Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Taking Stock









Things have been a little off-kilter the last few days (weeks?) as we've walked our way through Easter and a billion public holidays, weird working weeks and semester break, more job applications and interviews, weird news and sad news, crazy, crazy deadlines for other people's work and deadlines for my own things starting to loom menacingly over my workspace. So I'm taking a little breather and taking stock a la Pip at Meet Me At Mikes and Stacey at The Veggie Mama.

Making: something completely freestyle for a special someone who may or may not read this blog. It's a largish, long-term sewing project that makes my heart a little giddy and my fingers a little sore when I work on it. I think after this, I'm going to teach myself to use the sewing machine.
Cooking: Dan Dan Noodles and embracing a little more chili in my life
Drinking: soda water because there aren't a lot of savoury drinks with bubbles that don't contain alcohol.
Reading: my little stack of birthday books. Now they're finished I'm lost for what to dive into next.
Wanting: a tropical holiday with a couple of hours to myself laying on a beach with a good book.
Looking: at the clock and counting hours of sleep I'm not getting.
Playing: trains. Always.
Deciding: what to get done first. This has involves more than a little procrastifacing the last few days.
Wishing: I hadn't started yesterday's job interview by calling one of the panel members by the wrong name. Mortified given two of the essential job criteria were accuracy and attention to detail.
Enjoying: Nap time
Waiting: for a phone call with further details of a job offer I received.
Liking: the idea of being more fully employed.
Wondering: how I'm going to juggle three jobs plus these motherhood and wifey gigs.
Loving: my long-suffering and eternally busy Lovely Husband and my hilarious Dear Boy.
Pondering: time and productivity. Again.
Considering: what to cook for my next Meatless Monday post.
Watching: a really disturbing show on SBS On Demand called What Happens at Sunny Beach during a lunch break/nap time. The latest episode's title says it all really - 'Any hole's a goal'. My nightmare beach holiday scenario.
Hoping: Dear Boy never goes on holiday in Bulgaria.
Marvelling: at the light in my backyard as the heavy rain clouds make midday seems like dusk.
Needing: a non-sentient housekeeper. I can't keep on top of all of the dust in this house but don't particularly want someone else wandering around in my space.
Smelling: rosemary. Great big chunks of it hacked from the bushes at the front and back door now sit in vases around the house.
Wearing: my first pair of black skinny leg pants. How many years has it taken to find a pair that fit
Following: fictional characters on Twitter, especially @WillMcAvoyACN, the anchor from Aaron Sorkin's The Newsroom. The 28-year-old who writes there isn't in any way connected to the show but works the character so well, I tend to head there for analysis of US and world news (okay - and to watch the way he smashes through people's idiotic opinions). One hell of a creative writing exercise.
Noticing: the cowlicks on my son's crown.
Knowing: more than I ever cared to about childcare exclusions. Just so you know too, if your child has (had) leprosy, you can send them back to care after approval from the appropriate health authority (who knows who that is in Australia given we have no cases of leprosy here). You may or may not be pleased to know that there's absolutely no need to exclude your child from care if they have Legionnaire's Disease. Just drop them off and head on back to work. Riiiiiiight.
Thinking: about case studies for a Masters unit I'm meant to be teaching soon.
Feeling: a little anxious already about starting this new job. Rock steady on the skills front; unfamiliar with specific content area and policies and procedures.
Admiring: my husband's attitude to new situations
Sorting: old clothes, new clothes, fat clothes, skinny clothes.
Buying: stamps for birthday cards. I'm trying, really I am. I've got the address right this time. 
Getting: a birthday card from little brothers.
Bookmarking: next month's Intentional Play ideas/pins
Disliking: whatever the issue is that has been making my browser/Internet freeze and crash intermittently over the last few months. Over it. 
Giggling: over Dear Boy's one-liners. Kid's got this completely unintentional comic timing.
Coveting: greater aplomb to deal with uncertainty.
Helping: myself to the last of the Easter eggs.

How are things over at your place post Easter? Have you taken stock recently?

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Breasts and Bottles: Shielded



One of the most popular posts on this blog is this one, where I talk about my own experience with (attempting) breastfeeding and formula feeding Dear Boy. Quite a few of the ladies who find their way here seem to come via a search for a baby-feeding story that resonates with their own experience. With this new Breasts and Bottles series, I'm keen to share some of those other stories. I've asked friends and family and strangers to send me the story of their own experience with feeding their babies. Because if a first-time pregnant lady asks me about my breastfeeding experience, I want to be able to offer something other than just my own rawness. I would have loved to know, back then, that there's no one right way to do this (I would have also liked to know that formula-feeding wasn't a bad choice, it's just a choice - although I deal with that in my own post). This next story is from S, who did battle with nipple shields and a complete cow of a community nurse.

***

I wasn’t worried about breastfeeding at all until Bub was born and he just wouldn’t latch onto my breast. No-one seemed very worried about it and I just kept trying. But my nipples ended up blistered and bleeding because of the bad latch. I was covered in Lansinoh and putting cold packs on my breasts afterwards, but they weren’t healing and it just kept being painful anytime Bub’s mouth touched me. A Mothercare nurse gave me a nipple shield to try and it was much better. It gave my nipples a chance to heal (oh, and that is so gross – the skin on my nipples peeled off before they got better). I bought some nice thin ones when I left the hospital, the Medela ones, and just kept using them at home.

When the community nurse came to visit she was really demanding that I didn’t use it, and basically threw it away and spent an hour with us, trying to jam Bub’s mouth onto my breast. She said he’d never get enough milk with a shield and would start to get unhealthy. I just felt like such a failure after her visit I cried and cried even though Bub’s always been fine with weight and wet nappies and all of that. But my husband told me to just use the shield again if that’s what I felt comfortable with. Basically he said it’s either use it or give up breast feeding if I didn’t want to keep trying without it.

I’m so glad I listened to him and not that nurse. I saw a proper lactation consultant a few weeks later who was much more supportive. Instead of being negative about the shield, she helped me see that if it was helping me continue to breastfeed then it’s not a big no-no. Because I did want to stop using the shield eventually (cause it is a pain having to always have it on hand and mess around with it whenever he wants to feed), she taught me some techniques I could try when I felt comfortable, stuff like starting with the shield then removing it after a few minutes and getting him to latch back on. It didn’t work at all the first few times but maybe once a week I’d give it a go and sometimes he would latch and sometimes he wouldn’t.

I finally weaned him off the shield at four and a half months old when his mouth was obviously bigger and I think my breasts were softer from a couple of months of feeding. Now we’ve been going for nine months. Without the shield, we wouldn’t have lasted anywhere near this long.

***

If you'd also like to share your breastfeeding story, short or long, happy or sad, boring or weird, please email me at: lilybett[at]gmail[dot]com 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Meatless Monday: Quest for the perfect rice paper roll

Meatless Monday, vegetarian, rice paper roll

I am not a sushi person. Besides not eating seafood, I'm not a huge fan of nori or the sugary rice. And those weirdly coloured bean-curd wraps just weird me out. But rice paper rolls are something else. In summer or just in general, they're a great lightweight meal - lunch, dinner, whatever. Full of fresh veg, a smattering of protein, and a handful of noodles. No oven required.

But few shops actually sell them and they are a bit fiddly to make. And entirely messy. And a complete pain if you lack bench space.

Or so I thought.

When a Roll'd open at our local shopping centre and I devoured my weight in tofu rolls (and the odd banh mi), I was determined to figure out the secret of rolling your own at home: a quest, if you will, for the perfect rice paper roll. I've had a few goes now and I'm ready to deliver on a few of the secrets I've uncovered.

Meatless Monday, rice paper roll, vegetarian, tofu






Secret no 1. Go easy on the water. One of the most fiddly parts of making a rice paper roll is managing the rice paper without tearing it or folding it over on itself in weird ways. The professionals, it seems, only give the rice paper the barest of dunks in water: a few seconds and then a swipe at the excess water. Pull them out while they're still crunchy as they keep softening while you work them on a bench.

The same thing applies to the rice noodles. I like to use day-old or leftover noodles that have had a chance to dry out and get a little sticky. Fresh cooked and they're likely to still hold a lot of water that can dilute the flavours of your rice paper roll.

Secret no 2. Scatter the rice paper with a good strong and aromatic herb. Thai basil or Vietnamese mint are fantastic (although the regular varieties are also good). These give a complex flavour through the mouth and nose without resorting to artificial sauces or flavourings.

Secret no 3. Use a combination of veggie cuts. Don't grate all the veg; don't slice it all into sticks. Go for a variety of long, short, fine, fat-wedged, etc.

Secret no 4. Extra crunch is a must. You're not only layering flavours but textures. If you're using tofu, fry that sucker up. Scatter some toasted sesame seeds amongst the herbs. The noodles give enough softness to the rolls.

Secret no 5. The best crunch and my new must-have are fried onions/shallots. These babies give it that extra push towards authenticity, or store-boughtedness that I sometimes search for. I buy mine at the local Chinese grocer rather than making my own.

There is no secret to the actual rolling part itself. Just fold in the sides and go. Don't be afraid of fat or stumpy rolls: they taste just the same. I'm going for perfection in realms outside the aesthetic here.

I love these as they are or will make up a little dipping sauce of soy, sweet chilli and lime juice. A little sweet soy or hoisin also works in a pinch.

Meatless Monday, rice paper roll, vegetarian, tofu

Have you ever watched a professional at work and then tried to replicate it at home? How'd it work for you? These are delicious - give them a try.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Intentional Play (April): All Eastered out


I'll admit I'm already worn out with this month's Intentional Play theme. Easter's a much bigger holiday than any of the others we've included so far and with an abundance of craft and activities, our little house has been littered with (plastic/cardboard) eggs, fluffy chicks and rabbits. The eggs and chicks above were my well-lets-see-if-this-works centrepiece for an Easter dinner with friends. I adore the subtle green of that egg in the middle although these are really a great big Pinterest fail after attempting ombre eggs and those suckers just not standing up in a cup and my dyes not being serious enough for the job.





In an attempt to avoid a diabetic coma, I've included all manner of non-consumables in our Easter Egg hunt. These little chicks aren't all that durable (eeep, scary faceless chicks!) but they added some serious cute to the festivities. Dear Boy cradled them ever so gently in his chubbsy little fists hands and came running back to me with each one (only somewhat smooshed).


Even trying to cut down, we still ended up with a metric crap-tonne of chocolate. Family and friends kept appearing with shiny, foiled-wrapped bunnies and eggs. Now my wardrobe is housing the bulk of the leftovers and will soon be (mostly) rehoused to the work kitchenette where they'll be devoured by hangry academics in search of sugar.

That poor boy of mine crashed pretty hard after an egg or two right after breakfast and was parked in front of a happy, cheery music DVD until he calmed the eff down. Afterwards we took down the toilet-roll bunnies he'd helped me make last week and he discovered the most definitely non-chocolate bits and pieces I'd hidden in the middle: a small stash of crayons and a few printed Easter Bilby pictures for colouring and drawing all over. Perfect for a little vegemite in need of a few sugar-free moments of calm.

Have you had a very chocolate-y Easter? Do you have any non-chocolate Easter traditions (I'm on the look out for more of those for next year)?

Saturday, April 19, 2014

New (Australian) Songs on a Saturday Morning: Lenka

As part of my ongoing effort to increase the range of my cultural consumption, I undertook a challenge to listen to a metric crap-tonne of new songs. I hit that goal at the end of January, notching up a cool 1000 new songs. My favourites can be found here. But after all was said and done, I was feeling a little bereft without the project to work on. It was there, humming in the background of this blog for so long, that it felt like a friend had moved away. I noticed when I was going through my favourites list that there were quite a few Australians featured, so I thought I might make myself a new project, aiming to listen to more local artists and showcase some of the ones I included on my list. This week I am moving on to more of Lenka.

Lenka is one of Lovely Husband's wispy voiced ladies that he listens to. I think he's especially enamoured with this one because she hosted Cheez TV back in the day (not to mention GP and a small stints on Home and Away, Wildside and All Saints), which I guess may have fuelled a few early teen fantasies. Who knows. I included her single, 'The Show', at number 68.


She's got a fair passel of quirk about her and it works. Especially here, in 'Everything at Once', with a carnival/carousel wurlitzer humming in the background. I'm not sure I'd feel the same about it though after hearing it in the new Windows 8 ad.


I'm in love with the little cuties in this video, face-painted and ready to play. I'm also a little in love with this tune: 'Heart to the Party'.


Finally, 'Two' is a little piece of happy-clappy-ness. Some days I'm all about the happy-clappy.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Science of the Clothesline: Drying optimisation, peg-mark reduction and time/space efficiency


** Warning ** I’m about to spend quite a long time talking about hanging washing on a clothesline. Bear with me.

When I was younger I read the book Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank and Ernestine Gilbreth. I had a thing about big families, but this family was even more interesting because their parents Frank Bunker Gilbreth Snr and his wife Lillian Gilbreth were some of the earliest experts in scientific management or time and motion studies – essentially how to do things more efficiently.

The Gilbreths applied this to their home life, using all twelve of their kids as guinea pigs for time and motion observations. This applied to chores, homework, dressing and bathing – to maximise what would otherwise be wasted time bathing, the children all listened to gramophone recordings of language lessons, to learn French or Latin while scrubbing their dirty feet.

I later taught a class on organisations, technology and change with a basic overview of some of the earliest organisational studies, including that of the Gilbreths and others working to make workers (labourers and factory workers mostly) work faster. The Gilbreth’s focus was not just on increasing work speed like colleague Frederick Winslow Taylor (Faster! Faster! Faster!), but also on worker welfare by increasing productivity or efficiency by reducing the number of motions or the amount of energy needed to perform a task. They filmed workers and analysed posture as well as the number and nature of motions. This video is one of their films with the recommendations included.

As a new mum, a lot of these ideas kept coming back to me. How do I maximise productivity with the least amount of energy expenditure – because, essentially, I was buggered simply from looking after the baby. Every other household chore on top of that was a weight around my neck.

Hanging out the washing feels like an exception to me, though. It’s one of the ones I like. I am not at all a fan of folding and putting away the clothes afterwards, but some days the only time I went outside and took time to breathe was putting the clothes on the line. And while hanging, I pondered the nature of the Gilbreths’ work and how I could apply their methods to this small part of my day. I pondered it a lot. And then I hypothesized, which was really the slippery slope down into this (quasi-scientific) study of hanging clothes. There were no other humans involved in this study so no ethics clearance was sought or granted.  

***

There are a few different issues at play when hanging washing. And like that building trinity (faster, better, cheaper: where you can only ever have two of the three at any one time), there are some overlaps but generally, these issues are antithetical when it comes to how you hang your clothes:

  • Faster drying
  • Space saving
  • Time saving
  • Avoiding peg marks
I should mention that this is an Australian study, so refers to my bloody awesome Hills Hoist (a rotary clothesline) rather than single or parallel lines strung between poles or attached to buildings, etc (although some of these ideas may still apply). Indoor clothes horses or drying racks have their own issues – we use these in winter, but there’s a completely different science at work with indoor drying.

Faster drying

Let’s start with physics, or centrifugal forces, to be exact... or not... seeing as it’s not a real force at all but the inertia of motion (Lovely Husband is muttering that I mean centripetal forces but that’s not quite what I’m after and bugger it, the formula is the same for both: Fc = mv2/r, if you’re interested, and cause I wanted to show I did some research). What is boils down to is rotary clotheslines are flipping awesome because they spin. Not only do they offer the opportunity for general wind effects (as on other lines) but they also allow centrifugal (not real) forces to act on the washing.

In terms of our issue here (faster drying), what is important is that the drying effect is greater/faster the further the object is placed from the central tether. In essence, if there is any line movement at all, stuff hung on the furthest lines from the centre will be dry faster than equal stuff hung closer to the centre. Combine this centrifugal force with the fact that items hung on the outer line have a greater exposure to sun (less chance of  shadow from other items) and you’re laughing.

Where: If you have a single load and a hint of breeze – hang it all on the outer lines; if you have multiple loads, hang bulkier items on the outer lines and smaller, lighter items on the inner ones.

Using our basic formula for line placement (that Greater Movement = Faster Drying Time or GM=FDT), we can then extrapolate optimal peg/item configurations to achieve faster drying times. Given pegs limit movement, greater distance from the peg would allow greater movement. If both of these things are true, then distancing dense, bulky or layered fabrics from the peg would ensure faster drying time overall. On trousers, for example, the layered fabric of the waistband and pockets dries more slowly than other areas. It follows then that pegging trousers by the hems of the trouser legs (with a minimal fold over the line) would allow greater movement of the thickest areas, and thereby ensure faster drying time for the garment overall.

How: Keep pegs away from the thickest folds, layers or parts of the garment. Peg to allow these areas greater movement

Other examples:
  • T-shirts, jumpers and hoodies – peg at the hemline to allow greater movement around the armpits, shoulders and collar
  • Undies - peg at the hip to allow greater air flow through the gusset/crotch and the waistband
  • Socks – variable depending on thickness/type of sock; I use Bonds Cushion Feet which have thicker fabric around the foot, so are hung by one side of the top – this leaves the sock ‘open’ to more airflow

 Space saving

Ever played Tetris? Sometimes hanging multiple loads of washing on a single rotary line feels a lot like that. Ideally, you would have an awesomely windy and scorchingly hot day that'd allow you dry a single load of washing before the next had finished its cycle. But unless it’s February or you live some place like Marble Bar in WA, chances are you’re going to have to shuffle, rearrange or think ahead.

Some items (but not all) lend themselves to being folded or otherwise manipulated in order to minimise their hanging size. Thin and flat items like hankies, tea-towels or bed sheets, for example, can be folded by length or width and then pegged for drying. Other thin items such as business trousers or cotton pants can be folded in half, reducing their hanging space to a single leg-width. Problematic here is that folded items may require refolding in order to expose and dry the inner fabric areas and avoid longer drying times.

An alternative strategy is to make creative use of space, rejecting standard procedure to hang items along the length of a single line. Hanging single items across parallel lines, for instance, dramatically increases the number of items that can be hung in that same space. Even allowing for a slightly smaller inner line, engaging parallel lines permits me to hang up to twenty adult sized t-shirts and shirts with a 10cm gap, compared to 8.5 similar items hanging along the length of the same two lines. This method does increase peg-mark visibility owing to a slight twist in the fabric as you peg to a line running perpendicular to the garment.

How: minimise hanging size or choose alternate hanging methods

Other examples:
  • Business/school shirts/t-shirts – can be hung on coat hangers and placed on the line to dry as they would be placed on a wardrobe rack (pegs placed between hangers can prevent them from sliding and bunching together). This method can help reduce the need for ironing
  • Trousers/jeans – can be hung on clip hangers by the waistband or by the hems of the legs (any trousers that require crisp pleats can be hung using this method to avoid ironing them in)
  •  Underwear and socks – can be hung on a separate clip rack like this or pegged along a wire coat hanger, both of which can then be hung on the clothesline

Time saving

According to the traditional time and motion studies, minimising the number and length of movements while maximising their efficiency helps to reduce overall time needed to perform a task. In terms of hanging the washing and the time spent actually hanging items (as opposed to time spent drying items), this means considering the placement of the basket of clothes and pegs, manipulation of clothes and pegs as well as sorting subsystems.

As in the Gilbreth’s video of bricklayers, bending to ground level to pick up single items is incredibly inefficient whether you’re hoping to get a brick wall built or clothes hung on a line. Raising the clothes basket on a chair, bench or trolley limits the range of motion necessary to pick up clothes and hence speeds up the process.

Picking up multiple items can also increase speed, depending on individual abilities to manipulate pegs or a pre-distribution of pegs on the line (leaving pegs on a line can speed up the process of hanging if they are distributed at appropriate distances along the line for the size of the garment that needs to be hung, effectively eliminating peg gathering from the equation). To reduce peg decay and breakage, I choose to remove pegs from the line and keep them indoors between uses. As such, I acquire both pegs and clothes with each motion. From considered observation, I know I am only able to hold and manipulate a maximum of six wooden pegs at any given time and therefore pick up a number of items requiring said number of pegs. This may be, for example, three t-shirts (3 items x 2 pegs) or six socks or pieces of underwear (6 items x 1 peg). Slinging these items across a shoulder, they are immediately available for hanging rather than requiring additional motions to the basket.

Motion efficiency can also be found in the greater scheme of hanging, utilizing zones and sorting subsystems. As you remove clothes from the washing machine, doing a quick sort of items (putting clothes in a smaller to larger or larger to smaller order into the basket) can assist in maintaining a single direction for hanging starting at either the outer or inner lines (depending on how you have sorted your clothing into the basket). This effectively limits the number of motions needed to reach different parts of the line, if you move the raised clothes basket with each movement to another line (a trolley with wheels will also reduce energy expenditure here).

How: pre-sort items into the basket; raise clothes and peg baskets from ground level; observe personal peg manipulation and adjust number of items accordingly; work in a single direction

Other things to consider:
  • Do you want to sling wet washing across your shoulder? If no, then reduce the number of items to what you can carry in your non-peg hand.
  • Assistants can greatly reduce hanging time by handing you clothes and pegs. This is only a time saving if assistants are well-trained and unlikely to drop clean clothes on the ground.

Avoiding peg marks

Peg marks are a contentious category. Rather than being one of concern over time, space or energy savings, this one’s mostly personal preference or vanity for how one looks or presents to the world. Regardless, I think it’s a category that’s influenced and been handed down to quite a few women.

There are a number of ways to eliminate concern for peg marks entirely: use a tumble dryer, hang clothes on a line without pegs or to stop caring about having peg marks on your clothes. Not all of these are viable options though. In order to reduce marks on clothes hung on a line with pegs, there are two primary strategies: place pegs in places where marks won’t be seen or employ pads or buffers to reduce the pressure of the peg on the garment.

Placing pegs in places where marks won’t be seen is a fine art. It’s an art I learned from my own mother who had a tremendous collection of 80s and 90s business clothes that she didn’t wish to be sullied (and were probably a bit dangerous to put inside a hot tumble dryer). I was taught, for instance, to peg trousers and skirts along the back waistband, t-shirts under the armpits and button-up shirts at the side-seams of the hemline. There are compromises here, though, in terms of drying time given reduced movement of thicker fabrics and increased folds over the line.

An alternative (although one that compromises on hanging time and drying time to a lesser extent) is the use of make-shift pads to act as a buffer between the fabric and the peg. The pad needed really depends on the fabric of the garment but I’ve used dry wash clothes, folded garment bags and even breast pads that have sprung loose from swimmers.

How: place pegs in places where the marks won’t be seen or use make-shift pads to buffer garment fabric.

Other examples:

  • Hanging some garments inside out can reduce visible peg marks
  • Hang shirts, t-shirts or dresses on coat hangers
  • Dresses – hang under the armpits
  • Underpants (?!) or swimmers – by the gusset or crotch
  • Socks and tights – by the toes
Hanging clothes on the line is such a weirdly personal thing. Not only are you hanging up items that touch your skin and the skin of your loved ones, but techniques are generally handed down from parent to child (or parent to adult-child, if they're lazy as). Most of us have pegged automatically and in the same way for years. 

Do you have a strategy for how to hang your clothes? Does it save you time or space, reduce peg marks or help the clothes dry more quickly? Did you learn it from your own mum? 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Breasts and Bottles: Different kids, different experiences



One of the most popular posts on this blog is this one, where I talk about my own experience with (attempting) breastfeeding and formula feeding Dear Boy. Quite a few of the ladies who find their way here seem to come via a search for a baby-feeding story that resonates with their own experience. When there's quite a lot of shame or guilt or anxiety surrounding formula-feeding, it's not really that surprising that sometimes these stories are hard to find. They're hard to tell. I wept writing my own down as I relived the rawness of those months. 

My story, though, isn't unique. There are plenty of other women who've struggled: some struggled on through and kept breastfeeding, some turned to pumping and bottle feeding only; and some went down the formula route. But my story is also not typical. There are still plenty of women who have great breastfeeding experiences, for whom it is natural and easy, or for whom it becomes second nature. There are some women who never tried to breastfeed but went straight to formula for a variety of reasons. There are some who tandem feed their newborns and older children. There are some who fully breastfeed their twins. There are some who formula-fed one child and breast-fed the next or vice versa. So many experiences in so many different permutations. 

With this new Breasts and Bottles series, I'm keen to share some of those other stories. I've asked friends and family and strangers to send me the story of their own experience with feeding their babies. Because if a first-time pregnant lady asks me about my breastfeeding experience, I want to be able to offer something other than just my own rawness. I would have loved to know, back then, that there's no one right way to do this (I would have also liked to know that formula-feeding wasn't a bad choice, it's just a choice - although I deal with that in my own post). I started this series with a post on donor milk, but now I want to turn it over to other mums (and dads too) to tell their stories, stories that are deeply personal and yet universal. This first story is from T, who is a champion among women for taking the time to write and share it. Thank you.

***

I began the breastfeeding process when my Sweet Daughter was born in 2009. I was anxious I wouldn’t get it right or that I wouldn’t be able to feed her due to a teenage decision about having nipple piercings. Either that or I would be squirting milk in 6 different directions.

We began breastfeeding within an hour or two of birth. At first it was just the two of us taking a stab at how this would work; we thought we had it worked out. We were wrong. Later that evening, for the next feed, I remember a nurse manually manipulating my nipples into the right shape for sweet daughter to latch on. It was a little confronting having a woman I didn’t know touching my breasts but the latch we got from this was much better and sweet daughter had a good feed. Over the coming days we thought we were doing OK, we mustn’t have been. My nipples were sore and my left nipple looked like someone had taken a knife and tried to cut it off. I had a big split across the top. Yes, I was sore but the feeds themselves weren’t hurting me which is the part they tell you indicates it's a latching issue. It was only after the feeds that would cause me any pain. 

This went on for three or four days and it wasn’t until Sweet Daughter emptied the contents of her stomach onto a towel and there was blood in the vomit, that I freaked out. This wasn’t normal, or so I thought. I rang the ABA and after a short conversation they had me reassured that it was normal, she was just rejecting the milk due to the blood content from my cut nipples that she swallowed while feeding. I made an appointment for a lactation community nurse to come visit me the following day. 

She was wonderful. She watched me do a feed with Sweet Daughter and then offered her advice. She changed my sitting position: what a difference an extra pillow makes! I was bringing my breast to the baby too much. I had E sized cups originally, and when milk comes in you can only imagine how much bigger they got. It seemed easier to arch my back down to her than to bring her higher. She also explained how to correctly shape my nipple prior to letting her latch. My husband watched too which, in the coming days, made such a difference to my mental state. I was told I had to correct Sweet Daughter's method. Yes, she was feeding but I was in pain and it should be painless. Both of us spent the following few days crying, Sweet Daughter because she was frustrated that I was removing her from my nipple if she didn’t get it right and me because it was hurting to put her on and take her off, not to mention the hormones your body goes through within a week of giving birth. I would get my husband to help me get it right: he would correct either of our positions or tell me if my nipple looked to be the correct shape or if I was holding my nipple in the correct position before letting sweet daughter latch.

What an improvement! Within two days she was feeding correctly, my nipples had all but healed and we were all feeling so much better. We didn’t want our children to use dummies, but the community nurse had told me that sweet daughter was comfort suckling on me as well as feeding which was contributing heavily to the poor latch. So now we had a baby who fed correctly and would take a dummy to soothe those comforts. The rest was a breeze for me with Sweet Daughter.

I had wanted to feed her for 12 months up to about 18 months. By the age of nine to ten months she was down to one feed daily, first thing in the morning after she woke. At 12 months and one week she weaned herself. It took three days, and by the third day she flat out refused the boob and we were done. I was proud of my efforts.

In February 2012 my monster-sized boy was born. He was 4.5kg and hungry! Within minutes of birth he was searching for boob: this time round I knew what I was doing although I had doubts. But he latched perfectly and fed for the first 2 hours of his life. It was another six hours before he took another feed and the ward nurses were pressuring me to feed him again after two hours. He didn’t want it. I knew he was full and needed his sleep, I just knew. When he woke he fed perfectly again and we never once had an issue.

Here we are: Monster Boy is now two years and two months and still occasionally breastfeeding. For about nine months we have just been doing a feed as soon as he wakes as he weaned himself off the other feeds. I had given myself a limit of two years, not thinking we would reach it. But when two years rolled around and he was still interested and we weren’t hurting anyone, the bonding continued. 

This is our special connection. I wont force him to finish. It won't last much longer: he fed this morning for the first time in four days. He only receives it if he asks for “boobies”. He only ever asks first thing in the morning and on the rare occasion I’ve forgotten or am unavailable to feed him there isn’t a second thought on his behalf. Surely my milk is running out when he only feeds every few days (??). I’m OK with this. I achieved what I set out to achieve. For me, personally, this was: breast milk in all instances, no formula and no bottles. I haven’t expressed once in the three years (total) I have breastfed. These are my choices, no one else’s and we all do what works for us individually.

***

If you'd also like to share your breastfeeding story, short or long, happy or sad, boring or weird, please email me at: lilybett[at]gmail[dot]com 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Egg Hunting Practice: Non-chocolate fillers and games

Easter eggs, plastic eggs, intentional play, egg hunt, toddler fun

Can I just say a two year old with basket in hand and a pair of bunny ears on his head is just about the cutest thing ever. We've been "practicing" hunting for eggs for the last few days and Dear Boy is digging it. As part of our Intentional Play theme for this month, we've been talking Easter, bunnies and bilbies as well as that old chicken and the egg chestnut. So after a week or so of playing with his set of wooden eggs (a matching game with each half of the egg sporting a different animal and Velcro) I pulled out the dozen plastic eggs I'd picked up for $2 in a junk shop. As the rain's set in and it's less fun outside, these have been such a godsend, giving us something fun to do inside that doesn't involve wheels (okay, maybe it involves wheels - read on, McDuff).

I've taken to filling these hollow eggs with little bits and pieces from around the house, and then hiding them in a single room. He gets so excited by the prospect that he actually waits patiently in the kitchen or his bedroom while I hide them -no peeking attempts at all. Patient little bunny that he is. Sometimes he needs clues and sometimes he opens each one as he goes, but he hasn't tired of it yet.

The eggs are a game in and of themselves, with opening and closing them taking a fair bit of concentration and fine-motor skill, but here's my list of stuffers:*

  • pompoms
  • scrunched crepe paper balls from a previous craft project
  • little animals
  • pictures cut from old magazines or junk mail
  • small cars (okay, so there are wheels involved sometimes)
  • small soft toys
  • handkerchiefs or squares of coloured fabric/silks
  • bouncy balls
  • stickers
  • shells
  • non-valuable items from my jewellery box (old bracelets or necklaces)
  • crackers/dried fruit/popcorn (although then you have to wipe them out really well)
  • little fluffy chicks (these are his favourite) 
Getting a bit more complex, I've also stuffed the eggs with components for playing the next game or doing another activity. There are so many options here:*

  • pieces from his Leapfrog matching game (putting the halves in the same coloured eggs)
  • jingle bells
  • big wooden beads (which turns into a threading game)
  • real or cardboard coins (which turns into 'shopkeeper' game)
  • blocks/Duplo
  • letter/number magnets
  • finger puppets
  • playdough
  • crayons (the broken ones) and bunny/chick/bilby themed colouring-in pages (cut to size and folded)
The only thing we specifically purchased were the eggs themselves and the little fluffy chicken (a set of 9 for $2 at the same junkshop). Everything else were just bits and pieces I've scrounged from around the house. I think $4 for several hours of play is a bargain.

What else would you use as a filler? Please leave your suggestions in the comments.


*All of these items are small (by necessity given the size of the eggs). Please use your judgement about your child's propensity to swallow small items and choking hazards.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Black Beetle

My boy and I were poking in the dirt when a little black beetle poked its head out of a hole and scuttled into our field of view. And from the depths of my long-past childhood, from a funny book with a tattered dust jacket, this came flowing out my mouth:

I found a little beetle; so that Beetle was his name.
And I called him Alexander and he answered just the same.
I put him in a match-box, and I kept him all the day...
And Nanny let me beetle out,
Yes, Nanny let my beetle out,
She went and let my beetle out,
And beetle ran away.

She said she didn't mean it, and I never said she did,
She said she wanted matches and she just took off the lid.
She said that she was sorry, but it's difficult to catch
An excited sort of beetle you've mistaken for a match...

-AA Milne ('Forgiven')*

There's even a song version of it by Melanie (of 'Brand New Key' fame). If you have small people, I highly recommend Now We Are Six (or When We Were Very Young), if you're after a bunch of short or long poems for children. 


* There are several more verses but, for copyright reasons, I can't reproduce them here. In a few more years, when AA Milne has been dead for 70 years, then his creations enter the public domain. I'm sure Disney will try their hardest to have those laws amended to keep hold of their Winnie the Pooh licencing, much as they did with Mickey Mouse. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Meatless Monday: Eggs for Easter (Souffle)





Look at the colour of those yolks.* I feel happy just looking at that burst of colour in my kitchen. It's Easter time and we're including non-chocolate eggs, chickens and their life cycle in this month's Intentional Play theme. There'll be a moderate amount of chocolate eggs, but I love cooking with real eggs as well. Because neither Lovely Husband nor Dear Boy are fans of the texture of pulses like chickpeas and lentils, it's a struggle to still round out the nutritional content of our meatless meals. After tofu and cheese, eggs are our regular go to.

Some meals where eggs feature heavily are more kid-friendly than others. I am a fan of breakfast-for-dinner meals but can't convince my boy to eat regular scrambled, poached, fried or hard boiled eggs. Our list of toddler-approved eggy dishes include:
  • Little Egg Pies - line a muffin tin or baking dish with a slice of (mountain) bread or a piece of pastry, crack in an egg as is or beat one with whatever add-ins you want, and bake.
  • Omelette Rollettes - whip up an egg with a tiny splash of water (water in omelettes and milk/cream in scrambled eggs - do you follow that rule?), and pour it into a nonstick fry pan so it spreads thin. Flip after a minute or two, remove from pan and while still warm, roll into a long sausage, spear at intervals with toothpicks and slice into rollettes. Dear Boy will munch through a few of these with a plate of veggies for dinner (just have to watch the toothpicks!)
  • Asian Flavoured Omelette on Fried Rice - same as above but you can add Asian flavours - a drop of soy or sweet soy, for example - to the egg, cook then chop  and scatter over or through a veggie fried rice.
  • French Toast - sometimes a dribble of maple syrup with dinner is AOK by me.
  • Bull's Eye Egg - there are a few different names for it but it's essentially cutting a circle from the middle of the bread/toast, sticking it in a pan and cracking an egg into the middle.
  • Zucchini Bake or Gourmet Girlfriend's Spinach Slice (via Lunchlady) - minus the bacon for meatless meals, although the bacon is flipping awesome.
  • Frittatta - any and all leftover roasted veg are great in a frittata. I'm also a fan of tinned or jarred artichoke in mine.
  • Quiche - easy if you keep a little shortcrust pastry in the freezer (just blind bake that baby before adding your filling)
  • Vegetarian Scotch Eggs - I like these ones using grated carrot, curry paste and breadcrumbs in place of the traditional sausage
  • Sash's Perfect Baked Eggs - eggs cracked over a chunky tomato sauce and baked.
Do you have any other eggy faves?





Another of my favourite egg dishes is a savoury souffle, which is much, much easier and less faffing around than you'd imagine. Have you ever tried making one?

Here's my go-to recipe:

Make a Bechamel/cheese sauce. This is essentially melting butter, mixing in plain flour to make a paste, then whisking in milk and letting it thicken. Once it's done that, add in your preferred cheese and stir as it melts. I don't ever measure out mine, but there are plenty of exactly portioned recipes online. I generally add a spoonful of grainy mustard and a sprinkle of chives or thyme to the mixture, but have also added finely chopped baby spinach or pureed pumpkin at this stage. You just don't want heavy chunks. Let the sauce cool for about five minutes.

Separate 4-6 eggs and stir the yolks into the slightly cooled sauce (if it's too hot, you'll scramble the egg yolks).

Whisk the egg whites to form soft peaks.

GENTLY fold the fluffy egg whites into the sauce mixture. I add about a third of the egg whites first and fold that in, which helps loosen up the sauce mixture. Tip in the remaining egg whites and fold them in very, very, gently. This is really the only critical part of the whole enterprise. Souffles rely on keeping the mixture airy, so gentle does it.

Tip mixture into greased ramekins or dishes. A lot of recipes suggest sprinkling breadcrumbs around the greased ramekin to help the souffle rise evenly, but I never have and mine rise just fine. I don't care if it's wonky.

Put in a 220 degree (celcius) oven and bake for 15-20 minutes. Unlike me, make sure you check on them or get them out when the buzzer dings instead of getting distracted and wrestling a toddler into pajamas. These were still flipping awesome even with the slightly darker coloured tops. Normally they're just golden, like the colour around the edges.


It's easy to make this a low-fat dish as well. I originally came across savoury souffles in a Weight Watchers recipe substituting in lower fat spread, skim milk, and low fat cheese. I've used savoury yeast flakes for a cheesy flavour (when I was out of actual cheese) but I'm not sure how they'd go with non-dairy milks in the sauce. If you try those and it works, let me know. I know a few dairy-free folks who'd appreciate the heads up.

* I've tended to associate this more vibrant colour with our free-range or organic eggs, but it turns out that's a bit of a misconception. It's the bird's diet that affects the colour of the yolk - the carotenoids in dark leafy greens in particular tend to lead to more orange yolks - but additives in chicken feed like dried algae or alfalfa meal can also create that colour in eggs produced by barn or caged birds. So don't judge a bird's treatment by the colour of its egg yolk alone. I still love this vibrant colour, though.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

New (Australian) Songs on a Saturday Morning: Sheppard

As part of my ongoing effort to increase the range of my cultural consumption, I undertook a challenge to listen to a metric crap-tonne of new songs. I hit that goal at the end of January, notching up a cool 1000 new songs. My favourites can be found here. But after all was said and done, I was feeling a little bereft without the project to work on. It was there, humming in the background of this blog for so long, that it felt like a friend had moved away. I noticed when I was going through my favourites list that there were quite a few Australians featured, so I thought I might make myself a new project, aiming to listen to more local artists and showcase some of the ones I included on my list. I started with Vance Joy and this week am moving on to more of Sheppard.

Here's their better known tune, which I featured at No. 826: 'Let Me Down Easy'.


I love the silky, soaring harmonies of 'Something's Missing' (No. 827) and I love the cheery but strange optimism of this new (to me) tune: 'Hold My Tongue'. Get me a tambourine, stat!


This Acoustic Session track, 'Free', has one of the women front and centre, a different feel from the others but sweet and dark and lovely.


And then they kick it back into gear and hit you with this: 'Geronimo', beats pulsing, anthemic harmonies and the sweet lines of those ladies weaving through. And, can I say, this is one of the least ugly lyric videos I've seen throughout my quest to listen to 1000 New Songs. I saw quite a few, mostly homemade, but plenty of official ones as well. This one actually makes me want to watch rather than switch screens and just listen in.


Friday, April 4, 2014

The Trials and Tribulations of Youth Allowance: Ten tips for surviving on a student budget



"The drive there takes an hour. When it's late and the road is clear sailing, you can make it in forty-five. If you are lucky, you can do the trip four times.

Four trips, fifty bucks a pop: two hundred dollars for a night's work.

All you do is deliver your passenger to an address. Watch as she totters up to the door in her high heels. Wait the hour until she's finished. Drive her home. 

Occasionally there's trouble. She yells. Sometimes she screams. That's when you really earn your money. You grab the spike you keep in the boot. Make sure the girl gets out okay. 

Most nights are quiet. You sit in the car. Read the chapters of your textbook. Start work on the assignment that's due on Monday."

This was the introduction to an article I wrote during my undergrad journalism degree, an article on Centrelink payments like youth allowance that had students resorting to desperate, even illegal, measures to pay the bills. The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs at the time, Larry Anthony, was trumpeting that Youth Allowance was a success. "The Coalition's support for students and young people has helped increasing numbers to make the most of their skills through further training and education," Mr Anthony said. "This is good news for our country's future".

Not such good news for the students themselves.

I interviewed three students for my article, all of whom had turned to illegal ventures to make ends meet, including David* who, as in the introduction, chauffeured prostitutes on the weekends with a sideline in selling stolen goods to help finance four years of study to become a social worker; Sam* who turned to selling drugs; and Tracy* who worked cash in hand at a restaurant.

In 2001, the Youth Pathways Action Plan Taskforce was handpicked by the Prime Minister (John Howard) as a means of promoting his success with the restructuring of the CES and Social Security into the magnificent venture that is now Centrelink. The report they handed in, however, was so critical of Howard's policies, that the government had suppressed it for five months. When details of the Pathways report were leaked in parliament, it was shown that some young people receiving benefits had turned to petty theft and drug dealing to survive. The Report also revealed that the levels of income support offered to young people were not sufficient to cover the costs associated with commencing study.

The response? A statement that the government was developing a comprehensive response to the Report for consideration in the 2002-2003 budget.

Today, 12 years later, students on Youth Allowance still live far below the poverty line. What that is depends on who you talk to, but by halving the median of all pay packets in Australia it ends up as roughly $350 a week. Today, youth allowance will hand a single, childless person over 18 who is "required to live away from home" a maximum of $414 a fortnight.**

*****

In Australia, we are incredibly lucky to receive any financial support for higher education. Don't get me wrong. Not only are some students eligible for Youth Allowance (YA), Austudy or Abstudy but some are offered Commonwealth Supported Places (which can reduce your degree fees) and FEE HELP (deferred loans). These things are great if you can get them, but they are not particularly generous. And they don't necessarily make it that much more affordable to pursue full-time study. Study is hard enough without having to worry about money all the time, without having to think harder about how you're going to pay your rent or eat this week than you have to for your next essay or exam. So here are a few of my (sometimes hard-learned) tips for surviving on a student budget:

1. Find out what help you're eligible for. In addition to the financial support I mentioned above, the Australian Government also offers a range of scholarships and education costs scholarships that you may be eligible for. If you receive even $1 worth of YA you may be eligible for a Relocation Scholarship if you're moving away from your hometown to go to uni or a Student Start-Up Scholarship to cover those early-in-the-semester costs like textbooks and student fees. If you are an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander student, you may be eligible for additional Commonwealth Scholarships. The government also offers eligible YA recipients a Low Income Health Care Card (if you meet the income test). Not only does this give you access to cheaper medicine (under the Pharmaceuticals Benefits Scheme) and health services but you can also get discounts on a stack of stuff like amenities bills and public transport.  Each state and territory offers slightly different discounts.

Some work-related self-education costs are tax deductible. You can check with the Australian Taxation Office to see if this applies to you if you're working and studying at the same time. Come tax return time, you might get a little extra back.

Most universities will offer their own range of financial assistance including interest-free, short term loans, food or textbook vouchers or financial hardship grants. And if you're really struggling, then various community organisations such as the Salvation Army, St Vincent de Paul or Lifeline offer vouchers for amenities bills, food parcels and cheap clothing. Don't be a jerk and use those services though if you can get support easily elsewhere - they're for people suffering genuine hardship, not 'oops, I drank my rent money on Saturday night' regrets.

2. Get a job. Get a crappy job; get a good one; get whatever you can. Just make sure you're safe and covered if accidents happen. This doesn't just help financially, it also makes getting work after you graduate much easier. Any experience tends to be more appealing to employers than no experience. Working while studying, though, can be quite a juggling act. I see a lot of students who come to me asking for extensions because their work/study balance has gotten completely out of hand. Quite a few are working and studying full-time because they aren't eligible for support.

If you are getting a payment like YA and land yourself a causal or part-time job, then make Centrelink work for you. Take advantage of the 'income bank' they offer. It's a bit awkward to explain but essentially you can earn up to $415 a fortnight before your YA payment is reduced. If you earn less than that, the difference between your earnings and the $415 limit is accrued into your income bank (up to a maximum of $10,300). This income bank acts like credits to avoid reductions on future YA payments - so if you accrue $50 in your income bank, you're allowed to earn up to $465 the next fortnight without getting your YA reduced. It's confusing, but you can end up ahead financially if you manage it right. Get someone really patient from Centrelink to explain it to you.

3. Take advantage of student discounts. There are plenty of student friendly businesses out there offering discounts or concessions on their products and services. It's not just public transport, but a huge range of food, entertainment, electronics, health and beauty services, event entry, memberships, etc. Some offer general discounts on all products; others may offer special deals on certain days. Some banks offer fee-free accounts to students; McDonalds will give you a free medium-sized drink if you download the voucher. Sites like Student Edge can give a good overview of discounts offered in your state, but don't be afraid to ask when you rock up to a counter if they'll knock a little off the top if you flash your student card.

4. Take advantage of what your uni offers. All universities will have a range of free and reduced price services for students. Stuff that'll generally come free: wifi and internet (although you may have download limits), library access to academic and entertainment resources, counselling or health care, tax help and career consulting, limited software packages, diaries and a stack of small freebies if you can suffer through O-week and the various expos. Joining your uni's student union can also get you access to additional discounts both on campus and off. The University of Melbourne union discount, for example gets you 20% at Readings Bookstores and the Book Co-op as well as cheaper membership to ACMI and discounted concert packages at Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. The University of Sydney Union will give you 15% discount on your academic dress at graduation and 15% off made to measure shirts and suits at George and King (although I imagine if you're a struggling student - probably not a great idea to have suits specially made).

5. Share accomodation. If you can live with your folks, that's fantastic (sort of). Stay there are long as you can (although don't keep acting like a 13 year old - do your own damn laundry). If you can't be at home, for whatever reason, share accomodation is the way to go. There is plenty of it in every university town. Most universities have people at student services who can help with housing and matching you up with potential housemates if you don't already have a posse from high school. Be smart about how you share expenses and what you're officially listed on, whether it's the lease or any joint gas/electricity bills. If you are one of several people listed, you'll be on the hook if one of your housemates falls behind on payments or ups and leaves the country. Have a clear arrangement about how and what you'll share and any specific responsibilities.

6. Share food. Buying in bulk is almost guaranteed to be cheaper but can be a bad idea if you have no room to store it or can't eat it before it spoils. So buy bulk where you can and share it out. Good ways to get bulk savings include:
  • joining a co-op. Most unis or cities will have fruit and vegetable or general grocery co-ops. The general idea is you pool your resources, shop at wholesalers and then share out the goods evenly. You might pay a small fee to join or be required to "volunteer" for a job such as buying, boxing or distributing, but you'll usually get great savings. 
  • shopping at university co-op stores with bulk dry-goods such as dried pulses or grains.
  • shopping at ethnic supermarkets where they tend to do bulk goods more cheaply than the big names. Think ten kilo bags of rice, 10 litres of olive oil or 500 grams of cumin. 
  • Investing in good quality and well-sealing containers (be careful about "borrowing" your mum's Tupperware; she might notice)
It's easy to reduce your food costs overall:
  • Buy local. Fewer food miles generally means cheaper prices.
  • Buy in season. If you're eating food out of season, it's usually more well-travelled than you are and will come with a hefty price tag to match.
  • Don't eat meat every night. Tofu, chickpeas and other pulses (especially when bought dried) are waaaaaay cheaper than meat.
  • Cook in bulk and use your freezer.
  • Create a weekly meal plan that'll give you plenty of meals and leftovers.
  • Eat your leftovers.
  • Learn the patterns of your local markets/supermarkets including what days and times things are marked down. Each section usually has a day.
  • Don't shop hungry. You'll come home with more than you need.
  • Eat at co-op restaurants where volunteers cook (generally vegetarian food) and you pay a few dollars for a cheap and wholesome meal or even volunteer yourself and get fed for free for just an hour or two of work. The Hare Krishnas operate co-operative style vego cafes, where you can get all-you-can-eat for just a few dollars. Check them out in Melbourne, Sydney, Newcastle, Adelaide, Sunshine Coast and elsewhere.
  • If you can handle it, there are websites, maps and apps giving ideal locations for dumpster-diving, scrumping or urban foraging. Just be careful you don't cross the line into stealing or trespassing and, if you're picking your own, make sure you're informed about what's edible and what's poison.
8. Go secondhand. This applies to just about everything from furniture and clothes to textbooks and labcoats. Look on the noticeboards for what your fellow students are selling or want to swap. There may also be secondhand text books for sale on consignment in the campus bookshop. Look at freecycle, ebay or other online sites for cheap or free stuff in your area. You can also set up your own swap-meets among friends, each bringing your unwanted clothes or other items and then having a dig through the pile to see if their trash might be your treasure.

9. Get rid of or reduce your vices. Smoking, drinking and pokies - three of the easiest and dumbest ways to part with your money. A friend calls each of them tax for stupid people. That's a bit harsh, but rising taxes, duties and pay-offs to various levels of government, mean smoking and drinking are becoming rapidly more expensive past-times. They're also bad for you (I'm a mum, I have to say that. Pass the wine). Gambling is also ultimately a money losing situation. The house (or the pub) always wins with the pokies.

10. Budget. Actually write yourself a budget. There are plenty of online tools to help you out here. What you need is to know your expenditures and keep track of your spending. Know exactly how much of your income should be leftover after all your expenses have been paid so you don't spend your rent money on the good stuff. Keeping track makes you more aware of all the little purchases and how they can actually add up over time.

If there's any wiggle room, allow yourself some savings. Having a little pot of money put aside can help you save in the future if unexpected expenses or emergencies would have otherwise had you reaching for a credit card or a high interest loan.

Do you have any other tried and true tips for stretching your dollar further? Are there any secret student discounts you've used? 

Not their real names.
** 'Required to live away from home' is the clincher there. To be eligible for youth allowance you need to prove you are independent, which can be tough to do. You automatically qualify as independent when you hit 22 (this used to be 25, which was horrendous). To qualify any earlier you must have a dependent child; OR show you've supported yourself through fulltime employment, hitting a specific target of hours and income for the two years prior to claiming; OR prove you have an incredibly crappy homelife or "parents who cannot exercise their responsibilities"; OR be an unadopted orphan or refugee; OR be married or in a defacto relationship for at least 12 months. The idea with this is that the government wants your parents to support you or pay your way through university. Most school leavers who go to university will finish their Bachelor's degree by 22 years of age. 

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