Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Lego Taj Mahal: Part 1

As some of you may know, my husband is a wee bit of a fan of a particular plastic construction toy. He has a room dedicated to the stuff. This picture I've roughly put together to try and capture the essence of it. Most people are completely gobsmacked when they see it.

Every now and then there's a set that I quite like but since I have my other money-eating hobby (craft) I usually resist. Until I saw this set: the Taj Mahal. It's been out for a while and is quite expensive. But I thought it was just lovely. Dan didn't think it was particularly good value, and it wasn't Star Wars or Castle or Space Pirate related, so he didn't buy it.

Then one of the large department stores decided to have a big sale starting last Thursday, including this set for 20% off and I couldn't resist. A friend was buying one and had a card that enabled him to get another 10% off. Woohoo! It would be mine! (Actually, he probably wished I was there when he bought them - the boxes are large and weigh just under 6.5kg... plus he bought some other stuff that day... and caught the train back to work with them!)

So here it is. Here I am with it. My very own Lego.

And last night I decided I would build it. Until I realised that there are almost 6,000 pieces and apparently it takes 9-12 hours to complete. Okay, so I won't get it done in one night... but I could at least get a start.

I opened the box. Three trays of bags of pieces. One book of instructions in each tray.
"Nice," I thought. "I can just use one tray at a time."
I opened the first page of the first book.
I looked at the pieces required for the first step.
Uh oh.

The trays are nice. BUT the bags are NOT in any order. There are multiples of some bags, which is a little better, but they are not sorted into order of building! I will have to open two bags just to do the first step! This is not how I remember big Lego sets being packaged. I remember Dan building a set with bags with big numbers on them to indicate the order to use them! But no! This is going to be a lot more time consuming than I thought it would be.

So, a-sorting I will go. Ziplock bags are my friend.
I'll keep you updated with my progress.

Monday, June 22, 2009

One step forward...

I can't remember how much I've written about this, but things have been somewhat... trying with Dante lately. Part of it is his age. Part of it is my lack of patience. Part of it is his high intelligence and our lack of clear boundary setting when he was younger. Or so we've been told, anyway.

The upshot is that I have been slowly tearing my hair out and losing my voice from shouting and Dante has been known to have quite a temper and... well, I think you get the picture.

Since he was five he has been having piano lessons. Once a week, with a few weeks off over summer. He did his Preliminary exam last year and obtained a B+. Not bad, but not reflective of his natural talent. Of course I have been driven mad by his lack of enthusiasm for practising. Last year he was bribed with time on my Nintendo DS, which worked wonderfully until he got his own at Christmas.

Anyway, after all this time, he still has trouble actually reading the notes of the music. Instead, he memorises the pieces which is not really bad as such but he should be able to know at least some of the notes by now. And lately it's been so bad that I have seriously contemplated just giving it all up, even though I strongly believe in the benefits of a musical education, having had one myself and appreciating the efforts my parents went to to pay for it!

The other night Dan asked Dante to practise piano - the usual complaining and grumbling and half-hearted efforts ensued. I got so frustrated that I had a conversation with Dan about it, within earshot of the boy (but not obviously so).

"What are we going to do with him? He shows no interest, isn't learning and is wasting our time and money..."

I then went on to say how important it is to one's future education etc. Dan busted Dante listening in and he explained to him how all the coolest people know how to read and play music and how he wished he'd had the chance to learn... Blah blah blah.

Dante soaked it all in. Complained that he couldn't read the notes and needed help. So I went to help him. Instead of the usual shouting and complaining routine, I tried a different tactic. Remembering how easily be learnt what the different notes are (crotchets, quavers etc.) I decided to use the same technique - a chart. I drew one up in black marker and voilĂ ! He suddenly could work out the names of the notes on the music and transfer it to the piano! Incredible!

The best thing was that afterwards we were both so happy. He was happy that he could do it and I was happy that he was happy and trying. Boy oh boy. Something simple like positive reinforcement works so well and when I'm tired and cranky I just forget about it. Got to work on it!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Bingo night

Last night Dan and I attended our very first Bingo night. Organised by the mother of one of Dante's friends, we felt obliged to lend our support. My mother took the kids and away we went!

We sat at a table with some other parents from pre-school. It was in the school hall and was a very relaxed, informal affair. Dinner was served, the school principal called the numbers and fun was had all around.

I even won two games! The second was the most amusing. The game was "Four Corners"... get the four numbers in each corner of your grid. Except three of mine were blank. And the first number to be called was the one I needed. I was actually a little embarrassed that I won so easily... I needn't have been. It happened twice more later in the evening (not to me), and once before any numbers were called - all four squares were blank!

I'm not sure that we'll do it again... perhaps a trivia night or something different. But at least we had a night out kid-free. Yay!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Dance, little boy, dance!

Dante's school has a professional dance teacher who spends a fair amount of time and resources entering her troupes into competitions around the place. Tuesday night was Dante's turn - they performed to "Aladdin".

These dance festivals are really just a big money-grabbing exercise, in my opinion. Boy, he's only in Year 3 and I'm that jaded already. I guess it's from going to a private school where we were constantly harassed for donations. But, you pay your $25 per person to go and watch your kids on stage for three minutes and then you have to sit through everybody else's kids for another two hours! Late on a school night!

"Bah, humbug!" I say. "I'll just watch the dress rehearsal at school beforehand." And so I did. We got to see it three times in a row! And Atti and Elora loved it.

One thing I do have to say, though, is that the dance teacher does a good job. The costumes are always terrific and the kids are cute. Very entertaining!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Today I am half my mother's age. I have reached the age my mother was when she had me.

It feels somewhat significant. I can't say why, though.

I've been feeling a little... icky about it. I guess it's just the reminder of time passing that irks me. But, a friend told me that you're going to get older no matter what, so there's no point getting upset about it. Relax and enjoy your special day and you'll be happier for it.

So I did. With sticky date pudding for morning tea. And a Tom Cruise dinner (anyone who was in Australia in the 80's would know this means a lamb roast)!

And lots of cups of tea in my new mug which I've coveted ever since I saw Monica's one. Sitting here next to my other favourite mug which I received when I turned 33. That's $50 worth of mug you see sitting there on the bench at work!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Sydney Craft Fair

I had been so good all week. The Sydney Craft and Quilt Fair was on at Darling Harbour, always in my birthday week and such a huge temptation to spend heinous amounts of money. But I had resisted! Wednesday, Thursday, Friday... and then I started seeing people's blog posts about it. The bargains they got, the gorgeous quilts on display...

And I succumbed. It was a last minute decision. I would go. Today, Sunday, the last day of the fair.

I didn't end up leaving the house until after 2pm (erhem... somebody in this household who was going to mind the children slept in until 11am... then it was Dante's postponed piano lesson and lunch and so on...) and got to the fair by 3pm. No discount for last minute entry which I thought was a bit unfair (for a Fair, heh. Get it?)

But I did okay. I whizzed through the entire thing with five minutes to spare! I came in under budget by a third but still managed to get some nice stuff. I was totally inspired by some of the fantastic quilts on display but of course didn't take my camera with me (not that you're meant to take pictures).

My booty:
Bendigo Woollen Mills 8ply Classic wool in Holly and Silver. The Holly seemed a little more pinky-red inside but is pretty plain red in real light. Great value 200g balls!

Colinette Jitterbug sock yarn in colour "Vatican Pie". A delicious deep red that I am totally in love with and am itching to start knitting with. Too nice for socks, though!

And some fabric. This pack of fat quarters came to less than $3 per piece. That is a great price considering the going price was around $6-$7 each! Wowsers! I never said my hobbies were cheap :)

In the end, I'm glad I went. Going on my own on the closing afternoon was a great idea. There were "end of show" specials, very few crowds and being on my own meant I could fly through it and spend more time on the things I liked. Yay for an afternoon out!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Crocheted coral

Created and curated by The Institute For Figuring and on display at the Powerhouse Museum from 21-3 August.

BUT workshops are being held where you can help create it!
More info at http://sydneyreef.blogspot.com/.

I'm torn between going to the next one on June 28 or the next Sunday Craft Room although it may be possible to go to both... Fingers crossed!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Restless and panicky

Today is my usual Thursday when I don't go to work but stay at home with my delightful bundle of two year old entropy. And I've got this feeling... my heart races, I feel nervous and anxious and worried. There's so much I should be doing but I can't stick to one task. I've hung out one load of washing but the next is sitting there waiting. I'm half way through the dishes (one dishwasher load done but the handwashing waits). Only one out of four baskets of clean, dry clothes folded. One blog post half written. Countless craft projects unfinished... I think you get the picture.

I don't know what is causing this feeling today. I can't even think of the proper word for it. I think it's probably the stress of being snowed under with housework. It's just too much. Built up from the lazy long weekend when I did naught but create more mess (baking and general hanging around). Argh!!

Well, at least I'll manage to publish this blog post. That's something.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Welcome, winter

June already. And boy does the weather make us feel it. Actually, it's been funny lately. Lots of rain, coolish days but nothing a good blowy heater under the desk can't fix (when I'm at work, anyway). I'm looking forward to when these miserable first days of winter go away and the glorious Sydney sunny winter days begin.

The other funny thing is reading craft blogs (via Google reader - I really ought to update my link list) from the Northern Hemisphere where they are talking about school finishing for the year and spending days at the pool and wearing summery frocks. Crazy talk! It's less than 20°C!