Christmas 2011

It wasn't my idea to host Christmas at our place this year and if I'm honest there were some times I had to remind myself not to grumble about it (I did a little bit, sorry). This got harder when I came down with an annoying summer cold three days before. But all things considered, Christmas lunch went rather well. Our house doesn't have a room big enough to seat nine in comfort so we planned to sit outside under the big canvas camping tarp. G made a long table and we even scored some nice outdoor chairs in the hard rubbish. We started haunting the weather forecast the week before. It started out looking good but two days before, storms seemed imminent. A plan B was hatched and we extended the table in the kitchen and planned how to seat everyone around it. I planned how we might manage serving from and sitting in the kitchen. As it turned out we didn't need the plan B but the weather was so freaky that I was glad to have it. Indeed having a plan B made for a certain relaxed attitude towards the weather.
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afterwards the hail really came down
We kept lunch fairly simple; cold roast chicken and salads - including by special request Berliner potato salad which includes apple and pickle juice. There was also a big bowl of luscious cherries, nibbles, chocolates, various drinks and my mum's sago plum pudding with spice sauce, cream and ice cream. There was a certain point in the afternoon when I realised that I could not eat another thing! It was lovely sitting under the tarp - there was plenty of space for everyone and there were glimpses of the garden from most seats one seat though had a pretty unrelenting view of junk and the side of the garage - but still, it was mostly good. After lunch there was some random hail, but it was still warm and almost sunny, but a nearby cloud was spitting out odd bits of hail with no rhythm or pattern. Very strange. We sat around under the tarp and Grace tried to put hail down Nina's back. Later after nearly everyone had gone, I heard this roar in the distance and went down the park to investigate. Couldn't see anything but somewhere close by was getting a pelting with big hail.Oh well, what's a Christmas without freak weather of some sort?

summer solstice

Today felt very longest dayish to me. I remarked to a couple of people at work that it was summer solstice and they seemed to think it was a bit funny I should know that. But anyway it did feel like we had reached a peak and for the first time in ages, it wasn't even that busy. I made a stupid and embarrassing mistake with a customer and unfortunately once I realised what I had done, I had to fix it. It was participation rather than payment related but I had to eat some humble pie. The customer was surprisingly gracious about it.  Given that I was starting to hack up a lung and not feeling all that flash and given that I also set off the duress alarm by mistake earlier in the day I asked if I could go home early. What a relief. Met the family in the supermarket and we ambled around filling the trolley with potato chips, pickles, soft drink, cream and vodka.
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I like this part of summer. It's only just dark at nine o'clock. Dinner is always late because it's still so light. There are birds nesting and feeding their young under the front porch eaves. Parrots screech around looking for fruit or nuts. Then there's the sounds of firecrackers in the court - maybe they are practising for new year? And older kids out playing late.The hum of insects. All the lush fruit - the supermarket had the most amazing cherries today and yesterday the organic shop had perfect apricots. The other day I saw some cherry plums in the shop and made jam on a whim. It is perfectly sour. I haven't had to wear proper shoes for ages. Last night the neighbours had a party and the sounds drifting over the fence were kind of homey and neighbourly. We've planned a holiday. There's dinner in the park tomorrow night and again on Saturday. Christmas is nearly here and I have food to cook and wrapping to do but it's all under control.

Happy Summer Solstice!

shopping centre christmas

Yesterday we went to norflands to do a spot of Christmas shopping, altogether, as a family. There was one small argument at the beginning about where to park but as it turns out, I was right. There were plenty of effortless car parks on the roof. On the way to target to buy a book (I know, buying books at target kind of wrong on lots of levels) we stopped off at the shop with the footy memorabilia and debated whether to buy a carlton or collingwood punching bag.  Grace sung the carlton song and the guy at the shop claimed to be an avid blues fan. Later I wondered if he changed his team for each customer. Thankfully we left empty handed.

After Target we headed to JB Hifi and by this time I was starting to feel overwhelmed by the noise, lights and all the stuff! I helped Grace with her Kris Kringle obligations and we left G there. He took a long time so I suspect he did a lot of his Christmas shopping in one fell swoop. I gave Grace a choice of nori or icecream for morning tea and she couldn't decide on which nori and then the ice cream shop wasn't there any more so on a whim I suggested slushie drinks. I had come down with a bit of a cold and ice was very appealing. She chose the *strawberry* which claimed to have fruit in it but was so chemically flavoured that she didn't like it at all. I had a frozen coke. Mmmm coke. Pandering to the not so new obsession with all flavours cola.

Eventually G joined us again and we checked out the dvds and books at the rather good remaindered book stall. Want a copy of Jane Brocket's The Gentle Art of Knitting? There's a whole stack of them for $20 each at Northland near the ABC shop. Also quite a few flash looking cookbooks - I bought Bill Granger's Simple Food for $20 and was tempted to buy Apples for Jam, a book by Kylie Kwong and another by Luke Ngyuen. There was also a great gardening book by Shirley Stackhouse and another by Jackie French. Maybe next Christmas. Last year I went to visit the stall after Christmas and it had gone. Anyway, it feels good to have the Christmas shopping done and dusted. Mostly wrapped too!

that summer feeling

This evening I picked another punnet's worth of boysenberries - to join those left over from last night in a free form tart. The pastry was the Maggie Beer sour cream pastry but with yoghurt instead of sour cream and half self raising flour because I ran out of plain. I dusted the berries with sugar and flour and watched a few bugs escape from the newly picked berries that I hadn't washed and dried (we had nit comb to do and I figured as we all eat berries from the bush then the odd bug in our pie shouldn't be a problem). Anyway I'm pretty sure they all escaped. And the pie was mighty fine. G and I had two helpings each and there is another piece for Grace in the fridge.
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When I picked the berries tonight it was cool cardigan type weather but last night it was warm and thundery. Everything is still so green. You can almost hear the garden growing. Another green summer I think. Grace and I went to the pool for a swim yesterday afternoon and it was just warm enough. Today we (sort of) finished off the pre everyone's coming to our place for Christmas cleaning. G cleaned the laundry and I washed windows. There are a few streaks but oh how the light is different with clean windows. And outside looks bright and sharp. We probably should clean out the cupboards but oh well, time to do some baking and crafting and all that sort of thing.
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I can't believe how prolific our boysenberry is, second year in.  I reckon I've picked 5 or 6 punnets over the last week or two with more to come. I think I shall plant another of these. It would be good to grow so many berries that every one got tired of them and I had to make some into jam or freeze them for winter crumbles. Hard to imagine but possible I suppose.

the path

All winter I have been stepping gingerly through mud and across wobbly bits of wood and temporary paving. I told myself that I didn't mind, that eventually there would be a path to the front door. Then one day after some discussion, a couple of arguments and this and that, work began on stage two of the front yard paving project. I don't have the photos of it yet but the paving is pretty much finished and let me tell you, it is fucking fantastic. G has done a fantastic job with various scavenged materials and the path is a joy to walk on. It really is.
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The path is laid on white pebbles which were brought to our house by the young men a couple of doors up. They were getting rid of the pebbles and were more than happy to wheelbarrow them over. It was all very neighbourly and meant that we didn't need to buy gravel. Actually, apart from a new inner tube for the wheelbarrow, we didn't buy anything for the path project. There were even enough of the stones left over to make a little path through the front garden. It's kind of cheesy and not worn yet in but I like it greatly. Pictures to come in a bit.
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Although Gerard did pretty much all the work, I spent an hour or so one afternoon digging bricks up from a part of the back yard that hopefully will one day be covered in extension. This endeavour made me realise how disturbingly unfit I had become, what with the achilles tendon and general slacktitude. The good news is that I am in week two of my new walking routine and even though I am only doing it twice a week so far, I can feel some basic fitness returning quickly. Indeed the walk this morning was so pleasurable that I walked quite a bit further than I planned. 
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domestic snapshot

I had such a difficult time uploading photos from my camera last weekend. It took all the time I had imagined I might blog in. Everything worked out in the end but who knew that a slightly flat battery could cause such a schermozzle. At least that's what I think it was. And my computer has been playing up again - it has a very delicate graphics card and too much dust or heat or a dodgy planetary alignment and it just turns itself off. But anyway we have defragged, cleaned registries and cleaned the innards of the computer out with the compressor and she seems to be happy again. Fingers crossed this lasts.

I made this cake a couple of weekends ago, it is my usual cake but with coconut in it and this one had rhubarb and strawberries on the bottom. It was utterly delicious and we washed it down with homemade ginger beer. Of course I wouldn't let anyone near the cake until I had photographed it. I think we are due for another cake soon. Maybe involving cherries.
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We still have lice. Ho hum. I think Grace keeps getting re-infected at school. Am thinking of making her a headscarf to wear but then she'd only need to take it off for a minute touch heads with someone who had the critters and bam we'd be back to step one. Still haven't tried the straightening iron but I suspect management of the critters is the best we can do. How cool is Grace in her black t-shirt? Have to keep reminding myself she is still six.

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I have been crocheting at night. I have my kids hats knitting project for taking on the tram and for lunch time at work but this rug is my thing at the moment. The one you see there has been unravelled because the edges were hugely wonky and I decided I didn't like the blocks of colours. I've redone it with straight edges, a smaller hook and I swap colours every row. Even if sometimes the colours are very alike. I think it's working out. Maybe I should put it on the bed and see.

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Today has been good. Went for a creek side walk after drop off and managed not to totally freak out about the possible snakes in the grass. Then a friend came around for coffee and I made another batch of ginger beer and then G and I went to the tip shop for a browse. We came home via my new favourite butcher so Grace and I will be having Italian pork sausages for dinner. Yum.

the locust of concern

Life feels full of the unbloggable at the moment. I would love to explore how I am a bad daughter and how I should really respond to questions about certain things with conventional platitudes rather than say what I actually think. Sometimes saying what you think and feel is a really bad idea. I am nearly 48 and I should know that by now. Although the last week was better than usual, work is still pretty vile and also pretty much unbloggable, because you know it is work. Unfortunately I need keep working for the time being. The thought of being a customer where I work is not an appealing one on just so many levels.

The weather is lovely though and we have well and truly launched into dinner in the park season. I do like that. Last night Grace and I walked up to the wholesale butcher that has a little shop front and bought two nice pieces of scotch fillet. I liked how they cut it to order.I cooked up some potato and asparagus from the veggie box and made some lemon vinaigrette (declined by Grace) and I must say it was a ripper of a meal. Grace just seems to inhale meat when you put it in front of her at the moment so I'm making an effort to include it at least once a week. I think she's growing every time our backs are turned. Her height is totally off the chart for a six year old. But as our GP said after a recent check up, pulling himself up to his full 6 foot plus, tall is good. And she is bouncing off the walls with good health as well. She is just very, very tall for a six year old. Anyway dinner at the park has been going off. The children run around in packs until it gets dark and then some. The grown ups drink (a little bit) and talk shit and plot plans to make the world a better place, chat about plants and gardens, the school and how cute the newest baby on the block is. It's totally good. But the late nights for children take some patience the next day. And some discipline to get back into the swing of early nights.
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Week before last I had a whole three days of commuting by public transport to Box Hill for work. I got a bit of knitting done - making hats for Christmas presents for my nieces (am so behind in my ravelrying and craft blogging that I can't think about it). It feels virtuous to have started that already. Indeed Christmas planning has well and truly started chez scruffnut. We think we're going to have it here and on some levels that is an insane decision but on others it might be quite nice. Anyway the commute was worth it to do some training for work. It was technical training and I expected it to be dull but it wasn't at all. It means I will be able to do another aspect of the work - I've done it before a long time ago - and I'm rusty as hell but it is expected that to start off that I will be slow and careful. Perhaps that's partly why I'm feeling better about work. And week before that I attended a different sort of training which was really in the form of a group debrief about some of the shitty stuff that happens at work. There was quite a bit of talk about the psychology of serial killers and aberrant behaviour, but the most interesting thing to me was the statistic from our employee counselling service that the biggest source of workplace stress by an astonishing margin, was not our customers but our management. Interesting and somewhat validating.

Oh and we have our friendly neighbourhood possums back. Gosh they are noisy.

occupy melbourne - view from the sidelines

Last Friday morning as I left for my psychiatrist appointment I thought, I'll leave some extra time - there's that protest thing happening in the city. News of the Occupy Melbourne people being evicted from the city square had been on the radio that morning and I was curious. I've been following Occupy Melbourne all week on Facebook (after seeing their ads on Facebook - Facebook advertising can be quite seductive sometimes) and it has occurred to me that if this protest had been happening 28 years ago, I would have been there. Predictably the tram stops before the city square and everyone gets out. I move around trying to see what's happening. There are still some people in the square. I end up looking through the recently erected security fence near Brunettis and talking about the distribution of power and wealth in this country with an older woman from the country. She seems to think that protesters are deluded, that we have it good here. I explain what I think the protest is about while thinking about how I regularly meet people who are homeless or at risk of being homeless and how it is part of my job to refer people for material aid because their payments are not enough for food AND housing. How even working families find it hard to afford a rented house in Melbourne.  How my family isn't poor or vulnerable but my mum has been on a public hospital waiting list for knee surgery for ages (and it still doesn't seem closer). That here in my suburb we don't have a local open entry high school, our primary school is surrounded by cracked asphalt and weed trees and has been without a library for the best part of two years.  That said we are lucky to live here, and to have the papers that grant us that right. Still, Australia is a very rich country and those abundant riches are not as evident in our health, education and welfare systems as they could be. Or in the way we welcome people who come to live here. So yeah, I guess I get the bit about being the 99%. The police are removing people from the city square and it is horrifying. It crosses my mind that if you were looking for an illustration of how the 1% use force to crush the 99%  and where power lies in our society, here you have it. Ugly.
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view from the security fence at the city square


At my appointment, I discuss what I have seen with my psychiatrist and she is unexpectedly sympathetic to the cause of Occupy Melbourne. I tell her about how ugly the force used by the police appears, how wrong. I suggest that it feels a bit like a some fights that start in families, that once the fighting starts, no matter who is right or wrong, it's ugly for everyone.We agree that Occupy Melbourne could have been left to their devices in the city square, that it was an orderly protest and would have hurt no-one.
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Moving up Swanston street
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Police pushing up Swanston street


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I go back to the city after my appointment and Swanston street has been closed. The protesters are corralled at the intersection on Bourke and Collins street. There are crowds of bystanders, many calling shame, shame, shame as the police shove, push and use all kinds of force. At one point what I was seeing was so brutal that I feel myself holding back the tears, not quite succeeding and I'm sure I only saw a tiny part of it.  I'm remembering demonstrations that I took part in as a student in the eighties and I don't recall this degree of police violence. There were all sorts of police there, regular police, mounted police, the dog squad, riot police - or the so called Public Order Response Team. Kind of ironic given that prior to the cops turning up, there was public order, the protest was mostly confined to the city square and the trams were running freely. It feels like such a massive display of force and the atmosphere around it is charged and outraged. People are standing on seats, getting as close as they can with there, phones, cameras and ipads. There is is this sense of bearing witness, of recording what is happening because it feels so wrong. But still the horrible violence continues.
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bystanders with phones - this was at what appeared to be a particularly violent patch - protesters had been pushed back from the intersection of Collins and Swanston street
Some first hand accounts gleaned from Facebook
A Firsthand Account of Being Arrested for Protesting



Mirrool, and the last of the photos

On the way home from Queensland we stopped for the first night at a caravan park in Moree. We chose this particular caravan park because it had artesian pools that I knew Grace would love, especially after a solid day's driving. We got there only to read a sign that there were no cabins left. I went to the office resigned to staying in the tent in a park full of vans and not being allowed to light a fire (the no fire is a total deal breaker for winter camping) only to find that there had been a last minute cancellation. Grace was delighted to be staying in a cabin even though it was pretty crappy. I decided not to whinge, even to myself, about the degree of crappiness for the price, and enjoy the pools. We bathed after dinner and again in the morning and the pools were great. A different type of experience to the Pilliga bore bath which I prefer, but nice big pools with ledges to sit on and clean chlorinated water.-
The next night we stopped at a camping spot near Dubbo. It was by a river and the night was freezing cold. The next night, after a day's driving on the crazy Newell, we stopped at Mirrool.  We choose Mirrool because it was a good days drive from home, it was in Camps 6 and not too far from the highway. As we pulled in, the hand painted free camping sign looked promising and we parked in what looked to be a likely spot. There wasn't anyone else camping so we went into the pub to ask. And stayed for a chat, a beer, a soft drink, a shandy and a game of eight ball. It was one of the friendliest and most welcoming places we stopped at. The pub itself is a beauty. Fairly original and with lots of lovely art decco tile work. I would be tempted to take a room there on a future trip - just to look upstairs.
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Every October the town hosts a silo kick - where the aim is to kick a football over the silo - and I remember thinking as I read the sign that the second Saturday in October was a long time away. Now that would be tomorrow and I am just finishing up dealing with the photos from the trip and posting about it. Still, even though it became a drawn out process, I'm glad I did. Each photo in the flickr set reminds me of something particular about our trip. I miss Betty and the girls and I would love to be back on the road again, but oh well.
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After we sent up camp, I went for a walk around Mirrool with my camera. By myself. I find these walks by myself to be an essential part of a family holiday. Even 20 minutes. For a small town with no shops, just a pub, some silos by the railway and a collection of houses there was an awful lot to see. I'm sure a longer stay would reveal even more. Anyway, that brings me to the end of the July school holidays narrative. Just as the September school holidays are drawing to a close.

norflands, norflands, norflands, norflands

Grace has been asking and asking me to take her on the bus to norflands over the school holidays. She has pretty set ideas about what we will do when we get there and they revolve around nori rolls for lunch and a haircut from a hairdresser. I on the other hand view it as an opportunity to torture her with chainstore after chainstore, trying things on and buying shoes - there are many many things I'd rather do than a trip to norflands so normally they do coincide with her shoes being too small. Mind you she grows whenever your back is turned so maybe we get to go more often than you think.
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The bus trip was lovely - excited, well behaved child - mother as yet unsullied by the shopping mall malaise. Grace decides that she wants to get her hair cut first off - a short bob with a very short fringe. We take a seat at the hairdresser and I do wonder if this is wise but they have cut Grace's hair before. Anyway Grace is sitting in the chair having her hair spritzed and combed out and the hairdresser calls me over and says she can't do Grace's hair and shows me a huge granddaddy louse. She tells me not to come back for at least two weeks after they have been treated and I mumble and feel embarrassed. But then I remember the suspicion I once had that we may have caught nits there the first time around. Sigh, that one has slipped through to the keeper. Anyway, I am now sitting here typing with the the green shower cap on. Tried combing them out but I  appear to have generations of lice living on my head too. Ick. Total bad mother moment.

So we head towards Kmart via Lincraft and I decide that it's too early for lunch but that morning tea is in order. I'm hoping to spot somewhere that sells steamed dumplings but in a moment of weakness decide on spanish donuts. Grace isn't sure but I cajole her with the promise of a babycino. And it turn s out to be a good idea. My coffee is pretty good for a shopping mall coffee, the babycino has flowers on top and is served with a smile. And while I've had better churros, these ones are made to order and pretty dam tasty. Nearly makes up for the nits at the hairdresser moment. Kmart has no summer school dresses and no size 8 clothes suitable for a six year old. Sigh. Target is better and we buy a nice dress, some t-shirts including Grace's first black one which she talks me into. Is six too young to be wearing black? Again, most clothes that come in size 8 are not suitable for a six year old in my view. Actually I don't think I'd buy them for an eight year old either. Sigh. Still, I explained to Grace that I would only buy her clothes that she could play in and that were for kids. And that she was too young to wear clothes for "ladies". She got the idea.
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Next stop, shoes. Sandals and runners. I do love a kids shoe shop where the staff measures their feet and offers suitable choices. We were in and out within half and hour. By this time Grace is well and truly moaning and groaning and I am turning into meanie mum. Norflands has sucked the lifeforce from me and I just want to be somewhere else but have promised Grace nori rolls for lunch. We slink past the hairdressers with our lousy hair and sit down to eat nori rolls for lunch. Afterwards the bus seems takes ages to come but eventually we are home again. We pull out everything we have bought and it seems reasonable enough. I have a little nana nap and Grace slips off to watch some school holiday tv.

yesterday, today and tomorrow

yesterday - I pulled out my sewing machine and the big pile of mending that has been blocking the light and sewed and patched and turned favourite size 6 sun dresses into (hopefully) favourite size 8 skirts. Mum came over before lunch and sat and chatted as I mended. It was pleasant, kind of like what we used to do when we lived in Brunswick and Grace was little and before I worked 3 days a week. After a slacker lunch of corn chips, dips, chopped up vegetable and home-made lemon delicious ice cream , Grace dragged her Nana back home for a two night sleepover. Left to my own devices the pace slowed a little, but I did manage to patch a flower over an accounting firm logo on the polar fleece I bought at Savers a while ago. Perfect for camping.
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today - work, not too taxing really. It wasn't very busy. I'm feeling much better, although despite my doctor suggesting that I starting weaning off the anti psychotic, I feel better taking them. I sleep all thorough the night and what a difference that makes. My thoughts stay where I put them and there is hardly an anxious moment at all. Still. I suppose I will have to wean off them. Work has at my request drafted a return to work plan and while it means we have talked about my issues, a good thing I suppose, it hasn't really got to the heart of why work has been one of the triggers when I have been unwell. They think I should change my working days so that I work two days, have a day off and then work Friday. Haven't had a chance yet to formally say, I don't think so. I can't see that it would help, my issues are much more around me not meeting a perceived and somewhat moveable performance standard. Anyway it would be inconvenient for G and work he has arranged. And bugger it, I like my long weekends.
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tomorrow - Grace comes home. It's kind of nice to have a little break from the routine but the house feels all quiet and empty without her. We've talked on the phone but we both miss her being here. Need to start planning a mini camping trip and some holiday activities. Including the much pleaded for Norfland trip.Why does she love going to Norfland so much?

leaving

Just looked at airfares online. Hoping that I would find something cheap enough to justify swapping a weekend's camping for a long weekend in Queensland with the cousins. Um, no - even if it was just me and Grace - far too expensive to do at the last minute. Sometimes I wish I was rich. Anyway tonight I was going to write about leaving but what is there to say? We packed up the car, said our goodbyes and drove down the drive and up the road. We stopped at the mushroom farm for a kilo of mushrooms* and then found the freeway and started heading south.
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I took a few photos before we left - crazily dashing around trying to preserve memories. I like the posed ones of the cousins - the one above and this one. There's something about the set shot that has a particular poignancy to it. I can also see how tall they are in relation to each other. Shown together they don't really look as tall as the do against other kids their ages. That's another way of saying they are all tall for their age but it doesn't stand out when they're together. Even though little Maeve looks a bit sad, I also like this photo which I must have taken from the car or as I was strapping Grace in.
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It was easier driving down the freeway than the way we came through the mountains. The car sort of felt like home and I picked up my interminable (and ripped out and restarted but still not finished) hat knitting. We were full of the experiences of the road trip and time with family. It was sort of exciting being back on the road and I can't remember whether I missed them all just after we left but I certainly do miss them now.
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*G doesn't think a meal is a meal without mushrooms so we can go through a kilo just like that.

Grace's socks

Queensland in winter, what can I say? It was freezing cold in the morning and in the evening and pretty much most of the time except for between 10.00am and 3.00pm when if you sit in the sun, it is too warm to wear shoes or a long sleeved top. Other times the woolens and thermals received a good work out. Just as well I finished my stripey noro socks! I was worried they would be a bit scratchy but after a wash the wool is soft enough.* So I made a pair for Grace too, in a bright rainbowy sort of colour.She has worn them quite a bit and shows a delightful appreciation of the handmade item. Mine are a low calf length and hers are not quite knee length. Interestingly there was a dropped stitch on the front of the ankle on one of her socks and one of mine. I decided to fix it rather than unravel them.
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I'm pretty pleased with the pattern. I definitely prefer knitting toe up socks. Give me an absurdly easy turkish cast on over a kitchener stitch toe any day. I much prefer the short row heel too. The one I used doesn't require wraps and once I figured out that I needed to use stitch markers (I like the small elastic bands that I can slip on my thumb) and that the placement of the extra stitch determined whether or not there would be holes in the heels, it was really easy. Much easier than a turned heel. Didn't bother with jogless stripes, I can't for the life of me get it right and it doesn't show that much in the noro, so I decided to go with the imperfection. I also discovered on this trip that I can knit in the car as long as it's not to complicated. Knitting is also perfect for those times on holiday when you just want to sit around and knit. Really, is there anywhere you can't take knitting?
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*note from the future they are my absolute favourite socks and I will definitely be wearing them on chilly summer evenings with my birks.

golden memories

Apart from the main aim of spending time with Betty, Cam and the girls, we all had a few things we wanted to do while we were in Queensland. G wanted to visit a friend who lives sort of nearby and I wanted to go to a market with Betty, on my own. Grace wanted to go swimming and to the beach and spend lots of time with her cousins. We bargained back and forth and came up with something that pleased everyone. Grace's trip to the beach ended up being an afternoon by the Noosa river with fish and chips for dinner.
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It possibly wasn't as carefree as it looks. There was child wrangling and I got shat on by a bird. But there was water and sand and sun and that beautiful golden light.There was lots of scootering on the paths because there's no concrete where Ruby-Lee and Maeve live and even though they get to scooter and play with their ride on toys inside on the hardwood floors, it's not the same as a big long path. Something about the dynamic has changed between the children, they're all a little bit older (with exactly two years between each of them). Grace is also a lot more assertive and sure of herself and much more able to tell me what she needs - as in, mum, I just need some time to myself.  When your sociable introvert only child says that, it's good for every one to take note. All in all though, the children played really well together and the grownups were nice to each other and drank beer with their chips. Even me. Just half a stubby, because it tasted so damned good.
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Another thing I just remembered is how I was struck by the cousin's sureness of their relationship with each other and it's importance. I'm not the best at between visit skypes and phone conversations but Grace and Ruby-Lee especially looked forward to the visit and regarded it as pretty important. Once we had been there a little while, Maeve also seemed quite sure that we were family.  Writing these posts just makes me want to go back. To have a barbeque by the river this weekend. To drink beer and catch up on the gossip. It would probably even be warm enough to swim now.

arriving

We got lost in Toowoomba after a detour from the main route in search of opshops. Once off the main route, it seemed impossible to find it again. But several service stations and convenience stores later we did and after some flood related detours, we made to Esk for a late lunch. I bought ham, avocado and tomato from the supermarket to make sandwiches for lunch which we ate to the sound of two somewhat disturbed youngsters breaking up in the park. Ahem. Not pretty.
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Absolutely no time to look for opshops now and we headed towards our destination. I don't know why we decided to go the back way, but we did. At some point I started ringing Betty for directions and we conversed and texted as we went in and out of range. We weren't going to get there as early as we hoped. It was very exciting nonetheless.
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By the time we got to Montville, we were well and truly ready to be there and out of the car. But we couldn't find the road and then we did, it was closed because of the floods. More phone calls and we found out that there was another road, a secret hunchy road, not marked on the map. Luckily once we arrived in town, I remembered how to get to their house and as we drove up the drive, it felt great and strange all at the same time. We'd never arrived at Betty's place in our own car before. It was so great to get there. To take up where we left off. Grace and her cousins Maeve and Ruby-Lee seemed to take up where they left of too. All the way up as Gerard and I made arrangements for our own little side trips Grace was most concerned that she got to spend as much time with the girls* as possible. I'm sort of homesick and nostalgic and missing them all over again just thinking about it.
* Mum refers to Ruby-Lee and Maeve as the "girls" quite a lot.

time passes

About a month from now, nine years ago, I sat weeping in front of my computer trying to fill out my jobseeker diary. A couple of weeks before that I had attended a seminar and gone to a new claim interview and people had said that they would look after me. They didn't. A little bit before that I had steeped out of the lift and into the hushed upstairs part of that office and lodged a claim for family tax benefit. A bereavement claim. I felt a little wrong doing that but I finished my call centre contract early and couldn't possibly imagine working again. The nurses at the hospital had given me the claim and told me to lodge it. The families people were kind and offered me social work services but I said no.  It would have been helpful to me if they had communicated with the people downstairs and someone had completed what I now know as the NMIS screen with the birth date of my baby. I would have been granted an automatic six week exemption from looking for work. I didn't know it then but that would have given me enough breathing space to figure out what to do next.Actually it would have been reasonable to expect the people downstairs to have looked for the information that was there and coded the exemption on their own initiative. After all I had sat through the new claim interview crying quietly and when they asked me about my previous circumstance I said, I had a baby and he died.
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Sad day this year was last Tuesday and really, it passed much like any other day. I wasn't really sad at all. After nine years, most of the time I'm not sad any more but every now and then there will be an intense moment. There's a new family at school and I really like them but their youngest has the same name as our son. It's an old fashioned and uncommon name at the moment and he's a feisty and totally cute looking three year old and when I hear his mum call his name, there's a part of me that just want to curl up and cry. I told her a little of my story, just in case I seem odd, but really I'm just going to have get used to it. And I will.
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It's hard to tell whether I went nutty this time because of the sad day anniversary stuff and the way the spring weather with the wind and the sun just reminded me of certain feelings. Can the remembrance of a feeling rather than the feeling itself have an effect? Or whether it was work stress and not enough sleep. Or just the increase in the amount of light. Or the way that I pretend everything is OK, even to myself but it really isn't and I just burst. Kind of like a nasty pimple. Or maybe it's just me and my own particular kind of special. So anyway, this sad day I find myself drugged to the eyeballs and back at work explaining myself to the team leader who surprises me by being pretty decent about it all. She listened. I found myself explaining how my workplace had once treated me quite insensitively as a customer in the past She looks at me and I realise that this feeling of working for an organisation that has treated me pretty badly somehow really matters. I don't know what I'm going to do with this feeling but I see the same sort of thing happening to other customers now. All sorts of different circumstances but the same sort lack of empathy or understanding. And it pisses me off. It's not unique to my workplace, or organisation and I don't know how to change it. But I'd like to have a stab. That's what I'm going to try and take from sad day this year. That and a big breath out. Because now it's downhill all the way to Christmas with a couple of birthdays on the way.

felton

OK so I still have some posts to do from the July school holidays. Which I would like to get done by the next holidays which are fast approaching. So please excuse the rambling and non sequential timeline happening here.  The new drugs while making me a bit drowsy seem to have improved my ability to focus get things done. Who'd have thought? Anyway, best take advantage of that while it lasts.
roadside protest
One of the good things about our new Camps 6 book is that it can lead you to places just a little way off the highway that mightn't otherwise. After camping at Yarramalong Weir, we drove to Toowoomba via a place called Felton. G stopped the car and asked me to take some photos of the signs by the road opposing the so called "clean coal" proposal for the area. Back home I googled the area and found the Friends of Felton site.
road trip humour
food not fumes
That was a good morning. We were all full of excitement about seeing Betty, Cam and the girls. There were poo jokes and hilarity galore. Our desination seemed near. We thought we'd get there early in the day but we hadn't counted on driving and getting lost in Toowoomba. Next post will be about being in Queensland and seeing the cousins and the rest of the family.

we could call it cream camp

Or perhaps The Lancfield Sanitorum for weary mothers who work delivering government services. On Friday I  woke up all groggy, my face stuck in the pattern of the pillow and impossible to move. Packing seemed like an insurmountable obstacle. However with some encouragement from G, who seemed rather keen for me to go, I got through it and made some frozen yoghurt and then Sue arrived to chaffeur me there (I am on too many drugs to drive once again which also meant I couldn't do the airport run ). And pretty much as soon as we were on the freeway, my mood started to settle and look forward to being at Sewjourn. On the way, we stopped at some opshops, as you do and bumped into Gill in one of the Romsey opshops. As you do. Then we arrived at Sewjourn and were greeted by Jenny, Kate and EleanorTania, Suse, Kate, Stomper joined us as the day and weekend wore on. As each person arrived there was much joyousness. As Gill says, this is my/our tribe. Once upon a dance floor I may have sort of belonged to a different tribe, and I have my mob at home in the 'hood but I was always destined to truly belong here as well. It's kind of funny to think that it is the internet that has bought this group of crafty and mostly middle aged (although some of us are not middle aged at all - we are a bit diverse that way) women together.
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Anyhow, what made it good for me this time? The pleasant convivial company of these beautiful women. As always. Beautiful food cooked and presented with love and care. Yummy desserts - toffee pecan pie and lemon tart. Chestnut cheesecake for afternoon tea. All with lashings of cream! Yum. The savoury components of the meals were just as good and really, I have to say it was a particularly outstanding craft camp foodwise. Making, and seeing making all around me. I made a cotton top for work and a skirt out of linen I bought for pants. Didn't realise I'd cut into the wrong piece of fabric until I'd nearly finished making the skirt. Oh well, probably can't have too many black linen skirts in Melbourne. Cast on a jumper and didn't get it quite right, but figured out the stitch so not a waste of time. Made some project bags for the fete that will no doubt happen one day. Also another aspect that was really good was the absence of the day to day, being away from the 'hood, away from my life. Overall I like my life and where I live but there is much to be said for being away from it for a short while. Perspective and all that.
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Also, and I think it deserves a paragraph all to itself, the feeling of being nurtured, of being held by the group was very important for me this weekend. This is the second weekend this year when a perilous mental state has coincided with craft weekend. I've asked myself the question and I don't think I become unwell because craft weekend is coming up but, the confluence is interesting to me. Eleanor insisted we swap beds so that I could retreat into a bedroom by myself. And she did it in such a kind and thoughtful way that I felt OK accepting. All round people were kind and generous and lovely and well, I just hope I've bought some of that home with me. To last until next time.

And yes, there were lashings of cream. Indeed I think I returned with more cream than I took with me.