Friday, June 27, 2008

Ring Ring

Hi, you've reached Stomper Girl. I'm not available to take your call as I will be going out of town on Saturday. If the matter is urgent you can find me in a charming B&B in Daylesford with my girlfriends Jen and Astrid, where we'll be chatting, laughing, knitting, whingeing about our kids and husbands, eating slow-cooked lamb shanks followed by home-made sticky date pudding for our dinner, and drinking champagne. On Sunday we may be harder to find but you can try us at one of the local cafes (look for a coffee and a plate of bacon & eggs) or at the Hepburn Spa centre where we will either be face-down on a massage bed or immersed in mineral H2O. Failing that, we may be wandering idly around the township. I should be back late Sunday. In the meantime you can leave a message with the stay-at-homes, Mister Fixit and the kids.

Have a great weekend, I know I will.


Thursday, June 26, 2008


For many years I had a bright red winter coat. A knee-length swing coat, kinda posh. People loved it. I bought it Before Children, when I had money to spend on myself. I wore that coat nearly every day for 8 winters, because we'd run out of money for spending on anything that wasn't necessary. It meant that I got very sick of that coat. (If you've ever read Rilla of Ingleside, think of how Rilla ended up feeling about her frivolous hat and you'll have an idea how I felt.) Because winter always started with What a fabulous coat! but ended with Couldn't miss you in your red coat!! or suchlike. In the last 3 years I just wanted to scream at anyone who mentioned anything about the sodding red coat. And mention it they did. Here's my advice to coat buyers. A bright coat should only be purchased if you have more than one to choose from. Take it from me. They should tell you that in coat shops.

This winter, purple is very much in fashion. And the tap business is doing quite nicely. So this was the year I retired the red coat (hur-RAH!!!) and bought myself a funky little purple parka from K-mart; for under $50 I might add. It's warm, it's my colour and it's not bright red. I'm a happy coat-wearer once more. Meantime, what with my extra dollars and the profusion of purple everywhere, I can, if I wish, step out every day adorned in my favourite colour. And generally I do wish. If you've got it, flaunt it, I say. Also, given that my handbag, wallet, gloves and coat are all purple these days, even if I don't dress in purple I am still predominantly ... purple. What this currently means for me is that every day someone makes a comment about my purpleness. I'm not exaggerating. E-v-e-r-y day. Not that I really mind, I don't dress the way I do so that I'll fade into the background. It's just that I now understand parents of twins who roll their eyes when they get the inevitable "double trouble" type comment. I wonder if it would happen if I wore brown all the time.

Anyway as if to prove I really do have a problem with my current levels of lavender, look what I bought:

Yep. Purple tap shoes. Unsurprisingly, I have been lusting after these for ages but it was a want-not-a-need. Eventually, however, I realised I wasn't quite happy with my oh-so-comfortable Capezio Oxfords - I used to swear by Capezio tap-shoes but this particular model was just not as good as they used to be. Then the last pair of shoes I bought were the ladyshoes which I needed for doing girly-tap performances. I justified this latest purchase to Fixit (What do you need more tap shoes for? How many pairs do you have now?) by telling him but these ones are PURPLE; furthermore, they were on sale!! (reduced by 20%). This is always a good thing to say, I've found. And in this case it was true, but it was just a happy accident that I rocked up to buy them at sale time.

When I wore them on Tuesday night I was shocked by how heavy they were. They weigh 150grams more than my old shoes, the difference felt enormous. But it didn't seem to make much difference once I got used to them. They're absolutely great. I loved tapping in them. And I think the extra weight in them means less work for me in terms of belting out the sound - very important for teaching because it helps keep the students on the beat. And the purpleness I think just adds to the sound. All right I made that up. But chances are I'll look very colour co-ordinated when I wear them, always a bonus.

So.. umm.. yeah. My name is Stomper Girl and I am a purple-holic.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

In which I am spoiled some more.

It's like my birthday just keeps on going. First Shula announced that she's made me a purple scarf. To date, this wonderful woman has given me her home-made jam & muesli, and now she's offering me her lovely crafting. I only wish I had the skills to reciprocate. Maybe I will start sending slabs of cake in the mail to her as my best offering..

Then my Mum came to stay, bearing Sheridan sheets. See the red Myer bag on the floor near Cherub? That's them. They're white. And luxurious. So we baked her some cupcakes (and arranged them attractively on the new cupcake stand, birthday present from my friend Astrid) to celebrate her forthcoming birthday in July; she'll be back in Sydney on the actual date and might not have someone to whip up cupcakes with hundreds and thousands. Much less help with the candle-blowing. I know this is not a madly flattering photo but I couldn't resist the snippet of Cherub taking a big breath.

Here's a better photo...

More goodness arrived via Australia Post in the form of a brown paper parcel not tied up with string but definitely bearing a favourite thing. From the lovely Jac at Six Impossible Things who realised she could help me with my tea fetish. Anyone for a cuppa? I can even help the Earl Grey drinkers now.

The tea arrived on the same day as the hat I ordered from Stacey at Sheep's Clothing. I love it so much I want it to stay winter so I can wear it every day.

It goes strikingly well with the purple scarf from my friend and knitting supervisor Jenny, another birthday present. Stacey also sent me a knitted flower hair tie and some fund-raising chocolate. Which I've only half-eaten.

I feel simultaneously not worthy and also that I could get very used to this.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Reading Round Up

I love reading to my kids. I am, if I do say so myself, pretty good at it. That University degree in drama eventually did come in useful! I do all the character voices, have a red hot go at the accents (I recently appalled myself with my awful attempt at an American accent but the kids didn't complain) and I love to build the suspense or play the comedy. This has had a lovely flow-on to Climber's own reading style so that he is gratifyingly expressive too - I think from my experience listening to the grade 1s and 2s doing their reading in their flat little monotones that this is slightly unusual. I do sometimes feel bad for Fixit because he has to do the stories three nights each week when I teach tap; Fixit (a) doesn't really enjoy reading aloud, probably because he never reads for pleasure, and (b) did accounting /mechanics as his further education - they don't help you much when you're up to your ears in Harry Potter. And the boys are so tactful about who they prefer to listen to... But true to form Fixit puts his shoulder to the wheel and provided it's not Enid Blyton he doesn't seem to mind it so much any more. In fact, he quite enjoys it when we do Roald Dahl (and who wouldn't?).

Currently, the Climber gets a chapter book and the Cherub has a couple of picture books. Then it occurred to me that Cherub is just about ready for some babyish chapter books, like The Wishing Chair or The Magic Faraway Tree (oh the agony! Climber loved these so much -and you know, the ideas are great - but by the third time we had to read about those little prigs Fanny, Bessie and that horrid bossy Dick, Fixit and I were so irritated that we were having bitch sessions to each other about how much we hated them. True story) . The prospect of having to read two different chapter books each night made me wonder if I should ditch reading aloud to Climber and instead get him a reading light for his bed so that he could take care of his own needs. It seemed like a good idea to promote the reading in bed anyway, so we braved the madness of Ikea-on-a-weekend and bought lamps for both boys; now after they've been read to they snuggle up in their beds and do some more reading under their own steam, which means Cherub looks at pictures and pulls out pop-up flaps and Climber steams through the Captain Underpants books and whatever else I give him until we can get another Captain Underpants from the library. But he didn't want us to stop reading to him, and it suddenly occurred to me that my days of reading aloud to my boys are numbered. And then I looked glumly into my own future and realised how much I will miss it. So although we may have a period where it feels a bit cumbersome, I'm going to keep in mind that there will come a time when my stupid accents and dramatic shrieks and sighs will just embarrass them, and then I'll have to put it all on hold until the grandchildren arrive.

The books we've read to Climber have included a great deal of Roald Dahl and to date, the first 5 Harry Potters. In between I've slipped in some Flat Stanley, some Mrs Pepperpot and Black Beauty. I've also tried him with a couple of books by my favourite children's author, Noel Streatfeild. Maybe one day I'll try her most famous book, Ballet Shoes, with him, just because I loved it so much. I've still got my original copy with my name and "3 Blue" (my grade) inscribed on it...

It might not be a conventional choice for boyish literature, but as we all know, dancing is not just for girls. And the whole 'three adopted sisters making their way in the world' is a cracking good yarn, regardless of the reader's gender. Well. At Climber's age, anyway. But to begin with I thought I'd read one of hers with a more universal, trans-gender appeal, so I tried The Circus Is Coming. Circuses are fun, I reasoned. But actually, it's not one of her better books and most of the characters are not very likeable, so it was only an okay read, not a big hit.

Then last month we read this book:

When The Siren Wailed is the story of a family of 3 kids; Laura (9), Andy (6) and Tim (4) who are evacuated from London just before World War II begins, to the countryside in Dorset. I was blown away by what a great book it was to share with Climber. The idea of kids of Climber's age being sent away from their home and their parents, while the world went to war, is one you might find in a gruesome fairy tale. That it's based on fact made it incredibly gripping. Every chapter we read involved a big history lesson and he was as interested to hear it as I was to explain. It was great. Reading it as a parent, though, had me really gasping at one thing that I didn't even really notice when I read it years ago. Which was that the mother in the story sent her kids away to be cared for by strangers and she stayed in London to work and be near her home & husband (till he sailed with the Navy). She didn't see her children for a year and a half. Her youngest was 4 when the story began. And even though I know that the circumstances, chief of which was the family's abject poverty, made this her only option, I still boggle at it. Imagine having to do it. Imagine.

There's a scene in the book when a German soldier parachutes into a nearby field after his plane is shot down. Poor Climber got so terribly anxious about the fate of the captured pilot that I ended up painting his fate as happy because of the increased chances of survival in a British POW jail. Which is probably true when you think about soldier mortality rates in that conflict. A week later the book was still playing on Climber's mind and after school one day he told me he needed to fly to London to vomit. I said Huh? I'd misheard him of course, he was halfway to London by then, arms spread in his Sopwith Camel (or whatever) to bomb it. And I'm not sure if that's exactly what I wanted him to get out of this book, but I think it means that the story really came alive for him. And by golly, that IS what I want my kids to get from reading.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Slugs and snails and puppy dogs' tails

So I'm as comfortably ensconced on the lounge as that rotten loungesuite allows me to be, when the Cherub climbs onto me and says Mummy can you smell my bottom? And he starts waving his rear-end at me. And I say with alarm and distaste in my voice Why? Have you done a stinky fart? and he says Just smell my bottom and I protest vehemently, I don't want to smell your bottom, but by then he's brought the stinky fart over with him so in effect I have smelt his stinky bottom but he won't get off me until I tell him I've smelt his bottom and then he hops off me with a pleased and slightly guilty smile and tells me I smelled it too.

Monday, June 16, 2008

A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down

I like my cup of tea made a certain way:
  • The tea should be brewed in a bone china teapot.
  • The tea should never be Earl Grey [spit] or variations thereof. Plain Dilmah or English Breakfast are my faves.
  • The tea should be made with tea leaves and absolutely not tea bags [more spitting].
  • The tea should be made using boi-LING not boi-LED water (to pinch a phrase from Nell's Mum Daphne).
  • The tea should be served in a bone china mug -not too big or too small- which must be white inside. Why that makes my tea taste better I don't know but it absolutely makes a difference.
  • First you must put in two teaspoons of sugar, using the right size teaspoon. Then you add the tea. Then you add the milk.
Fixit knows exactly how to do it. My sister and Nell are a little bit scared to make me tea but that's all right, if Fixit can't make it I prefer to do it myself. And please note, this is how I like my tea in my territory where I have control of it. If I have tea at your house I can drink it from plain porcelain, made with a bag and the sugar put in last. Just in case you were scared of having me over now. But I still won't drink that Earl Grey muck.

This extreme high-maintenance around the tea ritual has also spilled over into my sugar bowl. There are two things I really hate where sugar bowls are concerned. One is when you work in an office and all the dirty instant coffee drinkers dip their coffee spoon into the sugar receptacle and leave grains of Nestle 43 Bean contaminating the sugar. So selfish. And coffee flavoured sugar is 'orrible in tea. The other one is more related to my home sugar bowl, and that is people using my perfect exactly right for measuring how much sugar I exactly like in my tea sugar spoon to stir their hot beverage. I provide other NQR sized teaspoons for their stirring needs so leave my sugar spoon in the bloody sugar bowl will ya?? When Nell lived with us she had several black marks against her name for this disgusting habit, but I soon bullied her out of it. It is quite comical to see the guilt in her face when she occasionally relapses. Endearingly she always 'fesses up too.

The advent of children into my life has provided me with a third revolting sugar bowl crime. When the adults are not around to do the breakfast thing, Climber (and now through his excellent example-setting, Cherub) have taken to liberally sugaring their cereal and then taking a nice big lick / mouthful of sugar before returning the spoon to the bowl. Honestly. Kids think we adults are stupid or something. Check out the evidence they leave, as IF I'm not going to notice THAT:

(I will just add here that this is Verboten when I'm around, I'm tough about any excess sugar and Weetbix is the only cereal they are permitted to minutely sweeten. However as I am not always around or fully functional for the morning shift, I cannot say with any surety that my edicts wishes are obeyed.)

At first I was just blaming Climber for the icky spoon, but Cherub has obviously joined the sugar-licking party and the reason we know this is a conversation he had with Fixit yesterday, when a second breakfast of Weetbixes was being organised (Cherub had 3, Climber had 5; I swear we keep Sanitarium in business). It went like this.

Cherub : (helpfully) Daddy you can go outside.
Fixit : (matter of fact) Yes.
Cherub : (coaxingly) Daddy, you can go outside if you want to.
Fixit : (getting suspicious) Yes. To do what?
Cherub : (helpfully) You can go and hang the washing up or hang the washing down.
Fixit : (also helpful) Do you want to do something you don't want me to know about?
Cherub : (matter of fact) Yes.
Fixit : (coaxingly) Does it involve something to do with sugar?
Cherub : (matter of fact) Yes.
Fixit : (matter of fact) Okay.

Subtlety, thy name is not Cherub.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

So what does your husband actually do?

On a cold, wet, windy Friday morning, five bloggers braved the elements to meet each other.

There were sacrifices made to enable this blogmeet. I personally drove all the way from Melbourne's north to the southern bayside suburbs. Fortunately without too much whinging from the back-seat Cherub. Blue Mountains Mary came even further; that intrepid soul had to abandon her children and fly a thousand miles to make it. Boy were her wings tired. As for Fairlie, she was right in the middle of the Great Wardrobe Decimation, and you know how annoying it is to walk away from that sort of job. Poor House & Baby not only bared her breasts in public, she also had to find a makeshift bed for her infant son. Luckily she found a great one right on Blue Mountains Mary's chest but she couldn't have known that beforehand. Sheep's Clothing made possibly the greatest sacrifice, choosing NOT to play her weekly tennis game in the driving wind and rain so that she could sit inside a cafe and converse with the rest of us. The poor girl was forced to lie to her tennis team about why she couldn't make this week's game. Something about an unspecified "accident".

As for the junior blogmeet contingent, they handled themselves supremely well. The wee baby snuggled, smiled and charmed whilst the boisterous 4-year-olds played, shared, chatted, and ate. We think they were oblivious to the nasty shooshing they got from another cafe occupant (we suspect the cafe owner, and Stacey dubbed him Mister Shhh-y). They even shouldered photographic responsibilities. And had quite the chat about eye colour with each other - I think Master C may have been reading his mummy's blog?

A great time was had by all. A wonderful group of girls, good company, lots of laughs. The first time I had a blogmeet I was insanely nervous. Now I'm a veteran blog-meeter with no nerves to speak of. If I like the blog then I know I'll like the author. And I do and I did.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

The posh dinner

The posh dinner on Friday night was funded by our trifecta winnings. I have kept a small roll of $50 notes bundled in a secret compartment of my wallet since November because I wanted to do something nice with it. And although I have had to dip it into several times during cash-flow crises, I always replenished it with the view to treating ourselves one day.

The posh dinner was organised to celebrate our anniversary. Originally I thought it was our 15th anniversary, which seemed to call for a special celebration; you know, made it through the 14-year-itch and all. But then I counted it up properly, using my fingers, and realised it's actually our fourteenth year of togetherness. But by that stage I was really quite looking forward to a night out with my man, and why is 14 less worthy of celebration than 15? Just because you can't divide it by 5? So the booking was made and maybe we can look at it as an ounce of prevention for any nasty scratchy sessions in the year to come.

The posh dinner was made possible by Nell coming over to babysit for us, and she was rewarded by having Cherub follow her everywhere for the next day and a half, including to the bathroom, and the offer of birthday cake.

The posh dinner was sensational. We went to Matteo's. It was really good. I had a prawn tortelone with seared scallops on the side in a carrot sauce for entrée and a goats cheese tart with baby beetroot and a parsnip mash with a shallot sauce for mains, and then I made Fixit order the dessert I wanted because I was so full but I really needed a taste of the blood orange sorbet.

The posh dinner nearly didn't happen because when I suggested it to the stressed up Fixit, he was in a very negative state of mind (due to the new job) and straightaway looked for All the Bad Things about A Posh Night Out. But when the worst things he could come up with was the prospect of slightly alarming or complicated cutlery, we found our sense of humour and laughed him out of his concerns. And he discovered that a posh night out can be lots of fun. And not a fish fork or a splade in sight. Phew.

I forgot to bring Fixit's anniversary present along to the posh dinner but I gave it to him when we got home: some mini Moo cards of our best achievement as a couple, the Climber and the Cherub.

During the posh dinner some women at another table cackled raucously at something. Fixit said romantically And I thought your laugh was bad. I said my laugh's not bad! and he said Mmm. S'pose. It just kind of explodes out of you. Like a sneeze.

Romance. Alive and well. Happy anniversary Mister Fixit. x.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Birthday Girl

There has been Stomper-spoiling going on this week for my birthday. And instead of just trusting to others to spoil me I've taken a hand myself. So I've booked the posh restaurant for me and Fixit tonight, I've booked the tickets for Sex and the City tomorrow evening for me and the girls, to be followed by dinner out. I showed Fixit how to buy some Mad About You dvds on Amazon and I commissioned a bracelet, featuring some little tap-shoes as a centre-piece and as much purple as possible. Then I put my trust in the lovely Angela at Boutique Beads and this is what she made:

I didn't see it till this morning, Fixit was in a panic about what to get me so I said I had this bracelet being made and he could get it for me once Angela rang to tell me it was ready. Then I went in on Thursday because she hadn't rung me and I thought Fixit might be cutting it fine, only to find that he'd been in there twice already to sort it all out. I was so astonished and impressed that I blushed. As you do.

My Mum sent me a Bill Granger cookbook (and I whipped up a most delicious meal from that last night), and a shirt which you would think would have been lovely on me because it was the most divine shade of peacocky green and made of silk, but this is what it looked like on:

And I think you'll agree that that blouse and I have nothing to say to one another. Thus, I spent a large chunk of yesterday trudging round the David Jones Women's Wear section looking for a suitable exchange. Which was very difficult and I had no joy in all the sale items, so eventually I bought a full-price Alannah Hill skirt, my very first. Apparently pleats near my face are no good but pleats near my legs are acceptable. Anyway, then I was all excited about having a really cute skirt to wear for the posh dinner tonight but unsure if I had anything nice to wear with it, so today 2 good friends minded the boys and I went to the Alannah Hill factory outlet in Brunswick Street and Oh My God, WHY have I never been to that shop before?!?! It is FULL of stuff I like, in my size, on special. Talk about walking out with a smile on my face.

I have to go swimming with the boys now, so I'll report back on romantic dinner and girls night out later.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Running Commentary

This morning Climber spied a small soccer ball from his marble set on the ground. As is the wont of young boys, he began to kick it along accompanied by his own commentary. Don't you love it when you see kids doing that? Especially when they get really excited at their own amazing sporting prowess; yes he's taken a screamer oh it's unbelievable the crowd have gone wild etc. Climber's commentary ran along these lines, but also included a challenge to his younger brother who was standing watching: Oh and Climber's got the ball he's going to kick it past Cherub, is Cherub going to get it? NO! He just stands there and Climber kicks it on, he's going to score... YES!! It's a goal! Satisfied, Climber lost interest and wandered off.

So then, monkey-see-monkey-do, Cherub ran out to try his hand ..err, foot..and I heard the following 3 lines of commentary, in his best solemn commentator's voice:
Oh and I've got the ball.
Oh and now, I've got the ball.
And now, the soccer ball is losed.

Maybe the cat can find it for us later.