Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Two movies and a novel

Notes on a Scandal: It was the only movie on the telly that sounded even remotely watchable, with Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett heading the cast. And it turned out to be really, really watchable. Dench plays Barbara, a loveless old history teacher at a secondary school (high school) who develops a crush on the new and beautiful art teacher, the married but desperately lonely Sheba (played by Blanchett). Barbara soon becomes Sheba's only friend and confidante, which plays into the former's hopes for some kind of lesbian relationship. And when she catches Sheba in an inappropriately intimate embrace with an underaged boy pupil, the stalker-ishly needy Barbara sees their little secret as an opportunity to get even closer into Sheba's undergarments.

The thing about this story is that - even though I disliked Barbara for being psychotic and manipulative, and I disliked Sheba for her irresponsible fling - in the end I just felt sympathy for the both of them, for their loneliness and need to grasp at any chance of emotional intimacy.

Madagascar - Escape 2 Africa: It was rainy this morning, so I took TLM to the movies. It was her very first cinematic experience, and she was enthralled. There was none of that restless wriggling that you might get when at the movies with small children, though it might have helped that she had her own packet of chippies to munch through. Although she did almost disappear into her fold-down theatre seat when she sat too far back.

As for the film itself, I really enjoyed it. But I did feel sorry for the poor creature that became the "sacrifice" to the rain gods in the volcano, when the waterhole dried up. There were lots of laugh-out-loud moments, and even a tear-inducing romantic scene between the giraffe and the hippo.

The Historian: Having not been a teenage girl for quite some time, I have absolutely no interest in Twilight, that vampiric Mills and Boon series that has become a teen hit movie. I picked up The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova, from the discount bin at a local bookshop and have been enjoying it since. It's, like, a literary vampire story for academics and librarians. Or something.

I'm only about three chapters in, but so far it's about a teenage girl whose historian father possesses evidence that Dracula is alive and sucking somewhere in Eastern Europe.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Blogging from the coast

We're 2 days into our holiday. Believe it or not, when we realised that there was broadband available in our holiday apartment, the boy went into Harvey Normans and bought a MacBook. Otherwise my holiday blog posts would be handwritten on paper and you'd all be spared them...

The weather's great, the beach and the shops (dress shops!) are only a few minutes walk away in opposite directions, and TLM is loving the heated pool just outside our door.

I took TLM on a ride on the miniature railway this morning and it's really pretty cool; there are three trains all going in different directions - over and under bridges, through tunnels and overlooking the well-used paddling pool. Actually, I might've enjoyed the ride more than she did.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Waiter! There's a bug in my soup!

Halfway through the dinner (a nice winter-y beefy stew for a slightly wintery evening) that the boy had lovingly cooked, I noticed it.

A weta, curled up in foetal position, was quietly lying in my stew.

The boy, who is greatly disquieted by all bugs but especially wetas, was more distressed than I was.

I told myself it was just as well that it wasn't half a weta that I found in my dinner.

We still haven't figured out how on earth in got there.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2008

I must be insane

"Are you insane!?" I asked my mum (in Cantonese), after she proposed that I spend the afternoon of Christmas Eve at Pak 'n Save with her. Shopping at the busiest supermarket chain in the country, during the busiest day of the year, can only lead to trolley rage, sky-high blood pressure and plans for emigration.

My mum took offense at having her mental capacity questioned.

Nevertheless, I ended up realising that I'll need to buy fresh produce for the fresh fruit salad I am making for Christmas lunch - meaning that I will end up in a supermarket on Christmas Eve anyway. But I insisted on visiting a far less crazy-busy supermarket, and at a far quieter time.

So she got her way - sort of - in the end.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

I am not alone

Yesterday, I was the first to arrive at the pimp's Christmas lunch (oh, the embarrassment!). Eventually though, everyone else showed up, including a few people I was friendly with. So my fear of spending two hours shovelling food into my face because I'd no-one to talk to, was unfounded.

The interesting thing about this lunch, apart from the fact that the NZ CEO and the global boss both came over to say hi, was that the woman I sat next to has also worked with a woman-who-hates-her (not the same person as the-woman-who-hates-me).

I find it quite shocking really, because this firm's point of difference is their cosy, caring atmosphere. It's why having lunch with the NZ CEO is no big deal. They are nice. This is not the working environment for office politicking, and there definitely shouldn't be two cases of junior staff (albeit contractors) being bullied by insecure, passive-aggressive senior staff.

The two of bonded over our mis-treatment. We even swapped phone numbers. But...it's not really a good basis for a friendship is it?

The food was delicious.

Friday, December 19, 2008

TLM's Christmas party

Yesterday we all went to a Christmas party at TLM's daycare.

I'd taken a few hours beforehand to practice deep-frying my mum's wontons, and - against all expectations - they turned out really well. I should know, because I ate six of 'em and my tummy is still fine.

At the last minute I realised the party had a Seventies theme. Apparently we were encouraged to "brush off" our Seventies gear (like I have such things in wardrobe!). At first, I went for a hippy look. But my maxi skirt is denim and my flowy top is black. So the overall effect was not so much hippy, as bogan. In the end I just wore jeans and a nice top.

TLM decided not to dress up as a fairy or a baby jaguar. Instead, she wore a too-small, pink, bib-front dress over a green tank top. I told her that if anyone was to ask, she was a go-go dancer.

The head daycare teacher was dressed up as the Captain Stubing of the Love Boat (thereby reinforcing my suspicion that she is gay - not that I have anything against that). If there'd been any prizes for costume, I'd have voted for her.

The highlight (apart from watching the crowd of mums and dads and kids eat all the wontons) was watching all the kids stand on the stage and sing Christmas songs. TLM stood at the front next to her best mate, both stage-struck. But at least they were brave enough to stand there, right? Anyway, considering only about half of the kids actually sang, there was an impressive amount of volume.

And then Santa came out and handed out the presents, and we all went home.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Busy all of a sudden

Just when I have a sexy top and nice trousers to sew up for our holiday getaway at the seaside, it looks like I won't have the time to do any sewing after all:

  • I found myself a couple of days's work this week (which is great, because soon I'll have money to buy Christmas presents), so Monday and Tuesday were busy. Plus, I didn't finish what I'm being paid to do, so I'll go back in to work on Thursday morning to get it all done.

  • Wednesday is TLM's day with her mum, and we're going to take my mum for a morning out (to the bank and the supermarket - how exciting).

  • Thursday I have to practice deep-frying wontons for TLM's daycare's Christmas party. Hopefully there will be some left over from practice, that are actually nice to eat.

  • Friday I have Christmas lunch with the pimp - it's free and I get to go "Hi! Merry Christmas! Why haven't you been returning my calls?"

  • And then it's the weekend, 2 days of Christmas shopping...then it's Christmas.

    Not that I'm complaining.
  • Sunday, December 14, 2008

    The annual Christmas letter

    Actually, I never do these. But if I did, then this year's letter would go something like this...

    Dear Friends and family,

    It's hard to believe another year is nearly over with, isn't it? I hope you're well and aren't too badly affected by the economic downturn that those irresponsible Americans are putting the rest of the world through.

    TLM is doing well at daycare; at the parent-teacher meeting I was told that she has "outstanding" knowledge and vocabulary. I told her that this is due to all the DVDs she watches, though the teacher might have thought I was joking. I am thinking of enrolling TLM in Chinese and/or ballet classes next year. What a pity there are no classes that teach both at the same time; it might be cheaper. Oh yes, and she has started sleeping in a big kids' bed. It has been a week and she has only fallen out twice.

    As you know, I was thinking of going back to work as a technical writer. Well, I did indeed get some work in that area! But then I got fired so I'm back to being a stay-at-home mum until I get another contract or permanent job. But in the meantime I am using my free time to do 7 months' worth of housework that didn't get done while I was working.

    The boy is well; he is still expanding his collection of electronic games and wants to rearrange his study so that half of it (not my half, I hope!) can have his XBOX, PS2, Game Cube and Wii consoles set up permanently. Fair enough, I suppose, as he doesn't spend every night at the pub like some dads.

    Well, I'd better sign off now. Write back soon and I hope the rehab is going well.


    Or something like that.

    Crossing off the financial to-do list, not

    Way back in March, I posted a list of the things I wanted to spend my spare money on, once I started earning again.

    But I haven't managed to get many of those things done:

    buying a compost bin (they probably don't cost much, but the boy isn't interested so if we get one it'll be because I paid for it)

    - having my will done (I mean, as in "my will and living testament" or however it reads - not some kind of Willow-magic)

    - buying shoes that are both stylish and super-comfy. (It may not be possible, but apparently Kumfs come pretty close.)
    Yes. Twice.

    - and some nice white shirts (I have a problem with white clothes, as they have to be washed separately - but I hate to underload the washing machine. So the only solution is to wear a lot more white)
    Yes, if you count 2 nice white t-shirts.

    - spend more time in cafes (probably in the form of half-hour lunch breaks, but time spent in a cafe is time pretending to be a Beautiful Person) Surprisingly, not really.

    As you can see, the only items I could cross off my list are fashion-related.
    There were further items which didn't get onto the blog post (putting in underfloor insulation, having my vision checked and getting new glasses, saving up to renovate the kitchen and bathroom), but they didn't get done either.

    And now I'm unemployed again. So, not much achieved then.

    On the other hand, my friends tell my I look very stylish now.

    Thursday, December 11, 2008

    Sewing for a square peg

    My second sewing project was going to be a pair of close-fitting trousers - pocketless, unwaistbanded trousers with a side zip to minimise tummy bumpage. I now know that I was too ambitious, because it's turned out that getting the damned thing to fit properly is a hell of a job. It's a good thing I decided to make a trial pair first, because they were way too tight around the waist and a bit too loose everywhere else.

    This should not have been a huge surprise to me, as commercial sewing patterns made by the big brands seem to be based on the hourglass figures of women in the Fifties. I've read that women are getting bigger and more straight up and down - yet this isn't reflected in the fit of sewing patterns. I don't understand how sewers put up with this, unless they are mostly differently-sized versions of Marilyn Monroe.

    I'm going to press on, though I'll need the help of some good dressmaking books and websites.

    Dresses and skirts must be so much easier to fit. Thinking about the shop-bought trousers I own, really the only ones that fit well are the stretch denim jeans. I can see now why it's a good thing that women have the option to wear dresses.

    Monday, December 08, 2008

    But the boy is far prettier...

    In the midst of much tantrum-ing, due to wanting another hundreds'n'thousands biscuit and not being allowed one, The Little Madam lightened up jungle hour with this nugget of cuteness:

    "That's dadday!" says TLM.
    I look over to where she is pointing.
    She's eyeing the back of the weekend newspaper, where they put pointless photos of celebrities at parties and opening nights.

    She is pointing at a photo of David Beckham.
    I rush to the phone to tell the boy. He sounds as pleased as I'd expect him to be.

    TLM does not, however, identify the not-Posh model standing next to Mr Beckham as her mummy.

    Oh, and in case you were wondering - Becks was not in New Zealand at the time of TLM's conception.

    Saturday, December 06, 2008

    I made that

    It took me years to decide that I like the dress-over-trousers look. Here's a picture of me wearing my first sewing project in many years, a green-on-black tunic dress (i.e a mini dress which I will only ever wear with trousers). I've even reviewed it for the Pattern Review website (the link is over on the right - go and click on it to see my review of the sewing pattern).

    Anyway, on the envelope it says One Hour Pattern in large, friendly letters. But trust me, it did not take me one hour. Actually, just hemming the dress took longer than that. I must be out of practice.

    p.s. you can thank the boy for taking this photo in such a way that I look even shorter than I am.

    Wednesday, December 03, 2008

    Mummy's got a brand new project

    Recently I've decided to accept my slightly unhealthy obsession with fashion; like all my previous obsessions, it's just a matter of giving in to it until it's out of my system. I'd predict that, at most, I've another 18 months before I'm ready to move onto something else.

    This is a little at odds with my need to rein in my spending, what with being out of work and all. So the aim will be to minimise the glossy magazines and make do with fashion blogs and related websites.

    I'm also going to sew.

    Actually I'm kinda excited about it, because it'll provide me with a creative release and a cheaper way to get style-y.

    There is the possiblity of ending up with masses of almost-dresses, held together only by crooked tacking and destined to be completely dated by the time they're finished. There is also the possibility of having to scan the living room floor with a large magnet at least once a day, to avoid pin-in-foot disease.

    But it'll keep me off the streets (at least, once I've chased down some patterns and fabric etc).

    Tuesday, December 02, 2008

    The Day After Tomorrow, last night

    It was TV last night and there was nothing better to view.

    The Day After Tomorrow could be the movie to convince the masses that climate change is a load of bullshit. Because, if you can believe that the world (well - Tokyo, New York and LA, at least) can shift from "normal" to ice age in a matter of days, then you'd have to be a moron. And if that scenario is unbelievable, then how believable is the idea that it could happen over a few decades?

    Those tornadoes over LA were pretty impressive, though.

    But not impressive enough to stop me from turning the telly off so I could get the dishes done and get myself off to bed.

    Monday, December 01, 2008

    Getting back into SAHM mode

    At first, I continued to dress in casual Friday clothes during the week. I didn't want to wreck TLM's daily routine by suddenly acting like I didn't have a job to go to.

    After the first week, I stopped taking my work bag with me when I dropped her off in the mornings.

    By the middle of last week I'd stopped putting on makeup in the morning (which, admittedly, is just foundation and concealer).

    Today I almost put shorts on after my shower.

    But that would be going too far.