Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Babies: Back to Basics or Buying the Best?

Ten tiny fingers, ten tiny toes... perfection. Now all that's needed is a receiving blanket. And an outfit or three. And designer booties – those handknitted ones are made of itchy wool. Don't forget the diaper bag with wipes and nappies and cream and a bottle and a cap and mittens and another receiving blanket.

Babies seem to need so much – but where is the line between need and luxury? The consumerism surrounding babies is unbelievable. I don't know whether it's fuelled by parents who equate spending money with spending time, or by those who are afraid to seem cheap when it comes to caring for their offspring, or those who just get caught up in the excitement that is BABY. There is so much out there!

Why is the market for baby gear so astoundingly lucrative? Is it because this generation has lost the skills needed to knit and sew? Because new is considered better and more hygienic? Because health codes are more restrictive? We can each decide what is a necessity and what is a comfort for ourselves, but when it comes to our children, it seems that we are judged more harshly by others for the choices we make. If you don't have the latest stroller, or a $600 diaper bag (yes, they exist), or a personalised hypoallergenic blanket, does that make you a bad parent? Of course not – but loving gestures like handmade onesies and hand-me-down cribs seem out of place in today's consumer-driven world.

Those of you who know me will be aware that I married two years ago, and so far it's just the two of us. I can't speak from experience here, so my opinion may not sit well with everyone – but that's okay. Several of my classmates and friends are already parents, and I would never tell them what I feel is right for them – because, especially when it comes to raising a family, there isn't one way that works for everyone. Some of them are going back to basics, and others are providing what they believe is the best for their babies. I don't know what kind of mother I'll be someday, but I hope I'll be the kind that puts time ahead of money, and comfort ahead of couture.

Most of all, I hope that I will be able to focus on the tiny bundle of wonderment God may choose to bless us with one day. I'd like to provide the best that I can, but for me, that starts with a loving home, blankets and clothes that are soft and warm, good nutrition, and lullabies that my mother sang to me. Anything above that would be an embarrassment of riches...but I might be so content I wouldn't notice.

This week's topic is 'babies,' which is only fitting considering our chosen charity. That's it for this edition of the Blog-Off! Thanks everyone for your comments and contributions.

Mom, sis, cousins - don't freak out, ok? There is nothing I need to tell you. And Mom - thanks for all the lullabies.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Wannabe Tourist

Oh the things I would do if I worked less and had kids I could borrow for a day. Last week (aka, before I caught a nasty cold) I was wandering around the harbour and saw a magnificent pirate-y ship, and a rather imposing naval vessel.

This is a replica of the HMB Endeavour.

It made me wish I could bring my friend's kids along as an excuse to climb all over the ship, look through portholes, and generally enjoy a piece of history without the awkwardness of being a lone adult on a ship's tour.
It was such a great day for it, too - look at those clouds.
So Christie... how 'bout it? Want to hop on a plane with your kids for a couple days in Oz?

Flanking the Endeavour was the HMAS Vampire, Australian flag flying high. No replica here. The museum website says it's classed as a destroyer.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Lessons from the Cutlery Drawer

It's nearly time for bed, and as I put the kettle on I realised I was a bit peckish. In the tea cupboard I spotted the peanut butter jar and decided a slice of toast and PB would be perfect.

The dishwasher's on, and it runs like an orchestra of crickets. In the cutlery drawer there are no knives, but I don't dare open the churning dishwasher. I snag a tablespoon from the drawer instead. As it turns out, the back of the spoon does a fine job of spreading the smooth peanut butter onto my soy-linseed toast.

No, the peanut butter doesn't look like the Virgin Mary's profile. But it occurs to me that a task usually requires a set tool, skill, or knowledge. You might think that someone without these perks might be at a disadvantage, but with a little creativity, the job can still get done.

It got me thinking: Why do we give up so easily? Why are we so frustrated, so unmovable, so quick to blame failure on our lack of...something? How much have we gained by doing things by trial and error? How much might we as a culture have lost if there was only one solution for every problem?

It isn't about what we have - it's what we do with it that counts.

Blog-off topic of the week: The most important lesson.

Random fact: another name for the runcible spoon, as in the Owl and the Pussycat's "which they ate with a runcible spoon," is a spork! Runcible spoons have three tines and were originally intended to serve chutneys and pickles. Source: Antique Silver Spoons. I always thought that was a made-up word. Hey, I warned you this blog was random!

Saturday, July 18, 2009


If I seem a bit food-centric lately, I apologize. It's winter over here, and I've been staying in and making lots of soups and warm things. But I've been craving the mini-burgers sold at our nearby gourmet burger joint, Bite Me! and this post has some tasty photos to dress it up.

Last night Jody & I dropped off his laptop at our place and headed directly for burgers. The last time I wanted to go, you see, it was only 8pm and they were already closed... so I was a sad panda.

Rather than make difficult choices, we opted to split the platter of six mini-burgers, and also a big basket of onion rings. We got two of the "Lambtastic," a "Bloody Mary" which had a spicy sauce, two "Jack Daniels" with JD BBQ sauce & bacon, and my favourite - "Pluck Me," a chicken burger with seeded honey mustard & brie.

These photos are from our last outing - complete with the tomato-shaped ketchup bottle, and Jody's regular-sized burger. Yum! As a bonus... you can draw on the placemats with crayons.


I was on my own for dinner last week, as Jody had embarked on a "code sprint" with a worldwide network of volunteer techies. As I meandered through my cupboards, with no idea of what to make, MasterChef was on... I must admit that I've been following it. Not every single episode, but enough that I was very interested to know who'd make it through.

This particular episode featured a two-hour challenge in which the amateur chefs had to create a savoury and a sweet pie. I had high hopes for Julie Goodwin, the home cook, and unfortunately her nerves got the better of her and one of her pies was instead a puddle of ingredients on a plate. Poh Ling Yeow, on the other hand, came out of the gate with an original dessert (rhubarb with hazelnut-chocolate crust) that didn't even look like a pie, and a tiny blue-cheese-and-veg pie -- and she won! Chris made a fish pie that sounded tasty, and Tahitian lime pie with meringue. Mmmmm.....

All these pies reminded me that I had two new medium-sized Corningwares in the cupboard, and puff pastry sheets in the freezer. So I whipped up my oft-used curry paste & coconut milk in a saucepan, added some steamed asparagus and a spring onion, and browned some chicken. I put the lot into the pastry-filled Corningware and folded the pastry edges in. To add a little gloss, I brushed a beaten egg over the pastry.

While this was cooking I chopped two apples and finished off a bag of frozen mixed berries. I sauteed the fruit in butter, brown sugar & cinnamon, and poured it into the second dish. Again I folded the pastry around the filling, and brushed it with egg before popping it in the oven.
It might not have been MasterChef worthy, but it was very tasty!

Speaking of great chefs, I can't wait for this film with Amy Adams and Meryl Streep!

I apologize if the photos aren't great - I used the camera on my phone.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Fond of Dancing

This week's blog-off topic:

You are allowed, through the miracles of science, to travel into the past for a span of no more than 24 hours. You are allowed to take with you ONE piece of current modern technology with which you may change the lives of ONE family that you can visit during your stay. Assuming that there are no long-term, widespread disastrous outcomes from this altering of the timeline, when and where would you go, what piece of technology would you take with you to leave with them and why, and what do you think the experience would be like?

I am a little breathless from my journey, and giddy at what I might accomplish. Toying with England's history? Yes. Do I believe it is for the greater good? Undoubtedly. I only hope I am right.

I brush at the folds of my pale yellow day dress, thankful for the fancy dress parties that keep costume hire shops in business. A soft green pelisse is draped over my left arm, and in my right hand I clutch a patterned travelling case. Its contents are not much to look on, but in 1816 they will bring about a miracle.

I knock at the door of a house in Winchester. “I'm here to see Mr. Lyford, if you please. I've come a long way to give something to him.”

The butler is sceptical, but I hand him a card I've had specially designed for this trip, and it seems to place me in higher estimation. I wait in the entry for several moments until he returns.

“If Miss could follow me to the East parlour, please.”

After an interminable ten minutes, the butler's tones announce his master's arrival. I stand to greet Mr. Lyford, and he takes my hand. The butler remains at the edge of the room, for propriety's sake.

“Dear sir,” I begin, “though I am a stranger to you, we have a common...friend. The lady in question is in poor health, and if you will accept a gift from me, you can make her well again.”

We talk for a quarter of an hour, but I know I cannot waste this man's time. I explain as simply as I can, and Mr. Lyford nods, his only sign of bewilderment the widening of his eyes. “Well,” he says gruffly, “I daresay it can't do any harm. Hydrocortisone tablets, you say?”

I can see his interest is sparked. “From what I have heard of her condition, these tablets will help her regain her strength and relieve her pain. I know she is fond of dancing. Can you begin her treatment immediately?”

Mr. Lyford smiles. “I am to take the coach to Chawton tomorrow. Leave the tablets with me, my dear. I shall see to it that she takes them properly.”

“Thank you. You do me a great service.” Barely able to contain my elation, I take my leave.

My first stop in modern-day Australia is the bookshop. Amongst the familiar classics rests a seemingly innocuous title: Sanditon. Beside it are three other titles that were not previously part of the English literary canon – and they are by Jane Austen.

NB: Shameless promotion of my favourite P&P quote: "To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love." And who knows? Maybe, since she now lives past 41, she will dance and fall in love again.

For more information about Jane Austen or Addison's Disease, please visit the following links.

Monday, July 06, 2009

The Best Risk

It would be so much simpler to describe the ideal life, or the easy life, or even the hard life. Maybe I'm trying too hard to focus this entry. I think my view of my Best Life changes daily. If it's a Monday and I have a job to go to, even if I have "a case of the Mondays" I know I'm better off than many people. If it's a Friday and I have something fun to go to, I have a sense of anticipation and an excuse to get dressed up. I live for the weekends, when I can read at leisure, take a dance class, Skype my best friend.

For the most part, though, my best life is a work in progress. It's something that's happening now, not in some distant future. I couldn't wish for a better partner than Jody to share the craziness that is our early married life in Australia. I have an education, a loving family, healthy and fun ways to fill my spare time, belongings and indulgences, accomplishments I'm proud of and goals to work toward.

What's best is not always the easiest. So I'm trying to enjoy the life I have, building on it to create something more - something that will give me satisfaction but leave lots of room for improvement. I wouldn't say I'm 100% content right now, but if I were, where would I go from here?

As Jody and I were in the early planning stages of our international move, about this time last year, I was asking anyone and everyone what they thought. It was my uncle who said to me, "The people I know who have taken risks are those who ultimately succeed."

It would have be easier, more ideal, to remain in a town where I know the people, the neighbourhoods, the flow. It was hard to leave. It was impossible to stay.

My best life, then, involves taking some calculated risks. Last year's was a big one, but we haven't regretted our decision to move in favour of dual job opportunities. Already, it has increased our chances of success in the future. Sometimes, my approximation of my best life revolves around much smaller risks. Last week I went to a dance class, and tonight I went back. That I went to a dance class is hardly unusual. It was a risk because I do not consider myself cool enough to hip-hop. (I am so uncool I wonder if there is a hyphen between hip and hop.)

So get out there - pop and lock, talk to that hot classmate, pack your bag. Risk a little, and live.

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