Saturday, February 28, 2009

Baghdad Wedding

Tonight Adam and I went to see Baghdad Wedding at the Belvoir Street theatre. It was very good, well worth seeing. My mum had gone earlier in the week to see it with friends and phoned me a little worried that we might not enjoy the play because she'd found it quite harrowing and confronting but I said all I cared was whether it was any good. I can see why mum was discomforted, there's a fair bit of graphic sex and violence stuff in there, but there was also a good dose of humour. I thought the acting was great, the set design was very effective and cleverly used and the story engaging.

From the Belvoir St Theatre website:
"A wedding is not a wedding in Iraq unless shots are fired.

Salim likes London. He got his medical degree, had an affair with a man and wrote a successful novel about it. But now Saddam Hussein’s gone and Salim’s going home to get married.

Sexy, funny and thrilling, this is life in Iraq as we never get to see it. Salim and his friends drink, love, argue, hope and tumble between escaping and succumbing as their country staggers to its feet again.

In 2005, 30-something Hassan Abdulrazzak queued with hundreds of fellow emigres in London to vote in Iraq’s first post-Hussein elections. When that great hope went belly-up, Abdulrazzak wrote his first play. After it opened the Evening Standard said, “The Prime Minister and his cabinet should take a brief course in political illumination. They should go to see Baghdad Wedding”. Company B’s friends in the UK immediately sent us the script!"
Review in the Sydney Morning Herald - "Powerful odyssey of love, sex and war."

I was amused enough by the sign at the foot of the stairs leading up to the theatre to pull out my camera.

No shoe-throwing allowed!

Baghdad Wedding sign

If only I didn't still have a thumping headache from the lack of coffee thing I'd say the evening worked out very nicely. At least my ear is pretty much all better.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Whinge for the week

Whenever the weather gets particularly humid I get ear infections. It sucks. It hurts. And the hurting makes me grumpy and I can't do anything that requires moving my head too much and my brain stops working and I go to all your lovely blogs and read your funny and fascinating and thought provoking posts and I click to post a comment and the words just. won't. come.

It's frustrating.

I'll be back when the icky stuff I'm putting in my ear has done its work and I no longer feel like half my head is in a vice.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Me: If you hit anyone in this family I will not take you to Karate any more.

Tom: (very theatrically) Hmmmm. You win this round.

Monday, February 23, 2009

It's been one of those days

It took me about an hour tonight to offload to Adam all my angst about today. Poor man.

Work was busy but good, though I was 2 cups of coffee short by the time I was heading back to pick the kids up from school. This may have had a detrimental effect on the rest of my afternoon.

The kids were fighting before we'd left the school grounds (Again. Have I mentioned their tendency to do this?) - can't blame the lack of coffee for that - and things pretty much went downhill from there. We had homework angst, hyper screeching silliness, repetitive quoting of movies (we're talking the one line over and over again here, they just say it back and forth between themselves), yelling over the top of each other, and of Grandma and me (I think Mum being here this arvo probably saved my sanity) and groans and grumbles over being asked to help clean up the house.

Then I started cooking dinner.

"What are we having?"

"It's a frittata." I say, as I chop up onions, red and green capsicum and left-over pork, ginger and shallot sausages.

"Eww! Egg with sausages! Gross!" This from the child that had sausages, bacon and eggs for breakfast at the cafe on Saturday morning. (Also, he was the only one who actually ate the frittata.)

Yeah, I'm a sucker for punishment. Nothing like scare the kids cooking to top off an awesomely bad day.

Let's just say the dog ate well.

(So did Adam and I, it was a good frittata.)

After dinner the kids apparently decided it would be fun to engage in a bout of shrieking at each other in the hallway accompanied by the slamming of doors. At this point, on the verge of completely losing my cool, I picked up my keys and purse and left the house. Didn't even tell them I was going. I passed Adam on his way home a block from our place which made me feel a little better about buggering off like that. I came back with a maccas cappuccino a few minutes later, Adam headed off to sword fighting with David and Tom and Caitlin stayed very quiet for the rest of the evening.

And I'm not even telling you about the fun phone calls I had to deal with. *sigh*

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Laundry and laughter

We often get the kids to help us deal with the mountain of clean laundry that accumulates over a week (it gets washed and dried pretty much daily but the folding and ironing is rather more erratic). Everybody comes downstairs and we chuck all the clothes on Adam's and my bed and then spend 20 minutes yelling at the kids to stop throwing themselves on top of the pile and actually fold the bloody clothes. It's a lot quicker than if one person has to stand there and slog their way through the whole pile themselves.

Tonight, just as Adam was beginning to prod everyone in the direction of Mt Washmore, Tom picked up Midnite and asked for the next chapter. Adam insisted on laundry folding, the kids begged for story time and in the end a compromise was reached. Adam suggested I could lie on the bed and read while they folded the clothes around me (what an excellent idea!).

And so it was. I propped myself up in one corner of the bed, baskets of washing were dumped on my legs and I read aloud chapter 4, which was about Midnite's first trial, incarceration, and escape from gaol, while the huge pile of washing magically disappeared into each child's basket. (Mine's all in a big pile in the corner of the room to be dealt with before I go to bed.) The only problem was the kids ended up so entranced they were forgetting to fold and laughing so much I was driven to ask if they could actually hear what I was reading.

I think we should do the laundry this way all the time.

Especially if I'm the one that gets to do the reading!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Tom on the significance of his next temporary tattoo

"I've got an idea about which Ben Ten tattoo I should put on next. It's going to be Upgrade because my mind is doing lots of thinking, like it's been upgraded, and I have a good imagination so Upgrade kind of suits me."

First Born

MPJ tagged me for this over on Facebook but because I'm bloody minded and stuck in my ways I'm doing it here rather than there (it shows up there anyway 'cause I have my blog feed updating Facebook).

One for the mums - all about your first born.

Yes, well, in the sense that we stopped trying to avoid one - it happened a bit quicker than I'd anticipated though.

Yep, for 4 years.

Happy :)


I'd started to get a bit worried when my period kept going, by the time I'd been bleeding (very lightly but nevertheless...) for 2.5 weeks instead of my usual 8-10 days I was thinking I might go to the doctors. Then we went horse riding (as we did every second Saturday) and while I was trotting around the dressage field I began to feel nauseous. On the way home in the car I said to my friend "Either there's something wrong or I'm pregnant...or both." I went to the doctor, did a pregnancy test and was promptly sent off for an ultrasound to check it wasn't ectopic. It all looked fine and I was 7 weeks along. The bleeding (mostly just light spotting) continued till about 12 weeks, it was all rather stressful.

Adam, then Mum, then pretty much anyone I spoke to. I'm not much for keeping secrets and anyway all the friends we went riding with were waiting to hear if everything was ok.


April 1st 1997

OMG yes. Morning, noon and night, by the end, before he was born, I weighed 3kg less than before I fell pregnant.

I don't remember craving anything. Except, you know, food that would stay down.

I don't remember being irritated by people during my pregnancy (I'm sure Adam will disagree :P), the morning sickness sucked though.



Once he was born I was 10kg down.

I don't think so...god I have a terrible memory. I know I hate baby showers, I certainly hope I didn't inflict one on, I'm sure we just got deluged with gifts when he was born.

What, the one I'm only 99% sure I didn't have?

No, all pretty straight forward.

Hornsby hospital.

I was induced and I was already 3 cm dilated before going in (had been for 3 days but without feeling a single contraction), 5 hours after the drip went in, out he popped.


Adam and a room full of midwives, student midwives, a student nurse and a doctor - who's only contribution was to walk in at the last minute to check how I was going and say "it's coming, get your gloves on!" to the midwife - I was a bit quicker than they were expecting :). Which bothered me not at all, it was kind of fun. Does that sound odd? I liked having lots of people around.


Yep, gas and one shot of pethidine.


April 11th 1997.



From my bookshelf & book club review

It's been a bit quiet on the reading front since my last bookshelf post. Once I finished the Egan and MZB I picked up Alastair Reynolds' Pushing Ice which I had started ages ago but had put aside for no particular reason.

It ended up coming away on our camping holiday with me and still lasted me through to early February. It kind of freaks me out when it takes me that long to finish a book, especially when I'm enjoying it (which I did, very satisfying grand scale sc-fi) - you know how some people stop eating when they're stressed or feeling down, not me, I stop reading. When that happens I know I'm not traveling so well. I end up spending a lot of time reading blogs and aimlessly wandering the web and then feeling frustrated because I've wasted so much time (with the aimless wandering, not the blog reading, that part's ok). So, um, yeah, things haven't been great inside my head lately. No particular reason, just lots of little things adding up I think.

Next up was The Sharing Knife: Horizon by Lois McMaster Bujold. I'd been looking forward to this one for a while, Bujold is one of my very favourite writers, and it didn't disappoint. Horizon is the 4th and final book of the Sharing Knife series and it brought the story to a satisfying conclusion leaving the characters poised to carry on without an audience. I like endings that manage to wrap up all the loose ends but still leave me with a feel for future possibilities.

Most recently, tonight in point of fact, I've just finished reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. This is the February book for the Blogosphere Book Circle.

From the book's website:

About the Book

January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she's never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb.

As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. Born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island, the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.

Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society's members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever.

Written with warmth and humor as a series of letters, this novel is a celebration of the written word in all its guises, and of finding connection in the most surprising ways.

Did you like/dislike the book, did it affect you in any way?:

Yes, I did like it. Quite a lot actually so I'm glad I signed up for the book circle, might never have read it otherwise! I enjoyed the epistolary style, each character's voice came through clearly in their letters and I love the way the story unfolded as each persons' accounts of events fitted together like pieces of a puzzle. I had a look at the list of other epistolary books on the website and found a couple of other favourites in there - The Screwtape Letters and 84 Charing Cross Road. I knew nothing of the history of the Channel Islands, didn't even really realise how close they were to France (never having had occasion to think about it) so I've learned some new stuff reading the book and more again reading the history and trivia on the website. The book has left me wanting to visit Guernsey and also with an urge to reread Gaudy Night (Juliet reminded me a little of Harriet Vane), unfortunately I can't find my copy so I'll have to make do with Busman's Honeymoon instead.

Other Book Circle member's reviews can be found here (I'll add links as I see people's review posts): Penny, CW, Emma, Heather, Janine, Jenny, Julie Maree, Kate, Kelly, Kristen, Lynda B, Mel, Sandra, Sharon, Suzannah, Yvette

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Interview time

I've been a little slow with this one! Back at the end of January Liz at Eternal Lizdom invited her readers to request an interview from her, which I duly did. Shortly afterwards, her questions arrived in my inbox and I opened a draft post, began to write, got stuck and it's been sitting there ever since. Today I determined to finish - and here it is.

This is one of those pass-it-on meme type things so if you want me to interview you, leave a comment and say “Interview me!” and I'll send you 5 questions to answer. Liz also invited her readers to ask their own questions of her, that seems fun too so if there's anything you want to know about me, ask away!

Now, on to the interview:

1. What's in your fridge? What do you have to always have in your kitchen? Brave enough to share a picture of your fridge or pantry?

I like having a well stocked fridge and pantry so the answer to both of the first two parts of this is usually much the same. These are things that are in my fridge pretty much all the time: milk, cheeses (low fat slices, fetta, brie, smoked cheddar, edam), ham, salami, devon, butter, margarine, eggs, bacon, pickles (dill, sweet mustard, onions), mustards (dijon, wholegrain, american), kalamata olives, capers, anchovies, juices (breakfast, lemon, lime), salad dressings (balsamic, coleslaw), sauces (soy, fish, oyster, sweet & sour, worcestershire, tartare, cocktail, tomato, BBQ) mayonnaise, spreads (jams, lemon curd, lime marmalade), minced garlic, chili paste, wasabi, carrots, tomatoes, baby spinach, cos lettuce, shallots, cucumber, broccoli, mushrooms, lemons, grapes, apples, low fat sour cream, yoghurt.

Here's a photo of my fridge post-party after yesterday's BBQ, the bottle of Coke makes me cringe, I hate the stuff, but the containers full of left-overs will make meals today nice and easy.

My fridge

My pantry I hate, it's a horrible design with half the shelving tucked into the corner on the left and accessible only by people with extra long arms and x-ray vision.

My pantry

The oven used to be above the bench beside the pantry, when I got a new one it wouldn't fit in the same spot so Adam built these shelves for me to sit in the now empty space. My pantry shelves go right back to the wall behind the spice rack.

Spices 'n' stuff

2. What's your parenting philosophy? Do you wish there was something you'd done differently? What concerns do you have as you move forward in your parenting journey?

I don't know that I've ever tried to articulate what I do as a parent in terms of a philosophy. I've just done what felt right, what worked. I listen to them to find out what they need. I've always explained why when I'm asking something of them. I'm honest and open with them, if I'm grumpy and impatient I'll tell them I know I'm over-reacting to things and that I'm sorry (but that they'd better bloody well cut it out or my head will explode!) I tell them I love them all the time. I make a conscious effort to notice and say thank you when they do good things. I tell them how proud I am when they make an honest effort at something.

The one thing I wish we'd done differently was not to have bought so many gorram toys. We indulged them because we could and we paid for it. Kids who think they are entitled to stuff are not pleasant creatures. I had to do some pretty heavy-handed deprogramming on that front when David was about 6. Even now they have a habit of assuming that pretty much anything is theirs for the asking and then being terribly put out when we don't deliver. I'm often heard exclaiming "Which part of "NO" are you having trouble understanding?!" (Actually I exaggerate, they're not too bad now.)

I'm looking forward to watching them grow up (a lot!) and as we approach the teen years I'm conscious of the need to keep communication lines open and of the potential difficulties that come with negotiating the transition from authority figure to friend. I hope that I've established a strong enough foundation of trust and respect between us that when the hormones kick in it doesn't get too horrific! But mostly I just plan on taking things as they come.

3. I know you love to read. What 5 books have had the greatest impact on your life?

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien - I read The Hobbit when I was 8 years old and we were living in the US for a few months. It led me to read The Lord of the Rings as soon as we got back to Australia and my Dad could dig out his old copy - a single volume paperback edition. I took 3 months to read TLOTR and it was the beginning of my love for SF&F. (As I sit in the lounge room with my laptop the kids have the Return of the King DVD on, I keep getting distracted and watching the movie instead of writing.)

Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut - my first encounter with serious hard sci-fi, this was lent to me by my year 7 English teacher.

The Bible - does that seem an odd pick for an atheist? I grew up as a member of the Uniting Church (an organisation for which I stil have a great deal of respect), my understanding of human nature, my ethics and my morality have as a foundation things I learned from reading and discussing the Bible as a child and teenager. It would be dishonest of me to leave this complicated, beautiful, terrible, very human book off this list.

One day, possibly when I was still in primary school, maybe early high school, I picked up a book from my parents' shelves, the title of which I don't even remember. It was a history of and comparison of religions. Learning about the history of religions and the huge variety (and also the sameness) of religious thought across time and cultures was both fascinating and enlightening.

I'm going to have to stop at 4 because I can't pick out any other single book as having had a notably significant impact for me. Everything I read teaches me something, that's one of the things I love about it.

4. What is your Aussie impression of the US? If you could have a 5 minute, private conversation with President Obama, what would you tell him? What do you want Americans to know about Australia?

Oh my. This one's a bit tricky. See, my last in person experience of the US, back in 1985 was as a miserable 14 year old who had been dragged away from her first boyfriend to come and live in Boulder, Colorado for 5 months while her father was on sabbatical and working at NCAR and the HAO. I hated it. My favourite shows were not on TV, and we had no money to spare so we didn't have cable. I felt out of place at school because the subjects everyone else was doing didn't match up well with the Australian curriculum and I ended up with a very peculiar timetable which had me spending time with and befriending people who were up to 3 years older than me. On the up side one one of those older friends saved my sanity by turning out to be a D&D playing, sci-fi reading geek and thus a veritable soul-mate. Plus, she lent me all her Alan Dean Foster books to read - thanks Kris, I wish I'd managed to keep in touch with you back in the days of snail-mail.

Erm, I'm rambling.

I don't see the US as a monolithic entity that it would be reasonable to make any blanket statements about. I feel resentment at the ubiquitous American cultural influence on Australia but I have a passionate love of certain American TV shows. I hated the way the Howard government sucked up to the Bush government but I know that Australia does benefit in certain ways from a close diplomatic relationship with the US (there are some big disadvantages too unfortunately). I'm disturbed by the level of hatred shown by some sections of the US population to other human beings but I know there are people just as bad here in Australia (and everywhere else) and that there are many Americans who fight every day for an end to such prejudices.

If I was to be in a position to speak privately to Obama I think I'd be hard pressed to think of anything to say beyond "Good luck, watch your back and please, please, please bite the bullet and get universal health care happening for the US!"

What do I want Americans to know about Australia? Hmm, let's see...I know! You know all those stories about Australia's dangerous, deadly wildlife? They're ALL TRUE! Especially the one about drop bears. Also, Vegemite is the most delicious thing ever and you must try it one day.

5. Why do you blog? What got you started? What do you get out of it?

For me blogging is a creative outlet, a way of participating in a community and a way to record things that I don't want to forget.

Way back in my teens I was a pretty regular diarist (note to self: you really should dig those old diaries out and get rid of at least some of them - yes, I've still got them) but I hadn't done any journaling for years. I didn't keep a pregnancy diary, I never filled in those Baby Books I was given when the kids were born and I was an absolutely chronic at forgetting to bring the camera when we went out somewhere.

When I started Weight Watchers (again) back in Feb '06 I got involved with the forums. WW, in their wisdom, has very limited forums - no pics, peculiar defaults for the display and sorting of topics and threads etc - so many people were keeping a blog to document their "weight loss journey" and I hopped right on board. When I look back over the first, say, 18 months or so of my blog I'm sometimes tempted to do some pruning. There's a lot of stuff in there that irritates or saddens me now but there's also a bunch of kinda cool stuff too and my past is part of who I am today so I baulk at getting rid of it.

By now I'm thoroughly hooked on the journaling aspect of blogging, I'm now prone to responding to events by reaching for my camera and thinking "I have to blog this!" (I'm not always quick enough with the camera though.) I have visions of the kids, or indeed myself, reading this stuff years from now (to which end I may use this one day). I love being part of the blogging community. I love the laughter, learning, challenges to think, companionship, the chance to commune with like minded people, the discovery of common ground in diversity.

And I get a huge kick out of the fact that there are people out there who have never met me and actually want to read what I write.

Yeah, time to 'fess up, it's all about the ego boost folks. So leave comments dammit!

I thought we didn't do Valentine's Day

But apparently Adam does.


He went out to take his mum to a doctor's appointment at 7:45am and found himself outside the florist that he used to buy flowers at for me back when we were first going out. When he brought them home I was downstairs, Tom let Adam in the front door, said "I'll take those to mum", grabbed the roses and presented them to me as I dragged myself half-awake up the stairs. It was all very romantic :)

Then we spent the next 5 hours frantically cleaning the house up because we were having a whole bunch of people over for a BBQ. Which was lovely. And now I am going to bed.

Friday, February 13, 2009


Yep, it's the Facebook 25 random things meme, I've been tagged often enough now that I figure it's time to do it.

  1. I have one ear that sticks out further from my head than the other. When I was in my late teens a doctor suggested I might want to have surgery to "fix" it. I didn't think it was broken, after all I can hear just fine with it thank you.

  2. When I was pregnant with David I really regretted calling the cat James. We may well have used the name for a child had it not been already taken.


  3. I usually read books so quickly that, sometimes within days, I can barely recall any details of the plot. Re-reading is thus almost as much fun as the first time through.

  4. I broke my right arm twice when I was in 1st grade. The first time was at school, I tripped over on the oval when being chased by a boy. He was chasing me because I had kissed him in class.

  5. The second time was just a few weeks after the cast from the first time had been removed. I had gone to a friend's place for a play and her mum had taken us all out for a walk with their poodle (a little one, not one of those big ones). I asked to hold the lead, the dog started running and I tripped again. My friend's mum said to me "Are you sure it's broken?" I have a vivid memory of looking at my arm and thinking "Yes! It's not meant to bend there you know!" I'm not sure if I actually said that or not...

  6. I once owned a mouse named Mrs Frisby.

  7. I still have the photocopied Desiderata that was given to me by my 5th grade teacher in December 1981. It's on the corkboard above my kitchen bench.


  8. When I was a kid I did ballet. I quit at age 12 when my teacher suggested it was time to start doing pointes classes.

  9. I have never had so much as a single puff of a cigarette.

  10. I am ridiculously fond of my ankles.

  11. If I don't write things in my diary, or at least somewhere, I forget. To wit, note to self: I have an appointment with David's teacher after school tomorrow.

  12. I am fascinated by the origins of words and the development of languages. I just googled "to wit" because I can't remember the last time I saw it written down and found this.

  13. I snore.

  14. I can drink strong coffee as I read in bed, turn the light out and be asleep within moments and not wake till the alarm goes off in the morning (or the dog gets up and comes and wags her tail at me).

  15. Clara has the loudest wag I have ever encountered.

  16. I have never plucked or otherwise altered my eyebrows.

  17. My ideal day time temperature is 22°C

  18. My house is very untidy. I am seriously considering employing a cleaner because then we would be forced to clean up the house for the cleaner.

  19. I have swum with stingrays.

  20. Last week David told me he thought my speech at Presentation Night last year was really good. I am inordinately pleased that he is apparently proud of me and not embarrassed that his mum was up there on stage.

  21. I do not have my ears pierced.

  22. When I was little I used to collect snails and keep them as pets. I loved watching their eye stalks unfolding and waving around. Snails are cool.

  23. I have been working on the same cross stitch bookmark for more than 2 years. It has been in my handbag for nearly all that time. I will finish it one day.

  24. My wedding dress is bundled up in a plastic supermarket bag on top of a bookshelf in my bedroom. I have never been able to feel remotely sentimental about it. I'm not even sure why I've kept it.

  25. I can not remember my kindergarten teacher's name.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Adrenalin nightcap

Earlier this evening I was suddenly seized with a craving for serious chocolate. I had no luck with my attempt to send Adam on a mission to the Guylian Cafe before he came home so when he got here, after 11pm, I decided to head out to the supermarket myself.

Look, I wouldn't have gone if we hadn't also been in dire need of sandwich meat and fruit so it's not quite as bad as it sounds.

My hunt for serious chocolate was a success, I now have a box of fancy Lindt morsels and they were even on sale. I haven't opened them yet because I had to tell you all this story first.

Are you fascinated so far?

I got home, got out of the car, juggled 2 bags of shopping, 2 Macca's coffees and a Macca's sundae (for Adam), managed to lock the car and then started walking across the footpath towards our garden. I was anticipating the need to dodge the resident bug catcher at the beginning of the path when suddenly my eyes refocused on a point approximately 3 inches from my nose.

A point which was occupied by a dangling, wriggling, eight legged giant which I had come thiiiiis close to walking into nose first in the dark. She was twice the size of the lovely lady I photographed on Tuesday morning and was just starting to build her web. I stopped abruptly, recoiled, swore, did not spill the coffees and then continued on down the front path examining the air in front of my nose at every step.

And now I don't feel even remotely sleepy.

Ye gods am I glad I didn't walk straight into her.


It's been a long, long time since I last played chess and I wasn't particularly good at it back then, I figured I was doing well to remember the moves for each piece and how to set up the board.

Dave and I both claimed that we had no idea what we were doing but I suspect he was trying to be kind to me, after all he has 6 months of chess club under his belt. I was doing so well right up to the point where I completely failed to notice my queen was under threat and David snaffled her up with a hoot of triumph.

We continued with our war of attrition with David getting quieter and scowlier by the minute as I cleared his pieces from the board until finally he was left with just his king and queen. At which point I skilfully backed myself into a corner and the bugger WON!

I'm so embarrassed.

War of attrition

By the way, the scratches on the board? Are cat claw marks. Don't ask.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Pretty raindrops (and spider pic)

*Warning - post contains a photo of a fairly large spider*

I almost walked into this going down the front path this morning. It's been there, right on the edge of the path for about a week now, sometimes just a little too far over and whoever is first out the door of a morning cops a face full of web. At least it was easy to see today.

Pretty raindrops.

Spiderweb in the rain

Here's the owner.

The owner

Sunday, February 08, 2009

My heart aches

My heart aches for the people, the communities, the wildlife and livestock, the farmland and bushland that have fallen victim to the horror of the bushfires in Victoria. The death toll stands at 84 people. Hundreds of homes have been lost. At least 200,000 hectares of land has been burnt out in over 400 fires all over the state.

Donations can be made via the Red Cross Victorian Bushfire Appeal - online or phone 1800 811 700.

Food and love (Part 1)

Some time ago Liz posted a piece titled Love You With Food, it ends with these lines:
There is a legacy of love and food and cooking in my family. I'm so glad to be part of it and so glad it doesn't end with me.
I wish I could say the same thing about my family. It's not that there was any lack of love, or indeed of good food, in my childhood - far from it! But somewhere along the way food became a problem instead of an uncomplicated celebration and the legacy I inherited could be better described as a fraught relationship, with food often being both the focus of special times and at the same time an enemy to be controlled and guarded against.

It's hard for me to write about this without feeling that I'm being too harsh about the choices my mum made when I was a kid and as reached my late teens. I know she was doing the best she could as a mother and many of her choices are ones I have made too. My dad played his part in shaping my relationship with food too, and mum's for that matter, but he wasn't ever much involved in the shopping and cooking side of things, he comes into play more on the emotional side and with 20/20 hindsight we now know that much of what he did was down to him being bipolar (he was diagnosed about 5 years ago).

So I'm going to talk about my good food memories first.

Liz writes about the foods her mom cooked for holiday meals, dishes that were loved by particular family members -
"something that my mother [had] made for that person. Ryan's Stove Top. Jason's Roasted Potatoes and Carrots. Jeff's Angel Food Cake. Ted's Chocolate Cream. Martha's Cheesecake."
My mum did cook special things for us, I'm told I requested veal casserole, which featured regularly at our family table, for dinner on my 3rd birthday and I remember boiled fruit cakes being made, also for birthdays. What I don't remember much of is Mum cooking anything just for the fun of it, I don't think she really liked cooking very much, so most of my good memories of food and Mum are of once off type experiences. Except for when we were camping, there were lots of camping trips and something about an open fire seemed to demand frivolous fare - damper cooked in the coals, twist bread toasted on sticks over the open fire, marshmallows all singed and gooey, jaffles made in a proper jaffle iron with their edges burnt black and filled with hot baked beans and melted cheese. Good times.

Grandma (Mum's mum) and Nana (Dads' mum) both had special things they would make for when we came to visit. Grandma did the Christmas cake every year, there were always homemade scones (apparently she used to win prizes for her scones) and slices for afternoon tea, and baked dinners at Grandma's house were often followed by a baked fruit crumble. Nana used to make a fabulously sherry drenched trifle which I famously loved so much that when I was very young I was discovered after the meal with the empty trifle dish spooning the remaining sherry out of the bottom of the dish and exclaiming "Lovely gravy!" She also made rock cakes, I think I have her recipe for them somewhere but I've never made them, must do that one day, they were good and we'd get to take home the left-over ones with us when it was time to leave. Nan's Christmas specialty was hot brandy sauce which she would nurse over "a bead of gas" for hours on end, used to drive my dad nuts. We might mock but it was awesome with Christmas pudding. My brother makes it now, he's less precious about the slow heating, it tastes about the same but it tends to separate a little and I don't remember Nan's doing that.

When I was first going out with Adam and he started coming over to our place for dinner my friends all asked him if he'd survived the ultimate culinary test. Had my mother fed him the dreaded Chicken and Broccoli*? Of course the answer was yes, it was one of my mum's staple feeding of guests dishes, I loved it but I gather it caused much trauma to my friends over the years.

Oh, here's another one! Each year we would go to the Royal Easter Show, almost always on the Thursday before Good Friday. Mum and Dad would come and pick us up from school at lunchtime and we'd spend the afternoon and evening at the show, coming home after the fireworks display. The food that was available at the show back then was truly awful, overpriced and almost exclusively deep-fried, pretty much my mother's worst nightmare in food terms, so Mum would try and take food with us so we wouldn't have to buy dinner there. One year she made Cornish Pasties, they were awesome, I have the most vivid memory of unwrapping them from their foil packages, dolloping tomato sauce on them and savouring every bite. As far as I can recall this was the only time Mum ever made them.

When we were living in the US, in Boulder, Colorado, my mum perfected the high altitude pavlova. I gather her first attempt as per cooking in Sydney was not a success but pretty soon she had it down to a fine art and the Aussie dessert (yeah yeah, I know, shut up you Kiwis and let us cling to our illusions :P) was shared far and wide. Or, you know, with anyone who came to dinner or at any "bring a plate" function. I seem to remember there was some re-adjustment required on returning to Sydney, Mum being unable to remember what she used to do before the high altitude tweaks were made.

I'm actually really reaching for good memories here. I know there must have been many, many wonderful meals and a great deal of my mother's love for the family poured into providing for us. It kind of scares and saddens me that the not so wonderful stuff has overshadowed the good stuff so much. In fact, I'm getting a bit depressed thinking about it, don't know when I'll ever get around to writing Part 2....

*BBQ chook cut up, placed in a casserole dish with a layer of steamed broccoli on top. Then pour over a can of cream of mushroom soup mixed with some milk, thyme, lemon juice and maybe extra mushrooms, sprinkle with grated cheese and bake till hot and bubbly with the cheese nicely browned. Serve over rice and glare at any child that dares protest (my sister wasn't a fan and nor are my kids sadly).

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Other Mother is here


I've been exploring the Coraline movie website, so much awesome! I particularly like the clip showing the miniature knitting (it's in the top drawer under the mirror in Coraline's bedroom). I'm extremely peeved that here in Australia we have to wait till MAY for the cinema release *grumbles*

I have to confess I haven't read the book yet, but I did read an excerpt from it in the Nebula Awards Showcase anthology for 2003, the year in which Coraline won the novella category.

Oh well, at least I've got plenty of time to grab myself a copy of the novella and the graphic novel before I go see the movie.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Snippets revisited

Caitlin's a total drama queen so, yeah, she did have a bit of a difficult day but she gets over these things pretty quickly too. Thanks everyone for the kind words :)

The hat reappeared the next day, as I knew it would, I'm well trained in the clear labeling of kids clothes. Working in the Uniform shop at the school taught me that much, at the end of each year we'd get the unclaimed stuff from Lost Property to resell through the shop - so many things with no names in them! Lost Property is a peculiar repository in which clothing that has been missing for many weeks will occasionally mysteriously reappear but which almost never holds the item you lost in the last day or so.

The fruit bread sangers were not a hit, both Cait and Tom had left half uneaten.

The reason the kids' classes usually aren't organised before the beginning of the year is that when student numbers at a school are borderline for getting another teacher allocated (as we always seem to be) they end up having to wait till they're sure everyone who is going to enroll for the year has done so and that there are no kids who did enroll but aren't going to turn up. Otherwise they might find they've formed classes with the expectation of having, say, 16 teachers only to have the Dept of Education say oops, sorry, you can only have 15 teachers and end up having to reshuffle all the kids into new classes a couple of weeks down the track.

As far as I know David is getting on just fine in Mr M's class, I'm not asking too many questions at this stage ;-) I will make an appointment some time soon to have a chat with Mr M just to give him a bit of a heads up on some of Dave's little quirks, though I'm quite sure he's had a very thorough briefing from Dave's previous teachers.

The composite class thing doesn't really worry me as far as the academic side of things goes, because of the size of the school there are a lot of composite classes and the teachers have plenty of experience in making it work. Most of the steep learning curve with letters and writing seems to happen in kindy now and they'll have put the more competent kids from last year's kindy class into the year 1 half of Tom's class.

The rest of this week has been dominated by an ear infection which had me feeling pretty rotten for a couple of days (almost better now though) and the dreaded covering of books with bloody contact. I swear I used to be able to do it perfectly every time. Well, not any more! Bubbles of air, creases, crooked edges, covers cut too small so there's not enough to fold over the edge and, my favourite, the cover ending up too tight and the corners bending up in a lovely half bowl shape. Bugger.

The 9th Down Under Feminists Carnival is up.

This month's carnival is hosted at The Hand Mirror. As always, lots of great reading to be done - perfect for a too-bloody-hot-to-go-outside weekend!

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Snippets from the first week back at school

In the morning on the day the kids were placed in their classes David was pale-faced and anxious, dreading getting the deputy principal as his teacher. This very likely result did indeed eventuate which was not at all surprising as I had had conversations with the teachers at the end of last year in which we agreed that Mr M (who is a lovely person and, from what I've heard, a great teacher) would be the best option for Dave this year. David mock scowls at me, knowing I've had a hand in his fate.

When I came to pick them up Caitlin was in tears because her best friend is not in her class, but very happy about her teacher for the year. We promise many play-dates to compensate for this cruel separation. With any luck Caitlin will broaden her circle of friends, I wouldn't be at all surprised if this is what the staff had in mind when they formed the classes.

Tom, thrilled to be back at school, was entirely content with his teacher but assured me none of his friends are in his class. In fact he can't remember any of the people in his class. Further investigation reveals that he has exaggerated just a bit, and anyway Tom's happy to play with anyone really. He's in a composite class, years 1 and 2. Great, he's already twice the size of half his year and now he's in a class with a bunch of even younger kids. I worry that his self-consciousness about his size might be exacerbated by this situation, I hope my worry is unfounded.

Yesterday as we left the school our lovely librarian was on crossing duty. For some reason she had with her a new book which she had been showing to Tom's class in library that afternoon. Tom had started to tell me all about it as soon as he came out of class and, spotting the book in her hand, brazenly asks to borrow it. The book hasn't even been processed into the library yet, it has no plastic cover, no stickers and no label identifying it as property of the school. So of course she says yes to him. Apparently it's something about his enthusiasm for reading and books, makes him irresistible to librarians.

This morning when it comes to sandwich making time I discovered we had run out of bread. Fabulous, one week in and I'm failing school parent 101. Luckily there was a loaf of raisin bread in the freezer, fruit bread sandwiches all round!

This afternoon saw Caitlin's first ever loss of a hat. You'd have thought her world was coming to an end. When I saw the look on her face as she came out of class I thought something truly hideous had happened and braced myself for damage control. When she confessed the terrible tale of the missing hat I'm afraid all I felt was an enormous irritation that something so trivial was causing so much angst. Perhaps I'd feel differently if my kids were prone to losing stuff but I don't think any of them have ever lost anything at school, at home yes, all the time, but not while at school. I know kids who lose hats and jackets on at least a monthly basis, sometimes weekly!

I'm on Canteen duty tomorrow. What's the bet I can't remember the price on a single thing we sell?

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Seventeen years

In September of 1988, one month shy of my 18th birthday I went to a party I had not been invited to. My best mate's girlfriend had been invited so we figured that was close enough. I knew a fair few of the people there, well, their faces and names at any rate, they were people who had been 2 years ahead of me at high school. It was a pretty good party, we danced and were silly and there may have been some booze involved (ok, there was definitely half a bottle of vodka involved but SHHH don't tell my mum!*). My parents were away on holiday for the weekend, I don't remember why I didn't go with them, I didn't have a job or anything, maybe I was supposed to be studying for the HSC? Anyway, at the end of the night my friends and I were heading back to my place to continue festivities and, um, I took this guy home with me (it's ok Mum - NOTHING HAPPENED!). Except here we are twenty years later and I still haven't got rid of him.

Three and a bit years later we got married.

Yesterday we abandoned the kids with my mum (or perhaps abandoned my mum with the kids?) and took ourselves off into the city for a bit of celebratory eating, theatre going, yep, that's what hotel rooms are for you know.

We had dinner at East Chinese Restaurant at Circular Quay then popped over to Portobello Cafe for coffee and tiramasu before wandering down to the Opera House to see The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged). We were a little early for the show so we sat on one of the benches looking over the harbour and watched the sun set.

The show was brilliant and hysterically funny. Adam and I had seen it before but neither of us remembered it very clearly and it has a significant element of improvisation and topical references, I'd go again in a heartbeat, in fact we're thinking if the opportunity arises we'll take the kids next time too. Nothing quite like laughing so hard it brings tears to the eyes, good for the soul that is.

On the way back to the hotel (we were staying overnight at the InterContinental) we picked up some chocolates from the Guylian Cafe, there's still half of them left for tonight, I'm hiding them from the kids.

This morning we were not woken by a dog's tail wagging with great force against the bookshelves beside our bed, or by a small boy climbing onto our bed and talking non-stop to said dog, or by the sound of children fighting. Instead we woke of our own accord - AT 6:15AM! Well, I did anyway, Adam was snoring gently still. I managed to drift off again till about 7:45am and then took another 45 minutes to actually get out of bed. We had breakfast at the buffet and then headed for home.

Happy wedding anniversary Adam. Thank you for a lovely evening and for 17 years of putting up with me. You're my best friend, a wonderful hubby and terrific dad, I love you.

*I know, this will be the day she finally remembers to check that link I sent her *waves* Hi Mum!