Friday, December 28, 2012

Merry and Bright

Stockings hung - a Santa, a Christmas tree and a hot pink high heel shoe, of course.
Ginger shortbread biscuits with lemon icing and mince pies baked for the big man are set on the table with a note of thanks and a glass of milk.
Carrots and water for Dasher and Vixen and all their prancing mates.

Each Smith takes a turn to blow out a wedding candle with a Christmas wish.

They rumble into bed with love and kisses and Mum and Dad's silent hope for swiftly sleeping babes.
Childrens' sleep means parents' action.
Presents wrapped and piled under the tree - an unfeasible mountain glittering in the fairy light

Early morning a blur of paper and squeals,
noise and construction.
Coffee, croissants and hand picked raspberries.
While the children revel in their loot, the cooking begins - ham is glazed, potatoes are roasted,

The family roll in laden down with booze and food - champagne, turkey Ballantine, quail and salads, and King George's own pudding.

The sun is shining on the new deck, so the tables are moved under tree shade,
leaving free the perfect stage for the Annual Christmas Concert.

Lunching in the late afternoon, commences with a toast
'Welcome all and Merry Christmas!'
Like Christmas itself, its over too fast after the hours of prep.

Wine is drunk.
The concert begins and tears are wiped as beautiful children sing beautiful songs, and more songs from mothers with daughters, fathers with sons, aunty and nieces, into the night.

We end with 'Christmas Bells' by Wadsworth and family love for our ageing Dane, whose hugs now speak so much louder than his whispered words.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.
May all our Christmases be so merry and bright.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

40 is awesome!

Today I turn 40! Hurray!

I have never been so filled with the joys of love, life and the world.
I have fallen deeply in love with myself and it all. Blessed and in love.

This age, this 40,  has given me a little whiff of mortality.
An awareness of the ticking of that clock. And its a good thing, this new urgency.
The mind whispers "Time is there for the taking. Fill it up.  Overflow it. Do what you love and do it as much as you can. Sista,what are you waiting for? "

And, even though I am humming along to this refrain, I have not turned my life upside down,

In my new wise, mature and joy-filled head, I have decided instead, to be happy and wait. Everyone knows that good things are destined for waiters. I'll cast my eye around for opportunity and be ready to pounce.

In the meantime, there is fun to be had. Joy even. And please do remind me of this the next time I fall into the pit of depsair and frustration, as history would indicate I am bound to do. For now, I'll ride my 40-year old Pollyanna-wave for as long as it lasts.

My mind has trapped and tricked me into negativity, depression, fear and resistance for the last 40 years.  Too many life years spent locked into a tiny box of earnest, self-consciousness. 
A keep it small box. A keep it safe box.

This 40 has sprung the lock.

Fear of life is redundant. It is no more than an imaginary obstacle to living.

My brother just sent me this as his welcome-to-the forties-birthday wish
"You will be healthier, wealthier and wiser and probably braver than ever before."

What's not to love about that? And I want to spread the love.

Lots of love to you, my family and friends.
Thank you for your love.
I hope I am around to give you all back all the love for the next 40 and more.

And the biggest love to you, especially to you.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Note to self

When it feels like there is not enough time, consider this - that there is the time but not always the energy. And it is the action that breeds the energy, so make the time for action.

Thursday, October 25, 2012


A friend sent this to me today. I think its a treasure. I am putting it here because I want to save it. I want to keep it somewhere safe. Somewhere where I can stumble across it when my daughter is 13-ish, so that I can play it to her in the hope that maybe one day she will get it.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


So my day started out like this.  (This post comes with a foul language warning. If offended by the 'f' word please don't read on.) 

At about 4.30am, Sophie was in our bed. That is not unusual.  But this time her chesty-coughing drove me out of the marital bed and into her flower-clad, second hand from the op-shop single mattress that supports her little frame a lot better than mine. Two thoughts passed through my head as I stumbled passed the clock. The first was "Good, still a couple of hours before I have to get up" and the second was a hopeful question sent out into the ether "Soph will be alright for school tomorrow, won't she?"

Out of bed at 7ish and the getting-ready-for school shenanigans went fairly smoothly. Except when the Luthier pulled Sacha's lunchbox out of his bag and realised that, once again, he hadn't eaten any of it. A fairly ugly scene of frustration and denial ensued.   Threats were made and notes written in diaries to bring the issue to the teacher's attention. Bloody kids.

Right. Breakfast had and boys dressed, but where's Sophie? Dad went in to persuade her out of bed. A pale and coughing small person appeared. "Mum, I don't wanna go to school."

"She'll be alright, won't she?" I whisper to the ether again. And continue in internal monologue, "I wonder if I have any leave left? Jesus, work already thinks I'm a dodgy option from all the time I've had off with illness, the kids and my own. And Phil can't lose any more work time. His jobs are piling up and we are going to go broke if he doesn't get some work finished soon. But the poor little mite, she's only just five and she shouldn't have to go to school when she's sick.  I hate it when other parents send their kids to school coughing and snotty. She looks ok. She's just tired."

Sophie:"Mummy, I have a sore tummy."

Luthier: "No, you haven't."

Me, using the approach my father always used with me and I always loathed:"You'll be right once you get to school."

We are all in the car. Dressed in uniform. Bags packed with lunches and homework. I've remembered to put makeup and lipstick on and make my lunch. Yay!

We arrive. Fuck.
It's Grandparents day, I forgot to organise that with Mum and I bet she wanted to go.
Shit. Fuck. Shit.

Oh, well.
Me:"Out you get you lot, have a good day."
To myself, "She'll be fine."

Sophie in tears: "Mum, my tummy is really sore."

Shit. Alright then, she'll have to go and sit at the shop with Phil.  I drop her off and head to work.

I walk into work, feeling pleased that I had made it and hating it for making me compromise my family at the same time.

The phone rings and its the Junior School,
"Hey George, Josh has split his pants and is mortified. Its Grandparents' Day. What's Phil's mobile? We'll call him to come and sort him out."
 "Oh bugger." I say, keeping myself nice. "No, I'll have to come because I have the car and Phil has the motorbike and he has Sophie at the shop with him and she's sick. I'll be there in 15 minutes."

Shit. Shit. Shit.

My apologies are made at work and off I rush. Its always chaos in the morning, my job. Morning is my busiest time and they hate having to cover it when I am not there. What else can I do? Push that thought to one side and head to the Junior School. Pick up J, take him home for a quick pants change and back to school.

J: "Sorry, Mum. Sorry you had to leave work. Thanks Mum, you are the best Mum ever!"
Me: "That's alright, J. It's my job."

As I get back in the car I get a phone call from a friend, a mother, who is in tears as she has been offered full-time work and has little ones and doesn't know what to do. I want to scream into the phone "Don't fucking do it. Working any more than a couple of days a week in a very flexible job when you have small kids has big fat hairy knobs on it."  But I refrain.  I try and be reasonable. I hope I was reasonable.

Call from Phil. Sophie has toilet issues.

As said by Hugh Grant in the first line of one of my favourite movies, 'Four Weddings and A Funeral'

"Fuck. Fuck. Fuckity-Fuck."

I give up. I send the text to work that I won't be in after all, to which I get a very kind response but suspect I will pay for later. I really don't think I have any leave left.


I collect my daughter from her father who has a tiny shop full of 5 people and is trying to juggle the questions and the sick offspring.

"Come on Soph. " I say and hug her, bring her home and give her a bath.

Now that she is set up in front of ABC Kids, I am desperately racking my brains to magic up a more flexible way of earning money that does not involve sending sick smalls to school and being such an unreliable employee.  All offers or ideas will be most gratefully received.

And I am one of the lucky ones. I get most of the school holidays off work.

Work/life balance, my arse.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012


I am the youngest of seven children. Seven little Australians we were, our childhoods spanning the 60's and 70's, we lived in a small city on an island at the end of the Earth. We were Catholic by religion and culture. (Not now of course, now we range from atheist to mildly interested.) My father, Dane, having converted at 19, was devout. He was a surgeon and general practitioner working in a huge practice, healing and birthing the Catholic community of Launceston for 40 years. Family myth has it that at one stage it was the biggest single doctor practice in the southern hemisphere. This is one of many family myths whose truth remains untested, in favour of maintaining a good story. Every now and then the family stories come back to me, so I've decided to write them down here, for posterity and the kids' amusement.

In our family of 9 there are 5 sisters and two brothers. The first 4 offspring arrived in an orderly row, each a year apart from 1959 to 1962. Us remaning three arrived sporadically into the 70's.  . We careered through childhood in those decades of freedom and no seat belts. TV was black and white and we only had 2 channels. The ABC was the only parentally sanctioned option and only then until after Dr Who.  It was an era when 2 bucks worth of fish and chips from Basil's (our local chippy) would more than feed all 9 of us, the only coffee was instant, you could still call cigarette lollies 'Fags' and the rolls were Chiko.

Dane, is said to have bought the first combi van on the island. Dane is like that. An ideas man. He bought crazy cars - a mustard jag in the 70s, a Daihatsu van in the 80's, even a Bentley once and people would wave to us on the road (us grotty kids mucking up the grey leather interior) because they thought we were the governor. He was a Liberal-voting Catholic doctor who hobby farmed, got into organic gardening and taught himself acupuncture. He was interested in things, our Dane. After a medical conference once, some guy in the domestic lounge imparted to him the skill of transcendental meditation while they waited for their plane. When we were small, Dane decided that the perfect opportunity to 'transcend' should be taken every day after work, behind the closed door of his study. You know the time, it is exactly at the witching hour, when he left Mum to the work of wrangling 7 unruly kids, homework, dirty boots and fights over the Milo tin, while cooking 20-odd lamb shanks with mashed potato mountains and smoking Alpine menthols, or so the story goes.

Like many good Catholics, my folks didn't mind a tipple. As we grew older and his urge to meditate abated, cocktail hour began when Dane would return from "saving lives" as he would have it. We'd sit around the kitchen table, Dane drinking his scotch and soda and Granny her gin, discussing the days events, solving the problems of the world. 

After a couple of scotches, Dane would generously impart tidbits of wisdom to his offspring.

Once, I think I was in my mid-teens and my elder sister was in her early twenties, the kitchen table topic turned to 'boys and how to 'catch one'' so to speak.  Dane decided to bestow on his daughters a glorious pearl of advice. He looked at us over his highball glass and said, in all seriousness,

"What you need to do to get a man, girls, is show them a bit of what they can have and then tell them, they can't have it."

A loud "Pah!" involuntarily burst from my sister, she threw her head onto her hands crying out

"But I want them to have it!!!!"

Superb. Spoken like a true good Catholic girl.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


This is a bit topical for me, but, what the heck ....

I don't know about you, but I strongly believe that adults who love each other should have the right to formalize that love by getting hitched if they fancy it.

Anyone who enters marriage lightly is a fool. It's hard graft. Its constant negotiation, regular compromise, obligation and a little less freedom.

It can also be a heart and home and a commitment. A safe place, even your favourite place, if you have chosen a partner wisely.

I love being married. The formal commitment does make a difference to me. To any adults willing to make that solemn commitment I send nothing but support.

I am sure that there were those who looked askance at the luthier and me choosing each other 13 and a half years ago. In fact, when I told my Dad I was getting married he said "Who to?" and I'm sure he was not the only sceptic, but who were they to judge?

Who are any of us to say that we are more worthy of marriage than any other willing couple?

For any grown up who is prepared to take it on, against the odds, to commit and do the hard yards, I have nothing but love, support and admiration.

And that's my two cents worth.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


Spring draws me out of doors and into the garden. The promise of blooms and growth lure me outside to stand, arms crossed, in deep meditation, staring, staring at the flora.

My gaze, having rested intent on a yellow-centered daisy, self-sown, now shifts to scan the fairy magnolia's lilac blossoms, searching, as if all the answers to life's questions are certain to flit past.

We stand, me and my folded arms. We are alert and poised - ready to pounce when enlightenment inevitably alights on the pretty petals.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Idle parenting

I just read this and am now converted.

When I became a parent I became so bloody uptight and anxious and earnest and so, so boring. I know that it wasn't compulsory but nice and earnest and martyr-y just seemed to go with the territory, with the role of 'the good mother'.

It hasn't done me or the kids many favours, I'm generally irritable and my kids are not confident and secure and living their own lives, but spend half the time stuck to me like 'shit on a blanket' as my potty-mouthed aunt would say.

It's time to chill the fuck out and have a good time. Leave the kids alone to become themselves. Who's with me?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Spring Break

Finally the lurgies are lifting.
Its the first day of school holidays and I am at work,
which is bad news.
The good news is that tomorrow I will not be at work.
I will be on a week's Spring Break.

Number two son has already kicked off the holiday festivities by departing for the beach with a buddy. You have to be happy with, not only having lovely friends who will play chess with you on your brand new Super Mario chess set, but lovely friends who will take you to their beach house is pure gold.

He turned 7 last week, my number 2, and his request was to celebrate with an outing for potsticker dumplings for dinner and a grape slushy from the dreaded Maccas on the way home. For such is the way his mind works. He is a young man of contradictions.  The dumplings were delish but the slushy ... Eeeyuew! He loves anything sugary does this boy. "Sweet, sweet crap" he calls it and it is his regular dinner request. Fanta spiders are usually his favourite thing.

I am missing him while he is away. His birthday always reminds me of how sick he was when a baby. What a crazy time that was for us! I tell you, there is nothing quite like hearing the words "Your baby has cancer" to shock you right out of your shoes. He kicked it though and never looked back. It changed our lives for the better in a million different ways, as difficult thngs with a happy ending can sometimes do. Our priorites crystallised in that instant.  His birthday always makes me hold him tighter.

Sacha away from home is making me a little sadder than I expected.  Sophie isn't too happy about it either. She was asking me if we had given him away last night.

However, I am pretty sure that his beach adventure is making my wonderboy nothing but ecstatic.

For the rest of us their are beach and movie trips planned and maybe even a fairy penguins adventure.
The sun is out. Fun times and adventures are there for the taking.

Happy Spring Break!

Wednesday, September 05, 2012


Despite some nasty coughs continuing to play havoc chez Smith and a very ordinary Father's day that saw the luthier and I take it in turns to retreat our sorry sick selves to the bed all day, this week has been full of rewards.

The sun came out.

The magnolia in our front yard is in full bloom.

The fairy magnolias we planted last year have finally blossomed.

Sacha made this awesome Father's day card complete with Dali-esque mo for the luthier.

And on Sunday morning I watched my 11 year old son gently and patiently brush his truculent 4 year old sister's wild mop of hair.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Same, same but different

Two similar-but-different six year old boys sitting side by side, playing computer games which they similarly love. Both have long fringes hanging in their eyes and both are partial to a wee game of chess.

Six year old number one decides to enact a random face pull and whacky dance move.

The second 6 year old rolls his eyes and sighs,
'Oh Sacha, you'll never get a girlfriend.'

To which Sacha accusingly scoffs
'YOU will'.

And therein lies the difference.

Saturday, September 01, 2012


This week the lurgy was rife chez Smith. A nasty, chesty cough laid the luthier and I very low. But good things come from everything and my ills gave me a day in bed alone, so I took the opportunity to read a book.

I caught sight of this particular book last Sunday in our local bookstore. The cover photographs of shoes, vegies and a weatherboard house looked somehow familiar. Then the author's name drew my attention and I cried out in delight 'Look Soph, it's a book by the lady who delivers our vegies.' Sophie was fairly non-plussed, but I was well-chuffed to be leaving the store with a copy of 'A Story of Seven Summers' by Hilary Burden.

On my sick day the book was a welcome distraction. It drew me in like a warm hug and snuggled under my new doona cover, I devoured Hilary's memoir so voraciously that I didn't notice the morning slip away until I turned, sadly the final page, left wanting more.

I could describe Hilary's tale here, her move from being a single woman living a glamorous life creating new magazines in London, to building a beautiful life on the island. And I could tell you how she moved to a Nuns' house in Karoola (one of the most beautiful places on Earth) and, with her gorgeous island-discovered love, Barn, created a business sourcing and delivering incredible local produce to lucky people like me. I could also mention all the local island producers who benefit so much from their work. But I will leave the details for you to discover in the book, because you must read it. You must.

You know how some books change you? You read them and the message they give you stays with you and becomes a filter for your way of thinking. This book was not like that. This story did not change me, but did something much more profound that will certainly stay with me for a long time. This book made me more certain of who I truly am.

You see, what I took from this book is that bravery, the courage to follow your heart and instincts, even when they fly in the face of convention or of your own past desires and behavior is essential to making a great life for yourself. As is the courage to open up to possibilities and to back yourself all the way that you know what you need to do and that you can make your dreams a reality.

Hilary and her partner,Barn, have created an enviable life. They have created a stunning simple life where work, family, love, passions and life-at-large are intertwined. They are not separate states, one having to be put on hold, in order to attend to the others.

That is what I hope for. The connection of passions and work that don't detract from family but are just an extension of it, of me . 'A Story of Seven Summers' reminded me that this way of being may take some hard work, but that it is totally possible.

Hilary's words reminded me of all the things I love about this small island - its beauty and it's possibilities. and that there are many people who have lived huge lives around the globe and have returned, with all their stories and experiences, for the love of the lifestyle Tasmania can provide.

Hilary Burden's 'A Story of Seven Summers' brought me to tears, in a good way. It certainly made me feel better. I hope you love it as much as I do.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Love and Lemon Cake

Last Monday evening I raced home to bake a cake for the staff lunch on Tuesday. It was my debut baking contribution at work so I was hoping to pull off something good, something maybe even a little impressive? One could only hope. It was going to be the pear upside down cake. I'd made it a few times before and it always worked. A nice spongey cake topped with a lemony caramel syrup and thin pear slices.

I had a two hour window of baking opportunity before French class so went to work. I knew the danger of baking to a deadline. Cakes often don't take kindly to it. I knew that the best baking is always the result of entering a weird baking zen mode, with no pressure or performance anxiety. Unfortunately these conditions could not be manifested on this occasion, but bake I must.

All went reasonably well, although the cake batter looked a bit curdled and runny, but in the oven it went, while I made, served and ate dinner with the Smiths. At the halfway check, the bottom looked a little black - the oven was too hot.

I was getting a bit antsy by this stage. I had no more time to make anything else so this had to work. Oh well, a little extra 'caramelisation' on the bottom wasn't the end of the world. I turned the oven down and hoped for the best.

With five minutes to go till I had to leave to parle francais avec mes amis, the oven timer rang and the cake came out of the oven. It looked ok.

'Thank God.

Now you have to turn these cakes out while they're still warm, don't you?

Here's my fancy cake plate. Its a nice big,flat, white one. A bit slippery on the top, but she'll be right. I'll just put it over the cake tin and flip ...


That was the moment that the tin slipped off the edge of the cake plate and half the cake splatted onto the kitchen bench.

I removed the tin quietly, lay down my tea towel, walked to the armchair and sat down.

Not only would I NOT be impressing the staff with my baking skills, but I would be that knobber who promised to bake and didn't deliver.
The baking-under-pressure curse strikes again.

It was time to go to French.
I picked up my books, despondently hugged the luthier and smalls and left the ugly cake scene behind.

Halfway through French class I received a text with this photo and the message 'lemon cake'.

The luthier, known for his superb craftsmanship of stringed instruments and the occasional maker of an excellent custard, who has not often before made a cake, had come to my rescue. Covered with lemon butter icing, it was the toast of the staff lunch.

My hero
It must be love.


Saturday, August 18, 2012

Oh What a Beautiful Morning!

After a full, yes, I said it, a FULL night's sleep, this morning is looking pretty darn rosie! I'm not saying its the first in 11 and a half years, but damn, it feels like it.

Not only a full night of sleep was had, but when I woke up I was in bed alone. Luxury! I lay in the grey light listening to living room rumbles and the 'Yo Gabba Gabba' theme tune, meditating and recalling my whacky dream.

I dreamt that we lived at work and my computer and phone had been stolen. We raced off to find them and as we drove the environment changed from suburban Launceston to a tropical coastline with us riding scooters on roads curving between jungle and the turquoise sea. I was a bit sad to have lost the photos of the kids on the computer, but apart from that, in the tropical sunshine, I couldn't care less.

Hmmm, there something in that for all of us.

Happy Saturday to you!!!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Even in Timbuktu

I think the most difficult thing to deal with, being a working mother, is these moments when you feel like you are not good at any of your jobs. The lack of sleep impacts on your work performance and the work performance impacts on your capacity to mother in the way that you want to. And so you are left feeling like you are only catching a tiny number of the balls that are being thrown at you.

Oh well, some days are like that, even in Timbuktu.

Friday, August 10, 2012


Today I think I started something.

I pinned it.
Then bought it.

This Pinterest addiction I am forming could begin a descent down a very slippery slope.

Romantic Floral Scarf Duvet

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Craft on

We had our first Launny Brown Owls get together on Saturday. We haven't met for a millenia. Jobs, kids and winter hibernation were allowed to get in the way. It was a modest gathering but seeing people make awesome stuff again, has inspired me to get my craft on again.

Today I went patch crazy!!!

What do you reckon? Stitched by hand with love.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Home work

Speaking to someone recently about having a job and kids etc and they said "It's good for your kids to see you working now. "

This is what I wish I had said in response, looking them straight in the eye, cool, calm and clear:

'My kids have been watching me work all their lives.'

What the fuck do people think being at home looking after children, a home and managing a family is, if not work? Isn't it the most important work? Just because it does not attract a salary, does not mean its not good, hard work. Its a pity that it is not held higher in our cultural esteem. All of us would benefit in health, happiness and community if it was.

End of rant.

Friday, August 03, 2012


The luthier delivered a viola this week, his first to be played in our state orchestra, the Tasmanian Symphony orchestra, or TSO, as it is affectionately known. Three of his bows belong to TSO players, but this is the first instrument. It's a big step and a proud moment.

Everything in the luthier and bow making business takes a long, long time. There is a myriad of minute handcrafted steps in every lengthy process. A violin takes 3 or 4 months to be planed, shaped, constructed, carved and varnished. Many of the materials are gathered from all corners of the planet like aged tone wood from Germany. And for bows he uses Mongolian horse hair, silver, pearl, ebony and pernambuco, the endangered Brazilian rainforest wood that can now only be reclaimed from buildings and packing crates. Animal glue, oil varnish, and mother of pearl - the elements are alchemical and exotic.

The luthier has spent the last 12 years carving out, little by little, not only beautiful, resonant instruments and now bows, but also handcrafting a reputation for excellence, if only on our little island, as yet.

I can't wait to drink in the sight and sound of this viola (and its talented and discerning owner) in action on stage with the TSO. And to see the luthier acknowledging,in that moment, all the work he has done and to, perhaps, consider the possibilities of all the musicians and stages that his instruments and bows are yet to grace all over the world.

Remind me to pack some hankies.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Filling the Gap

It might be boredom, or midwinter blues, but we've decided we would quite like to move to New York. That should be totes easy, shouldn't it? Finding jobs, getting visas, finding schools and moving the 5 of us to the biggest of big towns? Easy. 

About 457 people we know (or at least 7) have visited the Big Apple this year. It must be a sign. 

Sigh,... we can dream. 

Ten years ago the luthier was offered a job on Long Island and sadly, we couldn't get a visa. No money and not enough qualifications held us back. It wasn't all bad though because then we moved from a very unsatisfying, debt-collecting life in Melbourne with a baby on board to an easier life in Tasmania. I remember one of the girls I worked with in Melbourne at the time read auras. She was very excited because she said mine was green and that indicated that moves and changes were imminent. You should have seen her face when I told her that she was right, but, it wasn't New York we were moving to but sunny Launceston! Her disparaging response was very unmystical. But hey, New York - Launceston. Same same. 

Tassie is extremely kind to us. And my heritage, on my father's side, is so embedded in this island's soil that no matter where we are, this will always be home. (I am fifth generation Tasmanian through my grandfather and 7th on my grandmothers' side, or something like that. Luckily my mother is English or the gene pool I'm swimming in would be more of a puddle.) Tasmania is a beautiful home. But I am itchy. My feet are itchy. 

Most islanders leave for university and travel the world. They live in the big Australian cities and then many come back. A friend of mine once described it as feeling like you are attached to the island with a huge elastic band, You can leave and travel the world for years, but there is always a little tug that bounces you back home. 

The luthier and I lived in some big towns, but we didn't travel the world in our youth and now that we are dead-set, middle aged, we both feel like we would love to take on the challenge.  That's right, there was no gap year boozing in Ibiza or playing in London pubs had by us. No touring Europe, working in bars or funny secretarial jobs for random businesses. One of my sisters had a short-lived job in the UK working in one of the country houses of a lesser royal, blacking the grates and warming beds like a chamber maid and then going out and getting plastered on pints of ale on the weekend on her travelling adventures. 

We have been lucky enough to get a travel taste with our French journey and we are hungry for more. The luthier dreams of more contact and experience in a place where the real luthier action is, and who can blame him? The biggest limitation of the island is its isolation, which is also one of its greatest blessings.

I turn 40 this year, is that too late for a gap year?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Day tripping

Yesterday, the luthier needed to drop off a violin in Swansea, a gorgeous sea side village on the East coast of the island, so the rest of us thought we would tag along for the ride. Apart from the usual kiddie car shenanigans that required pulling over only once and a few refusals to walk, it was a truly grand day out in the clear winter sunshine. We hit the beach and built a flowerpot sand flower and met this smiley gentleman.

Swansea is a very sweet old town, with lots of stunning colonial architecture. This shot is of the building that began life as the town's general store and still houses the local supermarket. 

To the east are magical views out over the sea to the mountains on Freycinet, and to the west, rolling hills and lush green farmland. It sits near the Wye river, and as the road sign reads "Wye River - because it's bigger than a creek." A superb bit of local Island wit.

The light was so clean and crisp. The beach is right in the town. There is an ace playground, loads of beautiful spots and things to do close by.  And the bag of hot chips from  the local chippery, 'The Horny Cray', went down a treat on the road home. Its definitely top of the list for our family summer camping holiday destinations.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Rewards for the Daily Grind

A couple of months ago I had a mega meltdown. The domestic grind got me desolate and depressed.

I was working hard so that my husband would successfully pursue his vocation and so that the kids would blossom in an exceptional educational environment. This facilitation of their success was not delivering quite the satisfied, warm fuzzy feeling I had hoped for. For a while I tried to simulate the feeling of being rewarded by buying myself shoes and eating chocolate. But the buzz from these hits wears off fast and my jeans got tight. So one Saturday, its always a Saturday, my bubble broke. I woke up and burst into tears. I bawled for ages and when the luthier bravely came in with a cup of tea and asked what was wrong, between heaving, snotty, ugly-cries, these words burst out from my very innards in  a sobbing staccato:








I know, very self-pitying and ungracious and ungrateful etc, but in that moment, for me, it was the essence of truth. I suspect I am not the only mother in the world who has felt like they are facilitating everyone elses' joy, and not getting much in the way of personal reward in return?

Now, before I go further, can I just say that this was one day. Many days I like my job and a lot of the time I get huge joy from watching my kids and my husband grow and succeed. I am grateful for being employed and what that means for us. I am also acutely aware that this depression, this unrewarding state is a situation utterly of my own making. Not investing enough in my own dreams is no-one's fault but my own.  But, on this  day (and a few others) I was overwhelmed with sadness and the feeling that the happiness of my loved ones was being gained at a cost to me that was to high for me to carry. And so I melted down.

This staccato cry of honesty. Revealing the guts and gore of my dissatisfaction changed everything. It was not pretty, but it was the truth. The luthier saw me, exactly where I was. He listened. He took me by the hand and gently propelled me out of bed. He took me by the hand, herding the children as we went. Putting one foot in front of the other, though I was fragile and  panicky and shaking, together we stepped, us and the children, along the river in the autumn sun. Silent. Slow. But forward. Step by step, with the sun shining on the tantalising glimmer of potential change.

With the light  and the motion appeared the possibilities. For days after slamming into this black full stop,  and then beginning this slow motion,  me and the luthier walked through our options. What had felt like being utterly stuck in a fathomless hole, became a journey through a tunnel. With every step, another possibility emerged from the gloom - strange and fantastical, practical, huge, teeny, even infinitesimal shards and shifts in perspective. As they emerged we picked them up and handled them. We ruminated, tasted and tried each one on for size. Some, prickly and uncomfortable, were quickly discarded, while others were embraced, fleshed out and adopted and the energy they generated propelled us further still. From some possibilities we just kept little pieces. Tiny idea fragments that we put in the basket for later. Never knowing when they might just fill a gap.

Changes have been small but the shift has been significant. the road is slow. We have distilled our current possibilities to an essence. Now, our eyes are more firmly set upon the prize, the daily grind has purpose and the potential for rewards for all of us. Travel is our goal. Trips and outings big and small. Our eyes are set on days out, minibreaks, jaunts, journeys, and adventures of all kinds.

Breaks from domesticity. Rewards for the daily grind

Potential purchases are measured in miles. No more shoes. Shoes are a trip off the island and you never know when that might be just the thing required.

Last weekend we cashed in our first miles and paid ourself with a modest minibreak. Heading south to the city nestled between Wellington and Derwent, we escaped. Our weekend home was a sweet, French-style apartment in a mansion near the beach.

Across the road was good coffee and breakfast. The beach, with a river dressed in spinnakers, was only skipping hops away.

We had money to spend so we bought things and went out for dinner, saw the beloved cousins, uncle and aunts and played together.

The trips catalyst was to see J perform with his school choir and 300 other school children from choirs from all corners of the island and beyond. I did not take enough tissues. They should put a warning on the program when groups of small children sing songs like Eric Clapton's "Tears In Heaven" . The Treblemakers (don't you love a musical pun), J's choir crew, rocked the house. The show was one of many in Hobart's Festival of Voices which warms the city with sound and light in the frosty heart of mid-winter.  After his triumph at the school soirée crooning 'Count on Me' by Bruno Mars while accompanying himself on bass guitar, comfortable and confident, like he had been performing all his life, and a great school report, the rewards of our choices were evident.

For me, the icing on the weekend cake was a few hours in bed with Kevin.

We took the less travelled road home and found snow and lakes.

Everyone needs and deserves a break from the domestic routine and a reward for the daily grind.

What rewards are your heart set on?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Christmas List

This morning, the Number 2 son woke 'at bonkers', as he likes to say, or 'nice and early' in ordinary folks' parlance. The lad had a mission: to write his Christmas wish list in July.

I know. You can never be too prepared for important things like the Christmas wants.

He kicked off his xmas prep with a short, philosophical discussion expressing his doubts about Santa's capacity to buy all the toys etc, with the usual 'Elf' theory being quickly disregarded, in favour of the radical 'no, I think he steals them' proposition. I suggested EBay, but he wasn't having it, in any case, he set to work.
This is the Christmas wish list of my six year old son so far:

A laptop
A mechanical cow
A pool
A dog
A painting

Ok, so apart from the mechanical cow (What? A mechanical cow?! Maybe he has ideas of becoming a rodeo cowboy or working in a western themed bar?) so far, the items are fairly predictable and suitably unlikely, although I am impressed he's added art acquisition onto his wish list. (A wee David Walsh in the making, perhaps? He is very good with numbers and also quite fond of the darker side of life.) But he goes on, and in amongst the typical boy stuff there were a couple of surprises.

Boxing gloves
Boxing bag
A staffroom
Wii games
Sky lander Giants computlab (ed. I'm not sure what language he is speaking here.)
Toy cutlery
Sponge bob
A house
A spiky hairdo machine
A green lantern ring
A chocolate factory.

A staffroom, eh? He might be onto something. Maybe we could get some domestic staff to go in it? I'll put them on my list.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Footy and cake

This morning I woke up to find the black dog panting at the edge of my bed. I stayed there, wavering between ignoring it and tearfully wallowing in its presence. I read my book and wallowed for a while and the luthier brought me tea. Being the household IT help desk, it was computer issues that finally dragged me out of bed. A school research project about AC/DC is due tomorrow and the interwebs weren't working. Of course it was sorted with the usual 'turn it off and on again' technique which has earned me my help desk reputation. Technical problems fixed so that hard rock research could continue, I resolved to further shake the black dog from my cardigan ties. To drag me from my malaise I decided to make cup cakes. Pink ones. It worked, even though I let the smalls help. The creaming of butter and sugar, the cracking of eggs and the waft of vanilla have a very restorative effect. As does the warm scent of cooking cake and the spreading of lemon flavoured butter cream. As the little cakes cooled on the rack, us Smiths departed to play footy at the park. On our return, I sat down quietly to a hot, strong cup of tea and a single pink cup cake with a silver cachous on a small floral plate, and the dog was sent packing.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Good Things

In no particular order:

'The Elegance of The Hedgehog' by Muriel Barbery.
I love this book. True love.

Monday night French class.
This class is just good fun. Adult classes, in my experience, can often be quite torturous, depending, of course, on the group. This crew of French talkers are hilarious folk. We get together mingling and mangling French and English over vin rouge in a plastic cup and a little fromage. The classes are offered by our local Alliance Francaise, of which I have somehow become Treasurer (I don't know how that happened). This week we learnt the handy phrase. 'Elle est passée à la casserole. It means 'She got laid'.
Our French teacher, well, we love her because she's cheeky.

Book group.
Our group has been going for nearly seven years. We've shared births, marriages, deaths, moves, new jobs, and lots of laughs and books. Last Monday there were the great ladies, red wine, wagon wheels, Tim Tams, of course (there are always Tim Tams) and big laughs. We didn't discuss the book much. Instead stories were performed with big gestures and funny voices. The book for this month is 'The Spare Room' by Helen Garner.
An excellent read.

Breakfast table.
When I got home from bookgroup, all the Smiths were asleep and the breakfast table was set and the uniforms laid out ready for an organised morning. The luthier told me that his grandma (she was the country kind that always had coco pops AND fruit loops and made meringues with the egg whites and custard with the yolks) always set the breakfast table, and even on the night she passed away, cutlery and crockery were laid out, ready for morning. (I bet she had one of those net milk jug covers with the beads to weight it down.)

Bloggers meet.
A local gaggle of bloggers got together over a work day lunch at the QVMAG at Royal Park (one of my favourite places) this week. Organized by Tanya from Suburban Jubilee, it was a pleasure to put faces to blogs, to see bloggy friends and to talk about the who, why and how of blogs and blogging. An incredibly stimulating chat with a joyful bunch of people. Thanks Tanya, I hope it becomes a regular thing.

Money is not a usual topic for my blog but I am chuffed to have reached a little savings goal. The Barefoot Investor is definitely a good thing. Excellent, simple financial advice having nothing to do with budgets. To me, the word 'budget' has the same effect as the word 'diet'. It makes me want to immediately spend all my money on something utterly superfluous and/ or eat a whole packet of biscuits. So after a lifetime of being unfeasibly useless with money, the advice of the clever Mr Pape has brought us to the point of having savings and a plan. Not just good, bloody miraculous really!

The luthier has finished a violin and nearly finished two violas. They are beautiful. He is not too shabby either.

Blocks of Lindt chocolate are on sale at the supo. The 'Coconut Intense' is my current fave, and when they do that 2 for whatever deal, it would seem rude not to buy at least ... 4.

And today on my midweek weekend, the sun shone brightly and I got to hang with my dear old friend while our girls put on too much blue eye shadow and lip gloss.

Life is full of good things.

Monday, July 02, 2012


Last week I overheard this story:
"There was a man I used to work with who would arrive at work bounding merrily up the stairs. I would say to him 'You're happy today?'and his reply would be a fervent 'Yes, I am and why not? I am blessed with work."

'What a wonderful story!' thought me to myself. 'You don't hear many people expressing that sentiment do you? That's great. I'm totally taking that attitude from now on,' the earnest and optimistic me declared to my own self last week.

Last week was obviously a very long time ago, as today was somehow, well, different. Today I spent much of the day at work involuntarily making a huffing noise like a deflating balloon.

At recess I caught sight of a Mark Twain quote on Facebook. (Well, it could've been worse. It could have been another effin' tea towel telling me how to live my life.) I dug it so largely that I printed it out and stuck it to my notice board. The quote was this:

'Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowline. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.'

The quote refreshed like a crisp glass of inspiration, for a minute or two. But then I choked on it. It stuck in my craw before sinking to the pit of my guts, bringing forth a long slow deflation.

Blessed with work? Pah!
Today I wasn't feeling it.
Today I huffed, bitterly batting at the dream of setting sail, while I finished the photocopying.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Well Howdy!

Yessiree, Bob! It's a big 'howdy'to y'all and to my new life with a mid-week weekend and a rowdy 'See you later' to hump day. That's right y'all, I now have Wednesdays off. A rockin' free day for me and my li'l cowgirl to hang out and do stuff. Yeeeehaw!

This mid-week breather is making me an extremely happy camper. I get to hang out with Sophie. (She was getting a bit worn out from going to school five days a week. As was I. She is only little. I don't have an excuse.) And now we can have a day, go shopping, see friends and go hang with my Mum and see my ol' Dane.

Dane is my Dad. Since my oldest nephew was born my parents lost the titles of 'Mum' and 'Dad' and became known as 'Granny' and 'Dane'. My nephew, Noah started it but it stuck with the rest of us cheeky buggers because being called 'Granny' gave her the irrits. And calling Dad, Dane, made it sound like he was her saucy boyfriend, rather than her husband of now 50 odd years. We celebrated Granny and Dane's birthday on Saturday with one heck of an arvo tea. Dad turned 82 and Gran 75, 7 kids and 10 grand kiddies later and they are still kicking.

Anyhoo, these little holidays are welcome time to spend with the important people in my world.

Also welcome are my new bargain boots.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

In the Night

In the dead of night she comes
creeping, creeping
padding on the ice cold boards.

When all is pitch and shadows she comes,
dodging phantoms and breathing smoke
creeping to us in the night.

She comes to a stop at the end of the bed,
burrowing deep under covers,
wriggling and writhing, emitting frost, like Jack,
garnered on her journey through the pitch.

In the darkness of every night she comes
creeping and writhing,
colding us from our dreams.

Shrinking to the bed sides, we awake annoyed.
We turn, ready to roar and rage our irks,
 to a sweet, blameless face and humid, breathy snufflings

In the dead of night,
fast asleep and glowing,
she rests in the warmth between us.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Bookshops, Words and Pictures

After my luxurious lie in on Friday, I hauled myself out of bed to take the kids to the museum. Here we discovered treasure. Pure gold in the form of a gorgeous exhibition of original children's illustrations by a fascinating man with a wonderful story. The collection was gathered by Albert Ullin, the founder of an utter gem, The Little Bookroom,  the first specialist bookshop for children in the WORLD. Images include work from the last 33 years of children's publishing in Australia with work from favourite illustrators of the calibre of Jeannie Baker, May Gibbs, Bob Graham and Graham Base.

There is something about catching sight of these images, they are so familiar.  Its as if you have somehow internalised the work on reading them in childhood. They become part of your structure and signify much more than their image. A stunning pen and ink and watercolour image by Ron Brooks from one of my childhood favourites, "John Brown, Rose and the Midnight Cat" by Jenny Wagner, brought tears to my eyes, joy tears, like bumping into a beloved and long lost friend. The image of John Brown, the big old English sheep dog staring at the midnight cat, sent me back 35 years. I re-felt the emotions evoked by the book, the sadness of this big, loyal. fluffy dog, (who was just like my childhood puppy, Henry) and his frustrations at having to make room for the feline intruder. I remembered the feeling far more than the story itself. (When I reread favourite childhood books, I often find that my memory has warped the story line.)

Aside from the images, the exhibition reveals the story of Albert Ullen, a man who started a bookshop.  But not just any bookshop, one specifically to provide quality lilterature for children. A space for children not before provided on the whole planet! And he began with nothing but passion and knowledge. He created something from nothing which has lasted 52 years and inspired many other  heavenly little children's bookshops.

Bookshops are havens. They provide sancitity, silence and inspiration. They help create emotions and memories of characters, words and images that lock into a child's body and cells, enough to bring gasps and tears to the adult 30 years later.

We are lucky enough to have three excellent  bookshops in our town. Me and the kids love them. We visit weekly, almost,  and regulary dedicate some of our funds to purchases from them. I know that books are cheaper in the internet, but I want our bookshops to remain open. I hope that they are here for ever and that one day I will buy " The Eleventh Hour" by Graeme Base, " Chicken Soup with Rice" and "Where the Wild Things Are" by Maurice Sendak and " Mr Magnolia" by Quentin Blake, for my grandchildren.

I have never been to The Little Bookroom and I can't believe I had never heard of it until last Friday. It is on the top of my list for the next trip to the Big Town. However,  I am very pleased to live at a time when I can follow them on Facebook and Twitter and read their web site and to have recalled the weird emotions of childhood while sharing in the illustration collection of its founder.

The exhibition 'Hooked on Books: Australian children's picture book illustrations from the Collection of Albert Ullin OAM' is continuing at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery until October.

I sent a children's book manuscript submission to a publishing house. I hope that one day my work is good enough to be published and to sit on the shelves of "The Little Bookroom".

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Winter Son

Today the winter sun shone clear and bright in an endless aqua sky.
Today my second son learnt to ride a bike in that crisp winter light.
Today he shone, my son, riding strong and proud
basking in the rosy glow of self-propulsion.
The suns, today, were brilliant.

Friday, June 08, 2012

A little me time

It's 11.49 am on a Friday in the holidays and I'm still in bed.

From the comfort of my bed I have fantasized about writing a play.
And through the magical interwebs at my fingertips I have read up on Sunday Reed, Joy Hester and explored the concrete poetry work of the tragic Sweeney Reed and the incredible surreal poetry of Max Harris. Having recently read the book "Sunday's Kitchen" I am quite obsessed with the Reeds and their life. I have ways adored Heide, Mirka Mora and the tortured and permissive bohemian freedoms of the Heide crew.

Next stop on my bedtime travels took me to the amazing world of Kelly Cutrone. My nephew recommended her Ted Oxford talk and so do I. Watch it, you won't regret. She talks about intuition, knowing thyself, following your path and giving back to your tribes and communities.

So, of course, I went on to download the first chapter of her book "Normal Gets You Nowhere". A sentiment I relate to and wish I had the cojones to pursue in my life more fully. To be "bloody, bold and resolute", as my Grade 12 Applied Maths teacher, Brother Lavery, used to urge us, but in the pursuit of a larger life, giving your true individual talents to the world. Kelly says she wants us to, and I quote "fuck the world with our energy"( in a good-positive-sharing-and-making-beautiful-love kind of way, not a rape-and-pillage,-taking-all-for-yourself-and-leaving-nothing-behind kind of way) and I get that. I wonder if that's what Brother Lavery meant, figuratively speaking?

In between Internet ramblings I have Facebooked, instagrammed, Drawn Something and blogged.

This is true luxury. Being left alone to explore these lives, this knowledge and ideas, connecting with beloved friends in different cities and creating something, all from under the covers in a room with a view of trees and sunshine on a cold winter's day.

Taking time from the activities of daily life, to dream up the life you want.

To take time, space and thoughts, just for yourself.

To move only when your spirit takes you.

Take some time for yourself when you can, to explore what you love. It makes the whole world of difference.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

The mouths of babes

J after seeing the ad for Bikie Wars:
'Mum, why are they called bikies? Is it because they say (in a baby voice)
'I wuv my bikie.'?

Sophie, walking up the street waved her brothers on ahead saying
'Ladies first'

Sacha, on being told that he has to clean up after himself:
"Well, that's effing."

Effing indeed.

J's latest artwork

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

No mo' bitchin

Holidays are on and I am as happy as a lark, hanging with the kids in this amazing late Autumn sunshine. There have been card games, movie nights, carpet picnics, trips to our very special City Park and this evening I even cooked up a storm - lamb souvlaki with home made tzatziki and apple pie for dinner. There is roast vegetable soup in the slow cooker for tomorrow.

Maybe you need the work days to make these holidays so sweet?

Next term I'm only working four days a week - happy days, my friends, happy days.

And the kids' first ever dentist trip today saw them all with a gold star clean bill of dental health.

Today, we are loving ourselves sick. Wishing your days to be this sunny.

Saturday, May 26, 2012


Relentless mornings, negotiations, push,
'Put your jumper on'
push again, white knuckles, tensions, shouting,
push again
'Don't speak to your brother like that.'
Schedules, lunches, homework,
'Are you picking them up?'
cling, whine, cough
'Watch me, Mum'
'No, watch me.
'Just get in the car.'
'What's for dinner?'
'Have you done your homework?'


But this model runs too fast. You can't see that I miss you. Love you. Miss you hard. But there's nothing left in the tank to give. The engine has run on the edge of empty and just made it for the dinner-bath-bed-books-'Goodnight. I said GOODNIGHT' run to couch fall. Juice for nothing but apps, impatience and surly boredom.





Sweet Time.



Saturday, May 19, 2012

A different tune

There is a song out there. You've heard the world humming along to the tune. Maybe you saw the full arena performance by that top ten, self-help songster belting it out from centre stage while running barefoot over beds of hot coals? You'd know it.  It's always played on one wave length, or another. It goes a little something like this

"Extroversion is good. Introversion is bad."

I dug it so much I bought the whole album. After all, it makes sense, doesn't it? In our life and times. The wide world wrote the lyrics and its staccato commands sell it well - 'Charisma, charm, wit, risk. Be entertaining. Be employable. Get out there. Make friends. Be popular.' But the message is most of all, for pity's sake, don't be so sensitive.

I tried to sing along for years, but could never quite commit to that number. The melody just always sat out of my range. Booze and fags helped my performance, to a point. But without them, the show had no conviction.

Then Susan whispered a different tune. It was quiet, but catchy and hit my gut's chord. Her sweet serenade sent the other song out of my head. In the right moment that song is the only one to play, but, well, I boogie to that, no longer.

Shyness has it's beauty. It's a quiet, soulful hymn. It requires a closer listen but there can be genius in it. Introversion is not a dirty word, nor is silent retreat. This is the music that keeps the hearts and minds of the sensitive souls of the Earth in rhythm.

To be made to feel out of step for struggling socially, for shyness, this is madness. Sometimes, doesn't everyone long to leave the wide world mosh pit? We don't all want to rock the dance floor all night long but, sometimes aren't we happier to head home early, solo, for a hot milo? To watch a late night subtitled film on the couch while wrapped in a blanket? To tinker with our own tune for a while, without the blurts and squeals of everyone else's songs muddying the composition.

Susan sings it better than I can, and I dig her pipes.