Friday, January 30, 2009

Winds from the east...

Winds from the east... Mist comin' in... Like something's a brewin', about to begin... Can't put me finger on what lies in store... But I feel what's to 'appen, all 'appened before...
So today kicks off a gigantic period of change at our house. For everyone.

I handed in my resignation at work. Yes, I am, in effect, retiring at the ripe old age of 37. Oh how I wish I'd invested more in superannuation! Sigh. I'll be working short hours two days a week until easter, and then that's it. I become a dependent spouse after eighteen years supporting myself. Freaky does not even begin to describe it.

Why? I know its a cliche, but I'm planning on spending more time with my family. Over Christmas in particular, but before that as well, I stepped back and took a hard look at how things were developing at home. I didn't like what I was seeing. The stress levels in the house were unbelievable, and on a daily basis I was having to choose between paying the kids the attention they needed and getting a decent meal on the table (to pick one small example that doesn't even begin to cover it).

It just wasn't working and something had to give. So gradually and with much careful thought hubby and I decided that I would leave work. Part of me is relieved, a large part of me is disappointed as I love work and the social interaction, and a bit of me is apprehensive and worried I'm making an undoable mistake. Please don't let it be a mistake!! But most of me - including the depths of my heart - knows that I've made the right decision. Miss Four and a half is off to school next year, time is moving faster and faster as I get older and I don't want to wake up one morning with a couple of teenagers and wonder what the hell happened.

So. That is the first change.

Second change is for the kids. Miss Four and a half is off to proper pre-school next week, to begin her run up to primary school. Miss Finally Three has changed daycare to be closer and like her sister will be attending much shorter hours. I have also juggled the days so that I get one clear day with each child for extra special time together. I can't say how much I'm looking forward to that. When the kids are on their own and not competing, they're like different children and bliss to be around.

Today was the girls last day at the daycare they've attended since they were six months old. To say leaving was a wrench is the understatement of the year. I cannot give enough thanks to the wonderful patient women who I was able to trust completely with my babies, and who also supported me when I was struggling and in a place so dark and endless I never thought I'd escape.

By way of thanks I gave the staff a huge hamper of teas, coffees, biscuits and other treats - high fat, low fat, caffeine free, chocolate free, with extra chocolate, you name it, it was in there. I hope they enjoy, my goodness they deserve it. I made the kids cupcakes. I baked 58 (there were supposed to be 60 but about 2 worth of batter was eaten by the helpers) plus 12 mini cupcakes, so a total of 70.See, 70. Hubby did a wonderful job with the decorating.

The children kind-of understood they were leaving. They were both a bit hopeful it was their birthday suddenly (instead of all this boring waiting and waiting for months on end), as cake to them means birthdays. I think they're going to be so busy with the new places that it'll be a while before it all sinks in.

The final change around here will be for hubby. His work contract ends shortly and so he will be changing jobs. Given the grim economic outlook it has us sucking our teeth a little, but fingers-crossed it'll be fine.

Oh and let's not forget the puppy. I think maybe another puppy photo...Can there be too many puppy photos? Okay, answer that in a few weeks!

Thursday, January 29, 2009


Okay, so I made soap. Its actually not that hard. I was showing-off with this batch and instead of water I used goat's milk - which sounds exotic but with my dairy intolerant family its the milk that we always use.

Here are the ingredients.
You just melt the coconut oil into the olive oil, then mix the goat's milk with the caustic soda, then pour in the oil. Keep stirring until it saponifys (thickens). Stick it in a mould (old take-away container) and then slice it up a couple of days later.

This batch is still soft enough that when you press it with a finger it leaves a finger print, so it needs to cure for another month or two and then its ready to use. At that point I could grate it up, re-melt it and combine it with lots of lovely ingredients (like avocado oil and essential oil), or just use it as is.

I have sensitive skin and if I use soap in any form on my face I end up looking like a viking berserker (and many thanks to the wedding photographer who coined that happy phrase about my dried out scarlet skin before I discovered soap-free facial wash). This is a viking berserker you troglodyte.

See. Nothing like me at ALL.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Puppy Update

Meet Sebastian (tho I think we'll call him Sebby most of the time).
Too cute for words (even if he did have wee on his head). We're bringing him home mid-February.

Trip to Fagan Park

Took the girls to Fagan Park on Wednesday. I think half the fun of getting there is the trip on the punt (car ferry) that crosses Berowra Creek at Berowra Waters.
Fagan Park is this awesome park that used to be a working farm over in Dural but was then given to the council to develop as they saw fit. They've turned it into a wonderful playground, have a selection of gardens from all around the world - some even with matching tiny houses, and an eco garden. This is the eco garden, an oasis of fruit trees, compost bins and chatty volunteer gardeners.
And my daughters opinion of the eco garden. Yes, I am surrounded by luddites.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


I cannot go on. My near death experience of last week (ie summer cold) has made me realise how precious life is. Thus I have decreed I must have a puppy and I must have it NOW. Oh okay, we were getting one at Easter but hubby left his shoes outside the back door and I keep thinking they're Ella and trying to let them in, and its miserable living in a dog free house and I can't bear it a day longer.

I had kind-of thought we'd get a ruby coloured Cavalier King Charles Spaniel girl (the reddish one in the photo). But hubby loves the black and tan coloured ones (and they are beautiful, and I'm not that fussy - no really) and boys are easier to get hold of than girls (and I'm not that fussy about that either), so it looks like a black and tan boy it will be.
They're just divinely delicious aren't they.

This photo is actually of the puppies we're going to visit tomorrow. The two available are on the left and the right. Its just whether we choose the fellow with the white smudge on his nose or the one without. I'll have to let the kids do it, there's no way I could ever decide.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Australia Day

Been a comparatively quiet one today. Still getting over the cold - nearly died, not that ANYONE noticed -and hubby is now claiming I infected him. Whatever. Yes, mood slow to get better as well. Still, did manage to summon some patriotic cheer and went to Bunnings to buy a new showerhead this morning. At Bunnings we were presented with a couple of aussie flags to wave around and therefore actually looked enthusiastic about it all for the rest of the day. Which of course we were - well when not suffering with our various viruses (real and imaginary), bacterial infections and other ailments (don't ask - trust me, I'd have to tell you and then I could never un-tell you).

After Bunnings we went into Hornsby for some lunch. We've been doing weightwatchers (oh alright, since yesterday, which I spent in a starving, low-blood-sugar, foul tempered heap after accidentally scoffing all my points in peanut butter early on). I disgraced myself at lunch after being virtuous all morning - in my poorly condition I did not have the fortitude to resist the kids chicken nuggets and chips and my own lunch. And I'm not going to tell you about the slight chocolate eclair accident I had. No, not even mention it.

Because its Australia day the Hornsby RSL Pipe (that's bagpipe) Band put on a concert for us. Yes, nothing says aussie to me like bagpipes. See the people below in kilts. 29 degrees and they're in wool kilts. They had my sympathy. Have also found a new thing to add to the list of things that make me get teary - yes, am appalled to admit that bagpipes playing Auld Lang Syne made me wipe away a tear. sigh.Miss Finally Three was not impressed.
Then it was home for some gardening. Those green heaps are my tomatoes now correctly situated in their tomato bed (what? these are BEFORE photos)And planted some sweetcorn.
And then got out my dryer to dry some fruit that we're not going to have a chance to eat before it goes bad. That's mango and cherry tomatos from the cherry tomato plant, and below it are plums and apricots.

We have finished the day watching that Australian classic, Mary Poppins.

Go Aussie!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

On the verge of expiring... well possibly

I have a cold, yes its 37 degrees outside and I am lying - and possibly dying - inside under the airconditioning. Oh and I KNOW air conditioning is environmentally unfriendly. But I am sorry planet, but if I'm going to put effort into saving you then I want to be around to be smug and santimonious about it.

I am having a very crabby day. I have already been to work - where I got a PARKING TICKET and the mean squinty eyed security man wouldn't let me off it even though I made a genuine mistake. I nearly cried. $81 was worth tears I felt. But then I realised that crying was beneath me, that I have more dignity, that I am not the kind of woman who cries to manipulate men. Also it wouldn't have worked - yes he was that mean.

So given the heat, my failing health, and work being very busy, I have little to report. Am thinking I might just have to start writing something... Hmm.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Being Sustainable - Its quite expensive

So, in my 2009 quest for a more environmentally friendly life, I have been reading books on how to be sustainable etc... Not quite what I was expecting, I have to say. You see, somewhat naively I thought the books would be brimming with good advice on changes I could make and things I could do that would save money and make me greener.


All they seem to be able to talk about is how I should spend, spend, spend, and they do it in the smuggest, most self-satisfied tone. If its not spending more money on carbon credits - which frankly seem to be a way a assuage guilt and continue to live exactly how you have before. Then its paying more for green power, organic food, grey-water recycling systems and solar hot water.

By the end of Leaving a Lighter Footprint I was starting to feel less like a woman on a mission and more like the cash cow that I really am. Then there was all this talk about 'did I have the affluenza virus' and was I 'keeping up with the Joneses/Neighbours' to the detriment of the planet. WTF. I mean seriously.

But, being scandalised by Sustainability books is not the only thing I've done to improve the environment in my little corner of suburbia. No no indeedy. I have...
  1. Convinced hubby to wee on the lemon tree last thing before bed - thus saving one toilet flush and fertilizer (remember this when I post about the lovely lemony treats I'm cooking in winter)
  2. Calculated that we emit about 16tonnes of greenhouse gases a year from electricity use alone (so this doesn't include the wood-burning stove or the two cars).
  3. Discovered that during some periods we use up to 800 litres of water A DAY. Though the average is around 500 A DAY. I'm still gobsmacked.
  4. Figured out that if we were to install the largest solar power array you can get (for $47,000 and that is with rebates) it would only take care of half our power needs.
  5. Actually considered paying $18 for four tiny lamb chops because they were organic
  6. Made my own soap - ambitiously used goats milk - note to self, KNOW ONES LIMITATIONS. Soap has kind-of worked. May not use it on anything that actually owns living flesh though.
  7. Planted vegetables (tatsoi & leeks - eaten by slug, onions - fried on 40degree day and rest of seeds left in pocket of jeans and then washed, zucchini - survived, just. So its ALL good).
  8. Toilet trained my youngest child - thus saving a squillion disposable nappies - and I am now living in a world of poos on the lawn and puddles on the floor. Somebody peed in hubby's shoes and the debate is still raging, was it the child or the cat? Excrement - it is my life.
  9. Have thought seriously about walking to the shops. Seriously.
  10. Swore no piece of paper that entered our property would leave it (ie, all paper to be mulched on the garden, fed to the worms etc), promptly disappeared under an avalanche of junk mail (despite our NO JUNK MAIL sticker on the post box) and cardboard boxes and am having a bit of a rethink about that one. Well, its either that or hubby is going to move out.

Okay, so its going to take time. Our first goals are this; reduce energy use and water use. Both should be challenging. I found a really interesting brochure on home energy use on the Origin Energy website. Just having the microwave switched on but not running is costing us $1 per quarter, the laptop $8 per quarter, and the computer $16. So there is $25 we can save, or $100 a year just by switching three things off.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Day not going as planned.

It has been one of those days. And I mean REALLY one of those days. It began early, at 4am, when a flying saucer or something went noisily over our house and woke me up. Aliens are just rude - there I've said it.

So being knackered and feeling like my throat has been sandpapered (yes tonsillitis again - its getting embarrassing) I sent the screamies off to childcare with hubby and... er... well I'd like to say went back to bed, but we're flat out at work so in fact I hunkered down with my laptop and behaved pretty much like I'd actually gone to work only I was still in my pjs. Yes, my dedication knows no bounds.

By lunchtime it was 38 degrees and you know I just had this feeling. It may have had something to do with the smell of smoke and the sound of helicopters. So I wandered outside to discover...
1) a bushfire
2) a bushfire that was being waterbombed by four helicopters
3) a bushfire that was oh about two kilometers from our home.


Then the phone rang. Miss Three had a high temperature and could I go and pick her up immediately. Of course I didn't hesitate, into the car and off to work I went. By then the car temp was telling me it was 41degrees. So I picked up the poor sickly one, who to be honest didn't look very well, but had a sudden turnaround which increased in volume and enthusiasm the closer to home we got.

Still, I could see she wasn't well. The helicopters had the fire in their sights, if not exactly under-control - so I felt confident enough to leave the house again and take her to the doctor.

Which was when the thunderstom hit and we got hailed on.

Of course it didn't change the temperature just pushed the humidity up a bit. Madam Three screamed the doctor's surgery down and was diagnosed with a virus and we came home to the smoke, the ash and thisIt was then that I discovered we had no chocolate in the house.

Hubby decided it was prudent to come home before the fire spread and cut off the motorway. He arrived (with Miss Four), decided the fire was going out (he was right) and took all the children to buy pizza. There was another rainstorm, a southerly change, the temperature dropped from 38 to 21 in ten minutes, the marvellous firies mopped up the fire and the thunderstoms went away and it was all over.

Really I'm quite tired.

Actually I am sending thoughts to those in Londonderry right now who are defending their homes against a bushfire - but for the weather it would've been us. And we're still on fire-watch tonight.

Well hubby is.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Farewell Clare

M'sister Clare returned to England yesterday. She came over on Sunday and just to prove that I am entirely civilised I baked cup-cakes for afternoon tea.

The icing covers the burnt bits on the cakes. The sprinkles covers the fact the icing went grey when it was supposed to be mauve. And the stand (birthday present to myself) distracts from the fact that they are a pile of burnt grey cup-cakes covered in sprinkles.


Monday, January 12, 2009

This Year on the Blog

I've been thinking about blogging this year and things to crap on about. Of course there will be the usual mixture of writerly musings (HAH) and parenting stories (yes, Miss Three is being toilet trained - brace yerself for some horrible, horrible tales), but you know, I've been doing that for the last fours years. I think I need more. I think there is a whole universe of subject matter waiting for me to write about. I think its time I turned my attention to the environment.

Okay. Don't go to sleep on me because I mentioned the environment - I would forgive you of course, I know the environment frequently bores the pants off me (not literally naturally). However, I am going environmentally friendly, sustainable and self-sufficient the Caitlyn Nicholas way. And I am going to blog it. Oh yes. Alpaca poo will be involved, as will chickens. Can chickens swim? How will they fare in the pool? Does Alpaca poo smell? What will hubby do when he finds four bags of alpaca poo in the back of his nice less-than-a-year-old Mitsubishi? Will any members of the family be blinded in the home made soap making experiement? How will Pepper the cat (the last pet standing) cope with the new puppy at Easter, or with the chickens? What exactly is compost? Will I stop shaving my arm-pits?

All this and so much more will be answered...

I can hardly wait. Hardly.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Clearing out the Garden

Have had a clear out of the vege garden. I must admit with the trials and tribulations of last year the vege garden has not received the attention it deserved. It was one of the things that got let go when I had my "I cannot do it all" crisis of last April. Still, a few bits were planted and sporadically watered, mostly after R&R trips to the local plant nursery. Lucky for the plants we had an unusually damp winter and spring - okay well maybe usually damp but after seven years of drought I'm kind-of used to no rain.

Anyway, in my bit of Sydney with its warm temperate climate and one frost every four years we don't really have a fallow winter period in the garden. Through winter is actually a busy planting and growing time - unlike other parts of Australia like Tasmania that follow a much more 'traditional' (ie British) gardening cycle (only in reverse cos we're yanno down under).

However, the quiet time in the garden in Sydney tends to be December/January. Its so hot that any seedlings you plant get burnt off on the first 30+ day with dry westerly winds, anything remotely established goes nuts in the heat and bolts to seed or sucks up too much water when you water it and all the fruit splits (yes I'm glaring at YOU cherry tomatos).

So, with this in mind we're preparing the vege beds for planting starting in February/March. This basically entails digging up the grass clippings from where they've been rotting under the hibiscus all year and using them to cover over a layer of dynamic lifter (which is pelletised chook shit and my god does it stink). I've gone an invested in some blood&bone, dolomite lime and potash for fertilising the various beds further, but I'll get around to that later on. The important bit for now was to get beds cleared and settling down ready for planting.

We've decided to turn the 'leisure' (read neglected over-grown tick/spider/mozzie infested) area around the pool into a vege garden as well. First we (read hubby) had to remove the struggling and ill-thought-out (read not planted by me) palms that were already there.

Yes, my husband is shit-hot, I am a lucky lucky woman. I know this.

So anyway, what you can see in the photo up the top is the dug over beds with a couple of self-seeded tomatos and some carrots still going, but that is about it. And below the haul I pulled out...Celery, potatos and red cabbage. Due to lack of watering the celery is tough and stringy, so basically inedible raw, but just fine in casseroles done in the slow cooker - so its been blanched and frozen. The potatos are just lovely. Steamed with a bit of butter - potatoy perfection.

Then there is the cabbage. Last night, positively glowing with excitement I set out to make braised cabbage.
Cooked for 90 minutes with red-current jelly, port, orange juice and vinegar. How did it taste?

Vile. Yes. V.I.L.E. VILE. The house still reeks of it and the smell makes my stomach turn. Oh I cannot describe how AWFUL it was. Kind of almost like overcooked cauliflower and at the same time sickly sweet. Hubby said he liked it, but he's scared if he says anything else I'll never have sex with him again.

I recovered from the cabbage disaster by eating chocolate. So HURRAY for the diet. HURRAY.

Its ALL Marvellous.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Happy New Year, Happy Birthday to Me, Happy Birthday to Miss Finally Three

In the last few days we've had an orgy of gift giving. Yes, we have an unseemly number of birthdays in the week after Christmas - Miss Finally Three on 31 December (born at 11.09pm) and Me on 1st January. I have moaned about the nearness of my birthday to Christmas pretty much since I got my first combined present at the age of five.

Of course for I have endlessly blamed my mother for this lack of planning. So, you can imagine her response when I phoned on 31 December 2005 at around 6am to tell her I was in labour. Actually, she didn't believe me, as Miss Finally Three's pregnancy was fraught with Braxton Hicks contractions towards the end. But I knew. The Universe was laughing at me again. When I arrived at the hospital at around 4pm that afternoon the obstetrician gave me a choice, we could hurry the labour along by breaking the waters and the baby would arrive on the 31st or leave things be and she'd arrive on the 1st. I chose the 31st so she wouldn't have to share a birthday with me, and she made it with only 40minutes to spare.

So, Happy New Year to all and sundry. In the Caitlyn Nicholas household 2009 has been dubbed The Year of Change (with apologies to Barack Obama). Yesterday afternoon I discovered that I'd spent the day with my underpants on inside out, so I'm thinking that things are only going to improve from that point.

I've made about a thousand resolutions. I kid you not. I got an Alphasmart for my birthday and I've been filling up the To Do list on it. I'm a Capricorn and I like lists and order so its not surprising really.

On the whole the resolutions point to one thing, that at my house we need to make some permanent changes. Both hubby and I are over-weight. Each year we resolve to lose weight, and each year we end up just a little bit porkier than the last. Given my family history of heart-disease at a young age and Hubby's family history of diabetes we need to get the whole weight thing under control. I've had success with weight-watchers in the past so we're planning to follow that regime.

I'm in two minds whether to blog about it. Part of me says to stop thinking about it because I blog about everything so its going to pop up here anyway, part of me says blog about it a lot so that I have motivation to stick with it. The last part of me says not to blog about it because I'll probably fail and then everyone will know and I'll end up resolving to lose weight on 1/1/2010. Just like the last four years. Which I know is a totally shit attitude, but I'm just so over trying and failing to lose weight. Its a journey I perpetually seem to be at the start of, never in the middle, never nearly at the end, just always starting out. Good lord, I can write 90,000 word books, why can I not stick to a diet??

Aside from the whole, endless weight thing we want to spend less, consume less, garden more and sleep more. So, expect many blog posts about the vegie patch - we've got grand plans for putting in fruit trees and even an avocado.

Writing wise I've got several goals, to get The Bunker ready to face the world by March, I'm writing a short story for a special ops romance anthology which is due in June, and I'd like to write either Boys of Summer or Fat Chance by 2010. And of course Secret Intentions is out in paperback mid 2009.

But really all this will take a back seat to the kids. Its our last proper year at home together. Next year Miss 4.5 is off to school and Miss Finally Three will be at pre-school four days a week. So I want to make 2009 a joyful, fulfilling year of home and family. I want to enjoy our last year of playgroup and mid-week trips to the beach. I'm looking forward to it.