Friday, December 31, 2010

Goodbye Twenty-Ten.

It's the last day of 2010! And it's also 40 degrees HOT! I can't possibly think well enough in this sort of heat to do any end of year round-up. Beyond saying I'm pretty sure it's been a good one with some bumpy bits.


Our plan for the last day of the year is to do as little as possible and to stay cool! Fingers crossed the cool change comes in at a reasonable hour.

Happy New Year Everyone. 
Thanks for reading me. xx

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Day 2010

The tree, midnight, Christmas Eve.
Our bed, 6.10am, Christmas morning.
Our kids NEVER wake up that early usually. The poor cat could hardly keep his eyes open. Thankfully, the boys went off to play with their toys, so Basil, Fixit and I re-settled for some extra zzzzzz-s
My aunt and uncle's backyard, after a sumptuous Christmas lunch.
Happy chillun.

I'm off to Sydney in the morning to visit my Mum. Hope everyone had a lovely December 25th, 2010. We certainly did. Stomper xx

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve

The Advent Activity for today was nice and easy : Hang up your stocking and leave something for Santa.  That's not much is it? 


But today was also spent knocking up some choc-coated peppermint creams, some more Christmas shortbread and some spinach & haloumi fritters (with yoghurt & tahini sauce) ready to be taken to the Christmas lunch tomorrow.  We also squeezed in a visit to the supermarket, a visit to my Aunt & Uncle's house to help with preparations for tomorrow's gathering, and a visit to my friend with cancer (who will be home from hospital for Christmas with her boys) to drop off the hastily finished handmade presents and for the boys to have a waterfight. Then we had a great big tidy up of our house so that Santa can walk through in the dark tonight without hurting himself or wondering what sort of slackers live here.  There's still a couple of presents to wrap, and a bit of finagling to do because some books didn't make it time from the UK (snow delays) and I just didn't find the time to knit a last washcloth.  But I do think in the morning we'll be able to get to where we need to go on time and in an orderly fashion.


Anyway, here it is, Christmas Eve, nearly ten o'clock, and the adults are exhausted.  (Last we looked though, both chillun were wide awake.)  I'm looking forward to a lovely day tomorrow and wishing all who visit here the same.  Peace & love to you all, ho ho ho!  See you on the other side.


Thursday, December 23, 2010


Today's Advent Activity was the only one to have been greeted with fists-punched-in-the-air enthusiasm: Play A Game of Backyard Cricket.


It was also the only Advent Activity to have ended with both children in tears.  A combination of starting too late in the day (Mister Fixit's illness required a chest x-ray which hijacked the afternoon; he's on antibiotics now and a follow up x-ray next week) and the fact that Climber is now so passionate about cricket that he was unable to cope when his visions of backyard excellence went ever-so-slightly pear-shaped.  The upshot of which was that Cherub took a ball to the face that had been bowled in anger and the game ended very abruptly indeed.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Mean Nurse

The Advent Activity for today was Play A Family Board Game. The kids couldn't decided between Jenga (Climber's choice) or Junior Monopoly (Cherub's choice) so we played both. 

DSC_5736 DSC_5735

It wasn't the whole family playing though because poor Mister Fixit is sick, proper sick with temperatures.  He complained today about my lack of kindness and sympathy when he's feeling so terrible, and I know I'm treating him like he's annoying, but I can't help it when he makes so many terrible noises; sniffs, grunts, groans, sighs and sound-barrier-breaking loud coughing.  Plus I am jealous and let's face it, resentful, that I had to soldier on through my own illness last week, teaching tap classes, cooking meals, doing the Christmas shopping / organisation, whereas he gets to lie in bed, even though I know that that is not his fault.  I mean, I'm not leaving him to totally fend for himself, I've brought in paracetamols and cups of tea and heated up his dinner and asked the kids to be quiet, but I'm definitely not stroking (tenderly or otherwise) his fevered brow.


He has a doctor's appointment tomorrow; if it does turn out he has something serious like bronchitis or pneumonia I suppose I'll lift my game.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Shortbread, the boy version

Our Day, Advent Activity #21
First, we made the shortbread early.  We used this recipe again, and I have to say the boys found it pretty tricky trying to cut shapes from the piping consistency dough, but if you can overlook the wonky edges, the end result was delicious!  As Cherub held his tray up for the photo, he said, proudly,  I'm a chef.


Second: We went to a friend's great big Christmas party at her frankly magnificent house in Hawthorn. And when I say big party, I'm talking TWO bouncing castles, pony rides, face-painting and a magician kind of big.  My friend -an ex tap student- got us all to bring a present for the Salvos Giving Tree which I thought was a fantastic idea.  Two years ago her lovely oldest daughter learned tap with Climber's class, and she and Climber had this great spark together, so although they're a bit shy when they see each other again it's not long before they're showing off for each other.  Sadly, I had to drag the kids away from the ace party before they saw whether the bunny rabbit survived the box with the spikes and knives through it, and although they'd been a bit shy and dubious about the party to start with they were most reluctant to leave.


Thirdly and finally, I hastily dropped the kids with Fixit so that I could scoot out to The Arts Centre to meet the lovely Fairlie for a Theatre Date.  We saw the MTC production of Songs For  Nobodies, by Joanna Murray-Smith. The play was specifically written to showcase the amazing singing talents of Bernadette Robinson.  The official blurb is:
In Joanna Murray-Smith’s Songs for Nobodies we meet five anonymous women whose brushes with fame had a profound effect on their lives, interleaved with the songs that gave them heart.
Bernadette Robinson's voice is extraordinary, her renditions of Garland, Cline, Piaf, Holiday and Callas are spookily good, and the play is excellently written to match the wonderful singing.  If you get the chance to see this play you really should, it was 90 minutes of magic. I think my favourite was the Edith Piaf story, but they were all great. 

Sunday, December 19, 2010

There's rosemary, that's for remembrance.


Today's activity was to make a Christmas wreath for our front door. We decided to try rosemary for the greenery, then I cut up some red felt for some colourful leaves. I primed Fixit at the start of the month that he'd be required to twist some wire into a round for this particular task, as I didn't want to be accused of not telling him important stuff till the last minute...

Anyway, whether it was the heads-up or the fact that we were working with thickish wire that his strong hands were more suited to manipulating, it ended up being a real whole-family activity today which I think makes the wreath a bit extra-special.


Also special today was celebrating our 9th Christmas together with the Mothers Group, and catching up with my maternal relatives straight afterward.


Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Christmas Tap Concert


It's been another wonderful year of tap with the Kids' Classes, and today we capped it off with our end of year Christmas Party and Concert. It is a low fuss affair by dance school concert standards, but I think many families actually prefer this.

This year, in rather ambitious fashion, I tried a joint routine with my four classes. The first time they ever did it all together was today's performance, so you'll see the first 2 classes become adorably confused when I switch my focus from them to the next class. But we made it through! More photos here.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Bad Guts

First, it was the last day of school, then as soon as the bell rang for hometime (at 1.30) there were two parties - Climber went off to a birthday party for one of his classmates, and Cherub and I went to the park for his class' End-of-Year get-together.  Then it was home to pick up Fixit and some stuff, then off to the Tap Hall, via Supermarket and pizzeria, to set everything up for tomorrow's Kids' Classes Tap Concert/Party.  In between that I've been wrapping & posting the interstate presents, and madly organising bits and pieces for tomorrow, like playlists for the iPod and cheat-sheets in case I suddenly can't remember the next step in the middle of O Christmas Tree.

But finally, after all that, we got to do the Advent Activity for Day 17.


Take the whole family out for gelati.


Oh, except me.  I mean, I was there but I wasn't having gelati owing to a stupid low-grade stomach bug, which frankly, would have been far more convenient if it had waited a week to strike.  Because bad guts or no, I've had to battle through the Christmas shopping (all done! yay) and the last week of tap and school and what I'm really looking forward to next week is a good lie down.

And speaking of bad guts, I was so busy showing you my handicrafts yesterday that I forgot to tell you that the kids had their grade parties at school on Wednesday and Climber pretty much poisoned himself on excess sugar consumption so he woke up minutes after I published that little blog about my Tap Party and proceeded to throw up. Mostly in the bucket but we still needed to change the sheets on the top bunk and that, my friends, is a pain in the butt at the best of times, let alone late at night/ after a stinky vomit/ after a wine or two.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Day 16: Wrap a Christmas Present for your Teacher

Here are the boys hard at work.

I thought I'd show you the handmade goodness inside.


I knitted these washcloths using the patterns from knitdishclothcorner: on the left is Lily and on the right is Pearls. The little bags have our handmade lemongrass soap, which Jenny and Astrid and I made a few weeks ago.  (Actually it was mostly Jenny but Astrid and I were definitely there for moral support).  There seems to be some sort of internet virus going round where people are suddenly overcome with a compulsion to make their own soap.  We caught it from Pea Soup. I think if you catch this virus you never actually recover either, you just go on making soap for ever because you enjoy it.

Soap Opera Mosaic

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Day 15

The kids' Advent Activity for tonight was to read a Christmas story at bedtime, and although I left a few books out, I'll have to take it on trust that they actually did read them.  That's because I've been out tonight having a little soiree with those of my grown-up tap students as could make it.  It was such a nice evening and obviously needs to be a more regular occurrence because my tap students are smashingly lovely people and our little get-together was a very nice way to end a day which started with 3 hours of Christmas shopping in a great big mall.  Urgh. Although I did bump into the lovely Pea Soup whilst there, complete with firstborn, and she put me in the way of a Harry Potter lego bargain. And once out of the madness of the shopping centre the day improved perceptibly.  The kids' reports came home today and were totally excellent.  Then Climber's team won their first ever game of cricket - Fixit texted me to tell me they'd won and that the team was, in his words, sooooooooo happy.  Cherub and I, meanwhile, had dinner at home, then caught the tram to the Tap Hall and had a lovely time enjoying each others' company.  Fixit and Climber swung by just as the tappers started arriving, the boys went home and the tappers and I settled in for chat and refreshments.  Then it was dancing time.  Each class danced their routine and then we finished with a big noisy Shim-sham with everyone, which was awesome.  The Intermediate/Advanced girls must be feeling chuffed, when they finished their routine it was greeted with a spontaneous ooh! of delight followed by loud clapping.  I feel very lucky.  I may have a small school, but I have all the best students.

purple flowers

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Advent Activity Day 14



In the short amount of time between school ending and then leaving to go to swimming lessons, the boys rustled up their Christmas creations. Climber put a lot of thought into how to make a good Lego star for the top of his tree. As for Cherub's creation, I don't want any Northern hemisphere readers to be fooled by it. It may look like a Lego snowball, but Melbourne children have no real association between Christmas and snow. It's a bauble for hanging on a Christmas tree. I might even try running a thread through it. Oh look, I just did ....


Monday, December 13, 2010

Day 13 and bits and bobs

Today I planned an easy Advent Activity, because of tennis and tap after school.  So we all wore Christmas coloured clothes, and Cherub also wore his Santa hat all day at school.


Today was also the day the kids found out their new teachers for next year, as well as their classmates.  In awesome news,  Cherub is still in with his 2 besties although I don't really know much about his teacher-to-be.  She looks lovely though, with a kind, smiling face.  And Climber, after a couple of difficult years, is in a class with nice kids and the absolutely gorgeous woman who was Cherub's adorable Prep Teacher.  Even better, neither child is in the same class as the Threatener Dad's family of horrors.  I had been fretting about that slightly.


I did a bit of Christmas baking today as well, so as to have something small to give the tennis teacher and the cleaning lady.  Fixit tested them for me, he said they melted in his mouth, and that I could make more for him any day.  Then her remembered about how he's trying to lose weight and not exacerbate the cholesterol and said, slightly forlornly, I suppose they're full of stuff that's bad for me?  to which I had to say yes.


RICH SHORTBREAD (from the Women's Weekly Big Book of Beautiful Biscuits)

250g butter
1 tspn vanilla essence
1/3 cup (55g) icing sugar
1 cup (150g) cornflour
3/4 cup (110g) plain flour

Beat butter, essence and sifted icing sugar in small bowl with electric mixer until smooth. Add sifted flours, beat until combined.

The recipe says to pipe wibbly shapes onto the baking tray lined with greaseproof paper, but I made a sticky pancake of the dough on some floured greaseproof paper and used a floured Christmas tree cutter to make shapes. (Also the recipe calls for icing sugar mixture, but I always just use pure icing sugar because that icing sugar mixture stuff has a funny taste / texture in my opinion.)

Bake at 180 degrees for 15 minutes, cool on a wire rack. I also like to lightly dust with sifted icing sugar for extra prettiness.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

O Christmas Tree O Christmas Tree

We've been waiting for this day since the Advent Activities began...

Of course, they're much messier, and pine needles are the pits to vacuum out of your carpet, but in our house, you just can't beat the smell of a real tree for Christmas.  We buy ours from the same bloke every year, and he always gives us about 5 free seedlings as well.  Last year they perished in the heat waiting for Fixit to plant them but this year we put them straight in and so now we hope to grow some tomatoes, basil and eggplants.


Notice the very neat front yard?  Fixit donned his Super-Gardener Cape this weekend and dealt with the knee high weeds and grass that were threatening to swallow our house.  Thank goodness.  Can't really stamp your feet about the big rent hike when your house looks feral and your landlords live 2 doors up.


Because we are complete Christmas dags in this house, we actually did put Christmas music on whilst we decorated.  Cherub and I had an impromptu tap rehearsal too, his class will be dancing to the Harry Connick Jr. version of It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas and he really enjoys the routine for that.

For the record, it was Cherub's turn to put the star on top this year.  Climber remembered that he did it last year and sorted it all out for me, no fights no whinging no nothing.


Here's Cherub being Wudolph the Wed-Nosed Weindeer.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Advent Activities Day 11 and a bit of 9 too.

The boys' Advent Activity today was an easy one: write some Christmas cards to give to their friends at school. They selected four friends each to receive cards.


The inscribing took place straight after breakfast and the cards are now safely stowed in their schoolbags.


This left them free to pursue leisure activities of choice once this morning's cricket/tap exertions were over.


I'm pretty sure I scheduled this activity for a Saturday with the intention of giving myself time to sit down and write my cards, (I need to do lots more than 4) but owing to all the help I had to give the boys at the time, I was a bit behind on the Advent Activity from two days ago (sew a felt ornament). And because I'd ended up making mine far fancier than I'd first conceived, it took me until the end of today to finish it.  But still: voila!  Felt Christmas Tree with crocheted tinsel and beaded ballballs baubles.


I took it with me to work on when I visited my friend who is having chemo, and she requested one for herself.  I just hope having made the prototype, I'll be able to whip the next one up in less time.

Friday, December 10, 2010

How to make Microwave Salt Dough Christmas Ornaments.

(makes about 45 smallish ornaments)

3 Mums
8 Kids
Massive collection of cookie cutters, paintbrushes, glue, paint, glitter and beads.
4 cups of plain flour
1 cup salt
1 1/2 cups of warm water

Measure salt and flour into large bowl, then gradually add water until thick dough is formed.


Pinch off ball of dough for each child and let them go sick cutting out Christmas shapes.  I have some alphabet cutters so they all did their own initials, but then someone mentioned they were going to do an S for their friend Sophie and next thing we knew there was a rush on initials for friends/ teachers/ Santa / cats.  (I believe Astrid's 4yo is giving Basil an "L")


Use a skewer to make a small hole at the top of each ornament so you can hang them with string later.

Put ornaments onto a microwave safe plate and nuke them.  The recipe said 1-4 minutes, but obviously my microwave is below par in the power stakes, it took much longer for ours to bake to requisite hardness.  If you have a strong microwave then nuke the ornaments a minute at a time, in ours we ended up going in 2 minutes bursts although Jenny all but scorched one lot so don't get too carried away with the longer bursts.

Allow to cool on baking rack, whilst nuking the next batch.


When cool enough to touch, decorate!  We used paint, glitter glue, glitter, glitter paint and glitter spray paint.  After the kids had done their bit Jenny got a bit crafty with glue and stick on stuff which I thought looked great.


Leave to dry, -maybe you could take everyone out for pizza in the park like we did- then thread a loop through skewer hole and hang on tree.  (We haven't done the thread-and-hang bit though, the ornaments are still drying and besides we haven't had our Decorate the Christmas Tree Advent Activity Card yet...)


Thursday, December 09, 2010

Sewing and Reading.


I was rather hoping to present finished objets for today's Advent Activity task, but as I sit here at 11 o' something trying to sort out snarls in the embroidery floss (whilst also playing Shula at Scrabble, and comforting the Cherub who woke in fright from the big thunderstorm), I am admitting defeat and submitting instead the Works In Progress.  Climber's red bauble* is done. You know, unless he decides to try a few further embellishments, but seeing as that child is a minimalist, my money is on finished.   Cherub's tree needs the red hanging loop which hasn't been fully crocheted yet due to aforementioned stupid knots that won't come out.  And my purple Christmas tree is waiting patiently for my full attention, but I have high hopes for it!

*Referred to as ballballs around here, please don't anyone correct him.

In other news, Climber just finished Book 7 in the Harry Potter books, and bore up quite well to the devastation therein.  Two parts made him cry, (Dobby & Fred) but not so much that he didn't soldier on.  Whereas when we got to the end of Book 6 (a while ago now), his devastation at losing Dumbledore was such that he lost all interest in reading Book 7.  I think the fact that the Deathly Hallows Part 1 movie has just come out spurred him on.  Now I have to think about whether to take him with me when I go to watch it...

Wednesday, December 08, 2010


Advent Activity Day 8

xmas 2010 5443

Turned into quite a fun activity actually; all that setting up the self-timer on the camera, pushing the button down and running into place, hurriedly arranging the cat and the tinsel, and then leaping up afterwards to see if it worked.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Youth of Today


Two weeks ago, on a really hot day, I took the kids to the pool for their swimming lesson, but because it was hot we went straight from school so we could all have a nice long muck-around in the pool to chill out.  Unfortunately there was a bunch of hideous yoofs there who had pretty much taken over the hill area next to the big pool and were being really unpleasantly anti-social: muchos swearing, illicit smoking, being rough, kicking a football.  Because I wanted shade and to keep an eye on my kids I sat near them: this was a mistake, and after a ball kicked by one of them whistled past my ear I gave it up and moved our stuff.  It meant I couldn't see the kids if they were in the water so I had to stand pool-side in full sun, but it was better than being near the yobbos.  The lifeguards weren't really in a position to do anything about the situation; for a start their job is not crowd control, it's making sure people don't drown, and furthermore most of the lifeguards are quite young and the yobbos were in a big boisterous pack.  I was pretty cranky when we left.

One week ago as we approached the pool for swimming lesson, a journalist from the Real Estate Newspaper (ie a local/borough paper funded by lots of real estate adverts) doorstop interviewed me about whether I'd witnessed any incidents and so I told her all about it.  Then she asked whether I approved plans to set up a Police Register of known anti-social offenders, and although I felt a bit nanna-ish, I said I basically would approve because seriously! If you're in a public place you need to behave appropriately.  Which means consideration for other people.  And if you don't understand or respect this, then why should you be let into public areas to spoil it for everyone else?

Today the local rag arrived and there was my name, supporting bans on louts.  I felt completely embarrassed when I read it, I reckon I blushed for a good 10 minutes.  Which is not to say I don't stand by what I said, but eek!  I'm in the paper, being an outraged mother!  Hilariously, I read it to the kids this afternoon, and when they heard I was mentioned by name they looked delighted.  Then when I read the bit about "her two primary school aged children" I swear they puffed out their chests.  Cherub was later observed marching round the kitchen singing we're in the pa-per, Caroline and Climber and Cherub are in the pa-per.

leader article copy

(You can click on the photo to see it at Flickr, where it's a more reader-friendly size)