Tag Archives: quality time

Family Life Lessons in a Game of Cards.

Today, we had a family game of three-handed 500 and had so much fun. Moreover, we even invented a new lexicon, which I’ll blame on the cards rather than the players. They could be incredibly uncooperative!

Although playing cards might sound like an activity for a rainy day, it was windy outside and we could even see the Spring allergens in the air with the naked eye. So, we were hibernating inside. Moreover, it’s not only school holidays here, but also a long weekend. While for some, this would signal an increase in activity, for us it meant doing as close to nothing as possible, which as it turned out, didn’t even come close. Our daughter needed to be picked up, and my husband and son went off to see a movie together. So, we aren’t such miserable sloths after all.

Anyway, with our daughter in Sydney, that left the rest of us playing three-handed 500. I know I’ve played this before, but it never seemed so brutal and unforgiving before. Today, it seemed that the person who won the bidding and played out the game was almost destined to fry and burn, and very promptly end up in negative territory. Naturally, the player most likely to hit rock bottom, was Mr 13 whose teenage love of taking risks got him into considerable trouble, which we ultimately dubbed: “The Minus Club”.

Even now, I still remember what it was like to play 500 as a 13 year old with my friends at school. I still haven’t forgotten the allure of winning the kitty…the curiosity. It had to be a pot of gold and I couldn’t possibly let anyone else pick it up. It was mine. Of course, it helped that we didn’t score our games. So, it didn’t matter if I went backwards faster than a speeding bullet.

However, with my husband, being one of those mathematical counting types with a mental calculator stuck inside his head, after a few practice rounds, we were scoring. Well, HE was scoring. I was jotting down some priceless family gems,  and as this game progressed, the pickings were ripe.

Now, this takes me back to Mr 13 who has been asking me to play 500 for weeks, but didn’t really know the rules. Moreover, he has no idea just how brutal a three-handed game can be, when your rivals pair up and you’re fighting for life on your pat malone.

So, when asked which suit he was going to bid on, he replied: “I’m playing eenie meanie miney mo”.

That didn’t sound like a good start.

Then again, I somehow managed to bid the wrong suit. I blamed that on the coffee not kicking in.

Meanwhile, my husband who is very difficult to beat at cards, Scrabble and chess, was having a bad day. We hadn’t taught our son Masare, so even though he probably had great hands for that, we just stuck with conventional bids. So, my husband’s gems for today included:

“Wanna play snap?”

“Who dealt this mess?”

“Blerk! Waiter bring me a bucket”.

My husband only bid about once throughout this game, which lasted a couple of hours what with my son and I returning time and time again to the minus club and my husband’s score creeping along at a rate of 10 -30 points a hand. That made for a long and very slow road to 500.

I reached my PB or personal best when I romped home getting 10 hearts. Those 250 points just managed to get me out of the sin bin at the time.

Anyway, all of this is leading me towards the grand finale…

I was the Champion!

Of course, I immediately jumped around doing the victory dance, singing “we are the champions”. Not because I’m a bad sport. Rather, it’s a rare moment that I beat my husband at anything. As for the whole thing of needing to beat my 13 year old son instead of letting him win, I say it was good for him. Will put hairs on his chest, as my Dad used to say. One of the most important things you can do as a parent, is to teach your child how to win and lose gracefully. Moreover, as he struggles to beat my husband and I, we’re training him to compete well against his peers. This is his training ground.

Yet, at the same time, nothing beats winning.

Well, that is unless you’re writing some mamby pamby piece about families spending quality time together and learning how to interact and communicate when devices are switched off. Then, it would all just be about bonding, creating memories and you wouldn’t need to keep the score.

Humph! We must be talking about someone else’s family!

Do you have any games you play to the death in your family? What are they? 

xx Rowena

Our Dog Goes to Ibiza

Before you start thinking that my dog’s won the lottery, packed his bags and traded in his humdrum suburban existence for the wild night life of Ibiza, a Spanish Island and tourist Mecca; Ibiza is also a cafe in Avalon Beach on Sydney’s Northern Beaches.

For us, taking our Border Collie, Bilbo, to a cafe was almost as exciting as an international adventure because we’ve never taken him to a cafe before. He’s uninitiated.

To be honest, prior to these school holidays, I’d never thought of taking Bilbo to a cafe.

Although I’m very much a dog person and absolutely adore my dog, taking the dog to a cafe seemed rather crazy. After all, I go to a cafe to chat with friends or to do some writing and dogs are a bit like children…a potential liability. There’s a time and place for the kids and the dog and when I’m at a cafe, I just want to chill out without worrying about who’s doing what. I have spent too many years hiding from my kids in cafes while they’re swinging from the light fittings sucking on those little sachets of sugar and transforming from  “Mummies little angels” into humiliating “little devils”. Now that they’ve matured, I don’t need any fresh liabilities. No, I just want to crank up my sagging energy levels with the next best thing to an intravenous caffeine boost and usually chat with my friends until all our ears have fallen off.
However, we’ve been spending the school holidays in Pittwater. While I’ve been into Avalon on various expeditions, I’ve particularly been struck by the incredible number of dogs hanging out in cafes. These cafe dogs have all been very well behaved. They just sit outside by their owner’s feet and don’t cause any trouble at all. They certainly don’t start barking ferociously, knocking down tables and sending cafe staff skywards when they see another dog, although their owners are probably thankful that there aren’t any cats about!

Taking your dog to the cafe in Avalon is almost de rigeur, much the same way Parisians are known for their love affairs with their beloved and very spoilt chiens. These exceptionally pampered pooches even travel inside spectacularly expensive, flashy leather handbags and are often treated even better than children.
As far as Avalon dogs are concerned, I initially saw a preponderance of what could be described as a golden spoodle or perhaps they’re cavoodles. They’re definitely an “oodle” dog of some description. In this instance, the result is a spaniel-sized dog with a curly, light golden coat. They’re gorgeous looking dogs and initially, I desperately wanted one until we saw them en masse and suspected there’s some sort of covert cloning operation down by the waterfront. However, subsequent trips into Avalon have shown a much-broader cross-section of dogs and they haven’t all been designer breeds either. I even spotted a Border Collie in a cafe last week.
Spotting that Border Collie, started turning a few rusty cogs in my brain. I know Bilbo isn’t exactly a salon dog but I started to wonder whether he too could become a cafe dog…!

I wanted to find out.

DSC_2446

Bilbo in his element as a scraggly sea dog. Mind you, he doesn’t like going swimming.

Hanging out in cafes is quite a lifestyle shift for our Bilbo who is “a bit of a rugged character”. He’s a gorgeous looking dog but he’s a bit rough around the edges, especially after running through the mudflats of Pittwater this afternoon. Bilbo has never seen the inside of a dog salon either. That is unless you count his one encounter with the mobile dog groomer who gave him a rather image-shattering No. 1 two summers ago. The poor dog emerged looking like a totally different dog and even changed colour. Instead of his beautiful, tailor-made black and white tuxedo, he was short-haired and smoky grey. I think he wanted to cry or even bite himself not knowing who he was.
But this clip wasn’t the sort of full puppy pamper treatment some of these canine high flyers enjoy. There was no sweet smelling powder for Bilbo and he was probably thankful too. He’d be just the sort of mutt who’d have to roll in some very dead animal to get rid of a pretty smell.
There were other concerns as well about how Bilbo would go at a cafe.
While he looks perfectly harmless, Bilbo doesn’t always cope well when people visit our house and isn’t exactly what I call friendly. A friend has been giving the kids lifts to school all year and every time she turns up, the dog barks like fury and he just can’t seem to handle her taking the kids away. It also takes him quite awhile to warm up to even regular visitors to our home, except for my mum, of course. She has been feeding him ham scraps even since he was a pup and he always looks forward to sniffing “Grandma’s Hambag”.
Consequently, although Bilbo is largely very placid and happy to go to sleep, he does have “issues” and despite being well-trained, a trouble-free visit to the cafe could not be guaranteed. Taking Bilbo cafe involved the unpredictable unknown.
While I had thought about taking Bilbo to the cafe by myself, I recruited Geoff in case and by the time we’d been for our walk, the kids were on their way home so the whole family accompanied the dog to the cafe.
By the time we arrived in Avalon, it was getting dark and all of the other cafe dogs had gone home. There was just the odd dog walking passed on the other side of the road. That’s all. We didn’t get to find out how Bilbo would behave around other dogs in the cafe setting.

Let sleeping dogs lie...

Let sleeping dogs lie…

Bilbo’s first trip to the cafe was a bit of an anti-climax. He just sat quietly by our feet enjoying a bit of a pat.
Geoff and I loved our Hot Vienna Chocolates with marshmallows. They were served very elegantly in a tall glass with a handle. The kids had banana milkshakes.

Bilbo was also taken care of. While there weren’t any dog-a-chinos on the menu, Cafe Ibiza takes particular care of its dog clientele and provides a bowl of water on the footpath. Avalon seems to be very community-minded and thoughtful like this in general.

However, although you can lead a dog to water, you can’t make him drink. Bilbo was too busy sniffing other dog smells on the adjacent tree. Parenting of both children and dogs doesn’t always go to plan!
Being a Border Collie, Bilbo is particularly smart and understands words we’ve never taught him so I can’t help wondering whether he could read “Ibiza” on the water bowl and fancied that he was in Spain. Of course, he didn’t care where he was as long as he was with us.

Although, given all the dog scents around Avalon, Bilbo knew he was in doggy heaven. He’s never been on such a sniff-fest in all his life. Nose to the ground, it was a struggle to get him moving and to remind him that life wasn’t just about the journey. That you are actually meant to reach your destination.

Our family at Cafe Ibiza, Avalon. You can just see the top of the dog's head near Geoff.

Our family at Cafe Ibiza, Avalon. You can just see the top of the dog’s head near Geoff.

While on the subject of destinations, our cafe visit had an unexpected twist. While we all went to the cafe as a family together to be a part of Bilbo’s first cafe visit, we also had a great time connecting ourselves and I guess doing what has become dubbed: “quality time”. The kids were being cheeky trying to drink our hot chocolates, resulting in a bit of a tickle, some hugs and, as usual, Mummy turning into the paparazzi.

 

Miss with my hot chocolate. It was too late in the day for the kids to have one.

Miss with my hot chocolate. It was too late in the day for the kids to have one.

DSC_2546

I should point out that while we were sitting outside with the dog, Cafe Ibiza had a very enticing open fire going inside and a wonderful ambiance. I was also quite touched that when I went in for a Hot Chocolate yesterday, that the owner recognised me after more than ten years and was particularly helpful when we popped by today offering colouring in books and pencils to keep the kids occupied. We will have to come back for dinner some time soon.

Have you ever taken your pet to a cafe and how did it go?

I look forward to hearing from you!
xx Rowena