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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Me & My Girl

Some of our brilliant work with plates.

I was woken this morning, from a perfectly good slumber, by Miss5 screaming, "TODAY IS SAUSAGE SIZZLE DAY!" three inches from my right ear.

Tonight was one of my favourite nights of the year - the Prep Father's Day Celebration.

What I especially love about this night is I get to a eat a sausage, paint, dance and draw with one of my kids (Miss5 tonight, as she's the one in prep) and someone else has to clean up the mess. Plus, I get to play with a hammer!

Even though the above photo is blurry, I think Miss5's fear still comes through pretty clearly. If there was another couple of photos in this series you'd see Miss5 disengage herself from me and cower at the fence behind us. But me, I was having a ball.

This is the Mr Sciggle-like drawing Miss5 drew.
When she was done we could turn it on it's side and it
was a lovely drawing of Miss5 and I at the beach.
Or alternatively, we turn it the other way and we're plummeting to earth having
 fallen out of a plane. Either way, it's a lovely drawing of us, don't you think?
"Take a photo!" I told another parent. "My wife won't believe they let me near a hammer."
(No children were harmed in the making of this photo. Sadly, the same can't be said for a couple of bent nails.)

So not a lot to write tonight, just a whole lot of fantastic memories. Thank you to my darling little Miss5 for a wonderful evening :)

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

I shit you not

Tracey just needed to get out of the house today so she decided to head off to the park.

There were council workmen in the street doing what workmen do best - making noise, making a mess and making the traffic stop and wait. She bundled our two youngest girls into the car and waited to be let out of our drive, giving the blokes in bright orange and yellow a friendly wave as she passed by.

Ten minutes later she was wondering why she bothered when Miss2 came down the slide and there was something on her head.

"What's that?" asked Tracey. It was brown. It was gritty. It was runny.

It was bird poo.

Luckily Miss2 was wearing a hat. Tracey removed Miss2's hat, careful not to get any of the muck on herself, and put it in a bag. Then she took off her own hat and put in on Miss2's head and our little girl raced off skipping and happy as a spring lamb, leaving my wife hatless.  

Which is a shame, because you can't remove hair like you can a hat. A point which was made plain to Tracey when, a few minutes later, a bird chose her head to poo on.

Tracey did her best with baby wipes but the park no longer seemed like fun. "Play times over," she told Miss2.

Tracey didn't want anyone to see her looking like this so it was time to head home for a shower.

"It was awful!" she laughed at me down the phone a few hours later. "There was so much of it!" But, as she explained to me, her day wasn't quite over yet.

Shrinking down behind the wheel, she passed the workmen and pulled gratefully into the driveway. She'd made it.

Back inside she quickly settled Miss0 in her cot and Miss2 in the lounge room before locking herself in the bathroom. Undressed, she reached into the shower and turned the tap and.....


Not a drop.

Turns out the workmen in our street had turned off the mains.

Even as I'm writing this I'm still grinning and chuckling like an idiot :)

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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Ring My Bell

"Time to pack this mess up," I told Miss5 late on Sunday afternoon. The dining table was awash with sheets of paper (including tiny bits she'd cut up into 'tickets'), pens and glue.

"Nooooo," she bellowed.

Now I was there for most of my childhood and I have to say I can't remember EVER yelling at my folks when they asked me to do something. I can remember wailing fairly loudly after I didn't do what they asked, but that's a bit different.

"Is this how you act when the teacher tells you to pack things up?" I asked.

"No, the teacher has a bell," she wailed. Tracey quickly explained they have a bell they ring when it's time to pack things up.

"Right," I said, and ducked into our bedroom.

It just so happened I had a bell in my bedside table. It was my booby prize in a Secret Santa. That the bell says 'ring for sex' didn't even cross my mind. I mean the thing is broken - I've been ringing it for over a year and nothing.

Thirty seconds later I was back in the kitchen. I gave my bell a ring. Let's face it, I was being a bit facetious. I didn't expect it to work.

"Okay," said Miss5 sweetly, and started packing everything up. I've got to talk to her prep teacher and see if she's got anything for cleaning the bathroom. Maybe a whistle or something.

I didn't give the whole thing another thought until Monday morning.

Racing around getting ready for work, I suddenly heard the bell, which I thought was odd because I'd left it on the fridge. I looked over. It wasn't there. At some point on Sunday night Miss8 had grabbed it off the fridge and was ringing the thing in her bedroom and giggling along with Master7. They both thought it was hilarious because it had the word sex on it, even though I tried to explain it was SIX in New Zealand - this argument might have worked a whole lot better if they'd ever actually heard someone from New Zealand count.

Ah well. No harm in it, I thought. Until Miss8 rang the bell again and Master7 joined in the fun and yelled out, "Come on boys, don't be shy!"

I'm just glad I know the silly thing's broken ;)

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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Well Hung

This is how they were hung in the dining room.
With our updated 'FAMILY' set of photos hanging in the dining room, we decided to hang the older set up in the lounge room.

Well I decided to - as a surprise for Tracey while she was at work today.

Trouble is my tool kit is a little sparse on things like tools. It's lacking a hammer, for example. In fact, it can hardly be called a 'kit' because the tools are kept in the junk draw with assorted pens, calculators, batteries, torches, chargers, recorder, GPS, pegs, sticky tape, door knobs, glue, sharpeners and, showing my age, a Sony walkman.

Let's see, I thought to myself. A couple of screwdrivers. An adjustable thingame. A butter knife. A nut turner. Four retractable measuring tapes. I have lots of measuring tapes because I know it's very important to measure things lots before you do anything. 'Measure twice, cut once.' Only it's inevitably three measures for me because the first and second never seem to match up. Sadly though, there was nothing in the junk drawer to help me hang a few frames.

"What are you doing, Daddy?" asked Master7. He'd obviously heard me making noises in the kitchen and thought there might be food.

Pulling a kid's recorder out of drawer, I answered him with a question of my own. "I don't suppose you know where the hammer is?"

"Um....," he said. My head shot up. He had that look of suddenly being trapped in my headlights.

"You do!"

"Mum says we're not allowed to tell you!" he whined.

"Ah, well lets call her and get her permission," I said, picking up the phone. "Hello Tracey? Daddy here. I need the hammer to put up some pictures. Yes. Yes. No, just the pictures. Who? Ah, okay, I'll get him to fetch it for me, shall I? Great. Okay, love you too." I put the phone back on its cradle and turned to my son. "Mum says it's fine, mate. Just this once. Go grab it for me please."

"I'm not stupid, Dad," Master7 said, shaking his head and walking off. "You didn't talk to Mum." Damn. He's got his mother's smarts.

Thing is, now I knew the hammer was in the house - Tracey hadn't sold it.

I started in Miss17's room. We hardly ever go in there. An hour and several rooms later I had it. My devious wife had hidden it in the mop bucket - like I'd ever have reason to use the mop! Genius.

Only now Tracey was due home in only fifteen minutes. I quickly grabbed one of the measuring tapes and dropped the end behind the lounge. Two small pencil marks followed by a couple of small nails and the F was up. I moved onto the next letter and dropped the tape. Two pencil marks, two nails and I hung the A.

And froze.

The top of the A was ten centimeters below the top of the F.

I squinted down behind the lounge. When I dropped the end of the tape measure when I was doing the F instead of going all the way to the carpet it came to rest on a damn kids toy. Forgot to measure twice, didn't I.

I looked at my watch. Ten minutes.

Quickly weighing up the odds of me managing to correctly measure all six letters so the tops lined up I settled on a new strategy - an arty farty stepped look.

"What a great idea!" Tracey said when she arrived home a few minutes later. "I'd never have thought to do that."

What can I say: I have a gift.

This is how they now hang in the lounge room - very noice.

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The Great Balls Up

When I was about seven my father enrolled me in a local kiddy league team. I'm sure he had visions of watching me plow through the opposition and score tries, giving him the opportunity to turn to other dads and say things like, "that's my boy." Sadly for him, though, I didn't last the season.

I'd be standing in the full back position with the full back, minding my own business, wondering when dad was going to buy me a hotdog, and suddenly the ball would land near me.

Dad says I was always quick to react. I'd be straight over to the ball - hands outstretched as though to pick it up.

The first few times this happened, Dad says he'd get all excited.

'This is it!' he'd think. 'Grab it, son, and run!'

Only I wouldn't. Instead I'd circle the motionless ball, hands still fully outstretched as though to pick it up, but my hands wouldn't come closer to it than two feet. And then the opposition would arrive and score a try.

"Why won't you pick up the ball?" he'd ask, and I'd shrug and eat my hotdog and pretend I didn't know. But I'll tell you why: even at 7, I wasn't stupid. I'd seen what happens when you pick up the ball - the other team comes down the field and beats the crap out of you. Far as I was concerned, they could keep it. I was only in it for the hotdog.

Had I actually more fully participated in the game when I was seven, we might have found out I had a little problem a lot earlier. Because I'm basically blind in one eye my depth perception isn't all it should be, as evidenced by the assortment of fence and automotive paint I've collected over the years on the front and back of my car. As it was, it was only when I once again ventured out onto the footy field, this time instead of hotdogs I was chasing the attention of girls, that we discovered how bad my problem was.

I am virtually blind in one eye, and let's just say living in a 2D world doesn't help on the sporting field. Catching a ball, to pull an example out of the air completely at random, was not easy. And it wasn't like I wasn't trying.

"Here!" I'd yell at my team mate on the field when I was in the open. I'd see him turn and pass. I'd see the ball leave his fingers. I'd know it was coming. I'd prepare, hands out ready to receive...and I'd feel the breath of wind as it passed by my stomach, chest or head. Or worse, slammed into my stomach, chest or head and bounced away. You can only blame the guy passing you the ball so many times. Apparently.

Eventually they stuck me in the scrum where the only balls I had to worry about were the ones my team mates were traumatizing by grabbing a handful of my already tight footy shorts, wrenching and yanking so hard their fingers turned white.

The only sports I was in any way successful with were the ones where there weren't balls. The three r's - rowing, running and reading. (I include reading because I would speed read). And I genuinely loved these sports.

Having said that, and with hindsight being twenty-twenty, I think dad gave up too easily and I perhaps missed an opportunity to be a great sportsman, possibly of international standing.

 If he'd been on his game he would have enrolled me in soccer - not touching the ball with your hands is a really big part of that game and I was a natural at that.

I could have been a star!

GUEST BLOG ON STAY AT HOME MUM - only the most awesome web site on how to afford and enjoy and survive spending time with your kids while they're still cute. Seriously, check it out :D

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Friday, August 24, 2012

I Bloom

From yawn producing
Tracey was going through some old photos on one of our hard-drives - we have several terabytes of photos because a kid can't pass wind in this house without Tracey wanting to capture the moment for posterity.

"What a dreadful photo!" I exclaimed when a particularly nasty one of me crossed the screen. I was yawning on account of it being late and Tracey was keeping me out of bed to help her set up a photo shoot. "Get rid of that."

"I'll fix it for you," said Miss8.

Tracey has been fiddling with photos and making them better for years, with the help of Photoshop. Colours are enhanced and wrinkles removed - guess which one makes her more popular with her clients? More recently Tracey has been showing Miss8 how to use Photoscape, which my daughter loves. exciting edited version
with barely discernible touch ups.
"Okay then," I said to Miss8. If she could do something with this photo, I figured, we might have ourselves a budding genius photo editor on our hands. Although I didn't hold much hope.

A few minutes later she was done.

"What do you think, Daddy?" she asked me.

She's a natural!!

I think there's career potential in this, I really do. I've gone from tired and weary to looking as fresh as a purple daisy. 

"I look fabulous," I told her. Now to get her working on pruning my waste.

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No Strings Attached

Trying to have an afternoon nap when there's a two year old in the house isn't easy, but today Miss2 was showing the classic sign of being tired - saying 'no' to everything and then getting upset when she didn't get it.

In no time at all Tracey had tucked Miss0 into her cot and crawled into our bed with the defiant and contrary Miss2.

"Lie down."

"No," said Miss2, and lay down.

"Shut your eyes."

"No," said Miss2, and shut her eyes.

Eventually Tracey managed to settle Miss2 by stroking her hair. Then my daughter's breathing settled, her little eyes remained shut and so then, finally, did Tracey's.


'What the hell was that?' thought Tracey through a fog of sleep.


Tracey opened her eyes just as the hand crashed down for a third time on her face. SLAP!

And then she realized that it was her own hand.

Miss2 was picking up Tracey's forearm, positioning the hand above Tracey's face and letting go so gravity could do it's thing.

Who says nap time can't be fun.

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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Sand Man Plan

Ever lay in bed and had the feeling something isn't right?

Something woke me. I lay still for a few seconds trying to work out what it was. Nothing. No movement. Not a sound. I opened my eyes-

-and jumped out of my skin! Miss2 was standing in the bed between Tracey and me, still as a statue, staring at me.

"Honey?" I whispered over the sound of my heart thumping frantically against the walls of my chest cavity. "Honey? You want to lie down now?" She didn't move. It was like one of those kids from Children of the Corn. Eventually I had to get up and lie her down manually - she was sleep stalking.

"This has to stop," I told Tracey the next morning. She readily agreed.

"What are you going to do about it?" she asked me.

Damn. I thought I'd just done my bit by pointing the obvious problem out.

"I have the baby to deal with," Tracey rightly pointed out. "You'll need to take care of this."

There have been times in my life where I've considered myself a bit of an insomniac. What rubbish. I was getting loads of sleep compared to this.

I've tried taking Miss2 back to her bed in the wee hours of the night, but she's back next to Mummy within minutes. Some nights she beats me back to our bed.

I've tried sleeping in the lounge room so I can stop her as she comes out of her bedroom, but in PNG I once slept through an air-raid siren which was screaming only three meters from my bed so you can imagine what the chances were of me hearing my little angel pass by on her way to our room.

I've tried coaxing, yelling, silence and pulling my hair out - all to no avail.

So for two nights I've pulled the trundle out and slept beside Miss2. What I really love about our trundle is it's a thin foam mattress on an old spring-based bed on wheels, so when I lie on it it feels like most of my body is actually in direct contact with the floor. Comfy. My plan is she'll have to step and crawl over me to get out of bed, so I'll be able to stop her.

This roadblock technique has been a resounding success in that Miss2 hasn't left her room before daylight, but a failure on the me feeling refreshed in the morning stakes - I'm completely knackered. Tracey, not so much.

"Morning!" she grinned at me yesterday. "That's the best sleep I've had in months! I fed the baby at 2 and that was it. Since then I've had five hours of solid, non-interrupted sleep!"

2am? That would have been about the time Miss2 was attempting to get out of her bed and used my head as a step. Which was about an hour after she dropped a book on my head. Which was about three hours before she started playing with my nose. Which was about an hour before she fell out of bed and landed on top of me. Which was an hour before she jumped into bed with me and used my legs to warm her ice cold feet.

"Aww, you poor darling," said Tracey with absolutely no sympathy at all. "Welcome to my world."

Clearly, considering the whole reason I'm trying to fix Miss2's night time roamings is so I can have more sleep, this approach isn't working. So I've come up with a new strategy.

"Tonight I'm going to try a sleeping tablet," I told Tracey.

"You can't give a two year old a sleeping tablet!" a wide eyed Tracey roared at me.

"Not for her. For me," I explained.

If I can make it from bedtime to sun up without needing to open my eyes I won't care where the hell she's sleeping. Or standing. Or waving her sickle.

Of course, we've got the sanity saving advantage over many parents in this predicament - we've five children older than her who all manage to go to sleep and wake up in their own beds. We know it's a faze and is going to get better. Thank goodness.

This post is a Guest Blog on TWO POINT FIVE KIDS
Also available on Facebook at TWO POINT FIVE KIDS
In case you're wondering, the 'point five' is her husband :)

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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

We help a go-getter of a woman in Bolivia

This week we had some payments come in late (they're usually in our KIVA account around the 15th/16th) so I've added $8 so I can lend out another $25 and gone looking for someone to help. Which didn't take long.

Sarah was actually the very first loan available. I knew I was going to lend to her the moment I saw her photo - any woman who can BBQ gets my vote :)

Here's what her KIVA application said:

"Sarah is 31 years old and is single. She makes a living selling ‘chorizo’ (seasoned pork sausage) sandwiches in the most populous street market in the city of El Alto. Her products are very sought after. 

This loan is her first with the institution. Sarah is going to use this loan to buy furnishings for the eatery that she is going to start for her business. Her reason for applying for this loan is that she wants to provide greater convenience to her customers and to produce in greater quantity her products and increase her sales and therefore her earnings. She is very interested in the way in which Kiva works; it seems very noble to her. 

Sarah faces challenges in her business such as continuing to study in the university and also she helps her little brother who depends on her. Sarah is a very responsible person as she has to take care of her brothers. Her wish is to become a professional and have her own restaurant and help her little brother until he becomes a professional."

What I love especially about this way of helping people is my dollar goes a long way. I help someone and they pay back my money. Then I lend that same money to the next person. For a small amount of money up front I can go on helping people for years. As I see it I'm recycling my charity dollars :) We can even withdraw the repaid dollars if we want.

If you want to take KIVA out for a test run they have a 'trial' offer at the moment - you can join and lend someone else's money to someone of your choice so you can see how the whole thing works. Then, if you think it's something you'd like to be involved in, you can add your own cash to the cause.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Gaul of My Son!

Obelix is the dashing fellow in the stripey blue pants.
The baton is being passed.

Or in this case the magic potion.

Now the kids are in the habit of reading in bed for fifteen minutes to half an hour before lights out they've been plowing through the books.  It seems almost every week we're buying Master7 & Miss8 a new one to share - Andy Griffiths has been extremely popular with both of them.

With nothing left to read and the weekly shop five days away, I pulled out one of my treasured possessions for Master7 to look at - an Asterix book with three great stories in it which Tracey bought me a couple of years ago for my birthday.

He ate it up.

Several times over the weekend I found him sitting on his bed reading and grinning.

But tonight: disaster!

"I've finished," he said sadly.

"You can grab some Asterix books from your school library," I told him. "There's heaps of them. I'm sure they'll have some."

"They don't," he said. Apparently he's already looked. I've suggested he ask the librarian to help him with his search.

"But no worries if they don't have any," I told him. "I know the local library has them so we'll head down this week and grab a couple." This seemed to cheer him up. I know it's a comic, but it's such a clever and funny comic. Plus it's full of educational stuff - like how Romans are crazy and nothing says 'party' like a roasted boar.

Reading has been such a constant companion to me since I first learned the alphabet. When I was in primary school I would bike it to the local library every Saturday and come home with as many books as my library card would let me. Back then, in grades 4 to 7, it was Alfred Hitchcock's Three Investigators who I most remember coveting.

"Who's your favourite character?" I asked Master7 in the kitchen tonight while he grabbed a sip of water before lights out.

"Obelix," he said after a considered pause. "He reminds me of you, Dad," he grinned, then ran off to bed.

Aw, that's so swee.....

"Hey! Come back here you little bugger," I called after him. "I'm not fat!"

I'm big boned.

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Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Bright Side of Life

For some reason Tracey and I started singing the chorus of Monty Pythons 'Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life' yesterday. Of course, with my whistle-impediment, I resembled a sprinkler when we got to the catchy riff. But it was fun and the kids were beaming at us.

"Want to see the whole song?" I asked them. A few minutes later we had Youtube up on a screen and the Eric Idle was singing those wonderful and clever lyrics.

When I grew up my parents introduced me to Bill Cosby, Ray Stevens and Wes Harrison. I'll be gifting my kids Monty Python.

After watching the vid through once we went on with our day...until I walked into the kitchen to find Tracey beaming and giggling.

"What's up?" I asked her.

"Stick your head out the door and have a listen to your son," Tracey advised me.

Soon I was grinning too.

Master7 was playing on the balcony and singing. Not a whole song, but just one line over and over.

"Life's a piece o' shit when you look at it," he'd sing, and then chuckle away to himself before singing it again. Of all the lines in the song to pick up I might have known it would be that one (personally I've always been fond of  'If life seems jolly rotten there's something you've forgotten'). I don't know how long this had gone on before I started listening, but it was a good couple of minutes I heard.

"Are you saying a swear word?" I asked him.

"No," he said grinning. "It's in the song so I'm singing it." He's like his mum, he can always win me over with logic.

"So you like Monty Python?"

"Yeah," he grinned. "They're really funny."

I can't wait till he's a bit older and we can watch the whole movie together - I suspect he's going to find the bit about Biggus Dickus to be HILARIOUS.

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Saturday, August 18, 2012



I'll say it again, cause it's central to setting up the tone for today's post.


We haven't been out much lately and the kids are displaying the classic symptoms of cabin fever - irritability, crankiness, moodiness and sudden weight gain.

Okay the last one might just be me.

On Thursday night, when I had to duck out to pick up some fruit and deliver boxes to a friend, a couple of my kids demanded they be allowed to come with me.  Miss5 was especially persistent, even though I tried to explain I wasn't going anywhere exciting.

"But I'm only-"

"Take me!!" she yelled.

"But I'm not-" I was going to say 'I'm not going anywhere exciting, but she didn't care - goddammit, she was going!

"Take meeeee!!" yelled Miss5, cutting me off again.

She was standing beside the car before I'd even found the keys.

Then, when I was delivering the bananas and apples, the penny dropped she wasn't going to be allowed out of the car at all. She'd assumed, I assume, we were going shopping. This did not sit well.

"We came here for nothing! This is not fun!" she called out from the back seat. I guess I understand the frustration behind being locked up for so long and then, with the outside world so close, finding out it's not to be. The oddest thing she yelled at me was, "Bronze medal!" which Tracey later explained as meaning I had failed to win. Nice to see something from the Olympics had struck a cord with my 'angel'.  Of course, understanding didn't stop me from admonishing her loud mouthed little butt for being so rude. But what this did illustrate was how badly we needed to get out.

So after weeks of being housebound through work commitments and illness, or more recently suspected but not actual illness, today was to be spent away from home.

Last night Tracey and I discussed what we might do.

"We could drive to the coast with the bikes," I suggested. The kids love riding the bike paths around Tin Can Bay and it's relatively flat and safe to do so.

"Dad has the trailer," Tracey reminded me.

"We could go Ten Pin Bowling," I suggested. It's always fun. On top of the bowling they have an air hockey table and computer games, which we let the kids put a few dollars through. Plus, and I can't emphasis this enough, they have a bar.

"That would be fun, but it's still kind of indoors," said Tracey. "We've had enough indoors. Anyway the weather has been beautiful this week so we should do something which doesn't involve a roof."

I thought some more. "We could go to the duck ponds," I suggested. "The kids love it. Although we always end up there."

A look I knew too well appeared on Tracey's face - she'd had an idea.

"What about a park crawl?" she suggested. "Like a pub crawl but without the need for buckets. We'll work our way around town, taking the kids to every swing and slide we can find and spend up to half an hour at each."

We put it to the kids - they loved the idea! They could rate their favourites and we might find a gem or two we didn't know about.

So this morning we loaded the car up with nappies, drinks and sunscreen and headed off. We managed two parks.

Unfortunately, as we headed away from the second park, our car started to make some unfamiliar noises.

"Keep going," I told Tracey. "It'll be right."

"You're telling me you think the car can walk it off?" she asked me with a hint, it must be said, of rude disbelief. Her father, an ex-RACQ call out bloke, sided with Tracey - our car isn't going anywhere until our mechanic rummages around under the bonnet.


Maybe I've earned the Silver, with the whole hour we spent at the parks today on swings and kicking the ball, but I suspect, given the sounds my car is making, the only Gold on offer will be be the stuff exchanging hands between me and my mechanic.

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Herbed Scotch Fillet

Last night on Better Homes & Gardens we watched Karen Martini cook up a great looking steak dish which, for once, had less than 20 ingredients, most of which we had in or around the house.

"I think I'll make that one day," I told Tracey. One day came sooner than we expected due to a disaster of a morning (more on that later). Plus the steak was on special at the local IGA for $8.99/kg!

A great thing about this dish is it took longer for me to duck down to the shops for the few things we needed (steak, boccincini, yoghurt, chives) than it did to prepare and cook.

You will need:

1/2 red onion, finely sliced
Pinch sugar
Salt & pepper to season
1 1/2 cups frozen peas
4 tablespoons olive oil
Scotch fillet steaks
2 tablespoons plain yoghurt
12 bocconcini balls, peeled into arty strips
1/4 bunch of parsley, chopped fine
1/4 bunch of chives, chopped
1/4 bunch basil, leaves torn

We didn't have a lot of basil in the garden so we added some rocket and baby spinach to the salad.

Mix the salt, pepper and sugar with the onion and set aside (softens the onion). Boil your peas, drain and also set aside. While BBQ is heating up, brush the (room temperature) steaks with half the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 2-3 minutes either side, turning only once. Set aside to rest for 2 minutes, then cut into strips. Mix the herbs and peas together and squeeze a little lemon juice over them, then roughly combine remaining olive oil and yoghurt in a separate bowl, adding the bocconcini before tossing to coat. Plate up steak, greens and dressing, add a wedge of lemon and tuck in.

We added a simple whole potato and tomato to the dish.

Here's the vid of Karen Martini we watched last night. Give it a gander and tell me it doesn't look fantastic, I dare you :)

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Feelgood Mint Potatoes

Even though I know this weather won't last the glorious sun this week reminded me of BBQ's and summer, so I thought the side dish I'm most often asked for when we're firing up the hot plate. Miss17 requests these at her birthday dinners and they'e one of the first things I ever cooked for Tracey from The Backyard Barbecue Cookbook.

You will need:

Potatoes, medium size, 10
Butter, 60g
Chicken stock, powdered, 3 teaspoons
Milk, warmed, 2 tablespoons
Mint, fresh, 1/2 cup, finely chopped
Shallots, 2, finely chopped
Lemon juice, 1/4 cup
Cheese, 1/2 cup, grated
Curry powder, 1 teaspoon

Cook potatoes in their jackets. I use the microwave (prick them with fork, high for 12 minutes +/-). Allow them to cool a bit, because you'll be handling them. Cut them in half and scoop most the insides into a bowl. To bowl, add butter, lemon juice, chicken stock powder and milk. Mix until smooth then add mint and shallots.

Combine cheese and curry powder separately and set aside.

Place the skins onto a baking tray and start filling them up with the potato mix. Try really hard not to eat the potato mix as you do this because you'll run out it. I usually toss a few of the dodgy looking skins - ones that have torn. There's always a couple.

Top each of the potato halves with curried cheese then cook in oven in moderate heat until cheese has melted.

Mint Potatoes make a really nice side at a BBQ or buffet lunch. I'd like to think they'd make nice leftovers, but we've never had any left over, so I can't say for sure.

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Everything Old Is New Again

After a week of being trapped at home with sick kids, Tracey was in need of some serious retail therapy. So was I, but someone had to look after the kids. I thought we'd rock off but Tracey was out the door with the keys before I'd counted to two.

Three hours after she ducked off for some 'basics' she arrived home with the back seat full of glorious purchases and started handing out goodies like Santa at a work Christmas party.

I expected milk, but Tracey bought the whole cow.

Among the things my wife came home with were three potted plants, window putty, a ceramic fairy and a spatula.

Sadly, there was no milk to be heard of.

"Here!" she said, handing me a huge bag. "I bought you some clothes."

She sure did. There were half a dozen pullover type tops in there, although clearly Tracey hadn't been clothes shopping for me in about 20 kg because everything except for one top was way too small.

This one item which fitted, a sporty red tracksuit type top, reminded me of the sort of thing I was wearing when I was at primary school over twenty five years ago - or over thirty five years ago but what's a decade between friends. My new retro red top started this season on the shelves at $39 but Tracey snapped it up for a miserly $10.

"I can't believe they struggled to sell this," I said to Tracey. I'm always surprised when the sort of designs I grew up with leap out of the opportunity shops and onto the hangers in fashionable stores.

"They had matching pants," Tracey informed me eagerly. Oh please, no.

"Ooooo, sounds nice," I said with no enthusiasm at all. No it didn't sound nice, it sounded like she was trying to get me beat up. This is the sort of outfit I expect the geriatrics are wearing behind the closed doors of the retirement home up the road. "Do they come in parachute silk?"

The real problem with daddy fashion in my house is everything looks great at the shops with a red discount sticker on it. Not that Tracey buys me stuff just cause it has a discount sticker. Oh no. She likes to wait until they're discounting the discounted stuff before she considers how badly something will clash with my existing wardrobe. I like to think she's dressing me down to keep me safe from loose women, but when I suggested this she laughed at me to the point she was gasping for air, so maybe not.

But I insist on looking on the bright side, and excitingly, if this red tacky tracky top from my primary school days is fashionable now, then I foresee in about another five years the things from when I was at high school might become fashionable too.

And by things I of course mean me.

This post is a guest blog on The Momma Diaries website :)
Pop over and check out this amazing woman's blog  :)

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Hot Cross Buns

Having finished dinner, we were sitting around the dining table with out guests chatting and having a drink when Miss8 asked the sort of thing you never want them to ask with company in the house.

"Want to hear me play my violin?"

I wouldn't have blamed them if they'd run from the house screaming but, being top quality house guests, they nodded eagerly and Miss8 raced off to her bedroom to grab her instrument.

"How long has she been playing?" our guests inquired.

Ah, there's the problem, I thought to myself, they're expecting some sort of child prodigy.

"Weeks," I told them. "We haven't found a decent spot to hide the damn thing yet."

In fact our hiding spots have been so bad the other day Tracey was cleaning the kitchen when she heard the sweet dulcet sounds of a bow being drawn back and forth across the strings. She stopped for a moment to listen and decided there had been some fantastic improvement since the previous week...after which she tore through the house like spooked horse because she'd all of a sudden realized Miss8 was at school so the little person playing the borrowed instrument was actually Miss2.

I would love to be able to play an instrument myself but when my primary school attempted to teach me to play the recorder I realized even at that very young age I have stumpy fingers, no natural talent and no patience, so it's never eventuated.  I sing and I write my own melodies and lyrics on long trips in the car. It's enough. Tracey, who sits beside me in the passenger seat, might say it's more than enough. But I really want my kids to have the opportunity to create music, so I guess risking friendships by listening to spontaneous concerts in the kitchen is a small price to pay.

In no time at all Miss8 was standing, beaming, before us, bashing out Hot Cross Buns. I've never heard of this tune and actually thought she was playing Three Blind Mice at first, but you know I looked it up on Youtube after our guests had left (and the kids were in bed) and I was pleasantly surprised to find her rendition was recognizably similar.

Can I confess something? I'm more than a little bit proud of my little girl. She's already better at playing an instrument than her old man.

And from what Tracey told me, Miss2 might already better than all of us.

This is what it sounded like, only much slower and with more hair

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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Playing with dolls

Two coffees, two and a half hours and 170kms of sticking to the limit and the show was to start in fifteen minutes.

"I think we're lost," I said to Miss17. I mean, I knew we were in the right area, but I had no idea where to park the car. "We can't be late. We can't be late," I mumbled like a mantra. We seemed to drive for several blocks before I saw a big blue P pointing us underground.

Back up on the surface and I reassessed our situation.

"I think we're lost," I said to Miss17. So many big concrete and glass buildings!

Almost immediately my phone rang. I fumbled for a few seconds trying work out how to answer it before my eldest daughter took the technologically too-advanced-for-dumb-old-day thing off me. Master20 was calling. He and his mate, Mac, were waiting for us and worried because the show was about to start and we had the tickets. They really didn't want to be late either.

"There they are!" Miss17 said, and sure enough the boys were on the other side of the road waving at us.

Shortly we'd entered the building, run up several flights of stairs, run down several flights of stairs, we finally stood in front of the entrance.

The reason we were all so worried about being late wasn't because we didn't want to miss any of the show, but rather because Jeff Dunham has a reputation for giving anyone who isn't seated for the entire show a starring role on his next dvd. If you want an example, skip forward to 10.50 minutes on the Youtube vid below.

Isn't he hilarious?!! The older kids and I have been watching these Youtube vids and falling over laughing for years. When we heard Jeff was coming to Brisvegas we immediately organised to go together.

We finally sat in our seats, safe from ridicule, our backs against the very back wall - just because we booked quickly doesn't mean we didn't buy the cheapest seats they had. Seriously, if I laughed too loud I hit the back of my head on the wall.

"I thought he'd be bigger," I said to Master20, squinting when Jeff Dunham appeared on stage. Fortunately there was a huge screen behind him. "It's just like watching him on Youtube," I said to Miss17, "only I can't pause and backtrack if I miss a line."

Jeff Dunham is a fantastic guy - he's nice and decent. His puppets, on the other hand, say some awfully racist and derogatory stuff.  But they're fair about it - they knock everyone. He's hilarious!

After the show we went for coffee and a chat and eventually said goodbye to Master20 and Mac and started our long trek home.

Tracey had given Miss17 very clear instructions for the trip home. "You're to make sure your dad doesn't fall asleep," she'd told her, and Miss17 took the role very seriously - until we hit the highway.

I had a fair idea she was going to renege on her promise when she asked me how to make her seat recline.

On the way home, to amuse myself, I tried to work out how ventriloquists do it - you know, talk without their lips moving. All I got out of my mouth were odd sounding vowel sounds. I have a two year old who is easier to understand. Plus I'm pretty sure my lips were flapping about like a flag in a storm.

Of course, the fact I can' t even whistle kind of prepped me for my inevitable failure. When I attempt to whistle I sound like a snake with whatever the opposite of a lisp is.

So we arrived home after 1am and I managed five hours of broken sleep last night so I'm off to bed early. If you get a chance to go see Jeff Dunham I recommend you go for it. Although if you're running late I recommend you tear up the tickets and watch the show on Youtube.

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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Houston, we have a problem

A little confusion over which hemisphere we live in saw me getting the kids all excited about seeing a shooting star spectacle from the driveway. Turns out the Perseids is as hard to see from Queensland as the Southern Cross is from Alaska.

Still, this didn't stop Tracey from setting the alarm for 2am last night and promptly kicking me out of bed when it went off.

I stumbled my way outside and looked up. Nothing. Literally, nothing. Cloud cover was such I'm sure it resembled the planetside view of the sky from Douglas Adam's planet Kricket (obscure reference, I know - but well worth researching if you've never heard of him. Although I should warn you the planet Kricket doesn't really come up until the third book in the five book trilogy).

Anywho, there were no stars, let alone stars packing heat, so I crawled back to bed. Crawled, because I have no night vision and cracked my shin on Miss0's rocker on my way through the dining room.

I'd promised the kids I'd wake them if there was anything at all to see, so they were disappointed this morning. That is to say they grumbled at me a lot.

So tonight, after dinner, baths and teeth, we turned off all the lights and walked up to the driveway and stood looking at the sky.

Actually, that's such an oversimplification of what happened tonight it must count as a big fat lie. We eventually got too the drive, it's true, but not without a fair bit of snapping, whinging and some tears.

Do you know, despite my lack of night vision it has never occurred to me my children might be lumbered with the same curse. They are.

"Daaaaaaad!" screamed Master7. "Where are you? I can't see!"

As the crow flies I was perhaps three meters in front of him.

Miss5 was similarly blind. "Pick me up," she demanded, facing somewhere to my right with her hands outstretched.

Eventually, with Miss2 and Miss5 in my arms, and Master7 and Miss8 each clutching a handful of my pullover, we walked up the five steps towards the drive. I'd cleverly sent our dog, Jazz, ahead. She's a Samoyed and, when not spending time under our house, perfectly white, meaning I could aim for the white blur.

Finally, we looked up.

The sky was filled with twinkling pinpricks of white. It was beautiful.

"You know what stars are?" I asked my kids. I believe in always taking an opportunity to show how much smarter I am than their mother. By 'always' I of course mean 'whenever she's not within earshot'.

"Fairy lights," said Miss5.

"No, they're stars. Although they do look like fairy lights, don't they? But they're definitely stars. So what are stars?"

"Shooting stars," said Miss5.

"No, shooting stars aren't actually stars," I told her. Already I could feel the conversation slipping away. "They're often just dust or rocks. Anyone else? I'll give you a hint. How far away are they, do you think?"

"Well, they're closer than last night," said Master7.

"What do you mean?" I was lost.

"Last night we couldn't see them because they were above the clouds," he explained.

"No they're not...well, yes they were above the clouds last night. That bits true. But they're the same distance tonight, only there are no clouds." It was about this time I started to really crave a beer. "Come on, guys. I thought we'd be back inside by now. The Big Bang Theory starts soon. Look, even though they look really small, they're really, really big. You saw one today! Now what do you think a star is?"

Suddenly Miss8 was very excited. She knew the answer.

"A tooth! A tooth!" she shouted. Oh dear.

Well I can think of one book which needs to be donated to Lifeline before it ruins the education of all my kids - that stupid Tooth Fairy book which tells the kids their baby teeth are used to make stars instead of landfill. Although Master7 just lost his tooth, so I can see where the confusions come in.

"How'd that go?" Tracey asked me after the kids and I had shuffled our way back into the house. It took a moment before I realized she was laughing at me. "You teach them some star smarts, Mr Brainiac?" Looks like the stairs weren't the only thing I couldn't see - Tracey was out there somewhere in the shadows as well.

"Bugger shooting stars," I said to my darling wife as I reached for a beer. "Shoot me."

My other recent blind as a bat blog post

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