Love Thy Neighbour.

My parents have been traveling around Australia in their caravan. They’ve been staying with us in between trips. Lake Macquarie Council is now saying they must move their caravan because they’ve received several complaints. I am not allowed to have their caravan parked on our front lawn next to my house.

It’s entirely on our lawn, entirely contained within our property, off the street, not blocking anyone’s views of the street or anything else. We are at the end of a small culdesac so we don’t get through traffic. The majority of foot traffic we get is from local residents or door-to-door salespeople.

If you drive around the streets here you will see many, many homes with caravans on their front lawns or driveways. We’ve been having a lovely time having my parents visit with us.  My children were all born overseas where we lived for the first 3.5 years of their lives, so it has been wonderful for them to get to know their grandparents.

A neighbour named [everyone is freaking out that I put her name in, so I’m editing it out] has unfortunately complained to Lake Macquarie Council multiple times regarding my parent’s caravan. We’ve had visits from a representative of council on 4 separate occasions. The first woman indicated that the caravan’s location had been inspected by a ranger and it was acceptable in terms of its location over some of the nature strip for reasons mentioned above. She said however, that my parents could not “live” in the caravan.

The next 2 visitors from Council spoke with my parents. They were once again informed that there had been a complaint. They were pretty friendly and seemed sympathetic to us.

Yesterday the 4th Council representative visited and told us once again that there was a complaint and that the caravan had to be moved. My parents are not allowed to stay.

The Council representative I spoke with informed me that if the land owner (me) owned the caravan then it would be permitted to stay, but because I don’t own it, it has to go. These regulations are in place to prevent land owners from operating their own caravan parks. I can apply for a permit to operate a caravan park if I want them to be able to stay.

What a joke right?!! Clearly I am NOT operating a caravan park.

Right now, we await a visit from the “Compliance Department” who no doubt will give me formal notice that the caravan must be moved because I do not have a permit to operate a caravan park.

Just to be clear, we have had no previous altercations and to be honest, very little interaction, with this neighbour (or any neighbours!!). We are good, decent people. We tend to keep to ourselves and mind our own business. We thought we were good neighbours! I can’t see any reason that this caravan being on my front lawn could be impacting anyone negatively or give anyone a reason to lodge a formal complaint.

I don’t know what is more ridiculous, Lake Macquarie Council’s regulations and inability to use their discretion in this case, or the multiple frivolous complaints made by [everyone is freaking out that I put her name in, so I’m editing it out].

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My parents with my children

 

Has anyone experienced anything similar? Do you have family staying with you with their caravan? Has your local Council ordered them to leave?

 

 

 

 

Twin View Photography is up and running. Or at least, it’s walking slowly….

Shameless promotion coming up- I’d love it if you’d visit and like my new fb photography page. I have wanted to go “professional” for a while but life has been too busy. Life still is too busy!! Regardless, I’m easing into being a real photographer. Twin View Photography is my business which I plan to slowly develop over the next 18 months. After that time I will have all the kids in either preschool or school, so things will be a bit easier. Maybe? Probably kidding myself about that. 🙂

Anyway, go take a look and contact me if you’re interested in the special Christmas sessions I’m doing. I’m in the East Lake Macquarie area.

Photos are a fun gift for family. 🙂

My kids are more than happy to indulge my passion for taking pictures.

We don’t always get the perfect shot. Even the non-perfect shots are fun too though, right?!

Before and After

Sometimes trying to get multiple kids to all look good in the one picture is too much of a task. In these cases I will do a face or head swap. So, I thought I’d do a bit of a before and after on a picture I took this morning. I finally found my 70-200mm lens in an unpacked box and decided to take it for a test run after not having used it for about 10 months. My kids were not hugely enthusiastic about the idea.

Here is the best picture of the bunch I took. This is straight out of camera (SOOC) with no post work.

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I wasn’t happy with Master N’s expression. If you look at the large version one of his eyes is open wider than the other. I think I caught him finishing a blink or something. So, I found a picture of him taken a few minutes prior in the same light and location where he looked a lot happier and I swapped in his head.

Here’s the finished image below with the new head. The image is also slightly straightened and marginally cropped. I did a few minor colour adjustments, lightened up the children’s faces a little and removed some mosquito bites from Miss I’s face. If you look closely you can see some areas on Master N’s top that are different from the original and there’s a few other bits and pieces from the head swap that I could clean up a little more if I was going to be super picky. Seeing as it’s my own kids and I have thousands of photos of them I’m not too worried. If I was doing this for someone else I’d spend some more time making it absolutely perfect though.

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I use a Canon 5D MkII for all my pictures and edit in Lightroom and Photoshop.

Tick, tick, tick.

Inside Out was great. I’m not sure if the 4 year olds actually got the concept or not because when I asked them what it was about, I got “Some people got locked outside their house” from Master N, (very literal interpretation which is him all over) and “I don’t know” from Miss M. Last week I won some makeup worth $40 in a 25 words or less competition. The question was something like, “Why do you need a sun kissed glow this winter?” I can’t for the life of me remember my answer but I remember sitting there wondering what to write. I didn’t give it a second thought after I entered as I didn’t really think I’d have a shot. I guess you never know! I also just found a winning email sitting in my junk folder. Not a huge prize, but useful in this house- some plastic kids cups.  The email only arrived yesterday so that’s good. Promoters will redraw the winner if they don’t get a response in a certain amount of time. Always remember to check your junk folder! I got bitten by a tick about 10 days ago. It’s the first time I’ve ever been bitten (that I know of) and I’m just a little worried I’m going to come down with some hideous disease from it. So far, no symptoms of anything other than a lack of sleep. Which is mostly unrelated and due to our neighbour’s incessantly yapping dogs. Seriously, if we can hear them, then so can you! I’ll have to assume they take large doses of ambien or something and sleep through the racket. I’ve heard on the grapevine that they’re planning on moving soon. I’m eagerly waiting for this to happen.   Here’s something different from me. A spider in my garden with his lunch. Love my Canon 100mm macro lens.

spider with lunch

spider with lunch

Also, new location for portraits found. Bonus that it’s a pleasant walk with nice views . 🙂

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They don’t really look overjoyed at posing for ANOTHER picture do they?!

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Always happy to be running off on an adventure.

And to end with, the first time I’ve taken pictures of the moon. I think it turned out quite well. IMG_3523

How to WIN stuff.

So, I had a few people ask me about my hobby of competition entering. People in the “know” tend to call it “comping” and call themselves “compers”. I think that sounds SO nerdy and kind of daggy, but whatever. This post will be mostly helpful for Aussies, as other countries tend to run their competitions a bit differently.

The first thing you have to realize is that companies run these competitions to get exposure for their brand and/or to collect your data to get you on email lists and/or for market research. So if you’re not ok with giving out your email address (at a minimum) then forget about it. You could create an email address that you use specifically for comping if you were concerned. Often you will also need to give your address or at least your post code, sometimes your phone number.

In my experience, I have not really had any issues with spam emails, phone calls or mail. I don’t have a problem being on a company’s email list and getting a newsletter from them weekly or whatever. If you really don’t like it, you can always unsubscribe after the comp is over. Sometimes there is also a checkbox on the entry form where you can choose if you want to receive communication from their partners. I almost always choose no.

So, now you want to find these competitions. Almost all competitions are run online now. When I first started entering they were mostly done the snail mail way. So you can spend hours googling, or you can join (for free) the following websites where all the competitions are posted for you! There’s a few others, but these are my favourite.

ALWAYS read the terms and conditions. Sometimes competitions are only for residents of certain states, sometimes only for subscribers of foxtel or there’s some other restriction on it. (If you spend 20 minutes crafting a great answer for a 25 words or less (25wol) comp and then realise you’re ineligible to enter that kind of sucks.) Very occasionally there’s dodgy clauses in there that don’t sit well with me and I give it a miss.

25wol competitions are your best bet. This is the main difference between Aussie comps and the rest of the world. There’s some sort of loophole here that lets companies run comps without applying for permits and licenses if they claim it is a game of skill. Hence, 25wol to enter. And they DO actually read and judge them.

Less people enter these because it requires some effort. Sometimes they ask something very generic like, “Why do you want to win xxxx?” Other times it’s something more like “If you could have dinner with any historic figure, who would it be?” Don’t be tempted to write a typical boring answer, an I-love-your-brand monologue or a sob story about why you want to win xxxx. That is the best way to ensure your response will be ignored. Imagine if you’re reading through 100’s or 1000’s of responses and every second one sounds the same. Think of it from a different angle. And stick to the 25 words. I’ve found sometimes if it’s a REALLY GREAT answer the promoter will have a small tolerance for a few extra words, but it’s always best to stick to the 25 words or less if that’s what the terms and conditions specify.

Of course you can also enter the easy entry competitions too. Just fill out your details and you’re in the draw. There’s usually a lot more entries in these, so your chances are less. If you’re allowed multiple entries as per the terms and conditions, then make a point of entering daily (or whatever the limit is) as this will increase your odds and most people will just go and enter once. I have gotten lucky a few times with these but my big wins were all from 25wol comps. Generally, the more effort required to enter a competition, the less people will enter.

Here’s an easy entry one to get you started. *Disclaimer-  I will receive an extra entry if you use the link to enter.

Win a $500 fuel card.

There’s also the competitions that require a purchase of some kind. These are also a good bet because they’ll have less people entering. I entered one recently where I had to give the barcode for some Superior Gold smoked salmon and they were giving away kitchen aid mixers. I didn’t win, but the smoked salmon was nice. 🙂

I usually only enter if it’s something I need or want. Or if it’s something I can give to a friend or family. For example these days I rarely enter comps for holidays because it’s not really feasible for me to go on a “trip for 2 to London” or “a snow holiday in New Zealand”. I did win a Perisher Snow holiday worth $5000 about 7 years ago before I had kids though. It was awesome!

So, go enter! And let me know if you have any questions or if you win. 🙂

No More Pineapple

My sleep has been somewhat broken and disturbed lately. Miss M has started waking up crying of a night. Usually between 11pm and 2am. At least 5 nights a week. I’m not sure if she’s having bad dreams or just waking and wanting some attention. My dear husband manages to snooze through these episodes, leaving me to get up to her to soothe and calm her and put her back to bed. Then I have trouble getting back to sleep myself.

We also had a visit from the “dummy fairy” last weekend. She came and took Miss I’s dummies away and left her a small present. We’d been talking about this with her for some time, but I was waiting until she was mostly over her cold until we did it. She has been extra whiney and waking early crying and asking for her dummy. Her naps are suffering too. Which means my “me time” is suffering.

Between the night time waking, the super early waking and the clingy whiney behavior I’m feeling extra tired!

Another fun fact we discovered yesterday is that Miss I has an intolerance/sensitivity/allergy to fresh pineapple. Burning, itching mouth and tongue, blistered and bleeding lips and a screaming child. Not fun. No more pineapple for her!

No more pineapple for this girl

No more pineapple for this girl

Master N and Miss M had a fun Pirate and Mermaid picnic day at preschool this week. They were allowed to take a “party food” lunch which is a special treat. Normally the preschool only allows healthy, non-processed, package free food. I made fairy bread sandwiches and containers of jelly (jello to the Americans).

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Yesterday I won 4 tickets to see Inside Out. Looking forward to it! Anytime a new movie comes out there’s tones of companies that get given tickets to give away. This was something I really wanted to win, so I entered about 5 different competitions and got lucky. The kids are now asking me every day, “Did you win anything today, Mama?”

They had a raffle at preschool this week where Master N won a prize and Miss M didn’t. That was a good teaching moment, explaining that all the children in the class entered but not everyone can win a prize. Master N was kind enough to share his prize with both his sisters.

Sometimes I enter competitions with other people in mind, and if I win, I put the items away for birthdays or Christmas. It’s good to share!

Two Months In.

Two months+ since my last post! That means we’ve been in our house a bit over 2 months now and things are mostly unpacked. We got our cats about 5 weeks ago too. They were staying at Evergreen Cat Lodge in Colorado until they could be cleared for export (a 6 month process) and then they got 10 days in quarantine in Sydney. The cat lodge was amazing and I can’t recommend it highly enough for anyone needing lodging for their cats. Ours were there from November until April. They had a webcam in their room and I could look at them every day from an app on my phone or from my computer. Now that they’re home, they’ve settled right back in and are snuggling on me as I type.

The kids have all had nasty colds nonstop for over 4 weeks. The last few days has finally seen some improvement in the twins and today Miss I seems a lot better too. Back to the germ factory tomorrow (preschool) to see what other nasties they can bring home. Hopefully nothing too bad because they need to be well for Disney on Ice at the end of the week. I won tickets and can’t wait!

Speaking of winning, I also won an awesome Springfree trampoline which the kids are having a blast with. It’s a bit of a hobby I have, entering competitions. Feels pretty great when you win something! If anyone’s interested I can do a post on where to find the competitions and some tips on how to improve your chances of winning. My running total of prize winnings since December last year is $1,985 worth of stuff. Before I left Australia I had won about $10,000 worth of stuff including a $5000 holiday. And it’s not that hard guys! Im super excited about the Disney on Ice tickets though, because I REALLY wanted to win them. I specifically sought out and entered competitions for them. I think I entered 3 or 4 and then found out I’d won so I stopped searching them out, but there was probably at least another 4 companies giving away tickets.

Very pleased with this win from Springfree Trampolines.

Very pleased with this win from Springfree Trampolines.

My other hobby of photography is also keeping me occupied. I have plans of setting up my studio downstairs, but I don’t think I have very much natural light to work with like I had in our last house. So that will mean a bit of research into studio lighting which I’m not very familiar with. And then I’ll need some volunteers while I practice. 🙂

I am absolutely in love with this photo of Miss M taken last week.

Couldn't ask for a better model.

Couldn’t ask for a better model.

And here’s the looking-very-grown-up Master N and the cute Miss I.

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So like I said, it’s been 2 months since my last post. It won’t be another 2 months before my next post. Promise!

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