Thursday, January 28, 2010

Bill’s Tree

Last Thursday, M and I went over to Government House Drive to spot Prince Bill. After the Prince and his entourage disappeared inside the big iron gates, I dragged Moosh to a particular part of the Royal Botanic Gardens that is situated right behind the Government House. There is where Kings, Queens, Dukes, Duchesses, Princes and & Princesses had come to plant trees. I thought that Bill might do the same but he didn’t. He probably planted one just outside the house.

While Prince Bill was doing his gig inside, we checked out some of the trees his relatives planted.

This shows that the current Queen (Prince Bill’s grandma) planted a Brush Box.
The late Queen Mother (Prince Bill’s great-grandma) planted this one.

This really tall tree, if I am not wrong is planted by Prince Bill’s great-great-grandma, Mary.
When we visited the Government House again on Australia Day, we did the house tour and then checked out the backyard as usual. As we were leaving, I stopped to check out a tree next to the driveway and learnt that the Queen had planted it. That prompted us to explore further. Almost every tree is planted by either royalty or a VIP. Then we came to two trees planted almost right next to each other. Guess who planted them? Diana and Chuck did. Not so far behind them is the little tree that Bill planted last Thursday. It is so sweet of them to keep them close together like a family. There is space for Harry’s tree too if he visits one day. Below is a photo of Bill’s tree. I didn’t take any photos of Chuck and Di’s trees because a father and two sons were picnicking under them.

This little house sits inside the Royal Botanic Gardens and I absolutely adore it. The house is used for private functions. Every time we come to the park, we would sit on this bench so I can day dream a little. I recently saw a book about the gardens in the library. In it, I saw an old photo of this house taken long before the trees surrounding it were this tall. Did children live in that house? Did they play where M and I always sit?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Australia Day 2010

Today is Australia Day and we went to the Government House again.

Imagine eating with so many people. Do you think the person setting the table was trying to squeeze as many potential diners in as possible?

No, these men are not selling plants. They are getting the fireworks ready!

There were plenty of cars on display for M to drool at but sadly I didn't spot one single Maserati!
O Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes-Benz?

We were inside the Government House when the fighter jet was zooming around outside. Later when we were outside, we missed a photo opportunity because it zoomed past so fast but M did manage to take a few photographs of the Roulettes. Even though we see this sort of things a few times a year, they don't cease to amaze me one bit.
Up, up and away!

There was an Australia Day Indian concert at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl. We went to have a little look around and found this very cute Rangoli. It was part of a competition.

The day's event ended with a fireworks display as usual. I love fireworks. With Australia Day over for another year, bring on CNY ASAP.
In case if anyone is interested, the next post is about trees.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Prince Bill

I dragged M over to the Government House this afternoon for a chance to spot a handsome Prince. We left the pigeon hole some time after 3:00 pm because I thought that no one else in the city would be interested to see anyone from the Windsor household nowadays. I was wrong. By the time we got there, there was already a large crowd gathering.

This is the Prince we were waiting for. Oops! This is a bad shot. Can you recognize him?

Aren’t these horses pretty?

It must be hot and uncomfortable under that thick make-up!

Oh, here is a better shot of Prince Bill.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

No Photos, No Chocolate Bars & No Asking, “How are your cows, Roger?”

After buying my books on Monday, we made our way back to the city. Before we headed home we dropped by Safeway @ QV to pick up some bread and a brush. While we were still browsing in the supermarket, M grabbed me, signalling me to check out some dude. I didn’t pay much attention because I was dying of thirst at the time. M insisted that the guy was a tennis player but later that night, he couldn’t pick out which player the guy was. We have seen a few tennis players when they have come to play in Melbourne and this year, I told M that I wanted to see Roger Federer.

On Thursday, I played goody-goody by returning the DVDs that M had borrowed from the library. After that I walked down to Clegs to see if they sold Burda Grid Tissue Paper, because I am in the middle of designing something and needed the tissue paper to help me draw my design accurately. Unfortunately Clegs looked like they didn’t have it, so I left and headed to Collins St. After I turned into the street, around the time that I was walking past this shoe shop that M and I have dubbed as the “Must Speak English Shoe Shop”, I made a decision to take a deep breath as I walked past the Lindt Café’s doorway. The shop always smells so delicious. I looked up to see what was ahead of me and saw a small crowd gathering outside of the Lindt Café. There were crowd controllers there too. Some guys who worked in jobs like crowd control are really not my cup of tea so I chose to walk on, like the footpath was all mine. As I walked past the people I saw a small group of energetic fans wearing red hats/caps and other clothing items in red. One particular hat stood out. It has SUISSE printed on it in bold and that was a tell tale sign. Remember those tennis fans who painted the Swedish flags on their faces? Who did they support? So when I added a word that means Swiss to Lindt a few days before Australian Open 2010, I get Roger Federer!

Before I left home, I told myself to bring the camera along but changed my mind at the last minute because of my own pure laziness. I could have dashed home quickly to pick it up but I wasn’t sure when he would arrive. It seemed like no one else knew when he would turn up either. I so regret not having my camera because when he arrived his chauffeur stopped briefly in front of me and there he was, Roger Federer, sitting in the back seat right in front of me. He had a big smile on his face. After the car was properly parked he was briefly mobbed by his fans. Some were singing. LOL. One of these teens took a very nice photo of him and I was tempted to give her my email address hoping that she would send me a copy but backed away because I didn’t want to scare her off. He was welcomed by some VIPs and Lindt’s chefs before entering the store.

I peeped through the display window to see what he was up to and caught glimpses of him. As I stood there waiting for him to come back out a man approached the group of devoted fans. They were invited to join the people inside the café but others, including me, were left waiting outside. Eventually a stretched limo turned up that was not the same car that dropped him off. I parked myself near its rear end so I could see him getting in but when the people emerged I soon learned that my plan had backfired. The stretched limo was here to pick up the VIPs as Roger Federer had already been whisked away via the back door. LOL. So yeah, I didn’t get to ask him about his cows. LOL. I also missed out on those mini chocolate bars that Lindt was giving away. The wrapper had Roger Federer’s photo printed on it. I did get to see him though and he isn’t as big as he is when seen on TV. I do hope he wins the Australian Open this year.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Just Because I Like Maria

90-95% of the books relating to Montessori that I own are bought from When I emailed them to see if I could pop over after Christmas to purchase a few books in person I was sad to learn that my favourite bookseller (Mr G) had sold his business to another organization. Not very good with changes beyond my control, I felt kind of odd that I would now have to deal with another unknown person whenever I buy Montessori related books. Yes, I was a little apprehensive even though I was communicating via email. LOL

The lady in charge now replied in an email stating that they are re-opening on the 11th of January. Desperate to finally pore over two of the three books I was interested in purchasing, because they have a tendency to be out of stock, I jumped at the opportunity without thinking twice about the weather. Monday turned out to be the hottest day in the New Year so far. I normally do not venture out of the pigeon hole when the temperature goes above 36°c but that day I was bursting with excitement to leave. I will do anything just for Maria. LOL. M was late because of work commitments and we made it to the school just before 1:00 pm. I did indicate in the email that we would be there between 12:00 – 1:00 pm. As we looked for a gate on a side street to enter the school, I saw two small groups of women leaving the school building. I instantly turned to M and said, “Oh WOW! M, those women are Montessori teachers!” M looked puzzled and asked, “How do you know? Is this a Montessori school? This is a state school isn’t it?” and I answered, “They are. I am sure of it. They have just finished a day of training.” Despite walking past them, I typically didn’t give any of them any eye contact while M was probably wondering if Montessori teachers have distinctive features making them easy for me to tell apart. LOL.

The women leaving made it easy for us to find the entrance to the office. We just followed the way they had come from. Nothing prepared me for what was up the stairs; I was just hoping that Ms A was just as friendly as Mr G. M did let the front door slam shut loudly startling me a little. Yes, I am not very good with sudden loud noises. Funnily though, loud noises made by children do not bother me. When we got up to the landing, we entered an open door that led into a large room. There standing slightly to the left was Ms A and guess what? Her facial features are like mine. She is an East Asian! (Before we entered the building, I told M that I thought that Ms A was of Indian origin. He was puzzled but he predicted that Ms A was of Italian origin because Maria Montessori is Italian.) Next I tried really hard to scan her voice to see if she was OK about us. At this point, I was still making sure that I was looking in her direction courteously, which meant that I was looking towards the left side of the large room. After she said something about me picking up my books, she came towards us to get to the door behind us and that was precisely when I turned my head to the right and saw what I had been wanting to see for really a long time. The problem was that Ms A had left the large room and as guests, I thought we ought to follow her but by the time we stepped out onto the landing again, she had disappeared into another room. I really liked what I saw and couldn’t resist popping back into the large room.

So what did I see? I saw a full scale 3-6 Montessori Classroom on display. For someone who had only seen some Montessori apparatus and visited classrooms with some Montessori apparatus (while the rest was locked up) all so many years ago, and for someone who had been reading so much about Montessori in recent years, the display was truly quite a sight. The only thing missing would have to be the children (+ the teacher)! How delightful it would be if only there were children working, for me to observe from a separate room, how they interact with such a special environment made especially for them! People like me do not normally engage in excessive physical displays of affection but that day, I felt like squeezing M to make sure that he was also absorbing the sight in front of him. When Ms A came back with my books, I told her that the classroom was very special and she told me that it is a typical 3-6 classroom. After I paid her, I asked for the permission to look at the farm and the ‘video camera’ inside my head went to work. The farm looked somewhat different from the one inside my old Nienhuis catalogue but someone told me that Nienhuis changes their product design ever so slightly from time to time. I did notice that the craftsman had applied gorgeous lashings of glossy red paint on the barn’s roof making it very attractive. Yes, I have a tendency to notice little things that are usually insignificant to most people. LOL. I do prefer my own collection of Schleich animal figurines but theirs were better scaled. See, Schleich should really make scaled figurines for consistency. (I am aware that Schleich makes a small range of scaled dinosaurs and another small range of scaled sea creatures. The other animal figurines are realistic but are not scaled.) The Long Division material that fascinates me so much was also there. It is smaller in real life. Why it was there is a mystery. I thought that it belonged to the 6-12 class. Nevertheless, I am happy to have seen it. The Fraction Circles that could have saved me from pain and humiliation were also there. Worried that we might have overstayed our welcome, I went over to say goodbye and we left. As I stepped out of the building, M quietly asked, “Are you happy?” I was more than happy. Despite the heat, I was talking non-stop about the things we saw. I even forgot to put on my hat and got sunburnt!

I have been reliving the footage I taped in my head a few times since that day. It would have been so wonderful if when I was between the ages of 3-6, I had a classroom such as the one I saw to go to. The freedom to be allowed to get on with one’s work with as little distraction as possible would be PRICELESS. As for the books, they are sitting on my desk waiting for me to cover them with Contact before I can study them in earnest. M suggested that if I hurry, we could organize to buy more books for my birthday so I could see the classroom display again. That would be great but imagine when we rock up next time and they have turned the display into a 6-9/6-12 classroom. I think I might collapse to the ground. LOL. Raise your hand if you would like to see the timelines that the children use in the Montessori elementary classrooms. “Yes, me please!”

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Useful Scraps II

Despite plenty of chores waiting for me, I chose to make my favourite book a cover on Sunday. It was quite warm that day and thus I didn’t want to do anything too stressful. The book was bought when it was first published back in 2005. So it has a hard cover and a dust jacket making it very hard for me to read without damaging the dust jacket. This is why I prefer books with soft covers because it is easier to protect them by covering each with Contact. I have begun to read this book from cover to cover again for a second time and I now leave the dust jacket sitting in the book case while I am at it but without the dust jacket, I worried that the light blue hard covers might become grubby over time. So, I set out to make it a washable cover. The floral print drill is from my growing pile of fabric scraps and the fabric’s colours turned out to match the book’s covers quite well. Do you think I am happy with how the cover turned out? Well, not really. It does serve its purpose but I think if I do make another one in the future and if I use an outer fabric like drill again, I will make sure that the inner fabric (lining) is made of something lighter to make the turning easier. I am not too satisfied with how the corners turned out and I am pretty sure that is because there is too much bulk within for each corner to turn out nicely. Yeah, I know that I can be fussy.

The book’s new jacket is also useful in hiding its identity. For fear of being judged, I never felt comfortable reading this book in public like when I am stuck with nothing to look at inside a super packed tram. This doesn’t happen very often because I try to avoid taking public transport but it does. One word in the book’s long title is bugging me. I know for a fact that another word (also starts with the letter ‘G’) with a similar meaning to this word bugs other people out there.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Need To Chill

Today is only the first day of the heatwave and here I am feeling gloomy already. We are only 8 days into the new year! I hope this is not a sign of me giving up before I even get started again. It doesn't help that M is very busy over the weekend. I should be alright by Monday. M and I are going to pick up my first lot of Christmas Pressies. We are also going to order my second lot of Christmas Pressies that same day. It took me a long time to decide what M should get me for Christmas and by the time I finally made up my mind, both vendors were shut for the festive season!

Newsflash: I just heard on TV that Dokkoon is very likely to give birth over this weekend! Despite my current gloomy state, I am truly happy for this elephant and can't wait to see her baby. I hope the zookeepers will keep her comfy. Imagine giving birth during a heatwave!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Useful Scraps

Here is the coin pouch that I made for M when he was away on Tuesday. It is similar to one that I made for myself recently. It is another chance for me to practise making a pouch with lining. Because I wasn’t quite sure how to repeat it, I didn’t spend much time altering the overall design. The pocket at the front is deeper this time and a key ring is also included. It is hidden inside the pocket.

Other than the zipper, this coin pouch is made entirely with scraps, which includes the interfacing I ironed onto the wrong sides of the fabric pieces. Even the key ring is recycled from the old worn out coin pouch heading for retirement. I also made the pattern pieces using a cereal box so they can be reused when I make another one in the future.

M loves it!

Small Animal, Big Influence

Before I came here, I had many Aussie pen-pals and almost all of them wrote about their collection of pets. After I came here, I began to see on the news how awful ‘my people’ were in the way we would treat animals. From bears forcefully taught to dance with a rope harness through their snouts, to bears held captive in cages for convenient bile extraction, to Orang Utans kept as pets, to Whales getting harpooned for scientific purposes; Asia, a big continent was fast becoming a super bad place in my head. Then in 2003, we bought our beloved Guinea Pig and I began to become more aware of local animal cruelty in the news. Although I have no scientific evidence to prove it, I also began to notice that such cruel incidents tend to happen during school and public holidays. I find it hard to believe that such heartless people live here regardless of whether the person has been imported, born here or is someone who can trace their ancestry back all the way to the first fleet!

One evening, 7-10 days before Christmas, I sat myself in front of the TV but I wasn’t really watching it. I think I was looking at a pattern book trying to decide which patterns I should buy on Boxing Day, when I first heard the sound of elevator music and then the noise of an animal in distress. When I looked up, I saw a pig lying on its side, thrashing about with a metal bar stuck between its jaws. Because I was so disturbed by what I had seen, I only heard snippets of what the narrator said. It went a little bit like this: “Now that you know…” I wondered what it all meant. The ad appeared again the following evening. In fact, it appeared multiple times during the next evening but I have not seen it again since! I just blocked it all out by switching channels. Ironically the ad almost always appeared just before or after an advertisement for Christmas ham. The truth is that I was pretty angry at the organization responsible for this ad at first, as I thought they were ruining my Christmas, but the sight of that pig haunted me over the past two weeks. I remembered something that happened in the 90’s when I read about a foul mouthed VIP (P for Pollie) who was linked to a piggery that kept its pigs in very small pens. I sat in my bed wondering whether the ad had anything to do with the pork industry and wondered why the poor pig was thrashing about like that.

3 days after Christmas, we had to go to the library to drop off some DVDs. While we were there, I went upstairs and found these two books: “How Good Are You?” by Julian Lee and “A Lighter Footprint” by Angela Crocombe. I think I had previously picked up the second book for a quick glance in the past. Anyway what is written in these two books has managed to enlighten me on the horrible practice of factory farming. YES, factory farming is here in Australia too! I am sure there are other countries that are doing the same thing, but I really expect a lot more from Australia. Reading about Factory Farming made me want to puke as it is completely opposite to an article (Pig Birthing Plan by J Owens) that I read in the latest issue of Grass Roots - Australia’s most popular self-sufficiency magazine. This caring Tasmanian’s little farm is almost like a dream! Humans are omnivores even though some choose to be vegetarians but what have these poor animals ever done to humans for them to be treated in such a cruel and brutal way. I am realistic and I am going to openly declare that I can’t ever see myself becoming a full time vegetarian, but we are going to really try to change the way that we buy our meat products. We are now looking to buy organic or biodynamic meats, even though the shocking price tags may force us to eat less meat in future. As I write this, I wonder if Temple Grandin’s ideas have been implemented here in Australia.

It is now 20 months since our beloved Guinea Pig left us. I have written many times about the little things I have learnt from keeping a pet and even though I have always liked animals, it was the experience of keeping our Guinea Pig that has explicitly taught me true empathy for animals. In 2008, we changed the incandescent light bulbs in our pigeon hole to the energy efficient CFLs. This year, we are looking to improve the kinds of food and personal care products that we consume. Already I have changed my soap. Yes, I still use soap bars for my showers. For years after I came to Australia I did use fancy shower gels from the Body Shop because I thought they were trendy but secretly, I have always preferred holding onto a bar of soap. So I reverted back to soap and have always bought Aussie or UK made ones. Then in early December 09, I saw that Safeway now stocks the ECO STORE Goat’s Milk Baby Soap and thought that I should give it a try. I have heard that Goat’s Milk is kind to dry skin. Since it was just under $2 a bar, I bought one to try and I can declare now that I am totally in love with it. Each bar lasts about two weeks. That means that if there are 52 weeks in a year, which is equal to 26 fortnights, I will need roughly 26 bars of ECO STORE Goat’s Milk Baby Soap annually, which equals around $52 a year (except if they suddenly put the price up). The soap is apparently GE Free, New Zealand made and most important of all, the product was never tested on animals, which I hope is applicable to each of the individual ingredients listed to make the soap, and not just the finished product. Do you know that some humans in the cosmetic industry strap little animals down so that they can cruelly test the ingredients used to make cosmetics and personal care products on their eyes?

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year Everyone!

Happy New Year everyone! We didn't go anywhere for NYE. We just ate pizza ( a first in a long time), drank 7 UP and watched the fireworks from the balcony. I didn't even bother to take pictures because the sky wasn't that great for fireworks display last night. I did spy some crazy people starting their own private fireworks display inside an apartment in another building. LOL. Australia Day will be here soon and hopefully it will be a good day for fireworks. After that I will be looking forward to the sounds of firecrackers marking the celebrations for Chinese New Year!

Oh yeah, three crowd controllers were hired to babysit everyone in the building yesterday. Yeah, I saw just three this time and they were dressed in suits. Just like the AFL Grand Final day, they spent their day chatting in the club house. With everyone behaving so well, crowd controllers everywhere must be wishing to babysit us at every opportunity available. LOL