Friday, October 31, 2008

Sleepy Heads Galore.

I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep. - Robert Frost
Poor Ditz! She was packing her bag in her sleep this morning. She has dark circles under her eyes & was rather lacking in enthusiasm at the early start. Two performances today, one tomorrow & we are done temporarily. Luckily she has better stamina than Liddy & we are not getting a case of the*snarlies* from the Ditzy one. [Pity I can't say the same for her sister who is coming with me to pick Ditz up & up her driving hours at the same time ~ & not in the best frame of mind as a consequence!] Ditz is very tired though & the hardest part of the whole thing is actually making sure she eats well because that is the energy she sings on. Wednesday they were at the mall between performances dining on Krispy Kreams. Not my idea of an adequate diet! Unfortunately we are still travelling when everyone else has reached home, or travelling before they have to leave, so meals get a bit helter~skelter.
I did feel for her this morning as I put her on her early boat. Having been delighted to have the freedom of travelling alone on Wednesday she is over it & being tired would much rather I had gone with her. I would have if there had been extra room on the bus but alack & alas that is not the case so she is on her own.
Having ditched Ditz yesterday evening Liddy & I filled in the time by rushing into Capalaba & viewing BBQs & birdbaths. The BBQs were for Dearest & very boring. The birdbaths were for me & far more interesting. I studiously avoided the plants but I am looking now for when the deck is actually finished. I want the birdbath to sit under the tree that is growing up through our deck as we have so many birds, all of whom use the makeshift birdbath in the front garden. Unfortunately I had something in mind before I started looking & haven't been able to find anything remotely like what I want. Don't you just hate that?! I have, however, found a blue ceramic one that will do in a pinch. The only drawback is that ceramic is quite slippery so I will be up for some pebbles to put on the bottom of the dish as well. I learnt from a friend who was breeding ducks that even water birds can very quickly drown so the water must be kept shallow & accessible in such a way the birds can easily get in & out.
Then we went to see Duchess because it was the only movie we thought might be half decent. Decent is not the word I'd use to describe it. More...interesting! Still, as I said to Liddy before we even went in, 'If all else fails at least the costuming & scenery will be worthwhile.' Good thing we did not have Ditz with us & Liddy didn't enjoy it either. Not really my sort of movie either though it does highlight rather nicely why intelligent women need acceptable outlets for their intelligence &, from my point of view at least, how poor male leadership has landed us in the mess we call modern society. One does not lead by brute force & having a separate set of standards for men & women. The biggest danger I see in some quarters of the homeschooling movement is an insistence on confining women to hearth & home. Now in a general way I would agree but if history teaches us anything it teaches that there are always exceptions & we ignore the exceptions at our peril.
The humidity is building so I am off to water my garden before the heat wilts it completely.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

More history.

History, n. an account mostly false, of events mostly unimportant, which are brought about by rulers, mostly knaves, and soldiers, mostly fools.
AMBROSE BIERCE, The Devil's Dictionary
As you may know Sonlight uses Story of the World as a history spine. Ditz finished reading this last term but it has taken us a little longer to do the scrapbooking. We have finally made it to the end with the fall of the Roman Empire, Boudicca & Attila the Hun all crammed onto our very last page. The scrapbooking has worked really well for Ditz & we can refer to it like a time line as well.We are digressing this term with WWII. So much for logical sequencing!

I would never say I was an unschooler. I panic way to much for that sort of thinking but while I am directing Ditz into some areas I think will benefit her she has also been doing her own on~line research & reading through letters she found. There is obviously something of the snoop in my child. There is just something delightfully illicit about reading someone else's mail! Or their diary. She is doing pretty well with Anne Frank's diary & was delighted to find it does not have a happy ending. I must point out to her that this is not fiction.

While history may not be Ditz's favourite topic at least we don't struggle in this area. At present she doesn't quite see what any of this has to do with her music but I keep trying to show her the links until [hopefully] one day she will make her own connections. I have my own research to do because I've just remembered the jewish band that formed in one of the death camps & that's something that may interest Ditz. The things I know that I've forgotten I know until something jogs my memory!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me!

Old age is like everything else. To make a success of it, you've got to start young. - Fred Astaire

I was 50 yesterday. As my charming children keep telling me, now I'm 1/2 a century old I'm already 1/2 dead! Wishful thinking? The older the fiddler, the sweeter the tune. English Proverb

Actually I had a really lovely day. The boys remembered & rang. My mother remembered & rang! [Last year she forgot my card & we had great fun betting on how long it would take her to remember!]. The girls went to great pains to make it lovely for me though Ditz began her AbbaMania run yesterday & that was a tad fraught making. To save money, give Ditz a little more responsibility & save me spending my whole day travelling Dearest thought Ditz could travel by boat & bus alone to the pick up point for her ensemble.

O.K., she's 13, it was bright daylight in a safe area & Ditz doesn't get too many opportunities like this. She's a very competent Miss so I wasn't too worried. Ditz certainly told me not to worry in no uncertain terms. Then I got the phone call! Ditz was frantic. Her bus had a flat & she was terrified she was going to miss her departure time. It always happens. I reassured her that if she was already moving again she had plenty of time, as indeed she did.

Two performances, matinee & evening. Ditz sang two *solos*, if you can call it that when someone else shoves the mike in your face, & was spinning like a whirly~gig when Liddy & I picked her up that evening. How that child loves to perform! At least she's reasonably sensible. I know her loving family who know her so well would dispute that but she was not the child who over ate till she vomited & then fainted from lack of food. There's one in every crowd! And thanks to the faintee Ditz got the extra solo.

We have flute today & Ditz wasn't in bed till midnight so she's not doing today's performance but will then go Friday, 2 Saturday & Sunday evening. Don't know about Ditz but I am exhausted just thinking about it. That is late trips to the mainland to collect my child & bring her home. I did think about asking my boys to collect her & put her on a boat but I'm afraid they're not that reliable & unless you live on an island & have had to deal with a stranded child you have no idea just how ill with worry that can make you. We have been there more times than I care to remember & I just prefer to go with said child if at all possible.

The Lord is good too. Friends came round yesterday & from that visit two lovely things happened. He works with computers so yes, mine is now back up & running. I am so happy. My girls are so happy. Dearest is happy.

Our friends are * boaties*, the term for those itinerants who occasionally make their home on a boat & travel around the world on said boat. They are planning on pulling their kids out of school again & going cruising for 6 months next year. I had a brain explosion, dug out my used curriculum that is just cluttering up my place & handed it over along with a pile of Sonlight readers. Their youngest is a Ditz clone only far more academically inclined. Even better my friend liked the LLATL Ditz & I couldn't stand & both her girls can probably use it if it is modified a bit for the youngest. I gave her all my homeschool links too as even if they take work from the school it probably won't be enough & Distance Ed has so much busy work they don't really want to go that route again. So nice to be helpful.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Ok, here we go. These are some of my gardening highlights & I truely hope that if you click on the image it will enlarge for you. This is my Christmas Bush. It is planted on our slope & reaches as high as our deck. It is in flower now but by Christmas the creamy blossoms will be all done & only the husks will remain in a firey halo . The tree is actually more stunning after the flower has fallen.
This is one of my leptospurnums. Leptospurnum is a member of the myrtle family. With it's small reddish foliage & deep pink flowers it is absolutely stunning.
This is a malaluka. The golden foliage makes it lovely at any time of the year. It will grow lovely & busy. I have a grevillia hybrid in front with a mixed red/gold flower which should look lovely.
Meanwhile Iss thinks we built the deck just for him, the whole 15 X 4 yards of it! You can't tell me that cat's stupid. As soon as we'd finished screwing down he moved to the furthermost point on the longest plank hanging over the slope & went to sleep there! He's spending all his time moving from sun to shade along it, cooking & cooling alternatively.

The deck's actually in 2 parts. We have an upper deck that sits just under the tree canopy, & a lower deck that is just above ground level. Very hard to see from the pics but it creates two very different areas. And yes, we have a tree growing up through the deck. We're going to leave it there & just trim the lower branches. It should screen & shelter the upper deck very nicely given a bit more time. Still have handrails & steps to go but we've broken the back of it now.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

movies & DVDs

Nim's Island is something I've wanted to get Ditz for a while. [pause for predictable eye~rolling]. I've read plenty of reviews trashing the plot, the logic [or lack thereof], the lack of tension/adventure/suspense & the acting. I find it interesting that something like Shrek [& hey, I enjoyed Shrek but I don't think it's a children's movie] get's rave reviews despite questionable language, more questionable humour & more pop culture than I want to think about. Nim's Island is different.

Nim's Island is unabashedly a children's movie, a little quirky, gentle fantasy that poses no great dramas or conflicts & yes, is pretty predictable plotwise. So what? Not everything in real life is a major drama either. And joy of joys, Nim is a homeschooler! Lovely to see a movie where homeschool is accepted in a normal matter of fact way without all the nonsense Hollywood so often makes of it.

To my surprise both my girls enjoyed it. We adored Jodie Foster. And we found the irony hilarious. I don't know how much of it was intentional but we laughed ourselves silly anyway.

Liddy also got me the 3rd season of Jonathan Creek for my birthday, which hasn't arrived yet. I got my pressie early so we all had something to watch. We have been eeking these out, one a day, to make them last & these are questionable. Ditz just thinks they are downright strange. Liddy thinks they are strange...& funny...& they have grown on her till she is as addicted to them as I am despite the fact they give her occasional nightmares. I am now wiser than I was. I never knew before that you could freeze mercury. There is a lot of science in these shows & a healthy dose of sceptical cynicism laced with the *how too's* of magic tricks, mystery, suspense ~ oh, & the sort of character conflict that has me rolling in the aisles! Besides I want that windmill. Seriously. I mean, how cool is that, living in a windmill? The Brits do this sort of thing better than anyone else & I believe there is a new season due at Christmas. Yay!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Conversation Stumpers & gardening.

God made rainy days so gardeners could get the housework done. ~Author Unknown

People are odd. I mean seriously, seriously odd. What on earth goes on in their heads? Try these two conversation stumpers that we got this week.

Conversation stumper number one, on seeing Ditz come out of the library with an armful of books, several of which were 4'' thick: 'So this is what you do instead of school.'' ????? Do these people not read? OK, not going there.

Or this one; conversation stumper no.2:"But you didn't homeschool Liddy; she's so...*normal*." Pardon? As opposed to what, or whom? Ditz? Are you saying my Ditz isn't normal? OK, not going there either.

Now that I have that off my mind...The girls & I went shopping on the mainland on Friday. Ditz was glowing. Her birth certificate arrived which meant I could open her bank account & she could deposit her cheque. We got a lovely teller who thought us all terribly funny but dealt with Ditz, making her feel terribly grown up. It was a scream. Ditz didn't have a clue & we all knew it but the man pretended she did. What Ditz understands is that she now has somewhere for other people to put their money for her. Yeah, right Ditz.

We then went on to Bunnings, which is our big hardware outlet but has a nursery attached. I just shouldn't go into these places. I could easily spend thousands without batting an eyelash & thousands I did not have. Plus I had two girls in tow, both of whom will happily show me even more plants I should like to buy & just shouldn't. I managed to resist the Gardenias because I have 2 in already. I mean, more is better but I have 2 & there is no need to be greedy. I wasn't so lucky with the watermelon. Ditz carted the punnet all round the store until it simply ended up in the cart along with everything else. Where I am to grow watermelon I do not know. Liddy bought strawberries but at least they do not require so much room.

As for me, I bought leptospurnam, Banksias & grevillias. If you're not an Aussie you won't have a clue but they are all natives, shrubby & bird attracting. I got things with either variegated foliage or foliage that is not predominately green for a bit of variety. Back home we went to our local for potting mix to dump in the big clay holes we had to dig to put the plants into. Yes, our soil is shocking, hence the potting mix to allow everything to establish before battling the clay & ironstone. Being natives they should do alright despite my uncertain ministrations.

I drooled over the really BIG ceramic pots. I want a couple of those! Gorgeous blues & greens, which are my colours. I looked for & didn't find a birdbath. I looked at the tables & chairs I want but didn't find rockers. I then told Liddy I want the big nursery at Wello next time we have money. I have missed my garden. Now Dearest is moving all the building materials out of it I can start finishing the job I began. Dearest has the certificate in horticulture; I do the gardening! We have awful soil & the yard facing west was razed to the ground. It has taken me 20 years to get a canopy but now I have one I can put in my understory plants with some hope that they'll survive! Liddy, like my older 3, is a gardener. Ditz stands around getting in everyone's way.

My girls tell me that I can still upload pictures soooo...there will be pictures but for now I am going to go & move soil & plant more plants & water it all in and then I am going to wander round smiling like an idiot, sniffing appreciatively & enjoying what my labour has wrought.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Teaching History.

Understand that all battles are waged on an unconscious level before they are begun on the conscious one. Teresa Stover

Ditz requested to do a study on WWII. That is this term's history assignment; a big topic. When asked she was rather vague about what she wanted to know, which is a basic & fatal mistake in this house because if you don't know mummy will make some executive decisions!

One of those executive decisions was reading material to go with the movies that Ditz had in mind. Now there are some brilliant movies around, everything from the Great Escape to Sophie's Choice but one of the quirks of my nature is that I am very rarely interested in facts, in absolutes, or in politics. What I am interested in is people & why they do what they do so the most important book I have on Ditz's reading list is not the Diary of Anne Frank [though she is reading that at present] but Morton Rhu's The Wave.

I did this with Liddy a few years ago & it is one of the scariest reads I've ever undertaken. Thanks, America, for yet another unforgettable moment! This book is based on an American history teacher's experiment in Fascism in his classroom as he attempted to show his class how it was possible to control an entire population. It is possibly the most important lesson anyone can ever learn. I think I should recommend Sonlight include it in their reading lists.

Anyhow, I ordered it from the library yesterday & it will be here next week. Ditz is rolling her eyes already but I just keep telling her the old adage; Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”George Santayana. She thinks she doesn't care but unfortunately that would not be true in reality. What's more she is tackling Anne's diary with a minimum of fuss & I think she will enjoy the Wave even more. There is a reason I encouraged my children to be very individual & the Wave demonstrates why beautifully ~ & highlights the consequences when a population stops thinking for itself. Like I said, a very scary read.

The Holocaust looks like being our primary focus so among our movie & book choices are Schindler's List, The Day Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, & the Sound of Music. I'd like Ditz to try the Von Trapp story but from memory it was a really big book & I'm not sure it would hold her attention. It's always hard to tell with Ditz. Nothing like the Julie Andrew's version! Perhaps I should just give her Winston Churchill's history of Britain. If nothing else Ditz has the ego to match: History will be kind to me for I intend to write it. Churchill. Cracks me up.

Anyway I got Ditz to brainstorm some questions she would like answers to & will will go with those to start with & if we are very lucky we will never get to which battles were fought on which bit of soil because by then it was far too late & the battle for men's souls was already lost.

Monday, October 20, 2008

A little of this, a little of that.

Since each of us is blessed with only one life, why not live it with a cat?- Robert Stearns

We are back to *things as usual*, or as usual as they ever are around here. My computer is down, probably for good I think, so I am confined to Dearest's laptop & no piccies for the time being. Sorry folks but I'm just not real good with these inanimate things.

Dearest greeted me, the morning after we got home with,' Do you know what your cat did?' As a beginning it does not bode well. I decided discretion was the better part of valour & remained discretely silent. I was thinking birds but it is so unlike Issi to hunt our bird life sits round mocking him. No, not birds.

Now at bedtime Issi goes to bed with one of us girls. This is to prevent him having a psychotic meltdown in the middle of the night. So I carted him upstairs with me as usual where he parked himself on my chest gazing moonily into my closed eyes until he sensed I was drifting in to sleep then lept of me to go & sleep on top of the chest of draws...where he stayed until Dearest came up to bed. I'm not sure if Dearest gets blamed in that cat's mind for our occasional departures but Dearest's arrival was the signal for Issi to leap onto the bed rush up to me, park himself on top of me & glare at Dearest. I slept through the whole thing. I always do.

Meanwhile Ditz has settled pretty well & we seem to be getting a fair bit done. We are finishing off the last few things for her history scrapbooking, I have organized some tutoring for this multiplying fractions that makes no sense to either of us, Ditz is practising her instruments without me having to go ape in order to get anything done, we have brainstormed questions she would like answers to about WWII, & I am starting to think I may just be getting my grip back on her work. We have been working; it's just life gets so out of control I feel scrambled all the time. I mean, in the middle of school there was a bellow from the kitchen where Dearest was in the process of making pies & having asked my opinion on why his pastry was...strange...& adjusted it accordingly, suddenly found he had far more pastry than he had anticipated & was in no condition to roll it all out....but we now have 30 pie shells in our freezer.

And the best thing of all? We have screwed down the first board of the verandah!!!! This has been a mammoth task for us. Dearest has a broken back. He's lucky to be able to walk let alone work so everything gets done at a snail's pace, a little at a time as his pain allows. We hope one of the boys will give us a hand this weekend to get it all done. It is a very big deck....we will practically live on it during the summer as it will be the coolest place around & get every little breeze so having it for Christmas will be wonderful. I am hoping we will have it for my birthday at the end of the month but we will see as our summer storms have arrived with a vengeance. Hot, humid days are being punctuated with violent thunderstorms, torrential rain & cyclonic winds. Still, anticipating the end result, I am going to look at some outside furniture on Friday. I'd like a cluster of small tables & chairs rather than one great big one & a rocker...or two. I mentioned a rocker to Dearest & his eyes lit up so I guess I need two. I love rockers.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Liddy's Wild Weekend.

You have to laugh. It not only rained to begin Liddy's weekend; it thundered & stormed. It wailed & hailed. We drove north in darkness & showery wind shattered by huge sheet lightening with Liddy behind the wheel. Not the pleasantest trip I've ever taken ~ nor the one where I felt safest. I tell Liddy she makes her guardian angels work over time but we arrived safely ~ to everyone's relief!
What really struck me this visit was how well mum's garden is doing. It looks like a garden now, not like a bunch of plants trying to fill a hole! Her ''Little Joey'' pillar rose is spectacular. Not that the girls were interested in what mum's garden was doing. Liddy had us all in the car after breakfast & heading off to Kawana to shop. Least said about that the better. Ditz infuriated Liddy by taking pics on her cell phone of Liddy trying out all the really horrible things the sales lady hung over her door. What she eventually chose was very nice but it took some getting there & Ditz was majorly bored. The beach was out as it was both rainy & windy so it was off to the leisure centre to watch a completely forgettable movie then out to Noosa to have a meal out at *Rosie's*. Larry & Rosie are English, used to be my folks neighbours & run a very good little roadside restaurant. Unfortunately Larry's menu leans heavily to seafood [eeeeew!] but he does suburb stuffed mushrooms or onion tart. Mum & I opted for the mushrooms. I wanted to have them as a main & I should have as they were ginormous & I gave Liddy one of mine. Mum gave her most of her second one too so Liddy, who had not ordered an entree, actually was the only person to eat a full one. Mum & I had chicken in a mustard sauce [very yummy], Ditz who finds the menu difficult, stuck to rack of lamb & Liddy had steak. The girls & I topped the meal with desert & I don't think we recovered for the rest of the weekend. Mind you, we needed all the energy we could get to keep up with Liddy. No sitting round reading quietly for Liddy!
Friday was still rainy but showing promise of better things Mum finally got to show off her new *water feature* before we headed out to Montville. Monteville is up in the hinterland & the arts & crafts centre of the Sunshine Coast. It is chocka of small curiosity shops, terribly expensive but a delightful way to window shop. Ditz loves the cuckoo clock shop, mum enjoys the woodwork & I just love all the creative bibs & bobs. Liddy is less enthused. She can neither eat it nor wear it but by 12ish everyone was starving again so we drove out to the Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve.

The kiosk sells a terrific BLT on Turkish & unbelievable homemade cakes. The view is spectacular looking out to the coast & the Glasshouse mountains & even though it was overcast the view was still superb. I lost the top of my sandwich to an opportunist scrub turkey without regret. It was a very substantial lunch.

We then walked the 2km rainforest track. It is one of the easiest walks we've ever done, so flat you could probably do it in a wheelchair. The girls weren't all that fussed. After the adventure of something like the Wari track at Springbrook this was very tame but we saw plenty of interesting things: pademelons [small walleby type things], a male Regent Bowerbird, a riflebird, hordes of nests, including a ringtailed possums nest & what we couldn't see we heard: catbirds [truly they go 'meow!'], rifle birds & whipbirds. One of the more interesting sites was two absolutely giant eucalyptus in the middle of this rainforest. When they go there will be no more. Eucalyptus do not grow in rainforest! They must originally have been on the border between eucalyptus forest & rainforest.
It was late when we got home & the girls were tired but they managed to drag themselves along to the centre's pool for a swim & as they walked home Liddy said regretfully,'I suppose it's too late for a walk on the beach.' Yes indeed!

True to form Saturday dawned bright & sunshiney. We got in our walk on the beach from Mudjimba north & the girls got a short swim. The surf was awful. Short dumpers & there were lifeguards everywhere although the designated areas between the flags were less than 50m & there were signs up saying SWIM WITH CAUTION. The drag was to the north & although Ditz initially tried to keep up with Liddy she was dumped seriously enough to come inside the breakers herself. I couldn't stand to watch as Liddy always gets too far out & the surf was NOT going to improve no matter how far she went so I called them in early & a good thing I think as we had to walk back & after Lunch Liddy was driving home. I didn't want her too tired before we'd started.
The cat was sooooo relieved to see us all walk back in the door again! Dearest swears he's been moping, wouldn't eat & sat outside waiting for us. I do know that despite the heat that cat's been in my lap every night just for cuddles! Liddy, who was home briefly after work says the cat was estatic to have one of us left behind & couldn't believe it when she too walked out the door with a bag! He does not like bags! However Dearest gave him plenty of attention & he seems to be getting the idea that though we may sometimes go we always come home again.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Au revoir.

"Joy is not in things; it is in us." --Benjamin Franklin

We are off north after choir rehearsal tonight. Liddy has snagged herself a long weekend so we decided to spend that with my mother as we haven't seen her in a while. She is pretty excited even though such flying visits mean we leave her with a lot of extra washing & she has to stock the pantry up. My girls sure can eat!

Because it is Liddy's weekend there is rain coming in. lol. She is getting pretty crotchety about the weather.

And the cat has gone into meltdown! He is unhappy with the heat & any time I touch him I end up wearing his fur coat so I have been grooming him over & over in an effort to help him out with his moulting. I use, of all things for this, a nit comb. It is absolutely perfect & picks up any debris in the fur as well. Like most of the cats I've owned Issi adores being groomed & will stick his nose in the air so I can run the comb round his cheeks & down his throat, all the while emitting a deep, happy, rumbling purr.

Now the weather is so pleasant outside during the day Iss is spending more time outside, as I am. Iss always knows where I am & is usually not too far away. He is less happy if I disappear on him & my exit indoors is invariably greeted with an anguished yowl! It's reached a sad state when the cat is running my life but I always seem to go back to get him. I can't stand a weeping cat! He is going to be really cross about all his *alphas* [as Dearest says] abandoning him.

Another long drive for Liddy. Her hours should be coming along nicely. Hoping all my bloggy friends have a lovely weekend & I will catch up with you all when we get home again, sometime Saturday.

Monday, October 13, 2008

And one carrot cake...

There are few chores I hate more than the bulk meat shop. I mean I truly hate it. Given my drathers I'd be vegetarian. The only butchers I've ever been in that didn't stink to high heaven were in Germany & that's a little far to go on a regular basis. So Dearest, who combines the meat shop with a visit to his specialist, is mostly responsible. The sight of all that dead flesh, the smell of blood, & the cheerful way the lads toss carcasses about pretty much does me in. I can't wait to get out of the place.

Then there is all the packing once we get home again. I left Ditz with the washing up & kitchen clean~up [she did a super job!] & then roped her in for the packing as well. She did sausages. Dearest did the chicken because chicken is plain revolting ~ all slimy & squishy. Ugh!

So I was thrilled to get a birthday parcel in the mail ~ early too! My birthday is still weeks away but Siano, my dearest it is lovely! The girls think it looks fab on me & silk! Oh, my! I feel quite decadent with the touch of silk against my skin! Liddy was quite put out & wants to know where her present is. ;P

Liddy had a pretty good day & work was at pains to make it special for her even though she was working. Ditz was beside herself as she had saved & saved [always hard for Ditz] to buy Liddy a truly alarming alarm clock. She is now broke again!Ditz also took over the cake for decorating purposes....
And Liddy ate it!

So here is our carrot cake recipe:

2 cups sugar

4 eggs lightly beaten

2 cups of sifted self rising flour

2 cups coarsely grated carrot

2 teaspoons of cinnamon

1 1/2 cups oil

1 cup chopped walnuts

Add sugar to eggs gradually, stirring well. Combine flour & cinnamon. Reserve small amount of flour. Add flour & oil to egg mixture, beginning & ending with flour. Dredge walnuts with reserved flour. Fold in walnuts & carrots. Pour batter into greased, waxed~paper lined layer cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 ~ 40 minutes. Turn on to racks to cook thoroughly.


2 8oz packages cream cheese

2 teaspoons vanilla

1/2 cup butter

13/4 cups icing sugar [powdered sugar?]

1 cup chopped walnuts.

Mix cheese, vanilla, butter & sugar. Add walnuts. Mix well. Spread between layers & on top of cake. Gives about 20 servings!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Standing on the brink.


Arthur Stace is a Sydney legend. No~one remembers his name but everyone remembers what he wrote. He is the illiterate man who defaced the Sydney footpaths, subway walls, building fences...anything at all where he could scribble his one word gospel message: ETERNITY. Sydneysiders would pass by his message on their way to work or shopping, just that one word chalked wherever God directed him. I remember seeing his message every time I went into town.

I have been thinking of Arthur Stace recently. I guess he reached more people than most preachers. He is coming to mind because we are told to be vigilant, to be wily as serpents & to read the times. I have no doubt we are in the end times. We have been in the end times since Christ hung on the cross. Just how far we are along before Christ returns I have no idea but I see the birth pangs coming closer together, the signs of wars & rumours of wars, of a selfish & disobedient generation, of natural disasters accumulating & my heart is rejoicing.

Come, Lord Jesus, Come!

And there are some things that have been on my heart, troubling me every time I am quiet before the Lord. Judgement begins with the house of God. We are supposed to be living holy lives, firstly to glorify our heavenly father; secondly to bear witness to a wicked & perverse generation. Inasmuch as we have failed in this we shall be judged. It begins with us because we have the new life in us. We are capable of more & better. The world is doing exactly as it's nature dictates. We are not & that is to our shame.

Secondly, far too much of the church has forgotten that Christ said he would bring a sword. If the church is as it should be there will be strife with the world, troubles & persecution. We have had it so easy for so long in the west that we have forgotten this truth. China knows it. Korea knows it.

Thirdly I am no masochist but I rejoice because history teaches me that the persecuted church is a strong church. There is a winnowing & cleansing that takes place. What remains has been tested by fire & will endure to the end. What's more I do not need to be afraid. The other lesson history teaches is that grace is given when grace is needed.

So what is a Christian to do? What Christians through every age have always done: Repent & Call on the name of the Lord for He is our strength & our refuge, our eternal hope, our alpha & our omega, all the love we can ever hold & our final resting place. In the midst of the storm there is no safer place to be than by our Lord's side.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Riding the birthday train

What do you buy the girl who has everything? In our case: speakers. If the child has her own perhaps there is some chance mine will stay attached to my computer? Bed linen; plain & teal because Liddy has a king single & getting bed linen to fit is not always easy & she has had the same colour scheme for 2 years now. Time for a change. A pretty watch as that girl goes through watches at a frantic pace. Perhaps this one will last longer? And hair bands because according to the Ditzy one the reason she has no hair bands is because her sister has nicked them all (conveniently forgetting that she borrows far more than the odd hair band or two!)

Ditz wrapped the big presents in glitzy paper & at some point today I need to find my carrot cake recipe so there is some chance of making the cake tomorrow. I make such a good carrot cake the girls will never order it when we're out even though they adore it as it is just never as good as mum's! I like eating it but making it is something I prefer not to do. It is expensive & not at all healthy. Lid, poor girl, has to work on her special day & it is a late finish so she won't even get to eat her special dinner till late ~ when she will be too tired to enjoy it properly.

While I was paddling round the shops looking I bought myself the prettiest mug ~ with a lid! I love these because I am always being called away from a freshly made cuppa to run kids somewhere & of course it is stone cold by the time I get back to it. A lid may just make the difference. The only ones I had seen have a little teapot sitting on one of those *doormouse* cups. You could practically swim in the thing & while I think they're terribly pretty there didn't seem to be much point when I don't drink tea. In Celtic mythology butterflies symbolise the soul ~ which is rather sadly ironic, dontcha think. My soul belongs to caffeine! No, not really but I do like a hit of caffeine first thing in the morning.

Liddy & I, having planted the garden & watered it in well, then watched the sky lower & the clouds darken till the deluge was upon us. Things always grow so much better when God does the watering & I am already picking beans off the plants I put in last month. The poor little plants are barely a hand span tall but producing beans larger than they are already. Dino, who came for cricket training Thursday & stayed the night, was delighted & was talking about putting a pen in so we could run chooks again. I am not holding my breath on that one.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

That time of the year.

The weather doesn't seem able to make up it's mind but either way it is that time of the year; the garden needs some serious attention. I have been busily reefing out what's left of the winter crops & replanting for the summer. I stuck to the things I know we grow well: beans, silverbeet, tomatoes. My one indulgence was rockmelons. On the other hand Liddy thought me way too practical & indulged in cucumbers & a red passionfruit. I am eyeing the nectarine askance. Zillions of small fruit have already appeared. I have mulched everything till it disappears beneath a mound of cattle cane but it is the only way to keep the soil moist & cool till the worst of the summer fries everything.
I am emptying leaves out of gutters preparatory to the fire season & raking up piles of leaves to be thrown on the gardens as mulch. Every morning I dash out to battle the sandies as I water the garden & fill the bird bath. Between sandfly bites & a bad case of hives, brought on I suspect by having to change washing powders to accommodate the new machine, I am like to tear my skin off!
Oh, & somewhere in there I have been trying to get a grip on the school stuff. Ditz is being reasonably co~operative. I have taken pictures of last term's work & managed to e~mail it all through to where it has to go. I have rearranged all Ditz's work for the week into a single folder so I know at a glance whether we are ahead or behind. We have hit the term running with a new Sonlight core & some good ideas for Ditz's project on WWII. So far so good.
Ditz & I are supposed to be entering some art in a memorial exhibition in November. Ditz has a thing for doing dotty Aboriginal artwork. How she can I do not know! It makes me cross~eyed. Not quite finished but you get the idea.
She seems to have gone red but it seems to be effective. She threw this one together in about 10 minutes. Oh, to be that good!

I am leaving her behind tomorrow as I need to go birthday shopping for Liddy. As she is earning enough to buy anything she really wants she has become impossible to buy for & I was at a loss for ideas but Ditz is good that way & supplied me with plenty of ideas as we wended our way up & down the hill to flute today. It is always a long wait for the boat home & today was hot & windy so instead of sitting in a biting wind on the jetty we detoured into the island restaurant for iced coffee & iced chocolate because no way was I giving Ditz caffeine! It was a small treat on a day that tends to be woefully long.

With better weather we have again been plodding along with the verandah & finally, finally are down to the last few jobs before screwing down the boards & sitting back in the breeze through the summer heat enjoying the results of our labours! Dearest can only work for very short periods of time so what is essentially a very simple job has dragged on for months & months to everybody's frustration but we are nearly there! We had 3 acidents with the bearers being pulled down so that the job had to be redone; a job that was causing Dearest huge amounts of pain. He was not a happy man & will be very glad when we finally get this project finished. Issi thinks it's all being done just for him & is already lording it over the planks.

I am eyeing off the area around the fire pit which I haven't been able to reach for 12 months or more itching to get in, clear the weeds, rake the leaves & tidy things up before the Christmas heat is upon us as sure of eggs there will be a swarm of kids through the place for the break, all heading down the hill to the water & returning laden with stinky stuff that can be cooked outside on the fire.

Busy, busy & it will only get worse as the end of the year approaches.

Friday, October 3, 2008

The hardest part of skating is the ice Anon.
Remember: when they make the ice, they make it slippery side up." - Dewy Browning

It has been years since I've been on the ice & one of the things I really hate about getting older is how much harder I fall. Still, since ice skating was how Liddy wanted to spend her Friday, I showed willing.

Now those of you in colder climes can't appreciate what a chore this is out here. Firstly rinks are few & far between. Several hours with the phone book produced one rink in the whole of Brisbane ~ which meant an hour in the car, longer because Liddy took the *scenic detour*. Being school holidays the rink was packed. And we don't own our own skates so we have to hire them which means, if you are reasonably lucky the skates you hire will still have a bit of an edge on them otherwise....I hate blunt skates. They make life so much harder.

Now the last time I skated boots were still made from leather so I was horrified to find they are now made of stiff hard plastic. I should have been warned of then & there. I have peculiarly shaped feet with knobby bones sticking out. I have so much trouble with regular shoes I actually don't even own a pair at present. Sad, sad, sad. However Lid had forked over her hard earned cash & I knew she knew I knew [sort of] how to skate & wanted me on the ice with her. So I gave the guy behind the counter my shoe size as I last remembered it to find no way, no how could I wear those skates on the ice. I felt like I was crippled so back I went for a larger pair.

The next size at least allowed my toes to spread but I could feel my instep bone rubbing before I was even on the ice. It bothered me so much I wibbled & wobbled around the edge afraid to let go of the rail because I am far too old to wallow about down on the ice. If I went down I knew there was no way I was getting back up. Liddy was confidently sailing round & round. Ditz, poker upright, was managing. I was the only silly sausage unable to find my balance & some semblance of confidence.

I don't often hate the age I am ~ a season for everything~ but I did on Friday. Once it would only have taken me 10 minutes to find my balance & do what Liddy was doing with such ease & I could have taken a fall with a laugh & been back on my feet in no time; but I am no longer 19, or even Ditz's hardy 13 & by the time I was getting my balance & skating with some semblance of dignity Liddy had decided her skates were the wrong size. Instead of going to the counter to exchange them she asked to change with me. Why not? We hobbled into the stands to exchange boots to find I had a huge broken blister. No wonder my foot hurt! I tried Liddy's boots but they were far too big; she is several sizes larger than I am so after due consideration I took the horrible things off & got out my book. There is a reason I always carry reading material with me.

Shortly thereafter Liddy rejoined me declaring she was 'over it.' Ditz however was still happily going round & round looking like nothing earthly. She is not one of my sporty ones. Liddy, sailing round with her hands tucked behind her back, looked perfectly at home on the ice. Ditz looked like she had something rammed up her behind, she was so stiff. She runs like that too, bolt upright, with the perfect posture that is so desired in music class. It looks most peculiar. However it eventually dawned on her that she was on the ice on her own & that her nearest & dearest were laughing at her from the stands. We told her she could stay as long as she liked but after several more rounds she'd had enough too so we gave the rink back their horrible boots & headed back towards home by the short route.

Liddy had some shopping to do before we headed into the movies to see Journey to the Centre of the Earth. This was a *Ditz pick*. Liddy & I chose the last twice & they were fizzers. This movie required 3D specs & is probably responsible for the migraine I came home with....apart from the fact I have major problems with heights, even heights of the Hollywood variety. While nearly landing in Liddy's lap with a prehistoric piranha coming straight at me I then proceed to laugh in all the wrong places. Ditz enjoyed it & it was about time she got to see a movie more at her level instead of the high brow stuff Lid's been subjecting us too. I got a DVD more along my lines before we came home: K-19 with both Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson! Now I just have to find some time to actually watch it.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The *Decadent Monster*.

She never did any housework. She would garden all the morning & read in the afternoon. S.Cane

Place is important to me. There are places I walk in my dreams yet. Trafalgar Vale is one of those places. I can walk it room by room ~seeing, feeling, smelling, the house solid around me as it was when I was a child.

Odd I should remember it so well. It was not my house & it was old; a hundred years old even then. It smelt of the dust that drifted down from the ceiling in dank clouds, of overblown roses, red soil & Mama's eternal turps & thinners. The shower stood on a cement slab under the water tank & draped over its rafters lived the carpet snake that fed on the fat green tree frogs. It was geriatric having the usual problems with its plumbing & embarrassing leaks. Like its owner it was quirky. Perhaps that's why I loved it so much. The main bedroom wall sported a willow tree bearing peach blossoms. The bath got buried in the front garden. The back door was painted in black & pink & purple stripes & at one time the fridge was also painted. A garish commode sat behind a curtain on the back verandah & the rail was home to a medley of ancient chamber pots. The loo was a *thunderbox* way down at the back fence amidst black clouds of mozzies & midgies.

Trafalgar Vale, far too snooty a name for a portly old lady tied at the waist with string, was my Aunt's house. I loved it as my aunt did for its faults, being as disinclined as she was to practical considerations over ambiance & that elusive sense of being at home. Besides there was the garden.

My Aunt was a gardener before she was anything else, a love she shared with my own mother & which created a friendship between two very dissimilar women because my Aunt was no housekeeper & her methods invariably made my mother cringe. Her garden was a tangled riot of exuberant plants, gracious old trees, secretive nooks & hidden corners. I remember the front verandah for its swathes of wisteria & golden alamander. It was a house & garden that had roots, good sturdy roots running from generation to generation, where the old stories got told & retold giving me a sense of belonging that I did not find in my modern, practical, organized home were I could not find reflections of myself.

A sense of belonging is important to a child. A sense of springing from a real past, of being a cog in something larger than oneself, of moving into the future, spring from that sense of belonging & so I was careful to tell the stories as I remember them, for the people to whom the stories happened have gone now. Some of them I only know through their stories. Others I remember but as I tread the wide boards of Trafalgar Vale in my dreams they crowd about me, all the dead. As a king once said, 'I will go to them, they cannot return to me.' But I do not think they care to be forgotten.

"Never ride faster than your guardian angel can fly."Anon.

My dad used to own one of these ~ an old Indian. I believe he came to grief on it a time or two. Given the trouble he had with cars I'm surprised he lived to tell the tale but he did. He grew up ~ well, he got older~ & exchanged his bike for a family car & the wife & kids to go with it. The bike got stored in his sister's shed.

Now Dad's sister, my Auntie Shirley, was an unusual woman. She loved her brother with a passion but she had some odd quirks & that bike had been sitting in her shed 20 odd years. Possibly longer. By anyone's standards it had reached antique status. In Shirl's eyes it was just another piece of junk, junk that didn't even work any more.

Shirley also lived in white ant country; termites; in a house over a hundred years old. These little blighters will eat their way through just about anything & eventually they ate their way through Shirl's front verandah steps. Being a do it herself sort of a woman Shirl set about rectifying this problem & bought herself a bag of cement & some sand. You know where this is going don't you?

Yep. Finding herself sort of *fill* for her new set of steps Shirl began clearing out her shed. Somewhere in the shire there is a hundred year old house with a fine set of curved cement steps with an old Indian bike firmly embedded therein!