Saturday, July 31, 2010

Back to Basics Challenge - Week 2

What's happening in the garden
  • Sowing seed
    • leeks, eggplant, rockmelon, watermelon, tomato (amish paste, costoluto genovese, heirloom ten colour mix), squash, zuchinni.  I keep my seedlings in this old water-play tub that the kids used to use, its light, easily moved, drains but can be plugged to retain water, up away from the dog, even has own umbrella and can be covered if needed.
  • Planting
    • Five lettuce seedlings in backdoor vege box - three freckles, two oak leaf
  • Harvesting
    • No harvesting this week as have been spreading combination of wood ash and worm poo all over the garden - beetroot surrounded by ash...
  • Observing
    • Sodding great branch falling on beleaguered broad bean patch - no real harm done except issue of very dead tree overhanging our property/pool will have to raised again with neighbour
    • Peas starting to flower 
  • Egg total : 16
What I've been doing
  • Planning for The Future
    • Getting possums out of roof
    • Set up payment plan for appalling rates bill and annoying credit card 
  • Working for the Future
    • Weekly menu plan - detailed weekly lunch/dinner plan, used for making a shopping list
    • Budget - spent many hours delving into the mysteries of our bank account. Now have clear idea of when and where direct debits are coming out and how much hubs is spending on coffee (cue bickering)
    • Digging over sweet corn bed and removing weed mat from underneath it (hell of a job).  The weed mat is no longer needed and keeps catching the fork when I try to dig - also planning on making this bed a wicking worm bed and am having a look a condition of ground underneath garden soil (heavy clay) and thinking about how to make it all work
  • Fun Stuff
    • Building Community
      • Care package to friend who has brand new baby (welcome Rebecca :))
      • Coffee with primary school mothers - discussed issues with Miss 4's behaviour with mothers who also have very bright, highly strung, screamy children, got some good tips and felt better about coping strategy (wine).
    • Learn a new Skill
      • Old skill reused: Talking on telephone at length
  • Becoming less porky
    • Present weight 76.2kgs (top of healthy weight range for my height: 67kgs)
Week Summary
  • Second week of school, kids getting into routine, me getting into routine, living by the clock and driving a lot
  • Weekly food shop cost just under $200
  • Driving licence renewed, look a thousand years old in photo, have booked in for haircut and eyebrow taming session
  • Taking it easy this week as August is ridiculously busy with loads of fun stuff: balls, cocktail parties, Romance Writers conference, kids parties, baby proms AND am going to see Joss Whedon talking at the Opera House (he wrote Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Toy Story). Gah.

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Grey Man - Good Reviews

Was fossicking about the interweb the other day and came across a couple of compliments about my story in The Mammoth Book of Special Ops Romance.

Maria at
"...But most of the stories are good, really good.
The Game av Gennita Low was real hit and Jordan Summer´s Heat of the night and Caitlyn Nichols fantastic Grey Man that begins in a nunnery in East Timor."

Sherri at
"Caitlyn Nicholas - The Grey Man. A- New author for me and it was a good story. Australian special forces hero."

Rather chuffed actually (OH OKAY, in a world of delight)


Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Girl Effect

I just love, love this. Its a very short video about how educating girls changes the world. They call it The Girl Effect.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A Focus on Overall Wellness

One of the things I love about blogging is the fresh perspective and inspiration you can get from cyber-friends.  I posted on Saturday that I was doing Belinda's Back To Basics challenge, and Belinda mentioned it on her blog along with the following comment...
For this first update Cait's family have been settling back into the school routine and dispensing advice and care packages all over the neighbourhood. She has a focus on overall wellness this year and by all accounts is making progress in both the areas of awareness as well as physical results.
Well knock me down with a feather.  A focus on overall wellness this year.  It is a perfect way to describe how I've approached this year, and yet until I read it, I didn't see that was what I was doing.

Yes, mind like a steel trap, me.

I stopped working March 2009, but then we had a very hard-scrabble year with hubs out of work (which happened a week after I left my work).  The intense focus on money and keeping the house meant that we became afraid to look forward into the future - mostly because all we could see was a future with financial ruin in it - and when you are not looking forward, and are under high stress, things get wonkier and wonkier.

But, the crisis passed, hubs got a job, the outstanding bills got paid, Centrelink crossed us off their list, and things found an even keel.  Finally I could start to focus on the things inside the house (rather than keeping it) the garden, my writing and how I was going to go forward into this next paid-work free stage of my life.

I could see so many areas my family was lacking;

  • diet could be better 
  • fitness levels were not what they should be, and hubs and I were overweight
  • dog had got fat
  • house cluttered and always messy
  • no organisation, things often lost or forgotten
  • everyone overwhelmed, grouchy and tired
  • finances better, but still had a really haphazard element to them
  • home maintenance jobs being put off and put off
  • cars needed better care taken of them
  • television always seemed to be on
And so I decided it was time to change things.  Some little, like getting a jar to keep the hair ties in so I wasn't forever rushing around trying to find them. Some medium, like keeping on top of the clean laundry avalanche, so I'm not fossicking through piles of clothing in the vain hope there might be a clean bra in there somewhere. And some big, like the War on Clutter.  

Each change that I incorporated into our routine made life a bit easier, I have (very gradually) become less stressed - and hell, I'm not saying I don't get the urge to grab a baseball bat and smack the crap out of the idiot who just cut me up on the motorway - but the better organisation, led to less stress overall, and more time.  More time led to having time to plan meals, look closely at our finances, cook more meals from scratch and make basics like stock and bread (cheaper and less chemical crap in them), spend more of our lives outside in the garden - with the added benefit of exercise - a lifestyle has evolved  from these changes that is so much happier and calmer for all of us.

We still have a long, long way to go.  It all falls apart frequently.  We still eat way too much take-away, I can never find the kids school socks, just this evening I spent a good ten minutes trying to find Miss 4s school top (we've ascertained it must be at school somewhere) and another good ten minutes looking for Miss 6s jazz outfit, which, it was claimed was NOT in her sport bag, but in fact WAS in her sport bag.  Sigh.  It's a good thing I have wine.

But Belinda was right.  There has been a real focus on wellness in my life this year, and its paid off. Really paid off.

The latest change around here has been television.  As any regular reader knows, Miss 4 can be a challenging child, and lately I've begun to notice a correlation between her screaming tantrums and the tv. They got much worse when she'd been watching fast paced loud cartoons like Oggy and the Cockroaches.  At the same time I was watching Masterchef at night, and was finding all the endless advertising completely overwhelming - it was just so in your face and noisy.  So we've switched off.  No TV at all at our house, except maybe an episode of Charlie and Lola after dinner as we put on pjs in front of the fire.  The quiet is wonderful and I'm writing more than I have for ages.  In the afternoon the kids and I do stuff inside including homework, then head outside for a go on the swings and playing in the garden and this often lasts for an hour or so, and then we go and cook dinner - Miss 6 made an omelette all by herself tonight - under very strict supervision of course - but she did most of the work.  She'll be on Kids Masterchef next.


Sunday, July 25, 2010


I think the thing I find hardest to be pragmatic about is when the garden gets trashed by the dog, the chooks or the kids.

Here are the broad beans yesterday afternoon.

And here they are this morning, after the dog let the chooks out.

Big mess. I've dusted them off, and replanted what I can, but there's so much damage.  All my onions seedlings have been scratched up as well.  Sigh. So frustrating.

And yes, the dog did let the chooks out.  He managed to get their pen door open when he was in search of morsels to eat.  Wretched animal.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Back to Basics Challenge - Week 1

A bit haphazard this week, but...

What's happening in the garden
  • Sowing seed
    • Last of the Snow peas - those are broad beans in front, coming up nicely after total and utter chicken related disaster.  Bamboo sticks are providing support as they always get blown over if I just use string.
  • Planting - 8 leek seedlings from the Organic Seedling lady at Hornsby Markets
  • Harvesting - Dug over last years sweet potato bed and got 70g carrots, 375g sweet potatoes - both totally unexpected :). Also, 1 lemon, 1 spring onion, 5 pak choy, 9 Tatsoi and 240g turnips.
    • Lettuce bed starting to look a bit gappy, but some good stuff coming on quickly
  • Egg total : 20
What I've been doing
  • Planning for The Future
    • Weekly menu plan
    • Budget - sort out paying appalling rates bill 
    • Researching turning raised vege beds into wicking beds to save water, and stop them going bone dry on days when its 35+ and a 60kmph westerly
  • Working for the Future
    •  Cooking extra loaves to stock up the freezer (and then giving them all away :))
Fun Stuff
  • Building Community 
    • Care package for Mumndad
      • bread, yoghurt, soap, vegies
    • Care package for ill friend with ill baby
      • bread, vegies, dinner (spag bol), eggs
    • Generally interfering in Other People's Lives and Dispensing Sage Advice - all with the best of intentions :)
  • Learn a new Skill
    • New skills on the list are spinning and bee-keeping. However, am very wary of taking on too much so for the moment will stick with re-hashing rarely used skills
      • Grow seedlings without murdering them due to neglect
      • Be nice to other drivers on the motorway
Becoming less porky
  • For a starting point, at the beginning of this year I weighed around 82 kgs
  • Present weight 77.3 kgs
Week Summary
  • First week back at school for the screamies - getting back into the routine and Not Being Late (ahem), and planning like a military invasion to get both to school with correct equipment on right day
  • Post birthday party clean, tidy and Make Good Use of left over birthday cake
  • Load of wood procured - last for year hopefully
  • Taking steps to slow down and look after mental health OR floating around garden with cup of tea for at least half an hour a day
  • Fifteen thousand appointments

Thursday, July 22, 2010


Spent a large part of today at Mumndads.  They were an awesome help at Miss 6s birthday party and presently they are doing horrific things to their house with a wet saw - forty seconds of hearing a saw go through reinforced cement makes me cry blood tears, THREE HOURS of it is beyond contemplating.  So I craftily arrived in-between tradesmen and bearing home made bread, yoghurt, bunches of pak choy and tatsoi and home made soap, to say Huge Thanks and Sorry About The Noise.  Gifts made with lots and lots of love.

Had a nice day of inspecting the black swans and their four cygnets parading around on the damn, speculating about rain, and collecting sheep and Alpaca wool for Miss 6 to take to school - they're doing farmyards.

Then, just as I was about to leave a middle aged bloke driving a huge semi-trailer lurched up the eroded gravel drive.  Here to deliver a few tonnes of sand.  It had to be put in an extremely awkward spot around a sharp corner, at the top of a very steep rise, in the centre of which was the marker that had been used to work out all the laser sights on the in-progress house. It Cannot Be Moved.

"No worries," said the bloke.
"Um actually..." said my 65yo mother.
"She'll be right..."
He didn't much further. You see unbeknownst to him, my amazing mother knows a thing or two about semi-trailers.  Her father started a trucking company back when she was a young child, and much of her teenage years were spent digging semi-trailers out of ditches and creeping past weigh-stations at midnight with the lights off.  There is also nothing she can't drive or manoeuvre.

After being taken-aback for a full five minutes, the truckie scratched his head, nodded and completed her plan with ballet-like precision.  It was awesome to watch.  Sand delivered he pootled off with a cheery blow on the horn that scared the living crap out of the chickens.  Then I checked my watch and realised I had exactly 45 minutes to complete an hour long trip at the end of which my children would be waiting, AND THEN I found out I had no petrol.

Needless to say I made it on time. But it wasn't pretty.

Anyway, this post was supposed to be about tonights dessert. I have no idea what happened.

Home made yoghurt, and honey courtesy of our friend Haig's bees down in Epping. Kids first encounter with honeycomb - they were sticky but impressed.
Its been a good day :)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Hitting the Reset Button

Now and then I wish I had a reset button, one you could press and all would be wiped clean and you could start again.  I often wish the kids had an off-button as well, quite frequently, actually almost hourly...

But, I digress.  Reset buttons.  And no I'm not wishing away some indiscretion of my own (though there are so very many, and all of them appalling, but I live with them and rather love them these days). Rather I'm feeling the urge to start afresh, set new goals, make new plans.

I had a few deadlines coming up to Miss 6s birthday party.  The two main ones were...
  1. Paint the hall
  2. Sort out a chicken run 
However, before I let a spot of paint in the house I wanted to de-clutter and re-organise first.  A gargantuan task that was blogged during my War On Clutter.  I did it.  Every single cupboard, drawer, bedroom, laundry cupboard, box in the shed, has been opened, contents sorted out and put carefully away (if anything was being kept).  The house is cleaner and fresher than it has ever been, and I am one hell of a lot more organised.  The space inside the house is a lot calmer, the kids entertain themselves more readily as they can find what they want, I tidy quickly and easily because everything has its place.  It was a long horrible job, but so worth it.

The chicken run was something that was carefully thought out and budgeted for.  Rather than whack something up that caused us to blow the budget and regret soon after, we did planning and research.  
So chooks, compost and other unsightly-ness reside behind the screen, plus the chooks will be shaded in summer, we can even drape shade-cloth over the top to the fence to protect them more on 40+ days.

Which brings me to today.  Party behind me. Jobs done. Goals reached. House clean and neat-ish (except where they kids have been :)) new term about to start...  I'm thinking about what to plant in the coming year, about continuing to lose weight, about getting stuck into my next novel, about paying off the mortgage... and, as it happens, about what to cook for dinner (spag bol).

I feel like its time to hit the reset button, start at the beginning and start heading towards some new goals. To start with I've signed up for Belinda's Back to Basics Challenge - which simply entails consistently recording the following...

The Back to Basics Challenge for those who choose to accept is to report weekly or fortnightly on either their blog or in comments here on the topics of
  • Sowing seed or Planting
  • Planning for The Future - meal planning, the next seasons garden plan, working out storage plans or more long term goals and projects like plans for digging root cellars
  • Working for the Future - storing food, managing stores, preserving, building that home made cob or solar oven, adding house insulation, saving for manual grain mills etc
  • Building Community - volunteering, donations, joining an existing community group, forming your own community group, taking a cake to a friend having a hard time, calling someone you just let drift out of your life, etc
  •  Learn a new Skill
To this I'm also going to add 
  • a record of what I'm harvesting from the garden and the chooks as I'm curious as to how much I can eke out of them.  
  • a comment on my own weightloss journey 
  • a lot of photos (not of my weightloss journey... can you imagine ? actually don't, its too horrible)
Other goals include
  • Getting The Bunker done and presentable
  • Doing some kick-ass budgeting
  • Well, I'll write down the other ones when I've discussed them with Hubs (he's good at being the voice of reason) :)
 But yeah, time for a fresh look at things. I think it'll be good.


Sunday, July 18, 2010

Post-Party Fatigue

Had Miss 6's birthday party today, and what a wonderful day it has been.

I've helped make fourteen tiaras, wrapped up the most enormous pass the parcel ever (even the six year olds felt I'd gone too far), nearly de-capaciated several children with a limbo stick, been wrapped up in about 6kms of toilet paper... (that's Miss 6 btw)

Served up pies, sausage rolls, jelly, icecream, cake, popcorn... and

done one hell of a lot of cleaning up afterwards.

Next job; getting to over-excited, screamie, sugar-hyped children to sleep.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Spring Thinking

Have found white icing recipe so Miss 6 can have a white birthday cake at her 'snow fairy' birthday party.  Yes, the things we do.  Basically this stuff is uncooked pavlova mixture (egg white + sugar + water), so if I don't finish this post it's because I am lying ion the floor expiring from sugar overload.

The garden is thinking about spring.  Just in the last few days we've had a flush of growth.  The lettuces are putting out new bright green leaves, and the Pak Choy and Tatsoi have started to crowd themselves out. Not to mention the rogue turnip in there. Turnips. I ask you.

And the Avocado tree is sporting new sprouts - not sure if they'll turn into baby avocados or new branches - am happy with either :)  Also brick up against fence there is to stop wretched dog from digging under and making unseemly advances to the lady dog next door (you are DESEXED you thick hound).

All this excitement has led to me getting my seed collection organised and deciding what to plant where.

Big list, but some of this stuff will get planted just once - like Eggplant - and other stuff will get planted on a semi-regular (ie when I remember) basis - like carrots.

  • Basil
  • Onion - Barletta
  • Beetroot - Red
  • Onion - cream gold
  • Beetroot - Golden
  • Pumpkin - Australian Butter
  • Cape Gooseberry
  • Pumpkin -Heirloom mix
  • Capsicum
  • Rockmelon - of the world mix
  • Carrot - St Valery
  • Silverbeet - 5 Colour
  • Carrot - purple dragon
  • Spring onions - red
  • Carrot - heirloom mix
  • Squash - mixed buttons
  • Celeriac - giant prague
  • Sunflower
  • Chilli
  • Sweet corn - Extra early sweet F1
  • Chives
  • Thyme
  • Climbing beans - purple king
  • Tomato - Amish paste
  • Cucumber - double yeild
  • Tomato - Heirloom mix
  • Dwarf beans - Italian romano
  • Tomato - Costoluto Genovese
  • Eggplant - long purple
  • Turnip
  • Leeks - King richard
  • Watermelon - Moon and stars
  • Lettuce - Yellow Leaf
  • Zucchini - black beauty
  • Lettuce - Cos heat tolerant

  • Lettuce - Italian Lollo mix
Should have this all in the ground or in seed trays by early August, yes, brace yerselves for photographs of bare vege patches with accompanying promises of glorious abundance in Just A Few Months.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Highlight of the Weekend...

Taking a wrong turn in Terrey Hills and unexpectedly coming across the weather radar.

The one what gives us pictures like this :)

Yes internet, my entire family was as underwhelmed as you undoubtedly are.

But I mean THE WEATHER RADAR. The one what says where the rain is. Awesome eh?

Friday, July 09, 2010

Happy Birthday Miss 6

Its been a busy year...

In August 09, she went to the Blue Mountains and looked at trains.

In September, George (that's the bear) came from pre-school for a visit

In October, she went to the Baby Proms on a bright blustery day at the Opera House

In November, she discovered the webcam on Mummy's computer (and realised that she was stuck with those individuals behind her for life).

In December Pre-School came to an end and she performed in the End Of Year concert.

In January she had a long hot summer holiday.

In February she started big school and discovered chess.

In March she discovered her Mother's wardrobe

In April she went Apple Picking at Bilpin

In May she held up the family tradition of being underwhelmed over School Sport's Carnivals, and then upheld the other family tradition of being very enthusiastic about Licking Out The Bowl.

And in June she went to Caves Beach and gazed at the sea and wondered what was on the other side. (New Zealand. Where? New Zealand. That sounds funny. Well it is funny, they say things like fush... for fish... )

And all that, started out like this...


Thursday, July 08, 2010

Toy Story 3D

Just took the kids to see Toy Story 3D, my first 3D movie experience - no, I have not seen Avatar, yes, I am socially inept, we all know this.  Loved the 3D-ness of it all (well apart from the fact it made my left eyeball feel like it was being prised out with a rusty screwdriver - have been reliably informed that this is because I am OLD (yeah, thanks MUM, not 65 though am I?).

Movie was long, 2hrs, but it kept my kids rapt (yes, those of nit-level attention spans) and it kept me amused too.  I think Miss 4 was overwhelmed at times, but we held hands and whispered about what precisely we'd be having for lunch.
Because you had it last week.
Yes, and we need to wait for the new toy.

Ah the allure of a Happy Meal.

Not that my children EVER eat McDonalds.


Miss nearly 6's birthday tomorrow.  I have been a parent for 6 years.  And the child is still alive, relatively undamaged, and has not been forgotten on a bus or in a food hall once. Am so damn good at this job.


Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Cracking a Sad

Right now I'm sitting in front of the fire, sipping a glass of red, feeling tired and happy.  Its been a good, good day.  After a weekend filled with hall painting, we had a pretty atrocious Monday. I was tired, the kids were bored & fighty and we all spent a large part of the day shouting at each other.  I was having a serious 'put the little buggers on ebay thoughts,' and ended the whole horrific day cracking the biggest sad you ever saw, lying on the couch and sobbing to Joni Mitchell.

Yes. Not my most edifying moment. I am with you there.

But yanno, I feel one hell of a lot better today.  Sometimes a damn good cry and a pity party for one is all part of letting it go.

We had a few guests over today - a few being five dear friends from Mother's Group and thirteen kids!! - we had a spot of cake and some sausage rolls and left the kids to it.  They were all over the house, hauling out the toys, getting into the cubby house and the swings, the dolls house and the Thomas the Tank Engine set, and just running around playing.  It was so joyful to see them all having such a good time, doing their own thing and being themselves.

Today was a special day and all the more precious for it being so unexpected.  It arrived at the right moment, just when I really needed it.


Saturday, July 03, 2010

Eradicating The Brown & Caterpillars

Well, as you have probably ascertained from the title, its been another seat-of-the-pants, action-packed day at our house.

Today hubs has been fulfilling a six-year fantasy for me.
He commenced the removal of The Brown.
 We have a lot of The Brown to be removed, but right now, if we can just get the entry hall painted in Spanish Cream and hang up the family pics then I shall be content - its a start.

In other breaking news, I've figured out what is eating Every Single Thing In The Garden.  Really its rather embarrassing.  You see, after covering the garden ankle-deep in snail bait, I somehow got fixated on the idea that it was a possum/s.  However, utilising my keen powers of observation this morning, I happened to notice a Lot Of Caterpillars helping themselves to everything in sight.

Occam's Razor strikes yet again.

Also harvested a plethora of turnips (caterpillars don't like turnips).
Hubs is not impressed either, he thinks turnips taste like warm farts.


Friday, July 02, 2010

Sign of the Times

Hubs thought of the post title.
But its apt.  Newcastle is a great town, but my god, the warning signs.  Everywhere.  This one at Stockton beach is actually relatively brief, it having no instructions regarding horses, bicycles, children or which part of the footpath to walk on (Keep Left Or Else - in case you were wondering).

The B&B we stayed in was very nice and I have no complaints. Well okay. I have one.  The decor kept scaring the crap out of me.

Um, around thigh-height and creepy as hell.  It stared at us while we were watching tv.

Then we have the cowboy holding up the glass table top. Clever, no really.  Also the exact same size as Miss nearly 6 - I yelled at it twice to 'get out from under the table and stop messing about.'  Seriously though, so lifelike that it totally gave me the skin crawling creeps.

Did I mention creepy?  I actually had to move him from the bedroom - you know, just in case he CAME ALIVE during the night and tried to eat my soul or something.

Not that I have anything against Native Americans or Cowboys.

Its good to be home.  Being away was a great break (despite the best efforts of my delightful children) but its always marvellous to come home to the washing and the cooking and the chook house after they've been shut in for a week.  Yes. Glorious.


Thursday, July 01, 2010

Twilight Beach Walks

Thanks to everyone who commented on yesterday's post.  It makes it easier to know that I'm not the only one, that at least I haven't gone sprinting down the street in my nightie (yet), and that my last resort of getting a tether to keep Miss 4 close is not as draconian as it might seem.

Yesterday the whole situation was brought into heart-stopping focus. And whilst there was no harm done, and I promised myself I'd let it go, I find myself in the midst of a lot of what-ifs right now.  We were walking along the cliff top walkway at Caves Beach and came to the lookout. The kids, seeing the lookout, sprinted ahead (me calling after them to no avail), and scuttled over the low wall.  I realised immediately that beyond the small grassed area they had landed on, there was nothing but thin air and a twenty metre drop onto rocks.  I called for them to come back, and thank christ, they both stopped dead and came back to me right away, so I could calmly get them back over the wall and point out the danger.  They were both quite shaken when they realised and stayed close after that.

So, as I said, no harm done and maybe it brought home my point that they need to stay close to stay safe when we are in places that are new to us.  Now I just have to stop imagining worst case scenarios and we can put it behind us.


Despite this we did have a lovely afternoon in Swansea.  Caves beach was clear, still and freezing cold.  The sunset was stunning and for the first time Hubs and I felt like we were getting a break.  (I have got my sticky hands onto hubs iPhone and now that I've figured out how to stop photographing my own finger, I finally have some half decent photos to post).

Well, maybe the horizon doesn't tilt quite like that, but I never claimed to be anything but haphazard.

And of course, no matter what, they can always lean on their dad (awww).
We had dinner at Swansea RSL (very nice btw), and drunken hussy that I am, I had 3/4 of a glass of Red Wine and was positively pissed as a nit.  I know, am shocked at self.  Had better be careful or all this seat-of-pants living will take its toll and I'll end up being arrested for drink driving when I pick up the kids from school.  Yes. All down hill from here.