Saturday, December 29, 2007

Skinflint Sunday #2.

Here's another Skinflint Sunday tip:
When hosting a dinner party, be creative when it comes to items that you may lack. When looking for a tablecloth to cover your scratched and dented table, then remembering that the kids had wrecked it with the markers they used doing their homework.... don't race out to Spotlight at 4.45 on a Friday and grab the first thing you see. Simply grab a can of furniture polish instead, buff up that baby, lay the cutlery directly on the surface and tell your delightful guests that you've gone for a 'rustic Tuscan' theme.
Yes, the dinner party went beautifully. Thankfully the cheesecake was delectable, and people stayed till late... always a good sign. I have lovely friends.
I spent this morning mowing the front and back lawns in 40 degree heat in preparation for Brennan's 13th birthday party tomorrow. It's actually his birthday today, but the boys are away with their Dad and Viv, so tomorrow is party day.

Happy birthday baby.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Memory Loss is one of the first signs, they say...

It's official! I am definitely turning into a nanna, just as Widget said. (In person, not on her blog.) I spent all of yesterday behaving like a doddery old fool. M mentioned a wool shop called Sunspun where she was able to order some shimmery wool from Wales, and she raved about the service. Seeing as how both myself and the shop are in Melbourne and I'm on holidays with time to burn, I decided to go forth and visit, specifically to buy a new knitting bag. This is the sophisticated, cosmopolitan life that I lead when my kids are away for a few days with their dad. Maybe I should begin dating again, but how can I fit in chunks of eye-glazingly boring time with random males who are dull when my days are crammed with full-blooded excitement like this?

This manky old thing is what I've been using to cart my knitting around in for 37 years. (I've just had a coronary. I thought it was only 27, but seeing as how I got it when I was 7.... )

Time to let go of the past and get a new bag. So the day before yesterday I hopped onto the computer, glanced at the address and then yesterday I set off. I drove up and down Camberwell road , and by the time I got home I'd wasted just over an hour. The shop wasn't where it should be.

(Though all was not lost. On the way home I popped into Patchwork on Central to have a look. Ages ago when I started getting interested in quilting I saw a pattern they had for sale. This one: The St Kilda quilt. It's now mine. Though being a Carlton supporter I'm going to use different colours. I don't understand all of the directions, but it says that it's easy, so I should be right.)

Anyway, I went home, popped back on the computer and looked at the address. It was 185.... not 420. I called myself an idiot, then had lunch and jumped in the car to drive back. It was deja vu. I was walking up and down Camberwell road for ages looking for this shop. Finally a nice guy in a music shop rang directory assistance for me....

I'm very lucky that Canterbury road is so close to Camberwell road. Yes, sometimes I remember things by their first letter. It often works well, but obviously sometimes you end up wasting two hours of precious child-free holiday time. After investing all of that time and effort, I wasn't going to give up now. I went. I saw. I bought this. It has lots of zips and no holes for knitting needles to stick out of. It cost $60, but I'm thinking that over 37 years that's less than $2 a year, so it's an absolute bargain.

I also bought this. I'm going to have the most lurid socks in the history of the world. I know a couple of posts back I was obsessing about the swirly socks, but there is no way I'm paying $23 for wool and $11 for multicoloured bamboo double ended knitting needles and then NOT have people notice my work. I watched tv and knitted like a maniac on the afghan. I have to finish it before I can start. It's getting warmer, so soon it'll be too hot to knit.

I'm having friends over for dinner tonight, so today will be a house cleaning and cooking day. We were going to have a paprika chicken thing for our main course, but with the mercury hitting 38C today I've decided to go for a cold dinner. Dessert is the apricot nectar cheesecake I promised Scott, after I mucked up the last one. I know that mid afternoon I'll probably be kicking myself for spending so much time on the Great Knitting Bag Hunt of 2007, but that can't be helped now. I'm off to have breakfast and put the final layer on the cheesecake.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

What a great day.

What a lovely Christmas! The boys were totally ecstatic with their presents. I can now reveal that the gifts I smuggled out of Australia, hid in a wardrobe for a week in Phuket and then smuggled back into Australia without the boys ever suspecting were 2 digital cameras and 2 Samsung K3s (like ipods but with a bigger screen and brighter colours.) Connor was so delighted with his camera. Since starting his photo blog he's been wishing and hoping for a new camera that was his and his alone. He had that thing glued to his face all day. Jack and Jordan couldn't believe their eyes when they saw their mp3s. They jumped straight onto the computer to download all their music onto them. What they didn't know is that I'd teed up with their Dad to buy them speakers, so they'll be set up beautifully (music wise, anyway). It's so lovely when Santa gets it right!

(Santa also forgot until a week before Christmas that he'd bought a sleeping bag for each of the boys back in June. He'd stored them at his Mum's place. So they each had a sleeping bag and a major present. Funny how it works ... most expensive Christmas ever, with the smallest and fewest presents ever.)

We went over to Mum and Dad's place for Christmas. My sister and her husband and girls were there as well. We had Christmas dinner outside under the weeping myrtle tree and it was just beautiful. The table was being used as a table tennis battlefield just 10 minutes before, but with a cloth and christmassy decorations you'd never know. It was just the right size for 5 adults and 6 kids to sit around comfortably in the sparkling sunshine and enjoy the meal and each other's company. My nieces were given a guitar and keyboard for Christmas, so we brought around Brennan's electric guitar and Jack's acoustic, and the kids spent hours just noodling around on the instruments, playing and singing. It could've sounded awful, but the four years of music lessons I'd made the kids do really paid off. They had a ball, and our ears didn't bleed. Got to be happy with that.

Just to prove beyond a doubt that it was a true Aussie Christmas.... here is a shot of the beach towels drying on the clothesline just to the side of where we had our lunch.
And we still have 4 weeks of holidays..... god I love this time of year!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Skinflint Sunday

Someone (I can't remember who) has a thing on her blog called 'Shoestring Sunday' where she talks about things she does to stretch a dollar. That's a great idea, but speaking as someone grappling with a frugality kick that has to stretch one wage over five people, a dog, two cats, two budgies and a mortgage... then 'shoestring' doesn't cut it. Plus it doesn't have the alliteration thing happening which I feel is important to have. So I'm going to have a 'Skinflint Sunday' post.
Have you ever noticed that lovely things come and go, but ugly lasts forever? It's not just a perception; it really does because if you hate the look of something, you won't wear/use/eat it.

First thing.... don't buy anything unless you love it. I have dining furniture that I bought as a stopgap buy twenty years ago. I've never been into the country kitchen look, but my then husband had only 1 afternoon to go shopping with me, so we grabbed something. Anything. I'll probably be buried with these bloody things. In twenty years I haven't been able to shake them. I'd throw a lit match on them, but I'd probably burn the whole house down if I did that, and I'm very fond of my house. It's where I keep my stuff.
So learning from this mistake I don't buy clothes unless I adore them. Sometimes I still make a mistake. I bought a 3-pack of socks a couple of years ago, and one pair was this swirly black design on a white background. "How hip and groovy is this, man?" I said to myself, because I'm down with the current street talk of the young folk. I bought the socks, scampered home, and the next day put them on to go to work.
I'd forgotten that I hate wearing white socks under anything trousery. (It goes back to primary school, when Sally Went bullied me mercilessly for years about many things, one of which was this fashion issue. When Michael Jackson made white socks the 'in' thing over much of the globe, our school was one of the few places too scared to follow his lead.) It was hideous. Every step I took I could see a flash of white (with a bit of swirly black, but it wasn't enough. It wasn't enough, people!!!!!) I had to go home at lunchtime and change my socks. It was interfering with my teaching. I usually perch on top of the teachers desk so I'm taller than all of the giants I teach, but how could I expose my revolting white-socked ankles to the critical eyes of teenagers? I was hiding behind the desk and skulking around the edges of the classrooms all morning. I looked shifty and untrustworthy, which isn't the look an educator of the young should have. (At least I didn't have a bag of lollies with me as well.)
So what did I do with the socks? A lesser woman would've thrown them out. But I, Frogdancer, am made of sterner stuff. I simply wear them on the weekends. Usually Saturday. Housecleaning errand running day. Often I spend the entire day at home, so no-one sees the trauma-causing white flashes as I skip around, and I am able to forget I'm wearing them because there's no one around to recoil in horror if my ankle gets seen. I'm gradually wearing them out, saving my far more acceptable dark socks a day's wear, so it's all good.
Except occasionally you can be caught out. Yesterday I drove Connor (otherwise known as Tadpole) to a friend's house to drop him off at a Christmas party. I had the socks on, shining like a lighthouse with their beacon of whiteness between my jeans and my runners. Little did I realise that I was also invited. Connor forgot to tell me. I was mingling among the general public with my swirly socks on. Imagine my mortification. I needed a couple of glasses of champagne to steady myself.
Until I realised that I was getting the benefit of my second Skinflint Sunday tip, which I will share with you all now.

Shave your head. Or at least clipper it. Most of the people at the party either didn't know me, or hadn't clapped eyes on me for ages, so their attention was on my head and not my feet. (There was another woman there who also had clippered her head, but she'd taken it a step further and had purpled her hair as well. I felt positively conservative...)
Getting the kids to cut your hair saves a fortune in hairdressing bills. It's fantastic. You save $$$ by not needing to blow dry your hair every morning, (though I'll have to spend $$$ on some beanies if I still have this style next winter, so I guess it all evens out.) But there is a small word of caution I have to give, should you be decide to follow my lead. Make sure you choose the child with the clippers carefully.
"Connor, my nimble-fingered 11 year old, I need a haircut. Will you oblige?" I said. (This may or may not be verbatim. This conversation happened days ago, after all.)
"Certainly, mother," he replied in a most agreeable fashion. "I'll go and set everything up."
"Thank you my dear," I said. "I'd like a number 3, if you please."
"No sooner said than done," and he whipped off and got everything out.
When he'd finished I inspected his handiwork in the mirror. There was an awful lot of skull showing in between the hair.

"Prithee, good son," I said, going a little Shakespearean for no apparent reason, "My hair seems somewhat shorter than I'd envisaged. Which numeral didst thou useth?"
Connor glanced down at the clippers. A look of horror crossed his face. "It's a number 2..." he gasped.
So make sure that you use a son or daughter who isn't numerically challenged. Though come to think of it, by using a smaller clipper size... I'm using the same amount of electricity for the greatest amount of hair cuttage!! I've probably saved at least a cent on my power bill. That definitely falls under the heading of Skinflint.
So to sum up....

1. Wear your ugly clothes as often as possible to wear them out, whilst saving your pretty clothes for when you're in public. Your children will love you no matter how frumpy your socks look. They're obliged to. You gave them life, after all.
2. Homemade haircuts save time, money and embarrassment at Christmas parties. Well worth the initial investment of buying the clippers.

3. Then you have enough money to buy your youngest son really expensive gifts and gadgets.( preferably Wii games and stuff like that). It's really worth it. I have to be quiet I'm Tadpole and right now mum (Frogdancer) is taking a photo of the socks. I have to hurr

Saturday, December 22, 2007

YouTube - Raymond Crow's Show

YouTube - Raymond Crow's Show

Have a look at this... it's amazing. Connor and I loved it.

Yesterday was a write off. All I did was sleep and read. (Actually, I quite enjoyed myself. I had no idea that I was as tired as I was. It was a real doona day. Mmmmmmmmmm...)

In between the nanna naps and the reading (I got through half of Sara Douglass's 'Pilgrim' yesterday) I also finalised my Flexirent agreement. My advice to you is never never never be stupid enough to go into one of these things. I needed a new computer 3 years ago, and I listened to my brother-in-law who said that Flexirenting was a great idea because it allows you access to the rest of your money while you still get to use the new computer. I was just about to begin huge kitchen renovations, so I thought that what he said made sense. However... I've paid about a thousand dollars more for that computer over the course of 3 years, and when the agreement time runs out you either have to hand the computer back or pay them even more money to keep it. They wanted me to pay $400, but I got them down to $200. Cheaper than buying another new computer, but considering the battery has died so the laptop is now effectively a desk top..... it's still a lot of money. Oh well, you live and learn! Considering that through work I've now got a laptop that I pay $8 a week on, and with the Flexirent one I was paying $117 a month.... I'm so looking forward to that money being freed up. I'll be rich(er)!

Thursday, December 20, 2007


This is how I felt when I woke up today. It's the last day!!! Oh hoo-bloody-ray! O love my job, I really do, but I'm exhausted. I'm so glad the holidays are here... I'm planning a few days of sleeping, reading, knitting and sleeping, with a few nanna naps thrown in before the serious business of holidays kicks in. I have to finish 4 quilts for the boys because I told some people at work I would, and I have to do some painting around the place to stop my home looking like a slumlord's pre-renovation project, I have to catch up with people who probably think I've died because I haven't been in touch for so long, and who knows? I might even go on a date or two. I've had 18 months off but maybe I'd better get back on the horse. I've found that I really enjoy my life without the trauma of romance in it, but my dear friend Widget kindly informed me on the weekend that I was turning into a nanna. Just because I preferred to stay at home, watch 'Survivor' and knit on a Saturday night. Personally, I don't see what the resemblance is (my Grandma would rather die than watch 'Survivor'; especially a double episode) but perhaps she might have a point.

The VCE results came out this week. I was happy with how my English class went (5 kids scored over 40, which was nice, though only 1 of my ESLs did, which was disappointing). We're now busy getting class lists for next year. It looks like I'm going to be teaching the daughter of one of my besties, the blogless Sandy. I've known Kate since she was about 3 or 4, so it should be entertaining. Ohhh.... the skeletons I could drag out if she misbehaves in class..... I could bring in the happy snaps of the time it rained and she, her brother and my boys all ran out and danced in the rain in their underwear. Who cares if she was only 4 at the time? Other big school news is that we now know the name of our new principal. We're so fortunate that the current Assistant Principal was chosen by the selection committee. She is absolutely incredible at her job, works harder than anybody and I believe has been hugely instrumental in lifting the school to the current position it has. She really deserved to have the chance to have the top job and show what she can do, and I'm so pleased that she got it. It could've been a vastly unsettling year next year if the wrong person was given the job (I don't have any candidate in mind here, I'm just speaking generally), so I'm very happy that the decision fell how it did.

Here is a photo of Brennan (boy number 3) graduating from primary school last night. I snared front row seats for Connor and I, (Tony, Vivienne and the other two boys got the seats I grabbed for them 3 rows back.... well, that's what you get for being an ex husband...) and we had a lovely night. Brennan spoke really well, said his ambition was to be a guitarist and was one of the most confident actors in his little skit that he was in. I was so proud, though considering his mother is a Drama teacher you'd expect that performance would be tucked away in his genes somewhere. (I said g-e-n-e-s, not jeans. He's far too young for any of that nonsense.) I got slightly teary when a photo flashed up during the slide show of Brennan in prep. He was so gorgeous back then. How they change....
(That was a joke Bren, in case you ever read this. You're still gorgeous. Just taller.)

I'll finish with a photo of the Christmas gifts I made for the year 10 form captains to thank them for putting up with them. (No one thinks form assemblies are the highlight of the job.) Most student managers take the easy way out and buy bottles of wine or something, but I don't think form assemblies are so hideous that I have to spend half my week's grocery budget on people (there's 10 form groups at year 10) and so I made Christmas muffins instead. I invested my time, creativity and love in these gifts. I found these really stylish square china dishes and they were perfect for cradling a big colourful muffin. Who doesn't love a muffin with chocolate on the top at morning recess time?
I had a plan in my mind to make half the muffins with bright green icing and half with red, to make them all Christmassy, but my plan came unstuck when I was icing them at midnight. The school had its Presentation night to celebrate the high achievers, so i didn't get home till 11.30 or so. At that hour of the night, I made an executive decision that one colour only would do. I was also going to sift through the mini M&Ms to just use the Christmas colours, but that didn't happen either. Before school the next morning I was wrapping them with clear cellophane over the top, and that made the colours really zing! They looked fantastic. At midnight the previous night I was cursing my 'hand-made with love' idea, and if Dan Murphy's had've been open at that hour of the night I might've made a quick trip down to the bottle-o's; but once they were wrapped and I could see how bright they looked, I was rapt that I'd done it. Yes, it's true. Cooking can be fun.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Busy busy busy.

What a busy few days! My weekend went pretty much as planned. I didn't see a soul the whole time, though before you think I got too antisocial I talked my my friends widget, Pitsa and Sandy on the phone. I baked so much that I can't fit anything else in the freezer... and I've got a full length freezer... I did a bit of gardening and housework, knitted and sewed. Put me back 100 years and I'd fit right in. Except for the bit where I was knitting in front of a double episode of 'Survivor: China'. Knitting a boring thing like an afghan demands a rollicking two hours of junk tv.

(Incidentally, future Frogdancer owes me a big debt of gratitude. Do you remember a couple of weeks ago I said that I'd put the afghan away for this summer when I'd knitted four out of the eight balls that this mammoth thing demands, and I'd pick it up again next year when it got nippy? Well, I was dying to get started on the two jumpers I've got wool for, but when I got up to the 'put-the-afghan-away' stage, I thought "I'll just get a little bit of next year's knitting done." So far I've knitted six out of the eight balls. Future Frogdancer had better send me some kind thoughts when she's blissfully knitting away on wool that isn't acrylic afghan yarn. I'm so bored with it, but I have to get the stupid thing finished. That girl owes me... big time.)

I went out to the veggie garden and realised that I've left the purple beans for too long. One lot are fine, but the others have started drying on the vine, and the leaves were turning yellow. What an idiot I am. So I frantically picked what I could save, and then brought the really dry ones inside to finish drying on the windowsill. With a bit of luck we'll get perpetual beans out of our one packet of seeds. (Even if the amount of seeds I harvested is a little more than I'd planned.) Ah well, you live and learn. The cucumbers are growing up to near the top of the side fence, and I'm harvesting one a day already, which makes Brennan and Jack happy, as they love to crunch right in to a whole cucumber. The lettuces are threatening to go to seed, so I'll have to pop down to Bentleigh market on Sunday to get some more baby ones. Everything is growing like crazy, and the plants all look happy.

I ended up leaving my quilt cutting and sewing till Sunday. I thought that I'd get all that I had to get done first, and then do the thing I was itching to do. So Sunday afternoon at 1pm I set myself up. The kids don't get dropped off till 6pm, so I had a huge chunk of time. I had so much fun. It's ridiculous when you step back and look at it. All I was doing was cutting out little bits of fabric and sewing them together while singing at the top of my lungs to my shuffling ipod. (By the way... I've got awesome taste in music. My ipod doesn't have one bad track. I never listen to it through headphones; I bought a thingy that lets me plug it into my stereo speakers. I love it, on the childfree occasions that I'm able to listen to it.) I was in heaven. The owl fabric I bought with the chunky, cute yet manly owls was big enough that I could play around with what I was including in the small squares. So I have owls peeping in from the sides, or up from the bottom, or squarely and chunkily in the middle. It looks so good!!!! I got most of the squares done, but then I started to run out of stash. (I can almost hear gasps of dismay coming from the quilting community....) I have about 10 more owl squares to surround with other fabric, and I'll have to go and buy a few more pieces. My rationalisation for this is that I must be doing a terrific job in using up the stash of fabric I already have, because none of the pieces I have left are big enough to use. So my frugality kick is appeased, and sometime soon I'll pop down to Spotlight and have a wander.

Anyway, there I was, singing away, happy in my own little world, when at 4.30 I heard a car door slam. I glanced out of the window, at first casually, and then with increasing shock and horror. Tony had brought the boys home an hour and a half early.!!! That never happens..... Within 30 seconds of them walking in the door my music full of awesomeness was switched off and they were in my face. "Mum, guess what happened yesterday...?" "Mum, where's my footie?" "Mum, I love you what can I eat?" *sigh*

But the extra time I had with them enabled Connor to begin his own blog. Since looking at photo blogs like 3191 , TJ Sky's Photo Journal and the photos on Pleasant View Schoolhouse he's become more and more interested in photography. Since I bought my new camera for Phuket, my old Canon digital has been for family use, and Connor has had his 11 year old self stuck behind the viewfinder, experimenting with different ways to look at the world. His blog is called Swarming With Tadpoles . If you've got a spare couple of minutes please pop over and give him a hello. Keep in mind that he's only 11, so the photos aren't gallery quality. (Yet. He's a Virgo, so he's driven to get better. I don't know who he takes after....) He has full artistic control over what goes onto his site (and it's interesting for me to see the choices he makes about what goes on and what stays off.) Who knows? This could be the baby steps of a future career...

Isn't having kids and watching them grow up the best fun? All of the possibilities they play with.... I love it. With having four kids all close together in age, I guess that this is magnified in my house. They've reached the early to mid adolescent stage where their worlds open up. They're old enough to have developed skills and tastes and young enough not to have boxed themselves off from any opportunities, and now they're exploring everything that grabs their interest. Photography for Connor, and to a lesser extent Brennan; music for Brennan and Jordan, and now Jack has jumped on board with huge enthusiasm too; art for Jordan; knitting for Brennan... who knows what will come next? I think it's fantastic. Life gets busy here but it's rarely boring.

And speaking of rarely boring... yesterday at work I moved desks. I vacated the year 10 office and went back home to staffroom 1... back with my besties. I'd forgotten how nice it is to be with a whole lot of people instead of just one. I'm back to back in the same aisle with Scott , and the rest of the staffroom is dotted with the people I really like here at work. We asked Widget to move from staffroom 3, but apparently she likes her desk because she can put her feet up on the windowsill and correct work in comfort. That sort of indecorous, wild and free behaviour just wouldn't do in our staffroom, so she's staying where she is.

Ho hum! It's seven thirty. Time to wake the primary kids and get them moving.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Cheesecake recipe for River.

River, who makes awesome comments that often make me laugh, asked for my apricot nectar cheesecake recipe. Jordan's been hoeing into the one I wrecked and couldn't take to our faculty party, and I had a piece yesterday when I came home for lunch and there was nothing quick to eat. Even the 'wrecked' one is still yum. There's only a quarter left. The recipe is an old one from the Australian Women's Weekly. Tried and true recipes are always the best.




155g (5oz) plain sweet biscuits.

75g (2.5 oz) butter.


470g (15 oz) can apricot nectar.

1/2 cup castor sugar.

1 tablespoon lemon juice.

1 tablespoon gelatine.

375g (12 oz) packaged cream cheese.

1 1/4 cups of cream.


1 tablespoon of sugar.

3 teaspoons Arrowroot.

2 teaspoons rum. (Don't let your 11 year old help, as you'll get a lot more rum than you bargained for in the topping! Still tastes ok though...)


Combine finely crushed biscuit crumbs and melted butter, mix well. Press mixture firmly onto the base of a 20cm (8 in) springform tin, refrigerate 1 hour.

(I'm adding an extra step here for ensured success with this recipe. Shake the tin of apricot nectar before you open it. Trust me on this one. You want all of that lovely apricot taste in your cheesecake, not left in the tin.)

Measure 1 cup of apricot nectar from the can (reserve the rest for the topping.) Pour the nectar into a small saucepan, sprinkle gelatine over.

Place over low heat and stir until gelatine dissolves; allow to cool and thicken slightly.

Beat softened cream cheese and sugar until the mixture is smooth and creamy, add lemon juice.

Beat in apricot mixture, then fold in whipped cream.

Pour mixture into the crumb crust, refrigerate 2 hours or until firm.


Place the sugar and arrowroot in a small saucepan, gradually stir in the reserved apricot nectar. Bring the mixture to a boil while stirring constantly; then remove from the heat and add the rum. (Yo ho ho.)

Continue stirring to allow the mixture to cool slightly. Spread the topping over the cheesecake and refrigerate until the topping sets.


There you go. Great for dinner parties because you can make it a day or two before and there's one less thing you have to prepare on the day.

I'm planning a very self indulgent day today. The kids are at their Dad's, so I'll be baking, knitting (a bit) and quilting. I bought some really cute (yet manly) owl fabric for Brennan's quilt to make it darker like he said he wanted. Is he going to turn emo on me? So I'll be rotary cutting and sewing away, singing along to my ipod because MY music can now be played without any ill-informed adolescent judgements. I hope everyone else has a lovely Saturday too.

I leave you with Connor enjoying Christmas.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Second last Christmas concert ever...

One more to go.... one more to go!!!!

Yes, last night was the annual primary school Christmas concert, which in these mad days of political correctness is officially known by the mealy-mouthed title of 'Celebration Concert' instead. (Gee guys, what exactly are we celebrating? What's that you say? Christmas? Then lets just call it a Christmas concert, shall we? I'm pretty sure the other denominations won't mind.)

Rant over. Back to business. The running around before we got there was horrendous. I raced home from work to pick up Jordan for his last piano lesson with his teacher ever. He's been learning with Vicki for 4 years, but she's finishing her music degree this year and her plans are very uncertain next year, so he's had to take up piano at school next year. (He passed the audition a few days ago. I was so relieved.) Seeing as it was their last ever lesson, she brought out some Rachmaninoff and they played one of the concertos from 'Shine' together. They both had so much fun. I'd cancelled Brennan's guitar lesson because of the Christm (sorry) Celebration concert, so I was able to sit there for an hour and fifteen knitting the afghan (will that thing never end?) and enjoying the music. At the end he gave her a card and a present from Phuket, they hugged, she got teary... it was all good.

Then the hell began. There was no time to cook anything for dinner between the arrival home and the concert, and I had no cash in my wallet. That morning Connor had sidled up to me with that cute expression youngest children wear when they know they're going to ask something that will cause panic in their parent. Basically: Grade 6 bomber jackets need to be ordered at $48 a pop. These jackets are individually printed every year with each grade 6ers name on the back, so they're special to the kids. Fair enough. The money was due today. He informs me of this at 8.09am. The kid was born under a lucky star. I had $48.60 in cash. Which leaves precious little to spend at the fish and chip shop. I had to think of a place that takes credit cards and will be quick. The concert starts at 6.30, and I was driving home at 6.03 with no plan for dinner.

$25 later I leave the 'Red Rooster' drive through with 4 quarter chicken and chips packs. That's a lot of money to spend on chips and a few drumsticks. I drive home. We have 10 minutes to eat, scrub up and be out the door. We walk in. Brennan and Connor are blissfully playing the Eyetoy with a sublime indifference to such mundane things as the time. Shoes and socks are off... I commented sweetly and tactfully about how I felt, considering it was their fault we were racing around like crazy.

So now we're eating a very expensive take out meal with no time to savour it.
"Just stuff it in!" I bellow as Connor delicately picks up his hunk of chicken and nibbles at it.
"Can I eat this meal with braces on?" Brennan asks.
"Swallow it whole if you have to," I shriek. "Just hurry up!!"

Connor lost his shoes and was racing around looking for them. Brennan was in the bathroom picking chicken out of his braces. Jordan had given up and was waiting in the car. I shovel them all into the car, drive to the school, which at 6.38 had cars parked all around for about 23 suburbs in every direction, dropped them off at the school gate, then drove streets away until I could find a park. Grabbed my bag with my wallet and patchwork supplies (did I forget to mention that I had a quilting class that starts at 7.30 later that night?) and hot footed it to the school oval. Half way there I realised I'd forgotten to bring the car blanket to sit on, but it was too late.

Went to the oval. The concert had already started and some very short cute looking kids were playing instruments very badly. All the kids were decked out in Santa hats, so it was hard to locate any one child in particular. I went over to the side of the oval where the grade 5s and 6ers were sitting (they were the tall Santa-hatted kids), located Brennan whose glasses made it easier to spot him and waved at him to show him where I was sitting. He showed Connor, Mum turned up with a bottle of Merlot, two plastic wine glasses and a corkscrew, and I could finally relax.

Once the wine glass was in my hand, I quite enjoyed the evening. We happened to be sitting near some parents I knew, so we were all comparing notes on how many more of these we had to endure, and having fun catching up on how everyone was going. Mum made the comment that this one was better than any of the others, and I think she was right. The younger grades still had rows of kids standing up mechanically singing to karaoke Christmas songs, but the older grades actually had a bit of choreography happening. The grade 6ers were really entertaining with their rap singers popping out from behind traditional carol singers. The weather was warm, there were no flies to bother us, the oval wasn't too prickly under the old derriere, we could recognise both boys up on stage when they were performing so we could beam fondly at them and cheer loudly when they'd finished, Mum stalked the kids when they were sitting with their mates so she could take their photos, Jordan found some old friends from when he was there last year and disappeared, so all in all it was a good night.

The current grade 5s are delivering speeches at school so the kids can vote on who will be the next school and house captains. Connor gave his speech yesterday and one of the Mums told me that her son said that Connor's was the best speech and he definitely had his vote. That was really nice to hear. Jordan was school captain last year, and at first Connor was a bit nervous about trying for a position of responsibility because of all the speeches a school captain has to make. He has gradually come around to the idea after I told him that he was just like me... we love being in the limelight and making people laugh, and a good way to be confident is to get used to talking in front of people. (After all, that's what teaching boils down to... all you're doing is performing to your captive audiences day after day after day....)

So it was great to hear that all of his hard work paid off and he delivered it well. He's the sort of kid who would do well in some sort of official role, but I don't know many of the other kids in his year level (I've always worked when he's been at school) so I have no idea if he's in with a chance or not. But at least his maiden speech was a success!

I left the kids and Mum at the end of the concert and zipped off to quilting class. I was an hour late and they'd locked the front of the shop, so I was banging on the door for a while till someone came to let me in. I learned how to put a million safety pins through all of the layers of quilt to hold it together. This lesson wasn't as much fun as last week, because most of the time I was all alone in the front of the shop working over a big table and pins, while everyone else was in the back talking and laughing. One thing I noticed was that everyone else's kids seem to go to private schools. Is quilting a hobby for the elite? I'm beginning to wonder if I'll be inadvertently bringing the tone of the quilting world down by teaching and educating my kids in the government system.....

So now my quilt is sandwiched together. My choice is now to either hand quilt it, or wait till after Christmas and use the walking foot (I thought that was what feet naturally do...) that Dad is buying Mum for Christmas for her sewing machine. I'm thinking I might do the latter. My goal is to finish 4 quilts by the end of the holidays and I'm guessing that hand quilting them would mean I'd be doing nothing else all summer. That'd be boring. But at least the quilt would be progressing. So I'm not sure yet. I'm worried if I have a pile of half-finished quilts stacked up that they'll end up not being done. Those readers who were witness to the Sudoku frenzy of 2005 will know that I focus heavily on new interests until I master them. Then I puddle along happily with them forever after.

oops. Look at the time! Got to go to work. Jordan's last day today. They're taking the year 7s to the zoo. The poor kids are going in full school uniform: black leather school shoes, ties and tucked-in white shirts in all their glory. It's only going to be 32 degrees Celsius. But they'll still have a great time.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Blog Bling.

I have a spare few seconds before I race home to begin the horrendous scheduling nightmare that is music lessons/race home and throw food at kids pets and myself/end of year hideous concert at primary school (only two more to go yay!)/race away to get to my 2nd quilting class in time. Sigh. So before this all happens I thought I'd finally pick up this fetching piece of pink blog bling that has been waiting for me at lightening's place.

Kelley began it, and it's basically a 'Love' code between her and her daughters. Stand on your ear and look. You can work it out. (Hint: It's not a picture of a double scoop icecream cone. It's a red beating thing commonly found in people's chests.)

I think I have to tag others. I'm starting to panic about the time, so I'll be brief.

Amanda Jean

All from overseas. I thought this time I'd send the love far across the waves....

Tiny meme.

I've been tagged for another meme. A short one this time, so fear not, gentle readers! This is from ...oops... I don't know her name. I hope this doesn't make me seem rude. She's a lovely girl who comments as precious_1 , but I'm guessing that wasn't what she was named at birth, unless her parents were very sugary sweet and doting. Then again, it may surprise some of you to know that Frogdancer isn't my actual realio-trulio name either.

Anyway, here is the meme:

4 Short Questions.

1. What did you accomplish this past week?
I learned how to use a sewing machine.
3 days later I sewed and finished the top of a double-sized patchwork quilt.
I finished student manager remarks on reports DAYS earlier than they were due.
I finally finished the first trilogy in the list of books by Sara Douglass that I want to read.
Helped Connor set up his new photo blog. (All will be revealed soon...)

2. Did anything not go as expected?
The tasteless apricot cheesecake I told you all about yesterday is the first thing that springs to mind. Let's leave it there, shall we? I might get crushed and sad again...

3. What was the highlight of your week?
Making the top of my first ever quilt top and having it all work out and look fantastic. Seeing Brennan in his end of year music concert up on stage playing his guitar in a band was a close second.

4. Did anything exciting happen that you didn't expect?
Lots of little things happen every day like that. That's why I love my life so much. The trouble is... they're small and fun, but I can't think of any at the moment. I enjoyed them all at the time, though. (Does this make me sound like a nuff-nuff?)
Hang on! I've just remembered one! I was sitting having a chat with some fellow staff members at Scott's place last night, when all of a sudden I saw all these beautiful Christmas lights that he's got strung out along his back fence. It looked great. I jumped up in my seat with glee, but everyone else had apparently ooed and aahhed about an hour before when they were first switched on. I must've been in the garage playing with the cats at that stage of the night. Or else I'm simply not very observant...
But at the time I found them exciting. And unexpected. You've got to take your joy where you find it...

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Christmas cheer.

The tree is up! The picture is what we have at the top. For twenty years or so this little bird has nested at the top of our tree. She's getting very delicate and I don't know what I'll do when she finally falls apart, but I love that she sits up the top, peacefully surveying the surroundings every year. Not being a particularly religious family, this seems to fit us fine. I took the obligatory photo of the tree, uploaded it and put all the cameras and cords away, but when I viewed it it looked very ordinary. There's no way I'll inflict it on the general public. So you all get the bird. (I mean that in the nicest possible way, of course...)

We had a lovely time decorating the lounge room. The kids do most of the work now, which is nice, as I can see Christmas traditions developing that they'll pass on to their families when they (eventually) have them. Jordan brought in the tree from the garage and he and Connor did much of the initial tree decorating. (As a side note... apparently I lovingly tell them every year! to put the larger ornaments at the bottom, and gradually decrease the size of them as they go up the tree. Well, there's no need to snap at me. It's important to have a balanced looking tree. At least I know they're taking heed of my words of wisdom.)

When the tree is going up I always have Christmas carols playing. For years it's been a hideously sweet children's choir with unnatural annunciation singing stuff, but this year we had a treat. Scott gave me my Christmas present early. Every year he makes a Christmas mix, and it's fantastic. I tell you, you haven't lived until you decorate a Christmas tree with Angela Lansbury belting out a song about needing a little Christmas. There's a few versions of Jingle Bells... one with Barbra Streisand on speed, while Lena Horne makes it sound like the sexiest song you've ever heard. (How did she do that?? ) There's also a cha-cha version...

"Jingle bells, jing-jing-jing jingle bells,

Jingle all the way CHA-CHA-CHA!!"

It's fabulous. The kids couldn't believe their ears. Jack kept grabbing the album covers (yes, Scott gave me two!) and shaking his head in disbelief. (None of them took the music off, though.) They now know that Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra are two of my Mum's favourite singers, and who could resist a rendition of "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer Mambo"? It was so much fun.

However, there's a cooking failure to report. Tonight is our faculty breakup at Scott's house, and I said I'd bring an apricot nectar cheesecake. Surely one of the most delectable things on the planet when it's made right. I was racing around after work doing a billion things at once and forgot to shake the tin of apricot nectar before I poured it into the cheesecake mix. I didn't realise until I was pouring what was left in the tin into a container to make the topping this morning. Suddenly rich, orange nectar was glolloping out of the tin, unlike the thin watery nectar I'd used. I tried the cheesecake this morning, and all I could taste was cheese with just the slightest hint of apricot. I feel like such a twit. I'll finish it off this morning but this'll be one for the kids. The Cheesecake shop will be making a sale later on today. There's no way I'm taking a near tasteless cheesecake to a gathering where there's so many great cooks. I'm annoyed with myself though, because this is one thing I really make well. When I've got my mind on the job, I guess.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Blogspot is annoying me this morning...

For some reason my post for this morning seems to have been pushed down past yesterday's post. Please scroll down past the 'random meme' post and there it'll be. Gossip, guitars and a delicious list of novels....

Monday, December 10, 2007

The most random meme I've ever answered.

Scott tagged me for a meme nearly a week ago, so I got up early this morning to do it, because he hasn't posted since. I don't know if it was the memeless state of this blog or not, but I enjoy his blog so much that I don't want to risk any nonaction of mine being the reason why he doesn't post. So here goes...

1. What kind of soap is in your bathtub right now?
We don't have a bath, tub or otherwise. I ripped it out during the great bathroom renovation of 2006 and put in a toilet instead. We're strictly a shower family. That being said, the soap in the shower is 'Cedarwood and Sage' that I took from the bathroom of the Marriott in Phuket. They may have ripped us off shamelessly while we were there, but by gum! I came back with 8 cakes of free soap. That'll teach 'em!

2. Do you have any watermelon in your refrigerator?
No. (Why would anyone want to know this??) Jack eats watermelons like a hippo, so when I buy them they rarely last long. That's something they graze on when they're at their Dad's fruit shop.

3. What would you change about your living room?
Everything except the people and animals who live here, the pictures on the walls and the ornaments I've slowly assembled over the years. I guess that makes them heirlooms... (This means that my children will have to work for a living. Any value my 'heirlooms' have is strictly sentimental.)

4. Are the dishes in your dishwasher clean or dirty?
Clean. However, the dishes still piled up in the sink are definitely not.

5. What is in your fridge?
Food, wine, beer, perfume and milk.

6. White or wheat bread?
This is where those whacky Americans give themselves away...
White bread is made of wheat, so this is an extremely difficult question to answer, unless of course you are an absolute genius like me, and you realise that what the author of this meme really meant to ask was white or brown bread. Or possibly wholemeal.
My answer: usually the good for you stuff. However, jaffles taste far better with white bread, and there's nothing nicer than white bread slathered with butter and Vegemite. Mmmmmmm.

7. What is on top of your refrigerator?
This person is obsessed with my fridge...
there's a gift box with some white china platters that I can't fit anywhere else in the kitchen.

8. What colour or design is on your shower curtain.
It's glass.

9. How many plants are in your home?
Just one in the bathroom, I'm afraid. I want to get more, but I've been too busy with other things. There's heaps of plants in the garden, though.

10. Is your bed made right now?
No. Connor is sleeping in it, and he would've objected had I tried to tidy up.

11. Comet or Soft Scrub?
Is this an astronomy question? I pick comets... they zip quickly through the place and leave a trail of light and joy behind them. Something for us all to emulate, really.

12. Is your closet organised?
Yes. Absolutely.

13. Can you describe your flashlight?
What the ...?
Yes, I can. It's very much like a torch. Thank you for asking.

14. Do you drink out of glass or plastic when you're at home?
Glass all the way. The days of toddlerdom when plastic reigned are gone forever, thank goodness.

15. Do you have iced tea made in a pitcher right now?
Is this person crazy? Why would you have this hanging around in your fridge? And if you did, wouldn't this have been covered in question 5?

16. If you have a garage, is it cluttered?
Our garage goes through a cycle of being neat, then gradually over the course of a term, it slides into total disarray. Then in the holidays I walk in, see it, chuck a wobbly and the kids go out and tidy it up again. There's two weeks of term to go, so you be the judge.

17. Curtains or blinds?
Both. I prefer to be unfettered by the window furnishing police, and run wild and free, utilising all of my choices as a consumer.

18. How many pillows do you sleep with?
Usually four, currently two. I like to billow among my pillows...

19. Do you sleep with any lights on at night?
No. I'm not afraid of the bogeyman. Or the boogieman, as he used to be called in my youth.

20. How often do you vacuum?
This is a job I hate. Jordan now does it for double his pocket money every week. (Relax... he only gets $5, so it's not too bad.)

21. Standard toothbrush or electric?
Standard. A yellow one, in case you were wondering.

22. What colour is your toothbrush?

23. Do you have a welcome mat on your front porch?
No. Just a regular mat. You're NOT welcome, I suppose. Oh dear, do you think that's why I'm still single??? My lack of a welcome mat has scared off Mr Right.

24. What is in your oven right now?
It's 6.21am, so nothing except oven trays.

25. Is there anything under your bed?
Just a few dust bunnies.

26. Chore you hate doing the most?
Clipping Molly's toenails. (Molly is a dog.)

27. What retro items are in your home?
Me. I've taken up quilting, so that's pretty 'Little House on the Prairie', right?

28. Do you have a separate room that you use as an office?
Too many kids. When they move out in about fifteen years, you watch me take over this house!

29. How many mirrors are in your home?
Four, counting the bathroom mirror. We're very ugly so we prefer not to see ourselves unexpectedly.

30. What colour are your walls?
A muted grey/green in the lounge and kitchen, deep blue in my room and white everywhere else. Oh, and the toilet is pale yellow. I painted it when I was at home with the toddlers and I had to mix together bright yellow and white paint because I couldn't afford to get new paint. That was a long time ago, and it's due for a face lift.

31. Do you keep any kind of protection weapons in your home?
A Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Jack used to have a cricket bat handy when he was home alone, but that was a few years ago.

32. What does your home smell like right now?

33. Favourite candle scent?
I don't know. Jordan bought me a couple of scented candles for my birthday, and we're gradually using them. I'm not really a huge candle person.

34. What kind of pickles (if any) are in your refrigerator right now?
This meme author is obsessed with people's fridges. It's beginning to creep me out....

35. What colour is your favourite Bible?
How many bibles does one person need in order to have a favourite? Surely the story ends up the same no matter which edition you're reading? I used to have a red one that I was given at primary school when we did R.E. I'm sure it's still kicking around here somewhere. I make my kids do religious education at primary school, even though I'm on the fence with all of this. My reasoning is that the christian faith is central to the way our society has developed over the centuries, and there are so many references to biblical events in literature, art and (occasionally) conversation that kids have to know something about the bible or else they'll be out of the loop. If they ever choose to take it further then that's up to them. Faith, or the lack of it, is a purely personal thing.

36. Ever been on your roof?
Frequently. Footballs and tennis balls seem to be magnetically attracted to that thing. Plus it's a good place to hide from the kids.

37. Do you own a stereo?
A cd player? Yes.

38. How many tvs do you have?

39. How many house phones?
One. And a mobile.

40. Do you have a housekeeper?
No. But before I went back to teaching I used to be one.

41. What style do you decorate in?
Mine and mine alone....

42. Do you like solid colours in furniture, or prints?
Solid all the way, baby!

43. Is there a smoke detector in your home?
Three. I'm fairly attached to the kids, and I'd like them to have a sporting chance of getting out of the house should it ever decide to erupt in a fireball.

44. In case of fire, what are the items in the house that you'd grab if you could make one quick trip?
My laptop, which has all my photos and files on it. Any kid too slow or stupid to react in time to the smoke detectors. The dog sleeps outside, so she'd be fine. Unless she was playing with matches in her kennel and caused the whole conflagration. The cats sleep in the laundry which is a little out of the way, so they'd probably be in trouble. My jewelry box.

Phew! What a random lot of questions. I tag no one for this, because I'm too hungry. Breakfast awaits.

Bits and Pieces.

Sunday was a good day. I sewed like a frantic woman and got most of the top of the quilt done before Mum arrived. She walked into the lounge room with her dog bouncing all over her, and there was a sewing machine. Something that has never before been seen in my house. She's an intelligent woman so she knew something was up. So while Dad fixed a couple of things in the kitchen that had come apart, we had coffee and talked about sewing. It was all very arty-crafty.

Mum's actually a very creative person. She's always been ducking off taking classes in different crafts for as long as I can remember.They've still got glazed pottery mugs from the pottery phase she went through when I was 13 and I still remember the drawing classes she went to where she'd put bright colours on the page, then cover the page with black and then scratch out a design. The colours show through the black. That was pretty amazing when you're small. We always wore the clothes she made us when we were growing up, both knitted and sewn. The list could go on, but it won't because I'm going to move on from nostalgia about the olden days. She's always done her own thing, and now that 'thing' is painting. After she retired she took up the paintbrush, and she goes to classes, exhibits at shows and has sales to her credit. What makes this even more incredible is that she has really bad rheumatoid arthritis that has twisted her fingers and gives her pain in every joint of her body all the time. She never complains about it, which is brave. If I had it, (which I never will. I've told the cosmos that I'm not inheriting that particular gene. I refuse), then I'm sure I'd be sitting on the couch whimpering like a miseryguts all the time. But she just gets on with it. I could go on about the quadruple bypass she went through a couple of years ago, then just when she'd recovered from all of the painful physio resulting from that, how she tripped and smashed her shoulder and had to go through it all again with such grace and bravery, but I won't. It'll sound like a eulogy, and she definitely isn't dead yet. Unless she's the most solid ghost ever seen in the history of the world.

After Mum and Dad left I finished the patchwork. I'm really happy with how it looks. I rang Sandy and we had a batting and backing expedition to Spotlight. Mum said that one of her friends who is a quilting demon told her that she prefers to make backing out of flannelette because it grips the top of the bed better, so when we walked in and Spotlight had a sale on flannelette sheet sets I stocked up. $20 a set, no matter what size. I walked away with four sets. There were two more sets left, but somehow I didn't think the boys would be too fond of bright pink fairy backings on their quilts. They're reasonably evolved little males, but the pink fairy thing just isn't a boundary any of us are willing to fight through.

After that it was time for Brennan's guitar concert. He's been learning for three years now and he's finally good enough to be put in a band to play, instead of sitting up there with his teacher, painfully plunking away at some lame song. They played 'I love rock and roll' by Joan Jett (which coincidentally is the same song that he won the school talent quest last week playing.) There were three guitarists, a drummer and a singer. They sounded good, but Brennan made me laugh. He looked like the 'cool' one.... he stood like a rock in one place and simply played. He should've been a bass player.

Nicola from Back to Books included this list of the top 100 books of the twentieth century, compiled by the good folk of Random House's Modern Library. This is a very American list, but I like skimming down lists like this and seeing which ones I've knocked over. I've put stars next to those ones. If you're not a reader, then feel free to skip the rest of this post, because there's nothing else after this.

Modern Library Top 100 Books of the Century

ULYSSES by James Joyce
*THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald
*LOLITA by Vladimir Nabokov
*BRAVE NEW WORLD by Aldous Huxley
THE SOUND AND THE FURY by William Faulkner
CATCH-22 by Joseph Heller
DARKNESS AT NOON by Arthur Koestler
SONS AND LOVERS by D.H. Lawrence
*THE GRAPES OF WRATH by John Steinbeck
UNDER THE VOLCANO by Malcolm Lowry
*THE WAY OF ALL FLESH by Samuel Butler
*1984 by George Orwell
*I, CLAUDIUS by Robert Graves
*TO THE LIGHTHOUSE by Virginia Woolf
AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY by Theodore Dreiser
*INVISIBLE MAN by Ralph Ellison
NATIVE SON by Richard Wright
U.S.A. (trilogy) by John Dos Passos
WINESBURG, OHIO by Sherwood Anderson
TENDER IS THE NIGHT by F. Scott Fitzgerald
THE GOOD SOLDIER by Ford Madox Ford
*ANIMAL FARM by George Orwell
THE GOLDEN BOWL by Henry James
SISTER CARRIE by Theodore Dreiser
A HANDFUL OF DUST by Evelyn Waugh
AS I LAY DYING by William Faulkner
ALL THE KING'S MEN by Robert Penn Warren
HOWARDS END by E.M. Forster
*LORD OF THE FLIES by William Golding
DELIVERANCE by James Dickey
A DANCE TO THE MUSIC OF TIME (series) by Anthony Powell
THE SUN ALSO RISES by Ernest Hemingway
*THE SECRET AGENT by Joseph Conrad
NOSTROMO by Joseph Conrad
THE RAINBOW by D.H. Lawrence
WOMEN IN LOVE by D.H. Lawrence
TROPIC OF CANCER by Henry Miller
PALE FIRE by Vladimir Nabokov
LIGHT IN AUGUST by William Faulkner
ON THE ROAD by Jack Kerouac
THE MALTESE FALCON by Dashiell Hammett
PARADE'S END by Ford Madox Ford
ZULEIKA DOBSON by Max Beerbohm
THE MOVIEGOER by Walker Percy
A CLOCKWORK ORANGE by Anthony Burgess
OF HUMAN BONDAGE by W. Somerset Maugham
HEART OF DARKNESS by Joseph Conrad
MAIN STREET by Sinclair Lewis
THE HOUSE OF MIRTH by Edith Wharton
A HIGH WIND IN JAMAICA by Richard Hughes
THE DAY OF THE LOCUST by Nathanael West
*A FAREWELL TO ARMS by Ernest Hemingway
SCOOP by Evelyn Waugh
KIM by Rudyard Kipling
A ROOM WITH A VIEW by E.M. Forster
ANGLE OF REPOSE by Wallace Stegner
*THE DEATH OF THE HEART by Elizabeth Bowen
LORD JIM by Joseph Conrad
RAGTIME by E.L. Doctorow
THE OLD WIVES' TALE by Arnold Bennett
*THE CALL OF THE WILD by Jack London
LOVING by Henry Green
TOBACCO ROAD by Erskine Caldwell
IRONWEED by William Kennedy
THE MAGUS by John Fowles
UNDER THE NET by Iris Murdoch
*SOPHIE'S CHOICE by William Styron
THE GINGER MAN by J.P. Donleavy
read 22/100
(that's pretty bad, isn't it? I'd better start using this list as a 'tick off' list and get me some more of that C20th lit happening.)

Sunday, December 9, 2007

The devil's in the detail...

No wonder I needed to go back to the shop to get more fabric for the little squares.

I finished the strips, laid them out on my bed to work out the sewing-together-order and....

what I thought was a single bed quilt is actually a queen sized one. I was gobsmacked. Just how many measurements do you have to take account of in this damned hobby??? I was appalled. It's supposed to fit on the bottom single bunk, not spill out over the sides of it and cover half the house with it's patchworky warmth. Connor, however, is delighted.

"I'll just fold it over twice, Mum. I'll be really warm."

What he doesn't realise is that it actually looks quite good in my room. Hmmmm......

I'm not posting a lot today. Mum and Dad are coming over to pick up Murphy as they're back from their month away in Queensland (gee it must be awful to be retired and able to travel), and she does quilting. I want to surprise her with all that I've accomplished while she's been gone. Of course, now I know that I've accomplished even more than I intended. Good on me.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Afghan vs patchwork.

It's official. Patchworking is far quicker than knitting an afghan.
Those of you who have been following my posts for a while will know that at the end of October sometime I foolishly began knitting an afghan on very small needles with fairly thin wool. Lots of wool. I'm a quick knitter, especially in this case where it's only basket weave, and it is still taking forever. I'll finish it, but I don't think I'll do another. I'll quilt instead. Look at what I was able to piece together in one short afternoon....

Isn't it amazing? It covers a couch! Anyway, I had such a good time doing this. The pattern is very simple. I've pieced together all of the big squares in big strips, and today's job is to piece together all of the little squares that run in strips in between the big square strips. I hope that makes sense. I didn't have enough material to finish the little squares, so I popped back to amitie in Centre Road Bentleigh to get some more. While I was there I also bought more material for a quilt for Brennan, a rotary cutter, rectangular ruler and mat. So now I'm committed. The rationalisation for all of this is that I've booked in for a lesson next week and I don't have $25 to waste on another night of rotary cutting, because I learned how to do that last time. So I need to have a quilt ready to attach batting and backing on, because then I'll be learning something new. (Sometimes my frugality kick can be fooled by such blatant rationalising. Plus I suppose I could say it's my Christmas present to myself. ) I've chosen another pattern for the next quilt. It has rectangles in it. I drew the line at triangles. They still look a little scary. I'll tackle them in my next one after the current next one.

After doing this I answered the door (I tend to do that when someone rings the doorbell) and there was a parcel being delivered. My book from HarperCollins that I have to review! Listen to the blurb at the back:

"She should have remained at home with her sour aunt, but Liberty Lane was never one to obey instructions. Eager to be reunited with her beloved father, she headed for Dover, only to receive an anonymous note informing her that he has been killed in Calais.

Thomas Jaques Lane - radical, romantic, scholar, republican, gambler and devoted father- had lead an unconventional life. His movements in the days before his death are a mystery, but of one thing Liberty is certain: he would never have taken part in a duel, for it went against everything he believed in. And if the author of this anonymous note expected her to swallow this lie and meekly obey his command to stay put, he's severely underestimated Liberty Lane.

With no resources bar her own wits, she immediately sets off in pursuit of the truth - and her father's killer. And as the nation prepares to celebrate the coronation of young Queen Victoria, Liberty uncovers a treasonable plot which could lead to another vicious civil war..."

Could there be any more cliches? The writing had better be good, because I'm a bit apprehensive at the moment. The first thing that came to mind was that a young girl in Victorian times would be absolutely stuffed if she was left to her own resources. She couldn't pop into Centrelink to get a Youth Allowance to help pay for food and rent. Plus, if she uncovered a treasonable plot, wouldn't she let it be, if she's such a devoted daughter? It said that her Dad was a republican. Unless that bit was a misprint and he's just a publican.

It's called 'Death at Dawn', and I think it's one in an intended series. It has "A Liberty Lane thriller' along the bottom of the cover. I'll let you know what it's like. They want the review done by the end of December, but I want to finish 'Star Man' first. It's the third in a trilogy, and I'm enjoying it. So I think I'll knock over young impetuous Liberty Lane once school has finished. It'll be a day's read, by the looks of it. (Incidentally, did anyone in Victorian England call their kids names like Liberty? It sounds more like a black American name after the civil war to me.)

I spent the afternoon at Deirdre's house with a few of the people from work. She's just completed renovations, so there was a delectable afternoon tea and an inspection of what has been done. It was lovely. I had to leave at about 5.30. Brennan rang me to remind me that he had an extra guitar lesson to practise with the band he's playing with in his end of year concert on Sunday. I'd completely forgotten. Luckily Deirdre's son is a friend of Brennan's, so he knew where to find the phone number. So I put down my champagne glass with the strawberry and left. When I got home I rang her to say how nice it had been.

"We're still here," she said. "Why don't you come back?"

So I left Jordan in charge of dinner. He was making egg pies in the pie maker, and I went back and had another lovely chatty time till about 8.30. I love that the kids are grown up enough that they can be left for a while. I walked back into the lounge room to the blaring sounds of 'Guitar Hero 3'. I don't think they'd even noticed I was gone.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Life is Good.

What a day I had yesterday! You know, sometimes I love my life. Actually, most of the time I love my life, and yesterday was one of the days why.

I now know how to drive the sewing machine. Sandy came around after dinner on Wednesday and showed me. She hasn't used it for 5 years or so, and when she sat down she gazed at it for a long moment, then said, "Gee, it would've been a good idea to bring my glasses. When I last used this I didn't need them!"

She studied the manual, apparently learned a whole lot more about what her machine can do, and we got stuck into it. I learned about bobbin threading, tension (apart from the one in my shoulders when I'd tried using it before) and I even tried whizzing around and around with the line of sewing as if I was freehand quilting. It was on an old baby's bib, so I couldn't get too far lost. It was a evening of sophisticated fun and frivolity. The boys kept well out of it and played guitar in the back room. Thanks Sandy... I'm now an expert and no doubt sewing machine mishaps will never happen to me again.

Yesterday started at 5.30 when I was up writing student manager remarks to go on the front of every year 10 child's report. Sarge, my partner in this job, and I split the classes between us, so I have 5 classes x 26-28 kids to do. The remarks go something like this:

"Ermengarde has earned a fantastic/pleasing/pitiful set of reports which show that her studies in year 10 have been outstanding/diligent/nonexistent. Blah blah blah for the rest of the paragraph, talking about specific results and problems. Good luck in VCE next year"

As is often the way, the good kids are easy to do and you can whizz through them. The lazy kids and the failing kids are the ones that take ages, because you have to tailor each remark carefully to ensure tact without totally lying. This semester I had to write Jack's remark. I found out something really interesting about how I parent. I read his report, looking at his marks and the levels that each teacher assigned him for effort and classroom behaviour, and I wrote a remark that was far harsher than one I would've done if he was some random. (He's improved immeasurably since last year, but his effort rankings were still a bit low in some classes. Understandable. It takes time to get back to speed when you've slacked off for two years, but I really sunk the boot in.) I was driving to work and it dawned on me that what I should've done was give him the remarks of a 'very good' kid, but just modify them slightly. This is what I was doing with all the other kids like him. After all, in 3 subjects he scored a 10 and a couple of 9s. (Out of 10.) Thank goodness for computers. With the press of a keyboard it was done. But how interesting. Obviously nepotism has to struggle to survive in this house!

Next year he begins VCE, which for those non-Victorians is a two year study, where the student can pick the whole course, except English is compulsory. (Naturally. It's the bestest one of them all.) I've never seen Jack so excited about school. He's chosen a year 12 Maths (which he loves), Maths Methods (again... he says it's fantastic), Economics, Music and Physics. He begged me to go and buy the text books on Wednesday, so nearly $400 later we left the shop. This week they're doing an orientation week for VCE, so they're back at school doing classes, and he's loving the work. If only I'd known this was going to happen. I've been stressing out for years about how slack and disinterested he was. If I'd only known that it was going to take a course almost entirely consisting of the devil's work (ie: maths) to make him happy, I would've breezed through the last two years with a happy smile on my face.

Speaking of $$$, yesterday I paid the school fees for next year for Jack, Jordan and Brennan. This wasn't one of the things that made yesterday a nice day. They all do music, so that adds a couple of hundred to each boy for the tuition. Hire of instruments will be paid next year. A New Year's treat. I grabbed my trusty MasterCard, walked up to the bursar and braced myself.

Are you ready? (This isn't a private school, it's a government school. So private school parents will roll their eyes and say "I wish!" The rest of us will freak.)

$1900. This doesn't include school books or uniform. It's just the subject levies and music tuition. I tottered away from the bursar's window, a broken woman. Or maybe just a broke woman. I've bought Jack's books, a mixture of secondhand and new, which cost over $400. Jordan's books have cost me $65, but I still have to pick up a few new ones. Brennan, thankfully, uses Jordan's books from this year. And Connor, next year, will do the same. I knew there was a reason why I had these boys so close together. But still! This 'free education' costs a lot of money. The hire of their instruments will be around the $400 mark, I think. Probably 3 months of child support will go towards just outfitting them for school, once I buy bits and pieces of uniform and new leather school shoes as big as canoes for 3 pairs of galumphing feet. (Yet, as Lou from the bursar's office said, "Just be thankful you're getting it." True. The days when Tony wasn't paying child support were happening when the kids were small, young and cheap. Phew!)

And now.... the quilting class. It was great! I was rotary cutting all night. It's very addictive. I was waving the square ruler around and eying up my pieces of fabric and cutting into them with gay abandon. Woo hoo! Bits of material were going everywhere. I found it hard to get the hang of all the measuring at first, but once I gave my inner Virgo a stern talking to, and told her to get her nitpicky eye out of whatever place she was burying it and come and take over, then it went surprisingly well.

And I wasn't the only beginner, thank God. Two other women were first timers, though they were more advanced than me. One had sandwiched all her layers together and was starting to hand quilt, while the other had bought a Kaffe Fasset book and was doing one of his designs with his fabric. She was having a crisis of confidence about whether she'd end up liking it. The teacher was laying out all the squares she'd already done, and was speaking soothingly and encouragingly to her. I knew I was probably seeing into my future, but as they say in 'How I Met Your Mother' (great show), "I'll let Future Frogdancer take care of that. That'll be her problem."

There were two other people there. One woman wore very thick glasses and sat quietly all night, hand sewing teeny tiny triangles and saying very little. To be fair, if I was sewing triangles that were that small, I probably wouldn't be waxing lyrical about stuff either. The other guy was fantastic. He was onto his second quilt, the name of which was 'Hectic Eclectic' with lots of colours and rectangles, and he was also making a tote bag for his partner's Mum's Christmas present. Again, he used lots of colours and it looked fantastic. He was very funny and so helpful. At the end of the night I grabbed all my scraps from the rotary cutting and was looking for a bin. He saw what I was going to throw away and nearly had a coronary.

"NO! Wait! Look, you've got so many usable scraps here. If you make a 'Hectic' next time, you can use all these strips for your little squares."

He grabbed the scraps and started going through them, measuring any that looked a bit dicey, talking all the time about what I could do with them. My frugality kick was purring like a purring thing with fur and a tail. It was fantastic. I now have a stash. I asked him and he said so. That's how I know. "I love my stash!" he declared. It was all very exciting.

So today I have the day off to complete my reports. (I'll be doing a spot of patchwork during the day, I suspect.) Something funny happened this morning. Quilty people will appreciate it. Or else I'll just look like an idiot. I was showing Connor the squares I cut out. He was bobbing up and down beside me, eyes darting everywhere observing all that I've done. I was laying them on the bench, with the 9.5" squares lying alongside the 3.5" squares. It is supposed to go 3 little squares fitting alongside each big square. The squares didn't match up. The little square row was way overhanging the big square. I was devastated. I grabbed a ruler and measured the squares and they were all accurate. What had gone wrong? How could I have made such a huge mistake? I was having a stress attack, while darling Connor was patting my shoulder and saying, "It's ok Mum. Just have uneven rows. I'm a guy, I don't care if it's not perfect." Oh, my son, but I do.

Then it dawned on me. The little squares have more .25" seam allowances. All was fine again. I was still the master of the rotary blade. This measurement stuff with quilting is really going to do my head in until I get used to it.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Tragedy has struck!!!!

I've been cut off from accessing my blog from work!!!!!!

The school has a new internet provider, and it's labelling my blog as 'porn'.

I'm outraged. The only things having sweet sweet lovin' on my blog are the pumpkins... and even they don't have flowers to have nookie with, so basically my blog is as pure as the driven snow. (Though why anyone would want to drive snow anywhere is beyond me. The northern hemisphere can be quite strange at times...)

It's awful. Bloglines still works, but only in patches. Imagine my torment when I popped on to check out Crazy Mom Quilts and she kept saying "Look at this quilt I made" and "Look at this square" and "that quilt" and there were no photos allowed through!!! I had to come home at lunchtime just to have a look. Obviously this situation is totally unacceptable. If this continues for too long, all the bloggers on staff will be forced to look for alternative employment. Which will put me out no end, as I like working only two minutes from home. Still, it let through Kelley's pictures about her Christmas tree next to the toilet, (I'd be hosing that thing down thoroughly before I put it away into storage for next year!), so it wasn't a complete bust.

(Speaking of bloggers on staff, if you want to read a funny comment on yesterday's post I did, hop down and read it. I laughed myself beyond stitches. I work with some very funny people.)

Well, I'd love to stay and keep chatting, but I've got to go back to work. Hopefully my car park space will still be empty. Otherwise I'll have to park in the street, which will add at least 1 minute extra walking time to my trip home. It's turning into a day filled with the utmost tragedy and woe........................

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Brennan's abandonment...

Last night I sat down at the sewing machine to figure out how to drive it. Within a very few moments long-buried childhood memories of Mum swearing at her sewing machine in the back room surfaced. Now, many years later, I can feel her pain. The bloody thing wouldn't work. The thread kept snapping, the bobbin tangled up and I had to carefully ease the thread out with a knife, (don't worry Sandy. I was very careful). I'd look at the diagram in the instruction book because I am a female and I don't mind asking for help, but nothing worked. Profanity emerged. I knew there was a reason why I was scared of this whole sewing thing. Wasn't so irrational after all. In the end Jordan asked me to "Put it away until tomorrow." I think the profane language was interfering with his enjoyment of the episode of 'Heroes' we had taped. Sandy happened to ring a few minutes later, so I swore at her machine to her as well. She's coming over between now and Thursday to help me work it out. She's good with diagram thingies. Sadly, I am not.

Brennan has his Orientation Day at school today. I'm so rapt. Only one more kid to go at Primary school, and then they'll all be with me. Yay! And no, this doesn't mean that I'm a control freak who has to keep her kids under her watchful eye at all times. I'm just really over primary school stuff after 12 years of it. The day I wash my last bright yellow school top will be a happy one. Brennan's been put in a form group with his best friend Marcus. I don't think he has any other kids from his friendship group in there, but that's ok. He never has any trouble making friends. He's miserable at the moment, though. Last night we went to the orthodontist and he's got the separaters in between his teeth. Apparently he's in a fair bit of pain. (When we got to the orthodontist's, I asked if Tony had paid the deposit for Brennan's braces. Nothing. I couldn't believe it. I went home intending to ring him, but I was a bit tired so I thought I'd have a nanna nap first. Lucky I did! I was woken by the lady from the orthodontist. Tony had just rung them, and had paid the deposit over the phone. So that was one unpleasant conversation we didn't have to undergo.)

Anyway, he's in the same form group as Jordan is this year (7D), but I'm desolate to discover that Mr Abode, Jordan's form teacher, has managed to weasle his way out of being involved with next year's crop of year 7s. Was being a leader.... nay... a father figure to my second son so awful that sweet helpless Brennan has now been abandoned? Where is the dedication to the young folk that we as teachers are meant to subscribe to? The little baby year 7s are like wriggly puppies. They need someone of high moral stature and great knowledge to gently but firmly lead them along the paths of academia and personal growth and self-worth. They need a form teacher who will guide them, nurture them and instill a sense of aspiration to live up the high ideals of personal behaviour and achievement that Mr Abode embodies. When young Jordan is faced with a moral/career/personal crossroad at any time in his life from now on, I know that the first question he'll ask himself will be, "What would Mr Abode, my idol, my mentor, my ideal of all that is upright and pure do?" So how in good conscience could he deny my little Brennan the same example? I'm shocked, people. Shocked and saddened.

(After writing this, I think I understand why I have never been asked to be a year 7 form teacher. )

Monday, December 3, 2007


How lovely to wake up to the sound of rain. It's pouring down now, though I can barely hear it over the slurping sound of my parched front garden gulping it down. If I was living in an animation, my garden would turn itself into one big straw or cup, just to make sure it gets every drop it can. I heard on the news a couple of days ago that this is the eleventh straight year of less than average rain fall. Isn't that incredible? And here was silly me, thinking that it was only seven.

Yesterday was a postless day here, which is unlike me, but I was so busy. Not with anything major, but it was my last day before work, and I was uncluttered by all of those oafish kids with their big feet and irrational demands for food at regular intervals. It's annoying. Anyone would think they were growing or something.

So on my own for the last day in a fortnight, I went out and watered the veggie garden, and picked my first zucchini for the year. Still no pumpkin flowers. (Apparently I've got to help the pumpkins have sex by fooling around with their flowers. It's a little intimidating. It's been so long since anyone in this house (namely me) did that activity that I'm worried I'll muck it up for the pumpkins. It'll be their first time. I want to make it special. Maybe I could download Rod Stewart's 'Tonight's the Night' and play it to them. Then at least they'll know my intentions were good.) Then I tied up the tomato plants (sounds a little kinky after all of that pumpkin flower talk, doesn't it?), and picked about 15 leeks to make room for some new tomato plants. It's going to be frozen bolognaise sauce city here in a few months when the tomatoes get into gear! It's the only way to survive a full time job. I need lots of precooked meals in the freezer. After yesterday there's now 3 more leek and potato soups in there. I also pulled out two silver beet plants, and made an impossible pie full of silverbeet for my lunches this week. The dog food also has heaps of it this time.

The rest of the day was filled with pottering. I did heaps of little jobs. I went to Spotlight to get some rudimentary sewing things. I have an old lady's sewing basket that came with the house, so I delved into the depths and came up with some wins. Cabling knitting needles for one. I was going to Spotlight to buy some, so that saved me some money. A stitch ripper. Heaps of old buttons... the list goes on. I went to Spotlight, and I was wandering around with my list of things to buy. That place is so big, and I didn't know where to go. I had a few things, but others were hiding. I paused by the counter, gazing aimlessly about.

"That's a big sigh," said a lady behind the counter. "Is anything wrong?"

How embarrassing. "I'm a bit out of my depth," I said.
I explained why and what I was there for, and she took me under her wing and showed me where everything was. She laughed when I said just how ignorant I was, and how I'll be turning up to the quilting class on Thursday (all different levels of experience) with my bits of material (oops. fabric) held out to them with no real idea of what to do next. I'm worried about cutting into my nice new fabrics. What if I get it wrong?

"They'll be lovely to you," she said. "Those sort of people are so into their quilting that they'll do anything to get you into it too."

It sounds like a cult. A quilting cult. I bought a couple of nice bits of fabric for my 'stash'. I assume I'll be expected to have one of those. All of the crafty bloggers rave on about their stash and what they've added to it. To curb any more cultishness I also bought a pair of rosewood knitting needles for my jumpers I 'll be knitting. The afghan is going to be put away till next year, and I'll make a start of something smaller.

Brennan starts his braces odyssey today. He gets the separaters in today. and after Year 7 Orientation Day tomorrow he'll go back and get the whole kit and caboodle in his face. Poor kid. Both glasses and braces. Hardly seems fair. I haven't heard anything from the orthodontist's office about any lack of payment, so I'm assuming Tony has finally come to the party and paid up. Otherwise I'll have to, so that dream of installing a roller skating rink in the back yard will have to go.....

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Yet another all-consuming hobby.

There's no denying that I'm a very lucky person. Remember my plan yesterday to go to a quilting shop and look around, despite my (very real) fear that they'd point their fingers and laugh at me? Well, mid morning I rang my friend Sandy (she only works 3 days a week, so I knew there's be a good chance she'd be home), and asked if she wanted to come with me.

"There's a shop in Burke road I've heard about," I said. (Thanks for the comments yesterday, everyone.)

"Hang on," she said. "I think there's one around the corner from me."

And so there was. And what's even more important than it being around the corner from her is that it's just down the road from me. (It's all about me, Sandy....) In Centre Rd Bentleigh, number 281 (near Wheatley road), there's a shop called amitie. We went in. I've never been so nervous. But we had a great time. Sandy's been wanting to go there for ages but never had a reason to, so that's obviously why she has me for a friend.

We wandered around looking at all the amazing fabrics, talked to a lady who works there, started choosing fabric for a black and white quilt, when Sandy discovered some little packets of coordinated pieces that they'd put together. All up they equal 1 metre of fabric in total for $20 a pack. Much easier for a novice to work with. We chose two packets to make a boys quilt. (I needed fabric with muscles. No sissy pinks and mauves for my family!!)

When I was up at the counter getting the pattern for the new 'all boy' quilt, I asked about quilting classes. Sandy (who will one day take up quilting, even if she says she's wedded to learning to play the piano at present) has loaned me her sewing machine, so the only thing stopping me from beginning this thing immediately is a little thing called know-how. Plus I have to learn how to drive the sewing machine. So from next week Thursday nights are going to be quilting time. The poor things. Next Thursday I'm going to rock up to class, clutching my muscular fabric pieces in my small little hands, look at them and say, "So what do I do now?" I hope they're prepared for total ignorance.

(Though I read in 'Quilting for Dummies' that I should wash fabric before I quilt with it, so I'll have that step done.)

Connor came home from school first and claimed the quilt as his. So now I'm committed. Actually, I'm pretty excited about it. So is Sandy. She rang up just before dinner to talk about it again. I suppose that means that I'm doubly committed. Or should be committed....

And yet another exciting thing happened.
While I was talking to Sandy, I checked my emails and guess what? Harper Collins has a reviewer program where you register and they send out a soon-to-be-released book for you to review. My first one is being sent out even as I speak! How amazing is that? I'm going to be a book reviewer!!! I'm really pleased about this one. I can't remember if you simply get the book or if they also pay you a nominal amount, but I'm happy either way. is the place to go (I think.) I registered a while ago so I'm a little hazy on the details. (I actually forgot I registered until I got the email telling me my book was on its way.) I feel so important. My opinion matters. Whoever would've thought?

Just before I go to start another weekend full of racing from gardening to baking to housework to knitting to dog food making (thanks a bunch, Sandy. You OWE it to me to take up quilting now after getting me into the BARF food for the pets), I thought I'd share a blog I discovered this morning about quilting. Oh My God. This woman is prolific with the old needle, and she's made some fantastic things. I'm torn between being totally excited about this new area in my life and being totally intimidated.
Crazy Mom Quilts has kept me royally scared and in awe for the last hour or so. I particularly like the icy-pole quilt she has pictured on Flickr. I can see something like that on my bed. (It's too good to waste on the boys.) Just as an aside, are there any other Australians who find it really hard to spell 'Mum' as 'Mom'? It's something I have to concentrate on, and it's ruffling, because it totally feels like I'm making a spelling mistake. And making speeling nistakes is something I hate to do.

But enough of whingeing about those whacky Americans and their crazy spelling rules. (They make damned fine quilts, though!) I'm off to wash my masculine fabric pieces and dream of starting my new (all squares) quilt. Have a good weekend everybody!