About a week ago I was made-redundant-by-surprise. There were some post-termination negotiations as a result of which I can't say anything more, except that if anyone is looking for a rather good senior *****r I may be interested. Cheers!
We have two new frogs courtesy of J's Mum's weariness with cricket procurement and enclosure-cleaning. I have to admit that relative to a dog or even a guinea-pig, frogs do not give a great deal back in terms of companionship. J is one of Cheekus' Four First Row Best Friends. He has seven Third Row Best Friends, one of whom is the only girl in any Row, and strangely only two Second Row Best Friends.
I now have two young Spotted March Frogs. They have less appealing faces than my eight remaining Southern Browns but have beautfully patterned - spotted - skins. The little one is rather green and the bigger one is brownish grey. They are slightly less shy than the brownies and like to sit in the water. The marshies have little claws and no webbing on their feet; they can't climb very well but they swim with great verve.
The brownies like to hide in curled-up leaves and look faintly horrified at being made to swim. They like to clamber up the sides of their container using their suction-toed little treefrog feet. I think there is no doubt the brownies are obese. Their bellies bulge out all over, they ignore crickets sauntering brazenly past them and a representative sample (one) failed the hop test. This is when you let a frog climb to the top of the box, hop off, and then gently encourage it to keep hopping in the grass by moving a hand close up behind it. (No contact required.) My sample brownie managed three short, floppy, rather pathetic hops before deciding that being eaten by a hand probably wasn't so bad after all and staying put. If anyone knows of some helpful frog-conditioing exercises let me know.
Cheekus Weekus got $20 for his birthday from fabulous Auntie S.
Footy cards? "Sold out" said two newsagents, "end of the season".
Lollies? "No." said I, "not birthday money and not twenty dollars' worth". This sparked some very impressive sulking and sooking, if Princess had been quicker with the camera vid we would be looking at an AFI Award, category Short Fiction.
Quick thinking found the local toy shop still open. While Princess Pea was trying to persuade him to buy Lego knights (armoured horse, two guards and a prisoner in a cart - "because we only have one gaol and we all always want it") he found The Best Toy Ever: a Nerf gun for $19.95. Following "TV is for weekends", "only home-made sweets" and "all kids in bed by 8:30", the "no toys of war" rule has fallen in a sad little heap. It's been confiscated once already after Running Boy could not resist firing a sticky-dart at my bum and later got Cheekus in the face. I'm told this was an accident, Cheekus popped up from a redoubt unexpectedly. The bumshot, however, was not.
We saw animals - the boys lasted through two rounds of showjumping, enough for Princess Pea to pick up basics such as clear rounds and tight vs long lines. We went on the Crazy Coaster which was terrifying. We looked unsuccessfully for the snake man, the kids hoping for a repeat of last year's "The snake wee'd on Mum!" excitement.
There was a break for dodgem cars where Cheekus Weekus put hours of Top Gear viewing into successful practice. My chiro will be forever grateful. We recovered with a bit of woodchopping championships enlivened by a female competitor nearly losing her dacks, which seemed to slow her pace a bit, and a small boy of perhaps thirteen coming third in the States Juniors ahead of several strapping great seventeen-year-olds.
On to the Animal Nursery; a chook fell asleep in Princess' lap and everyone fretted about a lamb looking for its mum and an ewe looking for its lamb. (They didn't seem to match.) There was a litter of very young piglets with their sleepy mother; there was a gorgeous donkey foal.
It got dark. Foolishly I disclosed the existence of the Showbag Shed, which used to be called the Hall of Manufactures. (Last year, their first Show year, I fobbed them off with one of the carnival-side, limited-choice caravans.) Agonising decisions later it was hometime. "You're the best, Mum!" said Cheekus. "You got me three showbags and you only get cross about once every two weeks!"
For the last four years, ever since Cheekus was old enough to stand up on skis without cracking it, the big family extravagance has been to go skiing once a year. This year we stayed at Feathertop Lodge with another family. The kids made a tribe and the grownups talked, drank wine, watched the footy and skiied in various child/adult combinations. It was fabulous.
We went up a couple of days before the lovely Gs, bundled our lot into ski school and took off. The snow was powdery newfallen on deep base, the sky was blue, there was almost nobody else there and it took us very little time to get our ski-legs again. Soon we had warmed up enough to do Father Fosters, a nice tight little low-end black run.
Even though the CFO is eight inches taller than me, fit and naturally athletic I was skiing so well (really) I thought it was time to put him in his place.
"I saw your leg bend sideways" said the CFO helpfully.
Running Boy adored him for about a fortnight. Both boys bought Bettas (Siamese fighting fish) and set-ups with saved and pooled money and a bit of a parental contribution for cleaning their room up - a bit.
We never saw Crowntail eat and we think he starved to death. We have no photo of him. After emergency talks with the staff at a different petshop we bought food that bettas actually recognise as food, which apparently isn't the case with the food supplied in the "everything you need" betta kits. Cheekus' Weekus' Longtail is doing just fine. Once we were sure we all had the hang of it, Running bought another fishy, totally parentally funded, which was the deal for finishing off the worst bits of the room, totally re-arranging it and clearing out Underthebed.
We also bought bristlenoses, one for each tank. I'm not at all convinced by shopping-centre claims that bettas are perfectly happy all alone in tiny bare jars. They may well survive (apparently they have a special organ that helps them cope with still, unaerated water in small spaces) but it looks a pretty wretched sort of existence to me, so our bettas got bigger tanks, live plants and a companion each. Apparently bristlenoses are suitable tankmates because they don't have bright colours to spark up the bettas' fighting instincts, they aren't going to nip the bettas' lovely tempting floating fins and they truffle about in little corners vacuuming up gunk. Perfect.
At one stage Longtail was overly interested in Fatty. Lots of experimental nips and rushing at hiding places. Fatty responded by fanning his or her tail out to an enormous size and whacking Longtail in the face. They have reached an understanding that seems to involve Longtail sulking in a nest at the top of the waterweed and Fatty gluing itself mouthfirst to the side of the tank. This allows everyone to watch its mouth and belly in action and has made him or her quite popular.
Starry Night, who is a halfmoon and therefore hideously expensive - for a fish - and Stickytape got along brilliantly from the beginning. They amicably shared the hiding spots at the bottom of the tank right up until last night, when Running realised Stickytape hadn't moved all day. Sure enough, we had a deceased bristlenose. S/he is currently wrapped in a tissue awaiting a decent burial. So far as we can tell Starry Night doesn't seem to be mourning.
BTW looking for pictures of fish for this post turned up, amongst other things, Sailor Moon characters (probably predictable) and Yoda. True dinks.
Uncle T died last Friday, about two months after he decided enough was enough and to stop the chemo. We all miss him very much so although his funeral this afternoon was a celebration of him rather than an outpouring of grief, it was not fun. He was a character; he was full of life; he was generous and sharp-witted and adored his family (including two wives and a later partner); he could be irascible; he was a terrific saxophonist.
This evening I backed my wonderful car straight into the hinge of somebody's ute (and clearly he thought it more wonderful than my car) in the carpark having dropped Running to basketball practice and about to ferry Princess to dance class. I was less than gracious to another mum who beetled out in the middle of post-prang discussions to ask me for subs or something. I blamed the Princess for the accident on the grounds that she had been whingeing at me immediately beforehand. Going to get fish-and-chips, me and the kids were almost run down by somebody who didn't feel the need to stop at a red-light pedestrian crossing. As I sat down to eat, accompanied in my case by a glass of red, the Princess helpfully reminded me about my resolution to drink only on the weekends.
My contract at work is up for renewal and the renewal negotiations have been going not really terribly well. Infuriatingly, I have to concede things because while the CFO's new business builds up I am the breadwinner.
Yesterday the Princess said how nice it was when her cousin the Bella picks them up from school as all the other girls envy her for having such a young and beautiful mother.
I might not have entirely disclosed to the CFO exactly how many people are turning up to our election-night party this weekend. He likes small gatherings, very rarely. I don't!
And the diamond doves have eaten all the grass seed, so the backyard is still mostly mud.
The Eastern Common Froglets (I think) have started spawning at my favourite nursery so I will have to decide how many frogs is enough for one family and whether I should acquire any more spawn-encrusted pond plants.
The second naughtiness was finding out my Mum's garden has Green Goddesses tucked in a corner just behind Dad's astronomy dome and deciding to get some from her, even though I had earlier been told by that same favorite nursery that they don't stock these because arum lilies can't keep themselves nice in Australia. So I didn't tell them about the plain white arums I'd bought by mail-order, wished callas came in green, and wandered off to have another coochie-coo at the tads.
The Royal Commission into the 2009 Victorian bushfires has now handed down its final report. Read it here. I think you would have to be a very unusual person to be a Commissioner, to sit through the most awful evidence imaginable and still turn your mind to making things better.
I hope these recommendations don't get buried and forgotten. I thought people could never forget Ash Wednesday's impact. I remember driving past the nightmare wreckage of Lorne and Anglesea - my grandparents' caravan was burnt out at Anglesea - and some weeks later going to a party in Bendigo with a friend, how we stopped chattering when we passed the first burnt-out chimney. There were no fit words.
We had a Royal Commission into Black Friday too; yet the same things happen over and again. Heroes like Mr Sigmund do emerge but over and over again the transcripts show rules becoming more important than their purpose. I have little faith that even with an election imminent the State Government will do anything except produce more wretched spin. Can you imagine a mum scrambling frantic kids into a car ahead of a firestorm sayng "now come on, we have to get to the Neighbourhood Safer Place!" Apparently there is no scope to nominate an area that's better than nowehere-at-all-to-run, so some towns don't even have a NSP. Places that saved lives aren't good enough.
Rest in peace and may we finally learn some lessons.
Courtesy of the Neighbours location scouts we have a bikie hive in our neighbourhood today and tomorrow. I have no idea what the storyline is.
That street is full of production trucks and as we walked to school this morning Cheekus Weekus and I saw motorbikes being unloaded. I fancied a brilliant green chopper and Cheekus had his eye on a maroon-and-black cruiser, a black-studded Harley and a very cool bike with Hot Wheels flames on the tank. We also got to see a stuntperson (we think) riding up to work, one awesome rider. Cheekus was a bit worried about her getting hurt doing stunts but reasoned out that they would all have practised first, "probably on soft sand for when they fell over".
On the way back I witnessed some action, a local bus struggling to get past a production truck. A roadie got harangued by an elderly brolly-waving passenger, the bus moved on, and it was all over.
We're down to about 8 frogs now. I put their box in the winter sun and didn't notice for an hour or so that the lid was loose. Only one seems to have got out; the rest know when they're onto a good thing ie a steady stream of crickets. It was a male. Only the males call and the box has been very quiet for a day or two, so I figured we had lost the only remaining boy.
At one stage the kids had named our frogs and christened a pair of likely lads Bradley and Dumbledore. They immediately became indistinguishable from every other frog we had, except Matilda. We know she is still with us because of her whale-like proportions and very pale skin.
Last night around sunset Bradley (or Dumbledore) happily sang his usual evening song from somewhere in the garden. I rushed about with a torch but of course he promptly shut up, and anyway was hiding.
Around 3 am the awful truth emerged. Bradley (or Dumbledore) had not been the last boy. He had simply been the loudest. Bradley and Dumbledore manfully croaked at each other for a good half an hour, Bradley (or Dumbledore) from the garden and Dumbledore (or Bradley) from the frogbox in the hallway right outside our bedroom. They have now been renamed Bloody Frog 1 and Bloody Frog 2.
Success story: Thanks to Sarah, I found a recipe for chocolate chip bikkies (we do not eat "cookies" in this house) which worked. I used 200g instead of 400g of chocolate and about 170g rather than 200+g of chopped nuts and the biscuits were still delicious. "Baking soda" is what we call bicarb. The quantities were generous so there are still two rolls of uncooked dough in the freezer.
Not-a-success story: Tweaking the bikkie recipe worked. Not following the steps for Melting Moments didn't. If you dump everything in a bowl in a frenzy because the Bella and twinnies are coming over for afternoon tea and you are only halfway through your planned cooking, you don't get a buttery lump of fragile dough as you do if you cream the butter and sugar first. You get custard-powder coloured breadcrumbs that sort of clump together but can't be worked.
Do not be tempted to add extra butter. You will produce sad flat little buttons totally incapable of being stuck together to make yoyos. (Nonetheless they all disappeared, and anyway the twinnies prefer chocolate, ideally all over their faces.) The bread in the background is no-knead, which is so 2009 but still delicious.
Postscript: A pair of ten-year-old boys absorbed in boy stuff at the kitchen bench will not investigate, respond to or fetch an adult regarding strange loud explosive blopping sounds from the stove. So much for the gingered pumpkin soup.
the camellias are full-budded and beginning to bloom...
there are piles and piles of autumn leaves from a productive afternoon of raking by Cheekus and me (which will leave the lawn tidy until at least tomorrow, unless the piles prove irresistible). Don't laugh. It is so a lawn. You should have seen what the vendors left behind.
The vegie patch is tragic and totally unphotographable, but the little lemon tree has excelled itself...
This is a pot-bound rose from a few house renovations ago. I thought it was time it went in the garden.
This is a mattock.
These are tree roots.
This, it turns out, is not. (Hint: If it doesn't break when you tug it and it's actually straight and it's rather cold...even if it is rough and brown...don't use a large metal tool to try and break it up. Luckily the ring of metal-on-metal penetrated my brain in time.)
Today we went up to Monbulk for a belated Mothers' Day celebration with my lovely mother-in-law. There are more matriarchs in our families than can be visited in a single day.
First I took Cheekus Weekus to a rollerblading party at Caribbean Rollerama. For some unfathomable small-boy reason he spent the first ninety minutes refusing even to acknowledge he was at a party. Thankfully he eventually thawed out and whizzed very happily and competently around the rink with the others. I had promised Princess Pea I would skate with her, so I did. Most of my left palm is black-and-blue because that's what I mostly landed on. (The CFO took Running Boy to his footy match, which sadly the Under 10 Blacks lost. Again. It looks like being a character-building season.)
We love being up in the hills but usually we go straight to Granny May, and straight back. Today I was behind the wheel, the only adult in the car and I went off the straight-and-narrow in search of fresh chestnuts! There were only muted objections from the back seat. Bella Vista has lovely fat glossy nuts and also hazels and walnuts. It must be well-known in some circles as there seemed to be a constant stream of people going in buying kilos of them. Later the kids and I played Giant's Treasure with a slightly souvenired golfball while the CFO and his Mum chatted. Happy, happy day.
After helping the CFO wash dishes so that my breakfast could be cooked for me (and very good it was too) I went to the Stitches and Craft Show on Sunday afternoon, all by myself, as my Mothers' Day treat. I bought a little bag pattern from Nikki and a kinder girls pattern from Jodie and a Pippijoe basket kit. Now all I have to do is make them up. Easy.
BTW can anyone tell me how to do weblinks but without all the http stuff turning up - ie to make a tagline or word that acts as a link when clicked? [Edit - thankyou Stomper Girl, it worked...now my blog is just a little bit easier to read!]
We all went to the Dawn Service. The CFO started this four or five years ago when we lived in South Yarra, taking Running Boy one year, Princess Pea another. Once we all went, but Cheekus Weekus was simply too little and wriggled and whined the whole way through. He wasn't sure he wanted to go this year but we explained that I wanted to go too, and he was too young to look after himself at home in the dark.
It was dark when we got up and left around 4:30 am, all rugged up. We passed special Anzac Day busses and little streams of people on foot joining up and thickening into rivers and then a crowd, an ocean.
We were quiet through the Last Post and patiently worked our way up the steps to lay poppies. I was the only one who got told off for bad behaviour, scandalising a nice old feller by forgetting to take off my beanie when I stepped into the Shrine.
We had bacon-and-eggs for breakfast at exorbitant Anzac Day prices which sent the CFO into conniptions. Then we climbed trees along Domain Rd, sending a busybody old trout into conniptions. Such larks.
Walking for my afternoon coffee today I passed a big dragonfly resting on a low fence. The street is busy and people seem determined to crush small things; I have even seen a poor flattened gecko. I doubled back and the dragonfly came easily onto my finger. It wiped its eyes and was still. To my embarassment the lovely barrista at my favourite cafe saw I was trying to hide something under the takeaway counter. She thought I had done my finger again. Its wings started to hum. As I lifted my hand up to show her - she cooed, it was a lovely little creature - it started to take off. I caught it and sprinted outside and away it sailed. Here it is as its wings flickered while it decided whether a cafe was a good place to fly.
RIP Fred, some time ago. S/he made several unsuccessful attempts to spin a cocoon, went into metamorphosis as a sort of insect mummy-thing and quietly passed away without ever emerging as a moth.
Fred was the only survivor of our final batch of eggs.
When Princess Pea was very little, we were given five silkworms from the class batch by her lovely, very kind pre-prep teacher. Toddler Running Boy wrapped them in a tissue and raced about the house whizzing the bundle up and down in his little hand. "I am taking them for a rocket ride" he said indignantly when asked. "They like it." They did not. After several more, forbidden, rocket rides, the traumatised caterpillars refused to eat and wasted away gruesomely.
We tried again with some Grade 1 silkworms and did too well. (I asked the relief teacher to have one or two at the end of the year and got the whole damned lot, to Princess' ecstatic joy.) Within a few generations there were multitudes. The CFO and I took to releasing as many as we could "back into the wild", being the Peter Pan and Wendy AIDS Memorial Garden on Commercial Rd Prahran. This was mostly mulberry trees and where we got most of the silkworms' meals. The kids agreed, eventually, to keep only a few eggs. Unfortunately the batch we chose from this generation was dud. Few hatched and fewer survived.
I should have known when to stop but we'd planted a young mulberry tree. After we moved it had been too hard monitoring each footpatch-accessible mulberry tree between work & home and covertly harvesting leaves. We couldn't stomach any repeat of the Great Lettuce Disaster. (We tried feeding them lettuce and it must have been sprayed with insecticide - the silkworms went into convulsions and died, some like hard rubber and pink, some liquefied. We explained to the kids that vets generally did not treat silkworms. Of course some lived but the Princess believes genetic damage must have caused the end of their line.)
The petshop where we get crickets for the frogs had "seasonal" boxes of silkworms for sale. Snakes or large frogs must like them. They were exorbitantly expensive,
but here we go again: these are their offspring, next year's silkworms.
When I was a child my Mum, my sister and I would go to Emerald Lake around Easter to look for chestnuts.
The trees next to the lake were always picked bare so we would head over the little hill at the back, past the stream (where once we found tadpoles) into the groves. We always managed to come home with a few. Your fingers stung from wriggling the glossy brown nuts out of their prickly cases. Often there was nothing there, or a tiddler rejected by prior fossickers, needled fingers for no return. Sometimes you would find a big fat nut...after the possums had. But we always got a few worth eating.
We'd take our booty home and put them on the coals and wait. When they exploded we would pick them out with the tongs and peel off the casing and eat them with salt, the nuts hot and slightly charred.
Now, sometimes up in the hills I've convinced the CFO to pull over so I can buy cooked or raw chestnuts by the roadside, but it's not the same. I have also bought them roasted in the CBD from footpath braziers, but again it is not the same. A proper chestnut is too hot to handle, burst, floury and delicious. I tried roasting some in the oven but this was an utter waste of effort. The children (and the CFO) have been less than captivated.
Today at the Prahran Market several stalls had big, fat, tight shiny nuts and I couldn't resist. While Princess Pea finished her school project on Debussy far too late tonight I roasted some. They were fabulous and she and I and the CFO ate the whole bowl. Chestnuts mean autumn! And I told her the story behind Smetana's Trio in G, as autumn also means reflection.
The frogs are now about full-grown. Some of them are incredibly fat, like odd-coloured ping-pong balls. We've identified them as Southern Brown Tree Frogs (Littoria Ewingii), very common and not needing a licence to be kept in Victoria. http://frogs.org.au/frogs/frog.php?frog_id=3
About once a week we trawl through the frogbox, sifting leaf-litter and looking under their bits of bark. We catch them and give them a swim. It's not clear whether they enjoy this but at least it livens up their day.
We remove any dead crickets or mouldy stuff, refill the swimming tray with clean water and reassemble the habitat.
If it's sunny we watch them swim and kick and climb and we chase any that get out of the swimming box (usually a lot. At the same time. In as many directions as possible.). Then they go back in their frogbox with fresh crickets to hunt.
However the census has been dropping. It hit a high of 31, then dropped to 20, and this week we had only 15. Evidently they haven't read the Act and are releasing themselves into the wild. These days we keep their box on the front porch.
We found lots of Easter eggs (even though some had been eaten by possums
and some were cunningly hidden in plain view).
We made it to church on time where Princess Pea socialised, Running Boy generally behaved himself extremely well other than a bit of sliding up and down the irresistibly slippery pew and Cheekus Weekus tried his crawling-under-the-pews trick again, only to be confronted by a small fierce Mum (me) who wouldn't let him escape; then he cracked the sads because there was no water. I got a special blessing for my finger at Communion.
Today was glorious. We played with our ginormous collection of Thomas the Tank Engine things, accumulated over very many birthdays and Christmases. We built a track that went right round the house and made a train that used all of our engines and trucks. There were a satisfying number of very loud train wrecks.
Later, four of us went off to buy the CFO's birthday presents. I used to adore the Monsieur Truffe stall at Prahran Market and was delighted to find he has simply relocated to a little cafe in Collingwood: http://ieatidrinkiwork.com.au/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=8365. The croissants are delicious, all butter and crispness, and the chocolates extraordinary. Running Boy and Cheekus Weekus tasted every variety of truffle, several times, before we settled on raspberry, lime and passionfruit . I also bought some chocolate-coated ginger for my Mum and only dribbled a little bit listening to the very Frrrench Thibault.
Then we drove past the Fitzroy Gardens and there was no reason to say "no" when they begged to get out. We played forty-forty and chasey and climbed a venerable fig tree and looked at ducks and little buggly things in the pond. We talked about how wonderful it would be to have the gardens, or at least that tree, in our backyard and we planned treehouses.
Stephanie Alexander in her excellent first edition of The Cook's Companion warns against mandoline slicers. She says they are far too dangerous for the home kitchen and recommends buying a "simple and ingenious" alternative. I have never been able to locate one of these, as Stephanie does not give its name and describes it simply as a "Japanese shredder and slicer".
I covet(ed) the ability to do paper-thin potato slices for pizza and crisps, make neat juliennes of carrot and daikon. About a week ago I bought myself a small inexpensive mandoline.
Last night I decided to make pithiviers for dessert. It was awkward slicing the apples with the hand-held finger guard until about halfway through, so I decided to take the first few slices off each piece by holding it directly in my hand. You all know where this is going, don't you?
I've lost the top 3mm off my right-hand middle finger but didn't hit or chop the bone, so emergency just patched me up and sent me home. Right now I can't drive or type properly, or swim until it heals "in its own time" as the emergency doctor told me, and I will forever have a flat-topped finger.
And of course, a few minutes beforehand I had been lecturing the kids about never touching the damn thing, because it was so sharp! (At least the pithiviers, which I cooked when I got home from emergency, were fabulous.)
The three children love the Potter Puppet Pals. No doubt this shows the result of bad parenting, although I think we may have managed to put a halt to unauthorised (unsupervised) YouTube surfing. We did this by exploding at Princess Pea for illicitly watching a Lady GaGa clip before it had been vetted.
I managed to publish my last post instead of saving it. The story continues: As well as my nailbiting survival of the Attack Of The Thing In The Seagrass, we went crabbing. Ricketts Point is a marine sanctuary so we catch and release, but the crabs are satisfyingly large. Last time we were all entertained (I'm sorry, but it was funny) by Running Boy hopping up and down with a splendid big crab hanging onto his thumb for dear life, yelling "It won't let go! It won't let go!!" Can you blame it? The crab did let go once it was back in the water. We then had a little chat about why we don't poke fingers into crevices after crabs, because there won't be any hopping up and down if it's a blue-ringed octopus we find.
To go crabbing for fun, we use a bit of old meat (week-old sausages are very good); some string; and several buckets. You tie the bait onto the string and find a bit of rock or broken shell to act as sinker.
You pop the lure into the water near a promising rock or bit of popweed and wait.
Once the crab is thoroughly occupied and before it clips off the bait and scarpers away, you hoick it out of the water. To the oohs of admiring, much smaller, kids who have come swarming from nowhere you pop it into a bucket of seawater.
Once you have too many crabs for them to be happy together you let them go and start again. Repeat ad infinitum, or until your parents haul you away for sunblock/food, whichever is the earlier.
Living in Melbourne, I am a part-time professional, mother-of-three who thinks far too much. I like to sleep, garden, read, lurk on blogs, cook and fantasise about all the crafting I would do, if only I had time.