The other day at the park

Since we returned from our holiday, we seem to have a new lease of life as a familial unit. We're doing more fun things together. We had dinner out on the spur of the moment and Grace impressed us with her gravity and charming behaviour. There have been more park visits that include all three of us. Not everyday of course, but on the weekend and sometimes at the end of the day when we're all around during the week. That's not to say there aren't the usual squabbles and shouty times that living with a nearly two year old seem to provoke, but there's a new lightness. I like it. And so do Grace and Gerard.

It's also become obvious that Grace wants to spend more time with kids. Bubbys and other children seem to be her main preoccupation at the moment. She looks for pictures in the Good Weekend (newspaper supplement) and on telly and in books. She points at them with great excitment on the street and in shops. Given that she's an only child and that most of our friends are older and either don't have children or have adult children, and that my mother's group has become semi regular due to everyone's work comittments et cetera, we really have to go out and look for where the children play. And parks are good for running off that toddler hyperactivity.  Sometimes though, her enthusiasm can be a little overwhelming for the other child, especially the younger ones. She rushes up saying bubby, bubby, hellooo. She even gave one little boy a hug right after she first met him and had to be pulled away for a little chat about how we don't normally cuddle people we don't know yet and that it might frighten them.  How two gnarly old introverts have produced such an outgoing child stuns me a little.

Following a chat with a friend the other day, I've also put Grace's name down at a local kinder that also runs a playgroup. It's something I've been thinking about for a while and I had a long phone conversation with the woman who runs the group and it sounds just the ticket. And yes, there are daddies and nanas that go too. So if I'm working, mum or G can take Grace. As I was trying to suss out what sort of activites they did, I said something polite about my mother's group not quite meeting Grace's needs at the moment. And the woman hit it right on the head when she said that mother's groups are for mothers, not children. It's not that Grace doesn't have a great time at mother's group, she does and we'll still go but I think she's ready for something a little more structured and with a wider range of ages as well. Hopefully the waiting list will move quickly. We're going to go for a visit soon to check it out for three year old kinder next year and I might also ring around and see if there are any other similar programs nearby. And in the meantime, I'll just have to be a little more proactive (grits teeth, how I dislike that word) and organise some play dates with the kids we do know.

Brown is the colour

To say that this years summer garden is the biggest failure to date is a pretty harsh statement. There was a drought, it's true but it really wasn't all that hot and there was some rain. The soil wasn't as dry as deep down as it's been in other more succesful years. Not being able to water when I like has had a bigger impact than I would have thought. I've never been much of a waterer but I think for the vegetables at least, it's been the difference between failure and success. Maybe I watered more than I thought. By the end of February I'd pretty much given up. Still, it was pretty hard to come home from holidays and see the vegetable patch shrivelled to almost nothing. The tomatoes and eggplant had succumbed to a virus. The zinnias also looked infected and sad and I'm wondering if water stress made the garden more open to infection. Or maybe it was just a bad year all round, although there was no sign of any sort of fungus which normally shows up on cucumbers and zucchinis (not that any of them got big enough for fungus).  All the lettuce had gone to seed. The beetroot are holding on but I imagine they'll taste dry and woody. The beans germinated eratically and have not set well. 

The perennial beds are fine and have perked up with the recent rain. But the Virginia creeper has pretty much lost its' leaves. Not in the flaming glory that I look forward to every year but with dry brown leaves that cling to the vines. I'm hoping that it hasn't got the tomato virus too. Maybe it missed it's weekly dousing of bath water and is just water stressed. Anyway I'm most annoyed because it's a big autumn treat for me, to sit under the vine and watch the red, red leaves fall to the ground and lie around in elegant drifts. Not this year.

The ugliness of the vegie patch was getting me down, so on the weekend I spent an hour or two and pulled out everything that looked dead or dying. I was careful to put all the diseased plants in the bin rather than the compost, even though it pains me to throw out organic matter. Once all the yucky stuff was gone, I felt better about the garden and even enjoyed some of the healthy drying stands of plants. And could see the beauty of the Jerusalem Artichokes a little more clearly. We don't eat them, although I hear that they're nice with lots of butter, and they're quite expensive to buy. But I think they taste like cardboard and they give you the most hideous wind. So we just grow them for the flowers.

My next garden is going to have a water tank and proper grey water recycling. Although if I'm still here next year, we'll have to figure out something a bit more suitable for renters. Perhaps channelling the run off from the roof onto the vegie patch? Anyway it's raining now and I'm starting to think about what to put in next; broadbeans, lettuce, snowpeas, more beetroot, coriander and maybe some onions. Is it too early for onions? I have half a thought that nothing will grow, no matter what I do. But the other half of me is plotting which seeds to sow and where. And what we'll be cooking when they come up. Such is the optimism of gardening.

The deep dark hole that is Flickr

I don't mean this in a bad way but since I made good my holiday resolution and started using the Flickr account that I set up ages ago, I feel like I've been sucked into an internet vortex and everything else (internet related) is falling by the wayside. Off course I'm learning something new, which involves lots of fiddling and faffing. And there's lots I haven't figured out yet, like how to make someone a contact or how to control the order photos are displayed on my main page, how groups and tags work, or even how to edit my profile. But I'm halfway through the FAQs and with a bit more faffing, I'll get it.

I've looked around Flickr before but it's only just started to really grab me. And suck away at my internet time. It's just so vast and so interactive and has really got me thinking about how the whole way that my use of computers has changed in the last year or so. I remember when I first got the internet back in 1999 I think, and thought, great I can go on the internet and do all these cool things like...? Huh, and so apart from a little research and emailing of job applications, it was a big non-event. Little by little, I started using the internet for bills, banking and online window shopping and then I discovered google and blogging and wikipedia and Flickr and kapow, suddenly there's a whole lot of really interesting things I can do.  Extensions of activities I already like; writing and taking photos. And there's all these other people doing it too, and all crazily interacting. If I think about it too much, it hurts my head.

But I do like watching this youtube.  (Sorry, I've had too many lambruscos to figure out how to put the picture up, it isn't immediately obvious on typepad blogs). I watched it first over at dogpossum and then later Penni put it up. Each time I had an emotional response (not teary, just a little you know like humans are getting bigger perhaps in an OK way). Maybe it's the music, maybe just my head busting a bit with possibilities and thoughts of where this might lead, how our collective consciousness might change and what of those who get left out and so on. 

Anyway back to Flickr. I think I've answered a question in my head about what to do with all the photos I take. Well, not all of them but the ones I want to keep. The sequences and series I might want to add to over time. Printing them out in any sort of quantity seems like, so last century. And besides it takes me ages to sort them into albums which then sit around gathering dust. I'm happy to have digital photo books, more fun to look at, we already spend part of the day hanging in the study as a family and sharing online content as it is. I discovered Grace loves to sit on my knee and explore pictures of bubbys, more exciting than Boobah even. So I just have to get the rest of my family doing it. It'll be ace. There's part of me that worries about putting public photos of family up but then there's a part of me that is really, really excited about the prospect of this huge global picture album. And there's all sorts of ways that you can search for and view photos. Including looking for people who use the same camera. I find this particularly fascinating because my camera is not the latest and greatest (although it does have a reputation for having a good lens for a point and shoot) and I am challenging myself to see how far I can push myself with this particular camera. Which is why I pop down that particular rabbit hole quite a bit at the moment.

Todays' photos are from a hot couple of hours I spent wandering around town after my doctors appointment today. At the time I was thinking about the things I probably should have discussed with her but didn't, so it was good to shift attention. I feel very awkward taking pictures where there are people around, but maybe I could be a daggy middle aged tourist from somewhere. I like this style of grafitti, eventhough I think some of it is a but gruesome or overtly sexual. Somehow it seems connected to the web2 things I'm thinking about and the compulsion of people to constantly adorn, express themselves and make pictures in a multiplicity of ways. Anyway, there's a whole stinky allly way of spray art for ones perusal in that laneway where all the groovy young people hang out. Not me. I like having my coffee in the Myer window where you can watch the parade of people and overhear the conversations of those sitting next to you. Today it was about Portofino lace and looking for something to wear to a daughters wedding. Must stop and go to bed. It's the Lambrusco, it's making me ramble.

Why we are decrapulating* our house

This afternoon G took a car load of stuff back to the op-shop. And this is just the first pass. There will be more, I'm sure of it. Grinchy housework day has moved from Monday to Wednesday on account of my work days shifting around. It actually feels better doing it on a Wednesday, less grinchy. I don't know why, but it does. Maybe because after two days of sitting at a desk having numerous and intense customer contacts, a couple of hours dusting is a relief? Anyway once we were past that point of argument that happens because I do some stuff (not all housework related) then have breakfast, then have a shower and then get stuck into some power cleaning rather than getting started right away, it was quite pleasant. Except that as part of our post holiday decrapulation project, G made me go through Grace's toys before breakfast. Anyway it's done now, all the surplus (as in yucky) soft toys and bits of plastic crap have gone. She hasn't even noticed. I don't imagine we'll get away with that for much longer. Still with a birthday coming up, I think it is provident to make space for some new toys. I often feel I'm holding back a wave of stuff threatening to engulf us.

It doesn't help that we both love opshopping. Or that her Nana is a bigger opshopper and hoarder than the both of us put together, times two. Therefore, I've decided to be unsentimental about the stuff that mum gives us. If it doesn't fit or doesn't work, it goes out. Stuff that arrives home from Nana's after visits, goes back to Nana's, otherwise my mum gets more stuff, to have at Nana's. Et cetera. The only exceptions being the hand made jumpers and toys which I am a bit more inclined to keep. We've had some discussions about this but I'm not sure my point is getting through. Indeed, when I told mum that we were having a big clear out, she asked what we were getting rid off with a certain glint in her eye. As if she had somewhere to put more stuff.

This issue of stuff is one that I have plenty of internal conflict about myself. I love certain sorts of acquistion, opshopping, markets, bookshopping, hardrubbishing. Gifts of useful things like fridges. Oh yes. But I do love opshopping, especially country opshopping. It's not that I think that the goods are better in country opshops, it's the thrill of finding new oppys, stopping your journey. And yes, buying stuff. We managed to get in quite a lot of opshopping on our holiday. On the drive down we stopped in Loch which has an opshop that opens on Sunday! Which the opshop lady said was when people passed through. I bought two childrens books, one a lurid fairy tale book and the other an original 1940s copy of The Wanderings of Mumfie, written and illustrated by Katharine Tozer. I'd never heard of Mumfie before but he was a "rather common little elephant" who "waited every day for the postman to bring him a lovely Adventure all tied up in a nice exciting parcel". This adventure is all about how he ends up being one of the toys chosen by Father Christmas to go across the sea of forgetfulness to the world of children. It's very odd, but I couldn't stop reading it. And I love the illustrations.

At the first visit to the Foster opshop I stocked up on material bits, some old buttons and bought yet more kiddy books. And a knitted toy, now called Foster, which Grace chose and tried to shoplift. Luckily it was one of those opshops that are very friendly to little people and they weren't at all fussed. In the picture above, Foster is on left. The other, almost identical, toy (called Snowman) was also chosen by Grace at a local opshop presided over by a lady who seems to dislike children intensely. There must have been a fashion and pattern for these at some point because I've seen others. I didn't like the Snowman at first because he's acrylic, but Foster is wool and very nicely made. And as a pair, I'm warming to them. Grace finds it hilarious and carts them both around.

The next opshopping trip took in Port Welshpool and Toora and Mum came too. I ended up with another plastic coated sewing basket, more material (like I don't have enough), yet another tin and the plastic cat which I spied on the way out. I have a soft spot for cheap older style plastic squeeze toys. When I asked how much, they laughed as if to say who'd want that and gave it to me. G is trying to convince me to keep it in the packaging but Grace loves it too much. And toys are to play with. But I do love the packaging.

And there was much opshopping on the way home. Most of which was spent restraining Grace, or letting her play with the toys depending on the kid friendliness of the shop. I bought heaps and heaps of kids books at Leongatha. Many little golden books, some bigger golden books and assorted other gems. Part of the decrapulation will have to include re-organising all the books. I'd like to have them all properly in shelves rather than in baskets or strewn around the floor. But that seems to work for about two minutes.

*Decrapulate, to rid ones life and space of accumulated material possessions that have become a hindrance rather than a pleasure, ie crap. So you can get new crap, or lead a crap-free life. Or at least spend less time re-arranging your crap. We've been having a polite discussion about who made this one up. I think it might have been G. It's a good word, I think.   


Go swimming in the ocean, overcome your initial fear and catch waves on the boogie board, feel young and exhilarated, wash the salt of in the garden shower next to the dahlias with a nuddy child playing on the lush grass at your feet, eat snacks for dinner, watch LOST, drink beer, walk to the shops, go on the funny flickering internet computer at the fish and chip shop, home along the beach, go to the playground, have Nana naps on the bed that looks out to the sky and into the ti-tree tops, listen to the possums run across the roof at night, dream with the crash of the ocean in your ears, hang out washing, have lunch, clear up, go to the beach again, think too much, go to town, chase Grace around country opshops, make a cake, forget your medication, take too much then sleep too much,  eat breakfast, admire the ti-trees, sit on the deck and drink beer, go endlessly up and down the stairs with Grace, rummage through cupboards as you get to know the kitchen, marvel at how clean the dishwasher gets glasses, argue with G about the merits of dishwashers (among other things), chase crabs,

write in a paper diary (I know, weird hey), read a kids book called The Wanderings of Mumfie about that you bought on the way down for $2 (bargain), eat liquorice allsorts from Safeway, take Grace to the beach only to have her turn around and say no the moment she gets over the foreshore, take endless photos of the Nerines in the afternoon light, resolve to finally get a Flickr page going, wear the bathers bought at the last minute over the internet, go swimming with my Dad and Grace, finally she loves it, go swimming with my aunty that used to be a butterfly swimming champion, decide that people are either beach swimmers or not and discover I am not the only one whos' significant other is not, have family barbeques for dinner, hear the same stories about certain family events from several different sources, go visiting, impress my aunties by the way Grace settles down to sleep quickly and without fuss on a strange bed after tearing around like she's been at earthcore for six days straight, listen to the rain and wind through the windows marvelling how solid the house is, go to the Prom with my sister Betty and Cam, watch Grace paddle in Tidal River, have a picnic, test the ruggedness of the stroller on a hilly 6k bushwalk, introduce Grace to Fanta at Squeaky beach (yum, she said swigging the shared bottle, which then had to be hidden from her until the remanants were disposed off - not doing that again),

go to look at the windfarms at Toora, eat chips in the car for lunch and take photos of the seagulls through the car window, hang out at the inlet with my Mum and Lance, get buffetted by the wind, sew a little something at night, invent a new slice recipe one afternoon during nap time,watch more telly than is good for me (when we don't have visitors), watch Dad and Nina' s first documentary effort, provide enthusiastic feedback, go to the playgound, marvel at the crowds and vibe over the long weekend, go touring and discover a new fishermans beach that's a bit odd and a really good secret beach that is shallow calm and sheltered and would be fantastic on a fine day partly because you have to walk 500metres to get there, collect big thick kelp in the stroller to make outdoor sculpture (can I crochet it?) on the one day that there is no hard sand on the beach and Grace doesn't want to walk, enjoy the serenity returning when the long weekend crowds leave eventhough it means your holiday is nearly over too, go to the beach lookout for mobile phone reception and stay for longer than I need, clean the house, pack the car, have a last time at the beach with Grace, forget stuff and go home. It was a lovely holiday.


Regular programming will most likely return next week at some point. I still haven't really caught up with the housework as we've decided to decrapulate our life and clean out the cupboards etc because this house is getting more and more feral by the day and neither of us can stand it anymore . And I've changed my hours and days at work. And I'm still watching too much telly at night. And I haven't even started on the kelp sculpture, it's growing lichen or something in Grace's paddle pool and making our backyard smell like the sea.

My eyes are full of the ocean

I'm trying to hold in my mind everything from our time at the beach this morning. I packed and started the clean while G took Grace to the park. Then while he did the big clean, I took Grace to the beach. For one last time. This holiday anyway. We went light, no bathers just a towell. Grace climbed into the stroller herself saying, beach, beach. As we topped the foreshore hill, there was barely a breeze. Wind being one of the defining factors here. Win. Another new word for Grace. It was glorious on the beach this morning. Warm but not burny, the surf rolling in and crashing neatly and predictably. The tide was out but coming in, I think. It looked perfect for boogie boarding, but we hadn't bought the board or indeed another person to hang with Grace. Oh well. You can't have everything complety perfect all the time.

There was a long beach of shining sand reflecting a puffy little cloud and Grace running towards the water. There was a man and his little girl playing at the edge, his bright red shorts looking amazing against the blue of the sea and the sky. Grace was very excited to see another bubby but they were just about to leave. So we ran into the waves, up to Graces waist. She held my hand or wrapped herself around my legs, shreiking with delight as the waves crashed around her and then receded, the fine sand sucking under our feet. Then she ran aroung in the gleaming shallows, each drop of water falling in a sparkle. I wish I could have sneaked a couple of photos of this so I could see it forever but salt water, sand, cameras and energetic toddlers are not a good mix. And I'd rather have the moment anyway. So I'll show you a couple of photos from the beach, taken on other days and you can kind of get the idea.

To be honest, these pictures don't do this morning justice. Same beach, different light. Different every day, which is quite exciting really. I love this beach. It is so part of my memory of childhood, of holidays. Returning this time was a homecoming of sorts.

I've been trying to hold it all in my mind but already these images are being overwritten by the journey home, opshopping, bad takeaway and the smell of Melbourne traffic. I've more or less unpacked and am waiting for all my photos to download. And for pizza (well, I was but that's done and packed away). Tommorrow looks like being a big day of many loads of washing, and shopping, and catching up and getting my house in order. No doubt I will go on about our holiday a bit more. At least until the re-entry to home world is complete and it's like we were never gone.