Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Interpreting the stuff we take for granted.

When I write here I am keenly aware that there are things we say and do here that aren't the same as other parts of the world. Particularly in the US!! Often I translate on the fly but I still get caught out.

For the sake of those who have asked (jerseechik, comments, last post!) and any others, here are some immediate answers, plus I shall try and paint a further picture of our little slice of life downunder at this time of year.

Many of our traditions, interests, and vernacular, hail from dear old England. The mother country and all that, you know. Cricket is a prime example. Netball, the sport my girls play, is another. Both are pretty much only played in commonwealth countries, although Canada seems to be the exception to this.

But back to questions from my last post. What is Boxing Day?.. Well, it is, simply, the 26th December, and a public holiday here. Until jerseechik asked, and I wiki'd it I had no idea it was a public holiday only in Commonwealth countries. Well, it's a public holiday unless you work in a shop. The Boxing Day sales are now a huge thing, but, as you might imagine, it's the kind of current 'tradition' that I very definitely avoid. After fighting my way through the pre-christmas hords, and after the money spent for christmas, the last place I would want to be is in a shopping centre with a kazillion other people.

As the wikipedia article notes, the two big Boxing Day events in Australia are the start of the Sydney to Hobart yacht race and the Boxing Day Test . A cricket test match is a five day game - and as someone who grew up in an anti-cricket household, I can say, having been educated since by my sport mad husband, that it isn't as boring as it sounds. Strange but true - IF you are prepared to appreciate the game for what it is. Test cricket, particularly, is a game of strategy, and it can be strangely addictive to watch, particularly when it is your national team. Unfortunately this year Australia is losing its grip as top international team. South Africa is flogging them, and despite being disappointed in the performance of our batters AND bowlers, you have to admire the way SA is playing.

Around our place, you know it's Boxing Day (and the few days following), when you've been for a swim at the beach, you're back home, kicking back on the lounge, and the Boxing Day test is on the telly. Cricket on the telly (and the radio) is just synonymous with summer.

Mind you, I'll be kind of glad when today is over. Five days is enough of monopolising the TV from 10.30 am through till stumps at 6pm. (Today it'll be over before 'tea'. Well done South Africa. They take this, the second out of three tests, and therefore the series. They have totally outplayed the Aussies, and it is a deserved win.)


Now.. to address jerseechik's other question. What are lashings? Just "lots". An abundance of. Again of British origin. It's not an expression I actually use that often. Must have been having an Enid Blyton moment! (Please tell me you have heard of Enid Blyton!)


Do you North Americans recall the Paul Hogan 'shrimp on the barbie' ads of the 1980s? As this wikipedia article accurately states, we call them prawns here, not shrimp! Cold, cooked king prawns have become a very common feature of Christmas lunches here ... and so that's what we had on Christmas day.

In Sydney you'd be queued up at the fishmarkets to buy them, but we ordered a kilo and a half from a local seafood distributor, and picked them up on Christmas Eve. Easy and yum (unless you are Caitlin, who salivates, instead, over potato salad.) Sometimes Marc will peel them for us, but this year Ali and I let him off. Time for Ali to learn how to peel a prawn!

We did actually buy a few green prawns as well, threw them in some marinade, and chucked them on the barbie for dinner that night. A very seafoody Christmas. Quite appropriate for summer holidays, beachside


This morning we had our best beach time yet. Sunny blue skies, clear water, and good waves to surf. So clear, in fact, that some other people on the beach spotted a Wobbegong shark, and warned us about it. We watched its shadow meandering further down the beach, then popped back in for another dip. Apparently they don't eat much!


Monday, December 29, 2008


And so that was Christmas.

Well here we are nearly at the end of 2008. Christmas has been and gone, and, because I set out specifically to have a stress-free Christmas, there are quite a few things that haven't been done. Yet. Meh. Oh well. At some point I'll have to make those Christmas cakes. And finish sending out my christmas emails, get some of those 'Happy Holiday' photos printed for the luddites, and finish up our annual webpage 'blurb'. And get some sort of voucher sent to nephews on both sides.

Very slack. But I don't suppose the world will end.

Given that we had no visitors, and didn't go visiting, and I'm not a yee-ha Christmassy person anyway, Christmas day for us was pretty low key. Kind of weird, really. But very definitely stress-free. I flatly refused to stress about anything. We trimmed the lunch menu yet again this year. For just the five of us we really didn't need to go the whole typical Aussie christmas cold buffet-style spread. We had a ham. We had prawns. Potato salad, and a garden salad. (And Marc talked me into sharing a bottle of bubbly.)

Santa might have brought a few things for the girls, but he didn't bring me the sparkly blue-sky beach day I really hoped for. Nonetheless, after a decadent breakfast of flapjacks a la Tracey (ie. oversized pikelets from my tried and true pikelet recipe) with maple syrup and lashings of butter) we headed down to the beach for a late morning/midday swim.

Again, Santa obviously decided I hadn't been quite good enough.


Seaweed is one of my two major (irrational) phobias (the other being wet (and detached-from-the-head) hairs... yep, I know, I'm weird). I got wet. I caught a couple of waves, but then I stepped in a clump or two of seaweed, and there were smaller bits all through the waves. I jumped and screamed like a girlie and made for the shore. The rest of the family had a fine time, and have milked my wussiness for all it's worth since.

I wandered around and tried to take a couple of photos.

But I am not as artistic with a camera in my hand as my eldest daughter is...

And, there were lots of People on our beach! This...

... is crowded for our beach. This is what we call lots of people on our beach. It only gets this bad on Christmas Day, and a few days into new year. It was a bit hard not to feel really indignant. Our Beach had been invaded! I mean, just because it's Christmas... Sheesh!

[Are we spoilt? Yes. Very!]

The weather - even on Thursday - has mostly been overcast - not your typical summery beachy weather. Since Boxing Day we've had persistent north-easterlies, which haven't made for the most pleasant conditions, and it mucks up the main beach because it faces east. This morning we woke to blue skies and the wind had dropped. We headed back over to the back beach, on the south side of the headland where the surf wasn't so chopped up! The water was cold! (North Easterlies, for some reason, tend to dredge up colder currents - the opposite to what you might expect in the southern hemisphere.) But the waves were pretty good; I caught quite a few in, and Cait even commented that I looked like a pro. [Actually she said 'the waves make Mum look like a pro' - which is more a nod to good body-surfing waves than me, but I'll take any form of compliment I can get these days!]

Another week till Marc goes back to work, and so we'll just have to keep our fingers crossed for a bit more beachy weather. Most people pay to go to the seaside for their summer holidays. Here we have a fantastic beach on our back doorstep. All we need is for the weather to come to the party!

Thursday, December 25, 2008


Season's Greetings.

Merry Christmas from our little slice of heaven downunder.


Monday, December 22, 2008


They tell me it's nearly Christmas

In a reckless spurt of Yuletide enthusiasm, some days ago, I began the procedure for my mini christmas cakes - one of the few really Christmassy things that I do.

The ingredients have been sitting on the bench - like so - for more than a week now. (Covered of course) As usual I have it all a*** about. You are supposed to soak the fruit and nuts in brandy overnight, and then let the cakes (brushed with honey and drizzled with brandy, and individually wrapped) sit for two weeks.

It is only three days till Christmas and I haven't made them yet. Maybe today. And hopefully they will be 'brandified' enough this way. Hmmm.


I bit the bullet and invited some people round for dinner on Saturday night. Our kids are friends - their oldest of three girls are good mates with our youngest two girls. They moved here about a year ago, and the kids quickly became good friends - and both families have enjoyed the kids having friends just round the corner. It has only taken me that long to invite them round. When I think about it, they are possible the only people I've invited round in that time. Why? Because the house is such a mess and I was embarrassed. Needless to say it was the catalyst for a bit of cleaning up. The windows are so clean now! It is like a Christmas present to myself to be able to see out of them. (But - only just this morning I heard a thud, and looked up in time to see a dazed rainbow lorikeet flying away. That hasn't happened for a while... there are some benefits to salt-spray coated windows. Also I don't tend to stop in my tracks and gaze outside admiring the clear view of the backyard.)

The girls were told they had to clean up the playroom, or no Christmas tree, so - woo hoo - that got done. (Plus Zoe's swimming costume turned up, as I knew it would.) They also uncovered some toys and bits and pieces they obviously hadn't sighted for some months. I have a great idea for Christmas next year. Santa doesn't need to get them anything. They can just have a big clean-up, and they'll have all this "new" stuff for this year's Christmas.

[Marc also wryly suggested last night that we just wrap up the surfboard we gave them last Christmas and give it to them again, as it barely got used last summer.]

A Recycled Christmas. Do you think it could catch on?


Marc has had to go away for work for three days - arriving back on Christmas Eve. He tossed up between an 8 hour drive each way, or a couple of regional plane flights (plus a 1 hr 30 min drive). He opted for the planes. Same amount of elapsed travel time, but theoretically not as stressful. He left early this morning for the 6.30 plane out of Coffs to Sydney - from where he would transfer to a regional carrier to Dubbo. (Then hire a car.) At around 9.00 he rang me. At Sydney he had been called to the baggage service counter; they had left his bag in Coffs! How they can manage to forget to load a bag onto the one small plane at the airport at the time is beyond anyone's guess. Qantas say they will courier it to him - in Mudgee. Too bad about the work equipment he had in it for the work he needed to get a start on this afternoon.


Meantime, I suppose I should get happening on some more Christmas-like action today. Ya think? Like taking our 'traditional' family christmas photo. Yep. We are this late with it this year - and even later due to overcast weather for a few days that was not conducive to optimum artistic photography. The sun is shining now, however, so I should go and wake Ms 15 (what? - it's only 11am!)... and we should head for the beach. (Yes, time for another beachy Christmas photo... stay tuned.)

I am determined to waft through these last few days with minimum stress. I've resigned myself to one more trip to the shops. I am supposed to order or buy some seafood. And I have a $60 ham to pick up this year ordered from a butcher. A leg of ham is a bit of an Australian Christmas 'thing' - but don't get me started on the typical Aussie Christmas dinner right now - I'll save that for another post. It is just the five of us at home here for Christmas Day (all relatives are far flung - we decided not to travel, and the relos rarely put themselves out to travel to us at this time of year...). To me a fancy Christmas lunch for just us is somewhat contrived, but I guess we will lash out on some prawns and calamari for the bbq (that four of us will eat), and try and think of something a bit special for Fusspot 15. And hope for sunny Aussie Christmas beach weather.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Conspiracy theories.

I have a new theory on teenagers (and tweenagers for that matter.) They have invisible gremlin-type "friends" (along the lines of Drop Dead Fred) who gradually assert their mischievousness with ever increasing audacity as the teenage years progress. Who else makes the mess, misplaces stuff, forgets to put dirty clothes out, accumulates bath towels in the bedroom, and is responsible for the chocolate and lolly wrappers discovered, by Mum, under the bed. And who must have put that dirty plastic cup with chocolate milk remnants IN the bedside table drawer. NOT the teenager, apparently.

Backtracking a bit to the early formulation of my theory, here's an example. Ms 15 cannot find her black netball skirt. She huffs and puffs about it each Tuesday as if it is the fault of She Who Does The Laundry. SHDTL, by the way, is unmoved. Well, that part isn't hard, when the room of Ms 15, until recently looked like this:

Then, when Ms 10 couldn't find her swimming costume (before swimming squad) yesterday, Ms 15 also commented that she was missing a couple of pairs of blue undies, as well as the netball skirt. "I tell you, things go missing in this place." she says.

When Ms 15 was out today I decided to go looking for "things" in her room, and happened to look under the bed. OM effing G. There was a lot of "stuff" under there. Including the aforementioned litter. And dirty underwear. (Unfortunately not the blue ones.) And a truckload of dirty tissues. Several water bottles. And other stuff. Like a jigsaw puzzle, for instance.

Her fault?! Of course not. The "oh my goodness, how the hell did that all get there?" look on her face would have been priceless if I wasn't so bloody annoyed. She cannot imagine how the dirty underwear got there - she hasn't worn those for ages. (I cannot even bear to go so far as to give you the description of the dirty underwear... and I couldn't bring myself to take a photo of the pile of under-bed detritus that I left for her to clean up on the floor.) And seeing she doesn't wea them anymore, she should just throw them out, right? She also can't imagine how the dirty cup got there - in the drawer?!! Just plain weird, that one.

Of the four (4) towels hanging around the room, one had an orange stain on it. The 'child' who paints in her bedroom insists that it isn't paint, and she cannot imagine what it could possibly be, or how it got there.

After giving her some time to clean up, I went upstairs and looked in on her. Ok, so the rubbish was cleared (but not yet out in the bin) She was sitting on her bedroom floor doing the jigsaw puzzle. As you do, when your mother has just called you home and given you a lecture about the disgusting crap under your bed. And then you roll your eyes and wonder why in heaven's name your mother is just a bit stroppy. After all, she is innocent, and so Mum has no grounds for being cranky. Right?

So it's gremlins, patently.

OK, well, if not gremlins, then it is an orchestrated plan by the three of them to send me insane.

Yesterday when I got back from driving Ms 10 to swimming - in her beach bikini, seeing the one-piece was still MIA (as a tweenager, she isn't as adept at the 'must be SWDTL innuendo' strategy ) - I discovered that Ms 13 had decided to bake shortbread biscuits as presents for her friends. (Instead of cards, you see, which I support in theory. But...)

She is my competent one in the kitchen (moreso than her older sister - after all, she can break an egg, while Ms 15 still refuses to do so...) - however time management is still not a strong point. Within minutes of me arriving home, she actually had to be ready for a lift to netball, and this is the kitchen bench I was left with:

With that tray waiting to go in the oven. Ah, and with one tray IN the oven - with 10 minutes to go on the timer. (Lucky I noticed THAT, given that shortbread takes only 15 minutes, and she was going to be gone for over 2 hours.)

Lots of room for Mum to prepare dinner. NOT.

Probably Fred, the Gremlin, made her do it.

Either that, or the three of them are plotting to slowly nudge me over the edge into a breakdown.


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Friday, December 12, 2008


Amused, bemused, irritated and inspired.

Christmas shopping yesterday. Shops a lot more crowded than Tuesday. Wonder why... Did people suddenly realise it was only 15 sleeps till Christmas? Or were they out spending the $1000 per child Rescue the Economy bonus from the government that landed in everyone's accounts this week?

Sometimes people watching is the only thing that keeps me sane in the throngs.

Overheard- "Oh! There's my stepfather with another woman!"

Unfunny: the toddler in stroller in Big W checkout line, ringing a bell (much like Santa does when he walks through the shopping centre, only he is moving, and this kid is not. Nor am I, I am trapped in the queue not far away, and if I was any closer I'd have mentioned to the parents with the self indulgent smiles on their faces that IT WAS NOT FUNNY OR CUTE AT ALL.

Also not funny: Mournful Toddler Bellowing in a bookshop. Yes, I know he was probably tired, so for god's sake, take him out and take him home. The bookshop lost potential custom because I left.

Inspiring: Two teenage dudes - with the requisite current hair fashion with sort of rats tails - who plonked down near me in the food court. (While I was scoffing a donut with my coffee.) What would you guess a couple of "cool" teenage guys would eat in a food court? Wrong. They each had a huge tub of ... fruit salad. [I felt so shamed, I wrapped up the second of my donuts and took it home.]


I am not doing too well on the christmas shopping. The idea of flitting around and picking up everything in one day is all very well in theory. Just not working out in practice. Help.

Monday, December 08, 2008



My right eye is twitching. I wonder what that means. Probably proof that I am losing control completely.

It's barely two weeks till Christmas, and I still haven't bought a thing. Actually, that's not true - I've ordered a ham and left a $10 deposit on it. That's all. I don't feel like buying anything - wasting money on stuff that I *think* they will like, but will not end up being used. ("Oh, but it's fun to open all those presents!") So I know I must. I would be a bad mother if I didn't. Then again, I am totally sucking at being a parent right now, so I could go totally all out and stuff it right up. (Then again, the younger two seem to still love me, so it would be rather insane to jeopardise that. Nervous breakdown on hold?)

No, I can't really talk about it here. This blog is neither secret, or blocked (unlike my daughters' MySpace), nor anonymous, and at some point, when they are teenagers, it is no longer appropriate to turn their antics and attitudes into blog fodder, much as I need to dump.

I am doing a pretty good job of saying and doing the wrong thing though, is all.

Moving along...

I finished up the TAFE course last week. I did get some good feedback on my writing portfolio from the Language teacher: "Your writing is of an excellent standard. It is very "polished", highly readable and most enjoyable. .. An approach to a publish would be in order..."

That kept me going for a day, until I fell into self doubt again. One piece of writing she particularly liked was a piece I wrote about our cross country ski weekend. Then Marc made a comment about how not everyone had the necessary experience to ski off the groomed trails like we did. It left me feeling that it could be irresponsible to write about the stuff we like to do... because with a lot of what we do, you need some experience and ability. In our case it is mostly Marc's. Experience, ability, and confidence.

I have been looking at this online course . Is it worth the $395?

I don't trust my judgement in anything anymore.


Monday, December 01, 2008


Off the face of the earth.

Well, no, I haven't fallen off the face of the earth. I just can't get out from underneath the avalanche of retail store catalogues that engulf my letterbox each day. (And I thought it was the digital age... hah.... Bloody Christmas....)

Seriously? Blogging has just taken a back seat - as I threatened - throughout the latter part of the year. Counter productive, really, as I will have lost what small readership I actually had. And writing keeps rearing its ugly head as one of the things I want to do, so it has made no sense to back off, really.

It has been a time of trying to reinvent myself - work out who I am and what I want to be. (*gag*) Actually it's been more like leaving what small amount of course work I had to do till the last minute, then panicking and getting stressed about it. As always with it I turn molehills into mountains, aim for a higher quality than I need to (for a Certificate II course), and can't get past the reality vs 'pretend just for the exercise' parts. (So the last things I am stressing over are a resume and an application letter...)

I am riding the 'what to do when I grow up' rollercoaster in the funpark of life. One minute on a high, and full of boundless enthusiasm- with the track mapped out ahead of me (and propped up by wonderful analogies of only needing to look ahead to the next station, or checkpoint- can you tell I went to see the TAFE careers counsellor?). Next thing I'm plummeting back down into Reality Check land. And 'I Could Never Be THAT Good' Valley.

And, as we all know, roller coaster rides usually take you back round to where you started, and I feel as if that's where this course has taken me. Right back to the insecurities that I had when I started. Why make me research job descriptions for potential (slightly pie in the sky) jobs? I'm a good enough googler these days to manage to uncover a mass of opinion out there, and of course I am very good at taking everything I read to heart, despite the fact that I know it is someone else's OPINION only.

Quite a bit of the self confidence spilt out of that brim-full glass somewhere along the way ...

Anyhows, I have applied to do a one year (Certificate IV) course in Information Technology- Website Design. Which should take care of next year. And hopefully equip me with enough skillz to at least be able to say "I can build/design websites. Wanna pay me?" And as an adjunct I want to pick up some tips and/or tuition in Freelance Writing. And anything else I can think of...

Meanwhile, the house has been going yet further into rack and ruin, and I keep thinking "Once the course is over I'll get on top of that." Yeah, right.

The family, throughout, has still been fed and watered, and clothes washed (though not necessarily sorted and very definitely not ironed - I iron as needed anyway...) Have been floundering around and getting D's at best in Parenting of Teenagers 101. Eldest daughter has decided we are the world's most unreasonable and overprotective parents - and her view is reflected in assumptions made about how we will view ANYTHING. Never mind that she has just spent 5 nights away in Sydney to participate in the Schools Spectacular. We are just such bastards like that.

I got to fly down to Sydney to go see the show - just this last weekend - and had three nights at my parents'. It was good to have a few days away from the house and all those depending on me to decide what to have for dinner, and to magically (and eventually) ensure that the dishes are clean... But I have come back with a cricked neck (I blame the spare bedding/pillow arrangement at my parents' house) - and so it is off to the chiropractor yet again for me in the morning. There is always something annoying wrong with me. When I got back yesterday I was motivated to tackle some vacuuming of this disgusting house, but that energy seems to have worn off today. Somehow.

With one thing and another, I haven't done much exercise, and it is showing - both visually, and in my head.

And I haven't done a bloody thing for Christmas. I wonder if I could get away with ignoring it altogether...


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