjoys reading, writing, hiding from his children and not changing nappies.

 

His career, and if we used the term any more loosely an e might fall out, has included a gardener, a personal lender, a console operator, a stop/go man (not as big a bludge as you might think but great if you’re into sunburn, abuse and varicose veins), a cleaner of banks and pubs and, for a very brief period, a door to door salesman (until the last door he knocked on was answered by a very scary woman with tremendously hairy legs).

 

Bruce Devereaux currently works as a forty-five-year-old award winning customer service officer (glass statuette available upon request) for the Bank of Queensland and as a very casual employee for Corrective Services. He likes to believe he excels at both but then he has always been prone to exaggeration.

 

His favourite colour is green, with a picture of Dame Nellie Melba on one side and General Sir John Monash on the other. His favourite flower is self-raising.

 If you see him around town, call his wife immediately - he's probably snuck out and left her alone with all the kids.


 

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