Smokey the Magnificent

Failing the Turing Test since 1986


Three days.

We are leaving in THREE DAYS.

Well, four, technically. We’re spending the night in an airport hotel. But in terms of packing, sewing, organising things, getting the house into housesitter-acceptable condition and trying to look up all the landmarks we might later kick ourselves for having missed… three.

On the debit side, I have two tops, a coat and three dresses to finish sewing before we go. In the black, there are now only three days in which we can contract chicken pox, break our legs, die in a car crash or consume dodgy ham, thus ruining the whole enterprise. This thought has begun to consume my mind. I hurt my toe while ironing the other day (don’t ask) and immediately thought “Welp, this is it”. I wince every time the snortlepig jumps off something. Miles – well, he’s a walking advertisement for travel insurance at the best of times.

We do have travel insurance, fortunately. The brochure was alarmingly specific. Under Loss of Limb, it informed us that the going rate for a severed toe is $50 per. Does that seem low to you? I mean, I’m attached to my toes – if a hygienic but maniacal surgeon offered to lop them off for me, I doubt I’d be convinced at any price – but for $50, I wouldn’t even be tempted. And shouldn’t it be on some kind of scale? I mean, surely losing five toes is more than five times as debilitating as losing one – balance-wise, aesthetically, when purchasing shoes, not to mention repelling potential life partners. If only I’d done better at maths in my youth, I could sell the formula to insurance companies and make my millions.

Also, our travel insurance will not pay out for kidnap if they can prove you’ve been kidnapped before. As if kidnappability is a pre-existing condition. Never having been kidnapped before – at my most portable ages, people tended to wish to get rid of me rather than the reverse – I can’t muster up too much rage about this, but it’s a curious bylaw. I suppose most repeat offenders come from wealthy families who can afford to pay their own ransom, which is sort of the point, isn’t it? Still, it seems rather like victim-blaming. Like losing your no-claims bonus if you get hit by a drunk driver. Life ain’t fair.

Tijuana isn’t covered either. Tijuana is a Bad Place, people. So are Greyhound bus stations. It is fortunate that Google is so happy to reveal the sordid underbellies of American life, and equally fortunate that Helpdesk Man hasn’t lost the childhood paranoia born from living in South Africa which causes him to shy away from unattended luggage, or I’d probably end up leaping right into a drug mule conscription van in the hope that it sold hot dogs.

[Brief pause to google ‘can you take needles on a plane?’ According to Mental Floss: Cremated remains are permitted as both carry-on and checked items, but an agent has to be able to sift through them.”And on the TSA website: “Snow globes that appear to contain less than 3.4 ounces (approximately tennis ball size) will be permitted if the entire snow globe, including the base, is able to fit in the same one clear, plastic, quart-sized, re-sealable bag, as the passenger’s other liquids, such as shampoo, toothpaste and cosmetics.” Fascinating.]

Anyhoo. Back to sewing. Have I mentioned I’m on my fourth sewing machine in a week? Mine finally gave up the ghost, bobbin-jamming every two seconds and emitting angry noises. Then I borrowed Mother’s ancient Janome, which sews like butter for the first six inches of every seam and then shreds the thread. Then I borrowed one from a friend, who got it from her mother and had never used it. It was of an extremely peculiar design and didn’t sew – probably an Autobot which failed to do its research. Now I’m using my sister-in-law’s machine, which fortunately works and is similar enough in construction to my old one that I don’t keep wildly pawing at the air trying to find the presser foot. Such excitement. Here’s the pig in her Wonder Woman outfit.

Hipster Pig

Miles, poring over the snortlepig’s colouring book: “Tha’s Ariel. Tha’s Belle.”

Me: “We’re going to see those princesses at Disneyland!”

Miles: “Yeah!”

Snortlepig: “I’m going to go up and talk to them. And they’re going to say ‘You’re a very nice little princess’, and I’m going to say ‘Yes, but I’m not just a princess.’ And I’m going to tear off my clothes, and underneath there will be my Wonder Woman suit.”

Me: “Whoa. Awesome. What do you think they’ll say to that?”

Snortlepig: “They’ll probably say ‘I’ve never heard of you.'”

In Which, Surprisingly, I am Not Beaten

Helpdesk Man’s favourite winter top got big holes nibbled out of its front by mice.

I fixed it.


1. I made myself a dress.

Further details here if you’re into that sort of thing. I like it – it’s just 50s enough that I feel I should be wearing it with cherry-red pumps and cherry-red lips, sipping root beer from a Mason jar and perching ingenuously on a bicycle with cat’s-eye glasses and a heavy Instagram filter over the whole. Sadly, this is not a look I am ever likely to pull off. I do have a cherry-red lipstick – one of Helpdesk Man’s clients sent it to me (long story) – but I wore it the other day at the pig’s insistence, and Tiny Miles pointed at my face and squeaked in outrage “WazZAT?”, and I cannot disagree with his assessment. Also, Helpdesk Man refuses to let me buy cat’s-eye glasses. Still, I like the dress.

2. Here’s a question for you. For $100, would you sleep for a night on a pile of peeled bananas? No pillow; a blanket is allowed, but it must not come between you and the bananas.

Helpdesk Man says no. I am inclined to agree, although oddly, if I could sleep for ten successive nights on a pile of bananas (fresh each night, obviously) and make $1000, I’d be more inclined to consider it. I dislike bananas, and the smell would be off-putting; and I imagine it would be an intensely unpleasant experience, especially around 4AM or so. But still. We’re trying to save for Disneyland. Thoughts?

3. This evening I was looking through some old photos on the computer while Miles sat on my knee. I unearthed one of me carrying him at six months or so.

“Girl!” said Miles. “Girl!”

“That’s me!” I said. “That’s Mummy. See, Mummy?”

“Girl!” said Miles.

Apparently these last sixteen-odd months have aged me beyond recognition. He still recognised Daddy, of course, from photos of a similar vintage. Rotten little blighter.

4. The snortlepig’s latest thing is watching childbirth videos on YouTube. Whenever she’s bored. It unnerves Helpdesk Man no end when he emerges from the office for his bihourly coffee. The pig will not, she informs me, be having any babies herself; I’m not sure whether she watches the videos to bolster that conviction, or simply because, she puts it, the babies are “so cute and squashy”. Either way, she’s learning a good deal about amniotic fluid. SCIENCE, guv’mint.

Do Not Use The Word Party As a Verb In This Shop

Royal Gossip

Last night we invited Gran, Grandpa and the aunts over for an Ancient Egyptian dinner. The pig got quite into it.

She has quite the Clara Bow thing going on, don’t you think?

We made the lot – dress, wig and necklacey collar thing, the name of which I should probably know, given that we’re doing a whole study on Ancient Egypt. We were going to do armbands, but we ran out of time. But then, so did the Ancient Egyptians, eventually.

There was also a pharaoh.

The pig decided he was going to be Tutankhamun, and that she would be his queen. “But we can’t pretend to be married, because he’s my brother,” she said. Without thinking, I said “Well, I think the real Tutankhamun actually married his sister…” “Oh! That’s all right then,” said the pig cheerfully. “Isn’t that handy?” She then generously offered to let me and Helpdesk Man act as her slaves – or alternatively, grave robbers. We declined.

For eats, after some hasty Internet-based and none-too-rigorous research, we had a platter with cucumbers, gherkins, eggs, lettuce, radish and cream cheese; a chickpea salad with green onions and sesame oil; fish cooked with cumin; and wholemeal flatbreads topped with mustard seeds, cumin and herbs.

Dessert (unpictured) was melons and grapes; a fact which outraged all my notions of hospitality. It caused me physical pain to refrain from whipping up some ice cream to serve after the pig had gone to bed; but I refrained. Probably good for my soul.

The drinks were ginger beer. Apparently Egyptian beer contained a large percentage of solids – surely one of the most intensely off-putting phrases ever applied to a beverage. It was the consistency of gruel and highly nutritious. We skipped it.

All in all, the evening was a success, not least because I got to feel like a Fancy Homeschooling Mother who Does Such Things. The downside is the pig’s newfound obsession with eyeliner. I may have unleashed a monster.


Tonight I burned my tummy while ironing.

It isn’t what you think. I have been known to iron the skirts of dresses while wearing them, yes; shirts, never. But just now I was sewing a shirt for Tiny Miles from the butchered remains of a shirt my father once wore – judging by sleeve length it was a winter shirt, but knowing my father he bought it two decades ago and the fabric’s now good and summery. Also, by “just now” I mean 10:49PM, because apparently I live in a Thomas Hood poem.

Anyway, so I was ironing the shoulder seams flat – I always give the clothes I make a jolly good press when I make them, and after that they have to fend for themselves; it’s an attachment parenting thing, “baby the babies when they’re babies so they won’t need babying for a lifetime”, you know – and the ironing board padding had slipped away from the metal mesh, and as the iron gave a particularly juicy zhzhzhzh, it steamed out through the gaps and through the by no means sheer fabric of my shirt, and there I was. Scalded on the tum. I haven’t been scalded on the tum since I gave birth to Tiny Miles and clutched a wheatie bag so tightly to my squish that it was red for days afterward.

Thought you should know.


I like to think our tiny family has made some contribution to the degradation of the English language. Certain members of our acquaintance have adopted various phrases from our vocabulary – “dispicious”, “nap-me”, “puggle”, “strinky”, the pig’s unique use of the word “ferocious”, and so forth.

In this spirit I would like to give the world a new and useful phrase. You know “your face” and “your mom” jokes? This is like that, only better.

Like our love.”

The phrase originated at choir, when Helpdesk Man was complaining about our sub-par rendition of a song, and said “We need to get softer at the start of the phrase, because right now it’s just fading out pathetically to nothing”. And I was all, “Like our love“, and everyone went O.o .

Since that time the phrase has proven indispensable.

“Man, The Hobbit was disappointing.”

Like our love.”

“There’s a cockroach in the bathroom. It’s big and hideous.”

Like our love.”

“Wow, Miles’ nappy smells like something inside it died a long time ago.”

Like our love.”

It’s pleasant little exchanges like this that keep our marriage alive, I like to think.

Well, what else has been going on? Two fantails swooped into our living room the other day and couldn’t get out for ten minutes, much to the delight of Tiny Miles. I took the pig to the pharmacy the other day and she started telling a complete stranger all about the “theogoly class” she does with Daddy. Our dishwasher and car both broke down, and my sewing machine is threatening to. I joined yet another mystery shopping company. I made several New Year’s Resolutions, none of which involved losing weight or learning a foreign language. During an aneurysm, I bought my sister a Christmas present for 2013. (It is Abby’s. It will be very nice, if it lasts until December without disaster. “Like our love“. You see?) I made the ghastliest dim sims ever. I repeatedly failed to finish the pig’s Cinderella dress, and have now officially relegated it from “late Christmas present” to “hopefully-on-time birthday present”. I tried to buy a lamp and couldn’t. I tried to buy distilled water, and couldn’t. I tried to buy a 2013 planner-type diary with enough space for each day, but not a whole page, and definitely not divided into half-hourly increments; and couldn’t. I read Dracula, and it was awesome. I watched Christmas in Connecticut (1945), and it was also awesome. Helpdesk Man started teaching the pig to play chess.

I sewed the pig a dress, too. Here it am.



1. Yesterday my firstborn got severely plicked while checking for eggs. It seems Lucida is broody again. I’m not sure whether I should give her a copy of Gloria Steinem or a bullet between the eyes.

2. I bin sewing.

That was Miles in a weskit, ascot, shirt and trousies made by me. You will notice that the next photos are in the same location. This is because our camera battery has lost the will to live, so we can only use the camera while it’s plugged into the charger, which is plugged into… I don’t know… the wall, the energy of the cosmic spheres, Helpdesk Man’s lag rage… behind my computer desk, from whence I cannot be bothered fishing it out. So we can only take photos from about a two-metre radius from my desk. Thanks to an optical zoom and a handy French door, this isn’t too disastrous – I’m exceptionally smug about my barrel of snapdragons – but it does somewhat limit the backdrop. So here he is again.

What you see here, aside from a none-too-shabby trousies-and-weskit set with lions on, is the hunted, intent visage of a baby whose tummy button is temporarily MIA. Tiny Miles is a great fan of his tummy button; many’s the time I have rushed to his crib upon hearing a wail, only to find him standing up frantically scrabbling around his midriff. Upon locating the errant button, he will rejoice greatly and sigh “Buttie!” in a tone of great relief.

He also likes to squeeze his knee-flesh. Never have I met a baby so taken with its own fat self. We took off his trousies the other day when it was hot, and every four seconds he would stop mid-stride and giggle at the sight of his own thighs. It was awesome – although on reflection, one hopes he will grow out of it.

In deference to his knee-squish, I also made him some shorts. I used the same pattern as the lion trousies, only without the bottom panel; and made some back patch pockets with inverted pleats, just for the heck of it. Only I sewed them too high on the back panels, so when it came time to fold the waistband down for the casing, I realised I was going to run over the pockets, rendering them inoperable and (more importantly) funny-looking. So I unpicked the top inch or so and folded it down, cuffwise, with the lining showing.

Then as I was basking in the glow of a completed garment, I snipped the threads of the pockets and managed to cut a small hole in the fabric. After a short burst of denial, I then spent another half-hour constructing an elaborate X-shaped belt loop detail to conceal and mend the hole. It looked nifty. I’m not sure if that was a good sewing day or a bad sewing day.

All this sewing was necessitated by Miles ungratefully growing out of his clothes. Poor timing on his part, for it is my aim before Christmas to sew:

-a Cinderella dress for the pig, including choker, armwarmers (in lieu of gloves) and that weird headband thing she wore

-a pink summery dress with roses on, for the pig to wear on fancy days

-a pink chiffon circle skirt for the pig to twirl in

-a tutu for the pig to pirouette in

-a wardrobe’s worth of Waldorf doll clothes for the pig’s Christmas present Waldorf doll, including a mini-Cinderella dress… all sans patterns, naturally

-a dowelling-and-sturdy-fabric teepee thing for the pigs to chill in on the lawn, and to introduce them to the concept of combined Christmas presents, which are (surely) a Good Thing

-three sailor suits and one sailor dress, for the pigs and their cousins; possibly including hats

-something for the McMiles Muffin so I don’t feel guilty about neglecting him Christmas-present-wise, even though he don’t care

-three things I shall not mention because their recipients read this blog, or jolly well ought to

-four Christmas stockings – I’ve gone off our old ones, and Miles needs one too now, although what I will put in it I do not know. He likes vanilla essence bottles; I could stock up.

-a Christmas tree skirt, which the pig is helping me make. This item aroused scorn from a friend of mine who grew up with her Christmas tree stuck in a bucket of rocks; she feels creating a ruffly cream skirt to cover one’s green plastic Christmas tree stand is, like, the most First World project ever; and she is probably right. But I like it, and there is plenty of long, straight seamage for the pig to sew.

-Tea-dyed tulle ruffle ball things to hang around the living room as Christmas decoration. See above, probably. Again, tough. I never bought the “dusty kindergarten ornaments made from Popsicle sticks are the spirit of Christmas” thing – we had those, growing up, and I always admired the shiny, matchy-matchy Christmas trees in the shops. And this year I wish to be fancy. I will probably fail miserably, mind you – as a small person I used to aim for Class by putting sprigs of parsley on our Corelle plates as I set the table, under the impression that’s what they did in fancy restaurants. Bit of a pathetic vignette, innit? The longing for higher things combined with obliviousness (oblivity?) and lack of funds. That’s me. Oh well. I shall have ruffle balls, and a tree skirt, and mismatched socks and a shirt from the op shop, and so it shall ever be, world without end, amen. Perhaps I can Marry Up in my sixties, like me gran.

3. This afternoon I was flipping through a cookbook, had a momentary blankness of the brain and accidentally made tortillas. They were nice, but I should probably stay away from heavy machinery, moving vehicles etc.

4. Later this afternoon the pigs and I were trundling through the orchard when we came across some girls on bikes. I vaguely recognised them as belonging to a chappie who works at the sawmill. Said chappie then emerged and asked if we were doing anything tomorrow night – which, it turns out, is Halloween. We are not, but his pigs wanted to trick-or-treat around the orchard, so I promised to have something sweet on hand.

The pig was most excited. “Mummy, we should vacuum my room and make it all nice! And I will wear my Snow White dress like a princess, so they can see how nice I am. Should we sew them something, do you think, like a little jacket? Or could you make them an apron? Maybe we could pick them some flowers. When they’re my friends, do you think I can borrow their bikes?”

Sadly, the pig is going to Nana’s house tomorrow night for dinner, and her father would not let her cancel. She has left me strict instructions to “be nice to the girls, and let them stay until I get back”. I am slightly nervous, myself. Should I make arty sugar cookies in the shapes of ghoulies and poltergeists? Or would it be less lame to be lazy and just buy a packet of Snickers bars? I don’t want to be That Mother. And the pig’s social future is at stake, apparently.

At least we have plenty of cobwebs around the house. I can pretend it was deliberate.


1. Would you rather be given $200 off the bat, or free toilet paper for the rest of your life? (You would have to pick up a standard quantity every month from a location not more than twenty minutes’ drive from your home; any extra rolls would require a doctor’s note.) Helpdesk Man immediately plumped for the money; the other person I asked, who I note is richer than we, went for the paper.

2. The pig has a new word. “Blasted!”

I first heard her using this when she was struggling with a seditious piece of cauliflower. “What?” said I. The pig looked up all innocent-like and said “You don’t like me to say nasty words, so now I say “blasted” instead.” “Oh, all right,” I said, somewhat puzzled, as she has been over her nasty-words phase for months. So now that’s what she says – when stubbing her toe, failing to find a hanky or otherwise frustrated with life.

It’s sweet, except a few days ago when Miles had committed some infant sin, the pig hauled him by his armpits into the bedroom and announced “Look at this little blasted!”

3. Speaking of nasty words, a plaintive yelpy one escaped Helpdesk Man this morning when he was making breakfast. In a moment of abstraction, caught up in the joys of singing Sweeney Todd, he squirted a quantity of dishwashing liquid into the porridge. Apparently he was going for the salt, and missed. The second batch of porridge is now bubbling away, and the chickens are happily pecking away at the sudsy stuff outside. I can only imagine what it will do to their innards, and consequently the deck.

4. I haven’t blogged for awhile. I should really have put that first, but there’s a whole blog dedicated to finding blog posts that start “Sorry I haven’t blogged for awhile…”, and I didn’t want its spider-bots to find me. …It’s about as interesting a blog as one might expect.

Anyway, I don’t have a super good reason for not having blogged. I totaled the car, but that took, like, ten seconds. And I had an article due and then another article due and then a Batman cake, and a wedding cake, and then I did a bunch of sewing, and then my grandmother came to visit; but all those things, quite honestly, were dwarfed by the amount of time I spent on Pinterest, thinking “ooh that’s nice I could make it who am I kidding I won’t I’m so pathetic my clothes pegs look like clothes pegs and I don’t even own any washi tape”.

So there we are.

5. I have been winning things. Entering competitions is a nervous habit of mine, and in our recent fling with poverty I manically entered us in for as many trips to the Bahamas as possible, in lieu of getting an actual job. I didn’t win any trips, but I have so far acquired a box of breadstuffs, two movie tickets (Ruby Sparks, preview, next Monday), an Australian show called “Offspring” on DVD, and a family pass to the Craft and Quilt Fair. Proverbs 31 Woman, eat your heart out.

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