Friday, June 27, 2008

In some ways I have never grown up

Today I had a surprising amount of fun making a book.

You see, the recipes I've collected from various cookbooks borrowed from the library, the internet, friends etc, have been shuffling around loosely and untidily within the covers of an old notebook. Not only did most of them fall out every time I reached for the notebook, but I often wasted time flicking through the pages looking for a specific recipe. So I bought a small ringbinder to store all my recipes in, and spent an enjoyable hour filling it up with my loose pages and organising them into logical sections.

I guess this shows that you can't take the librarian out of the ex-librarian-in-training. But it also demonstrates that something I used to love doing as a kid - making up books - can still put me in "the flow". Next, I'm gonna cut out some nice pictures to decorate the folder with...

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Why I haven't called

It's because:
1. the room where my laptop lives is bloody freezing, while the lounge is lovely and cosy,
2. the wireless Internet connection is so crappy that, when I do take the laptop next door into the lovely and cosy lounge, I'm likely to lose my Internet connection within about ten minutes (tonight it lasted about 3 mins).

There's also the small matter of leading a not particularly blog-worthy life, though this doesn't usually hold me up for long. It's the technical frustration that really gets to me.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Goth Depp

The boy brought me home a present yesterday, Sweeney Todd on DVD. I'd heard that Depp, who plays the main guy, actually does a decent job of singing. And though, unlike many bloggers I know who crave Johnny Depp movies because he's hot, I like them 'cos he's hot and generally chooses great movies to be in (except the Pirates movies and The Man Who Cried and I really wasn't interested in the one about the sexually perverted S&M guy).

So anyway, what a bizarre thing to write a musical about - a barber who murders all manner of innocent men with his shaving apparatus (or is that apparati, seeing as he's got several?), and his neighbour who puts his victims into her meat pies? Still, it's been around for years and years (the musical, not the film of the musical), so obviously there's a market for gory stories with singing.

It was pretty gory alright. One minute a young sailor is trilling about the love of his life - whom he's never met, but seen through a window - and the next you see Depp slicing some poor guy's throat with a And he doesn't even bother to finish shaving them first. Everytime I saw one of the dead guys fly backwards down the chute to the bakery's ad-hoc meatworks, I shivered and cringed.

Back to the singing. The tunes aren't the most catchy I've ever heard. They aren't going to outdo anything on the Wiggles CDs. In fact, musically it reminded me of the time I reviewed Les Miserables for a bunch of work friends. I hated Les Miserables.

I didn't hate Sweeney Todd though. It wasn't boring like Les Mis.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Foreign soil

I was on the phone to one of the teachers at TLM's new daycare - the one which she was supposed to start at yesterday, but is still too sick to - and moaning that our poor sweetie darling has endured about 3 weeks of this bug or that one. And the teacher said that kids often get sick when they start a new daycare centre; it's something to do with being in contact with new bugs that weren't already doing the rounds at the old one.

And it makes sense, y'know? It's like, when if you move to a foreign country for any length of time, you always avoid the local water to start with because it's got unfamiliar bugs in it.

But that won't stop me from looking for the silver bullet that'll improve her bug-immunity.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The complex decision-making process in choosing which fiction to buy

It was No Milk Please who recommended Junot Diaz as an author. But No Milk is obviously fluent in Spanish, while mine is limited to such touristy favourites as "donde esta el servicio?" (where is the toilet?) and "Quanto questa?" (How much?).

So when I flicked through a copy of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and found all those untranslated Spanish phrases, I put the book down and went looking for Monica Ali's Brick Lane. The review of the movie sounded pretty good, but...there's just something a bit uncool about reading a book after the movie comes out.

And then I thought, why not ask the staff whether they've got Diaz' book of short stories? No Milk said it was just about the only book of short stories he'd ever read in which every single story was great. They had one last copy in the shop. So that's the one I bought - Drown.

And so far, he's right. Even though they're full of words and phrases in Spanish, I've enjoyed every story I've read. Imagine how much more I'd appreciate them if I understand all the words. Characters re-appear throughout the book, so it's a little like reading an episodic novel - like Amy Tan's Joy Luck Club (which, apparently, is in fact 16 short stories marketed as one novel). The stories are mostly not happy, yet they aren't depressing. How the hell does Diaz do that?

I might even go back to the book shop and get Oscar Wao.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Working mother's guilt

TLM ended up missing out on her last day at her daycare. Her babysitter had already made a batch of chocolate cupcakes for the occasion and I'd already picked out a leaving present for the daycare - but it wasn't to be. I'll probably arrange for a midday visit once she's better, so she can properly say goodbye to her little friends (or more importantly, eat cake and be the centre of attention).

It was incredibly hard to leave her this morning. I'd arranged to stay at home with TLM until mid-morning, and for the babysitter to take over so I could go to work. TLM had seemed quite happy up until the babysitter's arrival. But obviously the wee mite was still very poorly and wanted her mummy. There were tears, hysteria and tantrums; pleadings to go to work with mummy; refusals to get off my lap...

All the way to work I felt like the baddest mum ever. Why on earth was I insisting on going to work when it wasn't even really busy this week? Shouldn't I be putting TLM's happiness over my wish to earn the money that pays for the babysitter? (See, this is why I never wanted to be self-employed. At least if I were a permie, I'd be able to use up my sick leave in order to stay at home when TLM is sick, and still get paid.)

Thankfully, she's over the worst of it now.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Evil sugar

Not that I've done extensive research into it, but I'm convinced that this family's sweet tooth is behind our weakness against winter bugs. I've read somewhere that sugar impedes your immune system, and my naturopathic friend (her with the daughter - same age as TLM - who has never had to visit her doctor) confirms this. Only a week after the runny-bum virus, TLM now has the latest cold, complete with phlegmy cough and high temperature. I blame it on her twin loves - chocolate and lollipops.

She is now so hooked on all things chocolatey and sweet that the very thought of weaning her of them is enough to make me give up before I've started. Apparently carob powder and applesauce are healthier subsitutes, but that would mean making our own sweets i.e. giving up Blue's Clues custard, chocolate fingers and other shop-bought stuff.

Diet sweeteners, I'm sure, are not the answer - especially for a little kid.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The post-pay shopping spree

I made a list a few months ago, of the things I intended to spend my pay on. Soon after that, reality set. The new plan was to put as much as possible into the credit card debt.

So far, I've spent my pay on:

- My Little Pony pajamas for TLM
- a leather belt to keep my work trousers from sliding over my hips, making me look like a not-quite homeboy
- a month's worth of kiddies' Echinacea
- a copy of Junot Diaz' book of short stories, Drown (way cooler than buying his recently published novel)

On Saturday I'll be getting a haircut, and before then I have two presents to buy (one for the boy's birthday and the other for TLM's soon-to-be-old daycare). And this week I also want to splash out on a slow cooker.

So that credit card debt is just gonna have to wait...

Monday, June 09, 2008

We went to the Storylines Festival

What fun. We headed straight for the face-painters, because it would be her first time. Waiting in the queue, I wondered what she was ask for - the china doll? the butterfly? the tiger?

As it turned out, TLM wanted to be a pirate. She managed to keep amazingly still while the volunteer drew a black eye patch on one side of TLM's face and a ragged scar on the other. She grinned at her new face in the mirror and told me she had a big "owie" on her cheek.

Unfortunately, she couldn't resist picking and wiping at it during the story-telling session, and soon it was faded like a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy.

At the Animal Undie Ball stand, we made cardboard underpants and pegged them up on the line.
At the public library corner, we sat on floor cushions and oohed and ahhed over a large Dr Seuss pop-up book.
Somewhere in between was Hairy McLary, who put down his bone to give TLM a bear hug.

Yeah it was fun.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

A letter from the editor

Remember way back, when I sent in a children's story to the NZ School Journal?

Well, I got my reply today.

It was a rejection, BUT - she gave me some suggestions on how I can improve my story, and said she'd be happy to have another look at it when I'm done.

So, not a bad result, really. And the bonus is, after a couple of unmotivated months I'm getting back to writing.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Do accountants dream of clean spreadsheets?

By this morning I hadn't thrown up for a day and a half, so I sent TLM off to daycare and put myself on the bus to work. But, having spent all day unsuccessfully trying to make the numbers on a fairly complex spreadsheet add up, I feel like a real thickie. I hate feeling thick, it just goes against my desire to be an intellectual.

Apparently this very spreadsheet analysis used to utterly do the head in, of the project manager whose job I'm temporarily filling in. That makes me feel slightly less thick. And, to be honest, adding up numbers was never my strongest quality (although I was quite good at maths in school, I was useless at adding stuff up - go figure). So if "they" complain that I'm doing a terrible job, I'll just have to tell them that they shoulda given me technical writing job like I'd asked for in the first place.

BTW, thanks for your dairy-free cupcake suggestions. But fate is giving me a break after all; two other kids are finishing at daycare on the same day, so someone else is making the cakes. I'll be contributing a very manageable fresh fruit salad.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008


I really must be getting way too used to being at work during the day, because today, on my non-working day, TLM was home with suspected gastro-enteritis and it was The. Longest.Day.
She's actually been pretty well today, but the weather wasn't outing-friendly and anyway you're supposed to wait 48 hours before you let your previously runny-bummed child back into public spaces.

We were both stir-crazy, and in the end we made a quick trip to the shops, just for a change of scenery and a pack of Huggies. Unfortunately, TLM has learned that every supermarket checkout is well-endowed with all sorts of tooth-rotting sweetness. "Lollipop!" she panted triumphantly, as though expecting me to reward her for such a clever discovery. Afterward, during the obligatory detour to the playground, she demanded her lollipop. I told her no, they're not for every day, they're bad for your teeth. "No!" she replied, "they're good for you!" Amazing how advanced a child's language skills become when they're fighting for their treats.

Any passing parent would probably have known better, but those tears she cried, it could've been the end of the world.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

It's a baking crisis

It'll be TLM's happy-last-day at her current daycare, in less than two weeks. In that time I have to think of a present to get for the daycare (perhaps one of those Babette Cole books?) and make a cake for them all to celebrate with.

One of the other kids there has a dairy intolerance, so I thought I'd use the vinegar cake recipe (it's also known as depression cake - hopefully not because there's not enough chocolate in it to make you feel good) because it's dairy-free and egg-free (so I can eat some too). I was planning to make cup cakes from the recipe, and decorate them with M and Ms.

There's a hitch though. TLM doesn't like the test cake I made advance. It might possibly be because she's got that gastro-enteritis that's currently making the rounds amongst the local young. But maybe not, because the runny tummy really did not put TLM off eating her chocolate flavoured Blue's Clues yoghurt (which isn't even really yoghurt, by the way).

I can't make a cake for TLM that she won't even eat, right?
So does anyone have a kiddie-friendly non-dairy cupcake recipe, that doesn't require exotic ingredients or an electric mixer?

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Hairy, silly, slimy and a little naughty

Back in my days working in a public library, I'd always heard the children's librarian recommend Babette Cole's picture books to parents. At the time of course, I was childless and therefore I never expected such information to hibernate in the back of my mind, only to resurface when TLM was born.

We've just borrowed several of her books recently from the library and - good gods, but Babette Cole is funny. It's partly the irreverent subject matter, partly her hilarious drawings of snot, hairy man-fairies and strangely-shaped heads. TLM is currently getting lots of giggles from The Hairy Book, The Slime Book and The Silly Book (or perhaps she just enjoys imitating the peculiar laugh I affect for her amusement). I think she enjoyed Mummy Never Told Me too, but after the first time we read it together, I'm too scared to show it her again. It has, like, a picture of naked and spindly mummy and daddy in their bedroom, supposedly hoping for some childfree lurve, while the narrator wonder why his parents sometimes lock him out of their room. I can't be sure it's age-appropriate.

I don't know about TLM, but I reckon it's be worth getting all her books out just for my own reading pleasure.