Jan 27, 2015

I went out

Last night the kids stayed at their godmother's place, so we had the house and evening to ourselves.
We thought we should make the most of this, so we went out.

Oh, that wasn't the only thing we did, of course. During the early evening I dug out some DVDs and watched The Jewel of the Nile, sitting in the loungeroom, while it was still light, while eating the kids' snackpacks of potato chips and drinking a beer. Awesome! My husband had a long sleep uninterrupted by the kids fighting over the iPad and me yelling at him to get up and help while I made dinner. Good times!

The house was eerily, enjoyably quiet. It felt odd, but, I'm not going to lie, quite nice as well. I was actually a bit teary when I kissed the kids goodbye, and YES, at one point in the evening I put some of their clothes away and I stopped in each bedroom and smelled the clothes to inhale their scent. But I got over that, and it was nice having the house to ourselves for a whole night.

We left dinner until decadently late - it was at least 8pm!

We made vegetarian omelettes and had a TimTam each for dessert. Both luxuries unavailable to us with kids around, you understand. Washing the dishes was so fast after feeding only ourselves!

At 10,30, we headed out for drinks to Oakleigh, our favourite (only) local patch of cool.
We took the going out quite seriously. We had showers, and I wore makeup that wasn't just foundation and lip gloss. I used mascara, and actual lipstick. I put on earrings!  I even blew dry and brushed my hair, instead of scrunching it and hoping for the best.  By the time I was done, I decided I looked pretty hot, and tried to take a couple of flattering selfies to prove it. Unfortunately I am very bad at selfies so there is no proof of my hotness last night and you will just have to take my word for it.

Although it is the middle of summer, we live in Melbourne, so last night was suddenly quite wintry. The weather may have contributed to there being fewer people out than I expected. From memory, summer evenings at Eaton Mall are packed. But then, my memories are of earlier in the evening, not the daringly night-owl hours we were now keeping!

Anyway it was still lively, and we strolled in a sophisticated manner down the mall, deciding on a place to bestow our presence. During the day and early evening when we are at Oakleigh with the kids, we go to Vanilla, which is awesome, but we wanted a different vibe for our special evening, so we tried a great-looking new bar, Risk (no link because no website), instead.

We went inside and admired the black interior, spiky ceiling sculptures, beautiful staff, gorgeous but deafeningly loud music, and... giant TV's playing the tennis (well, it is the Australian Open after all - every bar and cafe had the tennis on). We ordered drinks - actual mixed drinks, not just wine or beer for us tonight! "That will be one hundred dollars thanks," I imagined the barman saying, as I realised I had no idea at all what fancy drinks cost these days. Fortunately, it was actually eighteen dollars, and we headed to an intimate table outside.

Having not been out for a romantic evening in approximately ten years, being out dressed up with my husband brought back all the memories of our first heady years together in Santorini and Thessaloniki, where it was all great bars and cool nights, all the time. Like Proust and his madeleine bringing the rush of a book's worth of memory to him, the sensory combination of dressed-up clothes, proper shoes, kid-less company and a gin and lemon transported me back to those beautiful days and nights when we were young and in love, and it felt, for the first time in many, many years, like it was not long ago at all. 

Maybe there's something to that date night thing all those other couples do...

We had a lovely evening. We enjoyed our drinks, chatted to the kids at one point when they called us, gazed at the moon while holding hands, gazed at the tennis, discussed the win of Syriza in the Greek election, and played with our drinks while pretending not to be resisting the effort to check Facebook on our phones. All the other tables were full of people smiling, laughing and talking animatedly while all unashamedly and constantly scrolling though things on their phones. Wow, I thought, people look at their phones while out with people these days! What an interesting social phenomenon! I wonder if anyone has noticed or commented on it yet?

After our drinks we strolled to Vanilla for a coffee and more tennis, then happily headed for home.

It was an excellent night.

Landahlauts/Flickr CC

Jan 15, 2015

The Culture of Free

There's been a lot written about "the culture of free" on the internet.

About how Napster spawned the expectation of most consumers that they can get great stuff for free online, and how newspapers and any company trying to make any profit at all have been trying to combat it ever since.

About how "if you're not paying for the product [Google, Facebook], then you are the product".

About how journalism is struggling to stay afloat, relevant and high-quality in a deluge of content-farming clickbait sites paying zero dollars for content.

I am part of the problem. I love my favourite podcasts but have so far not donated to a single one. (I tell myself I will). I use Wikipedia all the time, and I would like to keep it free of ads, but I have not contributed to their $3 fundraiser (I tell myself I will).

I have one online newspaper subscription, to Fairfax, which gives me full access to The Age and the Australian Financial Review for a very reasonable amount (which I suspend when funds are tight). I used to also have The Australian, but I let that go a couple of years ago when it became just too ridiculously right-biased even for my fairly elastic tastes.

I used to have an online subscription to Vanity Fair (jeez, a lifetime ago - who has time to read those articles now?). And I gave myself a three-month print-and-online subscription to New Scientist for my last birthday, which I plan to cancel - not because it's not excellent, but because it's expensive. I know buying a print magazine almost every week is more expensive, but an odd thing happens when you take up a subscription: you stop reading the bloody thing. Why it is I eagerly bought and read every issue at the newsagents for premium dollars for years, and now have 10 issues unopened from their plastic wrappings and the app barely accessed on my phone I just don't understand, but there it is.

I read lots of books on Kindle, and I buy a few songs from iTunes. (I know, Spotify, Pandora etc - I'll get there).

But apart from those things, I don't pay for anything I consume online.  (I don't torrent movies, or try to get around paywalls - I just stick to the free stuff).

I read newspapers, Slate, Cracked, Buzzfeed, Salon, Rolling Stone, The Atlantic, Jezebel, Freakonomics, i09, Forbes, New Scientist, Meanjin, Daily Science Fiction... and anything else interesting I get from Twitter or elsewhere. All excellent content, all "free" for now.

I know it's going to get worse. Pop-up ads are getting more intrusive, especially on mobile devices - many are virtually malware. It has got to the point where you just can't finish reading a '15 celebrities who...' list without giving up in disgust. Honestly!

And yet I am part of the problem.

To be honest I'm not sure Napster is to blame, or that it even started with the internet. In my youth I loved PBS Public Radio and I was happy to hear every second song interspersed with earnest pleas for donations, and I never donated anything (I always told myself I would).

You see I always think: what if I donate and this thing doesn't survive - I've lost my money.
And even less nobly, I think: enough other people will donate, it will be OK.
And sure enough, next week's podcast contains a heartfelt 'thank you so much for contributing, you guys are great and we are so thankful!' and I can relax a little and know that my favourite podcasts will continue.

I know - I'm not proud of it.

Today I clicked a link from Twitter to this article (see pic below). You will note an extremely reasonable - nay, awesome - subscription deal offered by the Boston Globe. You get 5 free articles, or you can subscribe for 99c - for all access, forever! (or possibly for just one year, but either way, awesome).

And I thought: Let's just see how the five articles go first.

Do you pay for stuff online, donate to sites and podcasts, or freeload? Is it freeloading, when the stuff is offered ostensibly free?

Jan 10, 2015

Let It Go

Adrian ImpalaMata

Parenting, as many have said before me, is an ongoing series of lessons in learning to let go. With each stage as your child develops and grows, you let go of something. And sometimes it's hard.

Sometimes you have to let go of something else: an opinion you held dear, or a view you had of yourself.  That's not just true of parenting - it's part of life. But parenting is one of the catalysts that will do this for you. (Anything from "You should never bribe children" or "I'm going to be an earth mother and do everything natural" or "I love kids and would like to have lots of them!" to your beliefs on gender, nature and marriage, or your personal view of your place in the world and how the universe works).

Sometimes it's a relief to let something go. A long-cherished hobby or life goal can be good to let go when it impedes joy in other areas of your life. (Read: 'The Upside of Quitting' at Freakonomics)

Sometimes it can take awhile to let go of something you really cherish or want. It took me a long time to accept that I could never give my kids the Stay at Home Mum lilfestyle, It took me too long and too many stressful mornings and nights before I let go of the idea that I had to be the one to take the kids to daycare every day, or that all our evening meals had to be a traditional plated meat and two veg. When I let go of those ideas, which did not fit our lives, our lives became better. Y did the daycare run more often, and the picnic dinner and the bento box dinner became our friends.

Sometimes, when a thing won't work despite all best intentions and hard work, letting go and moving on is the only option.

When my kids were little, I made delicious milkshakes. I made them with banana, a spoonful of ice-cream, milk and a couple of drops of food dye. Their favourite colour was pink, but we also had blue, green or orange milkshakes. Sometimes instead of ice-cream I used Greek yogurt and honey. My kids LOVED my milkshakes. When the daycare centre compiled a book of favourite family recipes, our contribution was Pink Milkshakes.

I loved my role as HEALTHY FUN MUM WHO MAKES AWESOME MILKSHAKES. I might have loved that picture of myself more than my kids loved the milkshakes.  So when my kids got a little older and tasted actual milkshakes and started to go off mine, I wasn't ready to give that up.

I upped the ante to chocolate and banana shakes. I increased the proportion of ice-cream. I made smoothies: fruit, yogurt, honey, juice, ice and milk, blended up with a couple of drops of food dye to make them look as great as they tasted. But despite many attempts over the years and Y and I loving them, the kids have never really bought in.

Yesterday I cut up some kiwifruit for the girls and saw a smoothie recipe on the inside of the container: kiwi, banana, honey and juice. I immediately made plans to make a yummy smoothie for tomorrow's breakfast, but when I mentioned it both kids said "NO! Mum! We DON'T LIKE SMOOTHIES!"

Then they happily gobbled up their bowls of kiwi and banana.

I considered my options. I could make my smoothie, which Y and I would like and the kids would not. I could use up all that kiwi and banana in the process, which the kids will not consume in smoothie form but will happily eat cut up in a bowl.

Or I could give them the fresh fruit and let it go.


And it felt good.

What have you let go? What took you too long to accept?


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