Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Ten bucks well spent?

Some of the blogs I like to read are written by really, really, amazingly creative women. Women who knit and sew and paint and do all the things I would love to be able to do more often and better. So it's with some hesitation that I am about to post pictures of one my latest projects - because, well, my effort seems a little pitiful compared to what some people produce. Anyhow, it is:


E has far too little storage space and far too much stuff in his room. And so Shaun bought this rather battered little number for $10 from a fantastic place called Reverse Garbage, near our house. I had some freebie paint from my last job (one of the perks of working on a lifestyle magazine) in the shed. I scanned eBay for some new knobs (they cost more than the piece of furniture) to give it a bit of spunk. And this is the result.


The knobs are cute:

I think E will probably call this his "Dorothy the Dinosaur cupboard" once he twigs that the yellow handles have green dots. So, yes, it is still a bit wonky (we did replace the screws in the hinges) and still clearly a $10 secondhand cabinet painted over with house paint ... but, hey, it represents $50 or so I did not spend at IKEA and I think E will be very happy with it when we move it into his room this weekend.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Isn't life funny?

So my bed was sold on eBay and a nice guy from Orange turned up on Monday with his ute to pick it up. He handed me $133 cash for it - a 100-year-old piece of furniture (albeit a wobbly and battered one). That was just as well because I was just back from The Evil Supermarket, which had gobbled up $160 for half a trolley full of ... just stuff.
I was riding on my bike along the cycle path recently when I came across an elderly (and quite fit, I must say) lady riding the other direction. No helmet, just a head full of curlers. Wonderful.
My healthy eating has gone to pot - Heaven ice-cream, anyone? I'll be skipping Weight Watchers this week.
I think I have possibly spent too much time on my own (well, E excluded - but he's a toddler, not like a real adult human person) in recent days.
Oh yeah, things are real quiet.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

My house is quiet

Incredibly quiet. Shaun is away interstate attending a couple of conferences and so it's just E and me - and right now he is asleep. Today I have been kind of myself and I decided that, no, while E sleeps I will not run round trying to squeeze all the housework into half an hour - I will do the essentials and then I will sit down and read the newspaper. Which I did.
It's an amazing thing, on the day of an election, to receive a whopping reality check. Mine came in the form of an article in today's Sydney Morning Herald titled 'The World Continues To Look Away - DON'T'. The standfirst then reads: 'Some stories, as horrific as they are, need to be read by everyone. This is one of them.'
And horrific it was.
While we debate the merits of Rudd versus Howard, we ought to be so damn thankful that we live in a country where we actually have a functioning government, a health system, schools, jobs, etc.
So. Damn. Thankful ... for the accident of our birth.
The article I read detailed the horrific - yes, horrific describes it best - plight of women in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I will see if I can find this piece on the SMH website and link to it here so anyone who's interested can read it.
I sobbed, truly sobbed, when I read of women regularly - regularly and systematically - being raped by gangs of rampaging soldiers. But that's not the half of it. It gets far worse ... and where is the UN? Where are the news reports proclaiming the crisis? What if this were your sister? How can we allow this?
I will keep this article, because I want Shaun to read it when he is back from Queensland. And in the meantime I have done the one and only tiny thing I can do. I logged on to the Medecin Sans Frontieres website and donated $50. Even this feels like an appalling inadequate reaction. And yet what else is there? I cannot sit here and do nothing. MSF is the only Aussie aid organisation that has anything to do with the Congo and when I went to the website I found, frustratingly, that I couldn't direct my donation to that particular cause. Never mind, I trust that they will.
Here is the article. Please read it.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

There's no accounting for taste

... in our house. The little one, in particular, likes to keep me on my toes. From the moment he could say 'no' he's been rejecting most of the things I cook for him. But the other day I was at home and just made pasta with a chilli tomato sauce (nothing fancy, just the ol' Dolmio), tuna and parmesan. Didn't even offer it to E, but he spied it and ate pretty much the lot. Perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised considering he will (occasionally) eat the following:
*tandoori chicken
*noodles with spicy sauce
*curried beef stew
*lemons (big wedges of them)
*sardines (from a very young age - maybe 8 months)
Weird kid. Eats these things but has never consumed a potato - not mashed (is he mad?), not baked and only occasionally do chips meet the E seal of approval. Not much into meat, not terribly into vegetables (with the exception of tinned corn, which he would happily consume breakfast, lunch and dinner ... and sometimes does. Thank you Mr Edgell).
Oh, and I forgot to mention the Thai chicken curry I pack him for his daycare lunch. I am sure our carer thinks I am insane but apparently he eats it.
I adore all the foods I've listed above, so this makes me wonder if there really is some truth in the idea that what the mum eats while she's pregnant or feeding can impact on junior's tastes?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Today's the day...

... when my beloved bed finally gets auctioned on eBay (if you're wondering what I'm talking about, read down the page a bit). Here it is again:

I put a low starting price on it - $20. Yes, nuts, I know. But I seriously had no idea if there'd be any interest in it, after all, it does need some repair. I needn't have worried. By the end of the first day six people were watching it; now there are 25 and the price is already up to $76, so I think perhaps I underestimated its appeal.
Now comes the hard bit - saying bye to a trusty old companion that's been in my life for some time. Sob.

Update: auction just over - the bed sold for $133.50.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Nanny is the GREATEST

Like so many of us these days, I live a long, long way from most of my family. My mum and dad are about a seven-hour drive away, my sister and brother roughly the same. And Shaun has only his mum, and she lives in Budapest.
So that leaves the two of us to do all the kid-wrangling, all the entertaining, all the missing work when there's a fever or an ear infection. I mean, we knew all this before we had a kid, so it's not like it's a huge surprise that there's no-one to help handle the parenting burden. My secret fantasy is that a kindly and capable old lady will move in across the road and insist that she babysit every second weekend. Ha!
Anyhow, one thing about having Mum so far away is that when she comes to stay, as she did this weekend, she really, really makes the most of her time with E. Every time I see her with him I am utterly amazed at her energy levels, her ability to invent new games, her patience with him, her propensity to do the same jigsaws over and over again (where I would be plotting ways to sneak out of the room). She is incredible and, wow, does that little boy love her.
I do suspect that even if we lived around the corner from Mum she'd be exactly the same, super-generous with her time and attention. Time and attention - grandparents have so much more to give than parents. I mean, I give E plenty of attention, but often my mind is on my work, whether we're out of milk and what on earth I'm going to pack for E's lunch at daycare. Those annoying little essentials that so often get in the way of a good time.
Mum flew down to Sydney just to see E, which is lovely in itself. And from the minute she swept in the door she had him in her thrall. Which meant Shaun and I were free to mill about, do our chores and - gasp - relax a bit. On Saturday night we were able to go out for dinner without having to chase after a small blond child who's usually intent on tripping up waiters carrying steaming hot food.
We went to The Malaya, which serves up the most heavenly curries and my favourite entree in the world: otak otak (minced, herbed fish cooked in banana leaf parcels. Mmmm). One drink afterwards, home by 12 (yawning all the way) knowing that we could sleep in (huh? what's that again?) the next morning.
Oh, and then on Sunday Mum watched E while Shaun and I rode to Strathfield on the bike path - that's nearly two hours there and back. Just what I needed.
Is she the best, or what?!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Today at the beach

Beautiful day, so time to brave the car parks of Maroubra and make for the beach. The water was warmer than expected, so even I took a dip. Then we went back to our towels to dry off. I am so glad I took the camera today, because this scene was just too sweet not to capture:

Like father, like son.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Not much to report

We had Thai takeaway the other night and Shaun and I were eating our dinner with chopsticks. E was at the table, with a little bowl of my noodles. He had a fork but really, really wanted chopsticks too. I hadn't offered them - for obvious reasons. He kept saying "I want that", then he was quiet for a minute, his little brain clearly churning overtime. What did he say next? "Mummy, I want a stick fork."

So, he was rewarded with some "stick forks" purely for the sheer effort of coming up with that description.
Sometimes the logic of a two-year-old can be impressive.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Boys, boys, boys

As a magazine enthusiast I've been witness to all manner of dubious images and advertisements. Some have been memorable, others laughable, some pathetic and a couple downright offensive. But never has anything stopped me in my tracks like the ad below, which features in a British magazine I was reading last night. Check it out:

Now, I find this ad particularly confronting. And the strength of my reaction has amazed me. I mean, how many photoshopped, sexualised images of teenage girls have I actually glossed over? Probably hundreds. But show me little boys tricked up like this and I react.
OK, so let's analyse this a bit. Did I stop and look at this page simply because it's pretty rare to actually see an image of a boy in a women's fashion magazine? Possibly. Could it be that the clothes the boys are wearing are very ... couture ... yet also very military, very Palestinian intifada and possibly a little industrial revolution. Edgy, to be sure.
Then there's the adult stance, the hair (a la Kate Hudson's kid) and ... maybe most confronting of all ... the menacing stares. Yes, it could be the stares that bother me. It's that Pommy "I'm dead hard, me" attitude that seems so entirely out of place on the under 10s.
But I wonder if I just thought this ad so incredible because I am the mother of a boy? Perhaps it's just some form of protective kneejerk.
I'd love to know what others make of this picture ... views, anyone?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Sunny days

It was a perfect spring day today: just glorious. Made even more glorious by the fact that E played in his sandpit ... on. his. own. Well, for a couple of minutes, anyway. That's a start!

Meanwhile, I have been relishing a freelance-free day. So nice to not have to do any work and to just enjoy the day. Which I would have done more had I not slammed the doors of a cabinet I am painting onto three of my fingers as I attempted to lift it up. Let's just say it was lucky the little one was asleep because the language that came out of my mouth was not G rated.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

It's only a piece of furniture

Call me sad, but I am already lamenting the imminent sale of one of my most treasured items. This is it:

I bought this bed years ago - when I had just moved to the metropolis of Henty, NSW (pop 1000) to start my first job. I turned up there and the local real estate agent had ONE house on his books for rent. Err, where do I sign? Being fresh out of uni I had nothing remotely resembling furniture, so I began buying a few bits and pieces, one of which was this bed.
I got it at the local secondhand dealer's store. He'd initially shaken his head when I'd asked if he had any beds. Then he told me to come with him and we went out to a shed behind the shop and that's where I first saw it. As with the rent situation, with a choice of just one I took the bed. I think it cost me $80.
Back then it was, if I remember correctly, pink. Desperate as I may have been, pink just wouldn't do, so I began sandpapering the bed myself on weekends and after work. This was a loooong and pretty soon unsatisfying experience. So I asked around and found a guy who would do it all for me.
It turned out that under the pink paint was more paint ... and more paint. But when I found it the bed dated back to the early 1900s, that was hardly surprising. And the verdict, once it was all stripped back, was that I had me an antique oak bed. A real beauty.

The metal base may be a tad rusty and squeaky, but I adored that bed from the minute it was restored. I like the idea that it's so well made (it's solid) and that many people before me have slept on it, perhaps even babies born on it. It's possible. I used the bed for a couple of years, until I moved overseas. Then it was stored at my parents' house before I used it much later in the first flat I lived in on my own.
When Shaun and I moved in together it was into a teeny house with a spare room not big enough to fit the bed. And so it was relegated to down by the side of the house, tucked away under a tarp. In our current house we've not had the opportunity to use it either. And so ...
I am selling my beloved bed on eBay. For $20 (after all, it does need some fixing - it's a bit wobbly). There are so many things to love about this bed: it was a bargain; it has huge sentimental value as the first piece of furniture I bought as a grown-up; it has a beautiful tulip motif; and of course there are all the memories that rest on it.
However, it's no good to anyone sitting sadly in the shed. It's time for it to move on, hopefully to an appreciative owner. I see that several people are watching the bed on eBay and I suppose that is a good thing, but it will be hard to say goodbye.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

These are (just) a few of my favourite things

* Fresh sheets on the bed. They don't need to be ironed or anything - as if! Just clean and cotton. One of life's most underrated pleasures, I think.
* Tea - any tea, any time. Especially first thing in the morning - coffee just will not do.
* Eating vegetables fresh from my own garden - I had a great crop of broad beans this year and I have to tell you they were delicious.
* Putting on an item of clothing you'd expected would be too tight only to find it fits well (or is too big). That's a nice feeling.
* Sinking into a book that just takes you away. The last one that did this for me was Kite Runner, but I find myself frequently transported.
* A seat on the train, particularly in the morning (this gets the day off to a better start)
* A loooooong daytime nap from my son (as he is doing right now - good boy)
* Hearing a U2 song I've not listened to for ages and falling in love with it all over again.
* Having one part of my house neat - even if it is just one corner. In fact, it usually is just one corner.
* The scent of a beautiful curry slowly cooking on the stove.
* Neatly cut nails - I don't do long nails, they irritate me too much these days.
* Autumn days when the light is just so.
* Validation of a job well done - very important to us all yet sadly skimmed over so often.
* Sun-ripened strawberries. Apricots off the tree. Yabbies from the dam.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Things happen in threes

My mother is quite superstitious and she believes things happen in threes - a fairly common one, I think. I actually had a nice day at work yesterday, but you wouldn't have known it by the end of the day. You see, when I get home I pick up the post. In yesterday's was a letter (1) - yeah, I know, a letter! - from a certain member of my family who shall remain nameless. Now, let's just say that this particular member of my family is quite the stirrer. QUITE. The unprovoked venom in her letter upset me.
Then I decided to call (2) - again - the woman I was in the car accident with recently as I'd not heard anything from her since then. Or her insurance company. Got a hold of her husband who seemed to be spinning me a big fat lie. So then I stress out about them being dodgy and me getting no recompense for my banged-up car.
Number 3. Opened my email to read a truly devastating note from a dear friend overseas who put all my woes into sharp perspective. She told me she'd been extremely unwell: with cancer. My God, I cried. This all happened some time ago and I didn't even know. I felt so appalling - what sort of a friend am I? One of the bad things about parenthood is that it's so all consuming that things like, ooh, interaction with good friends fall by the wayside. Not for any particularly upsetting reasons, just that there's never the time, the energy, the brain space. I find this incredibly sad - and it makes me feel a loneliness that's hard to describe.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Another Melbourne Cup, another $30 down the drain.
It got me thinking about my (very brief) pre-kid gambling phase (I think it lasted about 3 weeks). We lived in a cute (read: TINY) terrace house in inner-city Sydney back then. Our neighbours were old Kiwis who had their kitchen window right near our bedroom. In those days we used to sleep in (gasp - what's that again?) and it would annoy me no end to be woken at the ungodly hour of 10.30am. Except for one Saturday. I could hear the old bloke on the telephone (swear he didn't need one) and he was saying: "Yep, yep, got it. Flemington, Race 5, Number 7. OK, thanks mate." I was curious enough to stroll down to the TAB and whack $20 on that particular horse. Which of course ROMPED IT IN.
This is possibly the only reason to ever appreciate noisy neighbours.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


I snapped this pic earlier today, in between downpours. I'm still scratching my head as to why this scene pleases me so much (as it has done since E was born). I'm wondering if it's the whiteness that appeals to the (now defeated) neat freak in me? Or perhaps it's a subconscious nostalgia for my own childhood, because by the time I was three-and-a half I had two nappy-wearing siblings. I can't remember too much from this time but I'm quite sure my mother remembers washing all those nappies.
Maybe it's the slight smugness I get from knowing that a) each washed nappy represents money I have not handed over to a multi-national for a disposable and b) that I am doing my little bit to keep pooey nappies out of landfill. (It definitely is only a little bit ... when I was on maternity leave he wore cloth all the time, now he has disposables for daycare - fair enough - and for overnight.)
Thinking about it, maybe I've worked it out. Spying a line full of nappies from out my kitchen window always means this: one less chore to do today!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Write on

I've been thinking about creative pursuits a bit lately. Particularly about the drive, the need, some of us have to be creative. I count myself in this group ... though thinking about it for a second, I should revise that to read 'that all of us have'. Not to get all heavy about it, but to be able to express yourself in some way, shape or form must be kinda fundamental to being human.
I spend three days a work working for a huge publisher, doing a job I like: subediting. Now, to put this in context, that means reading (where I work, generally very well written) articles, tightening them up and (hopefully!) improving them, cutting text, writing snappy headlines and witty intros. In effect, I think this would qualify as a creative way to spend the day. I mean, it ain't cleaning toilets or manning a checkout or emptying bins, is it?
And yet...
I feel the need to write stuff that's mine. My words, my thoughts, my expressions. I spend Mondays and Tuesdays at home cramming chores and household mundanities into every waking second so that when E goes to sleep I can sit down and write stories. I am lucky that I have a steady trickle of freelance work to keep me going; I've not yet had to go out there seeking it.
So despite the time crush there's a little bit of me that goes 'aaah' when I sit down and write an article. Or on this blog. It's a bit of a revelation for me that I might get the same creative buzz from blogging. I guess it just hadn't occurred to me, which is a bit dumb because I am (well, used to be when I had the time) a prolific diarist.
It's nice, even if only for the creative outlet.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Life with a toddler sure can be interesting

There was a time when I used enjoy going out and shopping for new clothes. That time has passed. And the reason it has passed is I now pretty much always have a two-year-old in tow. He is a well-behaved little tot most of the time, but I challenge anyone to find me a toddler that enjoys sitting in the stroller while their mum browses the racks for bargains. Nope, they don't exist.
The ridiculousness of shopping with a kid was brought home to me last week when I was looking for a pair of new shorts for summer. All my old ones are now far too big (yay!), so I was looking for a cheap, basic pair. I was looking in a chain store, so that made things a bit easier - they had a good range of cheap and basic.
I think it could have been the moment when E hurled his ball (which he'd insisted on taking into the shops with him) under the checkout, or perhaps the moment when he managed to almost contort himself right out of the stroller straps (howling all the while) when I snapped. I had to admit defeat: size 12, khaki, affordable. Right, that'll have to do. Straight through the checkout, straight home.
So I get home, put E to bed for nap and empty my shopping bag. I put on said shorts only to find ... I had bought a skirt. Yes, that's right, a skirt.
I suppose I should be kind of grateful (can you spot the silver lining yet?) because it would never have occurred to me to buy a short skirt (not quite sure why). But I like it. Thank you, Ewan ... I think.