A Whole lot of Nothing


image-22Well, I must admit that I’m a little bit sad it’s over.  The much-anticipated, much talked-about girls weekend away.  Four old friends, comfortable hanging out in their PJs with mad hair and no make-up, and one vacant beach house.

I always get a particular feeling of joy when I hear talk of a friend planning a girls weekend away.  It’s a daggy feeling of sisterhood – a ‘go forth and indulge, on behalf of all the mothers out there’ type sentiment.  So if you’ll indulge me, here is ours, in a nutshell.  And I think the best way to start is to tell you what we didn’t do this weekend.

We could have gotten dressed up for a posh dinner out, without having to worry about feeding or bathing children, or organising babysitters.  We could have gone out for brunch or lunch, or brunch and lunch, if we desired.  We could have seen a movie, or walked to the beach.  We could have suited up, attended to our much neglected depilatory duties and visited the mineral springs for an afternoon of bathing.  We could have done any or all of these things, but we never quite got around to it.  And it was fabulous.

For two delightful nights, I wasn’t awoken at 2am by anyone who’d wet their bed, or needed a drink, or wanted their pillow fluffed.   I spent a whole weekend without getting cross, or shouting (and then feeling bad about it).  I didn’t have to coax anyone into the bath, and then out of it.  I didn’t make my bed, or anyone else’s, and I didn’t do any laundry.  I didn’t have to remind anyone to go to the toilet (or flush it afterwards, and wash their hands, for that matter). How joyous.

We arrived Friday night, between us having endured three mad days at work, one convoluted car and child-swapping rendezvous, and one (somewhat unglamorous) ferry ride from Queenscliffe.   We had enough provisions to get through the first dinner and breakfast, and enough wine to sink a ship.  Tracksuit pants and ugg boots were donned, and drinks were poured.

image-23We ate moussaka and debriefed about our days.  We drank more wine.  We played our version of Trivial Pursuit – the one where up to five hints may be given, and questions are turfed out if deemed too difficult, too esoteric, or just plain stupid.  At one stage we granted Marteen a piece of pie, sheerly due to the gusto and comedic genius with which she delivered her (incorrect) answer.

When 11am came on Saturday and we were still in our pyjamas, we all agreed that an invigorating walk to the back beach was in order (this being a beach getaway and all). But none of us got to the vital stage of actually putting their shoes on.  Instead, I lit the open fire and we sent brave Sally to the corner store for milk and newspapers.

So What on earth did we do all day Saturday? We drank tea and coffee, and talked.  A lot. Our conversation topics, in no particular order, included: bed-wetting, Australian politics, the internet, pornography, cancer, cosmetic surgery, school readiness, Facebook, lesbian sex, hairballs (the latter two not being related in any way, I hasten to add), the meaning of life, sibling rivalry, homelessness, online shopping, and of course, the devastating demise of Patrick.  Poor, manly, aloof but always smoking hot, Patrick.

A sample of our debating topics:

Q. Is it technically stealing if your child has eaten his/her body weight in grapes by the time you get to the supermarket checkout?  A: No, not really*.

Q.  Can you really get away with putting sardines into a bolognese instead of meat? Rach? A: Apparently (strangely) yes.

Q.  Does the fact that these days we prefer to sleep with the fan on and earplugs in make us officially old and/or weird?  A:  Yep.

* Unless it was cherry tomatoes, which come in a packet, and then you ditch the and swap it for a full one, then yes, maybe it is kind of stealing.

We read the papers and then the seriously out-of-date trashy magazines to be found at any reputable beach house.  Two of us wandered off for a long afternoon nap. We agreed that Kim Kardashian, whilst being a vapid, infuriating twat, does have the most amazing skin in the universe.  We skipped lunch – opting instead for brie and biscuits – and took great joy in the absence anyone pestering us for more food, biscuits and treaties, on the hour, every hour.

And when we realised the afternoon was getting on, two of us ventured briefly out again, in search of some beach-house-worthy fish.  We opened another bottle of wine and prepped dinner, and no-one screwed up their face at the sight of green beans, or had to be threatened with early bedtime to eat their fresh rockling with herbed breadcrumb crust. We really pushed out the calorie-laden boat with a home-made pear and rhubarb crumble.

smokers?At one point, in the grip of pure girl power and with the conviction of the rather drunk, we decided we should write a children’s book.  How hard could it be?  We all agreed on the key themes of toilet humour, fantasy and family values, but predictably, it didn’t get much further than that.

In a rare moment of outdoorsiness, we ventured onto the freezing balcony to watch for a meteor shower, or some such astronomical event.  The sky was pretty cool, but after approximately seven minutes we retreated inside to watch the open fire, and contemplate another uninterrupted night’s sleep.

So there you have it.  It turns out that the ultimate indulgence for four women, who spend their lives juggling children, work and household duties, was to do nothing.  Sally and I did have a massage on Sunday – we felt the need to partake in some form of organised, non-pyjama-clad luxury.  It was awesome.  And as we drove home, in a heady cloud of aromatic oils, we wondered: what would await us?

A happy family and tidy house would be positively utopian, but surely too much to expect.

A happy family but untidy house would be reasonable, and acceptable.

A grumpy family and untidy house would be seriously harsh on our post-escape buzz.

So you can imagine my feelings of joy and relief, when I opened the front door to encounter the first scenario, along with the added bonus of some long overdue garden maintenance and dinner on the way.  The stuff of dreams are made of, and relationships are buoyed by.

Someone hand that man a Father and Husband of the Year award.  Quickly.  I think he’s about to collapse.

Re: Formal Complaint, School Holiday period ended 14 July, 2013


Dear School Holidays,

I regret to inform you that I am writing to make a formal complaint, which I plan to pursue through the appropriate channels, until I have a resolution.  My primary complaint is in regard to false advertising charges.

Firstly, you were sold to me on the promise of enabling quality time with my chilled out, engaging children, who would luxuriate in long sleep-ins and creative play opportunities.  There was no mention, in your brochure, of my children deciding to make an olympic sport of arguing, or of their plan to turn the house into a rubbish tip / war zone / obstacle course.  I certainly was not advised of the requisite five-fold increase in washing.

When I signed up, I did not realise that July school holidays came with mandatory waves of drawn out illnesses that would hit one child, then the next (just as the first one was coming good).  Frankly, I could have done without the bi-weekly doctors appointments, and surprise visits from feverish children in my bed at 3am.    I suppose you think that simultaneous croup and vomiting in the middle of Friday night Sex and The City repeats was amusing?  It was not.

On another matter, I would like to address the issue of art and craft activities.  Prior to all future school holidays, I would appreciate it if you would arrange delivery of a large shipping container of art and craft materials, along with a part time project coordinator (must have industrial cleaning experience), and a case of gin.  And on that note, I don’t know if you are acquainted with Mister Maker, but if you are, could you please ask him to tone it down?  His perky attitude and obsession with gloopy glue are getting up my nose, and placing unrealistic expectations on regular parents, who do not have ‘doodle draws’ or time lapse photography at their disposal.

I would also appreciate, in future, a list of appropriate suggestions to be used when my children complain of being bored, or being hungry, or having been wronged by their sibling.  I have completely over-used the suggested ‘you’re a smart girl/boy, I’m sure you can find something interesting to do’, the ‘you can chose a piece of fruit, or wait until the next meal time’, and the ‘please be kind to each other, and try to work through your differences’.  I have therefore been resorting to sarcasm, and ‘oh for F*$# SAKE!!’ under my breath a little too much, which I realise is not ideal.

Incidently, can you please suggest an appropriate consequence (I don’t think I’m supposed to call them punishments), for the following scenarios:

a)  Walking out of a store and wandering up Burke Rd alone, whilst I am engaged in the purchase of more frigging art and craft materials.

b)  Screaming and striking at each other in the bath over who’s turn it is to hold Kwazi Kat or the giant squid.

c)  Repeatedly sneaking dried apricots from the pantry when they have specifically been told not to (yes, I know it sounds petty, but it was the principle at sake)

My final issue is the absence of any actual ‘holiday’ component this school holidays.  Instead, I was regularly subjected to Facebook posts from families frolicking in Europe or the Pacific Islands, with their tanned, cherubic-looking children.  

Although I have found the whole experience decidedly harrowing, I would feel inclined to overlook the above issues, and withdraw my complaint, if you could see fit to arrange a suitable island escape (preferably Polynesian) for the coming holidays this September.  You may liaise with my husband on this issue, as I wash my hands of the whole affair, and would prefer not to be bothered with the details.


M. Nitschke


Operation Out of House


I would like to introduce you to my daughter, India, who we have recently renamed Fang .  She is missing one of her front top teeth, and the other is attached by only a few threads, as it has been for the past few weeks.   The fang hangs lower than her other teeth, is twisted sideways, and juts out to the front, which gives her an air of scurvy victim / trailer trash child.  It makes eating so difficult that she has to chew with her mouth open, to avoid biting down on the fang.  But will she part with it?  NO!  I think she enjoys the reaction, when people peer into her mouth to see what all the fuss is about, and then shrink away, revolted, at the sight of it.


We have at least one episode daily, where she accidentally bites down on the fang, it jabs into her gum the wrong way, and her mouth fills with blood.  Distraught wailing, blood dripping from her open, panicked mouth and fang jutting out in the middle.  Really?  REALLY? I find myself saying, through clenched teeth, whilst mustering up my fake Zen, nothing-phases-me voice.  ‘Just let me pull it out’ I say.  ‘It’s not helping you eat, and it’s making you upset’. ‘Nooooooooo!!!! I don’t want tooooooo!!!’ she wails, desperately guarding her precious fang, and scuttling off to the bathroom to examine her bloody mouth in the mirror.

God help me.  What kind of torturous ride am I in for when Fang grows into a teenager?!

She already exhibits the wild mood swings and kick-ass attitude of an angsty teen.  She has recently mastered the foot-stomping, squinty-eyed tantrum of utter contempt (these are actually quite funny when I am able to mentally extract myself from the situation and watch from a distance).  And she will definitely be amongst the nominees for Best Dramatic Actress this year, with her ‘nobody understands me, I never get what I want and you all suck’ tantrums.

The first sign of these tantrums is when the tears start to well, then the face crumples and morphs grotesquely into that open-mouthed grimace which is simultaneously hilarious and heartbreaking.   Only children can pull this one off.  There is a brief window where you can get away with such wailing and hysterics, and sometimes I don’t blame her for bunging it on and giving it her best shot.  After all, every now and then it actually works, when we’re simply too exhausted to put up a fight.

But all this angst, in a six and a half year old body?  I just don’t know if I have the ticker for it.  Hence, the inception of Operation Out of House.

It’s a strategy which has been taking shape in my conscious over the past few weeks, back in frosty Melbourne.  I’m not generally one for profound realisations or grand resolutions, but being catapulted over to New York City and back in the space of two weeks will do that to you – it’s somewhat destabilising.  That amazing land of fun and frivolity, contrasted with reality in freezing suburban Melbourne.  Work, housework, supermarketing, cooking, nagging, disciplining, humouring, cajoling…

Allow me to compare and contrast:

a)  Wake up whenever, shower at own leisure and ponder over suitable outfit, followed by tasty omelette and potatoes in little Parisian inspired cafe.

b)  Peel eyes open at sound of incessantly beeping alarm clock and drag self out of bed.  Eat toast in polar fleece dressing gown at kitchen bench, whilst simultaneously making lunches, washing dishes and barking commands: ‘India get dressed – NO you CANNOT wear your summer dress it is 2 degrees outside’.. ‘Arlo stop poking the fruit and eat your toast’… ‘Look in the drawer… the bottom one’…. ‘Arlo for the last time would you PLEASE GET YOUR HANDS OUT OF YOUR PANTS?!!’

And so you see, why I require a plan of action to help preserve my sanity.

Operation Out Of House is about just that: getting out and doing more stuff (stuff being a pretty broad term).  Planning things to look forward to, and orchestrating reasons to get a bit tarted up and hit the town.  Calling the uncles in to babysit, even if it is just to venture down the road for the kinder fund-raiser trivia night.  It doesn’t have to be glamorous, just out, and preferably with people.

Winter brings out the hibernation instinct in all of us, and there are not many among us who can resist the allure of Ugg boots and the forgiving waistband of trackies in this weather (in Camberwell, they are referred to as yoga pants).  In fact, more than one of my friends have recently admitted to changing into their jamies and dressing gown the moment they arrive home from school pickup!  For the uninitiated among you, this would generally be any time from 4pm onward, depending on the schedule of after school activities.  Well I salute you ladies (you know who you are).  I see your dressing gown and I raise you a blankie and a glass of wine.

My signature winter item is a pilled old cardigan which I refer to as my house jacket.  It looks a bit like a doormat, but keeps out the drafts and doesn’t show up tea stains.  It is strictly an inside, non-entertaining garment, not even allowable for supermarket outings.  

So if my operation is a success, I’ll be spending a little less time ensconced in my daggy house jacket, and a litte more time taking in the company of friends in the worlds most liveable city.

I stepped out with my little Fanged one at the Australian Ballet last week, and it was fantastic!  Despite the expected amount of fidgeting and a few grumpy looks some older patrons, it was a declared a success.  An ice cream at the first interval, followed by a packet of crisps at the second.  Alright!  Dressing up, getting out of the house and introducing my daughter to The Arts – surely that’s worth triple points?

tien datLunch in Box Hill with a bestie and our two hungry, manic four year old boys was another experiment I undertook this week.   It was somewhat less cosmopolitan than the ballet, but we did manage to keep them both seated and fit in a Tsingtao and a chat over our noodles.  Cheers to us.

At the same restaurant a few days later, I enjoyed an adult date with Sally, where we fitted in a spot of reminiscing of that fabulous week together in NYC.   After years of SMSing each other agenda items (one has to make the most of uninterupted conversations and cover all current issues), I finally went all out and printed a meeting agenda.  It worked a treat, and were wrapping up the last few items as the staff stacked chairs on the tables around us.

My next evil plan, under the auspice of Operation Out Of House is to finalise a date for a girls weekend at my in-laws’ beach house.  The email has gone out, the scene has been set for two glorious nights to ourselves.  Now we just have to hope the calendar gods smile on us, and allow four frazzled women to do what they do best:  Cook, eat, drink, sleep and talk until we’re blue in the face.

Tien Dat


No. 64 Perry St


Our apartmentOn to stage two of our New York experience, and our residence is in the West Village, downtown, where streets are leafy and hipsters plentiful.

Unfortunately, Cam is lacking a Ned Kelly style beard and black rimmed spectacles, so that kind of gives us away as tourists.  But the good thing about the hipsters, is that wherever they go, proper coffee can be found.

We’re staying in a lovely, serene little apartment that looks out over a church roof and a leafy courtyard.  I am so envious of the owner of this apartment.  Who are these people who live here and go about their lives in this amazing city?  Anyway, for the next seven days, it’s ours.

Now, on to some random New York moments:

He’s when I purchased a gigantic pretzel (it was taunting me – I had to).

Yes, it's a big pretzelHere’s Cam’s ‘amazing!?!’ face, after he found this rare vinyl at a record shop in the Village.  Incredulous CamAnd here we both are at Murray’s Cheese Bar, partaking in some pre-dinner cheese and wine wanking.  Actually it was cheese and beer wanking for me.

Murray's Cheese Bar

No. 64 Perry St

A shopping afternoon in East Village with my friend Sally was pretty fun.  We lunched and we shopped and we walked until my feet nearly gave up on me.  Today I had to seek out some ‘flip flops’ uptown, to give my blisters a break (can I tell you how hard it is to find Havaianas in this city??).

I also have to disclose, at this stage, that I have taken a certain pilgrimage, as have thousands before me.  I googled it.  I sought it out.  I made Sally take a picture of me on Carrie’s stoop.  I know it’s silly for a grown woman to do, but I did it, and here it is (don’t judge me, okay?).

Joan Holloway

Joan Holloway (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After our shopping expedition, where I acted as buyers’ advocate for Sally, assisting her in the purchase of a few new dresses and some awesome shoes, we happend upon Enz’s. This is where I found The Dress.  My New York Dress.  My favourite, special, I-can-be-Joan-Holloway-from-Madmen-if-I-close-my-eyes-and-wish dress.  When I have occasion to wear it, I will blog it, you can be certain.

For the time being, you can look at Joan here and imagine I am her.