Friday, 28 February 2014

Mattress Angst

This week I have had mattresses on my mind.
Before you get alarmed, there is a context.
Two weeks ago my neighbourhood had the quarterly event of the "council cleanup". This is when every household in our local government area is allowed to put out on the curb a collection of their junk that will then be picked up and disposed of, free of charge. There is a size limit to the pile and numerous regulations about acceptable materials etc.
So for a week or two the neighbourhood resembles a tip. That's the down side. The up side is that it seems to energise the community. Previously quiet streets can become buzzing hives of activity. People appear. Families even. They walk the streets, not pretending it's for exercise. It is so that everyone can comb everybody else's pile of throw outs. All things appeal to all people.

Trucks drive by, day and night. Some look like they are straight out of Steptoe and Son, with strange collections of paraphernalia roped to the sides and hanging off the back. They are the scrap metal dealers. The recyclers. From clothes dryers to drying racks, saucepans to birdcages, they forage, they pick it up and throw it in to their truck.

At least 50% of houses will throw out a mattress. Sometimes two, or more. This time around in the council cleanup, only about half of the mattresses were collected. Why? Why? Nobody seems to know. This meant that when the curb sides were swept clean of their rubbish, and what had not already been taken, the detritus cleared...many mattresses were left behind. I counted 20 in our street and the adjoining one, alone!

Inexplicably the council waste people had spray painted large pink crosses on all the mattresses they did not take. Did this mean they were deemed, for whatever reason, as noncollectable? Had the council trucks run out of room? More importantly, many of us were left wondering, would anyone be coming back to pick them up?

Our neighbourhood now resembles something like a mattress graveyard. With mattresses strewn across footpaths, propped against telegraph poles, leaning on hedges and now, also, sodden with rain…

Which brings me to my next mattress musing.
In 2009 we bought a new mattress for our bed.
The new one had one of those snazzy fandangled wool toppers. It was the latest thing, guaranteed to provide more comfort and enhance the powers of sleep.

I haven't been that impressed.

What impressed me less was the fact that our new queen sized mattress, complete with topper, not only meant that the mattress could not be turned over (which used to be imperative advice for all mattress owning and caring souls) but suddenly, our queen-sized sheets no longer fit.

That's right, for four years, I have been wrestling with fitted sheets, breaking fingernails as I tried to ram too tight corners over too high mattress edges. Bemoaning disturbed sleeps due to flat sheets that only stayed tucked in if NO ONE was in the bed. Thrashing about with corkscrewed sheets…aghhhh, the agony!

"Just go and buy king sized sheets!" My husband, begged/whinged/commanded. I had never acted on these requests. I think now that I was just too busy resenting the new mattress to do anything about the problem I now had. This new queen size, deeper than the normal queen size, is apparently being completely ignored by the majority of sheet making companies. They keep churning out the standard sized queen size sheets, which now no longer fit most new mattresses.

I like all of my old sheets. I have french ones that a department store angel solely directed me to buy…. Also, as I informed my husband, king sized sheets also mean a king-sized price hike.
You can sense my aggravation?

Yep for four years, I have been stubborn and silly (and okay, I'll admit it, wrong), just to prove a point.
But this week, no more.
I went to an outlet centre.
I found an 80% off table. I found a fabulous KING SIZE sheet set (that means 1 fitted, 1 flat and 2 pillow cases) straight away for $39, reduced from $190. The second set were sateen (read: sort of silky cotton) with brocade lace edging. They were 375 thread count and I paid $45. They were originally priced at $279.
Yep, two sets for under $100.
Four years after we bought a new mattress that was too big for the rest of our sheets.

Like most of my clothes, these would look better ironed. But who has time to do that??

Last night Jonathan said he felt like he was sleeping in a snazzy hotel bed. That's right, one where the sheets all fit!
I didn't answer. I was too busy luxuriating in sheets that were all tucked in and snug. And they stayed that way. All. Night. Long.
And Good night.

p.s. These Morgan & Finch patterned sheets (above) suit my quilt cover, and fit in with our green walls. If you have plain painted walls and plain curtains, then you should be brave and go for patterned sheets! The visual interest is needed, and they are much easier to change than a wallpaper!

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Starting Preschool

Arch started preschool last week.

It has been exciting and fun with just a little nervousness, uncertainty and fear in the mix. At least I was feeling nervous, uncertain and a tiny bit fearful. Arch, the three-year-old, was fine.
As I said to a friend on the first morning, over coffee - "there's not too much point in me being upset, when he's so happy to go!"

And he was. Happy and brave and excited and ready.

Actually he looks a little serious here, but the rest of the morning he was jumping out of his skin with excitement! One of the things (yes, there was a list) I had worried about was what would happen with Archie's blanket (known in our household as "Nutty" or "the nut") It is a security rag, that once was a delightful cream baby cot wrap thing. It is now full of holes and covered in stains. Yet, it is Arch's trusty companion and is with him most days and through every night. I hadn't been game to ask the preschool what their policy on security blankets was. I was scared of finding out they had a firm "NO" policy when Arch's high dependency status would be at an all time high.

So when we pulled up in the car park it was with some trepidation and a record amount of quick silent prayers that I asked Arch: What are we going to do with the nut today?
Arch took the blanket from his nose and stared at it thoughtfully. Then looking at me with shining eyes he exclaimed "I know! We'll leave him in the car!" And with that he threw nutty on the seat.
Woo hoo! Thank you Lord!

As soon as we arrived it was like letting him loose in a candy store (without the fear of future dental bills!). So many activities and so little time!

I left quickly and stood outside the gate feeling a little lost.
"Are you okay?" A kind friend asked. "Shall we have coffee?" And so we did.
And that was the first day.

Here he is on Day #2. All smiles.

I found some great preschool shirts at an op shop.  I really cannot stand paying retail (say $10-$25ea) for shirts that are destined for play wear, that might get paint all over them on first wearing, or that are such bad quality they'll fall apart after a few washes.

These shirts were great quality, hardly worn, $2 each and all colours and themes he loved!

The sandpit was one of Arch's top priorities. He'd talked about it ever since we dropped in to check out the preschool late last year.
"It's just like the beach!" He shouted happily. Who was I to disagree?

So after a super successful start to preschool last week, we got to the Wednesday morning.
"Um, Arch is packing his bag and looking for his shoes," pointed out my husband as I raced around helping the older kids get ready for school. "Does he know he's only going to preschool for two days a week?"
That would be no. He didn't know. I found him and delivered the bad news. Cue devastation and crying on Arch's part.
Yep, some parents worry about separation anxiety and clingy kids. Others of us wonder why our kids appear to have stopped needing us at age three!

Week #2 Day #3
We'd only walked in the gate five minutes earlier and I turned around to see Edward Scissorhands running amok with the paintbrushes!
One of the teachers commented that painting was obviously one of his favourite things.
I sheepishly agreed. The evidence of producing five paintings in his first two days certainly confirmed that fact. However, on wracking my brain, I was pretty sure this was Arch's first exposure to painting. You know on his own, with brushes and multiple pots of paint and no mother standing behind him yelling "Don't get paint on your clothes/shoes/body/the carpet!!"

Yep, that's the sort of creative, fun Mum I am. Sigh.

Anyway, it was good for my soul to see how much he is enjoying himself.

A deliriously joyful boy, the son of a relieved and happy Mum.

Life is full of milestones that a parent can sometimes dread.

I just never thought I'd be able to look back on Archie's first four days of preschool and be able to report he had had NO ACCIDENTS (this is referring to the seriously dreaded toilet training, in case you were wondering). I'd put in four changes of clothes in his bag for goodness sake! I'd had to buy a bigger backpack for him just to fit them all in!!!

So maybe I didn't pray enough about this milestone in the lead up? Maybe I spent a little too much time worrying about everything that could go wrong, and not enough time trusting God to work things out.

I'm so pleased to be able to rejoice that these precious days have gone so smoothly. Though someone did warn me that everything can change in term 2….

Friday, 14 February 2014

Happy Valentine's Yaddah Yaddah Yaddah

I've allowed google to put ads on my blog.
They are supposed to be content appropriate. And relevant to my subject matter.
In my mind this would cover the following subjects: WEDGWOOD CHINA; Bookshops; french provincial furniture; upholsterers; snazzy velvet dresses; children's wear; fun kid's toys; tablecloths; vintage treasures; chocolate and ice-cream; antique silver; easy craft; interiors magazines; Martha Stewart; snazzy shoes and excellent handbags…Well we'll see.

The first ad I've noticed offers to "Slim your Wallet".
Funnily enough I've never suffered much from that problem.  Maybe if the ad was offering pointers on how to slim your buying habits, or thighs, then they'd have our FULL attention!?

And Happy Valentine's Day to all of you who choose to acknowledge such things. I know some people get rather annoyed at the whole crass commercialism of the day. HOWEVER, a little more love in the world can't go astray. So I say go with it. And if it means doing something extra kind or special for someone you love, then definitely go with it!

My lovely husband gave me flowers a day early! I love a canny buying man who is able to nab a beautiful bunch at a bargain price!!

Maybe you went out and bought something for yourself? Or was that just me?

I found this bracelet in an op shop for $5!! Is it real or fake Links of London? It has a small band with the writing on it, but it doesn't appear as big as the one on the website. The real one costs 150 pounds! Okay, so maybe it's a fake one… either way I'm quite chuffed.

Or maybe you are thinking of making something special for dinner/dessert? I'm planning a roast dinner followed by a meringue berry dessert. However I have a very messy house. Hmm, a Valentine's Day conundrum: Trust your exceptional culinary skills blind your partner to the squalor they call home?
Or clean up and serve toasted cheese?
I'm leaning towards the cheese. But not sure I have the will power to clean up either. I could find the energy to whip up a great cake for dessert..

Here's one of my current faves for an easy and gorgeously tasty cake (particularly good when you just have a desperate desire to eat cake and are exhausted from cleaning or lack thereof. But maybe that's just me again?)

(taken from the Women's Weekly Cheap Eats Cookbook, 2007)

250g butter
1 tblsp finely grated lemon rind
1 cup (220g) caster sugar
3 eggs, separated
1 cup (150g) SR flour
1 cup (160g) semolina
1 cup (280g) yogurt
lemon syrup
1 cup (220g) caster sugar
1/3 cup (80ml) lemon juice

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees/160 degrees (celsius) fan-forced. Grease and flour 20cm BABA* pan (or deep 19cm round cake pan), shaking away any excess flour.
  2. Beat butter, rind and sugar in small bowl with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in egg yolks. Transfer mixture to large bowl, stir in semolina, flour and yogurt. 
  3. Beat egg whites in small bowl with electric mixer until soft peaks form; fold egg white in to cake mixture in two batches. Spread mixture into pan; bake about 50mins.
  4. Meanwhile combine ingredients for lemon syrup in small saucepan. Stir over heat until sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil without stirring. Remove from heat.
  5. Stand cake 5 minutes; turn onto wire rack set over tray. Pierce cake all over with skewer; pour hot lemon syrup over hot cake.
(prep time: 15mins; cooking time: 50mins; serves 8; per serving: 29.1g total fat, 83.8g carbs, 8.5g protein, 1.4g fibre)

Oh Yum. Please try it. 
You won't regret it.

*Do you have a BABA pan? These are cake tins with a hole in the middle. I've used my ALDI bundt tins (which were a ridiculously cheap $5 each from memory) and it comes out perfectly every time.

Whatever you end up doing -

Enjoy your day!


Tuesday, 11 February 2014

You HAVE to write

My trusty barista friend in our local cafe fixed me with an appraising stare.
"What's happening with you this week?" she asked casually.
I smiled. We both knew it was a big week.
"Archie's second day at preschool." I announced proudly as her eyes widened with pleasure.
"Wow, that's awesome."
I rifled through my bag eager to show her the pics on my phone of Arch painting, bike riding, playing in the sand pit and doing all the things a preschool boy should do.

"So what are you going to do now?"
Wendy's question brought me back to reality with a jolt. She has a habit of doing this to me.
"Oh well I've put my name down in two shops. You know just in case they need me." I started, trying to sound hopeful. And enthusiastic. And strategic.
"But you need to write, right?" She chided as I gazed at her bright, focused eyes. "You have to write - now's your chance!" Her enthusiasm was infectious and I laughed with her.
"Yes." I said, knowing that agreeing is easy. "It's my first kid-free time in over ten years. I do need to write."

I grabbed my coffee from her outstretched hand and made my way back to the car. "But write what about? That is the eternal question." I muttered as I started the engine. What is my BIG IDEA?

Years ago I had a boss who was a writer with a published biography to his name.
I was undertaking a Masters of Creative Writing at the time, part-time and excruciatingly slowly. I was also working full-time and supporting my new husband who was a student.
"You can't call yourself a writer, if you don't write." My boss used to helpfully chant to me, as I buried myself in the endless editorial administrative tasks that filled up my every working day in his office.
"I'm not calling myself a writer!"I used to mutter back, feeling irritated and stressed and frustrated. "How can I when I'm here, doing this?"

So now, many years on, I find myself in the enviable position that once I could only dream of:: Two days a week to devote to clear-headed, fast-flowing, imaginative and creative writing.
For the first time in over ten years I have two child-free days to hopefully clear a space. To actually concentrate on doing what I have already been doing or trying to do, my whole life. Cramming words in and around the small spaces eked out of the gaps in the every day. But this opportunity churns my gut and is waking me up in the night as my mind spins crazily in out-of-control circles. I feel nervous and unsure but I can feel determination too. I know that I have to pick up my pen and begin. And occasionally, I feel a small flicker of light. A tiny zap of excitement, of happiness, even, at what lays before me. A chance. To write.

I may not have my BIG IDEA - but I have a few small ones, to get me started.

I know if I don't give it a shot, I'll be angry with myself. Probably forever.
Who knows how it will go?
I'll keep you posted.
Some times.


Wednesday, 5 February 2014

You can NEVER have too many platters!

School has been back less than a week and Arch (trusty 3 year old companion) and I are only just getting back into our op shopping ways. It's been a while - what with the 8.5 weeks of summer holidays we've survived. Oh yes we made it to a few op shops here and there, with all four kidlets in attendance (and with varying levels of enthusiasm). But we've not been to many of our regular haunts, where it's just Arch and I soaking up the ambiance and sifting through the junk…
The first trip back I felt like standing at the door and hollering "Hi everyone! You miss us?"
No I guess not.

Anyway, we're in the middle of high-speed toilet training with the start of preschool only a week away. (Cue manic laughing..yes, it's another Bertha Rochester parenting moment for me..) Annoyingly, endless perusing of discarded toys, mountains of used clothing and the occasional vintage treasure is not entirely conducive to mad and frequent dashes to the bathroom. Especially when so many of these places DO NOT I repeat NOT offer amenities as a customer option. What's with that?
Note to self,  op shop owners - if you offered people a toilet option, people may stay a lot longer…

Anyway, we're slowly getting our mojo back. And even have a few favourite finds to boast about show you.
Best thing so far has definitely been this lovely blue and white Churchill platter. For $10!!
Because as my family chanted in sing-song unison, after they noticed it proudly displayed on the dresser, "You can NEVER HAVE TOO MANY PLATTERS!!!"
Which may have been followed by some superfluous sounding question, such as, "Don't we already have one like that?" I'll bet no one ever asked Martha Stewart that!

My platter:

Martha Stewart's platters:
Click here if you want to see Martha hang about 50 blue platters up on her wall.

I also stumbled across this great link to a blog detailing 39 (yes, that's almost 40 ways folks!) to decorate with plates. Who doesn't LOVE decorating with plates?!!

Check it out just for the pictures - they are swoon worthy in the extreme.

And speaking of plates, another great op shop find was this Thomas the Tank Engine Wedgwood plate for $10 - perfect for the Thomas-obsessed Archie. A perfect addition to his bookshelf.

And finally, a great selection of kid's books including the large format CS Lewis title "The Magician's Nephew" and an American Girl novel which had Eleanore jumping for joy.

On the way home Arch and I came across a new little shop opened by a lovely lady who is following her dreams. An art teacher who has taken the plunge of leaving her career and opened a home wares shop full of gorgeous and quirky bits and pieces. Much of it handmade and ethically sourced by Australian artisans. Apple core Living, full of lovely things, is like a little piece of Melbourne or Newtown in North Parramatta!

I'm definitely going back for the byrne&love candles (perfect Valentine's gift), Zoe Carides jewellery (even more perfect Valentine's gift) and hand painted china.

Just got to work out how to casually mention the need for Jonathan to stop by here… if you're reading JD?