Tuesday, 25 December 2012

'Tis the season for giving...

It's not hard to think about those less fortunate than yourself at this time of the year - especially with all the direct mail from any and every group you've ever given money to in your whole entire life comes flooding through the letter box. So in the spirit of the season I was compelled to fill in my Visa details for a couple of them, as well as buying some gifts for the wishing tree at Sass's school and gifting an education for a girl in Africa and a pair of ducks for some other poor poverty stricken community.

What I hadn't counted on was my $70 contribution to The City of Melbourne. I copped a parking fine a couple of weeks ago. We had put all available coin into the meter just before 6pm hoping it'd take us through to the non-restricted, free for all period starting at 7pm. But it wasn't to be. Yes, in the spirit of Christmas, the time of issue on the ticket was ...... 6.58pm. And a merry Christmas to you too City of Melbourne!!

Friday, 21 December 2012

The Card

Some of you may have seen the article my business partner Mandy and I got in B&T (an industry mag) a couple of weeks ago. (If the type is coloured, it is a link - just in case that isn't apparent - in this case, to said article).

Elle commented that it was a great shot of Mandy - but perhaps not my best. 
'Yeah, well, Mandy picked it,' I said.
'Hmmmm.......' said Elle.
'Here's the one I put on our Thread FaceBook page, what do you think of that one?'
'That's a good one of Mandy too, and a better one of you,' she decided.
'Yes, well, I chose that one!'

I keep telling people this story - in front of Mandy! Because in truth, what happened was she sent out the release and forgot a photo. I shot her an email but she'd already realised. We were due at a meeting and she literally had to fly home, send a pic and get going again - no time for a considered selection. It was sent just after 12 noon and the article appeared at 2pm. She says I'm being unfair by not telling everyone this part of it and I keep tell her to stop ruining my story!!! 

Anyway, just to wrap it up, here's a scan of the card she gave me yesterday. I laughed so hard I nearly wet my pants!!!!

Just a bit of house keeping - a couple of people have asked how to comment if you receive these posts via email. You need to hit a link - usually the post title - which will take you onto the blog online and then you can comment. Although I'm tempted to request no comments on this post -  it is a joke - not a competition!!

Thursday, 20 December 2012


Straight from the oven
Tuesday night dinner for the relatives-who-aren't-related dinner
Yes, it's that time of the year! I've cooked two breasts so far and both have come up a treat. I bought a frozen buffet from the supermarket, took both breasts off and used the carcass for stock. For $45 it was incredibly good value.

The best thing about the buffet is it's all breast so it's juicy and tender and you just slice and serve.

I made a stuffing by first simmering sultanas and prunes in water, loads of cinnamon, lemon juice and lemon rind. There might have been some orange juice and rind too. Once the fruit had puffed up I added a few slices of spicy fruit loaf - as usual, because that's what was on the bench - but it worked really well. I folded a big can of pie apples into that now mushy concoction (you can stew your own if you want, but why??) and some toasted almond slivers. I then just push the stuffing under the skin of the breast, secure with a couple of skewers and Bob's your uncle. 

Pour melted butter over the skin, and I used a salt, lemon myrtle, pepper, macadamia mix to sprinkle over the top but just salt and pepper will do. Cook at 180C for about an hour and 40 minutes and you're done. In fact, I got home on Tuesday at 4.50pm and we were eating this at seven. But the girls (Frankie, Gabi, Elle and Sass) did a brilliant quinoa salad and the dessert below.

May your turkey be juicy and perfectly cooked this Christmas!

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Roast veggie, rocket and feta salad

Another salad creation - it was great with cold roast turkey in the park on Sunday with the cousins.

Cube and roast with a few splashes of olive oil:
  • pumpkin - throw the seeds in too, Kiersten my American friend taught me that - and I sprinkled a generous amount of cumin over it too
  • beetroot
  • Spanish/red onion
  • sweet potato
You could also roast garlic, zucchini, parsnip, carrot - just check what's in the fridge.
Try and keep the beetroot in it's own baking dish - it does stain everything else purple.

Once roasted, allow to cool, then mix through:
  • rocket
  • goat's cheese feta - crumbled
  • a heap of chopped tarragon (this is the magic ingredient)
  • loads of lemon juice and grated lemon rind
  • salt and black pepper
  • more cumin if you like it
Sprinkle generously with toasted pine nuts. (You don't need to add oil as there should be enough from the roasting)

This is another one that could be a meal in itself with a blob of sharp, natural yoghurt and a chuck of crusty olive baguette. And perhaps a glass of something white and crisp...

Monday, 17 December 2012

A stranger - the other perspective

So my last post was about a stranger who was no help at all. But it got me thinking about other strangers who have been enormously touching.

While in Modesto, where George has been airlifted, I went to a T Mobile shop to buy more credit for the phone. The gorgeous girl in the shop - of JLo-like beauty - was fascinated by a tourist in her home town.
'How come you're in Modesto', she asked?
'Oh, we're just driving around in our RV, having a look', I deflected.
'How long are you here?' she asked, again amazed that anyone would be more than passing through. She was so lovely I decided to come clean.
'Actually, our son is in the hospital and we're not sure how long we'll be here', I admitted.
'How's he doing?' she asked, probably thinking broken limb.
'Not great. He's on life support.' Her shock was visible.
'Oh my god, I am so sorry', she offered with sincerity. 'Seriously, if you need anything - if you want to know where to eat or need a park or anything - come by the shop. This is Travis,' she said, introducing her colleague behind the counter, 'he'll be here tomorrow, but I'm here all next week. But if you need anything, please, just call.'

She handed me a card with her name - Angel.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

The Letter

Sass came home tonight with a letter for us that had been addressed via her school. I recognised the hand writing immediately. This person wrote to us when Jaz died and I was so angry at the time I threatened to write back. I'm a tad more mellow this time, but my annoyance is still piqued.

Why? Because not only did this person not know George and Jaz, they don't know us. He cheerfully admits he gleaned our details from the death notices in the newspaper. You may think I'm being harsh about a well meaning stranger, but I find it objectionable and completely self-serving that this man chooses to quote chunks of the bible at us and suppose that he has any understanding of what we're going through. The entire letter is dripping with his own purpose - not ours.

"What I am writing is rather than a few nice words [sic], is what I have found has helped me under similar circumstances when my parents dies." Not even close, buddy.

"Although thought by many to be obsolete in this day and age, The Bible has the answers as to where the dead are and what the future holds for them and us." How does 'fuck off' sound?

"Having told you of my care and concern, I will not write again [thank Christ!!!] however if you feel I can be of any help, please do not hesitate to let me know." All contacted details provided. I was thinking of contacting him and telling him what I think, but then I remembered I am trying to be more gracious.

And finally, the icing on this cake: "PS I must apologise for using the computer for this personal letter [soooo personal - it's the exact same letter he sent when Jazzy died] because my disability makes it painful to write for any length of time." Mate, I'll tell you about disability - and it's a hell of lot worse that a sore hand.

Now never mind that we're non-believers as I've blogged about before, but the whiff of self-serving superiority and righteousness is down-right nauseating. This letter is NOT about us. It's about 'Richard' making himself feel like a top bloke for being so caring and sharing. And that's what makes me so god-damned angry.

I was reminded of the time I foolish allowed some unknown nutter at Chadstone say a prayer for Jaz. He'd clearly singled her out because of her disability. That alone should have been cause enough for me to tell him to fuck off too. And had I know he was going to fall to his knees, gripping the wheel of her chair like it was his last salvation, as we stood in the queue for New Zealand Natural Ice-Cream and loudly start chanting - no, actually, ranting - I would never have agreed. I should have gather up my flock and wheeled off. But no, shocked, we endured minutes of this torture, this public demonstration of his 'goodness' and god-fearing, heart-felt sincerity as Jaz sat there, looking both bewildered and yes, sorry for him! Never the less,I should never have allowed her to be subjected to that.

Am I wrong??

(Please do try and post them on the comments section below, or sign up for Disqus, it's painless.)

Monday, 10 December 2012

Asian Salad

I made this salad last week. I think it would have looked better in a black bowl, but if you can get past the fact it doesn't look amazing, it did taste sooooo good, it could happily be a lunch on its own. I think mint is herb de jour at the moment but does make everything taste summery and what's not to love about that?

Here's what's in it:

  • Asian cabbage - slice as finely as you can
  • Chopped honey-roasted peanuts (I used honey roasted because they were on the bench, but as it so happened, they were a great)
  • Fresh peas - raw
  • Celery - diced to about same size as the peas
  • Grated carrot - to save it being complete anemic - you could add red pepper too if you like
  • Loads of chopped mint
  • Spring onions, skinny slices
  • Lots of sesame seeds
For the dressing, in a jar:
  • A good slug of sesame oil
  • A small splash of tamari (or soy)
  • A drizzle of fish sauce
  • A big squeeze of lime juice
  • As much chili as you care for - or not
  • Some crushed garlic
  • Some minced ginger - again, if you like it
Optional extras:
  • Some like the crunchy bite of a packet of noodles
  • Fresh chopped coriander
  • Vietnamese mint (kinda tastes like mint and coriander to me!)
  • A squirt of honey in the dressing if you don't use honey-roasted peanuts
And if you can't be bothered making dressing, buy the Thai dressing at the supermarket in the Asian section - it's not bad! But I'd still recommend some sesame oil as well.

Just in whatever portions you like to your tastes. Give it a good shake and pour on.

We had it with grilled pork steaks but it's also be yum with chicken. Works for the 'no carbs after 3pm' kick Geoff and I are currently enduring.

Friday, 7 December 2012


As you know, I do like a good mani. Remember those weird silver foils I had put on? And the time I was sprung by the Managing Director - now a CEO no less - painting my toe nails at my desk??

Well check out my nails this week!

My hands look like I'm 110, but the nails are perfectly shaped and shellaced!

I swore off Shellac last year but am now an utter devotee. I had my nails Shellaced twice at one of those nail places that appear to offer such good value - but had to grow out the damage both times. I think because I have stumbled across a beautician who's attention to detail is second to none, I now have my nails done every 3 to 4 weeks. I'm not gentle on them - I scrub the barbecue without gloves - but still, they look great. I had them done on Tuesday morning before lunch with my friend Sally. By 2pm, she too had an appointment with the amazing Maria. Let me know if you need awesome nails and I'd be happy to pass on her number.

BTW, you may have noticed I don't do the paid promo - but some products and services just deserve to be shared!

Monday, 3 December 2012


I saw this quote recently on Pintrest (you can follow me there too! Just click here) and immediately thought to print and laminate it for Eleanor as her mantra for life.

But who am I kidding??

This should be MY mantra for life! Having had my face fried in the quest for 'pretty', achieved or not, it'd have to be said I give it a red hot go. And 'witty', well again, I'll let you be your own judge, but I am inclined to make myself laugh a fair bit (leading the kids to comment that I do find myself hilarious).

So that leaves 'gracious'. And that's an ambition I could do well to be more conscious of every day with every interaction (family and close friends excluded!) But imagine truly always being gracious. The dictionary says it's polite, affable, courteous, amiable, congenial, social, well-mannered, civil, tactful, kind, diplomatic and genial. I suspect my language (fuck!) might let me down a tad.... and a tendency to smart-arsed-ness.

I have a long way to go, in fact in honesty, it's unlikely I'll ever achieve it, but I am going to try and think about it more. But I'm promising nothing!

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Bogans Galore!

Last Saturday we went to A Day On The Green. It's basically a music festival for oldies. But just because they're old, don't think they've lost their tendency to be a bit, well, bogan.

Penny, Hugh, MWW and Charlie (Geoff's taking the snap)

The event is held at Rochford Estate, a scenic vineyard in the Yarra Valley just out of Melbourne with the good fortune to have a natural amphitheatre. It's not a late night, is starts about 3pm and wraps up just after nine, so there are often kids there too - we took ours to Rob Thomas. We've been going fairly regularly over the past 7 years and I'm pleased to say the entertainment of the crowd continues to rival what's actually happening on the stage.

A few years back we staked a spot near some young guys who managed to get so hammered and disruptive that over half their party had been handcuffed and deposited into the back of the divvy van before the top billing had even hit the stage. The highlight of their bad behaviour was when one guy smashed an empty wine bottle over his mate's head!! Remarkably, he wasn't knocked out cold but the sound was exactly that of hitting a wooden fence post. And perhaps that wasn't the end of that analogy.

This was all quite ironic given you couldn't bring your alcohol or any glass  into the venue for safety reasons. But you could purchase beer in a can and wine by the bottle. Brilliant.

One of that young party of boys was passing a woman of near fifty at about 8pm. Pleeease! As my friend Deb noted, it wasn't that she was old enough to be his mother, it was that she was singularly unattractive, (sorry - highly judgemental but blatantly true.) To add to the drama, she was busy trying to convince her friend to wonder up and grab a piece of the action.

That same night, there was  bit of a crush on the path to the car park and pushing and shoving. One couple, trailing their young children, started some verbal back chat with some blokes next to them that climaxed with them getting very fired up and screaming "F$#@ off you c*&^s" Delightful. The only thing scarier was the realisation that one of those alcohol fuelled parents would be driving home.

This time, in an attempt to curb the sozzledness, there were restriction on buying alcohol leading to a queue about a kilometre long and a limit on how much you could buy in a single transaction at various times through the event. I bought a (plastic) bottle of Chardonnay for $34. The Sav Blanc was $31. The prices must be a deterrent but for me, a wine that tastes like paint stripper is the biggest one!
Our 'neighbours' (not Geoff...in the glasses)

Later in the evening

Regardless of the new rules, the crowd did not fail to disappoint. With shirts off and more ink than a 1950's school room, they sunk booze like it was going to be their last. The lasses in front of us thought it was a brilliant idea to push their boobs together to generate maximum cleavage and then press said cleavages together for the wonderment - and photography - of the blokes in their party.

The line up on Saturday, in order, was Boom Crash Opera, James Reyne, The Angels, The Baby Animals and the Hoodoo Gurus. There was much conjecture amongst our party as to why The Angels weren't top billing. They were fabulous. It's incredible how music can transport you straight back to being 18. Absolutely loved them

And yes, they did do the crowd favourite, Will I Ever See You Face Again, and yes, the audience did respond with the obligatory 'No way, get f...ed, f... off." And yes, plenty of folk had their kids in tow....

Don't be put off. If you love a bit of live music in a beautiful location (the weather on Saturday was perfect), grab a picnic, plenty of water, and open mind and head on out.

On the other side of entertainment, Geoff and I went to Glimpses, a play by a new theatre company called Kin and showing at FortyFive Downstairs. Well worth the time. Loved it!

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Ten Things About George

George was a remarkable guy. If you had the privilege to have known him, some of these will be familiar. For others, it'll give you more of a sense of who he was.

1. George went through a stage of answering the phone with 'Yo!' Nothing else. He thought it was hilarious. His grandparents didn't understand it at all.

2. 'Keep the change you filthy animal' was a line from the movie Home Alone that he latched on to for a while... which was extremely awkward if we were out and he was buying something. He tended to 'toss the granade' and then disappear leaving me to face the strange looks from the person behind the counter.

3. Through Make A Wish, George got to meet the Killers. He asked how they met. Ronnie (drummer) said it was at karaoke at a gay bar. "Really?" asked George, mesmerised. "No!" said Ronnie, kindly. Brandon Flowers, the lead singer had not been overly engaged at the meet and greet. Fair enough I thought, right before he had to go on stage and perform. But he dedicated the last song of the show, "When We Were Young" to George in front of thousands of people. I nearly cried.

4. Had a bad habit of saying 'sorry' and apologising when I needed to take him to the toilet, get him dressed, get him into bed. 'Bad' because it broke my heart and he kept doing it - despite my pleading that there was no need to be because I certainly wasn't sorry, he persisted.

5. His favourite meal - before he started being tube fed in April - was a roast. He also ate ice cream nearly every day -and was still as thin as a string bean.

6. He loved Dr Who, Torchwood, Smallville, The Simpsons

7. He loved books. We spent hours together while I read him the Harry Potter series, the Alex Rider series, all the Skulduggery Pleasance books, The Hunger Games, Eragon and Gone - amongst others. What a privileged to have spent that time together with such a shared interest.

8. He love playing Call Of Duty 2: Modern Warfare. He played on line and was shot regularly with that splattering of blood on the inside of the computer screen. He rarely killed or came close to wounding anyone, but he loved playing anyway. Even when his ability to control the mouse and keyboard were tenuous, he played.

9. He loved an action movie. He loved going to the movies, the drive inn, or watching a DVD at home.

10. George was extremely humble and had no idea of the enormous impact his charm left on everyone who met him.

It's been 8 weeks today and I still can't believe he's gone. Love you George.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

The Plague

Me - looking for bugs on Sass

When we arrived in the States, we were required to fill out the above form. Can you make out question 11.(a)?
11. I am (We are) bringing 
(a) fruits, vegetables, plants, seeds, food, insects. 

Yep - bugs. Now you don't mess with US customs....and I was pretty darned sure we were bringing in insects as I looked closely at Sass's head. Hmmm. What to do, what to do...  In the end, I declared nothing.

And the little blighters are back - AGAIN! Elle was scratching too so we Googled the safety of filling a shower cap with Mortein and slapping in on her head. However, I read on the can that contact with skin should be avoided so was forced to abandon that brilliant idea.

What Elle's Google search of 'Is it bad to spray Morteen on hair for hed lice' (sic) revealed though, was Sydney Morning Herald article and forum that said 10% of all school aged kids have lice at any given point in time. In my experience, the concentration is heavily skewed to primary school.

The good news was, hair drying kills 55% of bugs and 98% eggs. They hate heat. A hair straightener fries eggs and bugs alike. The cheap conditioner and comb through does work. And finally, many contributors agree that the chemicals just don't work (perhaps Mortein does, sadly, we'll never know) - wondering if the lice have become immune.

Sass has been crawling into bed with Elle lately so she too has been itching. We tried a new remedy from the forum- olive oil and a few drops of tea tree oil mixed in. Apparently it smothers lice and eggs alike. She has hair as thick as a horses tail - and it seem to have worked a treat!

Meanwhile, Sass went off to school this morning with the straightest pony tail ever!

Any other ideas of ridding ourselves of this scourge will be gratefully received.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

The Burn

Back in the 80s, feel the burn was the catch cry of Jane Fonda's workout video (probably on Beta). But before we went to America, I had my face lasered ('resurfacing' it's called) and man, talk about feel the burn!!!

My 'face' doctor offered me the treatment as he had the machine on loan - just his favourite clients he said - although if he inflicts this much pain on the people he likes I dread to think what the others are in for.

Having established some time ago that I'm an utter wimp when it comes to pain (I thought giving birth four times the natural way would have prepared me for any kind of physical agony - apparently not) the process started with me arriving at the salon on a Thursday night and having numbing cream applied to my face. Glad Wrap was pressed over the top (carefully positioned so I could indeed breathe) and then I had to sit amongst people having their hair done for half an hour while it took effect. I seriously would not have looked out of place in an episode of Dr Who.

Dignity now in disarray, it was time to get down to the main event. Plastic removed, laser machine on and a technique called 'stamping' where the laser burns deep and intense. It started off quite bearable as he attacked those 'problem areas' (ie most of my face). I had control of a vacuum hose thing that blew icy air and that I could direct to any areas of 'discomfort' (ie most of my face). Round One of stamping and I was okay. There was pain, but nothing drastic, that was still to come....

Round Two is allegedly a lower intensity and an overall smoothing out across the whole surface. Why the fuck then did this hurt so much more? Apparently because my deeper skin was already well heated and this was the metaphoric icing on the cake. No joke, there was the strong and distinct smell of burning flesh (at this point I'd like to apologise for my own stupidity to anyone who has ever witnessed or experienced a burn injury that wasn't self inflicted... you can slap me when I next get lasered... you could slap me now but it'll hurt more then and might knock some sense into me).

The last stages were excruciating and verging on an internal battle with myself to refrain from just getting the hell out of there. Anyway, after a lot of whinging on my behalf, it was finally over. Hallelujah!!!

But the pain did not stop there my friends, no it did not. It was like having extreme sunburn. As advised, I had taken Panadol prior to the treatment and looked forward to more when I got home. I drove with my face pressed against the driver side window, grateful for once for crappy Melbourne weather. Once home, I applied ice packs and I swear I heard them sizzle as I pressed them against my nuked skin.

(I was also slathering my face with Calm, by lqd and developed by my mate Anthony, you know, the beef burger, the guy in the fireman's overalls....anyway, he deserves a plug, it did help!)

The next day I had a meeting with a senior retailer. I'd agreed with Mands my business partner that if the damage was too great, I'd need to feign illness. He'd already had to reschedule because he was unwell so it was plausible. She sent me a text in the morning "Still got a face??" So helpful. As it so happened I did have a face - one that was bloody hot, but slightly glowing and just swollen enough to push out the major wrinkles. I didn't look too bad at all. The guy I was meeting with agreed. I'd like to kiss you (in a professional way! We're colleagues from years back) he said, but I've been sick, so best I don't. Yes, best he didn't! By this stage my face was like a furnace - so much so I had visions of him pressing his lips to my cheek only to have them sear on and him having to literally rip them off... awkward.

It was now Saturday. I woke up and could barely open my eyes. I was puffy and swollen and had eyes like the proverbial piss-holes in the snow. Oops. I started drinking coffee in the hope the caffeine would act like the diuretic it is and take the fluid off my face! Off to Pilate's and netball. I seriously looked odd. Sort of like me and sort of like an alien. I decided the best approach was honesty. 'Just had my face lasered,' I announced to anyone who looked at me with a raised eyebrow. I was surprised to discover how many women responded with, 'Oh I've had that before!'

Eventually the heat dissipated and the scales set in. It was dry, crusty and in some places, even a little bit of bleeding - but nothing a trowel of Maybelline Miracle Whip couldn't cover - as long as I applied my make up twice a day. This stage was meant to last about 6 days. In fact, it was closer to three weeks before all traces of scales had disappeared. But we were on holiday by then and the mandatory sunscreen to avoid any damage (ironic, isn't it?) helped as well.

So.... final verdict? Well, Elle, who's not lavish with her compliments conceded 'Your face does actually look better Mum'. I've certainly noticed the difference. But I'd hazard to guess most people haven't - and that's absolutely fine by me.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Races and horses

It's been a big week of horse races in Melbourne. My buisness partner Mandy and I entertained clients at Oaks on Thursday and had a great day, if not a couple too many champagnes! We were extremely very tired on Friday (that wasn't a typo - we were extremely very tired on Friday!).

Not to be deterred, Geoff and I took the kids to Stakes Day, again On The Rails as the guests of some great friends. Eleanor's age was guess by a fashion icon at our carpark (and whom I'd just met) as being 16 or 17. He was bowled over to know she's 13. She and her friends spent committed hours getting ready - and I mean hours! If they put as much enthusiasm into their studies I'd be one very happy parent. Here they are on the way there, and one of Elle and me at the end of the day.

Yes, I was blonde Thursday, brunette Saturday - a whole other story....

I heard a story of a carpark in The Nursery a few years ago where the guys in the next carpark were having a buck's party. Nothing outrageous - just a great day at the races. A group of girls akin to the above walked past - 'Come in, come in!!!' the guys invited. 'They're 14,' came the whisper from the carpark next door - 'Get out, get out!!!" they screamed in utter panic.

After a solid 8 hours of standing in very high shoes, and being refreshed yet again by lovely champagne (me, not Elle!!) we faced the City2Sea Sunday morning. Yes, another of those ironic Fun Runs I've blogged about before. It seemed like such a good idea months ago before I realised it was the day after Stakes and had committed Elle and myself.

We were up at 6.30 and I glanced at the race info to check where the start was. 'Good news!' I exclaimed, 'it's only 10k.' What a relief! We thought it was 14. So weren't we surprised when the 10km mark came - and went - and it still wasn't over! I did realise it makes no difference to my running (if you can even call it that) whether the distance is 5, 10 or 15kms. On and on I plodded. Elle, unfortunately, had put in a big sprint at the 10k mark thinking it must be like the Run For The Kids and be just over the distance. It was only when she saw a flag marked 11km that she asked another runner - '14k darl.'  Of course she beat me - by a good six minutes, but I was still very happy with a time well under 90 minutes.

So after a week of races - horses and running - I came straight home and had a jolly good lie down!

Saturday, 3 November 2012

The Homecoming

We arrived home last night just before 3am - to our front garden resembling the aftermath of a wild party. WTF? Plastic glasses, empty bottles, cans and Corona six-pack boxes (excatly what Geoff has - had???-  stocked in the garage fridge) were stewn over the front lawn. There were streamers through the trees, cups and cans in the hedge, balloons tied to the roses. The esky was on the front porch - awash with amber liquid and big 'Happy Birthday' sign strung across the verandah. Hmmm. No - definitely not a 'welcome home' arrangement.

The final two touches were a leopold skin and pink lace bra on the hand rail and a vomit next to the stairs under a tree. Geoff, with questionable wisdom, stuck his finger in the latter and declared it real.

Here's a couple of shots in daylight:

The vomit

And then we found the note on the front door....

FYI, the 'beer bottles' are Bundaberg Ginger Beer with the labels soaked off, the 'beer' is cold tea, the vomit is weetbix in milk!!! I guess had we thought about it it certainly didn't smell like a party!!

Monday, 29 October 2012

Phuket - let's go.

Yes I stole that from a Virgin billboard - but it seems apt.

We'd arranged months ago to come to Phuket for my brother Michael's 50th. I'd even arranged respite for George so it' s just Geoff and me. It's so odd to get to the airport without kids and wheelchairs and excesses of baggage. We got into the transfer van and Geoff put his arm around my shoulders and I jumped - only because I wondered what had just landed on my arm, so used we are to wrangling so many other demands.

It's the first time since we had 5 days in Byron Bay 12 years ago that we've been away together without kids. But as the whole family is going, including my parents, Eleanor joked that my oldest two children will be there!

We have absolutely fluked the weather. They have had quite a bit of rain but no that we've seen. We had dinner at a restaurant on the beach on Saturday night - loads of Moet and great Thai food and yesterday we spend the day out on a catameran. It even had six bean bags made of shade cloth and clipped onto ropes on the trampoline that stretched over the hulls at the front. The weather started off lovely and finished up perfect. We sailed to Raya Island where we dropped anchor. We swam to shore, kayaked and snorkelled and clambered back onto the boat for more great Thai food for lunch. On the resturn trip - a good couple of hours - the water was so still that in the sunset it looked like mercury. And just as the sunset on one side, the full moon rose on the other. A glass of white wine and the company of family and my new (brother's) friends and it was an absolutely glorious day. A huge contrast to the 9 degrees and rain we'd left behind at 4am on Saturday when we finally flew out of Melbourne.

Here's a couple of snaps of the ridiculously luxurious villa my brother kindly has us staying in.

View from our room

View from our bedroom

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Organ Donor-ing

I was reminded by one of George's teachers that he told one of the blind kids at his school, “Damian, when I die you can have my eyes.”

He always was generous.

We were asked to consider organ donation for George in the States - specifically his kidneys -  and we agreed. Then after an assessment, they decided he was ineligible after all.

I almost wondered why they didn't start with the assessment... but I guess that may come across as being pushy.

Organ donation is a huge gift and one I'm sure George would have been proud to make.

For Australians, I am a supporter of 'opt out' rather than our current system of 'opt in' for organ donation.

So while it's top of mind, if you're not an organ donor and think you should be, jump on and register  here now.

If George could be that generous, we all can be.

George - at about 15

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

The Sandals

There's something about grief that makes you want to clean, tidy and de-clutter everything.

My brother popped down from Dubai on Sunday for the day and as we strolled to brunch, I was quite overjoyed to see my flat bronze sandals in the front window of the op shop, with a $3.50 sticker on each one.

Is that $3.50 each or for the pair, Michael mused.

Dropping more stuff off yesterday, I was going to get a photo for you - but they'd already been snapped up!

Here's kind of what they didn't look like....

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Matthew Flinders

When George was about 9 or 10, we were meeting a couple of other families for dinner at a local pub called the Matthew Flinders.

As we headed in Geoff said to George in passing, 'George, did you know Matthew Flinders was an early Australian explorer?'

'Really?' said George. "I just assumed he was a big drinker."

Still can't believe he's gone....

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

"No offence, but..."

There was a real theme around George's life celebration, in particular his ability to be breath-takingly honest. I don't think any of the speakers failed to mention his preemptive "No offence, but..."

And because I still want to just think about George right now, again, being totally self-indulgent (isn't that all bloggers??) I wanted to share what I said about him last Friday.

Twenty years ago, I said to Geoff  “we really should start trying for a baby. It could take us 2 years to find out we can’t.”  It took us 2 weeks to find out we could.  And that was George.

George’s travels started immediately as just a few weeks pregnant, we headed off on a 5 week backpacking trip of Mexico. But he was actually born on Saturday June 12th 1993, a freezing cold day in Melbourne with snow on the Dandenongs. And so began his amazing, charming, funny, joyous 19-year life adventure.

We moved from Box Hill to Malvern when George was 18 months old. His crèche wrote up George’s routine and preferences for the new crèche, suggesting he be encouraged to be more assertive. And it wasn’t long until – as George shoved toddles from moving trikes so he could take over – their wish was granted.  He did find his equilibrium and his tribe, being Georgia, Pete and James (who all made it to his 18th birthday party last year) and the social life of those pre-schoolers rivaled most teenagers. George was, frankly, incredibly popular and happy.

He was a gorgeous little boy. In fact, we were in Queenscliff one weekend and George was running ahead of us on the street past a group of cool young 20-somethings. As they past me I overheard one guy say, ‘when I have a kid he’s going to be just like that.’

The start to school was unexpectedly shaky. Although socially adept, he wasn’t fast to catch on to the skills of reading and writing. In fact, after Grade 1, it was decided that he should repeat. George wasn’t that happy – until he found out he was repeating with a couple of his besties.
However his fine motor skills began to deteriorate and it became increasingly obvious that something wasn’t right. George was diagnosed with NPC aged 9. But once we knew that, school became a whole lot easier. Toni joined George as his integration aide and the expectations of his abilities were adjusted accordingly making it a happier time for all.

George had a memorable presentation in Grade 3. Lifted directly from Bart Simpson, he opened with “Ladies and Gentlemen…. Prepare to be dazzled!” After which it probably didn’t matter much what he actually said! What he may have lacked in academic achievement he certainly made up for in entertainment and charm.

He had a happy time at Malvern Central School and with Toni’s help and good humour, stayed on until year 8 after which he moved to Glenallen.

Like Jaz, we worried about the move to Glenallen, but he loved it. Vivienne will tell you a bit more about that later.

George has always been philosophical about life and his lot.  Like my friend Kate, when faced with the unchangeable, he’d say ‘Well what can you do,’ – it was statement, not a question. When Jaz died 3 1/2 years ago, George asked to speak to her boyfriend Dylan at school. ‘It was just her time,’ he told him.

Our friend Penny reminded us this week that in Africa last year, as she coughed and told George she hoped he didn’t get her cold, he grabbed her arm and said ‘Penny, if you spend your whole life worrying about what might happen, you’d never do anything.’ And finally, to my work friends at the Glenallen School art show when they introduced themselves by saying ‘I work with your mum’, he said ‘I am soooo sorry…..”

His sense of humour and dry wit were well known and often used to break an awkward moment. When his teacher Michael, who later admitted he was a bit nervous, rambled on to the class on day one of school, George raised his hand; ‘Michael…. What the hell are you talking about??”

His charm was on occasion a veneer to mischief which I don’t believe was all together innocent. Anything that started with ‘No offence’ was bound to be. Like when he said to a staff member at school, ‘No offence Christine, but your moustache is really glistening in then sun.”

George did love a family holiday. He and I loudly ‘dah dah dah!!!ed” the theme song for Indiana Jones as we entered every pyramid and tomb in Egypt. It was his fascination with the ancient Egyptian gods in the Pokemon cards and the Indiana Jones movies that decided the destination in the first place. His love of animals took us to Borneo to see orang utangs, proboscis monkeys and turtles, to Africa to see rhinos, giraffe and lions and Thailand to pose with an enormous tiger, have snakes slung around his neck and ride elephants. He loved the birds of prey show at Healesville and even the Melbourne zoo was always a good day out.  On his last day in Yosemite, he was completely enchanted with the squirrels that came right under our chairs as we had lunch.

And of course, it was on our last holiday in the US was where George left us. We’d helicoptered into the Grand Canyon, rafted down the Colorado river and caught a couple of shows in Vegas before we got to the beautiful Yosemite national park.

As many of you know, he’d had a tough year so it was great to be doing what we all love best – exploring somewhere new and just being together.

George was a funny, thoughtful, caring, gentle soul . We were extremely lucky to have had him.  Even though it was far too short. We will love and miss him forever.

The Moroccan Bath

The girls and I have come up to Dubai for a few days to escape the Melbourne winter. It's in the 40s so we've thawed out - quickly. ...