Friday, May 28, 2010


This morning, I had a rental inspection and hosted a morning tea for the new parents in Ellie's class. I wasn't fussed about both on the same day. Since the house has to be super-clean for both, might as well knock it out together! Except the agent arrived to inspect just as I returned from dropping off Ellie at school (she usually comes around noon). It's been rainy here lately and I've been avoiding the Mushroom Room (still leaks, despite all stop-gaps the owners have done). We went in there, and the place is SOAKED. It's coming from the ceiling now, which means all the storage we'd put up on the bench in there to keep it safe was WET. Thank goodness most of it was in bins, but two bins were open, so those are trash now. This sent my stress level higher than I'd like just as people started coming through the front door. While ladies lingered and chatted, a workman came and took the carpet out the back door (no one even saw!). I am too worn out with all this to even get mad. I just feel so deflated, so defeated, so FRUSTRATED that we have to deal with this kind of thing for $1250 per week in rent! I don't want to move out of this house (still the most beautiful house I've lived in and a fabulous yard for the girls with fantastic friends across the road), but I do want to move out of these issues and there's nothing appropriate available right now. Most family homes become available in the summer (moving while kids are out of school), and we've just started winter. Winter means rain. Rain means more flood, damp...not to mention the power cuts we experience when it's cold (a whole different story).
I need a warm hug (and possibly a stiff drink).
But enough whining.
My last guest didn't leave until noon (from a 9am start), so, although I didn't get to enjoy it much myself, the morning tea seems to have been a great success! I have a sink full of dishes to prove it, and lots of leftover goodies to share if anyone would like to stop by and admire my new indoor pool in person.
I just might make you wash dishes afterwards.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Non-Napping Powerhouse of Crazy

This post's title was Stephanie's new nickname, or at least her nickname yesterday when she was indeed the Non-Napping Powerhouse of Crazy. Anyone familiar with small children will tell you that they are little barometers. The weather was changing towards rain, her routine has been disrupted significantly, and yesterday she let the crazy fly and land where it may. Oy. Thank goodness she's quite easily entertained! In the morning, we spent 30 minutes sitting in the car in our driveway "driving".

I spent all of her nap mutiny time outside raking the front yard. It took over an hour, but the results were beautiful. I was so proud...until the wind kicked up. Alas. Later, once the rain had started, we geared up and went outside to kick around the leaves I'd raked earlier in the day. It was about half an hour before sunset and raining, so the pictures are a bit dark and blurry. You can see still the thrill.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

So, what's with the red?

While we were in Melbun recently, I seemed to see red hair everywhere. I think it's like when a woman is wanting to be pregnant, and all she sees is bellies and babies. Clearly, I must have been ready for a change. I'm not particularly good with change. I haven't changed my hair cut or style (or lack thereof) in years. But then I saw all that red, and I wanted it. When we got home, I called my hard-to-book hairdresser, and she had an appointment open the first thing the very next day. It was meant to be!
Or not.
Despite lots of encouragement and positive feedback (it really is a pretty color), I haven't liked it since day 3. I still don't recognize myself in photos. Although I haven't been blonde without help since high school, I still think of my hair as blond. All this dark is, well, not me. I must be convinced of this since Markus even offered to indulge a wardrobe change to facilitate my staying dark, but I just don't want to keep it. It's not a permanent color (mostly henna, which gradually fades), so I'm supposed to wait it out a few more weeks before I change again. I think it will go strawberry blond next. That was more the color I was after with my switch anyway (my hairdresser convinced me to go auburn). I can satisfy my curiosity and shift back to blond more easily from there.

Anyway, sorry for the (shallow) posting about my hair, but that pic from Amberley in the last post raised some questions. You'll get an update the first weekend in June after I see a new hairdresser.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Down south AGAIN

Markus had requested Monday and Tuesday off in case we could convince Mary to extend her stay a bit and take in Sydney, and once he had the leave, he had to take it. Rather than stick around home for a long weekend, we headed down south again on Sunday for a three-day, two-night farm stay in a different spot: Margaret River Hideaway. In past visits, we have always stayed in Dunsborough, so we knew that area pretty well. Margaret River is almost an hour south of there, so we had some new spots to explore. Not that we explored much...our little farmers (most especially Farmer Stephanie) were completely happy to stick around our farmstead.

Tourist spots seem to use the term "farmstay" quite loosely in that none we've seen are actual farms. Perhaps they were farms once, but now they are big properties with a few cottages for tourists and a few animals for a farm-like feel. We liked this one a lot more than the last one, and not just because the accommodation was less dodgy (though thank goodness for that). The animals roamed free on the property, and there weren't any "no go" zones, meaning we were welcome to go anywhere or through any gate as long as we closed it behind us again. The geese, peacocks and guinea fowl roamed around most often right in front of our cottage, so the girls were up and out the door first thing in the morning to observe and fraternize.

At 9am, it was time to help feed the animals.

Afterwards, how could we resist such an awesome playground?

As usual, there are lots more photos in the flickr account. If you want to see more, just click on the sidebar.

Markus and I have realized that we go down south so the girls can have fun with animals and we can enjoy good food and wine. We don't go out in Perth, so the wine region is our food and wine time. We try to have lunch at a different winery each day. Of course, we made an exception to that rule to have lunch at Amberley on our way into town. It's the best overall in that it offers great food, wine and service in a setting where the girls are very comfortable and happy. Can't beat that!

At least, we thought we couldn't beat it until we discovered the Xanadu winery on this visit. Julian at our farmstay recommended it highly, so we headed over there for lunch on day two. Given that it was a Monday off-season, it wasn't surprising that we were the only ones there. Markus pointed out that it would probably be very noisy inside when it is full of people, but it was gorgeous and peaceful and all around fantastic when we were there! While I tend to be put off by artsy food presentation, there is no getting around the amazing flavors they were serving up (and the wine was excellent too!). They also prepared the best kids' meal we've seen: a tasting platter of small sandwiches, cheese slices, pear slices, dried apricots, and handcut potato wedges in sea salt. YUM!

We always make sure to stay somewhere with a kitchen so we can prepare breakfast and dinner at home for the girls. Ellie could eat pasta with pesto every night, and she did while we were there. Stephanie is happy to eat whatever (or too busy to eat anything). Later that night for dinner, Markus and I made our way through a bottle of Amberley's merlot while munching cracking and triple cream brie from the Margaret River Cheese Co. I am pretending that was a healthy meal, because man oh man was it good!

We experienced some fairly wintry weather this time. The first and third days were rainy, windy and cold. Day two in between was grey, but at least it wasn't bitter. The girls had a blast on the farmstay. Stephanie could not have been happier. She is such a true animal lover, and she was in seventh heaven. Usually when we come home from being away, the girls are so excited to be back. Ellie was this time too, but Stephanie started to cry when we pulled into the driveway. "Don't go home! I want to go see farm!" Sweet girl. We'll go back!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Tired wee one

It is a sad fact and a cruel twist of nature that overtired babies don't sleep. Sleep is all they need and the very thing they cannot do. Poor babies (and poor tired mamas).

Last night, I had just happily snuggled under the big duvet and opened Pride and Prejudice for my seventh (seventeenth?) reading, feeling very proud of myself for being in bed before 9:30, when I heard baby Stephanie wailing in misery from her room. She was in such distress that I was literally running down the hall while trying to don slippers in our icy house. I don't know if she had a bad dream or what it was, but she settled down as soon as I scooped her up. She was almost asleep again as I wiped her sweet baby tears from her cheeks, but she panicked when I laid her back on the bed. I snuggled down with her and she gripped my hand. Within minutes, her breathing was soft and steady, and her tight grip relaxed as she drifted off. I started to get up, and she started to cry. A few repeats of this later, and I surrendered, pulled up an adult-sized blanket we keep on her chair, and spent the night in my slippers, lying stiff as a board on the edge of her bed trying not to disturb her. She woke up several times in the night, silent but frantically searching with her little hand until she found mine to hold again. Sometimes, she settled for a fistful of my hair. She always fell asleep again the moment she found her security. It is so atypical for her to wake during the night at all, so I wonder what it was. At any rate, she awoke refreshed and happy this morning (whereas I am keeping the lightly caffeinated hot tea on hand at all times).

Within a few hours, the effects of her odd night were rearing their ugly heads. She became nervous, teary, uncoordinated (dropping things, you do when you're tired). I abandoned our Thursday playgroup and brought her home for her nap. By then, we were into the phase Markus and I lovingly call "burning fumes". She was running on empty, which induces some kind of wild baby frenzy. I could not settle her down no matter how I tried, so eventually I gave up and waited for the fumes to burn out.

(wearing sister's sunglasses makes activity feel all the more edgy)
Her last act of baby defiance was dragging her chair over to the computer and climbing up, trying to turn it on by herself (this is verboten). She thought it was rawther hilarious until the chair tipped and she fell to the floor. She wasn't hurt, but the surprise was enough to slam the door on wakefulness. "I NEED TO GO TO BED!!!" she wailed. That was that.
Poor tired wee one.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Safe travels, Mary!

Late last night (or early early this morning), you boarded the plane and started your journey home. We hope it will be as smooth as your travel here seemed to be. We are still amazed at how gracefully you handled the transition(s) and were so thrilled you made the trip in the first place! Half a planet is no mean endeavor, so Mary, thank you again for coming. Yes, I made it home from the airport okay (I know you were worried I was too tired for driving so long past my bedtime). The lorikeets were squawking away in the airport trees at 11pm!

I wish we had thought to put the beautiful rocking chair you gave us in the kitchen instead of the living room, because both girls have been taking turns sitting in it almost non-stop since we moved it there last night.

The flowers you bought me will always make me smile and think of you. I hope that will help them escape the tyranny of my brown thumb.

You are missing yet another beautiful day, this one even warmer than yesterday. Stephanie is making the most of it in her traditional nackter popo style, only this time she donned the ladybug boots and selected a pair of Mama's panties to wear as a belt.

Life is good.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Caversham Wildlife Park

I was going to continue my series of back-posting from the Margaret River trip (you really should meet our little kangaroo friend from there!), but today we had so much fun I want to share straight away. My little aside there gave you a clue that Grandmary checked off her requisite see-kangaroo-in-Australia box, but she didn't feel her tourist boxes were complete. She lacked a good picture of a kangaroo warning road sign and she hadn't seen any koalas. She also felt something was missing in the kangaroo department without seeing a joey in the pouch, so we took care of all of those boxes today at the Caversham Wildlife Park. Lucky Ellie got to play hookie again so we could all go together. It was a beautiful day!

First stop: kangaroo enclosure. Watch that pouch...

Stephanie spotted a young joey bounding around and decided to join in the fun.

There was a school group in the park as well as a number of Japanese tourists, so we bypassed most of the park to beat them all to the koalas. It was sweet to see them so sleepy, and we were able to pet the two that were awake.

This is the most fun the girls had today. For them, kangaroos are old hat by now. Give them a $2 toy car ride any day.

It's all so exhausting.

But not too exhausting for somersaults.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

It's all about the food...I mean, the view!

When we go down to Margaret River, you could probably guess that for me, it's all about the food. This time was no different. We didn't even stop to check in to our rental accommodation before we went straight to the Amberley Estate for lunch. What a wonderful start to our stay and a great introduction to the local wine region for Mary!

Since that stop, we've been joking that like the woman on the Ellen Degeneres Show (starts at minute 2:28), Mary loves Jesus, but she drinks a little. She really enjoyed the Amberley Chenin Blanc (hello, any of Mary's friends who can find Amberley stateside!) and of course she liked her lunch too. We visited one winery each day, and we discovered two fantastic breakfast spots. While Artezen in Dunsborough offered up the best breakfast by far (you MUST eat their blueberry pancakes with neufchatel and passion fruit puree!), the winner of the best view goes to Bunker's Beach Cafe.

The morning we went there, we woke up to a cold fog. So much for the "great view" the guidebook had promised, we thought, but we had a reservation so off we went. We drove out of the fog along the way and enjoyed a gorgeous view while we enjoyed a basic (but tasty) breakfast (and juice, of course)

I took a picture of the view from our table, and you can see the fog here:

The next day, we went back for afternoon snacks and were greeted with this beautiful (fog-free) view:

The two other wineries we visited were Cullen (a favorite from visits past) and Wise, a new-to-us winery with an amazing view of the Cape Naturaliste area. Too bad the restaurant isn't kid-friendly enough to entice us back. Sigh. If you are an adults-only group, enjoy your beautiful view and fantastic food. Seriously.

The best food discovery by far was the Yallingup Woodfired Bakery. Holy moly. If you are headed down south, please please please bring me back some of their bread. Mary has offered to drive back herself to get it, and she would even be willing to drive on the left for the prize. It's that good. The bakery isn't marked for tourists, but my bloodhound instincts allowed me to find it anyway, and wow is all I have to say. Yum. Must.

What I've been doing instead of blogging

Please excuse the interruption to postings this week. I really did get my motivation back, but I've also been trying to clear a long-standing project from my plate (and from my wee brain). A couple of months ago (eek), I agreed to make child-sized chef's hats for each child in Ellie's class. You read that correctly: I agreed (offered, even!) to make 24 child-sized chef's hats. Yes, I am insane. Yes, it took me ages. It was so much work that I lost motivation. I have so little project time (unless I opted for less sleep, which makes everyone around here miserable) and it was all being consumed by the hats. I began referring to them as "the damned chef's hats" and then shortened my whining to "the DCH" so I could gripe in front of Ellie without her knowledge. At no point did I begrudge them the hats. They are actually really cute and soooo adorable on the heads of eager 3-5 year olds. But the process and the obligation...that got to me.

Anyway, with Markus's help, I finally knocked out the rest last night. 24 child-sized chef's hats, complete and completely adorable. And adored! Last week, the teacher assigned the first dozen hats, and the kids were so excited and proud that motivation came flying back to me ten-fold. Finishing the last hats was actually fun! Still, it did take up all my available project time that could be used for sewing, knitting or blogging. I'm back now. Really.

In case the more crafty among you are interested, I found the pattern here. The pattern calls for quilting-weight cotton and a 24-inch circle for the poof in the hat.

After a prototype (modeled by Stephanie above), I changed to using white cotton drill, the fabric of professional chefs' uniforms. I found the result far more satisfying. I also found the 24-inch circle was too much poof for my liking, and I eventually narrowed it down to 18-inches. That used a lot less fabric (remember, I had to make 24...and two trips to the fabric store) and made it more like a muffin top than a big floppy top. If you are only making one or two, choose any diameter between 18 and 24 inches and I'm sure you'll be happy.