This old passport photo of me, taken when I was around 21 years old, recently fell out of a box and the boys found it. I remember absolutely hating this photo when it was taken; I think we all hate our passport photos, don't we? But now I look at it and think gosh, look at that sweet young thing with her fresh dewy face. (From memory this was taken in England for a visa into what was then known as Czechoslovakia. I'm wearing my travelling clothes - I still own that raincoat but I wouldn't wear it anywhere fancy - and my eye make-up is smudged. The person I was travelling with was the moody English boyfriend and it turns out we were not very compatible backpacking companions; the relationship never really recovered from our tour of Europe, although it limped on for a while afterwards. But I think I always knew that I didn't want to have children with him, he just wasn't steady enough.) Fixit told me later that when the boys found the photo Cherub said it was cute and Climber said no wonder she had a couple of boyfriends. Bless them.
And in other old boyfriend news, my first, my very first boyfriend is now my friend on facebook. Not that we ever had a recognizable boyfriend/girlfriend relationship. Just at the end of Grade 6 he said will you go with me? and I said, shyly, yes. That's what we called it back then, going with someone. You didn't actually go anywhere, but it meant you were official. Despite this official status however, nothing ever happened after the Question and Answer. We just carried on as normal, me with my friends, him with his, and probably only mixing it up for a game of handball (what my kids call foursquare). We were only 11 after all. Then it was the summer holidays and afterwards we started high school. I guess I felt a bit secure starting high school because I had a boyfriend, that is until I got friendly with a girl called Tanya Chambers who pointed him out across the playground and told me she was going with him. I remember quite clearly stalking up to him and saying next time you drop me don't forget to let me know! in haughty tones, while his jaw went slack in consternation; it was clear he'd completely forgotten that we'd been going together. Fair enough really, we hadn't seen each other since primary school finished. I don't think I ever thought badly of him about this, maybe because he had the grace to look embarrassed. I'm pretty sure his friends were keeled over laughing though. Ironically, he was also the first boy I kissed, but only because 4 years later he played Frank Butler to my Annie Oakley in our Year 10 production of Annie Get Your Gun. Gosh, fancy having your first kiss in front of all those people! I do remember how excruciating it was the first time we had to do it at rehearsal. I think we both approached it, and every subsequent smooch, with an air of let's get this over with, shall we. So romantic. And now we're friends again, and I'm actually pretty happy about that. He seems a good person.
Meanwhile nobody ever asked me to Go With them again. I remained boyfriendless until I was in Year 12 [6th Form], when out of the blue, the boy that my friend Michelle had invited to her birthday party because she fancied him put the moves on me instead. Imagine my surprise, boys always liked Michelle best. It caused a little bit of tension between Michelle and me, actually, although thankfully not for very long. Anyway, the system had clearly changed in the six years between my two first boyfriends. Nobody said will you go with me? any more. Apparently the conventional courting method in Years 11 & 12 was to initiate some sort of physical contact, a hand on the knee say, and if your hand was not slapped away, you were on. At least after high school, they asked you for your phone number.
A Book-Week costume for the Cherub this year was relatively easy. He knew what he wanted to go as (Severus Snape) and therefore all we needed was a wand [check: we have about a dozen wands in our collection now], a cape [check: already on back-order from when I made this one, and not too hard a sewing project, although I was sewing it up till just before dinnertime yesterday] and some long black hair [check for long hair, and black hairspray was not hard to find]. Cherub was extremely excited about the hairspray, but found the application quite disturbing in the end, all those fumes. If you look at this shot you can see a small tear rolling down his cheek, but he cheered up when we showed him his reflection.
As for Climber ... Well. His best-friend (Mavis' boy) is a chronic non-dresser-upper and Climber is feeling very on the outer at the moment because said best friend is currently 'best friends' with fascinating but erratic other kid. Poor Climber, it has not been much fun for him. Plus, Climber has moved into this age group (Grade 5/6) where he feels invisibility is preferable to mockery, such is the level of mocking going on. So for the first time ever it looked like he wouldn't dress up. But I racked my brains for something that wouldn't lower his street cred, and eventually suggested Sam I Am, thinking that carrying a sign and a tray of Green Eggs and Ham would be a safe and slightly cool option. Climber agreed. We were both pretty pleased with the finished product.
(Speaking of Mavis' boy, he was over as usual last night while we were frantically doing costume stuff and he said he wanted to dress up this year, as something from Lord of the Rings, but that he'd left it too late to organise it. I must admit I was surprised because he has always strenuously rejected dressing up in previous years, but I had some spare browny fabric lying around so I whipped him up a simple cape. He was terribly pleased, but his nerve clearly failed him this morning at parade time. Ah well.)
The parade was lots of fun. Harry Potter-mania was in full force but there was plenty of variety.
Meanwhile, I'm declaring this year's costume our best effort ever.
Officially, my Dad did not want a fuss made over the significant birthday he just celebrated. As a fully paid-up member of Workaholics Anonymous, he really didn't want anyone at His Work to start thinking about how far past the official retirement age he is. But he seemed pretty happy with a family gathering, and a good time was had by all.
Above, you can see Dad with his siblings and their partners, minus Dad's wife who had left to mind their sick younger son.
Here you see Dad with almost all his children; minus the other sick-at-home half-brother. The 2 very young children are in fact grandchildren, my brother has unofficial sole custody of his children these days and the boys were determined to be in the picture. It was great that my sister and brother could travel from Canberra to join the celebration. I barely know my brother's kids so it was great to spend time with them all.
This is Dad with the younger generation, less 2 cousins and 2 half-brothers. A great bunch.
And can I just tell you that Chestnut Cheesecake is fan-bloody-tastic! Everyone raved! It disappeared in a flash. I liked it! No furriness or alcohol flavour, just delicious, subtle creamy heavenly-ness. I think it may just be my new specialty.
Happy The-Number-Which-Must-Not-Be-Named Birthday, Dad xxxx.
Photos courtesy my sister's professional camera. More pics here.
I thought I was getting my blog mojo back on, but I was wrong. Nell had a gentle whinge about the lack of posts and I said I know! and blamed it partly on my little handbag camera being broken, which is true, but let's face it I'm also spending too much time on facebook and words with friends, and plus, our life is just busy!
Take today. Look how tired my poor Cherub looks, first ever class of gymnastics last night, (Oh my God how much do the boys like doing gymnastics?!) followed by soccer, tap and swimming lesson, all between 9.30am and 2pm. This is just temporary, until soccer finishes in a few weeks. But man! What a crazy morning.
And then there was barely time to sit down and do the Saturday Age Quiz with Nell before I had to get my baking arse into gear. I've made a chestnut cheesecake for my Dad's 70th birthday celebration tomorrow, which officially makes me a good daughter because I don't reckon I'll like it much. Chestnut has a weird furry aftertaste, and the recipe called for rum as well; I'm not keen on alcohol flavoured desserts. Plus what am I supposed to do with remaining 660 ml of Jamaican Rum? Fixit is offering to buy some coke and seeing if he can force it down.
PS. See the handmixer? My crappy mixmaster broke and I decided not to replace with another mid-range model with built-in obsolescence. I'm saving up for a purple KitchenAid. There will be some very good baking happening when that shiny day comes.
I admit to having a limited attention span when it comes to crafting.This means I tend to choose short but reasonably challenging projects so I don't get bored but I pick up skills. Recently I've been trying to contribute to a knit-a-square for an orphans' blankets scheme, and have actually completed one square, but the second square is taking a ridiculously long time because I'm bored now and my first world guilt about shivering orphans is clearly not big enough to force me to crack the whip over myself. Don't worry I will do it. Soon.
Anyway. So while I could be knitting squares, or getting on with a nice little purple knitted shrug I started last year, or maybe finding a pattern to develop the new crochet skills, or sewing the wizard cloaks I promised to the Cherub and his cousin, or the bunting for a newish baby (it's cut out, but the drudgery of sewing all those triangles together defeated me) what has actually been happening is this:
Yes. I've taken up embroidery. Keep up! Someone bloggy told me about this gorgeous alphabet sampler from Alicia Paulson, and I sent off for it earlier this year. I received a fabulous kit, with the screen-printed design, the needles, the instructions and the embroidery wool all included. (The kit is now sold out but you can still buy the pattern.) Above you can see the exact level of novice-itude I started with, that's some pretty wonky chain stitch going on there. My efforts with that first letter led me to predict it would take me 5 years to complete this project! It's even worse on the underside though...
Oh no! Sewn through the folds of material! Despite being aware that this would be easy to do and keeping an eye for it, I still managed to sew a good 5-6 chains before I realised.
But. The more I do, the easier it gets and to date I have managed reasonable stem stitch, satin stitch, back-stitch and threaded back-stitch, and lazy daisies. I did have problems when I attempted French knots, and was beginning to think that particular stitch and I were never going to be friends, but then I watched Kootoyoo's tutorial, and I'm happy to report that French Knots and I have now patched up our differences. And given that I am now one-fifth of the way through the alphabet, I may yet come in ahead of schedule with this particular project! Especially because I am really enjoying it.
As an added bonus I think embroidery is the first craft I've tried which is television friendly. The sewing machine is too noisy and you really do have to watch where you're going. I'm not good enough at either knitting or crochet to do them without looking, and I also find with them that there's usually boring counting required. But this little sampler has all the lines printed for me to follow, and although obviously I need to look where I'm going, somehow I can still watch a show. The show I've mostly been watching with my hoop in hand is a dvd of Downton Abbey, which is perfect: sometimes the ladies and are I stitching along together! I am absolutely loving the show, to the point where I have slowed down watching the episodes because I don't want it to end. Maggie Smith is superblyfunny, but I think the whole production is excellent. Great cast, the most beautiful costumes, vintage cars and steam trains, a wonderful stately home and a great script. It's my new favourite thing.
The Cherub tripped and fell at school, grazing his hip and knee and his poor little nose. I think the nose injury means he now looks like a koala, but he gets miffed at me when I say that. The week before last he had a nasty cough and the school rang me to say he was feeling off-colour and did I want to collect him? Then the nurse said to me, in all seriousness, He's not one to make a fuss and I thought -but didn't say- Really? (At home, he is the person most likely to make a fuss.)
I took Nell and the kids to see an amateur pantomime, directed by the son of one of the Nannas from Nanna Tap and starring her daughter-in-law, also one of my students. It was really, really amateur and at first I was a little taken aback that all these terrible singers were prepared to get up and sing in public. (Apart from my tap student who has a nice voice.) But that had its own charm after a while. The kids loved it, and particularly enjoyed the booing of the villain. They also both loved the stupid pantomime humour. There was this one joke, delivered by the yokel characters, chefs called Steak and Kidney: Steak: You're a terrible cook, you don't even know how to make an egg roll! Kidney: Yes, I do, you just push it! Immediately, Cherub turned to me with an amused and proud look on his face and said I get that. Poor kid. He has been trying to make the transition into Older Kid who Understands what Everyone Else is On About. There's a lot of explaining going on.
Nell and I also went to the old Creche's Trivia Night, and came in a respectable third, a mere 2 points behind the winner. To be honest, we prefer a slightly higher level of pop culture in our trivia nights. But my Mum will be pleased to know that there was a question about her late friend Viv's well-known father, and that I got it right.
Mister Fixit has a crown on his front tooth which has been giving him trouble. For the last week it has been popping out, so at home he often removes it totally for safety. This means my otherwise handsome partner occasionally morphs into a Dickensian character with a missing front tooth. I've been really sympathetic about this. He's not to talk to me unless he has his tooth in, and if I catch sight of the stump I pull revolted faces. I'm nice like that. He takes it with surprising good grace, and only occasionally punishes me with a leery grin.
Climber's team had an absolutely smashing game this weekend, playing the top team and performing so well that although we lost 3-1, it felt like a victory. As we walked off we could hear the opposition coach yelling at his team and our coach said quietly and a little smugly, that's how you know we got to them. Such a tonic after the previous game where, in the freezing cold and heavy rain, we watched our team squander our 3-nil lead against one of the 2 teams we can actually beat (we're 3rd-worst in our division) and scrape out of it with a draw, partly because Climber made a desperate tackle at the deathknock stopping what would have been an opposition winning goal. Whose coach do you think was yelling then, hmm?
The kids are very addicted to an online game called Minecraft. It involves mining and building, and seems harmless on the face of it. But for some reason it is very intense and Climber was finding himself unable to sleep because his brain wouldn't switch off afterwards. So I've banned it on schooldays. Poor Climber is a little sad about this as he can't talk about his latest achievements with his similarly obsessed schoolfriends, all of whom have less parental restrictions than us. Luckily for me he doesn't make an enormous fuss about these things, just asks me somewhat forlornly if we really need to do this. In fact, a week or so before I banned it he had suggested that he thought he needed a break from it because it was so consuming, but then like all good addicts he changed his mind at computer time next day and announced he was fine. Meanwhile, I am pretty addicted to Angry Birds (3 stars a must!) and Words With Friends, but not losing sleep.
NB. All photos featuring the children are now classified as "private" on Flickr and can only be seen by my Contacts (that is, if you click through to Flickr for a better look at them). If I know you or your blog I am happy to be friends with you on Flickr . Joining is free and easy, and you can store up to 200 photos there.