29 May 2015


After more than 2 years keeping an eye on the market it seems ever-increasingly remote that we will be travelling around New Zealand in our own mobile home (despite writing the e-book below!).  We did look at rentals but didn't find one that was seat-belted and slept seven let alone capable of sustaining a freedom-camping lifestyle.

The next idea was home-stays (holiday homes) which we still might be able to do, but after letting our options sit and reflecting on our situation the long-term goal of travelling to Germany/Europe came back into focus again.


Over the last few years we've saved at least a third of what we've been told to budget for a year-long adventure.  It's enough to get us to Germany for 3 months and back again - that's all.  Obviously we still want to see other countries after going all that way so we are selling anything we can on Trademe, have launched our e-book and a GiveALittle campaign to bring our dreams to life.

The more we raise the longer we can travel and the more experiences we can share together as a family while we are away.  Here's what we are thinking about the different scenarios.


Both Trademe and Gumroad (where our e-book is hosted) take a commission on sales, whereas Give a Little doesn't charge any fees for fund-raising.  You've got to love them for that!  What we'd like to do with Give a Little is run a Random Acts of Kindness (RAOK) fund-raiser.  You know how much we love RAOKs - they were our entire focus every week last year!  For your donation you can claim a RAOK for someone else get a little something in return.



One other way to support us if you need to buy contact lenses, glasses, books, natural health products or anything from Cafepress is to click the link from our website, so we might receive a reward for referring you to places we use ourselves.  


WILL THESE FUND-RAISING IDEAS WORK?  Perhaps.  Maybe.  We sure hope so.






21 December 2014


It's been a while since I've really felt and assimilated the magic in Christmas.

Then I chanced upon the NZ Twitter Secret Santa now run by NZ Post, the day before the second cut-off.

Neither Atlas nor myself have played any sort of secret santa swap in our work lives and it was a bit of a learning curve.

So I thought I'd save others fumbling around in the dark of what to give and with @nzsecretsanta etiquette by jotting down my observations.


You start by finding out who you've been nominated to gift to.  Sleuthing one's recipient (aka good boy or girl - gbg) by reading their conversations was right up my alley.  I like finding things out.  In some instances it was frustrating not to be able to confirm my suspicions 100% due to an under-whelming number of tweets but that's just the luck of the draw.  Our gbg had just 2 posts on Facebook too.  

As part of being involved in NZ Secret Santa you also stumble upon other folks on Twitter.  There were tech geeks, mums, teens / hipsters / fandom followers, media personalities, crafters, drinkers / swearers,  animal-lovers, fashionistas & socialites, & sports supporters to name a few.  The ones I was especially taken with were the community-oriented and not-for-profit organisations that people were part of - @cafecrave, @head2headwalk, @thefreestorewgn, & @justzilch.  In fact I've set up lists on our Twitter to add similar groups to, as we come across them, in each of the regional areas in New Zealand.

All the researching of others does make you feel somewhat exposed and I did wonder what others thought of us, especially our secret santa.  What deductions had they made as we write more about experiences and information than personal thoughts and banter?


After the initial information-gathering, you decide on an appropriate gift.  Everywhere I went I saw possible gifts for our gbg and it was an exercise in self-restraint, common sense and budgeting not to go overboard.  We knew our gbg had 3 other family members - a 2 year old boy, a 5 year old girl and a husband so included something special for each.  What I really wanted to do was add value to our gbg's gift by personalising or making/crafting something but didn't know if this was acceptable so largely kept to commercially-purchased items.  I have since seen that hand-made, personal and even pre-loved can be appropriate gifts if that is what your gbg is into.


Then you send it in to santa's storehouse at the Auckland International Mail Centre.

An added development this year meant that gifts could also be sent to other people who were not your gbg, so we chose and sent in an additional 4.

These were easier than our gbg as we were able to start with who we could identify with from their profiles & tweets, so were more likely to understand what might be a useful gift. [As a sad aside, the Twitterers are probably easier than extended family to buy for as they put their likes and dislikes out there whether directly or indirectly so you can feel as if you know them.]

It should be noted that NZ Post bore the onward cost of couriering all 2618 + items out from their santa storehouse.  Secret santa's only paid for the postage (or courier) to get it to Auckland.  NZ Post even offered free tracking on posted items to them.  We are grateful to NZ Post and know our extra gifts were probably an unanticipated development of the event and therefore an added out-bound cost.

Oh, and NZ Post were to donate $1 per player to the Christchurch City Mission, but ended up doubling that and rounding it up to $6000 - way to go!


After that you wait for the gifts to be sent out; and when yours arrives you post a photo of what you got to Twitter.  A very few save opening their gift until Christmas day, others are delayed by having it sent somewhere they are traveling to after dispatch, but the majority open their gifts immediately

Without further ado here are some of the most ORIGINAL /  SPOT-ON / our TOP PICKS gifts gbg's received:

The most POPULAR and / or GENERIC gifts fell into the following categories:

  • Drinking wear and gear
  • Books / magazine subscriptions
  • Chocolate, coffee / tea & accessories, sweets, & food
  • Lego, Mr Potato head, Dr Who, Star wars, Super heroes
  • Body & beauty products - scrub, lotion, nail polish, mask, soap / bath oil
  • Candles
  • Gift cards - food establishments, movies, ...
  • Donations to causes and charities
  • Cat / dog / chicken / animal stuff: anything for their pet or with their favourite type of animal on it
  • Jewellery - necklaces, pounamu, wrist bands, earrings
  • Games, puzzles, jigsaws
  • Mugs & baking accessories
  • Nostalgia - tapes, old newspapers
  • 'Keep calm' merchandise
  • T-shirts & socks
  • Sports - equipment, books, memorabilia
  • Moustaches
  • Stationery - pens, notebooks, colouring pens & books
  • Guide books, travel diaries, passport covers, foreign foods
  • Music-related
  • TV / movie things



  • Put yourself in your gbg shoe's - ask "What would I like to receive?".
  • Think about how you could personalise their gift.
  • Crafted gifts are great.

  • Experiential gifts are good too.
  • Pre-loved is fine if that is your gbg's interest.
  • Re-gifting is okay - ask yourself if you'd be excited to receive it though.  If not, don't send.
  • Many secret santas exceed the $10 gift value - this doesn't mean you have to.
  • You can follow / favourite your gbg but it might give you away if they have few others.
  • Think outside Twitter for your research too - Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, blogs, general internet searches etc.
  • If your gbg isn't good, your gift for them is re-directed to charity (under 8% were bad santas in 2014).
  • Remember your manners.
  • You do not have to reveal yourself if asked.  There's something magical & humble about keeping it a secret!


For information on how to participate see NZ TWITTER SECRET SANTA


P.S. I wanted to title this post 'How to lose several days of your life' or something similar; as there is nothing more addictive than watching the Tweet wall and seeing the gratitude, OMGs and effort of the other secret santas.  It was a feel-good injection reminiscent of Telethon (for those old enough to remember).  Seems like I wasn't the only one ;)

P.P.S It looks as if our gbg wasn't able to send something in on time, so missed out on our gift for them and their children.  Really disappointing.  Thankfully we got to surprise some others though. 


This is what our not-so-secret-santa gifted us ... a scratchable map and a NZ tea towel.  A bit of an education really as I hadn't noticed all those native flowers before.


Thank you secret santa and thank you NZ Post.  Merry Christmas!

18 December 2014


We'd like to share with you the RAOKs that we've experienced this year to honour the people who are also bringing kindness to the community.

Sometimes it's been random strangers and other times those we know.

People have:

  • Let us merge into traffic when driving
  • Stopped to allow us to cross the road with a pram
  • Passed on women's pre-loved clothing and jewellery
  • Sent leftover ingredients home with us (from the café)
  • Harvested fresh produce from their garden to give to us - rhubarb & lemons; lettuces & oranges
  • Given us a christmas headband 
  • Offered us yarn, fabric and sewing patterns
  • Sent a fruit loaf home with a young lad to share for afternoon tea
  • Made us a jar of creamy lemon curd
  • Given us syringes; and colustrum to feed kittens
  • Delivered apples & a jar of fresh honey to enjoy
  • Given us money - yes, you read that correctly.

The last RAOK was by far the most unexpected, unbelievable, it-will-never-happen-to-me story.

Another volunteer at the café we've been helping out at all year, walked up to me while we were getting ready for the day, handed me an envelope and told me that a mutual acquaintance (who wasn't named) wanted me to have this.  Left alone to open it I thumbed through the 5 $100 bills and burst into tears.  This doesn't happen to me.  This doesn't happen to us.  Yes, we've had a really tough couple of years with Atlas being in chronic pain and incapacitated but hardly anyone really knew the full impact that had on us, save a handful of close friends.  Yet, someone else out there read between the lines and dipped deep into their pockets to absolutely bless us.

I didn't know what to do.  I didn't know whether these folks really could afford to give this to us as it was a huge amount.  What was I going to use it for?  What was the most important need?

What happened as a result affected me on more than just a financial level and I have been struggling with how to put it into words.


Their gift was a release.  

It released tears of validation. Someone had noticed me and our situation.

It released tears of stress.  I hadn't realised the weight of the burden I'd been carrying.

It started to release me from a poverty mentality.  I was able to begin to give things away instead of trying to sell items which in turn released some space in the house and garage too and helped other families in our local community.  This process also released me from being held back as much by the past and instead have a healthy appreciation for it, but to move on. 

It released a blessing on our children who we split the money between.  I hadn't quite known how much they resent us not having disposable income and living with the mindset of not having enough (although we give them what they need, it doesn't often stretch to what they would like, too).


Money wasn't the only thing that I believe came with their gift.  I am sure they were also praying for Atlas and his health. Not long afterward Atlas observed that he'd had a couple of pain-free days and began to really look into what might have been different about them.  His hypothesis was caffeine.  It's not as if he hadn't been prompted to look at diet before but somehow this clicked.  He ran tests on himself over the next couple of weeks and sure enough when he drank tea or coffee or ate anything with cocoa in it the pain was back.  He still has the spasms but has now been able to wean himself off his cocktail of prescribed drugs.  How could it be so simple?

This is such a relief.  He can now mow the lawns again, prepare meals, hang out the washing, bath & play with Kita, & DRIVE.  I don't need to drop everything to chauffeur him to client appointments, trailling the children with me.  He can drive himself to the supermarket to do the weekly shopping; and has even travelled 4 hours each way to a customer's site.

I still don't totally trust that the pain won't return and that our lives won't resort to the survival mode we've become bitterly accustomed to.

For now though life seems so much lighter.  I am finally able to put some time into the extra tasks instead of treading water with meals, washing and commitments.  I am beginning to feel hopeful about the future - almost as if there is a chance that something good might be in it.

I wonder if our anonymous donors really knew what they were giving us? Did they think that perhaps their gift would be used to buy food - end of story?  Did they think that it would be used to pay bills and be gone?  Used for material needs.  Or perhaps they better understood that there was a greater purpose?  I rather think so.  

I am so very grateful to them and hope that I can let them know somehow.