8 September 2012

A voting we will go...

Big steps and little steps
Today the local council elections were held, so the village was on the move attending the voting booths in the local Primary school.  In Australia, all voting is compulsory - not voting attracts a $55 fine.
So it is a good excuse for the school's Parents association to sell cakes and have a sausage sizzle, the local village association to sell raffle tickets and for everyone else to go for a walk and meet some of the neighbours.
The sun was shining brightly, but the cold wind dropped the temperature significantly.  Therefore I announced that we were going to walk to the school.  "Get your jackets and hats, we're going for a walk!" I announced and the children scrambled.  Lana rolled her eyes and then shrugged her shoulders, "Why not?" and off we went.
Lana cleverly brought her insulated mug so she could get a hot chocolate from the shop on the way.
Our local elections determine the councillors who are in charge of local services such as maintaining the roadsides, impeding development, waste collection, interfering in local business and so on.  The State government controls schools, police and hospitals.  So the local elections have a direct impact on just living in the area in which you live.
Our local council is famous for having a "development" policy which advocated less development.  This is classic "newspeak" where you call something one thing and then do the complete opposite.  Such as a business committee which makes more red tape to stop business, "Fair Work" Australia which is unfairly run by unions, and the local "Greens" representative who wants to cut down tress he doesn't like.
The general view is that if the ballots had an option "None of the above" that would be the sure-fire winner.
Our ballots are paper based and the system has reasonable checks and balances to ensure fair voting.  We present ourselves to the registration desk and get our names marked off and are given ballot papers to complete.  We then mark down our 1st preference, and then 2nd and so on up to 9 preferences.  When the votes are counted, if my 1st choice doesn't win, then my 2nd choice is counted, and so on, until a candidate gets over 50% of the vote.
It all works reasonably well and gives the local communities a chance to get out and meet their neighbours.

3 May 2012

Some days are better than others

Poor Martin.
He was playing on a wheeled office chair and Zach was playing on the back of the chair.  Then it fell with Martin hitting the back of his head and his eye.
This lovely lump developing a deep colourful hue, is on top of the minor illness he has that has been passing through the rest of the family.
Hospital Bruggie is once more back in business for the duration of the action.

9 April 2012

Easter Eggs are to hunt

Mine? Eat Egg?

Even Princesses get Easter Eggs.
After we escaped from the shop on Easter Sunday, the men of the household had an important mission.  We were to hide the Chocolate Easter Eggs.  More importantly, we had to remember where they were hidden so no-one missed out.
Everyone involved has 3 eggs on which their name was attached.  All eggs were hidden in the back yard or around the deck.  Only the children get to search, but they can only pick up their own or an adult's eggs.  This year the 3 eggs per person meant hiding 51 eggs.  The difficulty varied depending on the children's ages, but we have found over the years what we thought were easy places when we were placing the eggs sometimes ended up being the last places to be discovered.
Having 3 eggs each allows us to do an audit as the hunt progresses to make sure none are lost.  It also means we don't have a greedy rush and unequal eggs per person.
One year we found a missing egg months later that had been hidden in the roof trusses of our house that had been recently delivered.  When Lana's Dad and brother went to lift the tresses into place, an egg rolled to the ground as a bonus for their fine efforts.
See the costume Clare is wearing? My Mum made this and Clare just couldn't wait to wear it on such a fine day.
Zach has discovered Easter Eggs are pretty yummy and we have had to put them all out of reach as he tries to sneak away with eggs and eat them out of sight.

I love a good Good Friday

Carrying the cross
Every year on Good Friday the local monastery hosts a passion play.  Many actors are involved playing each of the parts from Jesus and the apostles, Pontius Pilate and Caiphas, down to all the Roman and Jewish guards, weeping women and members of the Sanhedrin.  As the weather was so marvellous there were thousands of people from Sydney, Canberra and all points in between.
James was one the apostles and Ariel and Clare were weeping women.  James likes being an apostle as all an apostle other than Peter has to do is eat (at the Last Supper), sleep (in the Garden of Gethsemene and run away (after Jesus is arrested).
Bulk Holy Water
Ariel and Clare started at Palm Sunday waving palms and praising the entry of Jesus, and then were part of the crowd in various scenes. They were also spoken to by Jesus during the Carrying of the Cross when they did their "wailing" thing and finally gathered around the cross during the Crucifixion. You can see from the first photo that Jesus was well costumed.  The "Blood" mixture was a combination of jam, wine and honey which provided just the right texture and consistency.  When a drip ran into Jesus's mouth he was heard to mumble, "That tastes all right."
Our traditional Good Friday involves closing the shop (Yay! A Day off!) and attending the Passion Play followed by the Veneration of the Cross service at 3:00pm.  When we return home, we have some home made Hot Cross buns to break our fast for the day.
Saturday is always an odd, in-between kind of day as we wait for the Easter Vigil Mass on Saturday evening.  This Mass goes for around 2.5 hours which sounds like a long time, but so much is happening in the Mass to leave reminders with all your senses that when Mass is over and you check your watch you are surprised.  Mass starts with a procession into the Church carrying candles that have been lit from the specially blessed Paschal candle, lighting a darkened Church with our many small candles.  We hear 7 readings from the old testament, 7 readings from the Psalms, a reading from the New testament and a Gospel reading.  There is even more, but this is the premier Mass for the year.  You should go and be part of it.

1 April 2012

Puddles are to jump in

Should I or shouldn't I?
Since the end of the ten year drought we have been blessed with rain.  A lot of rain!
The water tanks catch all the rain from our roof, but as the tanks have been full for so long, the water just goes straight through the tank and out of the overflow. Here is an example of what excess rain is like back from 2006.
But rain eventually stops so we all went for a walk to relieve the cabin fever. Before we travelled 100 metres Zach's boots were already full of water making that lovely squelching sound.
Squelch!  Squelch! Squelch!
"Zach, are you having fun?" I asked, to get a huge grin as he spied another puddle to traverse.
Some way further along we came to the puddle pictured. The photo is worth clicking to get a close up and see Zach's expression as he contemplates a puddle that is so huge.  Notice the toy car in his hand.  This never dropped even during all his running around and puddle playing.
When I printed out the photo for our photo wall I had a quick heart flutter as I thought the photo was all smeared.  Then I realised I had the photo upside down and the smeared part was only the reflection in the puddle!

24 March 2012

No Lights, No Problem

Romantic dinner for two
Yesterday we had heavy winds, naturally followed by a power blackout at around 1:30pm. Immediately Ariel and the crew at the shop followed our "Blackout Action Plan".
1. Plug in the old un-powered phone. Now we can field calls from customers.
2. Get out the manual sales book and record sales so we can input them into the system later.
3. Get the generator from home and connect it to the main milk fridge and public freezers and computer.
4. Put a pot on the stove and fill with water so we can provide tea and instant coffee, and
5. Light the open fire to get a fully romantic experience.
As the majority of our cooking is gas we could still run the restaurant. The Energy company confidently told us they would get power back by 4:00pm. We found this impressive considering they had not yet discovered the location of the actual fault. This estimate then moved to 5:00pm, 6:30pm and eventually 10:00pm.
Friday night is our restaurant night at the shop and a little power failure wasn't going to stop us or our regular customers. We had candles romantically set up on all the tables, buckets of water in each bathroom for toilet flushing and washing of hands, camping lights in the kitchen and we were in business.  There were a lot of take-away (eat out) orders from customers who only had electric cooking facilities or as one explained it, "I had the meat but it was frozen and we normally use the microwave to thaw it out.  So I told my husband it was either macaroni and cheese or burgers from the shop.  It was not a difficult decision."

20 March 2012

Girls making dolls

The Girls and their dolls
Clare and Rose have been insisting I take a photo of the dolls they entered in the show, so they can start playing with them.  About 2 months ago the girls discovered a sewing book in the mobile library which visits our village every fortnight. So naturally they wanted to start making ALL the projects contained in this book of treasures.
Clare completed a knitted bag, a knitted cat, a few other things and the ultimate project - her own doll!
The outline of the dolls were traced onto quilters muslin/calico. Clare hand sewed hers, and Rose started by hand sewing about a leg and a half and reckoned it "was too hard" so used the sewing machine to finish it off under Lana's guidance.
Grandma helped the girls stuff the dolls using her experience making teddy bears.  The eyes, mouth and hair were sewed using back stitch and running stitch.  Rose used felt for the hair.  Buttons were used for ear-rings. Grandma supplied ribbons and Clare hand sewed, while Rose machine sewed the dress and top.
Clare entered her doll "Lady Daisy Chain" in Hand Sewn Article for children 10 and under.  Rose entered her doll "Daisy" in Machine Made Article for children14 and under.  Rose did well for a 7 year old.

18 March 2012

Prizes! Prizes!

Clare's Jewellery Box - for Mum
The last two weekends have been show season in this part of the country.  Once more we entered lots of items in the "Pavilion" which contains all the arts, crafts, vegetables, eggs, photos, cooking and other items of interest produced locally.
Each of us entered a number of item according to their interests. I put in some photos, Lana entered much cooking and cross stitch, the other children entered cross stitch, photos, painted figures, and so on.
For example, Peter entered a zucchini we grew in the backyard and won first prize for the largest zucchini.
We all won prizes, which we will show in the next few posts, but here is Clare with a jewellery box she made for Lana.  On the lid were decorations with Lana's name and a butterfly.  Clare made the box with some tutoring from Opa, then painted the box and lined the interior with felt.  She screwed in each of the hook screws (mostly in a straightish line), and then I had the hardest part.
My mission - which I chose to accept - was to find some appropriate decorations in the department store.  This involved multiple phone conversations with me trying to describe the various decorations and hoping that I had translated the requests correctly.
Clare then applied the decorations in her own artistic fashion with some help from Grandma and Opa (as Lana was not allowed to see it before her birthday).  Initially Clare wanted to use EVERY decoration we had purchased.  But that would have made the box completely "Bling".
Clare wanted to put the words "Lana's Box" on the lid, but she agreed that "Lana" would suffice.

16 March 2012

Helping out

Height is no barrier
We try to operate as a family unit as much as possible.  Although Lana takes the lead as Home Maker, the rest of the family pitch in based on their appropriate skills.
"Getting the clothes off the line" some would consider a job for only the taller children or adults as the clothes line is well above the reach of little people.  But this photo shows you how it can be done.  Rose (7) uses a ubiquitous milk crate as a stool and can just each the pegs.  Martin then assists by being a clothes horse.
And if we are really lucky, the clothes make it inside without any dropping on the ground.

15 March 2012

Twinkle Toes Times Two

Are you looking at me?
Clare and Rose are having a great time learning some ballet.  A local lady wanted to teach ballet but the insurance costs were too stupid to contemplate.  So we offered the use of the shop shed for her to train Clare and Rose.  No cost all round and the girls and the lady are having a marvellous time.

The girls wanted to give the family a test concert the other day so created tickets ("Ballate Ticick for Dad") which we all had to present to the usher who validated the ticket using a hole punch.
This was a lot of work for a 2 minute concert to a shortened version of The Dance of The Sugar Plum Fairy.

(BTW - Later tickets were spelled correctly)

Have you drunk a Spider?

Mmmm - a Creaming Soda Spider
At the shop we have brought in many traditional food and cafe items like milkshakes with 2 scoops of ice cream served in old fashioned tin cups, Sundaes with plenty of topping, cream and real ice cream.  One item we introduced is "Ice Cream Spiders".
Basically, all you do is have 2 generous scoops of vanilla ice cream in a fancy cup and then add your favourite Soft drink (soda pop).  The drink foams up to the top - and if you did this step properly - not go over the edge.
Many of our older customers wanted to recreate a favourite drink of their past and have a Ginger Beer spider.  Cool!

Meet our Evil Overlord

Armed and Dangerous
We have not posted for some time as life has been rather busy.
The shop has developed greatly over the last 3 years and is now profitable (just) for the first time in around 100 years.  Also, my consulting work has kept me away from home many nights each week and I also now lecture on business at one of the major universities (colleges) in Sydney.
While those activities have been happening, the children continue to grow.  Zach is now 2 years old.  He has mastered the art of water guns and loves to use them on hot days, laughing with a great "evil overlord" style laugh as he targets his victims.