Monday, September 19, 2016

Read All About It.

Headline Stories at Sparkly Street, since the last post:



This is definitely a good news story.  The Warehouse Manager job that he left was driving Fixit crazy. It was stressful, badly paid, physically tiring and gave him no job satisfaction.  It was the job he got after he was retrenched from his Airline Mechanic job, and he took it so we could pay our rent. At first it seemed okay; they realised he was a good worker and they appreciated him, which was good for his self-esteem after retrenchment. But it gradually became quite toxic, and he was hating the job and his employers (family business, high staff turnover, no actual systems to run things properly, you get the idea...). He started looking for work back in the industry for which he had qualifications, and despite there not being a great deal on offer, he came very close to getting an airline job. At the last minute they said they had to give precedence to mechanics working for the company in casual positions. The logical step at that point was to apply for a casual job so that he could be back in the system again, and hope for the best when permanent jobs came up again. He's been a casual employee since June, working 4 night-shifts in a row with 4-day rests in between. It's not perfect (no sick leave, no holiday pay, no job security) but it's better. 


 Left his tail inside

The cat thinks the new arrangement is pretty good. On night-shift blocks there is nearly always a human in the big bed to cuddle up with. I'm enjoying seeing more of Fixit - we get to hang out and go for coffee dates during daylight hours. Also, he is contributing more to daily life.  The kids, particularly Climber, have had to step up on the evenings that Fixit and I are both working (I teach 2 nights a week) so that we can manage getting them to and from their sporting/work commitments, (Climber has a job, he's a gymnastics coach!  Also: he has started shaving OMG.) but they're older now so we felt confident that they could do this. I've been very proud of them. They catch public transport or ride their bikes, and then they get themselves off to bed. They're good boys. None of it is unmanageable, it just calls for forethought and organisation.  It's good that we now live so much closer to everything, certainly makes a difference. Fixit is coping remarkably well with staying awake all night. I don't think I'd cope nearly as well at all. Still. It would be good to win the lottery so he could give up work and spend his time pottering round the shed and likely being a neighbourhood handyman.




Mid-winter craft camps are best.

Frost! Pah

A whole 4 days away from the daily grind. Comfort food, woodfires. No insects. This year I got to meet Tracy in person after years of blog friendship; we found each other to be just as we'd imagined. I suspect that means we have our online voices right. I was awarded the Princess Room, which is the one where you don't share with anyone and you get a queensize bed all to yourself. I made a rhubarb and apple pie for my turn at the cooking.

As for my crafting, I had two successes and one failure. Success #1 was an Orphan Annie frock (adapted from the Clothkits Tea-Dress) for a fancydress party (We put a baldcap and a suit on Fixit and he was Daddy Warbucks).


The failure was a bias cut top with under-bust darts, the Curlew tank from the Merchant & Mills workbook.  The under-bust darts turned into weird side air pockets around my rib cage.  We think it's meant to be worn by women with a more ample bust. But then I made a Ruby top out of a tablecloth and all was well.

Trying a #curlewtop from the #merchantandmillsworkbook and this is what my chestal area looks like. Am now going through the process of trying to fix up the darts, but as a public service announcement I need to say: don't try this top if you are B-cup or Ruby top

I love going away with my Crafty Friends.  More photos here.

First night at Craft Camp 😀



All the way from New York. Miller & Ben SporTaps. So good in every way.


The Most Wuthering Heights Day Ever

This may need it's own post, but in precis I can tell you it was slightly bonkers but enormous fun, several thousand people on a perfect Melbourne day clad in red dresses and re-creating the dance from Kate Bush's song Wuthering Heights.

Heathcliff, it's me, Cathy, I've come home and I'm so co-o-o-old.



Cherub's team was playing the top team in the league, and when one of the opposition players couldn't stop Cherub making one of his excellent runs with the ball, they resorted to a foul push which sent my poor lad hurtling to the ground.  The Ref said as he helped Cherub up they seem to be targeting you. Cherub landed on his fist with all his body weight on top.  He was awarded a free kick, but soon afterwards asked to come off and didn't play for the rest of the game.


You can tell its a break because the edges of the index knuckle, on the lift side, are not smooth and rounded, but slightly jagged. There was a also a wavy line -not visible here- in the middle of the bone where it had bowed at the point of impact.


We took him and his poor swollen hand to the Childrens' Hospital next day where they found a small break just below the knuckle, and he ended up with a splint and 6 weeks of showering with a plastic bag on his arm, no writing, no playing clarinet, and no gymnastics or swimming. He also had to miss playing with his school soccer team in the state finals. And then he came down with a virus/flu and was as miserable as I've ever seen him for 3 solid days, we assume because his immune system was concentrating on bone repair and couldn't fight the other nasties or because he'd been to a hospital and picked up something awful from there. Or both those things.


Good on you Fawkner, you dirty thugs.

At the End of Year presentations Cherub was awarded Best and Fairest for the season and I give you this picture to represent the highs and lows of sporting life: I call it Sling and Trophy



This mini adventure felt like therapy for all of us, after the trauma of our own cat who went missing but never came home.

On a Sunday night Cherub heard cats meowing outside and we went to investigate, in case Basil was getting involved in a territory dispute.  A silver tabby saw us and ran off into the street, but at the time I did think his meows were strange, more hello can you help me than I hates your poncy cat.  The next day Fixit and I saw the Missing Cat sign, so I immediately rang and reported the sighting. We all felt really hopeful about re-uniting a lost cat with the worried owner, and were disappointed when the owners texted back saying they'd searched but hadn't found him. They also asked if we would catch him if we saw him again but as the days went by we thought we'd missed our chance.

Then on the Thursday night, Cherub ran down from the bedroom to say he'd heard the cat again. This time we grabbed some dried catfood and our cat-cage before we went out. Basil was looking mildly defensive (he was safely tucked between the wheelie bins, but he wasn't fluffed up and snarling) and the tabbycat looked at us warily. I could see he didn't want us to touch him but when we put some food on the ground he immediately came over to eat, and after many soft words and plenty of food and a bit of sneaking quietly round the back of him, I eventually got the cage lid on top of the kitty. Cherub sat on it to stop him getting out while Climber and I spent some time wrangling him into the cage with towels and trays and Cherub's one good hand.


The owner wasn't able to get to our house til late so the boys sat for a while keeping Juan company and we all hoped we had the right cat, and hadn't falsely kidnapped a non-lost feline.


At 11.30pm a very grateful young man arrived at our gate and confirmed that we'd captured the lost Juan. He was extremely apologetic about keeping me up so late and offered me money, but I explained that we didn't need rewarding because we'd lost a cat once and finding one for someone else had made us all very, very happy.  (He probably thought I was mad, but I'm just a good neighbour!) So he transferred Juan into his own cage and went on his way, texting me afterwards to thank us yet again.

We recently watched a documentary about cat behaviour and this experience did make we wonder about cat dynamics. Juan came to our house twice, so did he know that a house where another cat lives is a good option for a lost cat? And did Basil, who never behaved in a hostile way, recognise a fellow feline in distress?

PS. Last night the owners dropped round a very fancy looking bottle of wine as a thank you.

You know how we caught the Lost Cat and returned him to his owners? They dropped some fancy wine round as a thank you: Penfolds Bin 407, 2013. My wine expert tells me this is a very good wine and should be saved for a special occasion. I said at the time


My Dad has given us his old car which is in much better nick than my poor old beloved Corolla, and it's a stationwagon, which will be so handy for lugging stuff around, so I keep reminding myself that it's great news. But the truth is I'm a bit sad because I really loved my girly hatchback. I could park it anywhere, it was an automatic with aircon and four doors, which were my 3 prerequisites when I purchased a car in the lead-up to starting a family, the heater worked, the petrol economy was great, and the mechanic used to give it a fond slap after working on it and say Corollas, best cars in the world. What more do you really need? Sure, it didn't have cup-holders or button-click doors, and the driver window wouldn't wind up properly unless Fixit did it, and the stereo volume was stuck on full, and the rear windscreen wiper didn't work, but I was used to living with those things.  I must admit too, to a sneaking Luddite preference for car features that are mechanical rather than electrical or computer-chipped. They're easier to fix, especially if you have Mister Fixit in your life, and you'll never get trapped without air in a car that has an actual winding-stick for the window operation is what I'm saying.

But also, it was the car that I chose, a style that I'd admired when I'd seen others driving around, and one that I duly researched in the Trading Post before finding the model-I-wanted at the price-I-could-afford at a mansion in Toorak of all places. This was me on the day I bought him, sometime in 1998. He was extra awesome because the number-plate said FBI. That fact always made me happy.

corolla hello

And this was me yesterday, taking a last pic to remember him by. Eighteen years together. Sniff. I also re-read this post when I was looking for pictures and it made me smile. My Corolla was cool. It was probably the coolest car I'll ever own.

corolla goodbye_3485

 Thank you for joining us for today's bulletin. Here is the Weather Report.


It's spring!  There is some sunshine coming into our house again.



It's a meerkat from the Childrens Hospital. Nnaww.


Sunday, May 01, 2016

Sparkly Street Family Update.


Last night I made a roast pork dinner for the family; Fixit and I loved it, Climber quite liked it, Cherub ate it but didn't enjoy it. Kids. Cherub eats a wider range than he used to but is still basically a fussbudget, or, as we say, maintains constant vigilance against our pathetic attempts to poison him.  He insists, despite my persistent cajoling, that he doesn't like gravy.  Obviously he's crazy, how can anyone not like gravy?  Mind you, Fixit insists he doesn't like pork crackling, we don't even bother telling him he's crazy, we are too busy fighting over it.

After we ate, we played card games together, even Fixit who says he doesn't like card games. (We were going to play Jenga but we couldn't find our Jenga set. Maybe I gave it away when we moved, but that sounds crazy.)  We played Billionaire and Uno, and it was really fun.

While we were playing, Basil ran through the house with a smallish rat in his mouth. Fixit charged up to our bedroom to deal with it, the rest of us followed bringing the plastic container needed to remove the rat. When we got up to the bedroom (it's quite a long hallway) Fixit and Basil were both hunting around near the window, trying to find the rat which the stupid cat had let go. Suddenly I saw something moving on the lace curtains, and there was the rat, scaling the lace. I may have shrieked, it was so perfectly a reminder of how rats could totally run up your leg if you didn't stand on a chair when one was loose.  The rat got right to the top of the curtains very quickly indeed, so Fixit did the only sensible thing he could, and picked the cat up overhead and said there it is you idiot, whereupon Basil launched himself up and across, like a top soccer goalie making an amazing save, and snaffled it. We all cheered like mad. Then we took the rat away from him, for humane disposal. He hates it when we do that, but based on his prior record, we really can't trust him not to lose a rodent. Although about a month ago I witnessed him eating a mouse whole, it was disgusting. PS this is a cat who only eats THE most expensive catfood.

Afterwards we noticed that our lace curtains got torn during the kerfuffle. I don't know if I should try and patch the tears or keep a look-out in op-shops for a replacement set.

Torn curtains and culprit sleeping in the foreground

In other news, Cherub's voice is breaking. He's very croaky, much more so than Climber ever was.  It's keeping us entertained. He can't reach any high notes any more, but his attempts to do so are very funny. He is still not as tall as me but his man-nose is coming in. He says his nostrils are as wide as his face and is not impressed, but we think he'll grow into his new nose.  He is liking high school.

Watching the Socceroos.

The soccer season has started. We're crossing our fingers that both boys' teams get re-graded down a level so we don't have to suffer watching them get flogged every week like last year.


Last night I was woken up by a thunderstorm. I'm much braver about thunderstorms than I used to be. I just rolled over and went back to sleep

Today we went grocery shopping as a family and as we packed the car I banged by head really hard on the edge of the boot.  Pretty sure I'll be having a Lump from that.

Cherub made chocolate chip cookies today, the only thing he ever bakes. He was galvanised after seeing white chocolate chips at the supermarket so we bought them for him.


Climber helped him for a bit. Climber is a very accomplished baker and recently made croissants from scratch with this best mate

Croissants from scratch by Climber and his bestie. Delish. Talk about flexing your baking muscles, this process took two days.

Climber has been growing some sunflowers from seed, and they've just bloomed. I think he was inspired after his girlfriend (they've been together 6 months, she goes to a different school and she's very nice but rather shy with us) expressed a desire to punch a sunflower. For him to grow them for her so she could realise her dream of punching a sunflower is so sweet, and very like the sort of thing Mister Fixit would also do. But I hope she doesn't actually punch the sunflowers.

Sunflowers on a grey day

Just thought I should actually start writing some stuff down again. The days whizz past so quickly.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Last year of primary school

Well it's official - Cherub is enrolled for High School! His - and our - final year of primary school is slipping away so quickly, and I am not doing a very good job of recording it here!  So here are a few of the recent happenings for my Grade 6 boy.


Last night we watched his last ever primary school production, the Grade 5/6 kids doing Alice in Wonderland Jnr. Their normal drama teacher went on leave this term, and Cherub and his friends, who had been keenly looking forward to their last ever big production with that teacher, were very underwhelmed by the sudden change of plan.  They didn't put themselves forward for roles, and told us it was lame.  Which was a shame, and I kept exhorting them to change their tune and make the best of it. The show must go on etc. They looked unconvinced.


Actually, the show was completely fine. They hired costumes for it, and Cherub looked very cute in his lion suit.  Well, I'm pretty sure he was meant to be a lion. Other guesses include a dog, or a possum or a werewolf.  But his classmates looked quite like the cast of The Lion King, so I'm going with lion. We're still unclear as to what place wild animals have in the Alice in Wonderland storyline, but at least we parents didn't have to sew anything this year. The wig/mane looked so much like Cherub's own hair first thing in the morning that he was very easy to identify on stage.  As always, his dancing was very good indeed, and he fulfilled my stage mother requirements by being in the front row, although whether he was put there because of height or merit is unclear.


The best thing about it was it was very short, so we were none of us too tired to enjoy our traditional post-show gelati.


In other 'lasts' of primary school, Cherub had his final ever Bookweek Parade. A few years ago he went as Frodo from Lord of The Rings, this year he was determined to be Bilbo Baggins from The Hobbit.


He insisted he needed a red coat, not too long, and we eventually found one to borrow from my sister.  I also made him a little green vest from a jumper I'd accidentally partially felted in a hot wash.  To make the ears I sewed some foam padding  rounds in half and threaded them on to a hairband made from hat elastic. Threading them meant the ears were adjustable on his head, I was actually pretty pleased with myself for thinking that design through.  I found a shirt and some shorts at the opshop, and for his overlarge and hairy bare hobbit feet we put a pair of Fixit's brown socks over a pair of sandshoes with some padding down the end, then used some flesh-coloured knee high stockings over the top, which we drew hairs all over.  It worked really well. He already had the Hobbit Sword and a Ring, but he didn't look for the ring until leaving time and it was nowhere to be found, so I had to quickly fashion one out of picture wire.


Here he is going off to school in costume with all his bags for Friday (music, futsal and school) ...


...and here he is parading.

 bilbo bw_pde457

While we're playing catch-up, here are some shots of the Friday Night Futsal team that Cherub has been playing in these last two terms with his school buddies.  All the kids really progressed throughout the season, and they even made it to the finals, which is so good considering they only started this year.



Also a shot from Cherub's last week of soccer, because hooray, soccer season is over and we don't need to be always taking the kids to soccer!


And we don't have to be the Team Managers any more, which was stressful and boring and bad for our relationship. Note to self, don't say yes to that job ever again.  Cherub's team played in a division too high for their abilities this year, so they got thrashed most weeks. Just at the very end of the season they started to hit their straps, and so they managed one win against the second-worst team and a draw against the 3rd-worst team, before finishing the season losing 8-0 to the league champions.  We were all pretty ecstatic the week they won, I can tell you! Here's the Team Captain looking happy.  He worked his guts out all season in defence, and made us proud every game.


To end this post on a good note : here are the lads enjoying a delicious home-cooked breakfast of pancakes and bacon for Mister Fixit.

Happy Fathers Day.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Winter in Somers

Following the success of our Walkerville holiday, Jenny, Astrid and I decided to organise another Mothers Group holiday house adventure for the July school holidays with all the Mums-and-kids. (Two of the Mothers Group Dads also put in guest appearances, but they were mostly stuck in Melbourne with work.)  We found a big house in a town called Somers on the Mornington Peninsula and went off for a Winter-in-Somers adventure.


The house we rented had 3 bedrooms with double beds, plus a bunk room, so we Mums shared the bunk room and split the kids into the big beds. The pairings-up were: firstborn girls, second-born girls, boys, and a cupboard in the boys' room (really a sizeable walk-in wardrobe) for Harry Potter Jen's third-born girl.  In the boys' room, Cherub eschewed sharing the big bed with his brother because he was desperate to try out our self-inflating-mattress-from-Aldi, and Astrid's boy also came with his own mattress, so Climber managed to be the most luxuriated child with a queen size bed plus electric blanket for his very own. The kids took over the downstairs living area for their own, but were quite often to be found in the upstairs living area too.  We had beautiful views from the deck out to Westernport Bay, an enormous table for mealtimes, and some comfortable lounges for lounging.

2015-07-08 07.47.32
View from the deck

Downstairs living area

Upstairs living area

The first job after sorting out the sleeping arrangements was to organise the division of labour.  We put the focussed second-borns on the job of devising the Kids' Chores Roster.

2015-07-04 17.37.39

It was an excellent roster, and was put together fairly and thoroughly.  All older children were expected to give the little kids a hand with their jobs if needed, and this happened consistently and without any adult intervention.  What a great bunch of kids.  The roster worked tremendously well all week.


No shirking, fighting or nagging.  Here it is in all its colour-coded glory.

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Jen, Astrid and I handled the cooking with a meal plan we'd put together back in Melbourne.


We enjoyed some delicious family meals while we were there, thanks to Head Chef Jenny's excellent meal planning skills.

 2015-07-07 18.09.16
Rice paper rolls and fried rice.

 2015-07-06 20.16.33
 Chocolate ripple cake

Hot dogs for the children, soup for the adults 

Snakes, not an actual meal but a bit of group eating nonethelesss.

I decided to poach some quinces and pears the day before we went away, proper poaching which took over 8 hours, and used them to make a delicious crumble dessert for our first night.

2015-07-04 19.07.20

It was accompanied by the lightest and fluffiest whipped cream ever, provided by Climber who put his strength to good use with the pure cream and an old-fashioned Nana egg-beater.  It was most delicious.

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 On the first day the adults decided to go for a walk down to the nearby beach, but the children declined the offer to come with us, opting instead to play games in the house.  It was a rather steep descent with a great many steps to reach the beach, and when we got to the bottom it seemed as though the beach might be inaccessible because it was high tide and that the waves came right up to wall.


However, we worked out that it was possible, in between waves, to make a dash for the next set of stairs and the next, so off we went!


Somers Beach was almost completely covered in ankle-deep seaweed, and looked, to quote Anthony, like every cassette tape in the world had been unravelled there.  We ploughed on through it for a good long walk.


We got home to find the children had discovered pillow-fighting, something they did quite a lot of over the week.

2015-07-04 20.47.37

Eventually the pillow-fighting took its toll on Cherub's inflatable mattress and we had to retire one (we'd bought 2 with us) until Fixit could do some puncture repair.  Cherub was slightly upset about his damaged bed and was afterwards very assiduous in deflating it each morning, before the pillow-fighting began.


We had decided every morning that we'd have 'Fit Club' and Jenny, being a very organised individual, had brought with her some bootcamp-ish programs and some equipment like cones and skipping ropes.  It was actually a lot of fun to do it every day, and the kids enjoyed taking part too.  The first morning we held it in the backyard, and asked a couple of the non-participating children to take some photos.

Lucky-Dip Exercise Program bootcamp.

I made them all do planks.  I'm working on my core strength this year.  There was whinging, although they're smiling here.

One morning we did Fit Club in a playground with a Flying Fox. We all had to have a go on the Flying Fox, although obviously we grown-ups had to wait a while for our turns.




We make these holidays device-free (although television was allowed) so the kids have to make their own fun, in between activities organised by us for their enjoyment.  There tended to be at least one pillow-fight per day, and quite a lot of board games were played too.  There was also some jigsaw puzzle action, and Astrid, in particular, became slightly addicted.  I think 2 or 3 puzzles were completed in total, Astrid did most of the work, with the kids crowding in at the end.

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Hide and Seek was also popular with this crowd, as usual.  This looks like  an early-morning game, judging by the onesies. Once you've been found you go around with the seeker to find the others.

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They also played outside with the soccer balls and netballs. I don't think the deck was the best place for playing soccer.

2015-07-07 11.26.31

We even had a bit of tap-dancing, not in tap shoes though.


And then there were the organised activities. Walks on the beach for a game of Run To The Next Safe Spot Before The Wave Gets You.


A visit to the market at Bittern, where we started our collection of photographs featuring each person with an item that rhymed with their name for the now traditional Holiday Gif (see below).  In adherence to another Mothers Group tradition, we also asked the kids to pose for a photograph in age order, which is a different concept to height order.  They are all holding up the stuff they bought with the five dollars they'd each been given to spend at the market.  (The money was predominantly spend on sugar, quelle surprise.)

2015-07-05 11.34.27-1

How did this even work? asked Cherub.


We went to the nice and mostly seaweed-free beach at Point Leo, where the kids decided to re-create the town of Plumbington (basically a sand town with drainage channels) that they'd made together in Walkerville.

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The water is the invading enemy in Plumbington.  You have to try and keep it out.

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It was cold, which you maybe can't tell from seeing all these children in swimwear?
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This is how sensible people were dressed for that expedition. Brrrr.
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Afterwards we went to Balnarring in search of sausage rolls (not as easy as we'd thought it would be, there was a temporary shortage right when we wanted them in bulk) and then sweet treats from the bakery.


Fixit rode his bike down to have dinner with us on the Sunday.  His mean work were being mean about giving him holidays. Again.


Jenny's horse-mad daughter made good use of our proximity to my horse-mad sister, who owns a horse and let Bell ride it.  My Mum was also visiting my sister during our time in Somers so it was nice and easy to pop over and visit them all.


We also took the kids to the historic homestead and bird-watching/wetland grounds at Coolart.  The kids were not made aware of the fact that there'd be a big walk as part of this activity.  Look at them heading in. So unsuspecting.

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The middle kids even practiced their leapfrog skills.

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We headed off down the walking trail, and the kids posed for the camera.  This is right before they started a game of pretending to pose for Jen and Astrid and then running off before the cameras could be brought to bear.

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Meanwhile my two took the walk at a more leisurely pace.

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We caught up  eventually.


We saw lagoons and bridges.

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We sat in the hides and watch some waterbirds.

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Then we went to the nice barbecue area for a reviving lunch. Some of the kids climbed trees whilst waiting for the sausages to cook.


We finished off by going inside the house, which the adults enjoyed for history and the kids enjoyed for exploring.  We dissuaded the children from sliding down the banister of the grand staircase.

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Then it was time for the boys and I to go home, collecting my Mum from my sister's house and bringing her back with us to Melbourne so she could see our new house.

Mum visits our new house.

I love these Mothers Group holidays. Not too much work, and plenty of fun, as a good holiday should be.