Monday, November 30, 2009

Family fun times

On the weekend we went here:

That'd be the Three Sisters in the Blue Mountains near Katoomba, for those not intimately acquainted with B-grade Australian landmarks.

We got that view from the Skyway. It has a glass floor which changes from opaque to clear during the trip (the need for which becomes apparent when you walk to the look out on the far side and look up). Elissa and Charlie were both pretty keen on it.

The next ride was the Scenic Railway - about which they were all rather excited.

Yes, that is Charlie looking excited.

This is what the railway track does:

Note the curve on those tracks - this is the steepest railway in the world. The kids loved it.

There is a very pleasant, accessible walk at the bottom through the sub tropical rainforest and past the old coal mines. It has lots of tree ferns. I like tree ferns.

Then we got the cable car back up the hill (which is the accessible method of going both up and down). The kids were still thoroughly rapt.

We did all of this with my aunt, who we haven't seen in so long that she didn't know Charlie's name. After the excitement, we headed back to her place and spent a relaxing weekend catching up with her and her hubby. It was a lovely weekend.

There was only one down side - this was the weekend we should have been Christmassing the house. Therefore I started this afternoon after school. At about this point:

I discovered that the second string of lights for the tree had inadvertently been put up outside, so Crash went out to retrieve them. (The very blurry photo is what happens when you are a tad annoyed and not bothering to look at the result.)

We got the second string of lights in, completed tree construction, but then the kids wanted to help decorate. By the time they had finished, it looked like this:

There are a whole lot of pretty ordinary decorations in the bottom right hand corner of the tree. I now need to move them all into the depths and put all the other decorations on. I was a little deflated and slightly feverish, so I figured I'd blog instead.

And with that little whinge, I have completed NaBloPoMo!

I'm a little stunned I did it, although I may have served up even more drivel than usual. There may be less posting for the next little while...

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Hybrid Earworms

The ordinary earworms are bad enough, but when they interbreed and hyridise, they are deadly. I have spent the whole weekend in the mountains with this running through my head:
It was nine feet high and six feet wide, soft as a downy chick
It was made from the feathers of forty 'leven geese You get a hit
and your mind goes ping
Your heart will pump and your blood will sing
So let the party and the sound rock on
We're gonna shake it til the life has gone, gone, gone
Rose tints my world keeps me safe from my trouble and pain
In case you aren't familiar with these earworms, here is their source.

Link for broken embeddedness


Link for broken embeddedness

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The battle in my brain

My brain, like pretty much everyone else's, is obsessed with identifying patterns and handing them to me to make the business of understanding the world so much easier. It's very helpful, it means I have some kind of template for just about every situation. Even if it's not a great template, I only have to deal with how it's wrong, instead of constructing the whole situation from scratch. Understandably my brain is pretty proud of it's abilities, and it doesn't take kindly to me rejecting a hard won pattern.

So when it threw up a handy dandy template regarding a person I was interacting with yesterday, it got most irate when I told it to shut up. It protested, pointing out that I don't reject its warning to be wary of cattle dogs and kelpies because they often don't signal their intent to attack. Even though I know not all dogs of those breeds are like that, I approach all of them with the suspicion that the smiling and wagging may be swiftly followed by teeth marks on my person. My brain would like to know why I happily run with that template, but rejected this perfectly good template that was similarly built on experience.

The problem with my brain, at least with this information processing and interpreting bit of it, is that it's all about expedience and cost benefit analyses. And these things are measured entirely from my point of view. That cost benefit analysis is based on my brain's processing time versus what I stand to lose if the template is wrong. It doesn't even look at the long term costs to me - in terms of the effect this behaviour might have on the way other people regard me and on the general tenor of the society I live in. The costs to the other person simply don't get a look in.

So I told my brain that this particular template was not required, thank you very much, that even if it was based on some excellent pattern identification skills, no inductive reasoning can ever guarantee that the pattern will fit this person, and the cost to her of me making assumptions based on contingent and irrelevant characteristics is too high to justify letting my brain off the hook from assessing the situation on its merits alone, without a template. Nevertheless, it sulked in the corner for some time, desperately looking for an opportunity to say "I told you so."

If only it could manage meta pattern recognition and realise that whenever it throws up that kind of template, I'm going to reject it, and so the path of least resistance is to stop throwing them at me. Clearly my brain needs to do a bit more evolving.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Today I'm grateful for ever evolving technology that I enjoy playing with and that makes my life easier, richer and more interesting.

It's Friday

It really feels like Friday today. It's been a full-on week doing...something. Lots of somethings (apart from my time out getting my hair done yesterday). Work continues to be crazy busy, but it also seems to be trundling along.

I got my Google Wave invite today, so I have spent most of my afternoon playing with it. I have a strong feeling this is going to rival the iPhone in terms of changing how I do things. It's clunky and awkward at the moment, but once it's cleaned up, I think it'll be gold for project management. It's definitely a good way to organise a function. I suspect it will become my primary means of interaction with my accounts department (and I sent her an invite this afternoon, she is also a very good friend). And I've just realised it's an awesome way to track hours spent on a job.

The more I think about it, the more ways I can imagine using it. Google will have my soul in no time.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

I spent an indulgent couple of hours getting my hair done this afternoon which has improved my mood mightily. While there, though, I spend the whole time saying "no" to offered extras for fear of ending up with a monstrous bill at the end. What I want is a menu to read while I'm waiting for the hairdresser so I can check out the optional extras and decide if I might be up for one.

$20 for an extra long head massage? Quite possibly.

$35 for a treatment? Probably not, but $15 might convince me sometimes.

I just don't want to play Russian Roulette with the total cost.

I know this concept exists, but none of my locals do it. *pouts*

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Christmas shopping

I've successfully bought the hardcover children's books I always buy the kids for Christmas. Very satisfying.

In addition, I may have checked out which Terry Pratchett book I am up to and discovered that it is Making Money, as well as my desperate need for Hatful of Sky.

That is all.

Writing a list seems tacky

When I was a kid and past the age at which anything wrapped was a Good Present, I was required to make Christmas lists to give to my mother. I enjoyed making them - it was exciting dreaming up all the goodies Santa could bring me and somehow it was still exciting when I got them.

However, now that I actually understand the joy of giving, as well as receiving, I'd really rather get a surprise. A Good Present is one I don't have to orchestrate myself - it's one the other person also enjoyed giving. Unfortunately, this is a touch self indulgent and unrealistic. It requires psychic powers that may be beyond people living real lives that don't, in fact, revolve around me. (The hide!)

So while I object strongly to writing a list, dropping hints on my blog is clearly a completely different matter.

On a completely unrelated topic, the front garden has two tree stumps, that I really feel need decorating. Perhaps a snoozing dragon?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


I am in possession of one spare Homebake ticket. I can eBay it, so it won't go to waste, but I thought I'd see whether anyone I know through the intertubes was looking at the lineup and thinking "Damn, why didn't I buy me a ticket to Homebake?". I can't remember how much the ticket actually cost, but $100 give or take $10 should be about right. I will pick them up in the next few days and then I'll be able to confirm it.

I'm not looking to make any money out of it, just to bring a ticket and a punter together at no cost to myself.

This is the first announcement of the lineup:

A special best of performance by TIM FINN
UNDERGROUND LOVERS (original line-up)
TUMBLEWEED (original line-up)
ROWLAND S HOWARD (together with Mick Harvey, JP Shiloh & Lindsay Gravina)

You'll have to check out the website for the full line-up, because it's a mess to copy and paste.

Let me know if you are interested, I'll stick it up on eBay over the weekend if I don't get any takers here.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The worst has happened

Ok, maybe not the worst. But pretty catastrophic just the same. I can no longer drink tea in the evenings - it keeps me awake. I've been living in denial for a few months now, but I've drunk it after dinner 3 times in the last week, and every time I've spent most of the night unable to sleep. Slept like a baby the other nights.

I know decaf tea exists, I've even drunk it whilst pregnant, but I just can't convince myself it counts as tea. Possibly because I drank it while pregnant. I've never been much of a fan of herbal teas, but I may have to develop a taste for it. A hot drink after the kids go to bed is a bit of a ritual around here, and on a bad day, the only thing that stands between me and a bottle of red.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The heat has fried my brain

I've sat here for some time wondering what to write. I have further thoughts about multiculturalism, I had a massive argument with Crash about how what should and should not be said to young women about rape and I'd like to rant about that, I read a post about the importance of parenting for independence, and that combined with the potty sitting (unused) on the lounge room floor reminded me how terrified I am of toilet training and inspired half-thought musings - and myriad other things, but I just can't form any of it into anything coherent.

Instead, I am going to invite you to join me in a campaign to bring back the cape. Despite the stifling heat today, I saw them on the TV tonight, and I think we need them back. They are practical, they are gender non-specific and they are swishy.

I started to make myself one about 20 years ago, and I think I shall return to the endeavour - or maybe try to buy myself one. Next winter I shall wear a cape. Who's with me?

There's some nice cape action about 2 and bit minutes in - and the show was pretty awesome too.

Here's the link if you can't see the embeddedness
I've tried to think of something else, but all things considered, I am so overwhelmingly grateful for air conditioning today that I can't see how anything else gets a look in.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Today I'm grateful for Cate for bringing us a BOX of mangoes from the markets, and for beautiful evenings with cool breezes.

Relationships don't matter for boys

The ABC website ran a story last night about the life-long effects of bullying. It talks positively about the need to creating cultural change - to make it acceptable for kids to tell people about it in a more realistic way. I was a bit disappointed to see that they still weren't calling for much more encouragement for bystanders to report bullying, but then it was a pretty superficial article.

It was all a little dull really, until this bit:

"Our research has shown that in fact there are probably more females bullied then males, probably because males ride it out and they handle things in their particular way.

"The importance of having relationships with others is very, very important to a girl, and we're saying it's those things that are impacted the most, when bullying goes on."

Where to start? While I accept this might well be empirically correct, it's about as informative as reporting the most prevalent colour of T shirt worn by people who have been bullied. Do boys "handle things in their particular way" or are they just socialised to hide their reactions? Why are relationships more important for girls? Surely relationships should be just as important for boys.

Further on, the article describes the socially isolating effect of bullying on Chrstine O'Leary, a Wesley Mission employee. If girls suffer from this more than boys, does that tell us more about how socially isolated boys are to start with? Does this tell us something about why men score lower on measures of empathy than women?

The report claims that 70% of Australian adults have been bullied as kids, which resonates pretty well with my experience, so I've no reason to question it. Apart from the real need to stop bullying, there is also a need to understand how we are socialising our kids to deal with it here and now - after all it's affecting most of us. Boys are taught to be tough and ignore it, girls are taught to - I don't know, what are girls taught to do? The messages I keep seeing are just that if affects them badly. So I guess they are taught to fall apart. So we raise boys who distance themselves from everyone so that the bullying doesn't hurt so much, and girls who are taught that they are nothing without other people.

This becomes part of who we are and colours our view of personal responsibility. This is where the time honoured tradition of men spouting off about how they handled bullies by fighting back/stoically ignoring/being untouchable or whatever and therefore dismissing those who report bullying as weak, starts. No-one asks what those strategies cost those men. What are the real consequences of "handling things in their particular way"? Is it so universal that we see it as the "normal" traits of men - distant, angry, independent?

This is all mere speculation, but while people like Keith Garner report bullying in such a superficial way, we'll never know. In the meantime, I'll do my best to teach my kids to look out for bullying - I'll try to remember to ask explicitly, occasionally, if there is anyone at school who is being picked on, rather than just thinking about my kids' well-being. And I'll try to work out what the hell is the best way to negotiate being the target without being ripped apart or setting yourself apart.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Today I'm grateful that I live somewhere where thunder and lightening are entertainment (and damn good entertainment, at that) rather than a threat to thousands of hectares of bush.
Every Thursday evening I go bellydancing, because I love it and because it's pretty much the only form of dance that someone with no natural talent whatsoever can do with any success. We'll be performing at the Christmas party ("Get your jinglies jangling"), and this is the song we'll be performing to.

I saw our teacher dance to this years and years ago, and I still remember it. There is a lot to be said for dancing to a song that demands that no-one take it seriously. There is even more to be said for it when I shall be doing so the day after Mim's Christmas party....

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Cot for sale

I am in possession of a rather lovely cot - made in the US and in surprisingly excellent condition given that 3 kids have used it. It belongs to my friend, but she doesn't need it back, so we'd like to send it to a new home.

It has a drop side that can be operated with one hand and one knee (you lift it slightly and push it in slightly at the bottom) which was a great improvement on my previous cot that needed two hands to drop the side. It has a heap of height settings, including a very high one for very little bubs.

It also has a handy dandy drawer underneath it which is both useful for storage and catching dropped dummies.

It still has all its instructions, which is something of a miracle considering it has lived in 4 houses, one of which was in a different country.

If you could use it, or you know someone who could, let me know. My friend would probably like a few bucks for it if the recipient can afford it, but a deserving home that's very short on cash could have it for free. I'll chuck in some linen too.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Crafty day reminder

This Friday is the next crafting day. Mim will be making jewellery, and I will be learning to unknit so that I can fix up the mistake I made last time. Tigtog is also threatening to crack out the cross stitch and one of the women from school may be there, pending domestic commitments.

I'm also committing to actually having some music cued up this time!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Charlie's storm protection theory

The storm hit last night while I was on my way home from Fisher Library, so Crash had to deal with the Charlie angst that usually ensues. I don't know what Crash actually said, all I got was this explanation this morning.
Daddy said that the trees would protect us from the storm, but that's not true because trees are made of wood. The trunks are made of wood and the branches are made of wood and that's not strong enough to stop the storm. But the storm can't get through the windows and doors, because there's an invisible wall that you can walk through, but it's strong enough and the storm can't get through it because it's too big.
I can't wait to hear his theories on the origin of the universe, or the nature of God.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Today I'm grateful for easy access to such things as paracetamol to make my 4yr old's fever of 39.2 deg C (102.6 F) a mild concern and irritation rather than a truly alarming event.

Anti-racism week - 2009

Last week was anti-racism week at Ben's school. I ranted about this last year, but a few new things have started to annoy me.

The example posters shown at school to provide inspiration have a common theme - we may be different on the outside, but we're all the same on the inside. This is pretty much the message in Mem Fox's Whoever You Are, from which I essentially stole last year's poster theme. However, Mem Fox's version is slightly less problematic, in that it specifies particular things that are the same - love, laughter, pain and so on.

But to just generally describe us as all the same on the inside - I have a problem with that. First of all, it still implies that we need to be the same to be equal - the different outside can be tolerated because the insides are the same. But also, it lays the foundation for the "I wouldn't do it, so anyone who does is inferior/evil/wrong" kind of argument that is so, so prevalent in justifications of racism, sexism, ... *ism.

This argument is often genuinely based in egalitarianism - when I've challenged people to defend why their own stance is the gold standard, they generally say it is because they aren't any better than anyone else, that all people are the same deep down - all the simplistic messages that are given to infants school kids about racism. Some people may be hiding behind these answers, but I'm convinced that quite a lot are not. The concept that people may be very different, and yet equal seems impossible to comprehend for many.

I'd rather see a celebration of difference week. In fact, I'd passionately rather see a celebration of difference week - there is so much more to be gained in so many aspects of children's lives from such a celebration.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

More gardening

My wonderful husband let me sleep in this morning, so I wondered down stairs about 9:30am and headed straight out the front to start digging the Bloody Big Hole. I dug for a while and then Crash took over. After some significant time, this was the Bloody Big Hole.

Of course, once you have have a hole, you must fill it. We battled with removing the pot from the root ball for quite a while, before conceding defeat and cutting it off.

It's a shame, I was going to plant a citrus tree in the empty pot.

Tree finally went into the hole, and we straightened it as best we could. Following some random Canadian website on planting trees, we part filled the hole with dirt and then filled it with water. The whole process fascinated the kids, who loved the opportunity to play with dirt. Charlie was chief clod breaker uperer. Elissa (who didn't actually manage to get out of her pyjamas today) was in and on as much as dirt as she could possibly manage - with the doll, as you can see.

After this photo was taken she picked the doll up and said very seriously "Dolly, you're filthy!".

Crash made lunch while I filled the drained hole with all that dirt on the right, and voila! we have a tree.

When I drove home after a pleasant afternoon with jennifergearing, I was eagerly anticipating the new view of the tree, but was disappointed to realise just how much smaller it appears when you're not trying to pick it up.

While Crash was completing the BBH, I rescued the dug up plants from the back yard, who were all looking substantially worse for wear and planted them in the front garden. I don't know whether they'll survive, but they have more chance there than in a dodgy pot in the back yard. So the garden is a little less barren now.

The hose is trickle watering in all the new transplants.

Still on the to-do list:
  • put edging around the tree and mulch the base of the tree
  • plant some more herbs
  • rip out the plant by the gate
  • mow the lawn...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Garden update

We have a quiet weekend, so I figured I had better do something about the wholesale greenery destruction that's been going on. We're obliged to replace one of the trees we cut down in the form of at least a 25 litre tree within 30 days of removing the old ones. Since it's nearly summer, we don't really want to put an advanced tree in the backyard right now, so I chose one for the front. After changing my mind 25 times, I decided on a native frangipani - Hymenosporum flavum. Our local garden centre is not great, but since I'm not long on time, I went there anyway. I finally found someone and asked for a native frangipani. He quoted the botanical name back at me, so I figured he knew what he was on about. They didn't have 25 litre plants, only smaller or larger. I decided to bite the bullet and get the bigger one, get it delivered and get it over with.

But of course, life is never that easy. When I got home I realised that the name on the bar code I had used to pay for the thing was not hymenosporum flavum, but randia fitzalanii. What the hell was I getting delivered? Google told me it's common name is native gardenia. Still native, very similar foliage, white fragrant flowers instead of yellow ones and fruit (although I don't know whether it will fruit this far south). I rang the garden centre, they apologised but assured me it will do well in the position I am putting it, and it is rather lovely. So, because I was too lazy to do anything about it, I have a different tree, which looks like this.

It will be planted tomorrow.

In the meantime, I've planted some stuff in the empty raised garden bed - but only little things, so it still looks pretty bare.

There are two frangipanis - one pink and one cream/yellow. The pink one came from my great aunt's garden and I bought the yellow one today. Behind them are two climbing roses (Crash has a major soft spot for roses) which we hope will eventually grow up and screen the next door neighbour. There are some herbs and there will be more understory, but it's a bit tricky because there is no sun protection yet, and won't be for a while because frangipanis are not the speediest growers in the world.

Charlie came with me to the garden centre and mostly hung out in the shade house. He chose this plant, and I couldn't think of a good reason to say no, so it came home with us too.

The pot is what I took the pink frangipani out of this morning.

The death and destruction is not yet over, however. The plant next to the front gate has always been awkward and too large. It's coming out too - this is where I got to this afternoon.

I'll put the potted gardenia that is being evicted by the tree on the spot until all the roots have disappeared somewhat. Then I'll decide whether to keep the gardenia in the pot or plant it.

I've also got to do something with the plants we had to dig out of the back garden. I'm trying to work out whether they would be ok out the front, or whether there is too much sun. I no longer have a truly shady garden, so I guess I may as well put them out the front and see how they go. It will be a long time before the back garden has enough tree over it to be shady again.

It's Saturday

I'm watching some stupid American show try to portray a runaway circus elephant as an evil beast. I'm not buying it, but I don't quite have a justification for it. I recently engaged in an argument with a friend about animal rights in terms of food - I draw an arbitrary line in the sand for food, he draws a very different one, and vegans I know draw a different one again. Who decides these ethics? To what court do we appeal? I just can't cope with that which can't be resolved logically....

Friday, November 13, 2009

Hasty purchases

Last Sunday, we celebrated Elissa's birthday, and I mentioned that I gave her a monster truck which I failed to notice had "Grave Digger" written on it. Since Mim asked about it, and since it's Friday and my head is full of Okin and Deveaux and multiculturalism and feminism and I am not up to writing anything of substance, I'm merely offering up a photo of the grave digger.

How many two year old girls get a squashed caterpillar green monster truck with "Grave Digger" written on it? I ask you? That's one very lucky daughter I have.

Today I'm grateful for the cooler weather on a day that I have had to sit in our attic for the whole afternoon.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Comments policy

For some reason comment policies have been floating around in my mind recently - and I think it's because I feel a little differently about comments than most of the ones I've read. So I thought I'd take a quick moment to let you know how I feel about what my fine readers have to say.

The stuff that I post that has any sort of controversial component (you know, other than stupid/cute things my kids say and family photos) is rarely fully formed in my mind. Most of the time I don't know where a post is going to end up when I start writing it. Sometimes there are throwaway lines to make me think, and maybe to provoke a reaction from readers. I blog to help clarify my thoughts, and sometimes to change them completely.

My way of understanding the world is by theorising and abstracting. I know this bothers some people, but I can't change that about me at this stage. It doesn't mean that I don't understand that my abstractions are based on real people with real feelings and real lives, it's just that I can't make sense of the world on that level - I end up in a confuddled mess that gives me no insight at all. If the way I do it really bothers you, feel free to tell me, or swear at me to your screen and vow never to read my stupid writing again - I don't blame you.

I am pretty much OK with any comments that aren't downright abusive. You can take me to task on anything you like. I figure if I can't defend it, I have to either discard it or call it as an unfounded belief (I have a number of those). It's highly likely that any comment you make will contribute to my understanding of the world - even if it doesn't show.

Comments would probably have to be really out there offensive for me to pull them, but I reserve the right to mock them mercilessly on the basis of narrowminded, bigoted bullshit.

I don't usually get enough comments to worry about what one commenter says to another - but on the off chance it comes up (it does occasionally on FB), please remember that not everyone enjoys an argument as much as me. You'd be hard pressed to offend me, but I can't speak for other people, so please be a bit more conservative when responding to others. Perhaps a lot more.

Mostly though, my comments policy is "YES PLEASE!". Life is a dialogue.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Today I'm grateful for the wonderful woman who stood at the base of the broccoli tree and hoisted a dozen children (including two of mine) in and out of it for half an hour this afternoon. Poor soul even had to climb up there to retrieve my eldest from some place he got stuck.

This would be the broccoli tree, in case you were wondering.

In which Elissa finally gets a bed

I don't like Ikea much - they never have what you want in stock, bits are often missing or wrong or whatever and you can never just go once. Parking is a nightmare and just don't even consider going there on a weekend. However, they do good, reasonably priced kids' furniture and I needed a small bed to go in Elissa's small room. So I took Elissa and we chose a bed. Then we got it home and it was the wrong colour. So I took it back (without Elissa) and found that they didn't have the white one at all, so I came home with a completely different bed.

On the first trip I had also bought a little set of shelves that are low enough for her to reach everything on them. I'm fairly practiced in the art of Ikea assembly, and had the shelves all but built in less than half an hour - just needed to nail the back on - another 10 mins or so. Sadly, I couldn't put them in the room until the bed was built and I worked out where everything was going to go. Bed assembly happened yesterday and it ended up in the corner running away from the window - she's still too young to have her bed under the window.

Which left enough room to shove the legacy cupboard (currently housing a quilt and approx 5 hats - it isn't very practical) up a bit and squeeze the shelves between it and the door.

You can't actually open the left hand door properly, but since there's bugger all in it, that's probably not that big a deal.

Finally, this evening we replaced the towel that has been covering the high window for the last 2 years with a blind.

Not exactly designer brilliance, but at least it goes up and down. I might get curtains to go over it one day....

The key point is that Elissa loves it - she has some toys she can reach and she adores her bed. I'll rack this one up as a success, if not quite a completed job.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

I hate November

My to-do list for tonight:

  • Read at least 2 papers
  • Do another load of washing
  • Make brownies for cake day and Kindy 2010 welcome morning tea
  • First, go to supermarket and buy ingredients for brownies
  • Write a blog post.

It's 9pm. You'll note which of these things I did first....
Today I am grateful for a 2 year old's poor memory, that failed to notice that the bed in her bedroom is the one she refused to go anywhere near in the shop, and not the one she said she wanted.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Birthdays are always good

Yesterday we celebrated Elissa's second birthday. I convinced her to put on a party dress on the basis that it had a fluffy skirt - she wasn't having a bar of the chiffon number. I figure I've got another 6 months max of getting to have any opinions on her clothes, so I'm enjoying it while it lasts.

Ben asked for a photo with his sister.

She suffered the theft of her limelight in silence.

(I should also note that Elissa's dress was more appropriate for the weather than Ben's long sleeve shirt - he seems to be oblivious to temperature in both directions.)

As noted previously, Nerida volunteered to make the cake (a white chocolate mud cake) and I did an extremely hasty and very dodgy job of decorating it.

But Elissa barely noticed the cake - the fire had 100% of her attention.

(Note the wardrobe change - present from Nerida.)

Then she decided the fire was cool.

Then she finally noticed the fire was on top of cake.

It just got messier from here.

Grandma gave her a doll with a bed, clothes, feeding accessories and bib, which was an instant success. Nerida gave her some cool play clothes as well as the fairy dress. We gave her a monster truck (with "Grave Digger" written on the side - perhaps I should have read that more carefully), a dress and a toy toaster. Every one of kids enjoyed every single present. It was pretty cool.

The doll, however, had an added bonus.

At bedtime she carefully put baby to bed, patted her, said "I love you, have a good sleep, see you in the morning" and turned around and walked out of the room.

The doll provided a new excuse to not go to bed. Definitely an instant favourite.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Tetsuya extravaganza

We had friends over for dinner last night - an event booked months in advance due mostly to their social calendar. The last time we ate at their place we were served a magnificent feast involving rabbit and goat and many things fabulous, so I decided it was a good excuse to go for a full meal of recipes from Tetsuya's book.

We started with a cold soup of carrot and saffron with beancurd, served with a Vinden Estate Alicante Bouchet. I found the soup a little rich, but very tasty. Crash clearly liked it, he ate my left overs.

Next was a tartare of tuna with goats cheese served with a Petersons Sauvignon Blanc. This was amazing, although if I make it again I'll be much more careful about the goats cheese I buy - I had no idea how it was going to taste, so I didn't know what I was looking for. The wine was a pleasant surprise too - I'm not generally a fan of Australian Sauvignon Blanc, but this one was pretty good and went really well with the intense flavours in the tuna.

Then we had prawn and scallop ravioli with tomato and basil vinaigrette and a Chardonnay brought by our guests that I can't remember. The ravioli was made with wonton wrappers which was uncharacteristically simple for Tets recipes. I found the vinaigrette a little sour for the whole dish, but no-one else did. Next time I might just put in a teeny bit more sugar. The chardy was excellent with just enough bite left in it to cut through the creaminess of the ravioli.

Next up was quail legs with ginger and five spice powder served with a Marsh Estate Shiraz. This was pretty easy actually (apart from a great deal of chopping I'd done earlier in the day) and was most fine. In fact you could use the flavourings to cook other less formal things, which I will keep in mind. The shiraz was probably a touch heavy for the quail, but it was bloody wonderful and the quail legs were small, so the shiraz kinda became its own course, which is hardly something to complain about.

My last contribution to the evening was granny smith apple sorbet with sauternes jelly. It was a palate cleanser, so no wine with this one. It was pretty straightforward (once I'd sorted out the ice cream maker - thanks R!), and I loved it. Light, refreshing but with a slightly burnt flavour in the jelly that gave it a bit of depth. Definitely one I will do again.

The dessert itself was provided by our guests - a ricotta and sour cherry tart - and was a really good finish to the night. It was light and tasty with strong hits of cherry flavour. Yum.

In between cooking and eating there was some great conversation and all in all, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Hopefully so did everyone else. :)

PS. There are no photos of any of this, because frankly that was one too many levels of preparation for my poor little brain.

DUFC for October

The 18th Down Under Feminist Carnival is up at Wallaby. Go, read, enjoy.
Today I'm grateful for a wonderful sister who rang yesterday and said "Would you like me to make the cake?".

Saturday, November 07, 2009


The essay I'm writing this month is about the tension between feminism and multiculturalism and whether there has been a successful resolution by liberal authors. I'm only at the beginning of my reading, but it has clarified a few feelings I've always had.

Multiculturalism has a lot of forms, but the one that seems to be used in this context is the one I have a problem with. It claims that cultures need to be respected and preserved. A number of reasons for why are given, but that isn't really at issue for me. I have a problem with both of those assertions, unless they are very thoroughly qualified.

In terms of respect, I completely respect someone's right to participate in whatever culture they want, as long as that culture doesn't violate the basic rights and values that I think apply to everyone. I don't think I am compelled to respect a culture itself that doesn't deserve respect.

I also have no problem with preserving a culture that is worth preserving.

However, I can't think of a single culture on this planet that I think should be preserved as it is now, or that can be entirely respected as it stands. This, obviously, includes my own. I think all cultures should constantly be open to criticism and reform, because I don't think we even know what a good culture looks like. So no, I don't think we should compromise our principles for other cultures.

But it's not that simple. Multiculturalism as understood as "my culture is not the defining culture and is not more inherently valid than yours" is a Good Thing. Arbitrary laws and norms that have nothing to do with critical values that can't be compromised need to be made more flexible. The working week, for example, is structured around a traditional Christian view of the week, and there is nothing that makes that structure any more inherently valid than any other. It makes sense to move towards a more flexible arrangement that accommodates all religious views.

When we see something in a unfamiliar culture that we find problematic, we need to look at why. Joseph Carens, an author I have just read, has justified accepting gender inequality in Islam on the basis that we accept it in Judaism and Christianity. That strikes me as utterly arse up. We may not pay as much heed to gender inequality in those religions we have lived with for longer because we have become accustomed to it. Maybe, rather than appealing to the lowest common denominator, we should look at why we have a problem with some aspects of Islam and use it to shape up our own society. We should be using the reality of multicultural societies to examine all our cultures. To bring us all a step forward. My culture isn't better than yours, but yours might help me see what I've been ignoring in mine for a long, long time. It might also remind me just how much my culture isn't better than yours.

We've managed in Australia to do it with food - we have integrated food and we have culturally separate food, food is allowed to move between distinctiveness and fusion. Even the most authentic of styles will recognise when a better option comes along, and we all recognise that Thai food isn't better or worse than French or Italian or Japanese. "Australian" food steals something from all of them and adds some local uniqueness. But still, regardless of tradition, food that is spoiled or past its use-by date can't be used. Nor can food that is ethically unacceptable (said with an understanding that "ethically acceptable" is a massively moving target). It's the model we need to adopt with culture, and at the same time, we need to understand that while what is "unacceptable" is a moving target, some things are not negotiable.

Friday, November 06, 2009


Despite the rain yesterday, the tree people came and did their thing. Our house has been stripped of greenery. This is where the Ficus Benjamina was.

As you can see, a new fence looms in our near future.

The front of the house looks a touch different too:

I really, really need those awnings over the windows now. They were always supposed to be there, but you know how renovations don't ever get quite finished....

While they were there, I got them to pull out two scraggly shrubby things in the front yard too, leaving this:

Behind that mess of star jasmine is a raised garden bed. I have plans for this one. I am going to plant some sort of scented screening plant (for obvious reasons) and then two frangipanis - one pink and one yellow. This will give me sun in the winter and shade in the summer - which will also be good for the herbs I'm going to plant underneath it - mostly in buried pots. I already have vietnamese mint, chives, basil and garden mint. Herbs always die in summer in my yard if they don't have some shade, so I'm hoping this will be more successful. Also, because I walk past it everyday, they get watered more regularly. I am planning on bringing the washing machine water out the front to supplement the current watering plan, which consists of a bucket under a slightly leaky tap.

And then one day - oh one day we will get rid of that godawful school fence which is held together with cable ties.

Thursday, November 05, 2009


Today marks two anniversaries.

It's 12 years since my father died, on Oaks Day, 1997. I'm sure I'm not alone in missing him all the time, but it's a strange mixed feeling to say so because my mother is now in a new relationship which has brought a new family into ours. To say I wish Dad was still here is in some way to say that I wish they weren't - which I really don't. David and his family are our family now too, and I wouldn't trade that. So I have to compartmentalise the two things, and I find it extremely hard to make my brain accept a logical inconsistency. It will just have to deal though, because it's not like I need to confront the problem of what I would choose if I could undo the past, so I'll leave that well alone and wish them all in my life.

Today is also Elissa's second birthday. She's celebrating it with a black eye and a bandage as a result of falling onto the coffee table last night. We're not actually celebrating it until Sunday anyway, except for the mandatory goodies for day care (which I rather resent, actually). At 2 she's still a pretty wonderful kid. She's funny, chatty, cuddly, bold, loud and worships her brothers. She's also getting increasingly stubborn, belligerent and defiant. If you tell her something she doesn't want to hear, she will either shhhh you or swat at you (the latter very clearly done in the knowledge that it's unacceptable). So you know, she's 2.


This here, is the base of the Ficus Benjamina that is growing less than 2m from the back corner of our house.

And here is (some of) the canopy of said ficus.

It's hard to grasp its size, but trust me, its huge. Worse still, it's still a baby in ficus terms.

Here is the conifer that is growing less than a metre from the front of our house.

This is a front view. If you look very hard, you can just see the edge of the boys' window behind it.

They are recorded here because today is their last day. The last remaining trees on our property will be cut down today. It's very sad, but they were both utterly inappropriate trees for their location, and they are both still growing. They will need to be replaced (much to the annoyance of my next door neighbour, who doesn't want trees anywhere), but I haven't decided exactly what with.

If anyone out there is a gardener - I need a smallish tree for the back to grow in a raised garden bed close to two houses. I'd really like something fragrant or fruit bearing (citrus doesn't count according to the council's rules). It would be best if it could grow just taller than a 2 storey house. It's in Sydney, in a west facing back yard.

Out the front, I will probably move the tree to the corner of the property, but I have no idea what I want here. Something with a bare trunk and a nice canopy could be a good idea, since the yard is a touch teeny.

Anyway, look for the "after" photos tomorrow or the day after.

Oh yeah, and I'm also looking for a good fencing contractor very, very quickly, so if you know anyone....

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Today I'm grateful for fantastic friends who help me when I'm stuck - even after their mobile battery has run out. Adam, you're bloody wonderful.


A little while ago someone, somewhere made a throw away comment about not being fond of talk of utopias, and it was one of those strange triggers that sent me off on a tangent.

I am absolutely very fond of thinking about utopia, and my first thought about a shitty situation is always what the ideal solution is. But that doesn't mean that I can't see why it can be a problem. It's very easy to identify a grand solution, point out how impossible it is to get there and then dismiss the problem as too hard. It's also very easy to identify a grand solution and then find flaws and holes and what ifs in it and argue against moving towards it - thereby once again relegating the problem to the too hard basket.

But this isn't what I am thinking when I am thinking about utopias - I am thinking about what I think will be ideal with the knowledge I have now. And I'm simultaneously thinking about what steps we have to take to move in that direction, as well as to treat the symptoms right now. So for the asylum seeker problem - the ultimate solution is for them not to need to leave their homelands. That means addressing inequity and dealing with the abomination that unfettered capitalism has unleashed on the world.

There are two problems with this. It pretty seriously doesn't help people in the right here and now, and so we also need to actively seek out people who need our help and bring them here. But also, my vision of a better economic system is very probably hopelessly flawed (so much so that I don't even want to espouse it). But in my visions of utopia, I always imagine that we head off on the journey with an open mind - that we keep talking about the ideal, and as we get closer we revise it and change it constantly. It can also be a lot easier to determine the best way of treating the symptoms right now if we have some idea of the end game - even if it's only our current best estimate. If we have no intention of ever creating a world in which all people can live in their homelands without persecution, it's easy to see why people want to shut their borders and pretend the outside world doesn't exist.

I think utopias are fine, as long as we understand that they are glimmers on the horizon, that we need to provide food and water for everyone along the way and that we won't really know what they look like until we get there. Discussing them isn't pointless though, it keeps us heading in the right direction.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Today I am grateful for air conditioning. Really, very grateful.

Halloween '09

I'm not really into Halloween in and of itself, but I love a good dress-up. The main P&C fund raiser this year was a trivia night on Halloween, and we organised a party for the kids on the same night. Sadly, I was so flat out making it all happen, there are no photos. All I have is this one of the kids:

Ben's in the serious Scream mask, Charlie is Spiderman and Elissa is fighting with her little Scream mask. The two witches are Katie and Lauren, looking very cool.

And then there's one of me with teeth in, because I had promised one would appear on FB.

And that's it. The really frustrating thing is that I took TWO cameras with me, and still didn't manage any photos. *sigh*

Nevertheless, a great night was had by all. Nerida did an awesome job as Quizmistress once again and the Kindy and Yr 2 parents shelled out unprecedented dollars for their respective class artworks. There were few Yr 1 parents there, so we got a bargain for this magnificent example of 6yr old communal art:

The hall was decorated incredibly well - we had a graveyard directly in front of the stage, a fortune teller stand (sadly without a live fortune teller, that was outside our budget) and a witch along with her cauldron. The tables were all candlelit and adorned with cobwebs. All of this was the work of one amazing woman - I am completely in awe of it.

Hopefully someone will have taken some photos!

Monday, November 02, 2009

Today I am grateful to the lovely woman in the cafe who who told Elissa she was so well behaved and brought her a free babycino. I liked that she gave Elissa the credit for her own behaviour and that they had been so thoughtful as to monogram the babycino in chocolate syrup (even if they assumed her name was spelled with an "A" - it's a fair guess and she can't tell the difference yet).

It must be November

This is our first gardenia of the season. I adore the smell of gardenias and they have the added bonus of being associated with Christmas.

So here we are in November, and for reasons that I cannot fathom, I am doing NaBloPoMo. Hopefully there will be some actual content, and not just endless gratitude posts. November is always insanely busy. Yesterday was Crash's birthday. Thursday is Elissa's birthday. Sunday is our anniversary. I have my last essay due in on the 19th. Construction started today on the office build we are managing. I need to send letters of appreciation to all the sponsors of our trivia night... *sigh* I'll also try not to whinge too much.

I'll be very glad indeed to make it to Christmas this year.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Those pesky refugees

I got an email from Amnesty the other day asking me to send an email to K.Rudd about his decisions regarding asylum seekers arriving by boat. It had a few basic facts which bear repeating.

In 2008 only 3.4% of asylum seekers arriving in Australia got here by boat - the other 96.7% came by plane.

At the end of 2008 Australia was dealing with 0.26% of all asylum seeker cases globally.

Article 14 of the Declaration of Human Rights states that 'everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution’.

So a few things spring instantly to mind. Why do 3.4% of all asylum seekers garner 100% of the MSM coverage and a huge percentage of Government attention and spending?

Why do we just process people who arrive by plane but literally change our borders to exclude people who arrive by boat? I understand that people smugglers are involved in getting people here by boat, but does anyone believe that there is no corruption, bribery or other illegal activity involved in getting people here by plane? It seems likely to me that those who come by boat are the most needy, and most desperate (because why else would you put your life and that of your children in the hands of people smugglers?) and we are putting them through extra hell, for no conceivable reason. 3.4% of 0.26% of all asylum seekers globally arrive in Australia by boat. That's 0.00884% of all asylum seekers in the world. All this media coverage, Wilson Tuckey's stupidity, the 2001 election and god only knows how much Government money has been directed against 0.009% of the world's most needy people. WTF?

By a back of the envelope calculation, I reckon Australia has about 2.5% of the developed world's population, but we take 1/10 of that proportion of the world's refugees. So we are protecting our borders against what exactly? Living up to our commitments to the UN treaty on refugees?

I have no problem with the need to do background checks on people arriving here. It is certainly possible that in amongst the persecuted there are some who are fleeing legitimate punishment. I have heard on the grapevine that it usually takes about 6 weeks to process legitimate asylum seekers. If this happened routinely, I would be much less concerned about where it happened, because 6 weeks for a new life is not an impossible sacrifice. So why is anyone held for a lot longer? And why does the means of arrival matter? I can understand that those who come by boat, almost certainly being in a more desperate situation, may not have as much supporting documentation with them, but really, is our Foreign Affairs department so inept as to need a piece of paper stamped "Legitimate Asylum Seeker" in order to work it out?

Besides, we know they are not that inept. Howard changed the definition of person's country of origin so that if the Government could show that someone had lived in a country other than their own for long enough before arriving in Australia, they were now deemed to have come from that country. If the department has sufficient resources to determine the whereabouts of asylum seekers for the last several years, I'm sure they can manage to work out the other factors required to verify refugee status.

The way to stop people smugglers is to make them unnecessary. As a rich nation, we need to do more to reduce the poverty and inequity that contribute to so much of the world's violence and persecution. In the meantime, we need to be serious about getting people out of UN run refugee camps quickly and efficiently. We need to go to them. A humanitarian version of "We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come".