Tuesday, 24 February 2009

getting the chop

I know that Jack's hair is very cute. All blonde and curly. And I know that people have requested that it not be cut, but when he wears a permanent squint because the hair is in his eyes it's time for a cut. And I fear that I have reached the limit of my hairdressing skills (emergency trims only). So yesterday we went to visit Kez and all went well. I would put this down to the Wiggles cape, Kez's husband Jay, whose antics amused Jack and of course the DVD player (unless someone stood in front of it).
Here are some before, during and after shots. And see, still blonde and curly.

The war against fairy bread

This article by Jacky Adams appeared in the Herald a few weeks ago and took my fancy (and Diane's because she brought it to my attention). I dread to think what the fussy mother would make of Junee party food (or everyday food for that matter)....

BEING a relatively new mother, I thought it would be great to throw a party to celebrate my two-year-old's birthday. Unfortunately I hadn't realised birthday parties are no longer the junk food fests of my youth.

Having been up since 4am baking, I perhaps wasn't in the best mood to have my shortcomings as a hostess commented on by a mother whose daughter attends "enhanced play sessions" and "creative gymkhana classes".

Things started well: children piled in, helped themselves to cupcakes, hit one another with balloons and consumed half their body weight in fairy bread. Then Botox-mother sidled up and whispered, "I've never had to deal with this before". "Deal with what?" I asked. She hissed, "Junk food."

I looked at the table covered in half-eaten cake and sticky fingerprints. "There's fruit kebabs," I protested.

"Yes, with marshmallows."

I said she could have given her daughter some of the bread. "It's white," she said as if I'd offered cocaine.

"And the honey?"

"Not organic."

Apparently I'd committed the ultimate faux pas in the eastern suburbs: I'd thrown a birthday party that did not cater for the gluten-free, lactose-intolerant, no-dairy-before-5pm, nuts-are-evil brigade. I'd gone for brightly coloured food with a dangerously high amount of fat and coma-inducing quantities of sugar. My card was marked.

"It's not done," she said, pointing at me with a manicured finger. For her daughter's party, she had hired a nutritionist and buckwheat pancakes, organic muesli with goat's yoghurt (low fat) and rye bread with (no sugar) jam was the fare. And to drink? Water with a slice of lemon.

"Did your son enjoy the food?" I asked a friend who attended the nutritionally healthy party. "Hell, no. He kept asking why there wasn't any cake and who'd hidden all the sweets."

As I watched this mother and daughter leave , I felt desperately sorry for the little girl who will never know what it feels like to eat so much cake that you feel sick or to drink so much cordial that you spin round and round in a circle until you throw up in a heap. Buckwheat pancakes have their place but maybe not at a two-year-old's birthday party.

Let it snow...

Whilst some of us here in Australia have been enduring soaring temperatures, fires and flood, those in the top half of the world have been shivering away. Rebeca sent me these beautiful photos of Harpenden blanketed in snow. I hope everyone's eating lots of potatoes to keep their strength up.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

With a baa baa here.....

Scarlett had her farmyard animal birthday party on the weekend. Unfortunately we couldn't go but Ganma and Nonno were there to take lots of photos of the barnyard fun. I love how the kids had plastic tubs when they were patting the guinea pigs. I guess this is so the guinea pigs wouldn't escape but also so they didn't wee or poo on anyone. That would be a bummer on your birthday! It looks like the footwear of choice was gumboots or bare feet.

Scarlett got a very cool Jack in the Box from Sal (that's her little girl Lucy with Scarlett playing with it). A little bit scary but kind of fun.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

so-so job on my best job application

Well, I've done it and submitted it. Not quite what I first had in mind (me on a banana lounge in my mu mu and boots, sucking on a VB with a cocktail umbrella with sheep running past) which just seemed too difficult (I don't own a banana lounge).
So then I ran with the storytime idea (being an ex-storytime lady). The professor came over yesterday (but not for a slumber party, so sadly no choc chip penguin shaped waffles for breakfast) and helped with the filming and entertaining Jack so there wouldn't be any yelling in the background. Me reading and flicking the pages didn't quite work out (it required far too much co-ordination) so we went to plan B. It's nice, different, unusual but then I wanted to do something a bit different from all those size zero marine biologists duck diving and talking to the camera.
After a few technical difficulties (and more uploading it to blogger so if you really, really want to see it go to youtube) and S taking my profile picture...

(I like to think of it as anti-glamour) I submitted my application and got a nice little message back.

Thank you for your application – good luck!

We’ll send you an email within the coming week to confirm your application. Then make sure you send all your friends and family the link to your video. If your application makes Tourism Queensland’s short list and then receives the most votes, you’ll win a Wild Card through to the interview stage.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Our Media Tart

As I mentioned a little while ago Jack is happily carrying on the family tradition of getting his physog in the paper. Here is his latest effort from the Daily Advertiser last weekend. You may need to get out your magnifying glasses for this one.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Best Job in the World

For those who have been living under a rock you may have missed that the Department of Tourism in Queensland are advertising for a position called island caretaker up on the Great Barrier Reef or as it is known The Best Job in the world. (http://www.islandreefjob.com/)
The successful applicant gets to live on Hamilton island for six months, blogging about their experience and talking to the media and they get paid.
As you can imagine just days after they created the website where people could upload their video applications the site crashed due to the gazillion people applying. It's back online and there's 4 days to go. I'm still working on my application (as long as I can take S and Jack too - sorry lucky dog) but I thought I'd share some of the competition. These are my two favourites:
Firstly Mario who is so booored.

and this guy who looks kind of familiar...



As I mentioned it has been really hot (though thankfully it has cooled off in the last week) resulting in those tragic bushfires in Victoria. I also heard that it was so hot in South Australia that lots of native animals were coming out of the bush into the suburbs to get water. Even Koalas (whose name literally means no drink as they get most of their water from gum leaves) have been turning up in back yards ooking for a drink.
My sister in law Lou sent me some photos of a koala that apparently flagged down some cyclist to get some water.

Commonsense Pikelets

Thanks to the very lovely Annabel who read about my unsatisfactory pikelets and to save me from the fate of using a Margaret Fulton recipe sent me one from the Commonsense Cookbook (published of course by Harper Collins and available from all good bookshops - now with less lard! - it's usually on the shelf next to the CWA cookbook and the Flo Bjelke- Petersen Cookbook. ) I'll give them a go and post the recipe if they turn out ok.
Maybe I should make pumpkin scones next...

Monday, 16 February 2009

Degas at the NGA

Our little alarm clock woke us early this morning. I think he was worried that we may not get to the gallery in time but luckily we had four hours till it opened. We dawdled and breakfasted and dawdled some more until it was finally time to go to the gallery. Obviously S hasn't discovered the zen art of Canberra navigation and so we took the scenic route.
We walked to the gallery, stopping to admire the surrounding buildings, the new Portrait Gallery and the High Court. I was told that the High Court and the NGA both come from the same architectural style called 'new brutalism'. I'd like to think that is true.We entered the foyer of the gallery (S and Jack made a better impression than I did wrestling with the stroller and the revolving door) . A guide (or is it guard - it's hard to tell and they seem to fill both roles, maybe a guirde?) told us about a children's activity room that was part of the exhibition. We battled the walking stick brigade and started looking at the paintings. Smiling our smug little smiles as we said, "Oh remember, we saw that one in Dublin or was it the Musee d'Orsay" but Jack soon tired of our jetset chitchat and became restless. Luckily we spotted the kid's room and made a beeline for it.
I love Degas' paintings and sketches, particularly his bathing women and the exhibition had some nice works though not it's not as memorable as some we've seen but the family room was great. There was a farm with horses and jockeys, jockey silks and horses on a stick and tutus and a barre. Karina (from the gallery) tried to get Jack to try on some jockey silks but no dice. I tried to get Jack to try on a tutu, even trying to wear one myself (it only came halfway up my legs) but he wasn't up for it at all. Actually another mum tried that too but she wore her tutu poncho style.
There was also an easel for drawing and some great cubey cushions that were like a big puzzle of Degas artworks (trickier than you would think). Jack found them good for jumping on and off.
Jack had fun playing with Karina (from the gallery) and some other kids who dropped in while S and I took turns looking at the rest of the exhibition. Occasionally the curiosity would get too much and people would come in to see what was going on (Jack leaping off cushions or playing musical instruments). Otherwise people would press their faces up against the door and frown in at us (having fun in an art gallery - outrageous). Reluctantly we left so we could go to the cafeteria and get some attitude. I lingered in the shop on the way out.
Art galleries usually have great stuff in their shops and the NGA always has really interesting bits and pieces in theirs and the one attached to the Degas exhibition was fantastic fun. Tutus and chandeliers and french knickers (couldn't you combine all of those into a swinging scenario?) arranged on a table and all the colours of the rainbow. I must say I was drawn to them but could sense the grey nomads frowning at me like I was some sort of pervert (I bet their hotels weren't near Fyshwick). So I ambled away to look at some other lovely thing and they pounced on the knickers, fingering the fabric and murmuring about sizes.
We ate a very unappetising meal from the cafeteria and then returned to our car for the trip home. Jack fell asleep almost instantly and I was nodding a short time later. Funny how the trip back seemed so much shorter.

Lions and Tigers and Bears (oh my!)

Yesterday we went to Canberra (yes, our nation's capital) for a quick visit. Our main aim was to see the Degas exhibition (and on a weekday when it's not completely packed) and S also had a work thingy. Jack and I dropped him off in the city then headed to our hotel in Manuka. Well they say it's Manuka but it seemed awfully close to Fyshwick to us. We managed to get an early check in due to Jack's impending naptime and I dragged our belongings (thankfully only one suitcase) to our room. But Jack, having slept for a whole half hour in the car, was not up for a nap. Not even close, so I made the executive decision that we should go to the Canberra Zoo and Aquarium. This is the zoo where you can pet cheetahs or feed lions and tigers. We decided to give that a miss this time.
We checked out the aquarium first which was okay, Jack liked the fish but the whole place smelt like urinal cakes (and no, I don't know that from hanging out in men's lavatories just from being seated at the 'wrong' table in some restaurants). There was a huge groper that was three times Jack's size eyeing him off so we left to look at the zoo.
The first animals we saw were bears (the snow leopards were hiding) who were practising their sad faces. Who can blame them being stuck in a cage? And they are HUGE.
Then we were off. Jack paused briefly to communicate with the monkeys then we moved onto the otters (also awol) and the Lions. There were even white ones (like Kimba) but Jack seemed more impressed with his own roaring. From there we saw more monkeys, a red panda or two, a very sleepy unfriendly koala, some penguins, some very friendly, freaky emus(they make the strangest noise and are very tall so it's understandable that Jack wasn't keen on them), a tiger(look closely it's near Jack's left hand), a couple of giraffes (one was licking the roof, not sure why, maybe just because it could) and some sorry looking zebras. After terrifying Jack with the toy animals in the gift shop we raced off to pick up S.
I've always been a little hesitant about driving in Canberra. All those roundabouts and roundabout ways of getting places but once you get the hang of things it's okay. I just went against my sense of direction (which is of course fantastic) and drove in the opposite lane and direction to what seemed logical and before I knew it I'd be at my destination. And no that doesn't mean I drove on the wrong side of the road.
Once again back to our salubrious accommodation (next door to the Toulouse-Lautrec suite - somehow I thought the door would be smaller) to try to get Jack to sleep again but once again we were thwarted in our plans so I went shopping in Manuka (mmm...lovely) and S and Jack went to a golf centre, where surprisingly Jack fell asleep.
I caught up on the latest new releases in picture books. Some were lovely. Margaret Wild has a new book about a boy and his dog and the dog dies. Why Margaret must you write such beautiful sad books? I also saw the new Susan Orleans book (you know the author of the Orchid Thief who had a baby at the sprightly age of 49) called Lazy Little Loafers about why babies don't get jobs. Clever idea but am not sure children will go for it. It lacks the deceptively simple writing that the best picture books need.
Jack and S returned and Jack woke up in time for dinner. The words 'family restaurant' are usually ones that strike fear into the heart of normal people. They are usually accompanied by meals whose names start with Mc or they serve Shirley temples and Veal Parmigiana. And it's funny the restaurant that we went to in Manuka pushes the family angle and has veal parmi on the menu was actually rather good. An italian restaurant with a french name doesn't bode well, but Jack was well looked after and so were we (I mean who can complain when they're sipping a glass of Bridgewater Mill Chardonnay). We returned once more to Fyshwick, I mean Manuka and all went to bed early in readiness for going to the National Gallery.

Saturday, 14 February 2009


We went to the Junee library the other day so S could get a book. I didn't need any because I have a huge stack of lovely reading materials from Christmas and my birthday. But I'm in one of those moods where I can't settle on the kind of book I want to read and when we went to the library I went a bit bonkers. The final tally was S = 1 book, Jack = 6 books and me = 7 books. How did that happen? How could I resist? And I must admit two of Jack's books were really for me. I just love Bob Graham and Lauren Child.
And it's funny, I've always wanted to be in a book group and over the years the idea's been raised and then it just sort of peters out and now all of a sudden I'm in two. One is online, thanks to Amy who ran with the idea immediately. We each submit the book we're currently reading and write a blurb if we feel the urge or have worked out how to do that. The other is one with some local mums and is still getting off the ground but I'm determined to get it going. The first meeting is in March and we'll be discussing the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency while we sip our chardonnay. Looking forwad to that.

Health Food

Continuing our Sunday season of retro breakfast treats, last weekend we had pikelets. And being oh so healthy we had them with banana, ice cream and honey. Actually I think we'd run out of bananas. I looked up a recipe on the internet but they were all just tarted up premade store bought pikelets. Oh the horror! I found a recipe in a cookbook and while they were edible they were not quite what I was after. I had something fluffier in mind but then I think it's been over twenty years since I ate one. A guy I knew force fed me a pikelet or two (ah such laughs) and I haven't been able to face them till now. I guess with that kind of history they were bound to disappoint. Jack wasn't too sure about the pikelets either so he just sucked the ice cream off them and then handed them to me. Mum has offered to send me the Margaret Fulton recipe and whilst I'm not so keen on her (MF that is) I remember that the pikelets that Mum used to make for us after school were delicious.

Then during the week we made a chocolate cake, which none of us liked at all and it just went to waste. What a shame.
And yesterday I made Nigella's Chocolate Pavlova for Diane's birthday. Jack gets excited as soon as the mixer starts going. Somehow he knows that it's not tofu burgers that I'm whipping up. Here's a photo of the one Nigella made. Imagine that with birthday candles sticking out the top and Jack trying to blow them out. He's practising for March.

Seeing red

It was time for the ute to go back yesterday. I'm always surprised that there aren't tears when the ute is relinquished yet again. Especially when we're trying to drive the ute quickly through the Wagga library with Jack in the driver's seat and his feet get wedged underneath. But when we got to the toy library tardis and gave back the ute Jack simply slid down a slippery dip then hopped into a car and that was that. The words "maybe this month we'll just borrow something small" had only just popped out of my mouth and then he took possession of his new vehicle and resistance was useless.
Earlier on in the week, Jack and I had been on a playdate with a new friend and Jack, whilst not so taken with the little boy, was very impressed with his musical instruments, particularly his red electric guitar (like Murray). I don't think the toy library stretches to those but we borrowed a very fine red ukulele (just the right size) which he is delighted with. It's all been a bit rock'n roll since then. Jack playing the ukulele with his teeth,

using the ukulele as a weapon. Sitting in his red car, playing his red guitar. It goes faster that way. Rock on.

Friday, 6 February 2009

keeping cool

So I mentioned that it has been hot around here lately. Well, it's even warmer today. It's very bizarre (and note that I say bizarre and not surreal) to watch the news and see all that snow in London. And no buses. It's supposed to be about 43 degrees, but I can't give you an exact reading because our thermometer is inside. It does say it's 34 degrees and that's with the evap going. A family of magpies are sheltering from the heat on our verandah. They stand in front of our door to make the most of any cool air that's escaping the house and every now and then they warble.
The excursion that Jack and I had planned for a vanilla milkshake and some cake from Ajanta ( a great cafe inCoolamon that also sells jewellery and assorted goodies) had to be changed as they are closed due to the heat. Instead we went to the bakery where the milkshake was okay but the lamington was dry. Even Jack seemed to think so as he built a tower out of pieces of lamington instead of eating it. The trip was not a total loss though. Jack saw Grandma and Grandpa and also got some new Thomas boardshorts (is there no end to the merchandising?) He wanted to change his clothes right then and there on the footpath in Coolamon but we talked him out of it.
This afternoon after his nap, we brought his clam shell inside. It's too hot to use it outside and the Junee pool would probably be pee soup as my father would say. The indoor pool was a hit, especially when experienced while eating an ice cream. Anything to stay cool.