Sunday, November 27, 2016

Secret Santa


I'm feeling a bit disheartened by Christmas today. Every year we buy presents for close family, but also have a "Secret Santa" where we draw names and buy one present for a not-as-close family member. When I say "draw names", I am organising it this year like most years and I make sure it works out so people aren't Secret Santa for someone they would buy for anyway. We used to all buy presents for everyone, but as everyone got married and started having children the group got too big so we switched to this. People give two or three suggestions of things they would like. This year every person who has offered suggestions has asked for a gift card from somewhere.

Maybe that seems fine to you, and if that is what people want why shouldn't they get it?, but to me it seems we've gone from careful loving thoughtful gift buying each year to essentially just giving each other money. Might as well pass some cash around the table then back into the original wallet because that is what it ends up working out to. And no present to unwrap, just a little card in an envelope. Thank goodness the children still get real presents from everyone.

So how should it be done if I ruled the world? Well for example my suggestion for myself was a mortal and pestle or earrings. Two things I genuinely want, but gives the buyer a lot of scope to choose something themselves. I can look at a gift of earrings and appreciate that they took the time to choose them especially for me. How different to me walking into a big department store and taking two seconds to grab a gift card from next to the cash register, which is what I'll be doing. Having been given a suggestion, you kind of feel you have to get what they ask for. But it makes me a little sad.

It has been suggested that next year we only buy for the children and not adults in the extended family. Might as well.

I've been hosing down the pool every day while the concrete cures. Tim and I did a bit of gardening and clearing up yesterday but really we can't do much until the pool is finished. There are lumps of dried concrete sitting on our front lawn waiting until we get a skip bin at the end of the build, and the backyard is a mess.

My sister-in-law Ping is due to have her baby in a about a week. So that is exciting. Her father is funny, he has two daughters and they both have girl children so my son Aiden is the only boy in the family (his grand-nephew-in-law? not a very close relationship!) and he makes such a fuss of him! Aiden is a bit uncomfortable I think although always very polite. We know Ping is having another girl.

My weight was up 0.4 kg this week to 79.9 kg. Very wobbly two weeks.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Manageable chunks


Yet another pool day. The tree-stump-grinder-guy came, ground up the big stump into sawdust and chopped up the roots into manageable chunks, and told me how he used to work for pool companies and there are no happy pool customers ever. So cheering. Well he was the biggest rip-off so far in terms of money for time spent, but I couldn't find anyone else who would do it at all. At least it's done now.

I swept the worst of the sawdust out of the pool (first time I'd been right down in the pool hole so that was kind of fun) then hosed down all the concrete which took a while. I have to do that every day for a week. Then in two hot sweaty sessions I moved all the "manageable" chunks of tree root out of the way. Actually they were a pretty good size and weight really, nothing I couldn't lift. There will be a big waste skip at the end of the pool build, hopefully that stack will fit in along with the big chunks of leftover concrete now decorating our front lawn and various other things. I certainly got in my exercise for the day. Hot and tired.

Then I waited around for the temporary fencing, it was two hours late so I could have gone out after all. The fence guy expressed surprise that we were only getting it now instead of as soon as the hole was dug a couple of weeks ago. I don't know if that was my fault or the site manager's, but he only just told me to get it two days ago. Aside from safety reasons, it's good to have the fencing there because it gives us a better idea of what the whole backyard will eventually look like and how much space we have for plants and seating etc.

Aiden dropped a full new bottle of lemon cordial on the tiled kitchen floor. Smashed everywhere of course. Sticky AND sharp! Took me ages to pick up all the shards then mop and pick up more shards and mop some more.

I plan to start Christmas shopping next week, assuming I don't need to hang around the house for more pool things. I've got a good idea for Tim, so that only leaves my kids, I think six adults, and everyone else's kids (11 children from about 4yrs old and under, I might just wrap a lot of things and hand them out randomly! No, not really, I love buying presents. And wrapping them. Does anyone else love wrapping presents? I should get a seasonal job at a department store doing the gift wrapping for customers.) If the pool was going to be ready I would have bought my kids lots of pool ponies and water games and stuff, but I won't now. Aiden just had a birthday so he's already got everything!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016



This morning they concreted the pool, arriving around 6:30am and leaving by 10:00am.

It takes three weeks for the concrete to cure, and for the first week I need to hose it down every day. There's a couple of things happening tomorrow, but apart from that I think no tradesmen here for those three weeks.

I ate terribly today, but at least I went for a walk while the kids were at acrogym...

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Skinky, son of skinky


We have a new little lizard houseguest. Skinky I (the first) ended up in the ensuite bathroom before he disappeared some months ago (I like to believe he moved outside to enjoy the nice spring weather and find a mate), Skinky II was first spotted in the back hall so probably came in via the laundry door, he now seems to live in the kitchen. I do worry about stepping on him, he sometimes sits right in the middle of the floor. If I'm cooking and moving around there a lot he retreats to the wall. When I can't see him I assume he's under the fridge. He is so little and cute and unafraid. Not the same lizard as I'm sure he's smaller than the original became, but maybe he is the son of Skinky I.

The pool dramas go on. I've decided if you want a pool it's better to find a house that already has one and move! Today I've had the pool plumber to do some pre-plumbing, discovered he didn't know we want spa jets at the step/seat bit, organised for the site manager to bring those round today, soothed plumber whose schedule for the day is now messed up, organised a new tree company to come and look at the big twisted rooty stump remaining in our backyard - it came out of the pool hole - that no one seems to want to deal with, recovered from the price he quoted, got him to reduce it a bit but still horrendous. Got a list from the site manager of all the things I still need to do. Also the guy who did the steel cables last week came back to add a few more where the water feature will be.

Everything is covered in dust from the backyard, especially as Aiden likes to play out there in the dirt. He never went out there when it was covered in trees and shrubs. Yesterday he was smashing rocks with other rocks and breaking them to smithereens. Anyone read the Ramona books?

It's very hot for the third day in a row. Still only spring! The plumber pointed out that the plastic things holding the steel cables in place are melting. They've gone all wonky. I've spent a bit of time outside and I feel a bit hot and headachy. I don't know how the tradesmen do it. The plumber was there for hours in the heat. I did take him one cool drink.

I'm feeling a bit stressed and when I am stressed I eat. At least I can't go out and buy junk while I'm expecting various tradesmen at any time! I'm restricted to whatever is currently in the house. Cheese and crackers and cashews, while not unhealthy in themselves, add up to a lot of calories.

Oh and a couple of days ago I went back to a little bit (half a sachet so 1.5 grams) of sugar in my tea. So much nicer! I still didn't like unsweetened at all, after nearly six weeks to give my taste buds time to change. I still plan to buy a Stevia plant and give that a go, but for now I'll keep my tiny bit of sugar.

....oh yeah, cool change and a sprinkle of rain. I went and stood outside in it for a little while.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Drowning in pool organisation


I seem to have a constant stream of tradesmen here for the pool (three different ones today for various things, including an inspector from the council to look at the framework), the idea that we ever could have had it done by Christmas is ludicrous! We'll be lucky to have it by the end of summer at this rate. Well, end of January I'm hoping, but they take a break from 22 Dec until 16 Jan so who knows. Excellent marketing, Mirage pools, promise everything but no guarantees! They need to give their salesman a raise.

I missed my book club again this month. The pool site manager seems to like coming to talk to me at lunchtime on a Tuesday, and turns up just enough late that I run out of time. Most of the time of course the tradesmen don't need me here at all, but sometimes they do need to ask me questions so I only go out when I have to and then do my errands as quickly as possible, just in case. I'm probably a bit over-diligent about it, after all they must have lots of jobs where all the family is out all day. They'd just call them or meet up on the weekends I suppose. Today I had to sign things.

I still need to organise fences and paving and coping (edging)...

Sorry to go on about the pool build so much. It has kind of taken over my life.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

50 pages


Most exciting news first... the literary agent I sent my synopsis to last week has asked to see the first 50 pages! So a) she is looking for that specific kind of fiction b) she thought my story sounded interesting and c) she found my writing style acceptable. Yay! I sent the first 50 pages to her this afternoon, it will probably be several weeks before I hear from her again. And Christmas might make that even longer... arg the stress!

What else happened. On Saturday Jasmine went to a pool party and got quite sunburned, as she often does, despite sunscreen. We will definitely need some kind of shade-cloth to protect part of our pool area. The pool guy hadn't finished on Friday, maybe he went home a bit early because it was so hot. He was back again all day Saturday to finish, and has now taken all his tools away. The pool now has these plastic bits holding the steel cables in place ready for the concrete pour.
We spent the whole day Sunday watching dance performances. Jasmine and my niece Emma both go to the same dance school; Emma's concert was in the morning - leaning towards the little kids (Emma is three) but also with some older groups; Jasmine's was in the afternoon. Jas and Emma both performed well. The whole day was very professionally organised, most of the dancing was polished and the changeovers between dance acts swift. Very enjoyable day. The littlest kids were funny, in every group there was at least one little girl who just stood staring wide-eyed at the audience and didn't dance or move. One boy cried and was taken off, one girl started screaming the moment the lights came on stage. She sat there and screamed and screamed until she was carried away. The little kids had their teachers with them on stage dancing with them. Emma kicked off a shoe while dancing but calmly sat and put it back on then continued dancing. Jasmine does tap, modern/contemporary and jazz funk and was great. She is considering resuming ballet next year as well.

The dance school has a 15 year tradition that they get some of the dads of children in the troupe (the professional kids not ones in the "fun" groups) to dance at the end of the concert. It was hilariously entertaining. This year for the first time they danced with their daughters. There was a medley with different dads coming on with their children (only one son that I noticed, the rest girls) and doing disco, hip hop and a really moving sort of waltz. For that they played a song I haven't heard about dancing with Cinderella and daughters growing up, and it finishes with a line about Cinderella kissing you at midnight then she's gone (i.e. all grown up). I got so teary! If Jasmine joins the troupe I can totally see Tim enjoying being part of that dad's dance.

Between the two shows we had lunch and had to hang around because Jasmine had to be there early to get ready (actually we could have gone home for a while but I was enjoying being out). We sat at the little café then lay on the grass in the park next to the theatre, reading and playing with iPads. It was really lovely. I took this photo looking up at the tree I was lying under.

I had to learn to French braid Jasmine's hair because it is the signature style for her dance school. And I glued false eyelashes on her! Here she is with little Emma and aunty Ping after the show. Ping is a couple of weeks away from having baby number two, I think she found the long day very tiring.

Today, aside from the excitement of getting asked for a partial manuscript, I spent the time dealing with tradesmen. Andrew came back and put the posts for our pergola back on (the concrete for the pool is being poured on Thursday but they don't need much room for that as they use a big hose from the truck to the backyard) and an electrician was here for nearly five hours fixing all the lighting problems we've had for months. I should be able to read in the evening again, somewhere other than in the bath! It was the only place with really good light. Craig installed two new lights and fixed five others in various rooms so it was a big job.

Oh and lastly Monday is my weigh-in day, I was up 0.3 kg which I expected after a rather dodgy week, and eating out twice yesterday. Also I've been losing a decent amount every second week then maintaining or a little gain the other weeks. It's fine. If I weighed fortnightly I would only see the downward trend. I just like knowing day by day, and the fluctuations don't bother me.

PS Brandon you haven't posted for a while, are you ok?

Friday, November 18, 2016



I've really been struggling with my diet this week and haven't done so well resisting temptations. I've just been so tired. All week, dopey can-hardly-keep-my-eyes-open tired. Not sure why. Tim has been very tired too - maybe fighting off a virus? Whatever the cause, being super tired makes it so much harder to be "good" in food choices. I've slipped up over and over. Daily weigh-ins tell me I am going to have a gain this week, but that hasn't yet helped me rein in my eating.

There is part of me that says "might as well give up for now, start again after Christmas" but I'm not going to do that. I'll keep fighting every day. Keep trying to get good sleep at night.

After three days I think the steel reinforcements are all in for the pool.
There are still a few tools lying around so maybe not finished. The bulky hairy man (in sweaty navy shorts and "wife beater" singlet) who did this part of the job just got on with it without bothering to speak to me. I don't even know his name. I go out and look at the end of each day, once he's left, to see what he's done. Whatever machinery he uses to cut the metal cables starts early, before Tim and I are out of bed, but he leaves again by three in the afternoon.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Sending my baby into the world


I took a step forward with my novel today, I sent the synopsis to my first choice of literary agent. Now I wait. Agents typically take around 15% of your literary earnings. They are picky about who they take on as clients, they only get paid if you make money. For that commission they try to find you a publisher and negotiate contracts for you. It is not necessary to have an agent, you can try to find a publisher on your own, but I felt that publishers are more likely to look at something that comes through a reputable agent. If I don't manage to get an agent I can then approach publishers myself, but you can't really do it the other way around. If publishers rejected my book first then I'd never be able to interest an agent because they'd have no where left to send it. Third stage, if I can't find an agent or publisher, is to either decide my book is rubbish or self-publish (or both lol) but it is very difficult to market a book yourself and get heard of and in bookstores. Getting picked up by a big name publisher would be much better!

I need to get on with writing book two, which is barely started.

A man was here all day putting wooden boards around the top of the pool. Whatever.

Monday, November 14, 2016



Today I weighed in at 79.2 kg, which is a loss of 1.1 kg this week. Excellent. Especially considering Thursday and Saturday happened. I was very good yesterday despite being surrounded by temptations.

Yesterday morning I took Jasmine shopping for several hours to get some stuff she needed, then in the evening cooked dinner for 14. Big family dinner. Ping's parents are over from China, Ping is due to have her baby in about four weeks. Her parents expect to stay for about a year. Which is lovely, but they stay in Ping's house which is a little hard on Nick. No matter how much you love your parents-in-law, having them live in your house for a whole year is a bit of a strain. Especially as they don't speak a word of English, he doesn't speak Chinese, and come from a different cultural background. They have some different ideas about child-rearing. They stayed before for about nine months when the first baby was born. Both very nice people, but it's still going to be awkward at times.

Baby Lucy was one of the visitors and I got to have lots of cuddles. Four weeks old. So cute.

It was a very big day and I was so tired today. I even crawled in to bed for a while in the afternoon, after I'd done the grocery shopping. I don't have many naps these days, but I needed one.

Today's drama with the pool; the tree removers ground down the stump of the biggest tree and left the rest in the ground, which is what they contracted to do. The excavator ripped it out of the ground and left it to the side, not taken away with the rocks and dirt because it's not "clean fill" (which can be used in other building sites). It's no-one's responsibility. It is huge. I've got to find someone to take it away and dispose of it somehow.
I think I need another nap.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Laser Underground


Aiden had his party today at Laser Underground, one of those places where ten year old boys run around in a dark room shooting laser guns at each other. It was an organised party with food provided but I made the cake. I thought about making it last night but decided I would have plenty of time in the morning. I underestimated how long it takes for a cake to cool so you can put on the frosting! I even put it in the freezer for a while. I had to send Tim and the kids off to the party and wait at home for another 20 mins. Since we'd loaned Nick our second car, I had to walk up carrying the cake. It was about 30C outside and that cake was heavy! By the time I got there (15 min walk) the beautifully frosted chocolate layer cake was a bit slumped... managed to fix it ok when I got there and put it in their fridge, and it was still delicious. I took my own lunch instead of eating the catered pizza and lollies, but did have a slice of cake.

The boys had a great time, including Tim and the uncles who also played. Aiden's friends were ridiculously noisy. I don't think they had a volume below shouting. Give them a laser gun and they turn into screaming barbarians. I didn't do the games, so Jasmine was the only girl in there.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Birthday boy


It is Aiden's tenth birthday today! Happy birthday dearest. He'll always be my baby.

His proper party (or parties; a kids' party and a family dinner) are on the weekend but I had some snacks for when he got home from school. And I indulged. And felt like rubbish afterwards. Eventually I'll learn the lesson.

The excavator and bobcat finished up today, leaving a bit of a mess but also an exciting big hole in the ground.

Next week they reinforce it with steel poles, the week after they pour the concrete. No chance it will be ready by Christmas.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016



It continues. So noisy and distracting. The excavator shatters rock in the backyard while the bobcat drives back and forth, back and forth, ferrying the dirt and rocks to the truck. The narrow path up the side of the house is a disaster area. It used to be the nicest part of the whole yard, what I look out on from my computer and from the kitchen window. The grass was green and lush. But now...

And the front yard looks like this:

Shouldn't complain, I'm excited that it's all happening!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016



I thought the excavation machinery was relatively quiet yesterday... but not today! Yesterday was mainly scooping up dirt, today was breaking up rocks. Very noisy. I certainly wasn't able to do any creative work, but I did get some housework done!

The "pool" actually looks less advanced in a way than yesterday because it is full of pieces of rock. There is also a huge mound of rocks and dirt next to it. The bobcat is starting tomorrow to haul it all away (it works faster than the excavator so they gave the excavator a two day head start) so we should be able to see the progress more clearly after that.

It started raining this evening and is supposed to rain all tomorrow. I hope that doesn't cause problems. Mud might be harder to shift than dirt.

I had my post-op appointment with my gyno today, everything seems good. Apparently the fibroid was very big but they did a biopsy and it wasn't cancerous (they hardly every are). My menstrual cycle seems back to normal after more than a year, and although I had a little discomfort in the days leading up to my period that is gone now. So I don't think I need any extra treatment or a hysterectomy, which is great.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

It begins


Not a great weigh in this morning; 80.3 kg is 0.1 kg UP from last Monday after lots of fluctuations all week. But there are reasons for it, one that was in my control and one that wasn't.

The "out of my control" is that it's a time of the month when I retain water. It happens, it will go again in a few days, I'm not worried. The "in my control" was yesterday's eating! We had a very busy day and breakfast was the only meal at home. In the morning we went to see baby Lucy - so cute! She was very small when born (no one seems to know why, she was full term) but is growing rapidly and at three weeks old looks like a perfect porcelain doll.

Then we dropped Jasmine at a birthday party and went to lunch at a nearby Thai restaurant. I did make careful choices, I thought, but the entrée (starter) chicken wings turned out to be crumbed and deep fried (I should have asked questions!) and my Thai beef salad was delicious but I'm sure had a lot of sugar in the dressing. I don't think I overate, and my estimation of calories was around 500 which is high for one meal on my current WOE but not terrible, but nevertheless afterward I felt tired, bloated and headachy. I wanted a nap. And then I wanted to EAT. MORE FOOD NOW.

We spent the afternoon finishing the gardening work, I am now covered in scratches and mosquito bites and have sore arm and pec muscles, and I snacked on some cheese and an apple. Hungry but trying hard. Then we went to my sister-in-law's for dinner, they did a BBQ and I was completely in control of what I put on my plate, I had a little more meat than I probably should have but also plenty of salad and no dessert so I think I did ok. But when I got home I shovelled in a big serve of mixed nuts. It was way more food than I have been eating and I kept wanting more. Might be a bit of PMS but I'm mainly blaming the sugar.

Today Tim and I sprang out of bed early because the guy with the excavator said he would be here at 7:00. At around 9:30 I called and was told Phil was just finishing up another job first and yes I had time to go out for an hour before he got here. So I went and did the grocery shopping. Phil came with the excavator at noon. That thing is huge, no wonder we had to do so much work to clear a way through to the backyard!

My favourite bit was when Phil used the excavator to build a ramp for itself, pulling rocks and soil down from the backyard wasteland. I wish Aiden could have been home to watch.

Then he set to work levelling out the backyard. Compared to the tree removal, the excavator isn't that noisy which is great, I was expecting more headaches. The site manager Angelo came and marked out where the pool goes, then Phil spent the rest of the afternoon digging. He is down to solid rock, so it's going to be harder from now on.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Pool chaos


Our big issue with getting this pool is the access up the side of the house. It is narrow, lined with plants, and with posts holding up the pergola roof over the little courtyard. We already had one post removed and the roof temporarily braced, which is what the original pool salesman thought would be required. But the site manager Angelo came and shook his head and said it might be a problem and the excavator guy Phil came this morning and measured and shook his head and told me we have to remove another post! So I called up my handyman and he rigged up a bracing system so the pergola roof doesn't fall down, it had to be done by Monday morning as that is when they want to bring the excavator in! I've been panicking this morning and making frantic phone calls. But it's done now. I'm very grateful to my handyman who made the time to do it today for me.

Oh, and there is only a "slim" chance it will be completed by Christmas. So looking a bit gloomy. It all feels a bit too much at the moment but we've signed a contract and removed all those trees so must push ahead now. There is seven weeks until Christmas but three of those weeks are taken up by the concrete curing after it's poured.


We had a morning tea today to meet new baby Samuel, a few family members came over here as the new parents wanted to get out of the house! I got to give him a cuddle and bottle fed him (no idea why the mother isn't breastfeeding and not the sort of thing I ask). New babies are so tiny! Still haven't met Lucy who was born a week or two earlier but we are going to see her tomorrow.

I agonised a bit about getting yummy treats for the morning tea that I wouldn't be able to eat (I plan to have some of Aiden's birthday cake next week but otherwise no junk until Christmas), but finally thought "why am I feeding people I love junk I know is bad for them?" We live near everyone now so seeing them doesn't require "special occasion" food. I did get a small pack of chocolate biscuits - which didn't even all get eaten - but the rest was a big variety of fresh fruit, and some cheese and crackers. Even the kids went for the berries before the biscuits!

Then in the afternoon we did some heavy gardening work, pruning back everything that might be in the way of the excavators path to the backyard. A couple of camellias turned out to have quite a heavy pest infestation, I think they will actually benefit from being thinned out so the inner branches get more access to air and light. And I was very careful to keep a pleasing shape on the Japanese maple. Now I just hope nothing gets too badly damaged by the equipment! This place is going to need a lot of landscaping and gardening after the pool is in.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Stepping on dragons


I went for a walk this morning and was lost in my thoughts as I approached home, not realising a water dragon (big lizard) was sunning itself on the path in front of me - until it burst into motion as I was only a couple of steps away! Startled me a little. It dashed away and paused on the road to look back, but not for long enough for me to get out my camera/phone before it scuttled under a parked car. There were lots of sightings along there near the creek, and in my own yard, last summer, but haven't seen any for months. I guess they only like warm weather. It was probably as long as my arm to my fingertips, but I've never heard of them to be aggressive. I like them.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016



It's been a busy couple of days. I spent all of yesterday (school hours at least) at the big shopping centre buying things like steak knives, presents for Aiden's birthday, and specific clothes for Jasmine to wear in her upcoming dance concert. Why, when she has to dance in "normal" clothes, are they never things she already owns?! And I have to learn how to do a double French braid in her hair.

I reeled back in horror a couple of times while checking prices. I was considering some wicking sports socks until I was told they are $35 a pair! And then did you know official Apple iPad cases can be nearly $200? They were selling the front and the back separately, I think the back was about $100 and the front $80 or something. I went elsewhere. Oh, and a set of four mixing bowls, quite pretty in different shades of blue plastic, $70. For plastic. Am I being unrealistic to think this is crazy?

Today included a trip to the hardware store to get all the weird lightbulbs that match the fittings this house has, and I did about 83 loads of laundry.

I was very excited yesterday to find that my weight had gone down to 79.9 kg. Under 80! A real milestone. This morning it was 80.0 but I know it fluctuates daily and will go down again. This WOE is really working for me. I never feel hungry except when I should (when I haven't eaten for hours and a mealtime is approaching) and I don't have uncontrollable cravings. I can resist snacking even when I'm bored, or watching TV in the evening.

I still don't enjoy my tea without sugar though.

And I'm still waiting for wonderful sleep and boundless energy.