Reflection: Kick Off 2012 with Project 365

English: Upper Yosemite fall with reflection

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It’s that time of year for reflection and renewal. In 2011 I started this blog. I was so excited about blogging a few weeks later I committed to WordPress‘ Post a Week 2011. Truth be known, I fell short of my weekly commitment and now I’m wondering what I can commit to in 2012. If you’re a blogger, you’re probably thinking about your blog too…


So to get us all started, WordPress has kicked off the year with Project 365. They’re asking you to write something that you’re passionate about EVERY DAY!!!  The challenge was posted on Freshly Pressed and I’m reprinting it because it’s really timely and worthwhile for all of us who blog.



Erica Johnson, Editor at WordPress (aren’t they a great provider?!) is documenting the challenge, so if you want to add your ideas to the WordPress challenge, you can do so here: Kick Off 2012 with Project 365

English: The logo of the blogging software Wor...




Since I haven’t been successful at even a post a week challenge, I will not be signing up for Project 365 (and my hat’s off for those who do!). However, I wanted to think about what I can honestly write about and how often. So to get both myself and readers started, here are some things to think about (and may also apply for non-bloggers too):

  • What are you going to commit time to in 2012?
  • What are you REALLY passionate about? (What can you get up early in the morning for or lose sleep over at night?)
  • What hobbies or interests do you want to pursue?
  • How much time do you have to blog? Or do new hobby, etc? (Try to be realistic here!)
  • What things inspire you to blog about?
  • How are you going to build community and inspire others? (For example, do you Tweet? or can you get involved locally if you’ve got time?)

I’ll be curious to see what you come up with…I’d like to get the year started off with some creative ideas. As I come up with things myself, I’ll post too. Thanks for your support in 2011 and looking forward to writing and reading with you in 2012!

Here are some additional articles to get your thinking started:

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Tips to Overcoming Fear in Social Situations

It’s the holiday season and whether you’re at HOME or at home, you’re bound to be put into uncomfortable situations. Being an expat is similar to being around family you haven’t seen in many years — it seems familiar, yet you keep asking yourself how you really fit it. You wonder who these people are, you perhaps don’t make the most of the time and possibly regret it later.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, this video epitomizes how it feels (and if you do, you must take 1.30 minutes to watch — you might recognise yourself).


Regardless of the time of year, many of us get plain scared in unfamiliar situations or in situations when we feel like we’re being forced to participate in something we don’t want to. Here are some tips to survive these difficult circumstances (as is evidenced in the video as well):

  • Go with a person you feel safe with
  • Bring food or something to share
  • Reserve your judgements of others as much as you can
  • Recognise that the other people may be nervous too
  • Ask questions and share stories
  • Smile if you can — it makes you feel confident
  • Breathe (you usually take it for granted and fear limits this normal function)
  • Avoid overindulging in alcohol or food
  • Focus on the bigger picture, why you’re there in the first place
  • Be open to being surprised

In the video you’ll notice the shock, surprise, delight and gratitude that the poor couples being set up have on their faces. Sometimes taking risk has great rewards. May you experience this for yourself over the holiday season and beyond.

New Orleans: Neigborhood holiday season party ...

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Membership Has Its Benefits for Buying US Products in Australia

Despite the title, I’m not talking about the American Express slogan. I got roped into going to the new Costco here in Sydney. My brother-in-law was born with the American consumer gene, belying his Chinese-Malaysian heritage. He was one of the first people in Australia to get a Costco membership well before one opened here in Sydney. According to their website the Costco Auburn location opened 21 July 2011 and my brother-in-law was one of the first of those 5000 customers in the door.

costco feeding frenzy

Image by jovino via Flickr

I do not like large crowds and have avoided the lure of this American club all this time until those of us responsible for Christmas dinner were lured into a tour of duty to buy supplies for the upcoming festivities.

I’m not trying to spruik Costco. If you have tried to buy American products here in Australia, your options are either overly expensive, limited options, out of stock and/or you’ve conned a friend or relative into mailing you your desired goods. Look no further as Costco may have what you’re looking for.


Image by coolmikeol via Flickr

I was so gobsmacked by all that was on-offer that I forgot to take photos so I will try to provide a summary of some of the American products I saw (that we cannot get in the stores here):

  • Ivory bar soap
  • Skippy peanut butter
  • Reese’s pieces, peanut butter cups (1.5 kg package of minis, king size packets of normal size and 1/2 lb individual serves)
  • Bounce dryer sheets and Downy fabric softener
  • Lay’s potato chips varieties (Ruffles, BBQ and plain)
  • Otis Spunkmeyer frozen chocolate chip cookie dough
  • A&W Rootbeer, Cherry Coke and Dr. Pepper
  • American hot dogs (both cooked to eat there or uncooked to take home)
  • French’s mustard
  • Pop Tarts
  • Pre-made pumpkin and apple pies
  • Monterey Jack Cheese (1st time I’ve ever seen everywhere in AU!)
  • Ghirardelli Chocolate and Chocolate chips for baking
  • Snyder’s of Hanover Pretzel products
  • Levi’s jeans for under $100
  • KitchenAid small appliances like food processors
  • Mr. Potato Head and friends
  • And for the Canadians — real maple syrup in 1 KG jugs

We were in a bit of a rush and overly crowded (mid-week at 11am!) so I don’t remember seeing some other often requested US goods such as

  • Tide
  • Fried onions for green bean casserole
  • Ranch dressing
  • Pumpkin pie filling
  • Marshmallow cream
  • US cereals

If anyone else can add to this list for others, please do.

There is part of me that has resisted companies like Costco because I am a strong supporter of small business and supporting individuality of the country’s local brands (who want to buy Gap/McDonald’s/Starbucks, etc as their only option?).

However I also know that sometimes a candy bar from “home”, the smell of soap or making your mother’s recipe can bring back fond memories, so I have been known to plonk down three times as much as you’d pay in the US for an particular product as a treat.

I was pleasantly surprised that many of the items above are at a comparable or lower price than what I would buy for similar Australian brands — albeit the sizes are American: multiples, 3, 6 or 12 packs and/or king-size — so be prepared to share or store. Don’t be taken in by price alone. My personal Costco expert also advised me to check the quality of the goods as price may not be your only motivation.

If you want to have a taste of home and/or stock up on Australian household brands there are currently 3 locations: Docklands VIC, Canberra ACT and the Auburn NSW store that I visited this week.  you have to buy a membership in order to shop at Costco. Depending on your needs, the membership varies from $55 – $60. Or perhaps you can call my brother-in-law and he can take you…

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