Christmas '07: the good, the bad, the ugly and the good again

the good: Watching Grace place an ornament on the Christmas tree as though she'd been doing it all her life. Going to Dad's place and having a bang up Christmas lunch with roast chicken, ham and all the trimmings. Some really great and thoughtful gifts (and not so many that we're having to re-arrange the house) including a new telly (I so love the new telly, in a completely shallow way). Making calenders from my photos (nervewracking but I'm so glad I did it, it's reallly nice to see my photos printed on posh paper). Christmas morning with Grace, Beach boys Christmas songs and old cartoons, Grace calling the reindeer donkeys. She totally gets the concept of presents now - the big hits were the tool box G made her, the easel from Nana, the kiddy camera from Papa, the fairy skirt from G's folks in Tasmania and the Grover t-shirt from me (meaning she'll wear something other than a singlet, a major victory for sun protection). Grace going to sleep at Papa and Nina's in the big bed in the spare room and not being a Christmas monster. Plum pudding the way my nan used to make it (gosh I guess I'll have to learn one day). Hanging out with the family. Taking photos of my step sister Vivian, And a big dance to Boney M in the loungeroom at the end, with Grace wanting to do hold hands dancing with mummy and shrieking in delight. Yep, all that was really ace.

the bad: Being prescribed an anti-psychotic that was supposed to make me sleep the Thursday before Christmas. My re-action was atypical and I was awake all night and really groggy the next day, actually not just groggy but almost unable to function and having a child to look after, and lacking the judgement to ask for help. Wanting my mania back because then I could do stuff and at least with the sleepers, I got six hours sleep a night. Making a fairy skirt for Grace and receiving one from G's family in Tasmania that Grace opened first (on Christmas Eve) and liked better. Over-reacting. Probably a misunderstanding from when we talked about gifts. It's not like I can remember what I say half the time at the moment. Having to lock myself in the study on Christmas morning to cry because everything was just all too intense. Christmas is not a good time to have a manic episode, my friends. Not being able to drink on Christmas day eventhough I'm still not driving. My Dad had seriously nice drinks, so that sucked. I love getting a bit wobbly at Christmas.

the ugly: Yesterday was the first day I haven't felt like crap in a bag. Boxing Day I felt like I'd been hit over the head several times and there was a pain across the back of the neck that radiated into my right arm. Sewing, computering and much tension held in my neck, is my guess. And I couldn't get the new telly to play dvds in colour. On Thursday, Mum took Grace while G was at work and I bumbled around by myself at home. The morning was fine but in the afternoon I collapsed into a pitiful crying heap. Again. For two hours. Thought I was doomed. At least it all came out.

the good again: Finally figured out dvd  in colour. Watching said telly (did I say before how much I lurve the telly?). Friday, Mum came over and we went to the material shop (to touch fabric and get more of some lovely cotton knit I made my Christmas cardy from). I made chicken soup (with the stock from the Christmas roast carcasses) and then while Grace napped, we sat and chatted while I did some mending and light sewing. Maybe I am going to be OK. We talked about planning Christmas so that there's still time for making and doing (even if I'm working). It's going to be much more mellow at this end next year. But lunch at Dad's was great. Like I said in my last post, I am so grateful and love it that my family can do that. I really do.

Today is pretty good too. We've picked a whole heap of apricots and I'm off to jam in the heat. As it should be. Hope your Christmases were all excellent and that the recovery is well under way.

always another place at our table

The last present has been wrapped, the potatoes are cooked and in the fridge waiting to be made into salad tomorrow morning. There's a big box of cherries, my favourite Christmas treat, and I'm sipping very gently at a glass of lambrusco. My cooking mojo has well and truly deserted me. Even the white Christmas failed. In my chocolate chips in everything mode, I tipped quarter of a pack in at the last minute. Brown Christmas anyone? Tastes OK but it's light brown. I made another batch, this time doubling the coconut by mistake. Then adding more copha because the texture was wrong. It was so revolting that it's now on the compost heap, wrecking the soil. I was absolutely mortified that I mucked up white christmas, not once but twice. On the up side, my sewing mojo is fine. The sewing machine has been going full throttle, some new clothes for Grace and for me. And a fairy skirt (although no sewing required there, sort of like macrame), found here, via here. I'm glad it's all done. It's been a big day, a big couple of weeks.

Anyway, as I was sorting through my stuff, I found some old rolls of film and with no idea what was on them, had them developed. This one's pictures from Christmas 2002. A tough year if ever there was one. The year Frank was born and died, the year Nina was really sick. We had Christmas lunch at our place, in the loungeroom. We roasted free-range chickens in our tiny oven and served up in our funny kitchen. It was a great meal.

There was Gerard's ex, Jennifer and her housemate Michael, my sister Betty and Camo, my parents and their respective partners, Lance's ex partner Helen and their daughter Vivian and Rachel his daughter from his previous marriage. Sounds confusing? Well, the best part was, everyone played really nice. Everyone was welcome. It probably wasn't perfect, but it was pretty darn good.

I love it that my family can come together like this. I probably said it last year, but we've come a long way. Doing this is no small thing. It's the best thing. Tomorrow we're all going to my Dad's place. I've been talking to Grace about what will happen and she's been reciting who will be there and telling me, go papa's, have game, lunch, presents, afternoon sleep in big bed, then we come home, dinner, read story, etc.    He and Nina will have done most of the hard work this year. And Mum's making the pudding(s). Yum, yum.

Merry Christmas everyone!

May your day be full of peace and good cheer.

stressmas, or 'tis the season of the list

So this might be a little grinchy. I love Christmas. Once the presents are wrapped and the salads are made. But.

It's the season where all the issues in your family come to the surface. The good, the bad and the ugly. Our family, my family, his family. It wouldn't do to go into detail, but I wonder if more is passed from one generation to the next than one might imagine. Of course, I'm oversensitive at the moment. So every little nuance, every unkind word or less than generous action has me wincing. And agonising. Biting my tongue because I don't know whether it's me or the crazy about to speak. Damn that hall of mirrors.

I saw my doctor today and we talked about whether or not I'd be a whole lot better after Christmas. She thinks I might, a confluence of the medication kicking in and some relaxation, but reminded me that this has been building for months. Christmas hasn't caused this. It's just that the stress of the season isn't really helping. Quite the opposite (like der, I have so been in denial about this, just because manic and Christmas and mothers go together anyway). So maybe, in the post Chistmas lull, I will find some calm. The doctor's not leaving it to fate though, and has extended my medical certificate and I'm going to see one of her colleagues before I go back to work(she'll be on leave). And there's now a low dose of another new medication. To help me sleep. As I wake up and can't re-settle after exactly six hours at the moment, no matter what time I go to bed and no matter whether I take one or two sleepers. The new pill's also an anti-psychotic which I'm less than thrilled about. Hopefully I'll still be able to use the sewing machine in the morning because there's still a big list.

So, I 've been thinking about how to make my life less stressful (and counter some of the effects of the medication that I'm likely to be on for the next few months) and how I might make Christmas better next year (and forever, ha). Like organising gifts, activites and festivites in October and November perhaps. So that December is all about putting up the tree and making thing little things. And celebrating. And being together. It also occurs to me that I also need to try and feel less responsible for how everyone else is feeling. For how the schedule is going. To not take on all the motherguilt that comes with the season.

Right off to
do a spot of sewing. Before
my early bedtime.

little plum jam

We have a big old plum tree in the centre of our back yard. Possibly grown from weed seeds, probably more than one plant growing in the same hole. The leaves grow lacy from cutleaf moth and parts of the bark are insect infested and crumbling. Parrots squawk overhead, dropping squishy plum missiles and birdshit onto the washing (reaching a crescendo just after Christmas as the plums ferment). G curses the plums on the grass and the path. And inevitably, despite feet wiping and shoes removing, track all through the house. He's much better at sweeping them up than I am.

Yesterday and Sunday I made plum jam (recipe here). These plums aren't great to eat on their own and they're a bugger to prepare but they make the best jam. Especially when made with a precentage of green fruit. The first batch is mouth puckeringly tart. Mum suggested that I could make some with ripe fruit as well, so for the second batch I left out the really green ones. It's still pretty tangy but that's the way I like it. If I get a chance, I'll make another batch when they're fully ripe. I think they're damson plums. If anyone knows for sure, please let me know.

First we pick and wash the fruit.

 Then we stone it. My hands are not recovered yet. I know, I should wear gloves, but it's too slow.

Put the jars in the oven before boiling the jam. Admire your super large preserving pan found at the opshop sometime in the nineties and mix all the sugar in. Wonder about the childminding arrangements. G agreed to look after Grace while the jam was boiling on Sunday but she wanted to help me. At one stage, I thought I was going to have burnt jam and hours of wasted preparation or much worse, a burnt child. Not that it was close, just that boiling four kilos of fruit and sugar on a low and wonky stove and supervising a toddler is beyond nervewracking (never again). The deal was supposed to involve G supervising Grace while I cooked, whether or not she wanted to be involved. So I could concentrate during the critical part. Mum knows how to do this. G dissappeared into his shed at the first sign thing looked OK. Which varies moment to moment with a two and a half year old. And I am still not the easiest person to deal with.

Anyway, I made the second batch yesterday. While Grace was napping. It was so much easier. I even stood at the stove and did some light mending. Alternating with stirring. Then I poured the jam into jars and listened for the snap of the cellophane covers shrinking.

I saw a stray pip and some froth. Talked on the phone about jam with a friend, neither of us goes for jam making perfection because it always turns out well enough. And always far better than shop jam. In odd parts of the day, I wondered whether I could have skimmed the froth more. I used to skim alot because that's how my nan taught me. I'm less and less inclined to skim now. What causes the froth? Is it sugar boiling or impurities in the fruit? And does it mostly go away by itself?  Looked to the internet for answers and the best I could come up with was this. Which didn't really answer my question.

Next up apricot. And maybe some of the little yellow plums which I've never jammed before. Must plant some damson pips in a pot. 

One of the silly memes that's been doing the rounds

Writing is good for me now but slow. Oh, so slow. And this one took forever in dribs and drabs because I'm trying not to spend too much time on the computer. From here, here and here and maybe more, but I forget.

What kind of soap is in your bathtub right now?
Pears translucent. It doesn't make me itch, smells faintly herbal and you can put the old slither of soap on the new bar so you never waste any. I like that. And you can buy it at the supermarket.

Do you have any watermelon in your refrigerator?
Yes, I do. In a bowl, cut up and ready to eat.

What would you change about your living room?
The yucky paint finish on the window frames and curtains. Which if it were my house I'd strip and oil/varnish. Or paint white. For a start. Let's not talk about the carpet.

Are the dishes in your dishwasher clean or dirty?
We don't have a dishwasher. Shocking, I know. G reckons he always does the dishes so we won't need one when we move into our new house (if and when).

What is in your fridge?
Milk (dairy and soy), orange juice, diet lemon cordial, black currant cordial, diet dry ginger, soda, cold water, beer, chocolate. Lettuce, cucumbers, mushrooms (always), carrots and eggplant, bread, muffins, butter, ghee, nuttelex, tofu (blech), vegie burgers (double blech) sushi su, molasses, yeast, pickled ginger, peanut sauce, mayo, mustard, various other condiments I forget. And watermelon.

White or wheat bread?
Various kinds of semi nutritious but spongy sandwich bread. Helgas or the spelt one, but I'd prefer natural tucker or homemade. Yeah, yeah. One day I 'll try this one. Doing the messy bit outside.

What is on top of your refrigerator?
The manky recipe book from when I had the cafe, my ideas and clippings recipe book. A plastic tray of glad bags, bin liners, gladwrap etc. Dust. Many egg cartons waiting to be recycled.

What color or design is on your shower curtain?
Black flowers on a white background. I made it myself from material I found at the opshop. Love it heaps, everyday. Needs washing.

How many plants are in your home?
One. A ponisettia that was a gift from the leadership at work. Very sweet. But as I rule I don't have potted plants inside anymore because I forget to care for them. Same in the backyard, anything in a pot has to be very hardy and live off rainwater. Even then, they can be shortlived.

Is your bed made right now?
Yes. We have doonas. So it's a shake and a flick. Beds are always made once everyone is up. 

Comet or Soft Scrub?

Is your closet organized?
Yes. And becoming more so. Just yesterday I moved some items that were borderline into the suitcase on top of the wardrobe. If I don't wear them this summer, off to the opshop they go. I'd rather have fewer things but like them. 

Can you describe your flashlight?
Yes, and there's  more than one. But do you think I could tell you where they are?

Do you drink out of glass or plastic most of the time at home?
Glass. Duralex. In theory unbreakable, just like in theory, communism works. But there's still some plastic bubby cups. And the elmo cup for Grace's afternoon soymilk and apple snack.

Do you have iced tea made in a pitcher right now?
No, but I'm rather partial to ice tea in hot weather. Made with liptons, lemon and mint from the garden. And not too sweet. With ice, in the plain jug or the blue jug with matching glasses for special occasions. 

If you have a garage, is it cluttered?
Yes, but it's supremely organised clutter. It's really G's space, although I'm welcome there.

Curtains or blinds?
Curtains with insulation. From the opshop and coburg market and remade (by me) to fit our windows. Essential in summer and winter.

How many pillows do you sleep with?
One, although there are two each on the bed. Mostly I chuck the other onto the floor but sometimes I have two. Sometimes two under my head and sometimes one down the side like when I was pregnant. Even though I don't need it. Oh, just fascinating I know.

Do you sleep with any lights on at night?
No. If I have to get up for some reason I trun one on. Or bump into doorframes and swear alot.

How often do you vacuum?
As little as possible. Mostly G does it, and he vacuums under furniture (which I'm slack about), although doesn't knock all the cobwebs down which I like to do first.

Standard toothbrush or electric?

What color is your toothbrush?
Green and white.

Do you have a welcome mat on your front porch?

What is in your oven right now?

Is there anything under your bed?
No. It's very low to the ground.

Chore you hate doing the most?
Anything that involves getting my hands wet. Cleaning the bathroom. On the other hand I quite like cleaning the windows and bleaching the plates, if I get around to it.

What retro items are in your home?
Most of my life is retro. Except for my computer which most definetely is not. 

Do you have a separate room that you use as an office?
Yes, we call it the study. It's where we nerd out, G has his online chess, I have my blogs and flickr, and Grace is learning how to play toddler computer games.

How many mirrors are in your home?
Nine. Not including compacts, but including the rear view mirror on G's desk and another down low in the bathroom. I like mirrors for reflecting light in old houses with smallish windows. All of ours are old and have character. And there's two or three in the backyard too.

What color are your walls?
Off white. Some rooms have a greenish tinge. We used paint left over from my dad's reno and that we found in the hard rubbish. I figured out all the colours, had it re-tinted and did some more remixing at home. The windows frames in the sunroom and the scullery are painted a dark gold. 

Do you keep any kind of protection weapons in your home?

What does your home smell like right now?
Window cleaner. Freshish (inner city) air.

Favorite candle scent?
Something very subtle. Fresh air.

What kind of pickles (if any) are in your refrigerator right now?
Polski Ogorki. Although I can't find my favourite brand anymore.

What color is your favorite Bible?
Um, I don't have a bible I don't think. Although there might be one around somewhere. If I wanted to look something up, I'd use the internet.

Ever been on your roof?
Yes, on the sunroom roof some fifteen years ago. G has said that he will build me a sunset viewing platform in the new house (if and when). 

Do you own a stereo?
Yes, although it's been amalgamated with G's music equipment. We are wired for sound in ways I don't understand.

How many TVs do you have?
One. And the h-hold is really bad, meaning it flickers and has to be adjusted. And there's a pink stripe down one side. I can barely watch it, which gives me more time on the internet. We're in negotiation with a friend of father christmas at the moment. So we'll see.

How many house phones?
One. Two mobiles.

Do you have a housekeeper?
Oh, I wish.

What style do you decorate in?
Me and G style.

Do you like solid colors in furniture or prints?
Mostly solids, but I like a patterned carpet. Don't mind the odd bit of wallpaper or lino either.

Is there a smoke detector in your home?
Der, of course there is.

In case of fire, what are the items in your house which you’d grab if you only could make one quick trip?
I don't think I'd care, I'd just want eveyone and the cat out and safe. The rest is only stuff.

And thank you all for the well wishes. You're all very sweet.

hall of mirrors

It feels very much like the same old, same old. Once again, I'm really not well. Thought I was getting better but apparently not. Indeed, I have been quite unwell. It's hard to know what to write here, what I might regret (although I can always post edit). Indeed I've delayed writing anything for some days and delayed publishing for several more. It's so absurdly difficult reflecting on this illness, my head feels like porridge and thinking about what's going on inside it ties me in knots. In lucid moments, sensible Janet comes out and says all the right things and then I feel like I'm managing this just. oh. so. well. And that really, I should just be able to go on with my life. Which is actually the loopy me talking, because I can't. Shouldn't. There's a hall of mirrors inside my head.

Last week at work was truly awful. I felt like I had no skin, open to everyone else's feelings. The medical word is labile, from the Latin labilis, meaning liable to slip. I had this feeling before the post natal psychosis. Maintaining control has been like navigating a supermarket on acid without anyone noticing. You can do it, sort of, but it's really, really difficult. And it had begun to feel like normal. Obviously I looked and sounded fine enough on the outside, but wasn't and lacked the judgement to tell someone. Wednesday was surreal. On the way to work, on a packed tram, an old lady fell into my arms. She was about to dismenbark and I was poised to take her seat when I heard her teenage granddaughter say, Nan, Nan are you alright? Someone help. I stood behind her as she fell back into my arms. Someone call an ambulance, I said, and people reached for their mobiles. I helped the old lady onto the floor and was checking for breathing. As she came to, another woman, much more experienced in first aid, appeared from the back of the tram and took charge. We placed her in the recovery position and put something under her head. A connex offical with a backpack arrived and despite the firstaider saying that the old lady shouldn't be moved, arranged for the tram to be cleared and change tracks so the next tram could pass. As I went on to work I couldn't stop crying under my sunglasses. In the end, I think the old lady was taken good care of. It's pretty normal to be shaken when something like that happens, but later and throughout the day, I started to doubt whether the event had actually happened. Eventhough I could still feel her old lady soft body fall against me. Reality was becoming tenuous.

There have been stretches where things have been OK. Including some Christmas shopping, in town, on Thursday morning. Bizarre, I know. Mind you, lunch at my favourite food court eatery (with really good chilli eggplant, mmm) was surreal. A really fat man sat at the table next to me and picked at his food and another man, homeless I think, did furtive battle with the sparrows as he ate from plates left by others. The young waitress clearing tables pointedly ignoring him. I just sat there and freaked out. However with hindsight, it's obvious that good bits have been moving further apart, becoming much more unpredictable. It all came rushing out at my psychiatrist appointment that afternoon. Not only did my doctor have her notebook out, but she checked her notes from the previous two and a half years.When I said the thought of hospital is appealing, she asked me, would you like to go to hospital? I can arrange it, but it would have to be in the public system. I've been in hospital before and decided no, because as my doctor says, hospital has it's own set of terrors. It's likely that I have a form of mania. Not a bright sparkly high, but an anxious unpleasant one. Chances are that my diagnosis has moved from mood affectiveness disorder to some type of bipolar. On hearing this I cried, I blamed myself (as I always do) for not being more on to it. We can manage this, the doctor said, would you react this way if it was diabetes or some other treatable condition? Lots of people make this point and can I just say that I would (at least intially) blame myself for having diabetes. And be upset and frightened. Being faced with a chronic condition is probably always shocking. Even when the signs have been there for a while.

I've told work what's happened. Not too much detail but the truth. Which worries me, but then if just say I have a medical condition, is that really better for me? There's no problem with leave but because I'm taking more than five days off, I'll have a rehabilitation caseworker assigned when I return. Gotta love the public service. I've been crapped off and pretty angry about it all; upset that I'm leaving my colleagues short staffed at a busy time, feeling like a shirker, a fake (love that hall of mirrors) and a drama queen, worried about how I'll be labelled, whether I can still do my job and how it will affect my future prospects. It's amazing how attractive work becomes when you can't. If I'm well enough to go to the Christmas party after work next week, they'll arrange for someone to collect me and Grace. Which is really pretty sweet and decent. But what do I say to people? The other night Dad reminded me I like my work, that it gives me a deep sense of achievement as well as an income. It's important to remember that not coping at work is a symptom of being ill and not the cause. In the past I might have just left. I'm determined not to do that this time.

So everything is on hold. No work until the new year. No buying houses* or other big decisions until I'm better. No driving until the new drugs stop making me drowsy and the crazy has settled. Not too much computer. I didn't leave the house for two days and alternated between nausea, head popping headaches and drowsiness with the odd bout of pitiful crying (but not in front of Grace). It wasn't depressed crying, more sorry for myself, how did I let it get this bad, it's all my fault for not living a better life, being in the mental health system is making me crazy and oh shit, I have to take mood stabilising medication again* and what if I turn into a zombie, and yep, I really am going crazy, kind of crying.

Oh fuck it.

On the good side, we already have some clean bits in the house. Not a whole house, but patches of detailed clean. Expect spasmodic posting and weird comments with bad spelling. And maybe some sewing and jam making. There has to be a good side to this. There really does.

* A house that I really liked sold in our price range today, but doing a major renovation in this state is lunacy - even I can see that. There will be more houses.
* Not lithium which I liked and would happily take again except that it gives me the shits, quite literally. Another one. Side effects (for me) unknown at this stage.  Although it does appear to be working and calm seems to be returning. Yay for that.

the tale of how we bought horsey and I redicovered the joy of sewing

I went opshopping three times last week! How delightful. First there was after the beach on the Tuesday. An opshop I remember from visiting my grandmother by train and bus maybe twenty years ago. And it's still pretty much the same. I do enjoy an old fashioned opshop. We bought quite a few books, my favourite being a Rudyard Kipling tale of elephants with beautiful illustrations. And a funny top for Grace which she loves because it's pretty and cute, and insists on wearing over her singlet. Which amuses me a little because it's hard to get her to wear anything other than dackies and just singlet. I also found the crochet bedpread there, for eight dollars! It's handmade from beautiful soft cotton and I have visions of it being Grace's summer bedspread in our new house (when and if). And a lovely piece of silk (pretty sure, although have yet to do burn test). I worried that the design might be a bit busy or too nana for me, but it's such gorgeous soft, light fabric. And just wouldn't leave my hands.

It's now in my sewing pile. For after I finish this binge of work clothes sewing. Two skirts and a slightly dodgy refashioned top this weekend. Considering that we also went and looked at houses, did shopping and other weekend hoohah, I'm pretty pleased with that. No photos because I was too busy cutting, faffing and sewing. Unfortunately when I washed the other skirt I made, it lost so much colour and sheen that it now looks very worn in. Not in a totally bad way and I still really like it, but I think it's a weekend and going to the beach kind of skirt.

Anyway, mid week we dropped a load off at the brotherhood. And came home with more yet more stuff, but still less overall. Which is good. Nothing too exciting there, just some old magazines. The real haul was on Friday after I went for my (should be more) regular thyroid function blood test. Grace was very good at the doctors, played with the toys in the waiting room and then sat on the little stool next to me while the nurse slapped my arms around and tried to remember which vein she used last time. Afterwards at Savers, I took Grace into the changerooms with some summer clothes we selected together and she told me they were all too big or too small, give to bubby-lee. Even dresses or tops that fit well. Sigh. I think she's still too young to help select her clothes, which is a pain because if she really doesn't like something, it involves no end of drama to get her to wear it. I try to pick things that are practical, that she will like and offer limited choices and pick my battles but, as far as I can see, there's no reasonably reliable laws as to what she does and doesn't like. Even the aforementioned dackies and singlets can be tricky.

After hanging the rejected items on the return rack we found some books and I did a deal that if she came up the back with me to look at tea towells and fabric, then on the way back she could play with the toys. Which we did. She started playing with a slightly older girl and it was all going well until the older girl got down a plastic dolls pram. That Grace instantly decided she wanted. I said no, because she already has a dolls stroller. There was howling and the other little girl was kind of egging her on. I looked away and noticed a felt horse. I pulled it from the shelf and realised it was a homemade hobby horse. Not great felt, but kind of kooky and charming. I gave it to the girls to play with. Grace liked it, but the other girl raced away with it, riding all around the shop. In the end, I told Grace that we had to go home now, or we'd be late for lunch and that as the other girl was playing with horse we weren't going to buy it today. More howling and some kicking and screaming. After the storm abated, I sat her up on the bench and she looked all woebegone, horsey come home with Grace? The Savers lady looked at me, did you want the horse? She didn't think the other woman would buy it and went to see. Now, tantrums don't as a rule get results around here, but I would have bought the horse anyway, if the other girl hadn't run off with it.

Grace rode horsey all the way back to the car (except for crossing the road) and has been telling me all about girl play horsey, lady in shop get horsey, thank you lady, horsey come home. On Sunday, horsey had lunch (salad) and then had a afternoon sleep on the sunroom floor with blanket over her. While I sewed and Grace played with my buttons. The buttons are no longer sorted according to kind in little plastic dealer bags but a big joyful muddle. Which gives me a precious thrill. Especially since when I came home from work (aargh) tonight, Grace asked, mummy do sewing and play with mummy's buttons? I see so much more sewing in the future.

Thinking about another houses post. There was a fabulous one, which even though it probably won't be ours, was great to visit, but haven't processed either the pictures or my thoughts yet. One thing at a time.

blue and green

SpcThe other day I made a new skirt from an old one I bought from Savers last year. I rather liked the eighties material and had planned on just easing out the waist a bit. Trouble is, circular skirts with gathered waists make larger ladies look even more like sacks of potatoes. My first remake, which involved fitting a new waist band and redoing the pleats, didn't work. Then I remembered a pattern my sister Betty uses alot. It's basically a bias cut at the back which comes to the side front then has a straight panel centre front. Sits a bit like an a-line skirt. So I took a deep breath, channelled Molly Ringwald (the scene in Pretty in Pink where she remakes the prom dress -  although I think she wrecks it) and got out the scissors. The pop buttons down the front went, as did the pleats and the original hem. I had to join a piece for the front panel and then just went crazy with squares wrong way and right way up. Enjoying the way the light fell on them.  I attached a loop of ribbon (saved from t-shirts that always have this useless bit of ribbon in the shoulder seam) to the waist from which to hang my ID tag in case I wear it to work. Which I think I will, perhaps with something blue. Because I love blue and green together. Especially in summer.

It's a bit hard to see, but Grace is wearing sandals. We've finally found some shoes she'll wear and it makes such a difference. I'm wearing my stinky birks, which I'm going to wash before I go back to work and some comfy trousers my sister Betty made for me year before last. With a chainstore t-shirt which I think is a bit low cut in the neck. The scarf to hold back my hair is in favour again, especially when sewing or cooking. I'm on a bit of a wardrobe improvement binge at the moment, sewing, shopping, fixing and sorting out. The last bit of hot weather saw me scraping for acceptable work outfits, but given my current state of mind, I'm aware that I could be being a bit neurotic about it all. Especially given the slack dress standard at work. Ah well. Nonetheless, I am pretty pleased with how this skirt turned out.

Peek through other wardrobes here.

p.s. I did change the photo this morning. Just matched the words better I think. Old one here

what happens when you forget how to breathe

You know how I said on Friday that I was a tad anxious but getting better. Well I wasn't (but think I am now). When I went to see my doctor and she asked me how I felt, the first word that came to mind was, messy. Then as I began to tell her why, she halted me momentarily and reached for her notepad. Always a bad sign. So I'm off work for the rest of the week. I'm not depressed, just really quite anxious, with some signs that I could become a little manic. So I'll probably get some sewing and shopping done.

It feels very strange to be allowed to take some leave from work for my head to clear. Sometimes I feel as though I'm shirking, like you mean that the cure for my illness/condition/way I feel now is to relax and do some things I enjoy? Like sleep alot, sew and go to the beach? Huh? It's so logical yet so at odds with the way our culture functions. When I called work, I was fairly up front. The euphemism we use is that I think I'm becoming unwell. I guess when you've been in hospital for a psychosis and are under a psychiatrist's treatment then you have a certain permission that way. But I've been thinking quite a bit about how the work I do affects me and my colleagues. There's a  lot of talk about resilience and of course I wonder whether I've been slotted into the not very resilient slot. Then again, I always get points for being up front and managing my condition.

Don't get me wrong, I like what my work brings; money, independence and that feeling of being out in the bigger world. I enjoy talking to people (workmates and customers), making decisions, having morning tea and getting things done. But it is also true that in a day I'm likely to see a lot of people who are ill, mad (quite unwell even), needy, cranky, pissed off or just down on their luck. Or have never been very lucky to begin with. And my job might be to ask them some intrusive questions or tell them that they have to do something or that they can't have what they feel they are entitled to. Most of the time though, I'm happy enough about going to work. But I just can't face it at the moment. I don't trust myself to remain anywhere near level, my brain has moments where it feels all tingly, like fairy floss with edge, or it just stops working and I'm a total blank. I teeter between feeling too much sympathy for others and not caring at all. Simple things fluster me. And if something doesn't go to plan or if one of my family members isn't contactable by phone or someone or something is running late, I panic. Most of the time I look like I'm doing OK, but underneath it's all quite frightening.

Anyway, back to this idea of resilience. If I make a list, there's been a lot happening around here over the last month or so. Two of Gerard's friends died, first Steve after a long illness, then Julie, quite unexpectedly in her sleep. Sad and intense. We've both had major dental issues, I had two weeks of higher duties at work, which was pretty awful and has left me wondering whether I should be looking at something else to do after we find a house and move into it. G has started a new part-time job and although him working is a good thing, my life was easier when he wasn't.  And it's a new routine. Again.

We just missed out on a house at auction and although a better one is looking likely, looking through dead people's houses (deceased estates) takes up a good part of each weekend. It's been tiring. Especially with a child who would not wear her new shoes, so had to be carried or left in the car with the other parent. So really, a lot has been going on. I think anyone might get a bit stressed and I actually think that G's had it harder than I have. My doctor thought that was a reasonable enough thing to say but then she said, you have a genetic disposition to... I forget exactly what, but the gist of it was that I am in some special category, meaning I have to take extra special care. Which I don't necessarily think is true. Don't we all have to take care? Does being resilient mean that when life gets tough (as everybody's does every now and then) you just go through it with a stiff upper lip and an extra glass of wine at night? Or that you stop caring and become a teflon person? Or that you simply choose not to be stressed? There are times when you can reframe your thinking but it's not always that simple. Not for me, not for most people. Perhaps part of being resilient is knowing when you need to pause for a little while.

I'm wondering how I make the work I do more sustainable in the medium term. More balanced. More exercise would help, but it's hard to take the extra time in the morning or after work because it cuts into the part of the day I have with Grace. It might have to be after she goes to bed. Definitely focusing on some more fun activities as a family would help too. I loved going to the beach yesterday. Swimming in the ocean was a glorious feeling, as was the rough sand on my feet. Grace has been telling me about it all day; beach, have cake (date scones), take clothes off, water, see fish, mummy go swimming, boats hold on (as in tied to the pier), chips for lunch, go home, sleep in nana's car. Oh gosh, we're going to have to do that again. It was pretty nice. Maybe it's still just a matter of letting some time pass.

last night I nearly cried (in a good way)

We voted early, at the local primary school. Grace found the whole process fascinating; waited patiently in line with us and then sat up on the cardboard booth as I filled out my Senate ticket, the long way. Then she helped me put my ballot papers in the box. Election, in box, she told me later. The day went on and I was busy and didn't give it much thought until about six thirty, as I started making dinner. We started listening to the election early. And come to think of it, I had been a bit tense about it. The thought of another Howard term being far too much to bear. I think it would have me loose faith in this country completely. Anyway, the first news was tentatively positive and I cracked open a cruiser from the other night. As the news from the tally room got better and better, you could hear mini celebrations across the suburb.

At one point after dinner I was on the internet and listening to the radio, ready to dash into the loungroom should anything good happen... Oooh the excitement, especially when it started to look as though Bennelong might fall (and now it looks like it has, go Maxine McKew! even the postal votes aren't going to change anything now). How good is that? Not only have the liberals lost government, but the toxic dwarf has been toppled from his seat. Heh, heh. I must admit I felt grimly satisfied as I watched John Howard concede defeat. Listening to Kevin Rudd's victory speech I felt optimistic yet a tad bored. He does go on a bit. Still. It's not everyday you become Prime Minister. Let's hope he doesn't stuff it up. That they don't stuff it up, that we don't stuff it up.

But for me, I think the really big joy of the night, apart from the ALP victory, was listening to Julia Gillard. She's smart, she's articulate, she doesn't um and err. She comes across as tough, and as G says she plays the ball and not the man. She'll be able to run with the bully boys in the party room. As a woman, I find her enormously appealing; a woman's woman. And she's now up there at the top, maybe with a shot at being Prime Minister one day. Hopefully she'll be able to unleash the pinko within. It also occurs to me that there may be lots of new women entering parliament. Some I may not have heard about yet. Oh gosh I hope there are some more good, smart ones.

So here's to a new chapter in our country's history, hopefully one characterised by more care and kindness. A moment of optimism, if you will.  It has to be better than the last decade. Doesn't it?


At the beginning of the week all I felt was anxiety. Thrown by the sudden hot weather, dealing with dental issues (mine and Gs), toddler tantrums and shoe issues, work, life, the universe. All at once it seemed just too much and I thought I was teetering on the edge. So I asked for some time off work. They said that holidays at this time were unlikely but that I should take personal leave if necessary. I decided to just let time pass and much to my surprise by the end of the week, things were much better. Despite an infection in my tooth, the one having the root canal treatment. Which would make anyone grumpy.

Last night as I was getting ready to go home and just enjoying that pause at the end of the work day, one of the team leaders called me over for a little chat about what I'd be doing over the next month or so. My current project has been suspended during the holiday peak. As I helped plan this, I knew this would happen but hadn't given it much thought recently. There always being something to do at work. Anyway we had the chat and then she asked how I was feeling and I said fine, crisis averted, and then she said, you've got lots of leave, and we've been thinking you could have Monday and Tuesday off. As rec leave. It's not the whole week but you've been working hard and could probably do with a break. Yes! I said. Oh yes.

I am very pleased! And suddenly the world seems a whole lot more rosy. I saw the dentist last night and he gave me a prescription for drugs, so the infection will be all gone by the time he does the next painful and expensive bit. Already my tooth doesn't hurt so much. And I'll have a couple of extra days at home to spend with Grace, maybe plan an outing with her and nana. There'll be time to move files onto my new computer and enjoy the super beautiful new screen (everyone's photos look so super gorgeous). Time to organise some work clothes for summer, think about the garden and maybe get a haircut and paint my toenails. Must dash though, it's shrink day and I have some childfree time to go shopping. Yes, life is good.

Just call me Dipsy

I had planned to write about feminist motherhood this week, but with one thing and another, my head isn't quite up to it. It's been warm, almost hot, with some rain; the sort of weather that makes vodka cruisers slip down all too easily. So, after being tagged by Marjorie and Mary Beth, I'm going to try and think of seven random things. And maybe go back and fix some of my appalling spelling mistakes on posts past.

1. Every now and then I get a hankering for those sweet pre-mixed drinks. The sort that are so nice that I'm never ever going to let Grace taste them. Much nicer and cheaper than the UDLs of my teenage years. And so deadly.

2. The other day as I was in the dentist's chair having my root canals filed (hence the current prediliction for alcohol to wash down the panadol) looking up at the tatty poster of an Australian rural homestead surrounded by lots of junk affixed to the ceiling and trying not to ask for a third anasthetic shot, the dentist stopped working and said to me, you have quite a small mouth don't you... aga, ya, I replied. Next time you come in, he said, I'll get a block so it doesn't hurt so much to hold your mouth open. After that he was very gentle, holding my jaw in a particularly nice way, explaining what was happening next and giving me lots of breaks in the treatment. I think I quite like this dentist. He's older than me and reminds me the kind and also reasonably priced dentist I saw all through my childhood and early adult years.

3. I love watching the teletubbies on video with Grace when I get the chance. The toddlers and pre-schoolers are natural and charming, portrayed as the real kids they are. A far cry from the irritating dancing girls on the Wiggles. Although we're more into the book and the computer game at the moment. At the beginning of the book (currently on very high rotation at bedtime) Grace names each of the tubbies, Tinky Winky, Mummy (Dipsy), Laa-Laa and Po. I've been the green teletubby for quite some time. Is it a shape thing or a colour thing? Who knows, who cares. The teletubbies all live together in an earth dome, they're kind to rabbits and butterflies, they have a magic windmill, are technologically advanced, not stuck in rigid gender roles and they all love each other. And then there's that fabulous nineties raver aesthetic...

4. Today I made a lemon tart and I think I've worked out why the crust was soggy. But I'll have to make another tart to test my theory.... mmm tart.

5. When I get tense and stressed, not only do I need to bake, but I need to live in a clean house. Today I knocked down months worth of spider webs and cleaned out the medicine cabinet in the bathroom. There were lotions and potions that had expired in 2004. I have a feeling there may also be some window cleaning coming up.

6. The election is really pissing me off. If I hear the phrase working families one more time, I think I might throw rocks at the TV. The only sensible thing I've heard so far was in the dentist chair. An academic on the radio was talking about how government needs to start spending big on social infrastructure (like health and education) for the long term instead of making short term promises to attract small pockets of swinging voters. Personally, I think there needs to be a shift in thinking. Away from a consumer fuelled growth economy towards a service based ecconomy of care and kindness. Where shopping centres are all like the new look Greensbourough Plaza.

7. Although I'm shallow enough that I might vote for a party that promises super fast broadband for everyone (as opposed to a party that promises, not only a job for all those who want one, but also the job and career you want, huh??? as if that's something that's deliverable?) We only have super slow broadband around here and apparently Telstra already has the infrastructure to provide faster broadband but hasn't switched it on. I don't quite understand the mechanics of it, but apparently it's not that difficult.

Gosh, I meant to be all light hearted. At least I've moved a bit on from the big moan and groan session I had planned on Thursday night. It must be the effect of a quiet weekend at home. And the cruisers and breezers. Feminist motherhood next week. Absolutely.

in pink

SpcI have this idea that I wear black all the time, and it's true I do wear a lot of black. Last year I tried to go a whole year without purchasing or making a black item of clothing. And it was hard. Women in inner city Melbourne often wear a lot of black or other dark colours, particularly those that came of age in the eighties. I remember my mother taking me clothes shopping and trying in vain to get me to wear another colour. It's funny, but these days I sometimes wear quite a bit of pink.

In this photo I'm wearing an old t-shirt from Best and Less. Nothing special, just super comfy. And very pink. It kind of fits in with the decor of this room which was an extraordinary mix of cutsie pictures, weird bedspreads and gruesome Mary Leunig cartoons. In a house full of very umm, quirky decor. I packed in a hurry on Saturday morning after the house auctions (we didn't get either of the houses but I'm OK with that, our house will turn up at the right time). My destination, a house in the country for a craft weekend with some very special ladybloggers and crafty women. During which I made half a pin cushion and took over 200 photos. But as others have said, the real prize and delight was the company of fabulous women. It was a shame not to be able to go for the whole weekend, but going on Saturday meant I was able to attend another bloggy gathering of another lot of fabulous women on the Thursday night. Hugely fun!  I feel so lucky to be part of this wonderful bloggy community. Tickled pink, you might say!

See what others are wearing here.

we love it

Last Thursday when I got home from work and before we headed off to Hobart, there was a a parcel waiting for me. It was very exciting, a welcome break in a trying and busy day. Grace helped me with unwrapping and the first thing she said was, we loove it. I'm trying to catch her particular intonation here, because it's very serious, yet also funny and cute. The next two things she said were; it's Grace and then it's Grace's? And I said no, it's for mummy, from one of her friends on the computer.

Grace was OK with that because what's mine is generally hers too, and we put it up on the shelf in the kitchen for everyone to enjoy, next to the yellow rabbit eggcup and blue tea cannister. In the longer term, it's a toss up whether to put this painting above my desk or in the back room near my sewing shelf and where the light falls in particularly pleasing ways. It's a present from Sue at fiveandtwo. A while ago, Sue asked for a photo, and to be honest, I was quite chuffed to be asked. And it prompted me to start learning how to print my pictures. Something that ended up taking quite a few weeks but that I've been meaning to do for ages.

So thank you Sue, we love it!

so is it art and do I care?*

Yesterday morning, as I was drinking my second coffee and checking my email, all relaxed by the public holiday in the middle of the week, I noticed a new commenter. Hmm interesting, I thought. I opened the blog, because I like to read my comments in context, and there it was, the first deliberately unkind comment I've received here.  At the end of the post I wrote about our friend Steve. So I shot off an email;  Yomamma. I'm curious. Why would you go out of your way to comment that someone's photos are crap? Especially on a post where they're writing about a friend dying, and especially after you would have read that another friend just died. It seems like a cruel context in which to make such a comment. To be honest I don't care what you think of my photos. But really, I'm curious why you would write something like that. Please enlighten me. Of course I haven't had a reply (and I realise that there would be nothing to stop a troll using someone elses site name in the comments box) but nonetheless, I am curious.

As I scrolled though the last five posts, I realised that maybe these aren't the best lot of photos I've taken, but I'm more than OK with that. It's a blog, which being diary like in nature, repsonds to life and time and is therefore kind of fleeting and imperfect by it's very nature. Not a coffee table book where every word and image has been laboured over endlessly. Then I started to think about something I read recently about some photos being art and some being just pretty pictures and that if you're churning out the latter, you really shouldn't be representing yourself as an artist. That might be true I suppose, but where do we draw the line? And who gets to draw it? It's very easy when when faced with a great and recognised artwork to say, oh yes that's art. But what about the works the artist made on the way to the great artwork? What about art that is yet to be recognised as great? Is it art if the artist is prolific? And what about art that I don't like, is it art if it's the work of someone reconised as an artist but not if it's from someone unknown? Is blogging an art? Do I really care? I know on some level I do, but I'm a lot less hurt by the comment than I would have expected. It appears that the act of the blogging has made me reform the thick skin I grew in the hurly burly of writing workshops more than a decade ago.That's a good thing.

I love taking photos. Anyone who reads this blog would know that, but what I've come to realise is that I'm a lot more attached to the process of making the picture than I am to the finished result. I like some of the finished results, but once they're done, I just want to go out and take more photos. There's something I really enjoy about looking for the picture. Finding something new to see. Reframing my world. The pictures in this post were taken on the hill around Hobart airport, waiting for a delayed plane. Shan said that the light was all wrong but I dragged him up the hill, saying there's always something. In the end, he thought the tree was the photo and went and collected rubbish and discussed framing and other technical matters. But I liked the ones of the hill without the tree better in the end. He's strictly a film type photographer, but I love the immediacy of digital. And that once you have the camera, it's cheap. But no matter what the process, hanging out with and taking pictures together, that was great. It really was. And I like these pictures, even if I look at them and see some ISO and manual camera issues. Because apart from any minor quibble about technical learning issues, they remind me of the weekend just gone in a sweeter and more sorrowful way than words alone.

If I'm ranting, I guess I'm still in angry mode, not from the comment so much, but from life and loss. It seems to be that every time something sad happens, I travel down that road again; re-visiting old griefs and being mad at myself for feeling like that. It didn't help that work today was extra, extra busy, two days worth of customers and I was keeping all that anger locked inside of me in a tight little ball. Being pleasant and helpful. I suppose that's why people make comments like that, because they have anger inside that has festered. Funnily though, it kind of makes me feel as though I've come of age as a blogger. The trolls are visiting. Pfft.

Anyway, there's two really nice things to look forward to on the weekend. Like really nice, involving fellow bloggers, who I imagine will be really lovely. Actually, I know they will be really lovely. And there will be relaxation and craft. I can't wait. Just one more day at work.

* Yes and Yes/No. If that makes sense.

Updated to add, I've deleted the nasty comment. Meant to before, but have just got around to it. I think the gist of what was said is contained in my response. Which is enough to hold onto.

come sail your ships around me

It's good to be home, but I'm glad we went. Time seemed to pass very slowly and quickly, all at once, distorted by an intensity of emotion, by holding in and letting go. A reminder that grief is not a linear state but a country all of it's own. Julie's funeral was surreal as funerals are, but as G said, it's not the having of a funeral that makes people so sad but the reason for it. Which is obvious really, but I found this one particularly hard. Perhaps because we'd been going about normal life all week in our little world here in Melbourne; being sad (and stressed and anxious too) of course but more or less going about our usual business. Then suddenly, after being in a rush to get packed after work, Shan arriving and G taking Grace to Nana's (she wasn't at all unhappy about that) and after a quick drive through the rain to the airport, we're on the plane. We sat in a row, a quiet three amongst people mostly happy to be going away for the weekend. An hour later we were in Hobart, a town that's quite familiar, especially to Shan and Gerard who grew up there, but where nothing is as it was before.

On Friday afternoon, the chapel at the Cornelian Bay Cemetary was packed to overflowing and there were lots of red eyes and muffled crying. Some laughs too, as Julie's friends and family talked about Jules and her life. There was live music, of course, from some of the Mooks. And then at the end, as Julie's white coffin sank from the podium, the wail of her mother. Oh God.

Afterwards, people milled in the sunshine and hugged and smoked and greeted and talked. And then repaired to the pub for a drink and more hugging and greeting and talking and drinking and smoking. As you do. And although Julie's passing makes no sense at all, indeed there has been no cause of death found; no heart attack, no embolism, no aneurism, no identifiable cause, it feels right to come together, to all feel sad all at the same time. What else can you do? I don't imagine any of those closest to her are going to feel anywhere normal for some time, but that's not the point. It's a big thing when someone dies and I guess I'm saying here that I'm a believer in proper funerals. Steve didn't have one and I wish he had. Of course we don't want people around us to die, but when they do, it's better to honour them properly. We don't want to go but are drawn nonetheless. Once you're an adult, funerals are one of those times when you really just have to turn up. And be present as best you can. Well, that's what I think anyway.

My heart is heavy again. And although I feel more committed than ever to this life and those in it, I find myself thinking some dark thoughts. What about those who don't have anyone to mourn their passing? Or those who lose family member after family member in war? And how might it feel to be in a strange land, struggling with a new language, new ways and still in sorrow. Where people don't always see your grief because you have different coloured skin. Sigh. It's been a long week. I'm quite glad tomorrow's a holiday. Even if it is for a bloody horse race. I plan to spend some of it pruning the daisies, some of it sewing and good bit of it playing run run with Grace under the clothes line. And maybe some time for quiet reflection.

It wasn't an out and about type trip, but I did find myself with quite a bit of time just hanging around with the camera. Five beers and I can't hold the camera steady, although I was very careful not to drop it. You can see pictures here. Probably only of interest to people who were there.


Our friend Julie died in her sleep on Sunday morning. No-one had any warning or premonition that this might happen, so it's been deeply shocking. And heartbreakingly sad. Her husband Kim woke up to find his wife and love gone from this world. If I even try to imagine how this might feel, tears well up in my eyes. And the background fear I feel of losing those nearest returns as a feeling of panic and anxiety. Love always carries such a potential for loss and grief and Julie's passing has bought this back to me in a big way.  Kim and all of Julie's family and friends have been uppermost in our thoughts this week. You wish there was something that you could do, but there isn't.

Julie didn't really like having her picture taken and I sneaked this one last April, when she and some other Mooks were in Melbourne for the Wilco concert. It's blurry and a bit dark, but in it I can hear her distinct voice talking about this and that. Enjoying the ambience of the Palais, rattling on, having a good natter. It was a rather good weekend that one. Anyway, as you can see, she's still young and full of life. Just a couple of years older than me. As well as being rather stylish (which I admired more than I ever said), Julie had a really kind heart. She also loved a party, being out and about with friends. Their home was more often than not the centre for gatherings and parties; full of warmth and hospitailty. And she loved her cats.

We'll be going to Hobart for the funeral this Friday. Sigh.

a fabulous day for wallpaper

We went to look at two houses today. One I saw saw thursday before last. It's a total cutie. Nice street, good area. Beautiful diamond paned windows in the front, lots of charming (and some not so) period features, wide hallway, a linen press, cladding (protecting the weatherboards) and tin roof tiles (which mean that the house hasn't cracked under the weight of cement tiles). There's also several sheds, an adequate sized concrete backyard (blech) and central heating (first house we've looked at with such a convenience). It also has rather spectucular wallpaper, different in every room. The kitchen not only has wallpaper, but tiles and a wooden feature wall. And the bestest light fitting I've seen so far. This house comes across as a warren of rooms and some people just freak out, but I love it.

 The kitchen is on the small side and the bathroom has no bath, which would require some thought, but there would be all sorts of possibilities for tweaking these things in the future. There would however be  two small studies.

But wait there's more... Another house, also in a good area for us, but with a better floor plan. Didn't make sense on the internet, but once we walked around and saw where the light came from, it did. Unusually for the era, it seems to have been sited to allow northerly light into the kitchen and dining area. The lounge is a little dark but that's OK. And the linen press is in the bathroom, which is not ideal, but the bathroom does have a lovely deep bath. Also a house with two studies.Touch and go as to whether it will be in our price range, but.... takes a deep breath, it could be.

The killer is, it goes to auction on the same day as, but after, the other one. Which is probably more likely, but this one is slightly better, especially as it is now. With work and a small extension, the other one could be better in the longer term. But they're both good. Of course, we may get neither.

In other news, I seem to have developed a twitch in my right eye. Can't see it, but if I put my finger over my eyelid, I can feel it. Which means I probably should be avoiding computers and television. So I had a nap this afternoon, but I wasn't really tired. Maybe a little nervours about work next week? I put my hand up to do higher duties while a colleague is on leave and am one of three in my office to take a turn at this role. A little taste of where I might go in the next year or so. I have all sorts of ideas about what I'd like to do in the job, but it's only two weeks. Of course I'm nervous. I always turn into a little bundle of anxiety about things like this. 

in catering mode

SpcIn a previous life, I worked as a cook. We had a cafe. Me, my mum and my sister.  I had planned on becoming a writer, but one day I found myself in front of a big stove with four burners and a side grill and there I was managing a kitchen, dealing with suppliers, hiring (and firing) staff. With no commercial training or experience. Just blind faith and some very firm ideas about food. To say that the next year was a learning curve is a massive understatement, but learn I did. We all did.

And one of the things I learnt was how to cater an occasion. You start with a reason, a time and a place. Numbers, how many vegetarians, vegans, rabid meat eaters. And a budget. Then you talk with the client. Work out a menu, maybe an alternative menu. A shopping list. Refer back to the the budget. Make a plan of when you will do various bits and pieces. Who will help and when. Back and forth, time permitting, until everyone more or less agrees. Because on the day, there's no time for democracy. If I've planned well, it will go smoothly. And I do plan well, even now, because otherwise it all ends in tears and chaos.

In this photo, I'm icing some yo-yos I made the night before. G is out dropping Grace at Nana's. I'm working methodically, listening to Endorphin and thinking about the afternoons event. Thinking about our friend Steve who won't be there. Steve, Gerard and I organised this event months ago. Steve insisted on giving us cash to buy the food. I remember I tried to convince him that a simple funeral followed by the wake would be a good idea, but he wouldn't have it. He was adamant that he just wanted a party with all his friends and family there. He requested a cake and I wish I'd had time to make it myself, because the bakery really didn't get the colour right. I knew they wouldn't. Still, even organising a cake was touch and go at such short notice. We couldn't find a set of miniature drums to put on top. So G went out in the shed and made some. Steve would have liked that, I think.

Of course, when we rocked up with the big esky of sandwiches, the other esky of antipasto type things, the fruit platter, the bags and boxes, I thought I had massively overcatered. Eventhough I knew I hadn't. There just seemed so much food and there was a peculiar intensity in the atmosphere. All the emotion that people express together at a funeral just seemed to be leaking out at the sides. More than one person had a cry in the laundry. An hour or so in, I put the sausage rolls out and bang, people started eating. After the speeches, we served the cake and then as we were re-organising the food table and cleaning up, we sent out the rest of the sandwiches. By the time we were ready to leave, there were just a few people left. Someone started a fire and it looked like the night was just beginning again.

Such a sad time, but it was good to feel like we could do something useful. I'd also like to thank everyone who's commented or emailed. It's very much appreciated.

More food here.


Our friend Steve passed away on Tuesday night. We knew he was sick, but we thought he'd be around for a while longer. Long enough for a few more conversations about art and music and life, long enough for a few more afternoon parties with kids romping around, with food and wine; all the important things.

Steve, your departure feels quite sudden and shocking, a reminder that death is absolute, no matter how forewarned you are. People might say, and with kindness in their hearts, that with an illness like cancer, it's a blessing that you didn't linger at the end. But I know that you would have liked to have been around for a bit longer. You still had plans. And a wicked sense of humour.

You and Gerard go way, way back, to a life in Tasmania I only know about from stories. Even so, we had our own conversations. Something to be cherished with a friend of your partners. I'm doing my best with the tasks we talked about, although I worry that the bakery won't get the shade of pink you asked for on your cake: the palest of pink, you said, a lustre rather than a colour.

I hope it's a drummer's heaven on the other side, full of interesting people to talk to. And music. Lots of music, especially the weird stuff. 

after shopping

Spc Doing the weekly shop is of those household tasks that I've been trying to offload, without a whole lot of sucess. It's not my favourite thing, going to the supermarket. And week after week there's a sameness about it that bores me senseless. Yet, it's a task that seems to keep coming back to me. G's good at doing midweek shops for bread and other supplies but I seem to have the knack of the big shop. I'm pretty good at choosing the best fruit and veg at a price, and I seem to buy just about the right amount of food. Not so much that we waste it, enough that we don't run out of most things. It drives me batty when we run out of everything all at once during the week and then have to go to the shop before making dinner everynight. Eventhough there's a supermarket and fruit shop within walking distance.

I'm very particular about how I unpack the groceries and stack the fridge. Afterwards, I really enjoy the sight of a freshly filled fridge and a sweet canteloupe on the shelf waiting to be cut up for after dinner. Quite apart from the satisfaction of a neat fridge, it makes me feel very fortunate that we can just go out and do the big shop, without thinking about whether we can afford it this week. At work there's a box in the tea room for us to donate shopping items to send to familes in rural areas affected by the drought. There's been some heartrending accounts from rural colleagues of just how hard people in some areas have been hit. Kids going to school with headlice because there's not enough money for treatments and shampoo. Lots of other stuff too, but for some reason that got to me.

We might complain about how the cost of food is rising every week, but we are still very lucky.

More food for thought here.


pleasant sunday at home

We didn't buy the house this weekend and apart from attending two auctions with mum for a look see, I took the weekend off. The last house put me (and us) in such a state of tension and anxiety that I really didn't feel I could think straight. Let alone make a sensible decision about something so big. It's OK though, I think we've narrowed down the area we're looking in. We'll be able to look at fewer houses in a more relaxed and ordered state of mind. It still astounds me the price that a modest house on a smallish block will go for in these parts, but looking at the newspaper, I realise that it's not quite as crazy as on the other side of town.

Today I relaxed, took Grace to the park in the morning which was fine. Only three tantrums, including a really good one on the service station floor because I bought her a lindt ball rather than a sherbet lolly as part of the deal for walking all the way from the park. Then on the way home she told me how much she likes chocolate, yummy. After lunch, G went to visit our friend Steve in hospital and while Grace was napping, I bumbled around doing the odd chore, put a whole lot of Grace's soft toys from the opshop through the washing machine, tidied my desk a bit and cleaned out my sewing area alot. And then started a project. Fun sewing, rather than the boring dark grey work pants I was planning to make. This photo made me realise how tatty the cushion on the chair of mank had become. But I'm rather partial to this cushion cover and had been in denial about how bad it was getting.

So I decided to use some material from my second stash, the unofficial one in the laundry, and make old into new. I'm rather pleased with how it's turning out. The light went before I could take a picture of all the over sewing, but it has a roughly quilted like effect. I'm going to use some red buttons I bought in a garage sale about ten years ago on the back and I'm hoping there will be nice frayed edges once it goes through the wash and that the effect will be restrained and deliberate tatt rather than lazy/slack tatt. Or I could call it shabby chic, I suppose.

Anyway as I was sewing, the lovely light came in through the sunroom windows and Grace played on the floor, feeding dolly a pinecone and giving a newly clean tinky tinky his medecine from something she found in the wastepaper basket. It was rather lovely and I reflected on how much I sometimes enjoy quiet domesticity on the weekend. Today, even hanging out some washing and doing the dishes was pleasant. It isn't always, of course, but today it just was.


There's been this dream I've been having lately, in which I discover an overlooked but really cool suburb, somewhere between Brunswick, Coburg and Pascoe Vale. Where the blocks are huge, the houses compact but charming and there's a funky neighborhood feeling, strip and supermarket shopping. It's really close to a frequent tram, bus or train on which I could travel work in about half an hour.  Always getting a seat. Of course, the schools are second to none and there are sunset views from all the front porches, but northern light into the living areas and linen presses in every hallway. The dream comes from a fragment of a conversation I had a couple of weeks ago with a real estate obsessed work colleague and the relentless viewing of houses every weekend. I thought the name Neverwhere came from one of Grace's story books or a song, but no, it's the title to a book I haven't read. Mentioned in a meme last week, but I only realised this when I saw it over at Bec's tonight. Pfft, I wouldn't know my own hand if I saw it in the supermarket.

Yesterday we saw some mindblowing carpet and some wallpaper I quite liked. In a house that I loved last Saturday, when I saw all sorts of possibilites for reworking the floor plan to provide a larger lounge room adjacent to a kitchen meals area all opening out to the backyard. My dream layout, for so many reasons. Which has sparked all sorts of
discussions about renovation versus living in a house as it is. And I discovered that a larger lounge isn't necesarily an attractive proposition if it means forgoing the idea of separate studies. Although we manage to share one quite well now. Even though I am massively irritating, what with not wanting to listen to music all the time. Grrr.

It's not like I don't find the idea of a little room of my own appealing, but you can't have everything and it hasn't come up as an issue with three bedroom houses. Just with houses that have four but would be much nicer with three. And this house, despite being butt ugly from the front (brick veneer over the original weatherboard, roller shutters on the windows, concrete garden edging) has a lovely interior. Especially at the front which is mostly thirties and has nice high celings, original door frames and a wide hall. There are fifties light fittings and a seventies kitchen that's pretty OK. Not a large block, just sufficient really, with a shed and a rear lane. Close to transport. And a school down the street.

Quite nice really, but in my opinion, it needs work and would be a goer for us at a certain price (laughs nervously, the auction is tomorrow). Grace liked it too, she's been talking to me about broken houses and fixing broken houses. Some of them have obviously upset her quite a bit. This one didn't and there was a room which she quite obviously saw as hers. We could definitely live in this house while we planned and waited for permits, but a lounge at the other end of the house to the kitchen seems daft to me. It would drive me batty in the long term, I'm sure. Still, we need to talk more. Because I'm big on ideas but I'm not the buildery one. I bet this house will slip away into the land of could-have-beens. Grrr.

p.s. I'm really starting to enjoy the new camera, especially for some reason, the sound of the shutter which is super fast compared to the brick. Still haven't figured out the buttons, but it's fun.