Jan 30, 2012

100 For 100

Image: Planet Oddity
Now that I have your attention....

Apparently when one has reached 100 blog posts, it is the custom to post a "100 for 100" blog post listing 100 things about oneself. Therefore, inasmuch as the current post is one's one hundred and first published post, let us begin.

1.       I was born in Melbourne and grew up in Melbourne, Los Angeles and Auckland

2.       I’ve also lived in London and in Greece (Thessaloniki and Santorini)

3.       When I was little I had very curly hair like Shirley Temple

4.       Back then all I wanted was long straight hair with a fringe

5.       When I was a kid my career aspirations, in order as I held them, were: inventor, scientist, vet, zoo keeper, air stewardess, artist, diplomat, language teacher, librarian, archaeologist, anthropologist, writer. I was yet to realise my actual destiny of “middle manager in a financial corporation”

6.       My personality type is INTP

7.       As a kid I was fascinated by ESP and I seemed to have it. A long journey of reading, thinking and perceiving ensued and finally I was reluctantly forced to give up belief in the paranormal

8.       I do still believe that we are capable of very smart perception from tiny clues and this creates some of the results we call ESP, telepathy, etc. The rest of the results are coincidence and selective memory bias

9.       I was baptised a Catholic and loved Sunday School and my New American Bible as a kid

10.   Fortunately however my family is not very religious

11.   At age 13 I decided not to do my confirmation as I had decided I no longer believed in God

12.   When I was a kid I was scared of bees and cats

13.   Then I got stung by a bee and it wasn’t so bad so I was no longer scared of bees

14.   Then I got scratched on the face by a cat and it was terrifying so I continued to be scared of cats

15.   Until my sister adopted a cat when I was 11 and he was gorgeous. I’ve liked cats since then.

16.   I felt like a grown-up when I had my kids, but maybe even more when I got my dog

17.   We have a dog and a cat

18.   I love birds of all kinds and am fascinated by them; they have language, society and beauty. And they can fly!

19.   I used to have budgies but birds in cages are a bit depressing when you get too busy/lazy to let them out and clean their cage often enough

20.   I have recurring dreams involving giant waves of water. Most are scary but not all, and in many of them I know I am dreaming.

21.   When I was a kid I had fantastic, wonderful dreams about flying. I used to go to sleep willing these dreams and sometimes that would work.

22.   I miss those dreams

23.   I learned French in high school, Spanish at university, and Greek while living in Greece. I was previously fluent in French, and then Spanish, but for some reason I can only hold onto one foreign language at a time. So these days I am fluent in Greek but can no longer speak French or Spanish.

24.   I did a course in Mandarin with my sister a few years ago but it was, like, really really hard. I cannot pretend to have learned Mandarin, though I was interested.

25.   That third tone in Mandarin is a bitch

26.   I am now one quarter way through this list

27.   I love internet technology these days but I was a late adopter.

28.   I loved my typewriter as a kid

29.   PCs started to become big while I was at uni but I decided I would not partake of the computer world – ever

30.   I worked briefly as an English language teacher at RMIT in the nineties. I had an email account with the job but I didn’t know what email was for and so I ignored it.

31.   I am bad at networking and managing my career

32.   I am good at writing, Indo-European languages (not “languages” as I found with my Mandarin experience), logic, analysis, mentoring , and organising and managing stuff

33.   I am fascinated by physics and cosmology, but when the physicists talk about multi-verses, time crystals, worm holes and the like I can’t help but feel they’re just making shit up now

34.   I skipped the last year of high school because I had very good marks and at that time in New Zealand you were able to go straight to uni from Year11 if your marks were good enough

35.   I have a Bachelor of Arts in Social Anthropology with a minor in Spanish, from the University of Auckland, a Cambridge Certificate of English Language Teaching to Adults from RMIT, and a Graduate Diploma of Applied Finance and Investment from the Securities Institute of Australia (now FINSIA). That sucker took me 4 years to complete part time

36.   My first job was stacking books at a public library. I loved it.

37.   My second job was working for a summer at MacDonald’s. That was good experience and I liked it sometimes. They rotate you through all the jobs till you’ve learned them all then they stick you on the one you’re best at. Mine was being on the till serving customers, which I liked.

38.   While I was at uni I worked part-time at a shoe shop in Auckland, and I loved it.

39.   When my family moved back to Melbourne from Auckland, I stayed to finish uni then stayed another year working full-time at the shoe shop.

40.   During that time I made great friends, got briefly into nightclubbing and got really into clothes and shoes

41.   After that I worked in cafes, bars and restaurants for a few years. I loved that too. In your twenties that’s all fun and cool.

42.   I still miss some aspects of waitressing sometimes – I used to really like serving customers (except the nasty ones), and I liked the simplicity of the job. (It is simple – but it is not easy).

43.   I went backpacking to Europe with my cousin and her friend when I was 23, and stayed in Europe for 4 years. Time. Of. My. Life!

44.   I lived and worked for a year and a half at the Red Lion pub in Twickenham. I adored (platonically) the Irish manager Gerard, and made awesome friends with whom I am no longer in touch – Eve, Geni, Nicole, Teresa, Keith and Tom, plus our regulars Ray, Bill, Brian, Nipper, Pete, Alan, Pat, and the rest. We were like a family.

45.   My favourite countries are Turkey, Greece, Mexico and New Zealand

46.   The only food I really didn’t like while travelling was German food.

47.    My favourite TV serial was Life on Mars, and my favourite comedy is Modern Family

48.   I also love some voyeuristic doco series (Miami Ink, Deadliest Catch)

49.   I am fascinated by time travel and love any movie or story that features it, but I always get frustrated at the problems with the logic. I keep looking for the “perfect” time travel story but have not found it yet (Life on Mars comes close).

50.   I am fascinated by the sea and tales on the high seas – Sinbad the Sailor, The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner, Moby Dick, The Bounty, The Perfect Storm, historical stories, tales of exploration, shipwreck and cannibalism. Aar!

51.   My favourite book of all time is A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson. That book has everything.

52.   I have struggled with my weight all my life. I was on my first diet before I was ten. As a child I fluctuated between slim and chubby. As an adult, I dieted and exercised furiously in my late teens and twenties and was slim for a lovely but brief approximately ten-year period.  When I was living in Greece I wore bikinis, short skirts, slim jeans and basically whatever the hell I wanted, and I was always, always hungry.

53.   During that time I met my husband and warned him I am really a fat person and he refused to believe it.

54.   I showed him!

55.   I am now more than halfway through this list. This is harder than I thought.

56.   I need time on my own every single day. If I don’t get it I am miserable and crabby.

57.   When I was living and working in Santorini I loved walking to work in the mornings and I usually liked swapping hellos with all the shop-keepers and donkey-wranglers along the way. But sometimes I would change my route so I didn’t have to do it.

58.   When I was a kid the country I most wanted to visit was Greece. Well and truly achieved that goal

59.   I always wanted to visit India, Egypt, Japan and China. Haven’t got there yet and probably won’t now.

60.   I used to really want to try parachuting and hang-gliding. I no longer want to do either of those.

61.   I paraglided in Bali and that’s close enough

62.   I am pro-choice

63.   I am a fence-sitter on many things as I can always see the logic and the right to both sides of an argument; but I never, ever, ever wavered once in being absolutely against the war in Iraq

64.   I don’t understand why George W. Bush has not been indicted on war crimes

65.   I’m a realist though and believe Australia had little choice but to support the US in that war (even without John Howard’s obvious enthusiasm). I attended an anti-war rally not because I thought for an instant it would change things but because I think you have to show the government sometimes you don’t agree with what they’re doing.

66.   On the other hand Iran is nuts and there is no way they should have nuclear weapons. I’m not saying the US should start a war but something’s gotta be done there.

67.    If ever I go out with friends to something I like to go on my own and meet them there. I panic if “stuck” in someone else’s car/company for hours.

68.   I love travelling by train

69.   I hate travelling by bus

70.   I always loved flying but in recent years I am a bit of a nervous flyer

71.   I am a bit of an anxious person and I have always worried. When I was a kid I used to lie awake at night worrying about things.

72.   I used to think I was an optimist until I read Martin Seligman’s book Learned Optimism. I now know I am a natural pessimist!

73.   I am, however, very good at making decisions and feeling positive about which way I’ve gone. I make decisions quickly, I don’t dwell on decisions I’ve made and I rarely think I’ve made the wrong one.

74.   I am now three-quarters of the way through this list!

75.   I am worrying that I have left out really interesting, massively important things about me on this list

76.   But I do often go back and edit/improve my blog posts so if that happens I will do the same here

77.    I love chocolate, but not high-quality Swiss chocolate so much as Cadbury Dairy Milk

78.   I don’t like chocolate ice-cream or chocolate flavouring in general. Just chocolate.

79.   My favourite drink is water. It’s what I have always drunk in huge quantities all day.

80.   My favourite cocktail is a margarita (with salt), followed by a gin martini

81.   My favourite colour is midnight navy

82.   My favourite number is 8

83.   I love white gold but can’t afford it so I wear silver. I’m not big on yellow gold.

84.   I have always loved reading. As a kid I loved Enid Blyton especially the Famous Five.

85.   I think there are much better books for kids now, but I did start reading The Magic Faraway Tree to my kids recently and was surprised that they absolutely love it.

86.   I didn’t read to my kids when they were babies because it felt silly. But I did talk, rhyme, and sing to them all the time. Same thing.

87.   I love poetry. As a teenager I loved the old romantic stuff especially Tennyson and Blake. My favourite poet now is Dorothy Porter.

88.   I love Indian novels.

89.   When I was in primary school in America I was a finalist for my school in a penmanship competition

90.   I love walking. When I walk I look down and I love the sights on the ground. Sidewalk cracks, ants, seeds and leaves from trees overhead – it’s a fascinating tiny world down there.

91.   I am always thinking “logistically”. For example, I have always gone walking with only one Walkman/iPod earphone in, so I can hear traffic and rapists. I always place books spine-down in my bag. I can spot a precarious situation a mile off and get twitchy until I fix it.

92.   I believe this has tended to keep me safe

93.   But I did my share of stupid dangerous things while young

94.   When I was young I wanted to try most things and I decided to do it. But I didn’t always find those experiences.

95.   I am glad for the ones I did find and glad for the ones I didn’t

96.   I snore and talk in my sleep

97.   When I was pregnant I read heaps of pregnancy books and I read a few baby books too. People scoff at that but I got a lot of help and information from those books. I love you Robin Barker!

98.   I was always a night-owl but since having kids have learned to love early mornings more

99.   I have always been scared of electric windows and locks in cars, because what happens when your car crashes into a river or you’re trapped in flood waters and can’t wind down the windows? When I bought a new car I asked the salesman if I could get it with wind-up windows and he thought I was crazy. But I’ve learned now from Magnetoboldtoo to get an ice-pick for the car.

100.    I love the sky and have always loved lying down and gazing at tree leaves, clouds or stars.

So that's me. Thanks for reading all the way down to 100!  ;-) 

Jan 28, 2012

Fiction Fridays: Amy Wild, Animal Talker: The Secret Necklace

I'm late on this because I rarely get blogging before midnight, but consider this a "Friday" post.
I just found something very cool - @homedad hosts a meme called Fiction Fridays which is all about showcasing the children's books you are liking, reading or enduring.

You share a picture of the book and the opening line, and share and link back.

So here is my first:

Amy Wild, Animal Talker: The Secret Necklace
Diana Kimpton, 2010 (Usborne)

"I want to go home," groaned Amy Wild.
"That's where we are going," said Mum with a smile. She leaned over the rail of the boat and pointed at the island that lay ahead. "Clamerkin is our home now."

I love this book, and so does my 6-year-old daughter M. She picked it out at the library and I read her a chapter each night in bed, and she has been rapt.

Last year I was looking for a chapter book for my nine-year-old niece and this (though a little young for her) was exactly the sort of thing I was looking for and couldn't find. All the boys' chapter books were cool things like Zac Power, but there was nothing like that for girls. The girls' books were all about sleepovers, being the new girl at school, birthday parties etc. That's all good and necessary of course - but where were the mysteries and adventures that I loved when I was a kid? Girls doing cool stuff? There was nothing like that in the bookshop.

Then M picked out this in the library, and it turns out this is the first in a series, about a girl who moves to a new home on an island, is given a magic necklace which enables her to talk to the local animals, and hangs out with the animals solving mysteries and fixing problems for the islands' residents.

This book has all the ingredients for a great kids' - dare I say girls' - story:

  child reluctantly moving house;
  living on an island;
  small community;
  an empathetic grandma;
  loving but lenient and clueless parents;
  a secret;
  independence and mobility;
  a special skill;
  solving mysteries.

Check, check, check, check, check. I'll take it!

If you want to join in Fiction Fridays, click the badge below to find out more, and how to play.


Until next Friday, memesters!


Jan 27, 2012

Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Other Highlights of our Holiday

Yesterday, on Australia Day, we returned home from our little holiday by the beach.

Each year now we take a few days off and stay somewhere cheap and lovely and relaxing.
The last 3 years we have ventured too far for the time frame (5 hour drives to Bright and Lakes Entrance, and a propellar-plane trip to Merimbula), so this year we went as close as you can get to the outskirts of Melbourne, to Rosebud on the Mornington Peninsula. We were actually aiming closer than that - Mornington or Dromana - but couldn't get accommodation close to the beach there.

One hour after backing out of our driveway, we pulled into the driveway of our motel.


It was a classic beachside motel: 12 little rooms in a row, each with a carpack in front, on the highway facing the beach. There was a poolroom, barbecue, garden with sunlounges, and a swimming pool.

Here is the view from our room:

We were all a little excited that the motel had Foxtel - forgetting that "Foxtel" offered by a motel is Showtime showing three movies on a loop, 3 sports channels and Nickolodean running a Sponge Bob Square Pants marathon.

Of course you don't go on holiday to watch TV (unless you are my husband or one of my daughters, both of whom could quite happily sit and watch TV much of the day), so we only watched it for family-friendly stuff in the evenings, all squished up together on the queen bed in the main room.

But we did see one excellent movie while we were there. No, not Little Fockers - though yes, we watched that too - but Diary of a Wimpy Kid, which is fantastic.  We all watched that and the kids loved it and laughed at all the funny bits and seemed to "get" the whole thing, which was fun. I recommend this movie if you have kids dealing with peer pressure or social anxiety, which is every kid in the whole world.

Apart from TV, these were the other highlights and main memories of our holiday:

The Swimming Pool
Being on holiday with kids means spending more hours a day in a swimming pool than you thought possible. For the first two days we couldn't drag the kids away from it. As neither can properly swim, that meant one of us had to be in there with them the whole time, which meant me. (Y is not a strong swimmer, coming from Greece where people do not swim so much as lounge on the beach in deck chairs with frappe coffee. Not coming from our swimmy beachy millieu he is also not quite vigilant/paranoid enough about watching the kids in the water every single second - so it is usually me that minds them in the water; though after two days of almost constantly being in the pool I was starting to rope him into it).

The Beach
On Day Three we put our foot (feet?) down and insisted to the kids that we were going to the beach before stepping one more foot into the swimming pool, and furthermore that they would like it.

And they did, of course.

My grandparents moved to Blairgowrie on the Peninsula when I was a kid so we spent many summers there, and I have always loved the "front beaches" in the area. Soft white sand, whisper-quiet, and shallow water as smooth and flat as glass. That's how I like my beaches: like a bath.  I've always been a wimp with beaches - I didn't even like going to the beach until I hit the Mediterranean in my twenties - and the "back beaches" with their crashing surf, slippery rocks, gritty sand and wind have always scared me silly. I have no intention of ever swimming in one again. Not that I really clocked up much time swimming in the surf when I was a kid. Of our group of cousins at the beach, I was the kid  sitting in a rockpool or hunched over on my towel on the sand, head bent against the sand flying in my face and the fat blowflies, miserable from heat, thirst and sunburn, and willing the time to come to go home.

Ah, good times!

So, give me a "front beach" any day. Like this:

The beaches all the way along Rosebud are reached by crossing the highway, walking through the sleepy caravan campsites and then crossing a very small ridge of "dunes" to the beach itself. The beaches are flat, calm and very quiet. There are often not many people, and those are families with little kids and retired people staying in the caravans.

We sat out on towels, helped the kids build sand castles, and watched a bloke feed seagulls and a pelican from his boat. The sound of the gulls and the distant murmur of traffic on the highway behind the dunes were the only sounds. Heaven.

Alas, we did get a little burnt. I was very careful - we all wore lots of sunblock every day, refreshed often, and hats - but Day Two we just spent way too much time in the pool, and the kids and I came away with a (light) sunburn on our arms, legs and (OUCH) hair-part line on the scalp. It was nothing too bad, and I made sure we didn't repeat it, but it was enough to make me feel terrible (and stupid).

Still, I said, trying to pep up the kids, this was nothing compared to the epic, yearly sunburns of my childhood. Bright red noses, new shoulder freckles every year, headaches, painful nights in bed, evenings peeling each others' backs.... They thankfully did not even know what I was talking about. And they never will.

The Rosebud Carnival
Another staple of childhood summers on the Peninsula: the Rye or Rosebud Carnival. The kids were very excited and had a ball, which of course was completely worth the $80 we spent... Yes, $80. That covered 4 rides, one go for each kid at a dart-throwing game, and a bag of fairy floss. The most fun was the Dodgem cars, where Y and I took one kid each and raced each other round the square. Other highlights: tears of terror after the Ghost Train (oops); A., terrified, shrieking "Mama!" when a very odd-looking carnie came up to fasten her seatbelt for the elephant merry-go-round; and a very nice operator of the darts game who gave M. three extra goes until she finally popped a balloon and got to score a prize.

The prizes: spot the weirdness:

M's prize. So far so normal
A's prize.
Beijing 2008 Olympics logo??!

Mini Golf and Ten Pin Bowling - with Tantrum
Day Three dawned overcast and slightly cool, which was a relief for our sunburn (and for keeping the kids out of the pool). As it was too cool for the beach until later that afternoon, I convinced Y that family mini-golf was the correct traditional pastime on such a morning.

My dad is a very keen golfer, and as kids on holiday or just on random weekends we played our fair share of family mini golf. (Must have been on alternate weekends from those spent "going on a drive" - just what every kid loved doing in the 1970's! No air-con or DVD players in cars back then, kiddies!)

The kids were pretty excited to try mini-golf, but the excitement wore off fast when they discovered they were completely hopeless at it. Interestingly, each child reacted in a different way. M kept going happily enough, gamely cheating her way through each hole by using her club to stop the ball rolling backwards and steering the ball into the cup. A lost all confidence, got miserable and threw a lovely tantrum that included sitting on the green at Hole 10 and announcing she was not going anywhere and not playing this stupid game any more.

As other parents looked at her with pity or distaste I tried the usual three techniques I employ, in this order, when embarassed in public by a child throwing a hissy fit:
  • First: Reasonable Mummy: "Come on, A, we're just having fun, it's just a game, look, I'm hopeless too, it doesn't matter... come on honey, people are waiting, you can't sit there..." etc. Usually makes situation worse - child digs in her heels and gets more upset.

  • Then: Harsh Scary Mummy: Grab arm, put my angry face in hers and snap: "Stop that this instant!" This does scare the kids but doesn't achieve its aim which is why I don't use it at home. It's purely a panic move aimed at showing bystanders I'm in charge of my kid.

  • Finally: use what works for us: keep calm, tell her to come on as we're leaving, and start walking off. This does work most of the time, but I have the feeling it only works when the kid has already worked their way through the emotions of the first two tactics; plus you have an excruciating few seconds where you are turning your back on your child who is still bothering other people.

After this A. did get into the game and enjoyed herself, especially when Daddy provided some comedic relief by constantly putting into water holes and various obstacles until finally getting the weirdest, flukiest hole-in-one at Hole 17.

No doubt due to a combination of fierce golf DNA (my dad and his dad both golfers all their lives) and my childhood experience at mini-golf, I aced the game as you can see from our score card:

A's confidence (and likeability to bystanders) increased when we moved inside to try ten-pin bowling. Once she got the hang of it she was pretty good and we crowned her our family champion. It was a good outcome as I was able to show them that M was "good" at golf and A was "good" at bowling, so you see, everyone is good at different things, and most important of all, we all tried something new and we all had fun! Fun!! Didn't we everybody?!

Y retrieves his ball from the drink

A hopes for a strike

M hopes the ball goes all the way to the end

Australia Day
Day Four - home time. Also Australia Day. Flags fly on more cars each year. I'm starting to get used to it but it still makes me a little uncomfortable. When I was growing up Australia Day was no big deal; now it seems too jingoistic and too dominated by shirtless guys in flags worn as capes.

We were all a little sad to be heading home so soon, but cheered a little by the sight of backed up cars on the other side of the freeway heading to the peninsula - it was chockers and I'm glad we went four days ago and not today.

On the way back we stopped at Dromana to join the Australia Day festivities on the beach. That was a look at some working fire engines, an air show, and two more rides for the kids before ice-cream and back in the car for the short trip home.

So that was our holiday. Best Ever. Until next year!

What did you do over Christmas-New Year break?
And did you read this entire, over-long post?

Jan 19, 2012

Suburbia Superbia

In the US and Australia, there is a long tradition of viewing the suburbs as places of stagnation, dullness, narrowness, bigotry and domestic unhappiness. The word "dystopia" is frequently used.

I'm sick of this. This view is not my experience, nor that of most people who live in the 'burbs. And I'm here to tell you, when you're raising a family, the suburbs are completely magnificent!

It's not like this:

It's more like this!:

Image: W Magazine

Now, clearly, if you are young and/or single, you are not going to go out and buy yourself a three-bedroom brick veneer in the 'burbs. Why would you? Of course you're going to prefer your studio apartment in the city - or perhaps if you are a little older, your 2-bedroom apartment or miner's cottage on the city fringe.

And that's all as it should be. But trust me, when you have kids, you are going to start longing for that 3-bedroom house with a backyard, close to schools, parks and shopping centres. Maybe not with your first kid - you have the first, you kid yourself, we can still do this - but when the second comes along, BAM, suddenly that city-fringe miner's cottage is way too small, and before you know it you've bought yourself a house in the 'burbs. And more than the shame, resignation and defensiveness that you feel with this move, is a stronger, welcome feeling: relief!

Life in the suburbs with kids is pretty great. You have space and a backyard, you're close to everything and the kids have friends nearby. You can relax outside, hang clothes on your line, store stuff in your garage, walk your dog, hang out at home or go out. You can have people round for barbecues or drinks or dinner or lunch, and you have room (well, you should; we don't always because we work too much and our house is a mess!)

Suburbs do not automatically mean McMansions, SUVs and home theatres, or narrow views and horrible politics.

People who live in suburbs are not selfish or self-involved any more than people living in cities are.

Millions of people live in houses in the suburbs, and as long as people have families they are always going to want to. Instead of mocking these desires as wrong or unthinking, doesn't it make sense to think instead that, perhaps, there are logical reasons behind the choices made by millions of people?  I'm of the behavioural economics school of thought myself - I don't believe that millions of people living a certain way or doing a certain thing are stupid; people aim to live the smartest, most efficient way they can with the resources they have.

It's fairly common now to mock the "suburban dream", and during the worst excesses of the housing bubble more and more commentators recommended eschewing home ownership for a more nimble way of life renting and saving money, supposedly "as Europeans do". Yet nothing, at the end of the day, equates to "owning" a house (even if you are paying it off over 30 years). It's a bit of peace and stability where you can truly relax, do what you want with it (within reason) and not have to worry about finding the next place if the landlord sells it.

We romanticise Europe and life in the big cities like Paris and Rome - but people there are not living in cramped flats out of choice. And life in those cities is a whole lot harder than it looks, or how it feels when you're on holiday or living and working there in your energetic twenties.

In Almost French, Sarah Turnbull, an Australian, tells the story of how she moved to France. She falls in love with a Frenchman and moves to Paris to live with him, but is appalled to find that he lives in a regular house in a Parisian suburb. She basically makes him sell up and buy a flat in an arty part of the city, where they carry their groceries three flights up, eat chocolate croissants for breakfast and drink coffee on their iron balcony overlooking the charming rooftops that accord so much better with our image of "Paris".  I actually loved this book - but I have found myself wondering if they still live in that flat, and if so whether they have kids...

As a child I lived in a few places but always in the suburbs and my memories are happy. The best place we lived was in a cul-de-sac in Glen Waverley where all the kids played in the front yards together and all the grown-ups knew each other. We played with all the kids in the street (except for the kids of the drug dealer who lived on the corner; we never had anything to do with them apart from one memorable day when they invited all the kids round to swim in their pool, in a vain attempt to integrate into the neighborhood and probably get some friends for their poor kids. The drug dealer had tattoos and wore a jaunty hat, and he and his wife were vey friendly. But they had a truly savage guard dog all the kids were terrified of, and he sat holding its collar so we could get in the pool and then let it go. We all huddled in the middle of the pool terrified while the dog ran laps around it barking at us viciously, while the drug dealer assured us "don't worry, she can't hurt ya!", until we all cried and said we wanted to go home and he admitted defeat).

I lived for a few years in Greece, dividing my time between white-washed houses in Santorini and a flat in the middle of Thessaloniki. I loved them both, as I loved my time living in a student flat in Auckland, pubs in London and flats in Elwood and St Kilda in Melbourne. For some time after I came back to Melbourne I missed my time overseas and wondered what direction my life would have taken if Y. and I had stayed in Greece. But as much as I liked to ponder my alternate, cosmopolitan life in Europe, I think I always knew I would end up back here - full circle - in a cul-de-sac in the suburbs.

Life's funny like that.

Suburban bliss:

You can get your kids to help sweep up when they're about two.
They're not so interested after that.

Our girls, when they were toddlers, in the traditional suburban
backyard wading pool. Among my happiest memories as a
young kid and with my own kids.

This photo makes our scrabbly backyard look pretty amazing!
Jacaranda litter does wonders.

Where are these flowers now?? Nowhere to be seen unfortunately.
One of my infrequent attempts at garden beautification. 
...And yes, we DO have a white picket fence!

Summer icy-poles - straight out of childhood, in a suburb near you



Jan 13, 2012

List Love

So while I'm on a (temporary) break from work, I have worked up quite the list of 'projects' for myself and the house. No, I am not one of those uber-career types who create project plans for personal projects, but like many, many women I am more than fond of a List.

I have an A4 spiral notebook on the go which is filled with my Lists.

As a List is completed it gets torn out and thrown away. Much as this pains me from a Personal Archiving perspective, it is most satisfactory from a Getting Things Done And Moving On perspective.

So I had multiple lists for the girls’ birthday party and Christmas, which are all now done – which is just as well really as those dates have long passed. I had separate lists for gift planning, invitations, Santa gifts, party food and games, Christmas food, and online shopping orders (for tracking).

Here are my current lists. Because I’m assuming you are intensely interested and have a spare hour for light reading!

House Jobs: To Do

I have helpfully written at the top “Do one per day”. I have not been doing one per day.

§  Sort linen cupboard (Surely I already did this 4 years ago?). Necessary because my heart sinks a little every time I have to put towels away and I am doing that currently by shoving them in hard and slamming the door shut, or leaving clean towels on top of the washing machine instead. Very boring job however and easy to put off.

§  Sort kitchen pantry. Similar to above.

§  Create a list of pantry and fridge staples and ensure these are always kept in stock

§  Sort kitchen appliance cupboard. Since Juanita Phillips suggested in A Pressure Cooker Saved My Life to get rid of all appliances you don’t use every week, I added this to my list. I am tempted to chuck the sandwich press, the food processor and the V-Slicer for starters. I’ve had all these for years and have not used the sandwich press for at least 10, and have never used the other two.

§  Clean out sideboard – crammed with old crappy appliances that don’t fit in the appliance cupboard

§  Clean mould from the back of the crockery cabinet. I know, this shouldn’t even be on a list, I should just do it!

§  Sort and clear out the big white cabinet in my kitchen which is basically filled with crap

§  New curtains for girls’ rooms. Something cheap and cheerful and functional to replace the broken tracks and fugly things hanging there now (dark blue in A’s room but old and tatty; brown and yellow teddy bear and building block motif in M’s room. Came with the house)
§  Wall hooks for girls’ rooms. I've been searching but can't find any good ones? I just want plain white wooden hooks, say 3 or 4 on a frame. Why is this hard?
§  Get carpets steam cleaned. Scheduled for next week, hooray!
§  Get house sprayed for ants and spiders. We haven’t had to do this the last 2 summers, but we have ants again now, so it’s time. Scheduled for next week, hooray!

§  Front yard: pull out the dead lavender and diseased standard roses, and replace with simple rockery shrubs and ground cover. I tried to make a start on this last week but underestimated how much work it will be. OUCH. No progress so far.

House Jobs: Done

§  Clean mould from A’s bedroom
§  Change the window fastener on A’s window (was on the list for far too long – we have not been able to open her window for 3 years. Possibly partly to blame for mould issue).
§  New letterbox. This was to replace our old, snail-infested crumbling timber box with the lockable metal letterbox we purchased from Bunnings 18 months ago. Am pleased to report that husband completed this task last week, along with the window fastener. (That also only took 2 years of asking!)

Administration Jobs: To Do
I have helpfully written at the top “Do one per day”. I have not been doing one per day.

§  Renew my passport
§  Get passports for the girls
§  Book tickets for Greece (FINALLY, after years of intending to and never being able to save the money, it looks like we will be able to do this this year)
§  Review health insurance (GROOOAAAN)
§  Review superannuation (DOUBLE GROOOAAAN)

§  Put in outstanding Medicare claims (every time I remember this one I am shocked I haven’t done it. There’s money I haven’t collected?!)

§  Back up all photos and documents (half done)
§  Export/back up blog posts

§  Do some photo albums (massive, MASSIVE task. Put it this way: my girls are six and the baby album is only half done. I have completed 3 other photo albums since then but the majority of our photos are in my computer or on a hard drive or some CDs)

Administration Jobs: Done

§  Book cheap summer break – DONE – we go to Rosebud for 4 days very soon. Can’t wait!
§  Sort recipe book, and come up with a small rotation of meals that the kids will eat – DONE – I think (they’re at their most fussy at the moment – dinners have become a bit of a NIGHTMARE).

Recipe Folder: before

Recipe Folder: After.
Good enough for me

I have compiled my dinner list, and cooked the first one last night: steak, peas and chips. What's not to love right? THEY DIDN'T LIKE IT. But I stood my ground: nothing else was offered. They also stood their ground: nothing else was eaten. Never mind, they'll grow to like it.

Blog Posts – to write or finish drafts

§  In Defense of George Papandreou (about timing and cycles during political change)
§  What to Wear to Work When It’s Hot
§   Suburbia Superbia  (why the suburbs are great)
§   Division of Labour (response to a great post in a blog I read recently)
§  Elevator Etiquette
§  100 for 100 (100 things about me, for 100th blog post)
§  It Really IS The Economy, Stupid! (wide ranging and far reaching impacts of 2008 GFC)
§  Some Thoughts on Depression
§  The Soft Sciences and the Hard
§  You Are Not Fat: Advice to a Five Year Old Child (most of it is written – I am just finding it painful to deal with! I keep tearing up…)

So those are my current TO DO items.

As well as those I have my PROJECT or WISH LIST items, which are the things I would like to do if we had the money, and which I tell myself we are planning to do in future.

Wish List / Projects

§  Add an extension, which must comprise 2 more rooms with LOTS of cupboards, a proper laundry (to replace our current "Euro laundry" in the bathroom) and a second toilet. We are happy to give up half of our massive garage and the dead portion of backyard behind the garage to achieve this. I have no idea what it would cost and am afraid to find out.

§  Fix the rotting deck in the backyard (IDEALLY: rip out and replace with brand new decking and a new pergola cover. ACTUALLY: replace the worst rotted planks and posts and re-paint)

§  Get some gardeners to do a massive tidy-up of the front and back yards – it is beyond our expertise and psychological strength

§  Plant flowers and rockery shrubs everywhere, that are beautiful and hardy and require minimal work (ie none) to upkeep

§  Plant fruit trees – husband is very keen on this in particular. As he is Greek, they will go in the FRONT yard, natch

§   Replace rotting white picket fence with an iron railing fence (I love those) – something like this:
White tubular steel fence by InStyle Fencing

§  Get a screen door for the front door so we can leave the door open during the summer heat

§   Replace our two hand-me-down sofas with a new modular sofa in the loungeroom – something like this:
Modular sofa I like by Domayne. With kids
and a dog I don't want white, obviously

§  Get a cabinet maker to put in white floor to ceiling book shelves over two walls of our loungeroom, with cabinets for storage along the bottom and a space for the TV. Something like this - IN MY DREAMS:
Built-in library shelving
Image: Traditional Home via www.trianglehoneymoon.com

So those are my lists.
What about you? Do you use lists? What is on your to-do list now?


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