Friday, 23 December 2016

The death of the Christmas card

In years gone by, I would write, send and receive upwards of 70 Christmas cards.

Our habit was to hang them on one of the blinds, next to the Christmas tree, forming a veritable backdrop of well wishes and good cheer.

My selection of season card was thoughtful; always supporting a charity but still sufficiently attractive to suggest I had taste when it comes to... well, Christmas cards. My personal preference is always humour, but it's rare to get a funny charity card - there's a market opportunity!

I'd spend hours, after a full day at the office and an evening wrestling small children, hand writing personalised messages - mostly to people I'd have seen or be seeing over the festive season, and just a few to those for whom this was the annual contact.

My, haven't times changed!

Here was the display about 10 days ago....

We've moved them away from the tree as it looks too pathetic.

One is from the cleaners (a big franchise) and included a note about the dates they won't be working. One is from an interstate real estate agency. One's from my sister in law, the other two from businesses Geoff works with.

I've send none. Not a one. Isn't that what Face Book is now for? Or a blog?

Wishing you all a very merry Christmas and every happiness for 2017,


Sunday, 11 December 2016

Time flies

Is it just me or is this shooting around faster and faster??

And as further evidence of the increasing speed of time, Eleanor has now finished school!

Here's a picture of her on her very first day when she started 4 year old kindergarten at Lauriston Girls' School.

And here she is this week, almost 14 years later on her very last day, after her Valedictory assembly -sitting on my knee again - I am there - you just need to look closely!!

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Tough Mudder

For all three of you who've been spared my over-posting on FaceBook, I did Tough Mudder and survived!

The chicks in the office and I decided we'd do it a few months ago - and then struggled to find recruits :(    Everyone started off, keen as mustard, and everyone gradually developed a good excuse (you all know who you are!!)

Before any of us felt sufficiently prepared, the day was here. We'd enlisted the charming and chivalrous Nige, a talented director and producer we've worked with on many projects over the years, and my rowing friend, Janet. (I think she's still my friend... Nige suggested I may have used coercion and I suggested he may have been right. Rach from the office had money on that Janet would NOT be my friend after the event - it was gruelling.)

The start was hilarious. The Rocky theme song rocked on and we were all asked to get down on one knee, then told if that hurt, we should leave now. We then took the Mudder pledge, to help each other and just make it to the end.

We were also reminded that they would have a cold beer waiting for us at the other end and knowing we'd be exhausted, they'd even open it for us. Yay.

Off we ran. Only 18kms to go....

The first of the 23 obstacles was The Kiss of Mud, crawling combat-style through a long mud pit, force to stay low with the barbed wire barrier. The next was several deep mud pits where we spotted the first casualty of the day; a guy with a safety pin from his bib that had literally skewered his finger like a shish kabob - eww. We also found an asthma pump in a zip-lock bag - eek!

There were walls to scale, nets to scramble under, tunnels to crawl through, team mates to piggy back, waterways to navigate, monkey bars to swing from and more.

In truth, I'm a tad claustrophobic so wasn't sure I'd be able to handle The Birth Canal - a long crawl in mud under a sling of water that's heavy and in some places, pressingly low. I talked to the guy in the Canal on my left so I didn't have to look ahead and to distract myself, and just when panic was about to get the better of me, a random competitor reached in from the end, yelled at me to grab his hand and hauled me out in the nick of time.

It really was that kind of camaraderie that made the experience so enjoyable. Not just among our own team but everyone in our wave. We held hands with strangers as we picked our way blindly through pitted mud trenches, accepted leg ups out of deep holes and were dragged up walls by burly blokes. And of course we returned as many favours as we could.

The most alarming challenge was the Arctic Enema (it's on the video). A slide into a deep pool of iced water and ice blocks that literally takes your breath away, only to discover there doesn't seem to be an obvious way out. A volunteer explains that you need to swim under a wall to escape. So if the first dunking hadn't given you a good dose of brain freeze, the second most certainly did!

We also discovered the very weird sensation of running when you're drenched down to your undies with mud....

At the finish, my shoes (actually, my friend Sal's old shoes - she'd donated them for the occasion), socks and T all went straight in the bin.

So are we back to do it again next year? Quite possibly! Message me if you'd like to join us!!

(Thanks to Nige for the video, Gab and Rach for the commitment and laughs and Janet for still being my friend - I think!)

Thursday, 17 November 2016

How to Unshrink a Jumper

It can be done! For anything wool I suspect, but here's my tale.

Remember when my car got towed? I mentioned then that there weren't the words to describe the feeling you have at the exact moment you realise you left your car in a clearway and it's now past 4.30pm?

We need to neolexicate (that's a made up word that means to make up words).

Whatever the word is, I had that same feeling as I was hauling stuff out of the dryer - Geoff's work gear, school uniforms, sportswear - and spotted my black French wool felt jumper.

I nearly cried.

Not being one to spend lavishly on my wardrobe, this was one of my few 'investment' pieces. I say 'investment' because I find that term hilarious! By my definition, an investment either appreciated in financial value over time or delivers a return - clothes, or handbags for that matter, don't. I think the theory in fashion is that a big ticket item is so lovely and of such fabulous quality that it dissuades you from purchasing more items... again, not in my experience.

Anyway.... so out falls my jumper, not surprisingly a shite-load smaller than it used to be. It was short to start and now I was forced to wear an additional black singlet under the built in one so there was no gap and cascading muffin between pant and top.

The topic came up after rowing one Sunday morning. Sal had heard a of a method to unshrink wool - I tried it and - who'd have thought! - it worked!

Fill a bucket with warm water and mix in a good hand full of hair conditioner (any quality will do - even the old one in the back of the cupboard to comb out lice!). Submerge the item and squeeze the solution through the garment. Take it out and roll between two towels to remove excess water. Lay flat on a dry towel and start pulling/tugging/coaxing it back into the desired shape. I focused on length, but you might want the neck and cuffs. Lie it somewhere you'll notice it and every time you walk pass, give it a little stretch in the right direction as it dries - and voile la!

You are then supposed to rinse the conditioner out and dry and stretch and blah blah - but it smelt nice, fitted again and frankly, ain't no one got time to be rewashing a clean jumper!


Tuesday, 8 November 2016

The Second Rummage

It happened again last Wednesday night. I'd been to the supermarket and was unloading groceries over a few trips, talking to kids and forgot to lock my car.


I came out on Thursday morning to pack for Oaks Day (Day 3 of the Spring Racing Carnival) and some of the contents of my glove box were over the seat. They'd been back.

Another pair of cheap sunglasses, stolen, plus all my parking meter money, my first aid kit and my manuals and service book! WTF??

There is a brand of car that apparently once you have the service book, you can organise a replacement key. A quick call to the service centre and I discovered my car isn't one of those.

Fortuitously, I had actually read my car manual last summer but still very annoying. I rang the local police in case they thief realised the books were useless and dumped them somewhere.
If you'd like to make an official record, we'll need to send out the crime squad to take finger prints on your car, the sergeant informed me.
Bit late for that I'm afraid, I confessed. I've already touched everything and anyway, I'm off to the races.
If it's got your rego in them, we'll find you, she added helpfully.

If you see someone around town wearing a tortoise shell pair of these - but TopShop, not Mui Mui - good chance they're mine!!!

On Sunday, as I headed off to Avalon (charity for the homeless) I remembered I'd grabbed a client-branded backpack from the office to donate. Now where was that? Oh that's right - it was in the car...

It would most likely have gone to some poor homeless drug addict and now, I supposed, it was the property of some poor homeless drug addict - so I guess on this occasion, we'd just cut out the middle man!

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

The weekend of contrast

Talk about extremes.

Saturday was Derby Day of the Spring Racing Carnival (horse races). Some friends and we hosted a car park On The Rails - an enclosure right on the track available only to members and their guests. It was a perfect day in every sense. The weather was magnificent, mid 20s, sunny and only a cool, light breeze late in the afternoon at the day's warmest. The roses were blooming and the French champagne following. 

The chicken sandwiches, pea and feta tartlets, eye fillet, salads (including edible flowers), brownie, slices, fruit platter and chocolates were all exquisite (if we're allowed to say that about our own catering!). We had a long table set up under shade, with a white cloth adorned with fresh flowers.

Geoff and I invited friends we've known for more than 30 years and the friends of our co-hosts were fabulous and engaging company as well. Other friends popped by to say hello, have a drink and ask if anyone was winning on the horses. It was, as always, an extremely convivial event.

We got home and raised a glass with our friends (and some neighbours who we lured in to join us!) to a hugely successful day.

It's the kind of carnival that attracts millions of dollars in sponsorship, corporate and private entertainment, gambling, horses and fashion, with people coming and going in cars, trains, boats, limousines and helicopter.

In stark contrast, on Sunday night, Sass and I headed out with Avalon Centre - the organisation that distributes clothing, bedding and toiletries to the homeless. The afternoon, when we'd sorted and packed the buses, was warm and windy but a cool change had come through and it was cold and raining intermittently. 

We usually see people who are hard up - of course - but Sunday was worse than usual. There was a 9-year old girl with her mum, getting a meal from the organisation that puts on a dinner in the park and a pink coat from Avalon to protect her from the cold wind.

I chatted to a gorgeous girl with an apparent ice addiction who was quite happy and gregarious only to slink over later and apologise for being 'sloppy' in front of Sass, who she hadn't realised had been within ear shot when she'd been mouthing off about something. She was so down on herself it hurt to hear her grovel for forgiveness. Sass and I assured her no offence had been taken and all was fine. She seemed to spring back a little.

There were a couple of softly spoken indigenous women, one with bare feet on the cold pavement. That was a problem we could fix. There was a polite young guy with nothing but the few clothes he was wearing and an impolite woman from Europe who was demanding, insistent and trying to take things that weren't on offer.

One of the Avalon buses outside Flinders Street Station

I don't know why, but there seemed to be more people than usual, drunker, dirtier and more drug affected. The smell of stale urine was more apparent and the language less tempered. There was a bit of agro and a few police. It was cold and we ran out of blankets early.

A woman was looking for some feminine clothes and we couldn't find anything to fit the bill. We checked the shoes - nothing there either. As I repacked the tub, I spotted a pair of almost new orange sandals - bang! I walked up and down the street but couldn't find her - it ruined my night.

I thought back to the apologising young woman at the first stop. She explained she'd been drinking all day. In truth, I'd been drinking for much of the day before. Same, same but so very, very different.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Another quick dinner recipe

Here's another quick weekday dinner that makes a decent lunch reheated.

In a baking dish, I put a can each of black beans, lentils and cannellini beans. (I really wanted chick peas but didn't have any in the cupboard.) Add two cans of crushed tomatoes. I also added a chopped onion and a couple of diced bacon rashers as they were hanging around in the fridge looking lonely.

I added some crushed garlic, it's optional. I used a couple of cloves from this one below. It's cold smoked, looks terribly gourmet, was a bit expensive and I wish you could smell it through the internet because it's amazing! Unfortunately, a bit like my smoked chicken adventure, once you get past the fragrant outer layers, inside, well, it's pretty much just regular garlic :(

Anyway.... the real key ingredient is this one below - sweet smoked paprika. Don't be shy with it! 

Give it all a stir. I then wrapped some chicken thighs with prosciutto (you could use regular bacon - again, it's just what was in the fridge...), nestled them into the beans, sprinkled some more paprika over the top, covered with foil and banged it in the oven at the usual 180C.

I probably should have taken the foil off and browned the prosciutto a bit, but I was working and forgot and then everyone was hungry so we just ate it. It doesn't look overly pretty, but it's really tasty -  smokey and yum! -  filling and on the healthy side.


Sunday, 23 October 2016

Mother of the Year

A friend's young adult daughter recently sustained an ankle injury that required a trip to casualty and an x-ray.

Gee, said the doctor looking at the results, when did you last break your ankle?
I haven't, replied the daughter, somewhat bewildered. You actual have, said the doctor, I can see it on the image.

Needless to say, my friend was aghast to think her daughter, at some stage in her childhood, had suffered a fracture and she'd failed to notice. She said she felt terrible.

Oh goodness, I said, I'll raise you!

When Elle was about three, back in days before everyone was so litigious, games like 'Stacks On' where completely acceptable at creche. That when for entertainment, the kids literally jump on top of each other and make a big pile - go figure why that's fun but they all thought it was hilarious. During one game, Elle was launched upon by a much bigger 5 year old and complained for days about a sore shoulder.

You may recall that Drink a glass of water is my panacea for all things wrong with the kids, but after a few days of continual complaining, occasional weeping and no apparent improvement, I felt a trip to GP was finally warranted. He send us straight to the sports medicine centre for an x-ray which confirmed she had broken her collar bone. Whoops.

Anyhoo.... on the upside, there is no treatment for a three-year old with a broken collar bone. The GP made her a sling (he assured me it was more for psychological benefits than anything else) and on we went.

The difference between my friend's daughter and Elle is that she had no recollection of even a mumble about a sire ankle - I think I win!

Friday, 14 October 2016


Our household loves a bit of 'rat' as we call it. It's an excellent way to painlessly boost everyone's veggie intake, leftovers can be eaten cold or reheated for lunch and it's dead simple. What's not to love?

Like much of my cooking, the 'recipe' is quite free-range, but I"m sure you'll get the drift, catch what I'm throwing or even smell what I'm cooking!

Here goes:

Chop the following into similar sized pieces (helps them cook evenly)
  • 4 mid-sized eggplants 
  • About 4 zucchini
  • About 4 red capsicums
  • Button mushrooms (or not if you don't like mushrooms)
  • 3 or 4 onions - I quite like the red Spanish ones for this but brown will do as well
  • You can also throw in some rosemary sprigs and cracked black pepper (I don't use salt)
I try and keep everything touching the baking dish's base and give the pieces some space so they get well roasted, browned and a bit crispy, so spread them over two trays. If they're too crowded they can steam and be a bit soggy. 

Douse liberally with olive oil and throw in the over at 180C; fan forced if you're in a hurry. After about half an hour, give them a toss to get the other side browned. I actually don't know how long it take but allow an hour and just look at them when you think to!

The veggies all shrink a bit so once they're done you can throw them all into one dish. Add a couple of cans of chopped tomatoes and torn fresh basil or oregano leaves if you like them and they're around. I add black olives and occasionally even some capers if I'm feeling so inclined. These all give plenty of saltiness so you probably don't need to add any. (You can add feta to the cold leftovers for lunch too, which is pretty yum.)

Throw it back into the oven to get it hot again (the tomatoes cool it down) and it's ready to go!

Have it with steak, baked chicken breast, salmon - even snags, You could serve some green beans as well if you wanted - and dinner's done!

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

The Plebiscite

Politics (or maybe politicians?) really get my goat.

I'm am so angry today about the Australian Plebiscite on same sex marriage I could scream.

Seriously people, what century are we in? It will happen - even if by some crazy fluke it doesn't happen this time around, or even in my lifetime - it will happen.

64% of all Australian support marriage equality. And yet the government sees fit to spend well in excess of $150 million on a compulsory vote - the answer to which we should already know. In addition, they've tossed each side $7.5 million to get their side of the argument out to the public.

How can we be so wasteful when we have people sleeping on our streets, unpaid family carers at the end of their tether and begging for respite, when we have a child protection system collapsing under the weight of cases and a deficit that's tracking at $15.5 billion and rising??

Am I alone?

This makes no sense to me at all.

Yes, I know how it happened (don't get me started...) and I know it may not get through the Senate - but even that is making me mad. It's a decoy and keeping the politicians (and the public) from discussing issues that need discussion - and it's not marriage equality - surely that's a given. Let's talk about the appalling conditions we've subjected those poor refugees in detention to and more importantly, what we're going to do to fix it. Let's talk about climate change, tax reform, reconciliation, the reef, education.... so many options.

Okay - rant over and out!

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Naughty Parents!

Sass had a choral performance at the Melbourne Town Hall last term. I don't mind a choir so thought it might be quite good.

Geoff caught the train to drop Sass off at the earlier time and I drove straight from work to meet him. There were literally hundreds of people standing around in the cold, we were hungry, could murder a drink and enthusiasm was waning. We hatched a plan.

Once permitted to enter, we positioned ourselves at the end of the row (although a lady with a baby asked us to move in a seat and we obliged - but told her we may have to leave...)

Geoff checked the program - Sass's performance was number 9 of 15. Another parent had checked what time it finished and we saw the first performance to confirm that;
a/ Non-auditioned primary school choirs don't resemble what you might hear at Notre Dame and
b/ It took 7 minutes including getting one group off stage and the next on.

Let's go....

Five minutes later we were seated at a table for two in the romantically lit Bistrot d'Orsay, instructing the white-coated waiter we absolutely, positively had to be out in less than 45 minutes.

A bowl of melt-in-mouth gnocchi with blue cheese, hazelnuts and rocket plus two glasses of very nice sparkling wine and I was in a much better frame of mind!

Back we dashed to see Sass and her group lining up for their turn to go on stage. Geoff's timing had been spot on.

On arrival, parents had been directed to sit upstairs - but now everyone was in and the ushers less attentive, we ducked in downstairs behind the waiting choirs. It was a much better view and Sass and her choir, I must say, were very good!

As they finished and came off stage, filing back to their place, Geoff called out to her and she popped over. We're doing the grab and go, he said. And we left.

I emailed her teacher to let her know we had Sass and were heading home.

Oh we felt so smug and clever and naughty - we had a lovely trip home.... until Sass remembered there was an all school finale she was meant to have sung in...whoops. Naughty parents!!!

Monday, 5 September 2016

The Perfect Job

I was at the physio this week (dodgy knee...) when the lady at the desk remarked that it was lucky she worked there given she has two kids who seem to need a lot of treatment. The implication of course is that she gets it free or at mates' rates.

It got me thinking about the perfect job.

Assuming you can still tap into all the staff discounts and benefits by working in an organisation for just one day a week, I was thinking the perfect line up  could look like this:

Monday, grocery chain. I'm not fussed - Coles, Woolies, heck - I even love Aldi! I have no idea what the discounts are, but over a year it'd have to be significant.

Tuesday, department store. Preferably one that has the brands of clothes I like, but I'd be prepared to compromise! David Jones or Myer would be ideal. Can you imagine a decent discount on clothes for all the family, kitchen stuff, manchester, presents, sunglasses, handbags, cosmetics - pretty much everything!

Wednesday, medical clinic. I need to find one that has everything - GP, physio, optical - all rolled into one. Ideally it'd also have a few 'cosmetic' services too if you catch my drift... that'd save me a bomb.

Thursday, auto services. My car has cost me as small fortune of late with various things wrong with it. I need to work a day at some car centre that will provide a discount on services, repairs, tyres, diesel and detailing - oh and an Uber-like driver service for when I'm not driving. That ought to cover it!!

Friday. Hmmm. I'm a little torn. My head says I should choose a bank/financial institution to get an excellent deal on debt and lower fees on super - but my heart is screaming champagne!! After all, it's Friday.... but if I save enough on everything else, perhaps I can afford my own champers?? I'll go the finance - I think my level of debt warrants it!!

So, what role will I be fulfilling at all these organisations that makes me so valuable they're happy to afford me these perks? I have no idea - but it'd be certainly worth investigating!!

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Where's Sassy?

Sass loves to hide.

She likes to pop out and scare me!!

Or just stay quiet until I can find her.

Here's a selection of some of her favourites...

She is in there. This is a fave - it's my cupboard and she likes to sneak in when I'm in the shower for maximum fright effect.

Her cupboard.

On the chairs when they're pushed in under the table - hard to spot if you're not crouching on the floor!

Under our bed.

Behind a towel.

In the shower - often not noticed until you spot her in the mirror!

And perhaps my favourite because I could NOT find her for so long... can you spot her?

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Parenting Tips

So I've been continually parenting for more than 23 years, I've been a Cub Scout leader and had hordes of kids grace our home - but there's still loads to be learnt.

A couple of great tips have come from my daughters' school. I guess they've had more experience than most - but they're just so good I need to share.

The first is 'I feel sick'. As we all know, it can be hard to diagnose a genuine 'I feel sick' from an 'I don't want to do what I'm meant to be doing/about to do.' The school nurse has nailed it; a nice big glass of antacid that she insists is drunk while fizzing.


If you've not had the experience, trust me, it's hideous! If you really are sick, it may in fact make you feel a lot better (after a big burp!). If you're not, it's so revolting you may indeed, genuinely feel sick for a bit. But it's a sure fire way to sort the wheat from the chaff!! And if you were pretending to be sick, chances are you won't be trying that one again any time soon.

She also has a good stock of lozenges - not the sweet, buttery, delicious ones – more your eye-watering, breath-taking, eucalyptus ones. So you'd really want a proper sore throat before asking for one of those.

Tough love kids!

The other tip follows outdoor education. When the girls are all back on the bus for the long trip home, being very noisy and loud, talking, laughing, carrying on - apparently the driver simply turns the heater up to the max and guaranteed they'll all be asleep within minutes! (Don't ever do this if you're tired....that'd be dangerous.)

So there you go - always new tips to learn - even for this old dog!

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. ...