Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Irina, My New Favourite Hairdresser

I took a gamble this week. I tried a new hairdresser. Nobody had recommended the place and I didn't know anyone who'd been there. But it was convenient and local so I went in and made an appointment.

When I arrived on Saturday, I was greeted by a 50 something year old woman with a lovely smile and beautiful skin but very little to say. After several hand gestures, I realised she wasn't too confident with English. My Russian doesn't exist, however, so our options were limited.

I tried to tell her what I wanted. We're talking colour here, so the details were quite important. As we fumbled our way through it, I became increasingly nervous about how this was going to turn out. I really did feel uncomfortable.I was just scared that she didn't know what I wanted and even more concerned that perhaps she didn't really know how to deliver it.

She pulled out some magazines and started pointing to different pictures. She could sense my nerves and I could see she was frustrated by her limited language. She wanted to put me at ease, but wasn't quite sure how to do it.

She landed on a picture of Jennifer Aniston and I decided that regardless of what I want, she knows good hair when she sees it, so I'll just relax and go along for the ride. I gave her a big smile and said "Yes, something like that." I may or may not have said a little prayer.

Friends is a thing of the past, but the hair lives on.

This woman, who I've since come to know as Irina, was lovely. After we agreed  (however loosely) on what she would do for me, we both relaxed and I attempted to chat with her about topics other than hair. As it turns out, Irina's English was just fine. She knew enough to chat solidly for an hour, she just needed a little confidence booster.

During our chat, I got a fabulous insight into the life and experiences of someone very different to myself. Irina not only understood what colour I wanted, but she delivered it expertly. Why wouldn't she? Before moving to Australia, she'd owned her own salon for 30 years in Kazakhstan. She didn't speak a word of English before moving here, but enrolled in TAFE to start learning the week she arrived. She hopes to one day open a Salon here in Sydney and I hope to be her first customer.

I can't exactly tell you that I left the salon looking like Jennifer Aniston, but my hair looked just as good (until I stepped out into the rain and went home looking like a drowned rat, but you get that). On top of wonderful new hair, I got to spend two hours getting to know someone I otherwise wouldn't, which really took the edge off the stupid amount of money it cost me!

Have you met someone interesting lately? 

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

The 7 Best Books I've Read this Year

Reading is fabulous. I love it. I try to read everyday, even if it's only for 15 minutes before I fall asleep. (Unless I'm drunk, then I avoid it. Reading after too much vino is like a 2 hour ferry ride in viciously rough seas.)

I enjoy most of the books I read, usually because someone has recommended it to me or it's been chosen for book club with a lot of forethought. I have such a long list of recommended books to get through that I rarely find myself browsing for my next read. And my list is constantly growing as I don't get through books as quickly as I'd like to these days .

In fact, I'm often cramming at the last minute, trying to get a book finished before I meet with my book club friends. Granted, the meeting is often more about the wine, but still, we do at least touch on the book. But that pressure is also great for me as it has often forced myself to spend time reading that would have otherwise been spent cooking or cleaning. BORING.

So I just thought I'd share a list of the books I've enjoyed the most in the last 12 months. I'm not naming and shaming books I didn't like - I'm simply sharing the love for the ones I really did like - in no particular order.

Room by Emma Donoghue - A great voice tells the story of a boy who was born to a young woman held captive by a repulsive psycho. A distressing topic but told so well.

Me Before You by  Jojo Moyes - Get your tissues out. It sneaks up on you, but it's a love story through and through.

Two Brothers by Ben Elton - A well crafted story about two boys, one Jewish and one Aryan, during the rise of the Nazis. The first Ben Elton book I've read and I'll go back for more.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce - Loved this. It's a beautifully told story of  self discovery, love and the tragedies we live with.

Barracuda by Christos Tsiolkas - I found this a little icky in places, I won't pretend I didn't, but it was wonderful insight into the life of an elite athlete.

The House of Memories by Monica McInerney - I just couldn't put this one down. Easy to read, engaging and lovely with enough humour to compensate for the tears.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield - A strange story about mystery, confronting the past and living with secrets.

It was hard to choose, there were so many others that almost made my list. I guess these are the ones that really resonated with me. Right now I'm reading On Writing by Stephen King (a little late to the party there) and The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis (with my 8 year old). Both should be on my list!

What was your favourite book this year?

Monday, 18 August 2014

Dog Shaming - The Shag-Pile Carpet Incident

This is  another dog-shaming post. But a little back story is required, so bear with me.

When we moved into our house, we had great plans for our upstairs room.  It sported ugly old Venetian blinds, grossly discoloured yellow curtains and heinous light fixtures. The feature that sealed the deal, however, was the green, brown, black and white shag pile carpet. I'm not kidding.

We're talking approx 24 square meters of what resembles a wave of vomit. I'm going to show you a picture so that you fully appreciate what we're dealing with here.

It feels as good as it looks

I imagined this room would become a parent's retreat and I visualised myself bathed in natural light, reclining on my own cream coloured chaise, reading happily in the silence while sipping a chilled white wine.

But then I remembered I have children. So that little daydream was just plain silly. Indecisive, we went back and forth on ideas of what to do with the space while in the mean time, it evolved into a rumpus / guest room / gym / study. We made no actual changes to the room  other than just adding stuff. And it works for us, at least for now.

So back to the dog. In the 4 years we've been here, I have never invited nor allowed the grey bearded staffie upstairs. I'm petrified that one random flea might just move on in, take up residence in the fur like carpet and build a small army. I'm scratching just thinking about it. Not that my dog would ever have a flea. Umm, moving on...

Yesterday, in some crazy snap decision, canine decided to follow me up stairs. I was too surprised to stop her, watching with a big goofy grin on my face as she made her way up the slippery wooden treads, dying to see what she'd do. When she reached the top, it was all on.

For Lucy, this was the equivalent of going for a walk down an unfamiliar bush track covered in peanut butter plants. She was sniffing like her life depended on it. The tail was swinging frantically, enough to move the whole back end of her nugget body and the pace picked up even more when I spoke to her (as you do).

That's when delighting in her shifted to concern. She loves this. She thinks it's like being at the park. She thinks the shag-pile is like grass.

She thinks the shag-pile is grass.

She squatted.

I swiftly scolded her and dragged her away, her paws barely skimming the stairs on the way down. She was given a good hour outside, with the real grass, to think about her behaviour. The kids, when I relayed the story later, thought it was hilarious. Husband, not so much.

Lucy, flatly refusing to look at the camera.

Upstairs remains a no-go zone for Lucy.

Has your dog ticked you off today?

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Dog Shaming. I'm On Board.

My dog is a bitch. I mean it. She can be really nasty and hard to live with. I love her to bits of course. She has all the qualities that we've come to expect from man's best friend, but she has some additional qualities that are simply annoying. With a capital A.

First up, know that she's not young. I can't blame her bitch-qualities on the puppy stage. She's not an adolescent dog, pushing the boundaries whilst finding her way in life. No. Our Lucy is eleven. That's seventy-seven in dog years. I'm thinking she's old enough to know better.

Now before you assume that she might be misbehaving due to her more mature age (as we aging females prefer to put it), please understand that her mischief is not new, either. She has been a naughty, infuriating hound from the very beginning. Eleven  years.


We tried to train her well. Oh, how we tried. Puppy school was fun until the day she sidled up to the trainer in the middle of class and dropped a huge steamy mound of stench at the trainer's feet, stating quite clearly what she thought of her techniques. I'm quite sure she would have flipped her the bird if she had fingers on the ends of her paws.

She's always been an attention seeker and is irritatingly fond of human touch (she will lay next to me whilst I'm hanging out washing and put one paw on my foot...aawwww).  But since her long time companion passed away recently (and she was a total bitch to him, too, believe me!) she has become even more demanding.

We may be partly to blame for this as our grief caused us to show a renewed interest and affection for her, realising the hard way that our furry friends aren't with us forever. But she just doesn't learn. And with my mother-in-law's dog staying with us at the moment (a tiny white lightweight called Mollie who is used to the good life) she is particularly naughty, showing off for our house guest who does not care for her antics.

So, after eleven years, I am joining the dog-shaming revolution. We've all seen those cute images on Facebook of dogs with notes stating their crimes. I want in. Starting today:

The green fluff is the insides of Mollie's bed. Mollie is  not the destruct-a-dog type. She's a lady. Well she was until she had her most of her teeth removed and now spends all day chewing on her own tongue, but that's another story.

To add insult to injury, after destroying Mollie's bed, Lucy promptly squished her enormous arse into it with no shame whatsoever. I repeat. She is a bitch.

I love her to death. But far out this chick can push my buttons.

Does your dog need shaming? Go on, get it off your chest. It feels good. 

Thursday, 7 August 2014

My Hidden Talent. You'll Be SO Jealous.

I recently discovered a hidden talent. Well I wasn’t exactly hiding it as much as it was hiding from me. What is it? I hear you ask with baited breath. Brace yourselves, it’s a good one: estimating capacity of glasses and small bottles.

Yep, I stumbled across this remarkably useful skill some years back when I really cared about the volume of fluids my children were consuming. Once or twice I found myself actually testing my estimate and finding that I was, in fact, correct. As time went by, however, I lost my focus on measures and simply forgot about my redundant skill.

Recently, on declaring to my husband that my entire health and fitness situation needed a radical overhaul, I found myself interested in volume once more because, well because “drinking more water” was my entire new-health plan. No, I won’t join a gym, I won’t take up running and I won’t diet. I’ll just drink more water. That’ll do it.

Anyway, awesome health plans aside, I set a target for 3L of water a day. That’s a lot of water incidentally, enough to make you see the benefits of convenience based catheters. I have 3 different types of drinking glasses  in my kitchen (besides the wine glasses of course) and, after testing my theories, I found that I estimated their capacity accurately in each case.

Oh, the joy. Who knew forcing down 3 litres of water a day could become so much mathematical fun? I then turned to our selection of reusable bottles. They can’t fool me with their clever shapes and crazy colours. 200ml, 500ml, 750ml. You name it, I guessed it. My next step is to perform these feats live, so watch out if you're lucky enough to get invited to my house.

Now some of you may think my talent is lame (although I can't for the life of me fathom who could possibly think that) but I've been made aware of the hidden talents of some other people lately that might sit higher on the impressive scale. MIGHT.

A friend of mine recently revealed an unknown skill of the ping pong variety. When faced with a table tennis table at a family function, she whipped her entire family, young and old to their disgust and bewilderment. My husband is very good at impersonating speed skaters on our kitchen tiles, provided he's wearing socks of course. Who doesn't want to do that?

So if you're feeling a little bit lost in this world, like you're being overshadowed by people with ACTUAL talents, don't fret. Your time will come. Just remember that one thing that you can do well, no matter how useless or unimpressive it may be and OWN it.

There will come a time when that talent will be called on. Who knows when 60 Minutes might want to run a story on real life Australian speed skater impersonators?What if the only way to defeat the alien invaders is through a ping pong tournament? What if guessing small vessel capacity is the final challenge in a new million dollar prize competition?

We'd nail it.

What about you? Do you have seriously awesome hidden talent?