Dec 31, 2012

Year's End, 2012

Another year, another questionnaire...

This one is copied from Kath at Blurb From The Burbs, with thanks.

1.What did you do in 2012 that you’d never done before?
Broke a bone.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
Didn't make any last year. Will be making some this year (will post them separately).

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Yes! My sister had her beautiful second baby, a daughter, this month.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
Yes. My aunt passed away earlier this year, which was a shock to us all. I still can't quite believe it.

5. What countries did you visit?

6. What would you like to have in 2013 that you lacked in 2012?
A laundry, but I won't have it in 2013 either.

7. What dates from 2012 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
10 June - my aunt passed away. Two days before I travelled up to the NSW Central Coast with my dad to bring my grandfather down to see her, and we didn't make it back in time. It was a very difficult time.

18 June - we arrived in Greece and I broke my arm.

10 December - my niece was born.

25 December - Christmas - lovely this year.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Changing my job, working style and personal equilibrium (small part achievement, greater part luck).

9. What was your biggest failure?
Sorry to be boring, but failing to lose weight.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Yes, I broke my arm. A bad spiral fracture in June that ended up needing surgery, and is still not fully healed.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Time off, and tickets to Greece - both with my redundancy money.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
I was very proud of A, who had a difficult year at school. Starting Grade 1 without any friends in her class, she was anxious and upset for much of the first half of the year, but gradually turned it around. I heard her a few times giving herself a pep talk or talking herself out of being sad or worried, and she learned to approach new people and join in their games. I was very, very proud of her.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
Mine - couple of times while my arm was broken I cried/got tantrumy in front of the kids.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Mortgage; financing a few months off work; overseas holiday.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Our trip to Greece. My first trip overseas in more than ten years, first time back in Greece since 2000, Y's first time back since 2003, and the girls' first overseas trip and first time meeting their Greek relatives. I was excited and very nervous/worried. But I needn't have worried, it was all wonderful.

16. What song will always remind you of 2012?
What else: Gangnam Style!

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: (a) happier or sadder? (b) thinner or fatter? (c) richer or poorer?
(a) Happier
(b) Fatter
(c) Poorer
What a funny correlation.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

20. How will you spend New Year's Eve?
At home, in front of the TV or reading a book. Excellent!

21. Did you fall in love in 2012?
Nah, I'm married!

22. What was your favourite TV program?

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
No. Who hates?

24. What was the best book you read?
Traffic: Why we drive the way we do and what it says about us by Tom Vanderbilt. Fascinating.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Adele. Yep, I know I'm a year or so behind.

26. What did you want and get?
Part-time work!

27. What did you want and not get?
An extension and a spruced-up deck.

28. What was your favourite film of this year?
You know, I quite liked Salmon Fishing in the Yemen.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
On my actual birthday, home with Y and the kids. A few days later, dinner out with a couple of friends. Both lovely. I'm now 43. *sobs quietly*

30. What one thing made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Part-time work.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2012?

32. What kept you sane?
Part-time work.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Well, there was something about Damian Lewis in Homeland...

34. What political issue stirred you the most?
Syria. WTF.
Gay marriage. Just legalise it already.

35. Who did you miss?
My aunt. Even though we didn't see her often, I loved her and she was a big personality and I still can't believe she's gone.

36. Who was the best new person you met?
This one stumps me. I don't know. Did I not meet any new people all year? I guess it's possible.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2012.
Global roaming really is very, very expensive. Set your phone to wifi only when overseas. Learned this one the hard way...

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
I love that famous song about the woman who switches to part-time work, goes to Greece and breaks her arm, learns to relax and take things slower, wishes she had more money, and watches her kids grow into pre-tweens. What's it called again...?

Dec 29, 2012

Bento Box Dinners

This is a good variation on the picnic dinner for fun simple meals in a hurry.

After two weeks of eating tons of junk (birthdays, Christmas, tired parents), and M having suffered a bout of gastro, we needed some healthy and simple food.

Last night Y barbecued steak before heading out to work, and it was bloody delicious. It was tender, cooked just perfectly, and marinated in Y's standard (but effective) olive oil and salt. God damn, that was one beautiful steak.  Add some quickly chopped cucumber, spring onion, feta and tomato and that was my dinner sorted. (Well, I intended to chop the salad but I actually just sat at the bench and ate the steak on its own).

I was serving plain pasta, dry toast and grated apple for M, and wanted a simple meal for A. A is not a fan of most meat and eats very little of it, especially red meat. She has never liked steak.

But why make something extra when there was perfectly amazing and delicious cooked meat right there? I decided to try her on some steak.

Now, I know all about the idea that you shouldn't pander to kids to get them to eat healthy food, shouldn't get sucked into cutting food into fun shapes, etc. Before I had kids I too scoffed at things like dinosaur pasta.

But, for a bit of fun, and to make a healthy meal easy and enjoyable, I used some dinosaur pasta and served it all up in boxes. Why not?

I found two "bento boxes" in my chaotic plastics cupboard. One was a segmented melamine tray for serving nibbles, and one was a plastic lunchbox with a smaller plastic snack box inside.

On A's tray: dinosaur pasta, steak chopped up small, and grated apple.
In M's box: dinosaur pasta, dry toast cut up small, and grated apple.

They LOVED it. Not only did their poor ravaged little bodies crave and vacuum up the simple healthy food, but the boxes were a huge hit. Both girls loved the pasta, and both hoovered up everything in their little boxes and came back for more. And A ate all her steak!

Dinner tonight:

Crumbed fish fillets from the freezer, cooked in the oven.
Y made tomato, spring onion and cucumber salad.
I boiled up dino pasta and chopped up carrots, feta, extra tomato without salad dressing, and apple.

Everything went on the table. Y and I ate from shared plates of fish and salad, M ate her sliced tomato and A ate her feta, and the girls also ate from their "bento boxes":  cut up fish, dinosaur pasta, cut up raw carrot, and chopped apple.

Success and happiness, two nights in a row!

Dec 24, 2012

To All a Good Night

It seems a little pointless posting something right on Christmas Eve when I've not touched my computer or looked at my blog in three weeks. But I didn't want to let Christmas go by without a quick simple post wishing everyone a lovely Christmas.  Whatever you are doing, I hope it is joyful, or at least not too stressful, depressing, disappointing, lonely or sad (as Christmas can be).

I had pre-Christmas things I planned to write - jaunty, faux-stress complaints about shopping for presents, and the like - but then Newtown Connecticut happened, and nothing could be said.

Of course, we could say that anytime. There are atrocities happening daily in Syria, in every country, in houses in our suburbs.

What is the point?

I don't know. Or I think I do. The point is just to live, to go on as best we all can, bring up our children and nurture our relationships and families. Because we don't know how long we have them, and however long it is, is a gift and the meaning of life.

In the meantime, over the last few days and into the next few, I am taking my own advice:

Merry Christmas to you

Dec 4, 2012

Moderation, Truth and the Middle

What are the wisest and most useful words in the history of human thought?

"Moderation in all things"
- Terence, 2nd century BC 

Not only is this known by everyone to be absolutely true, many other philosophies and much of what we believe can also be summed up by this one.

It not only applies to the best way to live a life (not too much of anything, nor too little), but it can be applied to ways of thinking, and what to believe.

My own philosophy is:  

The truth is (almost) never at the extremes.

See? "almost never", not "never". Because never is an extreme. And sometimes, occasionally, an extreme position is the truth. But... not often.

Most people mistrust extremism of any kind - and rightly too.  Most of us tread a middle path, taking what we need or what seems true and uncomfortable with the bits on the edges.

It helps with critical thinking. When you read the latest statistics or PR from a lobby group in the news, or hear about some "new" theory from an "alternative" source, consider: how extreme is the position? Because those extreme positions are unlikely to be the truth.

Image by Kittisak via

As boring as it may sound, the truth, and the best way of being, is usually somewhere in the middle of things.

Some everyday, modern day examples, from parenting:

  • We all know we're spending too much time on the internet. We worry about our kids having too much "screen time", so why shouldn't we worry about ourselves? Those studies and books showing that Google has taught us new skills and Twitter means we're smarter are comforting and interesting, but our instincts that we should spend less time on social media and more time outside are completely correct
  • I think most of us reject the currently oft-repeated advice "you can't give children/people too much praise". Of course you can. Overdo it and it's meaningless, we all know that.
  • Similarly, "you can't over-feed a baby/toddler, they self-regulate." Most do, some don't.
  • I find the advice commonly heard now that you must read to babies and tiny children every day ridiculous. ("must", "every day" and "from day one" being the extremisms here)
  • I have no doubt that breast milk is the best way to feed a baby - all other things being equal. But in the real world all other things are not equal. I find the idea that every single woman's body will always produce perfect breast milk ridiculous. I find the idea that breast milk prevents obesity or raises IQ levels ridiculous. (Nature is not in the business of creating perfectly functioning individual creatures; in nature a species or system perpetuates - there is no guarantee that every individual baby will prosper under "natural" conditions. If there was why don't all animals survive?). 
  • Natural childbirth is an admirable thing to want, but no one should feel bad about going the other way. Modern obstetrics are the reason why childbirth is no longer considered dangerous - as it was, throughout all of human history. 
  • I like the philosophies behind attachment parenting, co-sleeping and "following your baby", and  I parented my babies this way to a degree. But I find the proponents of these ideas too extreme. I find their objections to controlled crying (as if leaving a baby to cry for 5 minutes is abandoning the child in a Romanian orphanage) ridiculous
  • We don't believe in "hiding vegetables" - but sometimes we do. You know, kids need their veggies, and mostly they are not too keen on eating them. Some kids love some vegetables, some kids like them sometimes. If I think they haven't had their quota in a week, I have no problem hiding spinach in spaghetti sauce or zucchini in a cake.
  • "Never ever lie to your children." Sure - as a guiding philosophy, that is right. It's what we aim for. But occasionally, you have to lie - or at least, tell a "white lie"
  • I totally reject the idea that there is a Mummy War pitting "stay-at-home" mothers against "working" mothers. Most mummies these days do a bit of both, or one followed by the other. And "working" or "having a career" doesn't mean you are holding conference calls from the labour ward or having your children raised solely by nannies.  (At least I think it doesn't. My career has not been wildly successful so I cannot personally vouch). 

So that's my life (and maybe yours too?) in the middle.

Oh, and for those who believe in these things*, I'm a Libran

* I don't, but I'm a typical Libran anyway.

What about you - are you a "middle path" person? 
Or do you prefer life on the fringes? 

Dec 3, 2012

Head Lice!!!


Photo by Gilles San Martin via Flickr

Well, we had a good run. The last time the girls had head lice was in daycare about 4 years ago.

They're baaaaack....!

There are head lice going around at school at the moment, and all the kids have been inspected. Mine were both cleared, and I've been checking their heads for the past week, and it looked like we were OK.

Then A started complaining of an itchy head, so I checked again. Nothing.

And again. Nothing.

And again last night.... ah.

A's reaction when I told her the reason for her itchy scalp:

Me fearing Y's reaction when I told him the next morning:

Could be my husband's life philosophy.

So this was 8.30pm last night.

Yes, that's right - Homeland time.

I had no lice treatment at home, because we hadn't had lice in 4 years. I looked up The Internet for home remedies then smothered A's head in olive oil followed by yoghurt, knowing it was doing BUBKUS.

She rubbed yoghurt into my hair as my own head was feeling quite itchy by now.

We had showers, combed our hair and moved M's hairbrush into her bedroom away from ours.

M forbade either of us to cuddle or kiss her or get within a foot of her.

And today, A and I are home, with a bag of reassuringly chemical-filled lice shampoo and defense spray, and Grandma is coming round to keep us company.

Antonis Kanakis - just because.

Happy Monday!

Nov 28, 2012

The Things I Have To Do

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out. 

I saw this great quotation via @qikipedia on Twitter this week.

Gosh, I thought, in all my middle-class, first-world exhaustion, That is so true.

There is so little time in life.  We know this because we all say it, from the time we either (a) get a serious job, or (b) have children or (c) grow out of our twenties. (Or at least my twenties, pre-HECS, pre-internet, were pretty free and wide open. Not sure if that's still the case for the young 'uns today).

I went back to work when my babies were 8 months old, initially 3 days a week, building up to 5. I worked full-time for the next 4 four years, and just recently cut down to 4 days.

That extra day is a marvel, and I am so, so grateful for it. I don't know how long I can "get away with it", because our finances are not great and you know, life is expensive. Especially when you're used to having the money from 5 days' work in your bank account, but anyway, that's my failing and I'm learning to adapt (slowly).

Back when I was working full-time and my twins were toddlers/pre-schoolers/preppies and I was having a nervous breakdown every few months, I used to HATE reading about "work-life balance" and "fitting in" working and motherhood, because everything I read was written by women working part-time.

So I am trying not to bore you with the same opinions and perspectives that used to annoy me.

I will just say, that EVEN with my lovely, precious extra day, life is SHORT and Tuesdays (my day off) are SHORT - and my to-do list is LONG.

There is so little time in the day to do the things we really want to do, isn't there?

For instance, what I really want to do all day is read and write. That's it - I know, I'm horribly unbalanced, but that is what I really love and want to do.

I don't want to clean the house, plan dinners, buy groceries, dust, sort and file administrivia, do laundry or tidy my clothes. I don't want to re-evaluate our super and insurance every 12 months, compare utility providers or switch bank accounts. I don't particularly want to walk the dog. (No surprises there, the dog would grumble if he could talk).

I do love spending time with my kids, and I like feeding them (when they eat what I make), and quite like doing homework or reading with them (when they don't grumble).

So if I do a great job looking after my kids - which I mostly think I do - and I feed them and teach them and listen to them and do their laundry and watch over their emotional state and help them and love them - that is a full-time job, right?

So why do I ALSO have to do all the other house and admin stuff that comes with a grown-up life?

Not fair.

The end.

P.S.: That's not a serious question. Parenthood is a choice and it makes me very happy, blah blah blah. Doesn't mean we can't vent about how hard it all is, every now and then!

Linking up to Picklebums for Real Life Wednesday.  

Nov 27, 2012

Everyday Beauty: Small World

When I walk in suburban streets, I am usually looking straight down. There is a fascinating tiny world down there - cracks in the paving, insects scurrying, leaves and seed pods, dandelion tumbleweed, bird feathers, snails, bits of litter.

There's so much in these tiny worlds we loom above and barely see.

Check out these unbelievably spectacular photos from the Nikon Small World Photomicograph Competition, at Slate's Behold photography blog.  I especially love the slab of sedimentary agate; both familiar and alien, it's a stunning reminder of how spectacular is the world in miniature right below us.


Nov 23, 2012

How to Tell if You're Tired

I may be tired.

This morning getting dressed for work, I could not remember how to open my favourite perfume.  The one I wear every day. I picked up the bottle and turned it around in my hands and stared at it, and I could not remember how to open it.

This lasted a good few seconds.

What's more, I still didn't remember. In the end I gave the lid an experimental twist and it lifted off (ah yes - lift, not twist).

Last Friday our school had their annual Fun Fair, and because Y and I were both working, a friend very kindly took our girls home with her child after school and then took them all to the fair. At her house, M borrowed some clothes from her friend V, and off they all went to the fair, where I met them in the evening.

On Saturday I washed the clothes and hung them out to dry. They were a pair of white leggings and a cobalt blue dress.

On Tuesday the girls have Greek school with V, and it's also my day off work, so I planned to return the dress and leggings, all nicely washed and dry, that afternoon.

So on Sunday I put the leggings in a plastic bag and then looked for the dress.

I couldn't find the dress. It wasn't on the line. It wasn't in the baskets of clothes waiting to be folded and put away.

I checked again. It HAD to be on the line - I remembered hanging it there. Didn't I?

Maybe I hadn't washed it. I checked in the laundry basket. No dress.

Maybe I had put it in M's room. I checked. No dress.

I had done a heap of washing on Saturday. Maybe Y brought it in with one of the loads, and put it somewhere weird? I checked everywhere - no dress.

This went on throughout Sunday, and Monday night after work.

On Tuesday I returned the leggings to V, and told her the dress was coming as soon as I found it.

I looked everywhere. I went out to the line maybe six times to double check.

Then I had a good night's sleep.

On Wednesday morning I went to the clothes line to take in some school clothes.

And I saw this.

WTF brain!

Nov 21, 2012

Everyday Beauty: Lavender

Well, this is not really MY everyday beauty, because it's not in my neighborhood. But I was visiting, so I will take it.

Have you ever seen such lush, gorgeous lavender?

Mine never looked so good!


Nov 20, 2012

Warm Day Pleasures

I don't cope well with hot weather. What I love are those beautiful warm days at the end of spring or the end of summer, where you feel happy and energized and life feels full of promise.

Days like yesterday and today, in Melbourne.

For instance, I love:
  • Driving with the window open (instead of the air conditioning on)
  • Having my hair stay dry and in style all day (not ruined by humidity or sweat)
  • Not wearing or carrying a jacket
  • Wearing sandals to work
  • Painting my toenails and the paint lasts for days because I'm wearing sandals to work and no shoes at home
  • Listening to my kids playing outside and feeling good about that
  • Hanging out and bringing in washing without dying in the heat
  • Waking up to sunshine and birdsong (and the cat meowing for breakfast and the dog scratching on the door to come in)
  • The kids are happy to get up on time
  • Waking up comfortable - neither groggy from dark winter sleep nor bathed in summer sweat
  • Having the kids play ball with the dog and run him around till he's pooped so I don't have to walk him
  • Icy-poles outside after dinner
  • Hearing the neighbourhood kids playing ball in the street after dinner

Yesterday all these things came together. Y and I were both home and both available after work, and the four of us ate a marvelous picnic dinner together, then danced to some Greek songs the girls are learning*, ate icy-poles outside, and - the highlight for the kids - played hide and seek in the backyard until bathtime. Our backyard consists of about 3 possible hiding spaces, so God knows what the appeal is of this game in our house, but I do know that yesterday the appeal was playing with Mum and Dad at the same time.

"Best evening ever!" said A.
"My best bit was playing with Daddy," said M.
"The kids LOVED it when you played with them," I told Y.
"I guess they miss not having a brother," said Y.
"No, they want YOU!" said I.

Y is a good dad, but he's often tired from work so the evenings we tend to tag-team, with him snoozing after dinner and me going to bed earlier at night while he cleans up the kitchen. When he looks after the kids, he is often lying on the couch while they play, or they all go out "for coffee".

That's all fine, but this is also important: the whole family together laughing and dancing and playing hide and seek even if it means taking turns with the same two hiding spots down the side of the house and behind the barbecue. (There - now if you ever come to our house and play hide and seek with us, you will know straightaway where to look.)

So last night we did all that.

And because I'm a woman and a mother and a homebody and an emotional basket case, I had my happiest evening this year and had to stop myself sobbing with manic glee.

I held myself together heroically. (The kids already think Mum is loopy - no need to give them more proof).

What's your favourite kind of weather?

*Here's one of the songs -

N'Agapas - by Pantelis Thalassinos

Nov 16, 2012

The Sunshine Award

Big news readers, I have been given the prestigious, exclusive, highly coveted Sunshine Award.

Think of it like a Nobel Prize - but instead of for writers, scientists or economists it's for amazingly talented bloggers.... ;-)

What with the Liebster and now this, that book deal is surely only a matter of time!

Yes it's another meme/award thingy!

I'm actually (really) very chuffed and excited to get these, and I so appreciate it when I'm nominated.
This one has been given me by the very funny and very cool Dr Bron at Dr Bron Speaks

So thank you, Dr Bron!

The conditions of the award are:

Answer the eight questions below

Nominate and notify 10 awesome bloggers to repeat the process.

Here are the questions (and my answers):

1. What is your favorite Christmas/Holiday movie?
Jingle All The Way.

2. What is your favorite flower?
Photo by Villamon via Flickr CC
Don't laugh... carnations.

3. What is your favorite (non-alcoholic) beverage?

4. What is your passion?

5. What is your favorite time of year?

6. What is your favorite time of the day?

7. What is your favorite physical activity? 

8. What is your favorite vacation?
The Greek Islands. Obviously.

And the nominees for the next Sunshine Award (because their blogs put sunshine in my day) are....

Pandora from Princess Pandora Queen of Denial
Cath from Working Through It
PM from The Plastic Mancunian
Nicola at Stressy Mummy
Tracey from Single Married Mum
Meggsie from AMFYOYO
Melissa at From Boardroom to Babies
Catherine from Cup of Tea and A Blog
Lisa at How to be a Domestic Disgrace
Torkona from Tork's Blog

If you are not familiar with any of these great blogs, click on the links in my FAVOURITE BLOGS list on the sidebar. (yes, that's code for "I didn't embed links in the names above, sorry")

Enjoy, readers and memesters!

Nov 12, 2012

Their Preoccupations Often Frivolous

Goodness me, it is either a great time or a terrible time right now to be a Mummy Blogger!

First of all there is the term Mummy Blogger. Who doesn’t love that, eh?

Second, there has been the concern locally about PR partnerships, sponsored posts and the fairness and sensitivity (or otherwise) of how these things are marketed. Sponsored posts are causing quite the debate currently, and I do think they warrant scrutiny and care. But I also think a lot of the issues people are unhappy about will sort themselves out as the processes evolve. 

Third, here in Australia there was the recent Media Watch episode 'The Rise of the Personal Blogger' which puzzled many and displeased some, but which did raise some valid points about sponsored content. (It also contained the memorable line "Of course, some of the mummy bloggers are naive, and their preoccupations often frivolous.")

And now from the UK there is the Liz Jones piece in the Daily Mail, which appears to be designed partly to shock and partly to salve her fuming resentment of women who “don’t work”. There is plenty in that post to dissect and Ms Jones has left herself rather wide open to analysis – and plenty of bloggers will take on that happy task I am sure.

But, as someone who works almost full-time at a paid job, and works parenting 7-year-olds and managing our house, and who is happy to accept blogging as an unpaid hobby, I leave you instead with an ode to Baby Wipes. (Unsponsored).

Ode to Baby Wipes

Oh, thick, unscented baby wipes, I'd like to shake your hand
For all you make so easy, I am an ardent fan.
Our kids have not been babies now, for many fun-filled years
But you, unlike the nappies, are permanently here.

I love you for your ease of use, and all the things you do
With just a squirt of toilet gel, you help me clean the loo.
You help me take my make-up off, instead of cleansing cream
You help me clean the vanity, without elbow grease or steam.

You wipe up sticky fingers, you clean hands when there's no soap
You wipe faces quick and easily; in short you help me cope
With germs and dirt and stickiness, wherever they may lie
I'll buy you, thick unscented baby wipes, until the day I die.

Nov 11, 2012

Sugar and Spice and Puppy Dog Tails

"Sugar and spice and everything nice,
That's what little girls are made of. 
Snips of snails and puppy dog tails,
That's what little boys are made of."

'Child in Nature' by chrisroll via

Take a look at the following statements. Which ones are true, which are a myth, and which are sometimes true, or partly true?

"Girls - there's always drama. There's always someone in tears, or they're all hugging. Thank goodness, boys are not like that!"
 "Boys are straightforward. If they're mad at each other they'll have it out and move on.
 There's no bitchiness or backstabbing."
 "Boys like rough and tumble games."
 "Boys are so full of energy; they just can't sit still!"
 "Boys are pretty simple really. Very straightforward, what you see is what you get."
 "Men/boys are visual creatures."
 "Men/boys are not good at expressing their feelings."

While there is truth to some of these, and I do agree there are differences between boys and girls, I think we do our boys (and girls) a huge disservice by perpetuating the "boys are simple and straightforward" myth.

Mars Vs Venus has been discredited.

To suggest that boys are somehow wired less psychologically complex than girls is not only insulting, it is ridiculous. It makes no sense biologically or psychologically, or even logically.

I've known some sensitive "still waters" little boys, and some energetic rough and tumble girls, and I find all humans equally complex, no matter how simple their views or approach to life.

Gendered cordial by Cottees - via @Pink_Soprano on Twitter:

What bugs you about pop psychology?

Nov 10, 2012

Style and the Scarf

Being a fashion blogger, I have a keen eye for stylish sartorial statements.

Yesterday I found myself walking behind the most stylish, glamorous woman I've seen all year. She was young, thin and tall, with long brown hair and the sort of drapey, silky, flowing clothes that look so good on tall thin people. There was a light drizzle coming down, and she had a silk scarf over her hair. Yes: retro style, knotted under the chin, like Grace Kelly going shopping or Queen Elizabeth walking the corgis.

It looked gorgeous.

Frankly, also a little affected.

But still gorgeous.

In the moments I was walking behind this woman I wondered if I could affect a silk scarf myself, to stop my hair frizzing up in the drizzle. But I immediately scotched it, because scarves worn this way are definitely for the young (and stylish). I'm at the age now where a silk scarf over my head is going to make me much more Queen Elizabeth than Grace Kelly.

It's not fair!  When I was young it was the nineties and grunge was the thing. Being glamorous and dressy was as outlandish as wearing a clown suit. Or if we were working and had to dress up, it was all boxy minimalist suits in navy and mustard. I spent most of my youth wearing baggy hippy dresses and Doc Martens.

I got stylish when I lived in Europe, but our clothes were still nothing like the gorgeous stuff all the young girls are wearing today. Certainly headscarves were just not a thing.

How I imagine I'd look wearing a head scarf:

Image by 
Michal Marcol

How I would actually look:

So then I walked into my building and into the elevator to go back up to work. As the doors were closing a clacking of running heels sounded so I held open the doors - and in stepped the lovely woman who was every bit as gorgeous and silky chic from the front as from the back.

"Oh thank you!" she said with a genuine smile, and stepped politely to one side and behind me in the elevator. It was the move that nice people make when you let them into a lift, which says "thank you for letting me in; to show my gratitude and in recognition of the milli-seconds of extra speed and solitude you have given up in this lift, I will stand completely out of your way and let you get out first if we both get off at the same floor."

So I stood there in my favourite current outfit I had worn happily all morning, suddenly feeling like the frumpiest, dumpiest woman to ever stand in a lift.  So that was nice!

Seen anyone stylish lately? 
Would YOU wear a headscarf?

Nov 6, 2012

Everyday Beauty: Pretty Plastic

I'm a bit of a sucker for new plastic. Do you remember as a kid getting a new raincoat or ball and inhaling that new plastic smell?

Also when it's new it's so smooth and shiny.

And the whorls and swirls on this beautiful pale blue ball make it look like a peaceful planet.


Nov 1, 2012

All Hail Halloween!

You know what? I love Halloween. I love it!

I want Australia to embrace this funny, fun celebration and all its glorious trappings.

American cultural imperialism? Lighten up, haters!

Not an Australian tradition? Who cares, we're not importing Thanksgiving or July 4th, so calm the crap down.

It's fun. It's harmless. It's cheap and easy to join in. And you don't have to have kids or be a kid to get into it.  And no, it's not all about kids being greedy and bullying neighbors into giving them lollies. As this excellent post at MamaMia explains, it's about community.

When I was a kid we lived in the US for a few years, and Halloween was fantastic. I love that Modern Family Halloween episode which gives a reasonable idea of what it's like there. It's HUGE. Some people go all out and really get into the whole decorate-your-house-and-scare-the-kids thing; others just cheerfully open their doors and hand out candy. The streets are crawling with kids in costume, from the simple to the amazingly, funnily inventive. (My parents' finest Halloween hour: dressing me and my sister as a pair of dice, in massive boxes with arm-holes and black circles on them, and black top hats. Most uncomfortable costume ever, thanks guys!)

Teenagers chuck eggs or wrap houses in toilet paper. OK the eggs are not so much fun. And I'm sure it sucks to unwrap your house and chuck out all that toilet paper. But it's an awesome sight seeing a house and the tree in its front yard all wrapped in toilet paper the morning after Halloween, as we saw one year. Good times!

Here in Australia, I know some people are grumpy about Halloween, and actually I do understand. But I'm not one of them.

The good thing about Halloween, unlike most other celebrations, is that it seems so utterly silly and meaningless (these days). And as it has so little meaning, there's no pressure to partake.

If you don't want to join in, you don't have to.

On our trick or treating expedition last night, there were plenty of people who didn't answer their doors - and that's OK. Others answered and said "Oh I'm sorry, we're not playing" - and that's OK. A couple of people had nothing but wanted to join in anyway - one lady ran out and chased the kids to give them a box of Cheezels; another man said "Give me ten minutes!" and jumped in his car and raced to the shop to buy sweets. What a sweetie!

One house had a Jack-o-Lantern outside.

We hung orange balloons on our door to let kids know they were welcome. At one glorious point we were over-run and ended up handing out lollies on the front lawn.

How many of our neighbors joined in? About a fifth, maybe. But everyone was nice, and everyone seemed to enjoy it. Our kids - ours and a friend's, who joined us - had a ball. In the words of Vampire Girl A, "Best Halloween ever!"*

*It was their second.

Do you "do" Halloween? Do you like it, hate it, or do you totally not care?

Oct 28, 2012

The Free Time Paradox

via My Humor Spot and reblogged all over the internet

As everyone knows, once you are a parent there is no free time. I don't want to sound like a woe is mom, because I am actually not complaining about it. (Though it is OK to complain about it because sometimes it can suck).

What you have instead are these:

  • snatched time here and there; 
  • work time; 
  • supermarket shopping time (if you get to go alone); 
  • negotiated, fought for or paid for time out (e.g. meet friends for dinner or a movie); and
  • collapse-on-the-couch-after-kids-are-in-bed time.

When my twins were babies the thing that hit me hardest was how little time I had to myself, to do exactly what I wanted. In fact, it was with a kind of hazed-out horror that I realised that I would never have that sort of time, really, ever again.

The advice in baby books and magazine articles designed to help with "tips" such as "take fifteen minutes" to have a quiet cup of tea, paint your nails or relax outside while the baby slept or played in her cot horrified me. Fifteen minutes? FIFTEEN MINUTES? Pre-baby I was used to frittering away whole afternoons reading, walking or watching movies. No fifteen minute "me time" was going to do anything helpful for me.

Of course, everyone struggles with this and of course it does get better. 

Now my kids are nearly seven, I still can't while away whole mornings or afternoons doing whatever I want, but things are not as relentless, and I no longer feel I am living life on a hamster wheel spinning between home and work and home again.

I still yearn for more free time. 

But when I have it, I often don't know what to do with it.

Even if I plan what I'm going to do, I don't always enjoy it, or fully engage with it.

Instead I fret about how little time I have left, think of jobs or work I could be doing [not that I want to], or daydream about doing something else.

Sometimes all I want (NEED) to do is relax. So I will lie on the couch, or sleep, or watch TV or read, as I know this is what is best for me right now.

But oddly I am rarely recharged, happy or calmer after these sessions. It could be, of course, that by the time I do it I'm so exhausted that an hour in bed is not going to be enough. 

But sometimes I think it's something else.

It's hard to truly relax and enjoy yourself when you're unhappy with the state of your house or you have not done things you know you need to do - whether those are to do with work, self-care, housekeeping or administrivia, they have a way of gnawing at you and sapping any pleasure from "me time" until you tackle them.

It's where that advice from The Happiness Project comes from: if something takes you less than a minute to do, do it now, and you'll be happier. Hang up that jacket; return that book to the bookshelf. It's true, and we all know it.

Of course, it is also slightly annoying advice because, just as when my husband refers to a task as "only five minutes", what it, and he, infuriatingly neglects to remember is that home life is full of a million tasks that only take one minute, or five minutes. If you just attended to everything that you can do in a minute or five minutes, you could still be on your feet and doing stuff all day long (at least you could in my house).  So, you know - take advice like this where it's helpful, and leave it where it's not.

But here are two examples of how I used "free time" this week and how it affected my mood.

(1) Relaxed. Said "stuff it" to housework, shut my eyes to mounting chaos in the loungeroom, watched a DVD and napped. (This was on Tuesday afternoon/evening while the kids were at Greek school. I wasn't working that day, and I did nothing more than the minimum at home, which was parent my kids and prepare meals. I always wonder, why isn't that enough? It should be!)

Result: felt defensive, sluggish, faintly depressed. It's true I "needed" that relaxation time, and it's true that housework never stops and sometimes you just have to leave it. But it doesn't help you feel better about it.

(2) Cleaned up, and cleaned. Tidied living and kitchen area, swept and mopped floors, cleaned kitchen cupboards and surfaces. Swept porch, dusted and brushed dirt away from sills and screen door outside, took 4 bags of rubbish and a load of recycling to the garage.
(This was over 2 days, this weekend, in preparation for the kids having a friend over. I hasten to add this friend had never been here before; close friends and family members bringing their children round does not prompt me to clean).

Result: For the first time in awhile I felt energized and competent. It felt good to be relaxed and confident in a tidy house - benevolent queen of my world. It left me happy and relaxed all day. The sunshine no doubt helped, and the playdate was good - all three girls played happily together and without drama for 3 hours. (I'll say that again: all THREE GIRLS played happily and without DRAMA).

I know - housework and a tidy home should not be what life's all about. And truly, for me they are not (as anyone who visits here can attest). And yes, it all depends on your mood and your energy levels at the time. This weekend was the first in awhile where I haven't had pain in my arm (healing after surgery from a bad break 4 months ago), which has been a real downer, as pain tends to be.

So, you know, I'm not saying this is a meaningful comparison or even telling anyone anything they don't already know.

But it's interesting anyway. We yearn for free time even though we have spent 10,000 years inventing ways of life with little of it. 

We (that is, I) prefer to sit and relax where we can, even though doing other things actually make us (me) happier.

Hosting a play date - assuming all goes well - is quite a good way to find happiness. First, it spurs you to clean the house. Next, you get to sit down and read or do whatever you like while the kids play for hours. Third, it makes your kids happy, which makes you happy too. And fourth, it makes them tired and happy to eat an early dinner and be all tucked up in bed before Homeland starts at 8.30.

Oct 22, 2012

What's your favourite scary movie and why? (Competition)

Halloween is just around the corner, as any parent knows who is trying to find cheapo costumes the kids will accept and steeling themselves for the still-somewhat-excruciating-in-Australia business of Trick or Treating. 

I love Halloween. Halloween here is still new and most people are grumpy about it, but as a kid in the US Halloween was nothing but fun - because most of the grown-ups get into it too. (That Modern Family Halloween episode gives an idea).

And just in time for Halloween, online energy retailer Click Energy is running a competition called "Lose Your Fear of Bills".

Electricity bills are scary, definitely. And getting scarier.  So how would YOU (Victoria or Queensland resident aged 18 or over), like to win a year's supply of free electricity?  

Click Energy is offering one person the chance to break free from the fear of bills with a competition that gives a whole year's worth of totally free electricity to the winner. All you have to do is visit their Facebook competition page at and tell them what your favourite scary movie is and why.

The competition ends November 5th, 2012, and is open to Victoria and Queensland residents aged 18 years or over.

Good luck!

Disclosure: This is, obviously, a "sponsored" post. But I am not receiving any payment, electricity, gift or other benefit for it. This is a bit of an experience/experiment for me. And I genuinely hope one of you lovely people wins a year's supply of electricity!

Everyday Beauty: Gum Trees and Tea Trees

These two types of tree are so essentially Australian, and on the south-east coast are found everywhere. These ones are at our local park at the end of my street.

Eucalyptus trees (gum trees) to me are like California Redwoods in the way they are so majestic and convey such stability, calm and peace. Gum trees can grow 80 feet and higher, and can live for 400 years (though more commonly far fewer).

They do have a disconcerting habit of shedding branches so are not deemed safe for backyards. Some backyards do have them and you need to get council permission to cut them down. 

One in our park overhangs a bench thoughtfully placed there, and I admit I'm a little nervous sometimes sitting under this - though it is so beautiful:

I love the dappled bark on gum trees, and the way it catches and plays with the light - so awesomely beautiful in the Dandenong Ranges or the bush.

Gum trees near Glenrowan, Victoria

A Paperbark somewhere in Melbourne -
courtesy of Wikipedia Creative  Commons

I love the "folds" made by the joints of branches, and the way some are reminiscent of knees or elbows

And I love looking up and seeing the branches and spare foliage against the gunmetal sky, and the native birds that flock there


Tea trees, or ti trees (melaleuca) always remind me of the Mornington Peninsula, where they are everywhere, and where we used to spend summers when I was a child visiting or staying with my grandparents. Beautiful, twisted tea trees were on every street in Blairgowrie back then, and still line the beach foreshore.

This one at our park is our girls' playhouse, and even I feel the magic when I step inside during one of their games. (It is usually a cafe, but is sometimes a house or a hairdressers' or a tent).

I love the branches and the overhanging leaves - it's the perfect playspot at the park and a thing of beauty as well.

Both eucalyptus and melaleuca trees produce useful oil. Eucalyptus oil is a handy cleanser and disinfectant as is tea tree oil, which may also have some medicinal properties. Those little concentrated bottles we buy at the supermarket are also very handy for wiping away the sticky residue of labels from glasses, plates and new books.

Beauty - and power!

19th century Melaleuca illustration
courtesy of Wikipedia Creative Commons

What everyday beauty caught your eye this week?



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