Tuesday, July 31, 2007


My second short story writing class is tomorrow evening, and I fear that I won't be able to finish the homework assignment we were given last week. What we were asked to do, was to note down some observations of strangers - the way they looked, moved, spoke etc. I'm finding it hard to do, not just because I'm one of the most absent-minded people I know, but because opportunities to people-watch don't easily present themselves to me.

Because, in order to observe people's physical characteristics, I have to be sitting around in a public space, with no toddler-related distractions and nothing much to do. Now I know why people have to quit their jobs in order to write their novels.

Monday, July 30, 2007

A piece of cake

I've started organising a cake stall to raise funds for The Little Madam's childcare centre. It's going to be held in the local shopping mall, and the girl who booked the space for us sounded really keen to try our baking.

"Is there going to be black forest gateau, by any chance?", she asked hopefully. I certainly didn't want to get her hopes up, as I have no idea what the parents' abilities are like in the cake- and biscuit-making arena.

But I do know that it might not be a good idea to offer anything that comes out of my oven. Not if we want to make a profit and avoid disabling an entire neighbourhood with indigestion.

So I'm thinking, unless I find a fool-proof recipe for a delicious and expensive-looking cake or biscuit (and which requires no electric mixer), then I'm best off employed purely on the retail side of things...

Friday, July 27, 2007

To party or not to party? That is the question...

In about two weeks time TLM will turn 2. I kinda want to have a birthday party, because it'll be fun for her and I'd like to return the favour to the kids whose parties we've been to.

But I kinda don't, because:
1. there's probably an 80% chance that one of us will be sick on the day,
2. it's going to be a lot of work and
3. it's going to be hard deciding who to invite and who not to.

In the old days, having a party was easy. Just ask everyone I know, assuming that about half of them will show up, and make sure there is plenty of chips'n'dips and very loud music. I didn't have to organise games because as long as there is alcohol and someone to talk to, you have as much entertainment as you need.

What to do, what to do...

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Why it's better not to have carpet

I just about had a heart attack this afternoon. We were at my mum's house and I'd just undone The Little Madam's poo-filled nappy, when TLM whippped it out from under her bum and rubbed it enthusiastically into my mother's just-vaccumed carpet.

It could have been a bit of a disaster, but luckily the nappy had folded itself over, with the pooey stuff inside.

And then TLM tried to scratch her as-yet-unwiped bum with her hand.

This is where nail brushes come in handy.

No write turn

So last night I spent two hours talking and thinking about short stories, along with 8 other people and our tutor. After an hour of introductions, house-keeping rules and ice-breaking games, we got stuck into it.

For one exercise we were asked to write the worst story we possibly could, in ten minutes. Umm...but I misunderstood that instruction and wrote a story with the worst possible scenario. Still, when the time was up you could be forgiven for thinking I'd done exactly what I'd been asked...

I'm not sure what it means, but I left that class feeling less competent than before it'd started. The good news is, it can only get better.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Wish I was there

For several reasons, I probably won't be attending this year's film festival. But in past years I was what you could call a frequent film festival flyer, so out of habit I still pick up the festival schedule. It must be the masochist in me, to want to know what I'll be missing out on over the next couple of weeks.

I've already dog-eared the pages listing the films that sound particularly interesting to me. Maybe you've seen them already, or you're booked to go see them soon:

Perfect Creature - a New Zealand sci fi/fantasy movie, about "a race of intellectual bloodsuckers called The Brotherhood", who provide humans with vaccines in exchange for blood donations.

Day Watch - another vampire movie...hmm. This one's Russian, a sequal to Night Watch.

The Secret Life of Words - about a hearing-impaired woman who has her hearing aid turned off most of the time to avoid connecting with other people. With Sarah Polley and Tim Robbins, this sounds exactly like the kind of movie the boy avoids.

King Corn: corn is everywhere, but especially in our junk food. I bet people with corn allergies must not be able to eat any junk food whatsoever. Poor things.

Manufacturing Dissent: I loved Michael Moore's propaganda films. This documentary apparently started out as a celluloid love letter to Mr Moore, but showed him to be not such a straight-up guy.

Eagle vs Shark: actually, I wouldn't have bothered to go see this at the festival. I'd've waited for it to come out on general release. But I'd see it one way or another, because I'm a Flight of the Conchords fan.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Call me the unfinisher

What an irony. A few years ago my workplace made us all take personality tests, and according to my test score I was a task-completer extraordinaire. My creativity score, on the other hand, was disappointingly low.

This is no longer true. For weeks now, I've been struggling to start and finish a third painting (I managed two during my abstract painting course). I keep coming up with ideas for paintings,but those blocks of free time in which I can paint, have been frustratingly rare. I'm finding that, by the time I've an opportunity to work on my idea, I've already mentally moved onto the next idea. End result - one canvas has been painted over about four times with a new background colour, but hasn't yet progressed beyond that point.

Creative types are known for their inability to finish projects. Could this be a sign of a personality transformation?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

A good morning

It's been a good morning, because:

1. I'm not sick
2. TLM's not sick
3. The boy's not sick

and, since non-one's sick:

4. I was able to take TLM to the local playgroup, which meant that
5. I had a chance to talk to other grown-ups and
6. Didn't have to bounce TLM on my lap to the tune of "Dorothy (would you like to dance with me)" for the umpteenth time

and to top it all off,

7. It turned out to be a warmish and sunny day.

On the other hand, TLM's been in her room for an hour now, and still isn't napping. Can't have everything, I suppose.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

too stinky for you

This isn't meant as a complaint about TLM's bowel movements, nor have I any intention of bringing this up at her 21st. But today I had to go pick her up from daycare unexpectedly early. Because her poo was too smelly.

Before you write back commenting on the oversensitivity of the daycare teacher's noses, I should mention they went on to add that they suspected diarrhoea (omigod I spelled that out without needing spellcheck! What does that say about me?) and it's policy to ask parents to take their kids home in this case.

When they rang, I was in the middle of a meeting with the fundraising committee, on the other side of town; by the time I got there to pick up TLM she was looking as happy as ever. Though that may been due to the freshly-made popcorn being made freely available to all little hands.

I just thought I'd share it with you. Thanks.

Monday, July 16, 2007

I know it's just a fantasy world, but...

Yesterday I saw the final episode of Gilmore Girls, and by then I was definitely ready for the end of Stars Hollow World. While it's never tried to be a gritty, real-life portrayal of small-town existence, I have to say that all that Rory-love was really getting to me. She'd become as annoying as Angel's Fred. It's people's flaws that make them human and Rory has increasingly resembled Brainiac Barbie. Thank goodness for Kirk.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

A bit of a palaver

TLM's had her Fisher Price Ocean Wonders Aquarium (click here for a picture of the latest version) cot toy since she was about 6 months old. It played a small selection of lullabies while a group of little fishies swum in an endless loop, lit by a gentle background glow. I can still remember that fascinated struck-by-headlights stare TLM had (or Baby, as her blog handle was then) as she lay in her cot watching the show.

So recently, when the aquarium music began to sound like an over-stretched cassette tape and the light show stopped working, I was a bit concerned. Surely it couldn't be the batteries, because I'd only replaced then a week or two ago. I came to the unhappy conclusion that our beloved aquarium was on it's last legs and in need of urgent replacement.

We went to three different shops, and finally found an updated version on the top shelf of the Fisher Price aisle at The Warehouse. TLM was so excited at the prospect of playing with it that she insisted it was bedtime, though it was only 4.30pm. The boy quickly got out his handyman gear and moved the batteries from the old toy to the new one.

Half an hour later, I was driving back to the shop because we hadn't been able to get the damn thing to work. The customer service people were very nice about it, not even bothering to check it out for themselves. Of course, I said I'd have to test the replacement before I left with it - although it meant waiting for the assistant to dig around in a big glass jar for spare batteries because the boy hadn't left our ones in.

And you know what? I got the new aquarium home and the boy couldn't get it to work. So he replaced the batteries, and then it was fine.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

fashion sense

Ever since the weekend, when we bought TLM a pair of Bob the Builder pajamas, she's been mad for them. Absolutely mad. Mad as in, must wear them day and night - even atop other day clothes. As in, must wear them on the long walk to the library (actually not a long walk, but she's still got such little legs and insists on investigating every puddle) even though it's raining, blowing a gale and 9 degrees Celsius.

This isn't to say that TLM has neglected her fairy-wear. Today, TLM wore the now-battered wings and deflowered skirt over her Bob the Builder pjs. It was an interesting look, really.

Is this the beginning of the dreaded wardrobe tantrums that young children are known for?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

New news from the home front

TLM has another cold, I think. She was unnaturally warm yesterday and had an awful lot of trouble getting to sleep last night. On the plus side, she's learning to blow her nose on a tissue. I just wish she wouldn't use the snotty used ones that I've left lying around whilst distracted...

The boy has decided to quit smoking once and for all, and bought a supply of nicotine inhalers to help. He's already warned me to expect a few days of crankiness, so in lieu of patience I have offered him plenty of space.

Back when I was a frequenter of trendy cafes, Strawberry Fayre was my favourite den of sweet-toothed iniquity. It specialised in cheesecakes so rich that it was impossible to eat a whole piece, unless you were were willing to "rest" in your chair for at least the next two hours. But the manner in which I disposed of last night's individual baked cheesecake (brought home from the Moore Wilsons bakery), shows that some things get easier even without constant practise.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Old habits

TLM has changed so much since her first birthday (she's now almost 23 months). She's also developed a few cute personality quirks.

Our little girl has become obsessed with all things fairy-like, can count to 20 and knows her alphabet, has a favourite fluffy orange sweater which she calls Chicken, drinks the coloured water she's supposed to be playing with and knows the words and the actions to Twinkle Twinkle.

And through an unfortunate word association, when she says a food is "nice" that means she's about to spit it out and rub it into the nearest fabric upholstery.

But some things haven't changed at all. Take the baby hammock she's had since she was born. The Little Madam must be getting perilously close to it's 15 kg limit by now, but we're loathe to stop using it because she still naps in it once or twice a week. She's also reverted back to nap-resistance. Today, TLM did nothing but complain at naptime (despite having been given a pair of fluffy socks to play with), and only finally fell asleep after I took her out in the buggy.

Going back to buggy-reliance could turn out to be a blessing in disguise, actually. I've become a bit slack with the exercise ever since I started painting (again) and writing (or trying to). If the only way I can get a regular cardio workout is by pushing a toddler-laden buggy around for an hour, then I should probably make the most of it eh?

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Good examples

At some point in motherhood, I suppose it's no longer a credible excuse for dressing like a dowdy, forgotton spinster, or for being always too tired to properly pursue grown-up interests. I'm glad I went to painting classes, and glad that I've got a short-story writing class to look forward to. But I'm still a grungy dresser who's almost forgotten what it was like to chase glamour and excitement. And what makes me feel a little ashamed of myself is knowing about women who seem to have done it all better than me.

In last weekend's paper I read about a 30-something mother of 2 kids under 2, who not only has continued her design career but has become a published writer as well. Then, in last night's episode of Project Runway, I saw a 42 year old fashion designer, and mother of 4, tell the world that she always - always - dresses up because she never wants to go down that trackpants'n'minivan path.

So, if these women haven't let motherhood be an obstacle to making their mark on the world, why have I?

At this point, it would probably make sense to say that one shouldn't compare oneself to others.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

False alarms

We've had a monitored burglar alarm at this house for a number of years now. In fact, ever since the boy moved in and started buying expensive computer and television equipment I've had to not only improve my home's security, but also increase the contents insurance by about 500%.

The unfortunate thing about the average alarm monitoring service is that if someone should actually break into your home, what you won't get is a van-load of armed guards arriving within 5 minutes, ready and willing to accost the greasy bastard who's attempting steal your stuff. All you can hope for is a warning call on your cell phone and an offer to send someone around after he's finished his scone, to confirm that there really is an unwanted visitor on your property. For about $50.

And the annoying thing about the alarm system in our place is that the alarm monitor in the hall keeps going off when it isn't supposed to. Normally it waits until I've gotten myself and TLM nappy-changed (TLM, not me), shod, coated and buggied all the way down to the library. Once we've settled ourselves in for a nice quiet hour amongst the shelves or in the playground just outside, that's when my phone rings and I have to rush us both all the way back to check it out.

The technician's already been to have a look at the monitor and found nothing wrong with it. So the next logical step is to replace this 6-year-old thingy with a new one. But I'm surprised these things aren't expected to last longer than that. It's not as though it's got moving parts or a DVD-playing device.

Has anyone else had this sort of problem with their alarm? Am I being ripped off, or do I just expect too much for my money?

Another mini-milestone

Yesterday, while I was busy getting her lunch ready, The Little Madam climbed onto her high chair all by herself. I was so surprised I almost forgot to feed her. But I came back to my senses just in time to stop her from trying to climb back down.

Monday, July 02, 2007

actor slash model

If you're familiar with the movie Zoolander, then you'll know what this post's title means. If you aren't, then don't worry you'll get the gist of it.

I've been watching Top Chef lately, which is a lot like Project Runway but with food instead of fashion. Now, the latter show was hosted by Heidi Klum, who has an irritatingly high-pitched voice and says the same few lines every week. But she's a model, and Project Runway is about fashion, so you can't really say she doesn't belong there.

What's surprising about Top Chef though, is that it's hostesses are just as model-beautiful. But they aren't just eye candy, because they get to make judgements on the contestants' edible art. They sound like they know their food. This makes me wonder, just how many food-aware women are there who look as though they only eat salad (dressing on the side)?.

Could there possibly be such a thing as foodie-slash-model?

Sunday, July 01, 2007

The importance of tofu

Here's my latest fiction-writing effort. Leo suggested I give you 300 words on the importance of cheese, but I think enough's been written about cheese already...

How important is tofu? Tofu saved my life, you know.

To you it’s just a food product, a meat substitute for the vegetarian masses. But that wobbly white stuff with no taste of its own – I’m going to be eating it until the world runs out of soy beans, because I’m so grateful.

See, my uncle Ray was a black sheep. He used to sneak off to Kevin Ng’s fruit shop every Monday and Thursday night to play mah jong in the back room. But we all thought he was at the polytechnic learning how to use MYOB. We didn’t know about his gambling habit until those Triad men knocked on our door late one night.

When nasty-looking Chinese men appear at your front door at 11pm, it usually only means one thing – someone’s lost big at mah jong and they’ve come to collect. There’s a reason why Chinese restaurants seem to change ownership so frequently, you know, and the owners always just happen to be big-time mah jong players. Funny that.

After we lost the Golden Lotus restaurant, I had to leave university and get a job. Mum started working nights at the Chopsticks Takeaways, to supplement the earnings from her fledgling tofu business. Joe, my brother, started sending money from London. It wasn’t enough though, because we still had to pay off a hefty mortgage on a restaurant we no longer owned. Every night, mum lit up the joss sticks and asked for some good luck from our ancestors. And every Sunday, she went to church and prayed for a miracle.

Traditionalist that she is, mum soon came up with the brilliant idea of marrying me off to a rich businessman from Hong Kong. She’d never even met the guy; just had a recommendation from Mrs Tse, who played marriage broker when she wasn’t running Chopsticks. It was all set up, you know. I wasn’t particularly eager to get hitched to a stranger (and a foreigner, at that), but I’ve never been much of a rebel, and anyway I couldn’t see any other way out of our financial hell.

But then mum’s tofu business took off. All of a sudden, the foodies who came to buy at the farmer’s market couldn’t get enough of it. Business was so good we had to rent extra work space from Mrs Tse (who also had a finger in the commercial real estate pie). Six months later, mum was bought out by Chan’s Authentic Chinese. We paid off the mortgage and still had a decent sum to invest in the stock exchange (soy bean futures). And I’m still single.

So yeah, I’ve got a lot to be thankful for. Funny thing is, Mum won’t take any of the credit for our good fortune. She just continues placing food offerings in front of the lit joss sticks every night, and singing loudly at church every Sunday.