Thursday, December 31, 2009

Reuseable Christmas Hampers/Stockings

M and I have managed to continue our new tradition that we started for Christmas 08 by buying his family gift cards and food hampers again this year. The idea was to make Christmas less commercialized or to at least make it look less commercialized, in preparation for something that might or might not happen in the near future. Unlike last year, M was all for it this time round.

Inspired by those bloggers who make Christmas gifts by hand, and increasingly wishing to minimize our impact on Planet Earth in some little ways, I made three Christmas stockings that can be filled with food and gift cards year after year.This meant that we didn't have to wrap the food up in paper or cellophane. I have noticed in the past that the paper and cellophane was almost never reused, even though they both make great material for children to reuse in their art and craft activities. This year we didn't buy from Suga or Haigh's. We stuffed the stockings with a gift card each, organic tea from Oxfam, mini soft toys from IKEA, boxes of Walkers shortbread, Cadbury chocolates for the kids and Lindt chocolates for the adults. There was also an extra block of Fair Trade dark chocolate from Oxfam for M's Dad. We are aiming to fill the stockings with more ethical products next Christmas.

Making the reuseable stockings doesn't mean that we no longer use wrapping paper. We still have at least half a roll of wrapping paper that I will continue to use until it runs out. After that, I will start making individual drawstring bags to 'wrap up' birthday pressies. They can be used over and over. At this stage, I am not sure if I will make bags of different sizes to hold different sized pressies or make each family member a personalized bag. What do you think? I am sure that M would prefer the second option but that would mean that we will have to shop for pressies that will fit in the bag! That is kind of restrictive!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Dirt Cheap Reads

M and I went to what looked like a temporary bookshop on Elizabeth Street on Monday afternoon. It is called Dirt Cheap Books. They have other stores around Melbourne as well and we only spotted this one on Christmas day. It is opposite St Francis Church and next door to JB Hi-Fi on Elizabeth Street. We bought four items as pictured above. The Sewing Calendar was only $5. I bought it simply because I wanted to check out the sewing projects inside. There are more than 100 sewing projects sourced from various blogs. Because each project's designer and blog address is also listed, I suddenly also have many new blogs that I can visit in my spare time! The New Yorker 2010 Desk Diary is for M. It was also just $5. A sticker on its back cover indicated its recommended retail price in the US was USD$32.95! I am trying to stay away from the diary because there are a few maps in it, including one of Manhattan and I have a tendency to study them. LOL. The other two books are for a young relative who is about to turn 12 in a few days. The green picture book (my idea) is about Don Bradman. It was also $5! Elsewhere the same picture book is priced as high as $32.99! The fourth book is the most expensive. LOL. It was $7.
On Boxing Day, I dragged myself to Dymocks on Collins St for their twice yearly 20% off most items sale. There were two items I had in mind to get but only one was still on the shelf when I got there. This sale is on till Thursday (31/12/09). I love the sale at Dymocks because it is one good opportunity to actually buy cheaper books after sampling parts of the contents first.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas Everyone

I have just finished ironing a small pile of clothes and before Taggart starts at 8:30 pm, I thought I come in here to wish everyone a Merry Christmas! My day has been OK so far. I got up early to cook a hearty Christmas breakfast of Bacon, eggs, tomatoes and toasts for the two of us before we walked to the church for a midday service. We missed the 11:30 am mass featuring the National Boys Choir by a couple of minutes so we waited for the next one at 12:30 pm.
The photo is of the Nativity Scene displayed in MYER. The photo was taken back in November well before the window was smashed. One drongo or a pack of drongoes smashed the window last week and the Nativity Scene had to be moved to another window on Lonsdale St. We walked past it today and it was fine. Since today is a good day, I shall refrain from criticizing people with appalling behaviours. Other than the Nativity Scene at the Catholic Bookshop (also on Lonsdale), this is the only other one that is on public display for all to see that I know of in Melbourne.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Oh No! Posties Going On Strike!

I am running very late with Christmas preparations this year. I had to stay up till around 3 am to finish making the Christmas cards. M took them to Australia Post on his way to work. And then I learned from the news that the Posties are going to walk off their job at midnight! I told my Mum on Saturday that my Christmas card will arrive late this year because I have been busy with other things. She didn't mind. My family do not celebrate Christmas in a commercialized way and they don't feel stung if Christmas cards arrive late. To us, its the thought that counts and any thoughts can also be communicated via the phone. My Mum even suggested that I should have emailed the card. Well, that is a 'Green' idea but my cards are handmade with lots of Love. We hope that the recipients enjoy receiving them as much as us putting them together.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Skinny Fly Annoying the Bad Driver

I did a bit of sewing in October and November. I made a simple coin pouch to replace my kawaii Japanese coin pouch at the end of October. The Japanese coin pouch was one of the last things I bought from Daimaru before it closed its doors. It is sad to see it heading for retirement. The new pouch that I made is lined. It took me a long time to figure out how to make a lined bag. Yes, I am that annoying type of customer at Borders who studies the insides of the cutesy lined bags and pencil pouches to figure out the mystery construction.

Ever since I stopped going to sewing lessons yonks ago, I had become less adventurous. Without my teacher’s guidance, I lost confidence in trying to create complicated looking sewing features and chose only projects without them. Towards the end of November, I thought that I ought to challenge myself a bit. The mock fly is something I really wish to perfect. So, I thought I could practice by making someone a pair of shorts. The following are photos of the shorts. My first attempt without my teacher’s help is less than desirable! Oh! I did use a pattern to make them.

I made the shorts using a small piece of fabric bought so long ago that I couldn’t remember why I bought it in the first place! I ran out of fabric and ended up using some scraps to construct the inside of the pockets. LOL. Can you see what is wrong with the shorts?

Let’s have a closer look at the mock fly. Can you see what the problem is yet?

This is the view behind the mock fly. Can you see my mistake yet? Well, there was meant to be a two layered flap for me to overlock around before stitching the mock fly outline through all the layers from the front but my driving was so bad that the overlocker had gobbled up most of the flap as I drove over and over to get things right. In the end, I was left with only a little bit of the flap. Enough only to make a skinny mock fly. LOL
Here is how wide the outline for the fly should be.
As can be seen here, I am still quite obsessed with the ‘adjustable waist’ feature. This is an improved design. They are different from the ones on the skirt I made a few months ago. Back in October, I went to ask a few mums about the ‘adjustable waist’ feature on some children’s pants. It is no surprise that quite a few didn’t like it. Other than the discomfort caused by the rubbing of the buttons against the child’s skin, two mothers also mentioned the frustration of losing the ends of the elastic inside the short’s/pant’s casing when the elastic is released accidentally while adjusting it. Now, while I haven’t figure out how to eliminate or decrease the discomfort caused by the buttons as yet, I have decided to hide and sew the elastic ends inside the casing so they can’t run away from any carers trying to dress a growing child.

I am not very happy with the outcome of this pair of shorts. The skinny mock fly bothers me. Due to this flaw, I am refusing to give it away as a gift to anyone. We don’t have any children to wear it either. So for now, it has gone to sit among my favourite T-shirts. My next sewing project will be carried out in the next few days. I will blog about them once they are completed. It looks like I won’t have time until after Christmas or the New Year to start practising making mock flies on little shorts again. Although I am unhappy with the results of my first independent attempt, I am adamant to perfect it. I am thinking of altering the pattern to suit my driving. LOL. Imagine altering the roads to suit my driving. LOL. M reckons that he is in no hurry to be my passenger, even if I am given the go ahead to alter all the roads in Melbourne. LOL. He reckons that not only do the roads have to be altered; everyone else will have to stay at home for me to drive since I can’t share. LOL

Monday, December 7, 2009

Not Unusual To Me

This is a page from a picture book that I quite like. It is easy to assume that I am attracted to the Guinea Pig in the photo because it looks quite like our Guinea Pig but it is the text on this page and throughout the book that captivated me. I wish that the author had used ‘she’ instead of ‘he’ when referring to the cats in the book. Then the text, especially the ones printed on this page, would have been spot on about me! LOL

19 months after the passing of a beloved pet, most people would have moved onto the next pet and I should too but we are not planning to keep another little mammal until we move to a bigger home. When we do, we will keep at least two Guinea Pigs at any one time so it will always have a companion by its side at all times.

Oh, I just remember that we have moved onto our next pets. LOL. We do have a pair of Black Moors Goldfish. They behave differently from our precious little Guinea Pig and they are certainly not cuddly like him. Writing about them reminds me that we should also get them a Christmas pressie soon. I will have to make a note about it because it is so easy to forget about them even though I feed them every night and one of them likes to stare at me when I wash dishes.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Hey Hey! Borders @ South Wharf is Open

Someone left me a comment anonymously not so long ago to tell me that the Borders at South Wharf was opening on the 3rd of December. Since I was a little busy yesterday, I popped into the bookstore to have a little look today. The store turned out to be a compact one like the Carlton store. Over the years I have noticed that whenever a new store opens its doors, there is a standard range of books on the new shelves, including a pretty good range of books on Education, normally placed next to the parenting section. This was the case when the stores in South Yarra, Chadstone, Melbourne Central and Highpoint open their doors. Unfortunately this is not the case with the store at South Wharf. There is only one small shelf of books on Education. LOL. There is one title on Montessori and no titles at all on Homeschooling but there is a book by Alfie Kohn. Oh… I sound like I am whingeing here…

I did enjoy my trip to Borders today though. While it didn’t have much of what I was looking forward to, they did have heaps of other books and products for me to browse. At the cooking section, I saw a cup made to look like those take-away coffee cups with a Sippy lid except that this one can be reused over and over. Now, I really like that and am thinking of getting one for M. After staying at the store for an hour or so (or was it more?), I walked out with one of my favourite magazines – Grassroots. The only other place to get Grassroots is at Mag Nation. Oh wait, I think Melbourne Central’s Borders have it too. I used to get it from McGill’s but that closed down a few months ago.

The staff members at this new store are young, energetic and friendly. Well, I am referring to the team that was there when I was this afternoon. Other than a cheery hello or a smile, they pretty much left me to browse without invading my personal space too much – this is very important to me because I hate to be given the ‘Pretty Woman’ shopping experience. My magazine cost only $6.20 but the giggly young lady who served me was happy to give me a cheerful service nonetheless. Now that is what I really like.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Money to Burn

With the opening of more shops, Chadstone is currently the biggest shopping centre in the Southern Hemisphere. Judging from what I saw on TV, more International Brands have opened their doors there. Chadstone is usually not my cup of tea but Miu Miu is one store that I wish to at least have a look at from the outside when I next visit the place. Being a commoner does not stop me from appreciating fine fashion but the possibility of receiving a ‘Pretty Woman’ shopping experience does stop me from venturing into some of these ‘finer’ establishments these days. Anyway when the news covered the story about the new shops at Chadstone recently, a reporter asked a group of three (1 young man and 2 women) how much they have spent in the hours since the shops opened their doors and to my utter surprise the young man actually answered and the figure given was somewhere around $15,000! Okay, I am aware that there are people who shop like that, but most people are pretty private about such spending. While I endeavour to prove to some people that I am no Gold Digger, I do admit that I don’t mind having $15,000 to play with when I do go shopping. This got me thinking about the sky-rocketing costs of sending a child overseas to study. On top of school fees and boarding fees, there is also the pocket money to ‘cushion’ the child. In many cases, the pocket money is way higher than the school and boarding fees combined! Suddenly everything seems far more expensive than when I was at school. How did my Super Parents manage?

My Mum came home from China in early November. To anyone who remembers why she went there in the first place, her mission was a success. My cousin is getting married. His girlfriend will join him soon. My Mum also came home with a job offer for me! The full story is somewhat complicated and long so I will just simplify it here so readers do not end up all confused by all the characters involved. Anyway, someone had offered me (via my Mum) the opportunity to run a Kindergarten for him in HK. This includes setting up the school in a 4 storey high building this person owns and running it. I was blown away by the offer of course. Wow! I am just a nobody over here but over there someone is offering me this ‘too good to be true’ opportunity. As my Mum explained the offer over the phone, I kept telling myself over and over that I must be dreaming.

I totally agree that this is one golden opportunity. In fact, it is one hell of an opportunity to show some people that I do not have any ulterior motives to be with M and if everything goes well, we will be on our way to starting our own ‘school’ far sooner than the way things are going for us at the moment. It is also an opportunity to live in HK – a place where most people look like me. I can walk down the street there like a Brit walks down the street here. As long as I don’t open my mouth, I can pretend to be a local. Even if I do open my mouth, Hong Kong natives have asked me in the past as to when I left HK for the West. This meant that my Cantonese is ‘native’ enough to their liking. I will never get that kind of compliment from native English speakers for my crappy English. I certainly will never be ‘qualified’ enough to set up and run my own school here. They even made John Marsden jump over all sorts of hurdles to start Candlebark.

The job offer is just so attractive but it also seems to be too good to be true! Someone else made a similar offer once upon a time and I turned them down almost right away when I figured out why they needed someone like me. To me, a school is not simply a place one sets up so that one’s other half can assume the important role of the establishment’s founder and be paraded as a generous contributor to the welfare and education of little children. At best, such a person may just quietly enjoy the new role bestowed by the loving spouse but at worse she could stir up trouble in any decision making, despite a lack of know how in the field of education, because she has the power to hire and fire. Furthermore if we do sign up to this offer, it may also be hard for us to move on to our dream project ASAP because severing such ties may also affect other existing relationships. I may be wrong but judging from the information I had received, it looks like they are all for running a pretty big school while I, on the other hand have a dream of offering an alternative learning program in a small setting that offers an intimate service. The offer just seems too good and too big. I also doubted my ability in running a school in a foreign place governed by an education system that I am not very familiar with. In the end, I turned down the offer much to the disappointment of my Mum even though she tried to hide the fact. I felt absolutely rotten for not stepping up to it and even though I am less affected by others opinions of me nowadays; I spent a good few days wondering if anyone else heard of my decision. It saddens me immensely that despite the many opportunities and my so-called ‘world class education’, I have amounted to nothing to make my parents proud to this day. My parents are apparently proud of me but I can see that I have not given them the kind of glory that many people my age have achieved. M is apparently always proud of me too. He doesn’t think that this is the last opportunity heading our way. He could be right. Things are absolutely going crazy over there. People suddenly have so much money to burn; they are willing to pay ridiculous amounts for what I reckon to be pretty basic services!

Friday, November 27, 2009

A Wish to Explore the Northern Capital

I had just finished reading Jan Wong’s “Beijing Confidential – Lost and Found in The Forbidden City” recently. The truth is that I had started reading bits and pieces of the book last year when it was first released in the bookshops. When I saw it sitting on the display shelf at the City Library recently, I borrowed it right away so I could read it from cover to cover in the comfort of my pigeon hole without having to worry about overstaying my welcome at any one of three bookshops I frequent quite regularly in the CBD.

This is the third book written by Jan Wong that I have read and I have enjoyed it so much so that I feel like it is timely to visit China again. This urge is also further fuelled by an article entitled “Five Things the US Can Learn from China” that I read in the latest copy of Time Magazine on the weekend. Sure the country is known to the West for its human rights abuses and sure there may be a few things they do in life that do not sit well even with me, but still there are other aspects of China that are highly appealing to me and I would really like to experience them with M. In the book, Jan Wong mentioned the rapid progress happening in Beijing and despite being in China on and off in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s plus a trip there with her family in 2003, she was having trouble getting around because the city has changed so much. This got me wondering how I would fare in Nanjing now. LOL.

Going there is also a good opportunity for M to speak Mandarin. My mum insists that his Mandarin is going nowhere because he just doesn’t have the opportunity to use the language here in Melbourne. It is considered by some to be rude to not speak English in public. Even if we don’t go right now, making plans to go could kick-start his interest again. I am all for M to start practising privately within the walls of our pigeon hole. I can see that I am getting sidetracked but there is just so much stuff to blog about. This is meant to be a post about a book I have read… I am about to write about a ‘you’re must be dreaming’ type job offer but I will leave that to the next post.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Olivia - Piggy with Personality (MYER Christmas Windows 09)

One day in 2001, a little girl asked me to read a new picture book someone bought her. The book was Olivia by Ian Falconer. Just like that little girl, I fell instantly in love with this charming piggy who always wears red – my favourite colour. Ever since then I have been reading the Olivia books to every little Vegemite at work and so far, I have not met any parents who are against the stories. My mum did warn me however that the characters (pigs) in this picture book may not go down well among some people and that I should exercise caution. Oh well, even Olivia can’t possibly pleases everyone.

The following are photos M took when we went to view the MYER Christmas Windows for a second time. M actually wanted me to go and snap photos of the arrival of Santa at the Christmas Parade last Saturday but I flatly refused because I know full well what I am very likely to be subjected to if I rock up at such events. My whole day would have undoubtedly been ruined had I gone that day. We are going back to view the windows again soon to snap more photos and footages. The best time to go is early in the morning or early in the evening - around the time when the shops in the Mall are closing for the day.

The journey began with Olivia heading home with her family after a last minute shopping trip. She is not in the photo because she wasn't carried by her parents and she was dawdling like many Kindergarteners after an outing. LOL

Olivia's Dad put up the Christmas Tree while...

Olivia fed the baby blue berries until he puked!

Then Olivia got entangled with the Christmas lights and her mum helped out by turning the lights on. LOL.

Oh Wow, Olivia did a good job setting up for dinner. Look at that beautiful centrepiece. It's kinda familiar though...

Oh NO! The top of the Christmas Tree had been chopped down to form the beautiful centrepiece on the table!

Always eager to help, Olivia was next asked if she would like to help set the fire. In reply, she asked if her Dad would like to get Santa cooked! LOL

Before bed, Olivia left a few cookies and a glass of milk out for Santa but who do you think had them all before Santa's arrival

Wrapping paper went everywhere as the little piglets excitedly uncover their pressies under the Christmas Tree.

She painted a self-portrait for her parents.

Olivia tested her new set of skis.

Why did she need such a big snowball?

They rolled up big snowballs to make a Snowman of course! Olivia is very good at building sandcastles so Snowman building shouldn't be a problem for this talented piggy.

Busy Busy

This blog has been neglected a bit. The last post was like more than a week ago! I have been busy sewing and planning to clean up the apartment in preparation for Christmas. There are a few things I want to blog about but I will probably have to wait till this time next week. We are going to move things to the storage unit again and from there we will bring home our Christmas tree and decorations. For a change of scenery, we have decided to place the tree somewhere different this year. We are hoping that we can have Sunday free so that we can go to a big shopping centre to get our mascot's Christmas outfit. Yes, he 'won' the audition again to be featured on this year's Christmas Cards. LOL.

I recently mentioned my wish to blog about some sensitive issues I have been experiencing. Well, I have made up my mind that I will go ahead with that but they are unlikely to be ready before Christmas. I need time to write and then think and then edit before I post them. It is not easy for me to write on somedays when my English is not working properly. LOL

Monday, November 9, 2009

Went To See R2 On Saturday

M and I went to Scienceworks on Saturday. It was the second last day of the exhibition called "Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination". It was a hot day and it is still hot in Melbourne right now. I thought we were meant to be subjected to a short hot spell late in Spring to prepare us for what to come in Summer but this feels more like a heatwave with no end! The following are some photos we took on the day.

I wanted one of these when I was little and I also wanted Obi Wan Kenobi to be my teacher. LOL

Oh look at R2! Isn't he just gorgeous? M took this photo and neglected to also include R2's feet.

When I was little, I used to worry that Wampa might die of starvation.

Dwellings in Chewie's homeland is based on the kind of Jungles I grew up in. Check out the workmanship. May be being taunted for living on trees is not so bad after all.

I used to think that the Sandman and Sandwoman costumes were likely to be inspired by the attire worn by people living in deserts and I was right.

In my opinion, being chased by one of these would be like being chased by Shuey (Michael Schumacher) on the road. LOL

My brother would have enjoyed every bit of this exhibition. He is such a big fan that he had converted the spare bedroom into a personal museum packed full of Star Wars goodies.

M had fun making an R2 lookalike move.

When it was my turn, R2 went for a Bumpy Ride!

Other than R2D2, seeing Yoda is the other reason why I came along. He looks a little like someone I knew except that she didn't have green skin and hair growing out of her ears.

It would have been so nice if the glass cases were made of one sheet of glass on each side. The joint between two sheets made it hard to take a photo properly.

We were lucky that the exhibition was extended to the 8th of November!

I like how they dolled up the building to look like Darth Vader's head. It would be nice if it comes with sound effects as well. LOL
Other than the heat, the outing had been fun. I was a little worried when I saw the number of children lining up with their parents to purchase tickets but except for one, the parents were largely well behaved on the day. Children do not bother me. Some parents do.
Our next outing is to the Melbourne Zoo. We are not sure whether to go before Christmas or after. It will be very hot in January. I also wish to go before Dokkoon gives birth because I want to see what a pregnant elephant looks like. Is she giving birth this year or will it be the end of next year? She has been pregnant for a while now.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

A Bit of Self Improvement, An Observation & A Timely Change

M was away the night before Melbourne Cup last year. Even though our Guinea Pig died in May 08, I remember I was still struggling to cope and was particularly bad on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. I was so grief stricken that I had forgotten that our building tends to become very lively on days like the Melbourne Cup Day. People would start partying from the evening before the actual day. Thank goodness for those party animals because without them I would have spent most of the time crying or feeling sad until M came home. This year M was away again for Melbourne Cup Day but I coped alright by keeping myself busy with sewing and watching foreign movies, including a bit of a French one that was way too weird for me. Recovering from the lost of my precious friend is surely a slow process for me. I did shed a tear or two before heading to bed but that had nothing to do with my Guinea Pig even though I miss him still. The issue bugging me is something I wish to blog about this month but am not sure yet.

Here is an observation. On the eve of Melbourne Cup day this year, I was able to hear may be two or three parties going on in the building and it was all quiet just after midnight. I thought that may be people were heading to bed for a good night sleep before the big day. On Melbourne Cup day, the place was peaceful like on Christmas Day! No parties at all. The only noise came from an excited little tot in the pool with her parents and grandpa. The two security officers hired for crowd control purposes were visually bored to bits. LOL. I am not saying that we have rowdy party animals all the time but there were no parties at all. LOL. It was weird. And by 10:30 – 11:00 pm, most people had gone to bed! Where did all the energy go?

M has a new work schedule finally. Although his working hours are slightly longer, the new schedule will work out better for us. The new schedule is to commence in the middle of the month and I have between now and then to work out a new menu and its shopping lists because our shopping days have to change to suit his schedule as well. He has also put his hand up for three grocery shopping trips per fortnight. Although I find his enthusiasm a bit bizarre, I am just going to enjoy and see how long it lasts. Of course I hope that it will last at least till the middle of Autumn. Doing three grocery shopping trips per fortnight with M means that I only have to do one top-up trip on my own or none at all during that period. Wow. I really like that.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Shut Up

Most people are comfortable and capable of not telling something as it is. I on the other hand have been struggling with this practice almost since the time I began to talk. With many role models around me, I am beginning, albeit slowly, to improve in what I dub as the “Beat Around The Bush Dance”. But just like my lack of ability and interest in dancing in public, this is something I don’t like to do but have to in order to conform to the norm as dictated by the humans around me. It takes quite a bit of effort to get things right.

At home when I was younger, I was discouraged from giving any opinion because:
1. I am a female
2. I was chronologically too young
3. I ranked too low on the family tree (My dad is the third son of 5 children and my mum is not only the third daughter, she was also the youngest of 5!)
4. I wasn’t a graduate (University qualifications, especially qualifications in careers like medicine, engineering and architecture can advance a person’s status magically.)

In the old country compliant people just knew not to give any opinions on politics or even some social issues that were deemed to be too controversial to discuss at home because of everyone’s fears of getting detained for ‘disturbing’ peace. Being outspoken and investigating options on how to improve human lives, especially via true equality, might also run the risk of causing the original inhabitants to run amok. I didn’t make that up. That ‘reminder’ actually came out of the mouth of an original inhabitant not that long ago.

So you would think that I must now enjoy a total freedom of speech in this country but that is not quite true. Oh, please don’t get me wrong. I do enjoy the extra benefits but nothing comes without strings attached. Here in this country, there are multiple sets of invisible social rules to follow before one opens his/her mouth, and to make things trickier, the rules change without notice, like you are playing a soccer game where the goal posts change location every time you try to kick a goal. I may declare my love for this country but that doesn’t mean that it is perfect. It does have flaws that I should be allowed to talk about without getting told, “If you don’t like it, you know where the airport is.” I shouldn’t be expected to love or pretend to love every aspect of this country.

One thing that I really wish to have a little say is the right to express my feelings to mini offenders when their parents do nothing to stop the appalling behaviour they display during family get togethers. By appalling behaviour I don’t mean the typical rough and tumble play between children and between children and participating adults. If anyone is reading this, and in case you don’t already know, I work with children and over the years I have received plenty of compliments from parents and virtually no complaints on my work. True, some of them probably shower me with compliments hoping that I don’t mistreat their precious little Vegemites but I do believe that most of the compliments are genuine. LOL. At least a couple of fathers have remarked on my high tolerance towards boisterous children. (I really don’t like the word ‘tolerance’.) Outside work, for instance, during family get togethers that I get dragged to, I expect parents to do their job when their children cross the line, especially if they do not welcome a so-called ‘aunty’ from meddling in how to deal with such situations. I believe that if I do ‘meddle’, I am likely to be blasted with a popular phrase: “Wait till you are a parent!” OUCH! DOUBLE OUCH, applicable to people like us. Some parents can be very defensive and so I know full well to shut my mouth and not give any advice until they ask but I should at least be allowed to express my feelings (hurt, anger etc) to a child hell bent on ‘attacking’ me verbally or physically. In expressing my feelings, I don’t mean storming off to the backyard to find a stick so I could thrash the little offender with it. Seriously, what do parents think their children could gain from ‘attacking’ another human being for fun? Is this another skill for a child to learn to prepare them for school and the ‘Real World’ and so we should just let the child safely practice without any protest? I guess the answers will only be revealed to us when we are blessed with a child of our own. LOL

In my spare time, I read a lot of blogs on the internet. If the blogs are not related to Montessori or Homeschooling, most of the blogs I read are written by bloggers who are in inter-racial relationships and/or are living in their spouse’s homeland. Some of these women are very gutsy in expressing their feelings about their new home. Maybe they are brave enough to write about their negative experiences because they are not as acutely affected as I about being ‘accepted’ by people in their new home. Then again most of these bloggers probably have a very different experience to me because they already belong to a specific group that is ‘venerated’ by the local people in their new home. Anyway they don’t just criticize their new home all day everyday. They write also about other (good) aspects of life as well; revealing to readers many hidden gems that one doesn’t always find in textbooks or tour guides about a particular country. I admire these women’s guts in expressing their true feelings. I wish I could write eloquently like them to convey messages clearly without sounding too abrupt or rude. Better still, I wish I could write a piece about an issue peppered with humour and mild sarcasm effortlessly so it will go down easier with any reader that happens to read this blog.

When I was younger, I was controlled by others to keep my mouth shut. Nowadays I find myself doing the controlling. As I compose this post, I am debating with myself as to whether to post it on the blog. Am I revealing too much about myself to people? Are my views offending anyone? If this piece makes it to the blog, it is highly likely that another similar piece will be posted in the near future and many more after that. I have been debating whether I should remove all the posts tagged under “My Soap Box” for months because I was and still am toying with the idea of keeping a “Happy 24/7 Blog” that mentions nothing negative. Should I? But this is my Blog, I should be allowed to say whatever I want and that includes whingeing.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Vesuvius Hath No Fury like a Woman Scorned

The beautiful Royal Exhibition Building

Outside the museum

Saturday turned out to be one of those splendid days in Spring that was perfect for an outing. The sky was blue and the temperature was mild enough for us to set out wearing T-shirts. I was in a happy mood because we were going to the museum! That is one place in Melbourne that I enjoy visiting every 18 months or so. Saturday was the second last day for us to visit the Winter exhibition – “A Day In Pompeii”.

The Melbourne Museum is in the Carlton Gardens, right behind the beautiful Royal Exhibition Building. It is possible to walk all the way there but we didn’t want to waste our energy before exploring the exhibition. So, we went to catch the free City of Melbourne Tourist Shuttle Bus to take us there but we only managed to stay on for the length of one stop. The bus was jam-packed and M kept bumping onto this very precious little Emperor who is snoozing on his father’s lap. The father shot me angry looks every time M bumped the little one so I suggested that we get off at the next stop. We were not done with battling genuine tourists for a free ride to our destination yet. Next, we hopped on the City Circle Tram to take us there. Although there was no air-conditioning, the tram was wider and with passengers hoping on and off at each stop, the ride was far more comfortable than that bus.

The big fountain at the front of the Royal Exhibition Building was operating. Due to water restrictions, I think they had turned it off when we were here last. I had wanted to take a photo but missed out because two couples on different sides of the fountain were in the middle of a snogging session and I didn’t want them to be part of my photo.

It had only just gone 3 o’clock when we arrived at the museum’s main entrance. We had two hours to kill before we could queue to purchase the “Two for the price of one tickets”. So, we headed straight to the Discovery Centre downstairs. That is one of my favourite sections in the museum and it is FREE! There are plenty of ‘objects’ to look at up close and there is also a collection of books/journals on early childhood education as well as educational kits for teachers to plan their trips. The biggest highlight for me was the lonely chameleon that lives inside a glass tank built in as part of the receptionists’ desk. I am not exactly sure but I think he was sent to live at the museum after he was confiscated by the customs because he shouldn’t have been allowed into Australia. I love watching him but he attracts plenty of attention from other visitors as well. So, I always make sure that I do not block any little Vegemites and their entourage from meeting him. Ok, the chameleon is probably a female. After the Discovery Centre, we went to the museum shop. The shop had shrunk from having two levels to just a single level. It probably is cheaper to manage when the whole shop has only two entry/exit points on the ground floor. We didn’t buy a thing but M did take note of the fossils that I would like to get for my ‘Dream Classroom/Project’. Maybe Santa M will buy me some for Christmas!

With 10 minutes till 5:00pm, we went to survey the queue forming near the ticket counters. We were surprised to see that it wasn’t as thick as when we first arrived. I was also looking out to see if I was the only tight arse that cut out a coupon from the newspaper to buy two tickets for the price of one. I was quite embarrassed to find that M was the only person holding one. Then we saw a sign erected near the queue indicating that tickets purchased then are for the 7:30 pm entry. That meant that we would have to wait for another 2 1/2 hours! Not wishing to be delayed any further, we immediately went to queue hoping that by the time we got served, it would have already been passed 5:00 pm. As it turned out, M’s watch was 5 minutes slower than the museum’s clock and we did manage to score ourselves two tickets for the price of just one. As we were queuing, I finally spotted other people using the coupons like us. Phew! It is a relief to know that I am not the only budget conscious person in Melbourne.

We spent the next couple of hours or so in the park right behind the museum. I will blog about what I saw in another post or this one will never end. When we came back to the museum, the whole place had become livelier. The museum is not normally operating at this time of the day but the extended hours on Saturday was meant to encourage more people to see this exhibition before it ends. It was called ‘Toga Party’ and some people did turn up wearing togas! There were also entertainers dressed up like Romans entertaining the crowds and a DJ playing music outside the exhibition hall.

Now I am finally up to the exhibition bit of the day. M and I are those types of visitors who like to read and learn as much as possible when we go to exhibitions such as this. This, even when we were holding half-priced tickets. Most people were like us on that evening. We got to look at what daily life was like in Roman Pompeii in the first half of the exhibition. I was very surprised to learn that in the days before Napisan, the Romans used human and/or animal urine for laundry purposes! Passersby (not the museum visitors) were encouraged to ‘contribute’ into a collecting pot. In the area where they displayed household goods from those days, I saw a useful portable stove and a portable oven. I like the design and versatility of those two items.

We next joined a group of people queuing to view a short animation in the 3D cinema. The 7 minute long animation showed us what it was like when Mt Vesuvius erupted and how it wiped out Pompeii over a day or two. Sorry, I wasn’t paying attention about the hours it took to finish the town off. I was actually a little concerned that there were children standing near the entrance of the cinema watching and waiting for the next session. I wasn’t sure if children should watch without fully understanding the event. As the event unfolded, I wondered about the people’s feelings at the time. Those who were trapped must have been freaking out, not knowing why their Gods had not saved them. After the 3D show, we walked down a corridor resembling the Street of Abundance and then to an area about vulcanology. We hung around a bit to watch a short documentary. Then we entered a circular room with a warning sign outside informing everyone that no real human bodies have been used for the display of the body casts. This is the saddest part of the exhibition. A little boy in front of me told his parents that he would never go to this place called Pompeii. Another little girl said, “This is a sad, sad place. Did you hear the babies screaming, Mum?” and then added, “I heard the babies crying, Mum. They must have been so scared.” The body cast of a slave still shackled and the one of a dog that choked itself to death were the most heart breaking for me. I just can’t help but to feel sad for the people of Pompeii even though it happened so very long ago. We were heading towards the end of the exhibition trail when we came out of the circular room. There was historical information on archaeological excavations of Pompeii and I came away agreeing with what a friend, who visited Pompeii (as part of her honeymoon), said many years ago. D & M went to Europe for their honeymoon. D loves European history. She once told me that Pompeii should be left alone, buried like a time capsule because there isn’t really a proper way to protect excavated sites from further erosion when exposed. M found it disrespectful for archaeologists to disturb burial grounds and remove burial artefacts. All that got me thinking about the Chinese Terracotta Warriors. They are left somewhat exposed too!

Just before the exit was another space for people to sit and watch pictures of how Pompeii looks like today. It was packed but M wanted to get a seat if possible. Meantime, I was curious about what was on sale in the exhibition shop but I remembered not to cross the invisible line dividing the exhibition hall and the shop because apparently once you have crossed the line, you are no longer allowed to re-enter. So, I stood around, casually reading the sponsors of the exhibition on the wall in front of me. M was reading something else just around the corner. We were waiting for the next show to begin. Suddenly, this man wearing the museum employee uniform came at my direction and sternly asked, “Do you know that once you have exited the exhibition, you are no longer allowed back in?” With that, he stormed back to the invisible line to pick up a sign that had been moved and then plonked it back down so I could read what was printed on it. As he marched back towards me again, he looked confused briefly before focusing on another figure that had emerged next to me and barked out, “Have you found your family yet?” In fact, before he finished mouthing off that question, he looked at me again. When the other person responded to him quietly, I realized that he wasn’t talking to me at all or that he was but he thought I was someone else. Onlookers just stared and I hate that. I try really hard all my life to not attract any attention in public and this dumb ass ruined my evening in just seconds. M only appeared after the lady responded to the dumb ass and he didn’t witness what had happened before that. He asked me what happened and I was too furious to explain. And then it was our turn to watch the picture show. I was absolutely fuming. I mean I know that certain people have a tendency to lump all Asians together because they apparently can’t tell us apart but did he need to approach visitors to a museum so very rudely. May be instead of working in the museum, he is better off working as a door dick at a nightclub. M couldn’t understand how this person could get me mixed up with the other lady. She is at least ½ - 1 foot shorter than me with short hair.

We didn’t end up buying anything from the exhibition shop. I was just too angry and just wanted to leave right away. The outing had ended terribly. I was so angry that I walked all the way home! M didn’t suggest any other form of transport. He just walked beside me because that is what I expected of him. The walking did help to calm me down a little. Some people really make me very angry.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

My Mum’s New Gig

I found out about my mum’s new gig a couple of weeks ago. I laughed so hard that I nearly fell off the stool when I was chatting on the phone. Normally I get pretty pissed off whenever she announces that she is heading overseas but this time I wasn’t only worried about her trip, I also can’t stop laughing at her mission. On the night before she left, I called her to double confirm that she didn’t put her hand up for this mission because she is a nosy Aunty. She confirmed thrice (seconded by my Dad 3x) that she was called upon to this very important job because she had life experience and because she is the most alert of them all. LOL.

This Superwoman who missed out on going to a British Law School because she is a female has now been temporarily assigned to be a Matchmaker/Wedding Planner. LOL. Sorry, I just find this too amusing. My mum’s mission was to travel to China with my 55 yr old cousin (never married) to check out his girlfriend, whom he ‘met’ chatting on the internet. If everything goes well, they will immediately start the negotiations for a wedding. The girlfriend did visit my old hometown about a month or so ago but my Mum was away attending someone else’s wedding in the capital city. When my Mum got home, she got wind that something wasn’t quite right. Despite efforts to hush up the girlfriend’s visit to my Mum’s birthplace – a village where my cousin runs the family grocery store, her presence caused an infectious bout of “Discrimination” among my Mum’s extended family. Seeing my Aunt in such a state of distress, my cousin was ready to call off the relationship. My other cousins (this cousin’s younger siblings) who had been supportive wanted him to enjoy the happiness of being married. They turned to my Mum for help because they reckoned that she has the status of an “Old Jungle Boar” among the elders. Not understanding what that crude slang meant, I almost hit the roof when I first heard it but my Mum was almost proud to wear that like a badge! Apparently the title is a way to describe a person with plenty of life experience.

Anyway my Mum and my cousin left on Friday. They flew to the Chinese City where my second Uncle lives with his family before catching a connecting flight to fly to the city where the lady lives. Typically the connecting flight was delayed and the duo didn’t arrive at their second destination until well after 1:00 am! I was blissfully unaware about this until my Dad reported it to me on the weekend. Although my Mum had promised to call me, I knew she wouldn’t until after the last leg of the journey because she knows I am such a worry wart. The next part of the journey is the bit I dislike most. The duo and the girlfriend/fiancĂ©e, will fly back to the City where my second Uncle lives before catching a bus to the birthplace of my maternal grandparents to meet my Mum’s eldest sister. I think she will call me after that trip because she knows how much I worry about those crazy bus rides. Meantime, I just hope that the bus drivers will sleep well and do a good job getting them there and back.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Window Shopping @ South Wharf

During one of the ad breaks that came on when we were watching The Amazing Race on Thursday, we saw an ad for the new DFO South Wharf. We saw Borders in the ad. Whenever Borders open a new store, they always have a few Montessori and Homeschooling titles in their Education section. Ooh...I can't wait to browse through some of them before they get sold out. There was also a full page printed ad on the back page of that day's copy of MX (free newspaper). Studying the map on it, we realized that the new outlet stores are located within walking distance and decided right then that we would drop by the next day to have a look.

The moment we got there, we quickly learned that many of the shops were not open for business yet. We were disappointed that Borders was also in that category. So we did a quick lap of the basement where most of the shops were already up and going, quickly checked out the shops on the ground floor that are getting ready to open their doors and then went upstairs to check out the JB Hi-Fi. I can't possibly give that place a miss if I have M in tow. There are a few more shops (e.g. The Good Guys) in another building adjoining the main building.

With the DFO outlets at Southern Cross station (aka Spencer St station), Harbour Town and now, more DFO outlets at South Wharf, we will never have to drive out there to buy discounted goods. Yay!!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

10 Words That = 3 Special Little Words

There are a few blogs that I regularly drop by to read their latest posts. One lady recently wrote a post titled “Three Little Words”. Her conversation with her husband got me thinking about the way I speak to M. Everyday when M goes to work or leaves to go somewhere else, I say to him, “Be careful when you cross the road. Don’t get mugged.” There, those are my 10 special words that are suppose to mean “I love you”. I didn’t think they were anything unusual until around 4 1/2 years ago. I was on the phone to M when a certain little vegemite was eavesdropping right next to me. This little vegemite decided to copy my words as part of a conversation she made up for her dollies and this time her mum overheard and freaked out. The little vegemite told her that I said it on the phone and her mum called right away to see if we were alright. LOL.

These days I do try to say “I love you” when I remember to but it just doesn’t sound right. LOL. It’s like using the F words. They just don’t seem to ‘fit’ me. In fact the F words were so amusing to M that he nearly crashed the car when I first used it in his presence. LOL. When M learned how to say “I love you” in Mandarin (Chinese), I laughed like mad at first but later I found it somewhat off-putting. There is just no point for him to say it in any other language that I speak. When it is coming from him, “I love you” is fine in English. When it is coming from me, the ten words I mentioned above sound more natural than the 3 special little words in English.

M is okay about the way I speak. He sometimes jokes that some of my vocabulary is uniquely me and only he and I could understand the meaning of it. LOL. Over the years, he has begun to understand things from my perspective. He is slowly learning that the words that come out of my mouth may be English but the usage is still sometimes influenced by my culture or my upbringing. Recently though I have begun wondering if the way I speak has anything to do with a condition I have. That’s something I would like to look deeper into. One of the many beauties of being in an inter-racial relationship is that there is just so much more to learn from each other. Just when you think that we humans share so many similarities another thing pops up reminding us of our differences.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Where Do My Groceries Come From?

I am currently reading an amusing book called ‘A Year Without “Made In China” – One Family’s True Life Adventure in the Global Economy’. The adjective ‘amusing’ is not chosen lightly. It has got to be amusing if M was caught smiling while reading page after page of the book. It is written by an American journalist named Sara Bongiorni. Printed inside the book’s dust jacket is a picture of her but before I even took a look at it and before I even finished reading a few lines describing the book, I suspected that she had Chinese heritage! Is this spooky or what? I haven’t seen the book in any bookshops and borrowed this copy from none other than our beloved Melbourne City Library.

The book and along with TV shows like “A Current Affair” and “Today Tonight” got me thinking about the so-called invasion of Chinese or foreign made products. Is it really that bad? Both M and I are not really bothered by China’s expansion. China’s steps to become an economic giant have given my Chinese relatives a better standard of living and thus a better life. I used to feel how unfair it was for them to be stuck over there but seeing them moving up makes me feel better for my late maternal grandma who seemed to blame herself for their sufferings all those years ago. Right now China is not a threat to me personally at all. I have lived as a minority all my life and that has given me invaluable abilities of working my way around obstacles even though it is not very nice to be a minority all the time. So instead of freaking out, I just get around any obstacles that come my way, but the thing is that Chinese products are not things I particularly shun unless they are harmful or if the quality is especially bad. Despite saying that, it doesn’t mean that I don’t support Aussie made products.

I was thinking about what to write about in this blog last week and an idea came into my head. I wondered if it would be a good idea to write a post about where my groceries come from. Just like the author of the book I am reading, I have decided to sort each product according to what is printed on its label. I am not going to call each company to make them give me the country of origin of each ingredient/component that makes up a product. Being a ‘nobody’, the companies probably won’t entertain someone like me questioning them. Since I had a few days before we do our grocery run on Saturday, I had time to think about it a little bit more. If the invasion is really as bad as what people would like me to think, I wondered if this idea would turn into a “Spot the Aussie” game. The vision of a certain type of local visitors turning up at a famous Melbournian landmark only to find the place ‘taken over’ by ‘other’ people came to my head. Imagining the possible facial expressions of those local visitors was almost enough for me to throw out this idea but M wanted to give it a go and see what we would find.

The pictures below are the stuff we bought on Saturday. We shop for our groceries at Safeway (now known as Woolworths) at QV and ALDI (on Franklin St). Because Asian meals are also consumed in this inter-racial household, we also regularly buy certain products from Asian grocery stores but we didn’t have to last Saturday. The only things not depicted in the pictures are sausages and chicken thigh fillets. We returned to get them on Sunday and they were both Australian products.

Australian products from Safeway/Woolworths

These are what I call “Somewhat Aussie” products. They are ‘Made in Australia from imported & local ingredients’ and we bought them from Safeway/Woolworths.

These are the ones made overseas and we also bought them from Safeway/Woolworths.
· Macleans Toothpaste – England
· Home Brand Toilet Paper – China (Aren’t we brave to use 1 ply sheets?)
· Heinz Baked Beans – New Zealand
· Trident Sweet Chilli Sauce – Thailand
· Home Brand Tuna Chunks – Thailand

Australian products from ALDI

“Somewhat Aussie” products bought from ALDI. They were labelled as ‘Made in Australia from imported & local ingredients’.

These are the ones made overseas and were bought from ALDI
· Jasmine Rice – Thailand
· Aluminium Foil – China
· Pineapple Slices – The Philippines (Note: We usually buy Golden Circle.)

A note about ALDI: Some people think that ALDI is not a patriotic option because they are German but they do hire Aussies and when the products are sourced locally, they do come from places that also hire Aussies. ALDI helps to keep our expenses lower.

This is the book I am currently reading.
Judging from just the groceries I bought on Saturday, I bought only two items that were made in China. That is not that bad, is it? There are a few other things made overseas but only two came from China. I didn’t set out to buy more Aussie made/produce goods just to write this post. What I buy during each grocery run is based entirely on the fortnightly menu we are currently sticking to and what non-edible items we have run out (e.g. Silver Foil). Even the shopping list is pre-made (printed from the computer) and reuse until we dump the menu because M is completely bored of the same meals over and over. LOL