If something makes you mad, you blog it.
Then you tell the paper.
Labels: good times
My act? It's finally TOGETHER!
I decided to bite the bullet today and DO NAT'S BIRTHDAY! I'd had so much encouragement from my commenters and others, and decided that not only could I do it, I could do it by myself!
For me, it's no extra bother to make cakes and icing from scratch than to use packet mixes and prepared icing. The cakes were already made, as I said, and they were perfect when defrosted. Well, as perfect as they'd been before they were frozen anyway.
(My oven in the new house is a bit weird and cakes often come out unusually-shaped because the top element is a bit savage. The tops cook first, rise up and slop over to the side while the middles keep rising and spew batter out the other side. With some creative temperature adjustment the whole cake can be completed without scorching the top. It just looks weird, that's all.)
You know what? I'm blathering on too much. Let me show you some pictures, partly to show you how the morning turned out, and partly because without pictorial evidence, you may never believe I actually gave Nat his 4½th Birthday ... at the age of 4 years 7 months and 7 days.
All done. Weirdly shaped, vividly pink, but D.O.N.E! And I don't believe the kids would have even noticed the things I notice all too much! (I turned the most-prolapsed cakes away from the camera, in case you're wondering what I was talking about.)
When it all comes down to it, it's The Birthday Boy who needs to be happy. And he was. (It could just be because his Dad is Mr Strong.)
That's a good angle to see some of those krazy kakes.
I haven't yet done a post about how completely awesome Nat's 2009 Kindy Teacher is - suffice to say that when she was putting candles on, she was so awesome she actually cut one in half so Nat could have 4½ candles. No problems, no questions asked. She is cool like that. I love her.
The candles were lit, the candles were blown out ...
And the cakes were enjoyed ...
Pardon me, I should have said the icing was enjoyed.
And the Man Of The Hour was satisfied. Two years of kindy, and finally, 7 months and 7 days late, his birthday was celebrated.
Happy Birthday, Nat. Happy 4½th Birthday. Way to squeeze all the drops of fun from the annual institution we call The Birthday.
Now. How am I going to get out of throwing the huge housewarming party Nat's been pestering us to have? He's got a guest list (you're on it!!), and every day he's at us to write the invitations. We moved here in April.
It's not Nat's birthday.
But he's 4½ and he has noticed that last year at kindy, he didn't have a party for his 3rd birthday (because he hadn't started attending yet) and this year at kindy, he didn't have a party for his 4th birthday (because we hadn't moved here yet.)
So he's been ripped off.
The kindy teacher and I have decided to celebrate his 4½th birthday (say it out loud: fourandahalfth) sometime soon. The teacher is very flexible - she says I can just bring some little cakes along one morning and say, "We're doing it" and it will happen at morning tea.
I've even made 24 little cupcakes and frozen them, and so the icing doesn't come to grief during the car trip I've packed up icing sugar, bowls, a knife for spreading, food colouring to make different colours and sprinkles to make them magical (you know kids think sprinkles make the world turn around) and a giant tray to put them on.
That's easy too.
Getting it all to kindy one morning when we're not late and haven't forgotten anything like Nat's LUNCH or SHOES and icing the 24 little cakes before morning tea (so they don't get all mushed up in the car because I forget they're there and take a corner too fast) while Joseph lies on his back on a rug and screams his lungs out because I'm doing stupid culinary things instead of cuddling him and people start thinking I'm a bad Mum...
Not so easy.
Alternatively: icing them all at home and driving really slowly to kindy so they don't get mushed up and roll around on their giant tray and when I get to kindy wonder how I am going to get:
• a 4½ year old (+ bag, +hat, +lunchbox, +morning tea box, +waterbottle +on-the-spot sunscreening as per my written agreement) into kindy,
• a 2½ year old (+multiple tantrums) into kindy,
• a baby (+screaming, +wriggling) into kindy, and
• a giant tray of 24 cupcakes (+icing, +sprinkles) into kindy
...when really each one of those listed above could do with their own individual run into kindy with the obvious drawback of parents walking by the car during my 60-second dashes into kindy wondering why the remaining children have been abandoned (for all they know, abandoned for EVER) by a heartless mother who should be reported to the police...
Also not that easy.
Well, when I play it out in my mind, that's how it would go down. I'd end up in jail.
Now if I had my Magic Wand (the Photoshop Wand I mentioned a few days ago) I'd whip up the same cakes I made for Nat's real birthday in March.
Cos back then, I had my ACT TOGETHER!
As today drew to a close, I asked myself if there were three good reasons why I shouldn't just leave the sleeping children and race out to the shops to grab some dark chocolate and a bottle of plonk.
UnFortunately, I found my three good reasonsso here I sit with Hot Chocolate filling the gigantesque mug that Mrs Tantrum sent me all the way from Seattle to tell you, in no particular order, the elements of my giant Wednesday-related Whinge.
1. I woke in absolute agony having somehow developed a massive muscle spasm involving the huge muscles down the side of the back while I slept (?) I was having trouble breathing. It was awful. By mid-morning though, it had gone.
2. Anna-Lucia threw the most amazing tantrum at kindy, not wanting to stay in the car and wait, then wanting to stay after all, by which time I'd got Joseph out of his seat, so we were all going in for heavens' sake. Screamed, wouldn't walk, refused to enter, howled while I dashed in and refused to walk back to the car when we were done. Great with a sore back.
3. I have a vague recollection of Mr de Elba confessing the dog "caused herself to become lighter" on the floor in the garage overnight where she was allowed to sleep due to the cold wet weather outside. I have only just now remembered about it. I hope I wasn't supposed to do something about it.
4. Certain infringements were committed during a play-date this afternoon. I cannot point the finger but I am left to deal with juice in the bathroom waste bin and spitwads on the carpet. I can however point the finger at the host child being responsible for inviting his friends in from playing in the gravel outside to jump on his parents' bed and hide under the covers. The guests, to their credit, declined the invitation.
5. On both the 'to' and 'from' legs of a trip out today, we saw a mother and father duck with eight little ducklings wandering up and down outside the fence around the Waterbird Habitat. This type of duck:
They clearly wanted to get back in, as that is where ducks live around these parts, but couldn't find a way in through the fence. Numerous phone calls showed that:
(a) the Department of Parks and Wildlife doesn't care about ducks - they only care for protected species.
(b) the local Wildlife Carers don't care about ducks - unless they are sick or injured and I was not prepared to do the ducks that 'favour'
(c) the Animal Control section of the Regional Council doesn't care about ducks - they only care about domestic animals who are doing the wrong thing
(d) the Department of Primary Industries doesn't care about ducks - they only care about some other category of animal whose criteria I can't remember anymore.
I had guests. I didn't have time to call the RSPCA, nor did I have time to "herd the ducks in through a gate" as suggested by one of the non-duck-caring groups above.
Nobody Cares About Ducks. And that makes me mad.
6. I accidentally spelled "duck" as "dick" a few times in point #5 above and cannot be absolutely sure I've fixed all these typos, as spellcheck seems to think dicks are okay.
7. I'm not going to list this other annoying thing from the Playdate, so I will mark its existence with this dot point (#7) and use the space to tell you two wonderful things:
(a) the terrible mess in the living room that has been bothering me for days? Can be tidied up in 55 seconds by four eager children wanting to beat the clock. Set a timer for 1 minute, give them the boxes and say GO! Done.
(b) Nat had two friends over. Boys. His age. And yet I still heard this:
Anna-Lucia: Can I play wiff you Nat? Nat: Yes! You can be on my team, Anna!
Actually no, scratch all that and forget all the crying my poor Joseph did today.
It was a pretty good day after all.
Just not for Ducks.
This girl (you know the one)
runs hot and cold. Her moods flip from grumpy to euphoric in the blink of a Small Child's Whim. It's frustrating, it's manipulative, and it's terribly terribly cute.
The scene: inside the house as a rare shower of rain pours down outside. The Mother walks through the house followed by a Small Boy and an even Smaller Girl. The Small Boy is trying to persuade The Mother to let him put on his swimmers and play in the rain. The Small Girl is whinging and moaning and carrying on about an issue long-forgotten. All she remembers is that she was the injured party, and she needs to continue to complain.
Small Boy: Please Mum? Can I go out in the rain?
The Mother: Well you can sweetheart, but your sister can't. You see, she's MUCH TOO UPSET.
Small Girl: Oo! I'm not upset anymore! Yook!
The mother turns to see the small girl gesturing to her own elated expression as evidence that she is now no longer upset and can go outside in the rain.
(Sorry, yes, they're cufflinks. But they say "Hot" and "Cold" which was what I was after.)
Tracy P paid me the highest compliment in the comments for yesterday's post.
She said, "Do you have a know of a good tutorial on how to reduce the opacity of the background of the original photo? (Or, you could write one in your spare time. ;-) )"
Firstly she thought I'd actually notice she started with "Do you have a know of a ..." and commented straight after to explain.
I hadn't noticed. I just skimmed that bit, and understood what she meant.
Secondly she thinks I know how to edit photos, most probably in Photoshop. This is high praise of my barely existent skills but I have to tell you: I am so hopeless at Photoshop I can hardly find the end of my nose in it, let alone use it cleverly. Thankyou Tracy, for your confidence in my skills. I am afraid they are slightly misplaced.
Until recently, all I could do in it was write words on photos. Hence:
And see? Even then I used Picasa, not Photoshop. I am so slow and hopeless at Photoshop that when I go to use it, I DON'T EVEN USE IT!
So there's my first Photoshop tip: Use Picasa. For putting text in photos, for saturating colours, for doing B&W, sepia, soft focus, removing blemishes, and cropping.
My second Photoshop tip is to check out the tutorials on Pioneer Woman. She is my guru. My photography guru, my cooking guru, and also my blogging guru, hence my crisis of confidence three posts ago.
It was from her recent posts on adding texture that I got my great idea to put lawn on Anna and make a pretty picture. The specific tutorial that helped me was right here, and this is the first time I've ever been clever with Photoshop, i.e., doing something other than putting text on Photos or making gag t-shirts:
But Tracy asked me about something a little different, and I have no idea how to answer it.
Sadly, I can't use more than 2% of the functions in Photoshop. Maybe less. I am unable to un-select selected sections, I am unable to find pictures I've opened because I haven't clicked the function that makes them all appear in their little windows, and I can never find functions I assume must exist. I can't even re-colour a bit I have selected. Really. I am hopeless.
Sometimes I can teach myself how to use software. With the help of video tutorials by an extremely eager man named Chad, I taught myself Adobe Premiere and edited some videos. With the help of nothing-much-at-all, I taught myself a program called "Ultra Fractal 4" which helped me make this fractal for the cover of a maths syllabus book for my father:
I did that.
You'd think I'd be able to navigate a leetle bit around Photoshop, wouldn't you? But no.
However, I am able to open a few pictures in Photoshop and stick one on top of the other (lawn on top of Anna), change the setting in "Layers" to "soft light" and fiddle with the opacity, just like it says in the Pioneer Woman tutorial. Tutorials are where it's AT!
Unfortunately, you can't write a tutorial for what you can't actually do yourself, as I found out below. Here is my tutorial for decreasing the opacity of a background.
Step 1: Open the picture in Photoshop. I can do that.
Step 2: Using the Magic Wand tool, select the background. See, this is where I lose the plot (in Step 2!) because backgrounds can't just "be selected using the Magic Wand tool." In most cases, backgrounds are so varied that the Magic Wand tool can't select them while leaving the foreground alone. This proves that I don't know how to select anything if I can't use the Magic Wand tool. If I had a real Magic Wand, I'd just wave it and say, "Alla-Kazam, Alla-Kazee, Decrease the Background Opacity!" And it would go *pouf*, and you'd wonder how it was done.
Step 3: At this point I realise that with the background inexpertly selected, the Opacity slider in the Layers Palette (lower right) is grey. Not black. It can't be modified. So at this point, I realise that I will be absolutely no help to Tracy.
Instead, I hit "Delete" to delete the background. Well, as much of the background as I've been able to select. See - this is completely wrong, and not at all what Tracy wanted. She wanted the background present, just decreased in opacity.
I have no idea why the background is now blue, by the way. It's got something to do with one of those two little boxes in the left bar being blue.
How it got blue, I don't know.
How I change it, I don't know.
Why I am writing a tutorial on Photoshop is anybody's guess.
Above is what we have now - a de-stalked pink flower floating in a sea of solid blue with a few odd patches here and there. I wish I could tell you that this is exactly what I wanted.
Step 4: I wanted to show-off to you that I can select the flower, and not the blue. So I went to "Select" - "Inverse." And now I've got the flower. And the odd patches floating in the blue. What are we going to do with them? MOVE THEM! Why? BECAUSE WE CAN! And also because we can't think of anything else to do.
Step 5: Move 'em up there. Because there's a little bit of space up there.
Step 6: If there's one transform I know how to do, it's applying a Gaussian Blur. I like this transform, because it makes everything look like My World Without Contact Lenses. I have chosen a Gaussian Blur of 20 pixels. You may choose more or less blur, according to your own particular visual handicap.
And that's how it looks. My life without lenses - an eternal Monet.
Step 7: Back to work. ("Work!" Ha!) Open a new picture, to show the world that we know how. I have chosen to open Nat's plasticine B.O.B.s.
Step 8: Apply Gaussian Blur to them too. So they match the rose.
Step 9: Use the Rectangular Marquee tool to select the rose and some of the blue around it. Use the Magic Eraser tool to attempt to delete all the blue, but find that it only deletes the blue inside the rectangle described by the Marquee Tool. Once again question one's own credentials for writing a Photoshop Tutorial.
Step 10: Click and drag the Gaussed-up rose onto the picture of the B.O.B.s.
Step 11: Lather, rinse, repeat. Drag it three more times so you have a total of four blurry pink patches on top of the B.O.B.s. Play with the size and opacity of each rose, move them around, and wonder how people EVER get good at Photoshop.
Above: The Finished Product. And that's what we set out to achieve, wasn't it? Wasn't it?
If there's anything to be learned from this Tutorial, it's that I can get a screen grab. Get the screen you want, hit "Print Screen" and this will save it in memory, open MS Paint and press Paste (or the keyboard shortcut, Ctrl-V). Then "Save As."
And this goes to prove what my Crazy Sister has always said - Paint beats Photoshop hands down.
Because I can actually use it.
I've been playing with some of my recent photos.
Adding texture, rounding corners, and what better subject to use than My Girl? The one who ties my brain up in knots:
AL: I am your girl, and you are my pin-cess.
Me: Well okay, but I'm really your mother.
AL: What I called?
Me: You are my daughter. And I am your mother.
AL: You are my muvver. And I am Daddy's muvver.
Me (concentrating): Yes. No, wait - what? Daddy's your father.
AL: And Nat is my boy and Doe-feff is my boy and you are my girl. And I am your farver and your pin-cess.
Ahem. Where was I? Oh yes, rounding corners, adding texture, blurring it all up around the edges ...
That was a bit too much, wasn't it? But then, SHE is a bit too much as well, isn't she?
AL: 'Can I have some yoghurt?'
Me: 'I'll need to hear some manners.'
AL: 'Please? That's good manners. Now can I have some yoghurt?'
Texture, as wild and varied as each day with my little girl. The texture below is the shot of my lawn that I posted yesterday. The rose is a "Raspberry Tiger."
Little Anna-Lucia. The girl who sometimes calls us Daddy-Cia, Mummy-Cia, Natty-Cia and Doe-feff-Cia.
The girl who has watched Wallace & Grommit so many times now that she sometimes says of the moon, "Dey fought it was made of cheese - it made of Moon Wock!! Silly ol Gommit. Silly ol Wowiss."
The girl who, when asked what Joseph was doing, saw that he was looking at toys dangling above him and replied, "Yooking at he dollies."
If she melts my heart much more, it will dribble down into my toes. Is that why at the end of the day, your feet get a little puffy? Or is that just during pregnancy?
Thankyou all for saying you like the stuff that is frequently found at Killing A Fly. I don't have a HUGE, WHIZBANG STORY to tell, but I can let you in on daily life at the de Elbas' place.
I am reminded that I don't get around to thank all you lovely commenters, and I really should! Please forgive me for that. I'm slack.
Now before I get on with the next post, please let me show you a close-up of our lawn. This is partly in deference to the genre of the Interestingly Mundane (or is it Mundanely Interesting?) posting that you've become accustomed to here at Killing A Fly, and partly because it will feature in the next post.
... than being vomited on by your child.
Poor little Anna-Lucia woke up at 11pm just as I was turning my light off, slipping down into bed and saying "Asaaahhh!!" after a VERY long hard day.
"I gaired!" she moaned. "I gaired of-a gark!" She's never been scared of the dark before, it just seems to be a recent fad. "I need a cuddle." Okay.
I brought her into my bed, which was a bad idea given that it is the only bed without a waterproof mattress protector and that she was going to wake me up with a warm stinky vomit just an hour later.
Midnight showering, midnight load of washing, midnight fight trying to get paracetamol into her and midnight cup of tea with lethargic girl on shoulder. Poor little cherub.
After getting to bed at 2:00, I was woken at 3:00 as my milk was Required, then twice after that to re-insert the dummy, once after that with random "I gaired" moaning, and again at 5:30 for a too-early milk donation.
Today I can hardly string a sentence together in my mother tongue. And yet she still burns up. Do I take her to a strange doctor this afternoon ("Give her small sips of water frequently, try to keep her temperature down with paracetamol, brufen and cool baths. You're very welcome, you can pay the bill on your way out thanks,") or wait to see my regular doctor tomorrow morning?
One thing I am sure of. There will be no fun dinner with my new little blogging buddy and his parents tonight.
On Monday we travelled to Roma for Scripture Union's Stock Up For Hope cattle sale.
The need for chaplains in rural and remote schools is as great as any with students facing the same issues as their city counterparts, but with isolation, the drought, and lack of work playing a part in their lives as well.
In order to raise much-needed funds to support school chaplaincy in Queensland, SU Qld runs an annual cattle muster, asking for graziers to donate cattle so they can be sold and the proceeds be used for school chaplaincy.
Over the last few weeks, drovers and corporate guests (who are Stock Up sponsors) have been droving the donated cattle towards Roma in preparation for the sale on Tuesday 13th. We all went to see the cattle sale and to get away for a bit, but mainly to be a part of Mr de Elba's work for a few days.
We didn't understand 95% of what the auctioneer was saying, but we know that:
(a) we can't afford to buy a bull
(b) we are pleased that we didn't accidentally buy a bull,
(c) everyone stands with their thumbs in the jeans pockets to stop them moving their hands and inadvertantly buying a bull,
(d) if you're dressed like a city girl carrying a baby, camera bag and five drink bottles (I know! More than the number of people needing drink bottles! I hate freebies!) holding your camera high above your head to get some good pics of the auction, they look nervously at you, worrying that you may inadvertantly buy a bull and then get mad because you didn't want to.
And finally, I was a little mystified by this:
Watching this guy and hundreds of his mates do their best in support of School Chaplaincy.
More details to come.
Oh, okay, you can read about it here if you want.
Labels: mr de elba
I love Nat. But he's four and a half, and I believe this means I have to be getting cross wtih him for a large portion of the day.
I don't want to do it. In my little motherhood daydream, he sits playing happily and I flood him with positive words of affirmation. I ask him to do something and it's done, giving me more opportunity to build him up with kindness and love.
But that's just my daydream. In reality, although I am as kind and positive as I can be, most of Nat's day is spent messing stuff up, fighting with his sister, disobeying me or not listening to me at all. I find myself correcting him a lot of the time.
Today, after a long 13 hours of feeling like Nat and I were pulling in opposite directions, I decided it was time to share a laugh together.
"Hey, watch what I can do with my arms!" I said.
With my elbows bent and raised as high as I could raise them and looking like a giant deranged chicken, I flapped my 'wings' downwards as I farted as loud as I could.
And we ended the day on a high.
Nat: Mum, can you help me build this train track?
Me: Err, an Astute Child could see I am up to my elbows in pattycake mixture ...
Nat: A Stupid Child could see that?
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Australians (mostly) love their Vegemite. People from other countries think we're mad. The American Arj Barker says in his comedy skit that he has tried it, and he thought it was very nice. The only slight suggestion he could offer was perhaps it needed just a BIT more salt ...? Which was his way of saying it is so salty it could strip your vocal cords.
[I don't know why I said that. Of all people, I should know that food you swallow doesn't head down near your vocal cords. It just sounded funny to say that. "Eat some Vegemite and you could lose your power of speech." Ha ha.]
I think the problem encountered by visitors from overseas is that they spread it too thickly. You can't go slathering the stuff on like Nutella. Just scrape a trace of Vegemite here and a trace there, you're done. That's plenty.
That's a pretty decent amount, on that crusty bread. This would be getting a bit too thick in places:
...and you HAVE to take it out to the corners, for Pete's sake.
But this would be far too much:
It looks like they've wiped that on with a shaving brush in the dark.
And this much on a cracker could pretty much knock over a horse:
So don't do that.
Now please remember that some Australians like their Vegemite THICK. Please understand that that is their preference. They are seasoned (pun?) Vegemite Eaters, having completed years of training (de-sensitisation?). Thick Vegemite is not for the faint-hearted, the hypertensive, or the foreigner. Okay?
You may have heard that recently, the marketers of Vegemite came up with something new. A different recipe, supposedly milder and with less ZING, that would hopefully appeal to the overseas market.
I believe it's Vegemite mixed with Cream Cheese. But here, we see the law of food mixing evident: I like custard and I like balsamic vinegar, but I don't like custard with balsamic vinegar (I am just assuming here.)
I like potatoes and I like ice-cream, but I don't like potatoes with ice-cream.
I like dark chocolate and I like mustard, but I don't like mustard on my dark chocolate.
I like Vegemite and I like cream cheese, but the new recipe isn't doing it for me, nor is it hitting the spot for eight-ninths of Australians.
For a start, it's a pukey brown colour. It's the colour of an animal poo. All Australians know that's not right. Vegemite is supposed to be the colour of axle grease. Only then is it right.
Our inability to embrace the new product was heightened with the naming fiasco. "Take it to The People," some dull boffin suggested across the conference table, after hours of unproductive suggestions for a NAME for their new product.
Never do that. We can't name stuff. We don't want to name stuff. It's YOUR job, what are you paid for, Marketing?
So they sold a whole lot of THIS:
and asked the Australian People to suggest a name.
48,000 entries were received. An estimate of the Australian Population at July 2008 was 21,007,310. Sounds about right. We are, among other things, a nation of bludgers, and it only seems appropriate that 0.22% of Australians bothered to suggest a new name. I didn't, for one.
However, 48,000 is a lot of suggetions, and one would think that in that massive pool of responses that SOMETHING could be found to whack on the label of this new animal-poo-looking spread.
It might surprise you that this was the best they came up with:
Okay, okay, pull yourself together. It's no laughing matter. It's really quite embarrassing for all Australians.
Long story sort, Australians HATED it, absolutely HATED it, and the dull boffin and his friends had to rename it. They came up with:
which is obviously two sandwiches short of the more obvious "Cheesymite" but by this stage, after a few months being called "Name Me" and an ignominious week as "iSnack 2.0, snicker snicker," the new product can't expect too much.
A few are touting the whole debacle as a raging success by Kraft, because Australians have been talking about this like they've never talked about a New Spread before.
While this may be true, the reason we've been talking about it is because we award the boffins at Kraft a whopping great MARKETING FAIL.
... in love, obviously.