Wednesday, 24 December 2014

It's a wonderful time of the year.

I love Christmas - the parties, the shopping, the food - what's not to love?

It's been a fairly cruisey lead up this year which has been very different. I'm all organised and ready to go - we even have the table set and I've been for a run.

I was at a party last week when a woman I'd only just met was sharing that due to her husband's recent retrenchment, they were all sorted and she was missing the 'week before Christmas drama'. It's not often you get such a candid confession. Most of the time we prefer to have a moan about how busy we are and how much there is to do - but in truth, it's fun.

The slower pace isn't bad though. I remember those far-too-few Christmases with four kids (including the toddler, the teenager and two in between), a corporate job that had me to be nailed to my desk until just before the day, going to 10 parties and breakups, buying 35 presents and hosting 22 on the day - ahhhhh - those where the days!

If you do find Christmas with the relatives all a bit much, perhaps you might like to recap my post of the tautology of dysfunctional families. Just to be assured how normal you are.

Anyway, wishing everyone a very merry Christmas - enjoy1

Monday, 15 December 2014

Blushing like a teenage girl.

I'm so bored with the tedious project that is our shed renovation. It's been two year of plans, permits and money spent and so far nothing has actually happened. But I live in hope that 2015 may in fact be the year. Stay tuned.

We're planning to replace the existing building and add a loft and I'm dead keen to have sloping, loft-like windows that can be fully opened. It's been a task, but I have finally located a company that can do it. After a month of dealing with people in Sydney who clearly have no interest, I was directed to their Melbourne rep who - for a change -  has been incredibly responsive and helpful. Let's call him 'Angelo'.

I sent him engineering plans and the window schedule, he spoke to the engineers about the angle, he advised the maximum degree, we discussed automated versus manual, he got me a estimate, I requested a drawing so I could understand how the opening worked, he sent one but I couldn't work it out. I rang him on Friday and, ever helpful,  he said no worries, he'd pop around and explain it. Great!

Having dealt with 'Angelo' on the phone and via email for a while now, I had conjured up an image of a friendly, portly, middle aged southern European guy. But when 'Angelo' turned up - O...M...G! I already knew he was friendly and cheerful - but I wasn't expecting HOT.

I opened the door (wearing ugg boots, jeans and a T - thankfully I did have make up on!) and was almost rendered speechless. He's about 6'8" (I'm not exaggerating), athletic and just, well, so amazingly good looking I actually started blushing!!! Seriously, I can't even remember that happening when I was a teenager! It was so embarrassing. I couldn't even look at him.

I must have said hello and come in because next minute we're standing at my shamefully messy desk and I'm rummaging for plans that I'd not previously bothered to locate. Just as well as it so happened as it gave me a moment to try and collect myself!

Anyway.... he was very helpful and explained the drawing and even came up with an idea that will look better and reduce the cost - so he's not just a pretty face!

When he left, I was still so flustered I couldn't focus on my work, thinking I need to tell someone how hot the window guy is - so I sent Geoff a text!

Okay - this isn't a picture of  'Angelo' but you get the idea.

I have got a couple of other companies quoting but I'm pretty sure he's got the job. Because he's so helpful of course!!

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Is more 'more' at Christmas?

We've not had Christmas at home for a few years - we were in Japan last year, at my folks the year before, Cambodia the year before that. So it is with much excitement that this year we're home!

I'm actually at risk of being a 'bah humbug', but the decorations have reached a frenzy.

Geoff and Sass came back from the hardware store ladened with cheap landfill from China. I know I should let it go but the Greenie in me was so appalled that I was compelled to voice my objection, only to be told by Sass that I was mean and that she'd be a lot happier if I just went away and she and Dad could continue their merry (junk-filled) journey without me! (Yes, I probably did deserve that).

But there are now so many lights on the front of our house, I'll bet we're a beacon to those in outer space.

The internally lit, fan-assisted, inflatables. Can't wait for the power bill!

However, I also realised that I could be accused of being a hypocrite as I recently purchased these deer for the woodlands scene I have going on, on the kitchen table. 

Aren't they adorable? Okay - they're also incredibly kitch but I am fond of a bit (or a lot!) of kitch!

So maybe it's more of the style of Geoff and Sass's crap that I'm objecting to?

Still - the question remains; is it possible to overdo Christmas??

Sunday, 30 November 2014

The Message

There's been a bit of contraversy on FB about the appropriateness of politiacians phoning households with recorded messages. My view is that it's an intrusion. We have a slient number, are on the 'do no call' register and were still phoned. It was during dinner so went through to the answering machine, only to be broadcast across the kitchen until Elle got up and hung up on the call.

So when the phone rang again about half an hour later, we ignored it. The answering machine picked it up and a very familar voice was again broadcast....
'Hello?.....Hello?.... '

Here's the recording of the message

Yes, it was Eleanor from the bathroom -  a mere 3 metres from the kitchen!

And yes, we ignored her too.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Teenage Binge Drinking

Eleanor will be 16 in just over a month and we have tried to keep her alcohol consumption fairly contained.

The current advice is to avoid any consumption prior to 16 due to the impact on brain development. I'm not sure if it's 16 because the impact is reduced after that or if it's 16 because that's probably as long as you can possibly string it out....anyhow, we haven't been totally strict but we haven't done too badly either.

But I think we may have stumbled across a possible deterrent for teenage binge drinking. Although in truth, it's expensive.

The types of occasions when we have allowed Elle to partake in a glass of something have tended to be significant - my 50th, Mum's 80th, when our gorgeous George would have been 21, an extended family get together - that type of thing. So accordingly, the alcohol has also been in the more special category. There's been French champagne for birthdays and some lovely reds.

In fact, some close friends gave us a bottle of Penfold's Grange when George died, aged 19, to be drunk on his 21st - a perfect gesture. So on the day, we invited the friends over and shared the most amazing wine I think I've ever had - and we let Elle have a splash.

The following week, I took Elle to an amateur performance of A Chorus Line at a local high school. (My friend Steven was in it and was so good he sadly made everyone else look a tad ... well, amateur. But I digress.) interval, I bought a plastic glass of shiraz.

'Can I have a sip, please?' asked Elle.
'Just a sip....' I said handing over the disposable vessel.
She had a sip and her face scrunched up so tightly it resembled a cat's bottom.
'That's horrible!' she gasped.... and the penny dropped.

She's now been so spoilt she doesn't care for cheap alcohol and I'm thinking her budget won't be stretching to Bolly for a long time yet!!!


Monday, 24 November 2014

'Fancy' can suck

I love my fancy European car. But I didn't love it when we were in regional South Australia for Mum's 80th and the keys got locked in it.

The small person responsible is very sad about the incident and doesn't like me to tell people. And fair enough, Sass - I won't mention it.

We rang the RAA and hours later, the guy showed up to demonstrate how many security features my car has that clearly no-one, including the RAA guy, knew about. The old wedge open the door and slip a wire in to open the handle doesn't work. Nor hitting the 'unlock' button. The car deadlocks. Which is great if some is trying to steal it - not so great if you're trying to get into it.

Plan B. The RAA tried to track down a locksmith. They couldn't make contact. And without casting aspersions on country-folk - after all, I'm one of them - I wasn't holding by breath that there'd be one within 300kms that would be able to get in.

At dinner, with Mum, Dad, their 93 year old friend Jess, my siblings, their partners and kids, we brainstormed options:

  • Hire a plane, fly back to Melbourne, get spare key, fly back, drive home
  • Drive Dad's car to Melbourne, get spare key, drive back and then drive home....
  • Drive Dad's car back to Melbourne, post spare key to Mum and Dad and have them drive my car when coming down in about 10 days (I confess, I was NOT keen on this idea...)
  • Have the car towed to the nearest town of size where by some miracle, they'd have someone who could get in
  • Call the windscreen people, have the windscreen taken out, get keys, replace windscreen (I thought this was gold - until I called and they explained they can't remove a windscreen without getting into a car - damn)
  • Smash a window
We decided to smash a window.

I called a relative who is a dealer of fancy cars to seek his advice. He said the back cargo window would be our cheapest option. We did a template to make sure the small person responsible could get in to retrieve the keys if necessary - all good. So we called the police (there are none in town but just so the nearest knew in case anyone thought we were stealing it), all drove into town and started taping the window.

A car pulled up behind. My brother who lives locally, gave a quick explanation. 'Yeah - I heard,' the guy said. Don't you love a small country town?

A crowd gathered, the hammer was swung - and about 50 strikes later it finally exploded. I put my arm through and discovered yet another new security feature - it alarms if locked and you reach in! Brilliant!

Thankfully, we could reach the keys from there - even if it was noisy.

That was 3 weeks ago. And I still have plastic taped over the window. Apparently that was NOT the window to break. It's expensive, there's none in the country and it needs to come from Germany - still waiting - but at least I know it's secure!

Monday, 10 November 2014

The girls and I have gone viral!

A friend on FB challenged me to do a lip-sync on a long car journey - so we did.

It's already had over 2000 views.

Let's see if we can get it going on YouTube.

Please share, share, share!!!

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Mothering style; the perplexing question.

I did the quiz on FB and it says I'm an Affectionate Mother. Given the deep and meaningful questions - pick a colour, pick a type of fruit - I haven't put too much credence into that!

When the kids were little, a friend and I used to classify mothers as runner or non-runner. A runner was the mother who at the slightest stumble, abandoned the conversation and coffee and rushed to the child to provide comfort and cuddles.

We were firmly in the non-running camp.

'Can you see blood? Do I need to call an abulance? No? Then get up. You're fine.'

It may seem harsh but I witnessed kids who would actually cry louder once in their mother's embrace, inevitably attracting even more soothing and on occasion, I swear, I had smug eye contact from the perpetrator as I looked on with what must have been my 'disapproving face'.

Perhaps I'm just justifying my own approach! But where do we get our mothering style? It's a question I've been pondering.

My mother was a non-runner but another friend admits her style is almost the opposite to her 'smother'.

Does it come from our experience of our own mothers? That we innately replicate or reject? And did that come from their mothers? Has it evolved over hundreds of years and generations? Are there repeated patterns of hands-off and hands-on in each family? Or is it all our own and just built in?

 What do you think?

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Are you in the right line of work?

I'm certain some people aren't.

Remember the chick who did my laser hair removal? She's definitely in the wrong job.

We once stayed at a country motel on the way to South Australia. I'd booked in advance over the phone and called on the way to let the hosts know we'd be arriving after 8pm. That was too late for them, so I was instructed to go straight to the allocated room where the keys would be left in the door. Keen to get away in the morning, I wandered over to reception which was closed, but had a sign with a number to call the owners - who I quickly worked out lived upstairs.

A woman answered the phone. She was clearly not happy to be woken up at 7am on a Saturday morning - and told me exactly that. They'd had a busy week with sales reps and she really did like a lie-in on a Saturday. How the hell was I supposed to know that?

I explained I just wanted to pay so we could head off. 'I already have your credit card details from the phone booking,' she barked at me. So I suggested we just get in the car and go. And she suggested that given she was now already wide awake she 'might as well' come down and process my card, which she did - grumpily.

By the time I finished, Geoff was in the car in the driveway with kids and luggage ready to head off.
'How'd you go?' he asked.
'I'm not sure that they're cut out for hospitality.'

Similarly, I had a colleague who was receiving yet another bollocking from a client over something that was beyond my colleague's control. Being in open plan,  the whole team was witnessing the painful event as her head sunk further and further down, eventually resting on her desk. But still it went on. Then, like a small flag of surrender, she held up a finger over the partition towards me with a Post-It note stuck on the end....

Monday, 20 October 2014

Stand Up. (For your life apparently)

I felt like I'd strained an abdominal muscle last week, which was odd because I didn't think I had any. Abdominal muscles that is.

But I think I've worked it out....

You may have seen that there's been a bit of bad press lately on sitting down for extended periods of time (namely 60 Minutes and I confess, I did watch it despite my usual rhetoric of it being tabloid TV). It said sitting is as bad for your health as smoking. See? Utter sensationalism.

But the idea that we weren't designed to sit for 10 hours a day at a desk makes lots of sense to me. Luckily, I have a set of drawers next to my desk that are just the right height, so I've been standing. And I think that's what's strained my tummy muscles.

It's a shrine to my MacBook Pro - how sad.

Standing all day is surprisingly easy, although I have noticed there is real joy and relaxation when I do finally flop down. I don't have great posture and wriggle around a lot and stick my bum out and lean and whatever - but at least I'm using a few otherwise unused muscles. And I'm thinking especially my core.

Apparently some people claim to lose weight by standing (60 Minutes again) but as I subscribe to the belief that weight is more to do with what you eat, I'm not counting on it.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Mother/Daughter Bonding

Looking for a bonding activity?

Elle and I did two on the weekend, both extremely successful - until we had yet another big fight! But never the less, here are some ideas to get closer to your kids.

1. Scrubbing the bathroom floor.
Side by side we scrubbed, half and half and with pretty spectacular results I might say.
Yes there were mutterings of 'child labour' and 'peasant's work' but she did persist.

2. Handing out clothes to the homeless on a Sunday night.
Elle and I spent four and a half hours in a mini bus with some socially incompetent fellow volunteers. We did our best to find suitable clothes for those for whom life has not been kind. Elle was hugged - several times - by a woman with enormous, bra-less breasts (she pointed them out to us a few times) and wearing a filth-covered foam neck brace - and still she smiled and remained super friendly. Go Elle!
If you're ever interested, they can always do with a

I like this photo - I'm just that bit out of focus... perfect!

Monday, 29 September 2014

Locked in The Loo - Part 2: A Timely Warning

As the Spring Racing Carnival approaches and you contemplate the perfect outfit to complement your champagne sipping, bear this 'Locked In The Loo' story.

A friend of a friend (sounds dubious I know, but it's not!) had fallen into the common mistake of getting a little bit too excited and sipping just a little bit too much champagne.

She'd wondered off to the loo to....well, who knows what she was planning to do... but had made herself comfortable and then passed out. 

Other ladies in the facility, clearly alarmed as I suspect she fell off the throne at the same time, alerted the Port-a-loo blokes who had to remove the door of the cubicle so she could be attended to by the first-aid officers. 

And yes, this was in one of the 'classy' members-only enclosures.

So the lingering question; do you think she was pants up or pants down?? 

This isn't her - it's a random shot from the net - plenty to choose from!

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

So you think you can ski?

It's true. I thought I could ski.

Okay - I didn't start until I was in uni, but a season as a chalet girl in Italy ended with us being able to ski a gorge that we'd hiked for a couple of hours to reach. Yes, it was extremely scary, but also exhilarating. I've not done anything like that since but I did feel it had left me a 'capable' skier.

After that there were several skiing weekends with work and friends and when George and Jaz - and then Elle -  were little, we spent five days skiing with family friends at Mt Buller for seven consecutive years.

This last Christmas we skied in Japan. And now we're in Queensland, New Zealand.

Our first day was at Coronet Peak. Elle and I joined the guided tour after lunch with a few others and we all described ourselves as 'intermediate'. In truth, we were a bit better than one couple and probably on par with the others (guides excluded!). So weren't we surprised when our next ski day at Treble Cone proved we can't ski to save ourselves.

Having done a couple of warm up runs in the home bowl and  checked Sass into ski school, we moved over to the second bowl over the back and O...M...G. It didn't look that challenging from the chair lift so I skied straight over the front - cautiously followed by Elle and Geoff. It was an ungroomed Red run - so not even Black, the most difficult. (We've now come to realise that Black isn't a standard and when the snow is a bit crunchy and ungroomed it can be the difference between do-able and down-right dangerous!) It was so steep and the snow so unforgiving and I was so fearful of falling, I couldn't turn and actually had to sit down on my bottom and flip my skis back the other way. How embarrassing.....

Ignore my religious-looking head gear and check out the scenery - amazing!

We eventually managed to pick our way down to a point where we could get back onto a groomed piste only to be further humiliated by a kid who I swear was 5, shoot past us at the speed of light, his mum and siblings calmly swooshing after him. We looked like absolute amateurs.

But as the day wore on, something started to become clearer.... everyone we met on the chair lifts were locals. Okay - one guy was from Australia - but he was working there having done three seasons at Thredbo - so he might as well have been local. I shared a lift with an older guy who was complaining heli-skiing was ruined by people who can't ski. I thought he was boasting to his companion but it was also revealed he's a guide for the 'back country' - ie of the map.

At lunch, (a delicious NZ$18 pork belly with apple gravy, glazed carrots, peas and onion and garlic roasted baby potatoes no less!) we noticed all the families knew each other. We were clearly tourists.

We've since skied The Remarkable (rudely dubbed 'Unremarkable' by a Treble Cone local) and Cardrona so have our confidence back - just.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Locked In The Loo

I have a bit of a toilet thing going on, don't I? It's not deliberate I promise.

Being locked in the loo came up when we were out the other night. I've been locked in twice. Once back in the 80s (ie no mobile phone) I was living in London in a flat that was one of three in a converted house. It was a Friday afternoon and my flat mate was heading to the Isle of Wight after work for the weekend, due back Sunday around 10pm. So when the handle came off the door I was more than mildly panicked.

Our flat was upstairs and the bathroom was in the middle of this rock-solid brick building - not a window and only solid walls to bang and wail against.  I decided I could sleep in the bath, I had water and a loo of course, just as long as I didn't die of boredom, I would survive.

Two hours later, legs shaved, brows plucked and nails filed, I suddenly heard a loo flush downstairs. I yelled down the basin drain 'Heeeeelp!' and heard Deb from downstairs call that she had a spare key and would be up in a jiffy. Phew!!!

The second time wasn't nearly as dramatic. The exact opposite in fact. A freestanding structure within easy yelling distance from the open air reserurant Geoff and the kids were sitting at in Laos. The door, held secure with wire, became jammed. I simply popped my head through the two foot gap between the wall and the roof and politely called for someone to get me out. Naturally it was our guide who obliged - everyone else was too busy laughing.

But it did remind me of a client Christmas party. The ad agency I was working for at the time was famous for its parties and this was no exception. The venue was so fancy and the bathroom so dark you pretty much had to feel your way in.  (What is with that direct correlation between venue coolness and lack of lights in the bathroom??) Added to the degree of difficulty was wall to ceiling curved cubicle doors. Perhaps not the biggest challenge in day light and before 25 vodkas - but seemingly impossible at an ad agency bash.

This is the actual venue and the toilet doors are just like this...
although this isn't the bathroom, there's far too much light

I was chatting to a colleague on the in to said amenity (we were sober, as good hosts should be) when a guy hanging about stopped me.
'I've just had a call from my colleague,' he explained, waving his mobile. 'She's stuck in the loo - the middle one. She's been calling out but no one can hear her.'

I could hear sobbing, whimpering and relief when I called through the door. But I managed to coach her through it...
'Undo the lock... yes, turn it right... okay... stand back... I'm going to push the door.' It opened with ease. I have always suspected the curve got her (and the 28 vodkas) and she'd probably spent all that time trying to push the door open.... instead of pulling.

Out she spilled, all running mascara, snot and gratitude. You'd think I'd saved her from a burning train wreck! She said she loved me. At least ten times.

I have one more - a friend of a friend  - but I'll save that for next time!

So, have you been locked in a loo? Does everyone have a 'locked in the loo' story?

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Who Gives A Crap?

I love this concept and have Facebooked about it - but here's some more info and a new chapter....

Basically, you have your toilet paper delivered to your door on a schedule that works for your household. It's inexpensive, recycled paper, wrapped in paper in a cardboard box and 50% of the profits go to building toilets and improving sanitation in developing nations. Okay - the paper isn't the most luxurious but the cause far outweights a bit of 'digital break-through'. (I spent some time in big ad agency land working on toilet paper and that's technical speak for when your finger pokes through the paper.... possibly collecting some poo...)

Anyway, how cute are the wrappers?

Do check them out - they're very funny! - and please order some. Here's their website. And just reminding you - although you hardly need it - no-one, and I mean NO-ONE pays me to promote products. (Let's not explore that too closely, I might be a bit sad....)

But, there is another part to this....

We got a delivery late last week and I asked Elle to put it away. Naturally she didn't. So when we got home from the footy on Saturday, with a friend and his 10 year old son, it was still just inside the front door.
Me - annoyed tone:  "Elle! I thought I asked you to put the toilet paper away??'
Elle - moany voice: 'I'll do it now...'
Friend's 10 year old, loudly: 'Who gives a crap!'
Friend - appalled: 'ETHAN! Don't you speak like that!
Us - all laughing - point at the toilet paper as Ethan gets a hasty apology from everyone.

So there you go kids - it also gives you a chance to use the word CRAP and not get into trouble!!

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Sieze The Day

Such a cliche, but so true. And I'm now realising why this concept of mindfulness and being in the moment is so incredibly important.

It's a frightening realisation that you don't remember most of your life. In fact, far less than 1%. Some would suggest it's as little as .001%. Of course it varies from person to person - many of my university friends wish I didn't remember as much and I certainly wish Geoff would remember more... but it's somewhere in that ball park.

Think that can't possibly be true? Well, what did you have for lunch on Tuesday two weeks ago? Unless it was your birthday or some other differentiating day, chances are you'll have no idea. Those ordinary days just all blend in together. So you need to be mindful of today and now - because all too often it doesn't mean anything else.

And even with what we do remember, there's much speculation around it's accuracy. Is that actually what happened or is that just our version that has evolved over time? Who knows.

I guess in the current era, we all have more evidence  - the extraordinary amount of photos and video.
Here's an amazing pictorial on the rate of photos taken by the world, ever. We've taken half of the pics ever to exist in the last 4 years - and most of those are on mobile phones.

But it does concern me. That time is passing by and I'll remember nothing of this winter save a couple of lovely catch ups with family and friends. So that was my motivation to get up at 4am on Saturday to go skiing and to get Geoff to organise footy tickets for next weekend.

When George and Jaz were with us, these periods of stability and nothing-ness were treasured, but now they just make me restless. I find myself trying to remember details of my grandmother's house or a hotel in Egypt or the lodge I worked at in Scotland...

How about you? Are you accepting of this situation or like me, do you try and recall what you can while always knowing you can't remember what you've forgotten?

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Roasted Cauliflower Salad

Not amazing photogenic but this salad is yum. Here's the drill:

  • Break a whole cauliflower into smallish florets, dice any chunky stalk bits, drizzle generously with olive oil and roast at 180C, turning regularly as it browns pretty quickly once it starts (this is what makes it nutty and delicious). Allow to cool
  • In a bowl, mix the cauliflower, a can of drained chick peas, a heap of dukkah, a few seeds and nuts if you like (I used sunflower, pepitas and almond slivers) and a handful of baby spinach
  • Add a good sprinkle of sea salt (only if the dukkah is salt-free) and a generous drizzle of pomegranate molasses, a squeeze or two of lemon juice, toss and serve
We had it with slow roasted shoulder of lamb, fresh pomegranate and flat leaf parsley, crispy roast potatoes and a rocket and edible flower salad (below), but it actually makes a great meal on its own. 

While the oven's on (gosh I sound like my mother!) peel and core some pears and put in a roasting dish. In a Pyrex jug, mix some brown sugar, break in some cinnamon sticks, add some vanilla extract (the kind with seeds in it), hot water and a knob of butter - microwave for a bit and then pour over the pears and roast while you're doing the cauliflower (although depending on how green the pears are, they might take quite a lot longer..).

I served them warm with salty caramel sauce that I confess I bought at the supermarket, cacao nib crumbs that I had made a couple of weeks ago and frozen, caramel and macadamia ice cream and cream. 

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

What matters?

We were recently fortunate enough to work on a brand strategy that landed us in a space of 'what matters'. It recognised that we often get so caught up in the everyday 'doing', of being busy, that we don't know if it is achieving the things that actually matter. The brand encourages people to take a moment to reflect on what does matter to them and just check that it is where your energy is directed.

For me, knowing that I have been fortunate in life means giving back matters.

I'm currently part of a small group, The MJs, (please do LIKE us on Facebook) who undertake various grassroots events to support different causes. Our key aims are to have minimal expenses so the maximum amount of funds raised end up with the cause, to try and get people closer to the cause (perhaps through a personal connection, the type of event or an activity) and to put the FUN back into FUNdraising.

Our current project has been providing physical help to an amazing organisation called Avalon, which collects, sorts and distributes clothes and bedding for the homeless. It has some other very worthy activities as well - check them out at 

Before we started mobilising the small army of helpers, Elle and I went out with Avalon on their Sunday night run, following the St Vinnie's food trucks and helping pack and unpack the vans at the various city locations.

At one stop, the well-signed bus was rushed by an exuberant woman who clearly had business on her mind. She'd spoken to the key organiser and had rendezvoused here, as planned, to make her donations. We climbed out of the van as she handed over a couple of black plastic garbage bags - one at a time with explanation:
'Now this bag has sheets and doona covers and pillow cases..'
The second bag came our way.
'...and this one has everything matching - the doona cover and pillow cases and the thing ... the frilly thing for the mattress...'
'The valance?' I offered.
'That's it!' she exclaimed, clearly relieved someone was speaking her language.
'It's got the doona cover, pillow cases AND valance - all matching - and I would REALLY like them to stay together.'

I managed not to laugh out loud. Was she insane? What homeless person is going to be concerned about having a matching valance? In fact, what person anywhere is lying awake because they don't have a matching valance? And what does a person sleeping rough even do with a valance? So many questions....

But, as she pranced back to her black BMW,  high on the goodness of her charitable deed, I realised... a matching valance mattered to her. And that is absolutely her prerogative.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

The Fishing Trip

Before you read this, know that I have permission to tell this story.

So a couple of years ago we were staying with my parents over the Christmas break. Geoff and my oldest brother Will had taken George and Sass up to the harbour to fish and Elle and I were meeting them up there. (Mum had kindly tipped a good amount of tonic water out of the 300ml bottle and topped it up with Hendrick's gin for me to take. As it turned out, I needed that drink!!)

On the drive to the harbour Elle was saying she had managed to get a tampon in but that it was really uncomfortable. Now as it happens, I've spent her entire lifetime working with a brand of feminine protection, so these conversations are well within our comfort zone. I simply explained it probably wasn't in far enough and she needed to push it up further.

Once we arrived, Elle had a go at 'adjusting' but was still whinging so I sent her back to the loo with the instruction to just take the tampon out. Minutes later she was back, white, sweating and threatening to pass out. 'I can't get it out...' she's almost crying. Good grief. 'Okay,' I say, reminding myself I've dealt with far worse crises. 'I'll come with you as you'll just be pulling the string at the wrong angle.'
'Everything okay?' asked my brother Will, cheerily.
'All good!' I replied, matching his cheeriness.

I took Elle back to the corrugated oval structure that is the public toilet - with enough room to hold a small party! She plonked back on the loo, in serious danger of fainting. I tried to coach her through it, even sliding down into a sitting position with my back against the wall next to her to demonstrate the angle (with pants up!!) but she was now so distressed nothing was budging.

Next minute there was a crunching of gravel and a knock on the corrugated iron door - it's Uncle Will. 'Everything alright?' he called out - although it wasn't necessary for him to raise his voice as the structure provided no sound proofing what so ever. Elle was almost hyperventilating. I opened the door a crack and whispered 'All fine - secret women's business....' with a very earnest and hopefully imploring look.
'Oh,' he said, bewildered and wondered off. And I still wasn't  certain that he wouldn't be coming back.

All demonstration and coaching options had now been expended so there was nothing for it - I was going to have to fish that sucker out myself.

In a moment of clarity, I realised my best approach was to turn my back to Elle rather than head in head first. I reached down and got her to pass me the string and within a nanosecond, the offending tampon was out and she was breathing again.

Back at the wharf the fish-fishing was proceeding in a relaxed manner as I grabbed my tonic bottle and glugged it down fast, wondering where in the manual of being a mother it mentioned the removal of recalcitrant tampons??!

Tuesday, 29 July 2014


If this is true, then it's official. Despite being 50 I'm not mature.

Although perhaps the circumstances were less about hurt and more about being blatantly insulted. 

Here's what happened.

The planning of the shed renovation has been going on for god knows how long, but part of it requires landscape plans for the backyard. I did a bit of research and found a designer whose ideas seemed right for what we're after. He came over for a (paid) consultation but we didn't like him. He was just a bit of a smart arse and not very diplomatic about our ideas - but hey, we're not having him over for dinner and I'm still hopeful his plan will be good so whatever.

Once appointed, he sent his side kick over to measure up the space. A woman, even older than me, who'd rung the day before to set up the time and seemed really friendly....over the phone. 

She arrived at the appointed time and as I can see the front gate from my desk, I opened the door to greet her. 'Oh my god!' she started with, 'I thought I was arriving at grandma's house.'

Now that was just rude. And for the record, I'd like you to know that many a person stops on the way to the cafe on the corner to admire our house (I can see them from my desk, remember!). I regularly have people comment when I'm out there. Even the gardener (I use that term loosely, he has no qualifications whatsoever and randomly rocks up with a couple of backpackers ever few months) says people tell him how much they like our front garden. So I was affronted to say the least.

'Really?' I asked, genuinely bewildered. 'Why's that?'
She had the decency to look mildly uncomfortable.
'Why have you got a handrail on your steps?' she said.

Right. That was it. Game on.

'Oh that.' I said casually. 'Yeah - I suppose we could get rid of it. Actually... we had a ramp as well because our older children had disability and ended up in wheelchairs, but they've both since died. We did get rid of that...'

Her mild discomfort escalated to a shade below panic. 
'I am so sorry,' she blurted. 'Do you usually get people who just say something like that...I'm so sorry... I...I....  ' she was now floundering and I was giving her nothing. 
'Not really, no. Would you like a cup of tea?'

Anyway, I remained totally composed as I showed her the backyard and she continued to try and retrieve the situation by digging an even deeper hole with stupid questions like 'Do you have any other children?' None of your business, would have been the right answer but I was too polite - albeit completely unsympathetic. Seriously, did she want me to just step up and slap her hard so she could recover from her hysteria??

Anyway, an hour or so later she knocked on the front door (I'd managed to not let her into the house) to tell me she'd finished and apologise again and went away. Hopefully I'll never see her again - for both our sakes.

I don't know how they're in business.... 

My therapist did say that I should always go with what feels best for me at the time when people ask about my children. But I'm not sure even she would have predicted that one day I would use that information as a weapon.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Swings and Roundabouts

Years ago, we decided to stop buying the insurance to cover the $2-3,000 excess of rental cars. It was almost as much a day as the cost of the car. So we bit the bullet and decided if we ever need to pay the excess, we'd still be ahead. Of course this has its own risks - you need access to that kind of cash should you need. (However, I've also since discovered the annual travel insurance policy we now take out covers it. Am I the only one who always feels like I have insurance on insurance??) Anyway, the point is, that was probably over 10 years ago and by now, with no accidents, we're definitely ahead.

So I'm desperately trying to apply that same logic to cheap airline tickets.

We didn't have anything planned this year, so on a whim, I booked to go skiing in Queenstown, New Zealand. I'd like to say now, I did check the dates with my other half, the one I'm not allowed to mention on my blog and he said that sounded okay. So I booked.

Two weeks later, the invitation to the wedding of the cousin of he-who-can't be-mentioned-on-my-blog arrived. And no, this wasn't a surprise. He (and I guess me too) had known about this since the start of the year at least - just no one got around to putting it in the diary - and yes, it's interstate on the day we were meant to be flying to New Zealand. Oops.

Having tossed around a couple of options it was clear there was no option - I needed to move the very cheap, not-really-flexible flights.

I managed to change one with the same airline at a cost of about 70% of the original tickets. (Cheap suddenly became kind of expensive...) The other airline had no flights on the day (well, none that took less than 26 hours on what is a 3 hour direct flight) so we just had to forfeit those. I did think Geoff and I could have had a weekend in Wellington without the kids - but no, you can't change the names on the tickets with an international flight - ever!!! Probably can't change the destination either.

I had booked and paid for the accommodation through a new online booking company that's based in Turkey. When I cancelled, I got all my money put back on my Visa within a few days as promised. Phew. I then found an even better deal on another site so that was a small consolation.

I've tried about 8 times to change the car hire booking on - god knows that doesn't work. I'll have to ring them.

So to console myself, I keep thinking of the many other, hitch-free cheap flights we've had over the years and think this day was always coming - but I'm sure I'm still well ahead!

PS Sorry about the gap between posts - you can tell when work gets very busy!!

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Re Run

I'm not much of a runner. I've posted before about my attitude to it. The fact that 'fun run' is an oxymoron. The thing I like most about running is when it's over. There are some days (not many) when I seem to run with ease and minimal effort. Others I feel as nimble as a bag of wet cement. And tragically there's no predicting which until I've started.

I did the 15km Run For The Kids this year. I was hoping to scrape in under 90 minutes but no such luck. In spite of arduous, boring and regular training, I did it in 92. Damn. And I really didn't think I could have squeezed more if I'd known.

So it was with some enthusiasm that I was talking to a physio that did it in about 67 minutes!! Okay, that is an amazing time and way out of my league - and she's probably a good 20+ years younger than me - BUT she did reveal technique has a lot to do with it. And I immediately booked in for a session.

Can I firstly say how disappointing it is when someone videos you and it reveals you don't look as amazing and athletic as you'd liked to have imagined?? Okay - I'm almost over that. Lucky it didn't put me off running all together!

Trying to change the way you run isn't easy. But already I can sense that it will make a big difference to my speed. Which my brother once unkindly commented was up there with most people's fast walking.

It is a killer on my calves and given most of my boots are already very snug in that area, I'm hoping to god that there's no building up there!

Anyway, I'll report back - probably in April next year when I do the next Run For The Kids!

PS - I know there's a video by a tampon brand about 'like a girl' circulating on FB - but I've always liked the term. It doesn't have to be derogatory. Mind you, I'm probably harsh about that sort of advertising - I don't like the Dove ads either. Perhaps a topic for another post.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

The Grade 3 Three-way Conference

Last week we had Sass's Three-way Conference.

Sass - looking particularly intellectual.

Now I don't know about you but I'm pretty sure I didn't even know what the word 'conference' meant when I was in Grade 3.

When Jaz was very little, I taught her to say 'corporate merger', 'communication strategy' and 'international fund policy' - purely as a party trick. She had no idea what any of it meant - but it always got a good reaction.

But these days, the concepts kids have to grasp seem pretty complex to me.

A Three-way Conference (because I didn't know what that was!) is simply a meeting between the teacher, the student and the parents. However, if I was being picky, there was no conferring. It was Sass taking us through some of her chosen pieces from her portfolio. (Yes, why have a mere work book when you can have a portfolio?)

As she read some bits to us, her teacher reminded her to use her reading strategies. Now that is the correct use of the word, but still, strategies at 8??

She also talked to us about the concepts of text to text, text to world and text to self - being (in order) a piece of text that reminds you of:

  • something else you've read (another piece of text) 
  • some random fact about the world 
  • or something to do with you. 
Not desperately difficult I concede, but still - they're in grade 3!

In fact, I don't think I even knew what text was until high school.

It has been seven years since I last had someone in Grade 3 and over 12 years since the oldest went through and I assume I was paying close attention - and still I have no recollection of these big words and ideas.

So, what do you think? Are kids getting smarter? Is this approach better equipping them for a more complex world or do you think it's been unnecessarily tricked up?

Sunday, 22 June 2014

You read my mind!

My friend Dawn and I went to the ballet last Tuesday and saw Bodytorque DNA.

It was beautiful. And incredibly graceful. Young dancers with the most incredible physiques - they were mesmerising.

It consisted of five separate pieces. The first featured a troupe of seven or so dancers in varying partnerships and combinations which got me thinking. As the curtain went down and the lights came up, I wondered to Dawn why there aren't any boy-meets-boy romantic ballets. Much of the audience is women and gay men and to my observations, the older crowd at a modern ballet is like the theatre crowd - very open minded. And for goodness sake it is 2014 - keep up people!!

Dawn thought perhaps tradition has gotten in the way.

Two dances later and there it was: an entire piece with just two boys. It was romantic, moving, beautiful and graceful - but I could now also see why it's somewhat problematic.

When it is a guy and a girl, he manages to lift and place her... say 48kgs?.... with what appears to be effortless ease. Not quite so with two extremely muscular men. They managed it well but it was apparent that lifting closer to 70kgs was tricky. They were well matched, equally powerful and able to move each other, but there was much more effort involved. Not that that's a bad thing or it should be discouraged!!

In fact, I reckon there should be more of it! (And girls as well - let's not discriminate.)

Sunday, 15 June 2014

The Party

Some years back, there was a spate of home parties here in Melbourne that got completely out of control, requiring police attendance. The main issue was open invitations on Facebook, leading to gate crashers and that combined with excessive alcohol led to violence and vandalism. Media attention was rife and the messages were clear - if you're having a party, ensure it has a closed guest list, alert the local police and for the young ones, make sure you have security.

So we were having a party at home about that time. Being the conscientious citizen I am, I felt it right and proper to let the cops know. I rocked up to the police station and the conversation went something like this:

Hi, we're having a party and I thought I should just let you know.
Yes, said the constable on duty, always a good idea. Let me get the book.

He dug out some beaten up book from under the counter and picked up a pen.

What date? he asked.
March 19th.
He wrote that down.
I gave him our address.
Number of people?
About 100.
By post.
That's good, he assured me.
My 40th.

He put the pen down and closed the book....looked me in the eye and raised an eyebrow.
We're really only concerned about teenage parties - but thanks anyway. 
I was dismissed.

How embarrassing.

However, I would like to add that on the night in question, the police did turn up twice to tell us to keep it down - so there - put that in your book constable!!!

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Condiment Queen

Do you like a condiment? Someone in this household says condiments are for people who don't like the taste of their food - but I don't see it like that. I view them as they're meant to be - enhancers. But how many enhancements can you handle?

I had this conversation on the weekend with my friend Sally, who is trying to bring some order to their collection. She's suggested to her husband Andrew that he uses one until it's finished, and then another. I don't like her chances. The whole point of the condiment is variety. But how much variety do we really require?

Here's a selection in my fridge - it's not an exhaustive list, merely an indication:

  • Mustard: Dijon, Hot English, grain, American, Dijonnasie and American & Tomato sauce (yes, together, quite good on a kransky!) 
  • There's beetroot chutney, my mum's chutney, mango chutney and tomato relish
  • Sweet chilli sauce, chilli jam and hot chilli paste, fresh chillis and chilli flakes in the pantry - and we're not huge chilli fans! 
  • We have preserved lemons and capers (in brine and packed in salt); 
  • There's  mint sauce, apple sauce, cranberry sauce, seafood sauce, tartare sauce and redcurrant jelly
  • Jams of every flavour including pear, red wine and rosemary to go on roast lamb
  • Buckets of marmalade and plum paste that I made
  • There's fish sauce, soy sauce, tamari, tamarind, hoi sin, san choi bau sauce, oyster sauce, teriyaki sauce, etc
  • Dressings for salads - Thai, creamy, lemon myrtle and a variety of home made ones
And that's without what's in the cupboard, like vincotta (plain, fig and orange), raspberry vinegar, balsamic vinegar, balsamic glaze, lemon scented olive oil, four kinds of salt (Murray River pink, Maldon, regular table and rock to go under oysters - so that's not a condiment!), seeds, dukkah, spices - oh, sorry, I said I wouldn't go on with the cupboard.

No wonder the cupboards and fridge can be full and there's nothing to eat!

I'm not going to include the selection of olives (although I do like to toss them over my spag bol with chilli flakes), sun dried tomatoes and other pickled things (although I did mention capers....) 

They seem not to have use by dates either - or if they do, they're well past my expiry date!

So, come on, confess all - am I a lone condiment freak or are things just as out of hand over at your place?

Monday, 9 June 2014

The Leenane Trilogy

Geoff and I spent an amazing afternoon at fortyfive downstairs yesterday. I have posted about this hot house of live theatre before but just when I think it couldn't get any better, it does!

Yesterday we saw The Leeane Trilogy, three seemingly separate plays over an entire afternoon and evening - seven hours in fact, but it was so engaging and enthralling it barely felt like two.

We arrived about 12.45pm, mingling with a glass of red until we were ushered into the theatre for the first play - The Beauty Queen of Leeane - with breathtaking performances by all four actors including Noni Hazlehurst and Michaela Banas. Like all my favourite kind of plays it had moments of humour through its emotionally harrowing roller-coaster ride. It was so good I wondered how the others could possibly measure up.

After this we were directed upstairs for lunch (included in the $85 ticket price and provided by the Spud Bar - hot, filling and tasty if somewhat pedestrian) which was served by Ally Fowler of Sons and Daughters/Chantoozies fame - what a bonus! We shared a table with a lovely, lively couple of elderly ladies and had another glass of shiraz.

Back downstairs for A Skull in Connemara, starring an almost unrecognisable Marg Downey and Christopher Bunworth and another probe into the human state, with plenty of laughs and few unresolved mysteries thrown in. Clever too, were the references to some of the characters from the first play.

Afternoon tea was served upstairs before the final play, The Lonesome West which equalled the first two. I couldn't possibly have a favourite - they were all so good.

Leaving the venue at 8pm, I was reminded how spoilt we are here in Melbourne to have such a high calibre of accessible theatre. 

It's playing until June 15th so I've deliberately not revealed any of the stories because if you get a chance, I couldn't recommend it more highly. Get along.

Monday, 26 May 2014

A World of Pain

Elle fell in a hole last week. She was warming up for cross country when it happened. Her ankle is very swollen and black with bruising. It required two trips to the doctor, an MRI, an x-ray and a physio appointment to determine that she has two torn ligaments. Surprising really, as I was quite sure she's been fortunate to inherit my 'sturdy ankles'.

I'm sure it hurts. It looks sore.

But it's been just as painful for me based on the following:

  • Moans, groans and even whimpers every time I'm within hearing distance
  • She can't take her own plates to the dishwasher
  • I have to pack her lunch and her school bag
  • I have to put up with demands like 'Can you make my lunch?' (Yes, of course she got a lecture about saying please - that was axiomatic)
  • She divides her clothes on the bathroom floor between clean and dirty - for me to deal with
  • I have to put her doona on her once she's in bed
  • I fill her water bottle, open the car door, carry her bag into school.....
Getting a picture? And to top it off, it means she can't do an introductory shift for the interview she's meant to be having at McDonald's in some vague attempt of generating some of her own money instead of bleeding me.

It's painful alright.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

The Wolf

His suit is a blue as deep as depression, the sharp cut is equally unforgiving.  The shine of his black shoes and hair is only surpassed by the diamond-hard glint in his eye. If it weren't for his private-school breeding, he'd physically be salivating like a wolf on the verge of the kill. But I guess that's exactly what it is.

His bitch, there to bear witness that protocol is adhered to, to ensure there'll be no come back, sits away from the table, shoulders slumped, arms and legs crossed as if by curling into herself and taking up minimal physical space, she is somehow emotionally removing herself from the inevitable blood letting.

'Please,' he says, indicating one of the sixteen plush leather boardroom chairs, all befitting the arses of the power brokers of this cut-throat, ASX top-100 corporation, 'have a seat.' I don't bother to verbally acknowledge him, fuck that, but I do sit and meet his cool blue gaze with one I hope is accurately conveying my nonchalant disinterest.

Naturally, I have rehearsed this meeting a hundred times in my head. In one version, I actually refuse to take a seat and just stand there which is incredibly awkward for him and amusing for me. But on reflection I realise this stance will give him an advantage - the school teacher to student. So I had already predetermined that I would sit. Might as well be comfortable - this could drag on. Or not.

'As you're no doubt aware,' he launches into his legal-department-approved speech, 'due to unexpected market conditions, the company is not fairing as well as we'd hoped and therefore not meeting budget.' I'm tempted to ask how that's got anything to do with m
e. No one asked me what I thought the market might do, no one asked me to have a crack at the budget and yet, here I am, being casually informed of the mistakes of the securely employed. 'That being the case, we are now in the unfortunate position of having to make some..... adjustments.' I almost laugh out loud. But then I remember I am one of those adjustments.

Again, in my usual smart-arse manner, the one that probably led to me being in this seat and in this meeting, I set my mouth in a firm straight line and nod sagely, as if he's just explained something to me that makes complete sense. It's only because he knows me that he gets a whiff of piss taking. One to me.

I could cut this short. I could just ask how much my severance is, what the exclusion and confidentiality clauses are and be done with it. But where's the sport in that?

He rambles on with his speech, clearly deriving a perverse satisfaction from his performance as the consummate professional, imagining himself secretly being filmed for the documentary version of Wall Street. Sadly, his audience, me and the cowering HR woman in the background, aren't the least bit dazzled. I glance at the clock on the wall and sit up a little straighter as I realise with pride that we're 15 minutes in and I'm yet to utter a word. Two to me.

He reaches the business end of his speech,'... so I'm afraid we have to let you go.' I nod and deign to speak for the first time. 'Okay.' Not 'okay' as in affirming or agreeing, that's a trap for young players who don't know me better. This 'okay' is merely an acknowledgment that I have heard what you said. A subtle but essential difference. I doubt he noticed, but I did and that's what matters.

'So,' he continues on, 'how would you like to play this? In terms of letting your team and the staff know? Moving on to pursue other interests?' He punctuates this last sentence with quotation marks etched in the air with his fingers. The wolf is starting to look a lot like a pussy.

I arrange my face to a look of boredom. 'Why don't you just tell them the truth? Unexpected market conditions, blah blah blah - you flung me.' He looks affronted. Not because I'm being blunt about my position but that I'm not being respectful enough of his brilliant performance. He looks just a little bit defeatist. Three to me. Time to sign and get out.

PS This isn't true. I just made it up. I have been retrenched in my career, just the once which is surprising in advertising. It was early in my career, the managing director who delivered the news was kind, even ringing his mate at another agency to get me an interview there. I got that gig and actually liked it more than my previous job. As is so often the case.

Monday, 12 May 2014

The Trap

Do you have a garage? A shed? An attic? A spare room perhaps? Somewhere you can store stuff that you don't require on a day to day basis or stuff that you're hanging onto because you might need it one day or you have some emotional attachment and can't let go?

We have an attic. They type that has the pull down ladder in the ceiling and Geoff has put some flooring up there and that's pretty much it. It's a trap. Why? Because it's far too easy to fling stuff up there rather than make an actual decision about it.

The door to The Trap! What lurks behind....

There is so much crap up there it's a fire hazard. So at Easter I decided the big project would be to check though what the heck was there and get rid of some stuff.

Here's a summary:

  • Rationalising the enormous collection of soft toys down to just two huge stripy bags full. We should have gone harder I know but there's a lot of emotion in those stuffed bits of bathmat
  • At least half a dozen good quality woollen blankets that Mum had given me when she and Dad moved house god knows how many years ago. We've never used them and as the weather grows increasingly chilly, I figure anyone sleeping rough would probably like one. Straight to St Vinnies.
  • Three sleeping mats (we have bunk beds for the tent now) and about as many sleeping bags that have since been upgraded or that we no longer use. See above.
  • A couple of Lladro figurines (not rare) that were Mum's - although she says she has no recollection of them. My cousin Amy likes that style of decoration so why on earth are they sitting gathering dust in my attic when she could be enjoying them?
  • Just a few clothes that were Jazzy's and Elle's that I thought Sass might wear one day. Ha! Apart from a couple of pairs of wacky sneakers, the rest went straight to St Vinnie's.
  • God knows how many crates of the kids' 'special art' and school journals - but could I get Elle and Sass to part with more than a small fraction of it? No. I'm thinking a sneaky clean out without them might be in order!
Here's a stroll through history:
  • A huge crate of rolls for the pianola. We did have a pianola - it was my grandmother's - but do we really need so many old rolls of songs and music from the 1920s?? Probably not. But they're still there.
  • A crate of memorabilia from my youth (yes, yes - all those years ago....)
  • A box of family heirlooms from my parent's place (now minus a couple of Lladro figurines)
  • A small crate of adorable baby things that I hope one day the girls might want for their babies
  • Crates of photo albums - even though Geoff has pretty much scanned every photo we own
  • The doll's house that was Jaz's, then Elle's, then Sass's
  • The rocking horse that was Jaz's, then Elle's, then Sass's
  • A crate of George's special things
  • Some dioramas the kids did at school
  • A crate of favourite kid's books (see baby things)
  • Old trophies and awards
What's also staying that is useful:
  • A couple of crates of ski gear - although we did manage to weed out the bits that don't fit anyone anymore
  • Doona, pillows, mattresses and sleeping bags for sleep overs
  • Some miscellaneous furniture we have pledged to rid ourselves of should any of it not find a home when we finally renovate
  • Christmas decorations
I'm such a hoarder! I'm sure if George and Jaz were still with us, I feel sure I wouldn't need to hang on to so many tangible memories - but also suspect that space would just be taken up by other crap of theirs! I also suspect if one day it all just disappeared, apart from the useful stuff, we'd manage perfectly well without the rest.

So do you have storage trap? What do you keep and how do you let go of 'stuff'?? All tips gratefully received!

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Time Share - oh yeah!

Still on the subject of hard sell, years ago I was suckered into a attending a time share 'presentation'. I got a random phone call to say a friend had entered me into a draw to win a new car and all I needed to do was come along - with my partner - to the presentation.

The sellers should have cottoned-on quicker. Here's a snippet of the call:

'Who entered me?'
'We don't know. A form was filled in at the airport and deposited into the box.'
'Okay... but I want to see it when I get there so I can see who's handwriting it might be.'
'Sure. Now when can we book you in?'

Trust me. There never was a form.

We arrived at the location - a large office space housing an example of the style of apartments in Yarrawonga that you'd be buying into, an audio visual of how amazing the destination was (it wasn't - ithe area is actually prone to flooding and extreme storms) and an area of desks for one-on-one consultations. There was a big display board covered with photos of happy, smiling buyers and I kid you not, they all looked to have some kind of intellectual, social or economic disability. It made me angry just looking at it. I cannot stand predatory selling.

We were assigned a 'seller' and off we went, starting with a quick survey on how much we spent on accommodation on our last holiday. It was trekking in Nepal and about $7 a night each - not the answer they were hoping for - still, she soldiered on.

Her, armed with a chart to illustrate: 'Did you know that in winter, Yarrawonga gets more hours of sunshine than the Gold Coast?'
Me: 'Yes, but what's the average temperature? I can't imagine it's warm.'
See chart below - the maximum is less that 15C - hardly ideal for all the water sports they promised!

Her: 'If the dates of your 2 week allocation don't suit, you can swap or rent it out, assuming someone wants those 2 weeks.'
Me: 'Yes, good point! That reminds me, what is your occupancy rate in July?'
Her: 'I think I need to get my supervisor...'
Me: 'Good idea!'

It wasn't her fault she'd been drinking from the Kool-Aid.

As Geoff and I were biding our time, watching the animated discussion going on in the glassed-in office between our sales person and her supervisor, I glanced around the other other desks - and spied the number $45,000 written on a note pad between the salesperson and the hapless couple opposite. Perfect! Now I had all the info I needed. And here comes the supervisor for a second crack....

After him having a pathetic attempt to win me over and me having none of it - just complaining bitterly about their selling tactics and getting us here to waste time, it did become a little heated.
Me: 'Seriously, if I stuck $45,000 in the bank at 5%, that's well over $2,000 a year towards two-weeks accommodation somewhere a lot fancier than Yarrawonga! It's ridiculous. We could go to Hawaii for that.'
(Just a reminder this was a long time ago when prices were low and interest was high.)
Him, going very red in the face and increasing to a yell: 'Where did you get that number? Did she tell you that number? Where did you get it?'
Me: 'I just made it up. It's just a guess.'
Him: 'I want to know where you got that number.'
Me (equally forcefully): 'I told you, I made it up.'
I got a whiff of victory as he pushed back his chair.

Him: 'Alright, you're obviously not interested. '
Me: 'What about my chance to win the car?'
This was killing him.

We were taken back to reception and asked to select a key from a small box of about 10.
Me: 'So is the winning key actually in here? Do I have the same chance as everyone else to win? According to the Bingo and Lotteries Permit Board.... blah blah blah'
Him: 'Just take a key...'
We were ushered down to the basement car park where he managed not to murder me - probably because Geoff was there! - where a sad little white car covered in flashing Christmas lights sat, bound in plastic-tubed chains held together by a padlock that my key didn't fit. Who'd have thought?

On reflection, I'm quite sure I did have the same chance as everyone else to win - none!

Monday, 21 April 2014


Hands up if you have one?

I don't.

I have been to two parties (thanks ladies!) and each time the hostess and I have been completely frank with each other - them about not expecting me to buy one and me confirming that I won't. But I do genuinely love a get together of women over a couple of glasses of bubbles, a bit of tasty food and to see what it's all about.

I was so dazzled by the recipes at the first party that I did go out and buy a new Magimix food processor to replace my ancient, cracked but still working one (do those things ever stop??) and managed to replicate the beetroot salad among other gems.

Converts swear by them. And people who have them say they use them regularly, so that's a good indication that they are practical. But the 'sell' is a killer.

I know I work in advertising - selling is my game - but these presenters have stepped it up to evangelism. All hail the Thermomix!!

Both presenters made a point of telling us its key components are all made from Surgical Grade Stainless Steel.

Do you know what 'Surgical Grade' means? That's right - not much. There is no specification for 'surgical grade stainless steel', (note use of lower case letters now), nor 'marine grade' as it so happens - they were probably made up by advertisers. There are various grades of stainless steel - that's true - but they're not specifically allocated to uses. Even more interesting is the Thermomix website refers only to 'stainless steel'. They keep the fluffy stuff for the presenters - they don't commit to it in writing - that would be silly.

I was also amazed that from the first to the second party the price went up from $1,784 (yes, I got much mileage from the 1, 784 reasons I wouldn't be buying one) to over $2k at the next party. Especially as the presenter had espoused that it was all made in Germany - and yet, over that same period, the Australian dollar had strengthen dramatically against all major currencies, including the Euro.

Being the smart-arse that I am, I had to enquire how that could be. Of course I already knew the answer - opportunism - but I was curious to see how the high-priestess of Thermomix would justify the hike. Somewhat predictably, she fell into her indoctrinated answer - to a different question. She was answering 'Why are Thermomixes so expensive?' because she had no answer to 'Why have they gone up so much when the dollar has also gone up and it's fully imported?' Naturally she started banging on about the excellent but expensive quality components of the machine, including surgical grade stainless steel - and I lost interest.

So, there you have it. I don't have a Thermomix but all power to those of you who do.

The hard sell is lost on me... which reminds me of the time I got suckered into going to a time share presentation. A topic for another post but let's just say that once my smart arse questioning got going, they couldn't get me out of there fast enough!!!

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Addictive Personalities

In a very short amount of time, we'll all be able to have our genomes run through a quick test and be told what things we should best avoid due to our makeup. Some people will be able to smoke and drink, other will have to avoid saturated fats.

There also needs to be a personality test as friends and I have also talked about certain types that should avoid drugs at all costs. And people like me, who should avoid cake shops.

But I'm putting it out there - there are people who should not be allowed to watch the TV Shopping Network (or TVSN as it's known).

Look what's on my kitchen bench. Recognise it? Yes - lose weight, be healthy, consume more vegetables and clutter up your kitchen with the SoupMate...... Pro!!

And it wasn't me who bought that great chunk of landfill. I'm not allowed to blog about that person, so let's just say it's someone in our household who's an adult with a credit card. And don't mention it to them or I'll be in trouble - again!

Weren't the useless vacuums (yes, plural because it was buy one get one free) lesson enough? Or the time I was force to slap the pencil and paper from his hands as he was about to take down the number for the sanding set?? (He's a professional builder for goodness sake, even I could see it was a piece of crap!) Never mind the child-filter on the laptop, we need a channel-block on the selling channel.

Even worse, can you see that after a mere four uses the bottom is burnt?! The soup is undercooked and frankly, just not that nice. What's wrong with a pot and the stick blender? We already had both of those.

And I'll save Thermo-mixes for a separate post.....they deserve one.

I give it another 3 weeks and that thing will be gathering dust in the laundry.

Do you have an addictive personality? Have you ever fallen victim to TVSN? 

Monday, 31 March 2014


You might recall that I have had some extremely poor luck with traffic infringements.

1. Christmas 2012
2. February 2013
3. Adelaide October 2013

One day about a month ago, we got the trifecta - all three team members of our business were fined.

But today, I am a winner!

A couple of weeks back I had a meeting in the city and the parking meter was faulty. Being the diligent citizen I am (ha!) I rang and reported the fault. I was asked for my licence plate number and instructed to adhere to the time limit - which on this occasion, I actually did.

And yes folks, I returned to my car and a big fat parking fine.

The real pain is of course that you then need to go online and go through all the admin to have it withdrawn - and who's got time for that? But I did. On principle.

And tonight, I got this in the post.....

Ah ha, oh yeah, ah ha, oh yeah! Thank you Tony!!!

But let's not start on Australian Customs. 

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. ...