Friday, October 16, 2009

Alpine-ophilia



 I have woken up this morning with a spring in my step, and find my plse is racing a bit. I have a lovely glow of optimism that is, well, kinda unusual for 7.30am on a school morning.
And i was wondering what it was that was generating these feelings. Ahhh.....some quiet moments over a coffee and I spy my disgorged backpack in the corner of the room and I know its this! Its the promise of walking again. Getting out there. UP THERE, in the alpine highlands.
M y walking pal, described it as this: Alpinophilia. I gather its some kind of obsession with the high country.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Blog shy: thinking a little too much about the unseen public in the blogosphere

Ive been a little wary of blogging lately: of projecting too much if myself into the electronic ether. Blog-shy. It might be good to get this out in the open a bit and blow a little air through some of the things Ive been worrying about.  
Its the idea that anyone can offer comment on your life: that whatever is disclosed in a blogpost is open to interpretation, and often misinterpretation. You see reflected in the comments people make about your world (or what you choose to write of it anyway) at best another way of looking things, but at worst, well, I guess there is the chance that someone can be abusive. Thakfully this hasnt happened to me! So I suppose that the thing that has started to freak me a bit is that idea that when I post something, there is the chance that in another person's comments, I get to see my own life bounced back at me  through the words of another, coloured by their politics, world view and prejudices. And this is fine and dandy when the person commenting has a set of values that are close to your own...but when this isnt the case, I suppose you just have to roll with it and accept the on-line community for what it is: a multifarious and  unpredictable wilderness of folk that you might never meet and may well never want to. 
 The other issue I worry about is the fact that the minutiae of one's everyday life is up here (on here? there? ) for others to read indefinitely. Just last week I had breakfast with a colleague  who happened to find my blog via my facebook page and she acknowledged she had read a bit of it, which is totally fine. Hey, I know that if you write stuff, well, peeple read it. thats the whole idea. Its just that the things I had been writing about and dealing with months ago had only just been read by her, so you have the whole gamut of thoughts from times past resurfaced as if they just happened yesterday. So it was this re-surfacing of an old post that was a little unsettling, aswell as I guess its the first time I have had to chat face-to-face with a 'reader', who wasnt necessarily a friend I had invited into my blog-world. Not necessarily confronting in any way: just a momentary weirding. If that isnt a word, it should be.
So, from this point I can either choose to disclose less. Or keep on writing, and accept the idea of this new (to me) unseen public the blogosphere presents. I'll let you know how I get on with this choice.
Post script: just re-reading this I realise that this post expresses a moment in time, and possibly  a degree of paranoia. lol!  There are so many lovely people out there too that read and comment on blogs, and Im lucky enough to have some kind and thoughtful people that have chosen to follow my writing, and for this I thank you!



Friday, September 25, 2009

RAIN



RAIN
by Don Paterson

I love all films that start with rain:
rain, braiding a windowpane
or darkening a hung-out dress
or streaming down her upturned face;

one long thundering downpour
right through the empty script and score
before the act, before the blame,
before the lens pulls through the frame

to where the woman sits alone
beside a silent telephone
or the dress lies ruined on the grass
or the girl walks off the overpass,

and all things flow out from that source
along their fatal watercourse.
However bad or overlong
such a film can do no wrong,

so when his native twang shows through
or when the boom dips into view
or when her speech starts to betray
its adaptation from the play,

I think to when we opened cold
on a rain-dark gutter, running gold
with the neon of a drugstore sign,
and I’d read into its blazing line:


forget the ink, the milk, the blood—
all was washed clean with the flood
we rose up from the falling waters
the fallen rain’s own sons and daughters

and none of this, none of this matters.


Not a Haiku, but a great poem for today as it seems to be raining buckets, at least where I am. 

Monday, September 21, 2009

Sunday morning walking

Havent felt like blogging this last week. I have been in a bit of a shitty ol' mood. Its a combination of things: crap weather, my back being a bit up-and-down, and well, crap weather. In fact the lack of reliable sunshine is getting me down. It honestly feels like we have had 10 weekends of torrential rain, with maybe one sunny Saturday that I can recall. I know that its taboo to complain about rain when Tassie is just out of a drought, and significant parts of Oz are still firmly in the grip of drought conditions, but here it is- I cant stand (quite so much) rain as this!

So... over this last weekend, rather than wallow in my funk and stare bleakly out the window at more grey skies and heavy clouds, I went walking with a new buddy. In fact, I started my own walking group! I emailed the people i know in Launceston with a vague or burning passion for walking, setting out an inventory of walks over the next 6 weeks culminating in a 6-7 night hike from Lake St Clair to Cradle Mountain.  As it panned out only one person of the 5 or so invited could make the inaugural hike, so I dragged my family along too to keep us company. It rained (needless to say) but it WAS wonderful. The new walking buddy is a well read, chatty bloke with bright green credentials, and a happy disposition. On the drive to Liffey he pointed out Bob Brown's cottage hide-away. Its an unassuming little abode with a pretty porch facing the river and surrounded by a crowd of daffodils. We paid homage to the political dedication and charisma of this wonderful man and shared stories of our contact with the Green's leader.

Ahh, but the walk: yes, I should get to the important bit! Yesterday's walk was an easy one of just 3 hours return, so absolutely fine for the relauctant bloke (thats my bloke, not the new walking buddy) and kidlets whose enthusiasm wanes after an hour of so. The walk is a bit touristy and more populated than I would like (we met 4 or 5 groups on the trail), yet Liffey Falls are spectacular. My, how they FELL! The water gushed audibly over the precipices looking entirely wedding-cakey. Nice to witness the flow-on affects of good rainfall.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Phoenix Seeds

Some semi decent weather over the weekend inspired me to get back into the garden. Unfortunately my garden still looks like Shrek's bog, as we have had soooo much rain here. The area fenced off from potaroos is a mud-bath with nasty looking green slime patches and remnant neglected veggies from the end of the Autumn crop.  Suffice it to say, I didnt really feel at all inspired to dig around in it!

So Im back to pots. And wheelbarrows, as it happens. I was thinking that I needed to raise my seeds in something broad and shallow, that could be moved about the garden easily. And voila!, this old barrow proved the perfect thing. It even had a few strategically placed holes in the bottom, which will help with draining the seed raising mix.A clear sheet of plastic over the top, and Im set to wheel it into a sunny spot, or inside the shed if its likely to be stormy or frosty.

The seeds are from a Tasmanian organic, biodynamic and heritage seed producer that my Mum has used for years. He operates from a PO Box just out of a little town rather cutely named Snug, just 20 km or so South of Hobart. The good thing is he produces seeds that are nicely adapted for our chilly nights and frosty mornings, so Ive had success with getting his tomato seeds to survive the September freezing soils.
I think my Mum had a bit of a fascination (professional only...shes a horticulturist) for the guy as he is kind of elusive, but dedicated to his work. I remember her having rather lengthy chats with him on the phone (or perhaps she told me this). Anyway, anyway, anyway...  as I was down Hobart way recently I thought I would go and pay homage and check out the operations. I found a vague address on-line, and as its not a big town thought id zoom about the Channel Highway and find him. I asked at the corner store, the petrol station and knocked on some poor persons front door, but no-one knew where he operated from.

The man is a mystery, but his seeds are rather fabulous.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Distractions: friday haiku

my grandmother's day
must have been so slow, so calm,
fewer distractions

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

5 reasons not to do a PhD, and 5 reasons to give it a go...

Being a mum aint healthy for your career. I've spent the last 10 years working part-time, working for myself, and teaching my craft rather than practicing it. With my youngest child going to school next year I feel the need to get back into it again. Trouble is, Im not sure what "it" is.  I now live in a big country town and there are few positions for an architect and/or academic.  I realise its been 10 years since I have worked, proper like, for an architecture firm. Ive had a bit of a look at the architectural practices here, and there are only one or two that do the kind of work that id enjoy, and they are, I am told, pretty blokey offices. Im just not sure I can handle the posturing egos that these kind of firms seem to foster. Its just all so tiresome and unnecessary. So, what to do????????? Ive looked at changing fields, becoming a secondary school teacher, studying yoga seriously, but neither option really grabs me as a something I want to do as a JOB.

So, the option of a PhD seems to  be a good one in many ways. If I want to get back into being an academic, its vital to have one of 'em. And if I dont, well, its not time wasted, its something of value that might even contribute to the well of knowledge....who knows?

So here are the reasons I can think of NOT to do one:
  1. Isolation. Immeasurable hours of solo researching, reading, writing.
  2. Stipend pretty pathetic, really.
  3. Three year target for completion impossible
  4. Another slab of my life within the institution (and not in the real world ?)
  5. The pain of completion....having seen someone I love go through this, im not so sure I would wish this on myself.

    And on the positive side:
  1. The luxury of time to read, consider, write in an area of interest.
  2. Hey, its money to do the above. And its tax free. And my time would be (largely) self directed.
  3.  I could construct ways of trying to keep the scope bounded, limit the topic, early.
  4. A PhD provides a direction, a sense of purpose and it has some value. Not exactly sure if it will make me more, or less empolyable in a professional sense, but the opportunity to reflect on and maybe even refigure the 'real world' is a fine thing.
  5. All things worth doing have a certain amount of pain attached, certainly at the 'delivery end. (Note not so subtle analogy with childbirth...haha!)
Anything Ive missed here guys?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Living a rich life

Staying in a friend's house is always fascinating. you get to see inside their life, whats important to them, what isnt, as well as just enjoy another’s idea of how to array objects in the home. The flotsam and jetsam of their existence gives you a kind of hieroglyphic of who they are and what they value.Their patterns and routines take over from your own (after all you're a guest in their space). You eat what they eat. Its great! Its a holiday from your own routines.



I love staying in this house in Taroona as it has 3 generations of creative people's stuff everywhere: books, paintings, posters photos and cards, objects, more books.In fact Ive already posted about this elsewhere.My favourite thing this time? To treat the dishes in the sink as foreign objects. Like rock stars, we all neglected their presence in the hope that someone else might do them. (This is definitely taking a holiday from our own routines). We sat in the sun and read books, painted, walked on the beach instead. It was like living in a share house all over again. Fun wins out over fastidiousness. I wish I had a photo of the mountain of dishes at the end of 3 days. Not pretty. But a sign of us all being relaxed in each other's company.



Fear not, S and I did clean up at the end of our visit. We are decent house guests afterall.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

A hypersexualised world

Yesterday we had a couple of tradesman come over to fix the gasline on the stove - they went outside to check the gas bottles. Miss S was fascinated by their work , and followed their progress. Then she shocked me with this question:
Miss S:  (peering out the window to the two plumbers) : 'So Mum, which one do you think is hot?'
Me: Well, ummmmm, what do you mean by 'hot' ?
Miss S: well, you know, sexy and cool
Me: So, if someone is 'hot' means that they are 'cool'? (steering away from discussing the nature of sexiness with her 5 year old daughter). Thats a bit strange, dont you think?
Miss S: Well I like the one thats not fat. He's hot.
Oh GAWD. Two things get me concerned here. One, she has learnt that to be 'fat' makes you somehow unattractive. (Just for the record, he was only a little overweight). And second, where the hell did she get the words 'sexy' and in this context 'hot' in her vocabulary?
So, we talked about how a kind and loving person is the kind of person that you want to have around you. That what I see and like in a person is not just about how they look. I asked a few more questions to find out where she got this idea of 'hotness' from? But she didnt really know.

Yes, sexualised images of women pervade the media, and the pornification of young girls toys, clothes, videos etc is as insidious as it is well documented. . But i try and steer my girls away from commercial TV, and limit some of the toys they have. ( Barbies, yes but Brats, no) Hmmm....its not enough, methinks.
So this is the thing: I feel I havent done enough to protect my 5 year old from this kind of sexual language, plus she has already been sucked into the idea of objectifying the (in this case, male) body. And so I worry. What can we do as parents to keep children's play and language and way of looking at the world, childlike?

Id also like to add that it makes me bloody furious that this should be an issue at all!

Bottled water?

Hilarious that they need to go to so much trouble to sell bottled water these days.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Spring planting

Its only just the beginning of Spring, but it feels like an excellent opportunity to get busy planting. Especially as the sun is shining today! We have seen so little of the sun here in Launceston, with grey skies and torrential rains and even flooding being the norm of late.
Miss S loves snow peas, and its always her job to plant them, so today we hauled out the dry plants from the frame, and potted up some new seeds.
The chocolate crackle was a little celebration in the sun afterwards!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

10 things in 101 days

Ive been intrigued to find a couple of landscape architects on blogger, who have set themselves the task of completing a list of things, a long LONG list of things! These are, I gather, things they aspire to, that they have always wanted to do, things perhaps that inspire them. Katrine, of 'My Feet Move Forwards', and Victoria, 'Being Me' both  have these interesting lists in the margins of their blogs, and I wonder how they go about squeezing these things into the margins of their lives. It hard sometimes to maintain enthiusiasm in the face of a list, but it looks like they are doing bloody well so far.  It appeals to my sense of order to catalogue the things I'd like to do. But to be honest, it also wearies me somewhat to imagine 101 things! It must be the difference between being 24 and 40!

Reading their lists leaves me wondering what it is that inspires me now? What is there that I aspire to? As I review their lists, these are things that I have been doing, and loved doing over the last 10 years combining motherhood with old and new careers, and a reignited interest in the making things with my hands, and a new keen interest in gardening, bushwalking and yoga.

I love the idea of joining the 101 things crusade, but I guess I want a mini list, with more immediate results!
So I will make a list of 10 things, in 101 days. But I will consider these things most carefully and borrow one idea from each of their lists, as a thank you!

1. Walk the Overland Track (Thank you Katrine!... I havent walked the whole thing yet, and am now confirming plans to do this in November)

2. Cook something new once per month (I might make this once per week) Thanks Victoria!

3. Continue the pilates training, daily. Focusing on core strength and begining to re-integrate my yoga routine.

4. Start my weekly walking once again.

5. Floss (lol! I always seem to rush my teeth, but I really want to avoid expensive dental visits)

6. Laugh more

7. Be open to new friendships, and try not to worry too much if they all dont quite work out the way you imagine they may 

8. Be open to the idea of a whole new career!

9. Listen to my students...actively listen.

10. Plant some seeds for summer veggie crops

I might even revise my list tomorrow, before putting it in the margin to keep my mind on the things im working towards, but this is a start. Oh, and I guess I made the executive decision to count laughter, listening and preparedness as a 'thing': a thing need not be a physical outcome I reckon...

Monday, August 31, 2009

pre-portioned birthday cake

Birthday parties for small children call upon a rare blend of courage, organisatonal talent, tolerance, and willingness to get in there and join the revelry! They can often leave the adults stunned by the volume level, and mess, and generally gob-smacked by the sheer exuberance of small children rampaging in sugar-crazed delight. I cope by preparing well, making sure I have everything organised....Hmmm control-freakery coming to the fore. Sigh... But there is a moment of these chaotic events that i simply loathe--the cutting of the cake.  its the expectation surrounding the production of the Piste de Resistance that gets me cranky. That its mummy's job to produce an amazing cake that is the favourite TV character, animal or mystical creature produced in a ton of coloured icing sugar. I like baking, dont get me wrong, its not really the cooking and cake decorating that worries me, its the expectations surrounding the cake as a performance measure of motherhood.

And so this year I tried something different: the cup-cake-pre-portioned birthday cake: and it worked a treat! Just imagine, no knives invovled, the child can take control and hand out the individual cakes, and no trains/fairies/cinderelllas in sight! I could sit back and take the photos and enjoy watching everyone eat their cake. And we even managed to not use plates.


Sunday, August 30, 2009

Life and death

Death and life: few topics fail to command attention like these two do, and I feel like I have had every gram of compassion, pathos and empathy weighed against the words of this amazing biography. I finished this book this morning, tears leaking from my eyes and a gut-full of emotion, carried into the worlds of two extraordinary individuals by journalist/author, Susan Wyndam. Charlie Teo is a controversial neorosurgeon, caring for his talented patient ,concert pianist Aaron McMillan who is diagnosed with a brain tumor the size of a cricket ball while in his early 20's. The biography traces MsMillan's career (as well as his surgeries, relapses and recoveries) in parallel with Teo's.  I could write a  book review, and found myself just starting to do so (I guess its a style of writing Im familar with) but I think Ill leave that to others who have read the book before me.
What moved me is the dilemma this book leaves you with. If you knew you had a malignant tumour, and that a radical operation could possibly take it out, and prolong your life for a few years-maybe-would you do it? Would knowing that the operation might kill you, or disable you change your mind? How about knowing that there is pretty much nothing you can do about the secondary cancers that would be in your blood stream at the time of operating might lie dormant for a few weeks/months/years just waiting to lodge somewhere and have another go at killing you?

And I realised my tears were for G.  My cousin G (far right) was diagnosed with a brain tumor abour 3 years ago now, and he battled it with a combination of surgery and chemo for about 2 years, with times of remission and hope, and relapses and further hope for recovery once more. How he managed to wake up every morning and continue fighting the cancer in hs system amazes me. I visited him in hospital a week before he died, and held his hand, and we talked about being children together: of playing at the beach, games that never ended, conversations that kept us awake through the night about who we might be when we group up. Bitter thoughts of the deep unfairness of the disease plagued me. Why him?
While the book tends to make heroes out of its central players, there are so many ordinary folk, facing this extraordinary ordeal and the tough decisions fighting cancer brings.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Morning chaos

The preparations have been weeks in the making. Pinyata paper mache: done and decorated. Pass the parcel, organised. Lollies (yes, low sugar and no colourings)  selected and stuffed into party bags. Cakes baked, yes. Icing ready, no problems. Party pies and sushi, ready to go. House is clean(ish) and all awake and fed. The birthday girl bounded into our bed this morning full of giggles and excitemtn at 6am (oh, christ...its been a while since I was up that early) and the house is full of expectant enthusiasm, well lets be honest, frenzied chaos!!!!

With a last minute dash into town still to do, its nice just to sit for a moment, blog a bit, and collect my thoughts with a cup of hot tea. This is Miss S's first big party, and its gonna be a wash-out. Its rained all night, with a constancy Ive not known (Adelaide so rarely brings on the rain this way) since living in semi-tropical Sydney. The lawns outside are super-saturated to the point that the water just cant soak in anymore, and it resembles a 2 inch green-bottomed swimming pool. So it will have to be an inside party. It will be intense, but lovely, as there are parents-a-plenty, and lots of smaller siblings coming. A house-full! I think the lollies will stay in the packets until about 10 minutes before the paty finishes!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Five alive: friday haiku

 
five years today and here
she knows, 'im big now mummy'
I will love her fiercely

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Harbouring


There is something beautiful about the smooth body of water that defines Hobart's cove. One can understand why this site was chosen for settlement. Its one of the deepest harbours in the world, and so aesthetically resplendent.
Our wee family zoomed down the highway from Launceston last weekend to stay with a fascinating woman, with a mouthful of exotica as a name: Undine Francesa Sellbach. She is part philosopher, part cabaret singer, performance artist and teacher. Her house on Hobart's waterfront is a lovely tumble-down-house, filled with art, objects that have been collected across the generations-thoughtfully gathered and loved objects.
It was a pleasure to stay with her and enjoy the view of the harbour, and the fabulously mad array of THINGS that competed for attention in her home.





the beach wasnt bad either!

Monday, August 24, 2009

what to do with all the plastic bags?


One of the biggest surprises for me in my move to Tasmania from Adelaide, is the apparent apathy many Tasmanians seem to show for their natural environment. It seems to me that far too many just take it for granted. Perhaps as it is so abundant and expansive, it is assumed that it is somehow wonderfully resilient to abuse? Maybe the environment is seen as a resource, rather than as having value in its own right? Maybe our capitalist need to profit from the land shifts the way we think about our environment in a fundamental way? Now before I have 100 negative comments on the subject of this blog, suggesting that I have misrepresented the masses, I suppose I should clarify that I am not talking about the many, many wonderful active members of the Greens and environmental lobby groups. They are here and they are certainly doing their bit. Im talking about the vast majority the mums and dads at the local school. The kind of people you meet at Coles on a Thursday night doing the weekly shop.

Unlike Adelaide, where there is a ban on the use of plastic bags in supermarkets, the plastic bag in Launceston shops is still in plentiful supply and I am often a little astounded at the percentage of shoppers that don't bother to bring their own bags when shopping. Id say that only about half of shoppers I see have their own bags with them in the check out queue.

Recently, the Tasmanian Department of Environment was subsumed under the Department of Resources. This act was described by the Premier as a cost saving measure, but seems to betray a modus operandi that is quite chilling. State legislation to remove the plastic bag from our supermarkets is still a while off, and with rather mediocre advice available on how to reduce your carbon footprint, like this, I think we could be waiting a while.

So what do you do in the face of apathy? How do you jolt people out of their familiar and comfortable patterns of living? One can protest, one can lobby, one can lead by example. But there is another tactic which I am seeing as quite non-confrontational, and really quite potent. Art can be used to underline a cause, and can foreground an issue. Theres a Hobart artist, Nicole Johnson, who makes rather lovely vessels and sculptures from plastic bags. Just one of these woven receptacle uses about 22 plastic shopping bags. How cool is that? A self proclaimed environemntal artist, I like the way Nicole is making her point in a subtle way: that something needs to be done with all the these bloody bags that end up as landfill. That we might be able to turn an object of ugliness into an object of beauty. Better still, the vessels are unbreakable, pliable and rather lovely to hold. Ive always hated the non-descript colours of the placcy bag, but in this weaving of the plastic the colour is denser somehow, and a whole lot less insipid.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

OMG Decision Maker

Wouldnt it be nice of you had a spreadsheet for major life choices? You know, those impossible junctures in life where you have a few options and dont know which is the best way to head? If you could just pin down the variables, weight them in terms of importance to you, and then just crunch the numbers and TA-DAH!.... you know exactly which way you should proceed in life based on a highest score scenario.

Well, a friend of mine has a friend who is a mastermind in the public service, and she developed this tool to help her make decisions that are complex, with multiple risk factors and fine distinctions between choices that need to be measured. The OMG Decision Maker was born! It's great for those moments when you cant see the forest for the trees and cant hear anything from your gut except the after-affects of last night's curry.

Let me know if you would like a copy!
Ive tried a zillion times to save an image of the excel spreadsheet, but failed dismally. And blogger doesnt seem to like pdf's.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Art on the back of a donkey?

Another artist friend of ours produces work that doesn't have the normal mode of output. There are no paintings, rarely any drawings, and often the art only lasts for a moment. Light and sound, and public space are his materials, and he orchestrates the most alchemically wondrous moments, fragments, and sometimes journeys with his 'pieces'. This is contemporary art, just outside the confines of the "Gallery". Michael's work is always an EVENT: fun to attend and provocative, always poking thorns in the sides of the art intelligentsia. His work always seems to question the very nature of art itself.

And I smiled as I read his email to me today, and am sort of surprised, but sort of not surprised, to hear that his latest installation is a witty and naughty thought. He has made himself a mobile gallery, an equine Institute no less, and is taking his art to the people, on the back of a donkey! Check out their manifesto.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

What really happpened during afternoon naptime...

My 4 year old daughter was "sleeping" yesterday afternoon, but really she had high jacked my camera and was snapping a few special moments between Barbie and Ken. Maybe she doesn't need an afternoon sleep anymore. Bummer.



Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Humbled

Continuing on from an earlier post, about my birthday walking activities, I just wanted to write about a significant moment of the big celebrations - something thats been playing on my mind. On the actual morning of my 40th birthday I woke up feeling kinda excited, and a bit like a kid with all that silly and happy enthusiasm for the day! The holiday house we were staying in was full of family and friends, we had a walk in the snow planned for the morning, as well as a swanky session at the spa, followed by an evening with more friends coming up from Launceston to join us for dinner. Nice. And it was OK that my mum and sisters had given me my present before the big day, as I'd still recieve a few presents and cards; from the kids, and my significant other. So, I was sitting in bed, with expectations of the family ritual... cuppa tea and cards and a few pressies. Right? Isnt that what should happen on your birthday? Prepared to forgo the tea in bed scenario, as S was still asleep and looking in need of some rest, I went down to the kitchen. My mum made me a cuppa, and some lovely birthday hugs and kisses were shared. So far so good. The kids were upstairs playing, so I snuck back to bed. S was up, and explained that the present was back at home as it was too difficult to bring it on holiday with us. OK. No card, no pressie from my fella on my birthday. Hmmmmm..... And then he tells me that there was a bit of a problem organising something from the kids. They had each been given a little money and a little time with Dad, to find something for me. Daughter number 1 had been unable to find a suitable present, had a bit of a hissy-fit over this, then mucked up the card she had made for me, so I wasnt getting anything from her. That news wasnt so good. Then it transpired Daughter 2 had lost her present, but was working on a card. OK. I took a deep breath.

I went off the the shower and had a bit of a cry. How juvenile is that! There were to be no presents and maybe a card, it appeared at this stage. And yet I had my family here, and some good friends had come from afar to be with me, and there were certainly lovely presents both before and after the actual day, so what was my problem? I couldnt believe that the lack of material presents, right when I expected 'em would upset me. Surely Im not that small minded. My reaction was so much like a spoilt child, and I was more than a little ashamed. I quickly snapped out of it, had some lovely cuddles with my kids (and a beautiful present from my daughter number 2, which was found) and a wee card she had coloured. Magic. All OK.

So imagine how I felt when we arrived back home, and S showed me the present he had for me? I felt very small indeed. Under a huge sheet was a magnificent artwork by a very good friend of ours, and my walking buddy M. I was gobsmacked! Partly as the painting is so huge, but also as they had managed to organise all this without me knowing, and get it into the house, and into position with me completely unaware. Even more beautiful were the ideas that inspired the work. M had folded the canvas in her backpack and taken it up several mountains in Tassie. This preparation of the canvas had taken a few years (and was done before we met her and we walked together). Im not sure when she completed the work, but it was before I knew her, and there is a companion piece hanging in the Hobart gallery. The image, well, I'll leave you to guess its inspiration. And its meanings may well be many and richly interpreted. Its certainly a painting with a story to tell!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Sky Claw


I submited this image to the ABC weather department as they encourage budding photographers to supply backgrounds for the weather map on the nightly news. Apparently they make a wee exhibition of the "winning" entries at the end of 2009. Not sure if they do the same on the mainland, but this budding photographer *cough* will be on ABC tonight (well, the local Tassie edition!).

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Friday Haiku : moon at dawn


morning moon sinking
soon beneath the tide line
pale face rises elsewhere

Friday, August 7, 2009

Wetlands


You get the feeling on reading this novel that Charlotte Roche is out to shock. Shock and perhaps disgust you too. Its rather gross account of a young woman's relentless exploration of her own body, its orifices and the abject matter that exudes from them and it is rather dreadful, really. Roche tells us how she likes to wipe her genitals on the seats of public lavatories, to eat the pus she has squeezed from her zits and to, well, all manner of pretty foul stuff that I'll spare you the gory details of. Needless to say, it generated a pretty strong visceral reaction from me. YUCK!

Whats surprising about the reviews of this novel, and I have just browsed a few, is that its actually touted as a feminist project, and maybe even emblematic of gen Y's view of the body female. Once you get past the initial disgust, then yes, I can get that this kind of novel perhaps explores the dogma surrounding hygiene, and in particular the way that hygiene Nazis (the patriarchy) might cast the female anatomy/vagina as a dirty bacteria ridden landscape. So, yes, the book challenges this idea. But really, does it have to leave us with the images of some angst-ridden chick wiping her vitals on a public toilet seat? Im sorry, but I reckon there are better ways of getting the message across...

pork saussies




Ive posted quite a few recipes lately, which is a bit unusual for me as I dont really want this to be a food blog. I think of this more as featuring snippets of my life, rather than being about any one subject in particular, and frankly flitting about between subjects suits my mercurial nature. So apologies to those of you who think this might be a food blog; its not! But as food is a significant part of my life, food is featured. My favourite foods. And I do love this dish.

Its simple, and damn effective. And I have my would be brother-in-law to thank for introducing me to the recipe, which is a Jamie Oliver recipe, and accessible free from his website. I think this is a nice piece of clever marketing on his part, to provide so many of his recipes through the Internet. Generous, yes, but also clever as he gets you involved with his oeuvre. Actually Im not too sure I would like to get too close to Jamie's oeuvre...
ANYWAY...
this dish is great in summer when you have too many cherry tomatoes on the vines, and dont know quite what to do with them. Also great when you have a good butcher. Our butcher makes the leanest and most flavourful pork sausages, that are sourced from happy organically farmed piggeries, so no guilt attached.

'Preheat the oven to 190°C.. Get yourself an appropriately sized roasting tray, large enough to take the tomatoes in one snug-fitting layer. Put in all your tomatoes, the herb sprigs, oregano, garlic and sausages. Drizzle well with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Toss together, then make sure the sausages are on top and pop the tray into the oven for half an hour. After this time, give it a shake and turn the sausages over. Put back into the oven for 15 to 30 minutes, depending on how golden and sticky you like your sausages.'
Oh, and there's a website I just read about in The Australian today where you can find suggested recipes for ingredients that you might have in surplus, or lingering in your fridge. Its worth a look and perhaps a bookmark.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

In case of emergency only


A good friend of mine who happens to be a wonderful cook sent me this recipe as a group email. It sounds awful, but I might just get desperate enough to try it one day...

5 MINUTE CHOCOLATE MUG CAKE
4 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa
1 egg
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons oil
3 tablespoons chocolate chips (optional)
A small splash of vanilla extract
1 large coffee mug (MicroSafe)

Add dry ingredients to mug, and mix well. Add the egg and mix thoroughly.
Pour in the milk and oil and mix well..
Add the chocolate chips (if using) and vanilla extract, and mix again.
Put your mug in the microwave and cook for 3 minutes at 1000 watts.
The cake will rise over the top of the mug, but don't be alarmed!
Allow to cool a little, and tip out onto a plate if desired.
EAT ! (this can serve 2 if you want to feel slightly more virtuous).

Could be OK... maybe I will try it afterall...

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Ancient Roman Custard

Incredibly this recipe is over 2000 years old, but really is a just a standard custard. Its ancient name is tyropatinum, which apparently translates as 'a kind of souflee' but i dont find this dish at all like a souflee. I made this last night after dinner...its great winter fare. I cook this when I have extra milk left in the fridge nudging the expiry date. This is another fabulous recipe from my favourite cookbook by Jill Dupleix "Old Food".

500ml milk, warmed in a saucepan with 100gms of wild honey.
Allow to cool for 10 mins.

Whisk 5 whole eggs is a metal bowl.
Strain cooled honey and milk mixture into eggs, whisking further.
Pour combined mixture into an earthenware dish.
Bake of 30-40 minutes in a 160 degree oven.
Use a bain marie for extra specialness. It IS worth it!

Oh, and add ground black pepper on top. It sounds bizarre but balances the sweetness of the honey.

I use Tasmanian leatherwood honey which has a strong, dark and intense flavour that infuses nicely through the custard.My youngest daughter likes it cold for breakfast!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

What happened to June?

I had a bit of a break from blogging during May and June.
It was a time of lots of walking for me: physical preparation for a big winter walk timed to coincide with my 40th birthday. A few equally insane friends and family joined me for a short trek through some incredibly cold parts of Tassie, followed by some winter feasting, and some seriously lovely R&R. Heres a few photos from this time:



On the trail, the first day was so much 'up'...





the walkers...and what a motley crew we were too!




some extremely cold moments on the trail at cradle mountain


and the most rewarding sky


and a luxurious place to relax at the end of the walk


followed by the ultimate in decadence: an afternoon at the spa...mmmm

Monday, August 3, 2009

human being or human doing?

I feel closest to just 'being' out on the trail, walking amongst the Tasmanian wilderness. i have few thoughts beyond the physical recognition of how cold or warm I am, the shape that the steam from my nostrils makes as it whooshes out, the sound of the button grass compressing softly beneath my boots. My body is warm with exertion, and my breath comes evenly as I move up a mountain. The weight of all the things I need to live well are on my back. I am. I simply am.

And this is perfection for me.

At home now with a strained/bulging disc in my lower lumbar I have none of this freedom of body or stillness of mind. I am bed-bound for most of the time with short forays out for working and collecting kids from school. Sitting is the worst, as the pain is most intense in this position. There is no lesson for me in this pain, only a reminder to rest and heal. So whats the problem? I'm just not content doing not much at all.
How do I find this peacefullness in myself when I cant get out on the mountain, when I cant MOVE? How can I simply just be still, and be?

A new friend of mine here in Tassie introduced me to the idea that we are human beings, not human doings, and while it sounds simplistic as a distinction, the more I think about it, the more I realise how much of our lives and sense of self worth is constructed around the idea of achivements,both small and large. Just going shopping, writing a blog, hanging out the washing makes us feel good. As does, completing a day of work at the office, delivering a lecture, writing a thesis. With these tasks, our presence is felt in the world. And when you stop (either by necessity or choice) and achieve little, it is the hardest thing to remain, well, bouyant. So I have a greater understanding of how hard it must be for my sister, who has been ill now for over 12 years with CFS to keep her head above water. This post is for you, Cat.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Making up with make-up

I have a strange relationship with make-up. Its a relationship of great distrust and I have spent my adult years avoiding using it. In my early 20's, like a good feminista, I imagined that the make-up industry was a collusion. All of a bit of an plot designed to keep women poor (make up costs a lot), too busy to do something useful with their lives ( sourcing it, putting it on, touching it up, taking it off can take up a lot of the day), paranoid ('Im ugly if I dont wear it') and well, generally at the mercy of trends cooked up by the people that peddle women's magazines. And i still believe this is the case, but perhaps I wouldnt suggest that its a plot or a collusion anymore.

So whats changed? In the latest move to Tassie I left behind my (embarrassingly massive) feminist theory book collection. The heroines of my 20's (Susan Faludi, Naomi Wolf, Germaine Greer) are having a well-earned rest at our beach house on the South Australian coastline. They have served their purpose in helping me shape my views, but now do not dominate them in the way they once did.

I am older now. And Im OK with that. I look in the mirror and I see all the 'defects' that I am meant to conceal and the lines that could do with some 'smoothing'. I like these marks of age, they define me, they are me. BUT: i found myself at a make-up counter, a posh one, yesterday trying on an expensive foundation and was really surprised how lovely it looked. How lovely I looked with a layer of the perfumey and well, expensive, stuff over my skin. It was fun to try out another version of myself. A 'made-up' version. A conversion? Weird. Im still processing this idea. The sales women took pity on me I think (perhaps she couldnt believe a women in her 40's was so naive about her products) and she gave me loads of samples to try out. I had no idea there were primers, foundations, brighteners, concealers and powders that all do basically the same thing: cover up unevenness in the surface of the skin. Bizarre!

So I will 'play' with this make-up she has donated to the cause of this woman trying to make up with make-up. I'm not promising I will buy any of it though!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

grand designs

Grand Designs usually pisses me off. I get cranky at the supercilious 'im-smarter-than-you tone' of the ever-smug presenter, Kevin McCleod. He seems to actually enjoy the turmoil created by the naive couples who engage architects and builders to create their 'dream homes' with unrealistic expectations and impossibly lean budgets. I guess it makes great television, watching these couples squirm as their dreams get gradually eroded by the inevitable compromises that building often demands.
And so I was surprised by my reaction to a recent episode (a repeat I suppose) in which a couple built their own home in Brittany. I smiled...all the way through it. I was caught up in their dream. Even Kevin's quips and jibes failed to dash their hopes or my enjoyment.
Its long been a dream of mine to build my own house. I mean, actually build it, so watching a couple do this from go-to-whoa, in the space of a year, making the decision to sell their expensive city house in the UK, pay out the mortgage and build a home on a cheaper piece of land in provincial France with the remaining money, was inspiring. They took a year off their paid jobs to do this, and enlisted the help of volunteers for some of the labour intensive parts of the project.

They built an earthship. A passive solar home built mostly out of recycled materials. While the aesthetic is a, hmmm, a bit too 'nuts and berries' for me, I really liked the technique of using car tyres which would otherwise be used for landfill, as both wall and structure for the rear of the building. The wall was made by stacking the tyres in an open bond, packing them with dirt from the site, and rendering the interior and exterior surfaces with pise. Low cost, thermally efficient, insulative and it makes use of a material which would otherwise present an environmental problem.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Mieng Kum, finger food.















Last weekend my partner and I were in withdrawal. We were seriously craving the tastes and textures of fresh Balinese food, and the summery feeling of eating raw food. Leafing through our favourite cookbook "Old Food" by Jill Dupleix, we came across a Thai recipe that seemed to fit the bill. Although Thai in origin, Mieng Kum pushed all the right taste buttons: toasty coconut, funky dried shrimps and zingy lime. Heres the recipe that we shared with some good friends as an entree. I have included the substitutions we used, rather than the full Jill Dupleix recipe.

sauce:
1/2 cup palm sugar
a 1/2 cups water
5 tbs grated coconut (dessicated is OK)
1tbs of shrimp paste
3 shallots
1 tbs peanuts
1 tbs dried shrimp
1 tsp sliced ginger (or galangal)

Boil sugar and water, stirring. Hat a dry pan and roast coconut until golden, remove coconut and dry-fry shrimp.

Pound together/blend shrimp paste 1 tbsp coconut, shallots, peanuts shrimps, and ginger until mushy. Combine paste with sugar syrup, simmer and stir for 15 minutes until it thickens. Cool.


fillings: (feeds 5 as an entree)
2 tbs finely diced shallots
2 tbs finely diced lime
2 tbs finely diced ginger
2 tbs dried shrimp
2 tbs roasted peanuts
2 tbs finely chopped chilli

Arrange these artfully on a plate, or in bowls, and encourage guests to arrange these in lettuce leaves, top with a spoonful of sauce, wrap and EAT. Its an amazing taste sensation, and transports one to a warmer climate immediately. Or maybe thats just as we added too much chilli!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Facet Joints


Until last Friday night I didnt know what a facet joint was. And now I know its location, as well as its capacity to inflict pain of extraordinary dimensions. Apparently there are multiple facet joints in the spine: its the space between any two vertebrae, shown in this diagram within the blue rectangle.

My trouble is the space between the L4 and L5 vertebrae has opened up, at the facet joint, and is causing the area to become inflamed.

The fact that there are a whole bunch of nerves that reside in the joint between the bony bits, means that I can feel this inflammation. Boy, can I feel it! So, until the inflammation goes down, Ill be stuck in bed trying to type with two fingers on my side. Pretty tricky stuff.
The GP reckons it might well have been my overly flexible hip/back muscles that have caused the problem: too much pushing the envelope during yoga. DAMN! I had been trying to be sooooo careful to strengthen my abdominals with all the right pilates exercises, but still I have managed to injure myself.

Its so hard to know where the limits of the body lie, and what our capacities are. I always find this challenging in yoga: knowing how far to take a pose. When there is no pain, then it all feels OK...so why has this happened????


(Image Courtesy of Beverly Hills Pain Management Centre)

Friday, July 24, 2009

bed haiku



















breath-stealing back-pain
brings me back to bed and here
i rest. flattened. sore.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

5 Things that drive me crazy about each of my lovely girls!!!

OK: its 4pm and we have come home from the school pickup and I'm tired after a day of working, and my kids are tired from their days, so we have the difficult stuff ahead of us: negotiating the needs of 3 tired people and the dinner bath bed routine before Dad gets home.This is the stuff of everyday life, ands its going on in households everywhere as I write this. Its times like these when I kinda find it difficult to remember all the things I love about my kids. Its times like these when I need to re-read my posts, and refresh my memory a little, cos right now I'm being driven bonkers by the least appealing aspects of my children's behaviours. Its times like these, I need a reality check! So heres an appraisal of the least appealing things about the lovely Miss E:
1. Your grumpiness!! When you are tired, you find it difficult to lift yourself out of the murky mood you are in. Your 'stare of great disapproval' is a worry to me, as its defiance and gloom are difficult for me to deflect when I am not in the mood to 'laugh it off'.
2. This mood can last forever on evenings like this
3. Listening. I can ask you to do something, and you can stare at me in the face, and not take in any of the information I am giving you... arggghhh.
4. Neglectfulness and Forgetfulness: Ditto above, with the distinction that know you know what I have asked you to do, but I get ignored, or the task simply forgotten, on your way to the next thing on your agenda
5. Messiness.


And Miss S. I adore you completely, but:

1. Hanging off my arm when I am trying to write is amazingly annoying. There are times when I just want a few moments to myself, and this reliance on me for amusement is frustrating.

2. When you tell me that you are "hungry" just when a meal has been packed away and the benches wiped down is particularly frustrating. I know this is a call for attention rather than food most of the time, but perpetually making you little snacks is really not OK. If you ate your dinner/lunch breakfast, then Im sure you wouldnt need so many wee meals.

3. Your need to have me supervise your getting dressed, when I know you can do it yourself.

4. You stuff dirty clothes back into the cupboard when I ask you to clean up the floor. Arrrgghhh!

5. Why does everything need to be pink????

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

cutting it: taking cuttings from fruit trees



I have a Mum who not only has green thumbs, but all her fingers are green as well. Or maybe she has green arms, legs, toes... the whole kit-and-kaboodle. She is champion of things green.

So Mum, if your reading this, I need some help right about now! I have taken some cuttings from the magnificent and abundant fig tree that has served so well in providing delicious produce over summer and autumn, in the hope that I can strike them into new wee trees. We may well move after the next harvest, and I would love to have a viable version of this fig in my new garden, where-ever that may be.

I used the sharpest secateurs and cut just below a growth node (ummm....what did you call this again?) trying to keep each piece about 15-20cm long. I just have wiped the sap from the cut, as I dont have any fresh aloe to coat the cut. Would paw-paw ointment do?

So, here are some cuttings that I have wrapped in damp news paper. Just 6 of them. I'll pot them in sandy potting mix tomorrow, water them once, put them on the sunny side of the house with a bag over the pot and see what Spring brings.

Let me know if any of these cuttings look crap, and i'll not bother planting them.

10 things I love most about Miss E


In the spirit of the previous blog about my youngest daughter, I also wanted to celebrate my elder daughter Miss E. Ive chickened out of using their full names, but most of my readers know them anyway! I suppose I figure that their privacy is not being protected in the long term (who knows how long the blog will sit in cyberspace) if I use their names. And its always better to be safer with indemnities of kids... Its so sad that I even have to consider their safety in this ether like environment, but consider it I must.

So, here are some things about the amazing Miss E, that I love, that challenge me too (in equal measures)

1. Your energy! Miss E, you have such an enthusiasm for life, and throw yourself completely into your activities. Just this-morning, when you realised you had to get your gym gear and swimming gear together for today, rather than do this quietly, you raced like a mad-tornado through the house leaving a trail of neglected items behind you! But you did it with such a burst of wild energy. So you!

2. Your creativity: You never have "nothing to do". You constantly amaze me with the delightful things you dream up to occupy yourself and your sister. When we stayed up in the snow for Dad's birthday, you got up at the crack of dawn, ran out into the snow in your PJ's and started to make "snow guinea pigs"... and then there are those endless barbie "scenario" games... incredibly how they last for HOURS. With so many bits of paper made into props.

3. You love the natural world. Walking with me up mountains, you delight in the trees, the birds, the air, the clouds. You see the joy in this, as I do.

4.You notice the small things that other people miss, Like the tiniest mushrooms on the trail, hiding under the leaf litter. And you point these things out to your sister, and she shares in this secret world of the small details, that so many adults miss out on. I think Simone has this talent too... in fact all kids do!

5. The crazy way you dress. You dont care if your jeans are ripped: they are your favourites. You like mint green and fuscia together. You wear skirts and jeans and messy hair. Vivid Stripes everywhere one day, and all red the next. There is a wild look to you. You throw out a fashion challenge... I love the fact that this is the way you put together your outfits for non-uniform day at school. There is not much conformity in you. YOu go Girl!!!

6. You can do 6 things at once, although it has to be said, you rarely clean up the 6 things after you have finished doing them, and moved onto the next thing.

7. You are growing up, and noticing that your violent mood swings affect others around you, and slowly you are learning to flip yourself out of the darkest of these moments, to find the sunshine inside. We are working on this together! Such extremes.

8. Your sister adores you, and follows your lead. Sometimes you use this to your advantage, but always you include her in your games. Sadly, you dont quite get the fact that she needs to have a go at making up the game too.

9. Your strength, Miss E. When I was pregnant with you and worried about the birth, and being a parent, I had a dream where you visited me and told me that I shouldnt worry. that YOU would look after me, and that was how it had always been. I had such a deep sense of being reassured. I still carry that sense of confidence in you, that you will always be OK. Weirdly, because you told me it was so.

10. Your passionate love. As you do everything, you commit 100%. You feel absolutely, and you communicate your feelings with your whole body. When you hurt inside, it hurts so much, sometimes your nose bleeds! When you love, you fling your whole body into it, and cling like a limpet with your arms and legs wrapped around me.