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Things I learned this week including a well known truism

It's been a big week and my learnings are varied.

1. Better late than never!

2. A hagiologist chronicles the lives of saints.

3. If you discover a word that you have never seen before like hagiologist, you will invariably stumble over it time and time again in the next 48 hours.

4. Sitting in a peaceful, beautiful garden, reflecting on the road behind and the road ahead is the best form of meditation there is.

5. The GPS Navman lady is very bossy and if you disobey her stern warnings she will lead you in a merry circle as punishment.

6. There isn't a town on the East Coast of Australia that doesn't have a chinese restaurant.

7. The official ski season starts in the Snowy Mountains next weekend.

8. The paintings in the National Gallery of Australia's Masterpieces from Paris exhibition somehow looked even more interesting and vibrant than when I saw them all shuffled together at the Musee d'Orsay. Perhaps this is due to the 'important exhibition' nature of the NGA's showing.

9. I love an open road.

10. There is no place more exciting, more inspiring, more fun or more delicious than home.


Foxglove Inspires

The drive today was true happiness. I stopped at many little towns - Milton, Mogo, Tilba Tilba, Narooma, Bermagui. There are so many special places to visit.

I spent a really lovely morning poking around all the shops and eating lunch at one of the sweet cafes at Central Tilba. It's one of the best preserved 'historical trust' villages that I've seen and it has all the requisite craft shops, lolly shops, wooden toy shops, candle shops that you'd expect. The town sits in a breath-taking valley and beautiful mature trees dripped golden leaves all over the streets and the smell of woodsmoke made time stand still.

Foxglove Spires is an open garden in Tilba Tilba. Clever owner Susan Southam wrote "Velvet Pears" about her time developing the garden. I found such beauty and peace there that I couldn't tear myself away. I spent twice as long as I expected wandering the winding paths and watching the chickens and doves scratch about.

They also have the best shop. I went a bit nuts getting little trinkets and things for the garden. I think I might take after my mum (who's a bit of a bower bird when it comes to ornaments). But what can you do when every single thing in the store makes you genuinely happy just looking at it?

As a result of my lingering day, I've changed my game plan and have stopped in Bega for the night. Instead of my always-driving ambition to head down the bottom of Victoria and across to the Daylesford, I'm going to do a loop along the Snowy Mountains Highway thorough Cooma, Canberra, Yass and the Southern Highlands. This way I'll have a lot more time for play.


An aside...

I just had to add that yesterday I committed the number 1 school parent error: Maxi-Taxi went to school in school uniform on a mufti day.

If it wasn't bucketing down with rain. If it wasn't 8.58am. If I didn't have another boy in tow (the slowest boy in the world) to schlep into his kinder classroom. If I didn't have Badoo under one arm, an umbrella in the other and both eyes on Cappers as she skipped her way along in her pink gingham rain jacket and matching umbrella. If things had been different I might have zipped him home to change or at least sprung a fresh set on him at recess. I did not.

I fretted all day.

He skipped out at 3pm, big smiles. "Mum, it's really cool to wear your uniform on mufti day. Everyone thought I was great!".

Delayed shame will hit one day. But for now, phew, I'm off the hook.

It's not about the drive

I'm off on an adventure. Alone. For four days and four nights.

Thanks to the enormous generosity of always-supportive LOML, I'll be driving down the east coast of NSW, then across to Daylesford in Victoria and back up to Sydney via Bendigo. It's a big drive and it may change en-route, but to be honest, it doesn't matter where I go, just that I go. Alone.

There have been two schools of opinion on this one. First there is the 'oh my god, I'm so jealous, I wish I was doing that' school. They get that it's not about the drive. It's about the opportunity to do what I want, when I want and for as long as I want.  If you ask me, when you're a wife and a mumma and at the end of some days you've done so much talking in your work and real life that you are literally all talked out, being alone is the ultimate luxury.

Then there's the 'don't you want to take a friend?' school.

Now, I'm a social creature, don't get me wrong. I come alive in large groups of people and I love to talk and talk and talk. Love sharing a story, having a cuddle, showing off, listening to a problem, debating the universe and sorting out just exactly what needs to be done about that Shari-Lea.

But I really, really don't want to take a friend.

Cheers to thinking uninterrupted thoughts and spur of the moment stop offs. To arrivals and departures whenever it suits me. To suddenly taking a left hand turn to see what's down the road.  To listening to the music that I want to listen to or to no music at all. To staying a bit too long at a gallery or lingering in a bookstore.

Cheers to the beauty of solitude.



Pretty patterns all in a row

I'm loving these gorgeous fabrics from funky fabrix. I would buy up the lot if I had a.) the money or b.) the slightest idea what to do with them. If only my sewing extended beyond straight lines. I would make softies and cute little skirts for Cappers and The Badoo and cushion covers and maybe an apron or two.

I can feel a sewing course coming on...


Really, not particularly busy

I spend my days fending off well-meaning types who tell me I'm busy. Instead of asking 'how are you?' they say 'how are you, busy?'.  In 2010 it's like a mantra. There seems to be a fear that if you're not swamped, stressed and running around madly that somehow you're not doing it right. You're not interesting or worthy.

But, instead of joining the busy brigade, I feel like I'm pretty much under control and would adore the opportunity to answer 'I'm fine, how are you?'. I don't find that my life is a juggle or a struggle or even a muggle at all.

There's an assumption that when you're a 'working mum', you're going to be stressed out and bleeding. But it's actually the SAHM who do it tougher if you ask me.

At work, you get to sit down. At home your left butt cheek hits a chair and it's like you've pressed a 'mmmuuuuuum can you...' button.

At work you can eat your lunch without having to explain exactly what's in it. You don't have to share it. You don't have 3 pairs of eyes steadily watching you eat it. You just eat.

Most importantly, when you're at work, there is no one messing up your house.

The only time I think the WM has it busier than the SAHM is in the mornings. There is a lot to accomplish before 7.45am at our place and we need military-like obedience to The Routine if we're going to make it out the door on time. (Military-like obedience in preschool set? We are frequently late for work.)

It really is three quarters of an hour of insanely, tear-your-hair-out busy in my day and 23 1/4 hours of not so much. I think that's a win!

So, um, I'm fine, how are you?
[Image: Claro Cortes IV / Reuters]


Lunchbox loving | Choc chip biscuit heaven

My 'Sydney Food' (Bill Granger) recipe book falls open to page 11. It's the home of the ULTIMATE Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe. I'm not sure where you stand on Aussies calling biscuits 'cookies' but these babies ain't no biscuit.  They're lush, chocolatey, melty, chewy cookies. I hope Bill won't mind me sharing his divine recipe (I noticed that there are many, many other postings of it all over the 'net so I don't feel so bad). I've added my very helpful commentary. The bad cookie photography is all my own.

Bill Granger's Chocolate Chip Cookies

125 g. (4 oz.) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups tightly packed brown sugar (don't substitute whitey sugar as brown is the key to the divineness, me thinks)
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 ½ cups plain flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
a pinch of salt
1½ cups of chocolate bits (but, you know, the more the merrier!)

Preheat the oven to 180 C (350 F). Put the butter and sugar in a bowl and beat until light and creamy. Beat and beat and beat because the lighter and creamier, the better the cookie. Stir in the vanilla and egg. Add the flour, baking powder and salt and mix until just combined - this will seem like way too much flour, but just keep folding and folding, it will all come together. Fold through chocolate chips.

Place spoonfuls of cookie mixture on a lightly greased then lined baking tray, allowing room for spreading. Bill says to cook for 15-20 minutes, until they turn pale gold, but (depending on oven hotness) I say cook for no more than 11 mintues so you get the light crunch on the outside with the doughy, softy yummo on the inside. Experiment to see what you like best.

Allow to cool on the tray for 5 minutes before putting cookies on a wire rack to cool further. Makes about 16, depending on how big you go! Will keep in an airtight container for a week.

I made a double batch yesterday (that's Cappers devouring the wooden spoon in the photo above). Cook half right now and then roll the rest of the dough into a cylinder shape, wrap it in baking paper then cling film and then put it in the freezer to keep for up to a month. When it's time for cooking, just slice the dough, put on the baking tray and into the oven for 14 minutes instead of 11.

OMG, I need to go and eat a CCC immediately!
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Wet Autumn lives

I used to loooove wet autumn days. You'd get cosy by the fire, a good book resting in your lap as you doze to the rattle of rain on the roof. Outside everything looks sparkly and misty and nice.

Now, things are just wet. And muddy. And there you are, stuck in the house with three cabin-crazed children while the rain bleats loudly down on the roof such that the kids have to scream even more than usual and now they have an excuse.

I noticed last year that once the magnolia hit late autumn, it looked bare and forelorn. No light green leaves, no beautiful blooms.

I thought I'd make it some.
The tree seems happier. And, of course, it likes the rain.

I rewound this post at the Fibro on 12.2.2011


Things I learned this week including getting lost

1. If you urgently need to see your doctor you need to book the appointment approximately 3 weeks in advance.

2. A binding contract can be defeated in court if the way you acted whilst signing the contract was contrary to what was outlined in the contract.

3. You shouldn't eat food, even if it's healthy, while crossing the road if you want to be safe (this from Cappers who was visited by Healthy Harold at daycare).

4. Even if you haven't seen a person for decades, if they die you will still feel the loss in your day to day life. (Vale Val.)

5. Sticking it out with the TV show Lost for the past six years - even though you've hated it with a passion for at least 2 of those 6 years- will not pay off in the end.

6. Albert Einstein died of a brain aneurysm, which seems kind of fitting.

7. Peas do not taste good because they look like alien eyes (thank you Maxi-Taxi).

8. Returning your child to pull-ups at night if they've wet the bed for an entire month is a very good idea.

9. It's too late in the year to plant Hyacinth bulbs that haven't been in the fridge (I planted them anyway).

10. Copyscape is a website that helps you find copies of work from your website across the web. So if you're a writer and someone is plagiarising your stuff, you can find out about it.



When hormones make life decisions

I work for a large corporate in a reasonably full-on role. When I was pregnant with my third child I went through a frenzied, hormone-charged turn-around that went something like this...

I'm having another baby. My other babies are still babies. I'll have three babies. How can I possibly have three babies and work in the city in a 'big job'? They'll make me put the job first and then the three babies will suffer. My kids will be those kids with really cool stuff because their parents are trying to make up for the fact that they hardly know them. I used to envy those kids when I was a kid, but now I know that it's wrong wrong wrong. And what happens in the school holidays - ALL those school holidays - when the babies grow into bigger babies? Where will they go? For godsake, who will love them for 12 weeks of holiday time?

So, I decided to become a school teacher.

Yes. Throw away 15 years of successfully working in advertising - marketing and become a high-school English - Drama teacher (at least I would still have the hyphen...) earning approximately one third of the salary. But it seemed the only solution to the 3 kids / 3 o'clock pick ups / 12 weeks of school holidays dilemma that I faced.

I enrolled and did my first two semesters, managing uni, a 4 day a week job, the pregnancy and 2 under 3.  I handed in my 3 essays and 1 report 2 days before giving birth and did my half-yearly exams 8 days post-CS.

And then I woke up.

I never went back to uni and to this day I have NO IDEA WHAT I WAS DOING.

Frankly, in hindsight, I'm surprised they let us operate heavy machinery whilst pregnant. But understand that when I was pregnant it seemed like the most logical, sane thing in the world. I temporarily forgot that millions of women before me and millions of women after me manage the balance of work and family and that I can be one of those women too.

While pregnant, I forgot that I'm the sort of mum who will always, always put her children first and things would be much the same with three as they were with two. A little bit of give and take, but all of the time my kids are my number one priority and work understands that. I might not spend the amount of time with my children that other mothers do, but I'm comfortable that their lives are balanced, safe,  interesting and, most of all, uber-loving. They are happy little people.

I learnt very early on to park my work-ego at the door each day and just get on with the job so I can get home to my real life.  And that's a decision I would make even while pregnant.

[Image: Frank Maiorana]


Moooooooooooly good hair

I have hair that's favourably classed as 'dry' but really should be called 'unruly'. It's thick and kinky-curled and frizzcityrama. After having the children, things became even more dry, kinky and frizzy and I pretty much resigned myself to having crazy hair for life. I used to think that the best I could hope for was that if I worked it with a good (read: pricey) shampoo, conditioned it twice and slapped in loads of product it could look... passable.

But that all changed when I found the cow.

A friend put me onto Moo Goo products to help me combat the psoriasis that I have on the sole of one foot and in my hairline. So I started using the products because, frankly, when you suffer from psoriasis, you'll try pretty much anything (ever smelt Coal Tar?).

 [Image: Moo Goo]

Instant success. The psoriasis has improved immensely and so has the hair. In fact, the hair is so improved that I swear I will never use any other product ever again. Best of all, Moo Goo products are so natural and chemical-free that I started using the products in the children's baths and hair and they look so shiny and glossy that it brings a tear to the eye.

If you have dry hair or damaged hair, or even if you have normal hair, check them out!


Loving these boots

So, of course they're the only style sold out on the site, but I'm loving these boots at Nellie & Me.

Nellie & Me is a sweet little brand all-round. I just love their site design and the shoes are fantastic quality.  This is the cute* little pair that I already own:

Now I realise leopard print isn't for everyone, but I find these to be the most versatile shoes in my wardrobe. These are go "anywear" shoes and the quality for the price is outstanding. Go the leopard!!

* really there is nothing even remotely 'cute' about my giantess size 10 1/2s!

Monster madness

The Ammmmazing Mmmmmonster party was a huge success.

We played 'chase the monster tail'...

We ate monster food...


We made monster masks...


Monster goodness

Hooray! Twenty five little pieces of joy are complete. They are so cute as a gang that it seems a shame to distribute them tomorrow. But distribute we must.

Each softie has the child's name written on a little heart on the back.

Tomorrow we've arranged a treasure hunt with clues from one area of the garden to the other. The last clue directs us to Maxi-Taxi's pocket where there is a note from the monsters letting the children know that they are looking forward to being found and being friends. I'll let you know how this goes post-party!
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Things I learned this week including uses for a banana

So, I put the Friday rant thing out there last week thinking that I'd just, like, rant each week, but I don't like it. Last week I was in the worst possible mood and this Friday is different. Today is sunny, I'm working from home (look at me working!), the house is reasonably tidy, the children are all tucked away in their real lives, life is good. So, I think the rants will be occasional and haphazard - just as rants should be.

Instead, each Friday I'm going to record the things I've learnt in that particular week. A good thing to remember. So this week, I've discoved...

1. You can't substitute bread flour for plain flour when making chocolate chip cookies. The biscuits go flat and biiiiiig. Taste yummy. Look not-yummy.

2. Small girls should not be allowed to decide that they will wear a size 3 snugglesuit (all in one) to bed when they are 4 1/2 years old. Remember body-suits that buttoned below? Image if that bodysuit was 2 sizes too small and you get the idea.

3. Elwood moved its t-shirt manufacturing offshore to the child-labour supporting Philippines so we don't buy Elwood anymore.

4. Jennifer Garner doesn't shave her legs.

5. There is an American website called Please Rob Me that uses information from Twitter, Four Square and the street directory and lists the houses that are not currently occupied - just in case you want to rob them. They claim they are "raising awareness about over-sharing".

6. You should bury banana skins around the root line of your roses to improve the bloomage factor.

7. Express Post doesn't necessarily deliver metro to metro overnight. And there's nothing you can do about it.

8. No matter how particular you are about keeping finance records, if you use a shared spreadsheet with your colleagues the spreadsheet will not match the actual spend.

9. It is possible to do nothing and things will turn out okay in their own good time.

10. Waking your child in the middle of the night to go to the toilet so they don't wee the bed later is a total waste of time.

Now, back to work!


Youtubing blues

So, we call it youtubing at our place, but you might know it as the Child Cold.  This cruel malady is even worse than the Man Cold.

Nose streaming all day (hence the nickname). Restless groaning, thrashing and calling out all night. Waking in the morning with their hair plastered to their cheek with impenetrable snot. Cranky. Miserable. Awake.