May 30, 2012

How Do I Find The Time To...

I think of myself as pretty organised, but in truth I am in some things and am not in others. I am very organised at procrastinating for example, because I am committed to finding the time to doing things I like, and not so committed to finding time to tidy up my clothes, clean the oven or dust the bookshelves.

I was tagged for this meme by Single Married Mum, and I'm more than happy to play along. I do like a good meme questionnaire.

First (very important)

Here are the rules:
1. Please post the rules
2. When answering the questions, give as much information as possible. It’s all about the finer details people!!
3. Leave a comment on Sex, drugs, rocker…and stroller,baby. ( This is so we can keep track of the Meme and take a polite nose into everyone else’s lives.
4. Tag 3 or more people and link to them on your blog.

Second... the main event: How and when do you find the time to….

Do the laundry: The Neverending Story. I have a separate laundry basket for the kids and I do one load of their stuff every night. Summer is easier as things that don't go in the dryer will dry hanging up overnight. Now it's winter here so I have to force myself to slow down with the washing loads because I end up with too many wet things to hang up, as they take 2-3 days to dry. I tend to do 2 loads of the grown-ups' clothes on the weekend, and sheets/towels for us one day and kids another day so that each person's bed gets changed every two (oh alright roughly THREE) weeks. This system has always meant 2 or more baskets of laundry plus clothes on the clothes horse/washing line hanging around the house all week, but I have recently made a change following a suggestion on Smart Working Mother to "commit to wash, dry and fold every night" which entails doing one small load every day, and putting it all away. Some days I manage this and it feels pretty good!

Write a blog post: After a couple of years of trying different things I think I've found my method. I don't try and do a post every day as that way lies madness (for me). I aim for two posts a week and if I manage more then I'm a hero. I do a Fiction Fridays post most Fridays, a Pick A Post link on Mondays and a Listography post once a month, so that takes some of the pressure off and keeps me engaged. I also keep a notebook in my bag where I jot down post ideas, or dictate them into my phone, and some nights when I don't have a full post in me I'll draft up one or two to complete later. That said there are quite a few drafts that have never been finished.

Look after yourself : Oh I am not good at this... I have a treadmill at home and am trying to get on it most days, even if it's just for ten minutes. I dye my hair when the grey starts getting too much to pluck out, in the evenings once the kids are asleep. I don't really do regular hair appointments but book myself in when my hair gets out of control. I rush my make-up and usually do it in the car when I've arrived at work. I'm a bit too much mummy and not enough yummy...
Spend time with your other half?: *Squirms guiltily*. Well, we do hang out a bit in the evenings once the kids are asleep, though he's often watching TV and I'm on the computer... Every now and then we have done a "date night" when the stars have aligned. I enforce the "family time" dinner rule and we all have a bit of a chat and a laugh over dinner, which helps.

"The Lorax" preview
family fun day
mini golf on holiday
Do fun stuff with your Little Ones: Currently my kids are a bit "over-scheduled" with Greek school, swimming and dancing classes in addition to school, so Sunday is a "rest day" as I call it, or a "boring day" as my kids call it. I do a craft with them most Sundays, or we bake a cake. We take the dog for a walk or go to a cafe or I take them to a park. My husband works weekends but every so often he has a Sunday off and when that happens we try and get to a beach or do a picnic or go out for coffee and cake (always fun!). As they get older though, they are wanting to do more things with friends than with their mum. I try and make home time fun by joking around with them during dinner, bath time etc. We have some kind of laughs every day even if the kids don't see it as a "fun day".

Spend time with your family: That's an easy one, as Y works most weekends my mother and/or father tend to visit most weekends. I catch up with my sister every few weeks, usually with us visiting her as she has a toddler. I'm very close to a cousin who lives about 20 minutes away and we catch up every now and then too which is also fun for the kids to hang out with her cooler, older kids!

Socialise with friends: I'm very bad at this. I tend to use Facebook to fill the cracks, as it's just so hard to catch up when most friends are working and have kids. One friend and I try to do a movie night once a month or so - we don't always manage it but the idea is there and we do tend to catch up on a semi-regular basis. Recently I've made a little list in my head of friends I haven't seen in awhile but with whom I'm still in touch, and I have resolved to fix up a visit with each in the next three months. I know, very ambitious!

Prepare an evening meal juggling a baby/toddler bedtime routine? Ditto to Single Married Mum's comment: "I can't take my foot off the pedal - I need to keep up the homework-tea-bath-bed-momentum, or it can all go pear-shaped pretty quickly." Exactly that. When I was working full-time I used to cook 2-3 nights for the next day, Y cooked 1-2 nights and the other night was a "picnic dinner" which worked pretty well. Now I work 3 days a week, so I cook on the 2 days I am home, and this gives us enough to stretch to 4-5 nights' dinners. When it's dinner time I need to be able to heat/finish the meal and get it on the table fast, so I worked out some time ago trying to start and cook at 5 or 6pm is no good for me - even those "15 minute meals" are too hard and take too long at that horrendous time of day.
After dinner it's homework then bath then wind down for bed. 

Deep clean your house: I don't deep clean, but every few weeks I will go into something of a frenzy and do a couple of extra things, like clean out the appliance cupboard, clean skirting boards or wash the windows. But I don't do them often enough, so my house would be a prime contender for one of those "how clean is your house" TV shows. It's all surface baby.

Do the food shopping: I tried online shopping a few times when the kids were toddlers but it just frustrated me because every freaking time there would be a few things out of stock and I'd end up having to go to the shops anyway. It was easier just to go to the supermarket at nighttime when Y was home and the kids in bed. Now I tend to go on my way home from work or on my days off (now that I have days off!). We do use Aussie Farmers Direct and get milk, bread and orange juice delivered, which is fantastic. 

Do bulk ironing: I don't iron. I put school dresses and the odd other thing in the dryer for 10 minutes to de-crease them, and anything else gets re-washed and re-hung to de-crease if needed. Y irons his own shirts and pants. Pants these days come with permanent creases in them - yay! 

So that’s how I find the time....sort of.

Now I am going to break rule 4 above and not tag anyone to join in - because I recently did a Liebster Award post I don't want to start annoying too many people by tagging them every second post. But I do thank Single Married Mum for tagging me, and I had fun joining in.

Would you like to join in? Feel free! Say that I tagged you ;-)
How do YOU find the time?

May 28, 2012

Division of Labour - Sick Days

Look, I know this has all been said before, and I don't want to come off as a giant middle class whinger - but  I'm agonna risk that to post this because I just can't resist.

Three days ago my husband was sick. I was working that day so here is what he did:
  • got the kids ready and took them to before-school care where breakfast was provided for them (I'm going to throw in the bonus fact that he did pony-tails with unbrushed hair and sent M off in her summer dress and ankle socks on the coldest wettest day this autumn)
  • slept in bed
  • picked up kids from school
  • turned on TV for kids
  • lay in bed

Now when I think about it that is probably what you are SUPPOSED to do when you're sick - even if it means your partner has to rustle up dinner, feed the dog and cat, clean up the kitchen, sort schoolbags and prepare lunches and clothes when she gets home from work, and play ball with the dog in the backyard because he's been alone and outside and going mental all day.  And I still prepare the lunches, clothes and schoolbags, and feed the dog and cat in the morning.

Today I am sick. I have resolved to do NO housework, especially since I did a whole lot yesterday (emptied and cleaned appliances, baking and pots and pans cupboards, cleaned bath and toilet, usual baskets of washing, etc etc etc - what can I say, I'm a hero). So I left the vacuum cleaner sitting out where I had left it, refrained from picking up the crap from the floor that the kids had promised they wouldn't leave there, and did as little else as possible. 

But here is what I have done/am doing on the day I am sick:
  • made school lunches
  • sorted and packed schoolbags
  • got kids up and ready for school, did breakfast, took them to school
  • [skived off my classroom reading duties for today]
  • bought few forgotten items from supermarket
  • picked up kids' passports from the post office 
  • phoned airline to sort out a problem with our tickets for our upcoming trip
  • phoned Webjet to chase up the fee refund they owe me (for the third time)
  • cooked dinner
  • emptied and re-stacked dishwasher
  • folded basket of laundry
  • chucked schooldresses in dryer to "iron" them, then hung them up (yeah I'm counting this)
  • prepared swimming bag
  • pick up kids from school
  • take kids to swimming, help them shower and wash and condition their hair
  • [Y will heat and serve dinner ready for when we get home]
  • read reader books with kids
  • prepare next day's lunches
  • go to bed at 9pm! (that's the plan anyway)

So what's the take-away? He's lazy but sensible and I'm a martyr and stupid?
Yes I think that's it. :-)

I've written two posts today  [can I count that as "work"?  ;-) ]
My other post was on how we divided our work when we were both working full-time. You can read it below this one, or here.

Thanks for visiting xx 

Division of Labour - Full-Time Work

I loved this thought-provoking post Division of Labour at In a Garden...Somewhere 

Along similar lines, more recently I also loved this post Arguing With Your Partner, and Other Feminist Work at the excellent Blue Milk

Both of these posts really crystallised my thinking around how work is divided up between partners - not just "chores" but the "mental work" which is often overlooked and discounted when tallying up lists of who does what.  Like many women I have often felt disgruntled about doing more than my partner around the house, and then felt frustrated or confused as to why I felt like I was doing more when "on paper" we have split the jobs evenly. 

When Y and I were both working full-time, here is how our division of labour looked:

  • most of the cooking
  • supermarket shopping
  • school lunches
  • after-school-care pickup 2 days
  • help kids with homework
  • read reader books with kids
  • bathtime
  • laundry - washing, drying, folding
  • change sheets on beds
  • tidy kids' rooms
  • clean bathroom
  • feed dog and cat, change kitty litter, walk dog
  • rose-pruning, weeding (infrequent!)
  • admin: bill paying, school notices, banking, mail, etc
  • take kids to swimming
  • kids' stuff planning and shopping - clothes, books, presents etc
  • weekends: usually everything: on my own with the kids

  • get kids ready and do school drop-off every school day
  • kids' breakfast 2 days
  • school pick-up 3 days
  • dishes & kitchen clean-up
  • cook dinner 1-2 nights a week
  • take kids to Greek school
  • fruit and veg (market) shopping
  • vacuum and mop
  • tidy loungeroom
  • hedge-trimming and lawn-mowing
  • light maintenance jobs
  • put rubbish out, bring bins in
  • collect mail from letterbox 

I think this was mostly fair(ish), but I always felt like I did more. That's probably because I shouldered most of the "mental work" - all the planning, worrying, remembering and organising that goes around family life. And I think like most women I probably worry more about the kids - Y tells me too much, which is also probably true.  If I worry too much and he not enough, then it all evens out and the kids get looked after the right amount. 

But look what happens as a result of Mum being responsible for Worry:
  • kids: GAIN (net result of too much worry from mum and not enough from dad = right amount of worry on their behalf)
  • dad: GAINS (doesn't worry = relaxed)
  • mum: LOSES (worries = stressed, tired, resentful)

OK, I will concede the above is not a scientific weighted analysis of all factors. But you get the idea.

I must do up another one of these for our current situation - now I'm working part-time. The division is now very different!

May 26, 2012

The Great Outdoors

Dr Bron at The Modern Family flummoxed me a little with her linky theme this week: THE OUTDOORS ONE.
Oh that's easy, I thought, I'll just go through my posts and find one where I've talked about something we did outdoors.

Don't have one.
Not one!

We do spend time outdoors - we do. But clearly I don't find it as fascinating as I do my little whinges about housework and working and cooking and raising kids and how hard it is to get some sympathy for driving to work.

So, because I want to do the linky and because I want to prove we do actually do stuff outside, here are some things we have done outdoors.

Look for creatures in the garden
I took my kids outside every day for a week to marvel at this guy and tried to pretend it was all wonderful and fascinating and he didn't totally gross me out!

Splash in the "pond" created by the little crater our car has gouged out next to the driveway.  
This photo is fresh from today

Make a fairy garden (collect flowers, autumn leaves and anything pretty and deposit them in or around the "pond")


Botanical Gardens, March this year

Carols by Candlelight, Jells Park, December last year



Walk the dog

Practice on bikes and scooters

Look at clouds / stars / sky

Hang out in the back yard

Collect autumn leaves

Collingwood Children's Farm


OK, so we're hardly adventurous. I admit, Y and I are not the most outdoorsy people. Currently the kids are asking us to take them camping, which is WAY outside our remit. I've been camping a few times - OK three - but I was always tagging along with others. There is no way I can imagine me and Y being responsible for a safe and well-equipped and fun family camping holiday.  About six years ago I threw out my pup tent because it was mouldy - after my last camping trip I lost patience waiting for it to dry and put it away damp.  So my answer to camping requests has been variously "We don't have the stuff" or "You'll go camping with school when you're older" or "oh, Daddy hates camping". (Daddy has never been camping but I can guarantee he'd dislike it).
I think I'll have to offer them the camp in the backyard one summer. But even for that, we don't have the stuff.

So that's my "outdoors" post.

What do you get up to in the outdoors?

May 22, 2012

My Life In Cars

My first car was a silver 1978 Toyota Corolla hatch bought by my parents for about $2000 – which was about the most that parents spent on cars for their kids back then. A clapped out old banger of a reliable make (as Toyota was then), basic Third Party insurance, and you were done.

1978 Toyota Corolla coupe 

1.6l, Manual 2-door. Silver with red and black racing stripes and grey and black interior.

I was about to write that there used to be far more old cars on the road than there are now. It's probably true but I can't be sure, because in those days old cars looked old. They were all made of metal, you see, and often with shoddy paintwork and exteriors that dented and rusted. These days a fifteen-year-old car still looks pretty decent with its molded plastic exterior so maybe old cars just don't look as old as they used to.

My old Corolla was definitely old; it ran on leaded petrol (though that wasn't unusual at the time and to give you an idea of how long ago we are talking, I was still able to drive it to a full-service petrol station if I wanted to). But I loved it.  Even without any of the “extras” that newer cars had as standard. I’m not just talking airbags and cup holders here – it didn’t have a tape deck or intermittent wipers. I didn’t mind at first. I would sit at red lights in light rain flicking my wipers on and off in intermittent time, and I brought along my little Sony portable stereo on the seat next to me when I wanted to listen to a cassette.

With those old Toyotas the body would eventually start to fall apart but the engine would have carried on forever. A review I have just found even now describes it as having a "seemingly unbreakable motor and gearbox", which was true. I drove it for years.

As bits and pieces of the exterior started to deteriorate and as I became increasingly aware of its deficiencies I no longer loved it quite so much – in fact it was starting to be embarrassing – so I took to parking it without the steering lock in the hope it would be stolen. No such luck of course!

When I went to Europe it passed to my sister and she and her boyfriend drove it for awhile. It was eventually stolen but unfortunately recovered by police a couple of days later. Honestly, who steals a car without crashing it or setting fire to it?

Finally, I killed it in spectacular fashion – I crashed it.

By that stage I was married and Y and I were living in a one-bedroom flat with one car – one killed, smashed car.

Shortly before my accident I had a startling realisation about driving around in a clapped-out old car. I was listening to a story on the radio about how much driver safety had improved over the years, and the difference in the road toll between the 1970s and the 1990s. And I suddenly thought, driving around in this thing I’m living in the 1970s statistics, not the 1990s ones. Sobering thought.

1988 Toyota AE82 Corolla Hatch

1.6l, Manual. Red with dark grey interior.

By now I had intense brand loyalty for Toyota, so my next car was a red 1988 Toyota Corolla hatch, bought through The Trading Post with the help of a loan from my parents. At that point it was the early nineties so a 1988 car was almost new – it was definitely a step up. And it was a good buy. As everyone knew back then, Toyota was the most reliable car on the market. The word "Toyota" was basically a synonym for "reliable", in the olden days before the shocking safety recalls starting in 2009.

I drove that one for many years as well, and did look after it rather better than my first car. I grew very fond of it, and it was an intensely practical, good car. It was quite roomy inside and had huge windows all around so seeing everything and reverse parking were a cinch. Of course it was still a car of its time, so was lacking in the extras: no aircon, no airbags, no electrics, no side mirror on the left, no CD player, no cup holders. It was a manual and without power steering just like my last one, so turning a tight corner was still a bicep workout.

Then at some point in my mid thirties I decided I “needed” and “deserved” a brand new car. Everyone else seemed to buy new cars. Work was going well. Things looked bright. Why not? (Classic pre-GFC thinking of course). I had also just had a miscarriage after struggling to conceive, and was possibly looking to treat myself out of my sadness.

2004 Holden Astra CD Hatch. 

1.8l, Automatic. "Papyrus Gold" with dark grey interior.

In 2005 I bought my one and only brand new car from a showroom – a beautiful, brand-new, shiny, sweet-smelling caramel-gold Holden Astra hatch. It had electrics (though I didn’t actually want them – as I'm scared of driving into a river or being trapped in floodwaters and not being able to open a window – but when I asked if I could have manual windows the salesman gave me the crazy-lady look). It was also my first automatic car. What a treat! It had air conditioning, a Blaupunkt 7-speaker CD player, cup holders, even an outlet for an MP3 player. (At that stage I didn’t even own an MP3 player, but cool!).

The dashboard lit up like a flight deck console whether it was light or dark. It had an outside temperature gauge, light-touch indicators, variable intermittent (and gorgeously silent) windscreen wipers, power steering, cruise control, ABS brakes, auto-lock doors, 'follow-me-home' headlamps, warnings for doors ajar and seatbelts unbuckled, front and curtain airbags, foldable key and a light in the boot. I could run the air con or the heater without fogging up the interior windows. I never had to check or change the oil, just do the regular servicing and all was well. 

It was perfect.

Perfect until I got pregnant with twins. At first I thought it wouldn’t be a problem – the interior and boot were very roomy and it seemed there’d be room for two car seats and a double pram and accoutrements. After all, weren’t these used as family cars in Europe and increasingly here?

Not quite. I could fit two compact baby seats in and probably even two squashed toddler/booster seats later on, but there was no way any double pram on the market would fit in that boot. I tried every pram available at Baby Bunting, and none came close to going in.

I live in the suburbs. Public transport is patchy and there is nothing decent in walking distance. There was no way I was not going to be able to put a pram in my car and get out of my house during the day.

So I only owned my beautiful new car for 8 months (sad face).

I swallowed my bitterness and traded it in (at a massive loss) for a 2002 Holden Commodore Acclaim. Sigh.

But it does have excellent boot space.

2002 Holden Commodore VXII Acclaim. 

3.8l V6, Automatic. Dark blue with dark blue interior.

At first, my new not-new car was a boring let-down. I reminded myself it was still a massive step up from my old Corolla and still a lovely car – but I missed my temperature guage, snazzy touch controls, MP3 outlet and lit-up flight deck console. Everything was of a more mundane, old-style design: the shape of the indicator lights on the dash, the dully-shaped air vents, the gear-stick which no longer looked like a leather-encased penis, the boring round dials on the stereo. It was also much thirstier on petrol, so more expensive to run.

And it has a major problem: the petrol gauge in this model is faulty and doesn’t give an accurate reading. When it shows just under half full, it is actually empty. Apparently this is a known fault corrected in later models – which I was helpfully told by Holden after running out of petrol on the freeway a couple of months after buying it. The fault is also not covered under warranty because it’s a known problem. And it would cost $500 to fix. ( I have “fixed” it by filling up every time it gets down to three-quarters full and this works OK).

A couple of things were better though. I had to admit the Astra had its weaknesses – the fan always blew a bit of a gale even when it was turned off, the hubcaps were made of weird stuff that rendered them filthy black in no time, the cup-holders were useless and the small rear window wasn’t great for visibility.  The older but as-new more expensive Commodore didn’t have those faults. It even had the odd unexpected extra, like a stereo that had a CD player and a tape deck, so my husband could still play all his old Greek cassettes (actually probably not such an advantage from my perspective). It was very roomy and comfortable, like a nicely worn taxi. And it was powerful - it has fast take-off and accelerates smoothly, which means you can easily and most satisfyingly take over aggressively revving P-platers trying to beat you at the lights. (I don't do that anymore, by the way).  

The Commodore is, in fact, a very good car, and I have become somewhat fond of it.
There is a reason these big old sedans were the car of choice for families and businessmen for nearly three decades.

They are spacious, comfortable, easy to drive, powerful and among the safest cars on the road.  They are great for long drives, grocery shopping, or outings with a twin pram and a nappy bag the size of a military duffle bag.

And it only took me six years to learn how to reverse park it!

Recently General Motors announced it will soon stop making the Commodore, which makes me a little sad. There is just no longer the demand. Everyone wants an SUV these days – including me.

But it’s a little sad to see them discontinued. They are truly an excellent car, probably superior to SUVs in many respects (e.g. safety), and their end is the end of a driving era.

It’s not yet the end of an era for me though. With money tighter now that I’m contracting  and with the tremors of economic crisis still rippling through the world, we are in no position or mood to upgrade our car just yet. So I’ll be tooling around in my Commodore for a while.

What’s been your car history?
What have you loved or disliked about your cars?

May 20, 2012

Top 5 Things I Love About Kids

This post is linking up with Kate Takes 5's Listography.
What are your favorite things about kids?

Here are mine:

1. Excitement

Whether it's a trip to the beach, a playdate with a friend or raisin toast for breakfast, kids feel and show excitement in a way that's infectious - or at least entertaining. Sometimes I think they live their lives in a state of pent-up excitement which is just waiting for something to let it out. I'm not sure what age this disappears but I sense between 8 and 12 or so (depending on how exciting the exciting thing is).
Even now some things that used to cause my kids immense excitement are now completely passe. But it's funny when they are trying to act too-cool-for-school and then forget themselves at the prospect of an ice-cream or a playdate and run squealing with glee in happy circles again.

2. Memories

I'm not really stealing this one from Kate (who lists it in hers) because I remark on this all the time. It's gobsmackingly amazing to me how far back kids can remember. I've noticed a rough benchmark that little kids can remember back 2 years. They often amazed me at four and five by relating back events in fine detail which happened when they were two. Interestingly now they are six they seem to remember back to when they were three or so, but have lost memories of some of the events they used to talk about, which happened at two or three. I guess as we grow our memories condense, and of course the older you get the more there is to remember, so some of it is going to get lost.

3. Invention

It can be new words (M. still says "pokypine" for porcupine and "glue-tack" for Blu-Tack), crafts (making the Loch Ness Monster out of archive boxes), new tastes (peanut butter and Vegemite sandwiches - eugh!) or elaborate fantasy sequences in their games (my cousin says kids take longer to set up games than to play them). Kids are fountains of invention.  I also love seeing them learn new things and incorporate them into their speech, games and art, creating new twists on it all along the way.

4. Affection

Young kids are often so affectionate. As babies I had one (A.) very cuddly and affectionate and one (M.) less so, but as they got older it was (and is) often M. who was clambering all over me or clinging to my legs or back as I tried to go about my daily business. From a baby A. used to clasp my face in her hands and smile, and as a baby and toddler would want to go to sleep with one hand flat on my face or rubbing my cheek with her hand. Even now when she cuddles into me she will do it sometimes.

M. had to learn affection - I still remember her as a toddler giving my cheek an experimental kiss in a way that suggested she was thinking "I believe this is what one does to please one's mother and yet I fail to understand the appeal." She went through a rather long phase where her method of showing affection was to hit or push, and was quite resistant to kisses and cuddles.
Now she is very affectionate especially at night-time, but she will still often duck or shrink away from a kiss.

But if I or their Dad says "Kiss and Cuddle..." they will both throw themselves at us, arms round our necks and squeezing tight, which is more than catnip for parents - it's what we live for!

5. Art

I love, love, LOVE children's art. Whether it's Aelita Andre or the gifted child in the art class whose work makes your jaw drop or the gleeful scribblings of any child with a box of crayons, it's all glorious. There is wonder, colour and movement in children's art and somehow every child, at some point, manages to turn out a mini masterpiece.

What are your favorite things about kids?
To see what others have posted, or to link your own post, 

May 18, 2012

Fiction Fridays: Star Baby

Star Baby
by Ian Whybrow 
illustrated by Jason Cockcroft
Orchard Books, 2005

Stars are like babies,
The moon's little babies.
Bright little babies,
Just like mine.

A nostalgia trip this week. Clearing out the kids' rooms last weekend I found this book which I used to read when they were babies. I didn't so much read it to them as read it to myself - and emotional bag of hormones and gushy new-baby love that I was, I would tear up every time. I seriously could not read this book without crying!

This is a lovely book and would make a nice present for a new parent or a baby. Each page features a mother and baby animal, with a similar rhyme structure about how the baby pleases its mother by saying... (baa, neigh, cheep cheep etc).  The illustrations are beautiful.

It also reminds me of my other favourite book for reading to toddlers, Mem Fox's Time For Bed (which has since been satirized as Go The F*** To Sleep). I might feature that one (the Mem Fox one I mean!) another week.

Until then, now that my "babies" are asleep, it's time for this mama also to go to bed.
Sleep tight, star babies everywhere xxx

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May 16, 2012

Op Shop Finds

I’m not one of those people who scours charity shops and finds marvellous things, so you won’t see this type of post from me very often.

But I did pick up a few nifty items from our local MS Shop just yesterday:

Melamine platters (seen here being inspected by the cat) ideal for kids’ parties – $1.00 each

Art smocks for school: size small men’s shirts – $6.00 each

Pyrex casserole dish in best Eighties Brown – $6.00
These are fantastic, and cost a bomb these days to buy new.

Bonus picture:
After a busy afternoon’s inspecting, Tia goes to rest on my desk near the laptop

Cat and Mouse

Do you shop "vintage"?
What's been your best find?

May 15, 2012

The Secret to Good Cooking

I have spent the last few years experimenting with dinners. From experimental gourmet meals for grown-ups to different kinds of mash for toddlers, to family meals: quick & easy, slow-cooked, recipes from different countries, low-fat healthy meals, recipes torn from the pages of women's magazines, recipes scrawled down watching episodes of Nigella, Jamie, Gordon Ramsay and others, recipes from my mother's collection from the 1970s and 80s, recipes from my own first cookbooks bought in the 80s and recipes from flatmates in my university days.  I have made up my own recipes and adapted others, to make them fit what small children will eat, make them healthier or yummier, or suit what I had in my cupboard at the time. I have made meals from pre-made sauces and bases and added a pinch of this or that or tossed in a handful of greens so I could feel like I cooked.

And from this wealth of variously loving, despairing, fun, boring and desperate experience, I have found the secret to delicious, successful family meals. Meals that the whole family will eat.

I don't mean to imply that everyone eats and loves my food every night - far from it!

Also, I don't cook every night. We have a baked beans or scrambled eggs night and a "picnic dinner" night every week, and we get take-out sometimes.

But for successful cooked meals I now know what works, and it is this:


  • taking time (enough time - but not hours)
  • taking care
  • being relaxed (music helps)

One or more of the following, in very generous quantities:
  • salt
  • oil
  • butter 
  • cream

Cooking: do you love it or loathe it?
What works for you?

Creamy Honey Mustard Chicken. Serve with greens and rice.
Bribe children with a small dessert to eat some greens. Yes,
I know you're not meant to do this. Don't care.

May 13, 2012

Mother's Day Gifts

Yay, Mother's Day! The day when I get to sleep in... uh, no.  When I get breakfast in bed... ah, nup. When my husband brings me my morning coffee...noooo, he had to go to work early.
OK, so moving right along, the day I get gifts!

Mother's Day gifts are funny and lovely from little kids. As an adult, buying the right gift for your mum can be hard. It shouldn't be too expensive, but should be sweet and personal or something she will appreciate. It's always funny seeing Mother's Day gift suggestions in magazines and newspapers, whether "articles" or ads.

There are the classics (bath stuff, pretty stuff):

The too-expensive and rather offensive (irons, vacuum cleaners):

The versatile:

The ridiculous ("treat Mum to a Hamilton Island holiday this year!")...

And... some stores should probably just face the fact they're not ideally suited for Mother's Day:

But for primary school kids, it's the time-honored Mother's Day stall in the school hall, for the best of soap-and-towel sets, painted fridge magnets, rose-scented hand cream and floral coffee mugs.

Each of my girls had a few dollars to spend at the stall. A. bought two gifts, and M. spent all her money on one, "but it's very precious".

I love this part of Mother's Day - not necessarily for the actual gifts (!), but to see the happiness in the kids' faces as they test out their slowly forming perform-nice-things-for-others muscles.

M. wrapped her gift herself:

The pride and pleasure on their faces as I unwrapped their gorgeous gifts was a treasure.

And I did alright from the Mother's Day stall this year.

writing set, chocolates and glass jewelry box
 - you nailed it kids

Oh, and I also got these paper bowls:

...and this, which M said is "a twisty thing that you can twist in your hands."

I tried it. Satisfying.

Breakfast made for me was bread with peanut butter and a Milo

The day was spent doing a paper fans craft kit I'd bought cheap at the post office, and watching a movie on DVD, "The Water Horse", which we all loved. They had recently been introduced to the Loch Ness Monster via Scooby Doo, and I was very enthusiastic as I LOVED Nessie as a kid and was a believer until well into my grown-up years (embarrassed cough), so I am very fond of the legend.

Rainy cold weather outside, warm coffee, newspapers, internet, music, TV, and me and my munchkins inside, for most of the day. I'm sorry to sound corny, but it's bliss.

Happy Mother's Day


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