Consumptions

 

Tess and I have taken a podcast hiatus for the indefinite future, but I realised that I miss blathering on about the things I've been reading, listening to and watching lately. So instead, I'm going to periodically bore you all to death with the random things I've been consuming.

A book...

Or two, or three. I just finished Caroline Overington's The One Who Got Away. Her books are much-hyped, and she is an excellent journalistic writer, but I was underwhelmed. Also on the finished pile: Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey (excellent, like an Aussie To Kill a Mockingbird), Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng (okay, not groundbreaking but suitable captivating) and Modern Lovers by Emma Straub (fun easy read about maintaining adult friendships). Up next is Clem Ford's Fight Like a Girl and the new Man Booker winner The Sellout, both of which look excellent.

A product recommendation...

MAC lipstick in Mangrove. It's a good orange-red for ladies who look weird with pinky-red lippie (me, I'm talking about me) and literally lasts all bloody day.

A show...

Catastrophe. Several people have recommended it to me lately, and it is SO GOOD. Like literally so funny I have to pause it until I stop laughing. Also, the fashion is excellent, if you are into that.

An article...

How To Invest In Yourself. I'm planning on bringing back the birthday list and this article has some good tips on actually getting things done.

A thing I've written...

Dealing with negative feedback

A podcast...

The Real Thing, an Aussie podcast by the ABC featuring stories from the 'real' Australia

A forget-me-not...

Archie was talking to Mum about my uncle, who passed away about 13 years ago.

A: Is he a skeleton?

M: Well, maybe.

A: Because skeletons are really good drummers.

M: Oh.

and

Archie walks past Jed and brushes his shoulder.

Jed: *dramatically throws himself on the floor.* ARCHIE HURT ME! You a BUM, Archie!

Archie: *looks at me, rolls his eyes* Sometimes brothers are crazy, mum.

7 things I am doing instead of writing my book

1. Cleaning the house. Procrasti-cleaning. Rearranging the pantry, catching sight of my laptop and feeling guilty about the book, then distracting myself by organising my wardrobe. 2. Writing this blog post. Also, writing pretty much anything that isn't my book. I have finished an article that is due in mid-November. This never happens.

3. Baking chocolate banana cake, apple muffins sourdough bread, lasagne and homemade pasta.

3. Crocheting like a boss.

4. Watching Unreal.

5. Reading a LOT. Surely this counts, right? And actually reading with the view to learn, so lots of taking notes and highlighting passages. Lots of research for the book, not a lot of actual writing of the book.

6. Buying books about writing and using Australia Post as an excuse not to write the book, because I can't possible start writing if I haven't read Bird by Bird yet, right?

7. Playing play dough with my kids. They have benefitted greatly from my epic procrasination.

Writing a book is harder than I thought, you guys. I have done about 5,000 out of the target of 80,000. I am aiming to write a shitty draft then refine it later, but it's even hard to write a shitty draft. Two children, a job and too many commitments does not make for a productive writer.

But! I am attempting to let things go in order to write. I want my legacy to be a bloody book, not the fact that I was always up to date with the washing and dutifully scraped weetbix off the table every day. Even if no one reads it. Especially if no one reads it.

I'm writing a book.

Deciding to write a book is a culmination of lots of pieces falling into place: turning thirty and realising that there is no right time to do it; growing more confident in my ability as a writer; feeling that I have enough life experience to write with deeper insights; and wanting to leave a legacy for my children. Even if this book remains hidden in a folder on my desktop forever and never sees the light of day, I'll at least know that I've done it. God, writing fiction is hard work though. It stirs up every shred of self doubt that I have (I'm actually a terrible writer, no one will want to read this, Helen Garner would be horrified) and has become totally all encompassing. I've written plenty of journalistic work, memoir, essays and instructional writing, but never a full length novel so the pacing, structure and narrative is all new to me, and I don't like the feeling of not knowing what I'm doing!

I have been devouring books in a similar style, so lots of Tim Winton, Helen Garner, Liane Moriarty. My writing is quite Australian, female and literary, so I am paying more attention to the details and structure of my favourite books. Not to copy them but to learn from the masters. I'm highlighting turns of phrase and making notes on dialogue and syntax.

I am aiming for 80,000 words, which seems like a good length for a first draft. I am trying to get a draft down as fast as possible, then the real work begins in the revision. The editing is my favourite part of writing: polishing and refining, shifting sentences around and often, removing language that is too flowery and cliched. I'm not ready to talk about the content (I'm still at the point of slamming the laptop shut when Lee walks near anywhere near me when I'm writing) but it is Australian literary fiction about a young family. It's not autobiographical by any means, but there is a married couple, and there is a baby, so obviously there are parallels there with my own life.

I just ordered a pile of books on writing that I've been meaning to read for a while: Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird and Stephen King's On Writing, plus Cate Kennedy's novel The World Beneath and short story collection Dark Roots. I dug out my old copy of John Marsden's Everything I Know About Writing which I bought at thirteen after doing a writing camp with him in Romsey. It's good to get a local perspective.

My rough aim is to enter the Vogel's Literary Award for an unpublished manuscript. I'm under no pretensions of winning, but it is for authors under 35 so it gives me five years to complete the damn book. Ideally I would finish it before then, but hey, I'm finally cutting myself some slack.

 

 

 

Monday.

IMG_9329 Jed is stuck in the doona cover. He and Archie are both laughing hysterically as Jed flails around, a tiny body stuck in a huge polka dot bag. “No help me! Jed okay!” as he clearly is not okay.

--

Archie turns four tomorrow. He wants me to sing him to sleep, so we snuggle under the (aforementioned) doona and curl our fingers together. I start with It’s a Small World, which I sang for hours and hours when he was a tiny baby, slowly sure that I was destroying both of us. He never slept well. Even now, he bends into me with sleepy eyes, but still wriggling and jiggling his legs. “I am very very tired but my body won’t sleep.” I understand that feeling, of exhaustion tipping into jittery wakefulness. We do some deep breathing as I rub his back, calling sleep in.

--

I eat baked chicken by the glow of the computer, shoveling and not tasting, but filling my hunger for words and news and stories and people.

--

There is a black wallaby in our front yard. It stays stock still as the boys yell out to it. “Wobbily! Do you have a baby in your pocket!” It turns and flees back down the hill to the river, bouncing comically through the scrub.

--

Someone has plastered the bridge and the roundabout with election campaign posters, or rather, anti-campaign posters. I feel a bubble of annoyance: surely this place, of all places, is above all that. I like to filter my news and thus my outrage.

--

We are going to Bali on Saturday. I sit in front of the heater wearing three layers as I pack the boy’s gear: three shorts, three t-shirts, a huge bottle of sunscreen, thongs, hats. I only have one decent bikini; it might be time to accept that I am 30 and have birthed two children and get a one piece. But my rising feminist streak wants to wear a goddamn bikini until I am 80 and a wrinkling, sagging old broad.

I wrote a thing: Five common fears and how to deal with them

God knows creative types are more prone to mental health issues, amiright?!  Except maybe Beyonce, although she probably falls less under the category of 'Creative Type' and more under 'Goddess from another planet'. And who knows, maybe she's popping the anti-anxiety meds like the rest of us. Anyway, small business owners, creative people, hell, just WOMEN have a lot of shite to deal with, and the negative thoughts (AKA middle-of-the-night-fears that cause sleeplessness and existential angst) can come thick and fast.

After years (literally, like 10+ years) of seeing counsellors on and off, and a healthy addiction to books that fall into the 'Personal Growth' section, I have gathered some hot tips on how to deal when you can't shake the negativity.

More, here! And if you are a creative human who identifies as a female, consider joining the Creative Women's Circle. It is awesome. I am on the board. They do good things.

xx

The one where I got pneumonia

Me, 22, in Turkey. With dreadlocks. I am having a one woman pity party today. I have pneumonia in my left lung. (which sounds much more dramatic than it actually is - the reality is just heaps of coughing and an achey chest), I have an extremely messy house/car/life at the moment, caught conjunctivitis in my right eye and have run out of tea. Drama.

But! The kids are at kinder and I have just got back from the doctors and am now drinking some god-awful ginger and turmeric concoction which literally tastes like dirt but is supposed to make me better, am loaded up on antibiotics and staying in bed for the next three hours until it's kinder pickup time. And I am going to HEAL this stupid lung with the sheer power of my mind, and modern science.

I'm also working on healing a whole heap of other shit: perfectionism, this food crap (always), the cult of busy, the need to have a Design Files-worthy house at all times. We are going to Bali in three weeks and my Bali body will look much like my current body: a pale size 12 sack of breath and blood. That sounds gross, right? But bodies are literally just a big ol' sack of bones and organs and mucous, which we drag around and abuse and prod and ignore. Our bodies create life and people and dreams and then cop flack for not looking like they did when we were 16. I'm never going to be all 'my stretch marks are empowering!' because I'm slathering the vitamin E cream like the next thirty-year-old mother of two, but jeez, I wish I appreciated this bag of bones more when I was 22 and jumping off a boat into the ocean in southern Turkey, or spending three weeks on a beach towel in Zanzibar, or meeting my future husband when I was 20 and wearing my mum's engagement dress. I had a huge blister on my toe which was bleeding profusely and preeeetty gross. He didn't care. Because when you are falling for someone, you accept their blood and gore, right? Maybe part of accepting yourself is accepting your own blood and gore, the phlegmy lungs and start enjoying the forced recuperation from the busyness.

Anyway, I'm back to watching Broad City and coughing like a 75-year-old smoker. And washing down Big Pharma with some ayurvedic turmeric juice. Whatever works, right?

 

 

 

A realistic bucket list

SONY DSCI have lots of lists of things that I want to do, or that I will do one day. Outlines for books that I haven't written, sketches of houses I'll never build, patterns for clothes I'll never make. I used to make a list of things on my birthday every year that I wanted to achieve by my next birthday, and it was an awesome way to make sure I stayed intentional and focussed. I never want to wake up one day and be 85, and think holy shit, what have I even done, you know?! I like the idea of making goals or plans, and just freaking making them happen. So life doesn't just drift on by... Anyway, I have made a rough list of things that I want to do in the next ten-ish years. Some of these are big, some are little, but I'm going to make an effort to get them all done.

In no particular order...

Write a really good book.

Obviously, as someone who has been in some form of paid writing gig since I was 18 but has only just begun calling herself a writer, I have always wanted to write a book. I know I can do it if I make it actually happen, it's just a matter of prioritising and focus.

Grow heaps of our own veggies and fruit.

I have gotten VERY into gardening lately (living on a couple of barren acres with heaps of water and potential will do that) and look forward to the day when my veggie garden is killing it and I can make a whole meal that I grew myself.

Go on a bike riding holiday with the kids.

We really want to take them riding along the Danube, or the Mekong, or the Mississippi, or basically any cool river. I reckon they will need to be at least 10 and 12 to fully enjoy it, so I'll start saving now for the trip in 2025.

Get really strong.

I don't mean fit, I mean strong. I want to get strong enough to kick down a door if necessary. Twice-weekly pilates probably won't cut it, so one day I want to concentrate on getting really freaking buff.

Buy art.

I own heaps and heaps of art. Prints, original works, reproductions. But I really want to buy an original piece of Aboriginal art. I always scout galleries whenever I get the opportunity and am just waiting to find a piece that makes me weak at the knees.

Get to zero debt. 

Including mortgages, credit cards, and cars. Totally doable if we go gangbusters. We don't actually have any real debt except the house, so will focus on hammering the repayments over the next few years.

 

 

 

Things I Am Loving

   

Egyptian Magic Face Cream

I bought this stuff from Costco, because that’s how I roll, and it really is magic. My skin is insanely dry, and this stuff is basically pure olive oil with some weird magic bee propolis extract thrown in. It’s all melty and lovely on my skin, and definitely stops the flakiness. Plus the packaging looks cool.

Indoor plants from Aldi

Who knew? I love everything about Aldi (Australian made/grown! No additives! Extremely cheap!) but occasionally they have indoor plants, and the quality is great. I picked up a couple of Magic Bean plants, some indestructible Zanzibar Gems and a philodendron for about $8 each. My house is slowly becoming a jungle.

Aesop Shine Hair Oil

My lovely book club ladies bought me an Aesop set thing for my 30th, plus this magic hair oil stuff. It smells SO GOOD that I keep just sniffing it whenever I go in the bathroom. All cardamom and orange. Yum. Obviously I will be keeping the bottles and refilling them with Pears to keep up the illusion of fanciness.

 

The library

I go through stages with the library. Because I read mostly on my Kindle, I tend to just buy ebooks, but then I also love reading a bit of non-fiction. Cookbooks, gardening books, books about knights and dragons for Archie, books about dogs and cats for Jed (current obsessions) – the library is so ace for all that. Plus, it’s free! What else in society is there like it? Nothing. Go to your library.

Planning kid’s birthday parties

The boys turn two and four in a couple of months and there has been much discussion about the cake, the invitation, the guests, the food, the decorations… We like to keep it pretty low key and old school (no face painting or magicians here) but the kids both love to study The Book and change their mind every 10 minutes.

Musings

6am. Archie bolts out of his bedroom, scratching the sleep out of his eyes. He slams his bedroom door with such ferocity that the picture frames rattle. “I’m so hungry, mum. I was just thinking about having weet bix with yoghurt instead of milk. Is that funny? Or not?” 9am. Jed is refusing shoes. He is full of rage, tears and snot and fury smearing his cherubic face into a snarl. I throw three pairs into the car and tell him a complicated story about Grandpa and motorbikes as I wrestle him into the carseat. He looks sadly out the window as we cross the bridge, still sobbing. “No ducks, mum.”

10am. The goat in our front yard nibbles the patch of Christmas lilies. We eyeball each other as I scull lukewarm tea on the deck. She uses her horn to scratch her matted fur, then turns her back and saunters down the hill.

12pm. I remember a conversation with the old owners of our house as I clamber up the hill to the washing line. “Snakes everywhere, ‘specially when it starts warming up. We found them in the compost bin, under the car. I stepped outside one day and a big tiger snake wrapped himself around my leg.” We laugh together but I feel cold as I scan the ground.

1pm. The program I use to do our business accounts is frozen. I slyly open up trashy websites and scroll through endless beauty advice. I contemplate dyeing my hair again, or eyelash extensions. Instead, I find a tube of hand cream in my bag and slather it on my dry, garden-worn knuckles.

3pm. I hear Jed calling me from the carpark as I walk up to kinder. “MUM’S CAR. Hi Mum. MUM!” He points frantically at all his friends, his teachers. His favourite ball. Showing me his day.

4.30pm. Archie is following me through the garden, holding the end of a hose. He is obsessed with rescue vehicles, outer space and knights. He pores over the birthday cake book. “I want the swimming pool for my party day, and the castle for my actual birthday, mum, okay?”

6pm. I clean the kitchen while the boys and their dad empty the bath of water, one splash at a time. Weetbix from this morning is cemented to the floor. I scratch my nails into it, then have a go with the Chux. “You could render a house with fucking Weetbix!”, I yell to Lee, not for the first time.

7.15pm. Archie and I lay in his bed, telling stories of knights who fly space rockets to rescue aliens. He smells of sweat and dinner. I pretend to tickle him but take a deep inhale behind his ear, my hand on his round belly.

8.30pm. I lay on my bed, idly scrolling through instagram. Other people’s kids. Impossibly clean rooms. Green smoothies. I wander into the kitchen and make sultana toast smeared thick with butter.

10pm. I shove my earplugs in and mutter “goodnight, honey. Love ya.” to Lee. His response is muffled but he pats me on the bum and we hook our feet together, facing away from each other as the twin glow from our Kindles joins the moonlight, and the world retreats into inertia.

 

 

 

Lately...

2016-04-01 08.48.16So, we have had a huge month. We moved house on Good Friday, immediately all got gastro, then a week later I hosted a huge party for my 30th birthday. What a start to the year, amiright? It has been beyond hectic and I feel like things will hopefully start slowing down soon. Or not. My mind is chockers so consider this post a brain dump (I actually hate that term because DUMP is never a good choice of word).

  • Jed is sort of toilet training and is determined to do wees standing up. He is one year old and about three feet tall so it's not really working for him. Cute though.
  • I got my nails done for my birthday and they are this gel stuff, very fancy. I love looking down at them and feeling like a glam grown up.
  • We are all going to Bali in June and I literally own zero hot weather gear, so checked out the Myer sale today and found a pair of cute denim shorts on sale for $19 down from $80. And they were size six. I am not a size six by any means, so thanks Country Road for the positive boost.
  • My car is so insanely messy right now. It is filthy and I am horrified, but clearly not enough to do anything about it.
  • I am loving living here. We have seen rock wallabies and kangaroos in the front yard, a brown snake and heaps of cool little birds.
  • Speaking of snakes, Jed is pretty into snakes and whenever he sees a millipede he's like 'Mum! Snake! Sssssss!' That's all very cute, but yesterday he was up near our washing line (ie literally in the bush with a stunning view of the Dandenongs) and came down and says nonchalantly, "Snake up dere mum." Is is a millipede? Or a freaking tiger snake? We will never know.
  • I am doing quite a bit of writing over at the Creative Women's Circle blog. I love chatting to interesting dames about their creative practices.
  • I have been getting really into meditating using the Headspace program. It's really practical and simple, and doesn't have any of the woo woo shite that some other meditation apps love.
  • I want to do a bit of a reno update post, with pics of our new house, but we all know that it will be a crappy iPhone photoshoot so I'm putting it off. That said, the house is looking mighty fine and I am loving myself sick in this new space.
  • Archie and I spent the day together yesterday and it was ace. We don't get much one on one time so a whole day of library visits, cafe hangs and Legoing was perfect. He is turning out to be such a cool little person.

I think that's all. Now I'm going to watch Broad City and crochet in my dressing gown, like the 30 year old nanna that I am.

 

xx

How to be a tightass

Because we are currently in this weird no-man's-land where we have purchased one house and paid for it, but haven't settled the old house yet, we are currently paying two mortgages (plus the Brunswick house, but that's cash positive) and holy crap, things are tight. Here's my tips on being super scringy.

Don't go to Kmart or Target. Seriously, I walk into those places looking for a pair of socks or a toddler's singlet and come out with a plant pot, dry shampoo, a new doona cover and some glitter crayons. If you're really serious, basically just avoid them completely. If your weakness is Bunnings (me) or Priceline (also me) or that cute deli with the good cheese, the same thing applies. Don't go there. Or at least make a list of all the stuff you need, then do a big shop at once. You still feel like you get to buy heaps, but it's not crap you don't need.

Track everything. I've heard this advice before and frankly, the thought of putting every expense into a spreadsheet sounds heinous. Luckily, I found Pocketbook, which links to your bank account and categorises all your expenses and incomes. So I can see specifically how much I spent on Xmas gifts last year, how much our utilities are each month and what percentage we are saving (or not).

Do a meal plan. I have a love/hate relationship with meal planning...  I like to think of myself as spontaneous and a fabulous cook who can whip up a delicious and nutritious meal from a can of chickpeas and a carrot, but alas. I'm more of a "Holy crap it's 5pm and I need to go to the supermarket... let's have eggs on toast, guys!" The truth is, meal planning stops you from buying random excess junk (see Kmart and Target, above) and only buying what you need.

Do free or cheap stuff. This is especially good when you have kids. Seriously, my kids are happy with a bit of open space and a stick. Meet your mates at a playground with a cafe, get a coffee then let them go wild (the kids, not your mates).

Don't buy crap. This can pretty much be applied to everything, but it is especially noticeable with clothes. That $10 top? It will fall apart after one wash, pick up a permanent stain and shrink to a size four. Save up until you can find something that is well made and will last a while. I have a Country Road cardigan that I've have for six years and it still looks new, but I can't say the same for anything I've bought from the el cheapo stores.

Join things. We have a family membership to both the Melbourne Zoo and the Melbourne Museum. The memberships were exxy to start with, but we go to the zoo and museum at least monthly, so it works out way cheaper. Memberships like this make good Christmas presents from grandparents too!

While you are joining things, dig out your library card. The library is ace! If you churn through heaps of books (ahem), you can reserve or hold them online, then go and pick them up in person. I always grab heaps of cookbooks when I'm there, cook nothing, then take them all back. Libraries also have heaps of kids stuff on too - story time, author events and homework clubs. Get onto it.

 

 

 

On power and violence

I've been following the wretched story of George Pell and Tim Minchin and the child sexual abuse by clergy in Ballarat. And Melbourne. And Sydney and small and large towns all across Australia and the world. And pondering how this ties in with bigger ideas of power and religion and abuse. Of masculinity and feminism, sexual violence, rape culture and again, power.

We seem to be at a precipice of change:  victims and survivors of long-buried abuse are taking the lead of a the generation of people who didn't grow up under the stifling social norms of the mid-century, and won't accept the what-will-people-think excuse.

But.

The US justice system told Kesha that she must continue working with her abuser.

George Pell won't come home and face the music, and (surprise surprise) a Catholic right-wing columnist defended him.

Bill Cosby. Rolf Harris. Jimmy Savile.

One in three women globally are survivors of sexual violence. This number does not count the women who have been felt up in a taxi, had their hands unwillingly shoved down a man's pants, been leered at on a tram, had their bra strap flicked or their shirt pulled down or or or...  I am yet to meet a women who hasn't experienced any of the above.

I have two boys, who will one day become men and enjoy all the privilege that comes with their gender. The best I can do is mother those boys and teach them about consent, and power, and respect.

Here is a brilliant, wrenching post by Bec Woolf about how sexual violence begins with teaching men not to rape. 

And this article from the Good Men Project on how to do that, starting from when boys are toddlers. 

 

Go and give your kids a cuddle.

A modern, Modernist kitchen

This is my favourite part of a renovation: choosing paint colours, testing materials, selecting hardware and tapware. Because Yarra Yarra has heritage overlays and heritage controls on certain rooms, we are a tad limited with what we can do. This is a good thing, because I reckon that creativity thrives with limitations. Having quite a strict framework makes it much easier! We want to basically replicate the existing kitchen, but with contemporary fittings, a breakfast bar and more drawers than cupboards. Past experience (this is the fourth house we've renovated, eek!) has taught me that drawers are better than cupboards, and to try to fit in as much storage as physically possible in the space. Also, put open shelving somewhere to show off your cute shit. #interiordesigninglikeaboss Untitled design (8) Untitled design (6) Untitled design (7)

 

 

 

 

^^ These are the existing colours in the house: limewashed hardwood lining boards on all the walls, dusky green window trims and polished boards.

Untitled design (9) Untitled design (5)

 

 

 

 

And these are the new colours we are introducing ^^ We are painting the lining boards in the living room Dulux Rhino Grey, and echoing that with the Laminex benchtop in Midnight, a dark royal blue. The drawers and pantry will be plywood with the handmade steel handles from the original kitchen. Half of the benchtop will be stainless steel, to keep with the retro vibe. The overhead cabinets will have sliding plywood doors, in true 60s style.

Untitled design (4) Untitled design (10)

 

 

 

 

^^ The only other rooms we are painting are the boy's rooms, they are pretty tiny so I want to brighten them up with a big, bright colour. Go bold or go home! Archie is keen on yellow so I'm hunting for that real retro mustardy yellow, with a beachy teal for Jed's room.

On that note, I have been slamming Pinterest pretty hard for inspiration, plus my collection of mid-century furniture and design books.

Here are some faves... click through for sources:

 

 

 

How to handle open for inspections when you have kids

Screen Shot 2016-02-12 at 12.53.13 pm  

The auction for our Coburg house is tomorrow. Fingers crossed, y'all, that some megazillionaire comes up and decides to pay a mint for it. Chances are not likely, but I'm staying positive. This is the second house we've sold at auction (we auctioned the Northcote house  and NO ONE BID. Stressful much.), so we have pretty limited experience. We've bought three at auction but they were total dumps - with the exception of Yarra Yarra - so it was a whole other ball game as there were no pretensions about the value of the properties.

That said, I have quite a bit of experience with setting up a house for rental inspections, open for inspections, photoshoots and whatnot. Adding kids to the mix adds a new level of angst to the new process because no potential buyer wants to see a dirty nappy under the couch or unknown smears on the kitchen walls. Also kids = STUFF. There is plenty of other info online about adding value and prepping your house (here, here and here), but here's my top advice cobbled together from the last six weeks of OFIs + watching the Block.

Do one huge clean, then maintain.

We have found it easier to do a humungous deep clean before the first opening, then attempt to maintain that level for the whole campaign. Lee and I both set aside a Saturday morning and did stuff we don't usually do, like clean the skirtings and lights, wipe down walls, wash the windows and sweep the random piles of leaves out from behind the bins. Once that's done, it's much easier to give everything a quick wipe or sweep before each opening.

Get outta the house early.

If you can, try to get out of the house well before the opening. We gave our agent a key so we never have to meet him here before the openings. The main reason is that getting two kids out of the house can be a mission, and you don't want to hold up the opening because someone has lost a shoe or put a cheese stick in the toilet.

Pay attention to the garden and front door.

This a real estate mantra: first impressions count, curb appeal, etc etc. I think it totally makes a difference if you make the entrance and front path area look extra decent, though. Shake out your doormat, yank out the weeds and put a plant next to the front door. Easy.

Don't have a stinky house.

I listened to something the other day about the inventors of Febreze, the cleaning spray that dissolves bad smells. Apparently they thought it would be super-popular but the sales were really low and they didn't know why. They did some more research and realized that people get so used to gross smells that they don't think they have a problem. I have this secret fear that my house smells bad and I am so used to it that I can't tell, so I make sure to take out the bins, clean the toilets and light a magnificent candle before the opening. I sometimes spray lavender oil around, especially if Jed has had a blueberry nappy explosion recently.

Get rid of stuff.

Do a humungous declutter. Pack away anything that is too personal, too weird or too ugly. Make sure your indoor plants don't look too dead, try and hide any annoying cables and leave plenty of open space and clear surfaces. This might mean that your cupboards are bulging, but most people won't open the cupboards. And if they do, they will be punished by the avalanche of random clutter that falls upon them.

Be prepared for random questions.

Things that people have asked our real estate agent about include questions about nearby building developments, the wall colour, whether the deck and pergola have council permits and if the pizza oven is a fixture (because an oven made from 300+ bricks is pretty portable, right?). You will get weird questions. Be prepared for them.

 

By the time you get to the opening for inspections, it's usually too late to do any big painting or landscaping stuff. The most important thing is that your house looks clean, tidy and appealing. And doesn't smell weird. Good luck!

Demolishing a Boyd

Untitled design Most people spend their Wednesday nights demolishing the ceiling of their new house, right? Approximately 40 minutes after we picked up the keys from the real estate agent, we did a quick inspection then yanked off a Cane-ite ceiling tile. A bug puff of fibreglass insulation mixed with possum poo and fifty-odd years of scum came crashing down. We weren't planning on doing quite so much demolition last night but got slightly carried away. I was wearing sandals and skinny jeans which were not conducive to being covered in layers of itchy fibreglass and softboard splinters, but hey. Safety first, kids.

Untitled design (1)Because each ceiling tile is a slightly different shape, we had to measure them and draw a grid so we can replicate the exact same size with the new tiles. I love the Modernist attention to detail - each room has between four and five rows of tiles, with no weird short bits at the sides because they have all been laid out on a grid. Slightly OCD, yes, but definitely not something you would see in a cookie-cutter suburban development today.

Untitled design (2)

Anyway, we donned our dusk masks, turned on Johnny Cash and ripped out the ceiling in the living room, dining room and half of the kitchen ceiling. We were on a roll, so started smashing out the old kitchen too. God, it is so gorgeous, but in serious need of an update. We are aiming to get the big, messy jobs done before we actually move in March. So that's demolishing, insulating, wiring and replacing the ceiling, replacing the kitchen, sanding and polishing the floors and plastering the ceiling in the bedrooms and bathrooms. Totally doable for two people in about six weekends, right? Right.

On parenting challenges

DSC_0009.jpgThese past few weeks, my gorgeous, funny, kind three-year-old has been replaced by a grumpy, shouty monster child. There is a lot going on: he's started kinder two days per week, we are getting ready to move (again), Lee and I are back at work after the holidays. Our little family feels a bit like we are in limbo - our Coburg house is open for inspection but we spend weekends building the kitchen and scheming plans for Yarra Yarra, the boys kinder and swimming lessons are in Warrandyte but all our friends are still in Coburg and Brunswick. All the disequilibrium must be rubbing off on my sensitive little dude, because oh boy is he playing up. He is not one to have big temper tantrums (except for one time at the Melbourne Zoo gift shop when I literally had to promise him that Santa would bring the seaplane toy he fell in love with (PS Santa delivered the goods)), but he throws things at me, runs away or collapses onto the floor giving me 1001 reasons why he doesn't need to have a shower, or put his shoes on, or immediately build a firetruck out of a cardboard box just as he's getting his jammies on for bed.

I am a pretty relaxed parent and encourage lots of playing outside, getting messy and taking risks. My kids use knives to chop food, can drill holes with an electric drill and (attempt to) skateboard on their own. I figure that taking risks now, when the stakes are pretty low, will minimise the risk taking when they are teenagers and the stakes are much higher.

We have tried time outs and reward charts but frankly, they don't work for my kids and led to a ridiculous bargaining system that Archie quickly outsmarted. I let them jump on the bed and run around screeching like banshees and play cricket in the hallway. My theory is that with two parents with 'anxious tendencies' (read: full blown anxiety disorders), my best tactic for protecting my kids' mental health is to encourage them to find their voices and strengths early so they are confident enough in themselves to be resilient in the face of anything the world throws at them. Some of our family rules posted on the pantry door are "We are loud", "We can talk about hard things" and "We are kind to each other and to ourselves" along with the usual no hitting, no punching, no being mean.

My favourite book about parenting (and business, and marriage, and anything involving humans dealing with other humans) is How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will  Talk by Faber and Mazlish. The emotion-based philosophy is really coming into its own for my moody kindergartener. When he is cross, even when he is trying to hit me, I hug him tight and give a name to his feelings. When he is sad, we talk about things that might make him feel better. I try hard to take him seriously and set firm boundaries which he constantly comes crashing up against. I read once that setting loving boundaries as a child helps encourage self-discipline as an adult. And after all, he will be an adult for a lot longer than he is a child. I need to remind myself that he is still tiny, still learning and that his big emotions are terrifying, to me and to him.

And now I'm going to go kiss his sweaty little sleeping head and hope that tomorrow is calmer

Recent readings: colonials, Hollywood and Zadie

3679 I have an unofficial goal to read at least 52 books this year. I've already read five since Christmas, so am well and truly on track. I'm trying to focus on female writers, mostly because, um, I am one. One of the things that helps me read so much is picking up my Kindle or a book instead of picking up my phone to look at pointless Facebook sh*t, especially when the kids are around. I figure it is better for them to be ignored because their mum is reading a book than if she is doing a Buzzfeed quiz on 'Which Kardashian Are You?', right?

Here are a couple of recent reads...

Salt Creek by Lucy Treloar

This was a dark, bittersweet read about a colonial family in South Australia. The most poignant parts were the interactions with the dwindling Aborigine community and the family dynamics. Poetic and evocative prose.

Lucky Us by Amy Bloom

Easy to read, eccentric story about two sisters who move from Ohio to Hollywood in the 40s, with their wayward father, a stolen adopted kid and a Spanish makeup artist.

 

Zadie Smith's On Beauty

I really loved this. Some of Zadie Smith's stuff can be a bit much, but loved the characters and the life injected into this novel. The descriptions of academia and families and growing up are spot on.

Up next, I'm burning through last year's Miles Franklin winner The Eye of the Sheep by Sophie Laguna, Clutterfree with Kids by Joshua Becker and Marie Kondo's new book Spark Joy.