Saturday, January 31, 2009

Happy campers?

With S away on a business trip, and the promise of a 'Tasmanian Heatwave' - this I had to see- I scooped the kids, a tent, bathers and not much else, into the car and away we went to see the East Coast. Tasmania is breathtakingly gorgeous; it never ceases to impress my inner aesthete. I encouraged the girls down a steep ravine in a Forest Reserve to see Hardings Falls. We were somewhat shocked to have the place to ourselves. Yes, it was 33 degrees, and we had to schlep it in with backpack, water bottles and food supplies, but to have not one, but two fantastic deep and bone-achingly cold rock pools to ourselves was good fortune I didn't anticipate.

And Bicheno is easy on the eye too, but I wont go on about it, as I'm sure you'll all just get jealous!

But camping? Not so easy, perhaps. To me, camping seems like an opportunity to air your dirty laundry in a public place, literally. Its a great leveller. No point whispering when you've lost your patience and you telling them for the 3rd time to 'clean their teeth and get to bed' as everyone can hear everything anyway. Just yell at them will a full throttled bottom-of-yer-lungs style bellow, cos that's precisely what everyone else is doing! Actually I was pretty amazed by how easy I have it: my two girls were remarkably independent, there was simply no need to bellow at them, which is just as well as I don't really subscribe to yelling as a parenting tactic. (Just so you know I'm not holding my own parenting skills up as a paradigm of perfection, I have been known to yell at them sometimes, although I'm not terribly proud of this) Yet it is strangely reassuring to know that other parents also get to the end of their tether at 9pm!

And its not just the campers (read lower end of the socio-economic food chain) that were lambasting their kids. The cabin dwellers (with fancy Audi station wagons) were just being more private about their disciplining. (Although those cabin walls are pretty thin too). Its pretty clear that smacking and yelling, although derided in current parenting how-to-manuals is still being practiced. But I'm not about to enter this fraught territory of parenting blogs, as there are others that do so far better than I. And really, there were many great things about living communally like this; the camp kitchen become a great site for ping-pong showdowns, the out door BBQ a great spot for a beer and a chat. And if you forgot a can opener (like I did) there were about 50 people happy to help you out.
And the kids really enjoyed the free range lifestyle of the caravan park; something I do remember doing as a child myself, so I'm sure there will be a repeat the event real soon...we still have the North West and South coasts to explore.

Oh, and a Tassie heatwave?...its really just another term for beach weather.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Potaroo Exclosure

ARRRRGHHH! I'm under attack!

Found this morning at 7am: 2 juvenile potaroos
Crime: chowing down on my lettuces.
Punishment: banished forever from my 30m2 of productive patch ... ;)

I really do like the little guys, and I still really don't mind sharing the garden with them. I had hoped to be able to exclude them from just a small area of productive veggie patch, and leave them the rest of the garden to munch on. They seem to like the roses and are great at keeping the lawn under control. Cute too, but not so cute when they eat your entire crop of mustard greens, chard, choy-sum, oak leaf and butter lettuce. These guys have specialised tastes in greens it seems. I should just confess that this image was taken in spring, before i planted out the seedlings, but apart from my corn and a couple of zucchini bushes, its looking pretty similarly barren. Bugger!

WANTED: (x2)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Corny question

Does anyone know how to tell if corn is ripe?

I have about 30 ears on 20 plants, and they seem big enough to be ripe. The tufts at the top of the ears have turned a bit brown, but i dont want to pick em if they are not really done yet.


Monday, January 26, 2009

Happy Chinese New Year!

Usually Chinese New year is much later in February, but the vagaries of the lunar calendar means that the celebration begins this year on the same day we celebrate the birth of White Australia.
Steve (my husband) is an Malaysian Chinese bloke, by birth, but has lived in this country for more than half of his life. He reckons that the fact that Australia day falls on the first day of Chinese New Year cancels out the joy of Chinese NY for him. Kinda depressing really. When pressed, he admitted that he is so despairing of the attitude of many white Australians towards people of another colour that he thinks its not possible for him to contemplate NY festivities.
I would like my children to be able to be proud of being both Australian and Chinese, so I suggested we make noodles (traditional for the first day of Chinese NY, especially on the eve) and share them together as a family and talk about both cultures. We had a low key day, without fire-crackers, dancing dragons and extended family, but we did share a lovely meal under the wisteria in the divine Australian sunshine!

Happy New year of the Ox to you all , and happy Australia day!

Cooler Climes

Inspired by Mad Gnome, and her post on Adelaide's predicted 7 day scorcher , Ive checked the long range forecast for Launceston, knowing that my fellow Taswegians are talking of a 'heat wave' on the horizon here too.

Launceston 5-day Weather Forecast (dont laugh)

Monday 26° C 11° C
Tuesday 24° C 14° C
Wednesday 32° C 16° C
Thursday 32° C 19° C
Friday 34° C 19° C

After this, the weather bureau suggests we will be back to the low 20's, as is normal in this part of the world at this time of year.

After living in Adelaide for umpteen years, temperatures in the low to mid thirties do not constitute a heatwave. Hey, this is happy, get-out-and enjoy-it beach weather!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

A slice of China

The abstraction of space in drawing urban developments is alarming. At a scale of 1:10,000 a 100 home block of flats is the size of a Monopoly hotel piece. The panoptic view, or bird's-eye view seems to erase the on-ground experience of city life.

I have this on-going issue with my job as an architect and urban designer: as soon as I attempt to draw a building, or urban plan either on paper, or an a computer screen, the level of disengagement with the 'lived quality' of the architecture is increased. The drawing becomes an object itself to be manipulated in its rarefied state: it becomes an object of beauty. The subject, the space of city itself, is largely forgotten in the mind of the designer. Or at least this is what I try NOT to forget when i design myself. And when teaching my students, I remind them to hold the human implications of their form making in their minds as they design.

Steve and I were asked by a Chinese University to team up with them to come up with ideas for a large slab of farmland, reserved for the ever expanding city of Anyang. We designed a scheme with a giant Chinese character which we intend to be read from space, Google earth, or even an aeroplane window. The character means "trace" or more specifically 'historical trace', and I wanted it as to become a parkland, filled with cherry blossom trees. I imagined that this would be a fantastic experience for the city dweller-to have a fragrant refuge in a cheek-by-jowl urban environment. I know the scheme has been shortlisted, but the design has been taken on board by an army of Chinese design students, and office drafters to turn this whimsical design idea into a concrete proposal. I just know the parkland is being eroded, as the scheme is turned into a more economical and dollar driven enterprise.
Will give updates as we know more of the fate of our ideas!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Friday Haiku: Glow

warm sunshine in me
handle in the darkness glows
way finding, mine
Inspired by a self guided yoga session...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Fig Jam?

I love it!

My sister Squizardo has put in a special request for the stuff, so considering that she has crossed the globe to see us, dragging her UK squeeze (yes, her partner, but also a great 80's band) with her, then the least I can do is cook up a little of her favourite jam!
Squiz, if you are reading this, its looking thick and deeply purple and incredibly sticky in the pot at the moment. The smell is amazing, and I will do my best not to eat it all before you arrive! xx

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Having got up at 3am to herald in a new American President and enjoy the site of the old one vacate the scene, it seemed a good time to celebrate with pancakes and a spot of jam-making!
I have to confess I did go back to bed after making sure that Bush was safely deposited in the helicopter and bid farewell, but upon rising I felt an enthusiasm for all things, that not only Americans start on a fresh page today, but we all do. It will be great to see if he can deliver what he promises, and even if only half of his rhetoric is achievable, then that may be a good thing for the world.

Anyway, I digress....back to Jam making. This is something i haven't attempted for 20 years! Apparently I made my first and only jam attempt (a strawberry kind) in my uni days. It was actually Steve, that reminded me, as I had completely forgotten this brief episode of domesticity, but he tells me the jam was good. Hes such a nice man: I'm sure he'd tell me this even if it was lousy :) I now remember constant calls to my mum, asking such things as 'how will I know when its set?' and 'what do i do if its still runny when...' So, yes, I was on the phone to mum having consulted multiple on-line recipes, which only served to confuse me.

Mum's Jam advice:
  • use equal parts sugar and fruit (I didn't actually, I had half as much sugar as fruit)

  • don't toss in the apricot pips as they have (very low) traces of arsenic in them

  • do throw in a couple of halved lemons to add flavour

  • use low heat and keep stirring, as it burns easily

  • a finely chopped apple will assist in helping set the jam (it apparently contains pectin)

  • you know when its set when a teaspoon of hot jam forms a skin when placed on a cold saucer in the fridge for a few minutes

  • boil the jars to sterilise them and make sure they are completely dry (you can dry them in the oven) before tipping in the jam.
The result is rather lemony...and YES it did set!!!!

Oh, and thanks go to Kerrie from Queensland for her inspring jam making post. And also to my friend Mary for the apricots.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


This is a test post from flickr, a fancy photo sharing thing.

Make It!

Making things. Hmmm. Craft, double hmmmmm.....I remember the last time I wrestled with a tricky Vogue pattern, expensive fabric and my sewing machine and ended up cutting 2 left fronts of a lovely Calvin Klein dress in expensive silk. The offending pattern pieces, useless silk and the sewing machine were shoved, unloved into the recesses of the cupboard.

I am a hasty person at the best of times, and have to consciously remind myself to 'measure twice and cut once'. Look before you leap, you know, all that mindfulness stuff. And the good news is that I am becoming a more patient person: I am ready to embrace a whole new world of making crafty things with kids. I must admit I am trepidatious, but I no longer am sewing at midnight after a long day at the office. This is different. This is fun sewing, mindful educative craft, with the kids!

We are following some ideas in a book called 'Make It!': learning how to recycle stuff that appears useless, but has a whole new life as something else. We are converting old jeans into bags. What-ho! There are lessons for me in remaining calm as my 9 year old drives my sewing machine wonkily across the bottom of a pair of jeans , and lessons for the kids in thinking about how to transform junk into something to treasure.

And the results, are pretty cool too.!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Figs and other fruity things

The fig tree is ripe and laden with big fat black figs! (This photo doesnt do them justice, as the fig here wasnt nearly as ripe as it should have been)

My friend Ana turned up with her two boys, a tub of plums, lemons and apricots and I was more than happy to share a few figs with her in exchange. Nothing like a summer fruit swap, replete with kids to help out with harvesting.
It was a hot day for Tasmania, maybe 29 degrees or so, and the whole gang of 4 kids and the mums headed up the road to feed a miniature pony we feel somewhat related to, and race around Mary and Roger's magical bush garden while being chased by the cantering wee horse. Hilarious! It was hard to let a few unpleasant work calls on my mobile dampen the fun.
Back in our garden the kids continued the mad race around our garden, which ended in a few tumbles from Scooters (Finn and Simone) , a nose bleed and tears(Evie), a vomit (Evie again), and even an allergic reaction to the horse hair by one of the visiting boys (Darcey). Nothing like raging excitement to have everyone falling in a heap at the end.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


Saturdays are funny days. We are never sure why, but the combination of energies in the house always seems to be tense. Someone gets cross, has a tanty, and slams a few doors usually by noon. Perhaps its as the
kids are more antsy, ready to get into the weekend activities, or maybe its the fact that Mum and Dad want that illusive thing, a good sleep in, and when we don't get it we get grumpy.

So it was great to break the pattern, and head out the door at 9am and drive up the road to George-town. At the top end of the Tamar River, and about 45 minutes from Launceston, George-town is small historic village. Settled in 1804, it has some incredible original buildings, and the pub is the best kind wearing a couple of lacy verandahs like skirts. The Tamar folk festival visits the village once a year and we arrived just as the Street party started. It was a homely affair with town-folk meandering the main street, gathering to listen to singers, guitar players and watch impromptu Morris Dance performances.
Just outside a cafe this little troupe set up with a cello, washboard, guitar and ukulele. They had the whole street singing 'Swing-Low-Sweet Chariot'. My two girls were a little embarrassed, but joined in with the last chorus!

Its good to break those shitty routines!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Friday Haiku: Jet-set

Jump start girly dreams
In a pink-hard plastic shell
Feminism's nightmare!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

fate accompli

Its easy filling out forms. Barely glancing at the bits to sign, just put the date there, yes and fill that bit out there. Sign on the line at the end, OK. Done. OHMYGOD what have I done?

Ive just resigned from a tenured position, half time. A wonderful job, by all accounts, and compatible with life as a mum and architect. A great opportunity to share my knowledge, read and research, work from home if I want to, re-write course material if it interests me. Don't get me started on the fantastic leave entitlements, I'm about to toss away into the wind.
On the surface of it, the decision is a fate accompli. Husband has moved the family to Tasmania, so wife and kids uproot and go. I cant possibly maintain an academic position travelling interstate on a weekly basis: I'm not so enamoured with the job that I am prepared to wear myself out with late night flights just to do this. Trouble is that I have no position here. Just a bit of part time work. I feel just a trifle diminished.

And yet, there is the possibility of new things opening up. Other horizons. There might well be some other field of work that suits me better, and interests me more. I'm thinking about studying again. Maybe a PhD? Thanks to 'Bluemilk' for the reminder of the ways in which mothering causes us to sacrifice our feminist principles at times. I'm not sure I feel any better, seeing this issue from a feminist perspective, its kind of tragic that its often the woman that makes the "sacrifice".

Such a shocking word as it implies the death of something, and yet it also means 'a surrender of something of value as a means of gaining something more desirable'.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Give (more) Blood?

Feeling giddy, but virtuous, I looked at the Good Red Stuff slide out of the needle taped to my arm and into its rocking plastic sack. Hmmmm....feeling really giddy now. Beep beep BEEP!! chime the machines, as the flow slows and I think my blood pressure is dropping.

Nurse (reprimandingly): Did you drink enough before you came, dear? (why am I dear? I am nearly 40...when does this nonsense stop!)
Me: Well, sort of. Its sometimes hard to remember to drink enough in the morning rush with 2 kids in tow. (This morning I was lucky to get out the door at all with my two shoeless cantankerous children)
Nurse (unsatisfied with response): Well if you are going to donate, then you need to follow the guidelines. And then the needle gets removed, and the chair Im in is tipped inelegantly backwards so the blood I have left can find a place to settle further upstream.

Grudgingly the nurse brings me a drink and a list of 'Guidelines' and circles the criteria relevant to potential 'fainters', like me.

I look around the blood-letting lab, and I realise that over three quarters of the donors are women. Ive checked a few stats on line (not sure how reputable the data is) and in 2006 apparently 25,000 more women than men donated blood. Are women more conditioned to be caring? Perhaps we deal closer with the fine line between life and death in child birth? Perhaps as we menstruate, we are more understanding of the life giving promise of blood: its ebb and flow?

And yet it is men that make more actual donations. This one gets my blood pressure up a little, as I reckon that they may get better treatment from the nurses (OK, maybe a just had a cranky nurse today). Or maybe, probably more likely, its because women are preoccupied having babies, breastfeeding, caring, or working multiple jobs. I reckon we are all too damn tired to donate any more often!

Any thoughts out there in blog-land?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Harm minimisation

Yesterday's strawberry picking seemed like a great way to entertain the children at the same time as harvesting some of the Tamar Valley's fine produce.

After walking up and down the aisles of raspberry canes and strawberry plants filling a tub or two to the brim, my eldest daughter (Miss E) quizzed me thus:
Miss E: Mummy, are these strawberries organic?
Me:, I dont think so, but the orchard owner says they are 'minimum spray'.
Miss E: Whats minimum spray?
Me: 'Well, they usually will only spray once, at the time that the pests that eat the strawberries are there'.
Miss E: So they have been sprayed by pesticides, then. Yuck! I'm not eating them.

Cant argue with that! I realised I'd been kidding myself thinking that minimum spray was OK, but really the stuff is in the plant and the soil. Miss E had caught me in the hypocritical act of extolling the virtues of home grown organic produce, and promoting less than perfect fare as OK.

We went home to carefully tend our own strawberry plants, so that we can eat our own produce with confidence. Fortunately my husband and I have no such qualms about freshly picked 'minimum spray' strawberries, and have polishing them off with icecream :)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Celestial Body

Five Helium filled black balloons were launched on Saturday night by our house guest, Michael Yuen. A small ricotta tub carrying a battery pack and a myriad of LED lights hung apparently in mid air, as the balloons rose, freaking out a number of water birds swooping low over the Tamar at the time. Our dinner guests assisted in reeling in the balloons after the line tethering them to earth became snagged on neighbouring trees.

We were lucky enough to view the first test flight! The real thing will happen in 3 cities: Amsterdam, Cologne and Paris in January 2009, as a part of an art program called "We Art The People".

To me, the launch seemed to embody the possibility of hope: a kind of optimism that derives from the release of balloons. Or it could be that the thought of creating another star in the night sky is beautifully romantic. For others on the evening, the thought of the blackness of the balloons made the project appear more sinister. An alien invasion: close encounters getting a little too close. It did remind me of an alien representation from a Dr Who episode from the 1970's, but not too scary.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Very Berry


From the ‘Cake Bible’ Penguin Books 2006

First cooked by Megan on 30th July 07 for the knitting group.

1 cup plain flour
100g butter, melted
1 egg
½ cup sugar
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups fresh or frozen berries (blackberries, blueberries, raspberries) (nb I used a 300g pack of frozen raspberries. I imagine cherries would also work well)


2 cups sour cream (I used ‘light’)
½ cup sugar
1½ tblsp custard powder
2 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 180C. Lighly grease and flour a 23cm springform tin.
Mix together all cake ingredients except berries. Pour into prepared tin. Cover with berries. Beat topping ingredients together and pour on top of berries. Bake for 50-60 min. Serve with whipped cream and fruit.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Feminism and Motherhood

These questions teasing out the tensions between motherhood and feminism interested me on Bluemilk's blog:

How would you describe your feminism in one sentence?
A constant search for the possibility of balance between a creative professional life, and the reality of life as a mother, while nurturing a relationship with a partner and finding space to nurture oneself. Its a personal and political exercise.

When did you become a feminist?
Far too late! Not until I was about 19 or 20 when I was introduced to feminist academic writings by a artist/activist/performance artist at University. Thank you Bronia Ivanchuk

Was it before or after you became a mother?

What has surprised you most about motherhood?
The degree to which my feminist principles are daily compromised! Example: I find myself at home (again) today, minding my two children during the school holidays. I try to find space between a mother's duties [adjudicating arguments, making many small meals, washing, cleaning etc etc etc ] for life affirming, creative, and enriching activities...But the really surprising thing is that its precisely because my life is jam-packed with mummy-stuff that i am forced to be efficient with the other stuff. And that's the sad thing, I suppose. Work + a creative life become the other stuff.

How has your feminism changed over time? What is the impact of motherhood on your feminism?
I was far more militant when I was in my 20's. That was me at 'reclaim the night' marches, speaking at women's self defence demonstrations, and taking men to task for the way masculist thought infuses language, social mores and the world generally. Talking to men about gender issues has moderated my views somewhat. Also, to be honest, I have found a way to be more at peace with adopting the nurturing aspects of the female stereotype. Which is not to say that the propensity to nurture should not be shared by men.

What makes your mothering feminist?
Oh, Christ! I'm not sure i would make this claim of myself and my actions. Hmmm... But why not? feminism is no longer, and should never be a dirty word. I believe that the personal is political, so, when I conduct myself in the world professionally, I include my children. I have taken them to building sites, conferences and meetings. In these actions I suppose I am saying that it must be acceptable for women (and men too) to have a professional life and a family life, and that they sometimes overlap. I think its important that I show my young girls that while it might not be possible to 'have it all', it is possible to pursue a career and enjoy a rich family and social life.

How does your approach differ from a non-feminist mother’s? How does feminism impact upon your parenting?
I'm not sure I would hazard a guess at what a non-feminist mother is!
Do you ever feel compromised as a feminist mother? Do you ever feel you’ve failed as a feminist mother?
Motherhood is a series of compromises. Ive accepted long ago that life is long, and its OK to 'go slow' with my career while my children are small. I want to enjoy the time with my kids. Cliche? Perhaps...
Has identifying as a feminist mother ever been difficult? Why?
I suppose I have identified as both feminist and mother separately, rather than bringing the two terms together. I'm still thinking through what it is that a feminist mother might be. That may be intellectual laziness on my part, or just an acceptance of living one day at a time, fulfilling my responsibilities as a mum and trying to enjoy this at the same time as working part or full-time.

Motherhood involves sacrifice, how do you reconcile that with being a feminist?
Its a realistic sacrifice. To be both mother and careerist is to find yourself an early grave.

If you have a partner, how does your partner feel about your feminist motherhood? What is the impact of your feminism on your partner?
Guilt...but then again he is catholic, so it goes with the territory!

If you’re an attachment parenting mother, what challenges if any does this pose for your feminism and how have you resolved them?
My kids are a little older now (9 and 4) , so this is not so relevant to my situation
Do you feel feminism has failed mothers and if so how? Personally, what do you think feminism has given mothers?
At best, feminism has given women choices: to pursue careers and expect equal status and/or to follow the more traditional path of motherhood. Its the 'and' part that is the worrying element in this as its a virtual impossibility to keep all the 'balls in the air'. At worst, feminism has set mothers up for failure, as inevitably those balls get dropped. I know, Ive been there and dropped a few myself!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Friday Haiku

broad ribbon winding
bright River full of light
clouds mushroom above

Jack Kerouac called them "Dhama pops" which i presume makes them small, manageable bite-sized pieces of wisdom. The fact that Kerouac had anything to do with them gives me more than a dash of permission to move beyond the strict Japanes form. I should also say that I am inspired by my friend Kel's blog and her inclusion of a Friday Haiku. Thanks, Kel!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Architecture Rant

Its taken 3 years of rabid negotiatiation, rejected building approvals, council appeals, out of court settlements, building delays, boundary survey stuff-ups, re-engineering, and further inexplicable building delays just to get to this stage, and the interior fitout is still not complete. Remarkably, the client is hanging in there, the architect (me) has not resigned in frustration, and the builder is still philospophical about it all.

On days like this I dont particularly enjoy my profession. Ive just had an email from a builder (on another job) asking for more constuction details, immediately (in fact yesterday, or even last year would be better) on a minor issue that should have been resolved by him yonks ago. Its an engineering issue, and not even my remit....but its the expectation that it should be something I should do something about and right now that really rubs me up the wrong way. I suppose all professions, in fact any job, has these daily dilemmas. I just wonder if architects are particularly prone to maltreatment from builders, consultants, and in fact the general public! Sigh... I know that what we do as architects is not often valued and poorly understood. And i suppose I would concede that there are alot of examples of architecture of questionable merit out there.

Happily, the kids are playing quietly in the hallway, oblivious to my heightened emotional state (why cant I just let stupid emails that piss me off not bother me so much?) The little darlings are having a moment of self sufficiency and shared imaginative game-playing. Perhaps Ill join them.
The good thing about being a part-time mum, sometimes architect, and an about-to-resign-from-tenure lecturer (subject of another day's post) is that if one any one aspect of my life is unsavoury, Ive still got a couple of others to dip into. It helps remind me not to dwell on the inevitable merde that arises; to not 'sweat the small stuff'. And, as the book's by-line suggests, its all small stuff.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

How does your garden grow? much for the rigour of a daily post as a strategy for life definition, inspiration, relief from the tedium of daily mothering etc...

Having just returned from a 3 week trip to Beachport, Adelaide and Melbourne, we returned home to find some scarily large zucchinis lurking an a thoroughly overgrown and neglected vegetable patch. Too large for cooking, the girls have decided they are best used as electric guitars! Or perhaps stand-in dollies. I rather like the shocking enormity of them. Its incredible what Tassie soil can do to nurture young seedlings in such a short space of time.

Thursday, January 1, 2009


A blog new years resolve as yet...perhaps not at all...

But if I were to ask myself what id like to be doing a year from now, then Id like to say I've found the inspiration to:

climb mountains, revel in being 40, revel generally, master that tricky yoga pose ive been working on for at least 18 months, play scrabble with ego firmly detched, be kinder to my children when they try me, be kinder to my partner (ummm...generally). Oh, and find a little more detachment from the pestering aspects of a professional life dogged by dodgy builders and the blame game.