Monday, December 28, 2009

Film synopsis

We rented "Burn After Reading" from Blockbuster.
We spent the first 20 minutes wondering what was going on.
The next 25 minutes starting to think we might see where it was headed.
And then spontaneously started cracking up close to the hour mark.
The movie is crazy and bizarre and yet totally engaging.
And that's what it's like watching a movie by the Coen Brothers.

Practicing writing

When I reemerged from the extension after putting Stephanie to bed tonight, I found Ellie sitting at the table outside, working intently. She had found a pen and a small square of notepaper, and she was "practicing writing."

She wasn't trying to write words, though we know that will come soon. She can write her name (and "Mama"!), but for now, most of the time, she just enjoys the letters themselves. When she ambled off to bed, I deftly whisked this precious paper away for my Mama Treasures stash.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Boxing Day

Today is Boxing Day. To Americans, this doesn't mean a whole lot. It's not a day we recognize, but here Down Under, they follow the British model (and European, to some extent), making Boxing Day another big day in the Christmas tradition. So, what is Boxing Day? It is rooted in a tradition of charity and giving to the less fortunate. In the Victorian era, workmen would collect gifts on the day after Christmas (Christmas boxes) in return for good service provided throughout the year. Now, it's a bank holiday and often the start of post-Christmas sales. What does that mean for us? Again, not a whole lot. We try to spread our giving throughout the year, so Boxing Day is just another day off. This doesn't mean we don't make the most of it!

We used the morning to take a leisurely stroll through King's Park. As the four of us lolled in the grass, enjoying the abundant sunshine and refreshing breeze, we once again counted our blessings and realized how fortunate we are to be able to enjoy the goodness that is life in Perth. If you found a climate just like Perth's anywhere else in the world, it would be overrun. Fortunately (and sometimes unfortunately), Perth is so isolated and remote that overcrowding isn't an issue. It's easy to lounge about in the sun and enjoy, because really, that's what you do here. Lucky us!

Although wildflower season has well passed, King's Park is in full bloom. I have a particular affinity for Kangaroo Paws (yellow flowers top right). We also enjoyed the banksia (yellow flowers, second from bottom right) and the red blooms on the Short-Leaved Something-or-Other (sorry, but I don't remember the name)(bottom right). What a gorgeous day!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

We hope your Christmas was as fun and carefree as ours was! Warmest wishes to you and yours on this special day!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Deck the halls

...with gastro.
I returned from a movie night with a girlfriend on Sunday night to a sick Markus. We thought it was food poisoning (he consumed questionable jam with dinner) until Ellie got just as sick last night (questionable blueberries?). Joy. So far, Stephanie and I are still okay. At least whatever this is seems to be short-lived. Markus and Ellie are still flat out on the couch, but the actual sickness was a one night only show. Good thing I was planning on a simple, low key Christmas!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

On a late December morning...

We awoke to another hot day here Down Under, so what better way to start the day than in the pool?

Wet suits are so cute on a tiny person.

Markus rigged up the outdoor shower to rinse off the pool water. Stephanie loves standing under it. Here she is trying to watch the water pour from her hair...

Happy Sunday, everyone!

Yesterday was the first day Baby Stephanie decided she had no residual fear about the pool. She even worked herself up to (repeatedly) jumping from the side into Papa's arms, after which she will proudly announce in perfect Dinglish, "I schwimmt!". She had a blast! Ellie, ever the water baby, was ready to show her how it should be done.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

New Christmas tradition

Earlier in the week, temperatures dropped unexpectedly due to the smokey layer in the air, and I was prompted to seek a quick playdate alternative to swimming. We had invited over a family with three kids, and I wanted to make sure five kiddos total could stay engaged and happy for a while. We made a quick trip to the local bakery and picked up gingerbread house kits and then to the grocery store to buy some candy decorations. As it turned out, the kids wanted to swim anyway (kids have such different internal thermostats), so we saved the gingerbread house for another day.
Ellie had so much fun decorating it! We think it appeals to her meticulous nature. Baby Stephanie very helpfully ensured we did not have any extra Smarties to wrangle (Smarties are like M&Ms, larger, lacking the M, and made by Nestle).

We know we will be making one every year!

Friday, December 18, 2009

"I thought I had it in reverse!"

AKA Why Markus loves the South


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

School concert

This video will be a bit too lengthy for most viewers, but true Ellie fans will love it. Last Thursday night, Ellie's school presented their end of the year concert. The theme was "peace." Children in the 3-5 year old classes were asked to dress in "national costumes." The variety was fantastic. There are a number of families from different countries, and a lot of those families had extra costumes to share. One African boy was shirtless with traditional paint on his chest and face. Two Greek children in Ellie's class looked amazing. I didn't film the whole concert (there are 4 younger classes and a few more older classes than I captured), but I included the duration of Ellie's class song and the final song with all the classes, as well as brief selections from some middle classes so you can get an idea. The adolescent program included hip-hop dancing in their physical education this term (along with fencing and surfing...I wish I'd gone to this school!), so you get to see a bit of their efforts too. You'll see Stephanie trying to mimic their motions a time or two. Ellie is in the first and last song. She is wearing a long pink dress (which belonged to her Tante Ulla when she was a girl). She is standing six children in from the left in the first song, next to the boy in brown. During the final song, she is standing over toward the right in the front row.

The whole concert was absolutely wonderful. It was a bit too late for the little ones, but they held up really well and everyone had a special time. Here, I'm happy to share it with you.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Aussie summer

Over the weekend, it was incredibly hot. Temperature in the shade was around 35 degrees (that's close to 100F), and we can only guess how scorching it was in the sun. Frankly, I had no interest in finding out. We opted to stay indoors for the hottest parts of the day, so we did the obvious thing to do on an incredibly hot summer day: we decorated the Christmas tree.

I may never adapt to Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere.

Monday morning dawned hot and slightly humid. It was looking to be another toasty day, so I took the girls out early, hoping to wear them out before the sun really got blazing. Strangely enough, by 10am it was much cooler. When I talked with Markus on the phone at midday, I commented on how there seemed to be a haze blocking sun intensity, "more like bush fire haze than weather haze" I said. I couldn't put my finger on why (it wasn't grey or smokey), but we experienced our first bush fire several weeks ago and it reminded me of that.

That bush fire was a small one. We had taken Ellie to a trial run of a girls' chess club when we noticed smoke blowing across the parking lot. Investigation revealed that the open space near the community center had just gone up in flames. We were evacuated by the fire department. Although it was relatively small, bush fires can be unpredictable and fast-moving, so they sent us on home.

This morning, I noticed how odd the sunlight looked, filtering in through the windows. Then I smelled smoke and hopped out of bed in a hurry. Don't worry, we're fine! There is indeed a massive bush fire, but it is down near Harvey, over 100km away! So, it was the outer fringes of the smoke that cooled things off here yesterday. Right now, the sky outside looks like this:

It is quite smokey out. I can't imagine what it's like for the communities closer to the fire. We are so far from it, and the smoke is pretty strong all the way here in Perth.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


You know I love this.

Reading and singing

My first full week back was Ellie's last week of school for the year. To call it intense would be an understatement and somewhat inaccurate besides; instead, it would best be described in Aussie terms: it has been "full on". I am very behind on blog posting, so I offer this joyful snippet as a placeholder while I gather my thoughts.

Ellie is looking at a farm animal book and singing "Old MacDonald".
Baby Stephanie tells us, "I read" before joining Ellie in finishing the chorus.
Best wishes for a lovely start to your week.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Blessed and lucky

Yesterday, I sat enraptured watching Markus sing German songs with the girls snuggled in his lap. Earlier, I'd watched him lovingly coach Ellie to perfection as they folded laundry together. He took them to the playground and played as hard as they did. He just took care of them solo for 12 days. He is wonderful. I always knew it, but through my jetlag zombie haze, I can watch it with new eyes and appreciate him all the more.

And just when I don't know how I could feel more blessed with my partner, I find myself chatting with another mom on the playground as Markus played with her 3 year old son as well as our girls. This mum was being drained by a huge, fussy baby, and she wore the frazzled look I know so well. She was a woman in need of an outlet and some support. Her husband travels a lot for work, and he'd left that morning for another week away. She told story after story about how hard she was finding the whole parenting-two-busy-boys thing. Her second baby was a colicky bad sleeper, so for the first six months, her husband had slept with earplugs in a separate room so he'd be fresh for work. She and I agreed this was totally fair, since someone had to earn the money around here. Then, she went on to tell me about the morning he'd woken up fresh from nine straight hours of sleep (at a time she was averaging around four broken hours total), popped out his earplugs and danced off to the gym. He came home awake and full of endorphins, showered and sat down for breakfast...and then commented that she looked like she was "in one of [her] moods." All I can think of is that internet joke about how it's a legal defense in Texas to say, "He just needed killin'."

Oh, I am so blessed.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Muppets Bohemian Rhapsody

...because I had to share.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Family photos

In addition to securing the door prize for "Person Who Traveled Furthest To Attend Thanksgiving Dinner" (I so had that in the bag!), it was my job to take family photos. A few years ago, my grandfather and his wife hired a professional photographer for guaranteed-to-be-amazing family photos that...weren't. By all accounts, they were awful. Among the (many) flaws was the overly-heavy use of flash that whited everyone out and cast shadows all over creation. Fast forward a few years to now and me, with my extreme aversion to flash in general, taking family photos indoors, late evening, on a cold, foggy night. Flash was required, and I had the gear...but the pressure was on! The good news is the family photo came out great! You can see it in the Thanksgiving day blog post. Everyone is looking at the camera, everyone is smiling, everyone looks fabulous. Hooray! But I also have an aversion to posed photos, so as much as I like the big family photograph, I like these even more:

This is my sister, who always knows what she wants to do when the camera is pointed her way. She spent the evening giving tips to the other ladies on how to achieve the best angle, the slimmest line, the least-pronounced-double-chin...but she could also give lessons on hamming it up. Seriously. She and the dog have the same expression (I also like my grandfather's amusement in the background).

My mom assures me that this is the same look she has been seeing on my sister's face since she was a little girl every time she got something she wanted: "A new My Little Pony!", "Jewelry!", and in this case, "A cute husband!"

Another shot of that cute husband of hers:

My sister is also responsible for the expressions captured in this photo of my mom with her kids. For reasons that escape me now, she settled on a bootylicious pose that my cousin (the photographer at this point) was quick enough to capture. This is the aftermath:

That ridiculously tall guy on the left is my little brother. Yes, I still call him my little brother. He may have me on height, but I tower over him intellectually.

Take a look at these gorgeous girls. They are my cousins. They are 16. They are bee-you-ti-ful! And they don't even know it (part of being 16, methinks). My grandfather asked them to say the blessing, and they chose to split a reading by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

This lovely young lady is my cousin, Shannon. She will start university next year. I remember chasing her around the house, trying to prevent her running outside in nought but her diaper on a snowy winter day many years ago. I also tried to teach her to fake snore on Christmas Eve when she was two and a half. I was spending the night in her room, and she was way too excited to sleep. And just look at her now:

Although most of these are posed, I still love all these captured little moments too:

And, as he loves to remind us, it was all started by this guy. My grandfather celebrated his 90th birthday on Friday. I was so blessed and lucky to be able to be there to celebrate with him.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hadn't planned to blog while stateside, but I couldn't resist on this day, Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday. America is the only country that celebrates Thanksgiving, though the sentiment and ritual could easily be universal. It is a day to acknowledge all of one's blessings and to enjoy a truly special meal with those near and dear to your heart. My life is filled with blessings innumerable, and my heart is full on this day when I will join my mom's side of the family in celebrating my grandfather's 90th birthday.

And, in the interest of being honest, it's also about the food (you know me...isn't it always about the food?).
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Fun with Qantas

I am less than 24 hours away from my flight now, so I just attempted to do online check-in...which did not work. The fun with Qantas begins. After waiting on hold for over 20 minutes (charged by the minute), I reached a (surprisingly friendly) woman who informed me that somehow my ticket processed without my title (Mrs.), so it's in their computer is "Jennifer Select [last name]". I don't put my last name on the blog, but they did have that right. The problem, as you can see, was the "Select" part. Not in my name. Doesn't match my passport. Will prevent me from boarding. No worries, she says, you just need a ticket reissue...with a processing fee of $80. I could risk it and not reissue the ticket, but then Qantas has no obligation to compensate me if I am denied boarding or entry to the US for a ticket name that does not match. Since I booked online, it's my responsibility. I pointed out that it's their online form that caused the problem, but she dismissed that as nonsense. So...$80 poorer, I am waiting to receive my reissued ticket. LESS THAN 24 HOURS FROM MY FLIGHT. Am not amused.

Fresh space, fresh start

Yesterday afternoon, I moved a little table and chair into the kitchen to give the girls a designated art spot. Although I set it up as a desk (the table was a very cheap coffee table we've had for ages), it has been sitting in the playroom unused for weeks. The corner where they fit was poorly lit and out of sight of everyone. Now, they are in a spot brightly lit by sunlight during the day in a space we all use all the time. I refreshed the contents of the art box, added a stationery drawer system to hold construction paper, white printer paper, some stencils...and both girls are over the moon. They literally fought over who could use the chair first yesterday, and they used the supplies in their own ways until dinnertime. Ellie was back in place first thing this morning, happily creating. Stephanie gravitated there right after she finished lunch. I love it when we find what works!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Fighting dirty

There are two days left before my flight. I am very excited about seeing my family, and I am trying not to think about leaving the girls. Each morning this week, baby Stephanie has been extra snuggly when she wakes up. When I lift her out of the crib, she doesn't immediately run after Ellie like usual; instead, she pops the schnully back in and snuggles with me in the rocking chair. This morning, she tucked her head under my chin and lay in complete surrender, belly to belly like when she was a newborn, and she stayed like that for almost five minutes. The thought of not having that for TWELVE DAYS nearly broke my heart. We haven't told her I'm going, but already she's fighting dirty.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Serious reflection

Baby Stephanie is standing at the little table in the kitchen, cup in hand but not drinking, as if pausing for serious reflection. Then a little grunt escapes and I notice her face turning red with strain.
"Stephanie, are you making poo-poo?"
Grunt, strain, pause..."No."

Little Aussies

Little by little, our girls are becoming Aussie-fied.

Ellie is picking it up at school from the other kids. One of her best friends sings with a volume and intensity that is unmatched, and Ellie usually sits next to her at song time. This means Ellie learns songs from her friend rather than the teacher. Funnier still is this friend has a child's lisp, so sometimes the versions of songs that come home are quite hysterical. An example that pops to mind is a song they've learned about the months and the seasons. Her version of the chorus sounds something like this (shouted, as her friend does):

The seasons change and evwything.

(the last line is usually mumbled with uncertainty about the words)

Stephanie is more taking on the Aussie style in her outfits. She has an extreme aversion to shoes (many Aussies seem to live barefoot), and she has become quite adept at their removal. Now that it's warmer, she also loves to be naked. She'll whack her little belly and announce, "Wanna get out!" (of the shirt/dress/clothes). Her speech mostly comes from me, so there isn't much Aussie in it yet, though we did have a funny moment Sunday walking back from the train station. A lady passed us on the sidewalk with the usual greeting (hello), which our darling little parrot repeated back to her: "Huh-loy!"

Monday, November 16, 2009

Teacher's pet

When I bought my sewing machine, one of my secret goals was to be one of those moms who sews. I can happily announce that goal has already been achieved. Ellie's teacher greeted me at the classroom door last Thursday with a hungry glint in her eye. "So," she tries to be casual, " sew?" She has been seeing the library bags come in, and she wanted some aprons for the classroom. I told her honestly that library bags were the extent of my expertise at the moment, but I'd be happy to try. On Friday, she had a bag of fabric for me. Given my upcoming trip, I spent the weekend in an apron-creating frenzy to have four beautiful child-size aprons ready for Monday morning. I am so happy with the result! Alas, Ellie refused to model for me.

I used this pattern (found by googling "child apron"). I traced one of Ellie's aprons instead of using the outline provided. The only other modification I made was to sew straight across the elasticized neck strap at the center to prevent the elastic from rolling inside its fabric tube. The pattern is fantastic. The elastic neck and the velcro at the waist make it super-simple for a child to put on without assistance, which makes it far more appealing than the standard tie-back style. Although it was very time-consuming (I'm new at this and quite slow), it was very easy, even for a beginner. I'll definitely be making more. Maybe Ellie's friends are getting aprons for birthdays next year...

When I was in school, I was often the teacher's pet (a status that didn't exactly endear me to my fellow students). Now that I'm a parent, I'm teacher's pet again.

Fantastic weekend!

We just enjoyed the best weekend together as a family! The weather was lovely, everyone was happy, and times were good! There's nothing like Papa being sick for 2+ weeks to make us appreciate how good we have it when we're all well. Over the weekend, we didn't do anything big or complicated, which is probably what made it so great. Saturday morning we kicked off our day with breakfast at Choux, the French patisserie in Swanbourne. Yes, the owners and chefs are actually French, so it's about as authentic as you can get in WA! The girls are huge fans of their pain au chocolat and Parisian-style macarons. Markus enjoys the chocolate-almond croissant when he can, but usually baby Stephanie mooches it before he can finish. Afterwards, I snuck away for a much-needed haircut while Markus did his best at home to outshine me at my job: he tidied, organized, played with the girls...he's ready! For what, you ask? Sneak down to the last paragraph for more info on this one.

Late Saturday afternoon, we made a trip to the zoo. We have discovered that the last hour the zoo is open is the best hour to visit. The animals are all very active, and the zoo is fairly empty of people. We can really enjoy each animal we visit. Ellie has recently discovered a profound enjoyment of the nocturnal house, which is best when there are no other people to scare the animals into hiding.

We kicked off Sunday morning with my grandma's sweet potato biscuits. Oh my yum. They are oh-so-good and really start the day off right! After breakfast, it was on to King's Park to run and play. Ellie carefully disheveled Papa's hair and served him tea of grass while Stephanie gamboled about and I poked around in the gallery shop. Sunday afternoon, Markus went on his weekly kayaking/sailing excursion (man, does that burn his work stress and replace it with boyish glee!) while we girls caught the train to Fremantle so Ellie could walk in the Fremantle Festival parade with her school.

The theme was "Original Inhabitants of Freo", and Ellie's class was aquatic life. The kids made their own costumes and instruments with parental help during school hours (I made 55 felt jellyfish for this). Though I question the wisdom of asking 3-5 year olds to walk the entire length of a parade, everyone seemed to have a great time. Ellie was very proud, and she loves her costume. She wore it all afternoon and again this morning until it was time to go to school.

This Friday (early early), I'll board a plane for Sydney and then on to LA and DC, where I'll visit my family for 9 days and celebrate my mom's birthday, Thanksgiving, and my grandfather's 90th birthday extravaganza! This is my first trip stateside in 18 months, and I'm really excited! It just seemed too darn far to drag the girls this time. The Sydney trip taught us that although they are good travelers, we should only ask so much. 30 hours from Perth to DC is a bit too much right now, so I'll be going solo. Markus will be stay-at-home dad while I'm gone, and I'm sure the girls will enjoy having him all to themselves!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Thursday, November 12, 2009

One day at a time

Wednesday was rather a horrendous day around here. It was one of those days when just about everything seemed to conspire to make me lose it. I can't remember the last time my blood pressure felt that high for such a prolonged period of time. It was infuriating, exhausting, and all around unpleasant. I logged in to blog about it, and I was relieved to see the auto-posting on that I'd arranged earlier in the week. So much better than my miserable whining and complaining! And really, there were some shining moments mixed in. Let's look at those.

First up were these two outfits of choice, each beautifully reflecting the character of the wearer:

Later, when I realized we all literally needed to cool down, we christened the swimming pool.

The good thing is even bad days end. Thursday was a great day, all day long! One day at a time (or in Wednesday's case, one moment at a time) is the way to go.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Innovation fun

Mary sent me an email forward of "Piano Stairs" from I enjoyed it so much that I followed it back to the original site and found two more videos of fun and fantastic innovative ideas to get people to change their behavior for the better. What great ideas! I know the blog has been movie-heavy this week, but I couldn't resist sharing:

There is a contest for the next big, fun idea with a prize of 2500 Euro. The three videos on the site are simple things. What simple invention could you create that would motivate people change their behavior (whatever small behavior) for the better? Although I'd intended to make the weekly suggestions for Daily Dose of Amazing more artsy, this definitely qualifies! Hooray for innovation!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

And so it goes...

Two weeks ago, Markus's office was visited by colleagues from India. One of the visitors was unwell. Last Monday, Markus started feeling under the weather, and by Tuesday morning, he was out of the running. He called in sick for two days, and on the second day when he called in, his boss was out sick were several of his colleagues.
Thank you, colleague from India.
Yesterday, Ellie became teary at odd moments and then was up half the night with the sniffles. She was too under the weather to go to school today. Looks like whatever it is has a one week incubation period.
Again I say, thank you, Indian colleague.

Zähne putzen

The nightly "teeth brushing" song and dance routine...

We haven't yet (d?)evolved to this level.

German lesson for today:
Zaehne/Zähne = teeth
Putzen = brushing/cleaning

Monday, November 09, 2009

Everyone needs a skill

The house is a mess, and really, I'm so tired that you couldn't pay me to deal with it right now. On the other hand, we had from-scratch chicken burgers on homemade buns for dinner. They were some good, lemme tell ya. I may not have this housewife thing down, but at least I can cook.

Little reader, big talker

This morning, baby Stephanie was so quiet for so long that I wasn't quite sure where she'd gone. I peeked into the playroom and found her sitting contently in a chair with a book. Watching her is such a joy, so I grabbed the camera and turned on the movie mode. Usually, the moment she sees the camera, the gig is up...but this time she was more than happy to have someone to tell all about the book. I especially enjoy watching her little feet move in time with her enthusiasm.

Sunday, November 08, 2009


Anytime baby Stephanie is busy (which is almost all the time), she will inform you that she is "making." Drawing or coloring is "making circles." Any other activity, from stacking blocks to rearranging the cabinets (see her favorite reorganization candidates in the image below), is "making."

This weekend was a good one for "making" handmade goodness. Saturday was the first time I was able to meet my knitting peeps since before our Bali trip. The knitting group meets the first and third Saturday of every month, but October had 5 Saturdays, and I missed #3. I won't make the next two either, which means I won't see them again until mid-January. Alas. I really adore those ladies! Truth be told, I hardly knit at all when I'm there. We all order coffees and treats from the nearby cafe, and I watch and learn as they knit like the wind. I learn something new every time, mostly about knitting but also about life. I am, after all, the youngest person there by at least a decade (though in more than one case, the gap is more like 4 decades). They were all heartily enthusiastic about my crazy orange and purple sweater and insist I model it next time. A reasonable goal!

On Sunday, Ellie had another birthday party to attend, which meant I had another library bag to make. Everyone is getting library bags this year! Books are my favorite gifts, and library bags make great reusable wrapping! Markus and I agree that this one is our favorite thus far:

While the sewing machine was set up, I made my first stab at the generous fabric stash Mary gifted us recently (thank you, Mary!). First up were placemats for the cubby house. I started with this:

pinned bias tape in place like so (photo courtesy of Ellie):

and ended up with these reminders of place settings from my childhood:

After all that, it was time to reclaim the dining table for dinner. At some point, I will have a permanent set-up for my sewing space. For now, working here and there suits just fine.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Thanks, I needed that.

It has been a long week. On Sunday, I had a one day cold that left me on Monday to have a week-long (nasty) affair with Markus; it knocked him flat for two days, and now it stalks him at work. He isn't sleeping well or much, so neither am I. The weather has been so weird that it is (adversely) affecting the mood of just about everyone we know. Ellie is experimenting with attitude (think "PMS" to get the scope). Today, her freak-out started while the big hand was still on the 5, which as you probably know by now is against my religion. By 6am, I gave up all hope of a bit more rest and dragged myself to the kitchen for a cuppa. When I opened my email, Meghan had sent me the skinny on NPR Tiny Desk Concerts, along with this link. New, mellow music mixed with the cuppa to remedy today's shaky start. That's much better! Thank you, Meghan!

Daily Dose of Amazing

If you have an iPhone or an iPod Touch, getting your Daily Dose of Amazing is pretty darn easy. As if the phone and all its gizmos weren't cool enough, now there is a new App that art lovers should download immediately...and I mean now. It's called "Yours, Vincent", and it's the iPhone App created for the recent release of all of Van Gogh's letters (mostly to his brother Theo) and sketches, freshly translated and compiled into a 2,500 word, 6 volume artist autobiography. To celebrate the release, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam will have a special exhibit of their entire permanent collection, as well as over 100 letters on display. I read about the book, website ( and app in the latest issue of The Economist. The App is awesome. I downloaded it today, and once again was floored by the capabilities of the iPhone. Video clips, images of the letters, sketches, translations and readings of the artist's's a serious stunner.
Enjoy the latest Daily Dose of Amazing. I hope to find something new and wonderful to share every week. This App will definitely keep me busy until then. Beautiful!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Adventures in knitting

With the turn towards warmer weather, I'm working hard not to let knitting go by the wayside. There were several weeks that, for whatever reason, I just couldn't get needles in hands to work. Then, I resumed knitting with a simple scarf project, thinking it would be a safe bet because it was fairly mindless. Turns out it was too mindless, leaving me with even more knitting apathy. There is a Jo Sharp cardigan that has been calling to me for a while now, but I had never attempted such a big project. I kept looking at it online and waffling. After the Bali trip, I visited my yarn shop to give them some pre-ordered Balinese candy (if you go to Crossways, take them Fox's in the purple bag; Margaret must have those!), and a woman was trying to figure out color combinations over the phone for--you guessed it--my cardigan. I took it as a sign, selected a color combo, gathered all the yarn (and boy oh boy is there a lot of it), and I haven't looked back!

I have heard that there are different types of knitters: scarf knitters, hat knitters, blanket knitters, sweater is entirely possible that I am a sweater knitter. Scarves, while lovely, bore me after the pattern emerges (usually less than 20% of the way in). Knitting this sweater is totally different. Creating a garment by hand, stitch by stitch, is enormously satisfying. It turns out that this pattern is really easy and quick to knit. It is knit on fairly large needles (10mm) with two yarns held together. One is alpaca; the other is cotton. Alpaca is really warm, so this will be a winter cardigan. I was drawn to a burnt orange color (a warm and cozy fall color in my mind), and I did my darnedest to match a cotton to it that wouldn't be too blah or too pumpkin/crazy. I settled on a dark purple, and forged ahead without a test run. I am not yet convinced this was entirely sane. There are some lovely colors in the alpaca that I completely ignored in my quest to match the orange. This is a lesson in swatch-making. Buy one ball of each and make a swatch! Of course, I didn't do that. I bought all the yarn I'd need for the cardigan, so there's no turning back. (actually, I think I would have done it anyway. I really like these colors together; I'm just a bit worried about it as an entire sweater)

Last night, I finished the bottom part. Today, I start the sleeves. Once the sleeves are made, I will knit them in with the bottom to form the back and collar as one piece. I promise to be back with photos of the outcome. I hope it won't be too freaky. Certainly, there's nothing like it available in any store, which is part of my goal.

Life Down Under

Yesterday was atypically humid. The air was thick and hot and still. The stillness was almost more strange than the humidity, because we are so rarely without wind or at least a breeze. When I picked up Ellie from school, the sea was so calm that it was almost flat, an observation that I found unnerving. I know this location isn't prone to extreme weather, but habit told me a huge storm or possibly a hurricane must be coming, because the water and the air just weren't right. Thankfully, nothing of that sort has come to pass, though it's still windless and humid. Very odd.
Even more odd is the arrival of Christmas catalogs in the mailbox and Christmas decorations in the stores.
Hot, humid, summer around the corner...and it's Christmas time.
I may never get used to this aspect of Southern Hemisphere living.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Just in case... haven't had your daily dose of amazing, check this out.


I embedded the video to make it easy to find for the less computer savvy, but I found it myself at the bottom of the article linked above (click on the underlined word "this").

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

When we moved to Australia last year, we weren't expecting anyone to celebrate Halloween, so we were surprised and seriously unprepared when lots of trick-or-treaters came to our door. This year, I bought quite a bit of candy, and there weren't nearly as many trick-or-treaters...meaning those who came by took home handfuls of candy (hooray!). Halloween is very much an imported holiday here. The witches and goblins made it over, but you don't see much costume variety and almost no home decoration. Maybe they'll get there in time, maybe not.

I admit that I'm getting slack on American holidays. At first, I tried celebrating anyway while living somewhere no one else really acknowledged the holiday, but I found more often than not that made me feel even more sad and remote from home. Then again, letting them skate by unacknowledged doesn't feel so great either. The middle ground is not making too much of a fuss, and just enjoying them simply. Simple is good! We knew we wouldn't take the girls trick-or-treating, but I wanted them to have costumes anyway. After all, we had been invited to a birthday party at the Margaret River Chocolate Company, costumes welcome. In the spirit of simple, I decided to make the girls' costumes. They needed to match so there'd be no jealousy. They needed to be simple so they'd be comfortable. Ladybugs!

I just whipped up some smocked sundresses from red cotton quilting fabric. Ellie helped me potato stamp the black spots onto it first. Add a headband with sparkly antennae, and we were in business!

In reality, the costumes didn't last long. Ellie prefers to choose her own clothes, and the ladybug dress was not her outfit of choice. Also, she said the headband hurt her head (her hair is really thin, so the little combs meant to keep it in place probably scraped her a bit). After the novelty of her headband wore off (about 30 seconds), Stephanie never even tried on her dress. No one ever accused my children of not being fiercely independent. This is why the "simple is best" philosophy works!

The party was good fun, if a bit overwhelming in size. Down Under, it's common practice to invite whole families to birthday parties. Consider the average size family of 4. Invite your child's entire class at school, plus friends from other places and quickly you have a birthday party of over 100 people. Yikes!

After such a busy morning, we laid low in the evening, playing across the street with the neighbors as the trick-or-treaters made their rounds. Not a very Halloween feel, but it was a really nice day.

Postcard, anyone?

We wrote a number of postcards during our trip to Bali, but as far as we know, no one has received one yet. The hotel offered to mail them for us, so I wrote to ask if somehow the postcards were still there. This is the reply I received today:

Greeting from Alam Sari Keliki.

Hi, how are you? hope everything is fine. We already posted all of your postcards and letters, please be patience.

Thank you.

I can be patience, but can I also be notified if anyone receives one of our postcards? We are curious about the mailing time. Always different from place to place! Thank you!

No 'poo update: The verdict

I debated about including my reasoning in my last update post, because I knew as I did so that I'd already made my decision: 'poo free is not for me! The first two of my three reasons for the experiment don't actually apply since I already choose my shampoo with those considerations in mind. The brand I use produces 100% recyclable packaging, and the product itself doesn't contain SLS or SLFS. That leaves the curiosity reason, and that one is now satisfied too. Although at no point did my hair feel unclean or smelly, it also never felt nice. I didn't like touching it, and neither did Markus. I dreaded washing it, because I felt like that process was a real bother without any satisfying results. I knew the gig was up for good when Ellie asked four days in a row why my hair looked so crazy. I couldn't wait to wash my hair again, and Markus pointed out I didn't have to. Since I did this experiment for me, there was no reason to continue once I'd made my decision. Good point! Last Sunday, I shampooed and conditioned my hair, and it felt so good!

I am happy I tried the experiment. It was interesting, and now I do know about the alternative. I think it might work great for people with shorter hair or thinner hair, as well as for people who use cheap shampoo with nasty ingredients. The day I attempted to wash out the olive oil and hated the detergent feel of the shampoo, I used cheap travel shampoo we had in the bathroom because my nicer shampoo had run out. That cheap shampoo really did feel awful on my hair, and it would have been worth the baking soda/apple cider vinegar alternative. In the end, it comes down to making choices. You have to do what works for you. For me, the expensive shampoo is worth the price...but it's nice to know that for certain since I've given the opposite a try too.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Baby Stephanie is awake.

Each and every morning (and after naps), we know that baby Stephanie is awake because floating out from the extension come little shrieks of joy. No crying, no shouting for anyone to come get her. Shrieks of joy, each and every time.
What a fantastic way to start the day!

Ellie's first class photo

I think elementary class pictures are very special (and often hysterical), and this is Ellie's very first one.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Chef's assistant

This morning, Ellie and I cooked up some "Perfect Buttermilk Pancakes" from The Rustic Table. Ellie's interest in cooking waxes and wanes, but this weekend she got into it full swing. We made cheese straws for snack yesterday, and she wanted to make them again for breakfast. I managed to talk her into the pancakes instead. They're perfect for our days. They are yummy on-the-go (Stephanie often eats breakfast in her car seat), and Ellie loves them in her lunchbox for morning tea at school. As for the name of the recipe, it's entirely possible Constance Snow (cookbook author) is right about them. They are so delicious (especially when you sneak in a mashed banana when your 4-year-old isn't watching)!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Mixed message? I think not.

Recently, I have been reading about effective communication as part of my doula training course. One aspect of effective communication is congruence of verbal and nonverbal expression. Non-verbal communication can have a far greater impact than verbal communication, so it is important the two convey the same message. The training manual says that when the two are not congruent, the message that will be most effectively conveyed is that you are not to be trusted; I might tweak that to say at least your verbal communication would be questionable to the recipient. For example, Ellie is a notoriously picky eater. She says (loudly, decisively) that she does not like oatmeal. Yet, when I serve her oatmeal for breakfast, her non-verbal communication looks like this:


His life is so hard...

Saturday, October 24, 2009


The other day when I found myself unexpectedly covered in olive oil, it seemed the perfect time to try out my next experiment: the oil cleansing method (OCM). I learned about this while I was reading up in preparation for the no 'poo experiment, and I was intrigued. Using the OCM, you wash your face with a combination of castor oil and olive oil instead of face wash or soap. Yes, you read that correctly. You wash your face with oil, and this even works for people with oily skin. Although this may seem counterintuitive, oil breaks up oil. Ask the manly men in your life, and they'll tell you that you can't remove motor oil or engine dirt/gunk from hands with soap; you have to use an oil-based cleanser. On a lesser scale, the same principle is at work in the OCM. Here's the regimen:

1) Just before using, mix castor oil and olive oil. I use an empty travel-size squeeze bottle for this; just pour in the oil and shake. If you have "normal" skin, it's 1:1 (a teaspoon of each does the trick). If your skin is dry, use 1 part castor oil to 3 parts olive oil. If your skin is oily, use 1 part olive oil to 3 parts castor oil. Tweak as needed until you find what combo works best for you.
2) Pour a quarter-sized amount of combined oil into your palm, rub hands together and gently rub oil onto your (dry) face in a circular motion using your fingertips. Be thorough and don't rush; this can be a really nice facial massage, so enjoy it. Although the OCM does remove make-up (including eye make-up), do not directly apply oil in the eye area.
3) Steam your face by applying a hot, moist washcloth and leaving it in place until cool (takes about 1 minute).
4) Rinse the washcloth in warm water, and then wipe your face to remove excess oil. You can wipe gently over the eyes in this step, which removes eye make-up beautifully.

Recently, simple mom wrote a more thorough post about this with other resources if you'd like more detail. I only need to use the OCM at night. In the morning, I just rinse my face with cool water to help wake me up before applying my sunscreen. That's it!

From the get-go, this experiment had a leg up on my No 'Poo Month, because I'm prompted by curiosity and a personal search for something better that the standard. Whereas I'm actually quite satisfied with my shampoo (meets criteria that rationalizes its use), I have yet to find a commercial facial cleanser that I like. Most seem harsh and dry out my face severely. I've settled on a cleanser for "sensitive skin" that isn't quite so nasty, but it doesn't remove the little make-up I wear (mascara and lipstick). I've been using the OCM for about a week now, and (barring any future mishaps) I am sold. The process is like a mini-facial every night; so pleasant! It removes mascara without a trace, and my skin feels amazing. I'm over 30, so skin care (i.e., fighting the dreaded wrinkles) is a concern, but the OCM is so nourishing! I can even foresee that I will need less moisturizer over time, perhaps not at all during the day. I have never had problem skin (knock on wood!), so I don't know from experience how it would work for those who do...but you can see via simple mom that the OCM is endorsed for people who are acne-prone. I can highly recommend giving the OCM a try. You might be sold! If not, at least you might have fun giving yourself a really inexpensive facial.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

No 'poo update: Week 3

I've fielded a lot of questions about this no 'poo experiment, most commonly "Why?". There are several reasons, but these are the big three:

1) Commercial shampoo and conditioner creates a lot of waste. The industry of it, the packaging of it, the transport of it, the use of it, what gets washed down the drain, what stays on your skin and in your hair, the disposal of empty packaging...

I am not a holier-than-thou, not-green-is-so-wrong, you-deserve-to-burn-for-your-wasteful-ways environmentalist, but neither am I in denial about the negative impact waste has on this planet, not just on ecosystems but also on all those who depend on those ecosystems, people included. The wealthier you are, the more disconnected you are from waste and its harmful effects. Just think of how many disposable products are available these days that weren't a few years ago, and how many we take for granted that our grandparents would never have considered when they were young. A close older friend told me her son wore cloth diapers because she simply couldn't afford disposables. She had a set number of cloth diapers (around a dozen) that she had to make last until he was potty-trained...and I bet she even used the cloth for cleaning after that. The sheer amount of waste we generate for luxury's sake is appalling. Some things just make life a lot easier (there's a lot to be said for disposable diapers), but some things are just downright ridiculous (consider individually wrapped, one-time-use, full-of-chemicals-yet-"flushable" toilet wipes). Even if you leave out the whole cycle of the shampoo industry from creation to use, you as the consumer know that on a regular basis, you toss out empty shampoo and conditioner bottles made from plastic. How many do you toss out a year? How many do we all toss out a year? Over ten years? Twenty? You see where I'm going with this.

2) Shampoo itself contains some pretty nasty stuff, albeit in minimal quantities.

Shampoo is a detergent, just like other detergents. It is very effective at removing oil, and it uses a lot of the same chemicals for this process as does dishwashing, laundry, and other detergents. Further, shampoos add shine because they contain mineral oil, a byproduct of distilling gasoline from crude oil. This byproduct exists in such vast quantities that it is cheaper to build it into an astounding array of daily use products than dispose of it safely. I personally am a bit over those first two things (probably more than I should be), but this last stuff caught my attention when I learned about it when baby Stephanie was a newborn: sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLFS). These are foaming agents in shampoo, body wash, face wash, toothpaste...and they are also severe skin and eye irritants. There are lots of scientific studies you can read if you want the low-down, but it is generally held as truth that all commercial products containing SLS and/or SLFS use such minimal levels that there is no issue for that particular isolation. However, recent studies have questioned the real safe level of usage, given the amount of products that are regularly used in combination and the fact that these chemicals pass into the skin and build up internally. I learned about them as a parent of a newborn, because there are real concerns about infant and child eye development. Eye tissue also absorbs these chemicals and young eyes (especially newborns' eyes) are developing at such a rapid rate. There are concerns about long-term damage, and these concerns are gaining momentum because so many products contain the stuff. And if you look, you might be surprised at how many products you use (including most mass-produced "safe" baby products) contain either SLS, SLFS or both. My reading on the subject led me to further understand the potential harm these chemicals have on people with severely depressed immune systems, particularly people undergoing chemotherapy. On the bright side, there are commercially-available brands of shampoo that do not contain these chemicals. You can find lists of them online, or you can start reading labels. It's not a bad habit, though it can be time-consuming (and often discouraging).

3) I am curious.

This experiment, like almost any other, was prompted by curiosity. An alternative exists to the what is it like? Using baking soda and apple cider vinegar generates less waste (comes in recyclable cardboard and glass, respectively), is healthy for skin, doesn't leave build-up in my body or the shower, the pipes, or the sewage system, and (unlike most environmentally-responsible alternatives) is a LOT cheaper than the standard. I have the flexibility and interest to try it, so why not?

How went week 3?
It was interesting. My hair did really well in Bali, because the air was so humid that my hair felt more nourished than it really was. I got back here and had a major case of "ick" (as you read in the last update). I decided to treat my hair to a homemade hot oil treatment: 1/2 cup of olive oil heated with 1/2 cup dried rosemary, strained, applied to hair and left on for 15 minutes. The regimen said to "wash hair twice" to remove excess oil. Hardy-har-har. On the upside, this treatment did indeed nourish my hair. It feels very soft and luxurious, and it is nice to know this can be achieved with natural ingredients. HOWEVER. After four washes in two days, my hair was still so full of olive oil that it looked wet when it was dry. I felt and smelled like a veggie ready to be tossed into the oven for roasting. The attempts to wash it out also coated my entire body and shower in olive oil residue. It's been slippery around here. I finally broke down and gave it a single wash with shampoo. And you know what? If you want to appreciate what they say about shampoo being a detergent, use it to try to wash out copious amounts of olive oil from your hair. Much to my surprise, I hated the way it made my hair feel. For the first time ever, it really felt like a detergent and I didn't want it on my head. So even though a second wash with shampoo would have gotten out the rest of the oil, I decided to return to the baking soda and wait it out. Here we are four days later, and yes, I still have a bit of olive oil in my hair. Maybe that's why it is so soft and luxurious-feeling.
The hot oil experiment was not a total flop. I still think it could be a great idea if I were to use a LOT less oil (maybe a tablespoon or two), and I learned a surprising lesson. Now, into the home stretch...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Bali Highlights

Markus and I are not your average tourists. We don't like resorts. We don't like crowds. We avoid the beaten path. We both enjoy learning about local customs and traditions, and Bali was fantastic for that! The Balinese people we met are absolutely lovely. They are genuinely warm, open and interested, particularly in families. Having children is all you need in place of introduction. Straight off, you will be asked where you come from and where you stay; these questions help them identify you and what you like. If you are alone, they will ask if you have children (never say you don't want any, which they cannot comprehend). They will tell you about their own children. Those who speak English are eager to share Balinese culture and traditions, and they will share as much as you want to know or as much as their English allows.

In attempt to avoid my usual droning on and on (no short version, especially when I'm excited by the topic), I will try to share some highlights as pictures with explanations.

Our hotel, Alam Sari Keliki. Most rooms were individual little buildings around the pool. They gave us the family suite up in the villa. It's further up the hillside and separate from everything else, so it was very peaceful and private. You can reserve the entire villa and gain use of the kitchen and the library/TV room, but we didn't miss TV and the food was so fantastic and cheap in the restaurant that we didn't miss the kitchen either. Alam Sari has a large organic vegetable garden, and most of the food served is harvested from their own garden. While we heard of tourists getting gastro issues in Bali, we had no trouble whatsoever. Our food was amazingly fresh, fabulously tasty, and carefully prepared. The hotel is environmentally sensitive. Wastewater is recycled so it doesn't end up in the river or the rice fields. We had most of the hotel to ourselves (between large groups), so Ellie had free reign of the pool and Stephanie could dine in the buff. They were both thrilled! The restaurant is open from 7am to 10pm, which made it so easy for us with our kids' strange eating times (ready for dinner by 4-4:30). It was super clean, well-appointed though simple, and very comfortable. The people could not have been kinder to us. One woman, Warsi, was our server at breakfast so often that Stephanie thought her name was "Morning!", since we always greeted her with a happy "good morning". When Warsi was off, Stephanie would ask, "Where Morning?"
The hotel is a 20-30 minute drive into Ubud. There is a free shuttle 3 times per day, but there was almost always someone available to take us in for a minimal fee (maybe $6) whenever we wanted to go. They also were happy to take us to local attractions as requested, including the elephant safari, Bali Bird Park, the ancient temple site of Gunung Kawi and the holy springs at Tirta Empul.

The rice harvest was underway. In the village of Keliki, this is still done primarily by hand. They do not use machines, because although machines increase speed, they reduce workers. By keeping manual labor, more people in the village benefit from work. They earn wages or rice, both of which are helpful to their families. You can see lots of ducks in the foreground. One of our hosts, Dewa, called them "Balinese vacuum cleaners." They eat snails, weeds and other pests in the rice field and leave behind fertilizer, which allows the rice fields to remain organic. Pretty brilliant, actually.

The penjor. I became somewhat obsessed with these Galungan decorations. They are huge bamboo poles, wrapped and intricately decorated. Wood carvers decorate theirs with tiny carvings, decreasing in size as they near the top. Many people work rice and fruit into the wrapping, in thanks for the harvest and in hope that the birds will eat it and scatter the seeds. Everything about Galungan was so joyful! Being an atypical tourist, I felt uncomfortable taking pictures of people that day, worshipping, praying, doing all the things they do in their traditional clothing. I would be most uncomfortable if a busload of tourists showed up, entered the church and started snapping away while I was I just don't feel comfortable doing the same to others, even if they are used to it. Thus, my obsession with the penjor.

The holy baths at Tirta Empul, near Tampaksiring. At this site are the springs that are the primary source for a major river in the area. We watched the water bubble up out of the volcanic sand. They feed first into these baths, which are used for religious cleansing. Dewa told us that you pray for "right thinking, right speaking, right doing" as the water moves from the top of your head over your face and down your body. The water will wash away what makes you unclean or unhappy, any illness or not good thinking. Water is bottled and taken home to those who are too young, too old or otherwise unable to travel. In this, one of the larger baths, there is old Balinese writing over three of the spouts. These tell of specific uses for those particular baths, but most people cannot read that language anymore so all are used equally.

Bali was our first introduction to Asia, and I couldn't get enough. It is wonderful! It is so delightful to know that in less than four hours, we can be in a place that is so different! There was a pervasive sense of harmony there. One of the beliefs Dewa explained to us is a strong belief in cycles of life. Black and white fabric adorns temples, and it symbolizes the co-existence of good and not good. Westerners might say "good and evil", but Balinese people say "good and not good" because it implies less judgment and more acceptance that not good things are to be expected as a natural part of life. They no longer practice religious meditation in addition to prayer, but rather believe in meditating as part of work, focusing on whatever task is before them and being thankful for the good it provides: physically, mentally, spiritually. They believe not everything in life must be explained or understood. Dewa told us that many Balinese people do not know about the Bali bombings that killed 200 people. He did not tell his own grandfather, because he knew it would make him sad to know so many people had died for no reason. He did not tell his grandfather that the terrorists were Muslim, because his grandfather might start to think all Muslims are bad, though most Muslims are good. He did not tell him because his grandfather might feel despair and helpless because there would be no solution. Instead, he asked his grandfather about it in a "what if" scenario. This allowed his grandfather to think about it, offer solutions, and share wisdom. It allowed the discussion to be positive rather than negative. There is so much wisdom in this thinking.

What a day!

While we were away, the weather was a bit unusual here in Perth. The days were sunny and warmer than usual, just gorgeous by all reports. When we came home on Saturday, it was a shocking 37 degrees (that's about 100F) and dry as a bone. It was bizarre. Too hot for me. Too hot for summer even, and it is only early spring! Very weird. The plants didn't like it. Our strawberry plants are dead. Ellie's cubby house windowbox flowers are dead. And a massive colony of ants moved into the cubby house, especially (but not only) the stove. Although I'm sure there will be many people out there who will want to publicly flog me for spraying insecticide where my children play, we sprayed insecticide where our children play. We don't let the girls take real food into the cubby house (in hopes of avoiding bugs), so the ants must have been driven in by the heat...and the fact that our neighbors just sprayed their entire garden for pests, so these guys were on the move. The sheer numbers were too much to manage, and they were aggressive. We found Stephanie covered in ants (in her diaper too), crying pitifully and being biten...and this was outside the cubby house. It wasn't good. So Markus sprayed like crazy and blocked off the door with a big concrete slab for two days. Yesterday, I went in and cleaned out the carnage.

There were quite a few live ants still around, maybe trying to salvage the eggs (it really was a colony in there, eggs and all). I took everything out and hosed it all down. Then, I poured boiling water over the floor and sideboards. The boiling water should clear up the trail and keep the ants at bay (we hope). It was oddly satisfying to clean the cubby house so thoroughly.

Later, I was hit by the hayfever truck. When I say hit, I mean it ran me over, backed up and did it again and again for a few hours. I texted Markus that I was in allergy hell. He might have thought I was exaggerating until he came home and saw my face. Yikes. It was ugly, people. Yes, I have heard of antihistamines, but no, I didn't have any and don't really like taking meds anyway (I tend to have big reactions to even over-the-counter stuff). In my allergy-induced fog, I looked across the room, and saw this mess on the kitchen table...

...and it made me smile. I loved seeing all the evidence of happy girl work. Stephanie wanted to paint. Ellie wanted to work with beads. We just pushed everything else to the side and got busy with creating. It was so easy to transform it back again for dinnertime, and that made me smile too.

Yesterday was quite a day, but it was a good one too.