Sunday, May 23, 2010

Blacktown Medieval Fayre

Unknown Mami

I have a new apron dress! This is very exciting! No, really!

It started with a beautiful length of handwoven woollen cloth made by the very talented Pat which I bought at the Armidale Easter camp. I made a piece of tablet weaving with the intention of using it for the straps on the dress. The cloth and the braid sat looking at me expectantly while I dithered for weeks on account of really having no idea what to do next. Then this morning, I was talking to Deb, and the subject of how much I hate sewing came up, one thing led to another, a little bit of barter came in to play, and the next thing I know she's hand sewing my dress for me, with an antler needle and hand-spun woollen thread and using hand-made brass pins no less! And the best bit? Not one scrap of either the cloth or the braid was wasted.

Me in my new apron dress with Deb, seamstress extraordinaire.

My new apron dress

We were at the Blacktown Medieval Fayre with the Ancient Arts Fellowship as part of a living history display this weekend.

The Ancient Arts Fellowship encampment

Ancient Arts Fellowship encampment

Adam had his pole lathe set up and we had the tent with our replica Viking bed on display.

The kids hanging out in our tent

The kids in our tent

The group's camp kitchen attracted much interest as various meals were cooked, lunch on Saturday was coq au vin, Saturday dinner was beef stew with dumplings while Sunday lunch was pumpkin soup with bacon and sour cream followed by a lamb stew.

Adam in the kitchen

Adam in the kitchen

Beef stew with dumplings

Beef stew with dumplings

The Craft Geteld

The craft geteld

The Craft Geteld housed a display of textiles crafts, we had drop spindle spinning of both wool and flax, tablet weaving, sewing, naalbinding, embroidery, viking wire weaving and finger loop braiding happening at various times during the day.

That empty seat next to Deb is where I spent most of today.

Spinning, weaving, sewing

There was jousting, fighting, executions, pike and musket drills, theatrical swordplay, plenty of market stalls and even free pony and camel rides. Tom had three camel rides and neither Adam or I were there to take a photo of any of them. Independent kids are such a trial!

I was going to throw a whole bunch of other photos in here too but my Flickr upload is taking for freakin' EVER and I am very, very tired. So I'm going to bed. But I may add more photos in the morning. Or I might not. Who knows!

Don't forget to head on over to Unknown Mami's to see what's being shared by all the other fabulous Sundays in My City bloggers!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Friday fragments - flotsam and jetsam edition

Mommy's Idea
Hosted by Mrs4444.

I seem to have rediscovered my blog this week and gone on a bit of a posting spree, so that's been good. Wonder how long that will last.

Anyway, let's see if there's any bits and pieces still floating around inside this brain of mine...*rattle* ...*hang on, tip it the other way* ...*look, there's something stuck in there* ...*clatter* ...*plink* ...*watch it! it's getting away!* ....*clunk* ...*splash!* ...*damn it! you dropped it overboard!*....*quick, grab the net* ....*splosh*...*thunk* ...*right, here we go* ...*hmmm, not much here really*...


I followed up last week's comedy of errors by completely forgetting that I had to take Tom to be fitted for Band uniform trousers at the school at some point this week and received a firmly expressed email reminder last night that today was the last day. Oops. We went this morning.


I also ended up with Tom home sick on Monday and by Wednesday the lurgi had well and truly got me too. On Thursday I didn't get out of bed until after the kids came home from school. I'm currently feeling very grateful for my 2 half days of work a week that I can actually do from home if I need to and a husband who picks up the slack without hesitation (or indeed even being asked) when I'm out of commission.

The fish in the tank we gave Adam's mum for Christmas have been breeding. She started with 4 platies and ended up with about 40. Her tank is not big enough for that many platies, but ours is, so Adam did a couple of fish relocations and we now have at least 20 cute little red and black platy babies in our big fish tank. I'm not sure what we do if they all keep breeding at this rate. Perhaps we annoy all my kids' friends' parents by giving baby fish as birthday presents. I'm sure that'd be a huge hit.


Now for some things I've found floating around the intertubes this week.

Dr Who meets Castle Anthrax, beware spoilers for "Vampires of Venice"

The world's biggest beaver dam. Beaver are pretty amazing, they transform the landscape and these ones have built a structure that can be seen from space.
"Researcher Jean Thie said...he used satellite imagery and Google Earth software to locate the dam, which is about 850 metres (2,800 feet) long on the southern edge of Wood Buffalo National Park."
Photo credit: (AFP/HO/S. Anderson)

"Ignore Stephen Baldwin - Restore Joss Whedon" - seriously bizarre, but not nearly so bizarre as the original video on which this one is based, which sadly I can't show you as it's been made private. Can't imagine why they've done that...

"Brontë Sisters Power Dolls" - I want a Brontësaurus for my birthday please.


That's the lot from me on this fabulous Friday (well, it's pretty fabulous now that's it's over, it wasn't looking quite so attractive at the beginning of the day). For more Friday Fragments head on over to Half-Past Kissin' Time!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Linkfest No. 17

Stuff I thought was worth sharing...

Karen Healey, at Attention Rebellious Jezebels, reviews books "in dialogue style in a spoilerific manner that often renders in-depth, wonderful works nonsensical" and is also highly amusing.

Charlotte of Charlotte's Library asks Where are the Good Mothers in Middle Grade Science Fiction and Fantasy?

Ladysquires at Shitty First Drafts explains Why I'm Not Proud of You for Correcting Other People's Grammar.

On the subject of the Ethics Classes trial:

Domestic violence is bad because...

I don't usually pay much attention to all those Facebook chain statuses. You know, the ones that try to guilt you into reposting them by implying that not doing so makes you mean and selfish and heartless. I skim read them, feel a moment of irritation, and then move on. But this one stopped me in my tracks. It just felt so wrong.

"While you SCREAM at your woman, there's a man wishing he could talk softly in her ear...While you HUMILIATE, OFFEND and INSULT her there's a man flirting with her and reminding her how wonderful she is. While you HURT your woman, there's a man wishing he could make love to her. While you make your women CRY there's a man stealing smiles from her. Post this on your wall if you're against Domestic Violence...."

The way it frames domestic violence as bad because there might be another man who will take your woman away by being nice to her strikes me as a positively dangerous idea to be encouraging in the mind of an abusive partner. And it feels to me as though it turns the woman into an object to be won by a man rather than a human being with rights and autonomy.

Tell me, does anyone see anything good about that quote? Presumably the people who are posting as their status on Facebook do...

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


All is quiet
Down in the box

Spy hole

Until Somebody opens the Lid


*ahem* ok, we are not amused, got it...sorry...

Disturb me if you dare

NB No lids were harmed used in the making of this post.

Monday, May 10, 2010

A few words from an Ethics trial class student

My niece attends one of the schools involved in the Ethics classes trial. Yesterday her mum posted a photo on Facebook of an article appearing in their local Village Voice newspaper in which Annika is quoted on the subject of the ethics classes.

Click to embiggen

"I think the ethics classes are really fun," Leichhardt Year 5 student Annika Rees said. "The teacher gives us situations like whether we think something is fair or not, and then we discuss the topic and give our own opinions. It's important because it gives us an opportunity to see other people's point of view and perspectives on things without anyone being right or wrong. That means we feel like we won't be judged on our answers and gives us a chance to justify what our perspectives are."

So there you go, a small glimpse of the view from inside the Ethics classes trial :-)

(Also, way to go Annika!)

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Sundays In My City

Unknown Mami
Hosted by Unknown Mami

Today I was treated to breakfast in bed. I received flowers, tea and chocolates, lots of cuddles, and the mini french press for coffee that I've been coveting for a while. Then I lay in bed with my book, my laptop (so I could write my post for my Mum) and a cup of tea for an utterly indulgent extra couple of hours. I had to get up in the end because the amazing smells that were drifting through the house as Adam cooked up an Anglo-Saxon feast for lunch were making my tummy rumble.

We sat on the front deck for lunch with the sun filtering down through the tree branches and the occasional leaf falling into our plates.

We mostly don't get proper autumn leaves here in Sydney, they just go vaguely yellow-brown and fall off.

Looking up through the liquid amber tree

Lunch was an Anglo-Saxon feast.

Mother's Day 2010

Afterwards I took my camera into our front garden to capture the little bits of autumn colour we do get. Our tibouchina trees are in bloom with masses of purple flowers.

Tibouchina flower.

Tibouchina bloom

The bees are making the most of the last few grevillea flowers.

Grevillea and bee

I hope all you wonderful mums out there had a fantastic Mother's Day. I've been thinking of those for whom Mother's Day is a difficult time, I hope for you that there was kindness and love in your day from the people around you and possibly chocolate too.

To my Mum on Mother's Day

While I'm on canteen duty at my son's high school on Thursday one of the teachers comes in and hangs around for a while talking about some of the stuff going on at the school. As tends to happen I ended up mentioning that I was an ex-student and that my mum had taught there.

"Oh! I know Barbara! When she left it was like this lovely warm gentle presence had left the school, she's wonderful!" I've had pretty much the same reaction from every teacher I've met at the school, and I love hearing it every single time. I grin with proprietry pride and agree, yep, that's my Mum.

I have lost count of the number of people who have told me how great they think Mum is, my friends, her workmates, my neighbours, her neighbours, my gardeners (they do her place to). I'm never surprised to hear it and I always agree wholeheartedly because they're all absolutely right!

Mum, you're always there when you're needed (for far too many people!) and I appreciate so much everything you do for us - your many hours of help with the kids, especially with their homework, your support for me when things get a bit rough, the holidays we've had together, the meals we've shared, the conversations we (not often enough!) have. I love so much that we can be completely honest and open with each other, that I never feel judged by you.

I admire your drive and energy, you make me feel exhausted just thinking about the things you do. There's no way I could have driven to Katoomba, climbed down the 800 steps of the Giant Stairway and walked round to the Scenic Railway, driven home again and then put on a beautiful baked leg of lamb and red wine poached pears dinner the way you did for us yesterday. One or the other in one day for me - not both!

Mum, thank you for being you, thank you for being a fabulous mum, a wonderful grandma and an all round amazing person.

I love you. Lots.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Fragments from a fractured week

Mommy's Idea
Hosted by Mrs4444.

I've had better weeks than this one just gone, but I've had worse too. I'm writing this sitting in my sun drenched lounge room looking out at blue sky and listening to birds in the garden and thinking life's not so bad really. It helps that I've just unloaded all the brain clutter from the week here for your entertainment. Or not. Whatever :-)


On Wednesday morning I was woken early by Jack as he sneaked up on to the end of our bed and stealthily crept right up my leg, over my hip and settled on my ribcage. Pretty much a complete failure of covert operations I have to say - there's a lot of cat there and the paw pressure is quite significant. The dog wasn't fooled either and she has a policy that states that if Mummy is cuddling someone else then there must be simultaneous Clara cuddles. So I end up with a husband on one side, a dog on the other and a cat on the top. Cosy. Then Clara snuggled a little closer and stuck her nose right up against Jack's. I held my breath for the inevitable claw-swipe...and Jack reached forward and began grooming Clara's forehead. We've come a long way from the mutual loathing and murderous impulses of their initial relationship.


I wrote a fairly long paragraph here about a stressful afternoon with one of my kids but then decided there's really no need to record the details for posterity. Suffice to say that I spent Wednesday afternoon and evening going through a very familiar cycle that involves a lot of raised voices, at least half a box of tissues, lots of challenging conversation and very little school work getting done for the time involved.


Thursday started with an alarm that didn't go off and us therefore waking up about 30 minutes before Adam and David were supposed to be heading off to work and school respectively and an hour before Caitlin was due at school (for an extra before school thing). I therefore didn't shower before driving Caitlin and Tom to school, arriving 6 minutes late. Adam and Dave left about 15 minutes late. I came home, got myself sorted out and headed over to the high school 30 minutes late for canteen duty, only to find that I wasn't even rostered on this week - I'm on next week. Brilliant. I stayed anyway because they were short-handed and now won't have to go next week, so that's something I guess!


I do this thing when I have paid work to do at home where I just can't seem to get stuck into it unless either the house is empty or everyone in it is asleep. I had work to do on Thursday that needed to be finished by Friday morning and, because I wasn't home while the kids were at school, I didn't end up starting it until midnight. I sent the critical email off at 4am and went to bed cursing myself for being an idiot. Adam very kindly left me in bed when the alarm went off and got the kids off to school and I spent a lovely relaxing morning pretending I had no responsibilities. I hope that doesn't mean I forfeit a similar experience on Sunday.


My very lovely husband has purchased tickets for us to go and see Bill Bailey perform at the State Theatre on July 23rd, can't wait!


That's all from me folks! Now, head on over to Half-Past Kissin' Time for more Friday Fragments!

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Thursday is Scripture day at school

This afternoon Tom came home with a 1964 pre-metric Australian penny that he'd been given by his Scripture teacher for remembering the weekly Bible verse. I asked what the verse was and he quoted - Peter said "You are the messiah, son of the living God." I asked if he thought that what the Bible claimed Peter had said was true and he looked at me like I was silly and said "No" with an undercurrent of "Duh!" So then I asked if he'd told his Scripture teacher that he didn't believe it, and he answered "HELL NO!" Which struck me as rather amusing. It also made me go and print out Penny Sharpe's petition in support of the St James Ethics Centre school ethics classes trial.

The provision by law of a period of time each week for Special Religious Education, taught by volunteer "scripture teachers" recruited by the churches, in NSW schools is a legacy of a deal made between the government and the churches back when public education was just being established. The Education Department ruling that students who opt out of SRE may not be given any useful instruction during that period is not codified in law, is unjust, and must be challenged.

My kids go to Scripture because they'd rather stay in their classrooms with their friends than go to the library and twiddle their thumbs. Approximately once a month I remind them that they have the option of not going, if the alternative was something other than thumb twiddling I'd haul them out of SRE so fast you wouldn't see them for dust. I feel a vague guilt that I'm not making a point by having them opt out, but it doesn't feel right to use my kids as pawns in a political or ideological exercise so I let the decision rest with them. No doubt if we lived in an area with a higher proportion of non-religious types there'd be a critical mass of kids opting out and my lot would be in the library watching dvds and colouring in along with half the school.

The St James Ethics Centre has developed a course designed to provide "an ethics-based complement to SRE" and which can be offered as a "meaningful secular alternative during the allocated time for SRE." This ethics course is currently being trialled in 10 Primary Schools in NSW despite frantic efforts to stop the trial, in particular by the Anglican and Catholic churches. There is also an ongoing campaign being waged against the possibility of the Ethics course being favourably reviewed at the end of the trial and subsequently being rolled out to all schools.

I really, really hope that the trial is a huge success and that the decision makers in the Education Dept and in the NSW parliament do not allow themselves to be swayed by the loud voices of a well organised religious lobby and I'm not going to simply hold my breath and hope over this, I'm going to do what I can to make my voice heard and let the government know that there are many, many voters who disagree vehemently with the things being said by people like Peter Jensen. I'll be writing emails and voting in polls and talking to people in my community and I think I'll print out a few more copies of that petition and get to collecting signatures, if you live in NSW you might consider doing the same.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

24th Down Under Feminists Carnival

The 24th Down Under Feminists Carnival is being hosted by FrankiePhD at her PhD Research Blog. The optional theme this month was “community” and as always there's plenty of great writing covering a whole range of other themes too. Get thee hence and do some reading!

Tuesday, May 04, 2010


When I was a kid scones were always on the menu at Grandma's house. I'm told she used to make prize-winning cheese scones back in the day and I certainly have vivid memories of cheese scones for afternoon tea in the lounge room at Epping. I can remember exactly how they tasted, and the Tupperware container that the left-overs were put away in, and wishing I could have just one more but not asking because I knew my mum and my grandma would both frown on such an expression of greed. I don't cook cheese scones myself, mostly because the lure of jam and cream is too hard to resist.

I learned how to cook scones from my Mum so long ago that I don't remember not knowing how, but it was my dad's sister, my Aunty Meg, who taught me how to cook awesome scones. Aunty Meg lived in Melbourne and we didn't see her very often, but her visits were always quite memorable. One time when she was visiting, and staying at our place, my parents were on morning tea duty at church. So Meg decided she would cook scones for the whole congregation. This was no big deal apparently because she had for some years owned a cafe restaurant which specialised in Devonshire teas and for which she cooked all the scones, so a mere congregation's worth - no worries!

Whenever I cook scones I can see Meg standing there in my mum's kitchen, bossing everyone around and explaining to me what made a good scone.


Tonight I was seized with the scone baking urge and when I asked "Dates or plain?" the internets said "Both" which is why I have photos of two batches of scones, one lot plain, the other with raisins (turned out I didn't have any dates).

Close up scones

I very much doubt there's anything particularly special about my version of the ubiquitous scone recipe, but I thought if I was going to taunt you with food pron I'd better give you the recipe too.

2 cups self raising flour
2 tablespoons butter
1 pinch salt
1 dessert spoon of sugar
1 cup of milk

Pre-heat oven to 210°C and line a tray with baking paper.
Combine flour salt and sugar in a mixing bowl.
Cut the butter into small pieces and rub into the flour mix with your fingertips, you're done when there are no more lump in the flour (never have understood this fine breadcrumbs thing - doesn't bear any resemblance at all!).
At this point you can add chopped dried dates or raisins or sultanas if you like - half a cup or thereabouts.
Add the milk, reserving a small amount for brushing on the scones before baking.
Mix with a knife until dough just comes together - the less handling the better. The dough may seem quite wet, that's ok.
Dust a pastry board with flour and tip the dough out onto the board.
Knead VERY gently - I barely do more than just push the dough together and fold it in on itself a couple of times.
Flatten dough into a disc about 3cm thick and cut scones with a round pastry cutter - push straight down and don't twist the cutter, that'll make the scones rise all wonky.
Place on the paper lined tray and brush tops with milk.
Bake for around 12-15 minutes - keep an eye on them - they're cooked when they're a nice golden brown on top and sound hollow when tapped.

When you take the scones out of the oven you can wrap them in a clean tea towel if you want - it'll give them a softer crust. Or you can just go ahead and break them open and eat 'em - that works too.

Jam and cream

Monday, May 03, 2010

Shh, don't tell anyone...

...I've decided to start doing the Couch to 5K program - henceforth C25K on account of keystroke rationing.

I wasn't going to tell anyone, I was just going to quietly get on that treadmill of mine downstairs and see where it took me (yeah, yeah, I know - not very far. /preemptive parenthetical joke). But Twitter was right there and before I knew it my thoughts had leaped from my fingertips to keyboard, serious contemplation became an actual decision and there were a whole bunch of friends saying "Cool idea, we might do it too!"

You won't read anything about it on the blog here but if you want to see where I'm at/point and laugh/join the fun and do it along with me then pop on over to my newly minted Mim's Muddle Facebook page, that's where I'll be whinging and gloating as I go.

Btw, it's all Liz, Em & Penny's fault.