How to: Get fake dressed.

You know what I’m talking about. You need bread/milk/wine badly. No time or desire to dress properly. That takes effort. And anyway you want to shower nicely later when you can, so what’s the point getting dressed now? It’s early, but not quite early enough to risk pyjamas for the mission. Or maybe it’s actually late and you’re already undressed for the day and no way are you putting your bra back on. No. Fucking. Way. So what do you do?

You get fake dressed.

This is a lot easier in winter. A good coat can make pretend dressing a breeze. However, summer time yields the footwear advantage: thongs and other slip-ons. You get extra points for these because you don’t have to bend to put them on. It’s all about minimal effort for maximum effect. And the effect we are after is: “nothing to see here”.

Essential to the fake-dressing kit.
Essential to the fake-dressing kit.

This morning I got faked dressed to drop Glenn off at work, with the idea that afterwards G and I could do some super quick Lego shopping. The Lego shopping would enable me to have a lovely proper shower later as G would then stop driving me crazy asking me about the desired Lego item and be blissfully preoccupied for a time while he put it together.

So this was the fake outfit: hair left as is but could possibly pass as purposely tousled ‘bed hair’ if you didn’t look too closely and see that it was completely flat on one side from being laid on and ever so slightly dandruffy. Hooded and (crucially) zipped coat covered no bra no undies ensemble of very old and holey (not holy. Holey) singlet and leggings that I slept in. No socks. Resisted the delicious lure of Uggs and slipped feet into elastic sided ankle boots. This feels very weird with no socks. That’s ok. If you do this, you’re passable. You can now leave the house and get the chocolate, I mean milk, without being actually dressed. Carry a large bag. It looks more convincing. Walk fast.

Admittedly, fake dressing is made easier for me by the fact that in winter I tend to sleep in tank tops and bad track pants. Like many people, I change into this outfit as soon as I get home. If it’s warmish I can just add a hoodie and thongs to be fake dressed. And then maybe someone might be fooled into thinking my messy/greasy hair is due to a sweaty workout. And that I’m fresh out of a hard core Bikram yoga class and not just fresh out of Kit Kats and making the dash for more.

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I told my friend Rosebud that I was writing about this and she said that fake dressing for her is leaving the house in the track pants she slept in with the addition of “blush and mascara and a lovely scarf”. Blush? Her theory is that people will think that if she’s gone to the trouble of putting blusher on then surely she has applied the same sort of effort to the rest of her person. Admirable logic. I imagine people scanning her, Terminator-style, up and down when she’s in line at the checkout. Their gaze comes to rest on the blusher. Conclusion: this person is fully dressed. Move along.

We agreed that you can’t get fake dressed in patterned pyjamas.  That’s not fake dressing. That’s just going out in your pyjamas. Unless you actually rolled the pyjamas up above your knees and concealed them under a thick dress or coat. But that’s a bit too much effort which is completely against the rules of fake dressing. It’s not done. It’s also actually just a tad crazy. Which we’re clearly not.

You can't fake dress in pyjamas. The deer would give you away immediately.
You can’t fake dress in pyjamas. The deer would give you away immediately.

 

 

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A backyard birthday carnival

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Birthday_03My Bubby has just turned four. That’s four years of this amazing little girl being in our lives and well, four years of being her parents is definitely worth celebrating. And so a party we had.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I love party themes – it helps inspire me with cake, food and decorating ideas. Last year when I asked Bubby what kind of party and cake she’d like, the most I could get from her was ‘a pink one’. Not very helpful on her part, but she got her pink(ish) party. This time around, knowing her answer would still be the same, I couldn’t bring myself to ask her. I’m sorry Bubby, but pink was so last year.

A visiting circus was in town, and after a bit of Pinterest stalking, a carnival theme quickly became a great idea. I’m still not ready to completely let loose on bright colours so compromised with myself on ‘Vintage Carnival’. With gorgeous costumes, decorations and spread of activities, we had a fun-filled day of Carnival chaos!

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Despite several years of hard work, our backyard is still very much a work in progress but with the help of the trusty family marquee and a few decorations, this landscaper’s delight was transformed into a magical Carnival. Dave came through with the goods on a carnival stand and ring toss game constructed using part of our back fence, his stash of homebrew bottles and some rope. And we’ll just pretend the overgrown grass and dandelions was part of the ‘field’ look…

Bobbing for apples quickly became lets throw the apples in and see them splash!

This classic Clown Pinata was developed from my  How to: make a Rose Pinata using felt, white tissue and crepe papers, a clown nose and paper hat with felt balls.

Popcorn for sale at the Carnival stand.

Party hat making with all the trims.

Bringing back our 80’s childhood hoola-hooping expertise!

Balloon making by Lex and Glenn

Party bags – a tassel wand, gold dusted seal biscuit, animal pencil and a clown nose

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A Carnival Cake – based on Sweetapolita’s birthday medley, the cake was constructed with raspberry jam between layers of blue funfetti stars, pink amarena cherry and rich chocolate. Fondant icing was decorated with hand painted green, blue and gold and finished with handmade flowers and elephant cake topper.

My favourite Nigella biscuits finished two ways – Elephants and stars dipped in coloured melted chocolate sprinkled with pearlescent drops and seals in gold dusting.

Freshly cut watermelon stars and blueberries

Strawberry jelly with blue chocolate shooting stars

Mini hot dogs with mustard

Sausage rolls with homemade tomato sauce

Medley of candied and buttered popcorn

Photo credit and a huge thank you to Oliver Bain Photography for capturing the day.

Quasi Day, Making New Traditions

Growing up, Dave and I both had friends of our parents that were just that little bit extra special to us. Letting us hang out at their place talking, feeding and looking after us as though we were one of their own. They were simple relationships, but ones that even now as adults, we look to  with love, trust and respect. As parents, we’ve chosen to foster similar relationships between a few close friends of ours and our girls, so that they too may have the opportunity to grow up with strong and varied role models in their lives outside our immediate family.

Quasi Cake
Quasi Cake

We started it off with Bubby, and that was when the term ‘Quasi-parent’ was coined by one the friends we’d asked to be one of these special people, and we loved it. It was fun and light-hearted, but with the right amount of sentiment towards the relationship. Others might call it a ‘god-parent’ situation, but as our family and  friends are a diverse bunch, this fits us and the relationship it represents perfectly. We celebrated these friends and officially welcomed Bubby into the family with a day at the amazing property at Armytage House, including a warming lunch of wood-fired quail and pizzas in the middle of a freezing cold and drizzly Hobart winter.

So a couple of weekends ago it was Boo’s Quasi Day. This time around our family has grown and seeing as we now have a lounge room bigger than a shoebox and not to mention the awesome new deck in our backyard, we decided to host her special day at home. We try to keep these intimate so invited our usual family members (grandparents, siblings, partners and kids), some friends and the 2 couples of Quasi Parents-to-be (one couple all the way from London) and their children.  So just a small, intimate luncheon for 20 odd.

Quasi-Matt and Boo entertain the guests
Quasi-Matt and Boo entertain the guests
Mama takes a quick selfie with the party girl!
Mama takes a quick selfie with the party girl!

I’d had my hopes up after days of glorious Hobart winter sun, but unfortunately when the day came, the weather decided to be particularly cold and wet so we were forced indoors for the most part. It didn’t stop us from enjoying a delicious lunch of Felicity Cloak’s Perfectly Pulled Pork recipe, Martha Stewart’s Tofu Scramble with Cotija Cheese, barbecued garlic prawns on skewers and corn on the cob served with a red cabbage coleslaw, fresh baps and mayo.

Perfectly pulled pork and calendula flowers
Perfectly pulled pork and Calendula flowers

To finish up, Dave gave a little speech to introduce and thank our newly appointed Quasi-Parents Matt and Paulette, and Craig and Jon and we welcomed Boo into the family with a rather larger-than-expected layered ombre Pandan cake with palm sugar icing, accompanied by Elsie’s delicious chocolate slice with coconut and brandied kumquat. Yummo.

And that’s how we celebrate Quasi Day, or as Bubby and Little G seemed to think,  there was a whole day to just for their favourite Ocotnaut “Kwazi’…

Papa gives a speech
Papa gives a speech
Bubby enjoying the many layers of ombre pandan cake
Bubby enjoying the many layers of ombre pandan cake
Glenn kindly let me steal some of his succulants for the cake decorations
Glenn kindly let me steal some of his succulents for the cake decorations
Succulants from the other house pretty up the cake
succulents from the other house pretty up the cake
Bubby sneaks in a story from Quasi-Craig
Bubby sneaks in a story from Quasi-Craig
Farewelling London Quasi-parents Craig and Jon
Farewelling London Quasi-parents Craig and Jon

Beer-Off: Judgement Day

At last! After nine hopeful weeks in the bottle, today our three judges were invited to a blind tasting of the Two Houses home brews.

Carefully hidden, Pip and I nervously poured out three beers each.  The glasses were labelled ‘Beer A’ and ‘Beer B’.  We fussed over their foamy heads and then watched as Dave carried the six glasses out and placed in front of the waiting judges.

After waiting a few respectable minutes, we came wandering outside and pretended that we were not surreptitiously watching their every move.

The blind tasting begins...
The blind tasting begins…

The first thing that struck me was the silence.  No one was spitting out the beer.  Or giggling.  Or treating it with anything but utter seriousness. Even Lozzie, my drinking buddy and partner in multiple crimes, of over ten years,  with whom I used to drink copious amounts of cheap crappy Chardonnay in our shared house, was talking earnestly about the mouthfeel of the beer…  She was nodding and murmuring with absolute authority and conviction, seated happily between the hop importer and the professional wine-maker.

The beers were given a score out of five in the following categories:

Appearance
Smell
Taste
Mouthfeel
Marketing
Overall impression

Yes mouthfeel is a thing.  I didn’t know that either.

Serious stuff...  these people know beer
Serious stuff… these people know beer

The identity of each beer was revealed only once the judges had reached the ‘marketing’ category.  I had been so confident about my label. Lovingly hand written and sneakily photocopied at work.  What could be more charming?  Um, a bespoke wooden six pack carrier, that’s what.  I’ll admit I had been worried that Pip might pull something designer-y but she’d been very quiet about it and now I know why!  As you can see… it’s quite a little number.  You’d buy that for someone special and they would love the absolute hell out of it.

The marketing category was blitzed by my sister.  I think I may have lost points for having my child on the label (insert awkward face here).  In my defence, G was mostly obscured by lettering and, come on, I wasn’t in any way trying to market beer to children!  I see now though that it’s a little bit strange to have your child on a beer bottle.  In hindsight it should have just a photo of  Glenn and I and then instead of being really quite odd, it would have been one of the most romantic things I’ve ever done.  

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Dickson IPA and This House Brews – Pale Ale

As it stands, Glenn is very chuffed anyway, because ‘Beer B’ (mine) did take out the overall prize (woo hoo!).  But in all honesty it was so close.  The judges didn’t just score us.  They talked us through the merits and failings of both beers.  Apparently mine, being an IPA, was quite tasty and well developed for a kit beer but you wouldn’t want a lot of it as it was quite strong in flavour and better for having just a single glass of.  All three agreed that Pip’s Pale Ale struck them as being the one they would choose to drink a lot of and if  “scullability” had been a category she’d have scored highly there. But Nick also noted a hint of sugar in her beer which meant that perhaps it hadn’t quite reached its full potential.  Pip was stoked that after the tasting was complete, Nick actually finished his glass of her Pale Ale.  I’d like to point out that when you have small children and you have an opportunity to drink in the afternoon, you don’t finish a glass of just any old rubbish. Especially if your job perhaps revolves around the finer stuff.

I think the highlight for both of us was when Sandy said he was impressed that they were both kit beers and that for first timers we had done pretty damn well.  Go us!  ” The beer equivalent of making a packet cake,” said my husband before all this began. I think it’s a bit better than that!

Afterwards we plied our guests with the full beer snack menu of my Cheesy Biscuits and Beef Wellington Mini Pies and Pip’s Peking Duck Rolls alongside prawn tarts, another family favourite.  The new deck was christened while the kids were happily playing with trucks in a mountain of dirt and all in all it turned out to be a pretty good afternoon.

The snacks! Ducks Rolls, Cheesy Biscuits and prawn tarts.
The snacks! Ducks Rolls, Cheesy Biscuits and prawn tarts.

I don’t personally know any other female home brewers.  I’m sure they’re out there, they probably just don’t feel the need to blog about it.  But generally speaking, it does appear to be a very male dominated past-time and now I’m not really sure why.  I’ll definitely be giving it another crack sometime soon and would encourage anyone who was ever thinking about it to give it a go.  It’s not rocket science and you too could have the pleasure of slipping out to the shed and grabbing a bottle to pop in the fridge to have with tonight’s curry.

What could be nicer?

The Two Houses Families
The Two Houses Families

Photo credits: Kat Barrington Photography, Lex and Pip.

Think before you pink

Bubby, Little G and I were off getting an ice-cream after a morning’s play in the local park. Little G who was experienced in ice-cream selection quickly chose the flavour ‘Rainbow’ for himself and then announced that Bubby, who was not yet experienced in ice-cream selection would like the ‘Pink’ one. “Because she’s a girl”, he added. Ever looking up to her older cousin Bubby quickly parroted Little G’s choice of ice-cream for her as her own and they happily devoured their treats on the bench outside until they were covered in a lovely sticky mess.

Pink (aka strawberry) ice cream is a must.
Pink (aka strawberry) ice cream is a must.

Bubby had never expressed a preference for pink before this. She was quite happy with all colours equally, however from then on, pink was the go-to choice when given one. For her birthday I asked her what kind of cake she would like. “A pink one” she replied. She then told her Papa she was to have a pink birthday party. I needn’t tell her answer to what type of present she thought she might like… That’s right, a pink one.

And a pink cake it is!
And a pink cake it is! Photo credit Kat Barrington Photography

I’ve previously written about my position on pigeon holing girls into ‘girl’ colours and have ensured a range of boy, girl and unisex toys has been at her disposal since birth.  Bubby used to love to wear anything that been part of Little G’s wardrobe despite the ‘boy’ colours, but now she is irresistibly drawn to pink and anything that resembles a tutu (but that’s another tale to tell).  I realised that even through a simple ice-cream suggestion of ‘pink’ instead of ‘strawberry’ my daughter’s belief that girls should like pink had begun. Not just that they might like it, but that it was the colour for girls.

This desire for pink did not come from either of our houses – nor had Little G’s opinion about girls wanting pink ice-cream. So where had it come from? Maybe she does really genuinely like the colour now, or is she in autopilot thinking she’s supposed to like what all the other little girls at care were wearing? Was I concerned because I wanted my girls to explore outside the box? Or did it really only irk me because this monochrome loving mama would like her daughter to have more appreciation for the rarely-pink-but-still-ever-so-stylish clothing and play-things that I’ve carefully selected for her, rather than the garish and glittery mass-produced pink plastic stuff she is drawn to?

Pink. Pink. Pink.
Pink. Pink. Pink.

But no, it’s not just me trying to be a trendy, new-age mum (at which I fail repeatedly). There is some serious campaigning going on around this topic. One such campaign Let Toys be Toys, has recognised how the gender stereotyping for girls and boys has regressed over the years. Instead of liberating our children to be who they want to be, this relatively recent marketing for toys and clothing by colour-coding them into extreme ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ colours is hindering their choices by stereotyping the available selections.

Toys and play are essential to our kids learning development. By marketing toys with gender colours it limits the appeal to not just either sex, but the many parents and relatives whom are reluctant to by buy a gendered toy for the opporsite sex. Melissa Hine, a Professor of Psychology at Cambridge University, outlines in her article ‘There’s no good reason to push pink toys on girls’, that by limiting their choices, we’re impacting the development of social, verbal, writing and spacial skills  for both girls and boys. Hine firmly agrees that “Parents are right to be worried about the obsession with pink for girls”. So the next time I have my internal struggle about which colours to buy, I’ll know its not just about my own personal taste (ha) as I reach for the trendy, unconventional option and Bubby can just thank me later.

For the record, Little G’s favourite colour is Black.

If you're going to go plastic..
If you’re going to go plastic..

More on Pink at the Two Houses…

Baby on a plane

Ever been on a plane where a child cried the whole way? Well that child was probably mine. Oh you cursed us I know, don’t worry. I cursed us too.

Whilst pregnant with Bubby, my best friend announced he was getting married. In London. And then doing it all over again in Melbourne. And I would be his bridesmaid. In London. And again in Melbourne. It was exciting and I was ecstatic for them. We’d be travelling with a nine month old baby and everyone knows they just sleep on planes. Don’t they?

Bridesmaid duty calls!  Photo credit Nada Photography / Nad'a Stankova
Bridesmaid duty calls!
Photo credit Nada Photography / Nad’a Stankova

And so after being blessed with the honour of being his bridesmaid, I was then blessed with a baby that hated to travel. She hated the pram, she hated the car and unsurprisingly as we found out on our long, long journey to London, she hated planes. Well, she hated trying to sleep on them and on such a long trip that amounted to a lot of hate.

The short trip from home to Melbourne went smoothly and we confidently convinced ourselves that the rest of the trip would go swimmingly.

The journey started off happily...
The journey started off happily…

I’d come prepared. I had boobs, a dummy, food, books and toys, but we soon realised it wasn’t going to be enough.

On the first long leg out of the country we did ok. I managed to feed her to sleep and then back to sleep again when she woke every 45 minutes. Horrendous as that was, I told myself she would eventually get tired enough to sleep the rest of the way. On the second leg it was ‘daytime’ so we wearily managed with a combination of feeding her to sleep and standing up with her in our baby carrier. It’s ok we told ourselves, we would be in London soon and she could sleep.

Tiring times...
Tiring times…

And finally we did arrive. In the wee hours of the morning, we stood in the long, long queue waiting to pass through Customs. The airport was eerily quiet when suddenly she woke and let out the long, ear piercingly loud wail that our fellow passengers had become accustomed to hearing during the journey. I could see them all flinching and instantly a customs officer came hunting for us as I tiredly tried to jingle around to quieten her, fearful we were about to be told off for breaking the peaceful silence. But to our surprise, the officer cleared a path through the long, long queue of passengers and waved us over to the next available desk. I have never been so happy to hear my baby cry. Whilst still cursing us, I think the other passengers were probably glad to see the back of us…

Bubby explores Paris and London by bus and train...
Happier times as Bubby explores Paris and London by Double Decker bus , Paris Metro and London Underground…

Needless to say we were not looking forward to the trip back where the boobs no longer sufficed to get her to sleep and Dave and I  took turns in wearing her in the baby carrier having to stand when she woke every 45 minutes. That’s right, for both legs of the flights back to Melbourne.

Before this journey, it was I, who cringed as children screamed and kicked the back of my seat. I probably always will. Only now, I do it with a sympathetic smile for those stressed out parents and mentally apologise again, and again to all those passengers who travelled with us.

For the last and final leg back home we gave ourselves a pep talk. It was only a short trip and after everything else we could manage it easily. Of course it was this leg, the shortest and easiest to endure that our little angel slept the whole way and we were congratulated by our fellow passengers on what a good baby she was.

We could only smile wearily and accept their praise.

Pink is for girls

The cool change in weather has meant its time to rug up and our littlest resident of  the Two Houses was in need of some itty bitty under garments that had disappeared into the abyss known as ‘storage’. Unable to locate them, off we went shopping to find Baby Boo some singlets. Although they came in white and pink, the size I needed was only available in blue. Blue. It was the nice pale blue that many baby designs comes in and yet my instinct was to not buy them for my baby girl. But why? Now I’m a strong and vocal advocate for providing girls with a variety of colours, stories, toys and experiences. I’m the mother continually explaining that my baby ‘boy’ was indeed a girl in unisex coloured clothing (for the second time round). And still, here I was standing in front of a row of miniature singlets contemplating if blue was acceptable or to keep searching for white or pink.

After standing there for far too long and a few stern words with myself, I bought the blue ones.

But this is not the first time I have felt this inner conflict recently. On another shopping trip to source winter pyjamas for Bubby, my eldest daughter, I found myself surrounded by a sea of various shades of pink and purple in garish designs. Now it’s not that I object to pink and purple as ‘girl’ colours,  I object to only these ‘girl’ colours being readily available. I recalled a graphic quote that I had come across by www.GRRRLcamp.org

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I felt this was a fairly simple and important task to providing my daughters with the opportunity to explore and make their own choices, yet there I was holding several pairs of pajamas in colours and designs I simply didn’t want to choose from. And so I headed to the boys section and there I found some awesome patterns. Not a splash of garish pink or purple in sight.

That day I left feeling strong and confident that I would be a positive influence through the choice of my daughters pyjamas. And although Bubby was very happy with her two new pairs of warm flannelette pyjamas in pink with white polka dots (I liked the style of these ones) and a pair with blue, green and grey cars. I think despite the angst I went through in their selection, she still prefers the pink ones. Sigh.

Afterthought…

Since writing this blog we’ve added a pair of pyjamas with dragons, castles and knights. These are now currently her favourites.