Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The calm before the storm (of moving)

1. This damn cat of mine loves nothing more than to steal my spot, even if I just lean forward for five seconds. See that look on her face? Yeah, she knows exactly what she's done.

2. A lunchtime visit to J's workplace. Miss Pie loves this "water mountain".

3. Have I mentioned that the campus where J works is somewhat fancy? They even have koi.

4. Boxes, breeding. Looking forward to the move being over and done with this weekend; emptying, and getting rid of these suckers. I hate clutter.

5. Super kawaii Pie.

6. With temperatures averaging the mid-late 20s (celsius) now, where else is better to procrastinate than by the pool?

7. I couldn't help feeling judgemental when I saw this appliance in a department store today. I mean, really, if you need a specific appliance to make s'mores, you shouldn't be allowed near hot things in the first place - it ain't rocket science, folks. Mmm... s'mores...

8. ...and mmm... Pinkberry... this is quickly becoming a regular treat for us this summer.

Sunday, June 24, 2012


This is the treasure I found a few days ago. I was relieved, because I'd been thinking about this card and wondering where exactly I'd put it for safe-keeping. I've even mentioned it once, in an earlier post.

This yellowing card means the world to me. It belonged to my paternal grandmother, who died when my father was just a boy himself. With the exception of my father's brother and sister, broken relationships took away any ties I might have had with that side of the family - my grandfather remarried, and I never knew him.

My grandmother was a woman ahead of her time. She travelled overseas, extensively, and worked her way around as a nurse on ships and in the UK. She visited impoverished countries and got off the beaten track, decades before the term 'backpacker' had been coined.

This is all I know about her, and that breast cancer took her far too early. A handful of faded black and white photos gives me an idea of what she looked like, and that's it. She is a quarter of who I am, and I would have loved to have known her.

This card came into my possession when I was in my mid-twenties, and visiting home from the UK for a decent hit of sunshine. The other day, looking at my grandmother's address on this card, it bugged me. Why hadn't I been to see this address? The building? The neighbourhood? I'd lived in London long enough - why didn't I do those things? Then I remembered - by the time I'd been given this card, J and I were no longer living in London. We'd moved to Brighton and I only went back to London for the occasional weekend to visit friends. In general, though, I'd distanced myself from London. When I returned for my final year in the UK, it simply didn't occur to me to make the journey from Brighton to see where my grandmother had lived.

A quick view on Google Maps shows me that it was an area of London I'd actually spent a decent amount of time walking around, as I'd taught in a nearby community centre. It was an area very near to where we spent our first few nights in London. I love that.

I also love the conditions of membership, inside the card - back in the days when Youth Hostel membership really was intended for those who wanted to roam the English countryside. Do not disturb cattle or sheep. Do not rob birds' nests. Be specially careful never to foul pools or streams. That last one, in particular, makes me smile. I can't for the life of me remember the conditions when I joined - nearly fifty years later - but I have a feeling they didn't include these.

This card is my very own piece of time travel.


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Babble, Instagram, and me

A fun thing has happened this week. Mommy Shorts - who also writes in the Toddler section over at the US Babble site - has published an article about ladies who she believes to be 10 of the Best Moms on Instagram.

Ten ladies that were chosen because "they post on a daily basis, take pictures of their kids (but NOT ONLY pictures of their kids!) and most importantly, are really good photographers. They are all selective about the shots they share, and I look forward to each one popping up in my stream."

Of those ten ladies? I was included. If you saw the company I'm with, you'd understand just how immensely flattered I am. This kind of recognition is lovely. I like that my photos are appreciated because I take photos of more than just my kids.

Go and check out the article here, if you haven't seen it already. If you love huge doses of sarcasm (as I do) and am not familiar with Mommy Shorts, then I suggest you visit her here... and if you're on Instagram? Come and say hi to me (@madinla). Don't be shy.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Money Money Money

Have I mentioned how much I love money?

I don't mean in the sense of money being a tool to obtain food, shelter, clothing, and - if you're lucky - pretty things to admire.

What I am referring to is the weight of coins; the crinkle of notes. Germophobes will disagree with me, but instead of worrying about the dirt on money, I tend to wonder about the other lives that have been touched briefly by the same coins or notes that pass into my possession.

People sometimes say, if these walls could talk. Well, I'm pretty sure that the average piece of currency must have witnessed a great story or three... or at least overheard some - through their owners' purses, wallets, and pockets.

My one burst of doing something useful today was strictly reserved for packing. Today's target was a large bookcase, and the first thing I pulled down was a wooden box. It was a gift from a friend when J and I got married in London. Needless to say - as with our cat and dragon - this box has been around.

I opened it slowly - like the treasure box it is - and was a little sad to realise that the contents were still safely wrapped in butcher's paper from when we moved to LA, more than two years ago. Somehow, I'd happily put the box on the display, but never gotten around to freeing the contents inside.

The treasure inside consisted mostly of money that I'd collected during my globetrotting days - leftover coins and notes, most of them too pretty to let go of. I never really bought souvenirs. My mementos are basically photos; coins and notes; and used ticket stubs from various foreign public transport systems (okay, that last collection makes me sound like a hoarder, but to this day I use them as bookmarks and have even - in a crafty fit - made a collaged canvas with them).

Today, I had fun letting the coins trickle through my fingers, pirate-style. I tried to straighten some of the more crumpled notes, and admired their colours. I showed the money to the Faery, and talked about which countries they came from. She was immediately drawn to a Swedish hundred kronor note - an observation that wasn't lost on me, given the Scandinavian name she has.

What I love most about foreign notes are the different colours. I have to say (a couple of years into using it) that American money is dull. I miss being able to tell - at a glance - exactly what denominations are in my purse. If I'm distracted, it is too easy to hand over the wrong note. Maybe it's just me being a ditz, though.

Best of all, I found an extra special treasure in the box that I'd been thinking of lately, and wasn't sure which 'safe' place I'd tucked it into. A treasure which could not be bought for all the colourful money in the world... but it deserves a post of it's own, so I'll save that for another day.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


After unintentionally taking one too many photos lately where the Faery's irises are lit up beautifully in the sunlight, I attempted to try and take a photo of my own. It's harder than it sounds, and I'm not sure what I was thinking.

An excuse in vanity, perhaps? Not really - the only makeup I had on was the remnants of mascara worn two days earlier. As you can see, I wasn't exaggerating about the minimal state of my eye lashes.

Also, the dark circles underneath weren't pretty. Thank god for close cropping, huh?

It was interesting comparing my eyes to the Faery's. She is my clone in many ways, but not her eye colour. Isn't genetics a funny thing? Neither of the girls inherited my green gene. If I can get Miss Pie to sit still enough, I'll try to get a similar shot and then post the comparisons. Why not?

(Yes, I am still procrastinating with packing up for our move...)

Monday, June 11, 2012

A lazy post

1. I am obsessed with this spread. I cannot stop thinking of new ways to consume it; things to lick it off. That sounds rude, but I'm not being smutty - just ruled by my taste buds. Cookie Butter is the shiz.

2. Two little sisters. One chubby hand resting on her older sister's knee, steadying herself as we went for a ride on a trolley car. Too cute.

3. A certain little person - out of the blue - has begun posing for photos with her fingers in the V-for-victory angle. Look out, Harajuku girls.

4. Trike action on a hot afternoon.

5. Spring cleaning for our move, and I found my stash of childhood photos, along with some crisp old dollar notes which I saved as they went out of circulation in Australia years ago, before the plastic notes.

6.  After a Friday family night out in a nearby town for pizza and ice cream, the walk back to the car took us past an old school lumber yard, and a view of this lovely rising moon.

7. We rarely have a reason to venture downtown, but attended a family preview screening of Madagascar 3 the other week (worth taking the kids to, by the way - even Miss Pie lasted the entire duration). I'm essentially a city girl at heart and always enjoy the sight of shiny tall buildings, jostling for the sky.

8. I will never tire of jacarandas - it's like a piece of home. June Gloom is in town most mornings, but thankfully buggers off by midday.

9. The best thing about late spring/early summer, in addition to jacarandas? Super cheap raspberries. I've been getting into some serious raspberry friand baking mode. Coincidentally, they go rather well with banana sundaes and Cookie Butter - all together. Yes.

10. Another addiction. In Australia, a staple treat of mine was fresh, hot cinnamon donuts - something that's yet to catch on in other countries (seriously, what is with that?)... these are a crunchy version of that flavour. Bliss.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Faery chatter

When did she grow into such a little lady?

Blissing out on ice cream.

We've had some wonderful chats recently.

Walking home from school the other day (like most kids, the Faery has been asking for a puppy since, well, forever):
"Mum, why do people let their dogs poo on the street, and not clean it?"
"Well, I think it's because they're lazy."
"Dog poo is gross."
"Yep, sure is. But that's part of having a dog. When you have a dog, it has to be walked, and its poo has to be cleaned up. It's like with babies - they do lots of poos, and even though it's gross, it still has to be cleaned up. It wouldn't be right to just leave it. The same with dogs - it's the right thing to pick up their poo, even if it's really disgusting and we don't like doing it. If someone doesn't want to do that, then they're not really ready for the responsibility of having a dog."
"Well then" - her eyes widening for emphasis - "I am definitely not ready to have a dog yet!"
"Neither am I. Or Dad. Miss Pie isn't toilet-trained yet, so we already have lots of poo to clean up every day. And there's also Emily's cat litter. We feel we have enough poo in our lives at the moment."
"Wow, that sure is a lot of poo!"

Her mature acceptance that now isn't the best time to get a dog left me gobsmacked. The days where I think I'm too hard on her, and expect too much from her - she's not even six yet - are often flipped over by the moments when I realise I don't give her enough credit for what she's capable of understanding. 

Also, I love that we can have entire conversations about poo. She may be stretching taller and getting wiser, but she loves nothing more than good old fart humour. It's in her DNA.

Compared to her sister, she was born with an old soul; always taking everything in, observing, analysing, questioning, pondering. Despite this, I don't want her to grow up. There's still such a precious innocence in her - more than I see in a lot of other girls her age. I want to protect that, because her little spirit bruises easily.

She has a school project to be finished at home this week. It's a poster, titled All About Me, with various areas to write in, draw, and decorate. I've never seen her get so excited about a project, and she insisted on doing it all in one afternoon. After completing each section, she had to explain everything to me in painstaking detail. Permission to talk about herself? Who knew she had so much to say? I mean, we ask her questions all the time, but she seemed to relish this even more.

We had a few bumps. When it came to spelling certain words, she was adamant about doing it the American way - fair enough. She had to write how tall she was, resulting in the tape measure coming out, then me panicking at which way to express it. Obviously, metric was out, and inches in... but should we use feet, or just inches? This is when I realised I had no idea where to put the " ...after feet? Or after inches? No idea, so just inches were used (46, to be exact).

She was required to cut and paste pictures of her favourite things from magazines, but my recent spring clean left her with very little material to work with. She didn't care though - as long as there were butterflies and chocolate, all was good.

Her finished effort made J and I a little teary-eyed. It's a glimpse into the soul of our gorgeous girl, and something I wish I could freeze in time.

Oh, to be that age again.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Beauty lashings

(Photo source: Etsy via Alyssa Edelan on Pinterest)

Am I the only one who is baffled when it comes to buying mascara? There is so much choice, my head feels like it will explode, so I keep putting off buying new mascara. You don't want to know how infrequently I replace it. If you believe everything you read in the beauty columns, my eyeballs should have imploded from bacteria by now.

It's hard enough knowing which brand to look to, but then each brand has a dozen different types. Some promise to lengthen. Some promise volume. To curl. To separate. Three times thicker? Twice as long? Lengthen and curl? Fatten and lengthen?

Genetically speaking, I drew the short straw in the lashes department. All three of my siblings have long dark eyelashes, whereas mine are blonde, short and sparse.

Clearly, I need all the help I can get. I don't actually wear a lot of makeup, but if there's a single item I'm going to apply, it's mascara (actually, I lie - concealer for the dark eye circles is an equal necessity).

So. I don't want to choose between lengthening or separating. Fattening or curling.

I want need a mascara that does it all. That's not too much to ask for, right?

With all this miraculous 'technology' and 'revolutionary breakthroughs' that are touted in cosmetic commercials, you'd think that by now, someone would have invented a mascara that does it all. How hard could it be?

Part of me thinks that cosmetic companies must be run by some fairly low-IQ people if they can't make something as simple as a one-in-all mascara... but deep down I know the truth. They're cynical, greedy companies that have worked out how to get women to buy three different versions of the same product.

I call it bullshit.

(Also, how stupid do they think women are if they expect us to believe that the false eyelashes adorned by whatever current starlet/It girl in their commercials are real lashes, and simply beefed up by their product? Seriously?)

All I want is pretty eyelashes.

And smaller feet. A girl can dream.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Baby choices

The Faery only has eight days of school left, meaning one thing: if I want to have a decent clear out of junk before we move, I need to pull my finger out. Throwing out crappy McHappy Meal toys (she doesn't get them often, but I swear those toys breed) and other annoying 'treasures' is only possible in stealth mode - in other words, when she's at school.

I got started this morning, but became side-tracked by various baby paraphernalia. I've actually been fairly good about passing on no-longer needed baby items as Miss Pie has grown, but there are still a few little things I'm yet to part with. I found myself staring at them today, wondering, in case we need them again... which is silly, considering how much I've already given away to Goodwill.

My ideal number of kids has always been two, but we haven't officially ruled out a third. Two is good for now but there's that saying: never say never. We often joke about how if we had another while we lived in the US, the child would have dual citizenship - which could be a handy thing for that child, down the track. God only knows applying for visas is a painful process. American bureaucracy has to be experienced to be believed.

Then J came home from work last week, less than thrilled with some changes that had been announced. Like most American companies, the one he works for is cutting costs, and that's meant skimping on the health care plans - to the point where some employees (who have dependent family members with ongoing health issues) may have to seriously consider changing jobs in order to get better health care.

(I think it is completely fucked up that in a 'first world nation', a person's well-being is so dependent on the health care plan provided by their employer, and the precarious position it puts them in each time they change jobs. Call me socialist, whatever, I don't care. It is a major flaw in this so-called land of the free.)

Courtesy of these cuts, we will now pay a higher co-payment for each trip to the doctor. Luckily for us, we're a pretty healthy bunch but there are no lifetime guarantees when it comes to good health, right?

J joked, "There goes any idea of having an American baby" because the minimum cost would set us back $6,000.

Six. Thousand. Dollars. 

For a basic hospital stay - assuming it was a straight-forward birth. That's not even including the costs of pre-natal health care with an obstetrician.

How on earth do poor people afford to have children in the US? Something is very wrong.

Now I feel even more grateful for the Australian health care system (all I can say is, Australians who complain about it have not experienced health care in other countries). In Sydney, for pre-natal care, delivery and hospital stay - for both the Faery and Miss Pie - we paid nothing. Not a cent, and received excellent care through a midwife-run birth centre that was attached to the labour ward at our local public hospital.

How lucky do I feel?

Six thousand dollars to give birth? I know there are plenty of people who wouldn't blink at that, and willingly pay through the nose for an obstetrician - both here and in Australia. The difference is that in Australia, there's (generally) a choice. There are some great things about life in the US, but this is not one of them.

The remaining baby items I'm yet to part with have been put into a box for now. I am excellent at procrastination... but it's looking as though the box is more likely to end up at Goodwill than our next apartment.

On the bright side, baby stuff is so cheap to buy here - never say never, right?