Stuck in traffic – roar!

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Traffic slows to a crawl on the Monash Freeway...

Look a little closer :-) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Excuse me Mr Nissan-Pintara-Driver. Are you aware there’s a zoo in the back window of your car? And it seems to be slowing you down.

In the last eight minutes stuck behind you in traffic, I’ve counted no less than 14 animals calling your car home.

Not live animals, mind you. This menagerie consists of a stuffed penguin, several rubber snakes, a crocodile, a fluffy bear and one rather irate-looking tiger, among others.

But wait! What’s this? I’ve spoken too soon. There IS one live animal in the mix – a pigeon perched on the passenger’s headrest. And by the look of it, he doesn’t appreciate all your stopping and starting either.

Ahh. We’re making progress now. I think you’ve found the accelerator, Mr Nissan-Pintara-Driver. And you’re turning off. Sadly, I need the same exit.

Whoa! What’s this? It looks like you’ve got a dog in there too. He just poked his nose out the open window as you took that rather wild corner. And it’s a Jack Russell, no less. My respect for you, Mr Nissan-Pintara-Driver, has been restored.

Oh, looks like you’re home. And now it all makes sense.

You live in that crazy old, tumble down shack with a giant spider welded to the front wall, CDs strung from every tree and more cats than I can count as I drive by.

Thank you for that entertaining drive, Mr Nissan-Pintara-Driver, albeit rather slow.

Now I really must get home and raid the cupboards. I always thought window decoration could be my forte, and now I know just the place to try it.

Birds? I’m driving . . .

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Australian Wood Duck

Australian Wood Duck (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This week, I’ve learned three things:
1. Don’t let the bird-watcher drive the car;
2. If the track looks like no-one uses it, there’s probably a reason; and
3. You’re never too old to be car sick.

I’m writing this now, so you can rest assured, it didn’t end too badly. But there was a moment I thought we were coming unstuck.

It was meant to be a pleasant country drive. A few hours out in the bush looking for birds and finding that perfect picnic spot. The reality became a mixture of terror, frustration and shallow breathing.

The so-called ‘track’ provided a perfect view over the nearby river. All good. Unfortunately, my husband was busy looking at the treetops and not overly concerned with the direction we were taking. Not so good.

Then the single-vehicle ‘track’ started getting thinner and the only way out took us down a 45 degree slope toward a watery canal. Again, not so good.

“We’ll have to go back,” I said.

“Not likely,” was the reply.

And looking back along the ‘track’, I could see the sense in that statement. Sadly, the alternative was no more enticing.

I braced myself for the worst as we made the death-defying descent.

I think I heard my husband laughing, but I can’t be sure. I couldn’t look at him. We got to the bottom and suddenly another track materialised. “Oh, there it is,” was all he said.

An hour of winding bush tracks followed. Around this time, lesson three made itself known.

All I know is this – birds may be beautiful. The bush may be too. But bitumen, sweet bitumen, is my best friend.

Love on the bookshelf

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Mills And Boon (Large Print)

Mills And Boon (Large Print) (Photo credit: Caro Wallis)

There was a time, many years ago, when I subscribed to a monthly delivery of Mills and Boon romance novels. I’m afraid to say, it’s true.

Forbidden love, unspoken love, love in the most unlikely of places. He was often rich, she was often vulnerable. They were guaranteed to misunderstand each other’s intentions on more than one occasion. But in the end, love conquered all.

Some were steamy, some were sweet, some were wholly dissatisfying and eventually – after many free gifts and a cupboard full of Mills and Boon coffee mugs – I called it quits on that monthly delivery.

It took a few years, but I finally got rid of all those books – some to the library, some to my sister, a few to my neighbours and one or two relegated to supressing weeds in the garden.

But I have a confession to make. On Saturday, in a moment of weakness, I succumbed to the charms of the supermarket bookshelf and bought the rather dramatically titled ‘Proof Of Their Sin’, by Dani Collins.

And it lived up to expectations. He was rich and so was she . . . but less so. They both had excellent back stories which slowly emerged and intertwined to explain their perpetual misunderstanding of one another. They had shared a one night dalliance three months earlier with consequences which underpinned the story. Time went by, the chemistry was undeniable, the friction palpable, but eventually they found themselves on the same page (literally and figuratively).

The thing that made this book stand out was the closing sequence. Fast forward. The wedding had been and gone, the baby had just arrived and the creases in their relationship had all been ironed out. As the husband sucked on the oxygen in the back of the ambulance (mum and bub were fine), he remarked:

“The next one is planned, start to finish.”
“Agreed.”
Four months later they accidentally conceived on a flight to Hong Kong. Their daughter arrived three weeks early in a limousine under the Arc de Triomphe.

After the drawn out tension of the 183 pages prior to the epilogue, their future was summed up in three short sentences. The contrast and the content made me laugh out loud. I suspect the author Dani Collins was relieved to write them.

My only problem now is having to return to the supermarket when the food runs out, knowing that there’s more of these little gems just waiting for me on a bookshelf near the frozen foods. Give me strength . . .

 

Working it!

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Stress

Stress (Photo credit: topgold)

Phew! This week I was NOT sacked.

But if you’d asked my inner pessimist what the outlook was on Friday, she probably would have sighed and reached for the nearest super-sized chocolate bar. Why?

All it took was a single, solitary phone call.

My usual employer had his personal assistant call to arrange a meeting. That’s not too shocking, I hear you say. Except, I rarely have contact with my work via anything but email.

“The boss wants some changes,” said the PA.

“He’s getting a bit bored,” said the PA.

“Tell me more,” I implored.

“Oooooh, he’d just like to see you,” fudged the PA.

Earliest available time? Monday. Two full days and a little bit more of anxiety, second-guessing and self-doubt. Good times!

If the weekend was anything to go by, it seems I was raised to find a hidden meaning in the most innocuous of conversations. I was definitely being fast-tracked to the unemployment lines.

Monday rolled around bright and sunny. My sense of dread only increased.

I walked into the office wearing my most patriotic business colours (bright green) and my power boots (suede, in case you were wondering).

“So,” he said. “I’d like to make some changes. I’m getting a bit bored.”

I’ve heard that before, I thought. Here it comes.

“What can we do to really stand out from the crowd?” he said.

“We?” I asked. “Oh, we!” Reality was dawning.

So, I was not sacked. Two and a bit days of worry had been in vain.

That sunny day turned out to be a good omen. I’ve never been so happy to check my emails and find work waiting.

A glutton for gluten-free

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Gluten Free Chocolate Cupcakes

Gluten Free Chocolate Cupcakes (Photo credit: FamilySweetery)

So, we’re trialling a gluten-free diet in our household and one week in, we’re starting to see (or smell) a real difference.

I don’t want to lower the tone of this blog, but I can tell you that the eldest child is experiencing a lot fewer . . . um . . . ah-hmm . . . bottom burps. There, I said it. Let’s move on.

The only stumbling block so far has been tracking down enough suitable lunch box recipes to keep the kids happy.

Despite the recommendations of several helpful websites, I will not be packing a salad nicoise with tuna for any of my kids’ lunches. I’ve already said no to kabana and vegetable kebabs and closed the door on gluten-free sushi.

I want us to eat better. Not necessarily five star.

I’ve entered a new world where quinoa reigns supreme. Pronounce that right and its sounds even fancier.

I’ve been bemoaning a lack of reading time lately but it seems the quest for gluten-free food has solved that problem as well. I can spend hours reading labels in the supermarket aisles and still leave with just one or two things.

But we are not starving! Bags of rice have invaded our kitchen cupboards. Corn crumbs, corn flakes and cornflour have taken up residence in every other cabinet. Gone are the ready-made chicken strips, pies and cakes. I’m cooking again.

And with a bit of luck and some perseverance, we might just be a little healthier for it.

PS If you can recommend any good gluten-free sites, let me know. Much appreciated! :-)

Fashion forays . . .

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Talons hauts

High heel heaven. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I live in a very image-conscious town. If you’re not wearing the right fashion brands by the time you reach pre-school, the other kids notice. Give them a few years, and it’s not uncommon to see local youngsters teetering down the street on a Friday night with hair that could knock out an overpass, eyelash extensions that could maim the unwary and skirts that would make a mother blush.

Now this may come as a shock, but I’m not one to worry much about brands, trends or fashion in general. Skinny jeans were my one concession. Most of the time, comfort is my top priority. If I had a style, it would lean more toward casual chic, smart casual or snappy casual.

Let’s face it . . . my wardrobe is casual.

So, when the opportunity arose last week to glam-it-up for a night on the town with my husband, I responded with equal parts excitement and trepidation.

I headed to my usual shopping centre but soon realised that while it’s crammed with fashion outlets, not all of them want me wearing their clothes. It was evident from the moment I walked in the door. One shop keeper saw me arrive and instantly disappeared out of sight. Another just turned her back.

I’ll admit I wasn’t dressed to impress and I chose not to wear makeup because I didn’t want to mark the clothes I was trying on. I did, however, have plans to purchase an entire outfit including shoes and jewellery . . . but apparently they didn’t like my money either.

On the flip-side, one shop assistant was particularly lovely. She gave me loads of advice and, as a result, I spent the bulk of my budget there. She directed me to her favourite shoe shop and there I found a set of heels higher than I’ve ever worn before (but not as high as some of the princesses I saw later that night staggering and lurching atop their five inch perches of peril).

In the end, my foray into the world of fashion ended quite happily. I think I rocked my chosen outfit and, to top it off, we had a great night out.

Next time the bright lights of the city’s night life call, I will be ready.

The case for cats . . .

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English: Young male tabby cat

English: Young male tabby cat (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Owing to the backlash from last week’s blog, I have decided to dig deep and balance the scales on the whole ‘dog versus cat’ debate. I can’t make any promises, but here goes . . .

In my lifetime I’ve known several cats. There was Gustav, a white cat with shoe-polish ears; Symphony, a long-haired tortoise-shell with questionable night-time habits; Adolphus, a tabby with attitude to spare and his adopted brother Patches, a black and white feline – deaf as a doornail – who spent his days either sleeping on top of the fridge or taking pot shots at passers-by. As cats go, they were . . . cats.

My sister (the main source of last week’s backlash) was the owner of two more felines – Tinkerbell and Jakey. If there was a cat that was going to swing my opinion it would be one of those two. Before there were kids in my sister’s household, there were cats and as they grew so did the family. They were a yardstick – and occasional gearstick* – in her happy home.

This, I understand. Cats and dogs are there through all the good, bad and middling bits. Their presence is attached to memories of all sorts of events that span the years. Whether they’re watching from a perch on top of the fridge, curled up at the foot of the bed or laying claim to the best seat on the couch, they are still a member of the household.

In my sister’s words:

“It’s not that cats are better than dogs, they’re just different.”

Besides, no-one said you couldn’t love a furry tyrant bent on world domination.

Meow. :-)

 

*I searched high and low for a picture of a cat in the gearstick pose. Sadly, no luck. You’ll just have to imagine it for yourself.