Archive for February 2007

 

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Teaching Kids About Money

28 February 2007

This Chinese New Year, my preschooler received a grand total of $40 in ang pows. In my humble opinion, that’s 40 times too much for an almost 4 year old.

I was tempted to pocket the cash myself (oh, I mean put it in a bank), but instead I decided to teach my child a bit about money. I was quite reluctant, because honestly, I felt that this money conversation was happening a bit too early.

We sat on the floor and he tore open all his red packets. He was very excited. Then he looked at all the money and went “Wow. What happens now?”

I explained where money comes from – Dad goes to work, works hard and he gets money.
What money is for – Paying for the things we need now : water, food, house, petrol. Paying for the things we need later : education, the future. And buying things we want : A new bike, new sneakers.
How we use the money – use it really carefully, make plans so you don’t use it all up, put some in the bank to save it for the future, give some to others who need help.

I had no idea whether he understood me. So still sitting on the floor, we split the money up. $20 for his piggy bank. $5 for church. $5 for charity. And $10 to spend on something special for the new year.

That should do for now.


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Growth

26 February 2007

My Japanese wisteria is going crazy.


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Chinese New Year Ball 2007

25 February 2007

Last night we went to a Chinese New Year Grand Ball at Burswood Hotel. Every year my dad is quite involved in the organising committee, so our whole family + partners gets to attend.

This year was probably the best it’s ever been – in terms of organisation, performances, the meal, the music and dancing, the awards and speeches, the attendance of government officials. Everything was really well done, and it was all very grand.

I’ve realised that I’ve been going to these Chinese Community functions for over 10 years now. And even though it’s a fixed annual event in my family’s calendar, I still feel like an outsider. I still feel that this is something the “oldies” do. That perhaps my own generation of Australian-Born-Chinese needs to embrace …something before we can feel part of this community.

I’ve come to accept that these huge Chinese celebrations are a part of my life. Every time I walk through the huge doors of the ballroom and hear the lion dance drums ringing in the air, it feels like home.


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Bach’s Goldberg

23 February 2007

This evening I went to a performance of Bach’s Goldberg Variations, as part of the Perth International Art Festival. It was, to quote the advertising material, “classical music and jazz intersect, as two piano virtuosi meet one musical genius: JS Bach.”

We were given 2 free tickets (in fantastic seats) by a friend of ours. But we couldn’t get a babysitter, so my husband stayed home and I went with a girlfriend.

Now, I enjoy musical performances. Everything from orchestral classics, to more modern pieces; and usually they accompany a theatrical or opera performance.

But this was the first time I went to a piano recital. An enormous concert hall. A huge wooden stage. A grand piano. A stool. And NOTHING else.

In fear of sounding like an uncultured fool… the truth is, I don’t know much about Bach and his works. I can recognise plenty of other famous classical melodies by Beethoven, Vivaldi, Mozart, Chopin, Tchaikovsky etc. I could probably even hum them for you. But I probably wouldn’t be able to pick a snippet of Bach if it was playing in, say a toilet paper advertisement.

So when I saw the empty stage, I thought – Oh. I’m not a Bach fan. This might be a problem.

A man walked onto the stage. He bowed. We clapped. He sat down. He played. Like a master.

I went wow. This guy is good. This is most excellent.

After 5 minutes, however.

I was bored. It was not a good sign. The flyer said : This performance lasts for 2 hours and 30 minutes.

I looked about. Hundreds of people, rooted to their seat. Motionless. Silent. Deathly silent. Their heads and eyes were frozen in hypnotic awe. I swear. The only thing moving in that concert hall, was the pianist’s fingers and right foot.

What on earth is going through these people’s heads? What are they thinking about? That woman is wearing a very cool scarf. That guy looks like the Mayor of Perth. The pianist looks like Mr Bean. How do all these people sit so STILL?? Wow this guy’s technique is really impressive. Is his piano seat made out of leather or vinyl? I thought the graphic design for this event’s poster was quite charming.

I couldn’t stop myself. I was having multiple, uncontrollable conversations in my head. About the performance. The people around me. The experience I was having. What we were going to eat for dinner later. What I was going to write on my blog. The unexplained details of the book I’m reading. What’s happening this weekend. Funny things the kids did yesterday. Other really random stuff. The thoughts just kept coming and coming and coming.

In the silence of the concert hall, I was tormented by the unrelenting noise of my imagination. It was torture.

60 minutes later.

I suddenly perked up. I recognised the final canon. And Oh. My. It was exquisite. It was astonishing. I gasped. Then I almost stopped breathing, lest the air in my chest disrupted the staggering beauty of the music. Holy crap I had no words to describe how amazing it sounded. I was spellbound. Frozen in a state of spiritual ecstasy for less than 5 minutes.

Interval.

The next interpretation was very modern. It was contemporary with jazzy overtones. The overall structure seemed similar. But I couldn’t identify any of the original Goldberg in it. Like I would know anyway.

It was definitely much easier to listen to. It had heaps of interesting bits, and the guy’s technique was rather colourful. Especially when he started smashing the keys with clawed fingers, like they do in the cartoons. Haha.

But I must admit, although it kept me engaged for the whole 70 minutes… it didn’t move my soul once. Isn’t that interesting.

[I thought I should include a foot note. These two pianist were highly accomplished and internationally recognised musicians – who fully deserves a better review from someone who doesn’t sit in their pyjamas all weekend watching Battlestar Galactica.]


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Banana & Walnut Muffins

20 February 2007

We made some yummy muffins for morning tea! I swapped a few ingredients to make them extra healthy. I used no sugar, so it had a lovely bready, nutty flavour.

We ate them straight from the oven, steaming hot with natural yoghurt, honey and blueberries. My kids loved them!

Banana & Walnut Muffin Recipe

225g (8 oz) SF white wholemeal flour
¼ teaspoon of bicarb soda
pinch of salt
75g (3 oz) butter organic butter
2 medium eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons of sugar (or try none)
450g (1lb) banana, weighed with skin. Peeled and mashed.
100g (4 oz) walnuts, chopped

1. Heat oven to 180ºC (350ºF).
2. Mix flour, bicarb soda and salt.
3. Cream margarine (and sugar), add the eggs.
4. Stir in sifted flour, bananas and nuts. Mix.
5. Spoon mixture into muffin cases, dividing equally. Bake for 30 minutes until well risen and skewer comes out clean.
6. Leave to stand for a few minutes then cool on wire rack.


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Chinese New Year 2007

18 February 2007

On Saturday evening we celebrated Chinese New Year Eve at my grandmother’s house. As always, there was plenty of delicious food, crazy lawn games and warm family chatter.

After dinner and desserts, the aunties bring out the ang pows. It’s all very informal in our family. The aunties rush around. The kids rush around. Everyone’s wishing each other Gong Hay Fat Choy. Everyone’s laughing and shouting and there’s a huge traffic jam in the house.

Someone gave Callum an ang pow. He said “Gong Gong Fart Choy” (which probably means, Grandpa farts vegetables) and then said “Do Jeh” (thank you) as he took it. He passed it on to me, exactly like we rehearsed. He dawdled off into the traffic jam of people. My brother intercepted him and was about to give him another ang pow, when Callum stopped him and said, “Oh! No thanks! I already got one.” He walked off to look for some toys, and at that moment I was convinced he didn’t inherit any Chinese genes.

Next day we went to church. There was a special Chinese New Year lunch, traditional activities, photo shoot and the whole place was decorated. It was really cute. Everyone had to bring a dish to share. I brought re-heated supermarket spring rolls as my contribution to the Chinese New Year fare – a bit of a cop-out, but at least they were vegetarian!


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Crayon Therapy

16 February 2007

photo from getty.comAaah, I loooved my crayons as a kid. They were definitely the reason I fell in love with the world of colour, and thus design. I remember myself as an 8 year old kid, lying on my stomach, on the lawn, drawing blades of grass in my sketch book, each in a different shade of green. And drawing rainbows so that each colour blended together with the colour next to it. But most of all, I was utterly fascinated by how there were so many different types of RED crayons. There was a red, red-violet, violet-red, red-orange, orange-red, dark red, carnation red, maroon, magenta, scarlet, crimson. And they were all so beautiful and different!

So as I opened up a new packet of crayons for my son, I held them up to my nose and took a long deep breath. Hehe. I went all nostalgic and a silly grin spread across my face. Which didn’t help my son, because he now thinks you’re supposed to put crayons up your nose.


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Worm Farming

15 February 2007

We put the worm farm together today. And as you can see, Callum was keen as a button. He was happy to hold and touch them. Sean on the other hand, was not too impressed.


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In the Car

13 February 2007

My preschooler said to me, “HEY MUM! What’s a ghost?”

“It’s a… well. Um… lets see.”

I was trying to make a tricky right hand turn while considering whether it was a good idea to tell my child about spirits, death, heaven, the afterlife, and lost souls haunting the earth. I mean, if this isn’t the height of progressive parenting, then I don’t know what is. However, he interrupted my deep contemplation.

“Are they just funny little monsters with blankets over their heads?”

“Yep. That’s exactly what they are, mate.”


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Monday morning and I’m full of beans

12 February 2007

Happy happy. The kids have been fantastic these last few days. The weather sparkling. Stuff happening. I’m feeling sooOOOooo good.

I’m not sure how it happened. I woke up this morning and *DING* it felt like someone gave me an injection of happy drugs and a million dollars. I had this delicious, buzzy mojo about me. And I fluttered around the house saying annoying things to my husband like, OH HOORAY IT’S MONDAY! What a gorgeous way to start the week! Oh fine week! Shall take the kids to the beach? Or shall we have a picnic by the river? A stroll to the park? How ever will I decide?


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Babybuds

11 February 2007

A friend put me onto this really cute gift idea! Flower bouquets made out of baby clothes – socks, singlets, jumpsuits, booties, bibs, and beanies! How practical is that?? I love it!


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A Beautiful Place

10 February 2007

Strolling by the beach before dinner.


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Sandcastles Organic Cafe

8 February 2007

In direct contrast to the carnivorous dinner I had the other night… this evening we went to a friend’s birthday dinner at an organic restaurant in Fremantle. Everything on the menu was organic. Even the beer and champagne.

The restaurant’s atmosphere was a quirky blend of fancy + hippy (if that’s even possible). The food was pretty good. Modern gourmet. Well presented. But it wasn’t exactly orgasmic. And it was very pricey. I had the crumbed salmon.

As for the company we kept, 16 of us I think, spread out over 2 tables. I had such a fantastic time chatting and catching up with the girls. It was good night!


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Some women would eat ice cream

7 February 2007

I had a really crap week. In fact, it was so bad, I don’t really want to talk about it.

However, I seriously needed some cheering up. I needed some yummy food. Something that was SO NOT vegetarian. Something NOT made of legumes, lentils or soy beans. And preferably something NOT green please.

So a girlfriend and I went to have Korean barbecue for dinner – sizzling slices of ox tongue. Deep red and wafer thin. And succulent, fatty pork belly strips, cooked to a divine dripping crisp. It was heaven. It was rapturous. It was the sweet, sweeeeeeet nectar of saturated fat.


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My New Obsession : Organic Gardening

5 February 2007

Six years ago, if you and I were in a cafe, having a nice chat over coffee. And you, my dear friend, happened to mention that you had a passion for gardening. I would have snorted back with laughter, choked on something, and then sprayed my affogato across the table. Are you kidding?!?

I then probably would have been so embarrassed upon discovering that you were actually SERIOUS. Because really. Who on earth likes gardening? That’s so, like, what old people do. People who live in the suburbs or like, farms. People who, like, hello, so need to get out and have a life. In fact, only like, bored housewives with screaming kids do gardening.

(Ok. I didn’t use to talk like that.)

But ah how the tables have turned.

Now I’m crouched hands and knees in the dirt, taking macro photographs of the organisms in my organic compost heap. Now. Oh how I am intoxicated with the smell of rotting vegetables. How I squeal in delight as dig through the fresh earth. How my glee swells as I see slaters, roaches and bugs munching away on rockmelon skins. How, whenever I peel a banana, I excitedly think, my, our worms will have a feast on this peel tonight.

Yes it sounds oh so sad.

One evening. I put my youngest son to sleep at 7pm. I walk into the kitchen and toss the bottle into the sink. Then without a break in my stride, I walk out the door, I put on my gardening boots, and start digging in the garden till 9pm. I only stopped because there was no more light outside. Plus my husband came looking for me with a torch.

I’m utterly obsessed. I can’t stop thinking about my garden.

And the books! Oh how I love gardening books. Oh how I love gardening blogs and magazines. I lick my lips with inappropriate anticipation as parcel after parcel of Amazon books arrive at my door. I’m out every second day, to bookstores and local libraries, in search for even MORE organic gardening books. Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening is my favourite so far. Organic Gardening for the 21st Century is also pretty good.

Currently, we have plotted out pegs in our garden for several new vegetable beds. I have a plan for peas, beans, spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, beetroots, onions, pumpkins and a whole host of herbs.

We have a new worm farm and compost box currently under construction. We’re using organic methods to recondition the existing soil, using organic growing techniques, and basically doing it organically all the way baby. Lots of preparation. So exciting.

Now. I’ve been trying to analyse why I like gardening so much. Don’t think I got very far.

The other day, I was mixing some soil and organic matter together and I had this profound thought. In my 28 years of life. I’ve worked in quite a few jobs which I liked. I look back and, yes, they were challenging and fun. I was really good at what I did. I was rewarded and paid well. The people were really nice. It was fabulous experience. And I had a great time.

But no other job actually created this unstoppable, all-consuming peace, pleasure and satisfaction I feel cruising through my veins at this very moment.

I totally rate it up there with raising children (perhaps excluding the peace bit).


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Anna Sui Dresses

2 February 2007

Currently lusting over various cocktail dresses by Anna Sui.


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Kindergarten Starts

1 February 2007

Callum started kindy today. Admittedly, I was more stressed and anxious than he was. Will he like it? Will he have friends? Will he like his teachers? Will he get bored? Will he know where the toilet is?

We have been talking about it for months. Going through all the things he’d be doing and learning. He was very excited about it, and he kept asking, “Hang on! If Christmas is over, and new year is over… how come kindy hasn’t started?”

We bought all his kindergarten bits and pieces. He was the proud owner of a new bag, hat, drink bottle, name labels, a heap of pencils and crayons etc. And I could already feel he was aging before my eyes. I did managed to make him one thing – I sewed a nap pillow out of some scrap material.

Now. I don’t know much about other kindergartens, but I have been completely blown away by the two ladies running our centre. Their attention to detail in EVERYTHING – especially making sure parents and children ease in smoothly – has been incredible. I’ve worked for large companies dealing in global trading with far less organisational structure than this tight two-woman outfit, responsible for 22 young children. *Salutes all kindergarten teachers*

They took little digital portrait photos of the kids during outdoor playtime. And had them framed and ready for pick up at the next session. They even had the words “Callum’s first day at Kindy”. Sheesh, they sure know how to tug at those heart strings. It turned me into a complete sap, and I was choking back tears as my son handed me the picture frame.

He came home raving about kindy. He LOVED it. He told EVERYBODY how much he loved it. The neighbour. The chemist. The lady at the fruit shop. And he spoke with such glowing confidence and bubbling excitement as he retold me all his new stories of the craft, the activities, the new rules, the playground and all the other kids. It was an excellent start to the new year.




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