Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Bad bargain

So, a while back we were in Borders and perusing the 3-for-2 table. And if you've been following this blog closely, you might recall that I settled on Jodi Picoult's Change of Heart, Bill Bryson's Shakespeare and Junot Diaz's The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

I really only wanted the latter 2 titles, but the Kiwi bargain hunter in me couldn't turn down the chance of a free third book, so I picked the Picoult even though she's not an author I've ever been attracted to.

Well as it happens, I loved the Bryson and the Diaz. But the Picoult is a total disappointment. Her book reminds me very much of John Grisham (of which I read The Firm and Pelican Brief and -yes, even a third book which was much worse than the first 2 and the one that made me realise what a waste of my life these books were).

And that is my conclusion - Picoult is the anxious parent's Grisham. One of the things I liked least about Change of Heart was its religious theme - priest suffering a crisis of faith, deathrow prisoner who performs miracles a la Green Mile, fat single female lawyer who can't find a boyfriend - oh wait, that last one's not religious...or is it?

And then the realisation that I've been ripped off. The 3-for-2 deal gave us the cheapest book for free. The cheapest of our trio was the Bryson, while the Picoult was the most expensive. If I'd just picked up the 2 books I wanted in the first place I probably would have spent less.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The deed is done

Today it was all down in writing, that from here on my working days will be 6 1/2 hours long (plus lunch break).
Funnily enough, TLM chose this morning to be clingy when it was time to leave her at daycare. It was almost as if she knew some changes were afoot.

The timing of my new hours could've been better, because I still have quite a fruity cough and I can imagine how off-putting it must be for my colleagues to hear me hacking away like a pack-a-day smoker or - no offense intended - a cystic fibrosis sufferer.

And I'm still pretty husky on the phone. I wonder whether some of the people I've been calling today, think I'm some sort of sexy, whisky-drinking Marlene Dietrich-y woman with a dark past. Or whether they just guessed that I have a cold.

Friday, April 24, 2009

toothy pegs

The boy took TLM to her very first visit to the dental nurse today. Apparently she was a model patient - sat in the chair, opened her mouth wide and let the nurse tinker around in there with her instruments of torture.

And TLM was given a badge of clean health - a big sticker that says "I have healthy teeth".

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

bacon come home

The boy, highly intelligent and useful as he is, is still looking for a job (so if you're looking for someone who is both super-geek and super-senior IT manager, let me know). Which means that soon we will be trying to live off half an income.

I feel I should be putting myself forward for full-time hours, and I know that my boss is keen on the idea of me being available for longer - rather than swanning out the door at 2.30 to walk home and pick up TLM from daycare. I have until Friday to sign and return my employment contract, and this would be the time to ask for increased work hours.

But I hate the thought of spending all day at work - even if I still take Wednesdays off - and hate even more the thought of whole days in which I scarcely see my own daughter. Also, if and when the boy gets another job, then we'd both be working all day and missing out on hanging out with our daughter.

So what I'm thinking of is this - that I propose increasing my work hours but still have Wednesdays off; getting the boy to take care of TLM during the hours she is not at daycare; and asking to re-negotiate my hours if and when the boy is working again.

Considering we are in what I would call an employers' market, do you think I'd have a good chance at getting what I want?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Better and worse

For a while there I had started to feel much better. On Sunday I even spent an hour cleaning the bathroom, including the bits I don't normally touch because I can't reach or don't ever look that far up. I even opened up the hot water cupboard and vacuumed out the cobwebs, though I have to tell you it was a task that was sorely overdue. The webs were so bad in there it looked like duvet filling for the damned.

But my doctor had told me to go and get antibiotics if my illness hadn't cleared up by then, so yesterday I started taking them. And now I feel terrible again - phlegmy, sneezy, coughing so hard that I simultaneously have to clench my head and my pelvic floor muscles. And of course when I talk I sound like I spent the last 24 hours drinking whisky and singing the national anthem in a nightclub.

But compared to the boy, who it turns out is sharing my germs, I'm at least on the way up.

The Little Madam is very well, thanks very much.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Mirror mirror

Although my phone has a very good camera, there's one thing it cannot do that my old digital camera did very well - and that's timed self portraits. Even if I were to one day discover a timer on the camera menu, there is no way I could get the thing to stay upright by itself. So, for now, there will be now more photos of my backside.

This is my finished Burda dress (I made the view illustrated by the brown dress in the link). Actually, I still have to trim the excess off the hem and I might redo the sleeve binding too. But it's more-or-less finished.
I fear that there is far too much skin on show here, so I might prefer to wear it over a more modest top, like so.

Do I like it? Kinda. I'm just glad it's finished really, because unfinished work always bugs me.

By the way, if you want to read the gory details of this garment's construction ("Make it work!") just click on the Pattern Review icon over on the right.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Not that this is an ad for Australian tourism, but

...where the bloody hell are ya?
I'm at my most insecure when I'm sick, you know. So when 3 blog posts go by without comments, that's when I start wondering why I'm missing out on the comment-love.
On the other hand, I finally finished the Burda dress that I started way back when it was still summer, and I'm gonna blog about it anyway. Tomorrow.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Cough cough

I'm still sick and I haven't been in to work all week. Thank goodness I get paid sick leave, as of the beginning of April.

But I feel a bit guilty about taking sick leave so soon after becoming eligible for it - while I was a contractor I never took any sick days except when TLM was sick.

The good news is that after going to the doctor's, TLM got a course of antibiotics for her 2-month-long cold. The disappointing news is that she's been acting sicker since starting the antibiotics, than she was before. The boy reckons this just means the medicine is working.
I dunno though.

The boy is in fine health though.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Motherly ministrations

After putting TLM to bed for the night, I go to my mum's house to set up her insulin pens (this is something my brother normally does for her, but this week he and his family have taken a much-needed break out of town). She hears me coughing and wheezing but - miraculously - does not tell me for the billionth time that if only I'd dressed more warmly I wouldn't be suffering from another cold. Then she offers to administer some fung yeow.

The stuff she's refering to is (mostly) eucalyptus oil, pungent and probably lethal to a range of small insects, sold all over Hong Kong in tiny glass bottles. It's her wonder-medicine that fixes just about every minor ailment. Partly to humour her and partly because I know it actually does help, I let her rub fung yeow all over my shoulders, upper back and neck.

There is a slight breeze outside, and when I leave her house it feels like someone left the fridge door open and programmed it to follow me around (fung yeow literally translates to "wind oil"). But when I get in the car it's even worse in the enclosed space. My eyes sting from the eucalyptus fumes and I drive home squinting (that can't be safe).

I imagine that, one day when I'm older and motherless, I get a whiff of fung yeow on my mum's clothing and remember that it wasn't all bad having her as a mother.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The brief wondrous life of Oscar Wao

I finished this novel of Junot Diaz's last night. Though when I say finished, I should admit that I didn't read most of the footnotes. The proportion of footnote to body text was so high that some pages were just footnotes - with a couple of sentences of body text added on for visual texture**.

There were a couple of other things about this book that I found a little annoying. One was the heavy-handed use of Lord of the Rings references, though I can see why it's there - it's because Oscar is a total geek and LOTR fan. The other thing was his liberal use of Spanish words, with no accompanying glossary at the back. True, I could get the gist of the meaning from the context. But I've no doubt that the subtler meanings were quite lost to me.

The good thing about this book is that it's a compelling story about a group of flawed characters whom I couldn't help but feel empathy with - Oscar, the overweight and constantly lovelorn geek; Lola, his Amazonian sister; Beli, their bitter and disappointed mother; and La Inca, Beli's adoptive mother. Basically, it's about a Dominican family enduring three generations of horrible luck, beginning during the terrifying reign of the dictator Trujillo. There is no happy ending as such, but it's not utterly depressing - just very sad.

The chapter that really grabbed me was the one about Lola, her desperate need to get away from home and the destructive influence of her mother, and her inability to sever the emotional tie. After that I was sucked in until the last page.

**Footnote about the footnotes: it's from Diaz's footnotes that you learn about the political environment that is the setting for this novel. They are a pretty unhappy read.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

worshipping at the alter of chocolate

We like Easter weekends at least as much as most un-religious people in New Zealand i.e. we might end up going to hell for non-believing, but we sure do enjoy having a 4-day weekend, whatever the reason.

TLM went across the road to play with her new best friend this morning, and came back two hours later with a massive chocolate egg gift set. I'm sure she'll be okay to share it, but if she isn't then I suppose we can always hide it at the back of the fridge and dole it out in small pieces. As if that weren't enough, she's going back there this afternoon for the Easter egg hunt. I expect that it won't be a finders-keepers kind of thing, more of a find-and-deposit-into-the-communal-container deal.

My mum has been trying to get us all to go visit Dad's grave this weekend, but synchronising two households' worth of weekend intentions was all too much - they've gone without me. That's just as well; I have finally caught one of TLM's continuous colds and the last thing I want is to wander the chilly hills of a suburban cemetary, pockets stuffed with tissues and head stuffed with snot.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Stuff that makes ya go "Ooh!"

I'm betting this woman is on the slim side, because I can't see myself being able to make a whole jacket (albeit a tight-fitting one) out of a pair of my boyfriend's old jeans. She did though and it's pretty amazing. Here's another shot.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Not that I'm fashion police, but

I reckon if you have really large boobs, then - unless you're wearing a magnificently cantilevered brassiere - you shouldn't wear a high-waisted skirt. It just makes you look like your boobies have dropped.

In case you're wondering, I didn't come by this snippet of style advice from looking in the mirror. Because I hate having a waistband that comes up to my armpits. But I do look at what other people wear...

You better watch out!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

So much for retail therapy...

With Daylight Saving ending over the weekend, I've been able to get in to work a little earlier than usual i.e. I had time for a proper lunch break. I had this plan to check out the half-price sale on sewing patterns and fabrics over at Arthur Toyes, or the new stock at Global Fabrics, or maybe even the full-price clothes at half a dozen of my favourite clothing shops around town.

But it was not to be, because when it comes down to it, I'm a lousy spender.

How I spend money follows this pattern - I get a pay rise or new job, and am flush with money. I continue to be careful with money for several months. Then something clicks in that part of my brain concerned with buying stuff, and I become comfortable with the idea of splurging. Then our financial situation changes and I have to cut back on spending. Only after I have endangered the household grocery bill several times, do I re-learn healthier spending habits.

Somehow, this cycle clashes violently with the sales, with the result that when there is a sale I don't want to buy anything, but after normal prices resume I am suddenly stricken with a desperate desire to buy a pair of black, knee-length riding boots or designer wrap dress.

Such is my version of consumerism.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

The Fundraising Angel strikes again!

There I was, contentedly avoiding taking on voluntary work at The Little Madam's daycare centre, when **ring!** the leader of the fundraising team calls me up and asks me to take over organising our quiz night. As much as I wanted to no thanks, I'd rather spend my precious free time watching television or blogging or starting new sewing projects - I couldn't really.

It didn't start getting stressful until about a week before the big event, and we only had maybe 20 people sign up for it - out of a hoped-for 50 or 60. The fundraising team leader ended up moving things along at that point, which was a relief. I really prefer to work in a team, bouncing ideas of each other, that kind of thing - or else just being told what to do and getting it done. No leader am I. (Okay, and maybe I was a little slack because there is sooo much less pressure to fundraise at this place compared with TLM's last place.)

Anyway, it all turned out pretty well in the end. The bar where it was held, was really generous, the participating parents were relaxed and - importantly - knowledgeable, and no one minded too much when two of the big raffle prizes were won by the same woman.

The highlight, I guess, was when two teams tied for first place and it had to be resolved by a dance-off. You know that scene in of the early Desperate Housewives episodes where Lynette, who has recently returned to work, has to take her boss for a girls' night out and ends up naughty-dancing on a table? We had something like that last night (it wasn't me by the way - I was a sober driver).