Tuesday, December 1, 2015



Quick hair update, another hour of work by the hairdresser (actually three clustered around her at one point!) and Jasmine's hair is smooth and knot-free, and shoulder length. And properly washed. So everyone concerned is very happy. And that salon has won a family of customers for as long as we live here. I'll have to put a nice review on their website, they took so much care.

What did I do today? Not a lot. It was another scorcher. We had a big stack of advertising catalogues put in our mailbox and I went through them looking for Christmas present ideas. We have barely thought about Christmas yet, so busy with moving. But it's time to get on with that! Need ideas for everyone including myself, and keep a few ideas in reserve because Tim's dad will ring on Christmas Eve from the shops to ask what we all want! Things for the house are high on the list for me this year, and I always appreciate books and CDs. The kids are always easy, but thinking of something for Tim will be the hardest.

I am also hosting lunch for Tim's side of the family, and taking dessert to my grandad's for dinner (it will be so strange and sad for everyone without my mum or Aunty Bev there for the first time - and Aunty Bev usually did most of the cooking work). I have started going through cookbooks and magazines for ideas. I will be cooking a turkey at lunch, and everyone contributes, but I'd love to find some new things to make. I do usually make gingerbread reindeer. And we have a tradition stolen from the cooking show Masterchef where a key ingredient is nominated and everyone makes a dish using that, and then we vote for the best. Some years that has meant a lot of similar things which hasn't worked well, and last year most people didn't bother. But it seems to be up and running again with the ingredient of lime which is very versatile and can be used for savoury or sweet dishes or even drinks. I think the very first year was the best when we used lemon. Actually the tradition started the year before that when we didn't co-ordinate dessert very well and had about five trifles. For those not of English backgrounds, trifle is a dessert made of layers of cake soaked in alcohol, cream, jelly (jello) and fruit. I don't like it much, so that wasn't a good year for me! Tim's mother was English, and his whole family loves trifle. Anyway, I need to start thinking about a lime showstopper!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

More about hair


Ironically, I slept really poorly in my own bed at home. Partly because I was too hot even with no covers, partly because Tim was snoring a bit, but mostly because I was worried about Jasmine's hair. If you're not, and never have been, an almost-teenage girl this will probably seem silly. But she really didn't want to have it cut, especially not a dramatically short pixie cut. And after hours of trying to detangle it every afternoon and evening last week, I had made little progress on the big matted clump of hair. It had seemed hopeful at first as I combed out the knots around the main tangle, but once I got to that fist-sized lump of felt the progress stopped. I was literally easing out one hair at a time, and often those snapped leaving a damaged frizz that probably wasn't salvageable anyway. Did you know you have approximately 90,000 hairs in your head (100,000 follicles, not all in use at one time)? I calculated it would take me nearly three years at that rate, and that was assuming it wasn't re-tangling each day. Which I think it was.

I lay awake from before 4am worrying and deciding what to do, and then felt sick all day like I was betraying my daughter by making a hairdresser appointment. I didn't tell her until after school because I didn't want to spoil her whole day. Or was it wrong to not give her much time to prepare mentally? We had already discussed the possibility, but hadn't got to the point of that decision. And guess how I dealt with the stress. The same as I always do, with food. I really don't have a handle on this emotional eating business.

Having a dramatic haircut isn't a big deal, I know, I've had them. But it's a big deal to her.

I read recently that when a toddler screams over nothing much as if it's the worst thing that's ever happened to them, it probably IS! Having a toy they want taken away is literally the worst thing that has happened in their short loved lives. I guess I can be grateful that having a short hair cut is one of the worst things that has ever happened to my daughter. Very grateful.

So she was very sad about having to go and probably get her head practically shaved at the back, but we went, and the lovely hairdresser spent an hour working on it (sometimes with a helper) and has asked us to come back for another hour tomorrow, the result of which is that Jasmine will end up with shoulder-length hair instead of (what I expected) a short pixie cut. She cut into the knot a lot so the hair is thinner, and cut off half the length as it was so damaged. But we're both very happy with that. Jasmine is very willing to go through another hour of having her hair pulled if that is the end result. Yay! Sorry for such a long post about my daughter's hair.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Kangaroo Valley


If you don't want to hear about how much I hate camping, turn away from the screen now...

The place chosen was a bit over two hours drive away, and while I can think of a million things I'd rather be doing on Saturday morning it was quite a scenic route. Part of it by the coast, then inland over a mountain range on a very steep winding road. Coming down the other side, the valley looked very green and pretty. The camp site was on the outskirts of a picturesque town, tiny but with only one road going through the area it was actually quite busy with traffic. We picked up a couple of hot chickens to have for lunch and went to the campground and to the cabin I was staying in.

The cabin was rather small and shabby and backing on to the road, but about what I would expect, and I was very grateful to have it. It had a queen bed and three bunks but I was the only one staying in it, everyone else was keen to sleep in the tents (we borrowed one from my father-in-law, Nick's family had one of their own). It was very handy to have the little fridge and the kettle in the cabin.

It had been cold and rainy in Sydney but Kangaroo Valley was hot. Nick suggested we sit outside the cabin at the bench there to eat our lunch but that was in full sun and also with a row of cabins on each side. If I'd come all this way I wanted a nice view with my lunch! So we walked down to the BBQ area and sat under cover. With a view of an weedy disused tennis court and the place where caravans siphon off their toilet tanks. I was really wondering where the pretty bit was, but decided not to make any more fuss at this point and just eat my chicken and salad.

Oh my godfather, the flies. Flies are part of life in summer in Australia, but this was beyond anything any of us had ever seen before. As soon as the meat came out, the flies were all over us and everything else. I really cannot stress enough how many flies there were, and how persistent. We spent the time trying to swish the flies away with one hand and eat with the other. I had about two bites of chicken, I was too repulsed to eat anything else. New diet regime?

I was feeling rather discouraged and really wanted to see the appealing part of this experience. We walked further down to where we were going to set up camp. It was a smoothly mown stretch around a murky pond smaller than an Olympic swimming pool; next to paddocks with a horse, a pony, three goats and some alpacas. Ah, the smell of the farm. I like animals, but it was possibly one reason there were so many flies. The best thing was the mountains rising up in the distance, and a few nice trees around the pond. Nothing about the place made me think it worth the drive. I could have found a paddock much nearer home.

You can't see in the above picture, but there were lots of tents and cars all over, including a big convention of 4WD enthusiasts who were there with their families. We ended up next to a young couple who played music from their car CD player all evening, which ended up ok as I liked the music, but it wasn't exactly the serenity of nature!

So, time to set up the tents! None of us had much experience at this, everyone including me had been camping a few times before but not on a regular basis. But we muddled through and got the two tents up and they looked pretty good. Our borrowed one was big enough for me to stand up in. Then we put together the iron fire pit as you're not allowed free range campfires. It was brand new, in pieces in a box, and took a little while to set up. I was pushing for a walk (still searching for the good bits!) and it was decided the kids would use their scooters. We had brought ours, and a new three-wheel one had been bought for little Emma. It came in parts in a box, and needed to be put together. That took a bit longer. We'd now been at the campsite for four hours.

We got in the cars and drove into town and the kids rode along the sidewalk past the rustic shops and cafes. (Emma being pushed and supported along as she had no idea how to ride a scooter.) Finally we got to the other side of town and walked down a little track to look at the river. Not too bad. Then we walked back again, stopping to have a snack at a café. Looking at the river and eating half a lemon-meringue tart were the highlights for me so far. Not much competition there! Drove back to the campsite.

We decided to have dinner quite early as we were grilling meat we'd brought and there were only two barbeques for a lot of people. We got one going without problems, set up at a table, the menfolk cooked, Emma had her usual screaming tantrum about having to stop whatever she was doing, we sat down to eat. Did you forget the flies? I didn't, they'd been bugging me (ha ha) all day. But their constant presence was nothing compared to the all-out assault they launched when they smelled dinner.

Of course I was covered in insect repellent, and I also had a new-fangled personal protection device strapped to my belt that fanned out a constant supply, but they seemed to have no effect. Actually I wasn't bothered by mosquitoes at any time, so maybe they just didn't work on flies. We covered all the food with paper towel and tried to sneak morsels to our mouths. I ate a bit more than lunchtime but gave up pretty quickly. I went and sat further away from the food and only had to deal with a tenth the flies.

We played half a round of putt putt golf (mini golf) but then had to hand the equipment back before they closed. Still, that was quite fun. Then we went back to the tents and lit the fire and everyone else had marshmallows while I ate crackers and camembert cheese. Nick tried cheese on a stick over the fire, but it just tasted like smoke. The best thing was that all the smoke drove away the flies! For the first time since we got there I could sit in peace.
Everyone seemed to agree that sitting around the fire was the nicest part of the day. I went to bed in my cabin about 9pm and slept really well. I think the others were less comfortable, but they got the genuine camping experience they were after so I assume that was ok.
The morning was so frustrating. For starters, the flies were out in full force even without the smell of cooked meat. They were driving me crazy. We were going to a café in town for breakfast but we took down the tents first. Tim and I were packed and ready quickly, but it must have been an hour after that before Nick and Ping were ready, even with Tim's help taking down their little tent and the fire pit. We were starving. I actually sat in the car and ate some Burger Rings, eventually. We finally got to the café and were served breakfast at 10am. I'd been awake for more than four hours by that stage.
Nick was keen to stay - and in fact they did, and went fishing - but we'd had enough and drove home. So glad to be home!
I do have some understanding of why people would travel long distances and endure discomforts to see something exceptional - great natural beauty or wildlife or something like that - but I have no comprehension of the benefits of going through all that (ok, we didn't travel that far) to camp in a paddock. Where we still had to drive to actually go anywhere. It is beyond me. I'm happy that the kids had a great time somehow, but next time they can leave me at home.

Thursday, November 26, 2015



Another creature has been added to the "this woman gives out free food" menagerie, or was probably hanging around all along and I just didn't see him. Boris is a lizard longer than my arm. Maybe from the water dragon family. There is a little creek just across the road and I've seen a couple around there. He keeps to the edges, probably trying to avoid kookaburras, but didn't seem particularly afraid of me. I didn't go too close.

The baby magpie annoyed me this morning. Turned up alone after all the food was gone, sat on my outdoor table and demanded attention very loudly and persistently, and poohed all over the table. Not that much different to a human baby I guess! Interesting to see it here without its parents after only a couple of supervised visits.

Really sleepy today with a dopey head and heavy eyelids. Just the heat I think. Another scorcher. I felt much better after the cool change came through in the evening. Weather is up and down, up and down. The forecast for Kangaroo Valley on the weekend is cool on Saturday, warm and rainy on Sunday. I'm trying not to think of it as camping and feeling more positive about it. Yes I'll have to endure some outdoor activities and an evening BBQ with the mosquitoes, but I get to sleep in a cabin with a real bed and bathroom, it is a pretty location, and there are cafes and a picturesque little town nearby if it does rain on the Sunday. I won't exactly be roughing it! The kids are very excited but Tim is exhausted with new job and long commutes and would really rather stay home (it was all his brother's idea in the first place). My complaining probably isn't helping his mood.

The pool guy came and it would be pretty expensive. We are still thinking about it. And it wouldn't be finished until mid-February, which is the end of summer! I think the kids would love a pool so much.

I haven't met any neighbours yet. I thought it would happen naturally if we were in our front yards at the same time, getting the mail or something, but that hasn't happened. The side and back fences are all high solid colourbond. I'm not really comfortable going and knocking on front doors. We've been out a lot on the weekends, or else buried inside unpacking. Lots of people have children the right ages to play with mine, but there are lots of schools around here so they go to different ones. I might have to be more pro-active about meeting people.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

American cheese


I was out and about today, and at lunchtime I found myself with a choice between KFC or an American-style burger place. I went with the burger place but ordered nachos, and specified no sour cream (not for any virtuous reason, I just don't like it). When it came out it had pale orange stuff squeezed all over it and I wasn't sure what it was at first. Had they given me sour cream after all, and it had orange mould in it which had changed the colour and made it go runny, and someone had scraped it into a squeeze bottle and forgotten to throw it away? No, tasted kind of like... nothing much really... maybe mayonnaise with a bit of cheese powder mixed in? OMG it was supposed to be cheese! WTF? Is this really what "American cheese" is like? I'd say it was horrible but it didn't have enough flavour for that. Bland and cold, nothing like the bubbling melted cheese I'm used to. It wasn't the worst nachos I've ever had, but it was certainly the strangest. Melted cheese (real cheese, can't believe I have to specify that) is the best bit of nachos. It was an interesting experience and I don't regret it although I didn't eat much of my lunch, all knowledge is worth having. I guess I tried a new "food" today lol.

When I make nachos I top the meat and corn chips with two kinds of cheese, and jalapenos, and salsa, and chopped tomatoes, capsicum, cucumber and lettuce. Delicious!

It was too hot today for Jasmine to ride her bike to school (Aiden was ok, his school is much closer) so she caught the bus for the first time alone! She's probably been on a bus ten times in her whole life. I walked her to the bus stop and made sure she got on ok. At the end of the day I walked to the bus stop so she could see me and be sure she was getting off at the right stop - but she was already off and walking towards me before I got there. She did great.

My family of visiting birds keeps getting bigger, or else they visited all at different times before so I didn't realise how many. They come and call me at all different times but I'm restricting feeding to morning and evening or it will get too expensive in meat! There is one butcher bird, three kookaburras (one might be a large baby, it's the end of spring here), and three magpies, one of which is definitely a big baby. The two adults will take food from my hand, the baby will sit and screech and wait for mummy to put the food in his mouth. Even if it's right in front of him. I also put out discarded fruit for the parrots but that is out the back rather than the side kitchen window so I don't often see who comes to eat that. Still, finally a use for all of Aiden's half eaten apples and nectarines gone bad in the heat! Fruit doesn't last as long in Sydney's humidity, I might have to start refrigerating some of it. Canberra got hot too, but never humid. We have to put the rubbish out pretty quick here too or it starts to smell.

A man is coming tomorrow to assess our block for a pool, an in-ground one may not be possible within a reasonable budget due to narrow access at the sides and rocky ground to dig up. But we'll see. Like with the dining tables, the pool fashion of the moment seems to be solid clumpy rectangles. We want swoops and curves. I chose this place because it does still have a model like that. Crossed fingers.

Third time lucky


I went to the RTA again today with all my fingers and toes crossed. Third time lucky, I only had to wait about half an hour and then my form and documents were all complete and correct. There was a bit of an issue, for some reason the RTA's computer couldn't find me on the Births Deaths and Marriages computer to confirm my (original) marriage certificate. But after about ten minutes of trying and pen-twirling, the staff called another lady over and then it worked straight away. Doesn't that always happen when you get your supervisor or IT help desk or plumber or whatever looking over your shoulder. I swear it didn't work a moment ago! Anyway, I walked out with a NSW driver licence and that is what I've been trying for the past couple of weeks so I was happy. And the photo was better than the last one, too.

Spent more time after school and in the evening working on Jasmine's hair. I think I am making some progress, but it is slow going. A lot of hair ends up in the comb, but the section of smooth tangle-free hair is slowly growing. Still less than a quarter.

I went for a short walk this morning, my first morning walk since last Tuesday. Which means I got bin day again! Walking past all those lovely fragrant garbage bins. Oh well. If I do it more regularly, it won't always be bin day.

Monday, November 23, 2015

The great hair disaster

re Monday:

Jasmine has been brushing her own hair for a few years now (she's nearly 12), it is very long but she loves her hair and seemed to take good care of it. She has it in a ponytail or a plait all the time nowadays, she used to always wear it loose. The last couple of months I'd noticed it seemed messier than usual and I'd tell her to go and brush it, but was too distracted by moving house to pay much attention. Only in the last couple of days did I realise it was very tangled indeed, and she'd been actively hiding the fact from me (she is a physical coward and avoids anything that might hurt, like me brushing knots out of her hair). Last night I held her still and investigated. It was so much worse than I had imagined. The whole back of her head is a matted lump almost like felt. It's not obvious because there is a comb-over of smooth hair over the top, but as soon as you touch it you can feel this ball of tightly tangled hair. She blames her new brush - which was supposed to be "de-tangling"! I guess she'd just been avoiding the problem hoping it would go away as it got worse and worse. And I felt like the worst mother in the universe to not pick up on it before now.

I was scared at first that it was unsalvageable, that she would literally have to get the back of her head shaved and just have short hair around her face until it grew back. This would devastate her, she loves her long hair. But we sat and watched Biggest Loser and I spent an hour gently working on it with a variety of brushes and combs, and some olive oil to help it slip. I tried to remain upbeat and positive with her, and it did gradually untangle at the edges. In that hour I would say I fixed way less than a quarter of the felting. But at least it's a start. An hour every night for a week might get us there without her losing all her hair - only the hundreds of strands coming out on the brush.

I feel so horribly horribly guilty that I didn't notice.

I think it is very typical of her to ignore problems, avoid pain or discomfort, hope any source of trouble will just go away without her mentioning it or taking any action, go along with whatever is easiest. A bit worrying for her upcoming teenage years.