• Birthdays & Celebrations
  • Santa Claus vs. Sinterklaas

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    You know you’re moving up in the world when you start taking part in blogging collaborations…
    This December I’m joining in with The 12 Days of Christmas, a blog collab. by 13 women who fit into the “Kiwi Mummy Bloggers” category (but please don’t call me a Mummy Blogger).

    Yesterday’s post, or Day Five, was a mulled wine recipe shared by Parental Misadventures.
    It looks and sounds absolutely divine, so make sure you and go check it out!

    The 12 Days of Christmas: Day Six
    Santa Claus vs. Sinterklaas
    (and why my kids are visited by them both)

    My kids are Kiwi Kids. There’s no denying it. They run around in barefeet, they eat Weetbix for breakfast, and they end a lot of their sentences with, “Eh, Mum?”

    But my kids are also Dutch Kids. It’s not easy to spot, but it’s in them. Their dad was born in The Netherlands, they call their paternal grandparents Oma and Opa, and you can practically see their ears prick up everytime they hear the word, “Holland.”

    I don’t feel like I’m doing enough to teach them about their roots, to be honest (not that I feel like it’s really my place to anyway – I’ve never even stepped foot outside of New Zealand). But I do try to talk about their heritage as and when I can. And so, when I learned a few years back about some old guy called Sinterklaas who brings presents to Dutch children in early December, I knew I had to adopt the tradition for my own kids.

    Sinterklaas has made annual visits to our house since 2011. But who is he?

    I referred to him in this (old and incredibly embarrassing) YouTube video as “the Dutch Santa”, but apparently that’s not quite right. A Dutch viewer left me the following comment:

    It’s funny, Sinterklaas is not the Dutch Santa. Santa is the American Sinterklaas. When New York was still New Amsterdam, the Dutch people that lived there celebrated Sinterklaas in the US. Other people took over that holiday and over the years that turned into Santa Claus with his own story.

    So then I felt bad, because it seemed people thought my description meant that Santa existed first and the Dutch people copied them. But then I thought, Actually, I’m going to keep saying that. Because it’s the easiest way to get non-Dutch people to understand what the hell you’re on about when you mention Sinterklaas. I mean, call me lazy, but if there’s an easy way to make people understand me, then I’m taking that path. You know?

    Whoever came first (not that I should say whoever, because it was definitely Sinterklaas, I fact-checked), there’s no denying that Sinter and Santa have a lot in common. And feel free to call me crazy, but I just thought it’d be kind of fun to compare them. So here we go.

    Santa Claus vs. Sinterklaas

    Santa Claus and his elves: http://www.stunningpr.com/2013/10/21/santas-portable-north-pole-gets-an-elf-grade/
    Santa Claus with his elves: http://www.stunningpr.com/2013/10/21/santas-portable-north-pole-gets-an-elf-grade/
    Sinterklaas with his Zwarte Pieten: http://faded.donweb-homeip.net/sinterklaas/
    Sinterklaas with his Zwarte Pieten: http://faded.donweb-homeip.net/sinterklaas/

    Santa: A random old dude who lives in the North Pole year-round.
    Sinterklaas: An actual saint who lives in Spain, but travels to the Netherlands by steamboat in mid-November, where he stays until December 6 (his arrival is a big deal; his departure not so much).

    Santa: Relies heavily on his special helpers, the elves.
    Sinterklaas: Relies heavily on his special helper, Zwarte Piet (AKA Black Pete, AKA The Guy I Don’t Mention To My Kids Because Black Face Is Never Okay)

    Santa: Leaves gifts in children’s stockings on the eve of the 24th of December.
    Sinterklaas: May leave small treats in children’s shoes (or clogs) on any night from the time he arrives in the Netherlands, while bigger gifts are delivered on the eve of the 5th of December.

    Santa: Rides in a sleigh pulled by reindeer.
    Sinterklaas: Rides a white horse named Amerigo.

    Santa: Has a long white beard, a big, round belly, and wears a thick red suit with matching hat.
    Sinterklaas: Has a long white beard, an unremarkable belly, and wears a saintly red robe and an equally saintly red hat.

    Santa: Does his own dirty work (i.e. he climbs down the chimneys himself).
    Sinterklaas: Employs others to do his dirty work (i.e. he sends Zwarte Piet down the chimneys – a lot of Dutch people will argue that this is what makes Black Pete black; I stand by my Black Face = Not Okay Ever stance).

    Santa: Children leave him cookies and milk, and sometimes something tasty for his reindeer.
    Sinterklaas: Children leave his horse carrots and hay, and sometimes something tasty for the Saint himself.

    Santa: Keeps track of whether children have been naughty or nice by writing their names in lists.
    Sinterklaas: Keeps track of whether children have been naughty or nice by writing their names in “The Book of Sinterklaas”.

    Santa: If children are naughty he will leave a lump of coal in their stockings.
    Sinterklaas: If children are naughty he will tell Zwarte Piet to put them in a sack and take them back to Spain (OMG, that’s worse than the Black Face thing).

    So why do my kids get both?

    Like I mentioned at the start of this post, I just want my kids to grow up with at least some idea of what it means to be a Dutch kid. It’s highly likely that I’m getting it all wrong, or that I’m placing emphasis on the things that don’t really matter, but I’m all about making Christmas as fun and magical as possible. And if I can get away with doubling up on Santa just because I happened to marry a Dutchman, then hell yeah I’m gonna double up on Santa. Why wouldn’t you?

    I do have to admit, however, that I’ve never made much of an effort to get them to believe in Sinterklaas. I actually reckon they’d all forget about him if I didn’t mention it. But my kids are so willing to believe in things, so ready to accept magic, so eager to receive presents, that I’m going to keep going with it: At the start of December they get a little something from Sinterklaas. At the end of December they get quite a few somethings from Santa Claus. It’s fun. It’s exciting. It’s an excuse to squeeze as much Christmas out of Christmas as possible.

    Every year I wait for my kids to start questioning why they get Sinterklaas and Santa Claus; for them to figure out that there are just too many similarities between the two dudes for any of it to actually be real. But so far my kids haven’t expressed any doubt as to the existence of either of their Santas, and I’m happy to keep it that way. My eldest is eight and a half. There’s a good chance she’ll be a non-believer this time next year. I’m more than willing to allow her to hold onto the magic of Christmas while she can…

    Last night, on the 5th of December, my kids made gingerbread for Sinterklaas, and left carrots in their shoes for Amerigo.
    This morning, on St. Nicholas’ Day, they woke up to find someone had crept down the chimney to fill their footwear with surprises and treats. And just as they believe in magic, I believe that it’s moments like these that will stick with them forever. If nothing else, they’ll always be able to boast that they were the kids who were visited every year by not one, but two Santas. It doesn’t get much better than that.

    – Fern xxx

    Want to see all the Dutch Christmas magic unfold?
    Tonight’s “Vlogmas” video is dedicated to Sinterklaasavond… It’s worth a watch!

    Tomorrow’s 12 Days of Christmas blog post will go live at 12pm over at dorothynada.com
    If you like the sound of Christmas in a Jar then make sure you head over to Dorothy Nada so you can read all about it.
    I’ll also be sharing the link to that on my Facebook page, so why not go and give that a Like now?

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  • Birthdays & Celebrations
  • DIY Christmas Stockings (for Parents that Suck at Sewing)

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    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, a seamstress I am not. But, it’s Christmastime. And Christmastime makes me want to make things. Like advent calendars. Remember? I made three of them this year. Three. And because they actually turned out kinda, sorta okayish, I felt inspired to make more Christmassy things. And so: Stockings.

    Usually we do santa sacks, but we’re having my brother-in-law and his family over for Christmas this year (I AM SO EXCITED), and their kids do stockings. It’s a good thing too, because to be honest we really don’t need Santa bringing sack loads of gifts for the kids. I have just dedicated 100 days of my life to decluttering and clearing sh*t out after all…

    Because we don’t own enough stockings to go around (welcome to life with four kids), and because I already had Christmas fabric in my possession, and because I now feel like I shouldn’t buy things unnecessarily, I decided I’d try and sew my own stockings. We’re big on elves around here, so I went with an elfy sort of theme. I mean, who would want a boot shaped stocking when you could have an elf shoe shaped stocking, right?

    If you watch the video you’ll see what I came up with, and how you can have a go at making something similar yourself. If you’d rather just get the gist of what I’m going on about, then there’s no need to watch. Just look at that thumbnail. That’s all you need to see.

    What Santa traditions do you have in your house? Do you hang stockings, or put out sacks? Do you leave the old man snacks? I wanna hear about it in the comments section, okay? Because Christmas is more than just one day…

    (Sorry for the rhymes, I couldn’t help myself.)

    – Fern xxx

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  • 100 Days Project
  • Sorting Sh*t Out – DAY 100!!!!!

    It’s here! I did it! I sorted my sh*tty way right through to Day 100. Sure, I slacked off. Sure, I played the catch up game at times, but here I am. I made it. I am a sh*t sorter extraodinaire. I deserve a medal.

    No, really. I do. Because today, for my last ever day, I tackled this:

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    The garage.

    Now I know what you’re thinking.
    Lady, you already sorted the garage.
    And that is true. You are correct. But the thing is I then continued to sort sh*t inside my home, which means that I found more things we didn’t need to keep. Which means I moved them to the garge. Which means – yeah, you know what that means. It means welcome to my Day 100.

    Because I want you to tell me I’m good, I’m going to tell you all the things I did:
    1. I turned the van around and rearranged all the carseats and made enough space to fit in all our unwanted sh*t as well as two small children.
    2. I loaded all the unwanted sh*t as well as two small children into the van.
    3. I drove to not one, but two different charity shops, because the first one was run by complete weirdos who didn’t want any second-hand clothing.
    4. I swept out the garage.
    5. I rearranged the garage.
    6. I took photos of all the items I’ve been saying I need to list on Trademe.
    7. I actually listed the items on Trademe.
    8. I did other things too but I can’t really remember what, but I didn’t want to stop this list at number seven, because that just felt weird.
    9. Did I mention I did all this while two small children were in my care?
    10. I did all this while two small children were in my care.

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    All in all it was a pretty big day. In fact, this has been a pretty big project. And even though I was the one who did all the hard sh*tty work, I want to thank you, the person reading this, for being a person who actually bothers to read my sh*t. I appreciate that, I really do.

    So what now for Fern? And what have I learned? Well, let’s start with the first question…

    For now I am moving on to daily vlogging. Not forever, not long-term (I understand that I’m not actually a famous YouTuber, you see), but for the month of December, or until Christmas at least, I’m going to pump out a new video every day at 8:30pm. This video here is Day One:

    As for what I’ve learned – I don’t even know where to start… I honestly feel like this project has changed me.

    I look at things now and I see them for what they are: Things. Objects. Items.

    I look at mess now and I recognise how it makes me feel: Stressed. Irritated. Overwhelmed.

    I look at the time now and I realise I have it in abundance: You can achieve a lot in a day. A morning. An hour.

    I look at myself and I know who I am. I know what I can do. I know what I will do. I can challenge myself, extend myself, improve myself. I can. I do. I am. I will.

    I dunno. Maybe I got a little carried away there… I’m sure I had some actual concrete lessons to share with you. Ah well. Screw it. It’s Day 100 and I am done.

    My sh*t has been sorted. F*ck yeah.

    – Fern xxx

    thelist-bade-new

     

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  • 100 Days Project
  • Sorting Sh*t Out – Day 99

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    It’s Day 99. It’s Day 99! I am so happy about this. I am so excited for this project to be finished. I mean, I am a little bit nervous that our house is going to slowly return to its old sh*tty state, but for the most part I’m all, Yessss.

    It’s going to feel good to be done.

    It doesn’t feel good to not be seeing out the last couple of days with something really impressive. But I dunno, I just can’t think of anything really big to sort. So today I settled for Mr. Three’s Thomas book collection.

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    I took a blurry photo. That’s embarrassing. But you can kind of see the sh*tty situation. The books were messy and some were ripped and also there were toys in the book drawer that shouldn’t have been in the book drawer.

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    So I put away the toys, and I sellotaped up the books, and I organised Mr. Three’s collection into neat little piles. Paperbacks went in the Thomas case. Hardcovers went in the front right-hand corner. Library books got tucked in at the back. Did I need to explain that? Probably not…

    I’ll try and do something spectacular tomorrow.

    – Fern xxx

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  • 100 Days Project
  • Sorting Sh*t Out – Day 98

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    Remember how yesterday I was all, I’ve pretty much checked out of this project already?

    Surprise! Today I was right back into it. By mid-morning I’d already decided what I wanted to get done. By lunchtime I’d made a start…

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    That’s what I was dealing with. One very sh*tty looking patch of driveway, complete with weeds and broken plant pot and pile of dirt and stones. People could see this from the street. How embarrassing.

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    But now we’re doing the neighbourhood proud. And I am doing myself proud. Even when I feel like I’ve got nothing left, I manage to do Big Things.

    Winning!

    – Fern xxx

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  • 100 Days Project
  • Sorting Sh*t Out – Days 96 and 97

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    I’m cramming two days into one blog post again, because the project is almost over so I’ve kind of mentally checked out already. You’d probably do the same, if you were me. In fact, you would do the same if you were me. Because I am me and that is what I’m doing. And if you were me then you would be me, you know? Yeah. It makes sense.

    So anyway, I have done more than two things, actually. It’s just that I didn’t take photos of the vege gardens that I weeded, or the vege bin I cleaned out. Plus those jobs felt kind of nothingish to me. You know, because I’m all on top of things these days. But let’s just get on with this, yeah?

    Okay. First thing. I went to the post office.

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    I’d just like to say that I hate going to the post office. But I did it. I got sh*t sorted and I did it. I posted a Super Special Secret Santa gift (eek!) and I posted an Incredibly Important Items package. The important items came from my secret gift cupboard, the cupboard I sorted earlier in this project. The important items are being donated to some important people who are having a tough time in life, and who need some help to have a Happy Christmas. I really like helping people to have a Happy Christmas.

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    Now there’s a bit more space in my bedroom. So that’s good too.

    Also good is that I got stuck into the Biggest Kid’s photo album again.

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    There were a lot of photos left to sort through. And there was no glue stick. So I just pulled out the double sided tape, and I put Jingle All The Way on the TV, and I got stuck in.

    It took forever (i.e. the entire duration of a PG-rated Christmas movie), but now that sh*t has been officially sorted too.

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    Only a couple of days left now…

    – Fern xxx

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  • 100 Days Project
  • Sorting Sh*t Out – Days 94 and 95

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    I feel bad. I didn’t blog on Day 94. I didn’t blog on Day 95. And now it’s Day 96 and I’m almost thinking that I may as well just give up.

    Why?

    Why?

    The truth is that there’s only so much sh*t sorting a person can do, especially if that person is attempting to solely sort physical sh*t in their actual home. I mean, yes, there are still plenty of things I could be tidying up; there are many more fences that could be waterblasted, and gardens that could be tamed, and cupboards that could be re-sorted. But the other half of the truth is that I feel like there’s no point doing the same things over and over, because how am I supposed to blog about that? And if I’m not blogging about it, then why bother? Why?

    The thing is, though, that I actually have been sorting some very important sh*t out. And when I first thought up this whole 100 Days Project idea my plan was to sort all sorts of things: to plan, to write lists, to organise myself. So it’s really kind of dumb that I’ve been choosing not to blog because I’ve deemed my efforts to be not sh*t sorty enough. I have been so sh*t sorty!

    Okay, what did you sort then? I hear you thinking. But you shouldn’t be thinking that, because the answer is obvious. Just look around! I have an entirely new website. An entirely new blog. And maybe for some of you that’s not that impressive, but for me, a person who tunes out anytime she has to read instructions, it is impressive. I worked hard. I bought a new domain name. I figured out how to install WordPress. I even managed to import all my posts from fernp.com over to thefernlife.co.nz, when I actually didn’t even know that was possible. So much sh*t has been sorted! So much progress has been made! I am actually a little bit clever sometimes (I mean, I’m not really, because I had to live chat support three times in the space of two hours, but I got there in the end).

    So this is me being okay with myself and my choices and my work. This is me proudly sharing with you that I chose not to sort any of the sh*t around my home in favour of focusing on achieveing something I’ve been wanting to achieve for a very, very long time. I am happy about that. I am happy about life. My life. The Fern Life. It’s just so goddamn satisfying these days…

    – Fern xxx

    fernlifesmaller

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  • Arts & Crafts
  • Easy DIY Advent Calendar Ideas

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    I like to pretend that I am really good at arts and crafts, but the truth is I’m really not. I’m not particularly patient, and I very rarely manage to get anything I make to end up looking like the creation I had envisioned. But, because I love Christmas so much, I usually end up giving crafty things a go at this time of year. It doesn’t always end well, but when it comes to advent calendars, it does. It really, really does.

    Last year I left the whole advent calendar thing until kind of the last minute. That meant I needed to come up with an idea that was super quick, super easy, and super shareable, because who wants to make three different advent calendars only a couple of days out from December 1st?

    In the end I decided I’d give the old Socks on a String idea a go. I’m pretty sure I spotted it on Pinterest originally. But I made it my own…


    The video quality isn’t the best, after all I’d only just started YouTubing and I was filming everything on my very crappy iPhone. But hey, the content is still acceptable. I think…

    The kids loved it. I loved it. Everyone was happy. And we probably would have been happy with the exact same sort of advent calendar again this year. But…

    I had this amazing idea after spotting a Christmas wreath inspired advent calendar on Pinterest.
    What if, I thought, I make a train-themed Christmas wreath inspired advent calendar, using Mr. Three’s Thomas tracks joined together in a circle?

    For some reason I am the sort of person who can’t think about anything else after she gets an idea like that. The next thing I knew I was obsessing over Thomas the Tank Engine wrapping paper, and phoning pretty much every shop in town to ask whether or not they stocked it. They all said no, but (to cut a long story short) Kmart was lying. So I bought Thomas the Tank Engine wrapping paper (from Kmart). And then, after a bit of trial and error, I put together a truly impressive advent calendar, using old cardboard rolls, paper, string, and a couple of corkboards. Genius!


    It’s not the shortest tutorial video ever, but it’s easy to follow and you’re encouraged to do things your way. It’s kind of fun, I reckon.

    So then I had an enormous DIY advent calendar for one of my four children, and nothing for the other three. Hmm. Well, the baby isn’t even quite one and a half yet, so I’ll just cross him off the advent list for this year. But the older two? Miss Eight and Miss Six? Yeah there’s no way in hell I could get away with not making them an advent calendar each. So I went back to Pinterest, and I pinned a few bits and pieces, and then I came up with a plan.

    For Miss Eight I created a Shopkins advent Christmas tree. It was so easy! I bought a tree for $5 (guess where I got it from), and then, after hiding a wee Shopkins surprise inside each one, I wrapped 24 cardboard rolls in pink paper with white spots, carefully taping a loop of string to the roll first. After whacking a number on the front of each parcel, I hung them on the tree. And then, because I am clever, I wrapped an extra roll in the same paper, and taped a Shopkins sign to it. Ta da! Done!

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    So that left one child needing an advent calendar. I just had to come up with one more idea…

    Turns out I had an old, square frame just hanging out in the garage. I’d been planning on donating it, but the glass broke under the weight of all the other donations so I’d been forced to bring it back home from the charity shop with me. At the time I was annoyed, but suddenly the smashed glass was practically the best thing that had ever happened to me.

    I took the frame and filled it with a piece of thick, gift wrapped cardboard. Then I took 24 more cardboard rolls (smaller ones this time), wrapped them in the paper too, and hot-glued them to the board. After tucking more Shopkins surprises inside, I glued square sheets of wrapping paper to the top of the rolls, and popped a loom band over each one to hold the paper down, like a cute little jar of jam. Once they were all numbered, and I’d added some themesy fun to the frame, my masterpiece was complete.

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    Miss Six reckons it looks like an advent calendar you could buy at a shop. High praise, indeed!

    So the moral of this story is that even if you are handicraftily challenged, you too can make your own advent calendar that actually looks kinda, sorta coolish. You too can post photos of your creations on Instagram and have your friends leave you comments that include the hashtag winningatparenting. You too can live The Fern Life.

    It’s really fun, I promise*.

    – Fern xxx

    *I can’t actually promise that, because to be honest I didn’t have that much fun making these advent calendars. But it was fun enough. And also it gave me an excuse to think about Christmas even more than I already have been. So you know, we all win in the end.

    Let me know if you want more detailed instructions for how to make either (or both) of the Shopkins themed advent calendars! 

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  • 100 Days Project
  • Sorting Sh*t Out – Days 92 and 93

    Sh*t I Purchased Recently

    I didn’t write my blog post yesterday. So sue me. It’s just that ever since daylight savings kicked in our evenings have been getting away on us, and that means that sometimes (most times) I don’t even start thinking about sorting my sh*t out until it’s already Very Late. And another thing that happens is that sh*t sorting ends up taking a lot longer than I tell myself it will take. And also I promised the husband I would spend some actual real time with him last night. So basically everything was working against me, and I went to bed without blogging. No ragrets.

    It’s funny though, because I was kind of planning to start this post off by saying that Day 92 and Day 93 were very, very different. But then I realised they were very, very similar, because what happened is that I bought all these things and then I just put them down and forgot about them. So while the actual work was quite different, the origins were the same. All the shopping, all the time. This is how I choose to live my life.

    So yesterday. I decided I’d better sort through all the things I’d bought from Kmart, because they had taken over my wardrobe.

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    It took forever and I got grumpy. But it’s done now.

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    Oh but wait, there was other sh*t I’d bought from other shops all over the bed too…

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    And that is why it took me so long to get it all sorted.

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    Today I moved onto less exciting purchases: Bug control systems.

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    Will they work? Probably bloody not, but they were on special at the supermarket and so I thought, Why the hell not?

    Ordinarily a good response to that thought would have been, Because you’ll never get around to taking them out of the boxes, woman. But let’s face it, that woman is gone. And in her place is me. Fern. Sh*t sorter extraodinaire.

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    See?

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    I even set up the outdoor one that I’d told the husband he had to do. I’m amazing like that.

    – Fern xxx


    In case you’re interested, in this video I show off almost all the things I bought at Kmart. 

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  • 100 Days Project
  • Sorting Sh*t Out – Day 91 (The REAL Day 91)

    My Crafts Box

    Back when I sorted out the bottom half of my linen cupboard, I shoved all my crafting crap into a massive plastic storage box. I attempted to put my sewing machine in with it all, but it didn’t fit. In fact, even without the sewing machine, it was a struggle to get the lid on.

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    I was happy enough with this set up at the time, but now that I’m the sh*t sorting queen I know better. I could do better. This box of crafting crap needed to be sorted.

    I haven’t mentioned it before now because it’s kind of embarrassing, but sorting out sh*t like this stresses me out. When I start going through all the crap I own and find that I don’t actually know what the hell I should do with any of it I start getting hot. Really hot. Like sweaty forehead and armpits kinda hot. And then I start to feel irritated. And then, if I don’t manage to stop and think and acknowledge the fact that I am feeling stressed, I end up going a little bit mental.

    Thankfully I didn’t actually go mental today. But I came close. I felt myself get hot and irritated and then I thought, Screw it, just throw this sh*t away.

    Yes!

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    The sewing machine is inside that box now. And so is my gigantic sewing machine caddy type thing. And so is a good five inches of empty space, that could be filled but that I’m planning not to fill. Less sh*t, less stress. It’s funny cos it’s true.

    – Fern xxx

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