oops, I forgot to make white christmas

Christmas was a fairly relaxed affair this year. I haven't really felt much Christmas spirit but it has been pleasant nonetheless. On Christmas Eve we shopped at Hassoons and the dour little supermarket nearby, good for cheap vodka. Sort of tidied the house and managed to get the washing put away, the ironing done and some fresh greenery in the vases. My pIan was to make nutella truffles and peppermint patties but the truffle mix looked a bit dodgy and I decided this sweet making thing was most likely not going to work that Christmas Eve. So I decided to concentrate on nori rolls and drinks with friends instead. Later I rescued the abandoned mix and made nutella truffles sitting at the outside table with a drink by my side and lots of nice chat flowing all around. When they tried one the children made faces at the cocoa on the outside but I convinced them to bite through to the truffle and they were given the thumbs up. And then as I was going to bed, checking behind doors for renegade snakes (because as the snake was not caught we don't know for sure that it has gone - even though it is likely to have sought more suitable habitat and lord there are probably snakes everywhere anyway), I realised that there would be no white christmas this year. I've made it for many years and this year I just forgot. Oh well, it's not like it's a health food.
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It turned out on Christmas day that mum and Rachael thought that I would bring white Christmas. Like people knew I would make a calendar  How quickly things become habits, traditions. Sometimes I think I would like a different sort of Christmas. One with no presents (except for the children and then only a limited number) and  where instead of lots of dishes we had oysters, one salad, cherries and a ridiculously good blue cheese. Gerard tends to get overwhelmed by the amount of food on offer and I guess I do too. Not that it stops me from eating a few too many chocolates at the end.  The truffles were well received and Rachael made some mince tarts which were very lovely with a crisp shell and a nice not too sweet filling. The calendar also went down reasonably well. I changed my approach which was a photo taken in the month to one of family snapshots even if the photo was taken in a different month. It works better this way I think. Maybe next year I could make an effort to take more family snaps. Anyway Christmas day was lovely. Very relaxed, nice (if over abundant) food, cute Kris Kringles. Not too many presents for the girl. I guess we are actually close to the kind of Christmas I'd like. And perhaps we might have oysters and pavlova for New Year's Eve.
. When we got home I made lentil soup from leftover vegetable crudities, herbs from the garden and leftover parsley from salad making. Goodness, it hit the spot. Boxing Day was spent sleeping, watching DVDs, reading books and sitting outside. Only one of us got properly dressed and it wasn't me or Grace. Dinner was leftovers. Gee I love boxing day. Today is continuing in a similar vein although we are going to go for a family walk and see if there are any snakes by the creek.

The photos are from the Friday before Christmas when we went to look at some Christmas lights in Preston. I found out about them from facebook and it was pretty amusing. Hope you and yours had the kind of Christmas that your family likes and everyone is feeling happy and relaxed.

s s s snake incident

So yesterday I decided to get in before the heat and wash the windows because washed windows make the rest of your house look better without doing a heap of housework. We are also talking a lot about the extension and school stuff so as I went out into the front yard with my bucket and squeegee, Gerard was behind me, chatting. As you do. Then he says, there's a snake. It was behind the old air conditioner that I'd walked right past in short pants and thongs.  It popped its head up and slithered into the area with some tatty pots and stones. I dropped my bucket and squeegee and headed out onto the footpath, being somewhat unreasonably afraid of snakes. I turned and I saw the snake heading towards the front door. Grace and some of her friends were in the front room watching Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Johnny Depp version). At this point I screamed and the neighbours came out of their houses and gathered around. Meanwhile Gerard had dashed around the back and closed the front door and told the girls about the snake. They thought he was joking! Grace convinced them otherwise. G saw the snake go into the study so I wasn't going to go in and get my phone or use the internet. After trying to look in the phone book with no success (so last century), I went to a friends house and we looked up snake handlers online and found someone to come out. Emily went and got all the kids and took them back to her place.
OMG we had a brown SNAKE in the front garden and in the HOUSE!
This is not the snake that was in our house but a plastic snake the snake man found under the house. The real snake is still at large. Hopefully gone from our house and yard.
Unfortunately I didn't take the snake guy's instruction to seal the study that seriously as I thought there were lots of holes there anyway. I waited in the park talking about what his car might look like and sure enough he drove a four wheel drive ute. I went home, along with a big gaggle of kids. The snake guy was really good and went through the study thoroughly  He also checked the garden and the rest of the house but it looks like our reptile friend has gone or gone to ground.  It's funny but a couple of weeks ago when I was picking mulberries by the woodpile, I thought snake. Anyway he talked to us quite a bit about snakes and how they act. Based on out description he thought it was a brown snake and told us that they are very adaptable. Gerard says that from what he told him, the snake guy thought that it was a snake on the move, passing through. He instructed us to wear long pants and socks last night and to lave the back door open. Just in case. Also suggested we play music with a deep loud base which we have been doing, much to Grace's horror. Gerard and Grace have both been really sensible but I've been a total wimp. Needing to take a seven year old with me while I finished washing the windows. Looking around corners and freaking out just a bit. And to think while I have been avoiding walking by the creek, we had a snake right by our font door!*

Now I'm talking about the snake to anyone who will listen and it turns out there have been a few local snake encounters. Someone in another part of our estate had one in the yard, as did some people who live near the creek. There's also been some sightings down the creek. Maybe it's a good season for snakes. Eek.

* For those who don't know me in real life, we live in middle suburban Melbourne. There is a creek and bushy vegetation fairly close by but there is absolutely nothing rural or bushland fringe about where we live.

christmas mc cranky pants

Yesterday was shrink day and afterwards I spent some time in the city. Running around doing Christmasy things like it's Christmas or something. I'm trying to feel it but I'm not. Gerard got a bit of a serve about it the other day. It wasn't really his fault. Christmas Mc Cranky pants, that would be me. So it was interesting to talk to my doctor about everything. I don't think she was surprised about my leaving work but she did suggest that maybe I could have gone on stress leave. Ooops, a  bit late for that. We talked about my crankiness and the guilt and all the other less than pleasant feelings that have emerged since the initial elation subsided. She said it is a big adjustment and that I need to take all of January off and relax. I already knew all that but it was nice to have her say it too.
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Walked around the grey drizzling city, bumping into people and wanting to spend big and be frugal. Hopefully I have found a middle path but I always find it hard not to overspend a bit. Bought some nice hand drawn and printed Christmas cards from  a guy sitting on the footpath outside Myer. We had a bit of a chat and I didn't say but I admired his enterprise. Had a coffee at the GPO which is my favourite place to have coffee in the city. Checked my emails and whoa..... the school PFA email list is running hot with various positions on the school's proposed one to one ipad program. I fussed and fumed all the way home, but this is what I think and what I wrote. Clearly I am in over sharing mode but I blaming Christmas (and the Recurrent Family Christmas Shit Cycle) and the leaving work/crazy shit.

While I may be a bit sceptical about ipads coming from a staunch PC/Android family, I do see enormous benefits in a one to one ipad program for our school.  However I have some very serious concerns about the way the program has been rolled out and the equity issue. After raising the matter with the school,  I was told that having her own ipad would accelerate my child’s learning but when I mentioned that we may not be able to afford one without forgoing something else (I have just left my job - so funds are being carefully monitored) I was then told that she could use a class set but it was made pretty clear to me that this is definitely a second best option and that should extra money become available, I should then purchase an ipad for her. No sensitivity was shown concerning my current situation and it was all very awkward and tense.   Later when I thought about it, I thought equity schmequity.
All the DEECD material I have read makes it clear that an ipad is a personal device and that the best results come when students have their own personal ipad. This appears to be what the school is aiming for. But what of the kids that don’t get their own ipad? What of kids who don’t have access at home, who don’t have all their work loaded up on their own personal ipad? Will their learning be accelerated in the same way? I suspect you can’t have it both ways. How are kids going to feel using the bank of school ipads when other kids have their own personalised ipads? What if there are say three students in each class who don’t get their own ipad? Will they and their families feel a bit second best, a bit not advantaged? Is that we really want in our State school? At the end of the day we could buy an ipad for Grace if all the other kids have one but there may be families who might not be in that position. In the job that I have just left, I regularly saw families from this area (including working families) choosing whether to spend their money on food OR rent (which is now hideously expensive around here). The EMA and school kids bonus would just disappear into keeping the household afloat. People may not show it (and they shouldn’t have to) but for some these are hard times. Just because you are poor shouldn’t mean that your child gets a second best education.
What I would like is for our school community to have a genuine, honest and non-shaming discussion around equity and the other issues people have raised. We might not come up with the perfect solution but I think we can do better than this model as it stands. I think if we are serious about having a one to one ipad program then it should be just that. Every kid gets one, end of story. We could look at different model such as the one at Moreland PS (it is compulsory and the school owns the laptops and leases them to families), and I’m sure there are other things we could come up with. There could also be special behind the scenes arrangements made where necessary. 
I'm interested to know if there are any other one to one ipad programs in other primary schools? Do they have models where some kids have their own ipads 24/7 and some kids use the school ipads in class?  I haven't even touched on the issues around whether ipads are the right technology and whether primary school children need to be that immersed. This model just seems so unfair to me. Especially without an honest discussion about the issues.

So there you go Christmas Mc Crankypants. Hopefully I'll find some joy in the season soon - I usually do, even if it is a bit last minute. We're going on the annual family excursion to Norflands this afternoon, and you know, I just can't wait.

the retreat

I've been looking forward to this craft weekend for ages. Jenny organised it so the we could try out a new place in Woodend called The Retreat. (Thanks Jenny!) The group was mostly women I didn't know, a different group from the Sewjourn regulars. However it was lovely getting to know this group of women, not only did we have craft/sewing in common, it turned out that some of us knew lots of other people in common. Ah, Melbourne northern suburbs, what a strong interwoven mesh of communities.There was much making, much chatting, some instagramming, eating, cups of tea, drinking and chocolate fudge. I do believe a lovely time was had by all.
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I've been going to Sewjourn since it started and it feels like my craft weekend home in some way. So it felt a bit funny to be going somewhere else and perhaps it makes me a bit biased (although I am trying not to be). I think both places have a lot going for them and the women who run them have obviously taken a lot of care in setting them up. Judging by how booked out they are, there is definitely the demand for more craft weekend places. Both The Retreat and Sewjourn provide comfortable self contained accommodation for a group of crafters. But there are some differences and how important they are probably depends on your priorities. At The Retreat the beds are all doubles and there are only two to a room. No bunk room! It was also lovely that we didn't have to take our own sheets and make a bed on arrival. The Retreat's kitchen is flash. The stove is a beauty and there are copper bottomed saucepans, good knives and wooden chopping boards. There is also a really nice deck with an outdoor eating area. The craft room at The Retreat is a good size but depending on where you are sitting, there appeared to be little space to put your boxes of fabric and other craft stuff. People were bumping past each other as they moved around the room. The tables are good but there didn't seem to be enough space for them, or we hadn't worked out their optimum placement. But what I noticed the most was the light, or rather the lack of light. The overhead lights were not particularly bright and there weren't enough extra lights to go around. There was another light up there but we couldn't find the switch for it - I wonder if that would have made the difference? How I missed those big high lights at Sewjourn! If I was to go again I would take a lamp - I have old eyes and light is pretty important to my crafting experience. Despite it being nice that we were all in the same house, I think on balance I prefer the separateness of the Sewjourn studio - good for night owls and early birds to feel they can use noisy sewing machines without disturbing any ones sleep. However I don't think the craft room at The Retreat is in any way terrible, indeed in the days before there were purposely set up craft venues we would have found it pretty fantastic. It's just that to me, the studio at Sewjourn seems to work just a bit better for a large group of busy crafters and sewers. Maybe it's also a time thing, Sewjourn has been going longer and definitely things have evolved.
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For grace, purple bedroom


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Other things I realised I like about Sewjourn that are probably neither here nor there: the short walk into town (very nice if you don't have a car), the views and country feel, the light airy feeling. But the big one for me is that you don't need to clean Sewjourn at the end. No sweeping, mopping or vacuuming  Just empty the fridge, stack the dishwasher, wash up your pots, pack the car and go. I didn't do the big clean at The Retreat as I wasn't in the last group to leave but if I had to choose, I would much, much rather take my own sheets and make a bed than clean at the end. There is enough cleaning and domestic stuff happening at home, thank you very much. That said, both venues are of a high standard and I certainly wouldn't knock back a weekend at The Retreat. Perhaps I might just shift the emphasis from lots of sewing to more cooking and sleeping. Which would not be a bad thing.

This weekend my crafting was pretty low key anyway. I don't think I have fully recovered from leaving work and I'm still having some trouble with sleeping. Even so, I made a blue and black checked linen dress to with home made bias binding. In the low light I didn't realise that the bobbin was dark green rather than black so the top stitching is a bit funny. Calling it a design feature. Also made a green sleeveless t-shirt type top which I am wearing now and which needs some adjustment - involving the unpicker unfortunately. But I am going to do it because I would really like this top if the straps didn't keep falling down. Made most of a brown sun dress in the same pattern. And a Christmas tree for the Sylvanians. As you do. Oh, and I learned how to crochet jewellery wire from some of the ladies making jewellery. Very exciting.

floating

On Wednesday morning I went back to work. I had expected to just do the paperwork and stay for morning tea but ended up staying for lunch as well so I could hang out with my colleagues. Sigh. It was nice to see them and sad to say goodbye. I think, no I know, some were a bit envious that I was leaving. I am the seventh person to quit this year. There was a funny presentation in the tiny tea room with just a few people because everyone was mostly with customers. The card is very sweet and they got me a spotlight voucher which I think was very thoughtful and indeed quite useful.
- This week I have been floating around, not really sure what to do with myself. I'm sleeping but not enough and it requires vodka which is not ideal. Hopefully this phase will pass as I relax into this stage of things. I'm telling myself that my goal is to try some different things, learn some new skills and hopefully be established in a new line of work by the end of next year. It is likely that I will be a customer at my old workplace for a time and I am trying to feel OK about that. I have assured my old colleagues that I will go to another office. They can't serve me anyway and well, it would be awkward.
- I've decided that I don't want to work in high volume service delivery or customer service again. I've done a few jobs like that and I think I'm done with it. One of my immediate plans is to make toys and small items such as needle books and buttons for sale. Not sure this will be a good long term plan for me but I am keen to make things with my hands for a bit and I can play with the web design I want to learn as I go. The craft stall at the fete was pretty successful  we put the prices up from last year  and that was OK. Most of my toys sold, as did the wheat bags and toys made by another mum. Other items were not as successful but I think it's a matter of figuring out what people want or maybe it varies from fete to fete. One thing I realised is that I'm not that good at sitting on a stall. So that is something to work on.

Anyway I am off to a sneaky craft weekend shortly. A slightly different group of people so I am nervous AND excited. Going to sew new clothes for me. And a christmas tree for the sylvanians.