My curtains are fading

Today on the tram, I listened to a burly CFA firefighter in a much worn firefighter uniform and a chipper man in a suit discuss how tired they were and blame daylight savings rather than being out all night on the piss. About how it takes a fortnight to get used to. I felt like joining in and telling them about Grace and her messed up sleeping schedule. And how I picked this of all mornings to wash pink blankie, therefore turning a fragile napless morning into toddler hell. Yellow blankie is OK, but in a meltdown, only pink blankie can save the day. Unfortunately pink blankie came with us to the family reunion thingo yesterday and was not fit to be returned to a freshly changed cot.

It didn't help that we all overslept this morning. I woke up at about 8.00am, still having the most bizarre dream involving some old friends I haven't seen for a long time, a rooftop art installation and an uncatered flatwarming party. I was simultanously trying to go to the shop to get ingredients for sandwiches while trying to keep my guests from either leaving or fighting amongst themselves. And then when I did manage to drag myself out of bed, to face Monday's work of (not very thourough) housecleaning and grocery shopping, with an afternoon doctors appointment on the other side of town, I battled extreme fatigue all day. Like I'd been out dancing all night, only not as clear headed.  I'm blaming daylight savings and I think I can get away with that for at least a week.

The most fun part of the day was after the appointment where the doctor said that I was sane enough not to return for a check-up for another four to six months. Unless I get pregnant again. In which case I am to return immediately. Anyway, I leapt off the tram on the spur of the moment to go and look at the yellow peril (Vault) which has moved to a site in Grant street behind the VCA. I see this everytime I catch the tram along St KIlda road and have been meaning to go and have a closer look for a while. As a young adult, I used to love this sculpture in its first home in the city square and was quite sad when I visited it in that horrible spot by the river, near the convention centre. I think it looks quite good in its current home. And it no longer smells.
I have mixed feelings about these family reunions. They are held on the day that we used to celebrate my father's paternal grandmother's birthday. She lived until she was over 100 and the last that she attended was twenty odd years ago. The party used to be held in a national park near the country town where she lived and I can remember her, her house, her handmade stuffed toys and her amazing cactus garden. She had thirteen children, so my dad has over sixty first cousins. When I introduce myself at such gatherings, I am daughter of Robert, son of George and everyone knows where I belong. I think that's part of what I like.

I also really enjoyed talking with my aunts, who have read my blog (hello aunties). As one auntie said, she feels like she knows me better than ever before. It's a funny feeling that. My dad threatened jokingly to tell everyone when he did the family news section. I would have been dead embarrassed if he had. It's not that I mind people I know reading the blog, indeed I'm quite flattered and pleased. But I feel uncomfortable telling people I don't know that well about it. Anyway he didn't, and I quite enjoyed the part of the afternoon where representatives from each branch of the family give a little report.

The turn out wasn't as good as the last one in Melbourne, year before last and I wonder if it's the drought, or that people don't think it's important any more. I also wonder whether sometimes people don't go because they maybe feel that their life isn't as brilliant as that of some of their relations. Sort of the poor cousin syndrome. There's a heavy weighting towards both the very old and very young. Although as one of my aunts pointed out, now that my grandfather and his brothers are no longer with us, there's a lot less drunken staggering and uncle kissing going on. Not that I have strong memories of that part of the childhood reunions. I mostly remember camping in the mallee and the children's races up the sandunes where my fitter country second cousins had all the advantage.

I wish I could have taken some photos of the day, there was a beautiful scene in the afternoon light from across the pool. It looked like a painting. But I don't think I can put pictures of people on my blog unless I'm sure they wouldn't mind, or I have their permission. Or maybe I'm just chicken. It would have been nice to take some pictures on the way home too, I love doing this when G is driving but he'd had too many bridgewater reds and some wine, and as I had been on the diet ginger beer all day, I had to drive.  Even though I was tired. Still blaming daylight savings.

Walker girl

For some months Grace has been up on her feet, cruising round the edges of furniture, pushing her wooden trolley.  She's one of the oldest babies in my mother's group and the last to walk. I haven't worried too much because she's a bumshuffler and apparently it's quite usual for bumshufflers to be late walkers, say at eighteen rather than twelve months. All the same, my heart swelled today at mother's group as she joined the toddler pack for the first time. She's still a little unsteady with that strange robot gait, but in less than a week everything has changed. Grace is now a walker girl.

On Monday we had our eighteen month maternal health check up and she was off, exploring the play area, getting into the nurse's handbag, resisting all efforts at containment. I found the standard questions quite amusing. Things I find annoying, like removing her shoes (yet another pair lost today), climbing on everything, saying no frequently and food refusal are all age appropriate behaviour.

There are times I find this stage an almighty challenge and am nostalgic for the little baby who didn't unpack the stroller as fast as I could pack it. Or refuse to have her stinky nappy changed. But then there are other things that just crack me up. For example, Grace likes to put her bib on herself when she is ready for a meal, taking it off when she is finished. Then there is the way she tilts her head to the side and looks at you with laughter in her big brown eyes. Or how she jiggles to music. The way she lets me know that she wants a dink. The leg cuddles. Or how after I moved an ashtray (for recalcitrant smokers) in the garden she moved it back to where it was in the first place. I love to see her delight in the world around her and the moment when something clicks. How she wants to be part of everything we do from hanging about in the study to playing in the garden. And how sometimes she'll come and sit next to me for a little while, resting her hand on my leg.

Then she's off again, because Grace has her own agenda, her own ideas about what to do next. This afternoon we went to have chickenpox immunisation and after the needle, she cried and cried. Big howling sobs. I nearly cried too. So we sat together for a while, having a cuddle and a chat, holding onto blankie. But five minutes later she had climbed down, left me and blankie behind and was walking around, checking out the other kids and the little babies. Oh, my little walker girl, how fast you're growing up.

Too much information


I'm not a girly girl. My natural state is scruffy. My nails are shocking and hair removal is patchy at best. Sometimes I consider you know, making an effort and booking in somewhere to have everything done. But then I get distracted by the garden or television or by some harebrained project and forget. I guess I present OK when it really matters, job interviews, big events and the like. However I do have one or two small vanities. One is my hands. I always wear dishwashing and gardening gloves and slather then with moisturiser. But that is really about comfort rather than looks because they hurt if I don't.

My other vanity is my hair. I have been going grey for more than ten years and I hate it. When I see other women of about my age with stylish greying haircuts, I am awash with admiration. Because on the whole, I am for the whole idea of natural and graceful aging. Wearing your years with pride. So I contemplate getting it all cut off and going back to my natural colour which is sort of a dark brown with lots of grey at the temples. But I just can't do it. It doesn't help that I've dyed my hair for most of my adult life.

I used to use chemical dyes which give a much more predictable result but since I started wanting to have a child, I've been using henna. With mixed results. I would like a colour that was less red, more dark brown. So I mix the red henna with black and brown henna, which are not real henna, because true henna only comes in red. But it's the red henna that covers the grey, so now I have dark brown hair with glowing red temples. And now that I have a child, I can't go back to chemical dyes without running the risk of my hair turning green or breaking off. Or is that some sort of urban myth?

Anyway, I'm sure you all wanted to know that about me. I can hear G in my head saying, oh but the mystery, the mystery. Mystery schmystery, October self portrait challenge is all about showing our imperfections and being like, not afraid. Go on, go have a perve at everyone else's imperfections.

Make, unpick and make again

I've finally managed to get myself in front of the sewing machine again. Thought I'd start off with a project that Ive been meaning to tackle for ages, a new bag. With pockets for all my bits and enough room for a lunch and a thick novel, not to mention assorted Grace items. I've been working on the design for this bag for a while and last week during some particularly mind numbing policy training, sketched out some patterns.  I had all the material, some dark green leather I bought in the 80s, some lining, some seatbelt webbing for a strap and various bag fittings salvaged from other bags long gone. I sewed test patches with all the material I was going to use, up to five thicknesses of leather. I as surprised at how easy it was to sew. This will be a cinch, I thought. I can knock it off quickly and then start on a new outfit for me and Grace. Maybe in time for the big family reuninion thingo. Ha.
I finished the bag on time to take it to work on Friday. Size was good, the leather felt nice, the zip went in well. It looked OK from a distance. But I had made a hash of the lining. The pockets were too bulky and objects swam in them, kind of defeating the whole purpose. My phone was hard to reach, the zip was facing the wrong way and the stitching where the strap joined was just yucky, as was the some of the other stitching that showed.

So after much thought, I have taken it all apart, made a new lining and am looking at better ways to attach the strap. I decided that as this was going to be my everyday bag, I don't want to look at ugly stitching every time I use it. Too upsetting. Some imperfections in my sewing, I am quite happy to live with, but this was too much. I wish I had made a bag in that pattern out of some other material first. I might have worked out heaps of bugs and saved myself some time. So far it is going together OK. I just have to take my time and stop before I get tired and make lots of mistakes.  Next project is going to be something easy, something I know how to do already.

Life in the land of the thistle eaters

On Tuesday, we had a barbeque lunch. Artichokes from the garden and flat bread cooked over the fire. With broad bean dip. Also from the garden. It was a whole lot of work getting it ready. Picking  and preparing the artichokes and broad beans, making the dip, making the bread dough. Especially since G and I had a huge barney in the morning. I won't go into details but suffice to say, I got angry, harsh words were spoken, G got angry and Grace cried. We have a no shouting rule in our house and try to be nice to each other. But sometimes we fail. It doesn't help that G doesn't have much in the way of paid work at the moment. This means that we spend more time together than usual, which most of the time is quite pleasant. And often means that, for a mother of a toddler, my life is pretty  cruisy. But we both know it's not the ideal situation in the long term.


Why am I writing about this? I'm not really sure but I think it has something to do with something one of the women in my mother's group said. On Wednesday we had the first get together at our house. It was fine, the kids toddled around the garden, we sat under the Hills Hoist eating and gossiping. My garden was admired, along with the usual questions about how I get the time. In the early days we met at a council venue, then at a local cafe. As the children became more mobile, we started meeting at each others houses. I am one of the last to offer up our place as a venue and to say that I was anxious about it might have to be the understatement of the century. We are the only renters in the group and our house while quite charming, has a certain crumbling dereliction about it. Probably I'm the only one that remembers but I also joined the group five weeks after it had started, on heavy duty medication and recovering from the post natal psychosis which had come out of the blue when Grace was about three months old. So I guess I felt pretty much in the cellar (to use a romance writing term), and despite getting to know the other women and babies over time, every now and then a niggling status anxiety and old feelings of being a total whacko rise to the surface. Eventhough I am fully recovered and no one else in the group has the perfect life either. I mean, who does?

So anyway we are doing the garden tour, and I'm talking about which plants survived the last dry summer and about the vegie garden and come to the artichokes, which I consider an ornamental plant that we can eat. Someone asks how I prepare them and I reply, I barbeque them. Then I add, well we had a barbeque for lunch yesterday, artichokes and flat bread with broad bean dip. Someone else says, Janet, now you're just showing off. I am momentarily stunned. Because this is just what we do, garden barbeques are a highlight of our summer. They're kind of special but in an everyday way. Later I realise that being gently mocked is a sign of how comfortable we are with each other and our different lifestyles. I really do belong to this group. And someone has seen an aspect of my imperfect life which they think is really quite desirable.



I've been thinking alot about the artichoke barbeque during the long (temporary) commute to my two days of work, looking out the train window at the empty backyards. Thinking about the summer garden, the barbeques and meals that will ensue. About snatching time to sew. Which I succeeded at this week by sewing at night and in short grabs between appointments and commitments and barbeques. About how it seems a stupid amount of work to prepare an artichoke for a barbeque, even more so in the first mouthful when it tastes bitter and ordinary. The you have another mouthful and before you know it, you're having another and another because they are so damn good.  And before you know it, the morning's argument is all forgotten and you are under the tree on a sunny day, in the backyard with G and mum and Grace. Who even tried a little artichoke too, before throwing it on the ground. But she did like the flatbread and broad bean dip. And you remember why you bother.

Sunday morning, getting up

Sunday is my morning to get Grace up, so G can have a bit of a sleep in if he wants. I still lie in bed as long as I possibly can, pretending that I'm asleep and can't hear the sounds of the small child babbling in her cot. Given that I get to have a bit of a sleep in most non-work mornings with a big one on saturday if I want, I think it's a bit lame if I don't do the sunday shift. Even if G doesn't really sleep in long. I think he just needs to feel that he can. So after porridge and early morning music on RRR, we headed up to Bi-Lo for the paper and baking supplies. Lots of other parents with small children in strollers cruising the aisles. Is this Sunday morning supermarket scene a new thing, or have I just noticed? We stopped to get a donut and I think Grace knows exactly what happens at the bakery, because the minute I took possession of the bag, her little hand reached out. I wonder how long it will be before not stopping at the bakery will cause a tanty. Hmm.

Coming through the front gate, I had yet another moment of front garden admiration. It's much dryer now than it was when I took that last photo. When I was moaning about the rain, can you believe? The other night I dreamt that I heard heavy rain on the tin roof and even got up to check, but nary a drop had fallen. Anyway, the front garden is holding up quite well and the iris have started to bloom. I don't think they get enough sun, water or attention for all of them to flower, but I quite like the randomness of it.



The morning baking project was a chocolate date meringue cake from Stephanie Alexander's The Cook's Companion. I have the first edition and on the whole I love it. I refer to this book frequently for ideas on say, yet another way to cook broad beans. Some pages are obviously loved over and over. But I have to say, some recipes are less than great. And this was one of them. I chose the recipe because it was flourless. My sister Betty doesn't handle gluten well and the cake was for a family lunch. Maybe it needed to sit in a cooling oven for longer and then sit overnight as per the recipe, but even then I don't think it wouldn't have been a great cake.

I don't mind that it fell apart a bit as I topped it with some slightly sweetened vanilla ersatz marscapone. It was quite edible, but just didn't do it for me. When I initially read the recipe, I couldn't imagine the ingredients melding well. But being such a simple recipe, I wanted to believe that it would be fabulous, so I cast aside my doubt. Never mind, there's a world of other flourless cakes to explore.


Next time I might try a semolina free version of a Sri Lankan love cake or maybe a lemon, polenta and almond cake. Or maybe even reworking this idea, maybe with cocoa instead of chocolate. I think I read a recipe like that years ago when I was doing some fat free diet. Anyway, I enjoyed making the cake, what with G playing me Beatles vinyl (the double white album) and Grace napping and then a read of the paper once the cake was in the oven.

Too hot for october

The current hot weather is making me anxious. I'm rushing to get ready for summer. I hadn't upacked all the summer clothes, shaved my legs or stocked up on icy poles. And that would be because it is only October. It's not even cup day yet, which to me is the traditional day for planting tomatoes and welcoming the gentle advent of summer. Yesterday when we walked over to mums for lunch, I was hatted, sunglassed and wearing a long sleeved cotton shirt.  Grace was comfortable under her purdah shadecloth in the stroller, chatting away, happy as larry as I battled the hot wind, breathing dust and pollen. When I drove home, I was extremely pleased to discover that the airconditioning still works and does not need to be regassed.  I hadn't even considered it yet. Just as I haven't had time to procure Grace any new summer clothes. However she seems to have only grown upwards so can still wear last years dresses, even if they are a little short.


The spring garden is shrivelling before my eyes and the seeds for the summer garden haven't even been planted yet. It's time to stop waiting for rain and plant them anyway.  I actually quite like summer, except when it is over 38C for days on end. My memory of childhood summers is that it was hot all the time and that there were always fires in the hills. I have a feeling that those memories are going to be relived this year. Back then it just seemed the way it was. I wonder whether it is really all the talk of climate change being here already that is making me so fearful and anxious, rather than the heat itself. Maybe I just have to get into the summer groove. Of course, I could be wrong and we could have a wet December and spend January wondering what happened to summer.


This week, on the two days I work, I've been commuting out to departmental headquarters in the burbs for training. Over an hours commute each way. Today I forgot my book and amused myself by trying to note down all the weed species I could see from the train window. These are the ones I could more or less identify.  Cotoneaster, pittosporrum, fig, ivy (several differnet sorts), shiny leaf plant (don't know the proper name), fennel, elm, pampas grass, cedrela/tree of heaven (hard to tell from a moving train), eucalypts of various sorts, poplar, peppercorn, broom, oak, wattle, palms, blackberry, rose, prickly pear, budlia, watsonia, agapanthas, prunus, lantana, geranium. There were also various grasses and ground cover weeds and a number of plants that I know by sight but can't identify beyond something vague like, "the suckering tree with the grey underleaf". Some of these plants are obviously quite desirable when wanted in a garden and might be better than nothing next to the railway tracks. It occured to me, and not for the first time, that a lot of plants I have in my garden because they are tough and adaptable to our sometimes dry, sometimes wet climate are, or could become, weeds.

Fitness reassessed


On the way to the gym this afternoon, for my long overdue fitness reassessment, I was thinking about the post I was going to write, all about my bodily imperfections and lack of gym attendance. C minus for effort, I thought I might call it. I was ten minutes early and decided that I might as well get on the bike, to make up for the jersey caramels I ate for lunch. I spent too much of my precious morning alone at home doing washing, blogging, emailing and talking on the phone. Not sewing and having a leisurely lunch with a book, as I had planned. As I berated myself, I realised that these days I very rarely eat sweets or chocolate in place of a real meal. Sure there's a bit of snacking between meals and some nights there is port and chocolate after dinner. But not a whole block, or indeed a whole bottle.

The instructor that I usually see sat me down for a chat and so I could cool down before doing the blood pressure and heart rate tests. She noted that on the front of my chart, my attendance had some big gaps but lately had improved. I talked about how I had gone through a patch of hating the gym, that I had become unhappy about the lack of weight loss and that with all the other things in my schedule, it all seemed like too much of an extra burden. Then how I started to feel moodier and more tense, more tired and more prone to comfort eating. We talked about one or two things in my life that aren't how I would like at the moment, and over which I have no real control. I could easily see myself becoming depressed. At that point I realised how important going to the gym was. She agreed that twice a week was better than not at all and that it is important to focus on benefits other than just weight loss. Because as she said, how we feel on the inside is more important than how we look. Not what you would expect to hear from a fitness instructor.

Then I got on the bike and we talked about her upcoming holiday and about the values of the gym. Unlike other places I have tried, I never feel intimidated or out of place here. No matter how unfit or fat or scruffy I am. And it is because the staff and clientele are so diverse. She said that that was why she liked working there, because it is not just for the young and beautiful. It is for everybody. I had a true light bulb moment. I really enjoy watching the kids having swimming lessons, the old people doing physio, the muscle men, the fat teenagers, the mums and all the different sorts of people that come here to swim or work out or just to relax. I feel like I am part of something good.

As it turned out, I had lost a kilo or so, lost some girth and gained some fitness. Not as much as I would like, but progress nonetheless. Going to the gym really does make me feel better. I stand up straighter, I'm not as tense. I have muscles that can do things. So I have decided that I am not going to stress about the dieting thing because really, it sucks. Instead I am going to try and make exercise as much as a habit as eating proper meals. So that in ten years time, I'll still be going to the gym or something. So that exercise will become natural, like breathing.

More about the imperfect nature of human existence here.

Almost finished fiddling and faffing

I've been planning a new blog look for a while, and I'm glad I put it off, because once I start fiddling, I find it hard to stop. For the last couple of weeks, I've been messing around in Wordpress and Blogger, trying to set up a nice looking photoblog for G. Not that he isn't infinitely more capable at this sort of thing than I am, but I had this idea that I wanted to learn another system. Now I know that really, I don't.

However it was in Wordpress that I learned all about web safe colours, and that each of these 4096 colours has a six digit number which can be used to select font and background colours other than the standard range offered by Typepad. My favourite colour picker so far is febooti but there are pages of them if you google "web safe color wheel" or something to that effect. Hours of fun. Except that I couldn't choose between a fetching limey yellow or the yolkier yellow for the background. Which G tells me doesn't really matter, because apparently I am odd in that I like to view web pages in a full size window. But it matters to me. I don't know whether the yellow background will last all that long. I'm not really a yellow sort of person but there were far too many greens to choose from. I may end up with the beige.

I've also updated my sidebar with the blogs that I have been visiting regularly over winter. I feel like I have been a terrible lurker but commenting hasn't come easily to me. For some reason, I often get overcome with fear of foot in mouth when trying to comment. Or my thoughts evaporate as soon as I get to the comment window. So if your blog is up there on my sidebar and I haven't commented yet, I apologise for lurking. It will stop. And once I get past the first comment or two, I don't feel so weird about it.  Besides, who doesn't love getting comments. I know I do, because it is proof beyond the stat counter (which after all is only an anonymous number) that people are reading what I have to say. And I am an absolute sucker for an audience. So thank you to everyone who has read and commented so far. That said, I like lurkers too. You are all welcome. And I've introduced a new category, for want of a better word, the Blogazine. Under which I am including blogs written by more than one person, but more thematic than a group blog. If that makes sense.

And I've listed with Australian Blogs. This site came to my attention when Susoz pointed out that there were only eight blogs listed under feminism. Now there are sixteen which is better, but I'd like to think that there might be more Australian bloggers out there wearing that particular label with pride. I wouldn't mind seeing more entries under craft or gardening either. I found that I have had quite a few referrals from this site and that I quite enjoy browsing for new blogs there. It is very quick and easy to find blogs you might be interested in. The only thing I don't like is that you can't edit or delete your information once it is posted. Which is a pity when your spelling is as crap as mine. Never mind, the administrator was very pleasant when I sent an email requesting deletion of a non functioning link.

Well I think that's it. I have the house to myself for a couple of hours so I think I might crank up the sewing machine or sit in the garden with a book. By myself. Such pleasures are rare and must be savoured.

 

ch-ch-changes

Spring seems to be changing into summer very fast this year. I was quite shocked when I caught the tram to town today and gazed out at Royal Park. Some trees haven't got all their leaves yet and already the grass around them is browning off and you can see the shimmer of heat in the distance. Some of the gum trees are looking water stressed. Our backyard is still reasonably lush, even if the grass has lost that soft watery green. However, you can feel the soil is hardening underneath. Thanks to the layer of mulch, the beds still have moisture in them. But I think it is time to think about watering systems and what we will water and what we won't. Mostly our garden is made up of fairly tough stuff, it's survival of the fittest, as I really only water the vegie patch and newly planted seedlings. Even these, I tend to underwater. So plants that don't cope, don't make it through the tough years.

One plant that has made it through many, many years is the Cedrela. I always thought it was spelled cedarella, so my searches on the internet for more information were fruitless. However this afternoon, I spent some time in a book shop looking through books on trees and am pretty sure these trees are Cedrela. If they aren't they are likely to be Tree of Heaven which is a weed. Anyway both plants come from China. What I didn't know was that Cedrela is prized for its wood and used for food and medecine. I hope this is what it is. We certainly don't need anymore weed trees in our garden.



My nan gave me a sucker of this tree about fifteen years ago. G curses this plant because it sends suckers up between the gaps in the concrete path. This offends his sense of order eventhough it is easy enough to run them over with the lawn mower or with a spade. Not that I would bother. In a perverse way, I quite like plants that can shift concrete. Reminds me of that Peter Carey short story, Exotic Pleasures in which an alien pair of birds destroy or take over the earth by sowing seeds that will only grow in concrete and bitumen. Turning roads and cities into dense jungle. Anyway, I love the cedrela because of its elegant slender stem and because in spring the new leaves are the most amazing bright pink. Then over a couple of weeks they turn to golden yellow and then to green. And all colours in between. It is quite fun to watch. Kind of like autumn in reverse. And they are really really tough.





I wish I'd taken some full length shots of the trees as they look lovely next to the ti-tree along the fence.

Another thing, over the next couple of days, I'm planning to redo the design for muppinstuff. The wintery woollen banner is starting to look a bit itchy. So if you happen to lob in and things look a bit odd, that will be because I am still fiddling and faffing.

Compost


Here I am in the messiest corner of our backyard, with the compost tin from the kitchen, beside the compost pile. I come from a long line of composters and gardeners. Even in the scussiest of share houses, in the least settled times, I have always had a compost heap. It feels so wrong not to.

Every food scrap, garden weed, vacuum detritus, torn paper and bit of organic material goes here. We even tend to bring home food scraps from packed lunches. It's the full three pile aerobic set up. Large pieces of plant material are piled up nearby and run over with the lawn mower when G cuts the grass, then added to the heap. This means that our piles get quite hot and rot quickly. Close up, it does smell a little and from time to time attracts doves and mice. But I quite like the smell, better in the backyard than festering in our kitchen.

It's a pungent smell of decay transforming rubbish into black crumbly compost. To be spread on the vegetable and flower beds, to fuel new plant growth. Which then will ultimately return to the compost heap and back to the garden in a circle of life, death, decay and renewal. I find this cycle easy to accept in the plant world, not so easy when it comes to people world, but somehow in the really black times, this plant world cycle has been a comfort of sorts, and a reminder that we are all part of a bigger picture. As for the animal life, well they are part of our world too and are welcome in the garden and the compost. Somehow in the garden, they never seem to get out of control or become pests.

I think some people are resistant to the idea of composting because it is seen to be dirty, smelly and ugly. And that using an insinkerator or putting it in the rubbish bin somehow makes it go away. It doesn't. The problem is just transferred somewhere else and becomes uglier, fetid pockets of landfill . Unless it gets taken away with other green waste, to sit in an uber compost heap and turned into something useful. But if we get comfortable with rot and decay, it becomes this endless source of nutrient for the garden, for growing organic food cheaply, for growing beautiful flowers and trees that attract birds and insects to the garden.  And it doesn't have to be as ugly as ours, my maternal grandparents had a lovely screened utility section in their garden, with orderly compost bays and a potting shelf. Maybe it's time to rework ours. Still an imperfect looking system for compost is better, in my mind, than none at all.

October's SPC theme is imperfection, the down and dirty you, the messy, gross and ugly you, the side of yourself that you always try to hide, give us some insight into your dreadful secrets. This can be your physical self or your personal space or within your wider life. Be not afraid! I don't know that compost is a dreadful secret, but it is messy. I was tempted to run and hide from this theme, because afterall, who really wants to draw attention to their ugly side(s)? But after mulling it over, and the few I've seen so far, I think it's going to be quite interesting. Visit other SPC'ers and their imperfections here.


Looking over flower beds to the broadbeans. The beauty of compost in action.

One hundred

I'd like to say that this little blogging milestone has crept up on me, but it hasn't. I've been all to aware that my one hundredth muppinstuff post was nearly upon me for the last week or two. And now this is it. So, for lack of any other ideas with which to mark the milestone, I'm going to do ye olde list of one hundred things. And try to keep it fairly lighthearted. If I can.

  1. I was born in 1963, eight days before JFK was assinated.
  2. That makes me a scorpio rabbit, if one believes in such things. I don't, but I look them up anyway.
  3. Both scorpio and rabbits are water signs. G is a scorp too, so it gets quite wet around here.
  4. As our birthdays are separated by only a day, we tend to have a sort of festive week. Pre-child there were parties and other such shenanigans but last year, I was just too tired to entertain. I think we might have gone to see a band, some time after the actual week, which meant more than three mobile calls from anxious mum to sitter sister.
  5. Grace is an Aries which in a child is supposed to indicate an adventurous spirit, boundless energy and selfishness. Sounds like most one year olds I know.
  6. In one of my previous lives, I dated an Aries. It was protracted but hopeless, and ended badly as such things do.
  7. The first television I saw was Astro Boy. I was five and visiting a neighbour who had a television.
  8. I also have a distinct memory of sitting in a classroom on a dusty wooden floor with a group of children watching the moon landing unfold on a television high up on the wall.
  9. My parents didn't believe in television. So I was deprived of having one in my home until I was about seven or eight. I remember returning from visiting second cousins in the country and my paternal grandfather had bought us one. It caused some disharmony, my mum thought that the money could have been better spent on a new fridge or washing machine, if she'd been asked, which she wasn't. 
  10. Not to worry, from that point on we became even bigger bogans than we already were and ate pretty much every single evening meal in front of the telly. I went through a brief stage of asking the parents that we eat at the table like I imagined polite people did. To no avail.
  11. As a consequence, I have shocking table manners, unless I concentrate really hard which then limits my ability to converse.
  12. I think these events possibly define me as a member of Gen X, although some sources would categorise me as a late baby boomer. Shudder.
  13. My favourite colour is green. I like all types but especially a light bright green and british racing green.
  14. I think blue and green should be seen, without something in between. One of my favourite colour combinations.
  15. But I don't often like green and red together, too much like christmas, which is OK in December but can't be allowed to take over the rest of the year.
  16. I grew up in Ringwood, an outer eastern suburb of Melbourne. In what, was at that stage the old and daggy part, not one of the newer estates where all the cool kids with dragsters lived.
  17. There is a view of the Dandenongs from a high point on the Maroondah highway that even now elicits feelings of homecoming.
  18. And this hill is near Icelands was, and maybe still is. I loved iceskating as a young teenager, especially the paired girls's speed skate with Black Sabbath playing loud and fast. That's not to say I was a particularly good skater, I wasn't.
  19. I have a sister, Betty, who is three years younger than me. And very nice. She is a fabulous aunty to Grace.
  20. She was allowed to ride my bike to primary school once I started catching the train to school. I was so upset when I learned this. My bike! which I was never allowed to ride to school.
  21. Catching the train became the central part of my social life in the first half of secondary school. I went to a big private girls school where I didn't feel like I belonged for more reasons than I can go into here but oh, to promenade along Box Hill station, in the morning. Very big deal.
  22. Much time was spent with my curling wand, in anticipation of this most important part hour of the day. I had drainpipes, in my hair. That fell out by lunch time.
  23. We had a creek and remanant bushland near our house. We were allowed to roam free from quite a young age and built cubbies, played with matches and dug caves in soft sand. And travelled in cars without seatbelts, with the parents fagging on in the front. I think Grace will have a different sort of childhood and I worry about how to keep her safe and let her be free.
  24. My parents were very young when they had us. Barely twenty. So at my age now, they had children in their twenties.
  25. They were kind of hippyish but were hugely influenced by Ayn Rand, especially my dad. I didn't realise the philospohical significance of this until I was at uni. Books like Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged were just novels I read. I guess the deeper meanings would pass by most 13 year olds.
  26. So if I'd starting having children in my twenties, I could already be a grandmother now. I have actually met grandmothers younger than me. It does my head in a little.
  27. I'm hoping to be a grandmother myself before I'm too old to be useful, but I'm resolving not to pressure Grace one way or the other. Who knows what the world will be like then.
  28. That's one of my motivations for going to the gym and trying (not very succesfully at this point) to loose weight and gain some fitness. So I can be useful and maybe even dangerous right through to my late nineties. Just in case.
  29. This week I have enjoyed the gym, especially the view of the pool glinting in the sun.
  30. Lifting weights helps stabilise my moods better than Lithium without the crappy side effects. I need to remember this and use it to motivate myself to go. I can get pretty slack about gym attendance, which is only natural for the fat and fitness adverse.
  31. I grew up in a non-football family. G is a passionate Carlton supporter so I jumped on the bandwagon when I met him but I really only take an interest when there is a possibility of victory. Live games are fun. Especially winning.
  32. My parents separated when I was 25.
  33. And have both remarried.
  34. So my family is now quite large and complicated and includes two step sisters, their mothers and grandmother, some step uncles and the like. It also includes G's ex, who I quite like, even if, or perhaps because, she is older than me and quite eccentric. 
  35. I don't have contact with any of my exes anymore. This is a good thing.
  36. There is one ex from my early twenties (a sagitarius) who dominated my life for ten years even though we were only together for two. We remet in the mid nineties when we were both single. Somehow we kept seeing each other even after he set up with another woman, and even after she started carrying his child. I kind of knew these things but also didn't. How foolish. Never mind, she got him in the end and hopefully once he became a father he became a better man.  I'll never know, I took him to a techno dance party where I lost him and have never seen or heard from him since. Thankfully. Finally.
  37. It sometimes occurs to me that there are some similarities in sensibility between this ex and G, but G is much, much nicer. And better looking. And loyal to a fault.
  38. One of the other things that really impressed me when I first met G was that he had a toolbox and made and fixed things. I'm still impressed by that.
  39. My life is physically better because of G and his tools. Doors and other bits work properly and there are shelves and hooks a plenty. And custom built furniture. And weird junk sculptures in the garden.
  40. I used to do terrible things like bang four inch nails into the walls and make wobbly shelter contstructions in the back yard. My hammer has been hidden and I am now banned from building, except under supervision. I don't mind because really, I was crap at it.
  41. I'm pretty good at paint stripping, painting and refinishing.
  42. The summer before I became pregnant with Grace I restored an old wardrobe and a sideboard. Although the sideboard really does need some new handles.
  43. Next up are the dining table and chairs but it is such a big job. Maybe I'l put it off until Grace is old enough not to cause chaos.
  44. Despite the slow start, I love television. Sometimes I try to pretend that I don't because, in theory, it's bad for you. But really I do.
  45. Favorite shows at the moment are: Dr Who, Gardening Australia, Grey's Anatomy, The Wedge, House, Australian Idol (just love a talent show) and Jamie's Kitchen.
  46. If anyone in my family wants to but me a cool Christmas present, a DVD of the new series of Dr Who would do the trick. I just love the look of this new series, deep saturated colour, sparseness, modern. Just thought I'd mention it.
  47. Gift giving in our extended family can be a bit tortured (see# 34) so we tend to do a kris kringle.
  48. And besides who wants more stuff? Except for the children. Youngsters always seem to want more stuff but as I get older I seem to spend all this time either resisting more stuff or thinking of ways to get rid of it.
  49. That's why I like second hand, when you're sick of whatever it is, it can go back in the system to be loved by someone else for a while.
  50. We always have a box on the front verandah and a big laundry basket in the hall for the opshop and when there is something no longer wanted or needed, in it goes. And I go through our cupboards and wardrobes at least twice a year. It's an amazingly good feeling taking a big carload of to the oppy. Kind of like the house doing a big crap, if I can be so vulgar.
  51. Despite all this, we still have a lot of stuff. Grrr.
  52. When I was a kid, I loved HR Puffinstuff (although witchypoo really scared me), Little House on the Praire (but I thought the books were better), Bewitched, The Goodies, Young Talent Time and later Countdown. Oh, and the Brady Bunch (especially the Grand Canyon episode).
  53. I have long hair that is really thick (as in each individual strand - you could say coarse if you were being unkind) due in part to some chinese ancestry back in the gold rush days. This is also quite evident in some of the eyes in our family, if you look closely.
  54. I happily admit to calling myself a feminist. Age has softened me somewhat but becoming a mother has made me ask questions again. I think some ground has been claimed, but the battle is far from over.
  55. I have always been domestic and a bit crafty but some women aren't. We need a feminism that is about possibility not prescription.
  56. That's what I want for my daughter, that she have realistic choices about what she does with her life that are not limited by gender. I would want this for a son, too.
  57. I am lucky to share my life with a man who is quite domestic. It's not always equal or perfect and sometimes I am the one letting the side down domestically. Which in my view, is a good thing.
  58. Sometimes I am the breadwinner. This is not always my choice but then again why should it always be his responsibility?
  59. On two occasions, I have cut my hair very, very short, on a whim. Once to be a punk (bright red assymetrical flatop) and once to work in a kitchen (henna'd cone head raver look). Each time it totally changed the way people saw me, leading to assumptions about my sexual preference, my ability with tools, my competence. Der, it's a haircut..
  60. Still, it's quite nice to get the weight of the hair off your head for a while. It made me feel light and free.
  61. Liquorice. I love liquorice in all its forms and sometimes have deep cravings for it, much more so than any other form of sweet. Allsorts (Darrell Lea and Pascal), organic hardcore from the wholefoods, chocolate coated, aniseed rings, bullets... I must restrain myself.
  62. I also like chocolate, lemon curd tart, homemade biscuits... the list is endless. I have a sweet tooth and I guess I wear it on my body.
  63. But I also like my vegetables which is good or I'd be an even bigger tub than I am now.
  64. It sometimes amazes me the crap people eat and call food. We had hotdogs for lunch at work on Friday (footy thing) and not only did I feel unsatisfied but I felt like I'd done myself harm. It's not that I am a puritan about what I eat but there are some things that really couldn't be called food. Although every six years or so, I get a craving for maccas and then have it and realise why I don't like it all over again.
  65. I went to boarding school for the last three years of high school. I quite enjoyed it eventhough it wasn't fifth form at Mallory Towers or like the Chalet School. It did stop me reading boarding school themed books though. Boarding school was full of intense and passionate friendships, betrayals, group rule and occasionally deep cruelty.
  66. We did weird things like have little parties in the laundry and smear our legs with chicken fat from lunch, while sunbaking.
  67. I became a committed smoker at boarding school. I gave up for three years in my late twenties and then started again because I couldn't bear being around my smoker friends and always yearning to have one. It made me quite ill when I re-started. I used to smoke rollies and could roll with one hand (handy for driving). I gave up for good in 2001. Went cold turkey. I still get occasional longings when I see people out in the sun smoking and chatting together. But I am definitely a non-smoker now.
  68. We called the other girls, who weren't boarders, daywogs. But wished for invitations to stay at their homes on the weekend and eat real food (see#64).
  69. My parents were still overseas when I went to university, so I attended a residential college. It was nothing like boarding school, no-one cared what you did. One night, I awoke to smashing glass in the hallway and one morning "men" from another college had come in during the night and pissed all over the dining tables. Yech. I was out of there.
  70. Besides, it was all so mainstream and I had just discovered "alternative." I started wearing black and went to live in a little terrace house between the railway trcks in Richmond. It felt like trains were coming through the loungeroom. Sometimes it makes me a little sad that alternative has lost it's outsider status. Or maybe now I'm not a disaffected yoof, I feel more like I belong to society.
  71. At uni, I had a job selling CB radios. There is probably a photo floating about of me in an old copy of CB Action. I got by reading the product specs off the side of the box and learning a few CB terms.
  72. I don't know whether I can write one more thing. Lists are boring, I think I'll go to bed. Three days I've been doing this, in little bits of leftover time. I like reading them but they are hard to write. Hmph.
  73. We have a cat, Tony. he's black and white and fluffy and because of his advanced age, sleeps alot, leaving little patches of hair in each new spot. Tony predates G and came into my life because after a girl and her dog moved in and my other cat scampered, never to return. I awoke a week later to a mouse chewing my hair. That afternoon, I went to the Lort smith animal home and chose a feisty young kitten.
  74. He's very tolerant of Grace, who likes to pull his ears and pat him too hard. I think he even likes her, but he's not allowed to sleep in her cot. 
  75. i forget what eight was for and
    nine nine nine for a lost god
    ten ten ten ten for everything everything everything ... A friend and I danced on stage with The Violent Femmes, not once but twice, ah I was young and had no fear or shame.
  76. I wish there were dance parties for old folks and their offspring. At sensible times of the day or evening, with cool music, other oldies and no drugs, because drugs are bad mnhm.
  77. Maybe there are events such as these and I am just to boring and uncool to know about them.
  78. Once I used to be able to dance to the beat of a washing machine or the wind in the trees but doof thump was better.
  79. Back in my twenties, I did step aerobics, buskwalking, canoeing and cross country skiing. I wasn't great at any of them but I'd like to go overnight hiking again and maybe skiing. If I was fit enough.
  80. I love camping with G.
  81. And long road trips which propel you into a drift of landscapes and country towns and time in the car listening to music and chatting. And sitting around camp at night watching night fall. And stars.
  82. What I don't like is camping in wet or windy weather. I have been considering buying a little caravan both for little holidays and for guest accomodation but maybe we should review the camping set up to take into account life with small child.
  83. I have never really been able to settle in a line of work and establish a career. So apart from selling CB radios, I have: sold old furniture (if in doubt it's decco); been a barmaid in a rough hotel; worked as an office temp, worked for an insurance company writing letters explaining their rip off products, superannuation trust deeds, product information and system user guides; been a team leader (hate that word), been a cook and managed a cafe kitchen, worked in more than one governement call centre...
  84. Now I have a job in the public service that's OK.  I'm going to try and stick with it so I can concentrate on all the other things in life I want to do.
  85. I think one of the things I most like about my job is the diversity of the workers and the clients. There's a lot of high minded rubbish written about diversity but I think that when it's truly embraced, it means that people can truly be themselves and have authentic relationships with each other. Even if they are "just" work relationships.
  86. I live with a human jukebox. So I rarely buy music anymore.
  87. I have a strict rule called the two sounds rule. What's on in the shed cannot conflict with the kitchen or the loungeroom or the study,
  88. Often I crave silence, especially in the garden. So the shed system is my least favourite.
  89. I am feeling in a bit of a REM mood this morning and may have to listen to either New Adventures in HiFi or Green
  90. I am thinking of buying G the new Dylan for his birthday. It doesn't matter if he reads this (which he probably won't) because we often discuss birthday present possibilities for weeks before the event.
  91. There's a lovely view out the window of our study. I feel quite proud that I planted it.
  92. But I have to say, I think quite a bit about our next garden and starting again from scratch. I will be sad to leave this one but a new garden would be very exciting.
  93. A new house, not so exciting. Well, exciting but too much chaos, disorder and hard work. We are so well set up here. But it probably won't happen until a few things get sorted out.
  94. I am quite pedantic about alot of things, like how dirty dishes are stacked and dusting the cobwebs out of corners.
  95. But I can let the kitchen floor go unwashed for weeks turning into months. I'm not that fussy about the bathroom either.
  96. But I do like clean sheets. I know people who change theirs about every six weeks. I think that is pretty manky but each to their own. Some people might think some of my standards are pretty slack.
  97. And so what. If I kept perfect house, I'd never have time to read novels or do the crossword, or have a job, or hang out with Grace and G, or play in the garden, or blog, or sew, or make little constructions out of sticks, or go visiting. All these things are much happier making than housework.
  98. Still, we do have a system or routine. It's more about allocating some time in the week to have a crack at it rather than getting everything done at once.
  99. G is a vegetarian and I'm not. So I eat a lot of meatless meals and get low in iron if I'm not vigilant. It's a constant battle not to eat  too much cheese. Beans, beans and more beans. Not too keen on tofu but I will eat it sometimes dipped in ponzu or in a stirfry.
  100. I bought a new keyboard last week and have just got used to it. I'm a search and find typist but am fairly quick.

So there you go. That's my fairly random 100. Congratulations if you got right to the end.