What is an escape room?

An escape room is a team game that involves exploring a room and solving the puzzles you find there in order to get out.

In practise, that means being put into a room with a team and figuring out how to open and/or unlock various things. In Canberra, it is illegal to actually lock the room so although there is usually a large obvious padlock on the exit door, it is purely decorative (eg put on a second handle while the first handle actually opens the door). You can leave at any time (and come back in, eg after going to the bathroom or getting some air).

Most escape rooms take place in a single physical room, although some start in one room and take you through others as you progress through the various puzzles. Mine are one-room games that can be restricted to a tabletop if necessary, and they are macguffin-based ie you ‘escape’ by finding a specific magical item in one of the boxes, rather than by ‘opening’ a door.

Most escape rooms start you off in very dim light, so one of your first challenges is finding more sources of light. The darkness and lack of torches enhances the stress and forces you to work with your team-mates. Stress, frustration, and cooperation are huge elements in a well-designed escape room.

Another vital element is skill-sharing. A good escape room has a wide range of puzzle types, so different team members’ strengths can come to the fore eg. A puzzle box, a simple maths problem, a clue hidden in an unexpected location. I am terrible at puzzle boxes and not super mobile (so I won’t be crawling under tables if I can help it), but I can do maths.

Puzzle rooms tend to steer away from any maths harder than primary school level, because a lot of people hate maths. I have found that having a simple maths problem towards the end of the game is hilarious as people panic and can’t count good no more.

Each escape room has a fictional scenario to fire the imagination, and a timer counting down (usually the time limit is 1 hour, or 1.5-3 hours for much more complicated rooms).

During the last week both my parents and my siblings attempted my magical steampunk game, MADAM ALCHEMIST, and each session was filmed. If you’d like a better idea of how escape rooms work, I recommend watching the first and second videos. If you just like watching people alternatively swear and cheer, the third video is pretty much just that.

The first video includes an opening spiel by yours truly, and a few minutes of play by my parents.

The second shows a cut-down version of my brother and sister playing the room from beginning to end (complete with my patented sarcastic subtitles). It contains very mild spoilers ie you can still enjoy the game fully after watching (I edited it very carefully), but if you’re an experienced player I recommend playing the room before watching it. Of course, if you don’t live in Canberra/NSW then you might as well watch it.

There is some mild swearing.

The third is a super-short montage of my brother and sister’s play-through (all of which is also part of video #2). There’s almost no context, just the usual escape room experience of intermingled frustration, bickering, cooperation, and joy.


All clear? Good.

You can book through the store link above, or email me at MagicInTheMailStories@gmail.com to arrange a time and place of your choosing.

Ah, l’Hospital!

For those who don’t follow me on facebook or twitter, I’m in hospital (again). Just as it looked like I was in the clear post-operatively speaking, I developed an infection.

It so happens that the infection is right in a patch of my belly that’s currently completely numb. Which possibly explains why I’ve been in almost no pain this entire time (I noticed it on Christmas Eve, but thought it was just a rash).

Yesterday I had a small operation to help fix the infection and (warning: the rest of this paragraph is medical and icky, but fascinating) the wound was left open and gaping for a while, as I waited to have a special medical vacuum attached to it. I used my kindle camera to have a look and got a huge shock at what I had thought might be a belly button-sized wound. It’s long, and wide, and deep. It’s also extremely clean as far as the human body goes, and I could clearly see different levels of. . . well. . . me. I was somewhat disturbed and quickly replaced the sheet covering it, but then realised it was a fab writing opportunity and took a picture. Several people have since requested to see it, so I’ve emailed them privately. (If you want to see it, email “fellissimo@hotmail.com” with the subject line “Gaping belly wound please”.)

It’s also inspired a significant dramatic scene in one of the stories I’m currently working on. I can’t tell you more than that, except that I ran the entire scene past a nurse and she made lots of the right kind of impressed noises. (Also, I was not on morphine at the time.)

I very much enjoyed my morphine experience once again. Some people throw up and/or feel awful after a general anaesthetic. I feel FANTASTIC. It was rather hard not to over-compliment all the wonderful staff, and I struggled with conversation due to not being able to hold info in my brain for more than about five seconds at a time.

The following morning I had a follow-up visit with the surgeon who asked me if I remembered speaking to him and his team after the surgery.

No, I did not. I definitely remember being on morphine and talking to people, but there is a whole period of time before that fully-conscious part of the evening that I don’t remember at all. He said I was, “Two vodkas over” and “laughing at nurses”. I suspect I may have made some overly affectionate comments towards all the staff (male and female nurses are both awesome) and he chose to spare me the knowledge of exactly what terrible things I said.

Silly man. Of course I want to know exactly what terrible things I said! I’ve never been blackout drunk so THIS IS MY MOMENT TO SHINE.

I saw a different doctor this morning and asked him if he was there at the time. “No,” he said. “Sadly. It seems I missed out.”

Fingers crossed I get some embarrassing and inappropriate quotes of my drugged-up self before I have to go home.

As you can tell, I’m in high spirits and feeling remarkably well (seriously, I’m not even taking panadol today because I just don’t need any pain relief). I’m going to stay attached to the medical vacuum for quite a while, and I’m still waiting on a swab result to get me a more targeted antibiotic—but I have my own room with a gorgeous view of Telstra Tower, The National Arboretum, and the helipad, and I actually had to force myself to not dance when a song I liked came on the Tv this morning.

Wacky stuff.


You can see why this floor is called ‘The Penthouse’.

Also, I have a silver dressing on/in my stomach wound, which is extremely cool given that my steampunk universe has magical silver that can assist with supernatural levels of healing. (Based, of course, on silver’s real-world antibacterial qualities, which is why it’s in me right now.)

My actual surgery was at John James Private Hospital, but my official surgeon is away on holiday so this entire infection is being dealt with in Canberra Hospital, which is public. So I’ve been able to compare notes with… er… myself.

What the private hospital did better:

  1. It’s made up of almost all private rooms, and you can pay a (relatively) small amount ($70/night when it costs over $1000/night already) to make sure you’re alone.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but sharing a room with a random stranger (who is guaranteed to not be at their best) is always going to suck. The best-case scenario is that the 2 (or more) of you get on like a house on fire, and relieve one another’s boredom. But even that would freak me out thanks to the magic of social anxiety.

When I was at the private hospital I also had a private ensuite, which of course significantly reduces the grossness factor. (I also struggle with anxiety when showering anywhere other than my own ensuite at home, but sharing with sick/bleeding/incontinent people—or sharing while sick/bleeding/incontinent is even less fun.)

My roomie here at Canberra Hospital was an older man who was clearly very ill and in a lot of pain. He spent a lot of time moaning aloud, and would swear (and then apologise—he’s clearly also a very nice man doing his best at a miserable time) at almost every procedure (including really basic stuff like blood tests and cannula flushes) or movement. He was also in the bed by the window, which meant I didn’t get to see the view (not anyone’s fault of course, but natural light is a very helpful thing). He isn’t fully aware of where he is, or who staff or family members are, and talked to himself a bit. All this was stressful for me but part of the joy of hospital life. Then one day he was talking to himself about wanting to be violent and trying not to be, and I decided that he was a (tiny tiny tiny) potential danger to himself and others.

I told the staff that I thought he should have his own room, and why. They said that wasn’t an option, which shocked me utterly.

This man has been in hospital for weeks and hasn’t done anything the least bit violent. He’s also got a catheter and is basically unable to leave his bed. So you can see why staff immediately assumed I was over-reacting.

I went to the lounge and tried to sort out whether I was being rational or not. The thing is, as a fiction writer everything in life goes through a story filter in my head. This man said he felt like he was being tortured. He wasn’t sure what country he was in. He didn’t recognise his own family, or the nurses. And he was understandably angry.

I’m mentally ill too, and keenly aware that “mental illness” is blamed for a bunch of crimes (while the mentally ill are far more likely to be the victims of crime than the perpetrators).


Watch any movie with foreshadowing, and you can see the big disaster coming from miles away. You never get a story where a crazy old man talks about violence and then successfully controls himself. You get a story which ends with Hospitalised Mother Of Two Killed By Delusional Room-Mate After Requesting A Different Room.

Long story short, I applied the same strategy I apply to every important hospital issue: I waited until the next shift came on, and told them exactly the same thing.

They knew the man would hate to be moved, so they moved me instead. And voila! I have a private room (the only one on this floor), despite assuring everyone over and over that I’m absolutely fine and don’t deserve special treatment.

It’s sooooooo gooooooood. TJ in particular was born loud, and it was very hard to host him while trying not to bother the patient on the other side of the curtain. The gentleman above also had lots of visitors and I constantly found myself inadvertently (or vertantly, who am I kidding?) eavesdropping on everything they said.

It’s good to be alone.

2. Food. Obviously. Everything I ate at John James was nice. Not all of it was 100% to my taste, but it was all decent. Some of it was seriously good.

Yesterday for breakfast I was intolerant to literally everything on the plate except a slice of cold toast and some low-fat margarine. So that was my breakfast. No milk, no protein, nothing that was enjoyable to eat.

The vegetables here are microwaved frozen vegies; the meat is usually a little nasty; the porridge would be better used as Kindy glue and the backup sandwiches (kept in a fridge for people like me that have been fasting and needed something to eat between normal mealtimes) recalled that famous New Yorker story “Cat Person”, in the following manner:

“It was a terrible sandwich, shockingly bad; Felicity had trouble believing that a grown human could possibly be so bad at making sandwiches.”

One sandwich was cheese: plastic cheese with a thick layer of cloying margarine. The other was “Mayo chicken”. The mayo was bad, the chicken was bad, and the bread was going stale, but it was the combination of finely-minced chicken and still-very-noticeable chunks of cartilage and bone that truly surprised me. I’ve never encountered chicken bones in a sandwich, let alone one that had apparently gone to the trouble of mincing up the meat. Was it made of chicken scrapings from a sausage factory floor?

I cannot confirm or deny that statement.

This was my lunch today:


Take a moment to guess what it is. Milky tea, and some kind of meat with an ice-cream scoop of gently flecked mashed potato?

The mug is mushroom soup. It tasted very mushroomy, with just the slightest hint of actual real mushroom—perhaps as much as 2% of a physical mushroom, finely grated and scattered into the mushroom-flavoured broth. It was actually pretty nice, and it was a good thing it was low on actual vegetables since I’m pretty darn intolerant of the shrooms at the best of times.

The other is a veal roast with gravy and “cheesy potato”. The lunch and dinner menu always feature microwaved frozen vegetables, and various forms of (alleged) potato.

Potato is actually the one vegetable I can eat safely, and despite the carbs it’s got a lot going for it. It’s all powdered potato, but the “cheesy” version was definitely superior to the ones that are pure powder or microwaved slices of boiled spud.

I feel a little sad as I wonder how many baby cows were slaughtered in order to be burned and smothered by (alleged) gravy throughout hospitals all over Canberra today. I had some of the non-burned bits and they were okay, although the weirdly viscous movement of the gravy was a little disturbing (I’ve made powdered gravy and it doesn’t do that, so what could create such an effect? Did it get mixed up with the “rolled oats” glue from breakfast?)

Oh! The other food difference is that it was quite easy to convince people here that I’m better off with the non-diabetic menu (which tends to have more protein and less stuff I’m intolerant to). At John James I’d take advantage of any confusion and squirrel away real butter whenever someone accidentally gave me the good (ie non-diabetic) menu.

I also had a slice of nice white bread and real butter at lunch, which isn’t super healthy but certainly is delicious.

3. Respect/Meds

But here’s something interesting: I’ve been treated much more respectfully here than at John James. On one occasion at John James two nurses came in to personally administer my medication while I was on the loo (rather than coming back in a few minutes). Given how overworked nurses are, I’m mildly sympathetic—but after having two kids I feel like far too may people have treated my body like public property and I’m pissed. If I can dress and shower myself, I want to do so without company thankyouverymuch.

A nurse at John James disapproved of my method of bringing in my (very confusing) array of medications, and she confiscated them all and ordered replacements from the pharmacy. The replacements looked different and I was unable to keep track of important meds like diabetes stuff, migraine stuff, and anti-depressant pills. As has happened every single time I’ve been in hospital, nurses tried valiantly to keep perfect written records and give me all my meds at the right times—and they failed utterly. Although the paperwork system is a great plan, it doesn’t work in practice and that is dangerous. (Obviously, letting me take my own pills while high on morphine isn’t going to be safe either.)

Here at Canberra Hospital, nurses have over and over again LISTENED to me and let me take my own pills at the appropriate times. This is bizarre and wonderful. (And didn’t happen here at Canberra Hospital when I was pregnant and came in with premature labour… but of course, pregnant women be crazy so people are always extra patronising during such times.)

I have a theory that patients at a private hospital are fussier and more demanding, so private nurses are more likely to have grown hard and dismissive of patient concerns. Because, although the vast majority of staff at John James were great, my overall experience with staff here at Canberra Hospital has been better, kinder—and MUCH more respectful.


Having said that, I’d kill for a private room.

I mean, not really KILL…

Or would I?

There’s often a wonderful eerie quality to hospitals, as I meet yet another shift of new people tasked with keeping me alive, as my medical vacuum says “eep” to indicate it’s just been unplugged, as I smile politely while someone takes four attempts to hit one of my veins with a syringe, or as I push my drip stand down the empty hall at 2am, shuffling in and out of pools of fluorescent light.

Once again, my biggest worry is recovery. Small children, school holidays, and major surgery do not mix well.

Kids get bored.

Mums run out of ideas.

Mums do what they have to do to get through the day without excessive screaming from/towards the children.

Mums go back into hospital, and the cycle starts again.

I don’t really have a solution. Chris may be healthy, but he has his limits too—and he’s back at work this Tuesday. I have received overwhelming amounts of support from friends both close and barely seen, and that frightens me as well. I’m painfully aware that my normal “good” level of health isn’t enough to do the stuff people have done for me (such as babysitting my kids for a whole day, or donating money). It’s never easy to believe I have value, as a woman/fat person/depressed person/writer/disabled/low-income person. Hopefully spelling it out here will help me to remember it’s society that is broken and wrong, not me. My personal worth can’t be linked to societal norms or I’m screwed.

The good news is that I may still be able to enrol Louisette in holiday care during January. Because boy howdy do we need it.

Dear Star Wars: Here is Your Script

I don’t often write fan fiction.

So this kind of happened as I wrote my thoughts after seeing “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” (I had so many feels it took me days to write and is 3000 words long.) It’s a VERY interesting  film for writers, and so of course I analysed it in that vein.

The full (very spoiler-y) article is here, on a shiny new forum I’ve set up for the “Murder in the Mail” series. You can read the article immediately, but you need to register to comment. (If you register, you’ll get about three emails a year about the “Murder in the Mail” series, unless you unsubscribe.)

The “Murder in the Mail” series is a set of cozy mystery stories (one story so far, to be released in August/September 2018) told entirely through letters, postcards, objects, and art posted to the reader over the course of eight weeks. The forum is for fun (discussing things like Star Wars, and so on), and also for readers to talk amongst themselves and try to figure out the identity of the murderer before the final letter arrives.

There is (arguably) a VERY mild general character-based Star Wars spoiler below.

Basically I figured out the One True Way to resolve all the possible romances of the current Star Wars trilogy. Because I am a genius.

Insert anti-spoiler kitty!




Rose: *Takes Rey to a storage area where they can talk privately* So you’re a big hero, just like Finn. I guess you guys are… you know…
Rey: Um. *blushes furiously* Well I might sort of kind of think of him a little tiny bit that way. Maybe.
Finn: *Emerges bleary-eyed and shirtless from under canvas, and clutches it around his hips so the girls don’t see EVERYTHING* Rose? Rey? What are you doing here?
Rose and Rey: *wide-eyed panic*
Rey: You. . . heard us talking?
Finn: Me? Nope. Nuh-uh. Didn’t hear a thing. *Accidentally-on-purpose jabs his elbow into the canvas*
Poe: *Emerges bleary-eyed and shirtless from under canvas, clutching canvas around his hips, and hastily donning That Jacket* Oh, hi Rose. Hi Rey.
Rose and Rey: Ohhhhh! Er, we’ll just be going now.
Rose and Rey: *become best friends*
Finn and Poe: *adopt half a dozen children and live on a porg farm forever*

Pictures worth thousands of words

I’m not a visual artist, and I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of influence I was allowed to have on my books covers (Odyssey Books has a top-notch cover game).

It’s a good thing they go through a few drafts, too.

Can you see what’s wrong with the first draft of SILVER AND STONE?

Screen Shot 2017-09-19 at 9.06.24 AM

Thank goodness for Chris, and for my fellow ‘Oddies’ (we Odyssey authors are constantly talking book stuff together), who noticed what I didn’t.

So that was changed.

I was SO PROUD to finally have the finished cover, and to be able to put the two covers side by side on facebook. Only to realise (due to facebook’s arbitrary cropping) that half my followers were wondering why I’d called my first book “Fart of Bras”.

Does one’s underwear usually fart? If so, why? And how?

Screen Shot 2017-10-04 at 3.49.37 PM

In unrelated (but still vaguely visual) news, I was amused by the juxtaposition of these two reviews on the “Choices That Matter” Google Play app. The first made me laugh out loud, and the second was just icing on the cake.

Screen Shot 2017-10-02 at 7.40.32 AM

That’s an excellent screenshot summary of the review-reading experience.

There’s reviews on iOS too, but barely any (and they get deleted every time there’s an update). I gather it’s a lot easier to leave a Google Play review, since there are several new ones every day.

Louisette Interview Age Four

Based on a set of questions from Crappy Pictures, I’ve interviewed Louisette around her birthday at age two, three, and now four:


Me: What job do you want to have when you grow up?

Louisette: LOTS of jobs. I want to be a waiter….and work in a cafe. And in the cafe I will make cupcakes. And cakes. And bread.

Me: What makes you feel happy?

Louisette: Being with Dad AND TJ… and you. And I’m with you right now, so I feel happy. And I feel happy when I’m eating bacon.

Me: If you had so much money you could buy absolutely anything, what would you buy?

Louisette: The same bag as anybody in the whole world.

Me: What is the meaning of life?

Louisette: I don’t know. That’s just a silly joke. I know! That’s the question.

Me: What do you love?

Louisette: You.

Me: What makes you feel loved?

Louisette: Dad and you and TJ

Me: What are you afraid of?

Louisette: Without being with a grown up.

Me: If you had one wish, what would you wish for?

Louisette: I wish I could fly.

Me: What is the funniest word?

Louisette: Clowny bowny.

Me: What is the hardest thing to do?

Louisette: Play golf.

Me: What is the easiest thing to do?

Louisette: Ah…aha! Play with a balloon. and make this picture.

Me: What is the best thing in the world?

Louisette: You and TJ and Dad.

Me: What is the worst thing in the world?

Louisette: TJ usually snatches from me so he’s the baddest.

Me: What makes you mad?

Louisette: Someone holding on tight of me and I want to get out.

Me: What is the meaning of love?

Louisette: Bun! [Giggles]

Me: If you had all the money in the world, what would you do with it?

Louisette: Buy a lot of things, like this (her own drawing). Well if we wanted to get a real slide then we need thousands and thousands of money to get that.


Me: What is life for?

Louisette: Are you getting sleepy?

Me: No Louisette, I just leaned my head back to hear what you’re saying  because we’re in the car. So what do you think life is for?

Louisette: For having…….life!

Me: Great answer.

Louisette: Now I’ll ask you a question.

Me: Okay.

Louisette: Why is Upside Down Town upside down?

Me: Because it’s silly.

Louisette: Why?

Me: Because silly is fun.

Louisette: Like Mr Klickety Kane?

Me: Yes! He’s VERY silly.



“Worst one I’ve played”: Reviewing the Reviewers

It’s finally happened: my first interactive (that is, Choose Your Own Adventure-ish) Australian steampunk novel is wandering unsupervised in the great big world, gathering reviews near and far (and scaring its mother half to death).
My very first review was the hilarious comment “Worst one I’ve played”, accompanied by one star. I’m genuinely delighted by such a start to proceedings, and could only be happier if a major lobby called for it to be banned.
Moments ago, the very clever and well-respected Emily Short published her review, and said, “All in all, then, this is both the biggest and the best of the Felicity Banks games I’ve tried so far; the worldbuilding is more extensive and the plot better structured.”
She also said the beginning was nicely paced while the end was rushed… which is funny since another reviewer said the beginning was boring but don’t worry because it gets better once you get into it.
People say, “Don’t read your reviews” but with material like this, how could I resist?
It’s on Amazon (after 20 reviews – positive or negative – Amazon will start promoting the book for me for free!!), Apple itunesGoogle, and Google Chrome.
Or you can play directly through the publisher’s web site, here. That’s the simplest if you’re not tech savvy (although you’ll need a credit/debit card there).

On most sites, it LOOKS like the game is free, and has in-app purchases. This is just a backwards way of saying, “You can read the first bit before you pay for the rest.” It’s a one-off $5 payment.

I’ve started up a facebook page just for this specific gamebook (discussion, reviews and steampunk/Victorian-era fun), at https://www.facebook.com/attackoftheclockworkarmy/

And of course the Sydney Launch is at the Freecon at 11am today/Sunday (Garry’s even promised me wine, and I know there are lollies because I brought a huge pile). If you’re in Sydney, you can just show up:
O.E.S. Amenities centre, 190 William Street EARLWOOD, Clemton Park shops, next to the ‘Thai-in-a-box’ shop, about half way between the Bexley Rd. / William St. intersection and Main St., Clemton Park.
Bus routes M41, 400, 412, 423, and 473 all pass near the Freecon venue, Campsie (Bankstown Line) and Bexley North (East Hills line) stations are nearby.
I’ve been working non-stop to get the rumbling engine of promotion moving, and I now have a weird feeling that I’ve managed to start something I can’t stop. That’s the entire point of the whole thing, but that doesn’t mean it’s not scary to see the train suddenly belch fire and clatter off beyond my control.
Good luck, little e-baby. I know your friends are out there.

Funny Faces

These are the photos of Louisette that I find funny – often just because of her facial expression. Only the birthday cake photo was posed – the rest just happened.

0-1 month:

img_0014No! Not without makeup on!


Ninja baby only pretends to sleep.


Fart face.


What on EARTH is that pink flailing thing, and why is it following me?!?


The eternal, “Huh?”

1-2 months:


Mmm, tasty.


Mwa haha! They’ll never catch me!


Suspicious baby.

img_0030Oh no! They’re on to me!


Okay, this one was posed (or was it?)


I respectfully disagree.

2-3 months:

img_0018And this one (the hard part is always getting the zip done up, am I right?)

img_0002_11That bag was a lifesaver while travelling (it’s designed as a stroller insert, and worked great as a handbag/cot).

img_0031I’m watching you, Mr Elephant. Don’t make any sudden moves.

img_0032Could I be any more ladylike?

img_0033Music! Flashing lights! Arg!

3-4 months:



Nom nom.


I’m so nervous chewing my nails just isn’t enough.


Holding Hands With A Boy.


I would have got away with it too, if it wasn’t for those darn kids.


A-a-almost got it. . .


Why does that giraffe have a rainbow shoved through its skull?


Flipper baby


Okay, I can explain! See there was this thing, and then I just. . .


Yo, bring me a cold one, wouldya?


First dates are always so awkward. What am I meant to say?



4-5 months:


What could possibly go wrong?


Look what I caught!


Why won’t the book open?


Darn it, I KNEW I’d forgotten something!


They grow old so fast.


Sneaking up on the enemy.


Drop bear.


I can eat the caterpillar, and my hand, and the world – simultaneously.


Sadly, her actual hair.

5-6 months:


Fascinated by her cousin.


Why do you want to eat the table, sweetheart?

Because it’s there.


Obviously hiding SOMETHING.


Kissing frogs.


Easy to hold onto, not so easy to put in her mouth.


And the feeling is mutual.


Whatever works.


Mirror, mirror – who on earth is in there?


Suspicion versus further fascination.


Dressed as the hungry caterpillar, and hungry for the hungry caterpillar book. (The combination of outfit and book was deliberate.)



6-7 months:


and three seconds earlier:

img_0001_11 img_00161

How does she already know she wants lollies? She’s not on solids yet.


Nom nom.


Saucepan!!!!! Woooohooooo!!!!!!!!!!


Thanks, poppy. I’ll be taking that now.


Would you keep down that racket?


And then the Irishman said, “I’ll be having mine with potatoes!”




Once she could crawl, it suddenly got very difficult to keep her in frame.


But I LIKE drinking this way.

img_0001 (1)


8-9 months:


Nom nom.




Hark! Is that Prince Charming, come to take me away on his white horse?


Just not that impressed.


Box!!!! Wooo!!


Mister? Mister, wake up!


Her natural hairstyle.


Being a baby takes a lot of concentration.


Nom nom.


Yes, she’s blowing a raspberry (her idea; she invented the technique without ever seeing it done). Yes, that’s a grand piano in the background.


Nom nom.


I believe I mentioned she suddenly became a great deal harder to photograph. This represents 90% of the photos I’ve taken ever since.


Nom nom.


Buddy? Are you okay up there?

9-10 months:


Punk princess.


Pushing boundaries.


Still working on that “eating” technique.


Bad hair day.

img_00042 img_00061

Yes, she’s genuinely asleep with her face on her own legs.


Eating a peg and apparently kind of angry about it.


What do you mean she’s not a chew toy? (This is after repeated attempts at sucking on her littlest cousin – not all of them unsuccessful.)


This is such a drag.


Is it coffee time or what?


Talk to the hand.


Baby death-glare.


Truth in advertising (read her shirt).


Mmm. . . coke. . .


And THIS is how I get dow—arg!


About time somebody cleaned up around here.

10-11 months:




Eeevil baby.


A little but of shush, please. I’m talking.


Ten seconds later:



Leggo of me, Poppy! I’m doing fine.


Would she gain the ability to reach the presents before Christmas? It was a close-run thing.

11-12 months:


Nome nom. a24.12.12.4

Nom nom.


Who says you need a dog to tidy up?


Marry me, Justin Bieber!!!!


I ordered my latte five minutes ago. Where IS that incompetent new assistant of mine?


Is there something on my face?


Aargg, noooo!!!


Aaaalmost there. . . .


Not happy, Jan.


Cleanliness is next to annoyingness.


I gotta drink up before they find me.


Eureka! One year old!

The Four Scariest Picture Books

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but these are freaking scary.

#4 “My Animals” by Xavier Denaux

Looks nice, doesn’t it? The entire book is pictures of animals, done mainly in black and white (with a feature colour here or there) and clever little holes through the pages where the eye of one animal is also the bellybutton of another. That kind of thing. It’s Louisette’s favourite book.


One tiny problem. . . things get pretty macabre pretty quickly.

ImageThat’s right: the eye of the sheep is COMING TO GET YOU.

#3 “Teddy the Policeman”

Great! A simplified way to tell kids about trusting policemen to look after them. How nice. Or not.


This policeman is prepared. But what kind of miscreant needs the automatic application of handcuffs?


That’s right kids (especially YOU, Timmy: I see that tell-tale dirt on your face). The policeman is much, much bigger than you and he’s going to take you away.

#2: God Made Me

Now THIS is obviously going to be a book about how God made you special and unique. . .

Image. . . and how he can steal your face at any time. Just because.


#1: God Made Colours

Staying on the all-powerful deity theme, another brightly-coloured offering from the Christian Bookshop.


As you can tell, Louisette loves it (either than or she is trying desperately to MAKE IT STOP). The book goes through a number of colours, then ends by bringing it all together in one picture:

ImageJust one teeny tiny question: WHY IS THE SKY BLEEDING???

It’s obviously not because the picture had too much blue – there’s barely any blue at all. It’s because God is on his way to smote all the naughty little girls and boys.

Sleep tight.

Strange Kitten

So Ana has decided that our bathroom is her favourite place to be.

The bath is fine. The sink is sort of fine. Eccentric, sure. Slightly odd when a giant fuzzy thing emerges above the rim while you’re on the loo at 2am – certainly. But it’s better than this:

Here’s hoping it’s just one of those phases a girl goes through. . .

Next week we’ll be in HONG KONG! Yay us! Which also means our house and catsitters will be dealing with this for the next two weeks. 🙂 And of course I’ll be blogging about all the awesome stuff we do, including a visit to a pirate’s cave.

That’s not a poo-splosion, THIS is a poo-splosion!

I rarely use exclamation marks. This one is, believe me, deserved. Time for a daily awesomeness that uses the OTHER meaning of “awesome”.

Alternate title: The Bum-Gun.

Picture the scene: It’s 5:00am and all is quiet except for a stirring infant and her mother; a woman light-headed and blurry from lack of sleep. It’s time for a feed and – judging by the smell – a nappy change.

The mother cuddles the infant and places her on the change table. She skillfully scoops up a very full load of nappy without letting it spill and stain the baby’s clothes or wrap. She drops it in the nappy bin and reaches for the wipes with a smirk of self-congratulation.

That’s when it happens.

Pow! Blam! Squirt!

A stream of liquid poo shoots up (yes, up) and out (yes, out) at a 45 degree angle (yes, a 45 degree angle) hitting the mother’s hair and spraying across the carpet and furniture.

The mother emits an inarticulate noise of shock and awe. She freezes, thinking, “Did that just happen?”

It did. Oh yes, it did. There is no mistaking the angle of attack: The evidence lies, warm and pungent, half a metre above the scene of the crime. In my hair. So much for gravity.

Five centimetres to the left, and I’d have copped it in the mouth.

Is this the face that conceals a startling secret weapon?

It is. Oh yes, it is.

You know you’re a mum when. . .

-you find yourself washing dishes at 3am, because you “had a spare moment”.

-ditto blogging.

-ditto brushing your teeth.

-when you lie down to sleep, a drill sergeant in your head says, “Sleep! Now! Hurry up! Stop wasting time and sleep! NOW!”

-you can eat spaghetti one-handed.

-you already have four different hairstyles that don’t require a mirror. Or a brush.

-you never cry over spilt milk – heck, you don’t even wash your shirt until it’s been a few days.

-you look at other people’s kids and think, “Boy, they look heavy.”

-personal grooming is a privilege, not a right.

-the same does not stand for personal hygeine.

-well, not on the days you leave the house, anyways.

-you miss your baby when she’s asleep.

-even crying is cute – sometimes.

Adorable Proof of Incompetent Parents

Before I start – I know there are three types of people reading this blog, so here are my messages for each of you:

1. Regular readers who are really not that interested in babies – never fear. In a week or two your normal schedule shall resume (in fact I’ll be posting the third Philip Reeve book review this Friday).

2. Friends and relatives who want to know what’s happening with CJ and I and baby Louisette – welcome! Wednesdays will be devoted to Louisette from now until several years into the future, so feel free to come back once a week (or whatever – there’s also a “baby talk” and a “parenthood” tag so you can find all Louisette’s entries fast – some entries aren’t tagged yet, but I’ll eventually go back and fix that). Also, please see two paragraphs below.

3. Regular readers who are loving the baby drama – you’re welcome. I haven’t actually read a single comment since I went into labour, but I’ll get there eventually, and enjoy them when I do (sidebar: I haven’t even dared log on to facebook, and have instead been sending updates from afar).

THANK YOU so much to. . . well, everyone I know and don’t know. . . for not visiting. I know some of you are finding it really hard not being allowed to drop by, or call, or even SMS, but it’s making a world of difference to CJ and Louisette and above all to me. I really can’t handle even receiving phone calls at the moment, and I’m loving the very special closeness between the three members of my family. Please don’t feel excluded, either – my own brother hasn’t seen Louisette yet, and my sister (who was there assisting at the birth!) did not even get to hold her for several hours. I will eventually let people in (bit by bit) so if you’re desperate to see Louisette ASAP please email me, and I’ll make sure you’re one of the first.

In the meantime, I’ll be blogging more details every day – hopefully that will prevent anyone worrying or feeling completely ignorant of what’s happening.

While I remember – Louisette weighed in at 4.15 kilos. No wonder any kind of late-pregnancy movement felt like someone was punching me in the stomach! Thank goodness I had no idea how big she was.

When I woke up this morning, this is what I saw:


She was so beautiful it took my breath away. (And yes, all you people who see nothing but a squidgy face with bags under the eyes – don’t panic: I’m still my cynical self and I’m perfectly aware that to you she’s mostly a poo-creating machine at present.) I’d like to title this picture “Adorable Proof of Parental Incompetence” for the following reasons:

1. See that cloth not quite obscuring her face? We put it in the cot to cover up a mild mess. This indicates more than mere laziness – it’s a suffocation hazard (what with it covering her face and all – I pushed it out of the way to take the photo). What bad, naughty parents we are.

2. See that arm completely not inside her white swaddling wrap? That’s because neither CJ nor I were ever able to wrap her up in the enclosed, womb-like way that newborns crave. Within minutes, she’d always have an arm out and flailing uncomfortably (we saw the midwife this morning and she re-taught us the right method, which is actually now working fine).

3. See how the arm is hanging wildly free of the bassinet? That’s because we placed her in the bassinet rather off-centre, so I could reach her more easily when she fussed in the night. Since the bassinet rocks, she slid slowly but surely down the slope until she landed up against the bars at a 45 degree angle. None of the baby books SPECIFICALLY prohibit sending one’s infant to sleep at peculiar angles, but I’m pretty sure it’s not recommended.

Before you start reassuring me with your tales of the time you accidentally stuck your three-day-old in the oven instead of their cot, don’t worry: Both CJ and I feel oddly peaceful and happy, and we’re not-so-secretly pretty damn pleased with ourselves as both people and parents. Save your reassurance for the child services man ringing your door bell right now.

Here’s Louisette meeting her cousin (my sister’s daughter, hence her privileged visitor status) for the first time:


I’m just about to start on tomorrow’s blog entry: the full story of how the labour went (told as gently as possible to keep my G/PG rating). There were some interesting moments (including the moment when the midwife took leave of her usual good sense to say, “This baby is going to be REALLY BIG!”)

Kitten on Fire

Ana, the younger (and longer-haired) of my two cats, is definitely not the intellect of the family. She also loves  extreme heat. The other cat, Indah, finds this heater too hot to touch. Not so with Ana:

We also have a single fan heater, which is highly inefficient but great for spending thirty seconds warming just your feet. Since it glows prettily, this is a favourite for the beautiful Ana (we all look best under the gentle glow of firelight, real or simulated). And so it was that I turned on the fan heater and rather pointedly put my feet very close to it, so Ana could not lie down and block the warm air.

No problem for a cat, of course: she simply squeezed herself, snake-like, into the miniscule gap. Her fur tickled my feet pleasantly, so I didn’t stop her.

Not until I saw the smoke.

My first thought was that the heater, effectively smothered, was malfunctioning. I grabbed Ana away, and that’s when I realised the truth: Her far side was hot. Not merely “I’ve just been pressed up against a heater” hot, but “I’m on fire” hot. The pressure of my hand on her side put out the fire, and Ana looked at me reproachfully – as if to say, “Excuse me? That’s MY heater, and everything was going just FINE.”

We no longer leave her alone in a room if that heater is on.


Tomorrow: Spoiler-free review of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2”

Plot Device Film, and Ten Untranslatable Words

Here is a movie and an article that are sashaying around the writerly blogosphere at the moment.

Yes, it’s a long film for youtube. But it’s way shorter than a movie, and just as good. Say hi to the zombies for me.


And this is an article by someone who has picked ten words that have been adopted from English into other languages due to their precise meanings.

Advice to Victorian Ladies

This is taken from a mid-book compilation by author Liza Picard, in Victorian London. Enjoy!

Advice to Ladies:

Most wind instruments are decidedly inelegant, they should be left to the gentlemen. Playing the violin-cello is of course out of the question, while the violin, while not so openly obscene, necessitates an awkward position of the head and neck which is not recommended. The piano-forte is an elegant woman’s best friend. There is room on a properly designed piano stool for two, in delightful proximity, when attempting pieces for four hands. Remember that if your companion stands up you may be deposited on the floor unless you stand at the same time. Pages need turning, by someone standing close behind you. This will be present to your mind when adjusting the neckline of your dress before a musical evening. Do not spare the application of perfume.

Never be in the company of an unmarried man alone, unless considerations such as the imminence of an acceptable proposal of marriage outweigh the normal rules. If about to faint with emotion, make sure there is a convenient sopha on which to subside. Not all gentlemen can be relied upon to catch a falling female in time.


When other peoples’ children are presented to you, express delight and admiration, no matter how unprepossessing the infants. Resist any temptation to call attention to their running noses, wet pantaloons, or digital nasal explorations. One can only hope that all these matters will be taken care of by some third party such as the nursemaid. Mothers are often blind to any imperfection in their offspring. Meanwhile try your utmost to avoid physical contact with them, combining an adroit management of your skirts with uninterrupted paeans of praise. Much the same applies to other peoples’ pets, with obvious amendments.

Not Always Right

This is a hilarious (and sometimes disturbing) site about the bizarre and funny things customers say and do. I think it’s PG, but I haven’t read enough to be certain.

Here’s three fine examples:

Medical Training These Days Is Shocking

| DE, USA |

Me: “Hello this is [name] from [college] returning your call. What can I do for you?”

Student: “Hi, I was calling to find out–”

<(A very loud noise erupts in the background. Yelling, laughing, and a strange buzzing sound ensues.)

Student: *sounding embarrassed* “Sorry about that. I work at a hospital and it’s really quiet today. Everyone’s playing Operation (the game).”

Me: *laughing* “Ma’am, you just made my day.”

Eating Steak On Rare Occasions

| Scranton, PA, USA | Top

Customer: “I would like the 12 oz. New York Strip.”

Me: “Excellent, sir. How would you like that prepared? There is a description of all of our options on your menu.”

Customer: “Rare! And I mean extra rare! I want the cow to still be mooing on my plate!”

Me: “Alright, sir. We can do that for you. Would you–”

Customer: “I need you to write extra rare! I want it dripping blood. That is how a real man eats steak! That burnt stuff isn’t for real men! Extra rare!”

(This continues for a few minutes, until I assure the customer that I will speak to the manager in order to be sure that his steak is extra rare. I put in an order for a ‘Black and Blue’. This steak is more rare than the usual; the inside is cool and the outside seared. As promised, I tell the manager about the customer’s specific request. After I serve the food, I get flagged down by the customer.)

Customer: “What is this? This is cold! How long has it been sitting there?”

Me: “Sir, I assure you I brought your dishes out as soon as they were finished.”

Customer: “Then what is wrong with your cooks? They don’t bother cooking my food? Why is it cold?”

Me: ”Sir, you ordered your steak to be extra rare. As it explains on the menu, this means that the internal temperature of the steak will be cool.”

Customer: “What is wrong with you people? Who wants a cold steak? I never said I wanted a cold steak! I saw extra rare! That means the middle part is pink and hot! Who can eat this raw cold

Me: ”I apologize for the misunderstanding, sir. I can alert the management and have them make another steak for you.”

Customer: “No! I am not eating anywhere that sells food raw! This is disgusting. You people should be reported! Come on honey, let’s go to that sushi place next door!”

As Helpless As A Baby

| Seattle, WA, USA | Air Travel, Top

Me: “Welcome to *** Airlines. How can I help today?”

Caller: “I need to book a ticket for my husband for May 3rd, from Tampa to Grand Rapids, Michigan.”

Me: “Thanks. Would he prefer morning, afternoon, or evening flights?”

Caller: “What does that mean?”

Me: “The morning flight leaves in the morning, at 6:45 am. The afternoon flight leaves at 1:20 pm in the afternoon. The evening flight leaves at 6:25 pm.”

Caller: “Can he get there in time?”

Me: “I don’t know, ma’am. That depends on where he’s leaving from, and how far he has to drive to the airport.”

Caller: “Oh. And those are all on May 3rd?”

Me: “Yes, ma’am.”

Caller: “My doctor’s inducing my labor on May 2nd. Will he get here in time?”

Me: “I really don’t know how long your labor will last, ma’am. That’s something you should probably consult your doctor about.”

Caller: “But is May 2nd the same day?”

Me: *baffled* “The same day as…?”

Caller: “The same day as May 3rd!”

Me: “No, ma’am. May 3rd is the day after May 2nd.”

Caller: “But what if it’s 5 in the morning?”

Me: “It’s either 5 in the morning on May 2nd, or 5 in the morning on May 3rd.”

Caller: “But is it the same day?”

Me: “Maybe you should have your husband call to book his own flight, because he’ll know how long it takes to get to the airport.”

Caller: “That’s a good idea. Should he book it for May 2nd or May 3rd?”

Me: “You should probably ask your doctor first.”

Caller: “I guess. You people make it so complicated to buy a ticket!”

Heh. Saw this and couldn’t resist:

A-moooo-sing Customers

| Cleveland, OH, USA | Top

(I am on a school trip to a mall to help with pet adoption forms. A customer comes up.)

Customer: “Gimme a f***ing dog!”

Me: “Would you like an adoption form?”

Customer: “I don’t care. I just want a dog! There’s one over there! Gimme it!”

(I look to where he is pointing. A lady is walking a dog.)

Me: “I’m sorry, but that dog doesn’t belong to us.”

Customer: “It’s because I’m [ethnicity that he clearly is not], isn’t it? ”

(At this point, I realize that he is high.)

Me: “Oh, that one is ours. Unfortunately, it is an evil space cow.”

Customer: “Holy s***!” *runs off*