Wow!  Here is where I am going to start.  At home.

Mess creates stress.   Looking at crap (clutter) everywhere just reminds you of all the back stories, baggage and procrastination.  Your mind wanders, anxiety peaks.  Then you get stressed out.  Day turns to crap.  Ever since I was old enough to have my own room which is about the time Japanese 80s minimalism first went mainstream, I have kept my things ship shape.  Because MESS CREATES STRESS!

Sure.  We are all adults and should be able to function in muddy trench warfare or rough camp it in the bush.  But when you are working from home.  That my friend is another story.  This is that story.

It has also helped that for most ( 85%) of my adult Generation X existence, I have rented rather than owned and that generally restricts how much you can decorate and embellish.    Nevertheless, the two times I have owned my own home, less has been more.   Since returning to Australia, we have been renting and we might as well be lepers because people here only worship the real estate gods.

It was only yesterday our clean up efforts of the last month made total sense.   It was a kid free day, so Stayatworkfatherofthree and Stayathomemotheroffour watched a Youtube video of a cruise ship chef showing how they make so many meals for the various on board restaurants.  His initial quote was priceless:

“The Captain steers the ship, but the Chef drives it”

This made so much more sense now.  When we first bought our Bangkok apartment and starting cooking for three children, the first thing we did was rip out the ancient wood panel kitchen with wall facing cooker and single sink.  Re-tiled the floor and made an island double sink with an electric stove and oven on the end.  Anyone cooking then had full view of the living room, the cityscape from the window and everything looked IKEA white ship-shape.  The mood when cooking improved, the flow was more efficient and the food tasted better.

Our neighbor who was a hotel chef said it was the most workable residential kitchen he had seen in our building and we became more adventurous with our cooking, hosted kick ass dinner parties for our friends and our lives, for the first time since Charlie was born, were finally in order.

Fast forward to now and our two and half years renting in Australia and tolerating whatever kitchen was installed, we have now got our groove back.

Everyone has heard:

“Happy Wife, Happy Life”

Fewer have heard my own retort:

“Happy Hubby, Lot’s More Money!”

My productivity has been stellar, Stayathomemotheroffour is totally in the mood, the kids are all falling in line with house rules.  Yes!  Structure is easier when there is less chaos.  But you know what is the best thing?

Good fortune now has more clean open surfaces to land on and we have not had a day without some wonderful turn of fortune.   Not luck you understand.  Good fortune simply appears when there is room for it in your life.  In the last month, we have let go of many possessions, been more hands free with concerns and just simply kept our heads down clearing the decks (is it no accident many of the idioms for coping with life come from the seafaring).

You do not need to own a boat to appreciate things work better when they are stored in the right place and the right place being where you can find them when you need them.  That means putting like-purposed items together.  Sherlock Holmes kills two birds (mental clutter and home clutter) with one stone:

“I consider that a man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things, so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it. Now the skillful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order. It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent. Depend upon it there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones.”

Words I have lived by since first reading that passage from a Study in Scarlet in 1983 and in no less than 19 fixed abodes in as much time.

So two weeks ago we had our first inspection by the local real estate agent managing the two-storey townhouse we are currently renting.  It kinda crept up on us, but in 72 hours we had jetisoned two-wheelie bins if trash, donated a trunk of stuff to a local Church charity bin and moved some furniture and things around.  IT WORKED.  So let’s not keep it a secret.


…..and under no circumstances let it infect other parts of the home.  Specically keep it out of the living room, the carport, our room, any bathroom and all balconies etc.   This step involved us moving a set of shelves from living room to kids bedroom that had nine A4 square compartments full of kids books and toys.  They were constantly taking them out and leaving them everywhere between kitchen and every corner of living room.


…and label the compartments.


Do not try to clean a home in one day.


If not windy this is even better outside.  Stand as much as possible so you can dance to the good pieces and clean all surfaces first so you have lots of places for pages to land and sort into categories.


Nothing says preparing for a new moon, like having a purge after the full moon and getting reading for new projects.


There are menu planners and there are realists.  No home can stick to a set menu, but you can plan meals according to the activities of the day.  This gives you flexibility for unexpected visitors or events.  Make this your rock though as food is fuel and without it being clean and made without haste, you are doing you home a disservice.


One thing missing from so many families are their own traditions.  Don’t just follow a method because that is the way it has always been done.

8.  I AM NOT MOSES.  SO THERE IS NO 8, 9 or 10.

It is Saturday night and we cleaned my Father’s kitchen and bathrooms today, along with several loads of washing, vacuuming and so we are going to have Chinese in the next town.

Have a great and safe weekend.  Variety is indeed the spice of life.


Well that’s what my grandfather used to call the first aid kit.  According to other family members that is.   My only childhood memory of my paternal grandfather’s words was “Shhhhhhhh!”

No matter.  It is the last quarter of the moon and you know that is the best time to clean up, throw out things, organize what’s left and make space for all the new ventures of a pending new moon.   A month earlier, Stayatworkfatherofthree had obtained his first aid and CPR certificates through the Coast Guard safety courses and while that was not the first time I had held such qualifications, it was welcome.

Last week we purged the carport storage cupboards, pruned the kitchen of unnecessary clutter, repurposed the space under the stairs, the list goes on.  Stayathomemotheroffour showed little excitement, although the lack of busy clutter in every corner must have had some positive effect.  With the new found space in the hall cupboard where we keep the first aid kit, she decided this would be a job for “Mr. Anal Retentive.”   She placed the three crammed plastic containers that comprised our first aid options on the dining table and said “you do it as you know what everything is.”

There is rarely progress without sacrifice.  So as much as I loved keeping all my IT cables and plugs in a little plastic pigeon holed container with lid, that was a vessel destined for recommissioning in the next 24 hours.   

The only problem with traveling with such a mobile Radio Shack / Dick Smith branch packed into my roll on luggage was the extra weight it hogged from the meager 7kg allowed on budget airlines I am so fond of.     Space was not the issue as for half a decade we have been evangelical about the merits of not folding holiday clothes if possible and laying each garment flat on top of each other until one or two final folds.   I had needed a system for keeping cables, plugs and devices like the three phones etc. and thought it would make things simple.  It did, but low net weight won over and I did not even bring the eight compartment pigeon holed plastic container back on the return journey.

We still had an identical container at our island home and it was now in line of sight with the three container first aid mess we had once tried to explain to contents of which to our last baby sitter before she called the child services hotline (just kidding;-)   Like a mindful guy, I put everything to one side on a chair and slept on the problem.

Woke this morning and went down to the marina to change the fuel on our boat and get her ready or a nice day of sailing with Grandma and the boys.   Then the wind picked up too high for our little boat which does not even take half meter waves all that well.   Not problem, our monthly Coast Guard meeting was not until 18:00 hours, our three year old daughter would not finish day care until 16:00 hours.  We were in no hurry to fight the wind.   So the boys settled down eight Grandma to watch a funny French movie about school boys and the English subtitles kept them busy and possibly counted towards their daily reading quota.

Meanwhile, I tossed all the out of date medications first, unfolded boxes if they were printed with instructions and separated everything else as so:

1. Small blue box with only Alpha’s seasonal asthma puffer and note to self to make sure we would never need to use that again.

2. Medium plastic box with only items for cuts and bruises.  Plasters, antiseptic creams, cold sprays, bandaids, sterile scissors, saline solutions and surgical sheets for all manner of bloody mess.

3. Said eight compartment plastic organizer containing only medication and ointments for after care.  All carefully labeled with homemade bi-lingual sub headings.   Nose, foot, ear, pain relief, intestinal, muscle , cold and flu, at which point Grandma piped up the immoral words only children English colonies can create.

“Cuts, colds and sore holes” with all the crudeness of an East-end hawker and laziness of an Antipodean hooker I suppose.

Hell Kids are great!

It is mid school year vacation for 2018 and day three of the kids’ holidays.   Just got their Semester 1 report cards and it brought me to tears.

Last weekend was a public holiday long weekend which kicked the school vacation off to an off the deep end 25/7 child care marathon.  Fighting the noisy thumping of them pounding up and down the stairs, scattering LEGO in every corner, demanding F&B faster than a pub’s last call, we are coping.  (ENGAGE !  Resistance is futile!)

Let me let you in a little secret.  Since we moved to Australia nearly three years ago, or TVs have been getting larger and number of bed time story readings has been getting smaller.  English at school HAS NOT BEEN AFFECTED!

Not week goes past without Alpha and Bravo taking their school banking to the office on a Tuesday morning without a small deposit.  Maths results HAVE HIT THE CEILING!

Buying a small yacht, waxing the car together on a Saturday afternoon, buying groceries together, preparing the ingredients for meals as a group once in a while, etc., and Health, Science and Technology at school are all HIGH or VERY HIGH achievement.

Stayatworkfatherofthree sat down this afternoon in the car port with a small bottle of my now favorite beer Miller Chill, and opened the two hard paper envelopes with the reports and sucked incessantly and I digested such glowing accounts of our boys’ progress.

Not bad for two young boys who had to move house twice in Term 1 and then be on the wrong side of bullies for a few too many weeks.   So I rose from my plastic garden chair and walked inside and put my hands on their shoulders letting them know they had something to be proud of.  Despite their behavior at home at times being borderline GBH, their school performance was without fault, even at time I had been overseas.

Explaining to them, their sister Charlie and Stayathomemotheroffour, that all the subjects were above average and in the top 75% to 100% range, the tears came and my voice began to shake.   A Father for only 8 and 3/4 years and they are still my babies learning to walk on Earth.

How did we make it this far?  Elsa telling us to let it go has helped us and might help you too.  You have to write your own book and if your life was movie you get to choose the ending.

My problem now is they already have a laptop and Nintendo, R2-D2 3D cardboard DIY sculpture, Robot mechanical sets.  How do you reward boys like that ?  An interview with Elon Musk would go over their heads.

Have a great evening everyone.  The future is in good hands.

A New Page. A New Moon. A New Room

My own private Havana.  Well almost.   Once I install the stair gate on this home office door to keep Charlie from barging in every five minutes with a new toddler request.


As usual, the single bread-winner is has to work in the only room without air-conditioning, although it is the middle of Southern Hemisphere summer and the sea breeze is coming in strong.  At 25km/per hour precisely since 5am when it blew the garden shed door open and this novice sailor checked Willy Weather , a website most of my seaward friend have downloaded onto their phones.


It is seven nights since we first moved into this four-bedroom house, and I have since found it was originally built as an Anglican Church holiday camp, hence the A-frame ceiling and functional caterers kitchen layout.  Stayathomemotheroffour has been been up since 7am pruning all the dead branches and leaves from the garden and in a few hours I will be free from mowing large boring, water inefficient lawns belonging to other people.


Last Friday our new desk arrived and this the largest desk I have had since 1997.  Two meters by 1.5 meters and originally advertised as a wooden rectangle dining table with four tree-trunk like legs.   It was the display model and had a minor, although visible scratch on one edge of the table top.  At only AUD128 it was a steal.


During the same shopping trip we also purchased two bar stools for the counter in the kitchen, although the kids kept unnecessarily climbing on them and so they have been moved in to my own private Havana.   Alpha and Bravo now perch on them sensibly and are learning to use their new laptops and the frustrations of everyday internet use.  By sharing the same desk, this allows Stayatworkfatherofthree to assist with technical problems without having to leave my chair.   Also easy to monitor the content they are consuming.  At the end of the session, we can close the door and that is that.  A right regular home internet cafe!


Nothing says Hemmingway like typing under a ceiling fan with sea breeze, humid sun rays and a collage of densely packed foliage outside every window.  Accordingly, we have placed the two green retro tubing banana lounges on the western wall to encourage afternoon sun tans and separated both lounges with a small six-pack ice box to double as a side table for tonics.


Well this is only the first week at this new desk, new room.  We will have to see what becomes of it over the next four seasons.  With the new moon, we have only a few minor cleaning and mowing tasks to complete at our previous residence before we return the keys to the agent.  A new unencumbered start in our new home and Bravo is finally turning seven years old this weekend a day before the new school year starts.  A new page indeed.

Fifty Shades of Gravy

Back in 2008 when I first met Stayathomemotheroffour (before we had our own three children), Stayatworkfatherofthree-to-be was at the stellar of his sociable single self.  There was not a weekend I was not entertaining, creating night havoc or being a spectacle of some sort.   My favorite of all was Thanksgiving.


In truth 2000 to 2007 had been one long party.  The year 2007 capping off the best of a near decade of booming business for our company, although one chance conversation with a random guy on the next bar stool changed all that.


It was late 2007 and I was sitting in a Lan Kwai Fong club called Bar George, when a tall beefy looking English guy and I started talking business, particularly mine and he was so interested in what we did and whether we had vacancies in the end.  As we parted to go meet our respective appointments he gave me his business card.  Name…something something.  Title….something from the top shelf, like Managing Director.  Company name….BEAR STERNS!  We were both laughing in a knowing way.


They had just announced that morning in the South China Morning Post newspaper Bear Sterns had let everyone go as a result of the JP Morgan developments.   So obviously he had just been or was going to be laid off any day now.  That was all the confirmation I needed to continue with my already year long effort to increase my savings and improve finances and my health.


Nearly twelve months earlier I had found most of my savings could be gained simply by not going out at all on Friday nights, period.  And only going out on Saturday if it was a shared cost evening with friends etc.  Back then I was out almost every night.


Sunday night was great for partying.  It was all the people that did not need to worry about work the next day.  In fact we used to sometimes start on Sunday morning, or at least in the afternoon.


Monday night, you could go to any bar, restaurant or club and find people in two distinct categories.  The people that wanted to drown their sorrows and forget a terrible day.  The other group I hoped were like me.  Had at least planned their week a week earlier and everything had been perfect at work on the first day of the week and they wanted to celebrate.


Tuesdays were cheap cinema ticket nights in Hong Kong and I was always on a date, unless there was a movie I wanted to see and concentrate.


Wednesdays in Hong Kong were horse racing at Happy Valley and as a result you could pick up in any venue without the masses, who for the most part were either watching the races live at the track or in cafes and betting shops.


Thursday was the new Friday for me.   This was a time to start the weekend early and celebrate working smart and not hard.   There was still a day and half to pick up the pieces as most Hong Kong companies, banks etc., worked for a half day on Saturday morning til lunch.


Friday nights as far as I could work out and see for my myself, were just colleagues from the same industries tumbling out of meetings and sticking together until their families called them home.  Slim pickings and closed shop.   I was wasting time and money.   So I cut Friday night out all together.  I would work in the office til 7pm and plan my next week, walk home and get a light meal and be in bed by 9pm.   Not only was I happy a large chunk of cash was being set aside each week, I was able to wake at 5am and catch the first Saturday morning bus to Big Wave Bay where all the Hong Kong models, singers, TV and movie starlets swam.


Saturday night was and is traditionally ‘date night’ for most couples around the world and the time when they get a baby sitter or not have to work.   Back then I was single and had no desire to steal wives or upset apple carts when I was out (and I still don’t!!!).  So I restricted my Saturday entertainment budget to group dinners with my friends, often including whomever I had met on the beach that morning.


Our Saturday entertainment could range from Roast Salted Chicken in the North Point wet market, a junk trip with F&B supplied by one of our friends’ restaurants or go see a Theater show, always involving wine, women and song.  Dancing being my strong point at the end of every night closely followed by romance of some description.  But by far my favorite was Thanksgiving and that was the highlight of every year.


Back in 2002, I sub-let out some of our desks and office space to Hong Kong’s first Egyptian restaurant, Habibi’s downstairs so they would have somewhere quiet to do their book-keeping.   One of the founders was American and she would host a Thanksgiving at her home for all their staff and suppliers.  We were invited along too and I fell in love with pumpkin pie so much I nearly swapped my Australian passport for a Green-card.  She was a great chef, although her home cooking had hooked many a husband.   The thought did also cross my mind.


The spirit of the occasion had always fascinated me with Aussie jealousy.   Then I met Stayathomemotheroffour and we re-located to Thailand, opening an office and starting a family the same year.   The money saved over more than 156 Friday nights and half as many Saturday nights had paid two large maternity ward bills, temporary rentals and the deposit on a modest downtown Bangkok apartment with walls that wish they could  talk.


By the time Bravo was born, we had seven Thai staff working with us and a small army of part-time contractors, including my best foreign confidants, one of whom was an American.  There was nothing more to discuss.  It was 2011 and we would host our own Thanksgiving.   It would be better to celebrate with everyone in November anyway, as we nearly always went overseas on vacation each December.  Christmas was a merciless, mis-guided, mercantile, mute-point in Bangkok to boot.


We found a little bistro with a nice garden and chef they had stolen from the British Club.  Our Thai colleagues had never seen a full-sized roast turkey before, much less even eaten turkey.   The atmosphere was fantastic, kids everywhere, presents and games, bottomless glasses, full tummies and a new tradition was born.  One we take everywhere.


So this November we decided to try Thanksgiving in Australia.   We had gained so many new friends when we moved to the island.  Mostly through school and all had much we needed to thank them for.  Some had picked up our kids when we were busy, others had been witness to document signing for visas, co-piloted on maiden voyage with our boat, the list went on and on.   We were Thankful to everyone on the guest list.  In the end we had two Grandmothers who would be in attendance along with a total of 17 kids.   The final booking was 33 warm bodies casting shadows and fogging glass.  Needless to say, I hired a face painter to keep the kids occupied and the school Mum’s along with Stayathomemotheroffour hijacked the event by ensuring the dress code included masks.  Nuff said.  Would not be surprised if the birth rate rises slightly next year.


For many couples it was the first time in ages they had dressed up and gone out with their kids with so many other friends at the same time.  It was the nicest way to spend two grand from our monthly blow budget.  Especially, for the two grandmothers and mothers whose husbands were away on business.


In contrast, just this month we co-hosted a similar family get together in Thailand for my wife’s family and it cost less than two hundred bucks and was in just the same spirit.   Many of her extended family had not seen each other for months or years and we had a great grandmother in tow along with scores of great grandkids.


In three days we fly back to Australia and my biggest worry?  None of my own family have arranged an event similar to either of these gatherings, ever.  That is a whole other story and one I wont be sharing for some time.  It is with no lack of irony, next March will be the 10th anniversary of meeting the Mother of my children and the GFC.


Just remember those timeless words.  “When the bell hops start buying, it is time to sell”.   When the Bangkok Post newspaper starts advertising how easy it is to buy and profit from owning Bitcoin, it is time to duck when the fan comes your way.  When the cold callers from London, India and Hong Kong get a hold of my mobile number and start pitching growth stocks, you must know they have hit rock bottom.


Meanwhile, enjoy looking at the Thanksgiving menu created especially for our unique Fifty Shades of Gravy 2017 Thanksgiving Dinner event at Peppers Blue on Blue Resort



Dragons, Volcanos & Dinosaurs

Late November 2017 and Stayathomemotheroffour had already made it to Thailand with Charlie, while I was left on the island with Alpha and Bravo.  The Bali volcano was seriously toying with our ability to make it to Thailand once school term finished.


The boys and I were busy washing clothes and sheets, getting the yard cyclone ready and packing school lunches.  We were determined to prepare a clean house for our return, when all five of us returned on Christmas Eve.   My to-do-list of chores was growing and both of our connecting flights were cancelled.  We were torn about packing the bags and thinking we would have to fly my wife and daughter back via Perth or Darwin.


Alpha then insisted we play mahjong while we waited.   “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.”


So at first we removed one suit from the pack to make things easier for Bravo who has limited experience and it had really been 2 or 3 years since he tried to play.  Now six years old and heading to Grade 2 in the new school year, we would test him out.   Never one to be phased we played the first few rounds on our toy car tablecloth.  It was their choice, not mine, if you think of calling child abuse hotline.   The boys managed just fine with the tiny detail on the tiles and crazy color background of the tablecloth.  Our eyes got a bit stronger in the process.


The first day, we started at 1pm on a Saturday and we played to 5pm, with only minor break for snacks and constant refills of milk in plastic dinosaur mugs left over from Charlie’s 2nd birthday morning tea party on the beach.  We were supposed to be flying on Wednesday and all hope was fading.


Still, on Sunday morning I mowed the entire backyard lawn just in case.  More mahjong in the afternoon and only interrupted by a beautiful swim in the summer sea.  Warm water, clean sand and gentle afternoon sun.  Shirtless drive home with windows rolled down, wet car seats and showers straight after arriving home.


At 01:00 hours Monday morning, I woke up and checked both airlines.  Our flights had resumed!   With total glee, the boys went to school and I hoped they would not blab about the binge mahjong session and even though we were not gambling, we were keeping one of Grandma’s traditions by rewarding all young players with chocolate.


Tuesday was the school swimming carnival, and that was a great way to catch up with everyone.  No need to make school lunches either as they had a sausage sizzle and we hit the bakery quite hard.   I dropped our boat’s keys off with the marina manager just in case a cyclone hit while we were away.   Then played mahjong til 8pm that night.


Wednesday, we packed everything from the front porch into the living room, had washing machine in overdrive and purged the fridges of anything perishable, although kept a two liter bottle of milk and packet of tim tams for later.   Mopped most of the floors, aired all the pillows and cushions while the sun was out.   Picked up boys from school, showered then and they watched TV while I hung the last of the laundry on a clothes horse in the dining area.


Tied the jungle gym to the car with nylon rope and shoved the last of my I.T. equipment into one of the boys’ roll-on bags.  Taxi arrived five minutes early and I still had a half a basket of undies to hang.  Got to the ferry in time and sat down with my two very grown-up looking sons.  Ordered a can of beer from the ferry kiosk and started pouring out cups of milk for Alpha and Bravo, while all three of us got into the tim tams.


One we arrived in Bangkok and were reunited with wife and daughter, drove up to my Thai mother-in-law’s place where we have built a house and realized we did not have a mahjong set.  Despite, leaving my Hong Kong travel majong surfaces in Thailand, we only had one set of mahjong and that was the one we took to the island.  So the hunt began.


This little town is a Thai-Chinese stronghold and you would think some of the toys stores stocked with chess and scrabble would have a set.  Nope!   In addition, even the most Chinese of looking townsfolk had not even seen a set of mahjong in their life.


So we drove back to Bangkok and scoured Chinatown in Yaowarat and only came up with one shop, although it was closed.  No matter, we had parked car at Shangrila Chinese Restaurant and ordered a whole Peking duck for Stayathomemotheroffour who was turning an age when hair starts to grey.   Kids loved the little pancakes with duck skin.  Ditto the sweet and sour duck meat taken from just below the skin.  The icing on the cake was really all the meat left on the bones which the chefs chopped and fried in boiling oil so it came out all crispy, chewy and dry, so perfect for dipping in Sriracha sauce.   Meanwhile, we starting hitting the internet for private sellers who might have a mahjong set up for grabs.  Who knows we might even score an antique set.


It was not to be and so Stayathomemotheroffour and Bravo had to return all the way to Chinatown the next day when the mahjong shop was open.   They purchased one with slightly larger tiles which is easier for kids to handle and the elderly to read.


That was Monday morning, two days ago.  We drove back up to the country house that night and had everyone out of the car and into bed by about 11pm as I had worked in the Bangkok office all day and it was a four hour drive in moderate traffic.  We played mahjong all Tuesday and Alpha recruited us all to play again this morning, right in the middle of me starting this blog.


They have all now gone out to the local land registry office now and I can sign off properly, in peace.  It is so nice to been writing again and am eager to post the saga related to our Fifty Shades of Gravy Thanksgiving dinner on the island.  So stay tuned.

Empty Canvas

Whoa !   Have been on the road for weeks with my Hong Kong colleagues and we are just catching our breath for a couple of days in Huahin.   
The hotel theme is the three wise monkeys.   See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.   No smoking, no mobile phones, no problems.  Best buffet breakfast I have seen in ages.  Totally healthy and stil naughty options.
Just taking a break from typing up reports of the last three weeks and living out of a backpack. 

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